What is Rosso di Montalcino? Like its more famous big brother, Brunello, Montalcino’s Rossos are made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso (the famous “Brunello” clone) grown in and around the Tuscan village of Montalcino.
Most good producers treat their Rosso and Brunello identically in the vineyard and through vinification. Some producers make Rosso by basically declassifying selected, weaker lots from their Brunello vineyards. Others have chosen specific vineyards for Rosso that give bright, juicy fruit with lighter tannin than in Brunello vineyards.
In any event, Rosso is a younger, fresher, and much earlier-released version of Brunello di Montalcino. Where Brunello must age for three years before release and have at least two of those years in oak barrels, Rosso can be released as soon as one year after the harvest and is not required to spend any time in wood. The best examples are bursting with vibrant fruit but also spend enough time in (usually used) oak barrels to gain depth, complexity, and at least a touch of the flavors we hope for in fine Brunello.
It’s always tempting to call Rosso di Montalcino a “baby Brunello,” but most lack the depth, complexity and power of their Brunello big brothers – and even more often don’t have the ability to get even better with time in cellar. They can still be great wines – good values to drink young. But now and then there is an exception – the 2011 Rosso of Canalicchio di Sopra is a good example. As Wine Advocate said of this lovely 2011, it’s “a wine that stands out for its personality. Rosso is often sold as a mini-Brunello, a label that unfortunately applies to only a small number of wines. Not here. This is a Rosso of unusual pedigree and distinction. I imagine the 2011 will drink well to age ten, perhaps beyond.”