Thursday, September 19, 2013

2011 Caprili Rosso di Montalcino – Tuscany, Italy

In the United States wines tend to known by the grape variety on the label (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay etc.) which also identifies for the consumer the winery (Robert Mondavi, Kendall Jackson, Chateau St. Michelle etc.), the origin of the grape (Napa, Sonoma, Willamette Valley etc.), as well as the vintage. I find wine labels in the USA to be fairly easy to read and understand but they do not convey any real indication of the quality of the wine nor the methods that were used to make the wine. The only way you can know if the wine is meeting any expectation of quality is if you know the reputation of the winery and their particular brands.

In France, with the exception of Alsace, wines are identified by the appellation and the only way you know what grapes are in the bottle is if you know what grapes are grown in that region. The wine regions are then categorized according to a ranking system appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) which translates as controlled designation of origin which indicates the degree of stipulations that must be met in order for that wine to be labeled as such. This ranking system is supposed to convey some sense of expectation of quality that consumer should have of the wine.

In Italy, the rules vary from region to region. Some are identified by their location and others are identified by their grape. Italy also has a ranking system Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) that is loosely based on French laws. When the wine is identified by the region, the consumer is expected to know what grape(s) go into wines from that appellation.

If you are looking for a wine made with Sangiovese in the United States the label will specifically indicate “Sangiovese” and if it is a proprietary blend made with Sangiovese (such as Luna Vineyard’s Super Tuscan blend Canto) it may state the varietals on the back label. 

So, here is the label for the 2011 Caprili Rosso di Montalcino. What does it tell us?

The name of the winery is Caprili, it is a DOC wine from Italy, the vintage is 2011… but what, the average consumer may wonder, is Rosso di Montalcino? There is NO specific indication as to what kind of grape is in the wine as it does not say “Sangiovese” or “Barbera” or “Nebbiolo”. This is where the professional wine-geek, whether at wine shop or restaurant, is needed to interpret the label. Or, perhaps if you have a handy dandy wine app on your smart phone that can help you too. But if you think this label is difficult, check out the detailed German wine labels! (I’ll discuss that in another post)

Rosso di Montalcino is not a grape but a region in Italy that is designated a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and it is located in the same defined area as the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). 

Both are located in Tuscany, in central Italy, where Sangiovese is the dominant red grape. In fact, Rosso and Brunello can be made of only Sangiovese. But Brunello, a DOCG, are required to be aged in oak for 2 years with at least 4 months in a bottle before release, whereas Rosso, a DOC, is only required to have 1 year of aging before it can be sold. That is one of the quality differences between the DOC and the DOCG.

The Rosso di Montalcino DOC was created in 1984 in order to make the most of the fruit from younger vines of new plantings. The puprose was to create a fresher style of wine that needed considerably less ageing time (one year with only six months in oak) than its DOCG counterpart. This would enable producers of Brunello to generate income while waiting for their DOCG wine to age, as well as declassify any Brunello that had been ageing for two to three years but had not quite reached the required standards. A similar classification strategy was used in Montepulciano, with the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC helping out producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.

Caprili Winery

Caprili Winery was founded by Alfo Bartolommei in 1965. The Bartolommei family originated from Podere Marzolo in the Municipality of Cinigiano (Province of Grosseto) and settled in the Municipality of Montalcino at the beginning of the 20th century.  In 1911, they moved to Podere Poggi, a tenant farm on the Villa Santa Restituta estate working the land by sharecropping.  In the years that followed, the family moved several times from one country home to another on the Villa Santa Restituta estate until they finally arrived at the Caprili farm home in 1952.  The family took over Caprili with all their livestock and continued to work the land by sharecropping.  In 1965, the Bartolommei family decided to buy the property from the Castelli-Martinozzi family, owners of Villa Santa Restituta estate.  In the same year, 1965, they planted the first vineyard, still called “Madre” to this day, where the clones for the new vineyards planted on the estate are selected. The first bottle of Brunello di Montalcino is from the 1978 harvest and was put on the market in 1983.

The company Caprili, covers an area 58 acres, south-west of the territory in the town of Montalcino, on a slope of the hill that slopes down to the river Orcia and Ombrone. The vineyard area is 15.5 hectares of which 14.5 planted with Sangiovese Grosso that produce Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Rosso di Montalcino DOC.[1]

The Wine

The first thing I notice on the nose are very distinctive dusty tart cherries that seem like what you might pick up at a fruit stand on the side of the road out in the country. Then there comes a waft of a chalky minerality followed by dried herbs and then a very unique subtle aroma of burnt rubber tires, like someone in front of you on the freeway just locked up their brakes and left a long strip of tread on the road. On the palate most of the fruit is picked up on the mid-palate transition, it has soft tannins, mouth-watering acidity, medium body and a medium length finish with additional notes of dried cinnamon stick, dried tobacco and oak. This wine begins and ends with dry earth notes with the fruit found in the middle. If tasted blind, it is the dusty cherries, herbs and high acidity that identify this wine as a Sangiovese. But I have had a number of California versions that were similar but most tend to have heavier weight due to being higher in alcohol as they come from a warmer region. This is a nice everyday wine that would pair well with any typical Italian dinner (Pizza, Spaghetti, Calzone etc.) and it sells retail for around $24 and wine shops such as The Vine at Bridges in Danville, California.

To visit or for more information:

The Vine at Bridges

480 Hartz Ave 

Danville, CA 94526

Phone: 1-925-820-7210

Wine Bar Hours

Sunday: 12 (noon) - 7pm

Monday: 5 - 9pm

Tuesday - Wednesday: 4 - 10pm

Thursday - Saturday: 4 pm - 12:00 am

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