Thursday, October 3, 2013

Variability: Rosso di Montalcino

~ A Winding Tuscan Road near Montalcino ~

As I wrote a little over a year ago, Rosso di Montalcino is Brunello's little brother.   At the time,  the 2009 vintage releases were in the market and many of them were very enjoyable.  However, as I alluded to then, the wines don't typically represent good value.  And that's a problem.
Most producers of Brunello, and no not all, also produce a Rosso di Montalcino.  By law, the wines are made essentially in the same manner as Brunello, but the aging requirements are not as lengthy which allows producers to get the wines to market sooner. But what IS Rosso di Montalcino? 
I've tasted several 2011 and 2010 Rosso di Montalcino over the past few months.  Some have been delicious, but others have made little lasting impact. Most are priced between $20-$25 and at the higher end, that's a lot of money to spend and not be impressed. 
Overall, I sense there are two types of Rosso di Montalcino and I categorize them as follows:
The True Rosso:  These are wines made from younger vines that are not mature enough to generate fruit of acceptable quality to be Brunello.  It's like the young adolescent who hasn't reached manhood. Someday he will get there, but he's not there yet.  These wines are often very good and when well made are delicious examples of the type and are accessible earlier than their older brother.  Some of these wines are made from vines that are solely dedicated to Rosso di Montalcino regardless of vine age. These are the wines to seek out.
The AfterThought Rosso:  This is where the problems arise.  These wines are often produced from grapes that have been de-selected for inclusion in Brunello.  In other words, inferior grapes. Those that are capable of being Brunello, but not good enough to make the cut.  These are then de-classified, bottled and sold as Rosso di Montalcino.  There's nothing illegal or even ethically wrong about this. But I do believe it results in an inferior product.  Often times the winemaking seems an after thought.  Just bottle it, and get it to market.  It is a business after all.
I can hear you already.  How do I know which are which?  Unfortunately, you don't.  Producers typically won't call attention to this in either case.  That being said, by reading reviews here at TuscanVines, you can gleen the knowledge you need about well made Rossos. Whenever possible, I'll note when a producer dedicates fruit to their Rosso and I'd suggest you seek those out.  (As an aside, Mastrojanni, Baricci, Castello Banfi, and Agostina Pieri do this)  Those are just some of the wines I've reviewed here in the past. 
That leads me to today's review...........
The 2010 Pian dell'Orino Rosso di Montalcino was opened last night to great anticipation.  The 2010 vintage looks to be splendid and I recently loved their 2004 Brunello.   However, my hopes were not met.  The 2010 Rosso is a pretty violet color - with medium concentration, it's see through, but pretty.   The nose of the wine is a pretty bouquet of flowers and berries.  Straightforward, subtle and pleasant.
On the palate the wine simply falls short.  It's light and refreshing with a medium body.  Simple flavors of berries and a touch of vanilla are consistent characteristics from start to finish. Soft and approachable, there seems little reason to expect that this will improve with even short term cellaring.  Without food, the wine was shrill and flat.  With dinner, chicken cutlets and garlic sauteed broccoli,  the wine plumped up and improved as would be expected.  There's nothing wrong with this wine.  Nothing.  Yet nothing about it inspired me.  I kept hoping the next sip would be better than the last, but it never was.  And then there's the price.  $25.  I'll put this in category #2 and seek out other Rossos until somehow I'm proven wrong.  But not again on my dime.  86 points.  Not recommended.

~ The 2010 Rosso di Montalcino from Pian dell'Orino ~

Cin Cin


  1. John, I agree wholeheartedly with your differentiation and evaluation of the quality of the RDM. But i also think that your point is the same about every "second wine" out there. you pay somewhat a premium for the name or the brand, and most often you dont get your moneys worth. At 25$ im not a buyer of many RDM. But most of these are available in europe for maybe 13-16 EUR, and i think a lot of them are priced about right. Il poggione is a good one that springs to mind. I dont drink them often, and only in good vintages, but there i think they can be enjoyable.

  2. I would agree with that. Especially the Il Poggione which I've had a few times in the 2009 vintage. That was one of the most enjoyable I had - but $40 on a wine list. That was fair. Mastrojanni's 2009 was very good too. But you're right, it IS about the price. If these wines were $15, I'd likely have no complaints. I've been around long enough to remember RdM at $15. Today, the quality is the same while the price has crept up.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!