Over the holiday weekend I opened up a terrific bottle of wine to go with our burgers and hot dogs off the grill – Talenti 1999 Brunello di Montalcino. It’s a wine I have pretty good experience with, but also one I haven’t tasted for at least a year or so. Although typically tightly-wound and hard in their youth, Brunello di Montalcino are some of Italy’s most age-worthy wines, and at already 10 years in age, this wine absolutely sung. Full of blackberries, spice and plums, the wine was deep, focused and complex.
Perhaps Tuscany’s greatest red wine, the actual town of Montalcino may be one of the prettiest places on earth. Located 70 miles southwest of Florence, the historic town sits high up a steep set of hills where one can gaze down at the descending vineyards. Brunello di Montalcino must be made 100% from Sangiovese Grosso, a superior clone of Sangiovese, in and around the vineyards surrounding the Tuscan town. Montalcino and those towns neighboring it enjoy warmer, drier air than other regions of Chianti, the open, rolling countryside offering both ideal ventilation and cool nights. These characteristics allow Brunello, translated as “little dark one” because of the grape’s brown hue, to fully ripen and produce the wine’s fuller, richer taste. The current aging requirements, which were updated and lessoned in 1998, dictate that Brunello di Montalcino are to be aged in wood for a minimum of 2 years and at least 4 months in bottle before release. In order to classify as riserva, the wine must spend an additional year maturing in wood.
With the number of individually registered DOCG Brunello di Montalcino wineries steadily increasing over the last decade and now numbering around 230, these often expensive wines can result in drinking disappointment without a little research and trial and error. Some of my “sure-things” are from the following estates: