Rosso di Montalcino DOC is one of two red wines made from 100% Sangiovese grapes grown in the commune of Montalcino in Tuscany, the other being Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Rosso di Montalcino became a DOC in 1983, three years after Brunello di Montalcino had been elevated to DOCG status in 1980.
Origins: When Brunello di Montalcino became a DOC in 1966 the obligatory ageing period for the wine was four years. To help cashflow a separate consorzio was set up, the Consorzio del Vino Rosso di Montalcino, for a new wine called Vino Rosso dai Vigneti di Brunello (‘Red wine from Brunello vineyards’), the forebear of Rosso di Montalcino. To avoid confusion between Brunello di Montalcino DOC (as it then was) and Vino Rosso di Montalcino, which was a vino da tavola rather than a DOC wine in those days, the name was changed to Consorzio del Vino Rosso dai Vigneti di Brunello – ‘consortium of red wine made from the vineyards of Brunello’. In 1983 Rosso di Montalcino was awarded full DOC status. This was the first time in Italy whereby a DOC had been granted to vineyards previously also classified as DOCG.
Winemaking rules: Rosso di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese grown within the same production zone as Brunello, meaning the commune of Montalcino. In 2011 Montalcino producers voted on whether to allow varieties other than Sangiovese in Rosso di Montalcino to make the wine more “international” but the motion was defeated. Yields must not exceed 90 quintals per hectare (four tons an acre). The wine used to come from vineyards designated as Rosso as opposed to Brunello but now a quota system is used whereby the total yield of wine bottled as Rosso and Brunello is determined by each estate’s vineyard holdings overall, maximum yields being slightly higher for Rosso than Brunello. Oak ageing is not mandatory for Rosso di Montalcino, and the wine can be released for sale much earlier than Brunello, from September 01st in the year immediately following harvest (Brunello must age 2 years in wood and can only be released after four years of mandatory ageing, one of which is the year of harvest). Bottling must take place in the production zone.
Packaging: From 2015 Rosso di Montalcino could be bottled with a screwcap. Only Bordeaux-shaped bottles are allowed.
Styles: The best producers of Rosso di Montalcino treat it as a young Sangiovese from Brunello vineyards (the original denomination of this wine) and produce it every year. They have carved a space in the market and their wines sell well. Others have little commercial coherence and produce Rosso from what is left over from the blending of the Brunello, meaning the wine can vary greatly from year to year. Thus Rosso di Montalcino can be seen as a lost appellation, with too many price and quality variations amongst producers. On one side everyday quaffers from young or high-yielding vines sell on drinkability and budget prices, while on the other deeper, oak-aged Rossos sell for the price of a mini-Brunello, which is what they are. But the latter are deemed too expensive for everyday quaffing (which is what consumers expect from a “Rosso”) and yet are arguably not expensive enough for consumers who are pushing the boat out and want a fancy wine.
When to drink: 18 months after bottling is a good time to approach a Rosso di Montalcino.
Vintages: See Montalcino.
Wineries: See Montalcino wineries.
Oz Clarke 2015, Oz Clarke Wine A-Z (Pavilion, 2015), p.223.
Walter Speller, ‘The curious career of Rosso di Montalcino,’ www.jancisrobinson.com 27 April 2015.