Brunello di Montalcino is an Italian red wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the picturesque town of Montalcino located 30km south of Siena in the Tuscany wine region. Brunello di Montalcino is working hard to be recognised as one of the most prestigious of all Italian wines.
The wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown in Montalcino. Brunello translates roughly as 'little dark one', the local name for Sangiovese Grosso, the ‘large-berried’ form of Sangiovese which grows well around the hilltop town of Montalcino.
In 1879 the Province of Siena's Amphelographic Commission determined, that Sangiovese and Brunello were the same grape variety, and that the former should be its designated name.
In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino was awarded the first Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation and today is one of Italy's best-known and most expensive wines.
The success and style of wine that we know and enjoy today, a great deal of the credit needs to go to Ferruccio Biondi-Santi - a soldier of the Garibaldi campaigns. He saw the benefit of vinifying the Sangiovese grapes separately from other varieties. As at the time it was common practice to co-ferment different clones as well as both red and white grape varieties together in many parts of Tuscany. The wines were then aged for quite some time in barrel, for some wines this was 10 years or more, though the wines retained their freshness and vibrancy on the palate. Today there are almost 200 small winemakers and estates producing high-quality interpretations of this red wine.
Brunello's DOCG classifications request vineyards must be planted on hills with a good aspect, at altitudes not exceeding 600m. This limit in altitude is intended to ensure the grapes reach physiological ripeness and flavour; any higher and the meso-climate becomes unreliable. The climate in Montalcino is fortunately one of the warmest and driest in Tuscany, so achieving ripeness is seldom a problem for the grape growers of Brunello.
By law a Brunello di Montalcino, must be crafted from 100% Sangiovese and aged for at least four years and for a ‘riserva’ style wine five years. The wine must spend at least two years in oak barrels, and then rest in the bottle for another four months prior to being released onto the market. The elegance and structure of these wines - resulting from these strict laws - creates wines with a brilliant bouquet of dark berries with dried spices, leather and violet notes, and the finest wines showing hints of earthiness and a full and balanced finish that lingers.