Lucente 2014, Tuscany
V ery often the “second wine” from a famous winery can be the best buy in the neighborhood.
That certainly is the case with Lucente. The winemakers use essentially the same grapes and similar methods used to produced elite Super Tuscan Luce, but price Lucente at about a quarter of what its more famous brother sells for.
Sure there are differences in taste and most of us probably could tell the differences. But it is hard to pass up a powerhouse wine like Lucente at such a great price.
In the glass it is a dark, almost opaque, shimmering red with purple on the edges. Lush raspberry, black cherry and blackberry aromas drift from the glass with some spicy tones. On the palate you get ripe, black fruit balanced with refreshing acidity.
This complex wine also offers hints of vanilla and coffee. The wine is well-rounded, with everything in balance. It has a silky mouthfeel with supple tannins that lead to a long, smooth finish.
Lucente offers what I like most about many wines from Tuscany: balance. Rich fruit flavors are kept in check by acidity to produce a great food wine.
This wine probably will drink beautifully at room temperature during cooler months, but right now I would chill it slightly before drinking. Letting it sit 20-30 minutes in the refrigerator probably is about right.
This is a youthful, vibrant wine that will leave you wanting more when the bottle is empty.
As the winemaker carefully selects grapes for Luce, he uses part of the harvest for Lucente.
The sangiovese and the merlot in the blend are harvested separately, and, after each has undergone fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel for 12 days and maceration on the skins for 22 days, they go through malolactic fermentation, also in stainless steel. The wines are blended and aged in oak barriques for 12 months.
Luce was the first wine ever produced in Montalcino by blending sangiovese and merlot grapes.
This Super Tuscan actually has enough sangiovese to qualify for DOC status (70 percent), but the merlot in the blend (30 percent) pushes it down to IGT status.
Essentially, a Super Tuscan is wine made in Tuscany that breaks the rules, relying on Bordeaux varietals instead of the traditional sangiovese called for in Italian law. In the 1970s some Tuscan winemakers thought the laws governing the production of wine in Tuscany were too restrictive.
They wanted to blend in non-traditional grapes such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, grapes usually associated with France. Because the wines they made didn’t have the prestige of DOC status, the producers coined the term Super Tuscan to give the wines more prestige. They were an immediate hit, often selling for more than $100 a bottle.
Winery: Although the Luce Della Vite estate was founded in 1995, the Frescobaldi family goes back 700 years in Tuscany. They own some of the most prestigious estates in the region, including Ornellaia, Masseto, Danzante, Attems and the six Frescobaldi Estates, Nipozzano, CastelGiocondo, Pomino, Ammiraglia, Castiglioni and Remole.
Luce grew out of meetings between Vittorio Frescobaldi and Robert Mondavi, the visionary California winemaker who put California wine on the world stage. They joined forces to create a world class Italian wine.
“It has always been my family’s dream to return to our grandparent’s birthplace and produce world-class Italian wines. We found the perfect partners in the Frescobaldis,” Mondavi said at the time.
“The goal of our partnership is to produce excellent and unique wines by combining the vision, technical skills, and love of the land that our families share,” added Vittorio Frescobaldi.
Today Luce Della Vite is owned by Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, with Lamberto Frescobaldi as director of viticulture and winemaking. Michael Mondavi and his family have a financial interest in the company.
Luce’s logo is a shining sun with fiery flames. It is gold and red on Luce and silver and red on Lucente. This sun has a double meaning: a source of life and nourishment, connecting to the roots of the family’s cultural tradition. Over the centuries, especially in Tuscany, the sun symbol has played an important role both in civil and religious iconography.
In Italian Luce means light and Lucente means shining.
The estate is located in Montalcino, where wine has been made since the mid 15th Century. But the merlot grape was not planted there until 1976. About 217 acres are planted on hillsides facing south.
With altitudes ranging from 1,150 to 1,375 feet, the estate is one of the highest in Montalcino. At the higher elevations the soils are rich in shale, well drained and poor of organic matter, offering ideal conditions for the cultivation of sangiovese grapes. At the lower altitudes, the soils are richer in clay, perfect for merlot.
The long, sunny and dry summers, together with the southern exposure of the Luce estate, allow for a slow and thorough ripening of the grapes which yield wines with great concentration and power. The cool and breezy nights help to preserve the grapes’ aromatic complexities.
Luce embraces the concept of sustainable agriculture to promote the health of the vines, focussing on the use of organic procedures and limiting chemical treatments as much as possible.
Goes with: We had this wine with pasta e fogioli, an Italian vegetable soup that I really like. It’s filled with tomatoes, beans and pasta, and is loaded with rich flavor.
The Lucente is especially good with this soup because its restrained style doesn’t clash with the flavorful soup.
It was all Italian night at our house when we drank the Lucente. The wine, the meal, the music. We had this soup, and while eating listened to Andrea Bocelli.
Lucente also would go well with grilled lamb chops, beef stew and medium-aged cheeses.
Here’s my recipe for pasta e fogioli:
2 lbs ground beef
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs minced garlic
2 medium onions, diced
4 ribs celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
3 small cans of diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can white beans
4 large cartons of beef broth
2 jars of spaghetti sauce
4 tsp oregano
2 tsp celery seed
1 bunch parsley, chopped
8 oz. shell pasta
Brown beef in a large pot, drain grease. Set aside. Heat olive oil and add garlic, onions, celery and carrots and simmer for about 7 minutes until onions turn translucent. Prepare pasta according to directions and set aside. Then combine all other ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Drain and rinse beans before adding. Simmer for about 45 minutes, or until celery and carrots are tender. Add cooked pasta to pot just before serving.
Author Dennis Sodomka