The La Mannella line of Italian wines hails from the Tuscan town of Montalcino. This family-owned winery got its start in 1970, when veteran farmer Leonardo Cortonese replaced a portion of his crop of olive trees with Sangiovese gravevines.
Time has proven this a wise decision. Three generations later, Leonardo’s grandson Tommaso Cortonese is co-owner and winemaker of the family’s 19-acre winery, where they mainly produce Brunello di Montalcino.
La Manella puts out about 45,000 bottles annually. Several dozen of these wines, all 100% Sangiovese, were poured by Tommaso during a recent tasting at Blu On Park in NYC.
Worth noting: Tommaso plans on changing the estate name to Cortonesi in the near future. This is his family name, a “thanks to my grandfather and family for all their efforts and their work,” he explains.
1) Rosso di Montalcino DOCG 2014
What’s the difference between Ross and Brunello di Montalcino? Rosso requires less time aging (under one year). La Manella’s spent 10 months in 30-hl. Slovenian oak casks.
Crisp, fresh red fruit on the nose give way to richer flavors of violet flowers, chocolate, and darker red fruits. Solid tannins tie everything together. While this is a complex wine, it’s smooth and silky on the palate, and not so robust to constrict its utility come dinnertime.
“This is a food wine,” aptly says Tommaso. “You can pair it with 1,000 kind of dishes and 1,000 kinds of plates.” This includes everything from fattier fish to lighter red meats. I wouldn’t recommend this with steak; it’s a wine to accompany appetizers.
2-3) Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 / Brunello di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012
SRP: $71.99 and $94.99, respectively
These were poured side-by-side to show the difference 20 kilometers can make. That’s the distance between La Manella’s north-facing slopes and those on the southeast. Fruit from both vineyards went into the regular Montalcino, whereas just grapes from sourtheast-facing hectares comprised the Poggiarelli.
The difference is pronounced. The regular Montalcino is the definition of easy drinking. A food-friendly wine, it disappears fast from the glass with ultra-smooth violet and red-fruit flavors. Serve this with appetizers to get the party started on the perfect note.
And then bring out the Poggiarelli for the main course — or afterwards. This is a considerably more masculine wine, with strong tannins and leathery, cherry, earthy flavors.
Perfect alongside lamb or steak, the Poggiarelli can also accompany fine cheese or a cigar. Sip it at the end of an evening and explore its complex blend of powerful and subtle flavors the way you would savor Scotch.
The regular 2012 Brunello aged 36 months in Slovenian oak casks. The Poggiarelli aged 12 months in 5-hl. French oak tonneaux before being transferred into Slovenian casks for another two years.
In general, the 2014 vintage was a tough harvest for La Manella and others in Montalcino, Tommaso says. Due to exceptionally cold and rainy weather, winemakers lost up to 30% of their production.
4) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010
The 2010 marks the sixth Riserva release from La Manella, following ‘95, ‘97, ’01, ’06 and ’07. Future Riservas are planned for ’12 and ’15. Tommaso hopes “2015 will be another 2010.”
That’s high praise. Made from the oldest vineyard on the winery’s northern slopes, the 2010 is a memorable wine for its impeccable balance between clean smooth drinking and robust flavors of red and black fruits, bread crust, spice and leather. More rich than powerful, this Riserva is easy drinking of the most sophisticated caliber. It’s a distinctive wine that can stand alone — or pair with a variety of complex dishes.
The 2010 aged 48 months in Slovenian oak.