Italy Wine

Rosso di Montalcino – the undervalued sibling

Brunello di Montalcino deserves a post. Soldera and Il Paradiso di Manfredi will certainly pass by our palates eventually, but wine is not always about that sort of indulgence. Bottles of such calibre require years of cellaring to be enjoyed, locking a substantial amount of disposable income.
Fortunately for lovers of Montalcino (the Tuscan comune where we think Sangiovese ripens at its best), the younger sibling of Brunello provides incredibly good value. But some insight into the region is recommended to find good deals. Sometimes Montalcino’s two different types of soils and the diverse styles held by its winemakers can be disconcerting. Today we will try to help you elucidate the key details, starting with the terroir.

Most of the comune of Montalcino is drier and warmer than Chianti, producing richer, fuller and more structured wines. The greater proximity to the Mediterranean sea brings cool winds during the evening that preserve the acidity giving balance and longevity to the wine. It is in fact the unique potencial for Sangiovese here makes this denominazione the only one to require the wine to be 100% Sangiovese. 
The northern areas of Montalcino are covered with galestro soils, giving a cooler climate that yields more refined and aromatic wines. On the other hand, the southern region was only included in the denominazione after the commercial success of Brunello in the 1960s. Its clay soils produce more tannic wines with a darker fruit character. Some producers might blend across these boundaries, but we personally prefer the lighter and delicate style of the northern producers.

Since Brunello di Montalcino calls for four years of cellaring, a younger wine is also released to provide some cash flow. Rosso di Montalcino is allowed to age the wine for as little as one year, of which only 6 months are mandated to be in oak minimum. Thus, producers tend to employ the most recently planted vines for Rosso, monetizing the younger vines that tend to produce less concentrated and less age-worthy wines. But this is not necessarily negative. It results in rounded and lighter wines that can be drunk young while expressing the character that we seek in Montalcino at a lower cost. 

Sadly for the consumer, the rules of Rossi’s vinification are more flexible regarding the winemaking style. Producers might employ a longer ageing or use different varieties of oak. Here comes our second layer of confusion. For instance, the Conti Costanti ‘Vermiglio’ employs both French and Slavonian oak during two years, whereas Il Poggione matures its Rosso for one year in French oak. But with prices ranging between 50% to 70% of those of Brunello, if you find a style that suits you, you have a winner. Other producers we enjoy are Gianni Brunelli, Fuligni and Biondi-Santi

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