Posts tagged ‘brunello di montalcino’
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.
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.
Naturally, some of my Top 100 producers of Italian wine will include a few estates in Montalcino. The first Brunello producer that I’m writing about is my favorite, Il Poggione.
The origins of Il Poggione date back to the late 1800s, but as a producer of Brunello di Montalcino, the recent history begins in the 1950s. The estate is owned by Leopoldo and Livia Franceschi and is located below the beautiful hilltop town of Sant’Angelo in Colle, one of the finest zones for Brunello di Montalcino.
What makes Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino so special can be summarized by two factors: superb vineyards and outstanding winemaking. Fabrizio Bindocci, a thoughtful, gracious man, makes Brunello today as he always has – in the traditional method. He ages his Brunello di Montalcino in grandi botti, the large casks that ensure the natural flavors of the Sangiovese grapes are preserved along with the characteristics of the Sant’Angelo terroir. A regular bottling of Brunello di Montalcino is produced each year and in the finest vintages, a Riserva bottling is also made (this wine receives at least one extra year of aging in wood).
A few years ago, Bindocci decided to use the casks of a different cooper than what he had used in the past, so today the grandi botti used at Il Poggione is French instead of Slavonian oak, but that is one of the few changes made in the cellars of Il Poggione over the past decade. The wines are as complex, elegant and as ageworthy as ever, offering beautiful red cherry and currant fruit with notes of cedar and precise acidity. I recently tasted the 1970 and 1975 bottlings, both of which were in superb condition (especially the 1975); both should be drinking well for another decade.
There has been an explosion of new producers of Brunello di Montalcino over the past several years; today there are over 140 estates in this small zone as opposed to a few dozen in the mid-1960s. Yet despite all the new vintners and new winemaking and grape growing techniques, there are few more classic examples of Brunello di Montalcino that that of Il Poggione.
The best wines of Il Poggione include:
- Brunello di Montalcino
- Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
- Rosso di Montalcino
- Mazzoni (IGT)
- Vin Santo
- Moscadello di Montalcino
This last wine is truly special, as this is a slightly sparkling, slightly sweet Moscadello made like a Moscato d’Asti. Il Poggione is the only producer to make Moscadello di Montalcino in ths manner. It’s absolutely delicious on its own or with some fresh fruit.
A few weeks ago, I wote a post on Brunello di Montalcino (read here) in which I discussed ths wine’s characteristics and makeup along with listing some of the finest producers. I thought readers would be interested in learning what some of the top authorities in Italy as well as this country think about Brunello, so I asked several experts in this field to provide me with a list of whom they believe are the finest producers of Brunello.
I asked for a list of ten, letting them know they could add brief comments if they wished. One contributor gave me twelve names, saying he couldn’t get his list down to just ten, while another gave me his list of his top ten followed closely by another ten. No problem- the more the merrier – and it shows you how many excellent producers of Brunello di Montalcino there are.
So without further ado, here are the lists:
“Based on what I feel are indicative, traditional expressions of Brunello, available in this country…
- Le Presi
- Il Poggione
- Poggio di Sotto
- Canalicchio di Sopra
- Paradiso di Manfredi
- Altesino- cellar worthy
- Angelo Sassetti – ultimate contadina
- Argiano- stylish and elegant
- Costanti – another classic their 2004 reminded me of their 1964
- Fattoi- great pruners and dog trainers
- Il Poggione – Love these guys
- Lisini – classic archetype
- Poggio alle Mura (Banfi) – their ’71 was so great
- Poggio San Polo – new young winemaker and energy
Tom Maresca – America’s leading writer on Italian wines, having contributed hundreds of articles on the topic for more than 25 years. Lives in New York City.
- Banfi: great quality-to-price ratio
- Barbi: very traditional house
- Biondi Santi: self explanatory
- Casanova di Neri: elegant
- Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona: big, structured
- Donatella Cinelli Colombini: very true to Montalcino character
- Col d’Orcia: great finesse
- Fuligni: a pace-setter in recent vintages
- Lisini: the essence of Montalcino
- Nardi: great strides in recent years
- Poggio Antico: more and more, intensely Sangiovese
- Il Poggione: superb vineyards
Charles Scicolone – Author of the blog Charles Scicolone on Wine. One of America’s leading authorities on Italian wines. Wine writer and restaurant consultant. He lives in New York City.
- Fattoria dei Barbi- Some where between traditional and modren but I think more traditional
- Biondi-Santi -Traditional and one of the best
- Caparzo – Some wines in Traditional style, others modern
- Casanova di Neri – use of botti, small french oak barrels and tonneau
- Col d’Orcia
- Il Poggione
- Constanti- I think he is still traditional
- Poggio Antico- They changed their style went modern with the 2001 vintage -loved the wine before this
- Mastrojanni – in between
- Pian delle Vigne- Antinori
“ I really liked the 2004 Brunello from Banfi- I think it is the best Brunello they ever made.
“It is difficult to tell the modern from the traditionalist except for Franco Biondi- Santi.
“In most cases the “traditionalists” are using more modern methods and the modern producers less small oak. Some make one Brunello in a traditional style and other in a modern style.
“I find Brunello to be very confusing. That is why I like my Brunello to be 1990 or older.”
Franco Ziliani – Author of vinoalvino blog and co-author of vinowire blog (with Jeremy Parzen). One of Italy’s most important wine writers and arguably the most influential in the country. Lives near Bergamo in the province of Lombardia.
- Case Basse
- Il Greppo Biondi Santi
- Il Colle
- Poggio di Sotto
- Giulio Salvioni Cerbaiola
- Col d’Orcia
- Gianni Brunelli
Plus others like:
- Il Poggione
- Gorelli Le Potazzine
- Le Macioche
- Sesta di Sopra
- Il Marroneto
- Pian dell’Orino
And finally, my choices (in alphabetical order):
- Col d’Orcia
- Il Poggione
- Le Chiuse
- Pian dell’Orino
- Poggio Antico
- Poggio di Sotto
- Sesta di Sopra
Do you have favorite Brunello producers? I’d love to read your choices- send them along.
Brunello di Montalcino is one of the most famous red wines produced anywhere in the world. Made entirely from Sangiovese – known as Brunello in the Montalcino area – Brunello is one of the longest-lived red wines of Italy, with most bottlings drinking well fro 12-15 years, while the finest examples from the best estates in the top vintages lasting as long as 25-30 years.
Brunello di Montalcino – and the lighter, more approachable Rosso di Montalcino – are the only Tuscan reds that are regulated as being produced solely with Sangiovese. A Brunello must be aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels, though the size of the barrel is not mentioned. This gives winemakers freedom; some use the traditional botti grandi, large casks that hold anywhere between 2000 to 6000 liters, while other producers prefer barriques, small barrels that hold 225 liters (other still, prefer tonneau, 500-liter casks).
This means a wide variety of styles of Brunello, with the traditional wines aged in large casks offering flavors of red cherry, currant , cinnamon and cedar, while the more modern bottlings focus on black cherry, vanilla and spice. Traditional producers include Biondi-Santi, Il Poggione and Talenti, while the modern producers include Fanti, Valdicava and Donatella Cinelli Colombini.
As this is a famous red that can age for decades, prices are not inexpensive. Expect to pay between $60-$80 for most current bottlings of Brunello. The price is fair when you consider that a Brunello di Montalcino cannnot be released in the market place until the fifth year after the harvest; thus the 2004 bottlings are now being released in 2009.
The Consorzio of Brunello producers rates each vintage on its quality, from one star (poor) to five stars (exceptional). 2004 is a five-star vintage; others include 1997, 1995 and 1990. The 2007 vintage has also been rated five stars; these wines however will not be released until 2012.
Given the fame of this wine, many new estates have been established over the past 10-15 years. In the 1970s, there were fewer than 40; today the number exceeds 140. Many are quite small, owning only 2-3 acres of vineyards and producing less than 5000 bottles of Brunello per vintage.
Given the number of producers making Brunello today, here is a short list of some of the finest:
- Il Poggione
- Le Chiuse
- Sesta di Sopra
- Il Palazzone
- Casanuova delle Cerbaie
In 2008, investigations into an alleged scandal looked into the question of whether certain producers have or had been introducing varieties other than Sangiovese into the wine. Some members of the media have said this has been going on for years and point to the softer acidity of the wines as well as deeper color. As Sangiovese has lively acidity for a red variety and the color is generally garnet, these critics point to the deep ruby red color as well as soft acidity that a grape such as Merlot or possibly Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon was added to certain wines.
To date, a few dozen producers have been investigated and a few estates declassified their Brunellos in 2003, a sign to some that that particular wine was not 100% Sangiovese. Yet nothing has really been proven.
It seems safe to say that while this may be happening, it is not the practice of the majority. It seems also safe to say that what makes Brunello di Montalcino so distinct is its requirement of 100% Sangiovese. It seems unlikely that there will be any changes to this law anytime soon. In my opinion, there certainly does not need ot be any change regarding Brunello as a wine made purely from Sangiovese.
As for a Rosso di Montalcino, there are no requirements for wood aging; the wine can be released as soon as one year after the vintage. A few producers also make a Reserva bottling of Brunello di Montalcino; these wines cannot be released in the market before the sixth year following the vintage.
Read more about some of the best producers of Brunello di Montalcino at my website
BUYING GUIDE TO TUSCAN WINES
I have just put together a collection of my reviews of the latest wines from Tuscany. These reviews can be found in a special Tuscan issue of my newsletter, Guide to Italian Wines; this is a 30-page pdf document. This issue contains reviews of 50 different Brunellos from the 2004 vintage, as well as reviews of wines from six different estates in Bolgheri (including three vintages of Sassicaia), as well as 40 new bottlings of Chianti Classico, a dozen examples of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and even a couple newly released bottlings of Vin Santo.
The price for this special issue is only $10 US. I will email the issue to you upon payment (either check or Paypal), so if you are interested, please email me and I will reply with payment instructions. This is a must for a Tuscan wine lover!