A few weeks ago I wrote that Italian wine laws, which began in 1966 to make sense of all the grapes and regions of the country, had become so suspiciously generous in awarding the highest appellation of DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata garantita), guaranteeing the wine in the bottle was among the finest in its region, that it has become almost meaningless as a guide. I noted that DOCG started out with only five wines, among which was Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino, at a time when there were only a handful of producers making it according to a 100-year-old tradition of viniculture. Yet, today there are more than 200 producers in Tuscany pumping out Brunello.
While that creates considerable doubt as to how many of them could be guaranteed superior wines, it is worth taking a look at what some of the best are doing with this wine long known for its ability to age 50 years or more in the bottle. Indeed, back in 1976 at the estate of Biondi-Santi, whose progenitor created the Brunello using 100% Sangiovese grapes, I tasted an example that was a 75 years old, and I was amazed by its excellence and freshness. The same cannot be said for most of today’s Brunellos—and I’m not going to live long enough to find out—but, as in everything, not least the global wine world, Brunellos have evolved, and the best of them do indeed deserve their DOCG and recognition as among the finest wines of the world.
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