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Meghan and Boris love it, so what's so special about Tignanello, the 'flash' new wine status symbol?

Boris Johnson Sajid Javid 
Sajid Javid reportedly took a 'stash' of Super Tuscan Tignanello to Chequers Credit: Aaron Chown/AFP

What do Boris Johnson, the Duchess of Sussex 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 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.

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, Sir 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 1980s 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 who's taking part in September's Wine Education Week, 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 – and remains one of the most famous. 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). 

"As a result," says Way, "it had to be released as the most basic category of wine: vino da tavola"  – which means table wine (generally speaking, affordable wine which can be enjoyed while young. "Since then regulations have changed. "However, the wine will mature in bottle and reach full maturity and complexity from around 10 years after the vintage." 

Tignanello typically uses a blend of 80 per cent sangiovese, 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon and five per cent cabernet franc. Prices begin at around £80, 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." 

Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, head of fine wines at Cult Wines, a wine investment service, adds that: "The typical Tignanello is medium-to-full bodied, with a generous, ripe flavour of sour red and black cherries, red plum and balsamic, and seasoned with allspice, red pepper, tobacco and earthy minerals."

Telegraph wine writer Victoria Moorepoints out that it's a wine highly influenced by the Bordeaux style. The inclusion of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes, despite the small percentages, "strongly make themselves felt. They overwrite some of the texture and frangrance you find in sangiovese, which some people see as a positive." 

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 and Moore both suggest red meat. Italian dishes like osso bucco or roast lamb, as it "cuts through the richness," according to Verdin, or pizza with salami or fennel sausage. "They classically go really well with steak," says Moore. 

"It's a nice wine, but also bigger, richer and throatier than the Tuscan wines that I usually fall in love with," Moore adds. "They can be quite delicious to drink, but given a choice between a Tignanello and, say, an atmospheric Brunello or a haunting nebbiolo from Piemonte – and I'd go for one of the latter. For me, Tignanello doesn't express the soul of Italy in the way that some other wines do."

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 to the Prime Minister.