Montalcino is a long and complicated love story. For many years after my Sommelier certification, I continued postponing the approach to this huge wine: too important, too famous, I never felt ready for it! It was a bit like your favorite actor, the inaccessible rock star, the unreachable writer to be contemplated from afar with that sort of reverential fear that gives you a lump in your throat and butterflies in your stomach. Therefore, every year at Vinitaly I walked past the stands like a groupie in adoration, but I never dared to taste anything until one day…
My inspiration was Valentina Di Carlo, a very talented sommelier, wine writer and more. I had just started my social adventure, again after many years of deepening my knowledge on wine, and I was shyly looking for inspiration from those who knew how to talk about wine in an emotional and involving way, and she is truly incomparable in that regard! As chance would have it, my first taste of Brunello was from a virtual glass that was very eloquent both for its label and for its vintage: Il Marroneto 2010! This is the description anyone could possibly resist!
“Just put your nose in the goblet and feel the essence of Sangiovese, a Brunello with an unmistakable ID, of those that make you go wow!
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010
Ruby red with a light garnet reflection. The bouquet is incredibly rich, with distinct aromas of black cherry, incense, juniper berries, blackberry, tobacco, dried violet and rose, mandarin peel, chocolate, eucalyptus and salty notes. One sip and you are immediately wrapped in a strong and safe embrace, warm but not excessively, with very fine and lively tannins, and a nice, long finish. Young as it must be. This is the 2010 vintage, everything is in place, in clear and perfect balance.”
And this is how my desire for Brunello became irresistible, uncontrollable, I asked for my first press accreditation to Benvenuto Brunello and headed to Montalcino slightly feverish! A few years ago, the flu was a legitimate thing and was not considered anything lethal!
For the first tastings I entrusted myself to her of course, Valentina, an expert with impeccable taste, and my only regret was I should have tried this incredible wine way sooner! Brunello di Montalcino aims straight to your heart, with a powerful arrow forged by Cupid. Its seductive power is irresistible, a deep and voluptuous velvety caress made of red fruits, precious spices, balsamic herbs, lots of chocolate and a long finish of sea breeze. But what does the sea have to do with Val d’Orcia? It has a lot to do with it indeed, not only here but in most of Tuscany. And it was Alessandro Mori himself who told me the whole story of Val d’Orcia from the Mesozoic on! As chance would have it, Il Marroneto was also my very first visit to a winery in Montalcino. A journey of millions of years that started at the bottom of the sea and ended here just below the walls of Montalcino, passing through the Sumerians, the Hittites, the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Romans and much more. The concept of “millions of years ago” is not too far from the concept of infinity and it is something hard to understand for our cognitive mind, until you find yourself with a huge fossil shell in your hands found in the vineyards below, and you see the bottom of the sea from millions of years ago with your own eyes touch it with your own hands! It’s so much more than just exciting! It is absolutely mystical, a true primordial thrill!
From the Mesozoic era to nowadays it has taken a moment in the boundless time of the universe, a moment during which wine has always been produced here as witnessed by the archaeological findings in the many Etruscan tombs of the area, some of which remain unexplored secrets kept by Sangiovese vineyards. And this Sangiovese vinified in purity, which owes a lot to the commitment and passion of the Biondi Santi family that actually “invented” it as we know it today, was the first wine to be awarded DOCG appellation in 1980 by decree of President Sandro Pertini together with his brother Nobile di Montepulciano.
Beware of going to Montalcino however, because the spell you will fall under is almost impossible to break with its wonderful wineries, the breathtaking views, the marvelous medieval village, and the countless wine shops where you can give vent to your desire for Brunello and more. The addiction to Montalcino generates a violent withdrawal syndrome that, at times like this, can be very hard to manage!
You will wake up in the middle of the night longing to embrace the Oak at Sanlorenzo, you will return home after a hard day of work, tired and cold, and dream of sitting by the fireplace at Terre Nere. Even in your happiestt moments you will still remember the warm and generous welcome of Alessandro Mori, and you will become melancholic at the thought of not being able to enjoy the breathtaking view from the terrace at Mastrojanni. You will nostalgically think about the dissertation on corks with other wine producers at Casanova di Neri, and you will feel sad when you recall the cozy dinners at Casanuova delle Cerbaie after the exciting barrel tastings. You will seem to hear the roar of the primordial ocean whenever Baricci‘s fossil shells come to mind, or the wind in your hair when you think back to the jeep tour through the vineyards with Lorenzo Pacenti. This is just a small taste of what to expect because every time you go back to Montalcino, and you will go back over and over again, new wineries, new memories and new friends will be added. And you will not be able to help but keep going to visit each and everyone of them until time will never be enough, and then you will think that the only way is to give up everything and move there where you have left a fundamental piece of your heart forever. Therefore, you will start negotiating with Tommaso Squarcia to rent a room at Castello Tricerchi so that perhaps the next harvest at Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona you will be there in person to help instead of wishing you were there as Paolo Bianchini kindly sends you photos from the field that dear Paolo Bianchini affectionately remembers to send you. This is Montalcino and the magic of its protagonists, so do go there at your own risk and tell me I didn’t warn you!
I am writing this article just before going to Benvenuto Brunello 2021 in an unusual Off version, with 25 participants opportunely spaced out in as many tables set up for the occasion in the Cloister of Sant’Agostino. It will be surreal to enter, sit down and begin the tasting in silence when for me the first 45 minutes were made up of greetings, hugs and talks. However, with all the limitations of the case, the Consortium was able to organize an edition that could not be missed given the exceptional quality of the 2016 vintage, but also the 2015 with the presentation of the Reserves and the 2019 with the marvelous Rosso, a vintage that I await with eager anticipation given the grandeur of the tastings that I have already had starting in January 2020. A strong signal that the Consortium has been able to give at a time when we all need to start having a perspective of normality again, reminding everyone that
as long as there is wine there is hope!