While living in Montalcino I had the chance to deepen my knowledge of the wine culture and the Brunello culture here, so I would like to share an ideal four days trip in Montalcino, for wine lovers. In this four days, based on a real itinerary that I created for two of my US friends, Chris and Vanessa, when they came here for their holidays, everyone can deepen his knowledge of Brunello area and get to try some very interesting wines.
For who does not know already, Montalcino is a small hill but with a huge diversity in micro-climates, expositions, altitudes and especially soils. We can divide Montalcino hill in 4 main slopes based on the four expositions: north, south, east and west, to help us in discovering the main differences between some Brunello expressions.
First day, discovering the North side of Montalcino. The area that connects the village with Buonconvento, on the way to Siena, is considered the northern area of Montalcino. Here is where you find the coolest climates with later ripening (harvest can be delayed of about 15 days between here and the south area) and the famous cru of Montosoli, which have always been recognized to give one of the best expressions of Brunello. Suggested wineries for a visit: Baricci and Le Chiuse.
Paper Tip: vineyards in Montosoli belong to 5 different producers, it really worth a drive to explore this part of the hill, but producers will not really show you there so you will have to explore it by yourself or with the help of someone local.
Baricci is one of the most historical wineries in this territory, they were the first to sign for the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino in 1967 and that is also why you will always find their winery as number 1 in every official Brunello map. They have a traditional style of wine making using big oak barrels and they are always considered one of the best quality/price Brunello. While Le Chiuse is an historical winery too, relatives of the Biondi Santi family, their vineyards is where they use to make the Riserva Biondi Santi. Always producing incredible wines, with all the balance and the vertical structure that is characteristic of this area of Montalcino.
Suggested wine for dinner: taste Casanova de Neri, which is one of the most faomus producers from the north-east side of Montalcino, with a completely different wine making style. At the end of this day you will be able to understand the peculiarity of the north side of Montalcino both in traditional and modern style.
Second day, exploring the east side of Montalcino: the east side is the area going from the village towards Castelnuovo dell’Abbate, where the beautiful Abbey of Sant’Antimo is. Always considered one of the most vocate area of Montalcino is where you can find some of the most famous Brunello producers. Suggested wineries to visit: Podere le Ripi, Mastrojanni and Poggio di Sotto.
Paper tip: if you are lucky to know someone who does know the area, the best way to reach Poggio di Sotto from Mastrojanni is from the vineyards, not the street !
Podere le Ripi is one of the fiew biodynamic wineries in Montalcino, and if this is not already a reason to visit them, let’s add that they make one of the top quality Brunello at all. Young and passionate team with a strong passion and an amazing project beyond. Mastrojanni is just few km far away from le Ripi, a classic Brunello style now they also have a Relais and a Restaurant to complete their offer. I do not think I need to introduce Poggio di Sotto, Palmucci and Gambelli did all the job in the past years, now the winery is owned by the Colle Massari group but the quality is always incredibly high. For sure after these 3 wineries you will understand what is Brunello from Castelnuovo and you will start to find the first differences and similarities with the north area visited the first day.
Suggested wine for dinner: Pian dell’Orino, another small intervention winery from this area, making incredible wines recently.
Third day, exploring the west side of Montalcino: this area have always been known for its woods more than the vines. A huge forest covers most part of the land so there are less producers than other areas. But you can also find some of the highest altitude vineyards here. Suggested wineries to visit: Castiglion del Bosco, Cupano and Le Potazzine.
Paper tip: stop for lunch at Osteria la Canonica restaurant inside the Castiglion del Bosco estate for a memorable experience.
Cupano is another great bio-dynamic producer (when they said less but good) and it would be very interesting to try it after le Ripi as you have two natural producers, one working traditionally with big oak barrels while Cupano with small oak barrels, so in a modern style. Castiglion del Bosco is one of the biggest producers in Montalcino, they have an amazing property of 5.000 acres, where you can find a luxury resort, a golf club and amazing landscapes, probably some of the best. They wines are always well balanced also when young and very elegant. Le Potazzine is a women-run winery, the mother and 3 daughters are doing a great job in this very masculine world that is Brunello, with very interesting expressions of Brunello.
Suggested wine for dinner: Siro Pacenti, another expression of modern style Brunello which I find very well made. It is probably more hard to make a good Brunello in barriques than in big barrels, in my opinion so does who can do it (like Cupano and Siro Pacenti) deserve your attention.
Col d’Orcia is an historical winery, one of the biggest organic producers in the area. Their Riserva, Poggio al Vento in old vintages is one of my favorite at all. Well Banfi is the story of Brunello, togheter with Biondi Santi they contribute a lot in making Brunello what is today and especially in exporting the Brunello culture over the ocean, in America. If not worth a visit at least a lunch at their restaurant or a visit at their wine shop to have a better idea of what Banfi is in Montalcino.
Paper tips: we do not have to forget wineries close to the village, like Marino Colleoni, a super small producer (like 1 hectar of vineyards) just couple of minutes far from the center of Montalcino village, which makes one of my favorite Brunello and also a fun(k)ny orange wine from Alicante grapes.
After these four days tour you will certainly not be able to say that you have become a Brunello expert, but believe me, you will have a very precise idea of what is Brunello di Montalcino and when coming back home all your friends and family will be surprised about your increased knowledge in this wine culture.