In November of 2008, I drank my last bottle of 1980 Monte Antico Toscano Riserva. It had aged beautifully over 18 years with pure, focused Sangiovese fruit. "This is what good wine is all about," I wrote in my notes. Tonight I have in front of me the 2006 Monte Antico Toscano--a very different creature altogether but still a very good wine.
The first appearance is deep ruby--blueberries, black cherries, spice. The aromas are pleasantly lifted by new oak plus a small amount of Merlot (5%) in the blend. And the wine is also nicely forward on the palate with spices up front and then mixed berries all the way to the finish. It has the brisk acidity of Chianti combined with the sleek tones of Cabernet and Merlot. I suppose that qualifies it as a Super Tuscan, even though the price is a mere $10 to $12.
It surprised me to see this 2006 Monte Antico on the Wine Spectator's list of top 100 wines of 2009--not because I was unaware of the quality of this estate but because I figured it would always remain one of those undiscovered treasures of the wine world. Located very close to Brunello, the Monte Antico vineyards are clearly among the best of the appellation. But the wines have been traditionally made and notoriously slow to come around. From the early 1980s, I frequently found Monte Antico on wine store shelves in Ann Arbor, Chicago and Detroit, always for less than $10, and usually less than $5, a bottle. When I tried a bottle of Monte Antico young, or even at 8 to 10 years of age, I'd hold my jaws and cry for a tetanus shot. When I learned to give the wine its proper aging, I was rewarded with a wine purchased for $5 but giving $100 worth of pleasure. With this 2006, Monte Antico has clearly entered the 21st century of winemaking. This is a modern wine made to suit international tastes. And it is very good, although I don't expect it to be showing its best 18 years from now. I may buy a few more bottles, but I'm going to miss the Monte Antico of old.