Monte Antico is still a major bargain, selling for $8 to $10 in most parts of the country. It is a very good Tuscan red wine that has received high marks from Robert Parker and other influential critics but still sits on the store shelves despite its bargain price. When I bought a case of the 1982 Monte Antico (I paid about $40 for the case), I discovered that the wine is also very ageworthy. I tried to be patient, but even after finishing the case, I never felt that I had opened a bottle that was ready to drink. At the same time, I bought one bottle of the Monte Antico Riserva--a definite splurge at $5.95. Because of the reticence of the regular Monte Antico I let this wine sit longer than I otherwise would. Eventually, it got overlooked and gathered dust on the shelf alongside more prestigious and certifiably age-worthy Barolos and Barbarescos.
Somehow, tonight, for my daughter's 28th birthday, I had enough confidence to open this long-neglected bottle. 1980 was not a great vintage in most parts of the world, and the bottles of 1980 Jaboulet Cornas and Thalabert Crozes that I usually open have become a cliche for November 29. WOW! Monte Antico Riserva was worth the wait.
The color is light brick red but still incredibly clear and bright. The bouquet is similarly clean and clear--mature but finely focused smells of dried cherries and flowers with no off notes or oxidation. The flavors are also beautifully focused and persistent, a savory treat. Good grip and concentration with the essential sweetness of a mature red. This is not a great wine but a very good one that has aged the way all wines should age in an ideal world.
Will I buy another case of Monte Antico? Maybe I will.