On a recent trip to Tuscany for the Anteprime, I learned how much I still need to know about Italian wines and Italian DOCs. Everytime you think you know a lot about something like Italian wine, you are endlessly surprised to learn about producers and regions one didn’t know about. That’s the beauty of Italian wine but also what makes it hard to get a handle on for most people. This past trip I learned about not one but two areas in Tuscany that I had never heard of in terms of wine. The first I wrote about on Monday of this week. Today’s post is about the second Tuscan region that was new to me, the Montecarlo D.O.C. wines.
The areas that are included in this D.O.C. are the towns (comuni) of Montecarlo, Altopascio, Capannori, and Porcari in the Province of Lucca. The area is pretty similar in terms of the climate and the soils. These last contain loads of minerals. The area is hilly. It has been a DOC since August 13, 1969 for white wines, meaning next year it’s their 50 anniversary.
In 1985 the D.O.C. was extended to a Montecarlo Rosso. The white wines are made of Trebbiano Toscano and Semillon, Pinot Gris e Bianco, Vermentino, Sauvignon, or Roussanne. The reds blends of Sangiovese, Canaiolo nero, and Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Nera, Syrah, Cabemet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot. In 1995, they were given the right to create a Riserva as well. The Consortium was created in 1970. There are 17 wineries that are part of the Consortium. I tried wines from just a few of them.
The area is some relatively close to both the Mediterranean sea and the Apennines. This favorable position has made it a well-known area for wine for centuries and apparently it was first developed under the Romans although it was the Benedictine monks, at the Monastero di Benedettini, founded in 1200 in S. Martino in Colle. who really spread viticulture here. The village of Montecarlo was once known as Vivinaia. The name Montecarlo dates from 1333. The wines were apparently spoken about as the “Lo Chablis di Montecarlo” in the 1930s and were served at the wedding of the future King of Italy Umberto II.
Montecarlo as an area was also involved in many of the wars between the Lucchesi, the Florentines and the Pisani. My roommate in graduate school was from a small town near Lucca and she used to tell me about the various factions within Tuscany in her area and the ancient hatreds. This very well known area for Tuscans was a discovery for me. The night that I tasted these lovely wines I was invited to dinner at a very old friend’s home who mentioned, by chance, how wonderful the wines from Montecarlo were. I was very surprised and thought that was an interesting coincidence. They hold a festival in May as well called Via Vinaria.
When looking at the varieties they have, it’s easy to see the influence of France on the area. A winegrower named Giulio Magnani, who owned Fattoria Marchi Magnani (now called Mazzini), went around 1870 to France to study both the wines and their vinification techniques. He went to Bordeaux and brought varieties back with him to plant in Montecarlo, among them Sauvignon, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. He also went to the Rhone and brought back Roussanne and Syrah. He brought Pinot bianco and Pinot Grigio from Burgundy. When he got back home, he began to experiment with blending these varieties with the native Trebbiano Toscano. The varieties are part of the D.O.C. and the wines are often blends of international and indigenous varieties.
I tried some of the wines that were offered and these are my brief tasting notes:
Incantate IGT Toscano Bianco – Fantastic floral notes on the nose and palate, a beautiful expression of Chardonnay. The Rossi family farm’s history goes back to the 1800s. The area and its wines were mentioned as early as 1845. They have owned it since 1963. Like the wines from Terre di Casole that I wrote about on Monday, these farms tend to also have bed and breakfast capabilities as well as restaurants.
Montecarlo Bianco – – Rich aromas of white fruits and white flowers. Made with a blend of Trebbiano Toscano, Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, I found hints of residual sugar in this wine. The family that owns this property has had it since 1386, yes you read that right, 1386. They are located South-west of the ancient hill-town of Montecarlo. They also have a bed and breakfast on their property.
Montecarlo Bianco – Made with a blend of Trebbiano, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino and Roussane, I loved the minerality and sapidity in this wine. I also loved the white flower blossoms and tropical fruit I got on the nose and palate.
This property has a very long history as well. They have 70 hectares of which 15 are planted to vines. It has been the subject of a tug of war between noble families and the clery since the 1200s. The website does not say who owns the property just that they hold all sorts of large and small events. It’s like part of a noble family or a multinational or the Church. Who knows who won that tug of war, perhaps their oenologist, Francesco Bartoletti, the only person named on the site.
Particolare Brut Rosé Spumante – This was made from Syrah and Sangiovese which was an interesting combination and one that is not so common in a rosé that I find here in the USA. I got lots of strawberry, cherry and raspberry and red flower notes from this wine. The wine is made in the Charmat method with a vinification in bianco or a white vinification of red grapes. A fun aperitif wine, I’m sure they sell lots of this product from their tasting room.
The Buonamico Estate is located to the southwest of Montecarlo, in Cercatoja. It’s 100 hectares, 48 covered in vines. Founded by restaurateurs from Turin in the 1960s, today it is run by the Fontana family. They have a very well appointed website and winery. They opened a wine resort in 2017.
The area was really eye-opening to me and I can’t wait to visit the next time I am in Tuscany for a bit. Perhaps I will go just to visit this area which is also near the Colline Lucchesi which I am I more familiar with, at least a bit more familiar. What is old is new again…