The town of Montalcino, 70 miles South of Florence in Tuscany, is the home to the youngest of Italy's great red wines, Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello was created from scratch in 1888 by Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, who found that the combination of a slightly warmer microclimate than the rest of Chianti, and a local variant of the Sangiovese grape called Brunello, resulted in superior wines.
Brunello produces concentrated, tannic red wines, but as a late-ripening clone it needs the favourable microclimate that Montalcino provides. These wines have the potential for great intensity and longevity, but until recently quality had been patchy.
One recent development has been the introduction of a second DOC, Rosso di Montalcino, with less stringent ageing requirements. This has led to an improvement in quality of many Brunellos because producers can now bottle lesser wines under the Rosso label. However, many Rossos are fine wines in their own right, in a lighter style and approachable earlier.