Brunello Wine: Montalcino Excellence
The production area designated by the DOCG Brunello di Montalcino is limited to the municipality of Montalcino, in the province of Siena, an area that is therefore very well delineated.
The presence of Mount Amiata (height m.1740) in the south-eastern corner allows for the protection of the vines from important atmospheric events such as hail and rain storms. Up in the hills, where most of the wineries are located, it is unlikely to encounter problems with fog, freezes, or late frosts that are more likely to occur in the valleys. While instead the frequent presence of wind guarantees the best conditions for the health of the plants. During the entire vegetative phase of the vines the weather is mostly mild, with a prevalence of clear and sunny days that ensure the gradual and complete ripening of the grape bunches.
The History of Brunello Wine
The cultivation of grape vines in the Montalcino countryside dates back many centuries, but the birth of the legendary Brunello di Montalcino, the most sought-after wine in Italy, has a precise date and name: Jacopo Biondi, Ferruccio, son of Caterina Santi (from where the famous winery Biondi-Santi gets its name). Biondi was a veteran of the Garibaldi military campaign, who upon his return home found that the family vineyards had been attacked by powdery and downy mildew. He therefore decided to dedicate himself to growing only one type of vine: Sangiovese Grosso. He did various experiments, finally coming up with the perfect way to create his wine, leaving it to age for 10 years in large oak barrels. In 1888 he brought his wine to market with overwhelming success.
The true popularity of Brunello however arrived three quarters of a century later when many producers decided to invest in this wine and it gained a noteworthy success on the international market (English and American among them). Today the annual production of Brunello di Montalcino reaches 50,000 hl, which is equivalent to roughly 6,700,000 bottles.
Characteristics and Conservation of Brunello Wine
The Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) wine is obtained from a variety of Sangiovese that locally is often called just like the wine, Sangiovese Brunello, but is more widely known as Sangiovese Grosso. One of the characteristics of this wine is the almost total adherence by all the wineries to a strictly traditional method of production. It is very difficult, actually extremely rare, to find a Brunello di Montalcino aged in barriques. After fermentation, which in most cases occurs in stainless steel, Brunello wine spends the required four years of aging in large oak barrels from 30 to 100 hectoliters. After bottling it is sold in stores, restaurants, and in online shops.
Brunello di Montalcino is a wine that has a lively ruby red color with a hint of orange. The aroma is ample and rich with enveloping vinosity and clear notes of violet and vanilla. To taste, it is dry, warm, a little tannic, robust, harmonious and persistent. Brunello can be aged for a very long time, 20 years or even much longer. Brunello di Montalcino is a noble and important wine and as such requires a high level of attention and care. For instance, the bottles should be stored in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, staying between 16° and 20°C, to avoid aiding the penetration of oxygen and other harmful events. The bottles should be stored horizontally to ensure that the inside portion of the cork remains in contact with the wine to maintain moisture.
By storing in this manner it is possible to avoid the cork drying out, an event which can lead to deterioration of the wine because of cork shrinkage and consequently possible penetration of oxygen. The bottles also need to be kept away from light, which tends to damage the wine. In order to allow specific wines to attain extreme longevity, some wineries periodically organize the ritual of topping up, which requires the opening of bottles containing historic vintages in front of an official, then the addition or topping up of wine from the same vintage, and finally the substitution of the old corks with new corks. This procedure permits the Brunello to continue aging correctly, in some cases even for a hundred years.
Brunello can be perfectly paired with red meat dishes such as various types of typical Tuscan stews and braised meats. It is also excellent served with wild game such as wild boar and venison and alongside mushrooms and truffles. Brunello is wonderful with aged cheeses, even strong or sharp ones such as aged tome, Tuscan Pecorino, Gorgonzola, and Parmigiano Reggiano. It is also an excellent wine for conversing and for moments of reflection. Find out more about Brunello wine here!