WHENEVER WINE AFICIONADOS talk about Italy’s greatest wines, they are sure to bring up Brunello di Montalcino, often the first and, occasionally, the only one mentioned. A Tuscan wine, it is made solely from Sangiovese Grosso, the grape grown in vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino, 20 miles south of Siena. This super clone of Sangiovese bears large, rich, thick-skinned berries that are brown-shaded — thus, the name Brunello. And it is capable of making bold, flavorful red wines, most of which need years of aging to reach their peak. In fact, Italian wine laws require Brunello di Montalcino be aged five years after harvest before it is released and its riserva six years before being put on the market.
I recently tasted a batch of Brunello di Montalcino wines, all but one from the 2013 vintage and that one, a riserva, from 2012. All offered deep, opulent flavors while their alcohol levels ranged 13.8–14.5 percent, comfortable levels that do not mask a wine’s character the way higher alcohol levels can. The year 2013 was a relatively cool year, giving wines added elegance and moderate alcohol.
Le Chiuse 2013 offers a wine with a deep aroma; a brilliant, intense taste; full body; and lovely, lingering finish.
Medium-blodied Il Palazzone 2013 presents a forward nose and a delicious, heady taste with hints of cherry.
La Magia 2013, an exquisite wine with dark color, emits a luscious nose that has a floral aspect and a generous, rich flavor.
San Polo 2012 Riserva, aged an extra year as a riserva, is everything one would expect of such a wine: a rich, forward, inviting aroma followed by a medium-full body along with a generous, inviting and well-balanced taste. In short, the perfect ending to a Brunello di Montalcino tasting.
With its high quality and long aging period, Brunello does not come cheaply. Its prices range about $50–100.
Expensive? Yes. A long wait? Yes. But one sip will tell you why Brunello di Montalcino is worth both the price and the wait.
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