Wines of Worth : Brunello di Montalcino

WoW - Brunello


Earlier this week Vancouver was whisked away to Tuscany. Or, at least, Vancouver’s palates were. The Brunello di Montalcino World Experience took over the Terminal City Club for a day, exposing trade and consumers to these respected wines. Like the rolling hills of Tuscany, the melodic Italian language, and the glowing, ethereal light of the region, these wines express sense of place. In Montalcino, that expression began in wines with the 1843 harvest, and strengthened until Brunello di Montalcino was given DOC status in 1966 and awarded the first ever DOCG designation in 1980.

Montalcino is a town located approximately 40km south of Siena and 120km from Florence. The ancient Montalcino hill is flanked by vineyards planted mostly to Brunello, a clone of Sangiovese that originated in this area and are unique to the region. The production area is bordered by the Orcia, Asso and Ombrone valleys, creating a nearly circular area covering 60,000 acres. Though highly differentiated soils makes it hard to generalize, the rocky mix of limestone, sand and clay are evident in the structure of the wines. A mild, Mediterranean climate blankets the region, with various microclimates arising via hillsides, slopes and altitudes. The higher altitude and sunny climate contribute to Brunello’s consistent full ripening, resulting in increased body, color, extract and tannins when compared to Sangiovese from elsewhere in Tuscany (like Chianti). Also, unlike the sea of Chianti, production is quite limited, making these regal wines rarer, demand greater and prices higher.

To quality as Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, rigorous standards must be met. The following is taken from the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalicino website:

Production Rules of Brunello di Montalcino

– Production area: The Montalcino Township

– Variety: Sangiovese (also called “Brunello” in Montalcino)

– Maximum yield of grapes: 80 quintals per hectare

– Ratio of grape yield to wine: 68%

– Minimum aging in wood: 2 years in oak. Minimum aging in bottles: 4 months (6 months for the Riserva)

– Colour: intense ruby red tending towards garnet as it ages

– Odour: characteristic intense perfume

– Taste: dry, warm, lightly tannic, robust and harmonious

– Minimum alcohol content: 12.5% Vol.

– Minimum total acidity: 5 g/lt

– Minimum net dry extract: 24 g/lt

– Bottling: can only be done with the production area

– Ready to be sold: 5 years after the year of the harvest (6 years for the Riserva)

– Packaging: Brunello di Montalcino can only be sold if it is in Bordelaise shaped bottles

If you couldn’t ascertain from the above Taste guidelines (ha!), Brunello is hallmarked by elegant black cherry, perfumed wild raspberry, wood, violets and leather. The fragrant florality of the Mediterranean is evident in the glass. These high quality wines are long aged and very long lived, with most not reaching full potential for at least a decade. Youthful Brunello can be a tannic monster, although modern practices in the winery have lessened these beasts, yielding a wine that is drinkable far earlier. Even traditionalists will agree that these wines need to adapt to suit today’s consumers, and while we can (and should) still lie these down for a while, we can also enjoy them today. Pour these with red meats and game, Bolognese sauced pastas and aged cheeses.

Prior to the main tasting room, a select trade group was guided through a lineup of Brunello di Montalcino from the 2008 vintage, a very good (4*) vintage in the area and what we’re starting to see on our shelves now. Certainly the drinkability was noticeable, even from more traditional producers, though the majority would still benefit from a few more years before drinking to allow the tannins to soften. It was lovely to see that the essence of Brunello di Montalcino can be enjoyed without a decade of waiting – certainly a benefit to today’s wine consumers. Here are a few wines from the 2008 vintage that are available in BC or will be soon:


Banfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008
$60-65  14%
This major producer has created a modern wine for the modern consumer – friendly, approachable and crying out for food. Fermentation in hybrid stainless steel/wood tanks adds characteristic wood savouriness while preserving a lot of fresh fruit. Spiced strawberry, plum licorice and bright, tart cranberry liveliness lead to a slightly astringent, herbal finish.

Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalicino DOCG 2008
*$55-60   14%
A subtle perfumed cherry nose hints of well-heeled restraint, and indeed this elegant wine delivered. Notes of forest and undergrowth mingle with red cherry and young raspberry, lifted by bright acidity and fit nicely into a structured frame.

Celestino Pecci Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008
*$54-59  14%+
More modern in style, with black cherry and blackberry, herbal mint, lily and spice. A medicinal anise note throughout, alluring texture and ample brushed tannins to a lengthy toasted vanilla finish.

Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello di Montalicino DOCG 2008
*Approximately $50  14.5%
A lovely and graceful wine, with gentle soft raspberry, wild strawberry, violets. The palate is floral femininity, along with liquorice, wild blackberry and black cherry, Fine grained tannins are a touch powdery now, but this is a wine that will reward in a few years time.


For more on Brunello di Montalcino, visit the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino website – a great resource for the area, production and wines.


DRINKing Guide: How to use our purchasing information.
*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores.


Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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