Morellino di Scansano. Have you heard of it? It is quickly coming out of the shadows of its better-known Tuscan brethern, such as Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico – or even just “Chianti”. All of these are made in Tuscany, all are made with the Sangiovese grape – in greater or lesser percentage, and all seem to be well-enjoyed. The words “Morellino” and “Brunello” are just local terms for what is the Sangiovese grape in those 2 regions with the authority for a territorial designation.
Morellino di Scansano comes from around the village of Scansano, which is a hillside town enclosed by Medieval walls. It is in the Maremma, which is a sub-region of Tuscany, bordering the Tyrennhian and Ligurian seas. The scenery is spectacular, and the history is amazing. This part of Tuscany was home to many Etruscan settlements, some of which were razed and resettled by Romans. The area around Scansano was primarily settled with Etruscan and Roman farms, and attendant burial grounds (necropoli). Not surprisingly given its modern landscape, the Romans used the Maremma to greatly expand their wine production. I was working at one site, Cosa in Ansedonia, around which wine-bearing amphorae belonging to the Sestii family were exported far and wide. The Romans were practical people, but aesthetics clearly ruled their city planning; the view from Cosa – on a peninsula jutting into the Tyrennhian Sea – is sublime. The project is directed by my friend and colleague, Andrea di Georgi. Andrea is also a fellow wine lover, making the project a perfect place to sample Maremman wines, which we frequently did. Around Ansedonia and Albinia, our base, the wine menu frequently focused on Morellino di Scansano for reds. Scansano is roughly 30 km from Albinia, making it a feasible post-work destination.
The drive to Scansano is slow and winding, passing the Medieval, walled-towns of Magliano and Pereta. Once in Scansano, the view opens onto wide, verdant valleys. We found a friendly, well-stocked, wine shop whose shelves were well-stocked with Morellino mostly ranging from ca. 5 to 25 euro.
We tried two of them: “Lampo” from Fattoria San Felo and “Ribeo” from Roccapesta”.
“Lampo” means lightning, and at 14% ABV, the wine drinks a bit like lighting! It is made with Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo, and was aged 6 months in barrique. The “Lampo” has nice, bright – almost maraschino – cherry, and some wild herbs. There is plenty of finnocchio (fennel) growing in the countryside that may add some flavor. The wine has some sharp tannin, but is very nicely balanced. Andrea described this wine as having “an entire universe of flavor” in thie glass.
“Ribeo” was our second wine. The word means “drink again” in tuscan dialogue, with which we happily complied. This wine is made with Sangiovese and Alicante (Grenache), and spent more time in barrique. The wine has a funky nose and darker, more complex flavors. The fruit tastes of black cherry, and there is more spice than herb in the mouth. It is also more tannic, and went best with a side of balsamic-glazed bruschetta.
Work and home were calling, so we headed back to Albinia for dinner and… more wine!
You can hear more about this trip on this podcast, from Time Out with Phillip Silverstone.