FOLK HEROES – Sangiovese, Brunello & Bob

5 September 2015

As NATIVE GRAPES go, arguably there’s none more fascinating, intriguing or contentious than Italy’s iconic red, ‘SANGIOVESE’.

Call it what you may, SANGIOVESE GROSSO, SANGIOVESE PICCOLO, SANGIOVETO or one of another 25 or so synonyms, as Italy’s most planted red wine grape, it’s a serious folk hero. You can’t imagine the modern history of Italian winemaking without it. Afterall, on its own, it’s probably responsible for half of it.

And that’s what’s so captivating about this adaptable, late ripening, thin skinned, dark blue pearl. With little of its ancient family history ever having been documented, for centuries it’s been confused as all sorts. Indeed the origin of its name is completely uncertain with legend not so convincingly saying SANGIOVESE derives from ‘sanguis jove’ (the Blood of Jove). Depending on soil, aspect, climate and the winemakers hand, it can yield everything from the uninspired to the inspiring. It’s only in the last 120 years that guys like Girolamo Molon and most recently the DNA profiling of José Vuoillamoz that we can even begin to get a handle on it.

In terms of its potential to create inspiration in a glass, naturally whenever there’s a juicy SANGIOVESE tasting in the offing, we’re on it and at it like the proverbial early bird. When that tasting then turns out to be a flight including 10 BRUNELLO’s, not surprisingly ALL the early birds in town want to be there. Call it FOLK HERO worship. You see, Brunello is arguably the purest known expression of Sangiovese’s ‘soul’.

Getting inside the heads of a folk heroes like ‘Sangiovese Grosso’ & ‘Brunello’ is akin to the prospect of sipping bourbon and talking turkey with ‘Robert Zimmerman’ & ‘Dylan’. Two distinct manifestations, both poured into one….serious folk-ing stuff !!

With our fantasy Friday flight successfully boarded and seat-belts fastened, captained on this occasion by the Association of Italian Sommeliers (AIS), we took off on our much anticipated, long-haul, trans-Montalcino trip. As already mentioned, our in-flight entertainment comprised of 10 BRUNELLO DOCG’s, representing 9 wineries and 3 vintages, including the 4-Star vintages of 2009, 2008 and a top gun 5-Star vintage from 2007.

Traversing Montalcino’s hillsides from N, S, E & W, provided yet more proof, as if it were even needed, that this half Tuscan/half Calabrian grape is one of Italy’s and the worlds greatest natives. Incisive, reflective, meditative, harmonic and ever enduring, the entire sampling epitomised the sublime essence of Sangiovese & Brunello, their captivating, symbiotic beauty and indisputable quality. Folk heroes are quite often enigmatic, complex and difficult to comprehend, but who could ever resist their unique allure because quite often you’ll find yourself “knockin’ on heavens door.”

‘Brunello & Bob’….. for God’s sake, what could be more awesome than that!

Flight path in order of tasting:

  1. Cerbaia Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  2. Loaker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  3. San Carlo Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  4. Le 7Camicie Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  5. Fanti Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  6. Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  7. Claudia Ferrero Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  8. Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2009
  9. Tenuta Vitanza Brunello di Montalcino 2008
  10. Tenuta Vitanza Brunello di Montalcino 2007

Stand out moments included Il Poggione 2009 and both Tenuta Vitanza’s 2008 and also their remarkable 2007. Ones to watch, Claudia Ferrero’s and Fanti’s 2009’s.

Indeed, talk on the terraces in some parts of Tuscany suggests that interest is growing to call their SANGIOVESE by the name ‘SANGIOVETO’. Will it gain some traction ? Time will tell. But in a visibly tight and lucrative market, it’s easy to understand why some would seek to have their FOLK HERO readily identifiable and centre stage.  We’re watchin’ from stage left. In the meantime, here’s a little more folk hero worship for you….



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