Rosso di Montalcino wines are made from the same grape as the revered wines of Brunello di Montalcino. These grapes are grown within the exact same geographic boundary as Brunello. So what's the difference?
For many, the most obvious answer is price -- these "baby Brunellos" cost less than half the dollars of their bigger siblings. This is because while both are made from Sangiovese Grosso, Rosso di Montalcino wines have shorter aging requirements (a total of one year v. four), and often come from younger vines, or declassified wines that may not be as high quality. They are usually lighter in style and made for earlier consumption.
Only five tasters this month due to a cancellation, but we felt that these wines were represented well, with four different vintages and some nice variation between bottles. They still spoke of their appellation, however, with all of them having a characteristic cherry quality and solid acidity.
The top two bottles were separated by only two points and received the most accolades, but we definitely enjoyed all of these wines, finding merit in every bottle.
First Place: Castello Romitorio Rosso di Montalcino 2011. Looks darker than the others. Tasters found scents of lavender, licorice, powder, plum, and dark cherries. Relatively softer and riper than some of the others, with a much darker fruit profile, like plums and chocolate, plus Twizzler, incense, and toasted oak. Suzanne detected something "after a fire". Kristin, Joyce, and Suzanne's favorite of the night. Received 26 points. Joyce's bottle. About $35.
Second Place: Col D'Orcia Banditella Rosso di Montalcino 2009. Musty, dusty nose initially, but also complex, with notions of cherries, tree bark, brown sugar, squid ink, roses, honey, mint, and bit of blueberry and blood in the background. David was reminded of a "hike in the fall woods", and noted that "it holds your interest". Good texture and tannins, reminiscent of game and cinnamon, with black licorice on the finish. David and Ali's favorite. Received 24 points. Kristin's bottle. About $30.
Third Place: Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Rosso di Montalcino 2011. Unfiltered. Smelled of chalk, chocolate, cherry, raisins, tobacco, cola, and lavender. Dusty but not dirty, "like clapping erasers in Arizona" (Ali). Inviting. More lavender notes in the mouth, along with cinnamon and Robitussin (in a good way). Pleasant, with nice round texture, but with a shorter finish. The alcohol sticks out a bit. Ali described it as "an annoying little kid". Everyone gave this at least one point, for a total of 9. Suzanne's bottle. About $28.
Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino 2013. Unfiltered and lighter in color, showing aromas of cocoa powder, cherries, sweat, dark mushrooms (truffles), baby powder, and licorice. Lighter texture and brighter acidity, with flavors of cranberries and cough medicine. Ali detected "root beer on the sides", while Suzanne felt that it was "not a main course wine". Kristin felt that "it's kind of guy" overall. Fresh, and finishes well, with a hint of prune. David felt that the mid-palate was lacking, however. Received 8 points. David's bottle. About $28.
Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2012. Skunk, salt, body odor/foot on the nose. Brighter, with more acidity, suggestive of cherries, cranberry, weeds, and green tobacco. Not bad, but a bit choppy. Joyce suggested that it would be "best with lemon pepper chicken". David noted that he was "skeptical of it". 3 points. Ali's bottle. About $20.