Text Size:-+

2000 Poggio di Sotto Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy

poggio_di_sotto_rosso_00.jpgWe all have those special bottles. These are bottles of fluid that is somehow more than wine -- a miraculous mix of wine and memory that are created in some of life's most fantastic moments. This is one of those bottles.

Early on in my relationship with Ruth -- the Spring of 2003 -- we took a trip to Tuscany. It was one of those perfect vacations that most people dream about. Perfect weather, fantastic food, gorgeous scenery, you name it. It was an early test of our relationship, and the beginning of her love affair with wine.

At that point, however, her tolerance for tasting wine (patience level and interest) was not as high as it is today. After two full days of nothing but wine in Montepulciano and Montalcino from dawn 'til dusk, she was tired. As we wound our way out of Montalcino to the last winery of the day, the afternoon sun was dipping lower over the spring green of the Tuscan countryside. We arrived at the small stone winery and its simple farmhouse and parked the car next to the edge of the hill in the sun, where Ruth had decided to stay in the car and nap, while I completed the final tasting of the day.

I walked into the stone winery building to find no one there, and so marched up to the farmhouse, where I was greeted with a warm smile and a booming "bongiorno" by owner Piero Palmucci. The next words out of his mouth were (in English), "You are alone?"

"Yes," I said.

His eyes narrowed. "You mean you came wine tasting by yourself?"

"Well, not exactly," I explained. "My wife is taking a nap in the car. She is not a huge wine lover yet, and she has seen 10 wineries already today, so..."

"That is not acceptable," he said in reply, with nearly a straight face.

"Trust me," I said, "she'd really rather nap. To her, all these wineries are the same."

"No. Absolutely not," he said with a grin, "If she does not come with us, she will regret it for the rest of her life."

I could see this was going to get ugly. "OK, I said, if you feel so strongly, you go wake her up."

And that's just what he did. And much to my surprise (must have been his Italian charm and the "regret it forever" line he used) Ruth agreed to come along on what turned out to be a two hour private tour of his entire property, every square inch of which evidenced Palmucci's passionate and nearly pathological obsession with detail in winemaking. From the custom floor-level sprinklers he has installed in his barrel room to control humidity, to the totally gravity fed crush and fermentation process, to the special metal device he has designed to easily turn a metal crate of 324 bottles ninety-degrees (to allow settling first vertically and then horizontally), Palmucci has spared no expense nor overlooked any opportunity to improve the quality of wine he makes.

Along with his wife Elisabeth, who runs the winery back office and shipping operations, Palmucci works about 28 acres of vineyards and around 1200 olive trees in the Montalcino appellation. Our visit coincided with the completion of the shell of his winery building (which had not yet been furnished or floored), as well as the preparation of several more acres of vineyard, which are now doubtless already planted. His small farm sits high on the side of a hill about a 20 minute drive from the town of Montalcino where it receives a bit more sun than other vineyards in the area, along with cooler evening breezes.

Poggio di Sotto produces only around 2500 cases of wine each year, and employs one of Tuscany's most famous consulting winemakers, Giulio Gambelli, who has been dubbed by his peers as the "Master Taster." With his help, Palmucci pursues what is clearly his singular and driving passion: to make the best Brunello in all of Montalcino. Listening to him talk, you'd think he believes he's nearly achieved that goal already. In addition to being incredibly passionate, Palmucci is not the most modest of winemakers. Yet he is fiercely independent, suggesting to me at one point in our conversation that he'd boot Robert Parker right off the property if he ever arrived looking to taste his wine. He eschews ratings, as well as market pricing, and tends to set his prices near the highest end of the spectrum for Brunello.

Palmucci's enthusiasm and charm are infectious, and the two hours we spent, literally arm-in-arm with him, around his winery are some of our strongest and favorite memories of our entire trip. The memories would have been just as good, should his wines have not turned out to be decent. Luckily they're much better than that. The best Brunello in the world? I don't think so, but pretty darn good, and if this Rosso that we hand carried back from the trip is any indication, they're only getting better with time.

Tasting Notes:
Light ruby in the glass, and paler at the rim with hints of orange, this wine has an ethereal nose of dried herbs, candied nuts, raisins and a light meaty note which emerges with some more air. In the mouth it is soft and velvety with nice acidity (higher than typical for Montalcino wines?). Its flavors are a delightful mix of coffee, cherry, toffee notes, and hints of tart plum and incense as the wine heads into its excellent and very lengthy finish. This is a very complex Rosso di Montalcino that lacks only the slightest hint of depth that might separate it from a Brunello.

Food Pairing:
We drank this last week with a roasted veal chop rubbed with rosemary and garlic. You couldn't ask for a better pairing than that.

Overall Score: 9.5

How Much?: $38

This wine is available for purchase on the internet, though the 2000 vintage may be difficult to find.

Comments (7)

Gene wrote:
09.04.06 at 10:27 PM

Alder, This is an absolutely charming story. It reminds me of my wife, Diane, who has a superb palate, but frequently prefers to nap in the car when we get to the ninth or tenth winery of the day. I guess nine rounds of tasting are enough for her. Where is Piero when I need him?

David wrote:
09.05.06 at 7:43 AM

The culture of wine is infectuous! I enjoyed the article.

louamerica wrote:
09.05.06 at 11:49 AM

oh my gawd.. I just got back from Italy/France and had the opportunity to drink a bottle of the 1999 Poggio - Montalcino when in Tuscany... it blew my lights out.. shared between 2 others .. it was perhaps the best wine while in Italy

Guru wrote:
09.08.06 at 5:55 PM

I love Rossos! The are such fantastic value wines. There is a winery (Poggio San Polo) who makes a Rosso Di Montalcino from the same juice as their Brunello. It just sees less oak time.

Chris wrote:
09.13.06 at 2:37 PM

That's funny, Alder -- my wife and I had a similar experience when we visited the winery in August 2004. Our slot had been overbooked somehow, so we hung outside for about 45 minutes while the prior group finished, but the event itself was well worth the wait. No comments on Parker that day, but Piero's confidence in his wine was abundant, shall we say. It's just part of his charm, I think, and to his credit it *is* very good vino.

You hit 10 wineries in a day? That would be impressive for CA or Australia -- places with open tasting rooms -- but in Tuscany it's jaw-dropping. We're going to be back there next week, actually, any suggestions on which producers to visit?

Alder wrote:
09.13.06 at 4:32 PM


If I were going to give you a list of the top wineries in my opinion to visit, I would hardly do better than to point you to this one.

Simo wrote:
08.19.07 at 7:35 PM

You may not have found it to have been one of the best Brunellos, but I certainly did. A while ago, I opened a bottle of the 1995 FPDS Brunello. It was the most sublime Italian wine experience of my life, even greater than the Sassicaia 1997, and the bottle wasn't even riserva. FPDS is, without a doubt, on my top 10 list of Italian wineries. It is too bad that its prices have skyrocketed since the advent of the euro. In the days of the lira, a bottle of Brunello cost around 60,000; today, it is close to 80 euros, an increase of almost 160% with respect to the lira and 270% with respect to the dollar. Those were the good old days...

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Images: Vineyard Reflections The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast Vinography Images: Shaggy Companions 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting: October 26, Healdsburg Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 21, 2014 The Essence of Wine is Ready to Buy! Vinography Images: Spring Carpet California Law and Wine: Ups and Downs

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.