The warming climate is increasingly a factor in this revered corner of Tuscany, says Richard Baudains, but careful selection in top terroirs is still producing great wines...

In the second half of the 19th century, Ferruccio Biondi Santi selected a biotype of Sangiovese and used it to make an innovative barrel-aged, monovarietal wine. To all intents and purposes he invented Brunello. Others took it forward (notably the producers’ consorzio in the 1960s), but without the Biondi Santi family there would probably be no Brunello di Montalcino.

Brunello di Montalcino is Sangiovese in its most intense, full-bodied manifestation, but in terms of specific textures and aromas there is variation on the basic theme. Individual winemaking styles play a part. Estates that age in barrique or tonneaux (a minority, to be honest) make more immediate wines with a big initial fruit impact and smoother tannins. Long maceration and ageing in large Slavonian oak barrels create drier, initially more reticent wines. More significant is the influence of soils and climate: to generalise, the further south you go, the fuller, softer and rounder the wines become. On the ridge to the east of Montalcino and in the area to the north, the wines have a more linear, savoury character and generally evolve more slowly.


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