Podere Scopetone, DOCG Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013
On DOCG Brunello di Montalcino, and coterminous appellations (wide-ranging sources, extracted from my notes)
The DOCG, established in 1980, produces from varietal sangiovese (in purezza), what likes to be known as the King of Tuscan wine, with a reputation for prestige, quality, scarcity and price, and requiring considerable bottle ageing.
The region is to the south of Sienna and DOCG Chianti Classico, with a warmer, drier climate than the latter. The extra warmth enables sangiovese (of which brunello, hereabouts aka sangiovese grosso, is a clone and therefore simply a synonym, despite the character of relatively large berries) , to ripen more fully and consistently. Southwesterly breezes off the Tyrrhenian Sea promote a healthy air circulation, reducing disease pressure.
At regional scale the topography is roughly conical with a base diameter of ~12 km, and the peak of 661m lying fairly centrally in the appellation, about 3km south of Montalcino itself. The altitude then decreases steadily in a corrugated hilly fashion, to ~200m at the periphery. So there is a wide range of aspect, as well as cooler nights at the higher altitudes, slowing the ripening process, all adding to potential complexity in the finished blend. Soils are wide-ranging, including clay, limestone, marl, schist, volcanic ash and alluvial deposits.
The northern part of the appellation is generally cooler, producing paler, more classical wine, than in the south, where the hue is darker, more fruity, but still with a telltale savoury dimension. So many create pan-appellation blends, to even out the otherwise geographically influenced stylistic differences.
The vinification style is one of extended maceration and oak ageing. DOCG normale requires a minimum age of 5 years on release (counted from 1st January following harvest), of which at least 2 in unspecified wood, usually one or a combination of Slavonian oak botte, chestnut barrel and French barrique; for the superiore, the minimum is 6 years, with at least 2.5 in barrel.
More forward wine comes from the lower slopes, with alluvial soils, often near the appellation perimeter; Sant Angelo in the south and southeast hosts a concentration of such producers.
Stylistically, compared to Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino wine is darker in hue, richer, more full-bodied, with more tannin, alcohol and complexity.
There is also the earlier drinking, geographically coextensive DOC Rosso di Montalcino, also in purezza sangiovese, which can receive declassified or sub-standard DOCG wine. A minimum of 1 year’s ageing is required,
There was, around 10 years ago, some controversy over the suspected blending in of eg cabernet sauvignon or merlot, to perhaps soften the Brunello; but there did already exist, since 1996, the coextensive Sant’Antimo DOC, which gives license to produce Super-Tuscans from any authorised Tuscan variety.
This wine: lot No. L.07/17 (on back label), varietal sangiovese farmed at 400-500m altitude, just to the south of Montalcino; aged in Slavonian oak for 2 years; coated natural cork closure, 14% abv, BBR £60 (02/19)
Consumer tasting note: typically pale sangiovese, garnet hued and so a little aged, with characteristically high(ish) acidity and tannins – a food wine; fragrant aromas of red berries, a touch floral, glace cherry, black berry and strawberry jam; medium bodied with fresh acidity and firm tannins (which will round with a couple more years), with a palate of red cherry and berries, black berry and black liquorice. A medium-long length.
Drink now – RTD, but will keep and develop over a further 2-4 years – Wait. No need to decant.
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, pale intensity garnet, showing tears [a very small quantity of crystalline tartrate sediment].
Nose: clean, medium (+) intensity, developing, with aromas as they come, of red currant jelly with a savoury edge, a rich floral whiff, glace cherry, waxy, cranberry juice, a little spicy, cedary hints, black liquorice, hint of dark strawberry jam, hint of squashed ripe black berry, a touch savoury, waxy, red plum jam.
Palate: dry, medium (+) acidity, ripe medium (+) tannins, medium (+) alcohol, medium body, medium (+) intensity, a smooth texture with a sense of sweetness in mid-palate, with flavours of red cherry jam, red currant, cranberry juice, touch of black berry, black liquorice. A medium (+) length with a clean vibrant finish of red berries edged with low-key liquorice, with a more than moderate grip, and a slight bitterness and hint of cedar on the finish.
Quality: very good, tannins verging on high, could do with time to round out a touch more, otherwise, together with the fresh acidity, in balance with the alcohol, (and will become altogether harmonious); quite strong intensity with similar concentration; showing a much better than moderate, but not high, developing complexity, from time in wood (cedar, spice) and bottle (savoury, waxy), following into a medium-long length.
Drinking readiness/ageing potential: can drink now, but has potential for further ageing over say 2-4 years – an acid-tannin structure that will come into perfect balance in a year or two, with sound characteristics throughout, and a sensory profile amenable to further evolution.
- Robinson, J., et al. (2012). Wine Grapes. Allen Lane.
- Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino [online] accessed 04/03/19.
- Central Italy. Court of Master Sommeliers [online] accessed 04/03/19.
- Brunello’s breakthrough, Decanter 12/18 [online] accessed 28/03/19.