$20 or Less: Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragone Rosso di Montalcino

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I love finding great wines for $20 or less – total homerun!  And yes — there are tons of them out there! So each week we’re going to offer up one  Here’s this week’s bottle.

Made 100 percent from the sangiovese grape, a red variety found predominately in Tuscany, the 2013 Ciacci (pronounced chah-chee; remember Happy Days?) is fruity — you’ll get cherries and some spice when you smell it.  It’s very well-balanced and really smooth. It’s perfect to drink right now, though it will cellar beautifully for a few years.

Sangiovese is the only grape in Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino. The biggest difference between the two wines is in how long the wine stays in the barrel, —is aged — before it its bottled. Rosso di Montalcino can be bottled after about a year in the barrel, so it is less oaky (because, well, less time in the oak barrel) and is lighter,  fruitier, and ready to drink.

Brunellos take at least four years to get to the bottle. Because of that, they cost a lot more –— closer to $100 a bottle. (The 2010 Brunellos were amazing, though, if you’re looking to splurge!) But because they take so long, the Italians created the Rosso so they have something to drink while they wait for those Brunellos to age. Brilliant.

The best part about this Ciacci Rosso, though, is that the grapes are picked from the same vines the winery uses for their Brunellos.  Often times winemakers don’t use their best grapes to make a Rosso. Not true here, which makes this wine taste even better.

And because the wine is so easy to drink but still has great structure and tannins, you can basically pair it with anything – from salamis and cheese to meat courses or pizza.

Of course I prefer to pair it with a really long day.

Ok so each week, we’ll pick  another wine.  As always, please let me know what you think, and don’t hesitate to offer other recommendations — your price cap is $20, though.

Cent’ Anni.