Saturday 17 August 2019

What's so special about Tignanello, the 'status symbol' wine beloved by Meghan Markle?

Meghan Markle named her lifestyle blog after Tignanello, a Tuscan red wine
Meghan Markle named her lifestyle blog after Tignanello, a Tuscan red wine

Tomé Morrissy-Swan

What do Meghan Markle, Boris Johnson and a very successful former Manchester United manager have in common? Not much, on the face of it. But they do share a penchant for one thing - red wine. A specific red, to be precise.

Last week, when the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid visited the Prime Minister at Chequers, he brought with him "a stash" of Tignanello. If you haven't heard of it, you're not alone. Boris, however, has been a fan for some time.

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During his leadership campaign, he told Politico Playbook: "Someone bought me a crate of Tignanello and I had no idea how expensive it was. I was just glugging it back. It's extraordinary stuff, it was delicious. I discovered later that it was the favourite wine of Meghan Markle. I was so amazed by this wine, I thought: 'What is this stuff?'"

In fact, the Duchess loves it so much that in 2014, she named her lifestyle blog, "a hub for the discerning palate", after it. On The Tig, she wrote: "Several years ago, I had a sip of wine called Tignanello (pronounced 'teen-ya-nello')...

"Suddenly I understood what people meant by the body, legs, structure of wine. It was an ah-ha moment at its finest. For me, it became a Tig moment - a moment of getting it."

And a few years back, Alex Ferguson - a noted wine collector - admitted to being a fan, explaining that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich once sent him a case of Tignanello.

So what is it about the wine that's got the rich and famous in a flutter?

Tignanello is what's known as a Super Tuscan. According to the website Wine Folly, the term was coined in the 80s to describe a red blend from Tuscany. The main component of a Super Tuscan is that it uses non-native Italian grapes, previously frowned upon. Often, a sangiovese will be mixed with a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah or cabernet franc.

David Way, a spokesperson at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, notes that Tignanello was the first of this new breed - it was first produced in 1970 by the Antinori house that has been making wine since the 14th century. It was the first sangiovese to be aged in French barriques (small barrels, rather than large oak casks traditional in Tuscany); the first to be blended with French grapes; and the first to not include white grapes (previously compulsory in Tuscan blends).

Tignanello typically uses a blend of 80pc sangiovese, 15pc cabernet sauvignon and five per cent cabernet franc. Prices begin at around €85, although it has considerable secondary market value. It does well on Liv Ex, a global marketplace for the wine trade, and is on their top 1,000 wines index.

Flavour-wise, "it has a classic sour cherry and rust tang underneath some earthy, spicy black fruit," explains Arthur Verdin, Buyer, Finance and Operations Manager at The Sampler Wine Merchant. "It's long-lasting. For example, the 1985 is drinking very well now. For a Super Tuscan, it's quite cheap, but obviously pretty expensive in of itself."

The addition of the French grapes offers notes of blackcurrant and redcurrant. Nicolas Belfrage, author of The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy, noted unexpected aromas of brambly fruits and a "thick and concentrated, dark chocolate and coffee grounds" palate.

If you've got your hands on a bottle and are wondering what to pair it with, Verdin suggests red meat, in particular Italian dishes like osso bucco or roast lamb, as it "cuts through the richness".

Finally, a word of warning. One wine expert I spoke to described Tignanello as "a bit of a status symbol. It's the personalised number plate of wine. A bit flash".

So, best to think twice before gifting a bottle.

Irish Independent

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