When one thinks of the Tuscany wine region, Chianti Classico (the heart of the Chianti zone), Brunello di Montalcino and Bolgheri DOC might come to mind. Known as Toscana to Italians, this beautiful wine region with its rolling hills, medieval castles, ancient roads, olive trees, and wine vineyards is renowned for its Sangiovese-based red wines. In fact, almost two-thirds of the vineyards in Tuscany are planted with Sangiovese. This grape is high in tannins and acidity, and depending on where Sangiovese is grown and how it is vinified, the wine’s characteristics will ultimately reflect its origins.
Tuscany is located in central Italy, stretching along the Tyrrhenian Sea coastline to the west, Liguria and Emilia-Romagna to the north, Umbria and Marche to the east, and Lazio to the South.
Nestled between Montalcino and Scansano in the southern part of Tuscany is a hidden gem called Montecucco. The Etruscans in the sixth century B.C. cultivated vines and produced wine here. According to Consorzio Tutela Montecucco, “In the 1970s, the first two geographical appellations in our territory were officiated, considered forerunners of the Montecucco appellation; the Montecucco Denomination of Origins (DOC) was officiated in 1998.” In 2011, Montecucco Sangiovese was established as a separate DOCG. The newly appointed president of the Consorzio, Giovan Battista Basile, added “Sustainability, a key element in the DOC and DOCG where almost 70% of production is organic, will be the main asset of the consortium. Another important asset is the uniqueness of the Sangiovese grape, the “king” of the denomination, characterized by its high quality and distinctive personality. These are the strengths that will allow us to consolidate the positive trends recorded in the past years and further strengthen our presence, starting in Italy and extending to the global market.” The Montecucco Consortium, founded in 2000, represents 68 wine producers. They also represent over 500 hectares of vineyards out of 750/800 hectares, which produces more than 1.2 million bottles.
The vineyards in Southern Tuscany are at lower altitudes than the rest of Tuscany, creating a warmer climate. Since Sangiovese grapes are late to ripen, this is an ideal location. Because of Montecucco’s proximity to the sea, the vineyards benefit from the cooling maritime breezes off the coastline, moderating the warm temperatures. This, in turn, produces healthy, fully ripe grapes. A few areas of clayey soil are present, but most of the territory consists of non-calcareous soils, which are very suitable for cultivating vines and olives.
In addition to Sangiovese, the other principle red grape is Ciliegiolo. The principle white grape varieties are Grechetto, Vermentino, Malvasia and Trebbiano.
The regulations for making Montecucco Rossa DOC and Sangiovese DOCG are as follows:
Montecucco Rosso DOC: must be at least 60% Sangiovese. The Riserva must age for at least 12 months in barrel and six months in bottle before release.
Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG: must be at least 90% Sangiovese, aged for a minimum of 12 months in barrel and four months in bottle before release. The Riserva must be aged for a minimum of 24 months in barrel and six months in bottle.
Here is an introduction to two wineries and wines (samples) in Montecucco.
Poggio Stenti is a small family winery owned by the Pieri family and run by Carlo Pieri, a well-known salami producer. Stenti translated means “hardships” in Italian. The estate was named to acknowledge the harshness of farming life in the Montenero d’Orcia district. The Pieris are farmers at heart, cultivating small land plots designated for Sangiovese, Vermentino, and Cabernet Sauvignon. They have 30 hectares of land encompassing the vineyards, an olive grove, barley, spelt, and wheat crops. They also breed pigs and calves. Poggio Stenti is located in Monte Amiata, a stone’s throw from the historic vineyards of Montalcino.
Poggio Stenti Montecucco Rosso DOC 2019
This wine is made from 90% Sangiovese, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the estate’s vineyards. The wine is aged for about eight months in stainless steel tanks and then six months in the bottle before release.
Nose: Ripe cherry, plum, earth, spice
Palate: Vibrant red fruit, spice, mocha. Silky tannins, with a nice balance of sweet and savory on the finish.
Pairings: Grilled meat, stews, seared tuna, appetizers, and pizza.
Peteglia is owned by two brothers, Marco and Emanuele Innocenti. They both have an extensive background in the study and research of the agricultural sector. What began in the 80s with their parents Claudia and Sergio exploring agriculture eventually turned into a profitable company 30 years later. Today they have approximately 70 hectares of land dedicated to vineyards, olive groves, and the cultivation of cereals. Five hectares are designated for Sangiovese, Vermentino, and Cabernet Sauvignon. They also raise Chianna lgp cattle. The Peteglia farmhouse sits on a hillock overlooking the slopes of Monte Amiata.
Peteglia Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, 2016
This wine is 100% Sangiovese made with grapes from vineyards of about 35 years of age. The wine is aged 36 months in large Slavonian oak barrels and then in the bottle for another 12 months before release. The Riserva is made only in the best vintage years.
Nose: Dark cherry, berries, herbs, earth, spice, balsamic notes.
Palate: Aromas carry over to the palate with blackberry, vanilla, smooth tannins, vibrant acidity, and a long, rich, satisfying finish.
Pairings: Grilled meat, poultry, charcuterie, pasta, seared tuna.
Peteglia recommends decanting this wine before serving.
These are impressive wines and an incredible bargain at these prices. I can’t wait to explore this “hidden gem” in person!
Until next time…
Feature photo is courtesy of Jonathan Skule on Unsplash