The denomination Rosso Torgiano Riserva has been appointed D.O.C.G. since 1990, with retroactive recognition starting from the 1983 vintage. It is a wine that deeply expresses the essence of Umbria, with its hills and landscapes and perfect harmony between power and elegance. Lungarotti winery has a great merit in promoting this wine and the wine region as a whole, and the Rubesco Vigna Monticchio is its highest expression, as well as being a milestone in the Italian wine scene.
Rubesco is a wine produced largely with Sangiovese grapes and represents the history of the winery. It was a creation of Giorgio Lungarotti dating back to the early 1960s. The wine has been given a name that describes itself, easy to remember: Rubesco is a fantasy brand, derived from the Latin verb rubescere, meaning to blush. This has been a successful intuition, as well as the label has been, it has changed over the years but always shown the harvest scene of a bas-relief of the Fontana Maggiore in Perugia by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, dating back to the thirteenth century.
The winery’s land stretches for over 250 hectares and in the vineyard the plant density is kept low to increase plant competitiveness and reduce yiseld per vine; in this way, grapes of the best quality are produced, as the plants are always kept in balance. Vigna Monticchio, where the grapes of the Rubesco wine production come from, is a winery’s cru that extends for 12 hectares on the hill of Brufa. The vineyard faces west and it is at about 300 metres above sea level. The soil is made of an alternation of clay and sand layers, mixed with limestone and silt deposits. In the mid-1990s, vine replanting was carried out, with a density between 4,000 and 5,000 vines per hectare. The training system is the double spurred cordon, and the production does not exceed one kilogram per plant.
The careful soil management allows the storage of water resources and forces the roots of the vines to go deep in the soil to search for water and nutrients. The plants are thus more resistant to drought, and it is also possible to control weeds and prevent the spread of pathogens. Great importance is given to summer pruning, carried out in the spring-summer period. Disbudding, shoot removal, leave removal and bunch thinning affects the plant growing and therefore the quality of the grapes in the most active phase, playing greater importance than winter pruning. Then, particular attention is given to the care of the leaf surface, responsible for photosynthesis and the shading of the bunches from the sun, especially in summer. In this way, the complete and balanced ripening of the grapes is enhanced.
Hand harvesting requires great timeliness. The time of harvest is a decisive choice for the quality of the grapes and therefore of the wine that will be made. It must be identified according to the oenological objective,established by means of ripening curves, which consider sugar content, acidity, and polyphenolic ripeness.
In the cellar, after careful bunch selection, the fermentation process lasts for about twenty days in stainless-steel vats with maceration on the skins, followed by malolactic fermentation. After racking, the wine matures for a year in oak and then for several years in the bottle, ageing in a cave. Due to its complexity, the average ageing period of Rosso Torgiano Rubesco is 30-35 years, but it can also be kept for longer. In fact, in the cave there are bottles of Rubesco that have been kept since the early 1960s, dating back to the period in which the wine was created. These bottles sometimes leave the cave for vertical tastings, every vintage is able to give unique sensations and refer to a specific year, even if over time there have been inevitable variations in the production choices. For example, in the Rubesco blend, Canaiolo has disappeared, and the maturation practices have changed. Following the development of modern oenology, the winemaking choices moved from the use of large barrels to the progressive introduction of barriques, and recently returned to a mix of small and large barrels.
Moving on to the vertical tasting that I am going to tell you about today, I just want to let you know that one of the samples tasted is close to half a century in age.
Rosso Torgiano Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Riserva 2018 (pure Sangiovese) – 14%
A cold and rainy winter was followed by a regular spring with budbreak in mid-April. May and June were characterised by above-average temperatures with frequent rainfall that favoured water storage. A never hot summer favoured a balanced ripening of the grapes. September was characterised by sunny and windy weather and low levels of rainfall, with high a temperature ranges that helped to enhance the elegance of the aromatic profile ofthe wine.
This wine is deep ruby in colour with violet shades, it is elegant and complex. On the nose, we perceive delicate hints of violet followed by sour cherry and blackberry, with refined toasted hints of cocoa and coffee. On the finish, spicy aromas of pepper and cloves show up. In the mouth, it shows immediately a warm sensation and full body, with a lively acidity and firm tannins. The finish is long, spicy and slightly balsamic.
Rosso Torgiano Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Riserva 2005 (Sangiovese 70%, Canaiolo 30%) – 14%
The season was standard with hot summer temperatures until the first week of August. In the second part of the month, there was a wide temperature range, that also exceeded 15 ° C. In general, the rainfall was less than the seasonal average, with harvesting that took place in the second half of September.
In appearance, the wine already shows a decisive evolution; it is garnet in colour with ruby shades. On the nose, we detect pronounced tertiary aromas of spices, especially black pepper, followed by the classic notes of red berry fruit jam, plum and blueberry, with hints of aromatic herbs, coffee and licorice on the finish. In the mouth, the wine is warm, soft, with a distinct tannic astringency and a final sensation of woody dryness. This is mature wine that balances the evolution characteristics showed by the appearance and partly on the nose, with a certain youthfulness on the palate, that suggests a long life ahead.
Rosso Torgiano Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Riserva 1997 (Sangiovese 70%, Canaiolo 30%) – 13%
It was one of the best vintages of the last decade of the last century, with regard to the regularity of the climatic trend. The harvested grapes had excellent parameters of acidity, polyphenols, sugar concentration and were healthy.
The wine is bright garnet in colour. The olfactory profile is very pleasant and elegant with delicate aromas of dried flowers, hints of geranium, black cherry in spirit, followed by blackcurrant jam, dark chocolate and tobacco. There are aromas of dark and sweeter spices such as cinnamon, leather and incense embellished with fresh and refined balsamic notes. On the palate, the wine is warm and enveloping, with a dense tannic texture and an intact freshness, that suggests an indefinite evolutionary potential. The finish is very long with a licorice flavour. This is a sumptuous and exciting wine that should be tasted again in the future.
Rosso Torgiano Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Riserva 1974 (Sangiovese 70%, Canaiolo 30%) – 12%
This was a very good vintage, thanks to the particularly sunny summer, very favourable for the right ripening of the grapes. Even harvest took place in optimal climatic conditions, with dry weather and a Tramontana wind. The 1974 vintage is the first harvest in which, in accordance with wine legislation, the toponym “Vigna Monticchio” appears on the label.
This wine is orange in colour. The olfactory profile is complex with refined aromas of dried rose and blood orange, followed by tertiary hints of green tea, juniper and eucalyptus, mushrooms, charred wood with mineral nuances of flint and graphite. The taste is still energetic, characterised by pronounced flavours and silky tannins, which are completely integrated into the wine. The finish is very long and intense, with a herbal aftertaste, licorice and reminiscences of Mediterranean herb. It was a great vintage, which confirms the extraordinary longevity of Rubesco Vigna Monticchio.
What else? When you experience tasting like these, you hope to repeat it, tasting again the samples already tasted, possibly with the chance of tasting other vintages too. A real time machine that today has taken us back for almost half a century.