Spotlight on Rosso di Montalcino
Rosso di Montalcino sometimes gets overlooked in the rush to focus solely on Brunello. That’s a shame, as the best Rossos offer pedigreed expressions of Sangiovese from this magical hillside town and its surrounding vineyards. At the same time, styles and overall quality are variable, which makes navigating Rosso a bit of a minefield. Here’s everything you need to know…
Rosso di Montalcino – An Overview
Making sense of Rosso di Montalcino requires a bit of work, as the wines run a wide gamut of styles, from simple, easygoing reds meant for near-term drinking to far more serious wines than can approach, or even surpass, Brunello in terms of quality.
Starting from the most building block concepts, Rosso di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese that can be made either from vineyards that are specifically designated for the production of Rosso, or wine from Brunello-designated vineyards that is declassified down to Rosso, an approach many estates take with younger-vine fruit and/or casks that aren’t considered to be of the highest quality. In first-rate vintages, estates have a natural financial incentive to bottle as much Brunello (and Brunello Riserva) as possible, whereas in less favorable vintages, Rosso can be a good outlet that allows producers to bottle only their best lots as Brunello while generating quicker cash flows.
Unlike Brunello, the regulations that govern production of Rosso give producers quite a bit of leeway, especially with regards to aging, which is one of the key reasons the styles of wines are so wide-ranging. During my tastings of Rossos for this article, I tasted everything from straightforward, vinous Rossos made to offer immediate pleasure, to more structured, powerful wines, and even one 2018 that was already in bottle.
To complicate matters further, a number of estates have started to offer two Rossos – usually a simple, fruity version and a more structured, powerful bottling. Both carry the same designation: ‘Rosso di Montalcino.’ How can a consumer tell the difference between these wines, other than by price? The answer is there is no easy way. Moreover, where estates make two Rossos, the ‘important’ wine is usually more concentrated and saddled with greater oak influence, neither of which necessarily makes for a better or more complex wine.
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By: Antonio Galloni | Vinous
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