Buon giorno a tutti! After publishing last week's report on Benvenuto Brunello - Part 1, I set about compiling my notes for this final portion of the event. What follows are the remainder of my wine reviews and then general conclusions and impressions about the vintages presented and some of the producers that were present.
I've always enjoyed the Brunello from Sandro Chia, artist turned winemaker and he continues to impress. While not often easy to find, his wines reward the search.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: Fresh and lively. This deep cranberry to ruby colored wine has pretty flavors and aromas of crushed berry, spices and fresh herbs. Balanced and boisterous on the palate. Another delicious 2012 Rosso. 88-90 points.
2009 Brunello: Deep garnet - noticeably dark. This Brunello is ripe, with aromas of berries, toast and chocolate. Lively and mdoerately tannic, the berries are accented nicely on the palate with spices and pepper. This is very nice. 90-92 points.
Represented by three nice women from Palm Bay imports who seemingly had their hands full keeping up with the masses. Thankfully, I arrived here early enough, for the Poggio al Vento Riserva was gone by the time I left the table.
2009 Brunello: This is a clear medium ruby with classic copper coloring at the edge of the bowl. Very nice on the palate; nicely balanced with cedar and berries. Somewhat muted aromas. Clean and well done. 90-92 points.
2006 Brunello Poggio al Vento Riserva: Darker ruby than the normale, this is a single vineyard Riserva from Col d'Orcia's best selection. Wonderful aromas of crushed berries, tobacco, cedar, and earth follow through to a (still) tightly knit frame. Good persistence on the palate. This seems to have more to give, but isn't as expressive as some other 2006 Risevas at the tasting. 91-93 points.
|~ 2009 Brunello & 2006 Poggio Al Vento ~|
Tenuta La Fiorita
Owner and winemaker Roberto Cipresso is in charge of this tiny estate in the southeast corner of the DOCG zone. With 7 hectares under vine for their Brunello and only 3.1 hectares for their Riserva, Cipresso oversees each stage of the process. French and Slavonian Tonneaux and Botte are used exclusively and the Tonneaux are typically second and third passage. The wines were presented by La Fiorita's PR firm and interestingly, the press kit was distributed on flash drive! How times have changed. Also, as I mentioned in Part 1 of my report, this was yet another producer not presenting their 2009 Brunello.
2008 Brunello: Deep violet color. This red is very primary with lots of fruit on the nose and palate. Impressive concentration given the vintage. Balanced well with more tannins than many from the 2008 vintage. Really good. 90-92 points. This wine benefitted somewhat by receiving fruit normally destined for La Fiorita's Riserva. Not yet released.
2007 Brunello: Deep violet in color - only slightly darker than the 2008. Lots of crushed fruit on the nose with incense and pipe tobacco. Lovely. Juicy and fresh on the palate and balanced lively with fruit, acids and tannins. Delicious. 91-93 points.
2006 Brunello Riserva: Brilliant deep ruby color. Smoke, crushed blackberry, and earthy funk on the nose. Full bodied with a massive core of ripe black fruits. Full throttle and decadently styled. This wine will live for decades. Likely not the style everyone looks for in Brunello, but I wrote "Wow" in my notes. 92-95 points.
2007 Brunello Riserva: Darker than the 2006. Lots of black cherry and menthol on the nose with a trace of earthiness. Loads of black cherry on the palate and slightly herby/piney. Full bodied and ripe with lots of aromatics. Really good, but not (yet) up to the level of the 2006. That's picking nits though. 91-94 points. Not yet released.
La Fiorita's Brunello spends 12 months in French Tonneaux, 12 months in Slavonian Botte, 8 months in stainless steel and then is bottle aged for 24 months before release. An interesting methodology. The Riserva sees the same method, except that the stainless aging is reduced to 6 months and bottle aging extends to 30 months.
|~ Pictured: The 2006 & 2007 Riservas and the 2007 Estate Brunello ~|
I first met owner Jeanneth Angel Tonon at Gambero Rosso last year with her 2007 Tre Bicchieri Brunello. She was recognizable and ever so pleasant. I recall she was along at Gambero Rosso and although that wasn't the case this time, the table wasn't at all crowded. Again, Paolo Vagaggini is the winemaker here, so I had high hopes. However, I was a bit surprised at the wines they presented. Again, no 2009 was poured.
2011 Rosso di Montalcino: Deep ruby to light violet in the glass. Pretty aromas of sandalwood and berries with some slight spice. Flavors follow the nose on this mid-weight wine. Ready to go. 86-88 points.
2008 Brunello: A medium ruby color, typical of the 100% Botte aged Brunello that Vagaggini favors. Lots of flowers on the nose - so typical of this vintage - with added complexity from pepper and wild berry. Flavors are persistent with nice concentration. This is really good for the vintage. 89-91 points.
|~ 2008 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino ~|
Among the largest producers of Brunello, Castello Banfi makes its home in the Poggio Alle Mura castle in the Southwestern corner of the DOCG zone. Represented by several people from their importer, the wines presented covered several different examples.
2011 Rosso di Montalcino "Poggio Alle Mura" : This is a new bottling - a single vineyard Rosso. Bright floral aromatics with dusty cherry on the nose. In the mouth, the wine has ripe cherry, spice and cedar notes. Very well done and fairly tannic. Could use a year to settle. 88-90 points.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: This is the estate bottling. Intense floral aromatics with wild berry and fennel notes on the nose and palate. Tannic, with balanced acidity. This is one of the best Banfi Rosso's I've ever had. 88-90 points.
2009 Brunello: Dark ruby in color. Ripe and rich with a silky texture to the tannins. Cherries and anise accent the nose. This is very nice. 89-91 points.
|~ Left to Right: 2009 Poggio Alle Mura, 2009 Brunello, 2011 Rosso di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura ~|
2009 Brunello Poggio Alle Mura: Tannic and huge! Tightly reined. Faint aromas of wild red fruits, spices and earthy notes. On the palate, a monstrous core of wild berries, ripe and loaded with tannins. This needs serious cellar time. Based on past experience with this vineyard, I'm willing to bet patience will be rewarded. 92-96 points.
2007 Brunello Poggio Alle Mura Riserva: This is a new wine as well. A single vineyard and a riserva with a total production of around 15,000. As the tasting wore on, along with the above wine, Banfi began decanting this. Lots of ripe fruit on the nose with smoke, chestnut, flowers and spices. Flavors follow on the palate with long persistence. This is really delicious. 92-95 points.
|~ The 2007 Poggio Alle Mura Single Vineyard Riserva ~|
Toward the end of the day I came back and re-tasted both of the Poggio Alle Mura Brunello and the airtime in the decanted helped both. I will reiterate that they are exceptional wines that will live well in a cellar for 10-15 years.
Represented by the friendly and disarming owner-winermaker Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie is a traditional producer crafting very pretty wines. Campinoti ferments his wine in open topped concrete vessels and ages them in large Slavonian cask. The resulting wines are fresh, clean and pure. He poured two wines at the event.
2009 Brunello: This is a clear medium ruby. A shy nose gives way to a core of cherries. On the palate there is lots of cherry and spice and overall the wine is very well balanced. A shade more elegant than some other 2009s. 90-92 points.
2009 Brunello VV: In this case, "VV" stands for Vigna Vecchia - i.e. old vines. Riccardo stated that this vineyard was planted in 1968. Although it is a single vineyard, it is not technically a Riserva. This is dark ruby. The nose is full of cherry and spice. Very primary. Concentrated and delicious on the palate without being over done. Fruit, spice, and tobacco are all in balance. Lots of juicy acid and ripe tannins. Wonderful. 93-95 points.
|~ The old vine Brunello vineyard dates from 1968 ~|
Podere Le Ripi
"I believe excellence gives emotions and emotions give joy."
So says Francesco Illy, owner of Podere Le Ripi. Illy, coffee magnate, hippy and owner of Mastrojanni is pushing the limits with the Podere Le Ripi estate. Completely organic, bio-dynamic, and striving for excessive social responsibility, Illy is driven to be the best. Sticking firmly behind the notion that "wine is made by the vineyard" he has invested untold amounts in vineyard research, and harmonic natural management. Illy is quick to add: "the best we can do is not ruin the wonders, the beauty and the harmony the land is giving us."
Podere Le Ripi sits in the far southeast corner of the Brunello zone. Winemaker Sebastiano Nasello presented the wines. No 2009 Brunello was presented because it has not yet been released.
2009 Rosso di Montalcino "Amore e Magia": This wine, "Love & Magic", is a bright ruby color. Fresh flowers on the nose join berries. Lots of raspberry on the palate with spice and vanilla. All French barrique here, but it's not overdone. 88-90 points.
2009 Rosso di Montalcino "Bonsai": Bonsai may be the most unique wine in the entire world. You may have heard of densely planted vineyards in the past. The denser the plantings, the more the vines struggle to find nutrients and the better their fruit will be. 7,000 plants per hectare would be considered by most to be densely planted. The Bonsai vineyard contains 62,500 plants per hectare. Not a misprint! Illy's logic was simple: "The decision was easy. My plants will get no fertilizer at all and they will be planted so densely that they will find no food at all on surface. They will have to make very fast, very deep roots or die." Planted in 2005, the 2007 Bonsai was the first wine produced from the vineyard; a full year earlier than traditionally planted vineyards typically bear fruit.
The 2009 Bonsai is a dark ruby to violet in color. The purity and freshness of the aromas is startling. Flowers, earth, and ripe spicy berries combine with harmony on the nose and palate. Thre's wonderful concentration here in a wine from such young vines. Very well done. My notes say "this is great". 89-91 points.
To learn more about the Bonsai Project: Click here
2008 Brunello "Lupi e Sirene" Riserva: This "Wolves & Mermaids" Brunello is a medium ruby color with some lightening at the rim. I didn't notice anything about this wine that merited a Riserva designation. It's very similar in style and weight to many other 2008's I've had. Nicely concentrated aromas and flavors of flowers, cherry and spice. Medium body. 88-90 points.
2006 Brunello "Lupi e Sirene": Bright violet to deep ruby in color. Aged in French tonneaux. Ripe and generous on the nose and palate with wild berry, flowers, tobacco and sage. Full bodied and very silky in the mouth. Expressive and concentrated with a long finish. Really delicious. 91-93 points.
The wines of Podere Le Ripi are not imported to the United States.
|~ The Podere Le Ripi Lineup: Quite the unique standouts ~|
Livio Sassetti is always one of my go to producers for a classic wine and wines I like to have in the cellar. The two wines presented by the charming rep from Massanois were very good indeed.
2009 Brunello: This is shy on the nose with some faint pepper. Classically colored in deep brick red with that copper hue at the rim. The palate is medium bodied and somewhat monolithic with ripe cherry fruit marked with spices. Solid. 88-90 points.
2007 Brunello Riserva: Medium Ruby to brick in the glass. Slight hint of animale on the nose - really well done along with fruit, anise and leather. Gorgeous in the mouth with bright fruit and acidity. Excellent wine. 91-94 points.
Located in the far Northeast corner of the Brunello zone, SassodiSole is barely within the zone. The wines were presented by owner and winemaker Roberto Terzuoli who was young, energetic and engaging. His wines were stand outs and I took notice. SassodiSole is not imported, but Roberto is working hard to change that. His Brunello spends 4 years in large Slavonian cask.
|~ SassodiSole: Pictured, but not tasted, the 2011 Rosso di Montalcino ~|
2009 Brunello: Dark ruby with lots of earthiness on the nose. Pretty copper rim. Wonderful balance in the mouth with cherries, spice and leather. Ripe and delicious with a persistent but elegant finish. Lovely. 90-92 points.
2008 Brunello: Floral aromatics are pronounced with intense cured meat. Soft berries and leather dot this elegant and refined wine. It's characteristic of the vintage. Well done and ready to go. 88-90 points.
2004 Brunello: Wonderful nose! Aromatic with chestnuts, ripe berries, anise, spices and leather. This deep ruby colored wine expands these flavors on your palate and is carried by laser like acidity. Very long finish. 91-94 points.
|~ The 2004 at left and the 2008 in Magnum at right ~|
Founded in 1980, the Talenti farm is a small 40 hectare estate with 20 hectares under vine overlooking the vast Orcia valley. Situated in the South central area of the zone, the estate is not far from Sant'Angelo in Colle. Riccardo Talenti was the humble and passionate winemaker/owner who proudly poured his wines. He ages his Brunello in a combination of French Tonneaux (60%) and Slavonian Botte (40%).
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: Wow! An absolutely amazing, lovely perfumed nose of wild flowers, spices, berries and fresh earth. This is astounding. Pure, bright, juicy and focused on the palate this is the best Rosso I think I've ever had. 91-93 points. Stunning.
2009 Brunello: Classically styled. This medium ruby wine has wonderful aromas of crushed fruit and spice. Balanced well on the palate with fruit, spice and floral notes, this is delicious and one of the highlight 2009's from the event. 92-94 points.
|~ Talenti's offerings ~|
Tenuta San Giorgio
In the far South Eastern corner of the zone, Tenuta San Giorgio is neighbors to a favorite of mine, Stella di Campalto.
2009 Tenuta San Giorgio "Ugolforte": Ugolforte is produced from the best grapes selected from this estate, near Sant'Antimo. This medium ruby Brunello spends 12 months in new and used barrique and then 24 months in cask. Very nice nose of spices and flowers. The palate is concentrated with spicy raspberry fruit that seems very perfumed. This is very good indeed. 88-90 points.
2012 Rossi di Montalcino "Ciampoleto": Another amazingly fresh, perfumed and floral rosso. This is loaded with flowers and wild berries on the nose and palate. Really delicious and well balanced. 90-92 points.
|~ 2012 Rosso at Left, 2009 Brunello at Right ~|
I cruised by this table late in the day and they were running out of wine. As a result the pours were smaller than normal. This is a Marc de Grazie import and represented by the importer. Uccelliera is in the Southeast quadrant of Montalcino near San Giorgia and Stella di Campalto.
2009 Brunello: Violet colored trending to ruby. Good core of color. There's lots of spicy cherry and a hint of tobacco on the nose and palate but nothing more evocative than that. Good body. Really nice, but doesn't seem to be at the next level. 88-90 points.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: Pretty violet color. Bright aromatics of pipe tobacco, freshly crushed fruit and flowers. Flavors follow on the palate. Another great rosso. Long finish with a nice anise note. Well done. 90-92 points.
Voliero is a tiny producer - roughly only 4,000 produced of each wine presented. This is a "second" project of winemaker Andrea Cortonesi of Uccelliera.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: Gorgeous color and structured with a full body. Juicy and ripe with berries, flowers, earth and tobacco on the nose and palate. Complex and rather tannic. This drinks like a Brunello in terms of mouthfeel. Full bodied and long. From grapes sourced from the Northern part of the zone. 90-92 points, wow!
Closing Impressions, Musings & Random Thoughts
This was as comprehensive a tasting on Brunello that I've ever attended. And bear in mind, my notes probably comprise 2/3 to 1/2 of the producers that were represented. Wines were presented that spanned eight different vintages and that, coupled with my prior tasting experience, threw into sharp relief some of the more general presumptions that have been made in the past.
- 2006 as a vintage is the stuff of legends. I have deep experience with Tuscan vintages going back to 1985 and I think 2006 is the best vintage I've ever tasted across the board. The wines almost never disappoint. They are rich and built to age. They will emerge as complex, wonderful Sangioveses.
- 2008 is a bright, fragrant young vintage that drank well from the start and continues to do so. The wines share a floral aromatic profile unique to Sangiovese. They are elegant Sangiovese and while they may not improve greatly with age, they will charm early and often and easily drink well 10 years from the vintage.
- So what of the current vintage on display, the 2009's? I think it speaks volumes that many producers didn't pour a 2009 at this event. Despite being legally permitted to release their 2009s, even many of the wines bottled and poured haven't been released yet. It's no wonder that they weren't very aromatic and displayed little more than "berries and spice" in flavor and aromatic profile. 2009 was a hot, ripe year and many producers thinned their crops, especially those with vineyards at lower altitudes. Some wines were over done, but by and large they were balanced well. 2009 will be a great vintage for restaurants to sell and it's ripe fruit will appeal to a broad array of palates. The wines are ripe and in a vintage like 2009, I think some of the delicate fragrances and flavors unique to Sangiovese get lost. 2008 was a bit too cool. 2009 was a bit too hot. The best vintage of Brunello lies somewhere in between those two points on the spectrum. What vintage is that? 2006!
- I know this was a long report. Bookmark it - do whatever you do to keep it as a reference. Then go back and look at my notes for each of the 2012 Rosso di Montalcinos. They are simply, as a group, the best Rossos I've ever had. Hopefully the prices will hold steady and many of these will clock in at $19-$25. If they do, they are worthy to buy by the mixed case. They were perfumed, full bodied, and full of ripe, juicy fresh fruit. A vintage to watch for.
Finally, there were several wineries and wines that were standouts; many across different vintages. There were some new discoveries as well that were exciting and bear watching. Final parting shots?
- The 2009 Caparzo will be great value for the money.
- The Brunello from La Fiorita may not be for everyone, but if you like the style, they are some of the best wines you'll find. They remind me of Cerretalto.
- The two Poggio Alle Mura wines from Castello Banfi are stunning and will reward cellaring.
- Le Ragnaie is on top of their game.
- Watch for Podere le Ripi to be imported. When it is - strike hard!
- The Talenti wines were amazing. The Rosso may have been the best I've ever tasted.
- Il Palazzone crafts beautiful Brunello in a consistent house style. Their 2006 is a stunning wine.
- Capanna's 2006 Riserva is already in my cellar. Enough said.
Stay tuned and good luck in your hunting! Ci vediamo!