The laws of Brunello are a curious thing.
Yet Brunello is, technically speaking, several different things. First, Brunello is a grape — “the little dark one”. Brunello is also a region, surrounding the hillsides of the town of Montalcino, as its full name Brunello di Montalcino, suggests. And finally, Brunello is a set of laws, in Italy known as DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). And this is where things get interesting.
Like all DOCGs, Brunello’s mandates grape type, vineyard area, oak treatment and aging. But Brunello’s goes further – stipulating the maximum vineyard yield (4.7 tons / acre) as well as the maximum production of Brunello from a winery as a percentage of total output (68%).
So get this: even if everything else matches – grapes, location, aging, vineyard – as a Brunello producer you can only label 68% of what you make as “Brunello”.
Imagine you have 100 barrels of wine. The government will only let you label 68 of them as Brunello, even though the other 32 are exactly the same wine. So what do you do with the 32 barrels?
Meaning you change the legal name, that’s all.
I recently spoke to Elisabetta Gnudi, owner of Carpazo, and she told every year she ends up declassifying. In essence, she takes her remaining 32 barrels of Brunello and labels them as Sangiovese Rosso.
There’s a catch.
As a wine, Brunello is well endowed with forceful tannins and strong acidity that initially overrides its fruit. Aging a Brunello for decades brings these components into a glorious harmony. Some of us may have cellars that are provisioned with gloriously harmonious ’81 Brunello but most of us need something to drink tonight. So when Elisabetta is selecting her Rosso, she thinks of us, and chooses Brunello with more fruit, less acid and less tannin – and that is how she chooses the 32 barrels to “declassify” and label Sangiovese Rosso.
The upside to this catch is that you can drink it now.
Caparzo’s Sangiovese Rosso is a pure, bright and elegantly delicious drinking experience. Vivid red and black cherry fruits emerge from the glass mixing with violets, cedar and hints of cypress. On the palate its bright acidity gives true meaning to the phrase “pizza wine”, being utterly drinkable and fresh. The finish reveals its Brunello ancestry with a lingering finish of mocha and chocolate. Beautiful to drink now, it will age gracefully for five more years.
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