The new vintage of Brunello di Montalcino is 2006; the wines will be released over the coming months. I tasted several dozen bottlings last month in Montalcino and reported on these wines in a recent post. Here are a few thoughts on recent vintages of Brunello di Montalcino:
2001 – Outstanding. The wines from 2001 display excellent depth of fruit along with ideal acidity as well as nicely developed aromatics. These are classically made wines with plenty of persistence in the finish and have the stuffing to age for 25-30 years for the finest bottlings, while a few may last even longer. (Note: the Consorzio rated 2001 an excellent vintage, which is a 4-star rating according to their system.)
2002 – Poor to average. This was a difficult year in this area (as it was in many wine regions thoughout Italy) as there were problems with rain throughout the fall. Yields were quite low, but few grapes reached ideal ripeness. It’s doubtful you’ll find many bottlings anywhere these days – indeed many producers didn’t even release a 2002 Brunello – so it won’t be a problem, but it you do find one, drink it soon. (Consorzio rating – 2 stars).
2003 – Good to very good. The temperatures were quite hot during the growing season, resulting in overripe, tannic wines (the complete opposite of 2002). The wines are big, but too unwieldy and most lack elegance. Drink over the next 3-7 years, but keep in mind that the wines many not become better with time, due to the bitterness. (Consorzio rating – 4 stars or excellent)
2004 – Outstanding. Big things were predicted for this vintage and overall, many producers delivered. The Brunellos from 2004 are among the most aromatic of the past decade and are also beautifully balanced with very good acidity. The structure is there to assure 20 years of aging at least in the finest wines. The bottlings from 2004 are not quite as powerful from 2001, but they will still age beautifully and offer gorgeous complexity as well as elegance. (Consorzio rating – 4 stars)
2005 – Very Good to Excellent. This is a vintage where the buyer has to take note of the producer, as some wines are lovely with impressive concentration, though others are only medium-weight. The wines, it should be noted, are well balanced across the board, offering beautifully defined acidity. This is not a powerful vintage, but there are dozens of very lovely wines. (Consorzio rating – 4 stars)
2006 – Excellent. As I noted recently, the 2006 Brunellos are excellent wines, taken as a whole. This is somewhat of an old-fashioned vintage, with big concentration and excellent aging potential. I tasted several outstanding wines (Il Poggione, Sesta di Sopra, Uccelliera, et al) with many more excellent. If the wines displayed the complex aromas of the 2004s, I would have rated this vintage even higher. (Consorzio rating – outstanding – 5 stars).
Please note that these are ratings for the regular bottlings of Brunello di Montalcino from these vintages. I don’t taste enough riserva bottlings to offer a detailed analysis of those wines, but generally the quality of the normale bottlings as well as the riserva bottlings from the same vintage (the riserva bottlings are released at least one year later) tend to go hand in hand.
That said, I was quite impressed by the riserva bottlings of Brunello di Montalcino from 2004, especially the textbook Eredi Fuligni, with its remarkable suppleness and varietal purity along with the more deeply concentrated and slightly more tannic Il Poggione. Despite this powerful nature of the Il Poggione riserva (labeled with the vineyard name “Vigna Paganelli”) the wine has impeccable balance and is elegant and charming with a vibrant backbone of fruit.