Morellino di Scansano

A Sangiovese Secret

It's relatively easy to find superior, satisfying wine if you’re free to pay top dollar. But for most of us that's usually not the case. Instead, we have to find alternative ways to consistently fill our glasses with wine that pleases—without taking a beating financially. But then one of the most satisfying aspects of the wine hobby can be finding wines that provide a high quality-to-price ratio (QPR).  And such wines often come from regions that are less known, and therefore less in demand.

Morellino di Scansano is a wine region that provides exactly the kind of QPR we’re all looking for. Yes, good Sangiovese values can be found in some of the better known regions, such as Chianti, Vino Noble di Montepulciano, and even the Rosso di Montalcino DOC. But the ease of finding value in those areas cannot compare to Morellino di Scansano. My impression of the Morellino wines was consistent (and sometimes very high) quality, always at an attractive price.Morellino Di Scansano DOCG

Located in the southwest corner of Tuscany, about 100 kilometers south of Siena, this picturesque DOCG area (DOCG is the highest quality assurance level in Italy) is a great source for top values in Sangiovese wines. Morellino is what they call the local clone of Sangiovese, and Scansano is the small town located roughly in the middle of the production zone. This region benefits greatly from its close proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea, located just west of the zone, providing a regular fluctuation of temperature between day and night and giving balance to the maturation of the grapes. The resulting wines generally have finesse, nice acidity, and good balance.

The laws of this DOCG require a minimum of 85 percent Sangiovese, allowing 15 percent of other varietals to be included, although some producers prefer 100 percent Sangiovese in their expression. Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Balbino Terenzi, whose family winery is one of the top producers in the region. He indicated that they prefer not to “use other grapes as a shortcut to character, but rather to let the expression of the Sangiovese come through on its own.”  The Terenzi “Madrechiesa” Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2009 was awarded Tre Bicchieri by Gambero Rosso this year. (My notes on their Riserva are included below.) But even as fine as this bottle is, it will still only cost you about $23, an outstanding value, and about as high a price as you will see. In fact, most Morellinos run between $11 and $20, and they are readily available from most good wine retailers.

There is a fairly broad range of quality levels that can bear the name Morellino Di Scansano, with approximately 520 different producers currently making the wine. By law, the wines can be sold as early as March 1st of the year after the vintage on the label, so many are straightforward and uncomplicated. Still, most of the base level entries, around 11 bucks each, are well worth the modest outlay—you could call them great pizza wines. As I tasted through the examples below, and searched for them online, I was consistently surprised by the low prices, especially in comparison to wines of similar quality from other regions.

If you're willing to spend just a few dollars more, excellent, complex wines of depth and character can be found here as well. With little effort, some very fine examples, like the Terenzi mentioned earlier, can be had at a great price.  So if you like the profile of Sangiovese, and Sangiovese blends (think “Super Tuscan”), with good acidity and tannins, nice cherry fruit, and a silky texture, try a couple bottles from the Morellino Di Scansano region. It’s not difficult to find a satisfying one, so you’re working with pretty safe odds. And isn't that the idea behind a DOCG designation anyway? To assure quality and consistency? It seems to be working in this case.

Some General Impressions

Texture:  I noticed a repeated smooth or silky texture in the wines, a characteristic often associated with wood contact during aging. But in most cases these wines had only seen contact with stainless steel. This, apparently, is a characteristic of the growing region.

Dried Herb Notes: There were a lot of underbrush/dried herb/aromatic wood notes that I personally love to see in Sangiovese-based wines.

Red and black cherry fruit: Classic Sangiovese fruit, with varying styles of cherry flavors and aromas, and excellent acidity, is ubiquitous here, as you will see in my notes.

Quality / Consistency:  Tasting through more than a dozen different wines, I found almost every one of them worth drinking again, or sharing with friends; that says a lot.

Tasting Notes

2007 Mantellassi "Le Sentinelle" Riserva, Morellino di Scansano

Rich earth and mushroom notes at first, giving way to lovely dried herbs and dried red cherry skins. On the palate, elegant black and red cherry, with more dried herbs, black pepper (only on the palate), and a suggestion of tomato. Well-balanced, with an interesting charred wood bite in the acidity, and very fine grained, dusty tannins. There is a persistent finish, with good length, more dried herbs, some aromatic wood, and lean blackberry. The Le Sentinelle is an excellent wine; a nice combination of masculinity and elegance. This is Mantellassi's top of the line Morellino di Scansano, from a single 2.5 hectare vineyard, and aged for 20 months in French oak. Typically, its composition is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Alicante. This well-made, serious wine can be found for around $20. 91 Points

2010 Mantellassi  "Mentore"  Morellino di Scansano $14

Lean black cherry and brambles on the nose with a hint of funkiness. There's a subtle richness at the core of the nose as well, with a sort of crème brulée note and some Asian spice. The suggestion of vanilla is surprising here, since this wine sees no oak in its elevage. The palate has mouthwatering acidity, subdued tannins, sage, and some coffee. The composition is 85% Sangiovese, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Canaiolo Nero making up the balance. 89 Points

2009 La Selva "Colli del Uccellina" Morellino di Scansano $20

Starts off with good depth of fruit on the nose, showing ripe black cherry, lovely perfume notes, sweet aromatics, and some vanilla. Very solid and focused at first. The palate  is smooth in texture, with moderate acidity and limited tannins. There is black cherry again on the palate, with a hint of grilled meat, and a brief finish. Sadly, the initially beautiful  nose faded significantly after being open for an hour or so. Persistent heat on the finish. 87 Points

2008 Azienda S. Lucia, Torre del Moro Morellino di Scansano $14

Starts off with a nice complimentary balance of dusty dried black cherry and underbrush on the nose with sage, and a hint of orange rind. There’s a nice full weight/texture on the palate, which is fairly big in character, with black berry flavors and black cherry as well. The balance is excellent. Later notes of eucalyptus show in the nose, with a bit of tomato juice on the palate. Generally very nice and complete, although there is not much finesse on the finish. 89 Points

2009 AgriMaremma "Vivesco" Morellino di Scansano

Red cherry skins on the nose, without much else. There is a metallic note at first on the palate that eventually fades, leaving lean red cherry flavors and minerals. A bit disjointed, with quite a bit of minerality on the finish. Perhaps a bad bottle, but no particular damage characteristics noted. 100% Sangiovese 80 Points

2010 Pietramora, Morellino di Scansano 14.5% ABV $18

Dense black cherry, a hint of violets, and a little funk at first on the nose. Mouthwatering, and a little chewy on the palate, with a smooth texture (yes, chewy and smooth) and big flavors of black cherry skins and blackberry. Notes of aromatic wood and charred wood float about on the palate. Overall this wine is big and solid, but not in a ripe or unbalanced way. Later, the funk turns into pleasant earth and forest floor aromas. Nice texture and moderate grip on the finish. Straightforward and satisfying. This wine spends seven months in French oak and three more in bottle before release. 85% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot. 89 Points

2009 Terenzi Riserva  Morellino di Scansano 14.5% ABV $18

Elegant nose of leather, tobacco, dried red cherry, dried flowers and soft perfume notes. The palate has a bit of softness at first, with pretty fruit: lean black and red cherry that has a clean and fresh quality about it. The finish is long and rustic, with plenty of grip and lingering notes of charred sandalwood and leather. This is a serious approach to Morellino that seems capable of development over time. 90 Points

2010 Querciarossa, "Rinaldone dell’Osa" Morellino di Scansano 13% ABV $12

Unusual, compact nose with interesting outdoorsy aromas, underbrush, seashells and a bit of herbaceousness. The palate shows nice red cherry and raspberry fruit that is slightly sweet, supported by good acidity. The texture is soft and velvety. The palate is more pronounced than the nose, which is a bit subdued. On the finish the tannins show themselves with a satisfying grip. 88 Points

2006 Terre di Talamo, "Tempo" Riserva, Morellino di Scansano 13.5% ABV $17

This one nicely outperforms its price tag ($16.99). Starting off with rich red and black cherry fruit on the nose, just after opening, then backing off to an elegant mix of lean black cherry, Asian spice, and light, but definite, rose petals, which persist over time in the glass. Despite the finesse, there is an impression of solidity underneath the fruit. The palate starts with a soft mouthfeel at first, and a subtle sweetness on the tip of the tongue. Next is savory, focused black cherry, with aromatic sandalwood, a nice easy bite of acidity, and powdery tannins. There's good length to the finish as the sandalwood persists, and the acid causes the mouth to water. Something about this makes me think it is lacking somewhere, but every step of the experience has distinct character, and complexity. I guess it's just the gentle touch in its style. Satisfying and complete. 91 Points

2010 Terre di Talamo, "Tempo" Morellino di Scansano 13.5% ABV $12

The dried herb notes are the first thing you notice on the nose, followed by blackberry, and a firm character. The palate shows roasted black cherry, sweet acidity, more dried herbs, and a hint of fat on the mid-palate. With time, distinct sandalwood shows up, and a hint of anise. The finish is modest, with tartness and spice. Very easy to drink. 89 Points

2009 Provveditore Bargagli, Morellino di Scansano $14

Dense dark fruit, but still rustic, with brambles, aromatic dried cherry skins and a bit of smoke. The texture is soft and pleasant, with moderate acidity blending with the lean black cherry and pronounced aromatic character. Finishes with satisfying grip and length. Aged seven months is large oak "botti," and 3 months in bottle. 100% Sangiovese. 90 Points

2008 Costa Terre di Fiori "Ventaio" Morellino di Scansano 14% ABV $25

Pretty blackberry fruit on the nose with lovely, fragrant and spicy dried herbs (sage?), with a dusty character. The palate continues the same theme with dried black fruit, dried rose petals, some allspice, good balance, and a fine-grained texture. Light- to medium-bodied, with a long finish that shows more dried herb notes. Cement tanks and bottle age only. 89 Points

2009 Costa Terre di Fiori "Ventaio" Morellino di Scansano 14% ABV $25

There is a core of dense blackberry/black cherry fruit to start on the nose, focused and solid with a suggestion of dark chocolate. The palate is nice and varied, first showing a silky texture, with grilled meats, aromatic black cherry pastry, some toast, smoke and a hint of cotton candy. Later, there is a sort of candied brambles note (sweet wood aromatics?), dried blackberry and some bacon. With all this opulence, it was surprising to not see heat on the finish. Cement tanks and bottle age only. 87 Points

2010 Vopte Ugolini Morellino di Scansano $23

Fresh red and black cherries on the nose with leather, supported by mineral and shale notes. The palate is savory and satisfying, albeit a little thin, with good baking spice, dried red cherry, incense, charred meat and sandalwood. The texture is great and chewy, with more savories and a medium length finish that reprises the grilled meat notes. 88 Points

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: joeytheg
    1018088 4

    why don't you have print options (no ads, etc) for your articles? you got FB and tweet and lots of bs, but no simple "print".

    May 03, 2013 at 4:23 PM

  • If you right click, you'll see a Print function which gives you the article without advertising

    May 03, 2013 at 8:17 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,296

    Bob, I had never heard of Morellino di Scansano. So, thank you very much for the informative article.

    Now the question is, "Can I find in in retail stores out here in the remote provinces?"

    May 03, 2013 at 8:33 PM

  • Snooth User: vino in love
    Hand of Snooth
    1184516 339

    Morellino di Scansano is a hit and miss. Some flops but also some very good wines.
    In general, the Maremma is home to outstanding wines..

    May 03, 2013 at 9:52 PM

  • Snooth User: Bob Fyke
    Hand of Snooth
    141389 40,326

    Mark, I will see what I can find out for you and get back. We are speaking of Canada here, correct?

    May 04, 2013 at 7:50 AM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,296

    Sorry Bob. You don't know me. You have to take 95% of my comments with a very large grain of salt.

    I'm in California--specifically, the east side of Los Angeles County. So, the fact of the matter is I do have access to multiple retailers--both high-volume multi-location companies and also, higher-end wine-specific providers. I had just never heard of Morellino di Scansano, and, so, I, obviously, do not ever recall seeing it in the stores that I frequent. Let me try harder.

    One of the reasons I hang out a lot here at Snooth is to learn. Your article proves that I have a lot to learn, and Snooth is a great learning facility.

    May 04, 2013 at 3:58 PM

  • Snooth User: Bob Fyke
    Hand of Snooth
    141389 40,326

    LOL Mark. I read "remote provinces", and flashed right back to a drive I did from New York to Alaska, via Canada, and ruled out any possibility of simile. Funny. Just in case someone is wondering, Morellino di Scansano is fairly well distributed in Canada.

    I'm not surprised you had not heard of it before, it seems to fly under the radar. That really was part of my motivation for writing this article. In California, try Total wines, they carry a number of Morellinos, including some of the wines I reviewed in the article. Thanks for the comment about learning here at Snooth and about my article. We will always have a lot to learn about wine; it never stops. That's one of the things that's so great about it.

    May 04, 2013 at 10:40 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,296

    Thanks, Bob. There is a Total Wine store that is convenient to me. The last time I was there, about 10 days ago, I did pick up some Italian wines, but, like I say, do not recall seeing this. The next time I go there, I'll specifically look for it.

    May 05, 2013 at 10:29 AM

  • Snooth User: Mart P
    Hand of Snooth
    161710 25

    Bob - I am on my way to visit the Maremma area and Scansano in particular. Thanks much for the article and reviews. The first comment (from joeytheg) reflects my own thoughts as well. A right click allows me to print the page view with ads and comments but I can't find a way to print out the entire article and just the article.

    Any suggestions for a winery visit?, an experience not to be missed?, special people to meet? I live in the Langhe Roero area in Piemonte and would be happy to return the favor if you can provide some local insights.

    Thanks in advance.

    Dec 01, 2013 at 9:05 AM

  • Snooth User: Bob Fyke
    Hand of Snooth
    141389 40,326

    Hi Mark. Thanks so much for your interest. Regarding the inability to print articles, I feel your pain. I am not part of the technical team at Snooth, but I will absolutely pass your inquiry on to them. I agree that it would make the articles more useful to everyone if they could be easily printed in full.
    Regarding recommendations, I am working with representatives of the Consorzio and waiting for their reply. Drop me an e mail, and I will send you our recommendations, etc. Have fun!

    Dec 03, 2013 at 8:39 PM

  • Snooth User: Bob Fyke
    Hand of Snooth
    141389 40,326

    For anyone visiting, here are some great recommendations from a friend in the Morellino di Scansano area:

    Concerning wineries, there’s a good number of them than you can actually visit and a have a wine taste:
    Fattoria Mantellassi, Fattoria le Pupille, Tenuta Ammiraglia, Cantina Cooperativa, among those considered “big”.
    Amongst the “medium” and “family” wineries, Terenzi, Massi di Mandorlaia, Santa Lucia, Provveditore, Fattoria di Magliano, Col di Bacche, Poggio Argentiera, Podere 414, La Selva, Roccapesta, just to name a few of them. You can contact the Consorzio for a map of the area with a (nearly) complete list of Morellino di Scansano wineries, description and contacts.

    Concerning other places of interest, I would suggest a bath at the Saturnia thermal spring, any time of the year, and, in summer of course, a dive in the nearby sea, in places such as Talamone, Ansedonia, Castiglion della Pescaia.

    A walk through the “Vie Cave”, an impressive road network linking an Etruscan necropolis and various settlements in the area between Sovana and Pitigliano, consisting of trenches excavated as cliffs in tuff.

    A visit at Pitigliano and Sovana, cities completely built on tuff.
    Also a hike at the National Natural Park of Alberese, aka Parco dell’Uccellina, could be interesting, with plenty of wildlife, beaches, and good local products at the Agricola Alberese (also Morellino producer).

    Then comes the food stuff. Some good traditional restaurants: La Cantina (Scansano), Verdiana (Montemerano), I due Cippi (Saturnia); if in search of Michelin stars you can grab them at the restaurant inside the “Terme di Saturnia” (Saturnia), da Caino (Montemerano), il Pellicano (Porto Ercole).

    Dec 05, 2013 at 4:00 PM

  • Snooth User: Mart P
    Hand of Snooth
    161710 25

    I would definitely add a visit to Sassotondo, just outside of Pitigliano to the list of To Do's. Carla and Edoardo are off the beaten track and a call ahead of time to make arrangements is advised, but it is inspiring what they have developed over the past several years. 'Organic' may or may not be fully applicable (I'm not sure) but they pay a lot of attention to helping nature do its best work - 'biodynamic'. The San Lorenzo Ciliegiolo 2010 nearly brought tears to my eyes at first whiff. The Ciliegiolo 'base' is also a great wine and at a price that makes it accessible for everyday drinking. Carla has clearly found her calling. That visit was the highlight of our trip to the Maremma.

    Jan 03, 2014 at 10:59 AM

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