For Italian Wines, a Rosy Picture

Judith Harris (August 01, 2011)
The closer one arrives to Montalcino, the more signs appear inviting the traveler to local producers for a wine tasting. And why not? Among the most prized of red wines anywhere, Brunello, along with the Piedmontese Barolo, is the Italian wine said to age best. It is made exclusively from the Sangiovese grape and harbors its secrets for years in great oak barrels and then in bottles, developing an alcohol content of at least 12%. At least two years have passed before it is drunk. At that time proper decanting is advised, or at least before consumption it must be let “breathe” (that is, let the opened bottle sit quietly a few hours). Finally it is poured into a glass, which the wine connoisseur will hold to the light a moment to see and admire, in the thin layer of glycerine atop the ruby red wine, a miniature rainbow striped in layers of orange and black.

MONTALCINO – You know you’re in Brunello country when you see, guarding the meticulously groomed vineyards as they unfold across the famous slanting hills of clay (le crete), rose bushes in bloom at the start of every row of grape vine. Rose bushes? “It’s our tradition,” a proud Tuscan vintner explained. “We’ve always planted them by the grapes.”