Chianti. Montalcino. Bolgheri. Montepulciano. Carmignano. Gimignano. For a province about as big as New Jersey, Tuscany is home to some of the most famous areas for wine, and for good reason. Tuscan vintners have mastered expressing the true form of Sangiovese and Vernaccia. In addition, they created a new category with the advent of the Super Tuscans. And yet, there are still Tuscan wines to be “discovered,” like those coming from Montecucco.
Montecucco is located in the southern part of Tuscany, amongst the foothills to the Apennines where the mountain breezes meet those blowing in from the coast. To the southwest of Chianti and the direct western neighbor to Montalcino, the lava dome-covered land is in the prime Sangiovese-growing territory, and its volcanic origins bestow minerality to the wines. In fact, the Sangiovese Grosso clone, the same varietal which produces Brunello di Montalcino, is the predominant grape grown in Montecucco. This means you get high-quality bottles with Sangiovese’s classic earthy and berry flavors for very reasonable prices. Word on the street is that some of more well-known Tuscan producers are beginning to look towards Montecucco for new vineyards.
Montecucco is also into the trend of organic and biodynamically grown grapes. It’s strong tradition of polyculture, the practice of multiple crops or animals on one farm, actually make it easier grow grapes organically. According to wine writer Doug Paulding, “Tuscany, as in other areas, is discovering a living vineyard is where the best grapes come from.” And when it comes to Montecucco, the area reminds him of another overlooked Tuscan appellation, Morellino di Scansano. Both regions are being “rediscovered and replanted and also makes some beautiful wines.”
Montenero Montecucco Rosso 2015 – Grown very close to Montalcino, Montenero produces a wine of 90% Sangiovese with 5% Merlot and 5% Ciliegiolo added in for the aromatics. This is a great beginner Montecucco wine as it displays those Sangiovese flavors with a little punch of acidity, but it’s not too tannic or over-berrying. Don’t be surprised if it reminds you of marinara sauce.
Castello ColleMassari ‘Poggio Lombrone’, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG
($38, Domaine Select)
Poggio Trevvalle Montecucco Rosso 2015 – Sangiovese mixes with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (60/20/10) for this organic red. Cabernet Sauvignon’s black currant and blackberry flavors really come through, and even after being aged in oak (30% new), it’s still very tannic and acidic.
Poggio Mandorlo ‘La Querce’ Montecucco Sangiovese 2011 – Poggio goes for 90% Sangiovese here with 10% Merlot to create a red very similar to its Chianti brethren. The strong tannins and structure are still going strong, but the flavors are losing their berry youth and turning more towards tobacco and earth.
Campi Nuovi Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG ($18, Integrity Wines)
Basile Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva 2012 Ad Agio – 100% Sangiovese aged for two years in new French oak develops into this strong wine where the red cherry and floral notes are only just moving towards that tobacco and toasty world. This is the bottle to get if you’re into Brunello di Montalcino. Additionally, all Basile wines are 100% certified organic. ($25, Golden Ram)
Montecucco reds can easily stand in for other Sangiovese-based wines when it comes to food pairings. Rich meaty ragu pasta dishes, succulent meatballs, or roasted short ribs would all work perfectly. But seeing as it’s about to be summer, you wouldn’t be wrong to open a bottle for a grilled steak dinner, or with an easy al fresco meal of charcuterie.