In Pursuit of Brunello di Montalcino

When one thinks of Tuscany and its fine wines the name Brunello di Montalcino often comes to mind. 

The industry of Brunello represents roughly one billion euro per year. It is one of the most ageworthy and finest wines in all of the world and highly sought after. Actors, CEO’s, athletes, fashion designers and more have all attempted to buy land and produce Brunello here in Tuscany. When the Brunello consortium was founded in 1977, there were 20 producers. Today. There are approximately 280.

In order to help better understand one of the best wine producing appellations in Italy you must understand the history of this town.

view of montalcino

Montalcino was a town most likely first referenced in the early 9th century tended to by monks. Through the years, the impact of this town was an agricultural, leather working and pottery.

Some other remarkable moments in history:

  • For several years, the region was caught in the military struggles between Siena and Florence during Medici rule.
  • Montalcino was extremely important as a stop along the old Francigena road which was the pilgrimage to the Holy City. In fact one only needs to look to the Abbey of Sant’ Antimo to see the  origin and history here.
  • It is also legend that Charlemagne himself frequented here on his travels across Europe.
  • World War 2 was extremely hard on this town as well claiming nearly 144 of its inhabitants.
  • Post World War 2  in the 1960s there was an interest in grape vines so many farmers began to rip out olive trees in favor of Sangiovese Grosso the grape used to make Brunello di Montalcino.

The indisputable King and father of modern day Brunello di Montalcino is Biondi Santi.

I am not endorsing this brand as being the best maker of Burnello, but in my opinion, this wine region probably wouldn’t exist today without him. Clementi Santi believed in the potential of this wine so much that he was producing world renowned wine in the late 1800s when nobody was producing anything ageworthy at the time. He happened to be the son of a pharmacist and one can read extensively about their history in Kerin O’Keefes book here

Now onto the landscape of Montalcino…

It is a beautiful hilltop town close to Val D’Orcia, Crete Senesi and the town of Pienza, about 25 miles south of Siena. Its picturesque, panaoramic vuews of the valley are unrivaled anywhere else in the world. It is a medieval village so the architecture is stunning as well and you will fall in love with its charm. It is in the middle of one of the finest wine regions in the world and the people are simple, humble and in love with life. It has a different view from everyside of it and is quite striking looking up above at it from below in the valley. Butcher shops, an 80 year old catholic church, enotecas, cafes, bakeries and restaurants aplenty are what you will find here. It is truly a magical place to visit.

What you need to know about aging Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello aging requirements are as follows:

Normale requires five years of aging after harvest with two years minimum in oak and four months in bottle.

Riserva Requires six years of aging after harvest with two years minimum in oak and six months in bottle.

There are varying thoughts when it comes to the type of barrels or oak used between large Slavonian oak barrels and or French Barriques. In a nutshell, barriques were trendy due to Super Tuscans and Bordeaux style wines in the 1980s.

I am a firm believer in allowing the grape variety 100% Sangiovese Grosso to speak for itself without the interference of oak. I don’t think that an immediate overwhelming flavor of vanilla due to the usage of Barriques helps convey the elegance of sangiovese. flavors of vanilla are not well suited for food pairing, and or pleasant. 

Brunello is known for its flavors of cherry, acidity (great for aging ), and its tannins. It is an excellent partner for food due to its acidity, especially dishes with tomatoes and/or braised meats. 

I have spent the last 20 years in the hospitality industry tasting and sampling, traveling to this region to sort and find the best examples of Brunello and/or Rosso di Montalcino. I am constantly looking for the best quality in relation to value and enjoy sharing my expertise with you. One can find an example of some of my favorite wines here.

Now its time to open up that Brunello that you have been saving, pour yourself a glass and don’t forget to share with a loved one! Or this can be the perfect time to  savor older Brunellos that are ready to drink. I recently collaborated with one of the top organic wine producers in Montalcino to bring you this older vintage case of six or 12. It is a limited release and has never been done before from Col Di Lamo winery by Giovanna Neri.

If you are considering a trip to Tuscany next year,  contact me for additional info on my wine, food and cultural tours planned for 2021.

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