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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is longer barrel aging the primary difference between Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino?
—Sal, Leicester, Mass.
Yes—and it usually comes with a big price difference, too. Brunello di Montalcino (a particular strain of the Sangiovese grape, from the Montalcino region) is aged longer than any other Tuscan wine before it is released, for a minimum of four years, and two have to be in cask or barrel—three years in oak if you're a traditionalist and/or making a Riserva. These wines can be pricy, often costing $100 or more.
Rosso di Montalcino (which is also Sangiovese from Montalcino) is not required to be aged more than a year, so it sees less oak, is less tannic, lighter, fruitier, and drinks well upon release. It's easy to find Rosso di Montalcino in the $20 to $30 range.
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