Posts tagged ‘il poggione’
Montalcino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
The 2009 Brunello di Montalcinos were released a few months ago and while a new vintage of this iconic Tuscan red should be great news for wine lovers, the results in this vintage reveal a year that while offering some very good, even excellent wines was one that was frankly a bit of a disappointment.
2009 was a very warm year in Montalcino. One of the blessings of this zone is that they do not get as much rain as in most of the Chianti districts; this is a warmer and drier area. So ripening is more consistent, although there are big years – such as 2006 – and more subdued years, such as 2008. 2009 was a year in which the warn to hot conditions ripened grapes quite well, but perhaps too well, as overall the wines do not have the pronounced perfumes of recent vintages such as 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 or 2008. Also, the wines have a little extra alcohol – 14.5% is routine for the 2009 Brunellos, but I tasted a few with 15% alcohol. I realize that alcohol is just a number to some people, but I find these higher percentages a bit alarming, as the wines just do not have the balance of the finest years, as with 2004 or 2006-2008. Even the best producers made wines that, while flavorful, lack the complexity and above all, the finesse of the best examples of Brunello. Yes, Brunello can be a “big” wine, but bigness does not often equate to roundness and elegance.
Le Chiuse Estate
Here are brief notes on several of the best examples of 2009 Brunello di Montalcino I have recently tasted. These are among the best, but none of these wines represent their estates at their absolute best. A few are disappointing, while others are excellent, so keep in mind that 2009 is not a great vintage in Montalcino (as was 2004, 2006 and perhaps 2010; these last wines will be released in 2015). As with any well-made Brunello, these wines will drink well for another 10-12 years; it’s just that for 2009, the wines are not at the highest level.
Le Chiuse – The very fact that this great estate is relatively unknown is a tremendous shame, as this acreage was once part of the famed Biondi-Santi holdings. Proprietors Simonetta Valiani and her husband Nicolo Magnelli have performed brilliantly over the past decade; in my opinion, Le Chiuse is not only one of the most consistent of all Brunello producers, but also one of the finest, period. The wines are made in a traditional style and reflect a great sense of place as well as displaying beautiful varietal purity.
The 2009 has beautiful aromas of marasca cherry, a hint of tar, thyme and dried red flowers. Medium-full with very good concentration, this is a lovely wine with impressive harmony, ideal ripeness and, as always, subdued oak. There is good acidity along with balanced tannins and impressive persistence. Although not as magnificently styled as their best offerings, this is nonetheless, a lovely wine that will be at its best in 10-12 years. Excellent (4 stars)
Maté “Campo Alto” - Husband and wife Ferenc and Candace Maté have been quietly producing some very fine examples of Brunello di Montalcino at their lovely estate near that of Gianfranco Soldera and Angelo Gaja for the past several years. This 2009 “Campo Alto” is a new bottling and for my thoughts, the best wine they have produced to date. Displaying rich aromas of morel cherry, tar, Damson plum and a hint of coffee, this is medium-full with a rich mid-palate. I am a bit concerned about the 15% alcohol (again, 2009 was quite warm), but the wine seems well balanced. it certainly is flavorful with very good varietal focus and the persistence is more pronounced in this wine as compared with previous efforts from this producer. Best in 12-15 years. Excellent (4 stars)
Sesta di Sopra – Another ultratraditional Brunello producer, this is a tiny estate, so these wines are limited to only a few large markets in America; they are, however, well worth the search. The 2009 has aromas of sage, wild cherry, tar and tree bark. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Good acidity, medium weight tannins, impressive persistence. Very good varietal character, but not as focused or as pure as the best releases from this producer. Best in 10-12 years. Very Good to Excellent (3 and 1/2 stars)
Poggio di Sotto – Beautiful youthful garnet; fragrant aromas of red cherry, wild strawberry, carnation and cedar. Medium-full, this has good acidity and persistence along with very fine typicity. Well balanced wine with subdued wood notes. This is not as refined or as complex as the best vintages such as 2004, 2006 and 2008, but it is an impressive wine. Best in 12-15 years. Very Good to Excellent (3 and 1/2 stars)
Terralsole – Aromas of cedar, dried cherry, dried brown herbs and a hint of green olive. Medium-full with very good concentration. Good richness in the mid-palate, good acidity, youthful tannins and nicely integrated wood notes. Not as ripe as some 2009s (which frankly, is a good thing), nor as rich as previous years with this wine. Well made with good harmony. Best in 10-12 years – perhaps longer. Very Good to Excellent (3 and 1/2 stars)
Il Poggione – Deep garnet; aromas of red cherry, red plum, clove and cedar. Medium-full with very good concentration. Nice ripeness, slightly high tone fruit, but not overripe. Elegant tannins, good acidity and overall, nicely balanced. 14.5% alcohol, but not overpowering like some other examples of Brunello this year. Not a great Il Poggione Brunello, but a well made wine from a less than accomplished vintage. Best in 10-12 years. Very Good to Excellent (3 and 1/2 stars)
Col d’Orcia – Beautiful garnet; dried cherry, cedar and thyme aromas. Traditionally made with elegant tannins; good acidity, very good typicity. Medium-full with very good concentration. The alcohol (14.5%) shows through in the nose and in the finish, so the charms of this wine are somewhat dissipated. Best in 7-10 years. Very Good (3 stars)
Gianni Brunelli – Good (2 stars)
Eredi Fuligni – Good (2 stars)
Talenti – Good (2 stars)
Plaque honoring the 2007 Brunello vintage in the main square of Montalcino (Photo by Tom Hyland)
2007 Brunello- Triumph of the Traditionalists
I’ve just returned from Montalcino, where I attended the annual Benvenuto Brunello event along with several dozen wine writers from around the world. This is an anteprima tasting, where wines that will be released later in the year are sampled for journalists. As Brunello di Montalcino is released on a five-year cycle, the new wines at this tasting were from 2007; the 2006 Riservas were also sampled as well as Rosso di Montalcino from 2010.
2007 was an excellent year for red wines throughout much of Italy; this was especially true in Toscana. The warm weather ensured excellent ripeness, yet there was also good natural acidity in the wines. True, this is a forward, somewhat international vintage, but the wines are well balanced and offer very good structure. Overall, I think this is an excellent vintage and while I do not rate it quite as high as 2006, which I thought outstanding, this is a year with many first-rate and several outstanding wines. (note: the Consorzio rated both 2006 and 2007 as 5-star – outstanding – years.)
As usual, I will review all the wines I tasted – more than 60 – in my Guide to Italian Wines. For now, I will discuss a few of my favorite wines, starting with the 2007 bottlings. As usual, the wines from Poggio Antico are excellent, delivering impressive depth of fruit as well as a long, polished finish. There are two bottlings: the regular Poggio Antico as well as the “Altero”; this year, I slightly preferred the regular bottling (5 stars-outstanding) over the “Altero” but that could change with time.
Every year, I have the Eredi Fuligni at or near the top of my list; the 2007 continues that tradition. Here is a traditionally made wine with gorgeous perfumes, a generous mid-palate, very good acidity and polished tannins. The wine is clean and has remarkable varietal purity. Bravo to Fuligni for their amazing Brunello every year, a wine that is for me, a textbook Brunello.
Francesco Marone Cinzano, propirietor, Col d’Orcia (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Col d’Orcia has been one of my favorite Brunello producers for some time now and they delivered another excellent wine in 2007. Displaying lovely rose petal and tart cherry aromas with a hint of tobacco, this has lovely balance, excellent persistence and ideal acidity. Another traditional producer, Col d’Orcia crafts wines that are true expressions of terroir, a trait on display in their 2007 Brunello, a wine I think will be at peak in 12-15 years, although it will most likely be drinking well for several years after that.
Other 2007 Brunellos that I loved included the gracefully mannered Caprili; the varietally pure and exquisitely balanced Il Poggione; the exquisite Tenuta di Sesta and the always graceful Uccelliera. Propietor Andrea Cortonesi has been on quite a streak as of late, refining his Brunello to offer a wine of lovely cherry flavors, polished tannins and a wonderful sense of place. This 2007 is outstanding!
A few pleasant surprises among the 2007 Brunello included the Ridolfi and the Sassodisole. Each year there are more than 125 Brunello normale available for tasting. I have a core group of wines I try each year, but I always make sure to sample the wines from producers I’m not that familiar with for whatever reasons. One of those producers, Ridolfi made a 2007 Brunello with lovely rose petal and dried cherry aromas along with notes of thyme and cedar, elegant tannins and very good acidity; this is quite stylish. The Sassodisole, another winery whose products I had not tried before, delivered a gorgeous traditional Brunello aged for 36 months in grandi botti that displays beautiful perfumes of tart cherry, currant and strawberry preserves (!); there is very good depth of fruit, ideal acidity and excellent persistence. Here is a graceful wine that is beautifully made – a wine from a powerful vintage that is all about finesse. This is an outstanding wine and Sassodisole is a winery to keep an eye on; I know I’l be tasting their wines every chance I get.
Claudio Tipa, proprietor Poggio di Sotto (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
If I had to select one 2007 Brunello di Montalcino, it would be the Poggio di Sotto. This has been one of Montalcino’s finest artisan estates since Piero Palmucci released his first wines from the 1991 vintage. Palmucci had several ideas as to how to produce outstanding Brunello, the core of which was two-fold; age only in large casks and age for a long period of time. The results over the years have been nothing short of outstanding.
Palmucci recently sold the winery to Claudio Tipa, a true Tuscan gentleman, who has been involved in the wine business for decades. Tipa is most famous as the owner of Colle Massari in southern Tuscany as well as the renowned Grattamacco estate in Bolgheri, along Tuscany’s coast. Tipa told me at the winery that he is a strong believer in what Palmucci has accomplished and will not change the style.
At the beginning of this post, I wrote that this year in Montalcino was a “triumph of the traditionalists.” You will note the number of traditional wines I have written about in this post and while I admit to a bias toward this style of wine, I could not help that even with the more modern wines, the oak influence has been reduced. What wonderful news for any wine drinker, as less oak in these wines lets the varietal character of these wines shine, while at the same time, allowing the wines to show a sense of place. Be it from Montalcino, Piemonte or Campania, all great Italian red wines share these traits.
Getting back to Poggio di Sotto, it is this subtle wood influence that helps define the local terroir of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, one of Montalcino’s best sub-zones. But it is also the length of time in grandi botti that helps refine these wines. The 2007 Poggio di Sotto Brunello stayed in wood for more than 3 and 1/2 years, far longer than the minimum two years required. What this achieves, according to winemaker Federico Staderini, is a lightness on the palate, an elegance that is largely unmatched. When I tasted this wine, I noted how weightless this wine seemed; this to me was a quality I normally only associate with older Brunellos, perhaps 12 or 15 years of age. But here was a new release that was as refined a Brunello as I have ever had at such a young age. This is something every producer should aim for, even if they may never realize the finesse and subtleties of the wines of Poggio di Sotto.
A few words on the 2006 Brunello Riserva. 2006 was an outstanding year in Montalcino with wines of great concentration and impresssive structure. The 2006s are not as forward as the 2007s (and thus may not appeal to casual red wine drinkers), but if you want to appreciate what classic Brunello is all about, this is an ideal vintage, as these wines will slowly unfold and offer their complexities over a long period of time – some 20-25 years. Among the finest 2006 Brunello Riservas were the Il Poggione, Canalicchio di Sopra, Talenti, Poggio Antico and of course, the Poggio di Sotto. All of these wines offered excellent depth of fruit and a fine sense of place, along with ideal balance and persistence. The Il Poggione was most impressive, as it is one of the most powerful wines I have ever tried from this great producer, yet the wine never abandons the harmonious style this winery is known for.
My notes on the 2007 Brunello di Montalcino and 2006 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva along with notes on a few 2010 Rosso di Montalcino will be published in the Spring 2012 issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. This is a quarterly publication that carries a paid subscription of $30 a year, less than a bottle of Brunello! This spring issue will be more than 40 pages in length and will be sent out to subscribers via email. If you would like to purchase this issue separately (available around the end of March), the cost is a mere $10. For more information, email me (this information can be found here.)
One final note: the 2007 Brunello di Montalcino now carry the new DOCG strip – quite a change from the prior pink/rose colored one.
Here is my final post on the Best Italian Wines from the past year; this is the third entry on red wines. Again, this is a partial list, see the end of this post for more information on all of my selections.
2008 Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore - The gorgeous wine zone of Bolgheri, located in Tuscan province of Livorno, just a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea is the home of some of Italy’s most renowned estates. Most Italian wine lovers know two of these companies, namely Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Tenuta San Guido, the latter firm being the one that produces Sassicaia. But in reality, there is a third producer here that ranks the equal of those two; the winery is Grattamacco. Established in 1977 and currently owned by Claudio Tipa, Grattamacco is a spectacularly beautiful estate where the vineyards seem to go on forever. Like most companies in Bolgheri, the top red wine here is made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon (65% in this wine), while Merlot makes up 20% and Sangiovese 15% of the blend. The 2008 is a brilliant wine with incredible depth of fruit, seductive aromas of black cherry, black currant, tar, licorice and black raspberry and an extremely long finish with beautifully silky, polished tannins. The acidity is remarkable as it cleanses the mouth (this is a astonishingly clean wine for being so powerful), and provides amazing freshness. There is outstanding persistence and the balance is impeccable while the complexity is superior. I have loved this Bolgheri Superiore, the top wine of the estate for years and I believe this is the finest offering of Grattamacco since the great 1999 bottling! A truly spectacular wine and a candidate for the Best Italian Wine of the Year. This is seductive now, but it will only improve with time and should be at its peak in 20-25 years. $85
2006 Sestadisopra Brunello di Montalcino - I have listed the Brunello from this traditional producer at or near the top of my rankings virtually every year since 2001. This is a lovely wine with beautiful red cherry, strawberry and cedar aromas backed by a rich mid-palate and an ideally structured finish with excellent persistence and fine acidity. Aged solely in big casks, this is a great expression of terrior in the small Sesta zone of Montalcino. This should be at its peak in 20 years and will probably drink well for a few years after that. $75
2006 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino – Another great traditional Brunello producer and one of my favorite Italian wines, period. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci manages to craft a superb Brunello each vintage by largely staying out of the way, as the fruit from the estate vineyards is so wonderful; Bindocci treats this fruit with kid gloves, aging it in large casks (grandi botti), allowing the varietal purity to shine through. This should be at is best in 20-25 years. $80
2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino - Here is another ultra consistent Brunello producer at the top of their game. Proprietor Andrea Cortonesi always crafts an elegant Brunello, even in a year such as 2006 that resulted in beautifully structured wines. The aromas feature notes of wild strawberry, red cherry, thyme and cedar; the tannins are polished and the acidity is finely tuned. This should be at its best in 15-20 years. $70
2007 Donnachiara Taurasi – Taurasi is arguably the finest Italian red that few know much about. Made primarily from the Aglianico grape in a zone near the eponymous town in Campania, Taurasi combines ripe cherry fruit with hints of bitter chocolate along with firm tannins and healthy acidity to result in a complex wine that is one of Italy’s longest lived; 40 year old versions that drink well are not uncommon. This version from a producer that should also be better known is not the biggest Taurasi from 2007, but it is an excellent example that has all the characteristics one looks for in a Taurasi. Medium-full with appealing varietal fruit, this has polished tannins and good acidity. Like most examples of 2007 Taurasi, this is forward and somewhat approachable now, but will improve with time and should peak in about 10 years. $40 (which is very reasonably priced for a Taurasi).
2007 Mastroberardino Taurasi “Radici” - Mastroberardino has been the family that has been one of the flag bearers for Taurasi over the past 100 years. They have produced some of the best bottlings in the last six decades; the famous 1968 bottling is still in fine shape, almost 45 years after the vintage. While the winemaking has changed over the years – today’s versions are aged in small and large barrels as opposed to only small barrels of years past – the quality has not. Deeply concentrated with elegant tannins and good acidity, this is a rich, quite complex Taurasi that is a very good expression of local terroir. This needs time to round out and will be at its best in 12-15 years. $50
2009 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico “Dorilli” – Planeta, one of Sicily’s most influential producers never ceases to amaze. Excellent whites and reds, from Fiano and Chardonnay to Syrah and Nero d’Avola, are turned out on a seemingly routine basis. The latest success from this winery is this new bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the chamring Nero d’Avola/Frappato blend. The regular bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Planeta is very good, with its lovely freshness and tasty fruit, but with this Dorilli bottling (named for a local river), there is an added layer of complexity and elegance. A blend of 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato, this has beautiful aromas of black cherry, plum and violets with a lengthy, elegant finish with very good acidity. This is so delicious now and will drink well over the next 5-7 years. $20
2008 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola “Siccogno” - The effervescent Arianna Occhipinti is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti, co-owner of the famed COS estate in Vittoria. The younger Occhipinti produces several wines that are of similar caliber to her uncle; this was may favorite from last year. Medium-full, with inviting aromas of strawberry, red currant and mulberry, this is a complex Nero d’Avola with plenty of punch in the finish, yet maintains its elegance and finesse throughout. This is an outstanding example of Nero d’Avola; it should be at its best in 7-10 years. $35
This completes my posts on the Best Italian Wines of 2011. Given the space limitations of a blog, these have been partial lists. The complete lists of my Best Italian Wines of the Year will be in the Spring 2012 issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. To purchase this issue for $10 or to subscribe ($30 for four quarterly issues), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Without further ado, here is a partial list of my choices of the best Italian red wines of the year. A full list (along with the best whites of the year and a list of the best producers) can be found in the next issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. For subscription information, click here.
2007 PRODUTTORI DEL BARBARESCO BARBARESCO
There are so many wonderful bottlings of Barbaresco from the excellent 2007 vintage; given space limitations, I’ll only mention one. This is the normale Barbaresco from this great producer, a blend of several different vineyards within the town of Barbaresco. The 2007 vintage for Barbaresco was all about finesse and not power; this wine has gorgeous aromatics and beautiful acidity along with the subtle oak and ideal balance this producer is so well known for. This should drink well for 10-12 years. Also among the finest wines of the year were the 2005 cru bottlings of this producer from the Rio Sordo, Pajé and Montestefano vineyards.
2006 ELIO GRASSO BAROLO “GAVARINI CHINERA”/BAROLO “GINESTRA CASA MATE´”
So many outstanding bottlings of Barolo from 2006 – again with space limitations, I have room for only a few. Here are two wonderful wines from this ultra consistent Barolo producer in Monforte d’Alba. Both of these wines offer impressive concentration and a distinct spiciness that emerges from the local terroir. These are both aged in large casks, so oak plays a supporting role and does not dominate. 2006 was an old-fashioned, classically structured vintage for Barolo, so these wines should peak in 25 years plus. Purchasing an Elio Grasso Barolo is always a wise choice, especially from the 2006 vintage.
2004 IL POGGIONE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO RISERVA
Hardly a surprise here, given the long-term excellence of this producer combined with the excellent 2004 vintage. This wine is from the I Paganelli vineyard, planted in 1964 and displays the concentration and complexity of these older vines. Medium-full, this has layers of fruit and a lengthy finish with subdued wood notes (grandi botti aging), lively acidity and polished tannins and offers exceptional harmony. This should drink well for 20-25 years.
2004 STEFANO ACCORDINI AMARONE “IL FORNETTO”
This excellent producer releases this special bottling only in the finest vintages; this 2004 certainly lives up to that entitlement. Medium-full with an explosion of fruit, this offers flavors of red raspberry and fig with light raisiny notes and has a rich finish with youthful, but refined tannins and lovely balancing acidity. Look for this wine to drink well for 12-15 years. It may be difficult to find this wine, but if you are lover of Amarone, you need to taste this!
2002 FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO TAURASI RISERVA “PIANO DI MONTEVERGINE”
Taurasi is Campania’s contribution to the list of Italy’s most accomplished red wines and Feudi is one of leading producers of this wine type. This is from a site very close to the town of Taurasi; planted more than 25 years ago, this is an outstanding Aglianico vineyard. Medium-full, this is a beautifully structured wine with excellent persistence and silky tannins to accompany the delicious black cherry and candied plum fruit. As I wrote in my review in my Guide to Italian Wines earlier this year, “2002 was not a year that led itself to greatness in this area, but this is an accomplished bottling.” As this bottling is a bit lighter than a typical vintage (though still quite rich), expect this to peak in 12-15 years.
A few weeks ago in Chicago and New York, I tasted pre-release bottlings of the 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riservas. I had looked forward to the regular bottlings of the 2004 Brunellos when they were released last year and was even more excited about these Riservas.
2004 was an excellent year throughout much of the Italian peninsula and that was true in Toscana as well. The 2004s displayed lovely fresh fruit aromas with very good to excellent concentration and nicely balanced acidity. After the alcoholic and bitter bottlings from 2003 and the lighter than normal 2002’s, the Brunellos from 2004 were a step in the right direction.
To me 2004 is a classic Brunello vintage – one that emphasized elegance over power. The wines as a whole are not as deeply concentrated as those from 2001, so they will probably not age as long as those bottlngs. For that reason, some journalists have gone on record as believing that the 2004 Brunellos were not as exciting as some were making them out to be. The bottom line for me is that everyone likes the wines very much, but it’s just a case of how much. I think overall the Brunellos from 2004 are excellent, with several outstanding bottlings. So now the 2004 Riservas and as you can imagine, I like these wines very much. I was certainly looking forward to the “best of the best” from this year, and I have not been disappointed. The wines have very impressive concentration, beautiful varietal exprression and the structure to age for 15-20 years, perhaps longer in a few cases.
Here are some brief thoughts on a few of my favorites:
I am a huge fan of this producer, one of the very best who makes his wines in a traditional style. Beautiful red cherry, strawberry and cedar notes, impressive concentration, elegant entry on the palate and a long, sensual finish with excellent fruit persistence. A classic bottling, easily one of the best Brunellos from 2004.
Another of my very favorite producers in Montalcino, this is another producer that makes their wines in a traditional manner. Lovely perfumes, excellent concentration and a huge finish. This is a more powerful wine than the Fuligni and will require more aging to be at its best. Yet the wine always maintains its harmony and finesse. The Brunello Riserva from Il Poggione, incidentally, is now labeled as “Vigna Paganelli”; the Riserva has traditionally been sourced from this 40 year old vineyard, but it has only been labeled this way since the 2003 bottling.
This producer did not make a Riserva in 2002 or 2003, so this is a pleasant return. More modern than the two wines listed above, but restrained in its use of oak. Deeply concentrated with admirable ripeness, this is quite complete and should age well for 12-15 years.
MOCALI “VIGNA DELLE RAUNATE”
Lovely deep garnet color; beautiful cherry and cedar aromas. Medium-full with a lengthy finish with elegant tannins. Quite stylish!
The regular bottling of Brunello Riserva (if that makes any sense!), this is not as deeply concentrated as the “Rauante”, but is elegantly styled with very fine tannins and precise acidity and should be at its best in 10-12 years.
TENUTA DI SESTA
Cherry and berry fruit and cedar aromas; medium-full with elegantly styled tannins and a distinct, earthy, herbal finish with very good persistence. Some nice notes of balsamic add complexity to the flavor profile.
CANALICCHIO DI SOPRA
An underrated traditional producer, the 2004 Riserva has plenty of fruit along with firm, youthful tannins. Earthy finish with notes of menthol and impressive persistence. Best in 12-15 years.
I will taste many more examples of both the regulat 2004 Brunellos as well as the 2004 Brunello Riservas at VinItaly this April and will report on these in future posts. Paid subscribers to my publication, Guide to Italian Wines, will be able to read my tasting notes from all of these wines. To leanrn how to subscribe, click here