Camartina – Super Tuscan Vs. Classed Growth

If a Super Tuscan and a classed growth Bordeaux had a fight, who would win?

This was the thought that dribbled through my mind while sniffing at a glass of Querciabella Camartina 2010 the other night.

The thought percolating away was that this was a serious wine capable of ageing at least a decade or three, maybe longer, how would it shape up against something down Gironde estuary way from the same vintage?

Certainly not one of the big 5 or even a super second, £ for £ this would have to be a fair fight, maybe something that’s (relatively) good value like Grand-Puy-Lacoste?

Having a snoop, it transpired that Mr. Justerini & his mate Brooks would happily deliver a case of 12 bottles for the bargain price of £689.52 (or £57.46 a bottle) while Mr. Armit was asking for £372 for a case of 6 of the Camartina (£62 a bottle), the Italian was just tipping the scales but these boys are in the same weight division.

2010 Madison
I’ll set the scene.
We’re in Madison Square Garden’s 2010 Arena, it’s packed to the rafters with fans and our two wines are limbering up before the evenings headline bout.

But what odds are those ever knowledgeable wine pundits going to offer me?
Mr. Michael ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ Buffer grabs the mic hanging down from above the ring and introduces tonight’s vinous pugilists.

Lets Get Ready to Rumble
62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 6% cabernet Franc we have….

GPL 2010
He’s silky, he’s concentrated, he’s punching well above his 5th growth status and has already outshone many of his contemporaries in this very arena, knocking out stable mate Haut Batailley in this very ring only last night in an amazing third round haymaker!

But let’s have a quick word with our ring side commentators and see what they have to say;

Tim Atkin – 97/100
‘You sure Tim, that’s a mighty fine score, what did you give the Latour, you know it only goes up to 100 right?’ ‘Oooo-kaaay, moving swiftly on’

James Suckling – 95/100
‘Sooo James, your 95 points on that? You wanna talk about it? Errr okay, of course you can go play with your ball’

‘Right, I think it’s time to ask some of the fans in the stands!’

Cellar Tracker – 93.4/100
KHAMEN says ‘The most violet (I think I just invented a word)’
WIKDWABBIT says ‘won an informal tasting’
GRAPE JUICE says ‘Classy and refine. This is one of the few wines that I actually request a 2nd pour and swallowed. Before I even realize, it slipped through my palate and down the throat ever so lightly and smoothly.’

‘Greeeeat, always good to hear the people’s voice….’ ‘….and finally let’s ask the living legend that is Jancis Robinson which way she thinks this bout will go’

‘Jancis, where’s Jancis?’ ‘What you mean we ain’t paid our subscription, you fooling with me?’
‘Well, er, alrighty folks it appears that Jancis has leeft the building but I have it on good authority that she gave it a stonking 16/20 point score’ ‘Damn, she really gone off these new style Bordeaux wines huh?’

A whacking great 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese we have….

Photo 10-10-2014 18 14 51

‘He’s youthful, he exudes class, possibly the greatest fighter to come from this stable in the past few decades (maybe ever!) showing great nuance, finesse, understated class and impeccable pedigree.’

Riiiiiiight, let’s see what our commentators have to say about this finely tuned Italian stallion.

Antonio Galloni – 95+/100

‘Well, well, wellll! Coming from a man that knows his Sangiovese from his Sagrantino that is high praise indeed. Some clear promise can be seen in this young brawler!’

James Suckling – 94/100

‘Ooooo-welll, it’s one hell of a sucker punch from Suckling who has given it to the GPL by just one point.

Jancis Robinson – 17/20

‘I’m afraid that Jancis has left this one to be called by her colleague Walter Speller (she ain’t omnipresent you know) but Walt has given it to the Camartina by some way, this is going to be one hell of a tough one to call…..’

Alright, enough of this nonsense, putting two wines up against each other is about as smart as scoring them in the first place, though what I do think the above day dream establishes is that so-called Super Tuscan’s (even the lesser known ones) are usually worthy of the prestige and price they often command.

Photo 10-10-2014 18 20 24 (1)Querciabella make some cracking wines, their Mongrana and Chianti Classico wines are firm favorites of mine and at under £20 a bottle they offer good value and match well with a wealth of Italian dishes.

They have farmed organically since 1988 converting to biodynamic’s in 2000, they have 74 hectares in Chianti Classico and 32 hectares in Maremma giving them the largest extensions of biodynamically farmed (certified organic) vineyards in Italy. They use no animal-derived products in either there grape growing or wine making and all their wines are 100% vegan, these guys know how to bee-have and you don’t have to worry about taking this round to your hip(py)-est mates house for dinner.

I’d tried one of their top wines, Camartina a number of times before but have to admit wines costing £50+ rarely find their way onto my table so a recent vertical held by West London Wine School was a great chance to better acquaint myself.

Camartina is what many would describe as a ‘Super Tuscan’, a term that worked marketing wonders for a group of wines with an interesting back story in the 80’s, 90’s & 00’s though today feels a bit over played.
The wines we had can be split into two distinct decades when it comes to the blend of grape varieties; the 90’s are Sangiovese heavy and 00’s are Cabernet led.
Photo 10-10-2014 18 15 08Chianti Classico 2008 £19.99 Waitrose Cellar
(5%cab Sav, 10% new French oak, 14 months maturation
Great wet, bloody nose but with a smokey, mineral, graphite core along with tight rose hip and black cherry that developed in the glass to show more wet tobacco leaf notes. Palate is well strung with taught tannin backing up taught, structured black currant and cherry fruit powerful but light bodied thanks to the acid. Snappy with some lovely red berry fruits on the finish.

Camartina Vertical

Photo 10-10-2014 18 25 36
£74.40 Armit
Rich and very concentrated nose with intense black and purple fruit along with damson, fresh violet and rich soil, gravel, mulberry, very tight.
Classy, powerful but quite constricted in the mouth though the tannins are present but ripe and back up the classy black fruit that has a very mineral dent. By no means singing but this has class and staying power. A great wine that just needs plenty of time to come out of its shell. Considering the price it would be very interesting to try this side by side with a 2010 left bank Bordeaux.

Photo 10-10-2014 18 14 402008
£70.80 Fine & Rare
The nose here has a sweeter fruit than the 2010 but the dominant character is a classy mix of incense, violets and Thyme, lifted, not heavy.
There’s something here that reminds me of a green pepper laced quiche(say whaaaaat! Yeah I said it).
In the mouth again this is rather tight but has a lovely tannic structure, more drying than the 2010 and certainly more red fruited, slightly fuller in the mouth and hits the gums a bit more. Classy and should develop well but slightly bitter and not any where near the 2010z

Photo 10-10-2014 18 14 302004
£87.50 Armit
The nose is really showing some class here and has some beautifully framed wood spice characters, blackberry, black cherry and almost edging into a black Forrest gateaux mocha character, lovely!
In the mouth the tannins are very grippy and drying and it almost drags the dark fruit down with it to the pit of your mouth, drys the toughie too much for me. Food is a must and it will be interesting to see where this goes with further ageing.

Photo 10-10-2014 18 14 202003
£74.46 Armit
This has an outstanding nose with a plethora of red fruit sprinkled with sugar icing with a great mineral lift expressive, floral, open, giving and voluptuous, this is ripe and enticing and incredibly seductive at the moment.
In the mouth this has a balance though there is some tension and a definite shift towards a fresh red fruited acidity over tannin, fresh and drinking beautifully now. Easily the most enjoyable and complete wine of the tasting.

These are the Sangiovese led wines

Photo 10-10-2014 18 14 101999
£74.46 Armit
Very classy nose that has a plush leather, mulberry, pencil lead, understated but there is also some very on-point, rich smoked charcuterie. In the mouth this has great balance but lacks character and seems to almost evaporate on the mid palate. Some dried leather notes come back round on the finish which is very classy though not too pronounced.

Photo 10-10-2014 18 14 021997
£73.80 Fine & Rare
Has an inky depth on the nose that was missing on the 99′ very iodine, with notes of white, black olive, mushroom and fresh earthy notes, black truffle, staples and fresh cherry.
In the mouth this really does have a lovely feel, drys out a touch on the mid palate and finish but has definition and well defined, rounded fruit, even tastes quite fresh on the length. Better than most big boy Bordeaux 97′


This tasting showed a clear consistency in quality throughout the different vintages, maybe more so than a region like Bordeaux. In short, if you like Cab blends that can be laid down for some time and don’t want to pay silly money for a poor Bordeaux vintage then these wines are well worth investigating.

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