Strong red wines from Tuscany
Here’s what you need to know about Brunello di Montalcino
The characterful red wines from the Tuscan village of Montalcino have had a permanent place in the wine world for more than 100 years.
About an hour’s drive south of Siena in Tuscany lies the small Italian village of Montalcino, heart of the famous Italian wine region of Brunello di Montalcino.
Nicholas GreinacherEditor Wine
About an hour’s drive south of Siena in Tuscany lies the small Italian village of Montalcino, heart of the famous Italian wine region of Brunello di Montalcino. From 1865 to the Second World War, there was only one winery owned by the Biondi-Santi family, which bottled the then little-known wines.
Around 250 producers now cultivate 2,100 hectares of vineyards and export between 70 and 80 percent of their wines. After Germany and the USA, Switzerland is the third largest buyer of Brunello di Montalcino in the world. The famous Italian red wines have enjoyed great popularity in this country for generations.
That is behind Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino is exclusively red wine, which must be made 100 percent from the dark grape variety Sangiovese. Incidentally, Sangiovese is the same grape variety that makes up the majority of Chianti wines. The legally permitted maximum yield of 54 hectoliters per hectare is relatively low by Italian standards, which has a positive effect on the concentration and quality of the grapes.
Another feature of Brunello di Montalcino wines is the legally prescribed minimum storage period before the wines are put on the market. Brunello di Montalcino can be sold five years after the harvest from January 1 at the earliest and must have been stored in wooden barrels for at least two years. Riserva wines have to be stored for a year longer before they can be sold.
The relatively low yields in combination with long storage in wooden barrels and bottles ensure powerful, concentrated red wines with a high alcohol content. The aroma profile is characterized by intense sour cherries with high acidity and lots of tannin, which is why the wines are often ideal for further bottle storage. Since the wines have already been stored for several years by the time they are sold, the first notes of aging such as earth, leather or dried spices are often added.
Brunello di Montalcino wines are ideal food companions and go well with truffle risotto, braised wild boar, duck or guinea fowl as well as hearty roast pork or veal. The strong red wines can also compete with strongly spiced, peppery food. Older, smoother wines also pair well with a recent cheese platter. The very best specimens have the potential to mature for several decades.