Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 1996
All labels bear the lion of St. Marco in honor of the Fulignis' Venetian origins. The family, however, has long been thoroughly Tuscan, founding the winery in 1923 round a Medici villa and a tiny country convent of the Renaissance. Maria Flora Fuligni and nephew Roberto Guerrini Fuligni have just restored the latter to its sixteenth-century purity. Its cool, cloistered tranquillity supplies ideal aging conditions for these elegantly structured reds, jointly orchestrated by Maria Flora, oenologist Paolo Vagaggini, and agronomist Federico Ricci. Besides this restoration work, the past year has seen further expansion of the vineyards (now 25 productive acres out of the total 247). Altitude varies between 1250-1480 feet above sea level. Exposure is mainly eastern and southeastern, and terrain consists of stony/clayey, hillside "galestro" marls. The soil is low in organic components — therefore conducive to minuscule yields. Crops are further cut back by the vines’ age (12-30 years), their density, severe pruning and green harvest. The newly added vineyards are even more densely planted, 10 to 12 years old and at a slightly lower altitude of 984 feet, on predominantly clayey terrain better suited to Merlot. The grapes are vinified separately according to cru, in a classically inspired international style.
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.