Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
The Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany, where rolling hills and Sangiovese vineyards dominate the environment, is known to a few wine aficionados.
Everyone knows the Chianti, Chianti Classico, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bolgheri etc. wine production areas and many of the wines produced there are much in demand, but there are some newer DOC and DOCG denominations that create as great wines as the better known areas, yet are not as well known. One of the reasons is that the better known areas have received their denominations much earlier and have promoted their wines extensively in the US.
I visited two of the newer Italian denominations, Morelino di Scansano and Montecucco and I’ll say that their higher priced red wines are as good as any Brunello or Vino Nobile; actually, numerous of the larger and better known Tuscan producers –the Cecchi brothers, Castello Romitorio, Castello di Poppiano, and Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi for example – have now large operations in these two DOCGs.
I have written in the past about the Morellino di Scansano wines. Most are blends of 85% Sangiovese grosso, or other Sangiovese clones, plus 15% other allowed grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. A few producers blend their Sangiovese with another local varietal, Ciliegiolo. A number of blends might also have the allowed 15% from locally grown Alicante – Alicante could be either the French varietal Alicante Bouchet or the Spanish Garnacha. All the samples we had were delicious, full bodied, rather aromatic wines that paired beautifully with local food specialties like pappardelle al ragu di Cinghiale (wide homemade pasta in a wild boar ragout). Boar meat seems to be ubiquitous in Tuscany and I’ve tasted many local recipes based on it. Actually, as a winemaker told me “It’s not that we love the taste of the boar meat, but for us it’s revenge for the damage they do going through the vineyards”. I have been told that a vineyard looks like it has been harvested by a mechanical harvester, after the wild boars have gone through it.
Most of the wines we tasted were from the 2014 vendemmia (vintage) with a couple samples from 2013 and Reservas of 2012. A number were vinified and aged in stainless steel and had seen no wood. Some were organic (or were farmed as organic but because of the proximity to other non-organic vineyards could not be certified as organic). There were a few biodynamic producers certified by Demeter.
All producers make nice white wines, mostly Vermentino or blends of Vermentino and Sauvignon Blanc. But what is of real interest to me were the reds based on the Sangiovese grape.
The sample from Santa Lucia “A Luciano 2014” was one that had seen no wood. Light and fresh in the mouth. Nicely aromatic with some evident acidity, light bodied, it tasted very good when had with a meal.
Also from the 2014 vendemmia, La Selva “Morellino di Scansano” was 85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot. A biodynamic wine that has also seen no wood was full bodied, with nice acidity.
Another 2014 vintage, from Fattoria di Magliano called “Heba”; was a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Syrah. This was vinified in cement vats. Full bodied, with soft tannins but a bit spicy.
Another from the 2014 vintage Villa Patrizia “Lorneta” was a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon and Canaiolo (the percentages of the complementary grapes change with the vintage).
Castello Romitorio’s 2014 “Blue Label” was a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. A little more alcohol than the previous wines (14% ABV) but it was great with food and is a worthy companion to Romitorio’s Brunello.
2014 “Campo Maccione” from Rocca delle Macie, another of the major Tuscan producers. It is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Nicely bodied, it paired well with a plate of Pacchieri al Genovese, a Neapolitan specialty I make at home.
The 2013 Podere 414 “Morellino di Scansano” was a rather tannic blend of Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo and Canaiolo. The blend changes every year depending on the harvest. The sample we tasted would need considerable time in the cellar to mellow.
The 2013 Doga delle Clavule “Morellino di Scansano” was an exceptional wine, nicely aromatic and soft, 85% Sangiovese 15% mixture of Merlot and Alicante Bouchet that changes with the vintage.
Finally, two outstanding reservas from 2012. Fattoria’s Le Pupille “Morellino di Scansano Reserva” was nicely spicy, a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon that had I year in oak and 1 year in bottle. In my opinion, it is a very nice wine that will become much better with a couple more years in cellar and has the possibility of a long life. Another exceptional Reserva was Poggio Maestrino e Spiaggiole “Pogio Maestrino Reserva” from 2012. This was another blend, 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot. It has been awarded 3 Bicchieri in the past, but the 2012 was a bit more tannic than expected and will need much more time in cellar to mellow.
We tasted these wines, both at the offices of the consortium (without food) and with meals at Terme di Saturnia’s Michelin starred restaurant and La Cantina Ristoro, one of the best restaurants in the area.
We also visited numerous wineries and vineyards, and I will give a more detailed descriptions in future stories of the wineries I thought made exceptional wines worth gracing a reader’s table.
To your health!
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