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Monday, November 17, 2014

The 'other' Sangiovese-- Morellino di Scansano by Philip S. Kampe





The word ‘Tuscany’ has a special heartfelt meaning to so many of us. What comes to mind is the beauty of this province, with its spectacular scenery, historic cities, art, food, medieval hill towns and beautiful countryside.

Dotted with landmark cities like Florence, Sienna, Pisa, Cortona, San Gimignano, Lucca, Pienza & Monrepulciano, Tuscany never ceases to amaze its locals and its numerous visitors. 

When we think of the grape varietal in Tuscany, we naturally think of the Sangiovese grape.

Chianti, Vin Santo, Vino Nobile di Montepulcino and Brunello di Montalcino are made with this elegant grape.

So, is Morellino di Scansano, located a wine region that is a little off the beaten path.
The area is Italy’s newest DOCG  and is located close to the ocean in southwestern Tuscany, .Morellino di Scansano is made in the hilly village of Scansano, in the Maremma, which has an ancient winemaking tradition that dates back to the 1500’s.

According to Giacomo Pondini, Director of the Morellino di Scansano Consortium, ‘Morellino is the local dialect and is also the name for the Sangiovese grape varietal. The area was granted DOC status in 1978 and was upgraded to DOCG in 2007’. Mr. Pondini goes on to say that many people think that the origin of Morellino came from Morello, which means brown, the color of Maremmano horses.

Others believe that the name came from the Morello cherry. We may never know, said Giacomo, as its origin is still being debated’.

What we do know is that by law, the wines from Morellino di Scansano must contain a minimum of 85% Sangiovese grapes and can be blended with up to 15% of varietals, which may include both indigenous and international varietals..

The vineyards are near the sea. Warm mediterranean breezes combined with the soil from Scansano create wines that are quite different than the classic Sangiovese wines that we know when we sample them from Tuscany and other Italian regions.

The winemakers from Scansano follow few rules after crushing the grapes. Fermentation can take place in second-hand oak barrels, new French oak or cement. Whatever the winemaking process, the results of the numerous bottles of wines from Morellino di Scansano that I have sampled are all the same. The wines have an exceptional ‘fresh’quality. My palate suggests cherry and often licorice as the leading influence. Most of the wines are extremely soft, nearly velvet like. They are generally medium-balanced and have a long, lingering finish.

To highlight just one or two producers would not do the region justice.

Sales of Morellino di Scansano in America are on the upswing, yet, often the wines from this region are sometimes hard, if not impossible to find. I would encourage you to visit your local wine merchant. If he doesn’t carry Morellino di Scansano, please ask him to order a bottle for you.

Prices generally run under $20. 

Once you have tasted Morellino di Scansano, with certainty, you will be able to say, like I do, that Sangiovese will never taste the same.

Philip S. Kampe

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