Argiolas Turriga – A Sardinian Icon: 1988-2004

2004    Argiolas Turriga          93

2002    Argiolas Turriga          93

2001    Argiolas Turriga          94

2000    Argiolas Turriga          92

1999    Argiolas Turriga          92

1998    Argiolas Turriga          92

1997    Argiolas Turriga          90

1995    Argiolas Turriga          93

1994    Argiolas Turriga          90

1993    Argiolas Turriga          92+

1992    Argiolas Turriga          91

1991    Argiolas Turriga          92

1990    Argiolas Turriga          93

1989    Argiolas Turriga          88

1988    Argiolas Turriga          91

Argiolas is one of Sardinia’s – make that Italy’s – most historic properties, with a rich lineage that dates back to 1918, when the first vineyards were planted. The estate makes a large number of wines, including a number of terrific, budget-level offerings all the way to the top-of- the line Turriga, which has long set the benchmark for what great Sardinian reds are and can be all about. This incredible tasting provided an opportunity to taste nearly every vintage of Turriga from the inaugural 1988 to 2004.

Turriga is the brainchild of Giacomo Tachis, the consulting oenologist responsible for Sassicaia, Tignanello, Solaia and a number of first-rate Tuscan wines that defined an era when Italian reds first established themselves with consumers as top-flight wines that could match the finest bottles from around the world. The Turriga vineyard was planted in 1975. This limestone-rich plot sits at an altitude of 230 meters above sea level, where breezes from the ocean keep the fruit well-ventilated. Turriga is built around Cannonau, the island’s version of Grenache, which accounts for 70-85% of the final blend. Bovale Sardo, Carginano and Malvasia, also indigenous varieties, play supporting roles. The grapes are fermented separately for 16-18 days and subsequently aged in mostly new French oak prior to being assembled into the final wine.

One of the most impressive points that emerged from this tasting is that Turriga is a wine that needs considerable time to show its true pedigree. Most vintages are appealing upon release, but Turriga has a formidable track record of improving in bottle. I was also deeply impressed by the wine’s consistency from year to year. Even in smaller vintages, balance and a sense of proportion are never in question, while the finest years achieve a brilliant combination of power and elegance. Readers who seek to understand the heights Sardinian viticulture and winemaking can achieve owe it to themselves to explore Turriga, preferably a vintage with a few years of bottle age.

The 2004 Turriga is fresh, tight and incredibly muscular at this stage. Dark cherries, sweet herbs and juniper berries are some the flavors that emerge over time, but only reluctantly. This remains a highly promising Turriga in need of significant cellaring. 93. Drinking window: 2014-2024. The 2002 Turriga is only now starting to soften. Roasted coffee beans and sweet spices suggest that early tertiary notes may be right around the corner. Today, the wine impresses for its impeccable balance and expressive, generous dark fruit.  93. Drinking window: 2012-2020.

The 2001 Turriga is endowed with gorgeous aromatics. Minerals and herbs gradually emerge from the glass adding complexity to the perfumed, silky fruit. The 2001 reveals terrific balance, length and clarity, all in a style that is at once powerful yet medium in body. This is a fabulous Turriga. 94. Drinking window: 2011-2021. The 2000 Turriga is a wine that impresses for its impeccable overall balance. This isn’t the biggest or richest Turriga, rather is a vintage that offers superb drinkability today in an open, accessible style I find irresistible. Tar, smoke and licorice linger on the beautiful finish. 92. Drinking window: 2010-2020.

The 1999 is fairly weighty, powerful Turriga. Some of the delineation of the 2000 is missing, but the wine makes up for that with its harmonious personality. Sweet grilled herbs add a final layer of nuance on the close. 92. Drinking window: 2010-2020.The 1998 Turriga is a soft, floral red laced with menthol, herbs and dark fruit. The wine reveals gorgeous inner perfume, a finessed finish and the superb balance that is the signature of Turriga. 92. Drinking window: 2010-2018.

The 1997 is the first of these Turrigas where the upside potential seems exhausted at this stage. This is a ripe, opulent vintage, with tons of harmony in the soft, generous fruit and a long, resonating finish. 90. Drinking window: 2010-2014. The 1995 Turriga is a fascinating wine, as it is all about elegance and understatement. Despite its smaller scale relative to other vintage, the 1995 remains fresh, vibrant and utterly impeccable. The ethereal, sensual finish shows elements of finesse that recall Nebbiolo. 93. Drinking window: 2010-2018.

The 1994 Turriga has held up quite well, but some rough edges are beginning to show. The tannins and the French oak are accentuated in the glass, while early oxidative notes make an appearance, all tell-tale signs the fruit is fading and that the wine needs to be drunk. 90. Drinking window: 2010-2012. The 1993 Turriga is an amazing wine, especially as it appears to still be years away from its peak! This is a powerful, massively rich Turriga with super-ripe fruit that recalls Amarone in its opulence. The 1993 appears to still be searching for its balance and at this stage I am not sure that will ever happen. The best way to enjoy the 1993 is probably to open the bottle well in advance. This is one of the most surprising vintages of this tasting. 92+. Drinking window: 2010-2020.

The 1992 Turriga is soft and fully developed. Herbs, coffee beans, spices and licorice add complexity and nuance to the generous core of fruit. This is a relatively approachable and slightly smaller-scaled Turriga, but the overall balance is once again beyond reproach. 91. Drinking window: 2009-2014. The 1991 is another soft, open Turriga. Here the fruit tends towards the darker end of the spectrum, with pretty suggestions of spices, cedar, tobacco, spices, menthol and herbs. The 1991 reveals gorgeous inner perfume and an impeccably refined personality. 92. Drinking window: 2009-2011.

The 1990 Turriga is remarkable for the way it combines ripeness with what is an essentially quite ethereal personality. Clarity, precision and balance; it’s all there as the wine continues to open up in the glass. Tobacco herbs, licorice and dark fruit follow through to the long, harmonious finish. This is a gorgeous Turriga. 93. Drinking window: 2010-2020. The 1989 Turriga is still intact, although slight elements of oxidation and dilution in the fruit suggest the wine is at or past peak. Any remaining bottles need to be drunk up. 88. Drinking window: 2010. The 1988 is delicate, perfumed and wonderfully intact. This is well on its way to the tertiary stage, but there is enough fruit to provide for another few years of fine drinking. The 1988 is impressive, but it, too, needs to be drunk sooner rather than later.  Nevertheless, this is a great showing for the debut vintage of Turriga. 91. Drinking window: 2010-2012.

--  Antonio Galloni