In Italy’s Montalcino, the famous wine is ageworthy, expensive Brunello, made only from Sangiovese grapes. But this small region in southern Tuscany also produces easy-drinking, less expensive reds under the Sant’Antimo appellation, like this bright, juicy 2009 Casanova di Neri Rosso di Casanova di Neri. This smooth, satisfying wine, with its cherry aromas and round, spicy cherry and licorice flavors, was a delicious accompaniment to lamb chops coated with rosemary and garlic and pasta with broccoli rabe at a dinner last week.
Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week
Region: Montalcino, Italy
Grapes: 75% Sangiovese, 25% Colorino
Serve with: Pastas, herb-coated lamb chops, tangy hard cheeses
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The region’s vines are planted on rolling hills that fan out from the pretty medieval hilltop town of Montalcino in the province of Siena south of Florence. The broad Sant’Antimo designation, introduced in 1996, allows winemakers to use any grape permitted in Tuscany, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and to vary their vinification methods. As a result, there’s little consistency of style from winery to winery.
Casanova di Neri’s version is a blend of the region’s main grape, Sangiovese, and some Colorino to add color and tannin. The winery’s modern-style Brunellos are full of rich, ripe, voluptuous fruit framed by oak. The Sant’Antimo expresses some of the same kind of fruit-forward personality, which works very well in this vibrant entry-level wine.
Over the past three decades, controversy has raged in Montalcino over the direction of the region’s flagship wine, Brunello. As newcomers flooded into the region and the number of wineries jumped from two dozen to 250, many left behind Brunello’s traditional elegant character to create darker, fruitier, oakier examples. Then, in 2008, several well-known producers were charged with flouting regulations by adding grapes other than Sangiovese to their Brunello wines, a scandal referred to as “Brunellogate.” Casanova di Neri was accused, but cleared of any wrongdoing.
Founded in 1971 by the Neri family, the winery is now run by Giacomo Neri, who farms 120 acres of vines spread across several distinct hillside sites and whose most noted wine is the powerful single-vineyard Brunello Cerretalto.
The 2009 Casanova di Neri Rosso di Casanova di Neri Sant’Antimo is also a particularly good value because the estate is part of Dalla Terra’s “Winery Direct” portfolio. Former winemaker Brian Larky founded it in 1990 with the idea of bypassing importer markups by selling direct from the winery to the distributor. Wine lovers benefit.
Top photo composite:
2009 Casanova di Neri Sant’Antimo label.
Vineyard. Credit: Courtesy of Dalla Terra