Morellino di Scansano: Maremma Wine's History, Varietals, Producers, & Recommendations

The region of Tuscany makes many outstanding and well knows wines. has already explored Super Tuscans, Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino and even the dessert wine Vin Santo.  There are other great wines being produced in this Mecca of food and wine.  One which does not get as much publicity is called Morellino di Scansano (more-eh-LEEN-oh dee scahn-SAH-no).  This red wine is made in the Maremma region around the coastal areas in southern Tuscany and is about a dozen miles inland from the Tyrrhenian Sea.  

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Morellino di Scansano is a DOCG wine.  It was originally granted DOC status back in 1978 and upgraded to DOCG in 2007.  Morellino is the local name for the variety of Sangiovese that grows there.  Legend has it that the grape was given its name because the brown hue of the grapes is similar the color of the Marmmano horses of the area.  Scansano is the name of a village in the region.  The wines must be at least 85% Sangiovese with the remaining 15% made up of local red varieties including Mammolo, Canaiolo Nero Alicante, Malvasia, Nera, Nero Francese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ciliegiolo among others although some producers do include 100% Sangiovese.  Sangiovese, you will recall, is the grape that is the basis for Chianti, Brunello, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and many Super Tuscan wines.  The wine is a dry wine and can be released in the March after harvest; there is no requirement it be aged in wood.  Morellino di Scansano can also be released as a Riserva which requires 24 months of ageing, at least one of these must be in wood. 

Wines have been made in this area for a long time; there are records from 1884 attesting to the quality of wines from Scansano.  It is only in the last twenty years or so that the world has been paying attention.  In the last decade the wines of this area have become an almost trendy alternative to Chianti or some of the other Sangiovese based wines of Tuscany.  Personally, I cannot tell the difference between the Morellino strain of Sangiovese and others.  Indeed, I wonder if the difference that existed historically is still different as new vineyards have been planted.  Add to that the inclusion of the other 15% and it is difficult to say just what a classic Morellino di Scansano should taste like.  

The wines offer wonderful cherries and black cherries on the nose.  On the palate, the same cherry profile with some leather and with a year or so of age, a bit of earthy damp forest floor.  The wines are not especially tannic, and drink well young.  These are not wines made for long term ageing, but rather, near term enjoyment over a meal. 

More and more of these wines are being exported.  For now there are a handful of wineries that are my favorite.  One is Fattoria Le Pupile owned by Elisabetta Geppeti.  Their best is from a single vineyard and carries the Poggio Valente designation.  It is made in both a regular and a Riserva.  The basic wines cost around $20 and the top end goes for around $50.  A mid-priced wine is made that carries the Elisabetta Gepetti name on the label.  These wines include a small percentage of Alicante or Malvasia Nera which soften the wines a bit. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.