An Italian Wine To Discover: Brunello Di Montalcino
When asked to name Italian wines, most people will for example come up with the full-bodied Tuscan Chianti, the light and fruity Pinot Grigio originating from the Tre Venezie or the sparkling Asti from the Piedmont region. But would they know about the Tuscan Brunello Di Montalcino?
The Brunello is a wine produced solely from the Sangiovese Grosso, a larger-berried variety of the Sangiovese grape. These round and juicy bunches grow exclusively around Montalcino, a beautiful hilltop town in the Siena area, which boasts a fortress that was never conquered. Thanks to being exposed to one of the warmest and driest climates in Tuscany, the Sangiovese grapes often matures up to a week earlier than their fruit counterparts used in the production of Chianti and Montepulciano.
Although the first mentions of the Brunello can be traced back to the 14th century, the wine became well known much later, largely because of the Biondi-Santi family. In the 1870's, Clemente Sianti was already producing the beverage we know today. His grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi then took up the challenge of managing the family estate after coming home from the Garibaldi campaigns. He is the one responsible for developing new winemaking methods, and for taking the Brunello to its more accomplished form. The Biondi-Santi family was still the sole Brunello producer when World War II ended. Today, however, there are over 200 winegrowers, mainly small farms and estates, who proudly have their names attached to one of the first-class wine names in Italy.
The Brunello has been traditionally matured over a long period in large oaks barrels, thus creating a very intricate flavor. More modern methods now call for smaller recipients and a reduced aging period, resulting in a less tannic and more velvety body. Aromas such as blackberry, chocolate, black cherry and violet are often associated with the Brunello. A French "equivalent" would be found in the Burgundy region, namely the Pinot Noir varieties. The strong character of the Brunello makes it the perfect accompaniment for meat and game.
The Brunello wine even recently made the news in a spotlight fashion when freshly re-elected President Obama offered a bottle of this fine Tuscan beverage to House Speaker John Boehner as a birthday gift. Much has been said about whether or not this present, which can be found and bought for around $125 in Washington DC shops, breaks the White House ban on gifts over $50 to members of Congress. As an exception for gifts from friends exists, the 1997 Altero Brunello di Montalcino bottle may however well belong to this category.