Montecucco: The overlooked Tuscan wine territory that should be on everyone’s “must-discover” list

An array of Montecucco DOC and Montecucco DOCG wines ( a view from the top).

When it comes to winemaking, it might seem that Montecucco has everything going for it. For instance, Montecucco is geographically situated in the center of the prime winemaking region of Tuscany, home to a number of the finest Italian red wines. Montecucco also has the ideal terroir (permeable loamy, clay-rich soil), and a Mediterranean climate (typically mild, with hot and dry summers, limited rainfall concentrated in fall and winter, warm days, cool nights, plenty of sunshine, and a steady wind), for cultivating Sangiovese, Tuscany’s star red wine grape, and other indigenous Italian, as well as international varietals, in its vineyards located anywhere between 120 and 500 meters above sea level. Montecucco is also neighbor to a number of renowned Tuscan wine territories including Siena, Maremma (the site of Morellino di Scansano production), and Arezzo.  Montecucco is situated on the other side of the Ombrone and Orcia rivers, across from Montalcino, home to producers of the internationally-acclaimed, Sangiovese-based Brunello.

You could say perhaps, that Montalcino is Italy’s answer to France’s Bordeaux region (that is, in terms of prestige. The wines taste totally different). What’s the problem then? Being surrounded by some of the heaviest hitters in Italian wine can get you lost in the crowd. It probably doesn’t help matters that Montefalco and Montecucco both begin with “Mont.” If you don’t speak Italian, Montecucco might sound like it could be Montalcino’s crazy cousin. Either way, these factors can add up to Montecucco being overlooked. As the case may be, that’s exactly what’s happened. 

The Consorzio Tutela Vini di Montecucco, Italian wine educator Henry Davar, and the team at Coangelo & Partners endeavored to change that and give the roughly 68 wine producers in Montecucco the attention they deserve by hosting a masterclass and lunch featuring Montecucco wines at Il Gattopardo Restaurant in New York City.

The atrium events space at Il Gattopardo restaurant.

The atrium events space, expertly rendered cuisine, and top-notch staff make this Midtown Italian restaurant an ideal choice for staging anything food and wine. Montecucco also produces Trebbiano Toscano-based white wines, but this seminar focused solely on Montecucco DOC (DOC status granted in 1998) and Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG (DOCG status granted in 2011) red wines to highlight the extent to which this area has worked wonders with Sangiovese, the most important red grape in Tuscany, and perhaps in all of Italy.

There are some rules that have to be followed if producers want their wines labeled Montecucco DOC. The wine must be produced from grapes cultivated in vineyards and crafted at a winery that is located within the Montecucco DOC zone. The wine must contain at least 60% Sangiovese, with additional Italian grapes, or  international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (aromatic grapes are excluded), making up the remainder of the blend. 

For a wine to bear the Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG label, the above rules of provenance apply. In addition, the wine must contain at least 90% Sangiovese. It also must have been aged in oak for at least one year, and in bottle for four months. These parameters notwithstanding, there’s still a lot of room for creativity. I was skeptical at first (I mean how much difference can there be between wines that all contain at least 60% Sangiovese (for the DOC) and 90% Sangiovese (for the DOCG?). But I had only to try them side by side to discover that there can and were myriad variations across the 13 wines I tasted. It just goes to show you the profound impact the type of Sangiovese used (there are over 100 clones of Sangiovese), subtle distinctions in terroir specific to each producer, and the winemaker’s approach to the vinification process, and interpretation of the wine, has on its flavor, character, structure, and ageability.
Here’s a recap of the six Montecucco DOC and the seven Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG wines that were presented at the seminar.

Le Maciarine, Montecucco Rosso DOC, 2020 Blend of 85% Sangiovese, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Petit Verdot Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. Refined, with a fresh acidity, young and balanced tannins, and a dark berry and stone fruit, and subtle balsamic flavor profile.

Poggio Stenti Montecucco Rosso DOC, 2020 Blend of 60% Sangiovese, and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon Fermented and aged (15 months) in stainless steel tanks. The grapes used to make this wine were grown on vineyards standing at around 200 meters above sea level. Crisp and fresh, with a violet, juicy dark fruit, and herbaceous flavor profile.

Villa Patrizia Montecucco Rosso DOC, Leremo, 2020 Blend of 65% Sangiovese, and 35% Merlot Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. This estate, established in 1968, is the oldest in the area. Well-rounded, with a soft acidity, delicate salinity, and a black cherry, grassy, and herbaceous flavor profile.

Parmoleto, Montecucco Rosso DOC, 2019 70% Sangiovese, 25% Montepulciano, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon Fermented in stainless steel tanks, and aged ten months in used barriques. Balanced and soft, with good depth and structure, and a lush raspberry, red and dark fruit, and blueberry flavor profile.

Le Pianore, Montecucco Rosso DOC, “Tiniatus,” 2018 60% Sangiovese, 40% Merlot Produced from grapes situated at 500 meters above sea level. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, with 25% aged in French tonneaux for six months. Round and complex, with a fresh red berry, black fruit, and blueberry, as well as spicy flavor profile.

Castello Colle Massari, Montecucco Rosso Riserva DOC, 2018 80% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon Certified organic. Grapes used to make this wine were grown in vineyards standing around 300 meters above sea level. Riper fruit is selected for Riserva wines. Fermented in stainless steel tanks. Aged 16 months in oak (Sangiovese aged in 40 hectoliter casks, and Ciliegiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 500 liter tonneaux). Well-balanced, with good weight, and a rich and ripe blueberry and black stone fruit, as well as soft oak, and toast flavor profile.

Podernuovo di Maremma, Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG, “Magnandre,” 2019 Fermented in stainless steel tanks, and aged two years in 22 hectoliter wood tanks. Fresh and bright, with a ripe red cherry, and blueberry flavor profile. This wine will continue to grow rounder, softer, and richer, and the naturally occurring terpenes will decrease with age.

Poggio Trevvalle, Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG, “TarEnte,” 2019 Winery certified organic since 1999 and certified biodynamic since 2013. Partial whole cluster fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aged in new and used Allier oak barrels of various capacities for 18 months. Vinified in concrete “palmenti.” Grapes are crushed by foot and ancient Etruscan methods of wine production were employed. Fresh and medium-bodied, with bright tannins, and a lively red fruit and cherry flavor profile.

Podere Montale, Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG, 2016 Fermented in stainless steel tanks, and aged one year in 3000 liter oak barrels. Grapes used to make this wine were grown in vineyards standing at 400 meters above sea level. Aromatic, with a spicy pungency, a fresh acidity, and a raspberry, cherry, and fennel, as well as black pepper flavor profile.

Tenuta L’ Impostino, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, “Viandante,” 2016 Macerated for 30 days in stainless steel tanks, and aged two years in 42 hectoliter oak barrels and second passage barriques. A bright acidity, developing tannins, and a fresh red fruit, as well as leather, grass, and balsamic flavor profile.

Basile, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, “Ad Agio,” 2016 Macerated 30 days in oak barrels, and aged two years in 500 liter tonneaux. Produced from grapes grown in vineyards situated around 330+ meters above sea level. Well-balanced and round, with a good structure, dry and dusty tannins, and a concentrated black cherry, savory, and woodsy flavor profile. This wine has the potential to age gracefully for a decade.

Peteglia, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, 2016 Macerated three months in stainless steel tanks, and aged 36 months in large Slavonian oak barrels. Careful selection of low-yield, late-harvested grapes. Refined and complex, with a silky, almost glycerin texture, and a lively red berry, plum, and black cherry, as well balsamic and garrigue flavor profile.

Palmoletino, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, “Fondo di Pio,” 2015 Fermented in stainless steel tanks, and aged two years in tonneaux. Grapes used to make this wine were grown in vineyards standing 150 meters above sea level that were planted between the 1960s and 1980s. Aromatic and rich, with a good balance, and a dried fig, as well as cherry, fennel, and balsamic flavor profile.

These wines, and a trio of old vintages, including a Tenuta L’ Impostino, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, “Viandante,” 2011, a Basile, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, “Ad Agio,” 2009, and a Castello Colle Massari, Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG, Poggio Lombrone, 2009, were complemented by a three-course Tuscan-inspired menu created by executive chef Vito Gnazzo.

Pappardelle al sugo di coniglio.
Tagliata di manzo con patate al forno.

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