Last weekend we had friends over for dinner and I opened a bottle of brunello.
Its brilliance was a reminder of why I have spent so much of my life trying to understand the magic of wine.
In 1865 the appellation of Brunello di Montalcino was created. It was the hard work of a pharmacist named Clemente Santi, and his passion for viticulture, that showed the potential for sangiovese grown around the small and ancient hilltop town of Montalcino.
This grape is planted throughout Italy, but only Brunello insists that 100 per cent of the wine must be this grape; other areas such as Chianti, allow up to 15 per cent of other varietals. The clones used in Montalcino are unique to the region and best suit its distinctive soils.
Four generations of the Piccini family have produced wines in Tuscany and it all started for them in 1882. Their Piccini 2012 Brunello di Montalcino displays intense aromas of black cherries, liquorice and nutmeg with a rich and complex palate. It is well balanced with a pleasant tannic structure, accentuated by typical sangiovese acidity. Wine.com rates it 92/100 and says: “Simply a classic effort, the handsome 2012 Piccini Brunello di Montalcino excels with fine red and black fruits, savoury spices, and earth in its aromas and flavours.” $42.55.
Piccini 2012 Villa Al Cortile Brunello displays an almost impenetrable dark red colour and it is sustained and round with complex notes of liquorice and ripe black cherry, both powerful and classy. Full, ripe, spicy black-skinned fruit on the palate and smooth tannins expose great elegance. $47.25.
San Felice 2013 Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino is the wine that I referred to in the first paragraph and I explained to our guests that the highly respected wine maker, Leonardo Bellaccini, has stayed in our home.
Robert Parker has recently retired, but I would like to quote what he thinks of this wine: “92/100. Made in a traditional manner with three years of ageing in large Slavonian oak casks, the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Campogiovanni is a beautifully polished and delicate wine. This vintage is also very accessible, meaning you also will be able to enjoy it in the near and medium term. Its appearance is dark and velvety, and the bouquet opens to bold aromas of cherry and black currant. This wine gives you an authentic taste of Tuscany.” $56.
I think back to a wonderful evening when my wife and I were the guests for a very traditional Tuscan dinner in the Fuligny family home. I feel most fortunate to be able to offer you their 2011 Fuligny Brunello di Montalcino that Wine Enthusiast magazine describes in this way: “Delicate scents of pressed blue flower, sun-baked earth, red berry and dark spice emerge in the glass. The elegant, structured palate offers mature wild cherry, crushed blackberry, white pepper and liquorice alongside a backbone of fine-grained tannins. A cinnamon note closes the finish. Give this a few more years to unwind then enjoy. 93/100.” $71.80.
Close neighbour Andrea Costanti also attended the dinner; his family settled in the area in the 1400s. Wine Enthusiast is one of the more conservative publications when it comes to high scores, but they rate our Costanti 2013 Brunello di Montalcino 97/100 and write: “Delicately scented, this offers underbrush, pressed violet and wild berry aromas. It’s medium-bodied and loaded with elegance, delivering crushed raspberry, Morello cherry, liquorice and a hint of pipe tobacco set against taut, refined tannins. Bright acidity provides balance. $80.20.
At an average elevation of 480 metres above sea level, Poggio Antico’s vineyards are among the highest in the Brunello region. Thanks to this unique and blessed spot, Poggio Antico wines are characterised by their elegance and this is the case with our Poggio Antico Alerto 2011 Brunello. James Suckling writes: “Fantastic aromas of bright black cherry and flowers. Very fragrant. Full body, firm and silky tannins. Extremely structured for a 2011. Wonderful length and beauty. Drink or hold. 95/100.” $79.
From the grandson of the brunello inventor we stock Biondi Santi 2008 Brunello di Montalcino Annata. This wine is produced from vines that are between ten and 25 years old and the basic characteristic of their Greppo clones are their ability for longevity (up to 40 years). To allow the flavour to fully unfold, the bottle should be opened and a bit of wine poured out. Leave it for at least eight hours before drinking and experiencing classic underbrush, tobacco, smoke, liquorice and black cherries. $160.40.
•This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail email@example.com or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm.</i>