Brunello di Montalcino is a rarity, almost an anomaly among today's great wines. Known and enjoyed in all markets that seek out and buy the most prestigious wines, it is without doubt the youngest wine of all. Indeed Brunello has a much briefer history than the châteaux of Bordeaux, famed in England prior to the end of the 17th century; than Barolo, which found favour with the Savoy kings in the same century; and the famous crus of Burgundy, greatly contended among generals and royal enthusiasts at the court of Louis XV. The first "official" bottles of Brunello appeared just over a century ago, in 1888 to be precise. The 1932 report by the Damalasso committee, led by the most influential enologist of the day, identified a single producer in the region and estimated annual production to be around 30,000 litres - the equivalent of 40,000 bottles.
Such a late appearance is certainly linked to the geographical isolation of the town of Montalcino, which is situated on a hill at 560m a.s.l., surrounded by woods and steep slopes, like a natural fortress. During one particular period it actually was a fortress: in 1555 unbowed Sienese diehards sought refuge here on these slopes to continue their resistance against the yoke of Medici rule. They resisted Florentine dominion until 1559.
Nowadays the countryside is covered with vineyards for the production of a wine that has leapt to the Olympus of world production in just a few decades. The vine variety is the sangiovese, typical of central Tuscany. But here its particular features are greatly enhanced: the aromas are stronger and more penetrating, and the texture denser and fuller. The warmth of southern Tuscany allows these grapes to ripen more fully than elsewhere, while the refreshing Tyrrhenian winds and the high altitude of the vineyards add incomparably elegant aromas. If a great wine is an intensification of both the varietal and the land of origin, then Brunello di Montalcino is in many ways a quintessential element of Tuscany; the place where Sangiovese, the wine that has represented the identity of this land for thousands of years, takes flight towards immortality