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Ruby red, elegant, velvety, complex, finely honed, and yet powerful and generous. Wines from Brunello di Montalcino have the breadth and depth to captivate most wine lovers. In fact, it is the first wine region to be granted the highest appellation quality level - DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).

In Tuscany, Sangiovese is the most widely used grape varietal. Most wine lovers have heard of wines from Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and the “Super Tuscan”. Sangiovese is present in all these wines, but with very different extent, thus leading to their different characteristics. Brunello, very similar to Burgundy in this case, is 100% pure Sangiovese. Chianti Classico is required by law to have a minimum of 80% Sangiovese. In the case of those “Super Tuscan” (IGT Tuscany), the producers can choose to blend any grapes and any percentage with Sangiovese.

Brunello di Montalcino had already achieved the recognition as Italy’s rarest wines by the end of World War II. The only commercial producer that had public record of producing Brunellos prior to WWII was Biondi-Santi. The prestige and high-price of Biondi-Santi’s Brunellos naturally attracted other winemakers to begin planting in Brunello. By 1980, the year when Brunello di Montalcino earned its DOCG status, there were 53 producers. Currently, there are more than 220 producers in the area.

While Brunellos enjoy such high prestige so early in history (the Super Tuscans didn’t “revolutionize” and gain reputation until the 1970s), producers in Brunello are also bounded by probably the most stringent bottling requirement in all of Italy’s wine regions given the prestige. Brunello wines can only be released to the market 50 months after harvest (and add 1 more year for the riserva). Brunello wines need to be aged minimum 2 years in oak and 4 months in bottle. Essentially, the producers have done almost all the cellar work for us, so that we do not need to wait too much longer to enjoy a nice glass of Brunello!

That is a very tough requirement on the producers in terms of capital and cashflow. So, a more casual version – Rosso di Montalcino – is also allowed beginning in 1984. Rosso di Montalcino wines only need to spend 6 months in oak, 1 year in total aging prior to release. If producers do not like the result of their Brunello as they develop, they can choose to declassify them and sell as Rosso instead. As a result these “Baby Brunellos” are usually just a fraction of the price of their big brothers and are lighter, fresher and more approachable upon immediate release.

In our current selection, we are featuring Castello Banfi – one of the most recognized winemaker in Tuscany, particularly for their superb Brunellos. Madam Banfi was a legendary historical figure. Not only did she have superb wine knowledge and help build this estate, she was the first woman to take on the role as the head of the household staffs of the Pope. Poggio all’Oro, their best Brunello riservas, literally means “golden slope” (what a coincidence with the Cote d’Or in Burgundy). 1999 is the second best vintage in 1990s (only after 1997). Together with Banfi and its best vineyard, quality is almost a guarantee here!

Pick it up and give it a good try now… This Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Poggio all’Oro 1999 will bring you to the wonderland of Brunello di Montalcino.

 

 

Written by Wine Monopole — March 26, 2013

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