You can find nearly every wine we import in their countries of origin, whether on the shelves of a fine wine shop or the menu at bars, trattorias, and restaurants. After all, as often as we wish we could reserve a winemaker’s entire production, it’s only natural they want to share the fruit of their labor with their compatriots. One wine, however, that you cannot find in Italy—despite being made right in the heart of the country—is Sesti’s Monteleccio. When Elisa Sesti and her father Giuseppe used to present this cuvée to Italian wine shops and sommeliers in the past, time and again, the buyers scratched their heads. Declassified Brunello di Montalcino grapes, this delicious and full of character, at this price? What’s the catch? How can we explain this wine to our clients when many classified Rossi di Montalcino are more expensive and not nearly as delicious? So what’s the story behind this bottling’s outrageously good rapporto qualità/prezzo (i.e. value)? Two decades ago, in an effort to make an easy and pleasurable gateway wine for those unaccustomed to the rustic charms of Sangiovese, the Sestis split their Rosso di Montalcino into two bottlings: the Monteleccio for a fresher, younger, more succulent glass of wine and the Rosso for more structure, restraint, and ageability. Both over-deliver—the Rosso gives many Brunelli a run for their money—but if you want to taste the full, vibrant, and unleashed magic of young Sangiovese today, don’t miss the Monteleccio. It combines the class of biodynamically farmed, Brunello-quality grapes with the thrill of early and festive drinkability. It’s as well suited to a simple mushroom pizza as it is to your favorite cut of beef.
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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