(Note: During these COVID-19 days filled with anxiety, uncertainty, and cloistering, I thought it would be a welcomed idea to spend some time imagining beautiful places and their wines. So, here I am daring to send your way my small contribution. It is my hope that it will take you there as much as it transports me when I write these posts.)
Toscana (as I like to say instead of “Tuscany” so I can be particularly douchey) is one of central Italy’s most important wine regions. Its history is illustrious. After all, this is home to Florence, arguably the center of the Renaissance. The beauty of the region, with its rolling hills and vineyards, has been experienced by many of you who read these words. Its virtually perfect climate and unique soils lend themselves to the production of world class wines.
Among one of the most celebrated wines in Italy, if not in the world, is Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello (“little dark one” in the native language) is a biotype of Sangiovese, the celebrated grape of Chianti. In other words, they are essentially the same fruit. Montalcino is a small medieval hill town about 25 miles south of Siena. The historic evidence of this area as a quality winegrowing region has been documented since the 16th century!
But Brunello, with its long aging requirements (in fact, the longest in Italy at over 4 years) is expensive. But fortunately, this “big brother” has a “little brother” that does keep up: Rosso di Montalcino.
At a fraction of the price (just yesterday I bought a bottle which was a 1/3 of the price of its Brunello brethren) a Rosso allows you to also experience a wine made with 100% Brunello/Sangiovese which comes from a zone of production which corresponds to that of Brunello. Why is it cheaper? Part of the answer is that the wine does not have the same aging requirements because a Rosso can be released after September 1rst the year after harvest without mandatory oak aging requirements. Moreover, although both wines are made with similar grapes, these can be cheaper as a function of being declassified fruit (grapes from the Brunello vineyards that did not have a “great” year) or grapes that come from less desirable zones in the vineyard; sometimes a few yards apart. So, is it a lesser wine? The fact that it is a more youthful, lighter, and fruitier wine does not make it “less” as much as it renders it “different”. Remember that differences in character does not mean differences in quality. A Brunello/Rosso is essentially the same concept of the “second wine” commonly seen in Bordeaux.
For puerile minds like mine, while Brunello is the big handsome brother who plays varsity, gets straight A’s, and shows up to parties with his Jeep, Rosso is the younger brother who will kick your ass at Spike Ball, gets lots of B’s, and shows up to the party in the loud Camaro with his shirt half open so he can show-off his big fake gold medallion that says “macho”.
Which one do you want to invite over?
Lorenzo, the wine guy
Friends, food, and wine...I'm happy there.