Continuing on the Wine Trail, part 4

with Rick and Mary Homer



For those of you unfamiliar with Brunello, you may be interested to know:

  •  Brunello di Montalcino is a red DOCG Italian wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino located about 80 km south of Florence in the Tuscany wine region.
  • Brunellos are made using 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.
  • Brunello di Montalcino must be made with 100% Sangiovese, and aged for at least 2 years in wood casks, and another three years in the cellar. By law, it is the Italian wine that stays in cellar longest before going on the market, and the Riserva must wait a total of six years.
  • Do not confuse Brunello wine with a “Super Tuscan” (a term used to describe red wines from Tuscany that may include the use of non-indigenous grapes, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah).

As we drive through the countryside we notice is it made up of rolling hills. Different from the more mountainous wine region we last visited. Both are interesting to look at but driving through the Province of Siena, we are awestruck by the beauty of the scenery. Each glance out the window is postcard worthy.

Montalcino is a pretty little city with lovely shops for the tourists to spend their money. Loads and loads of Brunello wine shops (see photo below captured in a wine shop) but also many other interesting shops: leather goods, linens, ice cream, kitchen shops, ceramic dishware shops, lots of little coffee bars, Osterias, etc.
After obtaining a map of the wineries from the Tourist Information office in Montalcino we set off in the car and head to the first winery on our list:

PODERE FORNACINA ( (e-mail: (tel: +39 0577 848464) (Owner: Simone Biliorsi)

We arrive at lunchtime (poor timing on our part). The tasting room is closed. I remind the guys that Italians take about 2 to 3 hours for a lunch break (during this time they eat, sleep and enjoy a bit of the dolce vita). As we are debating our next more, an older couple come out of the house located on the property. Apparently the gentleman, named Ruggero Biliorsi, is the founder of the winery. He is still actively involved but the winery, he tells me, is now the responsibility of his children, including marketing and securing their international brand.

Ruggero does not speak English but after I put my Italian language skills to use, and explain who we are and why we are there, he kindly shows us to the winery . . . leading us through the bottling and labelling station to an intimate tasting room in the back. He quickly sets out beautiful wine glasses (Italian made) and our tasting begins:

A. Fornacina Brunello di Montalcino 2013 Price: E 24
Nose: intense, complex, inviting – ripe plums with earthy and leather notes;
Palate: nice body, intense flavours with a slight perception of sweetness which balances the tannins nicely;
Finish: intense, complex, long with nice mature tannins
We agree it is worthy of a Gold Medal

B. Fornacina Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2012 (vintage year) Price: E 36
Nose: intense and complex with notes of fruit and spice (plum, cherry, anise, vanilla) integrated with savoury notes of tobacco leaf and barnyard
Flavour: intensity of the nose carries through to the palate;
Finish: Long, complex and intense finish that continues to develop;
We agree it is worthy of a Gold Medal (Platinum medal? )

Ruggero tells us that prior to serving this 2012 Riserva the wine should be allowed to breath for 4 hours. I comment to Ruggero that “questo vino e velutato”. He agrees. It is smooth as velvet.

To accommodate our desire to purchase this wine in Canada, Ruggero phones his son to find out who in Canada is their wine rep: Bella Vita Importers (out of Quebec). Being too far from s, we decide to purchase our Brunello directly from Fornacina and pack it back home with us.

Ruggero tells us that Fornacina will not release any “riserva” wines that have not received a 5-star rating at the annual Montalcino Wine Festival, which is attended and judged by international wine writers and wine judges. We also learn Fornacina will not release any “non-riserva” wines unless they have received at least a 4 star rating.

After sharing a story of when I lived in Italy with my nonna and how she would occasionally enjoy a small glass of grappa after dinner (and once used it to numb a toothache I had), Ruggero offered to let us taste the winery’s:

Fornacina Grappa di Brunello Riserva
Price: E 18 (500 ml)
42% alcohol

He mentioned that they used to make two types of grappa but have decided to make only the Riserva, which is barrel aged for 18 months. He takes out the appropriate grappa glasses and pours. We are surprised and impressed by the smoothness on the palate and the complexity of the nose.

While enjoying our grappa, Ruggero teaches us about Grappa:

1.   To make good grappa, the winemaker must use freshly crushed grape skins; do not let the grape skins dry; Fornacina delivers their wet skins to the distiller within an hour of pressing the grapes; also, he confirms the importance of barrel aging; and

2.   A method used to judge a Grappa, if you don’t want to taste it, is to pour a small amount in the palm of your hand; then rub your hands together to spread out the Grappa (like using lotion to moisturize your palms); then smell the palms of your hand; good Grappa will present complex aromas . . .while cheaply made Grappa will only deliver the aroma of the barrel .

Following our Grappa tasting, Ruggero takes us on a tour of the winery’s cellars, which are built in two levels (one is seven meters underground). This thoughtful design allows for production, aging, bottling, winetasting and direct sales to all take place in one building.

It was a wonderful experience becoming familiar with the Fornacina Brunello di Montalcino wines as well as its charming founding owner!

Grazie mille a Ruggero Biliorsi per l’esperienza e l’educazione!

The photos that accompany this article are:
– Wine offered for sale in wine shop in Montalcino
– Ruggero Biliorsi in wine cellar
– The view from the beautiful new tasting room at Podere Fornacina

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