Ah, Sangiovese. What a wonderful grape. With its high acidity, gripping tannins and rasping red cherry fruit it produces wines that positively demand to be drunk with food. For decent quality Chianti coming in at about a tenner, pasta with tomato sauce or some flash-fried pork chops with a squeeze of lemon is the kind of thing we're talking about here.
The heartland of Sangiovese is the Tuscan Hills, where it's the main or only variety in the three best appellations devoted to the grape; Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Unlike most wines from Sangiovese, which are usually medium bodied and relatively light, the wines from these prized appellations can be highly concentrated, complex wines designed for long ageing (particularly Brunello).
One of the lesser known incarnations of Tuscan Sangiovese is a slightly more modest wine, found around the town of Scansano near the Maremma coast. In these parts the locals call their particular strain of the great variety Morrelino, hence the name of the wine - Morellino di Scansano. Whether it's down to the particular clone of Sangiovese, the climate, the soil or a combination of all three, the wines here are approachable sooner than wines of similar quality from the Tuscan Hills and are particularly packed with juicy cherry fruit yumminess. This means that if you were to buy wine from Tuscany in a good vintage (2004, 2006 and 2007 all being excellent), then getting some Morellino as well as some high-end Chianti Classico would give you a large drinking window, with the Morellino being at its best a good year or more before the Chianti (depending on the stature of the latter). Following my own rule I bought a few cases from Tuscany in 2006, which was a blinding year for the region. Consequently I'm now enjoying the Morellino whilst the Chianti (Classico and Rufina) are maturing nicely.
This week I had a bottle of Morellino from the producer Lohsa (owned by Poliziano, one of the leading Vino Nobile houses). With a Spaghetti Amatriciana it was all one would hope for; succulent, juicy, lots of delicious red fruit, but with a great backbone of acidity and tannin to perfectly complement the food. Yum yum. I'm very glad to have most of the case left, but it's going to be hard not to snuffle it all up this summer. It came from Majestic for about £9 but I'm afraid they've all run out. However, keep your eyes open for the 2007, which was also a great year in Tuscany and should available very soon.