The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Joining the Brunello di Montalcino Cult, From Cerbaiona to Valdicava and Back

Posted on | April 24, 2014 | Written by Janice Cable | No Comments

Vines growing in Montalcino

Vines growing in Montalcino

Of the many reasons why I love wine, the getting tipsy part doesn’t even scrape the list. I’m one of those rare people who prefers the taste to the effect; in fact, I really don’t like feeling tipsy. I love wine for its myriad scents, its slow evanescent change as I sniff and sip, and the way it tingles, touches, caresses or wraps my tongue. I love wine for its color, whether briny yellow, blood-dark crimson, tender petal or nearly white. I love wine for its changeling, morphing tastes, for all those indescribable moments, those ineffable flavors, those mercurial notes that flit past my consciousness and get lost before they’re caught in language. Mostly, I love wine for its uncanny ability to evoke time and place, and for the way that in sharing it, you and yours become wrapped in a kind of magical bubble that hangs suspended apart from quotidian reality.

And for all these reasons, as I’ve averred early and often, my favorite grape is Sangiovese. I know that those who flock to Nebbiolo are wont to give me massive side-eye for that admission, and I’m okay with that. I like Nebbiolo–don’t get me wrong, I’m no savage–but Sangiovese, particularly Sangiovese Grosso, will always rule my heart. Brunello di Montalcino, the emblematic wine made from this grape, isn’t merely the wine I know best, nor is it only the wine that I love most, but it’s also the wine that evokes the most complete textual experience when I drink it. I’ve always wanted to be a synesthete–one of those rare people who “feel” tastes or “see” music–and Brunello di Montalcino offers me the closest approximation to that blurring of sense boundaries.

Vines at Il Palazzone

Vines at Il Palazzone

I love the sleek, opulence of Cerbaiona Brunello, a wine that unfurls like a long swath of scarlet silk charmeuse. I love Baricci Brunello, whose country, hand-hewn edges feel like the caring touch of a carpenter’s hands. I love Cupano Brunello; it runs across my palate like the La Traviata, an endless lush orchestration of perfectly complementary notes.  I love Il Palazzone Brunello–and while it’s hardest for me to differentiate this wine from the people who made it and the place it was born, I love it for it being like a time-machine, transporting me to those times, that place, when I roamed Montalcino, breathing in my sheer, unadulterated luck.

Talenti Brunello for its way of wrapping me in a quiet embrace, Poggioto di Sotto for summoning to mind a genial flower-bedecked farmer, Biondi-Santi for being the closest experience of drinking about architecture–I could go on, but why? You get the picture, if you’ve ever drunk Brunello. And if you haven’t, you need to. The cult is friendly; we even welcome those who love Barolo.


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