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Second can be wonderful

Grapes drying for Amarone wine at Masi winery (Photograph supplied)

During these Covid two years we have only ventured out to dine a handful of times and last Saturday evening was one of them. I ordered a bottle of 2018 Costanti Rosso di Montalcino and it was so enjoyable that the idea of writing about the second, or lower offerings on the quality scale, came to mind. The main difference, besides price, between Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino is that the first has no requirement for oak ageing, whereas Brunello has to spend at least two years in barrel and Rosso none at all. Brunello cannot be released until it is four years old (the longest age requirement of any Italian wine, and some producers wait longer), Rosso one year and no oak needed. Both wines are made from the classic Brunello clone of the Sangiovese grape.

2016 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino sells for $92 and rates 99/100 from the Wine Enthusiast. Costanti Rosso di Montalcino sells for $43 and here is what Vinous thinks of it: “The 2018 is very pretty, showing musky, bright cherry, dried roses, and savoury spice. There’s remarkable purity here, with soft textures giving way to tart wild berry fruit complimented by zesty acids. It’s dry and lightly structured throughout the finale with lasting inner florals and a twang of sour citrus. The Costanti Rosso is a barrel selection that matures for one year in 60 per cent tonneaux and 40 per cent new 35 – 40 hectolitre barrels. 92/100”. You can see from this that Costanti goes beyond what the law requires. Rosso is stock #8995 and Brunello #9080.

Chianti is classified and controlled by laws in four levels. There is Chianti and then Chianti Classico, with the latter demanding grapes from a specific area in the Chianti district. Chianti Classico Reserva follows with stricter laws and lastly, we have a quite new level called Gran Selezione.

2019 San Felice Chianti Classico is a medium-bodied Chianti Classico with a distinguished personality that is notable for its elegance. Luminous ruby red. Scents of cherry, raspberry, and sweet violets. Dry on the palate, showing subtle tannins and a fresh, crisp acidity. Critic James Suckling awards it 91 points and writes: “Plenty of sour-cherry and floral aromas with hints of orange peel. It’s medium-bodied with firm, silky tannins and a fresh, clean finish. Very typical Chianti Classico. Drink now.” We usually have a few bottles on hand at home. $24.95 (Stock #8974).

If you are curious about the new top category, then we do have the 2016 San Felice Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Il Grigio. For a winery to be granted permission to label a wine in this way it must be tasted by a government panel and judged worthy of this top classification, and this is done for every vintage. This one is deep ruby red. The round bouquet releases fragrances that linger beautifully, with scents of sweet violets that meld into smooth, spicy hints of tobacco leaf. This is a full-bodied red, velvety smooth marked by ripe, succulent tannins harmoniously integrated with the acidity. This is considered the jewel of the winery and as they specialise in indigenous grapes more than anyone else, they add touches of Abrusco, Malvasia Nera, Ciliegiolo, Pugnitello and Mazzese. The long ageing in wood contributes to giving the wine a complex, harmonious and elegant profile. It rates 96/100 from Suckling and 95 from the Wine Enthusiast. $41 (Stock #8972).

Masi “invented” the category called Amarone and to make it they lay grapes out to dry for a few months on bamboo mats in drying sheds. You will understand that semi-dried grapes produce less, but more concentrated juice, and this makes the wine quite costly. Their 2015 Amarone Costesara rates 93/100 with the Wine Enthusiast that comments: “luscious and voluptuous, Costasera Amarone envelops all the senses. A blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara, this is a quintessential Amarone elevated by Masi’s signature acidity and freshness”. $63 (Stock # 9170)

Now I want to tell you about another wine. 2018 Masi Campofiorin Ripasso is classified as an IGT Veronese wine and like its “big brother” it is a blend of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes. The method called Ripasso was developed by Masi in 1964 and in 2006 they relinquished exclusive rights to the name. Now many Amarone producers offer their versions. I was taught that the new juice was poured over the residue in the fermenting vat, left over from making Amarone (skins, pulp and seeds) and in essence “the grown-up wine teaches the young one how to behave”. In the case of Masi they add 25 per cent dried grapes. I often refer to it as “baby Amarone”.

This one has an intense, ruby-red colour and violet traces and shows generous, ripe aromas of plum and cherry jam, with hints of spice. Bold and rich flavours of bitter cherries and berry fruits stand out on the palate, with good acidity, balance and velvety tannins. This very versatile wine is perfect with many different foods, including pasta with rich meat or mushroom-based sauces, grilled or roasted red meats, game and mature cheeses.

It scores an impressive 92/100 with the Wine Enthusiast Magazine and this description. “Aromas of ripe, black-skinned fruit, underbrush and menthol form the nose. Made with both fresh and dried grapes, the full-bodied palate offers dried cherry, prune and liquorice alongside fine-grained tannins”. $25.60. (Stock #9174).

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published April 08, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated April 08, 2022 at 8:09 am)

Second can be wonderful

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