When I look at wine lists in Italian restaurants, it’s tragic that Tuscany’s Chiantis are are so damn expensive. Even for the lowest “Chianti” classification (what’s this?). I simply refuse to pay $40 restaurant pricing for something worth $15. So the other night, feeling the urge to spend more wisely, I ordered something a little different to pair with my savory red sauce, a Rosso di Montalcino.
The main grape in Italy’s famous Chianti is Sangiovese, but a slightly different Sangiovese clone (what’s a clone?) graces bottles of the famed Brunello di Montalcino (people often drop the “di Montalcino”). “Di Montalcino” refers to the commune where the fruit is grown. Earning the highest quality distinction in Italy, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) — translated as “regulated and guaranteed place”– Brunello is considered in some circles to be the best aging wine on Earth. In other words, the wine is big, tannic and often undrinkable under 15-20 years of age. It’s also pretty pricey, retailing at over $30-$40 per bottle.
But enter Rosso di Montalcino, made from the same grape and often sourced from the exact same vineyards. In 1983, the Italian government granted producers permission to release younger, “baby Brunellos” — it’s one of the only locales where the Italian government allows this practice. With one caveat: Brunello is reserved for wines destined to age for a long time, and Rosso di Montalcino, a younger wine with freshness, great acidity and bright red fruit, can be released as early as September 1st the year after harvest.
What does this mean for us? Great fruit. Less money.
The 2008 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino is no exception. I paid $42 on a wine list in Santa Rosa, California and online prices are around $23. But I bet you can find it cheaper. It’s worth the search. Light-bodied with the characteristic dustiness of Italian wine. Dried red cherry and raspberry with a cool smokiness and a hint of menthol on the tongue. Refreshing, food friendly acidity and a clean, lean, fruity finish.
Sweetness: 1 out of 10
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Occasion: Tasted at a restaurant, Italian, of course
Availability: Online and at independent retailers
Food pairing: Classic Italian dishes like Osso Buco, lasagna or mussels in marinara