Locals enjoying the sunshine on a long stone bench under the Brunello vintage tiles

As a Brunello lover living in Tuscany, I'm no big fan of famous wine writers. True, they are part of the business and wineries need their attention to make themselves known and their wines sold in the big wide world. But god forbid that you wake one morning to find one of your beloved Tuscan reds mentioned on James Suckling's best 100 Italian wine list - you'd never be able to drink that wine again (unless you're in for a massive pay-rise). 

On the other hand, if you're new to this territory you'll probably need some guidance. Even the hard-core taster couldn't get through all of Montalcino's 250 Brunello wineries in a week long holiday. So, if you're planning to stock up on some cases whilst travelling Tuscany - do your reading up before coming out.

A great place to start is Tim Atkin's Brunello Special Report. The British writer has been tasting his way through Brunello land for the last 20 years and is one of the few Masters of Wine in the world. As a prolific journalist he has received more than 25 awards for his wi
ne writing and photography. 

That's one too many? I know what you mean. But even though Tim's views on Montalcino's wines have become rather influential, he's as un-parkerish as it gets. At least that's my impression after reading his Brunello report and looking at the beautiful winemaker portraits he 
takes. Atkin's has managed to keep an honest interest not just for the wines, but also for the people who put in the hard work and long hours until the precious nectar is safely stored away in the bottles we buy. 

Last but not least he's open-minded. Traditional style Brunello or new-world approach? He tries them all and gives them a fair rating - as long as they're well made.  

This said, his Brunello report isn't shy of criticism. Current production standards and wine making techniques are scrutinized: as an example the missing of sub-zones, a topic vividly discussed on a daily base in Montalcino's vineyards (and never solved - as my Tuscan native would add)

The 2013 special report comes as a good-looking pdf file. Study it at home or bring it along on your iPad when coming out. Here's what you'll get for the 10£ invested into the 45 pages report: 

  • Tasting notes of Tim Atkin's 80 favorite Brunello di Montalcino 2008 and of his top 30 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2007 
  • Ten things you need to know about Brunello: providing background information on Brunello history, production standards and on the positive sides a wine scandal can have
  • Vintage ratings and the scores of all the wines he tasted at and around Benvenuto Brunello 2013 (the yearly preview organized by Montalcino's vintners organization)
  • A soil map of Montalcino's territory (kindly provided by Sangiovese Per Amico, an association made up by three of Montalcino's best organic wineries)
  • Beautiful pics from Montalcino, the Val d'Orcia and its people 

Last but not least it's a nice read. Atkins is a great writer and has sense of humor. I'll never understand why wine writing is often such a dry matter - wouldn't you expect things to be a little more relaxed with all that alcohol involved? 

Price of the pdf download: 10£ (or 12€ / 15$)


  • Click through to my top 10 Brunello wineries. It's less about tasting and spitting, than about meeting the people behind the wine. The wineries in my Brunello report are mostly family-run estates (getting to know a small winery in Montalcino means you won't be squeezed in with a tour group from Texas), and make for a great visit with a bunch of lovely winemakers. Because, what fun is drinking a great wine, if it's produced by people you don't like?

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