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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Montalcino, Tuscany 

Primary Grapes: Sangiovese

Primary Appellations: Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Rosso di Montalcino DOC

American Importer: Banville Wine Merchants



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Why Donatella Cinelli Colombini is Essential

Sangiovese claims more vineyard land than any other grape in Italy, but it reaches its apogee of concentration, aromatics, structure and age-worthiness in the wines hailing from Montalcino in Tuscany. Here, the clone of Sangiovese is known as Brunello, and wines under the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG are consistently priced at $100 and above, due to scarcity and demand.

Those economics have drawn their fair share of overly ambitious “projects” and point-chasing estates, to the point that disappointment in Montalcino (relative to what you paid out of pocket) is common. That makes the wines of Donatella Cinelli Colombini so invaluable: they’re priced modestly, and they consistently taste heavenly.

In the winery, large oak casks are used instead of small oak barriques, lending the wines a supple quality while all the lovely, complex details of Brunello are unmasked on the nose. Donatella Cinelli Colombini deserves praise as well for supporting and fostering the career of female winemakers. It may seem rather stunning, but when the estate was established in 1998, Colombini inquired about a cellar master from the enology school in Siena. She was told that they only had female students available since many wineries didn’t want to hire them. (That’s right: 1998). She used the opportunity to make Casato Prime Donne — with its all-female staff ever since — an incubator of talent for the next generation of female Italian winemakers.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini in the vineyards of Montalcino. ©Banville Wine Merchants

Donatella Cinelli Colombini in the vineyards of Montalcino. ©Banville Wine Merchants

Wines to Seek Out

Donatella Cinelli Colombini comprises two wineries in Tuscany. For purposes of the Essential Winemakers of Italy list, we are only focusing on the wines of Casato Prime Donne, the winery in Montalcino. Fattoria del Colle, which produces Sangiovese and Trebbiano wines under the Chianti Superiore DOCG and Orcia DOC, has not yet been reviewed or considered.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso di Montalcino

One of the best valued red wines in the whole of Italy: a sumptuous, velvety display suggestive of red cherries, blood oranges and baking spice on a meaty, structured frame. For me, the Rosso is a benchmark for what Italian red wine should be, and in the mid-$20s, the perfect introduction to anyone who is uninitiated to the finer wines of this marvelous country.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino

The estate’s entry-level Brunello di Montalcino earns high marks for its quality-to-price ratio, as it is the best Brunello I’ve encountered in the $50 range. The savory, meaty qualities of Brunello di Montalcino are on full display here, with a rich aromatic vein of black raspberries and blood orange carrying through the whole experience.

Originally listed: April 2020.

Visiting Casato Prime Donne

Visitors are welcome at Casato Prime Donne by appointment. Contact the winery.

The winery also offers numerous tasting experiences to choose from, as well as apartments and villas at the Fattoria delle Colle property.


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