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Another Face of Sangiovese
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Apr 25, 2017
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Terenzi, Morellino di Scansano (Tuscany, Italy) Riserva, Madrechiesa 2013 ($35, M.S. Walker):  Coastal Tuscany is a fascinating wine production area.  It includes more than two dozen DOC or DOCG wine zones, many of which make very good red wines.  Some of the zones, such as Bolgheri, rely on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot while others make wines predominantly from Sangiovese, the grape that dominates the interior of Tuscany.  Unlike in the interior, the Tyrrhenian Sea brings a Mediterranean climate, with warm, sunny, dry summers and cooling night temperatures.

One of the areas that focuses on Sangiovese is the DOCG wine zone, Morellino di Scansano, situated around the town of Scansano in the southwestern corner of Tuscany, just east of the city of Grosseto.  (“Morellino” in fact is a local synonym for Sangiovese.)  Although it is not the smallest wine zone in coastal Tuscany, Morellino di Scansano is small; its predominantly hilly vineyards cover just 3,705 acres, which is less than half the size of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG zone.

One producer of Morellino di Scansano who has gained critical success within Italy, and whose wines are now available in the U.S., is Terenzi.  Terenzi is a small, family winery established by three siblings in 2001, on the leading edge of what became a boom in the Scansano wine zone.  (From 2000 to 2014, vineyard acreage in the zone nearly tripled and the number of grape growers more than doubled.)  Terenzi owns just 60 acres of vines.  The family makes a Vermentino -- coastal Tuscany’s most impressive white grape -- and a red wine blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, both of which carry the Maremma DOC.  But most of Terenzi’s production is Morellino di Scansano.  The style is characteristically elegant.

Terenzi’s Morellino di Scansano Riserva from the Madrechiesa vineyard is its most acclaimed wine, having been awarded Tre Bicchieri, the highest ranking of Italy’s Gambero Rosso critics, multiple times, including this 2013 vintage.  Although it is a dry, full-bodied red, this wine is not intense or powerful but rather refined and understated.  It comes to you with a deep aroma of red fruits and spice with accents of earth and tar.  In your mouth, the wine is silky and rounded with a typically Italian core of firming acidity, and flavors of fresh, sweet red fruits.  You would expect tannin in a Sangiovese and it’s there -- but the tannins are soft and rich, and evenly spread throughout the wine.  The quantity of tannin indicates that the wine has the structure to age for several years, but the nature of the tannins enables the wine to be enjoyable now.  Because this wine aged in large casks rather than in small barrels, the common impression of tannin disjointed from the fruit does not exist here.

Terenzi offers another 2013 Riserva Morellino di Scansano called “Purosangue” ($28) which is not a single-vineyard wine but a blend of the best Sangiovese grapes from several of Terenzi’s estate vineyards.  It is somewhat lighter than the Madrechiesa and at this moment even more harmonious.  It is medium-bodied with a structure of high acid and integrated tannin similar to the Madrechiesa’s, but toned down a notch, and its texture is silkier.  The intriguing aroma suggests wild berries and high-toned fresh herbs.  Typical of a good Sangiovese wine, the wine gains energy as it moves from the fore palate to the rear of your mouth; here it ends with a crescendo finish.  This wine aged in a combination of mid-sized tonneaux and large oak casks.

Writing this description of Purosangue 2013, I realize that I could have headlined either of the wines:   for its remarkable structural balance and its potential; Purosangue, for its so-lovely expression of coastal Sangiovese and its present moment pleasure.  Because of the limited production, you are likely to face a choice on a restaurant wine list of one or the other, but either wine, you can’t go wrong.

Madrechiesa, 92 Points
Purosangue, 91 Points