by Laura Gray www.ilpalazzone.com
At the end of December 2009 the Consorzio del Brunello launched a new traceability procedure via text messsage. The system is effective from the 1999 vintage onwards and gives the final consumer a way of checking the wine they are drinking is certified Brunello and has been produced by the estate on the label (and is the vintage as labelled). It is part of a move towards transparent practice, a positive development given the murky times for Italian appellation wines. DOCG strips are vintage and estate specific and are available in January of the fifth year after harvest. They correspond to the exact number of bottles that have been certified as Brunello.
Send a text message to 0039 366 3008880 with the three capital letters from the pink DOCG strip, the 8 numbers from the strip and the bottle capacity. Makes sure you leave a space between letters and numbers. In a matter of moments an SMS comes flying back with the estate, the approval details, alcohol, total acidity and dry extract levels. If you do it via the Consorzio website you also get the estate’s address, telephone and website.
For example, if you insert e.g. AAI 00930123 0.75 this is what you will find in your inbox:
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Annata 2004 in bottiglia da 0.75 l. di Il Palazzone SRL. Partita di 8633 bott. per Hl 64.748 certificata da CCIAA di Siena n.15347 del 25.07.08. Titolo alcolometrico 13.91; Estratto secco netto, 31. Acidità totale 5,27.
What to make of this?
Annata means vintage. The “partita” refers to the production authorised (in our case, our total production). The CCIAA is the Camera di Commercio di Siena (the Chamber of Commerce) and the number 15347 is the identification the approval and authorisation of our Brunello. This certification is the result of a lab analysis of the wine, an organoleptic panel testing and the correspondence between our vineyards and our authorised production.
Apart from checking for fraud, the technical data that are provided actually give a key to assessing the wine’s balance and are details not normally available to the consumer. A harmonious well-made wine will show equilibrium between hard and soft elements; the potential harshness of alcohol and acidity will be balanced by the smoothness of residual sugars and dry extract. If none of these characteristics are dominant then a wine is well balanced (and therefore pleasant to drink…).
The alcohol level of a wine is the natural result of the fermentation process, the sugars in the grapes are metabolised into alcohol. Alcohol in wine is measured in percentage as opposed to proof. I should probably admit that I get really impatient with people who veer away from high alcohol wines on principle, as if the alcohol on the label is an indication of “strength”. Alcohol effects the taste, texture and structure of a wine. If there is enough of everything else i.e. if the wine is balanced as above, then the alcohol level may not be evident to the person drinking (so no flushed cheeks, though this doesn’t mean you are OK to drive). A certain level of alcohol is necessary to sustain a serious wine with a long cellar life ahead of it. This is definitely the case with our 2004. Alcohol is the backbone for a wine; it is a powerful preservative and allows the wine to age. A Brunello must have at least 12.5% alcohol. There is a 0.5% tolerance permitted so Brunellos generally show 13.5% alcohol on the label.
Estratto secco netto
Dry extract is the solid substance left after water and alcohol are removed from a wine. High levels of dry extract reflect a wine with a higher body. The amount of flavour that a wine has can be directly attributed to the dry extract. Brunellos must have a net dry extract of at least 24 gr. per litre.
Acidity gives wines focus and freshness. Acidity is a naturally occurring component in grapes. Wines with too little acidity can be dull and lifeless. Brunellos must have a minimum total acidity of 5 gr. per litre.