Variations in Montalcino
The beautiful town of Montalcino is in the heart of Tuscany. It sits on a hilltop surrounded by forests, olive trees and wheat fields with vineyards ranging from 160 to over 600 metres. The region produces some of the most renowned wines in Italy.
During Vancouver’s Brunello di Montalcino week in May, I had the privilege to participate in a masterclass led by international wine writer and educator Michaela Morris. The tasting consisted of discussions about the varied landscape of Montalcino and the specific influences at each winery location that impact the wine. It also showcased the vintage variation between 2015, 2016, and 2017.
In 2015, there was a fair amount of heat with a few spikes as hot as 38 to 40C degrees. Fortunately, there was sufficient rainfall in the spring which prevented dangerous levels of water stress. The wine we tried from Fanti was a ripe, full-bodied, irresistible beast.
2016 is an example of a perfect growing season in Montalcino. It rained a sufficient amount and also at the right time. Most importantly, there were large temperature differences between daytime and nighttime. This stretched out the growing season and the temperature decrease at night allowed the grapes to retain acidity. “The wines produced from this vintage have detail, depth, and balance,” describes Morris.
Conversely, producers experienced many challenges in 2017. It was hot and dry for four months consecutively and it hadn’t rained very much in the spring. The wines have warm, mature flavours.
Brunello di Montalcino requires patience to age it to perfection. However, if you would like to quench your thirst for some classic Brunello, and patience is not your virtue, go ahead and crack open any of the wines recommended below. Although these wines can be aged further, I found them to be pleasantly approachable at present.
Besides Brunello di Montalcino, we also had a chance to dabble in some Rosso di Montalcino.
Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese and requires four years of aging with a minimum of two in oak. Rosso di Montalcino, which is also 100% Sangiovese, only requires one year of aging with no oak requirement. Producing a powerfully structured, high-quality Brunello is a priority in Montalcino, but the deliberate production of younger, fruitier, high-quality Rosso is officially trending among producers as demonstrated by the two brilliant examples included in the lineup.
Corte Dei Venti Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2020 $40
Located in Montalcino’s southeast between Sant’Angelo and Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Corte Dei Venti’s vineyards are well ventilated by winds from the Mediterranean Sea. The Rosso comes from a specific site that gives grapes with lower sugar levels and higher acidity, contributing to the wine’s vibrancy. Luscious red cherry and cranberry with hints of coffee and tobacco. The palate is full-bodied yet zippy with very fine tannin structure.
Castiglion del Bosco Rosso di Montalcino ‘Guaggiole’ DOC 2019 $50
Castiglion del Bosco’s Rosso is selected from organic vineyards sitting at 300 metres exposed to cool winds from the northwest. A cool fermentation and aging solely in stainless steel tanks retain fruity aromatics. Bright red plum and red cherry with aromas of cinnamon, citrus, and vanilla. Fresh and elegant with silky, ripe tannins. In 2003, this historic estate caught the eye of renowned fashion industry icon, Massimo Ferragamo, who has transformed the 1200-hectare estate into a destination location.
Sassetti Livio Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2017 $125
Oh, the nose on this wine! It is oozing with wild berries, ripe strawberry, perfumed dried flowers, leather, and a hint of espresso. Fine velvety tannins lead to a delicate lavender finish. Pertimali’s vineyards are in the area of Montosoli in the cooler, northern end of Montalcino. The location helped combat the extreme heat of 2017 allowing the wine to retain its acidity and elegance while remaining age worthy.
Carpineto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2017 $61
Crunchy cranberry and pomegranate meld with liquorice, cinnamon spice, and a touch of cedar. Tannins are soft and mouthcoating. In the centre of the region, Carpineto’s north to northwest facing vineyards reach 500 metres, among the highest in Montalcino. The high altitude provided relief from the heat and allowed the grapes to retain fresh acidity.
Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2017 $70
Intense black plum and ripe raspberry mixed with baking spices. The fruit lifts into a subtle chalky minerality coupled with tobacco and leather. Il Poggione’s vineyards are located in the warm southern area around Sant’Angelo in Colle. In 2017, the months of exceptional heat and drought forced some growers to harvest early before full phenolic ripeness. In order to avoid green tannins, Il Poggione removed some of the unripe seeds from their vats during fermentation. Talk about dedication. As the Italian proverb goes, “love knows not labour”.
Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2016 $115
If you’re looking for a juicy Brunello, this is a must try. Ripe black fruit, cherry jam, dark chocolate and subtle graphite on the finish. The tannins are smooth and plush. Corte Pavone is certified organic and fully committed biodynamic practices.
Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2016 $86
Red berries, with a touch of white pepper and dried herbs. The palate carries soft nuances of cedar, espresso, and spice. It is full-bodied and complex in personality. The grapes come from two different areas in Montalcino which contributes to the complexity of this wine. The east-facing slopes in the southeast experience gentle morning sun, whereas the vineyards in the northwest are cooled by winds from the north. Besides producing fantastic wine, Tenute Silvio Nardi is recognized in the industry for the family’s innovation in viticulture.
Talenti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2016 $100
Talenti has knocked it out of the park with the 2016 vintage. It opens with violets and vanilla but quickly settles into blueberry, bramble, liquorice spice, and everything nice. The southwest-facing vineyards are near Sant’Angelo in Colle and sit between 220 to 400 metres in altitude. Talenti showcases delicacy on the palate, rather than an abundance of ripe fruit expected from its southern location.
Tenuta Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Vallocchio’ 2015 $92
The nose of ripe black cherry, red licorice, tobacco, and leather leads to ripe flavours of strawberry jam and fig. This full-bodied beast has supple tannins, sumptuous texture, and a long-lasting finish of subtle smoked cedar wood. Fanti’s vineyards are located in the south near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The Vallocchio is an excellent representation of the 2015 growing season, which was very warm throughout. If there is a wine that I can describe as irresistible, this is it.
Neelam Dhaliwal is a 2022 graduate of Vinica’s Equity in Wine Leadership program through which she completed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)’s levels 2 and 3. She also holds a master’s degree from Queen’s University in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Her family is one of the largest grape growers in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and produces wines under the Kismet label. Neelam is the winery’s Operations Manager. This is her first published article.