By Eric Asimov
Back in the early days of Wine School, we focused on Chianti Classico, the signature red of Tuscany. Now we head to a different part of Tuscany to drink Rosso di Montalcino.
Rosso di Montalcino is the younger sibling of Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello must be aged for at least four years after the vintage before it can be released. That’s quite an investment of time and money, and if things do not go smoothly in certain vintages, producers may end up with little wine to sell.
That’s where Rosso di Montalcino comes in. It requires only one year of aging before it can be released, which gives producers something to sell as they await the Brunello.
Rosso is also a way of improving the Brunello. Instead of using younger vines or vines from lesser sites in the more expensive, prestigious Brunello, which might compromise its quality, they can go into the Rosso.
Does this mean Rosso di Montalcino is an inferior wine? It depends what you mean by that. No, Rosso will not have Brunello’s potential to achieve complexity and evolve over time. It most likely will be less tannic, lighter and less concentrated.
At the same time, Rossos will be easier to drink and more pleasurable on release than Brunellos, which generally requires some aging. They will be cheaper. They will not have the depth of Brunello, but they can be delicious everyday reds.
Like Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino is required to be 100 percent sangiovese. This sets the Montalcino wines apart from other Tuscan sangiovese-based wines like Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, in which blending with other grapes is permitted.
The sangiovese requirement did not always deter Montalcino producers, who earlier in this century sometimes covertly added international varieties like merlot or syrah to their wines. This culminated in a scandal in 2008, and for the most part, most people now agree that the sangiovese requirement is a good thing.
The three Rossos I recommend are:
Lisini Rosso di Montalcino 2015 (SoilAir Selection, New York) $30.
Le Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino 2015 (Skurnik Wines, New York) $30.
If you cannot find these bottles, many others will do, particularly if the producer makes a good Brunello. Among other producers to look for, I suggest Conti Costanti, Fattoria dei Barbei, Caparzo, Poggio Antico, Il Paradiso di Manfredi, Uccelliera, Il Poggione and Altesino. If money is no object, I highly recommend the Rossos from Poggio di Soto and Biondi-Santi, which can run roughly from $75 to $100.
Sangiovese is versatile with food. It will go with many Italian dishes, naturally, especially with cooked tomato sauce, as well as cooked meats like sausages, beef and roast chicken. Serve just a bit cool, though not chilled.