Vail wine review: Legendary wines of Italy |

Vail wine review: Legendary wines of Italy

Sean Razee
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail wines: Valdicava

VAIL, Colorado ” It was spring when I was sitting in the Cafe Fiaschetteria wine bar in the stunning hilltop village of Montalcino in central Italy, overlooking the sloping vineyards of the Brunello di Montalcino wine region. When I made the trip to this southern Tuscan commune last year, I already had a fondness for the wines, but that mild admiration quickly turned to a love affair after experiencing the region first-hand.

From the wide-open landscape below the city, you can see endless fields of grains that grow effortlessly in the rather arid environment around Montalcino. Driving up the road to the town, the grains quickly turn to grapes and the clay soil gives way to clay-based shale locally known as galestro. It is here that the Brunello grape, the local clone of Sangiovese (Italian for “Blood of Jupiter”), achieves its world-class status. Brunello translates to “little brown one,” used to describe the brownish hue the grapes acquire upon ripening in the most arid of all the Tuscan wine-growing regions. By law, the wines must be made from 100 percent Brunello grapes and must be aged a minimum of fours years prior to release.

The wines of Brunello di Montalcino (Brunello for short) are currently one of just over 40 DOCG wines in Italy, the “DOCG” theoretically indicating superior quality. In the case of Brunello, their superiority is well-substantiated. This is a relatively small region compared to Tuscany’s more well known Chianti DOCG. A modest area of production, along with small yields and extended ageing requirements, translates into a high price tag for the wines. However, Brunello shares the region with two younger siblings, Rosso di Montalcino and Sant’Antimo, both of which offer value-based alternatives to its more prestigious older brethren.

Sean Razee is the beverage director and sommelier for Spago at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch on Beaver Creek Mountain. He currently holds the Master Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Razee is one of 96 Master Sommeliers in the United States and the only person in the Vail Valley that holds the distinguished certification.

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