Friday, March 28, 2014

Montalcino and its Brunello

Like an island in the heart of Tuscany, the hill of Montalcino offers to those who ascend from the valleys surrounding it the feeling of a gradual conquest, the sense of arriving in a snug harbour.
Perhaps, because of its geographical position, far from the crowded highways or perhaps because of the purity of the air of an environment that is still intact and wild, Montalcino provides a host of stimuli for the imaginations of those who visit it, involving them in that magical relation between man and nature that, here, has the rare quality of being absolutely spontaneous. The people of this town have always been devoted to the labours of wood and field. But they have also enjoyed moments of proud glory as during the struggle for communal liberty in the 16th century, when they long resisted the besieging armies of Spain and France.
Anyway the best image of Montalcino is revealed primarily by wine, the most precious gift of a land that is at the same time hard and generous.
Already widely appreciated in past centuries, the oenological production had, even here, remained faithful to the canons of proven reliability of Tuscan tradition. It was only toward the end of last century that the first experiments were begun in order to improve and exalt the characteristics of a raw material and an environment no doubt quite special. Thus was born Brunello, as it is still created today, the fruit of a tenacious dedication, of loving watchfulness during the years of ageing in the winery before it is presented to a world that has learned to love it. It is the end and beginning of a legend that each bottle renews.

Territory of Montalcino: climate, soil and position of the vineyards

The production area coincides with the communal territory of Montalcino. Distributed over that territory, according to the best viticultural tradition of the environment and marvellously inserted into the landscape, the Brunello estates offer numerous opportunities to visitors interested in wine as well as natural beauty. Passing through characteristic villages and thick woods, the traveler will dicover well-tended vineyards, perfectly equipped and organized wineries, which are the secret and the pride of each estate from the smallest to the largest.
Brunello di Montalcino Biondi Santi
The commune of Montalcino is located 40 kilometers to the south of Siena. Its Territory, delimited by the Orcia, Asso and Ombrone valleys, has a nearly circular shape with a diameter of 16 km. and a surface area of 24,000 hectares.
The local economy is prevalently agricultural and, in that context, the vine occupies only a small share of the total surface: 50% is covered by wood and uncultivated land; 10% is planted in olive-grove, 8% is cultivated by vines of which more than a half are recorded in the list of the wine Brunello di Montalcino, the remainder is sown in grain, pastures and other cultivation. The hill of Montalcino having been formed in different geological eras, presents extremely variable soil characteristics, whether in constitution or structure.
For that reason, it is difficult to make generalizations that can be widely applied.
The lowest areas consist of terrains created by the deposit of alluvial material with an active stratum that is deep and quite loose, dating from the Quaternary period.
Farther uphill, the terrain, enriched by fossil material, has a reduced active stratum of soils formed by the decomposition of origin rocks, especially marl and limestone.
The terrains are moderately sandy, rich in lime, mingled with wide areas of volcanic soil, but tending to be thin. There are also other terrains derived from stratifications typical of the Siena area that are useful only for cultivation of cereals.
The climate is typically Mediterranean with precipitation concentrated in the months of May, October, and November (average 700 millimeters).
In winter, snow is not rare above an altitude of 400 meters. Monte Amiata (1,700 meters height), not far to the southeast, represents a natural barrier that protects Montalcino from most climatic adversities such as sudden downpours and hail-storms. The strip of hill of moderate altitude, where the greater part of the winemaking estates are situated, is not affected by fog, ice or late frost as are the surrounding valleys, while the normal, persistent winds ensure the best conditions for the health of the plants.
The fundamentally mild climate and the large number of days of serene weather during the entire vegetative cycle assure the gradual and complete ripening of the grape clusters.
The existence in the territory of slopes with different orientations, the pronounced modulations of the hills and the altimetric disparity between the lowl
ying areas and the higher district (Poggio Civitella), produce climatic microenvironments that are divers despite the relative compactness of the area.
The most widely used form of training of the vines at Montalcino is the cordone speronato, which involves short pruning (to two buds) of the variable number at the crown of the rootstock. The other form in use for Brunello di Montalcino is that of the archetto (the modified Guyot system), this involves a single vine shoot, pruned to 6 to 10 buds, which alone is responsible for the vine's vegetation.

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