Wine Review: 2003 Villa La Selva Selvamaggio IGT

19 04 2011

Is that old woman or couch on the label?

In order to show Italy that I wasn’t mad at it for my corked Dolcetto last night, I stuck with the red, white and green again tonight, though I moved south to Tuscany, in the centre-west of the country (the upper shin of the boot).  The 2003 Selvamaggio, which I got from the good folks at Highlander Wine & Spirits (thanks Tim & Elliot!), is a Super Tuscan wine, a designation which I described in some detail in this post.   It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a non-Italian varietal and thus automatically disqualifies the wine from obtaining the highest official status in the region, though that is by no means an indictment on the Selvamaggio’s underlying quality.  Since the word “Selva” appears in both the producer’s name and the wine’s name, I feel compelled to tell you that “Selva” means “woods” in Italian and refers to the forest growing around the vineyard area.  Now you know.

I shouldn’t ignore the obvious:  this might be the ugliest wine label of all time.  It either looks like an old woman’s sun dress or part of somebody’s sofa (my wife called it “snowbird wine”); either way, some marketing lessons are urgently required in Tuscany.  This also isn’t an indictment on the quality of the wine, but seriously.  It’s the 21st century, Villa La Selva.  If you were in a wine store and spotted this on the shelves, and if you knew nothing about it and weren’t caught up on your PnP, would you ever in a million years spend good money on it?  If you somehow did, would you expect to find a decent wine inside when you popped the cork?  It amazes me that some producers don’t pay more attention to their labels.

Cork Rating: 7.5/10 (Why cant this be on the front of the bottle?)

Thankfully, the wine outdoes its packaging and doesn’t taste like a sundress, a sofa, or a snowbird.  Given that it’s 8 years old and counting, I was quite surprised at its deep, dark, opaque colour, almost black-red, with a hint of garnet at the rim being the only real sign of its age.  It had a rustic, savoury nose that was quite un-Cabernet-like, although not at all unpleasant:  tomato, leather, earth and cured meats in the foreground with sweet cherry and other dark red fruits lurking beneath.  More fruit (blackberry along with the cherry) showed through on the palate, combined with smoky wood notes (almost like being in a sauna), black tea and something metallic on the edges.  The main area where the Cab really shone through was in the wine’s soft, lush mouthfeel, full body and scrubby but subtle tannins, all of which gave the Selvamaggio impeccable balance and restrained structure.  Still, if I had this in a blind tasting, I would have had an extremely hard time pinpointing it as a Cabernet Sauvignon — to me it reads more like a Syrah (rustic, gamy, meaty, smoky), though maybe I just have Syrah on the brain right now.

All in all, a very solid, enjoyable, well put together wine that stays within itself and delivers a nice mix of complexity, fruit and Old World sensibility.  If you want a gateway into the world of Super Tuscans and a wine with a bit of age on it that still fits into the budget, this could be your ticket.

88 points

$25 to $35 CDN

[Wine Jargon Notes:
 mouthfeel literally, the feel of the wine in your mouth, its weight, texture and body
balance = a wine is in balance when no one element of it (alcohol, fruit, acidity, sweetness, tannin, etc.) overpowers any other, when all these components are in harmony
structure the combination of all of the compounds/components that form the framework or architecture of a wine, including its acidity, tannin, and alcohol]



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