In Italian the “legs” you see running down your glass when wine tasting are called lacrime or “tears”, and a nice vintage of Brunello di Montalcino (especially a Brunello di Montalcino 2010 vintage!) will certainly bring any wine lover lacrime di gioia – tears of joy! Brunello di Montalcino red wine from Tuscany is one of the most famous wines in the world, and can also be one of the most expensive Tuscan red wines available on the market. For good reason.
Brunello di Montalcino is a DOCG, meaning that it can only be produced in a small area found just outside the Tuscan village Montalcino. Montalcino is located south-west of Siena in the world-renowned Val d’Orcia, famous for its rolling green hills covered in vines. The climate where the grapes used to make Brunello di Montalcino grow is warm and dry compared to the rest of the Tuscany region, so the grapes ripen early in the harvesting season. Although the area where Brunello di Montalcino is produced is small, climate varies a lot, so some have proposed dividing the area into subdivisions to better identify where a particular bottle of Brunello di Montalcino was produced.
Brunello di Montalcino is composed of 100% San Giovese grapes, typically used for the production of most Tuscan red wines including the better known Chianti and Chianti Classico. However, Brunello di Montalcino must be made solely of 100% San Giovese to be called a Brunello. The grapes go through a long maceration period before being aged in oak barrels. The rest is up to the winemaker.
Brunello di Montalcino is generally considered superior to the other Tuscan red wines produced in the surrounding regions including Chianti, Chinati (chianti) Classico, and Nobile di Montepulciano, although it really depends on the drinker’s taste and preference. Sometimes a Nobile di Montepulciano can be just as good if not better when comparing for price as well. The uniformity of the San Giovese grapes in the Montalcino area creates a smooth, tannic flavor that typically carries hints of blackberry, cherry, leather, and dark chocolate.
The depth and body of Brunello di Montalcino make it an excellent wine for pairing with grilled meats or game. The wine ages well, so buy a few bottles and save them for a special occasion when you can pair it with a hearty Florentine meal: crostini toscani di fegatino (chicken liver crostini), fagioli all’uccelletto (Tuscan style beans with tomato), or a Florentine style, thick-cut bistecca Fiorentina.
Fun fact: Brunello di Montalcino was the first Italian wine to obtain the government classification Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita (DOCG) – Denomination of Origin Controlled AND Guaranteed, as opposed to just Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – Denomination of Origin Controlled, in 1980 due to its superior quality. Today there are around 250 cantinas that produce around 6.5 million bottles of this wine per year, many of which are shipped for consumption in restaurants in the United States.