Argiano – Solengo IGT 1997
We often associate wine with memorable moments. I associate Solengo with my Italian friend Gianni, who comes from an illustrious family whose history has been linked to that of the Vatican for centuries. Gianni has both unparalleled generosity and a great distance from material things. He can make magnificent gifts in the most detached way. To thank me for helping one of his young cousins find an internship, with no fuss he offered me a case of Solengo 1997, which I carefully stored in my cellar straight away.
A few days later, when my wife was concentrating on the preparing of her famous osso buco, I decided it was time to test Gianni’s local wine. As you can probably guess my knowledge in Italian wines is rather thin. The shock I had testing the Solengo was as great as my colossal ignorance: the wine combined concentration and finesse to a level I had never experienced. Amazed, I suggested to my wife that she continue cooking Italian recipes and the case of Solengo was gone in no time. I could not accept it was the end of the party and decided to search for more Solengo 1997.
After a brief search, I realized the overgenerous Gianni had no random choice. The Argiano estate is a medieval jewel standing in a spectacular rural environment near the Tuscan town of Montalcino, close to Sienna. The Villa of Argiano overlooks 48 hectares of vines dating back to the Renaissance, when it was built by the Pecci, a noble family from Sienna. Since 1500, wine has been produced for the sole consumption of their owners. Today, Countess Cinzano owns and runs the estate in a tradition always in mind but using the latest winemaking methods.
Solengo, a Toscan word meaning ‘lone wild bore’ is the combination of 3 types of grapes: 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 25% Syrah. Following the harvest, the 3 grapes are fermented separately in stainless steel tanks for 12 to 16 days. The second malolactic fermentation occurs immediately after the alcoholic fermentation to emphasize softness of fruit and tannin. The wine will then age 15 to 17 months in new French oak. It is blended in May. Solengo is bottled in July, without filtration. This should reinforce aromatic flavor.
The choice of 1997 was not random either. This year is considered to be an exceptional vintage by Italian and world experts and therefore it is not easy to find. After 7 months of frantic search all over Europe, I finally found 2 cases which I bought without hesitation. The first bottle was up to my expectations even if I could tell that it had just passed its peak. The 2 cases disappeared as quickly as the first one. Thank you Gianni!