The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Why I Love Sangiovese Grosso

The marvel of Montalcino

Sangiovese Grosso vines grow on the hills of Montalcino

Sangiovese Grosso vines grow on the hills of Montalcino

Mods or rockers, cats or dogs, chunky or smooth, Star Trek or Star Wars: these are the dividing lines in popular culture. In aligning yourself with one or the other, you are in or out, one of us or one of them, a kindred spirit or a disrespected enemy. If you had to draw a line in the sand of Italian wine, you’d draw that line between Nebbiolo, the emblematic grape of Italy’s North, and Sangiovese, the obvious choice. Nebbiolo is fine, really. Barolo is lovely; Barbaresco is lovely. They’re great. Really.

But they’re not Sangiovese.

I have previously expressed my passionate love of Sangiovese in general andSangiovese Grosso, the clone particular to Tuscany’s region of Montalcino, in specific. Part of my love derives from the fact that this is where I’ve spent the most time, where I’ve drunk the most wine, fallen in love with the most winemakers, and shared the most good times. I’ve passed through Barolo and Piemonte a couple of times, but the time, love and experiences I’ve had pales in comparison to those I’ve enjoyed in Montalcino, and thus my love of the region’s wines runs a distant second. My roots, shallow as they are, run deepest in Toscana, and thus my heart belongs to Sangiovese.

Plus, I really like the grape. It’s acidic and pointy, and it smells like cherries took a tumble in autumn leaves, wrestled with a sprig of rosemary, and took it to heart in the dirt. I like the gut punch that a well wrought young Sangiovese offers, and I love the mellow outlaw-turned-legitimate businessperson vibe that a mature Sangiovese gives off. I also tend to rally behind the underdogs, and while Brunello was born an aristocrat, this isn’t true for the vast swatch of Sangiovese wines.

I also love Sangiovese—and specifically again Sangiovese Grosso—for its ability to be immediately enjoyable and spunky in a Rosso di Montalcino and for its regal, elegant age-worthiness as a Brunello. Even wine professionals can’t drink expensive bottles every night, but I can afford to drink a Rosso di Montalcino from Talenti, Collemattoni or Castiglion de Bosco on a regular basis. Brunello di Montalcino’s early-drinking little brother, Rosso di Montalcino usually comes from younger vines and is always aged for less time, giving a tasty introduction to an estate’s style. And without question, Cupano’s wines, whether the estate’s Rosso or Brunello di Montalcino or its Super-Tuscan Ombrone, slay me every time.

One of my favorite memories from the first time I was in Montalcino was sitting at the table of Pietro Buffo, the owner and winemaker at the rustic estate of Baricci, drinking his Rosso, eating the fennel cinghiale sausage his wife made, and feeling like the cosmos was knitting together in seamless logic. One taste built on the other, and together the wine and the sausage and the fine saltless Tuscan bread worked together in a harmony no less than the stars’.

It’s cool if you’re not a Sangiovese fanatic. We can still get along. My heart has room for many grapes, both red and white. We can appreciate the beauty of your Nebbiolo, your Sagrantino, your Cabernet—even your Amarone, your Super Tuscan or your cult white. But at the end of the hard work day, I’m going to gravitate to my first love, Sangiovese, if that’s all right with you.

For the record, I am a rocker, a dog person, all for chunky and more Star Wars than Trek. Now let’s pour a glass of Rosso di Montalcino and hug it out.

This week’s e-letter offers include a Brunello from Poggio di Sotto and a Rosso from Valdicava; both are perfect for lovers of Sangiovese Grosso.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Villa Sant’Anna 2012 Rosso di Montepulicano

A soft, round, and delicious $20 Rosso di Montepulciano

DA0617I love Sangiovese. One of my favorite things about Sangiovese is how the wine changes depending on where the grapes are grown. There are so many different styles and expressions of the grape across Tuscany’s many regions, each offering its own unique qualities and characteristics. The wine I’m featuring today, Villa Sant’Anna 2012 Rosso di Montepulicano, comes from a picturesque hilltop town in Tuscany called Montepulciano, a site that’s famous for its castle and its history, but most importantly for its wines.

Not to be confused with the grape named Montepulciano, which is native to Italy’s Abruzzo region, the township of Montepulciano sits in southern Tuscany near Siena, and it’s the home of some killer Sangiovese-based wines, most notably the world-renowned DOC of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Similar to the way that Montalcino producers craft a Rosso di Montalcino as a companion to their Brunello, so too do the estates in Montepulciano make their second wine, Rosso di Montepulciano, to drink while they wait for their Vino Nobile, also a Sangiovese wine, to mature.

While Vino Nobile is an austere, tannic and very structured wine that’s crafted with aging in mind, its companion wine, Rosso di Montepulciano, is quite the opposite. Soft, juicy and above all approachable, Rosso di Montepulciano is incredibly easy to enjoy with just about any meal. It’s a perfect “Tuesday night wine” for when you want to enjoy a delicious bottle without having to open anything special, and the Villa Sant’Anna bottling I recently enjoyed clocks in at just under $20.

Villa Sant’Anna ‘12 Rosso is predominantly Sangiovese (locally called Prugnolo Gentile), with some Canaiolo blended in as per the DOCG’s requirements. Aromatic and pretty on the nose, this Rosso is soft and genial, as well as round and generous on the palate. It offers a lot of silky tannins, a hint of warm spice and a long, juicy finish. Bright, warming and dangerously easy to drink, this wine has a way of disappearing from your glass much faster than you may have intended; one bottle of this Rosso is never enough!

Inside IWM October 19-22, 2015: Hearts and Minds

A look back at the week that was

Grape vines at Tuscany's Tua Rita

Grape vines at Tuscany’s Tua Rita

Let’s begin at the ending and end at the beginning, because this week is all about appealing to hearts and minds. Julia Punj, who works at IWM Aspen, loves gin, so she wrote a post praising Sloe Gin. To win you over, she also included a trio of cocktails that feature this herbaceous liquor. John Camacho Vidal can’t tear himself away from Frappato, one of Sicilia’s emblematic wines, and his post on Valle dell’Acate’s 2014 bottling of its Frappato Vittoria will likely convince you to pick up a bottle (it’s under $22!). And Janice Cable visited Tua Rita, which she describes as the beating heart of Suvereto.

IWM’s experts were simlarly guided by their hearts and heads. Will Di Nunzio was reminded of the greatness of the wines of the Veneto, so he picked a pair of very affordable bottles from Venturini Massimino and Nicolis. Prompted by his love of Sangiovese, Michael Adler selected two very different bottlings that feature the Tuscan grape, including one value Rosso di Montepulciano. Crystal felt nostalgia about her family trips to Oregon, prompted by recent bottles from the Willamette Valley’s Soter Family Vineyards. And John Camacho Vidal found two recent Pinot Noir bottlings so compelling he had to write about them; Burgheads want to read this post.

Here’s to making choices based on what you love–especially when it comes to what’s in your glass!

Expert Picks: Villa Sant’Anna and Talenti

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15We love Sangiovese here at IWM. While no one is sure whether its name derives from the Latin latin words Sanguis Jovis, or blood of Jove, we do know that Sangiovese is characterized by a medium body, soft, velvety tannins and its telltale aromas of red fruits, dried flowers and herbs. From the humblest Tuesday-night Chianti to the most lavish, compelling Brunello or Super Tuscan, Sangiovese offers pleasure at many levels of quality and production, and it’s universally enjoyable with just about any meal you could think of. And in addition to its versatility on the dinner table, it’s equally as versatile in your cellar, for it’s usually enjoyable upon release yet also quite age-worthy. In short, no matter what the occasion, you can find an appropriate Sangiovese to match it. Today, I’m focusing on two outstanding and affordable bottles of Sangiovese that rise above their humble price points and deliver the goods for a song.

Villa Sant’Anna 2012 Rosso di Montepulciano $19.99

Not to be confused with the grape named Montepulciano, which is native to Italy’s Abruzzo region, Montepulciano is also the name of a small hilltop town in southern Tuscany near Siena that produces some killer Sangiovese-based wines, most notably the world-renowned DOC of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Similar to the way that Montalcino producers craft a Rosso di Montalcino as a companion to their Brunello, so too do the estates in Montepulciano make their second wine, Rosso di Montepulciano, to drink while they wait for their Vino Nobile wines mature. This Villa Sant’Anna 2012 Rosso is predominantly Sangiovese (locally called Prugnolo Gentile), with smaller amounts of some other minor indigenous blending varietals. Aromatic and floral on the nose, this Rosso is soft yet round and generous on the palate, with silky tannins and a long, juicy finish. Bright, genial and very easy to enjoy, this wine almost pulls you back to the glass.

Talenti 2010 Brunello di Montalcino $49.99

You probably know by now that 2010 was a phenomenal vintage in Montalcino and that the 2010 Brunellos offer incredible power, age-worthiness and complexity. Many producers raised their prices for this benchmark vintage, but it’s still possible to find an amazing 2010 Brunello that won’t totally devastate your bankroll. Talenti has always been one of my go-to Brunellos, and this dynamite 2010 will redefine your understanding of how good a $50 bottle can be. With the majority of Brunellos priced above $75, Talenti’s Brunello offers unparalleled value in the category and easily outperforms a great many of its more expensive competitors. An inky reddish purple in the glass, this ‘10 Brunello is a massively powerful, scintillating wine that is approachable now for fans of big, intense reds but it really need several years in the cellar before it reaches its optimal drinking window. With time in the glass, this wine opens up to reveal a wide range of floral, herbal and earthy aromas along with notes of espresso, leather and cigar wrapper, all on a foundation of dense, chewy red and black fruits. The ‘10 Talenti is an absolute steal under $50; buy this one by the case and enjoy it over the next 20 years!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Castello di Selvole 2011 Chianti Classico Riserva

An under $35 wine that transports you to the heart of Toscana

RD9048-2This past weekend I had the honor of attending the wedding of a dear friend of mine in Newport, RI. The setting was breathtaking, but unfortunately it was impossible to take it all in because of cold weather and rain. The day after the wedding, I gathered with some close friends for dinner, and never one to let my mood be determined by the weather, I decided to warm all of our spirits with the Castello di Selvole 2011 Chianti Classico Riserva.

Chianti has come far in the past few decades, but I still tend to rely on a few reliable producers. This bottle was something new to me. A wine that Sergio hand-selected and brought into stock, I’d yet to try it and I was thrilled at the opportunity to dig in among friends. Sometimes when we step out of our comfort zone we can experience something very wonderful.

Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in all of Italy and you could argue that the Chianti and Chianti Classico regions are the heart of this grape’s production. Tuscan Sangiovese wine is inherently Italian. The nose and palate are a balance of fruit, earth and life, and the structure maintains a strong backbone, yet a seductive rusticity remains. When you close your eyes and sip a good Chianti Classico, it takes you somewhere. You feel as though you are walking through a small village with colorful stucco buildings around your, shoes tapping along the cobblestone street until you turn into a dusty old antique shops, owned by an old woman who you wish was your grandmother. This is the power of great Sangiovese.

Castello di Selvole is located in a wine region with roots dating back over 300 years, but this estate has been in operation for just under two decades. Like so many romance stories, this property was born from the love of two people and their love of the land and the magic it produces. Drinking this wine from the heart of Chianti Classico in a café with my friends, the wind whipped outside and the rain poured down, but I did not feel cold. I felt warmth in my stomach, my heart and maybe even a little bit in my face.

This Chianti is young, but if opened for an hour or so it shows you incredible potential. It’s a wine sure to bring people together where the stories can flow and lives can be shared. At just under $35 a bottle, this Chianti Classico Riserva packs a powerful value.

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