Benvenutto Brunello, or Notes from Brunello Deep Immersion
This is not a quiz post, however – let me start with the question: what do you think of Brunello di Montalcino, the noble wine made out of the Sangiovese? Well, technically it is Sangiovese, but in practicality Brunello di Montalcino is made out of the grape called Sangiovese Grosso, sometimes simply called Brunello. When people need to provide an example of the best Italian wines, the triple-B, Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello, are the very first names which cross oenophile’s mind, so this is the Brunello we are talking about here. So, what is your experience with Brunello?
To carry the denomination of Brunello di Montalcino DOC or DOCG, the wines must be made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes, and age at least 2 years in oak casks, and then at least 4 month in the bottle (at least 6 month for Riserva designation), but many producers age it for a lot longer. First time Brunello wines can appear on the store shelves is 5 years after the vintage date.
There are tons of books and web sites with countless pieces of information about the region, the history of the wines, the food, the people – I’m not going to simply repeat all of that. However, I can’t resist to share this magnificent picture of the Montalcino, as it was shared by the Brunello Consortium – I generally only use my own pictures in the blog, but this is soooo beautiful!
To celebrate the release of 2009 vintage, The Consortium of the Brunello di Montalcino Wine (Cosorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino), an association of all Brunello producers, arranged the series of seminars and tastings in New York and Los Angeles, and I was fortunate enough to attend the event in New York – hence this post where I’m sharing my impressions. Before I will get down to the details and inundate you with tasting notes and pictures, let me share some general notes and observations (yes, you can call it an executive summary):
- According to the representative of the consortium, 2009 was a “4 star year” as opposed to the 5-star, such as 2007 or 2001 (or upcoming 2010). In 2009, growing season had rainy spring, but good hot and sunny September, which helped with overall quality. 2009 Brunello supposed to be more approachable at the younger age (my note: some were, and some were very far from being approachable).
- Some interesting facts:
- There are 90 clones of Sangiovese used in the production of Brunello di Montalcino.
- Montalcino is a large region, so different areas of Montalcino region produce different wines, due to vastly different soils and climate conditions (what is Italian for Terroir?) Unfortunately, those different areas are not indicated in any way on the label – you actually have to know the location of the vineyards for each respective producer to know what to expect. The special guide produced for the show had very helpful tiny maps showing the approximate location of each and every winery represented in the guide.
- The use of oak (type, duration, etc) is changed from vintage to vintage.
- I actually think that while deemed approachable, 2009 still needs time. Few of the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Brunellos which snuck into the tasting, showed up just magnificently.
- The 2012 vintage of Rosso di Montalcino, a simpler, typically less oaked wine, also made out of Sangiovese Grosso, is showing up in the stores. This wines should be ready to drink now (but many will age well too, depends on the winemaking style).
- Based on the tasting, I much preferred 2011 Rosso di Montalcino over the 2012 – don’t want to think too hard about the reason, but if you are looking for delicious bottle of a good Italian wine to drink now, 2011 Rosso di Montalcino might be “it”.
- Don’t know if this is a trend (and definitely don’t want to be spotting any trends), but in this tasting, there were surprisingly large number of corked bottles. I had to call out at least two bottles, and with another three I ate my words, only mumbling “aha, this is good”. I do attend trade tastings regularly, and this is not normal. I rarely drink Brunello, so if anyone who is reading this actually drinks a lot of Montalcino wines, I’m curious to know your opinion. Bottom line here – trust your palate. If you think the wine is corked, most likely it actually is!
Now, let’s talk about the seminar. Both the seminar and the tasting were, of course, about Montalcino wines. The difference is that during the seminar you are sitting down and listening to the presenter(s) as opposed to walking around with the glass and the book in your hand – but most importantly, you have enough time to completely analyze the wine – color, nose, palate – everything at your own pace, one by one. Here are my notes regarding the 8 wines presented during the seminar, in the order of tasting:
2009 Capanne Ricci Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $54.99, aging 3 years in large oak barrels plus bottle age). Drinkability: 7
Color: Garnet color
Nose: Very pronounced and intense, with cherries and leather
Palate: Austere, just powerful tannins, some good background acidity. Way too tannic to be appreciated at the moment.
2009 Col D’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $55, aging 3 years in Slavonic and French oak casks plus 12 month in the bottle). Drinkability: 7+
Color: Bright ruby
Nose: Touch of plums
Palate: Nice cherries, much softer than the previous wine, can be drunk right now
2009 Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (15% ABV, $75, aging 3 years in oak). Drinkability: 8-
Color: Dark garnet color
Nose: Spectacular, intense, with a lot of bright fruit.
Palate: Cherries and lots of bright fruit, has a lot going on. Still needs time, but very enjoyable already.
2009 Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $70, aging 36-40 month in oak, 8-12 month in the bottle). Drinkability: 7-
Color: Dark ruby
Nose: Overall quite restrained, with a hint of cherries
Palate: Cherries and then tannins and only tannins on the palate. The tannins feel over-extracted – this wine might never open.
2009 Pinino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14% ABV, $50, aging 30 month in Slavonic oak). Drinkability: 7
Color: Garnet with brick-ish hue
Nose: The fruitiest nose of all. Cherries and blueberries.
Palate: Cherries and tannins. Tannins overly intense in front of the mouth, and somewhat uni-dimensional.
2009 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $69.99, aging 12 month in new and old french barriques, 18 month in large Slavonic oak barrels, at least 12 month in the bottle). Drinkability: 7+
Nose: Nice and balanced, with the hint of cinnamon and coffee.
Palate: Nice, open, with bright cherries and more manageable, but still aggressive tannins. Can be enjoyed now, but still needs more time.
2009 Il Grappolo Fortius Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $N/A, aging in oak barrels plus bottle age). Drinkability: 8
Color: Garnet with brickish hue
Nose: Very promising, elegant, with cherries and raspberries.
Palate: Beautiful, lots of fruit, ripe cherries, present but not overpowering tannins. Best of tasting.
2009 Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (14.5% ABV, $55-$60, aging 12 month in French oak barrels, then 24 month in large Slavonic oak casks, 12 month in the bottle). Drinkability: 7
Color: Garnet with brickish hue
Nose: soft and expressive, but shows off alcohol
Palate: nice fruit, sour (very sour) cherries, pepper in the back is a bit out of place. Aggressive tannins.
For the walk around tasting, I did my best to taste as many wines as possible, before my palate gave up (it is very hard to taste only red, intensely tannic wines – remember, there were no whites) and the place got really really crowded. I used the same system of plus signs (+, ++, +++) as I do in the trade tastings – of course with few of the ++++ exceptions. Below is the list of most exceptional wines I experienced in the tasting:
2009 Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – beautiful! +++
2007 Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! ++++
2009 Belpoggio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – very nice, approacheable
2012 Belpoggio Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful fruit, open, herbs
2011 Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino DOC – integrated, beautiful! +++
2006 Camigliano Gualto Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – beautiful! nice depth, density. +++
2011 Capanna Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful, open +++
2011 Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino DOC – one of the most unusual. Intense strawberries on the palate.
2009 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – nice, good fruit +++
2007 Il Poggione Vigna Paganelli Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – excellent, powerful and balanced
2011 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino DOC – excellent, great fruit +++
2008 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – probably the most delicate, beautiful fruit, tobacco in the back ++++
2008 Podere Le Ripi Lupi Sirene Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! beautiful! open! ++++
2006 Podere Le Ripi Lupi Sirene Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! ++++
2009 Podere Le Ripi Amore & Magia Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful! complex, Crème brûlée (no sugar!) on the palate ++++
2008 Podere Le Ripi Bonsai Rosso di Montalcino DOC – wow!
2007 Ridolfi Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – very good! needs more time +++
2009 Sasso di Sole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – excellent fruit! +++
2004 Sasso di Sole Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – plums, cherries, wow! Perfect complexity, both nose and palate ++++
2011 Sasso di Sole Rosso di Montalcino DOC – spectacular nose, good fruit, tobacco, earthiness +++1/2
2012 Talenti Rosso di Montalcino DOC – tobacco, complexity, balance! +++
2009 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – sweat and beautiful! +++
2008 Uccelliera Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – wow! stunning! ++++
2012 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino DOC – great! tobacco, fruit, exellent! +++
2011 Verbena Rosso di Montalcino DOC – wow! ++++
2011 Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso di Montalcino DOC – excellent! +++
2012 Voliero Rosso di Montalcino DOC – beautiful! +++
And we are done! But before we part, I have to leave you with the drool picture, the one which makes the oenophile’s heart race:
This was a great experience, and I’m already looking forward to welcoming Brunello 2010. I have a sneaky suspicion it will be pretty tasty… Cheers!