Hello friends. Finally. We have plumbed the depths of the San Felice portfolio, but there has been one notorious absence: their Rosso di Montalcino. Notorious because it’s one of the finest values in their outstanding Tuscan portfolio, and we’ve just never been able to time it right.
And yes, this one is very much a matter of timing, because pretty much every old-school Italian restaurant in Seattle glass-pours this wine, so it’s one of those bottlings that lands at the port and then is like 70% gone before I even snag a sample. But this summer we’ve got it timed up right, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to write about and offer San Felice’s baby Brunello.
Less talking and more drinking. I like that. And yes, I recognize the irony of the fact that I’m about to do a whole bunch of talking about Rosso. I’ll comfort myself with the notion that it’s all in the furtherance of future drinking.
Rosso di Montalcino was inaugurated as a DOC in 1984, pretty much out of cash-flow necessity. Brunello di Montalcino has some of the strictest ageing requirements in the world, with most of the wines not returning any revenue for more than four years after harvest. Producers needed a way to realize a faster return, and they also needed a vehicle for their declassified juice. Enter Rosso.
What is beautiful about Rosso di Montalcino is that, like Brunello, it is 100% Sangiovese, 100% Grosso clone, 100% grown in Brunello’s delimited vineyard area. It’s only the ageing requirements that are different: one year total (including at least six months in barrel) before release. So this really is baby Brunello, presenting both a gateway drug to Brunello proper and a crystal ball for what the future Brunello releases will look like.
And the pricing is waaaaaaay more accessible than Brunello. For example, San Felice’s entry-level Campogiovanni Brunello goes for $55. Prices only go up from there. Rosso, on the other hand, presents a chance to sample what all the fuss is about at tariffs that encourage exploration. I should also note: we have about as low a price today as I see nationally on wine-searcher.
So that’s a lot about Rosso in general. Now let’s dig into this wine specifically. In addition to their glorious Chianti portfolio, San Felice also owns a 65-hectare estate called Campogiovanni, on the southwestern side of Montalcino, deep in the heart of Brunello country. They purchased the estate in the early ‘80s, when Brunello was still a sleepy category, and have carefully tended it since. Twenty of the hectares are planted to vines, the remainder in olives and forest. It looks like this. (Yes, we should probably all visit.)
Their Rosso was aged for a year in old Slavonia botti and then given a few more months in bottle before release. It clocks in at 13% listed alc and is unmistakably Sangiovese from this part of the world, with its wonderful sour cherry fruit, its comfort level with citrus-peel and cherry-pit bitters, its insistent earthiness (soil and truffle and anise). It’s a fairly supple, silky expression of Montalcino, but its spine of electric acidity is always burning bright in the background, reminding you where in the world you are, reminding you that you should be cooking up a huge pot of pasta or a big bistecca alla fiorentina and sharing it – and this remarkable wine – with friends and family.
First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.