Morellino di Scansano DOCG is a Sangiovese-based red wine from the province of Grosseto in south-west coastal Tuscany, Italy, specifically the hilly zone between the Ombrone and Albegna rivers. The original DOC dates from 1978. The wine became a DOCG from the 2007 vintage. The Consorzio Tutela Morellino di Scansano was founded in 1992.

Morellino di Scansano DOCG is made from 85-100% Sangiovese, which is locally is called ‘Morellino’ (see below for why), plus 0-15% any non-aromatic black grape varieties recommended or authorised for the zone (see the full list of them below). Traditionally these were Alicante (Grenache Noir), Colorino or Aleatico, but now they are more likely to be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Morellino di Scansano DOCG Riserva must age for 24 months minimum, at least one of which in wooden barrels. The aging period starts from January 1st following the year in which the grapes were produced.

Why ‘Morellino’?Sangiovese is called ‘Morellino’ here i) either due to the supposed brown or deep (‘moro’) colour of the clone of Sangiovese that grew here until it was wiped out by phylloxera; ii) or Morellino derives from the ‘morello’ or blackberry-brown colour of the local ‘Morelli’ horses which since the Middle Ages were used to tow the carriages of nobles and officials in the Scansano area; 3) or from the morello cherry, whose almost inky red colour, tartness and acidity are traits that Sangiovese shares.

Historic background

The cultivation of the vine in Scansano and neighbouring areas dates (at least) to the Etruscans. As early as the fifth century BC, the Etruscans cultivated vines to produce wine, as evidenced by archaeological finds at the Ghiaccioforte site, such as tools for pruning and harvesting grapes, terracotta jars and bronze figurines depicting men with hatchets. Viticulture was then continued by the Romans, and in the Middle Ages, some documents refer to the area as the land of wine of “excellent quality”.

Rulers and feudal lords in the Middle Ages saw the need to grant land for wine-growing and which was given specific protection and followed statutory norms. In the case of subdivisions of feudal and communal lands, land concessions were explicitly indicated in wine-growing areas: in the statutes of the Cotton Community, in that of Montorgiali and in that of Scansano the rules established for the protection of vines and grapes meant fines were given to owners of animals that caused damage to the vineyards. The first detailed or scientifically ordered information on production dates back to 1813, when the “Maire of the Commune of Scansano” in a letter sent to the Vice Prefect of the District of Grosseto announced that in the previous year in the area of ​​Scansano 5,540hl of wine were produced largely of superior quality. Luigi Villafranchi-Giorgini in a memoir read in 1847 at the Società Agraria Grossetana, affirmed that at the Botanical garden of Pisa there was a trunk of a vine five arms high – 2.92 meters – and of the circumference of four – 2.36 meters – coming from from “Castagneta Valle”, in the Municipality of Scansano.

In 1884, in a study on the development of agriculture, industry and commerce in the province of Grosseto, Giacomo Barabino reports the high quality of Magliano, Pereta and Scansano wines. On December 21, 1884 the ordinary member of the Georgofili Academy Luigi Vannuccini held a conference in Scansano to support the need for a social cellar (a social cooperative).

In 1887 Luigi Vannuccini published a monograph on “Cultivation of the low-vine vine with supports for a single spur or fruit-bearing branch in the Scansanese territory in relation to the sapling vines or to croissant without support.”

Modern era: Nicolas Belfrage (2001, p157) says Scansano is ‘the longest standing and highest ranking of the Tuscan coastal DOCs for Sangiovese, here called Morellino, although the relatively old zone has taken on quite a new look in recent years…[as] the relatively soft and fruity Sangiovese of these lower altitudes is being ‘discovered’ there is a veritable rush to invest [here]….so much so that land prices virtually quadrupled in the last five years of the twentieth century.’

‘The mid 1990s saw a boom in investment in the zone, with many of Toscana’s most prestigious high-quality wineries purchasing properties and vineyard land, attracted both by the potential shown in the better wines and the relatively low vineyard land prices compared with other, better-known central Tuscan DOCs. They were also attracted by the earlier ripening engendered by the temperate climate, something that in turn enables them to pick before the autumn rains in eight out of ten years, a luxury seldom afforded growers in the central Tuscan hills,’ (OCW: 2006, p.426). The interlopers included Antinori, Badia a Coltibuono and Rocca della Macie from Chianti Classico, Barbi Colombini from Montalcino, Brancaia (Widmer family) in Chianti Classico, Bruna Baroncini at Aia della Macina, Jacopo Biondi-Santi (from Montalcino) who purchased Montepò in 1999, Bolla/GIV, Cecchi, Fonterutoli (Mazzei), Frescobaldi, Frescobaldi-Mondavi at La Capitana, Guicciardini-Strozzi from San Gimignano, Masi from Valpolicella, Mondavi, Moris Farms, Poliziano (for the Lohsa estate) from Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

Production zone

The production zone centres on the township of Scansano in south-west Tuscany. It also includes the hilly area to the south-east of the Province of Grosseto, between the Ombrone and Albegna rivers, which includes the entire territory of the Municipality of Scansano, a large part of that of Magliano in Toscanaand a minor part of the municipal territories of MancianoGrosseto, Campagnatico, Semproniano and Roccalbegna.

‘In what is the Maremma’s [see entry for Maremma] classic zone for Sangiovese, Morellino di Scansano has improved considerably, thereby confirming the observations of Giacomo Barabino in 1884 ‘the wines of Magliano, Pereta and Scansano’—three towns in the current DOC zone—’are excellent and in few other places is so exquisite a wine produced’. The zone itself is a large one. Some of the vineyards are on acidic soil, somewhat unusual for Sangiovese, which in central Toscana has always given superior results on alkaline soils,’ (OCW: 2006, p.426).

Overall the area includes a hilly and foothill area, which from the north and east slopes south towards the plain of Albinia and to the west towards the Tyrrhenian coast and the Grossetana plain. Vineyards begin at an altitude of 150 m/500 ft near the sea and rise to 500 m near Scansano itself (OCW: 2006, p.426). The hilly and foothill orography of the production area and the prevailing exposure of the vineyards, oriented to the east south east, contribute to determine an adequately ventilated, bright environment, conducive to the performance of all the vegetative-productive functions of the plant.

Geology: The geology of the area shows characters of greater uniformity in the western sector where sandstone or pietraforte arenaceous reliefs prevail, while in the eastern part, in correspondence with the calcareous and clayey formations, it appears more articulated and tormented.

Climate: The average rainfall is about 620 mm. Precipitation is concentrated in the autumn-winter months where there are frequent thunderstorms with very arid springs and summers. The climate of the area is hot-dry and recurrent drought, represents the main limiting factor of agricultural production. Rainfall is concentrated in the months from November to April, with a tendential concentration on the eastern areas. The average temperature fluctuates around + 15.0 °, with + 7.0 ° and + 24.0 ° respectively for the winter months and the summer months.

Prof Attilio Scienza (on the Italian Wine Podcast) said ‘the Scansano territory has perhaps the highest temperatures during the ripening period [compared to Chianti Classico DOGC and Montalcino]] because it is a warmer territory. From a climatic point of view, it is the one that has the closest proximity to the sea and has soils that are a bit different from the flysch of Chianti and Brunello. They are sedimentary soils, with more clay than the others. What does this do? It certainly causes a much slower maturation which is very often slowed down by the fact that the best expressions of this wine in that territory are all high. 300, 400, 500 metres. Above 500 metres, you get slightly sharper Sangiovese, more vertical acids but not opulent, here at 200 to 400 to 500, you can really make great Sangiovese.’

Topography: The area is morphologically characterized by hills that predominate over low-lying plateaus. The major reliefs are in the northern part of the district and constitute the main ridge of the watershed of the Ombrone and Osa-Albegna basins. The prevailing average of the altitude is 250 meters s.l.m., limiting itself in some marginal areas of the lower areas to 30 – 40 meters. The maximum altitude is 566 meters s.l.m. From Poggioferro to Scansano the position of the land, down towards the Tyrrhenian coast, apart from the relief of Montebottigli, it becomes less and less uneven and tormented until it ends with low hills or slightly undulating plains.

Soil: The soils are loamy or frank-sandy in the western part derived from the boulder, where the reaction is generally subacid to alkaline, while they are loam-loam-loam texture in the eastern part derived from the limestone formations where the reaction tends to be alkaline. The soils are generally not very deep, with a rocky substrate in various cases surfacing. Simone Castelli told me (4 June 2019) that Manciano, being near Pitigliano, had tufaceous soils of volcanic origin. Grosseto has arenaceous rocks, and some alluvialdeposits. Roccalbegna has rocky, stony, clay alkaline soils. Magliano has sand and clay.

ViticultureVine density | 4,000 vines per hectare minimum. | Yields 9 tonnes per hectare with a yield per vine not exceeding 3 kg.

Vineyard area and wine production by vintage1998 370 hectares (914 acres) of vines produced 3.5 million bottles. | 2002 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres). This is the maximum size for the denomination. No more planting rights were to be authorised. 10 million bottles produced. 165 members of the consorzio of which 25 bottle wine. | 2006 From 2006 wines must be fermented and bottled in the DOC zone. | 2007 From the 2007 vintage Morellino di Scansano became a DOCG. | 2011 A hot vintage with no rain. | 2012 A very hot vintage with little or no rain. | 2013 A very good year potentially. | 2014 Light wines due to cool weather and rain. | 2017 1,500 hectares of vineyard registered in Morellino, 346 producers, production of 8 to 10 million bottles, 75% of which is sold in Italy, the remaining 25% abroad, especially in Germany and the United States (Source: Wine News, June 2017).

Wine style

In my report for the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards (for which I was Tuscany Chair) I wrote that most Morellino di Scansano vineyards belong to big houses from Chianti Classico, Montalcino and San Gimignano. They claim they do not treat Morellino as an afterthought – so why does this Sangiovese-based Mediterranean red so obviously lack a clear identity?’

‘The wines tend to be broad, spicy and muscular, with a punchy directness of fruit…for fairly early drinking,’ says David Gleave MW (1991). ‘The wines, traditionally agreeable gluggers, are becoming more serious under DOCG, not necessarily to their advantage,’ (Oz Clarke 2015, p176). Simone Castelli of the Podere 414 winery told me (04th June 2019) that the Sangiovese or ‘Morellino’ here ‘has soft tannins by its nature, and is not a long lived wine. With climate change there is now more luminosity, sunlight radiating off the sea. We also get very hot winds and the afternoon sun is very hot and intense. Merlot and Pinot Noir find this especially difficult. Blending partners for Morellino are changing. The 15% of non-Sangiovese grapes permitted in the blend now favour less Pinot Noir and Merlot, and more the likes of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Alicante (Grenache) and Carignan whose harder skins can give that bit of extra colour and are better blending partners for Sangiovese now. We use the leaves to protect the grapes from sunburn during the afternoon. We get grapes with harder skins, and with more colour. We can also go for slightly higher yields to compensate for smaller berries. In the winery larger oak vessels such as tonneaux and botti work best. Avoiding wood with a very tight grain also makes sense,’ he said.

Other permitted grape | Complementary grape varieties suitable for the production of Morellino di Scansano are as follows: Abrusco N. Alicante Bouschet N. Alicante N. Ancellotta N. Barbera N. Barsaglina N. Bonamico N. Bracciola Nera N. Cabernet Franc N. Cabernet Sauvignon N. Calabrese N. Calorie N. Canaiolo Nero N. Canina Nera N. Carignano N. Carmenere N. Cesanese D’Affile N. Ciliegiolo N. Colombana Nera. Colorino N. Foglia Tonda N. Gamay N. Groppello di Santo Stefano N. Groppello Gentile N. Lambrusco Maestri N. Malbech N. Malvasia N. Malvasia Nera di Brindisi N. Malvasia Nera di Lecce N. Mammolo N. Mazzese N. Merlot N. Mondeuse N. Montepulciano N. Petit verdot N. Pinot Nero N. Pollera Nera N. Prugnolo Gentile. Pugnitello N. Rebo N. Refosco dal Peduncolo rosso N. Sagrantino N. Sanforte N. Schiava Gentile N. Syrah N. Tempranillo N. Teroldego N. Vermentino Nero N.

NB: Grenache Noir is also called ‘Alicante Toscano’ or ‘Tinta d’Espagna’ in Scansano, recalling the time when the Spanish were at nearby Monte Argentario.

Wineries

Certified organicLa Selva. | Montecivoli. | Nittardi. | Podere 414

No certificationAia della Macina. | Antonio Camillo. | Castello di Montepò. | Castello Romitorio. Doga delle Clavule. | Erik Banti. | Fattoria Le Pupille. | Fattoria Querciarossa. |Lohsa. | Mantellassi. | Poggio Argentiera. | Poggio Bronzone. | Querciarossa. | Rendola. | Tenuta Belguardo. | Terre di Talamo

,’ (Hugh Johnson: Wine Companion: 1991, p.98).