It begins with a word from Monte Vertine that can be called obsessed at worst, passionate at a minimum; but dedicated for certain.

“We have deliberately avoided cultivating other types of grapes such as Cabernet, Pinot Nero or Merlot because we want to distance ourselves from the worldwide trend. Some say that the aforementioned grapes reflect the current globalized taste. And what happens if one day, after an excessive production, we are bored by such grapes? Switching back to traditional grapes would take many years. And, after all, isn’t it altogether possible to make great wine from Sangiovese? Our own experience says “yes”, especially when the Sangiovese in question is Tuscan, even if the results obtained with this variety in other parts of the world have not necessarily been encouraging.”

1997 Monte Vertine Le Pergole Torte: I bought this year ago, on reputation alone, directly from Italy when the vintage was just released. The provenance and storage are unquestioned. The first two bottles I had were, merely average. Lacking fruit, displaying tartness;  nothing I really wanted to drink. Knowing that it had a reputation to age very well, I’ve let my last 2 bottles sit. I opened one recently, with a simple lunch of tuscan peasant bread, buffalo mozzarella, and tomatoes dressed with 2008 Castello Banfi olive oil, sale, pepe e salsa balsamico. As I was cutting the mozzarella, I sipped the wine.  Here we go again I thought……

Slightly tart, somewhat tannic, lacking fruit. What have I done I’m thinking? When the hell is this wine going to show anything redeeming. I don’t dislike traditional wines. Far from it. But I do believe that the innovation  we’ve seen in Tuscany – and innovation does not mean simply using international grapes – innovation is a good thing. It’s made better wines across the board as knowledge is shared and consultants extrapolate that knowledge over the breadth of the enological landscape.

My tomatoes were very ripe. The nicest “on the vine” tomatoes I’ve found this year. I sat down with lunch, and Googled the Monte Vertine website. And then I tasted the wine again. With the food. It’s nothing short of a symphony to be sure. Like the three tenors and Paganini using the muse to marry “Oh Sole Mio” into the most wonderful of visceral, aural delights. The wine has taken on a total transformation.

It’s dark brick, but it’s showing age. It’s copper to orange at the rim. The nose is filled with warm Tuscan red earth, with spices, with nutmeg and shoe leather. The fruit explodes in your mouth, framed by the creaminess of the cheese. The tang of the cheese accentuates the sweetness of the fruit. The salsa balsamico adds chestnut and wood notes to the wine; they interplay beautifully; majestically – like the maestro would have intended. The sum is greater than the parts. In this case, exceeding the parts by almost implausible measure.

So here I sit, nearing 1/3 of the bottle gone, and dedicating the remainder to dinner’s pasta: rigatoni with roasted eggplant, and shredded Cacio di Roma.

“Isn’t it altogether possible to make great wine from Sangiovese? Our own experience says, “yes”.
My experience says, “yes” as well.  
1997 Monte Vertine Le Pergole Torte
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