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A Tuscan- Californian- Rhône-Inspired Italian Red
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jul 16, 2019
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Casadei, IGT Toscana, Sogno Mediterraneo 2016 (Cline Sisters Imports, $20):  There’s an Italian website I like to consult for its maps of DOC and DOCG wine zones.  Some Italian regions have so many DOC/G wines that a single map cannot depict all the zones.  For Tuscany, there are two maps, the Ancient Zone -- Chianti, Montepulciano, Montalcino, San Gimignano, and so forth, all in Central Tuscany -- and “the Other Tuscany,” the wine zones that crowd the Tuscan coast, from Lazio all the way to Liguria.  This wine hails from that “Other Tuscany.”

Thirty years ago, the Other Tuscany map would have held a smattering of appellations, such as Bolgheri (a DOC since 1983), Morellino di Scansano (1978) and Val di Cornia (1989).  But since then, the Tuscan coast has seen a burgeoning of new appellations.  Maremma Toscana, for example -- a large region on the southern coast whose name once applied to the entire length of Tuscany’s coast, much of it once a swampy, mosquito-infested area -- became an official wine zone in 2011.  That same year, Suvereto broke away from Val di Cornia DOC to become a DOCG and Montecucco Sangiovese became a DOCG apart from Montecucco DOC.

As in the classic wine zones of Central Tuscany, Sangiovese is the key red grape of most of these areas, but a spirit of experimentation has spawned many wines from international grape varieties. Some of these wines carry the names of official appellations while many fall under the umbrella of IGT Toscana.

Sogno Mediterraneo 2016 is a red IGT Toscana wine produced by Casadei, a winery located in Suvereto in southern Tuscany. Casadei is a collaboration between Stefano Casadei, a prominent viticulturalist who works throughout Italy and has been particularly involved in the coastal Tuscan DOC zone of Bolgheri, and Californian Fred Cline, of Cline Cellars Winery in Sonoma.  At Cline Cellars, Fred and Nancy Cline are long-time proponents of Rhône grape varieties, and so it is no surprise that Sogno Mediterraneo is a Rhône-varieties blend -- unlike the majority of internationally-inspired Tuscan wines that are focused on Bordeaux varieties.  The wine is 60 percent Syrah, 20 percent Mourvedre and 20 percent Grenache.

Given the anything-goes nature of the IGT Toscana category -- almost any grape variety grown anywhere in Tuscany qualifies -- I approached Sogno Mediterraneo with some skepticism.  As soon as I nosed the wine, however, I released my reservations.  The aroma of this wine is perfumed, with delicate floral and herbal notes, roses, sage, anise, mint; it shows fruity notes as well, red cherry, and a dark, chocolate note.  This wine is dry and full-bodied, but its lively acidity lightens the structure, and its texture is smooth and supple rather than dense.  There is no lack of tannin, which is spicy and firm, but the wine’s supple texture overrides the tannin for current drinking.  The wine’s flavors echo the aroma but with darker fruit and more of that chocolate.  Instead of an ambitious, very concentrated, overly oak-influenced, Cabernet-based wine, I discovered a flavorful earth-toned, herb-toned IGT Toscana that does not require aging to be enjoyable, even if it will probably develop nicely for the next five to ten years.

The grape blend of this wine is certainly what makes it unusual:  The structure of Syrah, the flesh and perfume of Mourvedre and the expansiveness of Grenache -- all expressed through their Tuscan terroir.  Other factors operative in this wine are the relatively cool fermentation temperatures (79-81°F, 26-28°C) that favor fresh fruit expression, and conservative oak exposure involving aging in third-use and mostly fourth-use French oak barrels.  Bottom line:  A very individual Tuscan wine, very enjoyable even now, and very well-priced.

91 Points

Read more by Mary Ewing-Mulligan:   "On My Table"