Definitely, the world of wine could bring about feelings of nostalgia. For me, I always look back to that special wine that got me hooked on a certain grape variety or region. Readers of this blog may suspect that my heart lies with Tuscan reds, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy and appreciate wines from different Italian regions. If I was ignorant enough to judge wines based on my personal preference, I would be lousy at this job.
One of the first Italian wines I came to love early in life is Rosso di Montalcino. Like its big brother, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso is made exclusively from Sangiovese Grosso – the bigger clone of Chianti’s Sangiovese that grows very well on the rolling hills of Montalcino. But, unlike Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino is more accessible in its youth.
Not too long ago ( 20-30 years ago), Rosso di Montalcino was more like an afterthought.
The spotlight was on its bigger sibling Brunello and the Rosso
was considered a reservoir of mediocre Sangiovese grapes
A Rosso was a tough and rustic wine to drink with a meal, of course with a few exceptions, the best were a notch up than drinkable. This is the type of rosso from my childhood, the one that my nonno would drink with trippaalla romana or with pasta e fagioli. Despite its rusticity, I feel in love with it because it connected me with him.
Today, Rosso is a different ballgame due to diverse economical-social factors. For instance, the hardship of selling a Brunello in a tough economic environment combined with a increased appreciation on the merits of Sangiovese by the younger winemaking generation has made Rosso di Montalcino better than ever.
The popularity of Rosso di Montalcino has also been heightened by the quality of its latest vintages. For instance, 2015 ( available at the SAQ at the moment) was an excellent year as the climate was mild, with a very hot summer but with rain that helped the grapes reach the perfect degree of ripeness. On the other hand, 2016 was more about finesse and complexity. The vintage developed clear and fragrant scents, more acidity than concentration. After a rainy spring, the autumn was warm during the day and cool at night, a variation that made the grapes particularly rich in acidity, color and perfume. The harvest was perfect, one of the best ones in recent years. In May and June the weather was cool, with good rainfall, while in summer the heat was balanced, not excessive.
On the other hand, 2016 was more about finesse and complexity.
The vintage developed clear and fragrant scents, more acidity than concentration.
After a rainy spring, the autumn was warm during the day and cool at night,
a variation that made the grapes particularly rich in acidity, color and perfume
However, at the end, the quality comes down to the specific producer. While the majority of Montalcino estates make their Rossos from younger Sangiovese vines that could also be destined for Brunello, others specifically set out to make Rosso di Montalcino from vineyards dedicated to this only purpose.
My grandfather passed away in 2011 in Venezuela and every time I have a glass of Rosso diMontalcino, I think of him and the wonderful meals we had together. That is the powerful imagery that wine drinking can bring you.
Rosso di Montalcino wines to try:
Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2015. SAQ # 13487049, $26.40
On the nose resonant notes of sour cherry with deep notes of fine leather, hummus and eucalyptus as well. Structured and dense with fine and velvety tannins. Long and persistent finale that brings to mind mocha, strawberry and licorice as well.
Tenuta Friggiali Rosso di Montalcino 2015. SAQ # 11895479, $25.45
Bright red fruit aromas with that delicate mineral dustiness typical of Montalcino Sangiovese. On the mouth, medium to full body with a good acidity streak and fine tannins. Impressive rosso that favors harmony and elegance rather than power.
Le Potazzine Rosso di Montalcino 2015. SAQ # 13432831, $41.50
On the nose, this rosso display very delicate floral nuances intermingled with wild red and black fruit with soft tones of licorice. On the mouth, very long and racy with spicy flavors such as cardamom and cinnamon. Incredible long finish.