Posts tagged ‘il poggione’
Usually this week of the year, I am in Tuscany attending anteprima tastings of wines from Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. For various reasons, I won’t be attending this year, but I’ve tasted dozens of these soon-to-be-released wines over the past two weeks at special events in Chicago and New York. In this post, I’d like to share my thoughts on the new bottlings of Brunello di Montalcino.
Produced in a zone that surrounds the fortress town of Montalcino in southern Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino is made exclusively from the Sangiovese grape, known locally as Brunello. By law, the wine cannot be released until five years after the vintage date, so the new versions of Brunello for sale in 2010 are the 2005 bottlings.
The first question almost everyone has about Brunello is the quality of the vintage. For a year such as 2005, this is especially important, as it follows an excellent, possibly great year of 2004. The Consorzio, a group of local producers and growers, rates each vintage on a star basis, with 5 stars (outstanding) being the top rating. As 2004 was awarded 5 stars, there was tremendous attention paid to these wines.
Rarely are there two great vintages back to back and that is the case again with the 2005 following the 2004. Yet the Consorzio did rate 2005 with 4 stars (excellent), so consumers should pay attention to these wines. I liked most of the 2005s very much, as they have fine balance and good levels of acidity without too many tannins. That said, there are variations, as some wines are a bit lean, others a bit more closed down at present with a few rather approachable.
Here are notes on a few of my favorites:
Beautifully structured with very good depth of fruit, dried brown herb notes, elegantly styled tannins.
Plenty of red cherry and red plum fruit, excellent concentration, a bit tight now- give this a bit of time.
Attractive red cherry fruit, elegant tannins, overall well balanced – another beautiful wine from this traditional estate.
SAN FELICE “CAMPOGIOVANNI”
Red cherry, cedar and thyme; silky tannins, very good acidity and fruit persistence; lovely balance throughout.
Red cherry and marmalade flavors; medium-full with a lengthy, elegant finish; impressive wine for this new producer.
MOCALI “VIGNA DELLE RAUCATE”
Cedar and red cherry notes; generous mid-palate. long, beautifully balanced finish; notable effort from an underrated estate.
TENUTA DI SESTA
Cedar, red cherry and thyme aromas; very good concentration; lengthy finish with a pleasant earthiness; excellent effort in a traditional style.
Deep color; red cherry, mint and cedar aromas; medium-full with very good depth of fruit and acidity; impeccably balanced.
Ripe red cherry and violet aromas; a bit more modern with ample oak, but not obtrusive; very good depth, give time.
Cedar, dried cherry and thyme aromas; medium-bodied with a nicely balanced finish. very good acidity.
SILVIO NARDI “VIGNA MANACHIARA”
Beautiful garnet color; silky perfumes of red cherry and dried strawberry; medium-full with a long, elegant finish; very classy!
I expect most of the best bottlings of the 2005 Brunellos to show well at 10 years of age and hold for another 5-7 years, which I find is about average for this wine. This is not as good as 2004 and will not age as long as 2001, but this is an above average vintage with many very good to excellent wines. In that respect, it resembles the underrated 1998 vintage.
Along with Bunello di Montalcino, producers also make a Rosso di Montalcino, a wine that is also 100% Sangiovese, but one with minimal aging requirements. These wines are generally made from younger vineyards and are meant to be consumed much earlier than Brunello. This year many producers tasted out their bottlings of 2008 Rosso di Montalcino and judging by what I sampled, 2008 looks to be an excellent vintage. These are beautiful wines with delicious fruit and elegant, soft tannins that are at their best now and over the next 2-3 years. Among the finest I tasted were the Il Poggione (a bit more depth than most bottlings of Rosso), Silvio Nardi, Banfi, Camigliano and the remarkably flavorful and elegant San Felice “Campogiovanni”. This 2008 Rosso is a textbook example of what this wine is all about – tasty cherry fruit, medium-body, lively acidity and velvety tannins.
I also tasted some gorgeous 2004 Brunello Riservas, which will also be released in a few months. I’ll report on those wines in my next post.
For my final post of 2009, I want to salute some of the finest Italian producers of this decade. Each year in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, I list the year’s best wines and producers. I’ll be working on that shortly, but for now, let’s focus on the most important producers of the decade. There is no way I can do this with a single post, so this is part one. I’m juding not only on the quality of the wines, but also the influence these producers had in the marketplace and media and among their peers.
If Luca Currado at Vietti only made Barolo, this winery would have made the list, but there are also gorgeous bottlings of Barbera, as well as a sleek, delicious offering of Arneis. The wines are beautifully made and sell through in good order.
This family-owned winery makes the list for maintaining its traditional winemaking methods, as the great Barolos are aged in botti grandi – no barriques here. Is there a more graceful and ageworthy Barolo than the Bricco Boschis San Giuseppe Riserva?
Very modern Barolos here, aged in barrique, but amazing concentration and style. You may or may not like this style of winemaking, but you cannot help but admire the class of the offerings here.
Produttori del Barbaresco
Ultratraditional wines that show what the local terroir of Barbaresco is all about. An excellent Barbaresco normale and outstanding (often stunning) cru bottlings from the town’s best sites, including Asili, Rabaja and Montestefano. General manager Aldo Vacca is as classy as his wines!
I am saluting Gian Luigi Orsolani for his outstanding work with the Erbaluce grape, an indigenous white variety from northern PIemonte. Orsolani is the finest producer of this grape type in my opinion, crafting first-rate examples of dry white, sparkling and passito versions.
Braida – Giacomo Bologna
Splendid bottlings of Barbera d’Asti, from the humble to the sublime, especially the Bricco dell’Uccellone and the Bricco della Bigotta. Still one of the finest and most influential producers of Barbara d’Asti. Also a superb Moscato d’Asti (Vigna Senza Nome) and arguably the finest bottling of Brachetto d’Acqui. Raffaella Bologna is continuing her late father’s work in fine fashion.
This gorgeous estate in the heart of the Barolo zone has been improving dramatically for the past decade, thanks to the efforts of general manager Giovanni Minetti and winemaker Danilo Drocco. A few years ago, Oscar Farinetti, the owner of the gourmet food store, Eataly, became the prinicpal owner of the winery and has already shown his influence by introducing value-priced Barbera and Dolcetto. There are so many excellent wines produced at Fontanafredda; this is an estate that has numerous wines for a wide consumer base and any producer that wants to grow their business in the coming decade should be looking at this model.
Tenuta San Guido/Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
I am putting these two estates in Bolgheri together, as they both produce outstanding examples of local reds that not only are beautiful wines on their own, but are also known around the world. These estates, along with Grattamacco and Le Macchiole continue to be the identity for Bolgheri, Tuscany’s new light.
Bottles of Ornellaia and Masseto, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Brunello di Montalcino has been in the news as of late, and not for all the right reasons. So let’s salute Il Poggione for making Brunello the right way – the traditional way. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci has a gentle winemaking hand, as he prefers to let the local terroir shine through in his wines. I’ve tasted examples of Il Poggione Brunello from the 1970s that are still in fine shape. As for the recent controversy about the possible inclusion of grapes other than Sangiovese in Brunello, well, there was never any doubt about that at Il Poggione; so the respect for the land and the wine as seen here (as well as at dozens of other local estates such as Biondi-Santi, Col d’Orcia, Talenti and Sesta di Sopra to name only a few) needs to be saluted.
Federico Carletti has done as much as any producer in Montepulciano to revive the fortunes of its most famous wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The regular bottling is always very good, but it is the Vigna Asinone bottling is the star here. Deeply concentrated with new oak and sleek tannins, this is a modern, but very precise wine that is one of Tuscany’s finest.
Campania’s most historically important winemaking estate, this winery continued to improve after a family split in the 1980s (some of the family members established a new winery in the Avellino province) and the change in leadership from Antonio Mastroberardino to his son Piero. Clonal research became an important factor here, and today, the family is producing the best examples of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina they have ever made. Of course, Taurasi is still the most important wine here, and if today’s bottlings are not as staunchly tradtional as those from the 1960s and early 1970s, they are still first-rate and just as importantly, are not covered up by the vanilla and spice of new oak that other Taurasi producers seem to prefer these days. How nice that this defender of the local winemaking heritage is doing so well these days!
Feudi di San Gregorio
This estate made a splash with its entrance on the scene in the mid 1980s and they are still one of Campania’s most important producers. Rich, deeply concentrated bottlings of Taurasi, but even more impressive white wines, especially Cutizzi Greco di Tufo and Pietracalda Fiano di Avellino. Now there are even beautifully made single variety sparkling wines in the classic method produced from Greco, Falanghina and Aglianico. Congratulations to owner Antonio Capaldo on his innovative efforts at this great estate!
Luigi Maffini is making some of the most brilliant white wines in all of Italy as his small estate in the province of Salerno, south of Napoli. While his reds made from Aglianico are nicely done, the whites made from Fiano are routinely outstanding. There is the non-oak aged Kratos and the French oak-aged Pietraincatenata, an age-worthy Fiano. There is also a sumptuous Fiano Passito, which in my opinion, is one of the greatest dessert wines in all of Italy (the 2004 is particularly exceptional).
Cantine Marisa Cuomo
This small estate, located in the town of Furore on the Amalfi Coast, is set in an exceptionally beautiful seting, as the pergola vineyards cling to steep slopes a few hundred feet above the sea. Marisa and her husband, winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, are best known for the exceptional white, Fiorduva, a blend of indigenous varieties (Ripole, Fenile and Ginestra), but I think the Furore Rosso Riserva is also an important wine. This is extreme viticulture at its finest!
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Naturally, some of my Top 100 producers of Italian wine will include a few estates in Montalcino. The first Brunello producer that I’m writing about is my favorite, Il Poggione.
The origins of Il Poggione date back to the late 1800s, but as a producer of Brunello di Montalcino, the recent history begins in the 1950s. The estate is owned by Leopoldo and Livia Franceschi and is located below the beautiful hilltop town of Sant’Angelo in Colle, one of the finest zones for Brunello di Montalcino.
What makes Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino so special can be summarized by two factors: superb vineyards and outstanding winemaking. Fabrizio Bindocci, a thoughtful, gracious man, makes Brunello today as he always has – in the traditional method. He ages his Brunello di Montalcino in grandi botti, the large casks that ensure the natural flavors of the Sangiovese grapes are preserved along with the characteristics of the Sant’Angelo terroir. A regular bottling of Brunello di Montalcino is produced each year and in the finest vintages, a Riserva bottling is also made (this wine receives at least one extra year of aging in wood).
A few years ago, Bindocci decided to use the casks of a different cooper than what he had used in the past, so today the grandi botti used at Il Poggione is French instead of Slavonian oak, but that is one of the few changes made in the cellars of Il Poggione over the past decade. The wines are as complex, elegant and as ageworthy as ever, offering beautiful red cherry and currant fruit with notes of cedar and precise acidity. I recently tasted the 1970 and 1975 bottlings, both of which were in superb condition (especially the 1975); both should be drinking well for another decade.
There has been an explosion of new producers of Brunello di Montalcino over the past several years; today there are over 140 estates in this small zone as opposed to a few dozen in the mid-1960s. Yet despite all the new vintners and new winemaking and grape growing techniques, there are few more classic examples of Brunello di Montalcino that that of Il Poggione.
The best wines of Il Poggione include:
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
- Rosso di Montalcino
- Mazzoni (IGT)
- Vin Santo
- Moscadello di Montalcino
This last wine is truly special, as this is a slightly sparkling, slightly sweet Moscadello made like a Moscato d’Asti. Il Poggione is the only producer to make Moscadello di Montalcino in ths manner. It’s absolutely delicious on its own or with some fresh fruit.
A few weeks ago, I wote a post on Brunello di Montalcino (read here) in which I discussed ths wine’s characteristics and makeup along with listing some of the finest producers. I thought readers would be interested in learning what some of the top authorities in Italy as well as this country think about Brunello, so I asked several experts in this field to provide me with a list of whom they believe are the finest producers of Brunello.
I asked for a list of ten, letting them know they could add brief comments if they wished. One contributor gave me twelve names, saying he couldn’t get his list down to just ten, while another gave me his list of his top ten followed closely by another ten. No problem- the more the merrier – and it shows you how many excellent producers of Brunello di Montalcino there are.
So without further ado, here are the lists:
“Based on what I feel are indicative, traditional expressions of Brunello, available in this country…
- Le Presi
- Il Poggione
- Poggio di Sotto
- Canalicchio di Sopra
- Paradiso di Manfredi
- Altesino- cellar worthy
- Angelo Sassetti – ultimate contadina
- Argiano- stylish and elegant
- Costanti – another classic their 2004 reminded me of their 1964
- Fattoi- great pruners and dog trainers
- Il Poggione – Love these guys
- Lisini – classic archetype
- Poggio alle Mura (Banfi) – their ’71 was so great
- Poggio San Polo – new young winemaker and energy
Tom Maresca – America’s leading writer on Italian wines, having contributed hundreds of articles on the topic for more than 25 years. Lives in New York City.
- Banfi: great quality-to-price ratio
- Barbi: very traditional house
- Biondi Santi: self explanatory
- Casanova di Neri: elegant
- Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona: big, structured
- Donatella Cinelli Colombini: very true to Montalcino character
- Col d’Orcia: great finesse
- Fuligni: a pace-setter in recent vintages
- Lisini: the essence of Montalcino
- Nardi: great strides in recent years
- Poggio Antico: more and more, intensely Sangiovese
- Il Poggione: superb vineyards
Charles Scicolone – Author of the blog Charles Scicolone on Wine. One of America’s leading authorities on Italian wines. Wine writer and restaurant consultant. He lives in New York City.
- Fattoria dei Barbi- Some where between traditional and modren but I think more traditional
- Biondi-Santi -Traditional and one of the best
- Caparzo – Some wines in Traditional style, others modern
- Casanova di Neri – use of botti, small french oak barrels and tonneau
- Col d’Orcia
- Il Poggione
- Constanti- I think he is still traditional
- Poggio Antico- They changed their style went modern with the 2001 vintage -loved the wine before this
- Mastrojanni – in between
- Pian delle Vigne- Antinori
” I really liked the 2004 Brunello from Banfi- I think it is the best Brunello they ever made.
“It is difficult to tell the modern from the traditionalist except for Franco Biondi- Santi.
“In most cases the “traditionalists” are using more modern methods and the modern producers less small oak. Some make one Brunello in a traditional style and other in a modern style.
“I find Brunello to be very confusing. That is why I like my Brunello to be 1990 or older.”
Franco Ziliani – Author of vinoalvino blog and co-author of vinowire blog (with Jeremy Parzen). One of Italy’s most important wine writers and arguably the most influential in the country. Lives near Bergamo in the province of Lombardia.
- Case Basse
- Il Greppo Biondi Santi
- Il Colle
- Poggio di Sotto
- Giulio Salvioni Cerbaiola
- Col d’Orcia
- Gianni Brunelli
Plus others like:
- Il Poggione
- Gorelli Le Potazzine
- Le Macioche
- Sesta di Sopra
- Il Marroneto
- Pian dell’Orino
And finally, my choices (in alphabetical order):
- Col d’Orcia
- Il Poggione
- Le Chiuse
- Pian dell’Orino
- Poggio Antico
- Poggio di Sotto
- Sesta di Sopra
Do you have favorite Brunello producers? I’d love to read your choices- send them along.
Brunello di Montalcino is one of the most famous red wines produced anywhere in the world. Made entirely from Sangiovese – known as Brunello in the Montalcino area – Brunello is one of the longest-lived red wines of Italy, with most bottlings drinking well fro 12-15 years, while the finest examples from the best estates in the top vintages lasting as long as 25-30 years.
Brunello di Montalcino – and the lighter, more approachable Rosso di Montalcino – are the only Tuscan reds that are regulated as being produced solely with Sangiovese. A Brunello must be aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels, though the size of the barrel is not mentioned. This gives winemakers freedom; some use the traditional botti grandi, large casks that hold anywhere between 2000 to 6000 liters, while other producers prefer barriques, small barrels that hold 225 liters (other still, prefer tonneau, 500-liter casks).
This means a wide variety of styles of Brunello, with the traditional wines aged in large casks offering flavors of red cherry, currant , cinnamon and cedar, while the more modern bottlings focus on black cherry, vanilla and spice. Traditional producers include Biondi-Santi, Il Poggione and Talenti, while the modern producers include Fanti, Valdicava and Donatella Cinelli Colombini.
As this is a famous red that can age for decades, prices are not inexpensive. Expect to pay between $60-$80 for most current bottlings of Brunello. The price is fair when you consider that a Brunello di Montalcino cannnot be released in the market place until the fifth year after the harvest; thus the 2004 bottlings are now being released in 2009.
The Consorzio of Brunello producers rates each vintage on its quality, from one star (poor) to five stars (exceptional). 2004 is a five-star vintage; others include 1997, 1995 and 1990. The 2007 vintage has also been rated five stars; these wines however will not be released until 2012.
Given the fame of this wine, many new estates have been established over the past 10-15 years. In the 1970s, there were fewer than 40; today the number exceeds 140. Many are quite small, owning only 2-3 acres of vineyards and producing less than 5000 bottles of Brunello per vintage.
Given the number of producers making Brunello today, here is a short list of some of the finest:
- Il Poggione
- Le Chiuse
- Sesta di Sopra
- Il Palazzone
- Casanuova delle Cerbaie
In 2008, investigations into an alleged scandal looked into the question of whether certain producers have or had been introducing varieties other than Sangiovese into the wine. Some members of the media have said this has been going on for years and point to the softer acidity of the wines as well as deeper color. As Sangiovese has lively acidity for a red variety and the color is generally garnet, these critics point to the deep ruby red color as well as soft acidity that a grape such as Merlot or possibly Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon was added to certain wines.
To date, a few dozen producers have been investigated and a few estates declassified their Brunellos in 2003, a sign to some that that particular wine was not 100% Sangiovese. Yet nothing has really been proven.
It seems safe to say that while this may be happening, it is not the practice of the majority. It seems also safe to say that what makes Brunello di Montalcino so distinct is its requirement of 100% Sangiovese. It seems unlikely that there will be any changes to this law anytime soon. In my opinion, there certainly does not need ot be any change regarding Brunello as a wine made purely from Sangiovese.
As for a Rosso di Montalcino, there are no requirements for wood aging; the wine can be released as soon as one year after the vintage. A few producers also make a Reserva bottling of Brunello di Montalcino; these wines cannot be released in the market before the sixth year following the vintage.
Read more about some of the best producers of Brunello di Montalcino at my website
BUYING GUIDE TO TUSCAN WINES
I have just put together a collection of my reviews of the latest wines from Tuscany. These reviews can be found in a special Tuscan issue of my newsletter, Guide to Italian Wines; this is a 30-page pdf document. This issue contains reviews of 50 different Brunellos from the 2004 vintage, as well as reviews of wines from six different estates in Bolgheri (including three vintages of Sassicaia), as well as 40 new bottlings of Chianti Classico, a dozen examples of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and even a couple newly released bottlings of Vin Santo.
The price for this special issue is only $10 US. I will email the issue to you upon payment (either check or Paypal), so if you are interested, please email me and I will reply with payment instructions. This is a must for a Tuscan wine lover!