Brunello di Montalcino producers split over sub-zones

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  • Monday 3 March 2014

Debate is growing on whether to carve the home of Brunello di Montalcino into a series of sub-zones to help consumers better understand subtle differences between the wines.

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is too hard to navigate, according to some producers

A small but growing minority of Brunello di Montalcino producers plan to propose that Montalcino’s governing consorzio takes advantage of government funding to map the wine region’s sub-zones.

Proponents argue that zoning would highlight subtle stylistic differences in the wines and could define around twenty micro-terroirs within Montalcino. Currently, Montalcino’s single vineyard wines, labelled ‘Vigna’, are officially mapped but its various sub-zones are not.

‘Clients tell us Montalcino’s micro-terroirs are as fascinating as Grand Cru Burgundy,’ Roberto Terzuoli, who trained at Biondi-Santi before founding his 4.6ha SassodiSole winery, told decanter.com.

Zoning could also lead to better maps for tourists, who often get lost when visiting the area. Authorities have removed all winery signposts from road junctions in Italy’s Siena province, because of accidents caused by drivers slowing down to read them.

‘Cellar door sales are commercially important for Montalcino’s smaller wineries, but even locals get lost here,’ said Terzuoli. ‘A detailed map of where wineries are situated would be a start.’

However, Ezio Rivella, who spent 24 years as winemaker at Banfi, warned zoning cannot give the complete picture.

‘Even within a single geographical sub-zone, Brunellos grown at differing altitudes taste very different,’ said Rivella, now retired.

‘Lower lying vineyards give wines with richer colour and tannins than those at higher altitudes, which tend also to be more aromatic. Significant numbers of Montalcino producers blend wines from Brunello grapes grown in different sub-zones. Why? Because this produces more complete Brunello than that from a single zone.’

Producers last month presented their newly released 2009 Brunello di Montalcino, alongside 2008 Riserva and 2012 Rosso di Montalcino at the annual Benvenuto Brunello event. Hot weather during 2009 suggests this vintage favours Montalcino’s cooler, higher or more north-easterly terroirs.

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