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A Guide to Lesser-known Tuscan Reds: From Carmignano to Montecucco

A Guide to Lesser-known Tuscan Reds: From Carmignano to Montecucco

Mention the red wines of Tuscany and immediately examples such as Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano come to mind. Produced primarily or exclusively from the Sangiovese grape variety, these celebrated red wines truly define this region’s viticultural excellence. Over the last three decades, the distinctive red wines of Bolgheri, crafted from Bordeaux grape varieties from vineyards along Tuscany’s coast, have also become icons of Tuscan wine.

Yet there are other sublime red wines from this region that are notable yet lack the renown of the wines mentioned above. Carmignano, Morellino di Scansano and Montecucco are three other important red wines of Tuscany that reflect a sense of place and represent not only special quality, but impressive value as well.

The wines of Carmignano DOCG

Carmignano, named for the commune in the province of Prato, is located to the west of Florence. This appellation is noteworthy for several reasons, one being that it is among the oldest wine producing districts in Tuscany, with documents recording such production as far back as the 9th century.

The wine today, as befitting the region, is primarily Sangiovese, but Cabernet – whether Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc – is a requirement in the blend, from 10% to 20%.

Given the requirement of Cabernet in Carmignano, the wine has more tannin than a typical Chianti from the local zone – Chianti Montalbano is also produced in this area – so you could say that Carmignano was the original Super Tuscan, though these are far more reasonably priced wines.

While the riserva offerings of Carmignano are naturally the most complex and ageworthy examples, most producers here also make a lighter, more approachable wine known as Barco Reale, one of Tuscany’s most charming reds. Carmignano producers to look for include Capezzana, Ambra, La Piaggia and Le Ginestre.

        

The wines of Morellino di Scansano DOCG

Along the coast in southwestern Tuscany, in the province of Grosseto – this is the southern reach of the Maremma - Morellino di Scansano DOCG is another fine value red wine. Sangiovese, known locally as morellino, is the principal grape, with a minimum of 85% required. Other grape varieties that are used include indigenous ones such as Canaiolo or Ciliegiolo, while international varieties such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are often incorporated. Various examples, ranging from ready to drink upon release, to riservas, capable of more than a decade of cellaring, are produced.

Morellino di Scansano wines have a lovely freshness and impressive structure. Highly regarded producers include Fattoria Le Pupille, Podere 414, Moris Farms and Poggio Argentiera (this last estate is also worth noting for its Toscana Rosso IGT wines, including “Podereadua,” a 100% Syrah, and “Poggioraso,” made exclusively from Cabernet Franc).

        

The wines of Montecucco

In Grosseto province, situated between Scansano and Montalcino, Montecucco is a small district with several wine styles. A Montecucco Rosso DOC must contain a minimum of 60% Sangiovese, while a wine labeled Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG has a minimum requirement of 90% Sangiovese.

Again, various styles from medium-bodied to robust are produced, and as the wine district is literally between the seaside locale of Scansano and the inland, forested spaces of Montalcino, so too the wine offers some of the power of the latter, with a bit of the nuances of the former. Producers worth seeking out include Basile, Salustri and ColleMassari.

        

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Tom Hyland

BY Tom Hyland

Tom Hyland is a Chicago-based wine writer/educator and photographer, specializing in Italian wines.

He has authored two books on Italian wines, and has conducted seminars for the trade on various Italian wines in Chicago, New York and in Bordeaux at VinExpo.

He has been writing about these wines for 19 years, and today is a contributor to Decanter and wine-searcher.com. He is also the U.S. ambassador for the consorzio, I Vini del Piemonte.

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