Brunello di Montalcino: Chianti’s Burly Biotype Brother Paired with Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms #ItalianFWT

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is Chianti’s beefier older brother. Like Chianti, Brunello is made from the Sangiovese grape, but, you guessed it, from the Montalcino region in Italy AND Brunello is not its own completely separate grape but a biotype of Sangiovese, which means it’s genetically similar but still distinct. Sangiovese piccolo is grown in Chianti; sangiovese grosso goes into Brunello di Montalcino.

While more expensive than Chianti typically, one out of three Brunellos produced are sold in the US!

Brunello is grown in the Tuscany wine region, located north of Rome and south of Florence. Production of Brunello is centered northeast of the medieval village of Montalcino in densely wooded hilly terrain nearly 2k feet above sea level where the highest peak in Tuscany, an extinct volcano, moderates climate and rainfall. While relatively small with only about 3,000 acres, vines are planted at various elevations and on various soils  including limestoneclayschist,volcanic, and a crumbly marl called galestro.

This diversity in terroir contributes to a wide range in quality and complexity for Brunello. While winemakers may combine the various areas for a unified blend, they may also focus on one or even a single vineyard.

Discussing Brunello di Montalcino was the prompt to create a video for the VinItaly Wine Ambassador course in 2019. Here’s ours where you can learn more about the various sub-regions of Brunello.

Typically you’d think about pairing Brunello with a hearty meal — a rich ragu, Osso Bucco, a pizza covered in sausage. But Sue, always up for a challenge, wanted to go vegetarian with our pairings this time. She found recipes for stuffed mushrooms which were so good here with rich sausage and bacon, and equally good but different with vegetarian stuffings. Gretel picked up on the theme and purchased from Roan Mills in Fillmore fresh pasta, focaccia, and two sauces, romanesco and pesto. I put together a caprese salad which had crumbles of leftover olives and feta from the stuffed mushrooms. 

Sorry I was too busy to get some cute pictures of all of us! 

  • Clos des Amis Winemaker Bruce Freeman
  • Clos des Amis Winemaker Gretel Compton
  • VeroVino Importer/Distributer Sheila Donahue
  • Honorary Wine Predator Steve Zambrano
  • Wine Predator Sue Hill
  • Wine Predator Gwendolyn Alley 

pairings with Brunello di Montalcino


  • caprese salad 
  • Roan Mills foccacia 
  • 3 kinds of vegetarian stuffed mushrooms 
  • 2 kinds of fresh pasta and sauce from Roan Mills 
  • eggplant lasagnette 


  • 2015 La Serena Brunello Di Montalcino
  • 2016 Gianni Maccare “Kirkland Signature” Brunello di Montalcino
  • Canalino Brunello di Montalcino

Canalino Brunello di Montalcino
SRP $60
organic, vegan 

We’ve all been hearing about challenges due to COVID in shipping. On the news they’re telling us to do our Christmas shopping now! So that’s what happened to our sample of this wine: it’s still out there on the Pacific Ocean, hanging around in its container, waiting for a spot at the harbor to get unloaded and then hauled to Ventura. Another day we’ll sample and pair this wine, along with its brethren, the less expensive but still delicious and still sangiovese Rosso di Montalcino.

Brunello di Montalcino

2015 La Serena Brunello Di Montalcino
ABV 14.5% 
Sue purchased this wine at Point de Chene wine shop in Ojai CA with an industry discount;  made with organic grapes.

“This wine could definitely lay down another five years,” says Bruce. Bruce, Sheila, and I also suspect it had TCA because it was so muted. I love sangiovese, but personally I want more for my $60 which is what I thought about this Brunello as well.

Color: Garnet, brick rim medium density.

Aroma: Earthen, flinty funk, tar and prunes, leather, horse barn, violet, rose petals, slate, ripe cherry.  

Palate: Dry, bold tannins, rose petals, tart cherry, cinnamon, espresso bean, chalky mouthfeel, lingering cherry essence finish. Cherry cola finish. 

Pairing: Food melts this dry bold Brunello. Loves the rosemary in the foccia. Great with the mushroom bites loving the earthiness and spice. It is also great with the richness of the delicious bite. The herbs and and rich flavors of the pine nuts were a perfect match with the fresh pasta and pesto. The eggplant Parmesan was also a great pairing. This wine is terrific with your favorite Italian meal — vegetarian or with meat!

Costco’s Brunello di Montalcino is a winner

.2016 Gianni Maccare “Kirkland Signature” Brunello di Montalcino  
ABV 14.5% 
SRP $22
Gretel purchased at Costco 

Amazing value, great price for a Brunello that James Suckling gave 92 points to. Not a lot of complexity but what do you expect for this price? 

Color: Medium density, garnet, brick rim

Aroma: Earthen flinty funk, mushroom, horse barn, underlying cherry fruit. 

Palate: Tailored to an American palate, nicely balanced, light in body, cherry fruit, cloves and baking spices, clean finish, a bit thin and simple. Has a nice mouthfeel, dry yet mouthwatering, dry dusty tannins. This easy drinking wine is even nicer with food. 

Pairing: Gretel felt that his wine was great with the food. It was bright and light and woke up the palate. For the most part we were all much happier with the wine when we had food on our palate.  The wine with the eggplant lasagne was absolutely amazing; the wine makes the dish better and the dish enhances the wine. For $20 serve this wine with your favorite hearty Italian dish and it will turn out a high end meal. 


At the end of the evening, Sheila brought churros for dessert. Being from New York, and a recent California transplant, she’s never had them before and thinking that it was her only selection for dessert driving down the avenue to our meeting place, she went for them. They were too sweet and sugary for the Brunello; a biscotti might have worked. However, I had Frenet and Cointreau on hand. Both were equally as good with the churro for completely different reasons. The frenet was great because of the herbal qualities that worked so well with this super sweet dessert. The Cointreau was fantastic because of the orange oil flavors that were perfect with this sweet cinnamon dessert. 

Who else wrote about Brunello di Montalcino and what ddi they discover? Check these articles out: 

Thanks for joining #ItalianFWT! Join us next month as we visit the wines of Barbaresco with Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles.  






10 thoughts on “Brunello di Montalcino: Chianti’s Burly Biotype Brother Paired with Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms #ItalianFWT

  1. Another amazing feast! I also love that you took a look at the Kirkland bottle. I almost always find their options to be very solid, unfortunately I don’t have a Costco membership at the moment or I would definitely check them out more. I’m sorry the other bottle was likely corked.

    Liked by 1 person

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