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DRINK: Unfold character in sips

KITTY KAYE from
NEWSTRAITSTIMES :
2010 / 03 / 19

Probably Italy's most expensive wine, the Brunello di Montalcino, KITTY KAYE discovers,

is a little thick on the palate and has charactor oozing from its intoxicating fumes in spades

2003 Brunello di Montalcino of Argiano Winery

THE erratic and unique complexity of Italy's much revered wines is due to its non-irrigated vines.

Each vintage, regardless of area, tells the story of the weather experienced that year and how it affected the soil. This alone has made Italian wines much sought after and revered by wine lovers. As such, Italian wines are not for the casual drinker. Instead, they are wines to analyse and appreciate. They are more often than not, nurtured to extreme maturity for maximum pleasure.

Enter the Brunello di Montalcino.

Montalcino is a quaint small medieval village 564 metres above sea level and located 110km southwest of Florence in the Tuscany wine region. The vineyards are mainly around the northeastern side of the village, said to be a "densely wooden and hilly terrain".

Montalcino is known for its arid and warm climate. It receives 20 per cent less rain than the Chianti region. In fact, it's the driest and warmest area in Tuscany. Due to this, grapes in the area ripen up to a week sooner than the other surrounding wine producing areas.

Another interesting fact about Montalcino is that the northern slopes (of Montalcino) receive fewer hours of sunlight and are generally cooler than the southern slopes. Fruit on the northern slopes ripen more slowly and tend to produce wines that are racier and more aromatic. Vineyards on the southern and western slopes have more intense exposure to sunlight and winds which produces wines with more power and complexity. The top producers in the area have vineyards on both slopes, and use of a blend of both styles. Terroir aside, lets get onto the good stuff - the wine. In the local dialect of that area, brunello simply means "nice, dark one". Which describes the dense, dark colour of Brunello - reflecting its rather strong personality well.

Made from 100 per cent Sangiovese grapes and aged at least two years in oak, Brunello, I discovered, has high tannin content and is oaky to boot.

There are very few distributors of Brunello di Montalcino wines in Malaysia. Here, I'm featuring wines from two wineries.

2003 Brunello di Montalcino of Argiano Winery

ARGIANO'S known as the House of Brunello. If you're not already familiar with Argiano wines, then let me tell you, they're pretty enjoyable. There's a refinement about them that makes them easy to drink. While Rosso di Montalcino, I suspect, will be popular with the wine-drinking beginners, Brunello is the total opposite of that easy-going spectrum.

Argiano's Brunello has an intense ruby hue which reflects its spiciness. There's a strength in character which needs to be reckoned with and to soften the edges, a touch of luscious femininity too. At 14 per cent alcohol content, it has a velvety tannin that envelopes your palate most cordially. After moments of breathing, the wine develops a more feminine character while still holding true to its persistent long finish.

Tip: Argiano's 2006 Solengo I.G.T. and Suolo I.G.T. both possess an all-enveloping tannin. Nevertheless, these two are perfect for ageing in your cellar.

Where and who
Argiano wines are available by direct order to its distributor:

Prestigious Wines (m) Sdn. Bhd.
Suite 3.03, 2nd floor
Wisma Central,
Ampang, Selangor.

Or you may order it at Chalet restaurant in Hotel Equatorial, Kuala Lumpur. It might be an idea to couple the Brunello with Chef Jochen Kern's beef tenderloin and a bite of foie gras to play one velvety texture against the other.

What you pay
The wines range from RM100 per bottle for the delicately sparkling Vino L'O Rosato I.G.T. Toscana and RM230 for a 2003 Brunello di Montalcino. The tannin-driven 2006 Solengo and Suolo are RM330 and RM430 respectively.



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