Montalcino is an area at around 500 meters altitude in Tuscany. It is home not only to the DOCG Brunello di Montalcino wine but also to the lighter red DOC wine Rosso di Montalcino and to the white DOC Moscadello di Montalcino that is made from muscat grapes.
The Brunello received its DOCG as the first Italian wine in 1980. The DOCG rules for the Brunello wine means that they must be made from only the Brunello grape variety and that they must be aged for more than 4 months in barrel and at least 2 years in the bottle as well as for a total of at least 4 years before the sale. This means that the youngest wines available at the moment are from 2011. The Montalcino area can be divided into a few different micro-regions where the principal ones are in the middle around the village of Montalcino and to the southeast and southwest.
This debate about clones or not shows opinions that vary over time and today the view is that there are a number of sangiovese clones in the Montalcino area. Six seems to be the agreed number according to Tony Polzer, Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador, who presented a series of Montalcino wines at a tasting in Stockholm recently.
Wines from the sangiovese grape are sometimes compared with wines from pinot noir because it too gives soft tannins and never really dark red colour.
The reason that over the past few decades Brunello di Montalcino has had such a succeeded in positioning itself as one of Italy’s finest wines is a combination of suitable soil (mineral-rich sand and limestone soils) for the sangiovese grape, the altitude and the climate with a certain proximity to the sea. It also has an organization for the more than 200 producers in the region that is working hard with the enforcement of the regulations and with the marketing.
However, there has been a small obstacle on the road when around 2008 there was a scandal when some producers were suspected of having blended wine from other varieties than Brunello into the wine. Some wines were downgraded to IGT and even to table wines (“vino” in today’s Italian classification).
As a result, there was a big debate about whether Brunello di Montalcino should stay as a single variety wine. It was decided to stick to traditions and not to try and imitate the “super Tuscans” or to take other routes in which the various blends might be allowed and instead to focus on its name and its single grape variety and claw back its reputation – which they have succeeded quite well in doing.
On the question of if the four years of ageing is something they would like to shorten to change the vitality and fruit it also appears that they are very tradition-bound and want everything as it has always been to strengthen the brand. Even the modern school of ageing in small barrels instead of the old traditional larger barrels is not much discussed nor is it a direction they are moving, but rather they rely on the old methods with large barrels.
The evening ended with a tasting of seven of the Montalcino region’s many producers:
Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2011
Hints of vanilla and wild berries, velvety, high alcohol and medium tannins after 2 years in Slovenian oak.
Moz Art Wine, Il Paradiso di Frassina, Brunello di Montalcino, 2011
A very peculiar producer who plays Mozart to the grapes. Despite this, or because of this, the wine was a fruity, smooth and a very good brunello after 1 year in small French oak barrels and 2 years in large barrels of Slovenian oak.
La Cerbaiola, Salvioni, Brunello di Montalcino, 2011
A brunello with lots of tannin, high acidity. Aromatic and with a lot of minerality that will need a couple of years of ageing.
Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2011
A crisp but fruity wine with a long aftertaste with 2 years in French oak.
Cupano Brunello di Montalcino 2011
A very pleasant acquaintance, medium tannins with some tobacco and leather. Spicy and balanced after 2 years in oak barrels of which 20% new French oak.
Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino 2011
A taste of berries, some chocolate and round tannins, it is a wine that is nice to drink already now. Aged for 2 years in Slovenian oak.
Uccelliera, Brunello di Montalcino, 2011
Soft tannins and plenty of flavours, with leather, tobacco and dark cherry. Delicious already but can be aged further. Aged 2 years in a mix of Slovenian and French oak.
After a successful evening with a lot of new knowledge and with a pleasant aftertaste of Moz Art Wine from Il Paradiso di Frassina I wandered homeward humming Mozart.
The tasting was led by Tony Polzer, IWA (Vinitaly, Italian Wine Ambassador).
Henrik Stadler writes för BKWine Magazine on wine tastings and wine events in Sweden.
Travel to the world’s wine regions with the wine experts and the wine tour specialist.
Wine tours that brings you to meet with the winemakers. BKWine wine tours.
This post is also available in: Swedish