Italians make the best wine, but there is a long and storied history behind this triumph. A combination of ancient Italian culture and Greco-Roman influences helped shape the wine country as we know it today. As a result, modern Italy is now the top wine-producing country in the world. Blessed with the ideal climate and geology to grow wine grapes, it’s no wonder that Italy has an abundance of wine regions. Perhaps the most well-known wine region in Italy is Tuscany, the land of rolling hills, sprawling vineyards, and internationally acclaimed wines.
In the south of Tuscany, just 42 kilometres from Siena, is the little town of Montalcino. This picturesque town is synonymous with the complex Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello is one of the most expensive wines in Italy and certainly renowned worldwide. Subsequently, in 1980 it was awarded the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) title, the most prestigious classification in the wine country. To sum up, all DOCG wines are meticulously analysed by a panel of government judges to ensure top-notch quality.
Brunello is made of 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes. Its distinct quality is the thick-skinned, luscious berries with high tannin and acidity. The resulting liquid is garnet in color, featuring a complex flavor of dark red fruits, underlying notes of savoury herbs, and a touch of earthiness. Brunello wines are typically full-bodied with 14-15% of alcohol.
However, the taste of Brunello varies depending on its aging method. Traditional methods require long aging in large Slavonian oak barrels that don't transfer much oakiness. This method results in a wine with stronger earth and dried fruit notes. But some consider the taste too dry and tannic, giving rise to more modern methods. Modernists use smaller French oak barriques that imbue the wine with softer tannins, oak flavour, along with notes of chocolate, vanilla, and sweeter fruits. Nevertheless, the choice of method really depends on producer preference. Some wine producers even use both methods.
The process of producing the best wine is long and arduous. A city winery must first consider its terroir. Grapes grown on the northern slopes of Montalcino might ripen slower with a bolder taste. While those grown on southern and western slopes tend to have a more complex flavour. Furthermore, there are production laws to adhere to. Every Brunello wine must age for a minimum of two years in barrels and four months in bottles with a total aging time of four years before release. Brunello Riserva—an exclusive beverage made of the best grapes from the best harvests—has an even longer aging period. A riserva must age for two years in barrels and six months in bottle, with a total of five years minimum.
There are about 200 wine producers in Montalcino. An overwhelmingly large number—how does one choose which city winery to visit? For your convenience, mytripology suggests visiting Castiglion Del Bosco for the best wine and dine experience in Tuscany. The Argiano estate is also a good choice if you value local culture, history, and 16th-century architecture. Castello Banfi is another strong contender. This vineyard estate and winery is one of the best-known producers of Brunello di Montalcino in the world.
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