The History of Montalcino Wine
Brunello di Montalcino is a DOCG red wine. It is made only from grapes grown within the administrative boundary of the Municipality of Montalcino in the Province of Siena in Southeastern Tuscany. The Ombrone, Asso, and Orcia Rivers run through the wine region which covers about 243.62 square kilometers.
Montalcino’s Geographical Characteristics
The Montalcino Hill contains a variety of soil types, ranging from sandstone to a combination of limestone, alberese, and marl along with sandy and clay-filled soil. Due to its location between the sea and the central Apennines Mountains, it has a Mediterranean climate with some continental features.
It is often windy, helping discourage mildew growth on the vines. Temperatures are mild during the vine’s growing phase, and the days are typically calm, which is a perfect environment for outstanding grape quality. Spring and fall is the rainiest time of year, although the area doesn’t receive much rainfall and is considered the driest region in Tuscany.
Montalcino Wine’s Origins
Montalcino has been producing great wines for centuries, including during the legendary siege of Montalcino in 1553. Moscatello, a sweet white wine recognized at the Universal Exposition of Paris in 1967, was the most well-known and prized wine in the area until the second part of the nineteenth century.
With the onset of phylloxera and oidium, which destroyed many of the vineyards, Ferruccio Biondi Santi, Clemente Santi’s grandson, began to research the local clone of the famous Sangiovese grape variety used to make Brunello di Montalcino. The local clone was known as Brunello because of the exceptionally dark color of the grapes. His work and study yielded the Sangiovese Grosso variety, which is still used to make Brunello di Montalcino today.
How did Montalcino Wine Become so Popular?
Despite several accolades and recognitions, Brunello was mostly only recognized and valued in the surrounding area for many years, partly due to its high prices. The hardships of the early twentieth century set in motion a reduction in winemaking to the point where only a few growers continued to produce between the two World Wars.
After WWII, however, winemaking resumed, and some producers had the foresight to agree on production guidelines for Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello di Montalcino grew in popularity throughout Italy and then internationally after 1950.
Properties of the Wine
Brunello di Montalcino is a ruby-colored wine with a distinct and powerful scent. It’s dry, toasty, tannic, robust, well-balanced, and leaves a lingering taste. Due to its attributes, Brunello di Montalcino may age well and improve over time. The wine’s elegance and harmonic body make it an ideal match for structured foods such as wild game, red meats, and even mushrooms and truffles.
Brunello is best served around 65 degrees Fahrenheit to bring out the complex and harmonious smells.
Brunello di Montalcino Requirements
Brunello must be aged for at least five years, at least two of which must be in oak barrels before being sold. To make a Riserva version of Brunello di Montalcino it must be aged at least 6 years. The vinification, aging, bottling, and bottle-aging must all be completed within the region of Montalcino.
On this Day
1553 – There was a legendary siege of Montalcino, but the production of great wines in Montalcino continued.
1967 – Moscatello, a sweet white wine, was recognized at the Universal Exposition of Paris. It was the most well-known and prized wine in Montalcino until the second part of the nineteenth century.
1950 – Brunello di Montalcino became known internationally.
Want to learn more? Try out these books!
For Reference and Further Study:
Kerin O’Keefe Brunello di Montalcino. Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines University of California Press 2012 ISBN 0-520-26564-5
Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines Hardcover – Illustrated, Kerin O’Keefe, April 18, 2012