Hello friends. Today we have the latest in our ongoing exploration of next-door-neighbor appellations. The idea is to explore the next-door neighbors to some of the big-gun appellations, which can frequently represent extraordinary value.
The first in the series was our white-Burg offering from Saint Aubin (next door to Chassagne-Montrachet). The second was Chateau La Brande, from Cotes de Castillon, just on the other side of the Saint-Emilion boundary (we have some extra bottles of this; I’ll include a reorder link below).
Today we move to Italy, to the scruffy next door neighbor to regal Brunello di Montalcino:
It’s not easy to find a good map of these regions, but try this one, and look in between the cities of Siena and Grosseto. You’ll see that as you move south out of Brunello di Montalcino territory, you move right into Montecucco.
The Montecucco Rosso DOC is relatively young, only allowed since the late 1990s, despite the fact that wine has been made here for hundreds of years. The main restriction is that wines with the Montecucco Rosso DOC label must contain at least 60% Sangiovese, and that’s exactly how much the Sassetti has, blended with 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah.
Despite containing 40% international varietals, the nose is very representative of earthy, leafy Sangiovese, with big soil notes competing with black cherry fruit and angostura bitters. The palate has a rich, ripe, delicious core of black fruit (black cherry, blackberry), but again enough earth and bitter-citrus-pith notes to give it that clear Italian signature. The rustic tannins take over in mid-palate and pick up steam into a long, lip-smacking finish of black tea. Lushly-fruited on the front end; chewy and rustic on the back: it’s a potent combination. But more so, it’s the depth and intensity, the palate-staining character of this, that was deeply impressive at this tariff.
If we were across the border into Montalcino, this would cost considerably more (and, of course, would only contain Sangiovese). And in fact, Vasco Sassetti (today’s producer) is much better known for his well-reviewed Brunellos. Fortunately we’re in humble Montecucco (Vasco doesn’t even submit his Montecuccos for review), another friendly next-door-neighbor offering serious value for money. First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.