Thursday, October 17, 2013

Morellino: The Drink Me Now Sangiovese

Sangiovese comes in many different forms, the most well--known being Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile, and Brunello. These wines all have a number of things in common and each have their own virtues. Chianti Classico walks the line between tart to ripe fruit and earthy wood tones, with tannins and acidity that usually need a little time to balance out. Vino Nobile adds a dollop of violet floral notes, slightly less acidity and a broader structure. Brunello is all about structure and restrained power, and because of this, requires patience. However, there’s one thing that all of these wines are usually missing, and that is early accessibility. Allow me introduce you to Morellino di Scansano.

Morellino di Scansano fills a niche that was truly missing in the Tuscan lineup of Sangiovese-based wines. The average Morellino (which is the name or synonym for Sangiovese in the Maremma), is a young, ripe and rich Sangiovese with all the accessibility you could ever hope for. It’s not a wine that you have to be afraid of when opening a bottle at a party or for a group of wine neophytes.

What makes Morellino so different has a lot to do with location and aging requirements. The Maremma is located in the coastal hills of southern Tuscany, with a warm Mediterranean climate, which promotes easier ripening. What’s more, the maritime influences regulate the Maremma on hot summer days, so that the ever so important ying yang of warm days and cool nights, which is so important to the production of quality wine grapes, is ever-present.

However, growing perfectly ripe Sangiovese is only one part of the equation; it’s what the winemaker does with those grapes that makes or breaks the final wine, and that’s where Morellino is truly set apart. Without any required aging included in the DOCG regulations, Morellino can go from harvest to fermentation and then release by the March following harvest. This makes for an incredibly pure expression of ripe Sangiovese, which makes up at least 85% of the final blend for any Morellino. The wines are affordable and intended for early consumption, but that’s not to say that these are simple wines. Don’t confuse value and early accessibility with lack of character. In fact it’s quite the opposite, as many of these wines will continue to improve for three to five years in the cellar.

So I ask you to go out and find a bottle of Morellino di Scansano. It may be one of the most enjoyable and affordable Italian reds that you’ve had in a while. To get you started, I’ve included my tasting notes of some of my favorites, which are all available at retail. There is something for everyone.

On to the Wines:

2011 Fattoria Le Pupille (Elisabetta Geppetti) Morellino di Scansano – The nose was fresh with ripe strawberry fruit, hints of dusty spice and violets. A rich meatiness seemed to peak out from the background along with saline minerals. On the palate, it was juicy with black cherry fruit, a hint of citrus and blackberry. It was persistent with an excellent balance of acidity. Dark red fruit lingered on the finish with inner floral tones, leaving a refreshed sensation with a slight tug of tannin on the palate. This is a very enjoyable wine that is highly recommended. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $18)

2011 Poggio Morino Morellino di Scansano – The nose was showy and intense with concentrated red and blue berries, cocoa, dusty spice box, dark wood and minerals. On the palate, masses of ripe dark fruit washed across the senses with a balanced wave of acidity keeping it juicy and fresh. Hints of pepper and spice along with meaty-savory notes and a saline minerality were left in its wake. Dark fruits and black pepper remained on the finish with an unexpected mouthwatering quality. This is an excellent wine where the Syrah component really shines through in a positive way. Well done and a great value. (92 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $16)

2011 La Mozza Morellino di Scansano I Perazzi - The generous and fruity nose showed dusty tart cherry, sweet spice, tobacco, hints of pepper and mountain herbs. On the palate, it was lush and juicy with ripe dark fruit that turned spicy and brighter toward the close. The finish was slightly firm, yet in a very pleasurable manner as it offset the ripe, juicy personality of this wine. (90 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $14)

2010 Mocali Morellino di Scansano – The nose showed sweet cherry and strawberry, with wood spice, dark chocolate, cedar and saw dust. On the palate, it was silky smooth with ripe cherry and currant fruit on a medium bodied, juicy frame. The wine finished fresh, but it was a little short with tart red fruit, yet remained juicy throughout. With its mass appeal and easy-going structure, this would make for a great weeknight sipper. (88 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $14)

2011 Fattoria il Palagio Morellino di Scansano – The nose showed spiced cherry, pomegranate, dark wood tones and a hint of barnyard. On the palate, it was juicy with cherry fruit and rustic, herbal notes. The finish showed hints of tannin, which added character to the otherwise soft, fruity experience. (87 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $16)

2010 Tenute Le Preselle Morellino di Scansano – The nose showed ripe black cherry, minerals, dusty Tuscan spice and herbs with a rustic, yet fun personality. On the palate, it was juicy with soft textures, showing blackberry, cherry and a hint of cedar. The finish was clean and fresh, leaving only a hint of structure behind. This was easy-going and fun to drink, a great bridge wine for someone looking for a youthful introduction to Sangiovese. (86 pointsFind it on Wine-Searcher! (avg. $15)

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