Lovely Brunello. Delicious, expensive, debonair Brunello di Montalcino.

Brunello is a red wine made from the Sangiovese grape. The best Brunellos are capable of long aging (30+ years), and can take several years of cellaring in order to be considered ready to drink.

The region has about 3,000 acres of vineyard, in the tiny and romantic Tuscan hilltop town of Montalcino, Italy. If you visit, you will get some exercise as you walk up the cobblestone walkways, under arches and past fountain squares, to arrive at one of the many chic wine boutiques.

Brunello is aged for a minimum of five years after the year the grapes are harvested (six years for Riserva wines). The time in oak barrels, and in the bottle, helps to mellow this powerful, tannic, and complex wine. If you like Pinot Noir, think of Brunello as it’s older, more powerful cousin.

Yes, a good Brunello will set you back some money. It’s not the kind of wine you pop out for and drink the same night. These bottles require a little love and patience. I’ve got a couple sitting downstairs that will be ready to drink over the next five years; I visit with them every once in a while, just to check in. That being said, if you’re splurging and see a bottle on the winelist, prepare for a sensory experience – this is a sexy, thoughtful wine that will prompt discussion!

The other thing to consider about Brunello is that not every vintage is as good as the others. Keep an eye out for these years, they are excellent vintages: 2004, 2006, 2007, & 2010.

If you want a taste of Brunello, but at a lower price point, may I humbly recommend Rosso di Montalcino. These wines are less than half the cost, made from younger vines and aged for less time. But, they are good drinking, easy to enjoy (less tannic and softer), and offer some of the same intoxicating bouquet of a Brunello. 2012 is a vintage to buy.

What to eat with your Brunello: this wine pairs best with savory, rich dishes. Think roasted or grilled meats, or aged cheeses like Pecorino.

Here are my top 5 Brunello to look out for from the 2010 vintage. These are in no particular order, but if I had to buy just one, it would be the Campogiovanni:

~ Banfi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {sweet earthiness, plum, light cinnamon spice, vibrant & alive}

~ Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {black roses, hint of vanilla, dark sour cherries, moody spice, grippy}

~ Capanna Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {violets, juicy red fruits, softer, sexy, feminine, earth, pure silk}

~ Il Grappolo Fortius Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {powerful concentration, a little savory, mineral, spicy violets}

~ Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 {ripe fruit balanced with leather, earth, spice, stone, silky tannins, approachable now}

Cin Cin,