We’ve been enjoying a variety of Rosso wines whilst touring Tuscany. This style of Italian red wine is capable of the finest, most smooth and most complex experience. Rosso is always 100% Sangiovese grape varietal. Variously cherry red or slightly tawny in the glass, Rosso wine ages relatively swiftly so the differences between a 2016 and 2013 are quite noticeable: the older wines being more rounded and less tannic with more complexity; left too long then the colour and aromas pale. Rosso wines also change rapidly, almost alarmingly, after being uncorked in the heat of a Tuscan evening; we have several times had the impression that the fantastic wine is deteriorating in front of us whilst the rural Italian kitchen struggles to supply its clientele.
Just now, May 2018, we found that Rosso 2016 is ready to drink, an “ordinary” 2015 is likely to be at its height whilst older bottles should be treated with suspicion except from a trusted cellar, in which case the bottle may be exceptionally fine, well in to the stratospheric class.
The restaurants offer wines from a single domain or more generic mixtures under the DOC of a particular village or a brand. Montalcino is the most renowned Rosso but we’ve enjoyed bottles from Montepuliciano DOC and a very fine old bottle of Mont Cocco DOC.
Some blends are offered from these areas, the so-called “Super Tuscans”. We’ve tasted Sangiovese blended with 20% Merlot: this gave a more substantial but less delicate and less complex wine, I guess the this would not change so much with age.
Rosso and Brunello wines are offered from the same localities, the Brunello being substantially more expensive because it comes from a very restricted geographical area (therefore the most favoured terroir) and must be aged for at least two years in wood before bottling, which aims to produce the finest wines. Therefore, there are likely to be some grapes which, although meeting the quality requirements for Brunello, are over the quotas and so end up in bottles labelled as Rosso.
Chianti wine is produced from the vineyards of the nearby hills between Firenze and Sienna, Chianti Classico must be at least 85% Sangiovese. We didn’t try any Chianti wines on this trip but it is likely to be less intense and less structured than Rosso, but more robust.
As a general guide, the wine laws governing Italian wines labelled DOC are less restrictive than those labelled DOCG, therefore DOCG should be better than DOC.
We rounded off these interesting evenings with some Sassolino anise liqueur from a local distillery near where we have been staying in Barga. This one is not as sweet as a French anisette bit it’s more aromatic.