Bru & Nell’s Excellent Adventure

2 Oct

The Original: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

“Brunello, exceedingly elegant and vibrant, with more complexity than muscle, won my heart.” – Kerin O’Keefe, from ‘Brunello di Montalcino’

Last week I hosted a tasting with Mark Protheroe looking at twenty-two Brunello di Montalcino wines of the 2007 vintage. The aim was to provide a thorough spread of producers to highlight the differences between the unofficial sub-regions of the Montalcino area. Below are some brief tasting notes and detailed information of the tasting, including what I wrote for the tasting booklet. If you do read right until the end, you may come across an interesting character with beady red eyes that some like to refer to as ‘Suckzilla’. You have been warned…

Big thanks must firstly go to the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino for sending a large number of samples to enhance the educational value of the tasting. Secondly, the tasting could not take place without the generosity of Australia’s key importers:

Italian Wine Importers

Trembath & Taylor

Enoteca Sileno

Mondo Imports



Single Vineyard Sellers

Enoteca Sydney


Note that the majority of information for this class came from the wonderful material found in Kerin O’Keefe’s indispensable book aptly titled, “Brunello di Montalcino”. O’Keefe, Kerin, Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines. (c) 2012 by the Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press.

To purchase click here.

The Montalcino zone has approximately 15% of its land dedicated to growing vines. The evolution and growth in Brunello producers across the area continues to bring debate to the necessity of defining sub-regions, with great variances in sites from the north to the south as the landscape undulates and the soil composition gradually changes. This program aims to explore this theory looking at wines of the same vintage from the various sub-regions.

Trembath & Taylor’s Matt Paul assisting with the Brunello tasting


Clemente Santi was a pharmacist and renowned writer of natural history and agricultural practices. It was through him that the first records of a wine actually called Brunello were noted. Mr Santi isolated certain plantings of the Sangiovese grape that he thought were superior. This he used to produce a pure 100% wine without any white grapes that could be aged for a considerable period of time. This went against standard practices. In 1869, Clemente Santi won two silver medals for his ‘vino rosso scelto (brunello) del 1865,’ at Montepulciano’s agriculture fair. This addition of the term ‘brunello’ in relation to the wine was the first written documentation that referred to a wine and not the grape.

Based on per capita income, much of the 1950s saw Montalcino ranked as the poorest commune in the large Province of Siena. The nobility and rise in popularity of the Brunello wine in the mid-1980s, however, meant that Montalcino had become the richest municipality in the province thanks to this liquid gold. This period of the 1980s also brought a heightened wave of investment to Montalcino: in 1968 there were fewer than 80 hectares dedicated to Brunello but by 1988 nearly 875 hectares had been planted with registered Brunello vines.

Brunello di Montalcino 2007

The studious group of Montalcino explorers


One of Italy’s first DOC’s in 1966. Italy’s first ranked DOCG in 1980.

The Blend/Uvaggio: 100% Sangiovese Grosso (aka Brunello)

Maturation: Must age for just over four years (five for Riserva) in estate cellars before release. Two of these years must be in wood and four months in bottle (six months for Riserva).

Minimum alcohol: 12.50% alc. v/v

Other wines of the Montalcino area: Rosso di Montalcino DOC (100% Sangiovese Grosso but released earlier), Sant’Antimo DOC (all grapes which are authorized in the province of Siena, can even be 0% to 100% Sangiovese), and Moscadello di Montalcino DOC

Soil types: Limestone, clay, schist, volcanic soil and crumbly marl known as galestro. Soils range from different epochs layered over one another furthering complexity depending on the sub-region.

The Montalcino territory is outlined in an almost square-like formation by the Ombrone, Orcia, and Asso rivers. The highest point lies at 667masl south of the main town. Monte Amiata lies neraby to the southeast and protects the slopes from hail and violent storms.

sub regional map, tuscany, brunello, montalcino, wine regions


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  • Soil structure in this zone is among the most ancient.
  • Soil is mainly calcareous and sandy limestone, though mineral-rich shale and sandstone formations as well as a flaky, marly limestone, commonly called galestro, are also present. These soils have an extremely high mineral content.
  • The Montalcino area has the highest altitude for vineyards, which generates great differences between day and night temperatures, slows ripening and develops perfume, and imparts high acidity for greater ageing potential

Brunello di Montalcino 2007

CONTI COSTANTI – Imported by Trembath & Taylor

Established: 1983, with Brunello roots reaching back to the 1860s

Winemaking: Ages 18 months in new and used 350- and 500-litre Allier barriques/tonneaux and 18 months in 30-hL Slavonian oak botti.

Dried mulberries and fig, silt, black density. Super fine, satiny tannins. Deep, intense flavour and long length.

IL PALAZZONE – Imported by Mondo Imports

Established: 1987

Winemaking: Long maceration & four years in large Slavonian oak

Open, red-fruited, spices, chocolate lift on the nose. Meaty core, long flavour, bunch of black licorice with a delicate and fine tannic finish.

VILLA I CIPRESSI – Imported by Italian Wine Importers

Established: 2000

Winemaking: 60% ages in French barriques, 40% in large oak barrels for 24 months followed by approx. 36 months in bottle

Delicate floral aromas and red wild berry fruits. Hints at violets and plums, bright acid palate and a lifted finish. Not as persistent.

LA FORNACE – Imported by Italian Wine Importers


Winemaking: Aged at least 2 years in large Slavonian oak wine botti

Black inky depth, char, more savoury palate, lightness and elegance.


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  • Cooler weather dominates
  • Vineyards are on steep slopes situated at mid- to high- altitudes between 300-400 metres above sea level
  • Soil is mostly calcareous limestone and clay and intricate from recurrent retraction and arrival of ancient seas.
  • To savour delicate, heady aromas typical of the area, winemaking is dominated by Slavonian casks as opposed to French barriques.

Brunello di Montalcino 2007

ALTESINO – Provided by the Consorzio.

Established: 1975

Winemaking: Minimum of two years in Slavonian oak barrels.

Subtle aromatics, wild berries, sour cherry fruit and smoked cream. Palate so different to the nose and this is the controversial point for some at the tasting. Bright purple fruited, kola nuts with a deep, charry finish. Delicious.

DONATELLA CINELLI COLOMBINI – Imported by Italian Wine Importers

Established: 1998

Winemaking: First year in French tonneaux, second year in 5-15hL small botti, and the third in twenty-one year old 40hL botti

Black cherry, earth, super tannic drive, slightly thicker and chewy.

VALDICAVA – Provided by Consorzio.

Established: 1968

Winemaking: Aged in large Slavonian oak casks

A touch pongy to begin with on the aroma, needs time, presently very dark and brooding. Thick cling-film tannins and a bitter finish.

IL PARADISO DI MANFREDI – Provided by Consorzio. Not imported.

Established: Around 1950

Winemaking: Fermented in fiberglass cement then aged in Slavonian oak casks 25/30hL for over three years

Red berry fruits followed by a savoury line of Vitamin B and aged crusty bread aromas. Light and bright entry, desiccated wild berries and earthy spice. Lovely.

FULIGNI – Imported by Trembath & Taylor

Established: 1923

Winemaking: Aged three years in combination mostly Slavonian oak barrels and one year in bottle

Sleek, sour cherry fruit, fine phenolic grip. Baroloesque, limestone roughness at the finish.


[map removed for legal purposes]

  • Most controversial subzone in the entire denomination
  • Soil composed of Pliocene marine clay desposits, which are very compact and historically not suited to viticulture.
  • Brunello Consorzio did not remove this area from the delimitation process as they presumed no one would plant in thick clay and mud.
  • Best Brunellos in the area come from vineyards reaching up to and over 300m above the humid valley characteristic of the lower elevations of this corner of the growing zone.

Brunello di Montalcino 2007

CASANOVA DI NERI – Imported by Enoteca Sydney

Established: 1971

Winemaking: Aged in Slavonian oak barrels for 36 months

Strong, lifted nose of black cherries and plum, charcoal and toast, cleansing tannins (with an after effect not dislike gargling Listermint).


[map removed for legal purposes]

  • Exciting subzone defined by multifaceted growing conditions that create Brunellos with rich fruit, penetrating mineral, and gripping complexity.
  • Zone benefits from warm temperatures but doesn’t suffer the scorching heat of Sant’Angelo to the west because the flowing Orcia River generates cooling winds at night.
  • Complex mix of soil: ancient and recent soil deposits with calcareous marl with shale formations
  • Despite Castelnuovo dell’Abate’s full potential, it wasn’t until pioneering firm Mastrojanni released its first Brunello in the mid-1980s that other local farmers from the hamlet took serious interest.

Brunello di Montalcino 2007

MASTROJANNI – Imported by Enoteca Sileno

Established: 1976

Winemaking: Fermented in fiberglass cement tanks, refined in Allier oak barrels (15, 33, 54hL varied sizing) for three years

Violets, black cherry, caramel, dark spices, tar. Super fine tannins, black cherry lingering flavours and greath length.

FANTI – Imported byEnoteca Sileno

Established: Mid-1980s

Winemaking: 12 months in barriques and large French oak barrels for an additional 12 months

Cherry ripe, chocolate, more intense mid-palate, tar, long cherry flavours with a fine, silky finish.

POGGIO DI SOTTO – Imported by Trembath & Taylor

Established: 1989

Winemaking: Long maceration with four years in 30hL Slavonian oak casks and 8 months in bottle

The word ‘ethereal’ can sound like a bit of a stretch, but it epitomizes this wine. Touches of herb and lavender on the nose. Charming. Bright acid, haunting perfume of rose petals and overall Baroloesque. Complete and a truly beautiful wine.


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  • Select areas near Tavernelle, particularly Santa Restituta, have long been known for their great Sangiovese potential
  • Vineyard altitudes average between 300-350 metres above sea level. Fresh nocturnal breezes cool down hot daytime temperatures during the growing season , generating aromas and complexity.
  • Tavernelle soils are predominantly rocky and well-draining
  • Castelgiocondo in Camigliano shares galestro-rich soil with warmer, drier temperatures.

Brunello di Montalcino 2007

QUERCE BETTINA – Imported by Italian Wine Importers

Established: 1992

Winemaking: 28/30 months in 20hL Slavonian oak then 12 months in bottle

Raspberry, caramel, cola, plush mid-palate intensity, length waning, creamy smooth finish.

VILLA LE PRATA – Imported by Italian Wine Importers

Established: 1980

Winemaking: 24 months in French 5hL tonneaux, 24 months in 30hL Slavonian wood followed by 6 months in bottle

Sweet wood, vanillin lick, sour cherries and delicate char.

SAN CARLO – Imported by Italian Wine Importers

Established: 1974

Winemaking: Aged in 30hL Slavonian oak barrels for three years sand at least 6 months in bottle

Sweet red fruits, black spice, high alcohol lift (15%) making it appear a little imbalanced.

POGGIO ANTICO – Imported by Trembath & Taylor

Established: 1984

Winemaking: Thre years in Slavonian oak barrels (37-55hL) and one year in bottle

Sour cherry, peppery spice, tart acid and light on the finish.

PIEVE DI SANTA RESTITUTA – Imported by Negociants

Established: 1994

Winemaking: 500L caska for 24 months, one year in concrete tanks

Star anise, Asian spices, black fruit, more savoury with long-lasting flavour. Wonderful.

CASTELGIOCONDO – Imported by Arquilla

Established: 1989

Winemaking: Long maceration, total four years ageing with at least two in Slavonian oak and French barrels plus 4 months in bottle.

Industrial, play-doh character, black licorice, thick, a little short because of the density. Currently a tough wine.


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  • Extreme differences between Montalcino and Sant’Angelo
  • Sant’Angelo dominated by large-scale wineries Col d’Orcia, Banfi & Argiano. Area makes 30-40% total Brunello output
  • Climatic conditions more Mediterranean.
  • Hottest and driest subzone in the denomination. Rainfall markedly lower (500mm per year versus 700mm per year)
  • Soils are calcareous with marine deposits of clay and silt.
  • Problems with irrigation being illegal and excessive heat

Brunello di Montalcino 2007

SAN FELICE CAMPOGIOVANNI – Imported by Enoteca Sileno

Established: Early 1980s

Winemaking: Three years in large Slavonian oak botti and 12 months in bottle

Lifted and perfumed, more intense flavour, warm alcoholic finish (15%), chocolatey.

ARGIANO – Imported by Negociants

Established: 1992

Winemaking: First year in French barriques then one and half years in larger Slavonian oak casks

Warming oak, black fruit, thick, block tannic structure with a suitable acid lift.

COL D’ORCIA – Imported by Single Vineyard Sellers

Established: 1933

Winemaking: Four years ageing, of which 3 are in 25, 50 and 75hL Slavonian and Allier oak casks, followed by 12 months in bottle

Toast, black licorice, cherries, silty, black lollies, but just texturally a touch rough on the finish.

Brunello di Montalcino 2007


2007 Dense, rich and full-bodied; lower acidity than usual. Drink 2013-2020

2006 Powerful if not always totally balanced. The best will age well. Drink: 2016-2026

2005 Careful selection needed. The best are elegant and mid-weight, to drink fairly early. Drink: 2013-2020

2004 Textbook conditions. Wines are intense, perhaps a little dry and nervy, but should develop well. For long ageing. Drink: 2014-2024

2003 Concentrated, full-bodied but often one-dimensional wines with low acidity. Drink 2012-2020

2002 Very difficult, but some surprises. Worth trying top names, but not to keep. Drink: 2012-2015

2001 Those who picked later made austere but typical wines for ageing. Drink: 2012-2021

2000 Very hot, dry year produving warm, forward wines especially in the south. Drink now.

A joking reference is given by Mark Protheroe towards Mr Suckling (aka Suckzilla) and his effect on Brunello di Montalcino

In the words of Bill & Ted, “Be excellent to each other” and “Party on dudes“.

4 Responses to “Bru & Nell’s Excellent Adventure”

  1. petit4chocolatier October 2, 2012 at 10:19 AM #

    I love your heart and soul with wine! I reblogged a link from your blog to my new reblog page. My hope is that others will click and find your beautiful heartfelt blog. I never knew this much about wine before!

    • La Donna del Vino October 2, 2012 at 11:48 AM #

      Thank you 🙂
      You reblogged one of my favourites too.
      I am only too happy to help someone learn more about the world of wine. I live in it most of the time and you know what, it’s a pretty lovely place to be 🙂

  2. Whine And Cheers For Wine October 8, 2012 at 11:27 PM #

    Thank you for the informative and fun lesson on Brunello. 20+ wines??? It’s a tough job but someone has to do it 🙂 I am also impressed with your great notes. Thanks again.

  3. Breiflabben October 10, 2012 at 6:21 AM #

    Thank you for a very good and thorough lesson about these beautiful super Toscans. My next trip to Toscana will be deeper into the area and in the midst of all these beautiful wines. But I’ll stop for five six days in the north on my way home, I need to fill up with Barolos and Arneis. I’ll stay in a beautiful place just outside Canale. Next spring maybe?
    You have a great blog Donna 🙂

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