by Patrick Sandeman

Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Solaia; Italian names which have become the preserve of the rich, alongside those of Chateau Latour, Lafite and anything Rothschild. But take heart in the fact that Lea & Sandeman still produce class acts from Tuscany’s own ‘bordelais’ vineyards which are affordable and extremely drinkable, as well as appealing to the most conservative of claret drinkers. Castello del Terriccio’s vineyards, an hour’s drive south of Pisa, overlook the coast towards the Islands of Capraia and Elba in the far distance, and are planted with Cabernets, Merlot and Sangiovese. The two best value wines here are Capannino, the simplest wine of the estate and described by thewinegang as being ‘sheer class’, and Tassinaia, the estate’s best seller, included in Jancis Robinson’s ‘100 sure fire reds’ this week and described as a ‘very mellow, polished Bordeaux blend with Italian verve’. Either of these wines could be served to the grumpiest of Father-in-Laws over Christmas, and guaranteed to put a smile on his face.

Further down the coast in the famous vineyard district of Bolgheri, the Le Macchiole estate has come of age and while their iconic wines (Messorio and Scrio) are now expensive, the entry level Bolgheri Rosso is a great bargain and already so flattering, while their unique Cabernet Franc, Paleo Rosso is a wonderful class act that will sit happily alongside many of the top Bordeaux wines and a perfect foil to the Christmas Goose (though perhaps too good for the Mother-in-Law! ).

All of these wines are given similar oak ageing to their counterparts in Bordeaux (both new and used small French oak ‘barriques’) and share the same sort of fruit and tannin structure, but the introduction of Sangiovese in some and the identity of ‘terroir’ in all, while keeping them unique to their origin at the same time makes them so much more approachable in their youth. All four wines are wonderful for drinking this Christmas.