Vineyard at Fattoria San Felo near Magliano
Over the past two decades, the producers from Morellino di Scansano in southwestern Tuscany have been producing a beautiful array of red wines in various styles, from offerings that have soft tannins and tasty cherry fruit that are best enjoyed within a year or two of the vintage to more-full bodied wines that can age for a decade or more. Even more impressively, these wines have remained fairly priced.
The Morellino di Scansano district is located in the lower portion of the Maremma, a somewhat wild (until recently) stretch of coastal Tuscany. Just southeast of the city of Grosseto, this area contains a number of different soils from sandstone to calcaire to clay and rocks. The topography changes quite a bit from west to east, as vineyards in the western reaches of this district – not far from the sea – sit at 30-100 feet above sea level, while the elevation becomes higher the further east or inland you go; some plantings are at 1500 feet above sea level. Generally the wines from the western part of the zone are relatively fruity with soft tannins and are meant for early consumption – these examples of Morellino di Scansano are charming wines and among the most typical of this area. Meanwhile the wines from the center of the district – near the cities of Scansano and Magliano – along with those from the far eastern reaches are richer with higher acidity and firmer tannins; these offerings can age for 10-15 years from the best vintages.
As with most red wines from Tuscany, Morellino di Scansano is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape. The regulations here call for a minimum of 85% of this variety, which is higher than even Chianti Classico (80% minimum Sangiovese) or any other Chianti wine (75%). Morellino, which meaning “little morel”, referring to the high acid morel cherry, is the local synonym for Sangiovese in this district. Other grapes that are used to blend with Sangiovese in this wine include local varieties such as Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo and Colorino along with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
When Morellino di Scansano was designated as a DOC wine in 1978, there were only 10 producers in the area who grew their own grapes or purchased them from 36 growers who were members of the local cooperative. Not long after, as the reputation of this district as a high quality area for Sangiovese, many producers from outside the district started to purchase land here and produce their own wines. This includes some of the finest vintners from other Tuscan zones such as Montepulciano (Poliziano), Chianti Classico (Fonterutoli) and Montalcino (Castello Romitorio, et al). Certainly the notoriety of such distinguished producers as these helped greatly when the Morellino producers sought the coveted DOCG classification, which was awarded to Morellino di Scansano as of the 2007 vintage. Today in 2011, there are more than 200 wine firms in Morellino di Scansano.
Prices, as mentioned above, are quite reasonable with the basic Morellino bottlings coming in at retail prices of $12-16 on US retail shelves, while the finest Riserva bottlings, such as the Fattoria Le Pupille “Poggio Valente” selling for $30-$35. This last wine is among the finest bottlings of Morellino di Scansano each year; offering excellent depth of fruit and ideal balance and structure, this wine can easily age 12-15 years from most vintages, especially the most recent releases of 2007 and 2008.
Here is a short list of the finest producers of Morellino di Scansano:
Fattoria Le Pupille
Fattoria La Querciarossa
Az. Agr. Ugolini
Massi di Mandorlaia
Terre di Fiori – Tenute Le Coste
Az. Agraria Santa Lucia di Scotto Lorenzo
Fattoria San Felo
Terre di Talamo