If I had to describe Montalcino in three words, I would choose uniqueness, history and tradition. The Brunello di Montalcino wine zone is one of Tuscany’s most famous terroirs, and it makes top quality wines. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
The history of Brunello
The picturesque village of Montalcino and its green hills were popular already by the 17th century for the production of a sweet white wine known for its pleasant and delicate flavor (the forerunner of the current Moscadello). In the 18th century, Ferruccio Biondi Santi, a fierce and stubborn Garibaldian soldier, first produced a red: the Brunello di Montalcino using Sangiovese, a red-berried grape that was very common in central Italy. Specifically, he used the local variety of Sangiovese Grosso known for the thickness of the peel, which contained most of the substances that characterized the wine.
For years, Brunello di Montalcino remained a wine enjoyed only by enthusiasts. During the 1950s, local producers began to understand its great potential, leading to the DOC status that was confirmed on March 28, 1966. A year later, in April 1967, the Consorzio of Brunello di Montalcino (an association of local producers) was founded in order to control and protect its production and spread knowledge about Brunello across Italy and the world. Each year this association organizes Benvenuto Brunello – an unmissable event in which journalists and enthusiasts from all over the world take part in the tasting of new vintages.
Brunello di Montalcino: one of the world’s greatest red wines
Brunello di Montalcino is one of the world’s greatest red wines and it is always included on the wine lists of major restaurants. The times when this nectar was sold in bulk are long gone: today the price of a bottle starts as low as 30 euros and can go all the way up 5,000 euros, believe it or not! On the other hand, a lot of wine bars and restaurants offer a glass of Brunello at reasonable prices, allowing customers and enthusiasts to get an idea of the different terroirs and nuances of the taste. Like every important wine-producing region, there exists a very distinct division of the area in which the grapes are grown.
What does Brunello taste like?
The production area of Brunello di Montalcino is divided into four main slopes that influence the outcome of the vintage:
- North: Due to its location in the middle of the European continental climate, the north wind lowers the temperature significantly, with drastic differences between night and day. The soil is fertile and richer that any other slope. The Brunello made in this area is more fragrant than others, and has a very robust body.
- West: northwest wind carries the sea breeze that gives grapes a salty essence. The soil here is rough and stony and mixed with clay. The wine is rich and very recognizable, with more flavorful final notes.
- South: Its basin form allows for shelter from winds. The average temperature is high. It rains rarely, the soil is more permeable, hard to cultivate but rich in minerals and limestone. Here the rustic tones of the vines are fully accentuated. The Brunello produced on this slope will have a more marked alcoholic component.
- East: This slope faces Mount Amiata which reaches the highest altitudes. The soil is mixed with clay and sand. The wine produced here has a slimmer body but with deeper characteristics.
Brunello di Montalcino: where to start?
Want to start exploring the area of Montalcino? The best thing to do is visit in person. I like to call this place a “magic circle” because there is everything you need for a good life: silence, landscapes, great wines, delicious food and amazing people. If you can’t travel right now, let’s start by tasting a good glass of Brunello that encloses the beauty of the area. Where to start? With Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Landi and Brunello di Montalcino Podere Brizio, you can taste two Brunellos produced facing two different directions, yet with the same production method, proving the influence of terroir on wine.