Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2014
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Near the end of 2002, Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini, owner of nearby Tenuta Caparzo, purchased the Altesino winery. Today's winemaking team, led by Simone Giunti and Alessandro Ciacci, is firmly committed to maintaining Altesino’s hard-earned reputation as a Montalcino institution and a global leader in innovative winemaking. Amid the eastern hills of Montalcino near Siena in central Tuscany, stands the magnificently elegant 14th century-built Palazzo Altesi, home to the Altesino winery and a marvelous resort. The ancient coat of arms, carved in white Carrara marble, is still visible above the antique oak portal. The stunning Palazzo Altesi beautifully reflects Altesino’s charm and refinement. Though the worldwide reputation of Brunello has encouraged some conservatism among Montalcino estates, Altesino has always been a leader, unafraid of innovation. The estate pioneered the technique of aging its IGT wines in small French oak barrels, limiting the time spent in oak to enhance each wine’s personality. The resulting wines were a groundbreaking improvement over those produced by traditional methods. No longer overwhelmed by wood, they were able to display the unique characteristics of the fruit, with softened tannins and perfect balance. Not content to rest on its laurels, Altesino became the first Montalcino estate to introduce the concept of cru wines, made with a special selection of grapes from a single vineyard. Its Montosoli Brunello, named after the prestigious vineyard, was the first of these wines and is still considered among the regions finest. Altesino also pioneered the concept of Brunello futures (wine purchased before its release) with its 1985 vintage. This commitment to innovation led to many modern wines in the estates portfolio, including Alte d’Altesi, Palazzo Altesi and Rosso di Altesino. Elegance, finesse, and a fruitier, richer style are the trademarks of Altesino’s wines and have earned the estate a position among the very top producers of Brunello. This achievement is even more impressive considering Brunello is perhaps the most recognized Italian appellation.
Famous for its bold, layered and long-lived red, Brunello di Montalcino, the town of Montalcino is about 70 miles south of Florence, and has a warmer and drier climate than that of its neighbor, Chianti. The Sangiovese grape is king here, as it is in Chianti, but Montalcino has its own clone called Brunello.
The Brunello vineyards of Montalcino blanket the rolling hills surrounding the village and fan out at various elevations, creating the potential for Brunello wines expressing different styles. From the valleys, where deeper deposits of clay are found, come wines typically bolder, more concentrated and rich in opulent black fruit. The hillside vineyards produce wines more concentrated in red fruits and floral aromas; these sites reach up to over 1,600 feet and have shallow soils of rocks and shale.
Brunello di Montalcino by law must be aged a minimum of four years, including two years in barrel before realease and once released, typically needs more time in bottle for its drinking potential to be fully reached. The good news is that Montalcino makes a “baby brother” version. The wines called Rosso di Montalcino are often made from younger vines, aged for about a year before release, offer extraordinary values and are ready to drink young.
The perfect intersection of bright red fruit and savory earthiness, Sangiovese is among Italy's elite red grape varieties and is responsible for the best red wines of Tuscany. While it is best known as the chief component of Chianti, it is also the main grape in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and reaches the height of its power and intensity in the complex, long-lived Brunello di Montalcino
Elsewhere throughout Italy, Sangiovese plays an important role in many easy-drinking, value-driven red blends and on the French island of Corsica, under the name Nielluccio, it produces excellent bright and refreshing red and rosé wines with a personality of their own. Sangiovese has also enjoyed success growing in California and Washington.
In the Glass
Sangiovese is a medium-bodied red with qualities of tart cherry, plum, sun dried tomato, fresh tobacco and herbs. High-quality, well-aged examples can take on tertiary notes of smoke, leather, game, potpourri and dried fruit. Corsican Nielluccio is distinguished by a subtle perfume of dried flowers.
Sangiovese is the ultimate pizza and pasta red—its high acidity, moderate alcohol, and fine-grained tannins create a perfect symbiosis with tomato-based dishes, braised vegetables, roasted and cured meat, hard cheese and anything off the barbecue.
Although it is the star variety of Tuscany, cult-classic “Super-Tuscan” wines may actually contain no Sangiovese at all! Since the 1970s, local winemakers have been producing big, bold wines as a blend of one or more of several international varieties—usually Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot or Syrah—with or without Sangiovese.