Brunello of Montalcino comes from a Tuscan hilltop town with a history dating to the Middle Ages. Unlike other wines, Brunello is both bold and beautiful.
Hilltops towns are plentiful in Tuscany, a region renowned for its landscape of rolling hills, with Villa’s perched at their highest peak, surrounded by fields of vineyards and clusters of olive groves. It is what makes this part of Italy so beloved; it is natural beauty and heritage has enchanted a bevvy of travellers for centuries. Moreover, that is before even discussing the regions fine wine.
Montalcino is a quintessential Tuscan town: hilltop, medieval and with its most imposing fixture an old fort built in 1361. Nestled 40km south of Siena, between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Apennine Mountains, records of a settlement on this site date back to 814 AD although like most of Tuscany this region is full of Etruscan history. Positioned on the road to Rome from Florence, part of the Via Francigena pilgrim route, it proved a famous town in the Middle Ages. Today, it is a UNESCO world heritage site boasting only 5000 residents including its most famous ‘resident’, Brunello of Montalcino.
Revered by wine connoisseurs around the globe, Brunello of Montalcino has a brassy character and body. Following DOCG regulations created in 1980, it was the first Italian wine to venture into the ‘guaranteed’ appellation following on from the DOC development in Italy since the 1960’s. Part of the Sangiovese family, this robust, thick-skinned berry produces wine in signature Brunello’s style – big, bold, with jammy fruits and high tannins. Grapes are handpicked each harvest to then be aged for a minimum of 5-years to evolve into a smooth and incredibly sensual wine.
So what makes Brunello of Montalcino? Its DOCG regulations insist bottles must contain 100% Sangiovese grapes produced and bottled in Montalcino. Aged for five years, with a minimum of 2 years in oak, the Riserva adds another year to the ageing process before hitting the market. Post-fermentation wine ages in larger ‘botte’ barrels made of Slavonian oak, often housing 2000 litres or more of juice. This more traditional method adds a light wood influence to the fruit flavours of the grapes before bottling. Some producers, however, prefer the more intense effect of using smaller French oak barriques, with 225 litres of wine per barrel, the higher wood to wine ratio adding more tannins and smoothing out what is otherwise a brawny grape. Regardless of traditional versus more contemporary barrel decisions, the time and dedication by Brunello producers into each drop are evident when poured into a drinking glass.
Each February the wine body of the region, Consorzio del Vino Brunello of Montalcino, hosts Benvenuto Brunello presenting to the press the New Year’s latest vintages. In honour of the occasion, a commemorative plaque is placed on the façade of the town hall before the wine tasting begins. This may be an industry invite-only event but fret not! Travellers and wine lovers alike can find tastings and guided tours in the area all year round. The region now boasts more than 200 wine estates with many open to the public to visit vineyards, learn about the wine making process and, most importantly, taste!
Altesino winery produces a very traditional method Brunello of Montalcino and Riserva with their flagship wine, Montosoli, the first label in the region to introduce the concept of Cru back in 1975. Cru takes the most beautiful bunches of fruit from an exceptional selection of vines 380 meters above sea level, the limestone terrain and microclimate in this patch of the estate to the northeast of Montalcino offering a unique environment to develop a rare vintage. In the glass, it is a dark ruby red colour, and hints of black cherry, raspberries and a touch of pink peppercorn on the palate make for the perfect wine for ‘meditation’ a term used to propose sitting and enjoying each sip. Aged for two years in Slovenian oak this Brunello can mature for another 30 years in bottle making it an outstanding wine to enjoy now or in the future. Altesino estate offers guided tours including sampling their estate wines including Brunello of Montalcino and Tuscan sweet wine, Vin Santo, best served with a local saffron biscotti. Find all the details on tours and tastings here.
So, big and bold your thing? Then Brunello of Montalcino is for you. Discover the town, and its award-winning wines, when next in Tuscany.
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