ROSSO & BRUNELLO di MONTALCINO
Brunello di Montalcino is grown in vineyards surrounding the town of
Montalcino located south of Florence in Tuscany. “Brunello”, a diminutive of “Bruno”, meaning little brown one, is the name that was given to the local clone of Sangiovese.
One of the first records of “Brunello” was a red wine that was made in the Montalcino area in the early 14th century. In 1831, Marchese Cosimo Ridolfi (who was later appointed Prime Minister of Tuscany by the Grand Duke Leopold II) praised the merits of the red wines of Montalcino above all others in Tuscany. In 1865, an agricultural fair in Montalcino noted that the prize winning wine of the event was a “select red wine” known as a Brunello.
By the end of World War II, Brunello di Montalcino had developed a reputation as one of Italy’s rarest wines, with only one producer recorded in government documents. In 1980, the Montalcino region was the first Italian wine region to be awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation. By the turn of the 21st century, there were nearly 200 producers of Brunello di Montalcino, mostly small farmers and family estates, producing nearly 330,000 cases a year.
Montalcino has one of the warmest and driest climates in Tuscany with the grapes in the area ripening up to a week earlier than in nearby Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico.
Compared to the nearly 41,000 acres of planted land in Chianti, Montalcino is a relatively small wine region with around 3,000 acres planted. Vineyards in Montalcino are planted in varied soils: This diversity in terroir contributes to the vast range in quality and potential complexity of Brunello di Montalcino.
Brunello di Montalcino is made 100% from Sangiovese. Traditionally, the wine goes through an extended maceration period where color and flavor are extracted from the skins. Following fermentation the wine is then aged in oak. Traditionally, the wines are aged 3 years or more in “botte” – large Slavonian oak casks that impart little oak flavor and generally produce more austere wines. More and more winemakers will use small French barriques which impart a more pronounced vanilla oak flavor. There is also a middle ground where the wine is aged in small barrique for a short time and then spends a
longer time in the traditional botte.
The Rosso di Montalcino DOC was established in 1984 as a means of giving Brunello di Montalcino producers the flexibility to continue the tradition of long aging of the region’s flagship wine. Rosso di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese grown in the same delineated region as Brunello di Montalcino. However, the wine is required to spend only six months aging in oak and 1 year total aging before release. This allows Brunello producers to make an earlier releasing wine that can generate cash flow while their Brunello di Montalcino age for their complete duration. In less than ideal vintages some producers will relegate all their grapes to Rosso di Montalcino production and not make a Brunello. Wineries can also declassify their Brunello that has already been aging 2–3 years and release it as Rosso di Montalcino if the wine is not developing to their expectations. Rosso di Montalcino is typically lighter, fresher and more approachable upon release though some producers will make wines with more Brunello like characteristics. These “Baby Brunellos” are often 1/3 to 1/2 the price of Brunello di Montalcino.
LINKS TO OUR ROSSO & BRUNELLO di MONTALCINO PRODUCERS & PRODUCTS:IL POGGIONE: Rosso di Montalcino Brunello di Montalcino Brunello di Montalcino Riserva GAJA: Brunello di Montalcino Brunello di Montalcino Rennina Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille CAMIGLIANO: Rosso di Montalcino Brunello di Montalcino ARGIANO: Brunello di Montalcino SALVIONI: Brunello di Montalcino