The Big B (plus Thanksgiving Wine Pairing Tips!)

/ Updated on December 5, 2014

Our customers who love Brunello have been asking for it for several months now. We finally got a beauty in: The 2008 Brunello di Montalcino. If there was a signature grape of Tuscany, Brunello would be the sexiest. This red grape variety was first grown in Montacino (about 80 miles south of Florence) in the 14th century. It was initially determined by the vintners that Sangiovese and Brunello were actually the same grape. In Montalcino, the name Brunello evolved into the designation of the wine produced with 100% Sangiovese. And in 1980, Brunello di Montalcino was awarded the first Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita (DOCG) designation and today remains one of Italy’s best-known and most expensive wines.

About 1,800 feet above sea level, Montalcino has one of the warmest and driest climates in the province of Siena. The terroir is composed of mainly limestone, clay, and volcanic soil. Vineyards planted on the northern slopes ripen more slowly thus producing wines that are racier and more aromatic. Vineyards on the southern and western slopes receive more intense exposure to sunlight and more maritime winds which produce wines with more power and complexity. Naturally, the top producers in the region have vineyards on both slopes and blend both styles.

What makes this Brunello an outstanding wine is both the strict governmental regulations and the painstaking process of extended maceration, and 3+ years of aging in Slavonian oak casks. Typically, producers will separate their production between a normale and riserva bottling. Normale bottles are released on the market 50 months after harvest and the riserva are released a year afterward. The current aging requirements were established by the Italian government in 1998, and dictate that Brunellos are to be aged in oak for at least 2 years and at least 4 months in a bottle before release. Winemakers who intentionally stray from these rules and regulations face possible conviction of commercial fraud, and a sentence of up to six years imprisonment!

The high acidity of this Brunello, coupled with oh-so-yummy blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry, chocolate, and leather flavors, make it a perfect partner for grilled meats and game. Brunellos need at least 10 years before they shed their youthfulness and start to harmonize their flavors. Pick up your bottle; drink it now if you can’t wait, or cellar up to another 6-10 years easily. (Find it at Teller Wines in “Big & Concentrated”)

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Keep reading if it's November where you are!

Preparing for the big turkey dinner is no small feat for those of you who are cooking (I'm cooking for 18 this year but I love to cook- someone else does the cleanup though!). But pairing wines with each course is a piece of cake if you remember the old adage of wine and food pairings: “If it grows together, it goes together.” Wines and foods naturally evolve together as a regional cuisine.

Starting with the appetizers, we recommend a nice Rosé (the Midsummer Cellar Rosé is our November Wine of the Month and on sale through the end of the month). For the main course and fixins, the classic pairing is a Pinot Noir. Traditionally lighter in body and softer on the palate than a Cabernet or a Merlot, Pinot Noir’s plush, berry fruit flavors won’t overpower poultry. Our customers love the Crusher from California and Big Fire from Oregon. (Both are under “Smooth & Structured.”)

If you prefer whites, a fuller-bodied Chardonnay with a bit of toasty oak would definitely make your mouth sing after a bite of buttery mashed potatoes and gravy or sweet yams (the Kali Hart Chard is a customer favorite). If you prefer a nice buttery Chardonnay, Seven Heavenly would go well with your green bean casserole. (Both are on the “Luscious & Complex” shelves at Teller Wines.)

Rieslings (both dry and sweet) are the alternate favorite turkey-day wine. We like the St. Urbans-Hof line. Try the dry with your main course, and the sweeter one with pumpkin or pecan pie. Finish your meal with a glass of Yalumba Antique Tawny port from Australia (located at Teller under “Noble & Sticky”). Amber color with notes of prunes, sweet berries, raisins and spice, this port received 92 points in Wine Advocate.

So, from our home to yours, we toast you all every blessing on this Thanksgiving Day!

Catherine Hester

About the Author

co-owner of Teller Wines in Lewes, DE with her husband Kevin, is a world traveler and shares their adventures at various wineries while offering thoughts on why she and Kevin order particular wines for their customers. Learn more about the Hesters by clicking here. View all articles written by Catherine Hester

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