Brunello di Montalcino wine, a DOCG or carefully regulated wine, is made exclusively from a particular variety of sangiovese grape, isolated since the mid-nineteenth century, grown only around the pretty town of Montalcino, south-east of Siena.
In 1888, 10-year-old cask-aged Brunello was put on sale. With its only producer, Biondi-Santi, selling four vintages between 1888 and 1945, prices for this much admired wine ran very high. This has encouraged others to try their hand at making Brunello. Today there are around 200 producers making around 330,000 cases a year.
Brunello must be aged at least two years in oak casks and four months in the bottle before sale. Since the wine may require up to ten years to shed its youthfulness, most of it gets snatched up at auctions well before it’s ready to drink. Brunello still fetches relatively high prices.
Since 1984, Rosso di Montalcino, has been made from the same vineyards but requiring a much shorter aging period of 1 year total before release. This allows producers to sell some wine while waiting for Brunello to age and permits consumers with shallower pockets to buy an affordable, perfectly drinkable, yet distinctively Tuscan red wine.