Why the 2010 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino will probably not receive 95 or 97 points in most major wine publications and why that’s a good thing.
Sometimes, when you taste a wine, there’s more there than meets the eye (or palate). Maybe it’s just me, perhaps. After all, I’ve always had a critical eye with most wines. It’s not that I don’t just taste and enjoy (or dislike) a wine, it’s just that certain wines are special and deserve a bit more analysis than those I’d serve as warm weather quaffers.
Take the 2010 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino, which I tasted the other day. I was excited about trying this wine for two primary reasons: first, this estate has been one of my favorite for the last ten years as far as quality and style of their Brunello, and secondly, this wine is from the 2010 vintage, one rated five stars – outstanding – by the Brunello consorzio – and in reality, a great year around most of Italy for superior red wines (especially Barolo and Barbaresco from Piemonte and Taurasi from Campania).
My notes on this wine are as follows:
Deep garnet; aromas of cedar, morel cherry, sage and cumin. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Nice harmony of all components, very good acidity, subdued wood notes and distinct notes of tobacco and caramel in the finish. Youthful tannins that are proper (and properly balanced) for this wine. Not overly ripe or powerfully concentrated, but beautiful varietal character and a fine sense of local terroir. Best in 10-12 years. Excellent.
Read between the lines and you’ll understand why I admire this wine so much. It’s a wine of restraint. This is not a forward, super ripe, over oaked example of Brunello di Montalcino, but rather a beautifully balanced wine with admirable Sangiovese character that will be at its best in another decade, a quality I think that makes Brunello di Montalcino so special.
In other words, this is not a wine for tonight. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this wine now – if you do, give it at least two or three hours to breathe and serve it with aged cheeses or roast pork or veal – but rather, it will display its finest qualities down the road.
That means it will probably not receive 95 points (or higher) from one of the most famous wine magazines – and that’s just fine with me. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, young red wines that are awarded at least 94-95 points are big, showy wines, wine that have a wow! factor. A winemaker once explained that wow factor to me, by noting that you look at the deep color, appraise the jammy, super ripe plummy fruit and taste how powerful the wine is in your mouth and you say wow!. That may work for some consumers, but not for me.
Great Brunello di Montalcino or Barolo or Burgundy or numerous other world-class wines are all about having the structure to age for many years. I’m certain that anyone reading this article understands the concept of structure, but for those individuals that buy scores and not wines, structure is probably way down on their list of priorities, if they understand it at all. Too many influential wine publications have ignored balance and structure in their commentaries on wine, preferring to focus on terms such as power, ripeness and intensity. It’s the old “bigger is better” argument. Well that’s like saying sirloin is better than seafood – it’s not. Bigger isn’t better – it’s different.
But in this age of instant gratification – a sensation that is rather apropos for today’s sound bite-filled world of instant messaging – too many consumers swallow this connotation that a big, gutsy wine (red or white) is always better than one that defines elegance and subtlety. It’s fool’s gold – too many of these 95-point and higher wines are given those scores for their muscle and if that’s your reference point, well, you get what you deserve when you purchase these offerings.
The 2010 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino is a reserved wine, one that can only be produced with superior grapes and made in a way that respects the traditions of this territory, that a young Brunello di Montalcino is not at its best upon release, but rather 10 or more years down the road. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste 15 and 20 year old examples of Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino and have been rewarded with marvelous wines that have improved with time and slowly reveal more and more of their charms. To me, this is far better than immediate pleasure. It’s a little like a great friend – one that you appreciate after many years for their patience and understanding.
So it’s a good thing that this wine won’t receive 95-97 points from most publications. That means that this wine won’t fall into the hands of people looking for a powerhouse wine. And that means more bottles are available for people like myself that treasure maturity, balance and breeding in a wine. That’s what a great producer like Il Palazzone is all about.