As fall quickly turns to winter here in Chicago (I could’ve sworn I was out enjoying the weather just a week ago), I’m looking for some good Italian red wines to fortify my spirits. Good red wine is certainly something not is short supply coming from Italy, and when looking for a sure thing (or at least close too it), it’s hard to go wrong in either Piedmont or Tuscany. Sure enough, this latest one comes from a region at the heart of Tuscany, the Sant’Antimo DOC. It’s a region that doesn’t get a lot of attention (and one you may not see often in your local wine shop), but that’s for an understandable reason. It shares it’s borders, almost exactly, with three other wine regions, all (two in particular) more well known: the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, the Rosso di Montalcino DOC, and the Moscadello di Montalcino DOC. However, what sets the Sant’Antimo DOC apart from these other regions is the grapes that can be used in producing these wines. While the other three regions can only use one grape as their primary grape (Sangiovese for Brunello and Rosso; Moscadello for the final region), Sant’Antimo wines have much more flexibility.
As you’ve probably guessed from the names of the region’s sisters (or brothers; would red wine regions be considered masculine and white wine regions feminine? Is that a sexist generalization that speaks to stereotypes about what types of wine men and women prefer? Probably questions for a different blog…), this region is situated around the Tuscan town of Montalcino. However, unlike it’s siblings, this region is named instead for a magnificent Romanesque 12th-century Abbey that is in a valley surrounded by the vineyards. The region is relatively young; it was only given it’s DOC designation in 1996. Though the region wasn’t originally laid out this way, very shortly after it’s inception it was modified to allow for certain ‘international’ varietals. This allowed winemakers to continue using some of the same grapes that had become popular under the more generic Toscana IGT, which houses the popular “Super Tuscans” (I haven’t covered these wines yet, but in short they are wines made by popular winemakers but under the relatively generic IGT, allowing for much more freedom in the grape selection and overall winemaking process). Today the Sant’Antimo DOC allows wines to be ‘varietals’ – using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Pinot Nero for red wines and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio for white wines – as well as the more general ‘rosso’ and ‘blanco’ wines, made from the same local grapes allowed in other Tuscan wines.
This particular wine is a ‘rosso’ from Casanova di Neri, produced from grapes grown in their “Cetine” vineyards, south of Montalcino. The wine has a deep purple ruby coloring, bordering on purple, but with a bit more clarity. It has a nice full nose with lots of red fruit notes, led by pomegranate and red cherry. It’s definitely a full bodied wine, but with smooth tannins and a nice bit of acidity to give it some backbone, it doesn’t overwhelm too much. The tannins, while noticeable, take a back seat to the acidity and flavors on the palate. Here again stand out notes of pomegranate and bright cherry, as well as a bit of blackberry and a few other darker, earthier notes. It has a nice finish to it, with the acidity and fruit flavors lingering.