Northern Ohio Wine Guild explains reaping the reward of Brunello di Montalcino

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When drinking a Brunello di Montalcino, the bottle should be uncorked and allowed to “breathe” for a little bit before serving.

By Mary Malik

Brunello di Montalcino is one of 14 or so clones of Sangiovese grapes that grow in the rocky soil on the hillside of the Tuscan village of Montalcino. Jim Sperk of the Northern Ohio Wine Guild says that Brunello di Montalcino is noted for its brown berries. The term “brunello” means “little brown one” in Italian, thus giving the wine its special name.

“While possessing typical Sangiovese flavors of cherry and spice, Brunello can exhibit notes of leather and chocolate,” Jim says. “And unlike some other wines based on Sangiovese, Brunello needs time to age.”

Jim says that by Italian law, after harvest and fermentation the wine must remain in oak casks for a minimum of three years and cannot be released before at least 50 months after harvest.

“In 1998, new laws reduced that requirement to two years on oak and at least four months in bottle before release,” Jim says. “Many producers, however, resort to the more stringent, older requirement to fully develop the smooth tannins and velvety texture that are only attained with more aging.”

Many experts do feel that wine reaches its peak at least 10 years after harvest. Jim advises that extended maturation comes at a price, so expect the pay a premium.

When drinking a Brunello di Montalcino, Jim says the bottle should be uncorked and allowed to “breathe” for a little bit before serving.

“30 to 90 minutes is a good amount of time for the wine to breathe before serving,” Jim says. “But if guests arrive unexpectedly and you just didn’t have time, you can decant the bottle which helps speed up the process. But don’t wait too long or the wine may oxidize. Treat it right and a Brunello di Montalcino will reward you with depth and flavor.”

For information on the Northern Ohio Wine Guild, contact Jim Sperk at