Friday, June 6, 2014

Anatomy of a Brunello


~ Brunello Clones Lined up for Tasting ~

Last week I had the fortune to attend a series of wine seminars organized by Cru Artisan, the global agent for the premium wine brands in the Banfi Vintners portfolio.  The seminars were extensive and today's article is but one I'll be authoring over the next few weeks.  As with today's topic,  the winemakers for each wine presented were in attendance to discuss the wines, their winemaking philosophy and to answer questions from the attendees. 
 
How is a wine born and what makes it a Brunello?    Soil, varietal, exposure, the impact of man, and in the case of Brunello, a singular expression of Sangiovese all join together harmoniously to create Brunello.  But at it's most basic level, it's a wine made from a clone of Sangiovese. 
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~ Castello Banfi winemaker Rudy Buratti discusses each clone to the Seminar ~
 
In Montalcino alone,  600 clones of Sangiovese reside. That's a daunting number when considering which clones to plant in your vineyards and which clones will react best with the native terroir to yield the best wine.  Lars Leicht, from Cru Artisan, explained the painstaking process Castello Banfi endured in selecting the clones for their Brunello.
 
In the late 1980's and early 1990's  Castello Banfi microvinified small lots of all 600 clones of Sangiovese in order to ascertain which clones yielded the best results.  All were planted within the same vineyard, with the same dirt, exposure and altitude so that the only variable was the clone itself.  By 1992, they whittled the 600 down to just 3 clones that thrived in Montalcino.  This research was conducted with assistance from the University of Siena and shared publicly with the Brunello consorzio. 
 
Janus, is the Roman God of Transitions.  As a result, Janus is two faced; one looks forward and one looks back on the past.  Hence, the month January.  It was within this spirit that Castello Banfi named two of these clones Janus.  The third clone was assigned its name by the University of Siena, "BF 30",  short for "BanFI 30".
 
Clonal Tasting
 
2012 "Janus 50" :  This was the first clone we tasted.  It's a deep ruby color with ripe, rich masculine fruit.  Obviously at a very young stage as the vintage has not even had two years development at this point,  the wine is chewy and very tannic with a full body.  Trace aromas and flavors of  black cherry and spices are notable.  This clone ultimately represents 50% of the finished Castello Banfi Brunello. 
 
2012 "Janus 10" :  This is deep ruby colored.  At this stage it is a little bitter on the palate.  It is a massive sample. Absolutely monstrous, masculine and brutish.  Enamel searing, as one of the tasters remarked to me. This ultimately represents 20% of the finished Brunello. 
 
 
2012 "BF 30":   This final clone is the most aromatic of the three.  It's got noticeable amounts of red fruit, sweet tobacco and spice on the nose and palate.  It's much more elegant than the previous two clones and while very tannic, it is noticeably more forward.  This comprises 30% of the final Brunello blend.
 
 
Vineyard Plantings
 
Once selected, the three clones above were then planted in four vineyards on the Castello Banfi estate that yield fruit for the Estate Brunello.   All vineyards vary in their exposure, altitude and dirt.  The only constant is now the clones, which are planted to each vineyard in the 50-20-30 percentages mentioned above.  It was amazing to taste the samples from these vineyards and note how different they were given the only constant being the clones. 
 
2012 Casanova Vineyard Blend:  This is a deep ruby with lots of flowers, spices and cherry on the nose.  Delicious fruit and lots of tannin in the mouth, but balanced nicely. Very chewy.  
 
2012 Poggio d'Orcia Vineyard Blend:  Deeper ruby in color. This is a round hill top sloping vineyard with 4 sided exposure to the elements.  There's lots of mineral here and the wine is more elegant and very perfumed with cocoa,
tobacco and flowers joining the fruit.


~ Castello Banfi Brunello Sample:  Casanova Vineyard Blend ~

2012 Podernuovo Vineyard Blend:   Garnet red.  Much darker. This south facing vineyard has slightly more clay content. The resulting wine is very chewy.  Huge fruit, huge tannins.  Very masculine.  This is tough to even describe and is the most primary of the three tasted so far.
 
2012 Sorrena Vineyard Blend:  This was my favorite of the blends.  This west facing vineyard yields fruit that is a very deep ruby with some violet hues.  It is very expressive on the nose and palate with lots of tobacco, spice, fresh mint and black cherry flavors. It's hugely tannic but the fruit is great and well balanced with the acidity and tannins. 
 
 
With the clone and vineyard tastings behind us, Rudy Buratti then attempted to show us what the finished Brunello exhibits once bottled.  Not surprisingly the sum of the parts blend seamlessly to create a harmonic picture that was illustrated by the Castello Banfi 2009 Brunello.
 
2009 Castello Banfi Brunello:  This is a deep garnet color, with black hues penetrating the largely ruby core.  Aromatic, with black cherry, fresh tobacco, and spices on the nose.  This is delicious on the palate, with full bodied cherry flavors joined by roasted coffee, fresh herbs, and spices.  This is still young in it's own right and displaying quite a mouthful of chewy tannins, but the balance is there.  92 points. 


Lasting Impressions

This was about as educational and eye opening a tasting as I've ever attended.   Simply to reduce 600 clones down to 3 that thrive best in Montalcino is a feat in itself.  To microvinify and analyze each is beyond comprehension. 
 
The differences between the clones were stark and the way in which the proximity and exposition of the vineyards changed the fruit from the resulting clones is a testament to the vagary that only Mother Nature can provide. 
 
Elements of each vineyard were seemingly noticeable in the final blended 2009.  I will save these notes and eagerly await the chance to taste the 2012 blended Brunello to see what aspects it takes from each vineyard. 
 
Do be sure to join me! 
 
 

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