Brunello di Montalcino
SURFACE AREA: 35 acres

GEOLOGICAL COMPOSITION OF THE SOIL: clay mixed with sodium, tufa and silicon sand, corroded limestone and sandstone.


EXPOSURE: South-East, South, South-West.


ESTATE: Podere Le Ripi

WINEMAKER: Francesco Illy

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Podere Le Ripi estate

In the vicinity of the famous 18th Century abbey of Castelnuovo dell’Abate to the South East of Montalcino, the Le Ripi estate is found in an area that is particularly suitable for wine growing due to the specific nature of the soil and its geographical positioning. The soil is made up of various elements, with dense clay mixed with sodium (which helps explain the frequently savoury flavour), tufo and silicon sand compressed by geological pressure, limestone rocks that have been corroded over the centuries by high tides and river waters, and beige sandstone, the younger formations of which take on a deep blue tinge. This represents a harmonious combination, with the presence of every conceivable mineral type, and the probable addition of volcanic sediment given the ancient volcano of Monte Amiata which is only seven nautical miles away.
Monte Amiata itself, which rises to 1,738m above sea level, shields the vines from extreme weather coming from the sea. This huge mountain in the middle of Tuscany, which until 700,000 years ago was a volcano, has a significant impact on the climate in this area. Indeed, clouds tend to move around Amiata, so it frequently rains and even hails all around the area, but not in this exact location. In conjunction with the peculiar exposure of the vines, which slope down to the Orcia river, the fresh downward breezes at night and ascending thermals during the day are responsible for the temperature range enjoyed in this zone. In the surrounding areas it is unusual to have temperatures of 18°C (64°F) at night and 35°C (95°F) during the day, but at Castiglione dell’Abate it happens every summer, improving the aromatic properties of the grapes and favouring a reasonably consistent ripening of the bunches.

According to the production code, Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G. is made entirely from Sangiovese grapes, must be aged for at least two years in oak containers of any size and cannot be made available for consumption before 1st January of the sixth year after the year of harvest. It can be labelled as a reserve wine if it is not made available for consumption until 1st January of the seventh year after the year of harvest.

The Brunello story dates back to the Middle Ages, when Montalcino’s position on the via Francigena pilgrim route and status as a porto franco (free port) made it an important stopover for goods and people heading to and from Rome. The town’s visitors included emperors, nobles, popes and cardinals from all parts of Europe, accustomed to drinking only the finest vintages, which led to a steady intensification of commerce in the locally produced wines. Initially known as Moscadello, from the 17th Century onwards the local product started to evolve, reflecting the demands of increasingly refined palates by transforming into a wine that could age for four of five years in the barrel: Brunello. From that point it gradually gained acclaim throughout Europe, winning countless international prizes. This expansion came to a shuddering halt in the 1960s due on the one hand to the economic impact on large landowners of the abolition of the Italian sharecropping system, and on the other by the construction of the A1 motorway which bypassed the area and ended the constant procession of travellers through Montalcino. It took around ten years, but the situation soon improved, with major investment in production coming from entrepreneurs old and new, accompanied by concerted teamwork between producers, cultural associations and public institutions aimed at supporting tourism and the wine industry. This combination of factors allowed Brunello to flourish, elevating it to the status of a global icon in the 1980s. In 1980 Brunello became the first D.O.C.G accredited wine in Italy (attesting to its controlled and warranted designation of origin), marking the beginning of a major marketing push involving dozens of foreign events to promote the image of this exceptional wine, burnishing its already notable global appeal. The wine’s success continues unchecked, and it remains a fixture in the world’s most prestigious restaurants and wine cellars.

The grape varieties available in Brunello
Castiglione dell'Abate