In March of 2021, I had my first experience tasting the Brunello Di Montalcino from Col D’ Orcia now. Almost two years later, I revisited the wines and now consider them the best Tuscan winery for Brunello Di Montalcino.
A research study by the consulting company Nomisma concluded that Brunello is the most famous Italian wine. It took 150 years of work on behalf of the wineries and winemakers for this unique wine to garner this accolade.
Brunello Di Montalcino
Brunello Di Montalcino became one of the first DOCG designations for Italy in 1980. Records show that the 14th-century production of Brunello in Montalcino existed in a town in the province of Siena just south of Florence in the heart of Tuscany. By the 1960s, there were 11 producers of Brunello, and in 1968 the region received its DOC designation. The 1970s saw an increase to 25 producers. One producer, Alberto Marone Cinzano, purchased one of the original estates of Montalcino in 1974. The town of Montalcino was one of the poorest municipalities in the 1970s. Although there are approximately 200 producers today, Cinzano’s Col d’Orcia is perhaps the most well-known winery in the region.
Tuscan Winery Col D’Orcia
In 1992 Count Francesco Marone Cinzano took the lead in running the estate. Under his stewardship and passion for the property, the estate added approximately 150 hectares of vines, expanding its plantings of Sangiovese and adding Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Moscadello. The latter grape is utilized in making the estates’ sweet “Pascena” wine. Francesco’s most significant achievement was transforming the estate into a fully organic farm. This aspect is essential for protecting the environment and its impact on the farm’s historical legacy.
The name estate, Col D’Orcia, means “the hill overlooking the Orcia River.” The estate lies between the hills of the Orcia River and Sant’Angelo in Colle, a commune in Montalcino. These hills are home to the largest certified organic vineyards in Tuscany. More specifically, Col D’Orcia resides on the southern slope of Montalcino overlooking the Orcia Valley, also known as the Val D’Orcia. Mont Amiata acts as a protective barrier against inclement weather in the southeast. On the west, the Tyrrhenian sea brings breezes that moderate the climate. The soils consist of marl and limestone.
Col D’Orcia’s mission is to produce the best wine in the area. Their label branding reflects this concept. The bottom three rows denote the Hills overlooking the Orcia River and its relationship with farmers and the grapes. The hand signifies the search for excellence, and the star at the top embodies the whole concept of reaching that goal.
The Brunello Grape
After discovering in 1879 that the two grape varieties, Sangiovese and Brunello, were the same, Brunello became the grape of Montalcino. The Brunello wine consists of 100% Sangiovese to qualify as Brunello Di Montalcino. To receive its DOCG designation, the wine ages at least two years in oak and another four months in bottle. Sangiovese in the Montalcino region ripens more fully due to the area’s altitude and gives a distinctive body and tannin particular to the region. Brunello di Montalcino is fleshier in texture, with flavors varying from black cherry, blackberry, and chocolate.
Col D’Orcia has always utilized organic practices, which made it easy to convert the vineyards and other plantings on the estate to organics. This change occurred when organic farming was not in vogue. The Estate became certified organic, and the largest organically farmed Tuscan winery since 2013. Finally, Col D’Orcia transitioned to biodynamic farming and winemaking practices in 2018. Currently, 1100 acres utilize biodynamic principles.
Col D’Orcia’s goal is to bring the estate back to how it was before World War II. They accomplish this by utilizing both organic and biodynamic practices,
Biodiversity plays a significant role in farming. Fifty percent of the land is farmed, of which 15 percent is planted with vines, and the other 35 percent is spattered with olive trees and truffles. They grow wheat and spelt and created a habitat for bees to make honey. Biodynamics cannot exist without animals; therefore, Col D’Orcia breeds sheep and goats. The other 50 percent contains natural woodlands and various animal and insect life types.
The goal of Col D’Orcia is to achieve a harmonious environment on the farm. Creating a beneficially natural balance in the vineyards impacts the wine. Healthy grapes channel down into the wine. This philosophy includes the unity of the people working on the farm. Restoring the traditional farmhouses on the property allowed workers to live on the property as a community. Col D’Orcia is an “organic island” where the community accepts its holistic and homeopathic approach through sustainability. This positive outlook creates happy winemaking.
Combining a classical style with sustainability, the winery produces wines with balance and elegance. The wines seduce us through their traditions and integrity bestowed on us with each sip. These Brunellos are very drinkable and well-suited to pair with food.
At Col D’Orcia, the wines are created in the vineyard. All grapes are manually harvested. The wines are hand-made and very traditional; therefore, those working at Col D’Orcia consider themselves wine artisans.
The belief is long aging in large barrels produces an elegant wine and showcases the spirit and essence of Brunello Di Montalcino. These large barrels date back to the 19th Century and are part of the Col D’Orcia traditions.
Besides the Brunello di Montalcino, this Tuscan winery produces Pinot Grigio, Vermentino, and barrel-fermented Chardonnay in whites. In reds, they produce Chianti, Rossa di Montalcino, Nearco Sant’Antimo Rosso DOC, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Unique for this area is the Spezieri, which is a Sangiovese aged in stainless steel. These are just a few of the wines produced at Col D’Orcia.
In 2022 the harvest was small. The grapes contained less acid and more PH and sugar. Zeolite, a natural rock, was mixed with compost for better water management in terms of drought and increased heat conditions.
For Rosso di Montalcino it was an extreme year of frost followed by a heat wave creating a small harvest. Because of this scenario, the vintage represents one of the highest quality in the last five years.
Tuscan Winery Wines
The tasting in 2021 included a 2016 Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG, “Poggios Al Vento” Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, and an” Olmaia” Cabernet Sauvignon Sant’Antimo DOC 2015. Two of the wines this year were the same, only a different vintage.
Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017
We started with the 2017 Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG. The 2017 vintage was considered a drought year. The wine exhibited fresh and fruity nuances and came across as young in appearance. I found flavors of cherry that enhanced this elegant and very drinkable wine. This wine blends Sangiovese from all the Col D’Orcia vineyards. The wine ages three years in various sizes of Slavonian and French oak casks, followed by one year in the bottle before release. For Col D’Orcia, the wine represents an exceptionally reliable and trustworthy traditional wine.
“Poggio Al Vento” Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015
This wine is Col D’Orcia’s reserva. The soils are sandier with fossils and stones. The grapes come from a single vineyard, 7 hectares parcel on the estate planted in 1974 called Poggio al Vento, which means windy hill. The wine ferments in concrete tanks and ages for three years in both Slavonian and French barrels, followed by three years in the bottle. As a reserva, the wine is only produced in the best vintages. The wine is elegant and persistent on the palate. I found aromas of mocha accented with spicy notes. Flavors of cherry dominate the wine with spice on the finish.
Col D’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Nastagio DOCG 2016
Nastagio represents a single vineyard Brunello and one of the latest additions to the winery. This young, high-density vineyard was planted in 2006. The wine exemplifies a more modern approach to Brunello winemaking. It ages for one year in a tonneaux, which imparts softer tannins. The wine transfers to large botti, bringing out the elegant tertiary elements. I found a wine with more depth, complexity, and excellent structure. Red fruits dominate this wine.
Col D’Orcia has the most extensive collection of older vintage wines in Montalcino. It dates back to the 1960s. The wine reveals a consistent balance and elegance, especially in the Brunello Di Montalcino, and portrays the philosophy and goals that Count Francesco Marone Cinzano sets out to achieve.
Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.