Wine grapes can be like sandwiches.
A sandwich, by any other name, is a sub…or a hoagie…or a grinder…or a torpedo…depending on where you’re placing your order. Similarly, wine grapes can have regional monikers. Sangiovese, one of the best known Italian wine grapes, has 50+ regionally derived names.
One of these Sangiovesian synonyms is starting to make its way to the States in greater quantities – Morellino, from Maremma – a coastal region of southwestern Tuscany next to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The genesis of the name “Morellino,” which translates as “Little Dark One” may come from the brown color of the Morelli horse, uniquely of Tuscany; or it may come from the flavor of the Morello cherry, which mirrors many of the flavors in Sangiovese.
Regardless, if you have the opportunity to try one of these (and I hope you will), think of it starting in terms of a Sangiovese-based wine. The climate in Maremma is somewhat warmer than in the more northern areas of Tuscany, such as Chianti. As such, the wines tend to be more fruit-forward and soft, in contrast to the angular flavors typically found in the northern wines. The warmer climate also allows some non-indigenous grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah to flourish. The original Supertuscan wines, which are Sangiovese blended with those non-indigenous varietals, came from Maremma.
Sagrantino di Montefalco, I received a sample of the Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia “Pietraregia” 2010 Morellino di Scansano Riserva. To break down the name, “Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia” is the name of the estate. “Pietraregia” is the actual name of the blend. “Morellino” is the aforementioned grape, which comprises 85% of the blend, along with 10% Ciliegiolo (typically a blending grape), and 5% Syrah. “di Scansano” means “of Scansano” – the town in Maremma. Finally, “Riserva” means that the wine has been aged for a particular length of time, which is Tuscany means generally more than 27 months. (Whew.)
So, how does this Scansano scan? Pretty darned well, honestly.
I found a fragrant nose of fresh cut plums and sawdust. The body is substantial and full-flavored with big tart cherry (Morello!) flavors backed up by dark plums and cocoa. As promised, this is very smooth for a Sangiovese-based wine, which I attest to both the Maremman climate and the Syrah smoothing everything out. The finish is long and dusky, with a combination of bitter chocolate and more tart cherry. This is really nice wine if you like rich, Supertuscan-type flavors.
With big foods, it’s also a winner. Maremman cuisine is known to be rich, hearty, and often sauce-laden. With that in mind, I made one of my eggplant parmigianas to go alongside this, and it was simply a heavenly pairing.
This Morellino retails for $25, and I think it’s definitely a worthy bottle at that price point. Be on the lookout for this one from Marchesi de Frescobaldi, and others that will undoubtedly appear on the wine store shelves soon.
Oh, and happy birthday to my sister Annie, who has a milestone birthday today!