Still in the mood for snappy, food-friendly Italian reds after Wednesday's brief exploration of the affordable "Sub-Tuscan" wines made in the spirit of the Chianti region?
Let's stay with the topic today as we move briskly to a trio of Tuscan tasting reports. I dug into my notebooks to pick up a couple more Sangiovese-based wines that bear the "Rosso di Toscana" label, tasted last autumn but that for one reason or another never made it into print; and a "Rosso di Montepulciano," another "typical geographical" ("IGT") wine that is related to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in much the same way as Rosso di Toscana is related to Chianti: It's made from the same local grapes - Sangiovese, Canaiolo and others - but wine makers are permitted more creative flexibility in their choice of grapes, barrels and other wine-making decisions.
Dei 2001 Rosso di Montepulciano ($13.49)
This clear, dark ruby wine, a blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo grapes, shows glints of amber in the glass. Swirling brings up black-cherry fruit in its spicy and "sweet" aroma. Flavors are consistent with the nose, juicy and ripe, with a firm acidic structure that marries well with food; and a soft tannic astringency lingers. U.S. importer: Mark de Grazia Selection, imported by Vintner Select of Cincinnati and other regional importers. (April 24, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with a typical pasta dish built to match, Italian sausage in a fennel-scented fresh-tomato sauce over conchiglie pasta.
VALUE: A clone of Vino Nobile at only two-thirds the usual price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Good now, may gain a little complexity with a year or two in the bottle.
WEB LINK: For Dei's Website (in Italian only), click to:
Renzo Masi 2000 "Erta e China" Rosso di Toscana ($12.99)
This Tuscan red demonstrates the flexibility of the IGT regulations with a non-traditional blend of half Sangiovese, half Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 14 months in a combination of French and American oak. Inky dark garnet, almost black, it shows bright reddish-purple glints against the light. Aromatic, dark fruits, dried cherries and spice, more fruit than oak despite its long stay in wood. Juicy, snappy fruit flavors follow the nose, black fruit and lemony acidity; clean and lingering, with a whiff of fennel in the finish. Impressive wine, somewhat in the "international" style. U.S. importer: HB Wine Merchants, NYC. (Nov. 8, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Perfect with rare beef.
VALUE: Excellent value.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink but no hurry.
You'll find an English-language fact sheet on Cantine Masi Renzo (Fattoria di Basciano) at
Elisabetta 1999 "Aulo" Rosso Toscana ($11.99)
Clear, dark ruby color. Ripe black-cherry aromas with a pleasant hint of earthy "barnyard," with grace notes of spice on the nose. Full tart-cherry fruit flavor with the cutting edge of acidity that's characteristic of food-friendly Tuscan reds. Clean and fresh in a long finish. Equal parts of Sangiovese and Canaiolo, with a small portion (10 percent) of Cabernet Sauvignon. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC; a Leonardo Locascio selection. (Sept. 27, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with a strip steak prepared Florentine style, sprinkled with black pepper and sea salt and seared to rare on a hot, dry iron skillet.
VALUE: Good value at this price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink, but will hold for a few years under good storage conditions.
WEB LINK: Here's the U.S. importer's Aulo fact sheet:
Our Bordeaux trip is coming up soon!
Time flies, and our annual wine tour of France is coming up soon: I'll be leaving on Tuesday, May 6 - just a week-and-a-half from now! Mary and I will spend a couple of days in Champagne and Alsace and a night in Paris before joining our friends Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin of French Wine Explorers and a group of wine enthusiasts who'll join us on a Best of Bordeaux tour featuring VIP visits and tastings at an all-star list of the region's producers as well as dinners at some of the best restaurants in the region.
As usual when I'm away from the office on wine travel, I'll post periodic reports, tasting notes and photos on WineLoversPage.com and in The 30 Second Wine Advisor. Note, however, that the Wine Advisor will go on travel schedule while I'm away: We'll publish as usual on Mondays, May 5, 12 and 20 (although it's possible that the mailing may go out a day or so early or late, depending on circumstances), but I'll have to put the Wednesday and Friday editions and the Thursday Wine Advisor FoodLetter on vacation for a couple of weeks after May 5, resuming regular publication after we return.
Finally, although the May 11-17 tour has filled, I'm told that it's still possible to accommodate one additional participant (or possibly a couple). For more information, contact Lauriann Greene by E-mail at
To learn more about French Wine Explorers and its group and customized individual tours, visit
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Friday, April 25, 2003