Nestled between the appellations of Brunello and Morellino di Scansano, the Montecucco region spans from the rolling hills of Maremma to the slopes of Mount Amiata. The northern most portion of the zone is separated from the Brunello zone only by the narrow Ombrone river. Today we’re taking a deeper look at the region and some of its wines.
A few years ago, I posed the question on these very pages: “Do you know Montecucco?” At the time, it was a simple, elementary introduction. Since then, much has transpired. The production area has been increased and the zone itself has been permitted to craft both DOC and DOCG versions of their wines.
The Montecucco region emphasizes artisan production from small, family owned wineries. With only 800 hectares divided among 99 Consorzio member wineries, vineyard parcels per producer are very small. Further to this point, these small wineries boast one of the lowest grape yields in all of Italy at a mere 7,000 kilograms per hectare.
DOC or DOCG?
So what’s the deal here? The Montecucco region produces two principal red wines. Montecucco Sangiovese must be 90% Sangiovese in order to bear the DOCG designation. Montecucco Rosso may be labeled DOC while only including at least 60% Sangiovese in the blend.
Perched on the hills near the commune of Cinigiano, the Le Calle Farm is an organic outpost. A fully functioning farm, the Catocci family produces grains, livestock, olive oil, legumes and of course, premium wines. Covering just over 80 hectares, much of the farm is devoted to the Amiata donkeys, Maremma cows and Cinta Senese pigs.
The 2016 Le Calle di Catocci Poggio d’Oro is a special wine. Comprised of 100% Sangiovese, this organic wine displays a deep ruby to garnet color. Lots of crushed cherry on the nose with slight earth notes along with fennel seed, salume and roasted hazelnut. Really bright and juicy on the palate with lively sweet ripe fruit that is delicious and concentrated. Complexity arrives from sapid lasers of sweet tobacco and hints of vanilla. Fresh through the finish where the tannins assert but are not intrusive. Plainly said, you will love this. I did! 95 points and a super value around $25. Aged 18 months in new and used French tonneaux. 5,000 bottles produced. Find this wine.
Next up was the 2015 Amantis Sangiovese Riserva. This 100% Sangiovese bears the “Riserva” designation due to its extended aging in barrel of up to 30 months. Owned by renowned winemaker and consultant Paolo Vagaggini, Azienda Amantis is run by Paolo and his wife Bernedetta.
Dark ruby in the glass, the 2015 exhibits vibrant notes of plum, raspberry and pepper on the nose. Dusty, ripe fruit on the palate – this is a bit overdone. Good medium body with pronounced tannins, this is one for the cellar. With additional aeration, the nose developed a slight rubber aroma that was a little hard to get past. Nothing about the wine seemed flawed so I’m a little leery about fully recommending. 87 points. About $60. The 2015 is not yet fully released. 7,000 bottles produced. Find this wine.
The estate of Castello Colle Massari is the largest producer in the Montecucco region. Situated at the foot of Mount Amiata, at approximately 320 meters above sea level and oriented towards the Mediterranean Sea, the estate extends over 1,200 hectares. 110 hectares are devoted to vineyards, 60 to olive groves and 400 hectares to mixed crops.
The 2015 Castello Colle Massari Montecucco Rosso Riserva is 80% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo and 10% Cabernet. Deep ruby to garnet in color with pretty violet reflections. Wild berry is joined by funky, earthy mulch, tobacco leaf, cypress and dried herbs on the nose. Intriguing. Ripe red fruits dominate the palate with cured black olive and a juicy texture. However, there is some slight bitterness to the tannins on the finish. Nothing to detract and I suspect that will round out/fade with cellaring. Solid wine. 89 points and a nice value around $22. Find this wine.
Without question, the Le Calle represents the best efforts of a small family farm and is a wine that would be a great ringer in a blind Brunello tasting. It’s a wine I’d be happy to have in my cellar.
Not surprisingly, the two 2015s both displayed some backward character and will likely benefit from some cellar time. In contrast, the Le Calle was an expressive and vivacious 2016 that was very enjoyable now.
The small production of most Montecucco wines unfortunately means they can be difficult to locate. However, I urge you to make the search and try some of these. The 100% Sangiovese wines make for an interesting comparison to Brunello and are generally very fairly priced.
Want more Montecucco? We profiled the region in the last TuscanVines Newsletter that went out at the end of Summer. Sign up now for similar exclusive access. In the meantime, watch here for more data points from the region.