Each year, Wine Spectator editors survey the wines reviewed over the previous 12 months and select our Top 100, based on quality, value, availability and excitement. This annual list honors successful wineries, regions and vintages around the world.
Solaia 1997 was the Wine of the Year in 2000
Dark ruby in color, with extremely ripe raisin and spice aromas. Full-bodied and very chewy, with loads of polished tannins and a long, long finish that's big and fruity. A solid, muscular red fromTuscany, this is the greatest Solaia ever made. Best after 2004. 7,000 cases made. —JS 98 points
When the initial production of Solaia began, the grape source was a parcel within the larger Tignanello vineyard. The same special characteristics as the original vineyard – altitude, soil, and exposure to the sun (which accounts for the name of the parcel and the wine: “Solaia” derives from sole, the Italian word for the sun) are also to be found in a nearby vineyard plot which, since 1997, has been integrated into the original vineyard. The Solaia vineyard, currently, consists of 20 hectares (49 acres) and is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (15 hectares), Cabernet Franc (1 hectar) and Sangiovese (4 hectares); the vines have an average of fifteen years. Vine density ranges from 5,500 to 7,200 per hectare and a low, spurred-cordon training system is used. Over the years there has been a progressive renewal of the Solaia vineyard. This has been accomplished by utilizing the many years of experience and the more extensive knowledge of the estate’s land to further bring out the personality of Solaia as a wine.
The Marchesi Antinori firm produced this wine for the first time in the 1978 vintage with an initial blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc, a blend repeated again in 1979. In the following vintages 20% of Sangiovese was added to the Cabernet grapes and the ratio of Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon was changed in order to create a wine which has now become definitive in its various composing elements. Solaia is only produced in exceptional vintages: it was not produced in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1992. In 2002 the Sangiovese did not achieve satisfactory quality for Solaia: only Cabernet grapes were used. This vintage is known as “annata diversa” (different vintage).
Blend:75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 20%Sangiovese
The latter part of winter and the beginining of spring were very mild for the time of the year and also very dry. This produced early budding - some 10 days earlier than average. In April the temperature suddenly dropped,
causing an arrest in the growth of the buds. The summer was very hot and sunny and this weather continued for the
whole of September and for the duration of the harvest which meant that at the time of picking, the grapes were exceptionally healthy and with a high sugar concentration.
Overall the 1997 harvest has been somewhat less than expected in terms of quantity - but in terms of quality, this is an exceptional vintage, probably even better than the
much acclaimed 1990 vintage and one of the greatest of the last fifty years.
The grapes from the Solaia vineyard, which are as always severely selected, were among the last to be harvested (starting September 22 for the Cabernets, and the Sangiovese a week later). The grapes were vinified separately and new methods were used which guarantee a very soft processing. Maceration took place in 50 hectoliter open wooden fermentors with periodic cap submersion for better extraction of colour, complexity and tannins. During this time (15 days for the Sangiovese and 20 days for the Cabernets), the wine completed its alcoholic fermentation at a temperature never exceeding 30°C. The wine was then transferred into 225 liter French oak barrels (new and one-year-old Troncais and Alliers), where malolactic fermentation was terminated by the year's end. The wines were then racked, blended and then returned to the barriques for about 14 months aging, after which time they were bottled and aged for a further 12 months before release. Alcohol : 13,5% Vol.