Wines of Tuscany: Brunello di Montalcino

Wines of Tuscany: Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino

Of all the DOCG wines produced in Tuscany, my favorite is Brunello di Montalcino. Like the other Tuscan wines I’ve discussed in previous articles, this too is Sangiovese-based and produced under strict local and state regulations. The town of Montalcino is about 25 miles south of Siena nestled among rolling hills, wheat fields and of course, vineyards galore! “Brunello” is the local name for the Sangiovese grape grown in this region. 

Town of Montalcino

These grapes are grown under an age-old process that involves excessive pruning to ensure low yield per hectare (10,00 square meters or 2.47 acres). The old adage citing quality above quantity is surely the rule here in these vineyards. Only wine produced in the Montalcino region can be called “Brunello.” The combination of soil, climate and vintner knowledge and experience has made this wine world famous. It is thought the word “Brunello” is derived from the root word “Bruno”, which means “brown.” For many years experts thought that the Brunello grape was a unique variety; however, in 1879 a group of experts pretty much agreed that the grape was actually Sangiovese. Since that time, 100% Sangiovese wines produced in Montalcino have been called Brunello.

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes that have gone through an extended period of maceration to allow flavors and colors to be extracted from the skins. The resulting juice is placed in aged oak casks for fermentation for at least two years. After two years, the wine can remain in the barrel or be bottled. It must also remain in the bottle for a minimum amount of time. Regardless of the bottling, the wine must be held a minimum of five years from the time of harvest. Brunello di Montalcino “Riserva” must be held a minimum of six years before release, including at least six months in the bottle. Exceptional vintage years include those produced from harvests in 2015, 2012, 2006, 2004, 2001, and 1997.

Brunello di Montalcino’s long aging process makes for excellent body and intense ruby and garnet colors. It possesses complex aromas consisting of wild berries, leather, vanilla and wood/oak. This one goes well with fatty cold cuts such as salami and sausage, steak, red meat, and wild boar, as well as hearty ground meat tomato-based pastas. This is not a wine to sit around and sip on a hot summer afternoon! To fully appreciate it, you need to consume it with food. Be sure it is served at cellar temperature (64-68 degrees F) and has had some time to breathe after being uncorked.

Rosso di Montalcino is also a quality wine with DOC status. Produced from the same Brunello grape, it must be aged at least one year with no oak barrel requirements. Some people refer to this as “Baby Brunello”, however, I tend to think of it as an economical alternative to the more expensive Brunello.

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Tours to Italy

Podere Marcampo and vineyards

Interested in sampling a local Brunello? Join us on one of our upcoming tours.

Essence of Italy – A 9-day tour with stops in Rome, the Cinque Terre, Pisa, Volterra, Siena and Florence.

Tour dates:

2018: September 16-24, October 14-22.

2019: April 7-15, May 5-13, June 30-July 8, September 22-30

Best of Italy – A 13-day tour. All the destinations of the Essence of Italy, plus Venice, Lake Como and Milan.

Tour dates:

2018: September 16-29, October 14-27.

2019: April 7-20, May 5-18, June 30-July 13, September 22-October 5

Tuscany Villa Vacation – Enjoy a relaxing stay in a Tuscan villa with day trips to Volterra, Siena, San Gimignano and Lucca. Begin and end your tour in Florence.  

Tour dates:

2019: May 24-June 2, September 13-22



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