Brunello di Montalcino wine guide: grape, history and organoleptic characteristics
Updated: Jun 19
The king of every Sangiovese wines comes from Montalcino, where it has always called Brunello, hence the name Brunello di Montalcino. Here, in an area famous since ancient times for the sweetness of Moscadello of Montalcino, are produced some of the best, high-quality wines that have become symbols of the Italian enology, real masterpieces sealed in a bottle.
Structured, dense wines full of extract and with impressive tannins, but that five years of aging, six for Brunello Riserva, can tame and transform into one of the finest wine you can sip.
“The characteristic of Brunello is its longevity. Nature is capable of creating beautiful things. You just have to wait.” Franco Biondi Santi (1922-2013)
Montalcino, Val d'Orcia, Siena
History of Brunello di Montalcino
The vineyards around the village of Montalcino have always been giving good red wines, however, it was only in 1800, with the intuition of Clemente Santi, pharmacist of Montalcino with the passion for viticulture, that Brunello came to light.
He was the first to believe in the potential of Sangiovese Grosso grape and making unblended wines with it. He knew that the soil of Montalcino was special, ideal for producing wines of structure with great elegance, which could have withstood decades of aging.
In 1865 the world became aware of his masterpieces and was created the Brunello di Montalcino appellation to protect and regulate its production.
Franco Biondi Santi was the forefather of Brunello. He was a friend of my father and a truly inspirational gentleman of his generation. I will always remember the three conversations I had with him, as young wine student. In particular the one he told me that his Rose should be drank not before then 30 years! Alessandro
The first “modern version” of Brunello di Montalcino dates back to 1888 and by the end of World War II it had already gained the reputation as one of Italy’s rarest wines.
The only commercial producer at that time was the Biondi Santi firm, who with their Riservas 1888 – 1891 – 1925and 1945, proved to the world that Italian wines deserve to be named among the best in the world.
But years were yet to pass before Brunello was recognized as a top-notch wine, and only in the 90s of the last century, thanks to substantial investments even by American families, like Banfi, Brunello became a legend.
Agostino Lippi serving the "Biondi Santi Il Greppo" Brunello at Vinitaly
The most prestigious acknowledgement in recent years has been that of Wine Spectator, one of the world’s most authoritative magazines, which included the Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi Reserve 1955 among the 12 best wines made in the world during the 20th century, the only Italian wine on the list.
Organoleptic characteristics of Brunello di Montalcino
Monte Chiaro SuperTuscan 2013 and a legendary Biondi Santi 2008
This wine convinced us to start a micro production of our own Brunello, from a small plot of vineyards located close to the "Il Greppo".
The grape of the Brunello di Montalcino is exclusively Sangiovese, specifically the local clone, Sangiovese Grosso, so-called because of the thickness of the skin of the bunches, in which are contained the majority of substances that characterize the wine. The maceration is usually long, not less than 20-30 days, to extract tannins, color, and polyphenols, which are then carved by time and oak barrels, where the wine is aged for at least five years.
The bouquet of Brunello di Montalcino is one of those that can drive any wine lover crazy, of such a complexity that represents the Holy Grail of wine. Red fruits preserved in alcohol, complex notes of tea, coffee, earth, and mushrooms are elegantly blended, ethereal, embellished with balsamic returns, with violets that bloom here and there.
Amazing vertical tasting, Biondi Santi Annata 2008, Riserva 2008 and Riserva 2007!
The palate is juicy and structured with fern, graphite and an unmistakable trace that leaves the soil of the hills of Montalcino made of clay, limestone, galestro and alberese, a kind of stone you can find only here. In the mouth is elegant, structured, warm, pushed by a freshness that runs through all the wine, making it unique and polished.
50 shades of Brunello
The best ones are made according to the old way, that respects the characteristics of Sangiovese and let work the microclimate of Montalcino, which takes heat from the sea of Maremma and is protected to the south by the majestic Mount Amiata, thus creating a sort of happy oasis for the vineyards. The recipe for the perfect wine is very simple: low yields per plant, harvest only the best grapes, perfectly ripe, treat them with respect and then long, gentle aging in big casks.
Brunello is a wine for those who can wait: it takes years to fulfill its potential: tannins and acidity must soften their hardness, find balance and become round and mingle to create a magical blend of scents that become more and more ethereal. In recent years, many manufacturers are inclined to produce wines less tannic and more ready for the market, at the expense of the aging potential and complexity.
Montalcino: UNESCO World Heritage!
Located at 564 meters above sea level between the valleys Ombrone in the North-West, Orcia to the South and Asso to the East, Montalcino has an extension of 24,000 hectares (ACRES).
The territory is part of Parco Artistico Naturale e Culturale della Val d'Orcia (http://www.parcodellavaldorcia.com/en/parcob.asp) that since 2005 has been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage and is world famous for its excellent wines, among which the renowned the Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino.
The Abbey of Sant'Antimo is a marvelous architectural complex situated 9 km from Montalcino. According to legend, the Abbey was built on an ancient votive chapel built by Charlemagne in 781 AD, all though the construction is dated in the years between 1000 and 1118.
How to serve the Brunello di Montalcino
We are talking about a precious wine that deserves the place of honor in your cellar. It must rest horizontally at least a couple of weeks before you’ll open, to avoid traumas. Decanting can be made only in two cases: if sediments are present or you’ve uncorked a relatively young Brunello of 10-15 years. You shouldn’t decant bottles of over 20 years, since the bouquet may be ruined: the sudden oxygenation could cause a collapse of the fragile balance of the wine. Serve in large glasses and let it breathe in the glass, calmly. The serving temperature is the classic for red structured wines: 18-20°