Every January, the Brunello Consorzio showcases the most recent vintage legally able to be released from the cellars of Montalcino. As this is the first taste of the newest vintage, it draws heavy scrutiny and although this year featured the 2009 Brunello almost every producer presenting wines at the tasting poured wines besides their 2009s.
I was able to cover the event in New York City and tasted over eighty wines for this report. Due to the scope of the event, I have decided to break my coverage up into two parts. As with other tastings of this nature, it is impossible to jot down extensive tasting notes. The absence of food and the time devoted with each wine isn't ideal. Therefore, I will provide only a score range at the end of each note.
"The Walk Around Tasting"
|~ Gotham Hall about 60 minutes before the chaos ensued ~|
The tasting was held at Gotham Hall, a nice venue in downtown Manhattan but as most in attendance agreed, it was way too small for an event of this magnitude.
As a press member, I was able to arrive well in advance of the hoards. I had tickets to the Guided Seminar prior to the main tasting and that wrapped up before the doors opened. Once the crowds arrived, it was difficult to even approach tables for tastes. I routinely had people reaching over my shoulder with their glass and nudging me out of the way to squeeze in front of me. It was not conducive to speaking casually with those presenting the wine. Nevertheless, I was able to hit a few tables at length before the crowds arrived. Given the layout and the crowds, I was not able to photograph every wine.
Benvenuto Brunello 2009 Tasting Impressions
The first few wines were served as part of the guided tasting. I arrived late, thanks to Manhattan's Super Bowl preparations and missed the first few wines of the seminar.
2009 Pinino Brunello: This is a medium brick color. Paolo Vagaggini (Mastrojanni) is the winemaker here too. Spicy and bright on the palate with pretty red berry notes. Classically styled. Large cask aging. Warm feeling to the finish. Doesn't seem up to Brunello in stature. 87-89 points. SRP $50.
2009 Tenute Silvio Nardi: Winemaker Emanuele Nardi led the tasting of this wine aged in a combination of new and used barrique and Slavonian cask. The vineyards were replanted in 1994 and are just turning 20 years old. Dark ruby color with slight cinnamnon spice on the nose that I find attractive. On the palate, the wine seems austere with drying cherry fruit flavors. Tannins seem unbalanced vis a vis the fruit which isn't what I expected in a riper vintage. She's sweet, but I don't care for this wine. 86-88 points. SRP $70.
2009 Il Grappolo Fortius: Stainless steel fermented and aged in large cask, this dark ruby Brunello displays a pretty funky nose. Meat, barnyard and earth. A gentlemen next to me thought it was corked. I don't think so. The palate displays a very nice medium core of fruit with spicy vanilla tinted berries. The nose is a bit tough right now. Not very tannic. 87-89 points. Not imported.
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. SRP $55.
The next series of tasting notes are from the main tasting event. They are arranged by producer, regardless of the vintages being poured.
"The Walk Around Tasting"
Presented by the importer, a nice if unengaging individual.
2009 Brunello: Dark violet color to this estate Brunello. Berries and flowers on the nose and palate with spice added on this finish. This is one of the best Caparzo I've had in recent memory. Really nice. 89-91 points.
2008 La Casa Brunello: Dark violet in color from this single vineyard Brunello. I always love La Casa and this one was very good. Solid core of fruit and flowers on the nose and palate. Impressive concentration for the vintage. Not tannic at all and very ready to drink now. 90-92 points.
2011 Rosso di Montalcino: Medium violet to this fresh, juicy Rosso. This has a medium core of berries and spice but nothing that distinguishes it. 85-87 points.
|~ The Caparzo Collection: The 2009 is so fresh, the wines haven't even been labelled yet ~|
2009 Brunello: Presented by the engaging Paul from Folio Partners, this is one of the largest production Brunello in Italy, with just under 275,000 bottles produced in 2009. This is a bright red ruby with a really nice perfumed nose of berries and spices. Clean and vibrant on the palate - with lots of juicy berry character. There's a slight notice of the oak on the back end of the palate but this is mostly well balanced. I like it a lot. 89-91 points. SRP $50
|~ The 2009 Brunello was the only wine Castelgiocondo presented ~|
2009 Brunello: This is an ultra small producer (10 hectares) just on the western outskirts of Montalcino. Production is very small, at only 4,500 bottles. This dark ruby wine is replete with spices, pepper and berry on the nose and palate. Aging is a combination of French and Slavonian barrique for 3 years. Although used, this seemed to have lots of spice to the palate. 87-89 points.
I was able to visit Jenny Cuddihy who works for and represented Il Palazzone before many of the crowds assembled. She was charming and engaging and eager to discuss the wines. There is a very noticeable house style at Il Palazzone. During my interview, Marco Sassetti remarked to me that they like to approach each vintage as generally as possible so that the vagaries of each can come forward in the wines. This seems to be working because each wine sampled was very consistent overall in both color and flavor characteristics. 2005 was the lone oddball.
2005 Brunello: This is a deep medium ruby color. The nose of this wine is a bit funky - very earthy. On the palate, it's the most austere of the bunch with a medium core of berry fruit. Smoothly integrated tannins make this pleasing to drink now. 87-89 points.
2006 Brunello: This is a deep ruby color. The nose is expressive with tobacco, earth, and wild berries. Classic and deliciously srtuctured. Showing really well. 91-93 points.
2007 Brunello: This wine spent 44 months in barrel because they didn't think it was ready to be released after 3 years. It ranks among the best 2007's I've tasted. Deep ruby with that trademark copper rim. Amazing aromatics with fennel, spice, flowers and berries. My note card says: "Flavors follow, amazing!" This is one to seek out. 92-94 points
2008 Brunello: Floral, herb and berry aromas mark this violet colored wine. Showing very much like it did for my earlier article on the 2008 vintage. Elegantly framed with berries and spices on the palate. 90-92 points.
2009 Brunello: This is a medium ruby color clear to the rim. The nose shows some lively spicy ripe fruit that continues on the palate where vanilla and berry dominate through the finish. This is still coming together but the potential seems to be there. 90-92 points.
|~ The Il Palazzone Verticale ~|
This was another stop I made before the crowds arrived. I was able to chat with Alessandro Bindocci at some length - a humble young winemaker who is turning heads with his talents. Initially we began discussing 2008, which he considers an underrated vintage. He compares it to the classically structured years of 1998 and 2005. Due to the weather conditions, he lost just over 25% of his crop in 2008 and what they had remaining was carefully inspected before going into the wine. Tough to be a farmer.
2011 Rosso di Montalcino: Medium to light ruby in color with a slightly funky nose of animal. Very nice on the palate with a lovely ripe finish. Smooth tannins and acids make this ready to be enjoyed. 88-90 points.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: Alessandro said this is aged in 75% Cask and 25% barrique because of the structure of the vintage. The year was "hot, but very good overall and the rainy spring helped prevent stress on the vines during the hot summer." This is a violet to dark ruby color with spice and warm bright fruit on the nose and palate. Lots of structure here indeed. This is a tasty wine. 89-91 points.
|~ Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino ~|
2008 Brunello di Montalcino: This medium ruby wine has nice cherry and floral aromas and flavors but turns a bit bitter on the palate. Not too tannic which is typical of the vintage. I thought this would be better but given Alessandro's comments on the 2008, maybe they were hit harder than some. 87-89 points.
2007 Brunello Riserva Vigna Paganelli: This is a large (50 hectare) single vineyard bottling that spends three full years in large cask. The color is a deep violet ruby. The aromas are perfumed and intense with violets, wild berry and tobacco. Concentrated on the palate with lots of balancing tannins and acids. Really delicious. 93-95 points.
2009 Brunello di Montalcino: Another dark wine - noticeably darker ruby than the 2008. Botte aged for three years, this is very tannic and very ripe with a fresh olive character. Very tightly wound but doesn't seem as vibrant as I'd hoped. 88-90 points.
|~ Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino - Vigna Paganelli at right ~|
It seems like Barbi has been around forever. I remember old Italian cookbooks my grandmother used to have filled exlusively with recipes from Tuscany. Even then, there would be photographs of Barbi wine bottles standing upon columns and parapets of Castles, surrounded by salume and gloriously decanted. It's an image that's stuck with me.
Oddly, this was one of several producers that attended Benvenuto Brunello but did not present their 2009 Brunello.
2011 Rosso: This pretty medium ruby wine displays nice aromatics of cedar, spice and strawberry. It's nicely concentrated on the palate, with more soft sandalwood notes. I really like the finish here with a touch of anise. 88-90 points. Good value.
|~ 2011 Barbi Rosso di Montalcino ~|
2005 Brunello Vigna del Fiore: The vineyard of the flower! A relatively small production here of 6,600 bottles. This is a single vineyard production but not designated as a Riserva. Exotic nose with spices, berries, animal and tobacco. Really nice. Flavors echo the nose with nice concentration. Among the best 2005s I've had. If you can find this, buy it! 91-93 points.
2008 Brunello: This medium to light ruby colored wine doesn't seem to be in a good place. The nose exhibits little personality and the medium bodied fruit seems too austere, masked by tannins and slightly dried out. Among the numerous 2008 Brunello I've tasted, this is among the least aromatic and compelling. 82-84 points.
|~ Brunello 2008 at left and 2005 Vigna del Fiore at right ~|
Presented by the folks from Vias. Camigliano has always been a solid producer; never at the top, never at the bottom. What makes them attractive is their relative value price structure.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: This is a pretty violet color. Fresh and juicy on the nose and palate. Quite simply, just another outstanding 2012 Rosso. 88-90 points.
2009 Brunello: This is a dark ruby. Reserved nose of vanilla, some pepper and berry. Similar flavors on the palate with good persistence. Slightly warm. Good, not great. 88-90 points.
2006 Brunello Riserva "Gualto": Now we're talking! Aromatic nose of fennel, wild fruit and herbs. On the palate, there's some cedar and vanilla rounding things out. This is really delicious. Tiny production of 8,000 bottles. 91-93 points.
I was interested to try these as I was not familiar with this producer. They are owned by Belussi, the sparkling wine producer from Valdobbiadene and are a very small estate in the South east corner of Brunello, near Sant'Antimo. Belpoggio has 5 hectares under vine for Brunello and employs large cask aging exclusively.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: A pretty, intense violet color. Lots of sweet ripe fruit on the nose and palate with spice and flowers. Cask aged. This is impressive. Long finish. 89-92 points.
2008 Brunello: This is a deep ruby color. Hmm, my notes say "Really great" twice! There's cherry and tobacco on the nose and palate. This is long, elegant and juicy. Very aromatic. 91-93 points.
2009 Brunello: This medium ruby wine is balanced and fresh but much tighter than the 2008. It's very nice, but not very expressive. Not over done, I think this will blossom well. 89-91 points.
|~ 2009 Brunello (left) and 2012 Rosso (right) ~|
Another producer in attendance with no 2009 to present. Brunelli uses a combination of 80% cask and 20% French barrique to produce their wines.
2008 Brunello: Floral and aromatic with cherries and spices. This medium ruby is very typical of the vintage and already trending to a copper/orange color. Good, not great. 86-88 points.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: Violet color with flowers, wild berries, spices and tobacco on the nose and palate. Another delicious 2012 RdM. Juicy and lively with good persistence. Very well done. 88-90 points.
Canalicchio di Sopra
Founded in 1962 by Primo Pacenti, Canalicchio di Sopra's vineyards sit in the north east corner of the Brunello zone and cover just under 15 hectares. Since the 1990's Primo's children are running the estate, although Primo is still involved. In aiming for elegance above all else, Canalicchio uses blended oak treatments for their wines.
2011 Rosso di Montalcino: Medium ruby. 50% of this wine sees one year in 50 HL Slavonian barrels and 50% in French barrique. The nose is spicy with a moderate floral note. Dusty berry fruit on the palate with pepper and spice. Moderate concentration. This is tasty but not great. 86-88 points.
2009 Brunello: Unlike the Rosso, this spends 36 months in slightly smaller casks; 25 HL Slavonian barrels. This is medium ruby with spicy berry fruit on the nose and palate. This seems warming and slightly over done. I've liked other vintages from this house much more. 87-89 points.
|~ The Canalicchio Lineup ~|
Pian delle Vigne - Antinori
2009 Brunello: Deep dark ruby. Reticent nose with spices and wood. Medium framed on the palate with black fruits, powdery spices and toast. This is largely structured and has a way to go before it's charming. 88-91 points.
2008 Brunello: Garnet red. More floral and exotic on the nose with cinnamon and asian spice. Good concentration for the vintage with black cherry and pipe tobacco. More tannic than most 2008's. Very reminiscent of my earlier tasting. Good, but not great. 88-90 points.
Owned by the Cencioni family since 1957, Capanna sits on some amazing vineyard land in Montosoli. Family owned and run, but with the guidance of Paolo Vagaggini, Capanna's wines are exclusively aged in large Slavonian cask. Sizes range from 10-30 HL. Presented by the young and engaging Amedeo Cencioni who graciously poured and discussed his family's wines.
2011Rosso di Montalcino: This is stunning. My tasting sheet says "Wow!" Wonderful ruby color with ripe berries, sweet spice, and tobacco on the nose and palate. Long and fresh. One of the best Rosso's I've ever had. 91-93 points.
2006 Brunello Riserva: This has a deep, dark ruby color. Fruit aromas leap from the glass with earth, tobacco and spice. The wine is massive on the palate with fruit galore, tobacco and fennel. The finish goes on and on. Again, I wrote "Wow!" Great stuff. 95-97 points.
2009 Brunello: Pretty ruby color. Straight forward spicy cherry aromas and flavors with pepper and cloves. Moderately tannic and not displaying any level of complexity now. 88-90 points.
|~ The outstanding offerings from Capanna ~|
Located in the south central portion of the Brunello zone, Capanne Ricci is a traditional estate run by the brother sister team Ferruccio Ricci and his sister Ida. Barrel aging is a blend of barrique and cask.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino: A bright ruby color with a fairly expressive nose of berries, spice and herbs. Bright fruit flavors on the palate and more than moderately tannic. A substantial rosso. 88-91 points.
2009 Brunello: Deep ruby with brick highlights. This is straightforward with aromas of cherry and pepper. Flavors follow the nose but this is rather ordinary and frankly, not up to their own Rosso. 86-88 points.
|~ Capanne Ricci Rosso & Brunello di Montalcino ~|
To be Continued............