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W hen you are in the mood for a celebration or just feel like splurging, the Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino is a magnificent choice. From the first sip to the last this Tuscan beauty has a full, rich, warm feel to it.

The wine is a clear ruby-red color in the glass with flashy garnet highlights. The aroma is all lush ripe fruit such as blackberry and plum with some notes of black pepper and spice. The taste is fresh and mellow at the same time, dense with plenty of red fruit and powerful tannins.

Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino
Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino

This is made in the classic style of Brunello from this region in southern Tuscany. Brunello di Montalcino, which was one of the first Italian regions to attain DOCG status, is one of the truly great wines of the world.

The wine is made of 100% Sangiovese grapes carefully selected from among estate vineyards on rolling hillsides. The area’s many distinct microclimates combine to produce layered, textured wines with powerful tastes.

The wines of the Brunello di Montalcino region must be aged longer than most other Italian wines. The grapes of this wine are macerated on the skins for 32 days followed by malolactic fermentation.

The wine spends more than two years in Slavonian oak casks and French oak barrels and at least four months in the bottle. It is not released until Jan. 1 of the following fifth year. In other words, this 2008 was not released until January, 2013.

My mother used to joke that I had Champagne tastes on a beer budget. And I have been known to scrimp on some things in order to buy a special bottle of wine. But when you open a wine like this one, it is worth sacrificing something else.

This is a wine that turns a simple meal into a feast, an ordinary day into a special one. Drinking a wine like this from the birthplace of the Renaissance can stir deep thoughts and make you want to discuss art and literature.

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The label features a candottiere riding his horse below the ancient city. The figure is from a celebrated fresco of the Sienese artist Simone Martini. The artist’s depiction shows Guidoriccio da Fogliano, commander of the troops of Siena who in 1323 led the attack on the Montemassi castle; an historic moment that coincided with the initiation of the Frescobaldi family’s centuries-old adventure in the world of wine.

The celebrated fresco is found in the town hall of Siena, and Guidoriccio is seen conquering the Montemassi castle, taken after a tenacious siege of seven months. The name of the wine is dedicated to the Medieval village of the same name constructed in the 1100s in defense of the road that lead from the port of Talamone to Siena, and built on the south-west side of Montalcino not far from the abbey of Sant’Antimo.

Sangiovese is a demanding grape that can produce different styles of wine. It is the main grape in Chianti, for instance, which is a much lighter wine than this Brunello. (The brunello is actually a different clone than the one used to produce Chianti.) It produces the best wine when grown on the hillsides above about 800 feet. It prefers the crown of hills with a southwest exposure where it can absorb the hot afternoon sun. It also need well-drained, gravel soils to prevent the grape clusters from getting too plump and losing their flavor concentration.

Castelgiocondo has many perfect hillside vineyards that seem to be made just for this grape.

All of Brunello di Montalcino includes only about 3,000 acres, so this is a very specialized, compact region. Napa Valley has 45,000 acres of vines.

I opened the bottle and decanted the wine about an hour before dinner, and the wine opened nicely. It was still tight and should continue to improve in the bottle for another 10 years or so.

From: Italy
Winery: This wine is produced by the Frescobaldi family, which produces wine under many great labels in Italy. This Florentine family has been dedicated to production of great Tuscan wines for 30 generations and has a quality distribution network worldwide.

They combine respect for tradition with modern techniques to produce high quality wines.

Here is a short history from the Frescobaldi website:

“The history of the Frescobaldi family begins around the year 1000,during the same time period as the birth of the banking industry of Medieval Florence. The Frescobaldis quickly became the absolute protagonists of political and economic life earning them the right to the title ‘treasurers to the English Crown’.

“They inscribed their name in the history of Florence commissioning grand public and architectural works such as the Santa Trinità bridge on the river Arno, and the construction of the Church of Santo Spirito designed by Brunelleschi.

“Among the most illustrious representatives of the family, Dino Frescobaldi played an important role: poet of the dolce stil-novo, he was celebrated for having recovered and returned to his friend in exile, Dante Alighieri, the first cantos of the Divine Comedy, allowing Dante to continue his work. Gerolamo Frescobaldi, an early composer of Baroque music, is still remembered as one of its most influential representatives and created works of great notoriety.
“The family’s start in wine production is documented at the beginning of the year 1300 at the historic estate of Tenuta di Castiglioni in Val di Pesa, southwest of Florence. From the beginning, the family has demanded that their wines be of quality and that they reflect the uniqueness of their terroirs, and by the beginning of the 1400s great Renaissance artists such as Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi had become faithful clients. A century later the Frescobaldi wines were served at the tables of the Papal Court and the English Court of Henry the Eighth.

“A precious heredity passed down through the centuries, the production philosophy of the Frescobaldis is based on the absolute principals of respect for tradition and openness to research and experimentation.

“In 1855 at the estates of Nipozzano and Pomino, they were the first in Tuscany to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Nero and Chardonnay. At Pomino in 1894 they built the first Italian gravity-fed cellars and in the same time period they distinguished themselves for the introduction of ‘specialized vineyards’.

“In 1989 they acquired, the estate of Castelgiocondo in Montalcino, and in 1990 established the Consortium of Olive Producers of Central Tuscany and introduced their extra-virgin olive oil, Laudemio.

“In 1995 the family inaugurated the Estate of Luce della Vite in Montalcino, and in 2000 acquired the Estate of Conti Attems located in Friuli.

“The latest projects for the Frescobaldis include management of the Ornellaia estate in Bolgheri, which began in 2005, and the inauguration in 2011 of the very modern cellars of Ammiraglia in Maremma.”

Cost: $70
Year: 2008

I served my chili in a traditional chili bowl with elbow macaroni and grated cheese.
I served my chili in a traditional chili bowl with elbow macaroni and grated cheese.
Goes with:  My wife Teri and I had this beautiful wine with homemade chili a few weeks after our ice storm. The insurance adjuster had looked over our house the day before and seemed very sympathetic. He agreed with the damages we pointed out and even found some we had overlooked.

Teri served her chili in a soup bowl with chunks of cheese on top.
Teri served her chili in a soup bowl with chunks of cheese on top.

So we felt like a celebration was in order. (When the check arrived a couple of weeks later, we reigned in our enthusiasm because it wasn’t quite as large as our contractor’s estimate, but it was close. It also doesn’t cover the removal of several large pine trees that were damaged. But no one was hurt, and it looks like everything will be repaired, so we will celebrate again when the work is finished.)

The Brunello di Montalcino was the perfect wine for a celebration. We do like fine cuisine, but we also love hearty home-cooked meals such as chili. And this was chili that we pulled out of the freezer, so I didn’t even have to cook.

The wine will pair well with beef stew, braised meats and aged cheeses. It was exceptional with the chili, which I make with ground beef, Italian sausage and bacon.

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