Posts tagged ‘sesta di sopra’
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)
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.