Brunello is a grape (a high quality variant of the Sangiovese grape called Sangiovese Grosso), that is grown in Montalcino, a town in Southern Tuscany. Montalcino towers over the surrounding area, as it if it’s an island on land.
Pair Brunellos with heavy meat dishes, such as steak, beef stroganoff, oxtail, beef wellington, or game paired with mushroom sauces. They’ll also bode well against heavy pasta dishes, rich stews and blue-veined cheese or Pecorino Cheese, where the notes of blackberry, chocolate, leather and cedar add complexity to the pairing.
Brunello di Montalcino is one of the few DOC wines that is hunted by wine collectors due to its depth of flavour, and its ability to age for decades.
Brunello requires serious ageing (up to 10 years or more) and breathing (at least an hour) before they are ready to drink. Otherwise, the wine might come off as extremely dry and acidic. At its prime, however, notes of blackberries, leather, chocolate and cedar will shine through.
The commune of Montalcino is not far from Chianti Classico, so you’d expect a similar style of wine. However, the climate of Montalcino is much more dryer and hotter, and the soil has much more limestone, and sand, meaning the soil stays warm (compared to clay, which is cooling). These differences make Brunello di Montalcino a much more powerful wine.
If you wish an immediately accessible Montalcino wine, try Rosso di Montalcino. These wines are usually a great value and are a nice teaser of what Brunello di Montalcino has to offer.
Pairing Brunello with Food
Brunello and Beef Pairing
Brunello is a hearty red wine, and it needs a dish with a lot of substance. A simple roast of beef or a Tuscan style steak (Bistecca Alla Fiorentina) pairs well with Brunello if it’s lightly seasoned, and not accompanied by a lot of sauces. The simpler the better, as the wine has spicy flavours that you may not appreciate if there is too much flavour already on your plate.
Remember, if you are busting out a Brunello, it’s a rare treat, so you want to give the wine its full attention to fully appreciate what it has to offer. Extra saucy foods or complicated flavours will go fine with Brunello, but you’ll end up missing half of the beauty of this wine.
Brunello and Game Pairing
Most hearty meats will pair well with Brunello, such as lamb, venison, pheasant, wild boar, or rabbit (like rabbit ragu). Brunello works well, as the in-depth flavours are a perfect foil for the gamey flavours of wild game. Meanwhile, the leather and cedar notes complement the natural flavours of the hearty game meats.
Lighter meats, such as turkey, fish or chicken, are a bad idea as the flavours will be overpowered by Brunello. However if it’s in a strong tomato-based sauce, such as Cacciatore, Brunello will pair up fine.
Oxtail Stew and Brunello Pairing
Oxtail was once really from an ox, but now it is usually beef or veal tail. While it’s bony, this cut of meat is quite flavourful, but it can also be tough. Thus, it often requires long and slow braising, or it is used in stews, or soups. We love Brunello with Oxtail stew, where you have this hearty dish, complemented by a fruity red, with leather, chocolate and spicy flavours.
The tongue curling tannin in this wine is tamed by a rich and meaty stew, making this wine accessible, and allowing you to explore all it has to offer.
If you are braising your Oxtail, we suggest you don’t use Brunello. While it will make your dish incredibly tasty, a less expensive Sangiovese grape-based wine will suffice. Chianti, Vino Nobile and Carmignano are much more affordable alternatives that will imprint flavours to unify with your Brunello for when you are ready to dine.
Portobello Mushrooms and Brunello Pairing
A pairing perfect for vegetarians. Portobello Mushrooms are rich in texture and flavour, meaning they’ll hold up to this powerful wine. We recommend cooking serving the Portobello Mushrooms in a risotto, or over polenta to keep the dish exciting.
Interpreting the Label
For a wine to be a Brunello di Montalcino
Contents: 100% Sangiovese “Brunello” grapes
Aging: Minimum for 2 to 4 years in Oak Barrels (the longer the aging, the less fruitier it will be)
Brunello di Monalcino Riserva: Wine is aged 5 months in Oak Barrels + 6 months in the bottle before it is released.