June 20, 2009

2001 Falesco Montiano

Here's an IGT wine from the Lazio region of Italy, near Rome. The producer, Falesco, is well known for its inexpensive Vitiano blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot made in the modern style that the largely untraditional grapes suggest. Montiano is a the premium bottling made in the same style, from 100% merlot.

IGT means Indicazione Geograficia Tipica. It's a designation for wines that don't fit Italy's traditional "DOC" or "DOCG" categories (think appellations in France), either because the grapes come from an area outside specific regions, or more likely because the wine includes grapes that aren't allowed in those specific regions. For example, you can put a little merlot in Chianti and still be Chianti DOCG. But if you want to make a wine with lots of merlot from the Chianti region, you can't call it Chiant. You can label it as an IGT wine from the Toscano region, and more and more producer do just that with their wines that blend traditional sangiovese with lots of cabernet and/or merlot.

Falesco makes its living off IGT wines, from the lesser regarded Lazio region but well known now for high scores from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate newsletter, among other wine publications. The wines are clearly modern in style, but have an Italian signature that no new world wines made from similar grapes ever seem to have. I don't ever love the Falesco wines, but I see their appeal. And it's clear they taste "Italian." For all their modern sheen, I've never had an Amercian wine in this style taste anything close to what Falesco achieves. Maybe terroir isn't dead in the modern world?

The 2001 Falesco Montiano is dark colored in the modern style. The aroma is rich with red and black berries and a green bean streak, ripe and focused with tar and truffle notes that are distinctly Italian. At nearly 8 years, the wine is still youthful, suggesting at least that these modern wines can last a while in bottle.

The flavors are ripe and rich, with fine tannin and sufficient acid. There's spicy red and black fruit, oak marked but not dominated. You wouldn't call this traditional in any way, but next to an unnamed Washington state merlot that features lots of candy fruit and caramelly oak flavors, this is nicely Bordeaux-like with tightly wound, proportioned flavors that trade the gravel of Bordeaux's left bank for the game and balsamic notes of Italy.

This won't make me forget great Chianti or Brunello, much less the best of Piedmont. But I like this wine. I'm not sure if it will develop greater complexity with age, or if its appeal is its intensity and ripeness. But it's clearly well made wine with a pleasant dryness that fits the table better than most fruit-centric wines. I have one more in the cellar, and we'll see what it does with another 5 years or more.

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