Marco Salustri (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
There are countless treasures out there, if you only know where to look. This is true in many aspects of life; it’s especially valid when it comes to the subject of Italian wines. My most recent trip in mid-late May was an eye-opener, especially during my stay in the province of Grosseto.
Grosseto is located in the far southwestern reaches of Toscana; it reaches from the Tyrrhenian Sea east to its boundaries abutting the southwestern part of the province of Siena. There are numerous DOC and DOCG wine zones in Grosseto and many of them are a mystery to even the most avid Italian wine fan. These include Monteregio di Massa Marittima, Bianco di Pitigliano, Parrina (with only one producer!), Sovana and Morellino di Scansano; this last is the most famous of the wine zones, yet even this is hardly a household name.
For five days, I learned a tremendous amount about this territory, truly one of the most beautiful wine areas anywhere in Italy. I spent two days in the Morellino di Scansano area, visiting several estates with Giacomo Pondin, director of the local consorzio, who took me to a few vantage points with splendid panoramas, situated at an elevation of 1000-1200 feet where we could look out past the gorgeous vineyards on rolling hills all the way to the sea. If heaven looks half this lovely, I’ll be a happy man!
I also tasted a vast array of wines – white, red and rosé – from Grosseto province at Maremma Wine Food Shire, a fair that focused on local wines along with some lovely olive oils, salumi, cheeses and even some excellent local beer. This was a great opportunity for me to meet with some of the area’s finest producers, taste their wines and get to better understand what the viticultural scene of Grosseto is all about.
I’ll write only about a few highlights in this post. Most impressive were two examples of Montecucco from Tenuta Salustri. The Montecucco zone, planted primarily to Sangiovese – as are all red wines zones in the province – is situated between Morellino di Scansano and Montalcino. I tasted several examples at the fair, but the Salustri wines were in a league of their own. The “Santa Marta” offering, made exclusively from Sangiovese has very good varietal purity, excellent persistence and fine tannins; aged for two years in grandi botti, this is a lovely wine with ideal balance. The 2009 I sampled is drinking nicely now, but will improve for another 5-7 years.
The “Grotte Rosse” bottling, also 100% Sangiovese, takes things up a notch. Produced from 70 year-old vineyards with the Salustri clone that features very small berries, this is medium-full with excellent concentration. The aromas are simply wonderful, with perfumes of morel cherry, red roses and strawberry preserves; also aged for two years in large casks, the wood notes are subdued, while the finish is very long and pleasing with excellent persistence. The 2008 was the version I tried and I rated this as outstanding, a wine that should be at peak in 10-12 years. I’d match this up with 90% of the examples of Chianti Classicos out there; this is not only a wine that is of equal or better quality as compared with the top Chiantis, it also much less expensive.
Vineyard near Magliano in Toscana, Morellino di Scansano zone (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Regarding Morellino di Scansano, there are numerous styles of this wine, which must contain a minimum of 85% Sangivovese. One of my favorite wines made in a fresh, charming style with moderate tannins and supple, tasty morel cherry fruit is the Fattoria Mantellasi “Mentore”; the 2011, aged solely in steel tanks is a delight with a hint of tobacco in the nose to accompany the appealing cherry notes. Medium-bodied, this has typical tart acidity and modest tannins you expect from a young wine made from Sangiovese; enjoy this over the next two years.
Fattoria Le Pupille, one of the most celebrated estates in the zone, brought back a lovely version of their Morellino di Scansano Riserva; the 2009, which contains 10% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend has complex aromas of cherry, marjoram and clove and has excellent concentration. The entry on the palate is elegant, there is impressive persistence and very good acidity, which rounds out the wine and gives it ideal balance. This is a first-rate wine that will drink well for 7-10 years.
Other examples of Morellino that impressed were the Moris Farms Riserva 2009, a wine of ideal harmony and complexity that will drink well for 5-7 years; the 2008 Riserva Massi di Mandorlaia, a lighter-styled riserva that is a lovely food wine and the 2008 Riserva “Primo” from Provveditore. This small estate is one of the most consistent in the area and I love all their wines! Even their regular Morellino di Scansano displays wonderful character and balance (the 2011 is the current release), while the riserva combines richness, complexity, ideal acidity and impressive persistence just beautifully; this is a wine with every component in perfect harmony. Drink the regular bottling now and give the riserva another 7-10 years to round out and display its finest qualities. This is a wine of impeccable breeding, one that combines great focus and varietal purity with beautiful expression of terroir.
I’ll deal with the white wines that impressed me (especially the 2011 Fattoria di Magliano Vermentino) and a few other reds (including an amazing Ciliegiolo from Gianpaolo Paglia at Poggio Argentiera) in a future post. Just too many special wines for one post!