Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino "La Caduta" (Tuscany, Italy) 2019
(Vineyard Brands, $20): If I shop on the right days, I can enjoy a ten percent discount on everything I buy at my favorite gourmet food store in Massachusetts. Although we own plenty of wine already, on those occasions I browse the small wine section to choose a bottle or two to take home. Often, it’s a Chianti Classico but
lately none has been available. Aha! There’s a Rosso di Montalcino from a solid, traditional producer. Sold.
Rosso di Montalcino DOC is the junior version of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, one of Italy’s most lauded red wines. It hails from the identical territory as Brunello, and both wines are made entirely from the local Sangiovese grape, a particular variant of Sangiovese that has evolved through adaptation in the hills of the Montalcino zone, south of Chianti Classico. Rosso is junior because its production regime is much more flexible than Brunello’s. Its grape yields may be higher than those of Brunello; it can age as little as ten months instead of being required to age four full years before release, as Brunello is; and Rosso carries no requirement to age in wood. These differences enable producers to charge far less for their Rosso di Montalcino than their Brunello.
Producers can make their Rosso from certain plots of their vines that favor a lighter wine, or from the grapes of their younger vines, perhaps. They can also choose to declassify musts or wines that normally produce their Brunello, for example in lighter vintages.
When I grabbed the bottle of Caparzo, I knew that the latter condition did not apply: 2019 is a great, five-star vintage for Brunello di Montalcino. We can expect to see it available for sale in 2024. Thankfully, in the meantime we can drink the Rosso.
The Caparzo estate was initially planted beginning in the late 1960s, in the very earliest days of international recognition for the wines of Brunello di Montalcino. In 1998, Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini purchased the property, which she runs in collaboration with her son and daughter. The estate covers 223 acres of vines on all sides of the hill of Montalcino. Aficionados of Montalcino wines credit different parts of the production zone with imbuing different characteristics to the wines from that area. This 2019 Rosso di Montalcino hails from three vineyards in the northern, southern, and eastern parts of the production zone, ranging from 220 to 270 meters in elevation (720 to 885 feet).
When you taste the 2019 Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino, expect to find aromas and flavors of red fruits (red cherry, sour cherry, pomegranate, even raspberries) with notes of smoke, spice, nut meats, and dry earth. In your mouth, these flavors are pronounced, lively and fresh. The wine is full-bodied — but only just — and it has grainy tannin that is noticeable but well in-balance with the wine’s fresh and focused fruitiness. In a wine from Montalcino, I expect structure — and in that sense, this wine is true to its terroir. But the wine’s clarity of fresh, lively aromas and flavors enables you to enjoy it now, or over the next few years, rather than aging it into its drinkability as you would for a Brunello di Montalcino, especially from a powerful vintage.
Caparzo makes its classic wines — Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva — through aging in only Slavonian oak barrels, reserving the use of French oak for their two cru wines, La Casa (Brunello di Montalcino) and La Caduta (Rosso di Montalcino), their super-Tuscan Cá del Pazzo, and others.
Caparzo recommends giving this wine one to two hours of aeration before drinking. I concur — not so much to temper the tannins but to enable the impressive aromatics to emerge. In fact, if you store a half-full bottle in the refrigerator for a day or two, you might even find the wine more expressive when you finish the bottle.