Montalcino's Little Secret
Oct 08, 2016
Sant'Antimo is a sub region of Montalcino in southwest Tuscany. While this is the warmest and driest area of the region, close proximity to the coast yields a maritime climate allowing for many hours of sunshine, little rainfall and cool winds. Grapes tend to ripen a week earlier here than in neighboring Vino Nobile and Chianti Classico. Overall, the region is hilly with dense forest. The soils are varied yielding a range of styles. Schist, limestone, clay, marl and volcanic soil all exist within the territory.
The DOC Sant'Antimo was established in 1996, and is named after the region's most famous Romanesque church - Abbazia di Sant'Antimo - located just south of the town of Montalcino. According to legend, in 781 Charlemagne was returning from Rome and camped near Monte Amiata. Many in his court were struck by plague. During the night, an angel appeared to the Emperor in dream and recommended that he pick a particular grass, dry it and then make an infusion with some wine and give it to the soldiers. He did and the army was cured. In return, the Emperor promised the abbey. It is still used today for ritual mass and gregorian chanting by Monks that live nearby and is a valued tourist destination.
The motivation to establish the new DOC was to further define and qualify the variety of wines produced in Montalcino. Any DOP authorized wines of Montalcino that are not Brunello, Rosso or Moscadello are bottled as Sant'Antimo DOC and can include any of Tuscany's 26 permissible grape varieties. While they are commonly blended table wines, Sant'Antimo single variety whites and reds, plus Vin Santo are also allowed, and the quality level will vary. Easy drinking, everyday wines are produced alongside powerful, cellar worthy bottles. There is also a classification of red Novello wines allowed.
The area under vine for Sant'Antimo DOC is just 531 hectares, nearly a quarter of that for Brunello but slightly more than Rosso di Montalcino. By comparison Chianti Classico has more than 6500 hectares planted.