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My Brunello 1970’s style

Brunello di Montalcino Casato Prime Donne 2015

My Brunello 1970’s style

For the last 7 years Casato Prime Donne has worked, in the vines and in the cellar to bring Brunello back to the original style of the 1970’s: elegant, vertical and with long ageing potential


By Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Montalcino Brunello Casato Prime Donne - Family pictures Cinelli Colombini

Montalcino Brunello Casato Prime Donne – Family pictures Cinelli Colombini

I became aware of this thing gradually. Like a teenager that at the beginning refuses the past, then follows trends, until he or she takes on their own personality and understand which route to follow.

Such a confession might sound strange from someone like me, someone who grew up among Brunello barrels, but who, when I left my family estate in 1998 really had trouble in understanding what I wanted  and to live off memories without suffering and allowing them to inspire me.



For the last seven years at Casato Prime Donne, we have been working on a Brunello that is “identitary”, one that can tell about the varietal and the terroir. Slowly I have understood that I was going in the opposite direction, I was going towards the Brunello as it was in the 1970’s, the original one.

The Sangiovese from Montalcino grown by my grandfather Giovanni Colombini, first alone and then with my mother Francesca united pleasantness and longevity, elegance and character. The cooler climate in those days permitted the production of great Brunello only in the excellent harvest and only in soil with many rocks able to drain they rainfall. Today the climate changes have multiplied the good and excellent vintages but they fore us to search for water in depth and also to work very hard in protecting the grapes from the sun and keep a certain balance in the vines.



Brunello di Montalcino Casato Prime Donne

Brunello di Montalcino Casato Prime Donne

The “1970’s style project” is progressing well and some results are already evident especially in the vintage Brunello “but we will need another 10 years to conclude it: we want to graft the new vines just planted and to increase the number of barrels that contain 15hl ”.However most of the work has been done: the vineyard is organic, the winter pruning is done in the old way (thanks also to the Simonit and Sirch courses), in the summer the shots are just trimmed so that they can supply shade, and harvesting is done choosing cluster by cluster and going over the same vineyard time after time. We no longer pick the over ripe grapes like 15 years ago. In the cellar, we have gone back to concrete tanks, autochthonous yeast and we have gotten rid of the barriques.



On the whole it is a strategy that makes us stand out. This year too Casato Prime Donne harvested 5 days sooner than the other Montalcino producers and all its grapes were covered with leaves whereas all other vineyards had been de-leafed.

When I tell people I have lowered the height of the vine wires and that I want t diminish the density per hectare to less than 5,000 plants per everybody looks at me as I were mad.

Yet the climatic changes must take us towards some different attitude in the vineyard if we want to produce great grapes and fine wines. At the beginning of the 70’s my grandfather Giovanni Colombini wrote an article “La terra muore” (the land dies) for the Accademia Italiana della Vite e del Vino, and he was thought mad too.



Brunello wine cellar - Casato Prime Donne - Montalcino

Brunello wine cellar – Casato Prime Donne – Montalcino

What really convinces me is the enthusiastic response from the market: importers, buyers and consumers appreciate our Brunello without reserve.

Obviously the distance with the Brunello stereotypes as they have been  forged between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st is more and more defined , but maybe this not bad news.

It must be said that not everybody loves the same style of Brunello: there are those who are looking for power, concentration, structure, evident oakiness from small barrels… With these consumers my Brunello is at a disadvantage, especially in wine tastings, because its strong points are: elegance, freshness, minerality and verticality. But try it with a meal and you will see that it is a winner.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

The new interest of critics towards vintage Brunello rather than Riserva Brunello seems to indicate the emerging of a new sensitivity, something close to a human civilization that is changing, backed by younger people who give more value di diversity , as if it were a guarantee of naturalness and craftsmanship. This is the direction that I am going towards.

The choice of making a Brunello in the 1970’s style is a permanent decision, and I am sure it will take us far. If it is not like by everybody, never mind. I cannot be one of many, I must follow my heart.

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