O.K., I can’t avoid it any longer. Admittedly Tuscany is, and should be, on the list to visit on any Italian vacation. From the towers of San Gimignano to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, Tuscany is what most Americans think of when they think of Italy. This is the home of some of the most classic of all Italian wines such as Chianti, Brunello, and the not quite classic, but important, super Tuscans.
We have talked about so-called Super Tuscans on a couple of different occasions previously (DOCG Dogma, 11/13/13) so we will let that dog lie. What is surprising is that some of the older, more established regions are still quite misunderstood. Many still think of Chianti as plonk, Brunello is unheard of and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano is confused with the grape of the same name.
The Montepulciano confusion was hopefully cleared up in our article entitled Montepulciano Madness (9/4/13), but every day I have people turn their noses up at Chianti as they recall those wicker covered bottles best used as candle holders. (Those bottles, by the way, are called Fiasco or plural, Fiasci.) This disdain was justified many years ago due to many factors. For one, Chianti became a victim of its own success. With the rising popularity of this Tuscan red the local producers started cultivating many bad habits in order to produce as much as possible with reckless disregard for quality.
In addition to this, the legal “recipe” for Chianti required a blend of several indigenous grapes including the blending of some white grapes into the wine. This law stayed in effect until 1995 when it was changed to a minimum of 80% Sangiovese and other non-aromatic red varietals allowing the blending of traditionally French grapes such as Cabernet and Syrah into the wine. This, combined with dubious sanitation resulted in the stigma of Chianti as swill.
Well, with the changes to the laws and the younger generation of producers using less traditional wine making techniques, in other words modern sanitary winemaking, starting in 1997 Chianti rebounded and has become one of Italy’s darlings once again. If you love the Sangiovese grape but Chianti doesn’t pack enough punch for you, then try one of the Montalcinos.
What I am referring to is either Rosso di Montalcino or Brunello di Montalcino. These are fuller bodied, longer lived wines from further south in Tuscany around the town of Montalcino. Made 100% from the Sangiovese Grosso grape, a term used for the 6-8 different Sangiovese clones in the vineyards, these wines are often higher in alcohol and extract resulting in a noticeably more concentrated wine.
Not to oversimplify, but the main differences in Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino is aging and vineyard location. Brunello is usually made from the ripest, best grapes and aged a minimum of 4 years before release. Rosso can very often be a declassified Brunello. In other words, the producer decided to sell his wine at a lower price and classification due to some issue he saw, or it is from a less prestigious vineyard and is destined for the Rosso di Montalcino aging regimen of at least one year.
Whatever the case, don’t let these Tuscan beauties slip by. Try one of these today!
Fatoria di Lucignano Chianti, The fine microclimate and unique soil characteristics surrounding the medieval town of Lucignano, only a mile outside the western border of the Chianti Classico, make it without a doubt the finest cru of the Chianti Colli Fiorentini appellation. Lucignano is the extremely consistent in quality, achieving remarkable results even in the least favorable vintages. Only 13.99!!!
Valdicava 2011 Rosso di Montalcino, This Rosso di Montalcino beauty has more in common with Brunello then a traditional Rosso. Most years, Valdicava’s Vincenzo Abbruzzesse makes the wine with great passion from the youngest vines, but in 2011, the estate decided not to make its Brunello, turning all the grapes over to this Rosso bottling. Deep ruby in color, loaded with glossy red fruits, this wine has incredible flavor, depth and balance with a long finish. Just 43.99!!!
Piancornello Brunello di Montalcino 2008, 92 Pts. Robert Parker "The 2009 Brunello di Montalcino sees fruit sourced from the thicker soils of the Abbazia Sant’Antimo area in the southern part of the appellation. This is a very compelling wine. What I liked most about it is its frankness and its simple lines – it’s a wine that paints in primary colors. Decidedly uncomplicated, it spells out clean aromas of bold cherry, dark spice, smoky mineral and sweet almond. The delivery is impeccable and pristine in the mouth as well where smooth tannins and a bright spot of acidity form this Brunello’s backbone." Sale 48.99!!!
~ Randy Freeland ~
Prices good through 7/16/14.