A Brunello For All Seasons

IMG_3551One of Italy’s big B wines (Brunello, Barolo, Barbaresco, maybe even Bolgheri) that command universal respect, Brunello di Montalcino is perhaps the most exquisite expression of that versatile grape Sangiovese. Of course in this area of Tuscany, the grape itself is called Brunello, whereas in nearby Montepulciano, it goes by the name of Prugnolo Gentile! Brunello is 100% Sangiovese.

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Maps always help me understand an area! Call me old-fashioned!

When I became a sommelier, I was interrogated on my oral exam about Brunello. Where exactly does it grow? Is this a trick question? I thought. Um, Montalcino? And where else? the question continued. That was the trick question: it ONLY grows in Montalcino. But Montalcino widened its borders in 2017, to include the nearby San Giovanni d’Asso, which is now also Brunello territory.

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At Querce Bettina, olive groves and vineyards at sunset

I’ve been to Montalcino many times in the last year or so, and wanted to share some of my memories of tastings and photos with the readers of Italian Grapevine. Not always do I post when I’m gallivanting about. Here, two very different moments in the center of Montalcino: bottom left, a summer Sunday, bottom right, a cool fall day at Caffé Fiaschetteria Italiana 1888.

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One of Italy’s most important DOCG wines, Brunello comes out after 5 years in the cellar and it’s meant to age. The Consorzio is not shy about rating its vintages: just so you know what’s what, they put a plaque up on the town hall to remind you of the most outstanding ones.

There are over 200 producers of this prestigious wine, and I must admit, I’m always reluctant to pronounce myself on the heavy hitters: those are the wines everyone else is talking about. But how can you talk about Brunello and not mention Biondi-Santi, the Tuscan nobleman who is credited with ‘inventing’ Brunello di Montalcino?

At Casato Prime Donne (left) and chatting with Michele Moscato at Le Potazzine (right)

Whether in the cellar or talking and learning about wine, it is delightful to be around the great vintages. And remember, good wine doesn’t grow in ugly places, as the photos below attest to!

Hard work goes into every bottle, as Casato Prime Donne demonstrates!

My visit to Le Potazzine late last winter gave me a view onto a small producer’s world. This mother and two daughters team reveals all the passion, elegance and determination that go into a bottle. They also have a lovely restaurant in the center of Montalcino.

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A small production, a few products – all three are in the photo! –  but top quality. That’s the name of the game in Montalcino.

 

 

Let’s face it, Tuscany has made its name on beauty and every time I go there, I feel like I’ve fallen into a movie set.

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My kind of car! The classic Fiat 500!

 

 

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