PAINTING THE TOWN RED
Brunello di Montalcino, the first wine to receive the elite DOCG designation, is now central to a local consortium’s efforts to maintain the regeneration of this beautiful Tuscan hill town
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Brunello di Montalcino being awarded the designation of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest level in the quality classification of Italian wines. Brunello was the first wine in the country to obtain this important acknowledgement in 1980.
Brunello di Montalcino boasts an international reputation. In 2006, the 2001 Brunello of a Montalcino winery was elected best wine in the “Top 100” world ranking compiled by the prestigious American magazine Wine Spectator. For some time this king of Tuscan grapes has also been the Italian wine with the highest average price, with the value of its vineyards standing at more than €1million per hectare. Its territory of origin is also record-breaking. It was in Montalcino that Italy’s first public wine shop was opened, in 1941, selling only local wines and products. The first winery in Italy to open its doors to the public was also in Montalcino, in 1948.
Today the wine tourism which Montalcino paved the way for is essential for the area’s economy as a whole, with a 132 per cent increase in the number of visitors in the last decade alone. The leverage of a global brand like Brunello – combined with the Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has led to an exponential growth in tourism, not only from Italy but from all over the world. According to the surveys carried out by the Tuscan regional authorities, over 8,000 wine-lovers arrived from the UK in 2019, attracted not only by wine but by other local produce – oil, saffron and honey – and by historical attractions such as the town’s fortress and the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Visitors have also been rising massively from the United States, Germany and Brazil.
While Brunello brand strength is great, so is the need for protection and commitment to its promotion at national and international level. This is why the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino was founded in 1967. “Quality instead of quantity, defence of biodiversity, promotion and social responsibility are the Consortium’s watchwords, to make the Montalcino brand grow,” says Fabrizio Bindocci, Chairman of the consortium.
Today the consortium numbers 208 winegrowing estates (98.2 per cent of the total Brunello production) and is responsible for protecting the brand, promoting it and guaranteeing the quality of the product. “This aim is achieved thanks to long-term policies,” says Fabrizio. “They begin with the choices made in the vineyard and in the cellar and end with the development of promotional strategies that allow us to make the wines and the territory known in the rest of Italy and abroad, with the organization of events and communication strategies that pay the utmost attention to the correct positioning of the brand.”
Indeed, because, in the case of Montalcino, wine, particularly Brunello, is the driving force behind one of the richest agricultural communities in the world. Around 50 per cent of the area’s economy is based on farms but, unlike many agricultural parts of Europe, it is thriving, with an unemployment rate of less than 2 per cent. It’s an ecosystem which, during peak periods, employs up to 4,000 people and is also able to absorb much of the workforce of neighbouring municipalities. It is a healthy situation that the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino is keen to maintain. “It is essential to work on the territory,” says Fabrizio, “to create synergies between the various players in the local agri-food chain, not just between wineries.”