Monday 21 October 2019 6:00 am

Bottle Opener

City A.M.’s wine expert offers his pick of the best bottles around

Being the reliably stereotypical British chap I am, I know far more about French wines than I do about wines from any other nation (especially my own).

Two pals have recently and independently taken on the task of introducing me to red Tuscan wines – with very favourable outcomes so far as I’m concerned.

Before their interventions, to my ill-informed mind, Tuscan red wines basically consisted of Chianti Classico and Montepulciano and, when in doubt whilst scrutinising a wine list in an Italian restaurant, those two words have always been my twin havens in otherwise stormy, wine-coloured seas. If I’m honest I think of Tuscan reds as being solid but not spectacular.

First to give me a liquid leg up was Andrew. A true Tuscanophile, even down to owning a property near Florence, he started me off with a Chianti Classico Brolio, Barone Ricasoli 2016. The grape varieties here are Sangiovese 80 per cent, Merlot 15 per cent, and Cabernet Sauvignon five per cent.

This wine was a beautiful luscious red colour. The flavour was slightly fruity. It rested warmly and easily on the tongue. Very much the sort of Tuscan red that I’m familiar with.

He then led me further up market to Brunello di Montelcino, Pietroso 2014. This one is 100 per cent Sangiovese and the vines are apparently hand-picked (lucky vines).

Again, the colour is richly impressive. Light on the nose, in terms of taste it seemed full of promise. Whilst it was delicious it is undoubtedly a tad young right now — I suspect that it will develop into a real cracker.

The following week I found myself being wine caddied by Ric (an appropriate term as he’s a very keen golfer) over dinner. The Tuscan red duly arrived with our main course. I knew straight away that this red was very good. Actually, it was very, very good. But I wasn’t allowed to see the label.

What was it? We finished one bottle, and then another. And so effortlessly we progressed to the dangerous third bottle. Eventually Ric relented and allowed me to see which Tuscan treasure we’d been unearthing. It was Masseto Toscana 1998 — a Merlot.

Trust me, if you are offered even one glass you must try it. Simply superb! Ruby-coloured, this gem of a wine stands effortless comparison with the best I’ve ever tasted from France. Surely this is the sort of wine that the more tasteful Roman emperors, Italian movie stars and Serie A football players have sipped decadently over the years.

These wines are not so easy to find in the UK. According to the interweb, the Brolio, Barone Ricasoli seems to retail for c. £20, and the Brunello di Montelcino, Pietroso for about £40. A prominent wine app says that the Masseto will set you back an eye-watering £750.

Steffan Williams is a partner at Portland.

Main image: Getty