Welcome to binNotes | redThread™
Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.
By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML
Each first Friday of every month through 2016, I’ve invited some of my fellow wine writers the opportunity to join me here on binNotes | red Thread™ and share a feature on some rare, obscure, or under-appreciated wine region for which they feel a special passion.
Selfishly, this allows me to experience new perspectives beyond my myopic world of pitching, traveling, word-smithing, and deadlines.
It also allows you the opportunity to experience some great wine regions through the eyes of those whose expertise I respect.
I hope you enjoy their stories as much as I do.
Guest Writer Series | № 7 | Cindy Rynning on ‘Maremma – Together but Different in Tuscany’
Cindy Rynning, the petite dynamo behind the wildly influential site Grape Experiences, graciously guest writes today on ‘Maremma – Together but Different’ – a region in Tuscany.
Salute & Bon Appetito!
Maremma: Together, but Different in Tuscany
by Cindy Rynning
Everyone who loves wine knows about those from Tuscany. In central Italy, from the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea, some of the most interesting wines in the country claim this breathtaking region as their home. With each swirl and sip, Chianti, Vino Nobile Montepulciano, Brunello di Montepulciano, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Vin Santo, and more, reflect a diverse landscape and climate, a rich culture, and traditional nuances blended with modern techniques of winemakers who have honed their craft. Within Tuscany are specific wine regions; some are familiar, others, perhaps, not.
I was invited to explore in depth, two production areas, Montecucco and Morellino di Scansano, found in Maremma, the coastal, most southern part of Tuscany by Consorzio Tutela Morellino di Scansano DOCG and Consorzio Tutela Vini Montecucco DOCG. Members of the Chicago trade and media were treated to a four course luncheon paired with twelve wines at La Scuola di Eataly as we discovered the unique characteristics of each area and the flavors of their distinctive wines of Sangiovese (and more). I wasn’t the only wine lover who had “ah-ha!” moments during this luncheon and perhaps this overview will lend you a few of your own. Please refer to each area’s website for more information.
Maremma: Together, but Different
But a bit of backstory… The history of Maremma helps define the culture of today. In Etruscan times, when the region enjoyed its golden age, mining and selling precious metals helped fund a surprisingly modern system of government and the fine arts. Once the Romans arrived, the forward thinking Etruscans were displaced; the invaders desired this striking empire for its minerals and proximity to the sea.
Through the centuries, glorious Maremma of long ago disappeared – war, pestilence, disease were pervasive. Foreign rule led to the building of fortresses, a characteristic of many cities today, and at one point, the province was almost deserted. By the 18th century, the area was united once again. Yet, even now, invisible markers continue to define cultural boundaries of villages and their people.
And the wines of Maremma? Like those invisible markers, the wines are “Together, but different: Sangiovese is what we have in common, but its face changes in the two denominations of Montecucco and Morellino di Scansano.” These words were aptly stated by those at the Consortium, a group of producers from the two areas who have joined to raise awareness of their wines. As I learned about the region and tasted the wines, I began to understand the meaning behind those words.
With one of the lowest yields per hectare in Italy, only seven tons of grapes per hectare are obtained. Vineyards at 150-400 meters above sea level are found on the lava rich slopes of Mount Amiata, an extinct volcano, under which can be found hot, thermal springs. The climate is cool and windy, thanks to the currents from central Italy and breezes from the Tyrrhenian coast. Sunshine, optimal rainfall in the winter, and diurnal temperature range in the summer, the grapes, over two thirds grown organically, thrive.
The production area of Morellino di Scansano covers approximately 65,000 hectares in the southeast area, in the province of Grosseto. A range of east and southeast facing hills and foothills slope southward towards the plains of Albinia and westward towards the Tyrrhenian coast and the plain of Grosseto. The area is protected from the cold north winds and moderate sea breezes are free flowing. A rocky layer under the soil provides good drainage to the vines grown in approved areas; dry farming is practiced and only emergency irrigation is allowed.
Regulations demand that Morellino di Scansano DOCG and Morellino di Scansano Riserva must be a minimum of 85% Sangiovese with a maximum of 15% other red varieties, not aromatic, and authorized to grow in the region.
The Wines of Montecucco and Morellino di Scansano
Ahhh, the luncheon! Each of three courses was paired with four wines (and yes, I had my favorites…). In general, I felt that the wines from Montecucco, further inland, seemed more rich and intense with beautiful aromas and hint of minerality. Those from Morellino di Scansano were fresh and presented more elements of salinity thanks to its proximity to the sea. Of course, the vintage years had a role: the wines from 2011 were ripe and fruity, 2012 was hot and dry helping to create wines that were light and dense. Wines in both production areas from 2013 and 2014 need extra time in the bottle, in my opinion, but those I tasted were delightful nonetheless.
Our first course was a mouthwatering creation, Pumpkin Sformato with red wine and braised lentils, gorgonzola, and marjoram.
A dry, high acid white Ribusiere Chiaranotte Montecucco Vermentino DOC 2014, exuded aromas of citrus and touch of salinity, an interesting element since Montecucco is not a coastal area. My favorite pairing, however, was the San Gabriele Arcangelo Pavone Montecucco Rosso DOC 2013 of 100% Sangiovese and aged in “big wood”. Although the wine needed to open a bit, aromas and flavors of spice and cherries as well as notes of earth complemented the cheese, herbs, and lentils.
Creamy Risotto “Sotto Bosco” with porcini mushrooms and blueberries was served as a second course.
With aromas of mushrooms and cherries, the Vignaioli Morellino di Scansano Vigna Benefizio DOCG 2014, was young and needed to breathe, but strong tannins and food friendly acidity paired quite well with the mushrooms and fruit in the risotto. Intense cherries burst on the nose and palate of the Collemassari Montecucco Rosso Riserva DOC 2012, a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dense and compact, the fresh wine in my glass was a lovely counterpoint to the tastes and texture of the risotto.
Our entrée, savory Roasted Pork Loin with herbed carrots, braised red cabbage, and pan sauce, was prepared to perfection.
From the 2011 vintage year, were Il Boschetto Botte No. 11 Montecucco Rosso Riserva DOC 2011 of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot and Syrah and Basile Ad Agio Montecucco Sangiovese Riserva DOCG 2011 of 100% Sangiovese. Ripe and fruit forward, both wines were powerful and complex. A sip of beautiful Erik Banti Ciabatta Moerellino di Scansasno DOCG 2012 of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot and a taste of the pork and herbed carrots were mesmerizing. As I recall the taste sensation, I’m thinking that a trip to Maremma or, at the very least, to Eataly once again is in order!
A delightful, sweet ending was the Fruit and Hazelnut Cream Tart with caramel sauce. More than satisfied, guests were able to re-visit the wines, reflect upon their favorites, and savor the experience as we compared notes and thoughts.
I encourage you to find wine from Maremma in your favorite wine shop. Choose one from each area, Montecucco and Morellino di Scansano, and discover for yourself how their beautiful wines are “together, but different”.
Cheers! ~ Cindy
About the Author:
Cindy Rynning is a Chicago based blogger who has been writing about wine on her site, Grape Experiences, and for other digital publications since 2011. She has passed the WSET Level 3 exam and loves to share the love of wine with her readers. Cindy attends wine dinners and tasting events, and travels to various wine regions around the world to learn more about her favorite beverage. She is fortunate to have the opportunity to meet winemakers and others who enjoy sharing their wine journey with her.
Cindy specializes in writing wine reviews, articles about international wine regions, those about movers and shakers within the wine industry, and recommendations for food and wine pairings. Tagline? Swirl. Sip. Savor.
Story and photos reprinted by permission of the author, Cindy Rynning.
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