Brunello, where have you been my entire life? I’ve finally found you tucked away in the rolling hills of Tuscany in an exclusive neighborhood of vineyards reserved only for the Sangiovese clan.
Under the shadow of Montalcino lies acres of grapes destined to become one of Italy’s most prized wines. Tasting a beautiful Brunello was on my bucket list. After a little research, I came upon a vineyard called Santa Giulia near Montalcino that specializes in Brunello. Only about a half hour from our home base of Pienza, I pointed the car southwest and relaxed into the drive. The picture perfect Tuscan countryside dotted with tall lanky cypress tress and narrow country roads gave the illusion of being in a dream. A few wrong turns corrected, we made a left down a long gravel road to reach our destination.
We were greeted at the entrance by Gianluca Terzuoli, the owner and second generation wine maker at Santa Giulia. The farm is small with five hectares of grape vines producing only 20,000 bottles of Brunello each year. Much to my surprise, the vineyards have no irrigation and rely solely on rain water to quench their thirst. The roots are encouraged to reach deep into the earth to receive minerals from the soil that give the wine its unique taste. Dependent on the weather, a heavy rainfall year will produce a grape with a high water content which means less sugar and lower alcohol. A dry season will produce a higher sugar content grape with a consequently higher alcohol content. The art of making a balanced and well structured Brunello is achieving that perfect balance of rain water to sunshine, resulting in a medium sugar to water ratio for the best wine. Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese grapes and is only produced in this region. Gianluca makes a “Rosso”, which is aged in Slovakian barrels for two years, and a Brunello di Montalcino which after this first aging, is moved into French Oak for another year or two before bottling. After our enlightening lesson, we retreated to the house where Gianluca’s mother had prepared a platter or artfully arranged prosciutto, salami, (meats made by the Terzuoli family), bread and pecorino.
As instructed, the way to taste wine is with food so we are encouraged to eat and drink! The Rosso is delightful, light and fruity. Next is the 2009 Brunello which is browner in color with a rich ruby, slightly earthy taste. Last we tasted a 2008 – fruit forward, silky and lush with dried cherry aromas. Heavenly.
Gianluca sells only to private buyers and one distributor in San Francisco who only sells to restaurants. We felt lucky to meet him and enjoy his family hospitality. If you find yourself in the Tuscan countryside, longing for a great taste of the best Italy has to offer, be sure to look Gianluca up. I’ll look forward to drinking the 2008 Brunello on my birthday!
Santa Giulia Winery, Montalcino, Italy
“First we choose the food. Then we choose the wine.” Gianluca Terzuoli
Ciao for now!