The Pure Expression of Sangiovese – Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s most revered and prestigious wines, arguably representing the apex of what the Sangiovese grape is capable of. Whether or not it is the best is entirely up to you, but it’s one of those wines every wine lover should know and try.
Montalcino is in southern Tuscany and the denomination is named after the town of the same name. In general, the area is warmer than Chianti Classico and drier, as it is protected from rain by Monte Amiata to the south but, in most years, there is still adequate rainfall for vines to flourish. These conditions allow wines with ripe fruit, full body and high alcohol. The area also benefits from cooling breezes at night from the Mediterranean Sea, helping to preserve acidity. Brunello di Montalcino DOCG must be 100% Sangiovese and requires extended aging: it may not be released until 1 January five years after the harvest, and aging must include two years in oak. However, similar to many other regions, some modernists started to pursue a ‘fruitier’ style in the last few decades including shortening the barrel maturation time and experimenting with French oak barriques.
Brunello’s flavors are greatly influenced by the age of the wine. Young Brunellos are filled with bright, ripe fruit and fresh flower flavors, with very firm tannins. Meanwhile, old Brunello’s flavor profile offers significant changes, revealing notes of dried, candied fruits, nuts, leather, and chocolate, with more refined tannins. This 2015 opens to alluring aromas of fresh blueberry, wild cherry and sweet spice. Smooth and full-bodied yet elegant, the savory, juicy palate delivers similar fruit but also subtle layers of smoke and menthol. The vibrant structure keeps it pulsing through the long, mineral-infused finish – showing fine balance and complexity.
This is the kind of wine that calls for heavier dishes, such as garlic & rosemary grilled lamb chops or game with mushroom sauces. It also can bond well with heavy pasta dishes, stews, and powerful cheeses – just remember to open it well in advance of serving to allow it to breathe.
Grab some meat, start a fire, pour some wine, and the magic begins!