I recently returned from my second trip to Montalcino this year – how nice to see the colors of the vineyards and wildflowers in May instead of the grays and browns in February – and I’ve tasted through more than 75 examples of the new releases of 2007 Brunello di Montalcino and almost as many versions of the 2006 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. I’ve reported on these wines already and will write more in the future.
Whenever I visit a producer in Montalcino, I taste through the entire lineup, which includes their Rosso di Montalcino. This is a wine, also made exclusively from Sangiovese, that is sourced from vineyards that are less than ten years old or perhaps from cooler vineyards that do not get as ripe as the finest plantings in the area. It is a wine that is generally released some 18-24 months after the harvest – much earlier than Brunello, which is on a five-year release cycle – which makes the Rosso a lighter, more approachable wine that is meant for earlier consumption. I don’t generally agree with those who label Rosso di Montalcino as a “baby Brunello,” as it doesn’t have the richness or the complexity of a Brunello, but is is a pleasant, sometimes very fine bottle of wine that does at least give one a preview of the vintage, letting us know what that year’s Brunello will be like in some three years’ time upon release.
What all this is leading to is the remarkable quality of the 2010 vintage for Rosso di Montalcino. I met with several producers who told me about the excellence of this particular growing season in Montalcino, with Mario Bollag of Terralsole telling me that, “the grapes from 2010 are the best he’s ever seen.” Other producers echoed this thought, so while the bottles of Brunello from this vintage will be something to look for when they are released in three years, at leat now we can enjoy the new versions of Rosso di Montalcino.
I’ve tried several examples of 2010 Rosso di Montalcino to date and have been most impressed by the SestadiSopra, a small traditional estate that I’ve rated as among the best producers of Brunello over the past half-dozen years. Their new Rosso is a lovely wine, with aromas of ripe morel cherry, cedar and a hint of mint with precise acidity and an ultra clean finish and excellent persistence. I ordered a bottle of this for our small group at Taverna Grappolo Blu in the town of Montalcino and it was wonderful with lunch; I don’t know if I’ve ever tried a more delicious Rosso di Montalcino!
Other 2010 Rosso di Montalcino I love include the elegant Ciacci Piccolomini, with its lovely red cherry and red rose aromas; the Lisini, with its light herbal notes in a traditional, subdued style; the fruit-forward Uccelliera; the appealing and perfectly balanced Fuligni, which has lovely cleansing acidity; the irresistible Le Chiuse with inviting fruit and floral aromas and remarkable balance and finally, the exquisite Il Paradiso di Manfredi, with beautiful morel cherry, red plum and iris aromas, notable concentration and gorgeous varietal purity; this is as complex and as ideally structured a Rosso as you can find.
There are other examples of 2010 Rosso di Montalcino that I have yet to try, these include top producers such as Il Poggione and Gianni Brunelli. Then there are producers such as Biondi-Santi, Tassi and Poggio di Sotto, who will not release their 2010 Rosso for another 8-12 months; I can’t wait to try these versions!
While these are not wines to replace Brunello, as they do not have the depth of fruit of those wines, these Rosso are beautiful wines that are ideal bottles to enjoy while you wait for the 2010 Brunello to become available on the market in 2015. Many of the best Rosso di Montalcino from 2010 will be at peak enjoyment then, so grab them now while you can easily find them. You have been warned!