Brunello di Montalcino is a red wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino , Italy . Brunello is a local name for Sangiovese in Italian, and is one of the best-known (and expensive) wines of Italy. Well-made Brunellos are capable of aging.
Brunello must be made from 100% Brunello clones of the sangiovese (a range of clones of the Sangiovese Grosso). It is released no sooner than the fifth year after harvest (i.e. 2001 Brunello is released in early 2006). Brunello currently must be aged in wood for 2 years and at least 4 months in a bottle before release. Traditionally, the wines are aged 3 years or so in "botte," large oak casks that impart little oak flavor but allow for the controlled softening of the wine. Modernists use small barrique which impart a more pronounced oak flavor. There is a middle ground where the wine is aged in small barrique for a short time and then spends a longer sojourn in the traditional botte.
Today, Brunello is under attack by the international, modernist winemaking. The wine is becoming darker and bigger in order to garner high scores from the wine press. While there are traditional wineries that follow old school processes and yet still make dark and rich wines (Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona is an example), the reason for this is the conditions of the soils and the micro-climates of the vineyards. This is a far contrast to winemaking regimes that reduce the time in botte or eliminate it entirely, and follow fermentation methods designed to extract more color and tannin from the grapes. While there are many notable Brunello wines crafted in this international, modern style, they are not necessarily traditional Brunello wines.
Some think it unfortunate that those who have come to this wine recently (either on the consumer or production side) are so content to throw off a traditional style that has allowed for the economic success that Brunello has enjoyed. But one must remember that Brunello is a modern evolution. While the modern rules of Brunello making were first laid down by the Biondi Santi family in the late 1800s, the industry we see today has its roots in the 1960s when there were only a handful of producers. Even as recently as 1975, the total number of producers was approximately 25 vintners producing approximately 70,000 cases of Brunello total. According to the Consorzio di Vini di Brunello di Montalcino, in 1995 120 producers made 300,000 cases. Today there are well over 200 producers in the Consorzio. The production has risen to over 6,000,000 bottles, or 500,000 cases.
Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova 2001 Brunello di Montalcino was named Wine Spectator's 2006 "Wine of the Year".
Rosso di Montalcino is the other main DOC from Montalcino. This wine has few restrictions on aging other than it may not be released prior to September 1 of the year following the vintage. It is required to be 100% Brunello grape grown in a strictly delimited zone within the area of Montalcino. It can range from a soft easy to drink when young style to a wine capable of long aging when made by a fine wine estate in a great vintage.