I have just returned from a week in Toscana, of which two days were spent in Montalcino. This week the Benvenuto Brunello tasting is held for journalists around the world in the town of Montalcino and is an event I eagerly await each year. I’ve attended this event several times, but as I needed to be home for another special Italian wine event, I was able to arrange a private tasting of the soon-to-be-released bottlings of the 2006 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino this past Monday; my thanks to Stefania Tacconi of the Brunello Consorzio for her help – and that of her staff – in organizing this tasting around my schedule.
After tasting 31 bottlings of 2006 Brunello di Montalcino, my initial thoughts are this: 2006 is an excellent vintage with impressive concentration, beautiful complexity and the structure to age very well. 2006 was a warm vintage in the area, but not overly hot, and there were beneficial winds, especially for estates on the western edges of the appellation that are situated closer to the sea. The wines are much bigger than 2005 and as big or even richer in some instances from comparable bottlings from 2004, though slightly less forceful than those from the wonderful 2001 vintage.
The wines are also quite aromatic, comparing favorably in that category to the 2004s. Most of the wines I tried offer a generous mid-palate with layers of fruit, while the tannins are rich, yet rarely forceful. Look for most of the finest bottlings of 2006 Brunello di Montalcino to age well for 15-20 years, with a few of the finest targeted for optimal drinking around 2030.
Among my favorites are the Il Poggione, which loyal readers know is one of my top two or three top wines each vintage; this 2006 is especially massive in its fruit concentration; the wine is superbly balanced. Look for this to be a 20 year-plus wine. The regular Poggio Antico bottling is another of my top wines each year; the 2006 offers especially lovely aromatics as well as excellent persistence. The “Altero” bottling from Poggio Antico, has a touch more wood and is not as open as the regular bottling; it is quite impressive however and should be at its best after 20 years.
The Le Chiuse offering is superb, with outstanding varietal purity; this estate excels in traditionally made Brunello and their 2006 is beautifully balanced- it is a must buy! The Ciacci Piccolomini normale bottling is also quite remarkable with its fresh morel cherry, cinnamon and nutmeg aromas, lengthy finish and graceful tannins; I actually preferred this to the more expensive “Pianrosso” bottling from this producer, though that wine is also quite well made and capable of long-term aging.
The Fuligni displays its typical class and graceful style, while the Col d’Orcia is another success; this time in a more full-bodied and tightly packed style than usual. The Silvio Nardi “Manachiara”is quite spicy with elegant tannins, while the Uccelliera displays lovely cherry fruit, silky tannins and outstanding complexity. It is not the most intense of the 2006 Brunellos (nor is it in most years), but it is one of the most subtle and harmonious.
Also look for the spicy, richly packed Maté, the supremely elegant Il Palazzone and the nicely crafted Casa Raia, which offers a nice combination of morel cherry fruit and spice such as nutmeg. This is the initial Brunello from this small estate, not far from the town of Montalcino; owners Pierre-Jean and Kalyna Monnoyer are off to an impressive start.
Finally, the Sesta di Sopra is an amazing success this year, which comes as no surprise if you’ve tasted their wines in previous vintages. This tiny estate is a traditional producer that emphasizes varietal character and elegance. This bottling offers some of the loveliest perfumes you’ll ever find in a Brunello and an elegant mid-palate with a rich finish that sneaks up on you. The wood notes are quite subtle, the acidity is perfectly realized and the finish is extremely long with polished tannins. This wine represents its local terroir about as well as any Brunello I tasted from 2006; for this reason, this is highly recommended as one of the finest wines of the vintage.
My full reviews of the 2006 Brunellos will appear in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, which will be sent to subscribers in late March. Email me at email@example.com for information on how to subscribe.