Friday, April 1, 2011

Wine Breakdown: Brunello, Rosso and IGT (Super Tuscan)


Lucky for me, I came to Montalcino at just the right time.  Handcrafted and straight from the heart, after 5 patient years, Casa Raia's Organic Brunello masterpiece was finally aged long enough to bottle and of course... 

to taste, but that's not all, the new label was literally fresh off the press and beautifully designed by Ludmilla.  Before experiencing the wine, I made sure to get a breakdown of the three types of wines that Casa Raia produces: Brunello, Rosso and IGT (Super Tuscan), the three most widely known wines from Montalcino.

Brunello di Montalcino

The world renown Brunello di Montalcino has strict rules governing its production.  Keeping with the generations of local fine wine production, Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes grown within the city borders of Montalcino.  Any Sangiovese grapes grown even a few feet outside the city lines cannot be considered Brunello.  Officially, the wine must be aged for a minimum of 2 years in Oak and 4 months in bottle before it can be sold to the public.  Whereas most producers age their wine in Slovanian Wood, Casa Raia uses a special 150 year old French Oak that gives their wine a unique flavor.

Rosso di Montalcino

Although Rosso wines are generally less expensive at 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of a Brunello, they are basically a mini-Brunello held to almost all of the same rules.  The process is the same, the grapes are the same, it is simply a younger version of a Brunello that was created to provide the winemakers a source of income while they let their Brunello settle for the full 2 years.  The Rosso only has to age for a minimum of 1 year before being sold, which offers a fruitier, more lively taste than the more refined and silky Brunello.

IGT (Super Tuscan)

Last but not least, the IGT or Super Tuscan wine.  IGT is basically the table wine of the region, the Super Tuscan being the higher quality version.  A versatile wine that has the freedom to blend different grapes and only needs to be aged for 6 - 12 months before bottling.  This is the least expensive of the three infamous Montalcino wines and has a much less stringent approach in bottling and producing.  Casa Raia's is a 90% Sangiovese with a 10% Merlot and Cabernet Savignon blend, all of which are grown on their property and naturally fermented.

What separates Casa Raia's organic wines from others is their strict adherance to the natural process.  No chemicals, no pesticides, simply as little interfering as possible with the grape's journey from fruit to wine.  Upon harvesting, Casa Raia prefers to hand pick all the best grapes and use a natural gravity feed approach instead of pumping the grapes into their fermentation barrels.  By naturally dropping the grapes, you don't affect the process by squashing the grapes and ripping the skins.  Instead, the weight of all the grapes naturally puts enough pressure to naturally squeeze the juice and allow the grapes to determine when the fermentation process will begin.  Any time grapes or wine are tampered with in any way, it will effect the wine.  PJ would rather let the grapes and the oak do the talking than him trying to get involved.  All the wines are naturally fermented without any added sugars or chemical starters that many producers will use to control the fermentation process.  The grapes, seeds, skin and oak will all contribute to the acidity level, tannin level and flavor, working together to produce a delicious organic wine.

Here's a sure sign that you are working on an organic vineyard.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool man! It was great hearing about your adventures in Tuscany. Brunello di Montalcino's always been my favorite italian red! Abrazo, Nicolas