So, we went to a wine tasting for “Italian Wines for American Tastes.” Deeply unpropitious, I thought. From Italy, we hope for authenticity, bright with acid, a little bitter, preferably poured from a cracked jug formed by Garibaldi’s mother. But I will go to almost any wine tasting and, after a while, I saw what was meant. Wines for an international market — that euphemism for the United States. Wine freed from local tradition. Wines which are softer and more openly congenial. And why not? The sun is still the sun — the earth is the earth. Rain. Grapes. Were things so uniformly wonderful in the past that we cannot risk an experiment?
A wine I liked that evening was the Tenuta Monteti Caburnio 2007. The property is located in the Maremma, in Tuscany, close to the Tyrrhenian Sea, facing Sardinia and the western Mediterranean. It is by legend the lonely place where Aeolus chained up his four winds: the Mistral, the Libeccio, the Sirocco, and the Ostro. Not somewhere we would expect to find the cosmopolitan vines of Bordeaux.
But Tenuta Monteti is planted entirely in French vines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and, that joker in the pack — Alicante Bouschet. This is an urbane crowd, the very core of the Bordeaux blend. The Alicante is a teinturier, a rare, red-fleshed wine grape. It gives unequalled depth of color to any wine. It was popular during Prohibition because it still delivered useful juice at the third pressing. An infantry soldier in that battle against intolerance.
In recent years, these Bordeaux blending vines have escaped on a kind of package tour of Italy. Who knew they would find such a welcome? The entire Tenuta Monteti operation is less than 10 years old. The wine they make is rich with a fruit marmalade (fresh apricot and currants according to one of us) and a light hand with the oak. Full bodied, casual, knowing, and very free. A wine on vacation.
There was a time when the phrase “Super Tuscan” meant that the sommelier was getting ready to deliver a terrible blow to your credit card for a wine of doubtful ancestry. Not so much today. This beautiful, largely unknown wine won’t hurt you at all. I bought three bottles and was very happy.