Il Marroneto Brunello Madonne delle Grazie 2011
Sangiovese's high natural acidity and complex tannic structure make it an admirable ally to a range of hearty meat or game dishes. Go the traditional route with braised short ribs or Osso Bucco, but don’t be hesitant. Brunello benefits from a straightforward pairing, no artifice – as the Tuscans prefer. Bean and kale soup, papparedelle, or an aged pecorino, are resoundingly local choices.
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Amongst the wines of Brunello di Montalcino, no two wines are ever created alike. It is true that much diversity can be found in the appellation thanks to climate, soil, varying altitude and expositions. Brunello, in general, is often rendered as powerful, even virile, in terms of its fruit, tannins and concentration. But this presents an incomplete assessment. In the northern reaches of the appellation, however, precisely the location of Il Marroneto, these convenient descriptors fall aside, privileging the unique microclimate of the area that promotes complexity, elegance, aromatics and freshness. For all their fanfare and sheer precision, the wines of Il Marroneto present a strong case for production zone districts within Montalcino. Historically speaking, Il Marroneto is one of the few older estates in Montalcino having been established in 1974 by Giuseppe Mori. Il Marroneto takes its name from an old tower dating back to the 13th century where the nuns (that lived in the Madonna delle Grazie convent) kept the chestnuts used to make flour for bread. Mori’s sons Alessandro and Andrea, busy with their occupations as lawyers – having followed in their father’s footsteps – showed great interest in winemaking, however. In 1980, the first vintage was made by the brothers’ hands in two small rooms at Il Marroneto. Alessandro was hooked. He would continue on as winemaker, turning his passion for Brunello and the estate into a philosophy of life. To get to the heart of Il Marroneto, the vineyards must be considered together with its winemaker, Alessandro Mori, an artisan in his own right. The estate’s 5.8 hectares have been planted in stages: The first 10% in 1975, an additional 10% in 1977, and the rest in the winter between 1982-1983. Elevation of the vineyard sits at 400 meters above sea level, and soils are an intricate mix of mostly sand large stone of limestone and galestro. Vines are planted with ample spacing in mind so that Sangiovese thrives in nutrient-rich topsoil that encourages good rooting. Here in the north, cooler weather turns out more distinctive Brunellos of precision, elegance and aromatics. Creating some of the most elegant and long-lived Brunellos in the appellation, Alessandro Mori veers strictly to the traditionalist canon of Brunello producers. Mori’s practice of minimal intervention in the vineyard, eschewing the use of chemicals, allowing only native yeast ferments, and traditional cask ageing in the cellar are principles of his philosophy that underscore his mission to create wines “derived strictly from nature.” Mori’s insistence on transparency at each step of the winemaking process is only matched by his no-nonsense approach in creating singular Brunellos that demonstrate their sense of place.
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.
Among Italy's elite red grape varieties, Sangiovese has the perfect intersection of bright red fruit and savory earthiness 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. Somm Secret—Sangiovese doubles under the alias, Nielluccio, on the French island of Corsica where it produces distinctly floral and refreshing reds and rosés.