Brunello. Really, no other words are necessary.
A few years back my husband and I took a weekend trip to Tuscany. Asking friends before hand what wineries and cities to visit, we planned out our route--highway to Siena, head towards San Gimignano--make a pit stop there, before heading down to Montalcino. For those of you who have never been to Montalcino or Tuscany, it’s a must do at least at some point in your life. Rolling green hills full of vines, sunflowers, sheep and rustic stone houses that dot the landscape.
Montalcino is Brunello country.
It's an area just south of Chianti and just east of Montelpulciano where Vino Nobile is made. Made from the Sangiovese grape, it must spend 24 months in barrique, or small wooden barrels, and then another 2 years in bottle before it can be put on the market. It also makes a ‘lesser’ type wine called Rosso di Montalcino, also amazing, but less expensive and without the brunello name because it spends less time in barrel and bottle. A hearty but velvety, tannic wine with an incredible bouquet of fruit, cinnamin, forest floor, oak, pepper, liquorish, and so on, it pairs fantastically with local dishes like the ‘Florentina,’ a porterhouse type steak and considered one of the best meats in Italy, and stewed ‘cinghiale’ or wild boar, another delicious Tuscan treat.
When Italians and other visitors come to this heavenly spot, most stay in agriturismos--and so did we. An agriturismo is someone’s house, a farm really, where they grow their own fruits and veggies, and obviously make their own wine. They have extra rooms for lodging, homemade breakfast in the morning, and some even have a restaurant where at least 75% of the food must be homegrown (including meats). Many of the bigger names of Brunello like Castello di Banfi (an American owned vineyard) offer meals and wine tastings daily, but there are many smaller vineyards just as worth finding.
For example, the road to Banfi is a small dirt road woven into tree lined hills; but farther down the road is another place called Salicutti and is my favorite Brunello maker. The owner's background as a chemist and the small amount of acres he has to grow vines, allows him to pay closer attention to the quality of the grapes grown, and therefore the wine made. For sure it was the most balanced, fruity, tannic, velvety, intense brunello I’ve had, and almost impossible to find in restaurants and wine shops.
But no worries, my fellow Brunello lovers, many out there exist--Casanova di Neri, Biondi Santi, Castello di Banfi, Castel Giacondo, and the list goes on. So you have no excuse not to get out there and start trying them.