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Region: Montalcino (Brunello di Montalcino)

Notable Wineries: Valdicava, Poggio Antico, Il Poggione

Red Wine
Whereas Chianti enjoys a legacy dating back centuries, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG—the most powerful expression of Sangiovese in Tuscany—has only recently achieved its status as one of Italy’s most profound wines. History credits Clemente Santi of Tenuta Greppo’s Biondi-Santi with the invention of the Brunello style, as the producer was the first to isolate the Brunello clone and bottle it alone in 1865. Biondi-Santi’s reputation and the style were immortalized shortly thereafter, with the release of the Brunello Riserva 1888. However, production remained minute even through the 1970s, and only recently has Brunello truly captured the public imagination. The nearly square hill of Montalcino, which overlaps Chianti Senesi in the province of Siena, is in the southern reaches of Tuscany, and encompasses 24,000 hectares—although only around 5,000 acres are authorized and planted for Brunello. Brunello di Montalcino is produced from 100% Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello), and aged in cask for a minimum two years and bottle for an additional four months—six months for riserva. The wine may not be released until January 1st of the fifth year following harvest, or until the sixth year for riserva bottlings. Soil is varied in Montalcino, with galestro characterizing the higher-altitude vineyards. Clay is predominant in the warmer southern reaches of the zone, and fossilized marine deposits are scattered throughout Montalcino.

Montalcino’s frazioni (suburbs, or sub-communes) of Sant Angelo in Colle, Castelnuovo Abate and Torrenieri provide distinctions in the corresponding wines, but the individual winemaking techniques of each producer are of greater importance for the determination of the final style. Brunello is stronger, with more alcohol, extract and tannin, than Chianti. It can be so hard and unforgiving as to be nearly unapproachable upon release, leading some producers—Casanova di Neri, Mastrojanni—toward small barrels and shorter macerations, in the hope of rounding and fleshing out the wine. Others, such as Biondi-Santi, Talenti, and Soldera, remain more traditional in their approach.

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