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Over the past four years the Giro d’ Italia has had special stages linking the importance of this epic, beautiful race to another important part of the life blood of Italian culture: wine. The “wine stages” celebrate the beauty, heritage and importance of vino to the everyday life and fortunes of Italians. From a time trial in the regions of Barolo and Barbaresco, to a stage in the sparkling region of Franciacorta, to last year’s celebration of Prosecco, the Giro and some of Italy’s most important contributions to the world of wine have teamed up to highlight these regions and wines. Wine country, no matter where in the world you may be, is often among the most beautiful places one can pedal a bicycle.
By Clive Pursehouse | Images from Castiglion del Bosco and Castelli
The 11th stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia brings the peloton and its fans to the town of Montalcino, home to the famed wine Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello has its own DOCG or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, the loftiest of Italy’s wine classifications. The wines of Brunello di Montalcino are among Italy’s finest, perhaps peers with Barolo and Amarone as the most highly sought, and priced, wines in all of Italy. They are grown within a particular area northeast of Siena and are made from one hundred percent Sangiovese grapes.
The Giro’s 11th stage into Montalcino will be a tough one. Bernal has already flashed his handiness on gravel, with his stage win and move into pink on stage 9, and we know that a rider like Sagan loves the strade bianche (white roads) as well. The rolling stage with four gravel sectors will be a fan favorite, and for some riders it may be the cause of a lot of jitters.
Montalcino has a deep connection to cycling as the strade bianche cut throughout this region. There is the history of the Eroica, the instantly classic Strade Bianche and memorable Giro stages have come through this way as well, including the muddied visage of 2010 stage winner Cadel Evans. This year Castelli celebrates Montalcino with a commemorative jersey. As a collaboration with the regional wine organization, Consorzio del vino Brunello, Castelli’s Montalcino jersey is of course wine colored. Made from a 50-50 blend of Merino wool and polyester, the jersey offers classic timeless look with a modern ability to manage moisture. More at Castelli.
A Bevy of Brunellos
Brunello di Montalcino represents the apex of Tuscan wine, the predominance of the Sangiovese grape is perhaps seen in these wines made from the region’s old vineyards in the driest and warmest part of Tuscany. The wines undergo particular production processes, governed by the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. In addition to the geographical bounds, there is an expectation that Brunello di Montalcino is aged two years in oak, and a minimum of four months in bottle. Brunello producers who deviate from these regulations do so at their own peril. Conviction for producers violating the DOCG regulations carries a six-year prison sentence. (That’s not a joke.) Brunello is not a wine to drink young; rather at five to seven years it really begins to show its true beauty.
Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015: $70
When the peloton enters the most challenging section of strade bianche they’ll drop into a climb that will lead them to an intermediate sprint at Castiglion del Bosco, the luxury wine resort. The operation is owned by fashion mogul Massimo Ferragamo and they’ve been producing wines grown with an approach to natural viticulture, with an organic certification to boot. The 2015 vintage for Brunello is a sort of archetype, almost what you’d hope for in terms of temperature and ripeness. The wine is elegant, textured and luxurious with notes of espresso, dried violets and a palate of lush red and black fruits. castigliondelbosco.com
Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2016: $52
Col d’Orcia is one of the the original producers in the Montalcino region, and today they are the largest organic estate in all of Tuscany. The “hill overlooking the Orcia River,” as the estate translates to, produces Brunello in a classic, traditional style. This wine is elegant, but full of depth. Notes of dried violet and fig aromatics announce a classic, age worthy Brunello. Flavors of black plum, tobacco and earth surround a core of dark fruit. coldorcia.com
Tenuta Luce Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015: $135
Tenuta Luce produces one of the most sought after Brunello’s each vintage. Their estate, established in 1993, is substantial with only a small portion of vineyards falling within the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. This special wine is a tribute to those vineyards and their capability to produce the highest calling of grapes grown in the hills of Tuscany. This wine is exceptional, built for many years of cellaring but capable of being fully appreciated now. Aromas of black tea, anise and turned earth, flavors of wild herbs, blackberry, and anise. This wine is classical in its structure and mouthfill, a true picture into the capacity of this tiny DOCG and why its wines are such an important element of Italy’s heritage. lucedellavite.com