Brunello di Montalcino: The Sophia Loren of Wines

Brunello di Montalcino: The Sophia Loren of Wines

With the cold weather and the holidays upon us, we tend to gravitate toward bigger, heavier red wines.

So it’s the perfect time of year for a Brunello di Montalcino.

It is the Sophia Loren of Italian wines because, like her, this wine only gets more stunning with age.

This bombshell wine is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes that are strictly grown in Montalcino, a hill town in Tuscany.

But because of Montalcino’s elevation and many different microclimates, the land produces Sangiovese grapes that are very different from than the rest of Tuscany.

In general, Sangiovese grapes from Montalcino are browner hence the name Brunello, which loosely translates to 'little brown one.'

The grapes are also larger and have thicker skins, which means they have more tannins, the stuff in wine that makes the middle of your tongue and the front part of your mouth feel dry.

But those tannins, along with its higher acidity, give the wine structure and allows it to age beautifully, much like the legendary Academy Award-winning Ms. Loren.

But the Italians Have Many Rules.

To be a Brunello, the wine must be aged for at least four years (five years for it to be called a Riserva). Two of those years must be spent in oak, and the wine must be bottled at least four months prior to commercial release. 

If all those rules are met, the neck of the bottle will have a wrapper on it that says DOCG, which stands for “Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.”

And because of this longer process, the wines tend to be more expensive.

So Try a Rosso di Montalcino While You Wait.

While the Italians understand they perfection needs patience (have you seen how great Loren looks at 82?!), they still need a wine to drink right now. So they created the Rosso di Montalcino -- which is basically a younger Brunello. They use the same Sangiovese grapes from Montalcino, maybe just not the best ones. And the wine only has to age six months in oak and one year in total before being released.

Rossos are easy fruit-forward drinking wines. So pour one tonight.

Worth the Investment.

While the 2011 vintage is available, it will need time in your cellar. The 2010 vintage was spectacular, so if you can buy a few bottles to hold or give one as a gift to a wine lover, no one will be disappointed.

If you’re hoping to open a Brunello tonight, consider a 2004 or 2006. It’ll cost you, but the much like watching Loren in her 1960’s film Two Women, you will not be disappointed.

Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip. 

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