Drive south from Firenze and through the Chianti heartland and you come to the lovely old town of Montalcino. Surrounding this ancient enclave are the rolling hills of Brunello di Montalcino – and here the noble Sangiovese grape (as used to make Chianti) reaches layers of richness and body found nowhere else in Tuscany.
The first region to be granted DOCG status, and much smaller than Chianti, Brunello has built a formidable reputation. The clone of Sangiovese used here is called “Grosso” or “Brunello”, which was isolated in the mid 19th Century by Clementi Santi (of in time Biondi-Santi fame) which, allied to the warmer and drier growing conditions, generally makes wines of greater power and structure than in Chianti. There are now over 200 growers in the DOCG.
Vineyards are planted in all directions (it seems) resulting in a variation of styles, but in general the northern and eastern areas are cooler and the south and west warmer – where, not unsurprisingly, richer and fuller bodied wines are made. Vineyards can reach up to 500m in height, whilst others are low lying – again contributing to the variation in styles.
100% Sangiovese (Grosso)
Hand picked grapes from the oldest vineyard parcels were harvested in the first week of October. They went through stainless steel fermentation at 28-30⁰C with extended skin contact for over 3 weeks. Afterwards, the wine was aged in new French oak 500lt barrels (double the normal “barrique” size) for 24 months and bottle aged for a further 4 years.
This is the Riserva best lot and barrel selection made by winemaker Nicola Biasi.
Just about drinkable now but does need decanting for 3-5 hours. Better to keep for another 2-5 years and will keep and evolve nicely for well over 10.
Already with a high reputation, San Polo was bought by the Allegrini family in 2006 and they have invested heavily in the vineyards and winery. Made in a “modernist” style, with French oak, San Polo is always one of the more refined wines in the DOCG. Situated to the east of the region, they own 22 has – of which 16 are under vine – and the main 9ha vineyard has been used for this wine. The site is at 450 metres and the soils are a mix of clay and chalk.
By law wines require a minimum of 4 years aging with Riservas needing 5 years. There is a secondary classification called Rosso di Montalcino which only requires 2 years aging and allows producers to make a second wine from declassified lots and younger vines. Traditionally wines were aged in large Slovenian oak barrels (called botti) but again French oak barriques are making up an increasing percentage of the aging process, particularly for what are termed “modernist” producers who want wines with a lighter oxidative touch.
Demands a piece of best quality beef or lamb cooked simply with a fine jus and small root vegetables. A classic beef wellington also springs to mind. Otherwise would work very well with a wild mushroom risotto with parmesan shavings and a rocket and radicchio balsamic salad.
Suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
In the press
"Aromas of balsamic vinegar, plums, cherries, chocolate and dried mushrooms follow through to a full body, velvety tannins and a delicious aftertaste. I love tasting this. Drink or hold." James Suckling, 97 points
Robert Parker The Wine Advocate: 95 points