From Sangiovese to Brunello: a story worth remembering

As I put my glass back down on the table, my nostrils are filled with heady and ripe aromas and my mind overcome by amazing sensations: the Brunello.

As I put my glass back down on the table, my nostrils are filled with heady and ripe aromas and my mind overcome by amazing sensations. A wine with truly great character awaits to be lifted to my lips. It’s a wine that can age for many years and every sip is sheer wine magic. It offers an explosion of aromas, an intertwining of classic undergrowth and jams, rich with spices and full of aphrodisiacal scents of chocolate and freshly roasted coffee beans. The aromas it imparts are vigorous and seemingly endless, it enters the mouth like a queen, austere and elegant all at once. Its power is undeniable, long, it’s aftertaste intriguing as my mind ponders on how on earth all of this could be inside one bottle. Glass in hand, I can’t but think about all of those who, with infinite patience, created all of this, who labored day in and day out trying this and that, suffered bitter disappointments and glorious victories. It’s Brunello di Montalcino and it was born in the early 1800s, the brainchild of a dedicated vintner by the name of Clemente Santi. He started out as a pharmacist, but as time went by he left his safe profession and committed himself entirely to his dream of creating a wine that was different from anything anyone had tasted up to then. We have the pioneer who first dared try his hand at making it to thank for the fact that Brunello is now so famous and that we can bask in the utter glory of such aromas. The first positive results came about only after years of hard work on his Greppo estate, but international recognition soon followed. Ferruccio Biondi Santi (son of Caterina Santi and Jacopo Biondi), the grandson of Clemente, inherited his grandfather’s passion and carried on his legacy in the search for the perfect Brunello. It was he who decided to vinify a clone of sangiovese in purity, an idea that turned out to be vital to the creation of this truly special wine. In 1870, the first true Brunello di Montalcino was born. It’s success was such that many other winemakers living in Montalcino followed suit: Giuseppe Anghirelli, Tito Costanti, Camillo Galassi, Carlo Padelletti and many more considered Brunello the most important of wines. There was another important moment, early 1900s, for this wine, two fabulous years, 1888 and 1891. They were exceptional harvests which laid the definitive crown on the head of Brunello, allowing it to join the ranks of Europe’s greatest wines. I often think back on this story and credit Tancredi Biondi Santi, the son of Ferruccio, with having raised the quality of the wine to even further heights and for having known how to market it. And I shudder when I think of all of those who, over the years, have tried to imitate this wine and sell it through unscrupulous merchants. I pour some more wine in my glass and once again lose track of time as I think about the truth of one story… which many have forgotten.

The Brunello di Montalcino  wine we feature was chosen with an eye to its price/quality ratio and, just as importantly, to the emotions each Brunello can offer because, remember, a wine doesn’t have to be emotional to be good, but it should. Rosso di Montalcino also offers some great emotions.