If there is one defining feature of Italian cuisine, it might be the remarkable deliciousness that is so often crafted from simplicity. Think about the best margherita pizza you’ve ever had. Or pasta. Or cured meats. Italians have proven definitively that pleasure and soulfulness do not depend on grandiosity—they can frequently be found in simple ingredients, expertly prepared, and shared joyfully. Rosso di Montalcino is not, on the surface, a very complex wine. Made from 100% Sangiovese, at the southern tip of Tuscany, it often stands humbly in the shadow of Brunello di Montalcino. But while Brunello has earned its global spotlight—it is certainly the more flamboyant sibling—Rosso di Montalcino can be extremely charming on its own terms. Just as with the best-made cured prosciutto, where you wonder, “How is this so immediately delicious, yet layered in flavor using so few and such basic ingredients?” you might find yourself asking the same of Sesti’s Rosso. Founded by the Venetian astronomer Giuseppe Sesti, and now run primarily by his daughter Elisa, this domaine has in the span of three decades risen to the top of Montalcino traditionalists. At a recent staff tasting, their Rosso di Montalcino stole the show. Deceptively modest and sophisticated at the same time, full of both pleasure and soul, the Rosso is ready to drink now. Red berries, tobacco, and mint give way to the slightest hint of umami—think roasted tomato—on the finish. Speaking of which, this wine is perfect for tomato-based dishes. Try it with the traditional Tuscan dish pappa al pomodoro, a funghi pizza, or a plain ol’ burger with ketchup or a slice of tomato.
Giuseppe and Elisa Sesti
But while Brunello has earned its global spotlight—it is certainly the more flamboyant sibling—Rosso di Montalcino can be extremely charming on its own terms.
Giuseppe Sesti didn’t initially choose a career in wine. Instead, he was inspired to study music, art, and astronomy, the latter becoming his profession. He met his future wife in Wales while writing his first book, and in 1975 moved to Tuscany, purchasing the abandoned castle of Argiano, slowly restoring the breathtaking estate later planting his vineyards around the castle. In 1999 the Sesti’s daughter, Elisa, joined the estate full time, becoming a partner in all aspects of production. The Sesti lineup includes a white Sauvignon and a Rosato, but their Brunello, Brunello Riserva, and Rosso di Montalcino provide traditional expressions of the appellation, robust and powerful yet refreshing, with great aging potential.
Perhaps no region is tied to Italy’s reputation as a producer of fine wine as much as Tuscany. Since Etruscan times, viticulture has played a prominent role in this idyllic land of rolling hills, and the Tuscan winemaking tradition remains as strong as ever today. With a favorable Mediterranean climate, an undulating topography offering countless altitudes and expositions, and a wealth of poor, well-draining soils, conditions are ideal for crafting high-quality wines. Add to that the rich gastronomical tradition—Tuscany is home to some of the country’s finest game, pastas, salumi, and cheeses—and you have the blueprint for a world-class wine region.
This is Sangiovese territory; in fact, it is arguably the only place in the world where Sangiovese reaches a truly regal expression. In spite of a rocky history with fluctuations in quality, traditionally produced Chianti has reclaimed its status as one of the country’s most reliable, food-friendly reds, while the rapid rise of Brunello di Montalcino shows the grape’s potential for grandiose, opulent reds allying power and finesse. Traditionally-minded growers have stuck to using only indigenous grape varieties and employing techniques like aging in massive wooden casks known as botti, creating wines of terroir that shine at the Tuscan table.
Tuscan wines have had a place in our portfolio since Kermit’s first visit in 1977. While the names of the estates have changed, the spirit of those first unfiltered Chiantis he imported live on through our current selections.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.
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