Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monte Antico...A Poor Man's Super Tuscan

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The term "Super Tuscan" describes any Tuscan red wine that does not adhere to traditional blending laws for the region. For example, Chianti Classico wines are made from a blend of grapes with Sangiovese as the dominant varietal in the blend. Super Tuscans often use other grapes, especially cabernet sauvignon, making them ineligible for DOC(G) classification under the traditional rules.

In 1968 Azienda Agricola San Felice produced the first ever "Super Tuscan" called Vigorello, and in the 1970s Piero Antinori, whose family had been making wine for more than 600 years, also decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend, and instead adding Bordeaux varietals (namely, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot). He was inspired by a little-known (at the time) Cabernet Sauvignon made by relatives called Sassicaia, which openly flouted the rules set down for traditional wines in Tuscany. The result was one of the first Super Tuscans, which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown. Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter.

Super Tuscans have gained a lot of recognition in the last few years, and have soared in price to unprecedented levels. A bottle of the top wines, such as Ornellaia and Sassicai sells for well over $150. A few years ago, Wine Spectator featured an Itallian wine named Monte Antico as one of their "Best Buys" and ever since, I have had a bottle or two in my wine rack to accompany such everyday Italian dishes as pastas. What I like about this wine is that it has everything you could expect from a more expensive Super Tuscan. To begin with, it is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and San Giovese. It has fruit, acid, structure, mouth feel and for a wine in this price point, it is a great introduction to wines of this style in a higher price.

When I started purchasing Monte Antico in the late 90's it was under $10. Now, with the dollar where it is, it sells for around $13. That is why it now sits where my old bottles of Ornellaia used to sit, waiting for better days. Don't over analyze it when you drink it...it's not that kind of wine, just nice and simple and a great price. A poor man's Super Tuscan indeed. You can find it at most local grocery stores nowadays, including, Milam's, where I noticed it was on sale yesterday for $10.99 and Winn Dixie stores here in Miami.

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