For this edition of Juicy Details, we continue our conversation about Sangiovese and focus on one of Italy’s greatest wines: Brunello di Montalcino. Few expressions of Sangiovese are more powerful or elegant than Brunello at its best.
Brunello was essentially created by Biondi-Santi in 1888, meaning it is a youngster in the world of wine. Despite its relatively short history, Brunello di Montalcino was the first Italian wine region granted Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita status. Since this designation was made in 1980, the DOCG has seen tremendous growth, increasing in size from 626 hectares of planted vines and 53 producers to nearly 2,000 hectares and roughly 250 producers.
Brunello di Montalcino is the driest region in Tuscany, and benefits from cooling Mediterranean winds that help keep the evenings cool to ensure a long growing season. The northern half of the zone has higher elevations, cooler temperatures and soils with more limestone; the wines from this area are marked by their perfume and elegance. The south has heavier clay-based soils and warmer weather, and the resulting wines are more forward and powerful. Regardless of vineyard locations, Brunello is generally marked by fine robust tannins, ample acidity and copious black fruit flavors. Though it can be stern and angular in its youth, over time the tannins melt away while the fruit stays fresh from the naturally high acidity. In the best vintages, Brunello can age remarkable well-upwards of 30 years.
Brunello di Montalcino must be made from 100% Sangiovese and must be aged for a minimum of 2 years in barrel and 4 months in bottle, and may not be released until the 5th year after the harvest. Riservas need an additional 2 months in bottle, and cannot be sold until 6 years after the harvest.
HDH currently has over 400 bottles of Brunello di Montalcino in stock from over 50 producers, covering 18 vintages from 3 decades. This depth of offering makes exploring this great wine easy! Like many established wine regions, styles range from traditional to modern (and in many cases a blend of the two). Traditionalists age their wines for extended periods in large, old oak casks, while the modernists use new French oak barriques in their repertoire. Standard bearers for traditionally made wines include Biondi-Santi, Lisini, Livio Sassetti and Poggio di Sotto. Producers using modern techniques can be easier to drink in their youth. Examples to look for include those from Siro Pacenti, Casanova di Neri and La Poderina.
In this HDH Blog series, Juicy Details, Senior Consignment Operations Associate, David Larson, delves deeper into the world of wine. Whether he’s discussing soil types of specific vineyards, laws within different appellations, or the weather of a certain region, these fascinating tidbits of knowledge help lift the veil on fine and rare wines and reveal what sets the best wines apart from the rest.