Why are these Wines so Yummy?
A Wine Decoded ‘Context & Contrast’ Wine Bite
This one is all about getting your head around Rosso di Montalcino. We’ve put a set of crackers together for you. By the time you’re done, you’ll come away with an appreciation of the diversity of flavours, aromas, textures and styles of Rosso di Montalcino all on the back of 5 pretty impressive drinks!
Tasting in Context & with Contrast
The Context –Rosso di Montalcino, made from Sangiovese.
The Contrast – 3 Excellent producers across 3 vintages.
If you really want to get your head around these wines, try 2 or 3 at a time!
It makes it so much easier to find the differences and helps you to appreciate each wine’s qualities. Having a glass for each wine is the way to go!
If you’re up for it taste them all at once with some scaly mates. Don’t fear they’ll last for a couple of days open.
What to look out for
Tasting Order: This can be challenging, normally you’d taste by increasing fruit weight, and, increasing tannin. In this case go for youngest to oldest.
Aromas & Flavours: Compare the wines looking for red fruits vs dark fruits, perfume vs earthy & savoury characters.
Tannins & Texture: Think about how they feel in your which wine has softer tannins? Which wine has tannins that run further along your tongue? When you’ve finished trying them stand-alone, try them with food and see how that changes the way the tannins feel in your mouth.
Balance: Does the acid, tannin and alcohol balance or does one stick out?
When your tasting, think about the 5 elements below, they’ll make it simple and ensure you cover off the important aspects of good wine. We’ll be exploring these in detail in a series of posts for members only soon!
Tips for Drinking these Wines
🌡Temp: 16°C. We tend to drink reds an edge warm. There’s nothing wrong with chucking the bottles in the fridge for 15minutes to drop a few degrees off them. If they end up too cold they’ll warm up quickly in the glass.
🍷Decanting: All of these wines will benefit from being thrown in a decanter, particularly in their youth. If you’re using a Coravin or other wine preserver, pour enough into each glass to be able to try them over the course of several hours. These young reds will open up and be more expressive with a bit of time in the glass.
⏳Time: I love trying good wines stand alone, with food, and, often the next day. It gives them the chance to shine and ensures you don’t miss a good wine through impatience or fail to bring out it’s best by not marrying them to food.
The Best 2 Options for Preserving your Wine:
- Grab a Coravin wine preserver.
- Watch this video, “Stop the Wine-ocide” Kaani 2012 – My Deep Dark Secret, one of my first, about saving open bottles of wine from the drain, sorry about the quality, but, the message is still there.
Sangiovese a red Italian wine grape variety that derives its name from the Latin sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jupiter”. It can be extremely vigourous producing leaves the size of your head and bunches of similar size with large berries.
Where is it grown?
It’s grown throughout Tuscany in the sub-regions that make up the Chianti DOCG, where the Sangiovese Piccolo is the dominant version. Plantings in Montalcino making Brunello are typically of the Sangiovese Grosso version. We use the term version as there is some funky DNA floating around that doesn’t neatly fit into Variety or Clone. It’s a case of same same but different. You’ll find it in Sicily, Calbria and splashes around the world.
What does it taste like?
Generally lighter in colour, although as always there are exceptions.
There is an incredibly diverse array of flavours and aromas across the wines made from Sangiovese. This is true across both Chianti and Brunello wines. In Chianti this is influenced by blending with the native Canaiolo, and French varietes like Syrah and Merlot You’ll find fresh flavours like sour cherry, shifting to dark fruits, earthy characters, florals, rich chocolate, spices and beyond. The perceived density certainly differs across the wine. Like most varieties the styles that can be made are incredibly diverse.
Sangiovese from Chianti tends to have a shape that runs along the length of your palate in a tighter line. Sangiovese Grosso the predominant clone in Montalcino tends to be rounder and broader in shape. The tannins in Chianti tend to be more structured, where in Montalcino they tend to be plusher, more supple, often Pinotesque in nature.
You’ll typically find higher actual and perceived acidity in good Sangiovese.
The Wines & Vintages
16 A smidge darker than 17, 17 a smidge darker than 18. Not much in it though.
The colour runs parallel with the weight. Yet it is age that makes the difference here.
Fuligni ‘Ginestreto’ Rosso di Montalcino 2016
Rosso doing it right! Fuligni’s ‘Ginestreto’ is beautifully poised. Ever so devourable this is classic Sangio. Red cherry and spice with juice acid offering up freshness and energy. Spice, a little truffle, earth, and much more adding to the party. A very good Rosso that is equal parts thirst quenching, and, if you choose it to be cerebral. Paul Kaan
Heady aromas of wild berry, rose, thyme, tilled soil, truffle and a whiff of new leather float above the glass. Supremely elegant, the savory palate offers succulent wild cherry, raspberry compote, star anise and crushed herb alongside polished tannins. Fresh acidity lends nice tension. Drink through 2022. Kerin O’Keefe 93 Points
The 2016 Rosso di Montalcino Ginestreto shows all the natural translucence that makes Sangiovese so alluring. Sweet tobacco, mint, red cherry, orange peel and spice are finely delineated in a vibrant, mid-weight wine that pulses with energy. There is so much to like. This is pure and total class. Antonio Galloni, Vinous 92 Points
Conti Costanti Rosso di Montalcino 2016
“Andrea Costanti’s 2016 Rosso is a mini-Brunello. Wild, pure, refreshing red fruit emerges among oak tannins that are generous, dense, velvety and clearly delineated. Coherent, moreish, stunning mouth feel.” Decanter
The 16 has resolved beautifully. As with Sangio from Montalcino the fruit is rounder and less linear than is the case in much of Chianti. The tannins vey plush. Secondary characters of earth, truffle are popping from the glass. Dark, intense, this really is at baby Brunello level. Wonderful harmony. Silky and divine. On show at out to play from the get go. Paul Kaan
Conti Costanti Rosso di Montalcino 2017
“The 2017 Rosso di Montalcino is all class. Super-ripe red cherry, kirsch, rose petal, sweet spice, cedar and pipe tobacco are all given an extra kick of intensity in this decidedly boisterous, rich Rosso. This is such a pretty, racy wine. Readers will find a Rosso that deftly balances the natural opulence of the year with a super-classic, translucent expression of Sangiovese.” Antonio Galloni
2017 is like the pretty sister to the 2016 that has loads of fight in her. You can see the family resemblance. The fruit is on the redder side compared to the 2016 with just a pinch more acid giving it a splash more energy. The secondary characters are just starting to emerge and I expect will be on full display in another 6-12 months is the 2016 is anything to go by. This really is a case of celebrating the difference and timing, that is timing of when you drink them.
Conti Costanti Rosso di Montalcino 2018
2018 As you’d expect a little close by comparison, still plenty on offer. Here marchino cherries with ther zest come through. Again the site family genes are apparent. A quick decant worthwhile here to help it pop that fruit a silky tannin still evident. Paul Kaan
Sassetti Livio Pertimali Rosso di Montalcino 2018
Crunchy red fruits, thirst-quenching delight, juicy acid and a whole lotta fun. This is everything Rosso di Montalcino should be fresh vibrant, the right amount of fine tannin to keep it interesting with a whole bunch of complexing goodness playing around to tease. Delicious stuff! Paul Kaan
Cherry, strawberry, rose oil, liquorice and coffee beans. Medium-bodied, gentle earthy with again, that coffee-bean character, balanced acidity, and a sweep of fine sooty tannin, hazelnuts too, and more nut-skin tannin playing out on a nice long finish. Expressive fruit and an earthiness that’s so appealing. Top shelf RdM here, and a lovely thing to drink. Gary Walsh 94 Points
“These handmade, artisan wines remain some of the most individualistic terroir-driven wines in Montalcino. I cant recommend them highly enough. Andrea Costanti is at the top of his game, its as simple as that.”
As a category, Rosso di Montalcino remains one of the most misunderstood in Italy and, lets face it, when it comes to misunderstanding Italian wine there’s plenty of competition. Rosso di Montalcino can be anything from a fresh and fruity young wine coming solely from rosso registered vineyards through to ‘declassified’ Brunello. Why declassify Brunello? Essentially it’s a question of economics because ageing Brunello until the fifth year from harvest ties up enormous investment.
At Costanti, Andrea has a very small parcel of his vines registered as rosso. In the cantina the grapes are all treated the same way, the difference being that his Rosso di Montalcino is selected from tonneaux and barrels and bottled after twelve months. This is a beautiful Sangiovese to drink or cellar for a few years.
Owner: Andrea Costanti
Winemakers: Andrea Costanti
Production: 60,000 bottles
Hectares under vine: 10
According to the history books, the Costanti family has been producing wine in Montalcino since the 16th century. The current Costanti, Andrea – former President of the Brunello consorzio, multi Wine Spectator Grand Award Winner and scuba diver – assumed control in 1983 from his uncle Count Emilio. He was freshly graduated from Siena University with a geology degree and, while some may have thought Emilio a hard act to follow, Andrea set to the task with a will and a determination that has seen the winery upgraded and, in conjunction with consultant oenologist Vittorio Fiore, the family’s reputation for great Brunello enhanced.
The wines have the unmistakable imprint of the Matrichese cru, yielding Brunello of unparalleled elegance and complexity, with luscious focussed berry fruit, remarkable structure and above all, exquisite balance. The vines’ altitude (310-440 metres) is conducive to ideal ventilation and the warm days and cool nights result in wonderfully fragrant Brunellos. Unfortunately for wine lovers, there are only 10 hectares under vine and availability is subject to fierce demand from both sides of the Atlantic, hence the minuscule quantities.
“These handmade, artisan wines remain some of the most individualistic terroir-driven wines in Montalcino. I cant recommend them highly enough. Andrea Costanti is at the top of his game, its as simple as that.” Antonio Galloni.
Owners: Maria Flora Fuligni & Roberto Guerrini Fuligni
Winemakers: Roberto Guerrini Fuligni & Paolo Vagaggini
Production: 46,000 bottles
Hectares under vine: 11
This beautiful property, surrounding a 16th century Medici villa, was founded in 1923 by a descendant of the Venetian Fulignis. Although the wines labels still bear that city’s symbol, the lion of St. Marco, the family has long been thoroughly Tuscan. The present generations are Maria Flora Fuligni and nephew Roberto Guerrini Fuligni, a.k.a Professor of Criminal Law at Siena University, who styles the wines with oenologist Paolo Vagaggini.
The property is on an almost continual strip on the eastern side of Montalcino, divided into four vineyards: San Giovanni, Il Piano, Ginestreto and La Bandita. The vineyards are predominantly east facing at 380-450 metres on rocky terrain. The soil is low in organic components and conducive to minuscule yields, further restrained by the age of the vines (mostly between 15-35 years with peaks of 55 years). Over the last decade, Roberto’s profound revision of the winery’s quality criteria – drastically reduced crops and even stricter selection of grapes that are vinified separately according to cru – have maximized the superb potential of his terroir and propelled Fuligni to be amongst the finest in the region. The wine is aged for three years in a combination of Slavonian oak barrels and tonneaux, followed by a year in the bottle. Stylistically, the wines capture the middle ground between modern and traditional, bursting at the seams with plum and cherry fruit sustained by a firm, full structure and polished tannins.
“This tiny estate, which has been making spectacular wines since 1982, makes some of the finest red wines in Tuscany. I am beginning to think that if I had only one Brunello di Montalcino to drink it would have to be Pertimali. Unfortunately, quantities are microscopic, making availability a major headache.”
Robert M Parker, April ‘96
Of course one always agrees with Parker when it suits, doesn’t one – even if these never were what you might call Parkerised wines. I have been as keen on Pertimali since my first experiences too. It was the very good ’94 (much better vintage there than most other places) that we first brought in (as David Ridge Wines, and later Distinguished Vineyards). The Pertimali style is probably not quite like anyone else’s.
These continue a tradition of really native Montalcino wines, quite nervy and essentially elegant wines with that distinct smoky, coffee-grounds, char and licorice Montosoli thing. The combination of the finesse and persistence of its northern Montalcino site, on the fabulous Montosoli slope, with an ability to get ripeness, results in a wine with both the gamey/leather/mushroom/tobacco persona and the black fruits, vegemite and graphite, tighter elements. Unlike maybe most Brunello, which can often perform quite quickly at table – well at least much faster than say Barolo! – these do need a bit more air. What you get are layers of the characters mentioned and in fascinating waves, persistent and re-appearing.
In the Vineyard
Livio Sassetti, part-time poet and an original founder of the Brunello Consorzio (1967) consolidated his father’s keen eye for the best vineyard land to bring their holdings of the great slope of Montosoli up to 16 ha, 12 of it able to produce Brunello di Montacino. The presence of another ‘Div 1’ producer Altesino and the consistent high results by others, like Canalicchio di Sopra and the wonderful cru La Casa of Carpazo tend to confirm the status of this treasured 75 ha patch, just north east of Montalcino. As ever, the wise old heads realised that the best wine comes from the best vineyards. This mostly south-facing slope is composed of marl and siliceous limestone soils, great for acidity, austerity, deep roots and excellent drainage. Altitude is from 350 up to 400 meters, and the whole terroir, soils and location offer notably lower temperatures than even a little further south (within the Montalcino zone). Vineyard practises are generally biodynamic – as they have been for decades now.
In the Winery
Current custodian Lorenzo Sassetti keeps the winemaking simple and consistent and essentially the same for both wines – a gentle press, with must and skins together in the ferment for 12-15 days at 28˚C. Yeasts are indigenous. Rosso does its time in tank then bottle, generally without any oak and Brunello has 36 months in 30hl Slavonian wood and 6 more months in bottle. So they’re not really ‘Parker’ wines at all, but pure expressions of the Brunello of Montalcino.