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Wines from Italy's Tuscany Region: Brunello di Montalcino

While Italy's Chianti wines have been famous for centuries, another great red wine from the Tuscany region, Brunello di Montalcino, exploded on the international scene much more recently, when the Biondi-Santi family, a leading producer, presented some of its oldest wines to writers. Their 1888 and 1891 vintages were still in excellent shape.

Today, Brunello di Montalcino, a DOCG wine, is considered one of the greatest, long-lived red wines in existence. It has a price-tag to match: $45 to over $200 a bottle (for wines by the producer Soldera).

Here are some more facts about Tuscany's Brunello di Montalcino wine:

  • The wine is named for the town of Montalcino, a walled fortress town that is south of the Chianti zone.

  • Brunello di Montalcino comes from a particular clone, or strain, of Sangiovese, the grape of Chianti.

  • It’s an intensely concentrated, tannic wine that demands aging (up to 20 years) when traditionally made, and benefits from several hours of aeration before serving.

  • The largest producer of Brunello di Montalcino is actually an American family — the Mariani family of Long Island, NY. In 1978, they established Castello Banfi in the southern part of the Montalcino zone, and today they are leaders in research into the grapes and terroirs of Montalcino.

Lately, some producers in Montalcino have been making a more approachable style of Brunello. Rosso di Montalcino is a less expensive ($23 to $30), readier-to-drink wine made from the same grape and grown in the same production area as Brunello di Montalcino. Rosso di Montalcino from a good Brunello producer is a great value, offering you a glimpse of Brunello’s majesty without breaking the bank.

Traditional winemakers, such as Biondi-Santi, Soldera, Costanti, Canalicchio di Sopra, and Pertimali, make wines that need at least 15 to 20 years of aging in good vintages (2001, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1990, 1988, 1985, and 1975 are recent great vintages for Brunello). Brunellos from avowed modern-style producers, such as Caparzo, Altesino, and Col d’Orcia, can be enjoyed in ten years. Younger than ten years — drink Rosso di Montalcino.

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