The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 156 of 162

ITALY DEPARTMENT HEADER Where Sangiovese Reigns BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO STAKES ITS CLAIM by David Ransom M TP0613_120-156.indd 156 PHOTO COURTESY OF BANFI VINTNERS Castello Banfi at night. ention Brunello di Montalcino in the presence of almost any wine lover and one can almost guarantee a happy sigh of longing and remembrance of a great dining experience. "It's one of my top three wines, in the world, period," says noted author and educator Kevin Zraly. That's the kind of commentary that Brunello inspires, a litany of superlatives drawn from the almost universal love for Tuscany's rich culinary and winemaking heritage. To understand why, one must understand not only what Brunello is, but how it came to be, and where it's going. It's widely accepted that the best Tuscan Sangiovese is Brunello di Montalcino. Nowhere else does that grape, in any of its many clones, yield such character. And while Sangiovese is planted all over Tuscany, it is a particular type—Sangiovese Grosso, first identified in the mid 1800s in vineyards surrounding the hilltop town of Montalcino and locally called Brunello, or Brunellino at the time—that caught the eye of a vintner named Clemente Santi, now universally considered the father of Brunello di Montalcino. Through clonal selection, Santi was able to identify the particular strain of Brunello that made the most complex and age-worthy wine. In the years that followed, Brunello slowly became known as a wine of excellent quality. After World War II, Italian wines started to gain real traction outside the country's borders. Though a handful of them, mostly Piemontese and Chianti exported by French importers eager to capitalize on growing consumer Cristina Mariani-May, co-CEO of demand for Italian brands, had some success, Banfi Vintners. Brunello did not, perhaps due to production levels at the time; even in 1980, a mere 63,000 bottles of Brunello were sold. "I think the turning point for Brunello was probably the 1990 vintage," says Cristina Mariani-May, family proprietor of Castello Banfi and co-CEO of Banfi Vintners, a Long Island–based company that bought the dilapidated Poggio alle 5/23/13 4:57 PM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - June 2013