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Brunello, 5 stars for the 2020 vintage unveiled by the Italian swimmer, “the mythical phoenix”, Federica Pellegrini

The “Diva”, star of the online ceremony James Suckling and Monica Larner narrate the 2016 and 2015 harvests to WineNews

The five stars for the 2020 vintage were unveiled by the Italian swimming champion, the “mythical phoenix”, Federica Pellegrini. The “Diva” revealed to the world, online and on social networks, the maximum rating assigned to the latest Brunello di Montalcino harvest, at the virtual, pandemic ceremony of “Benvenuto Brunello Off 2021”, directed by the Consortium. “Five is my number, because I was born on August 5th, and coincidences make me happy. Do I drink alcohol? I was educated by my father who has been a barman in all of the most famous hotels and cafés in Venice - the Danieli, Florian, Gritti Palace - and my brother has followed in his footsteps. Thanks to my father, I have always drunk well too, and I know Montalcino, because it is our Italian holidays destination”, said the new testimonial for Brunello, who is ready for the next Tokyo Olympics, showing the tile celebrating the stars of the new vintage that she signed. Plus, the award winning Olympic and world champion (who is also a judge on the talent show, “Italia’s Got Talent” as well as a Michelin Ambassador), “lent” Brunello her most famous tattoo, the Phoenix, symbol of rebirth and resilience, “a good luck charm ”, testifying to a difficult moment in her career and instead she would later become one of the most successful sportswomen ever.
The 2020 vintage was the result of another spectacular harvest, “unique, with characteristics similar partially to 2010 and partially to 2012, merit also of a regular climate, which made it possible to grow healthy and high quality grapes, compared to a smaller quantity, and which has all the prerogatives for long periods of refinement and a considerable longevity”, underlined the president of the Consortium, Fabrizio Bindocci. It is the crown for 2021, destined to be “the year of Brunello”, on the markets with two excellent consecutive vintages like never before, such as 2015 and 2016, which all of the international wine critics have consecrated at the top. Two of its most influential and favorite “voices”, the guru James Suckling and the Italian editor of “The Wine Advocate” Monica Larner, profound connoisseurs of Montalcino wines, narrated them for WineNews (in a "video- story ”dedicated to Brunello and to what makes its territory unique and special, including highlights of the virtual ceremony). “80% of our bottles”, added Bindocci, are destined for the foreign market, which has never stopped selling because there is exceptional quality inside those bottles, thanks to these superior vintages. The Italian market is also doing well, despite the closure of the HORECA (hotel, restaurant, catering) channel, because Brunello is also consumed at home”.
Following Antonio Galloni’s “Vinous” rating and the Top 100 of “Wine Enthusiast”, and especially “Wine Spectator”, the US magazine by Marvin R. Shanken has been released online in the past few days with its stellar ratings of 2016 (very high scores), calling it simply “sensational”. The 2020 harvest and its five stars are also destined to go down in history as an exceptional vintage. The “open-air gallery” of the ancient Palazzo Comunale di Montalcino, celebrates the various vintages of Brunello and the images signed over the years by sports champions, such as Deborah Compagnoni and Alex Zanardi, and also, of course, the president of CONI, Giovanni Malagò. Now, the tile signed by Federica Pellegrini will be added.
The 2015 harvest was excellent, and the 2015 Riserva was also excellent, then a super 2016 (90% of the 100 samples of Brunello 2016 and 50 of Riserva 2015, tasted by the WineNews, staff that never before this year had such high scores, and to which the monograph, “I Quaderni di WineNews - Brunello di Montalcino” number 182, dated January 2021, is dedicated); and now, the 2020 vintage. The uniqueness of Brunello is precisely that it yields vintages like these, as well as their aging capacity, which rank among the greatest wines in the world. Exactly half a century ago, Mario Soldati and Luigi Veronelli, the greatest writers of agro-food qualities and the beauty of their territories, understood it first, then Robert Parker, the world critic who invented scores. This is how Brunello has always gone beyond tastes and fashions.
To think that actually, Brunello is a modern story, and it is the result of an invention. And also an intuition, which, at the end of the nineteenth century, was created in a cultural “humus”, exceptional for those times in such a small territory. It was created by an enlightened bourgeoisie that, conversing with the great scientists of the time and going against the current in the rest of Italy, decided to focus on a single grape variety: a difficult choice, but it gave its best in Montalcino. The spark was ignited at the Greppo Estate, where the Biondi Santi family selected the Sangiovese Grosso and vinified it in purity, thereby creating Brunello. Fast-forwarding, in 1967, the day after it was recognized DOC, one of the first wines in Italy, the Consortium was founded. At that time, though, there were still very few wine farms aware of the potential. In the mid-seventies, Montalcino became a real wine district, definitely thanks to the “immense entrepreneurial work” of Castello Banfi. From that moment on, and the DOCG recognition, again the first in Italy, in 1980, large amounts were invested in the vineyards, the wineries, marketing and communication to promote the image of the territory, and make Brunello known the world over. First it was the historic local families, and then the most important Italian wine brands put vineyards in Montalcino, as well as the many entrepreneurs and famous people who have chosen it to produce wine, and have made it one of the most important destinations for international tourism.
The story of Brunello continues to give it star ratings, not only for its quality, but also for its value from the price and appeal of its hectares to the turnover of a production of millions of bottles (which, including the old vintages kept in cellar vaults, is worth more than 1 billion euros) exported to almost 100 countries. And then the “blue chips” in the big international auctions, such as Soldera Case Basse and Biondi Santi (now owned by the French EPI Group).
Countries importing Brunello and Montalcino wines, despite the challenges due to the Covid-19 emergency that unites all of us, value Brunello on their wine lists, a symbol of the passion for Made in Italy, which is not affected by the pandemic. Awards and accolades such as the “Leccio d’Oro”: from “Don Alfonso” of the Iaccarino family in Toronto, “where there is a very strong culture for Italian wines”, said chef Ernesto Iaccarino; the “Gattopardo” in New York; the wine shop Boston’s “Italian Wine” which sells 100% Italian wines, for a total of 40-50.000 bottles a year, and “La Fenice” in L’Aquila, keeper of “cult bottles” such as Biondi Santi’s Riserva 1955 at Trattoria Osenna in San Quirico d’Orcia. And, new Special Awards at “Two Rocks Wine Company” in Bermuda and “Giglio - Trattoria Fiorentina” in Bangkok, recently opened in May; the “Leccio d’Oro - Brunello Lovers”, next to the “Terra di Piero” in Arezzo, for the“ Leccio d’Oro - Rosso di Montalcino ”.
The territory of Montalcino is suited to the production of great wines, due to the composition and the different slopes of its hills and the favorable climate, but also it is where the symbiosis between man and nature and “natural sources” of wealth, such as the wind and the woods help to create a perfect terroir for Sangiovese. It is a “terroir” in which there is the beauty of its monuments and works of art, alongside a landscape such as the Val d'Orcia a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has an important political as well as religious history, a passion for the territory witnessed in the words of some of the greatest poets and writers, in the films of famous directors and by many illustrious regulars of the “Brunello parlor”. And, there is, of course, the biodiversity of a territory that is a symbol of quality agriculture, where “Slow Food” took its first steps.
It is an “icon-territory” that has always been dedicated to an initiative, which today is called Made in Italy creativity. It represents a historical legacy of past generations, and it is wonderful to imagine that centuries later it will be the basis of the invention of Brunello, fruit of the same civilization and culture. It is an exceptional story that, in everyone’s opinion, will only improve in the future, by finding a few, but clear common goals (and there are so many!) for the entire territory.

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