By Manos Angelakis
Morellino di Scansano
The Maremma hills, on the west (Mediterranean) coast of Tuscany, are plentifully planted with Morellino, the local name for a Sangiovese varietal, in an agriculture-based economy that heralds back to the early 16th century. Since that time, special laws recognize the importance to the community of the vineyards for wine production. In the past, most families made their own wines and the winemaking secrets of each family were passed down from father to son.
If you love the much more heavily promoted Chianti Classico wines and/or Brunello di Montalcino, you will also like the Morellino di Scansano wines that are fresh, full-bodied and versatile, and also well-priced and food-friendly. Like their other Tuscan brethren, Morellino di Scansano wines have to be predominantly from Sangiovese grapes -- in Morellino di Scansano DOCG 85% of the wine should be Sangiovese, the other 15% can be from other red varieties that are authorized to grow in the region, such as Malvasia Nera, Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo Nero, or Alicante (the local name for Grenache), as well as international varietals like Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes destined to become a Morellino di Scansano wine, must be grown within the DOCG zone. Other requirements for those wines are:
Palate: dry and lightly tannic
Minimum alcohol: 12.5%, reserva 13%
Color: ruby red, tending toward garnet with age
Minimum total acidity: 4.5 g/l
Commercial release: after March 1 the year after the harvest
Many of the single vineyard wines that I tasted were 100% Sangiovese, others were 95% Sangiovese and 5% other varietals, but the majority of the better tasting wines were at the 85/15% standard.
The wines presented at a vintner's gala dinner I attended at New York City’s Del Posto Restaurant, one of the city's better Italian eateries, were mostly from the 2010 vintage, with a few 2009 and one 2008. I happen to love good Chianti Classicos, so the 2010 Morellinos I tasted, though young showed the promise of an excellent future. One of the 2009 single vineyard wines, the Fattoria Le Pupille Reserva “Poggio Valente”, was tasted with a lovely Neapolitan Lamb Rack with Smoked Neck, Salsa Madre and Wilted Water Spinach; it was so good it reminded me of an outstanding Brunello, with its brilliant ruby red color and an intensely fruity bouquet of wild red berries, licorice, plums, spices and violets, with a wonderful freshness.
The Antipasto, was truffled beef Carne Cruda with Parmigiano-Reggiano and watercress buds (i.e. truffled beef tartare with cheese and watercress buds), and was accompanied by two Morellinos: the 2010 Poggio Nibbiale and the 2010 Azienda Agricola Santa Lucia “Tore del More”. Both young Morellinos could use a little more cellar age (perhaps another couple years); both were medium to full bodied, with a nose of black cherry, licorice, and spice. On the palate, the wines revealed juicy red and black cherries, licorice and spice and soft slightly dusty tannins. They ended up dry, with a bit of smoky tobacco and a good medium-long finish. The Tore del More was more to my liking, softer than the Poggio Nibbiale and slightly more aromatic.
The primo piatto was Green Garganelli (i.e. egg and spinach pasta quills, made using soft flour, grated Parmesan and nutmeg) with a Bolognese Ragu. Accompanying this flavorful Mario Batalli specialty dish, were a 2010 Poggio Argentiera “CapatostA” and a 2009 Provveditore “Primo” Reserva. Again, both wines were fresh, premium, Sangiovese-dominated blends, with beautiful black cherry color, redolent with red fruit, licorice, plum, and tobacco.
In addition to the Poggio Valente, the lamb was also accompanied by Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini’s 2010 “Massi di Mandorlaia”. Another very lovely Morellino that was meaty, fruity, and chewy in the mouth with long-lasting aromas of black fruit, leather and moist earth plus pronounced blueberries and raspberries on the long finish.
The dinner ended with a selection of Italian Cheeses and assorted Biscotti, accompanied by the 2008 Riserva Fattoria Mantellassi, “La Sentinelle”. This wine was already showing a little age. It was slightly lighter on the palate than the previous offerings, but retained the fruity bouquet of wild red berries, and licorice that dominated its younger siblings.
And a great time was had by all!
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