Brunello di Montalcino, otherwise known as Brunello, is a wine made in vineyards surrounding the town Of Montalcino in the Tuscany wine region, in Italy. It is made using the Brunello clone of the sangiovese grape, which is a classic grape of Italy. Brunello wines are aged in oak and often need to age for quite a while to release there tannins. These wines are known to be some of the best produced in Italy.
Brunello di Montalcino is made from the Sangiovese grape. 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 bottle”-large Slavonian oak casks that impart little oak flavor and generally produce more austere wines. Some winemakers will use small French barrique which impart a more pronounced vanilla oak flavor and add a certain fruitiness to the wine. There is a middle ground where the wine is aged in small barrique for a short time and then spends a longer sojourn in the traditional bottle.
Brunello was first mentioned back in the early 14th century, with the first “modern version” of the wine being produced in the 1870's by a gentleman named Ferrucio Biondi-Santi. Pre 1870s it was common practice for winemakers in the Tuscany area to co-ferment all the different varieties of grapes together. Biondi-Santi vinified his Sangiovese grapes separately to produce pure high quality Sangiovese. He did away with the second fermentation, which was commonly used at the time, and aged the wine in wooden barrels for up to ten years. Even though they were aged for so long the wines he produced were found to have a certain “freshness” being more lively and fruity, than other wines of the region.
By the end of world war II his Brunello wines had gained a reputation as one of the best wines produced in Italy. This reputation led to other wine makers in the area turning to his method of production and by 1960 there were at least 11 wine makers in the area producing Brunello. Today there are some 200 winemakers in the area producing this high quality wine.
Brunello was the first wine in Italy to receive DOCG status in 1980. Under this DOCG Brunello is tightly regulated. The wine must be aged for at least 4 years, with 2 of these years being in oak. To insure the grapes reach the correct ripeness and flavor, the Sangiovese vines used to produce Brunello can only be grown at altitudes of less than 1968ft, and must be planted on hills with good exposure.
The Montalcino region is the most arid of the Tuscan DOCG's receiving an annual rainfall of only around 700mm. In the south, the soils tend mainly consist of clay, while in the north the soils tend to be Galestro soils which are cooler and drier.
Grapes grown on the Northern slopes tend to receive less sunlight than those on the Southern slopes. The extra sunlight on the Southern slopes helps ripen the grapes earlier and produces wines with more complexity and power, while the Northern slopes produce racier and more aromatic wines.
Brunello wines tend to be dry with high tannins and a robust finish. Many have flavors of spices and tobacco leaf and even light vanilla. These wines pair well with cheese, game and red meats.