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Nov242012

A Brunello always knocks first ...

Brunello di Montalcino is capable of producing Tuscany’s most elegant expression of the Sangiovese grape …and I revel in the perfumed potency of this perfect winter wine … and when I drink it, it takes me back to the hilltop idyll of Montalcino.

A stunning place - if you can forgive them for actually hosting an annual Sagra del Tordo (celebration of the Thrush). Skip the archery contest, and make your way to the 14th century Fortezza’s Enoteca instead. Brunello di Montalcino came to the wine fame game a bit late, but in the past few decades has established itself as the standard for quality, long-lived red wines. Awarded its DOCG status in 1980, Brunello is required to be 100% Sangiovese, with maximum yields of 55 hl/ha. It should be aged for at least 2 years in oak and then at least 4 months in bottle (6 months for Riservas), before being released for sale until five years after harvest (or 6 years for the Riservas).

Traditional producers are still making the sort of intense, concentrated and tannic Brunellos that demand ageing for up to 20 years or more, whilst the more modern producers are attempting "approachable" versions which would only need ten or less years of cellaring. You can guess which style I prefer !

Brunellos can be very expensive, justifiably. If you would like to taste a glimpse of one of the greats, then try a Rosso di Montalcino (same grape, same region) from one of the traditional producers in a good year. Montalcino is in southern Tuscany and its soil types are incredibly varied, imparting an elegance that is lacking in its northern cousins.  

As elegant as a well-made Chianti Classico may be, they can tend to barge-in on you … a Brunello, however, always knocks first.

Today I served with our family lunch of roasted pheasant wrapped in pancetta, grilled brussel sprouts with sea salt and garlic, sweet potato mash, mushrooms stuffed with mozzarella, spinach and pine nuts.

 

Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2006

Incredibly concentrated and elegant due to expert vineyard management (high planting density/old vines/small yields). A recently “tempered” oak programme is producing even more balance and fruit.

 

Piancornello Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2006

Full-bodied, and perfumed with roasted nuts, damp undergrowth, candied cherries, and chocolate. Mature tannins, with a solid backbone and fresh finish. (I got this from Waitrose Wine, I think).

 

 

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