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Borgo Reale Brunello di Montalcino, Italy 2005

June 7, 2011 Leave a comment

This time we are looking back at Italy for one of Italy’s most acclaimed wine regions: Montalcino and their star grape: Brunello. But alas! We are all likely familiar with this grape already, though from other regions (Italian or otherwise). Brunello is a type of Sangiovese grape that is found in Montalcino.

Italy is an incredibly complicated country to understand in regards to both grapes and Appellation. First, there area literally hundreds of different varietals in Italy that are indigenous to one particular area and found nowhere else. One case in point, in northern Italy there are seven villages that grow a grape called Ruche (if only it were kosher! It’s a wonderful wine). You don’t see it anywhere else in Italy or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

To make matters worse, the same grape could have multiple names in different regions, or even in the very same region. We have already seen the case of Brunello being essentially the same as Sangiovese (the main grape in Chianti). Another example comes from the Alto Adige region in Northwestern Italy, where a little-known grape called Schiava is known in the same villages as St. Magdalener because this area is strongly influenced by both Italian and Germanic forces. Same grape, same region, multiple names.

In discussing the wine regions of Italy, I’m just going to look at Tuscany to be our case study because it is the region from which our subject wine for today originates. Tuscany is subdivided into multiple regions, the most famous of which to many consumers being Chianti and the most prominent and prestigious region being Montalcino. Within Chianti you have several subclassifications, including “Colli Senesi” or “Chianti Classico” and whatnot, and each of these words does have bearing on the understanding of the wine’s origins and thus what the consumer can (or cannot) expect from the wine.

In the case of Brunello di Montalcino, the expectation is that the wine is going to be very big, lots of tannin, with darker and earthier tones being dominant while the fruitier qualities of the wine pay a distant second fiddle (though always fun to pick out when analyzing a wine).

Now, all this being said, let’s get on with our main focus today: Borgo Reale‘s offering for a Brunello. As far as I know, this is the first (and thus far, only) Brunello on the kosher market (though if this is not true, PLEASE correct me…and also tell me where I can find such another specimen!). And while I thought it was a delightful bottle of wine, I also thought that it was a disappointment for a Brunello.

As I mentioned earlier Brunelli are expected to be big and bold with strong earthen tones and high acid and structure from the tannins, screaming for some food to truly do the wine justice. Typically, because of the nature of the beast, you very rarely see young Brunelli on the market; most are at least 5 or 6 years old before you see them on the shelf, and many can age for a decade or more before the tannins and acid resolve enough to enable you to get past them and taste the rest of the wine’s qualities.

While the wine was delicious, it did not hold true to many of a Brunello’s traditional qualities. First off, the wine was much lighter-bodied than I was expecting; it lacked the structure and acidity that I was expecting and was a bit fruity for my liking for such a wine.

That being said, it is also a good bottle of wine. The fruits were soft and had the tell-tale signs of an aged wine: instead of being fresh and perhaps jammy, they were not as strong and had more of a dried strawberry and cherry quality. There was a bit of earthy, tarry notes (which I associate with a Brunello, but as the more dominant characteristics, not the minor supporting roles which they play here). The finish was a little short for my liking (again, operating under the assumption that this was going to be a more traditional Brunello), but it was pleasantly dry.

This wine is mevushal (perhaps explaining some of the lack of sophistication and complexity?), and goes for around $60 on the shelf. I thought it was a delightful wine to have on its own and of course with food. Try this with lighter meats like poultry.

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