Luce 2017 $120
By now the origin story behind Super Tuscan wines is well known—innovative Tuscan winemakers, stifled by the antiquated Italian wine regulations of the 1970s begin making prestige bottlings that, because they don't follow the strict rules, are labeled lowly Vino de Tavola, or table wine. In the Bolgheri region of Tuscany, Sassicaia becomes the breakout star with a wine based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. In Chianti, Antinori used the traditional Sangiovese with small amounts of Cabernet in their famed Tignanello. The wines grew in prestige, such that by the mid-1990s they were dominating the high-end of Tuscan wine.
But, for the most part, the winemakers of Tuscany's Brunello region didn't immediately hop aboard the trend for the main reason that, unlike their Northern neighbours in Chianti, the their flagship wine, Brunello di Montalcino, enjoyed a worldwide prestige and sold for very high prices. But a little over quarter century ago a meeting between two wine industry legends—California's Robert Mondavi and Brunelo's Vittorio Frescobaldi—changed all that. The result was Luce—which came to be Brunello's most famous Super Tuscan and is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the just released 2017 vintage.
Luce blends the local Sangiovese Grosso grape with Merlot, which, given Mondavi's long association with Cabernet Sauvignon seems incongruous. But anyone familiar with the power that Merlot shows when grown in Italy, the grape showcases both ample fruit and considerable power (frankly, not that unlike Merlot grown in parts of the Okanagan) and when blended with the Sangiovese there's a real balance that emerges. Still, don't assume the Merlot brings "softness": this wine is right now a pretty tight mix of savoury, wild oregano and sage with juicy small red fruit. It would be best to let it relax for a few years (or a nice long decant if you can't wait). If you're hankering for a preview Luce's little sibling, Lucente, is on sale at the BCLDB for $36, until March 5th. This second wine gives you and indication of how Sangiovese and Merlot play together and its fruit is a bit more front and centre—it's a treat of a bottle.