During our recent trip to Italy, we chose to visit Altesino due to its legacy. Altesino is known as the first Brunello producer to introduce the ‘cru’ concept in the 70s, with its bottling of the single vineyard ‘Montosoli’ Brunello di Montalcino. ‘Cru’ refers to the production of wine from a specific or selected group of vineyards, which has a reputation for good terroir (soil) and by extension good quality. It is located a 40 minute drive away from Siena, where we spent the night after driving down from Florence. When we were there in February, it appeared to be a pretty warm winter as there was a lot more greenery. Here is more on our visit to the cellar door of Altesino in Montalcino Tuscany.
About Altesino in Montalcino
The winery was bought over by wine investor Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini in 2013, who sold her stake in Italian pharmaceutical company Angelini after her husband passed away. Her most famous quote on this issue is “After pharmaceuticals, wine is the best drug”. The winery continues to follow the tradition set by the original management, while taking a forward-looking perspective, resulting in wine that retains the unique and high quality reputation of Brunello. Apart from its Brunellos with ‘cru’ status, Altesino also produces a regular Brunello di Montalcino, which is a blend of wine from several vineyards.
About the Montosoli vineyard when its cru Brunello di Montalcino (Montolsoli) wines are made
Altesino’s Cru Montosoli vineyard spans about 5 hectares and is located to the north east of Montalcino at an altitude between 350 and 400 metres. The composition of the soil (marly limestone and siliceous limestone), its unique position and the particular microclimate (atmospheric conditions which different from surrounding areas) contribute to grapes which produce an extremely complex and elegant wine. Wine Spectator has even named Montosoli one of Italy’s most representative vineyards, which stands as testament to its ‘Cru’ status.
The cellar door of Altesino in Montalcino Tuscany
When we first arrived, we were ushered to the cellar door to settle in. The tour commenced when we were taken to the cellar, where the wines were fermented and aged. To make a Brunello, the wine must spend a minimum of 2 years on wood, a minimum of 4 months in the bottle (6 months for Riservas), and be released onto market ta the 5th year after harvest. While Brunello di Montalcino is traditionally aged in large Slavonian Oak barrels, many wineries today, including some we visited like Altesino, Poggio Antico, and Podere Le Ripi, also make use of French Oak barrels.
In Italian winemaking, ageing wine in French Oak is a relatively modern technique, which imparts a distinctive vanilla note and somewhat leathery flavour. This was somewhat akin to French Bordeaux wines which I had more of a preference for.
We also had the chance to visit the Altesino production facility. Altesino is one of the bigger vineyards that we visited, as compared to the others such as Poggio Antico and Podere le Ripi.
Here is the full suite of Altesino products. We enjoyed the olive oil too and bought a few cans.
The last part of the tour was the tasting. It was held at the cellar door, which reminded me of the living room of a friend’s house.
These were the wines we tasted:
- Bianco Toscana IGT – Made with Vermentino, Viognier and Chardonnay grapes, this wine was quite aromatic and refreshing. Would make for a great drink for a warm afternoon.
- Palazzo Altesi – I enjoyed this wine pretty much – perhaps because it had been aged in French Allier barriques for 12-14 months. As a result, it was structured and had distinct notes of vanilla, quite similar to that of a French wine. The wine had also undergone partial carbonic maceration, a French winemaking technique in which whole grapes are fermented in a carbon dioxide rich environment prior to crushing. The wine tends to end up being more fruit forward and have softer tannins.
- Rosso di Montalcino – Produced with 100% Sangiovese grapes, the wine was aged in Slavonian oak barrels for eight months and placed on the market for a minimum of one year after harvest. The wine was medium-bodied with notes of red fruit – an elegant yet quaffable wine.
- Brunello di Montalcino 2015 – The wine was a classic – aged for a minimum of 24 months in oak and a minimum of 4 months in the bottle. It was a very bright, fruit-forward wine, which like most young Brunellos could use a lot more age. You could tell that it was a balanced and well-structured wine, with good potential for ageing.
- Brunello di Montalcino (Montolsoli) 2014 – As you may already know, the 2014 vintage for wines in the Montalcino region was difficult (possibly a euphemism), due to a very warm winter and cool spring. There was also a lot of rain that year, hence it was challenging for wine-makers. Compared to the Brunello di Montalcino 2015, this was earthier and more tannic.
The Travelling Squid’s Take – Visit to the cellar door of Altesino in Montalcino Tuscany
We eventually bought three bottles of the Brunello di Montalcino 2015 for €31 each and the Palazzo Altesi Super Tuscan for €18. We didn’t get the Montolsoli Brunello 2014 because the price of about €70 was similar to Antinori’s Tignanello but when S compared both wines, he found Antinori’s Tignanello to be a more well-rounded wine with better potential for aging. We also thought that Altesino’s Brunello di Montalcino 2015 displayed characteristics typical of a classic Brunello di Montalcino, and would make good gifts for friends.
In conclusion, a visit to the cellar door of Altesino in Montalcino, Tuscany, is helpful if you’re new to the Montalcino wine region and to Brunello. The wine tour was comprehensive and the tasting session was enjoyable, as our host was quite knowledgeable and could tell us about Altesino’s history, its vineyards and the differences in tasting notes. All in all, a good learning experience.
Visit to the cellar door of Altesino in Montalcino Tuscany
- Address: Località Altesino, 54 – 53024 Montalcino (Siena)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org [Do make a reservation here before going]
- Tel: +39 0577 806208
- Website: http://www.altesino.it/en/home-2/