Top 10 Exquisite Brunello di Montalcino Wines: A Connoisseur’s Selection

By: James lawrence / Last updated: January 7, 2024

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Despite stiff competition from the newer firmament of self-styled “Super Tuscans,” Brunello di Montalcino has comfortably retained its title as Tuscany’s finest and most lauded wine. At its best, it is a wine like no other in the region: dense, elegant, and long-lived. Its signature scent and flavor have made it a darling of collectors and connoisseurs worldwide – top Brunello fetches considerable sums comparable to Cru Classe Bordeaux.

The secret to its magic is, as ever, the unique terroir; situated far south of Florence in southern Tuscany, the prized Brunello vineyards enjoy a hotter and drier climate than any other major zone. This typically produces more extensive, more muscular, and more structured wines than, say, in the  Chianti region. By law, DOCG Brunello di Montalcino must contain 100% Sangiovese and cannot be released until the 4th year after the harvest – an extra year’s pre-release aging allows the wine to adopt the designation Riserva.

Montalcino town

However, the region has not remained stagnant; recently, there have been attempts to introduce international varieties into the blend, although these were successfully thwarted. And a good thing, too, if you ask us, is that the magic of Brunello lies in the singular aroma of ripe Sangiovese; minerals, violets, cherry, and black plum all vie for your attention. It is simply exquisite.

Today, an increasing number of winemakers produce world-class examples; some of the most structured and age-worthy Brunellos come from the higher ridges at 400-500m above sea level, which helps to moderate the intense summer heat and main freshness in the wines. Like Burgundy, a growing interest in single vineyard sites or crus continues to emerge, with the most famous being the vineyards planted around the hill of Montosoli. Ultimately, the producer’s skill is the deciding factor, and in this regard, Brunello di Montalcino is fortunate; it boasts some of the finest, brightest, and most dynamic winemakers working in its vineyards.

1. Altesino – Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli

Altesino is one of Brunello’s most well-established and well-respected sources today. Although the property has a long history, it now has the same ownership as Caparzo, albeit maestro director Claudio Basla continues to run the show. All the estate’s wines are excellent; the most lauded is the single vineyard Montosoli. However, the regular bottling also shows excellent depth and class: full, ripe, meaty, and approachable soon after release. The Riserva adds an extra dimension of complexity, but the cru Montosoli that collectors drool over is a wine of immense depth and power. The vineyards sit in a particularly favored sub-zone in the northern part of Brunello. Made only in the top years, it adds concentration, depth, and finesse to a remarkable wine. Take our advice; try to find the 2001 vintage if you can. It’s outstanding.

Website: www.altesino.it


2. Casato Prime Donne – DOCG Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

This wonderful 40-hectare property produces a stellar Brunello di Montalcino from 16 hectares of choice Sangiovese vineyards. The entire team comprises women, headed up by the dynamic duo Donatella and Carlo Gardini. All the wines are fruit-rich, expressive, and well-balanced. The Prime Donne selection brings an extra dimension of weight and structure and requires cellaring for at least 3-5 years. But, it is the monumental Riserva that we get excited about; recent vintages have been in superlative form, and the wines at Prime Donne are getting better and better. Expect a vibrant, structured, and chewy style suitable for extended aging. The only problem is no one ever has that kind of patience!

Website: www.cinellicolombini.it


3. Casanova di Neri – Riserva Cerretalto Brunello di Montalcino

Casanova di Neri

One of Brunello’s newer breed of stars, Giacomo Neri, has worked extensively with the consultant Carlo Ferrini to produce rich, stylish, and meaty Brunello, now much-loved by connoisseurs globally. The winemaking merges the best elements of innovation and tradition – new French oak and the large botti – but only enhances the structure and flavors. They make an excellent regular Brunello and a deluxe Cuvee, Tenuta Nuova, from over 27 hectares of vineyards spread across various select sites in the region. We love the potent and concentrated Riserva Cerretalto, which seduces with its potent aromas and lush, complex palate, offering plum, damson, red cherry, and spices. It is one of the top (and most expensive) Brunellos today.

Website: www.casanovadineri.it


4. Il Palazzone – Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

il Palazzone

Owned by the former CEO of Time Warner, Il Palazzone has gone from strength to strength since the dynamic Richard Parsons, an American with a keen eye for a good investment, acquired it. He wasted no time producing one of the best modern-style Brunellos – deep, powerful, and exotic. Only half of the vineyards belonging to this high-altitude estate qualify for Brunello production; winemaker Mario Bollag produces wines with real density and extract, the star being the expensive and classy Riserva. Bollag selects only the finest grapes in the best years to create a wine with unrivaled depth and potency: lush, rich, and influenced by oak. This wine also showcases the classic Brunello characteristics of savory, herb-and-spice flavors and aromas, serving as a superb example of the achievements possible in this venerable region.

Website: www.ilpalazzone.com


5. Silvio Nardi – Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara

There can be little doubt that Nardi belongs to an elite of Brunello producers renowned for their slavish approach to quality in pursuing perfection. With over 80 hectares of vineyards and Bordeaux’s Professor Yves Glories’ expertise, this extraordinary estate’s standards are now impeccably high. The regular Brunello is superb, made in a way that allows the fruit to shine at a relatively young age, but with a robust structure that means there is never any rush to drink wines from a top vintage. This team’s prowess shines brightest with the single-vineyard Brunello Manachiara, an outstanding wine that displays tremendous depth, complexity, and class—an icon of top-notch Tuscan winemaking.

Website: www.tenutenardi.com


6. Siro Pacenti – Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

Giancarlo Pacenti is one of Montalcino’s greatest winemakers, utilizing his 22 hectares of vineyards to craft a Brunello of superlative quality and style. Recent vintages have all been exemplary. One could argue that this is a strong contender for the finest Brunello on the market. Pacenti judiciously uses a percentage of new oak to add an extra dimension to the existing marvelous fruit and extract quality. These are indeed exceptional wines, which the price naturally reflects! They display richness, breadth, and power, complemented by great length, excellent tannins, and impeccable balance, in a word – perfection.

Website: www.siropacenti.it


7. Pian Delle Vigne – Brunello di Montalcino

Pian delle Vigne

There is arguably no greater source of consistently excellent Brunello than that of Antinori’s. The Antinori family has contributed more to Tuscan wine than any other, a claim supported by the great strides made at this historic estate since the family purchased it in 1995. They produce their Brunello from over 60 hectares of choice vineyards across the zone. The wine style is very sophisticated, if not classically Brunello: the force of flavor strands contrasts with older examples. The fruit could often dry out due to extended periods of barrel aging. Nonetheless, this is one of the region’s top examples, the 99 and 2001 vintages being our current favorites.

Website: www.antinori.it


8. Piancornello – Brunello di Montalcino

Piancornello

Claudio Monaci is one of Brunello’s superstar winemakers, producing consistently great wines at the small estate in the south of the appellation. Established relatively recently in 1990, the vineyard plants its vines in stony, rocky soils perfectly suited for Sangiovese. A blend of terroir and brilliant winemaking creates a recipe for top Brunello; the wines age partly in barriques and partly in large oak casks, offering a winning combination of concentration and depth with finesse and vitality. An aged example from a good vintage typically displays all the crushed berry, herb, and earthy spiciness that you could want from a Brunello, that fine tannic structure allowing the wine to age gracefully for at least 10-15 years.

Website: www.piancornello.it


9. Pieve Santa Restituta – Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille

Angelo Gaja, legendary for his profound, intense, and incredibly complex Nebbiolo wines, has recently expanded his horizons. In recent years, Gaja has delved into creating equally superb wines in the Tuscan regions of Bolgheri and Brunello, with his first venture being a small, exquisitely sized estate in Montalcino. Winemaker Guido Rivella was trusted to make a wine worthy of Gaja’s name and exceeded expectations; the single-vineyard Sugarille Brunello is one of the region’s finest expressions of a single cru site.

In addition to the classic, it blended Brunello, a top cuvee from a superior selection of the best vines. Yet, the most incredible excitement is found in the single vineyard Sugarille. It shows elegance and structure that sets it apart from most other Brunellos. The aromas and flavors are typically pronounced; cedar, spice, and black fruits all vie for attention. It represents what great Brunello is about elegance and finesse, counterbalanced against a muscular, concentrated wine. Top vintages will cellar for decades.

Website: terlatomontalcino.com


10. Soldera – Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

Gianfranco Soldera’s remarkable estate produces some of the most expensive and controversial Brunello available today. Sourced from some of Montalcino’s most prized vineyards, the grapes are grown organically, with great efforts to maximize fruit quality and enrich the ecosystem. The winemaking is natural, and the wines are subject to an extended and rigorous maceration that precedes a stay of typically five years in large oak botti. The resulting wines are massive in flavor and structure; aged examples show tremendous breadth and complexity, with prices to match. But then, Gianfranco only releases a single Brunello Riserva from the finest vintages in small quantities, so he can be forgiven for charging a hefty sum for such a magnificent wine. This is a Brunello that every wine lover must try at least once in their lifetime – magnifico!

Website: www.soldera.it

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James lawrence

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4 thoughts on “Top 10 Exquisite Brunello di Montalcino Wines: A Connoisseur’s Selection

Michael Gsays:

October 25, 2019 at 5:36 am

A top Brunello list without Biondi Santi, or Poggio di sotto is no best brunello list at all

Des Mc Carthysays:

January 18, 2019 at 11:07 am

HI Rebecca, please to meet you. We will respond directly to you by email. All the best

Rebecca Diane Geigermansays:

January 18, 2019 at 5:22 am

Visiting Siena April 21 ,to April 24, 2019. Would be delighted to visit at least 3 wineries

David L Estrangesays:

June 28, 2018 at 6:46 am

Where is the best place to buy Brunello wines . I would like 10 cases of 6 bottles of a few diff vineyards . In France I find the vineyards overcharge after the tasting as most visitors only buy a bt or two , over the years I have managed to get a trade price from a wholesaler . My last purchase of Brunello wss in 2015 ( the 2010 vintage ) from a wine shop/ cave that gave me a discount . Any advise ? I don’t mind buying a larger quantity if needs be .

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