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A Super Red from Tuscany
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Feb 21, 2012
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Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Chianti Rufina Riserva (Tuscany) Vigneto Montesodi, 2006 (Folio Wine Company, $40):  With some time to kill in the Rome airport not long ago, I was delighted to spot a wine bar and restaurant branded with the Frescobaldi name. I knew that the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi company makes so very many wines, and such very good wines, that an exploration of the restaurant’s wines by the glass could easily keep me busy and happy until my connecting flight was called for boarding.

Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi is a family operation that boasts eight wine estates in Tuscany, and makes numerous classic Tuscan red wines, not to mention white wines and contemporary reds -- so many that even a knowledgeable wine lover might confess some confusion about which wine is which.  The family is renowned for its vineyards, many of which are considered among the finest in Tuscany.

One of Frescobaldi’s most historic estates is Castello di Nipozzano, situated in the Rufina Chianti district northeast of Florence.  This is where the 49-acre Montesodi vineyard is situated, at 1300 feet in altitude.  In addition to this Vigneto Montesodi wine, the estate is home to Castello di Nipozzano Chianti Rufina (about $20) and Mormoreto (about $50), a single-vineyard wine based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot -- not a newfangled “international” blend but a wine from varieties that have grown on the estate for 150 years.

Vigneto Montesodi Riserva is entirely Sangiovese.  It is a deeply-colored, commanding wine that represents the powerful end of the Chianti taste spectrum while retaining signature characteristics of Sangiovese and Chianti Rufina.

This wine is still young, and when you first smell and taste it one of your impressions is likely to be that of oak.  (The wine ages 24 months in once-used barriques.)  With air, notes of ripe cherry and berries, dry earth, minerality and high-toned herbal aromas emerge, showing complexity and finesse.  In your mouth, the wine is bone dry and full-bodied with concentrated, packed flavors of small berries and herbs, and a firm, tannic rear-palate.  Despite the tannin, the wine’s texture is richly smooth.  The impression of beautifully ripe, compact fruit is pervasive in the wine’s taste from beginning to end.

These days it is easy enough to make a wine that tastes concentrated, through intensive extraction from the grapes or even through mechanical concentration of the juice, and I have come to view concentration of flavor with some skepticism.  But in this wine, the high-quality raw material sings.  The wine did undergo a long 30 days of skin contact, and the oak has contributed some tannin, but the big structure from this winemaking does not outweigh the fruit.

The 2006 Montesodi Riserva promises ten-plus years of positive development, in my opinion.  For now, decant the wine and/or serve it in large glasses.  Lamb or steak would be ideal accompaniments, but grilled portabello mushrooms can work nicely, as can hard cheeses.

93 Points