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Today's Wine Tasting Note

© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Ateo Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona 1996 Ateo ($22.99)
Named "The Atheist" not for religious reasons but as a tongue-in-cheek dig at the strict Italian wine laws, this blend of 90 percent Sangiovese and 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon must be sold as a "red table wine" because it doesn't meet the grape-variety requirements for its region. Like many other Tuscan "table wines," however, it may just be the better for it, and although it's not a cheap wine, its price is low-end for the genre and makes it a very good buy. Dark reddish-purple in color, it offers generous black fruit and spicy oak aromas that lead into sweet oak and ripe fruit flavors, mouth-filling and jammy, well structured with lemon-tart acidity and marked but accessible tannins. A little gangly and awkward now, it comes into perspective with rare red meat and shows real promise for improvement with time. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (July 13, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a pepper-crusted grilled T-bone.

Rocca di Montegrossi Rocca di Montegrossi 1997 Chianti Classico ($14.99)
Dark garnet. Somewhat dank oak aromas and caramel fight for dominance with simple black fruit, with the fruit becoming more evidently only after a little breathing time. Better on the palate, with ripe and juicy black fruit and lemon-squirt acidity coming together to make a good food wine. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Cincinnati; a Marc de Grazia Selection. (July 12, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: The wine's better with a char-grilled duck than alone, with its tart acidity cutting through the fattiness of the duck, and the earthy flavors of the wine and the bird making a happy marriage.

Monte Antico 1995 Red Tuscan Table Wine ($8.99)
My second tasting of this bargain-basement red in recent months, the first being an "import" from Boston, this one from a supply that finally reached here last month. Findings are consistent: Dark ruby, with spicy oak and good cherry-berry aromas, bright and juicy fruit flavors shaped by tart acidity. Simple, but a good quaff and good food wine. U.S. importer: Empson (USA) Inc., Alexandria, Va. (July 14, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Should have gone reasonably well with a vegetarian dish of sauteed tempeh (and Indonesian processed soybean cake), but a little too much lime juice in its marinate made the entree an iffy wine match.

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Anyone have details on Ateo? - Robin Garr 13 Jul 1999 - 20:46 We're sipping an Italian red tonight that I know very little about: 1996 Ateo. I assumed that it's a "high-tech Tuscan" with maybe some Cabernet in the Chianti blend, but the new "Indicazione Geografica Tipica" designation casts some doubt on that. It's made in Montalcino by somebody named Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, a name that vaguely suggests Spanish origins. Anyone have any info on this wine? REPLY Lagniappe info - Randy McCluer 14 Jul 1999 - 13:04 Robin, Ciacci is, as others have said, a very small Brunello and Rosso producer (I can get numbers tomorrow if you'd like.) whose cantina is located on a steep alleyway in Castelnuova dell'Abate. My girlfriend and I visited them in June as they were highly recommend by a waiter in Rome and Arthur, I think. Intrestingly, when we arrived there was a German couple stocking up; I guess they bought 30-40 cases + honey and oil. Guess they really liked the juice. Now, my guesses on the name: I think it's common practice, at least in Tuscany, to name vineyards after previous property owners, right? Well, Piccolomini d'Aragona is the family of Pope Pius II from nearby Pienza. It's conceivable a family member owned property in the Montalcino area. The Spanish relation, from what I remember, is pretty far back in the line. That's my $.02. REPLY Lagniappe info - Arthur P. Johnson 17 Jul 1999 - 10:12 Randy, fascinating detail. I'll bet there is indeed a connection with the Pienza family. (Ever get out to Pienza? Gorgeous little jewel box of a town.) REPLY Ciacci - Jon 13 Jul 1999 - 23:28 Robin.....Ciacci is small,almost boutique sized producer of superb wines with a terrific track record.. Do yourself a favor and try their Rosso...and its big brother, Brunello.....BTW, Ateo is pretty spiffy stuff too Jon REPLY Ciacci- Rosso di Montalcino - Brad Kane/NYC 14 Jul 1999 - 13:31 "Do yourself a favor and try their Rosso..." Agreed. The '97 Rosso di Montalcino is fabulous. Even those that say they don't like Italian wines will like this. Brad REPLY You happened on one of my favorite Tuscans... - Arthur P. Johnson 13 Jul 1999 - 22:22 Good catch, Robin! Lovely stuff in 1995, 1994 and 1993, anyhow. Yes, Ciacci Piccolomini is the producer. This is a teeny, tiny producer of mind-blowing Brunello di Montalcino --and winemaker Roberto Cipresso is one of the reigning geniuses of Italian winemaking, IMHO. I had a fascinating tasting at the winery a few years ago and the details are over on my Web site. As Cole says, it's mostly Sangiovese (the Sangiovese Grosso that goes into their Brunello). The name "Ateo" means "the atheist" -- and voices their opinion of the DOC regs that strait-jacket so many Tuscan producers. REPLY Some details - Cole Kendall/Washington, DC 13 Jul 1999 - 21:42 According to my several year old "I vini di Veronelli", Azienda Agricola Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, based in Montalcino, was founded in 1983, run by Giuseppe Bianchini, and the wine is made by Roberto Cipresso. They make Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, as well as Ateo (and extra virgin olive oil and honey!). As you guessed, Ateo is 90% sangiovese and 10% cabernet sauvignon. Cole REPLY