from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Montalcino Dispatch

We drove back to Tuscany from Bologna in a rental car, returning after twelve years to the lovely hilltop town of Montalcino. It is famous for Brunello wine, one of Italy's finest reds.

Montalcino is in the Provence of Siena, further south on our way to Rome. Our sweet little hotel looked out on the town's porticoed main piazza below, and beyond.

The town is as neat as a pin

Cooler weather continued, providing simply another mood to the astonishing beauty of Toscana.

Our first winery was Barbi, one of the bigger producers of Brunello. There was no space on the tour, so we had to be content sipping exquisite Brunello wine. It is a specifically regulated wine in a defined location, much like Chianti Classico to the north. It also uses 100% Sangiovese grapes. Brunello cannot be sold until aged at least four years. 

Our second winery, Il Paradiso di Frassina, was of special interest. In 1999 the vintner, Carlo Cignozzi, thought music would help the vines grow. His experiment became well-known and attracted the interest of researchers at the University of Florence (Agriculture) and the University of Pisa (Entomology - study of insects). Their collaboration began in 2005, studying the positive effects of sound frequencies on the vines and the repellent effects of the frequencies on grape parasites and predators.

The American company, Bose, donated forty-eight outdoor speakers which play only Mozart's music to the four-acres dedicated to Cignozzi's best Brunello: Riserva Flauto Magico (Magic Flute!)

We bought a bottle of the Moz Art Brunello. Plenty fine!

Casali di Bibbiano is a vineyard that lies outside the geographical designation for Brunello in the nearby municipality of Buonconvento, enjoying nearly the same conditions. Their prices are significantly below those of Brunello. We went to a lunch/tasting there on a chilly day and cozied up before the fire.

More beautiful handwork in the window
We decided to buy a case of their 100% Sangiovese wine to be shipped to Jake's house in Las Vegas for all of us to enjoy over the Christmas holidays. We also decided to buy a case for ourselves to send through baggage when we returned to Brazil. We had to coax them to give us the proper box, then the nice young man carefully wrapped each bottle and packed the carton snugly.

Once back in Natal, we were waiting and waiting - all suitcases came through - but no wine. Finally, I said to Newton, I'm going to go see what that pathetic thing is that keeps going round and round on the next carousel. Sure enough: a smashed-up, plastic-wrapped carton from Caseli di Bibbiano. Oh No.

Once we dug inside at our kitchen sink we were relieved to find ONE shattered bottle and eleven intact bottles. OK.

Near the winery was a beautiful medieval abbey in the Romanesque style: 
Sant’Antimo Abbey. 

The Alpha and Omega: one of many pieces of iron work I admired while in Italy

The fields beside the abbey
This Benedictine Abbey had an abbot who was jailed in the fifteenth century for lewd behavior! You can imagine what fun I had upon our return to Natal reading the famous novel, The Name of the Rose by the late Umberto Eco. Fifteenth century Benedictine monks in an abbey (in the book the abbey is atop a precipice); monks in the scriptorium copying mysterious texts; a series of murders..and, of course, lewd behavior!

Our first dinner on a very quiet Monday was at Fred's suggested simple Trattoria Sciame. As always, the food was incredible.

The following night we found one elegant enoteca/restaurant with a merry crowd, Enoteca Grotta dell Brunello. Quite nice.

We left Montalcino with this scene of morning fog below the town:

On to Rome.



  1. Vino country!! Love the part about the musical wine...and the bottle is so cute. So enjoyed the wine you shipped to Jake's house!


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