Tuscany: Montalcino

The name ‘Brunello di Montalcino’ links the grape and the town. We know Brunello better as Sangiovese.

The appellation began in 1869. This year was the first release of Clemente Santi’s Fattoria del Greppo.  Among other ideas, Santi chose monoculture, instead of traditional mixed farming.

In the cellar, Santi macerated and fermented his wines for longer. More ideas followed in later years. For example, destemming, in order to rid the wine of tannins. He also used strict vine selection in the vineyard.

The Biondi-Santi label (Biondi was Clemente’s grandson) is closely tied to the appellation.  In fact, the 1966 Brunello di Montalcino DOC disciplinare copied the estate’s methods. Full DOCG status came in 1980.

The growing area is within three rivers. The Ombrone is to the West and North. The Orcia is to the South.  Finally, the Asso is to the East.  Hills fold from 120m to 600m. The day/night temperature swings are notable.

The growing climate is ‘Mediterranean’.  Ripening is easy, so wines are usually 100% Sangiovese. The Appenines bring a cooling influence. Meanwhile, Monte Amiata protects from coastal weather patterns. Both factors lift the grapes’ acidity.  This gives the wine its elegance and freshness.

Soils are complex. Clay and sand marine sediments are present lower down. Leaner, shallower stone soils are found at altitude.  Therefore the sandy southern zones produce more fruity, rounder wines.

Ageing is the longest in Italy.  The DOCG needs at least four years. The Riserva at least five. Both require a minimum two years in oak.

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