“Uccelliera is now without question one of the handful of top producers in Montalcino.” Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate, April 2010.

Summer has officially arrived, holidays abound and as we all know some of the greatest wine experiences come from enjoying wine on holiday in their native locations. I recently returned from a sojourn in Italy and was struck by the dominance of Brunellos on sale in shops throughout Italy and in their airports. Traditionally the backbone of great Italian wine has been the wines of Piedmont (Barolo), Amarone and Brunello di Montalcino and the latter are still competitively priced, relative to quality.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG is located south of Chianti, the region therefore is warmer and drier producing grapes that are riper, with higher alcohol. Montalcino is built around a large hill, with a higher altitude than Chianti and Bolgheri. This altitude produces smaller berries and therefore a reduced pulp to skin ratio, resulting in thicker grapes yielding higher concentration and tannins. Brunello di Montalcino has a different ageing requirement to Chianti DOCG, needing four years minimum aging, two of these in wood and four months in bottle. (We will follow this month with a full report on Brunello di Montalcino).

The leading producers of Montalcino are experiencing price increases, particularly as their top vintages like 2004 and 2006 have been awarded stellar scores. We have selected the great estate Uccelliera from the producer Andrea Cortonesi. The leading Uccelliera estate means bird house and is found on the warm southern Castelnuovo dell’Abate part of the Montalcino zone. Total production is small with only six hectares, equating to 1,500 cases made per year. All work is done by hand and they practice semi-organic methods, using lower doses of S02 and integrated insect and disease control. Their wine boast complex aromas of exotic spice, dark fruits and a powerful, yet velvety mouth-feel.

Their 2004 and 2006 scored 96 points and are arguably two of the greatest wines made from Montalcino. It is striking therefore that the wine is undervalued in the market at £250 for a half case (£314.40 which includes VAT and duty). Hyperbole in the wine industry can lead one to scepticism; however, it is hard to convey how good this wine is, particularly given the price. The wine can be drunk now, but will improve for another 10-15 years. The leading wines of Brunello di Montalcino will continue to grab recognition and acclaim and there is not enough available in the market to meet this demand, this is simply one of the greatest Brunellos ever made and one to add to your cellar.

The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino is a striking wine blessed with gorgeous clarity and precision in an effortless, weightless style. Dark cherries, tobacco, incense, dried flowers and minerals come together beautifully in the glass in this sensual, understated wine. Tobacco, licorice, menthol and an assortment of other balsamic aromas and flavors add complexity and character to the vivid, textured finish. This is a fabulous effort from proprietor Andrea Cortonesi. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2026.

I would be hard-pressed to name another grower who has made such huge strides in recent years as has Andrea Cortonesi. The artisan tradition of Montalcino is alive and well in this small, no-frills winery, while the wines have never been better. Antonio Galloni