Spotlight on Brunello di Montalcino

February 28th 2019

At Goedhuis & Co we have witnessed a tremendous upsurge in the demand for Tuscan wine over the last decade. Primarily led by the prolific ‘Super Tuscans’, Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Masseto from Bolgheri on the west coast, the knock on effect has been felt by many of the key historical wine growing areas further inland, notably the hilltop town of Montalcino to the south of Siena. The increase in demand for Brunello di Montalcino has been assisted by a terrific run of high quality vintages since 2010 which have also offered exceptional value.

In my mind, Brunello di Montalcino has always been the standard bearer for quality Tuscan winemaking. At its very best it is wine that is almost impossible not to enjoy. My first experience of Brunello was mind blowing – Giulio Salvioni’s 2004 – a wine of such polish and refinement that completely changed my perception of the level of quality that is attainable in this area of Italy.

As breathtakingly beautiful as its wines, the medieval town of Montalcino itself sits at an altitude of around 450 metres with its vineyards surrounding it between altitudes of 600m at the highest point, to 250m lower down. As with regions such as Piemonte and Burgundy in particular, soil structure and microclimate play a pivotally important role in determining the style of each producer. On the upper slopes, wineries with a more northerly facing aspect, such as the famous Biondi Santi at Il Greppo, enjoy far cooler conditions which slow down the growth cycle and can be extremely beneficial in warmer years (of which there are many in this area of Tuscany). In contrast to this the wineries at lower altitudes, such as Argiano or Banfi on warmer, sandier soils can often harvest a full two weeks earlier. Consequently the wines here tend to be more open knit, with less restraint and enjoyable earlier.

canalicchio-di-sopra

Because of the differences in altitude, soil and vineyard location each producer’s style can vary greatly. This tremendous diversity I find intriguing and it has cultivated a real passion of mine for the wines of Montalcino. What I find so refreshing about this particular enclave of Italy is that the wines are  bought and enjoyed, which is often in stark contrast to many of their Bordelais and Burgundian counterparts that are so often purchased speculatively and perhaps actually enjoyed less frequently.

A Brunello (annata) can only be released after a combined minimum of four years of maturation in barrel and bottle, therefore by its very nature, is in many cases ready to enjoy upon arrival. Brunello, however, also has the potential to age brilliantly. If you are ever fortunate enough to sample some of the leading wines from 1955, 1964, 1970 & 1971 for instance, you’ll soon realise that the Sangiovese grape can possess extraordinary longevity when placed in the most skillful hands.

In my mind Brunello simply ticks so many boxes. In great vintages there is very little that can compete and for anyone seeking value, quality these are wonderful wines to savour.

cellar-poggio-di-sotto

Recent vintages

2015
A warm and opulent five star vintage. Powerfully structured wines that are rich and structured. Expect them to age for 20 years +. The best vintage since 2010 and one to seek out for the cellar. We expect significant demand for these when they are released in February/March 2020.

2014
A challenging year climatically across much of the region. However borne out of adversity there are some far better wines than previously envisaged. The overall characteristic is one of purity, prettiness and elegance rather than raw power and concentration. The wines are supple and will be lovely early drinkers.

2013
Taut and super sleek. The 2013 are refined with plenty of cool climate style coupled with excellent ageing potential. There are some tremendous wines which display many of the hallmarks of 2010 but are a notch behind when it comes to overall consistency.

2012
The second of back to back extremely warm growing seasons that really tested the vines’ ability to cope with heat stress. The cooler located northerly growers will ultimately fare better due to the diurnal shift between hot days and cooler evenings. There are some excellent wines for the mid term.

2011
A vintage of highs and lows due to the heat of the vintage. The better wines are open knit, racy and very easy on the palate. Again the northerly growers coped better with the extreme conditions particularly throughout the summer months.

2010
Five star vintage. A superb year across the board. Wonderfully balanced wines with expressive aromatics, layered fruit, and fine silky tannins. The best are super-pure and are very representative of their individual locations. A benchmark classic.

Older vintages that are worth seeking out:  2006, 2004, 2001 & 1990

sesti-brunello-2013

The Top Growers

Of the 200 + growers of Brunello di Montalcino the following 14 are ones that we particularly seek out year on year offering consistently the highest level of quality to our clients.

– Argiano
– Biondi Santi
– Canalicchio di Sopra
– Il Colle
– Conti Costanti
– La Cerbaiona
– Fuligni
– Lisini
– Poggio di Sotto
– Il Poggione
– Salvioni
– Salicutti
– Sesti
– Soldera

Sesti_2

Production of Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino was awarded the leading classification, DOCG, in 1980 and there are a strict set of rules that govern its production:

– Production of Brunello di Montalcino must take place within the historical borders of the Municipality of Montalcino

– The only permissible grape variety is Sangiovese (also known locally as ‘Brunello’)

– Each new release of Brunello must have spent a combined total of four years ageing in wooden barrels (minimum of 2 years) and bottle (minimum of 4 months) prior to its release onto the market the following January.

– Brunello di Montalcino can only be sold if it is in Bordeaux shaped bottles

brunello-di-montalcino-bottle-il-poggione

Restaurants in Montalcino

We visit Montalcino several times each year and are always seeking out top places to dine! Avoiding the more touristy restaurants in the centre of Montalcino, below are two outstanding choices that are a little bit more off the beaten track, located in the stunning village of Sant’Angelo Il Colle (about 15 mins from Montalcino). The wine lists of both are extensive featuring representations from most of the top growers across a broad selection of mature vintages with outstanding local cuisine to match. These are two that we return to again and again. Book well in advance.

Il Leccio, Sant’Angelo in Colle £££

Trattoria Il Pozzo, Sant Angelo in Colle £££