The Latest from Montalcino

February 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Montalcino View (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

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. 


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.


Cedar and red cherry notes; generous mid-palate. long, beautifully balanced finish; notable effort from an underrated estate.


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.

Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia (Photo ©Tom Hyland)



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.


Beautiful garnet color; silky perfumes of red cherry and dried strawberry; medium-full with a long, elegant finish; very classy!

Emilia Nardi, Tenute Silvio Nardi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)


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.

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Tuscany’s Viticultural Coast 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

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