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Heads-Up Value from Tuscany, with a Screw Cap

Posted: Mar 12, 2009 4:36pm ET

I came across an incredible value in my office in Tuscany today. Tasting a range of wines from $10 to $25 with Neil and Maria Empson of Empson & Co., I found some excellent wines. But what was the most impressive for the money was the Monte Antico 2006. Its suggested retail is $11, and it could sell for less. And it¹s in the market now.

Granted, I have not tasted it blind yet. But it¹s in the very good to outstanding range. The wine is 85 percent Sangiovese, 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 percent Merlot. It is made from 12- to 15-year-old vines, ­ mostly from Pisa, Maremma and Chianti Classico areas.

Of course, the quality of the 2006 vintage in Tuscany shined through on this wine. This is a superb Sangiovese year. The aromatic quality of Sangiovese is mind-blowing for most wines from Tuscany. The 2006 Monte Antico has beautiful plums, berries and fresh acidity. Fantastico! And for $11!

Anyway, the Monte Antico is bottled now in a screw cap instead of a cork. But they brought both a corked bottle and a screw-capped one. To make a long story short, the screw cap was so much better than the corked one. It is richer, more fruity, and fresher than the bottle with the cork. It even was darker in color. Granted, the Monte Antico is a red to drink young and fresh, ­ in other words, on release. So it makes sense to have a screw cap. But it's another example of when a screw cap works better than a cork. This is just a heads-up for a value—I still have to taste the wine blind in the office in a few months—but you should know!

Mark Reinman
NJ —  March 12, 2009 6:26pm ET
Thanks for the inside scoop, James! I'll buy a few bottles to drink while I wait for the 06 Villa Pillo to mature a bit. On the other end of the spectrum, what are your thoughts on the 06 Sassicaia? Worth a splurge or wait for the 07?
David Nerland
Scottsdale —  March 12, 2009 8:39pm ET
Hopefully some day more high end wines will be screw top.
Scott Oneil
UT —  March 12, 2009 9:07pm ET
As always, thanks for the heads-up. And as always, your integrity in relying on the blind tasting to give an official score is most appreciated. I'm becoming more and more convinced of the blind format. Nonetheless, I'll always take a friendly tip, especially when it's as specific as, "Buy the screw-capped bottle." Got it! Thanks again.
Geronimo Dotel
dominicanrepublic —  March 13, 2009 12:08pm ET
Dear James,Thank you for your commments on the wine.I wanted to ask you out of this context,I have a bottle of Pio Cesare Barolo Il Ornato 1999 should I pop the cork? I am looking forward to your 1999 Retrospective Barolo tasting.I was holding on to a Massolino Margheria Barolo 1997 and 1998 and opened it recently and were fantastic.The 1998 was indeed great and there was still so much fruit that it would go easily a few more years,The 1997 had perfect fruit and acidity balance,so much life ahead but had to go!Thank you.Geronimo Dotel,Dominican Republic.
Bert Pinheiro
Baltimore Maryland —  March 13, 2009 1:24pm ET
Thanks James. I have tasted other vintages of the Monte Antico Rosso and liked them too.I like the Banfi Centine too for another value priced red from Tuscany.
Marco Laico
charlotte nc —  March 13, 2009 3:32pm ET
ciao giacomo , i had the 2006 monte very good indeed ..i usually didn't like that style of sangiovese from pisa area but i liked it a lot..also for fun the 2006 rosso montalcino from collemattoni great value too..grazie forevermarco charlotte nc
Bryan So
CA —  March 13, 2009 4:55pm ET
James, my local wine store has this VILLA PILLOToscana Borgoforte 2006, 92 WS, $12. Is it as good as Monte Antico? Or better? Thanks

James Suckling
 —  March 13, 2009 5:05pm ET
I think the Borgoforte may be a better deal but I haven't tasted them side by side.
Michele Bertuzzo
Vicenza, Italy —  March 18, 2009 4:40am ET
Dear James, thanks for your enthusiastic description of this Monte Antico. You make me very curious!I live in Vicenza and I'd like to know if you already tasted Tai Rosso from Colli Berici (Vicenza-Veneto). Tai Rosso (or Tocai Rosso) is an "autoctono" grape, but really it's nothing more than Grenache, kept here in 13th century by some monks. Now there's some cellars that in the last years are increasing its quality, they are most of all Le Pignole, Dal Maso and Piovene Porto Godi. They are well doing. I'd like to know your opionion on this wine. Thank you in advance. Michele
Jo Cooke
Tuscany —  March 18, 2009 10:47am ET

YOU make ME very curious. I have to admit I never heard of Tai Rosso until I saw your post. Sounds like something we need to investigate, don't you think James?

Jo Cooke

Tasting Coordinator

Wine Spectator - European Bureau
Michele Bertuzzo
Vicenza, Italy —  March 19, 2009 2:21am ET
Dear Jo, it should be great. If you want I could organise a trip on the Colli Berici country for a tasting here, on site. Or if you prefere I could collect some samples and shipping to you. Contact me by mail at michele@studiocru.it
David F Hahn
Boston —  July 7, 2009 12:32pm ET
James, you have my attention. I am drinking Monte Antico as my house red and am anxious to know your final rating. I love the wine and really like the screwcap. Can't wait to tell my friends about my discovery. Er, your discovery. Cheers.
Ed Hendrycks
Ottawa, Canada —  September 10, 2009 4:51pm ET
Hi James,

Any tasting news on a WS perannial favourite the 2006 Nipozzano Chianti Ruffino? I have heard that the 2006 vintage was good, but how does it compare to the 2004 which I really enjoy?
Ross Ritterman
Bay Area, CA —  November 6, 2009 10:41pm ET
James - I read your blog entry and then bought a few bottles. I noticed the blend was off from what you described but rather 85% Sangiovese, 10% CabSav & 5% Merlot. You also mentioned 25 year old minimum vines. I'm thinking you may have reviewed Monte Antico's Supremus bottling and not the Monte Antico itself. I compared the two wines on Empson & Co.'s website. Is this possible?

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