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Brunello di Montalcino Vineyards: How This Outstanding Wine is Made

The DOCG Brunello di Montalcino area of production is limited to the municipality of Montalcino in the province of Siena. This special and very specific area is where you will find all the Brunello di Montalcino vineyards. The presence to the south-east of the Monte Amiata mountain (height m.1740) creates a protective barrier for the vineyards, especially from important atmospheric events such as hail and rain storms. Most of the vineyards are located up in the hills where it is very unlikely to experience fog, freezes, and late frost that instead occur much more frequently in the valleys. In the hills, the frequent presence of wind guarantees the best possible conditions for the health of the vines. During the entire vegetative phase of the vine, the climate is mostly mild with a great number of days of clear and sunny skies that ensure a gradual and complete ripening of the grapes.

 

Brunello di Montalcino Wine: The Origins of Success

 

The Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Originwine is made from a variety of Sangiovese that is locally called by the same name as the wine, i.e. Sangiovese Brunello, but more properly referred to as Sangiovese Grosso. One of the unique characteristics of this wine is the almost total adherence by the wineries to a rigorously traditional method of production. It is almost unheard of to find a Brunello di Montalcino wine that has been aged in barriques for example. Brunello, after a period of fermentation that in most cases is done in stainless steel, ages for the four years required by the rules of production in large oak barrels ranging from 30 to 100 hectoliters.

The cultivation of grapes, in what are today Brunello di Montalcino vineyards, goes back many centuries. The birth of the legendary Brunello di Montalcino wine, the most sought after wine in Italy, can trace its origins to Ferruccio, son of Jacopo Biondi and Caterina Santi (and from here the winery name Biondi-Santi). Upon returning home as a veteran of the Garibaldi military campaign, Biondi-Santi found his family’s vineyards had been attacked by powdery and downy mildew. He decided to dedicate his attentions to the care of a single type of vine: Sangiovese Grosso. He did various experiments and then was able to stabilize his wine by leaving it to rest for 10 years in large oak barrels. In 1888 he presented his wine on the market and it achieved incredible success. The real boom of Brunello however arrived 75 years later when many producers decide to invest in this wine because of notable international success including on the English and American markets. Today the annual production of Brunello di Montalcino has reached 50,000 hectoliters, the equivalent of roughly 6,700,000 bottles.

Brunello di Montalcino vineyards field

Brunello di Montalcino wine has a lively ruby red color with orange reflections. The aroma is full and rich, with a vinosity that envelops and has clear notes of violet and vanilla. In the mouth it is dry, warm, a little tannic, robust, harmonious, and persistent and it can be aged for a very long time, even 20 years or longer.

 

Proper Storage Techniques for Brunello Wine

 

Brunello di Montalcino vineyards wine oak barrels

Coming from the magnificent Brunello di Montalcino vineyards, Brunello is a noble and important wine and as such requires special attention. In order to avoid aiding in the penetration of oxygen, and other harmful events that can occur, the bottles must be stored at a constant humidity and temperature between 16 and 20°C. The bottles must be stored horizontally so that the inside portion of the cork stays moist by maintaining contact with the wine. By doing so, it is possible to avoid the cork drying out and possibly shrinking, which would in turn allow for penetration of oxygen into the wine and lead to deterioration of the wine itself. Bottles must also be kept away from light because it can damage the wine. In the case of wines that are destined for extreme longevity, some wineries in Montalcino periodically organize the ritual of topping up, that requires the opening of the historic vintage bottles in the presence of an official and then the topping up (addition) of wine from that same vintage and the substitution of the corks. This procedure allows the Brunello to reach incredible aging goals, even a hundred years.

Brunello can be wonderfully paired with red meat dishes such as typical stews and braised meats. It is excellent with wild game such as wild boar and venison, perhaps accompanied by mushrooms and truffles. It is optimal with aged or spicy cheeses such as aged tome, Tuscan Pecorino, spicy Gorgonzola and Parmigiano Reggiano. It is also a perfect wine to enjoy during a casual conversation or in quiet moments of reflection.

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