Brunello di Montalcino DOCG dates from 1980 and was Italy’s first DOCG. Brunello is the senior of the two 100% Sangiovese red wines made in the commune of Montalcino in Tuscany, the other being Rosso di Montalcino DOC. Brunello is the name given to the Sangiovese grape here. The first wines were made here in the mid-19th century, from a dark berried biotype of Sangiovese which was called ‘Brunello’ or ‘the little dark one’ by locals.
When Brunello di Montalcino was first elevated to DOC status in 1966 the wine was made with an obligatory ageing period of four years. Over the next 10 years the production rules for Brunello evolved, beginning with the elimination of 0-10% of other grape varieties and/or wines from outside the region (which had been allowed to help Brunello wines survive the then mandatory four year long ageing period). Co-created with the Brunello di Montalcino DOC was what is now the Rosso di Montalcino DOC whose less stringent ageing requirements (aging in oak is optional) aimed to provide Brunello producers with wines for earlier sale and thus quicker cashflow.
Winemaking: Stefano Cinelli Colombini says that climate change has brought earlier harvests, with grapes now arriving in wineries in September rather than in October, and are therefore also much warmer. He suggests there is a greater need for cold maceration [which he uses]. Global warming it seems is the reason why the consorzio proposed new winemaking rules from 2015. A rise of 2 grammes per litre minimal extract was ordered for both Rosso and Brunello, from 22 to 24 and 24 to 26 g/l respectively, coupled with a lowering of minimum total acidity from 5.0g/l to 4.5g/l for Rosso (levels for Brunello remain unchanged).
Ageing rules for Brunello: Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva wines must age for four or five years respectively (including 4 months in bottle) before they are released, with the year of harvest counting as the full first year. Wines must spend a minimum of 24 months in oak (barrels, tonneaux, botti). Until 1996 the rules for Brunello stipulated the wood be either oak or chestnut and in the form of large wooden vats or botti rather than smaller barriques or tonneaux of 225- and 500-litres respectively. From 1996 producers could decide which type and size of wood they used. This opened the door to ageing Brunello in 225-litre Bordeaux- and California-style French (or even American) oak barrels. From 1998 the period for which the wines had to stay in wood was also reduced from 36 to the current 24 months, to prevent wines aged only in small barrels for the entire for 36 month period from drying out.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG wines can be released from 01 January of the fifth year after harvest, or the sixth year in the case of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva. As an example this means that the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and 2012 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva wines could be released from 01st January 2018. Brunello producers who opt out of the four-year ageing requirement can declare their wine as Rosso di Montalcino DOC instead and release this from the 01st of September in the year following the harvest. Some argue that these ageing rules are outdated in an era of climate change and improved viticultural and winemaking practices which have helped producers create wines which are less austere and more obviously fruity much sooner in their life cycles.
Single vineyard Brunellos
No certification: Altesino’s Montosoli. | Baccinetti’s La Saporoia. | Baricci’s Colombaio Montosoli. | Campogiovanni’s Il Quercione. | Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa. | Casanova di Neri’s Cerretalto. | Casisano Colombaio’s Vigna del Colombaio. | Castelgiocondo’s Ripa al Convento. | Centolani’s Pietranera. | Centolani’s Tenuta Friggiali. | Fattoria dei Barbi’s Vigna del Fiore. | Il Marroneto’s Madonna delle Grazie. | Il Poggione’s Vigna Paganelli. | La Lecciaia’s Manapetra. | La Mannella’s I Poggiarelli. | La Poderina’s Banale. | La Poderina’s Poggio Abate. | Lisini’s Ugolaia. | Mastrojanni’s Schiena d’Asino. | Mastrojanni’s Vigneto Loreto. | Mocali’s Vigna delle Raunate. | Pian delle Vigne’s Vigna Ferrovia. | Siro Pacenti’s Pellagrilli. | Tenuta La Fuga’s Due Sorelle. | Tenute Silvio Nardi’s Poggio Doria. | Tenute Silvio Nardi’s Vigna Manachiara. | Val di Suga’s Poggio al Granchio. | Val di Suga’s Vigna del Lago. | Val di Suga’s Vigna Spuntali.
Walter Speller, ‘The curious career of Rosso di Montalcino,’ www.jancisrobinson.com 27 April 2015.