Saturday, February 12, 2011

“The Italian Wine Masters.” Part 1 Brunello di Montalcino

The Italian Wine Masters is a combined effort between The Consorzi Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. It’s a trade show of sorts, where industry professionals and press are invited to meet the owners and representatives of over 100 wineries from Tuscany and the Veneto, Valdobbiadene wine growing region.

The offerings are extensive, spanning five banquet halls within the Hilton on 6th Ave. in NYC. Each table offered multiple wines from the producer’s portfolios, highlighting the most recent vintages. The size and scope of this event is impossible to cover in the seven hours that I was given to peruse the aisles. However, I was determined to try.

In many cases, I had to pick my battles, as I would have needed a second day to have even come close to tasting through all the event had to offer. My priority was to sample a range of wines from each of the regions and attempt to find some of the best offerings. I sincerely apologize to any of the winemakers whose tables I was unable to visit. But, hey there’s always next year, and if nothing else, this report makes for an excellent peak into these new vintages.

What’s more is that I was fortunate enough to have been invited to “The Sommeliers Cellar.” a room where back vintages of many of the attending producers’ wines were being poured. It was a wonderful insight to where these wines are going as they age in our cellars. To taste Sangiovese in its youthful form can be difficult. However, to taste it from a recent vintage and then compare it to that same producer’s bottle, from ten or more years back, shows just how amazing these wines become with age.

Due to the massive amount of tasting notes collected (83 in all), I’ve decided to split them up over the course of the week. And so, without further ado, I give you Brunello di Montalcino.

The Brunello di Montalcino growing region includes Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Saint’Animo and Moscadello di Montalcino. Of these, Brunello is obviously the most well known, and with good reason. Brunello has the name, the image and the international branding to keep it on the tongues of collectors, vintage after vintage. Made from 100% pure Sangiovese and aged over a period of four years prior to release, Brunello is able to last and mature for decades in a well maintained cellar. They are big and structured wines that can be almost painful to enjoy in their youth without extensive decanting. However, as I can attest to, Brunello is well worth the wait, as can be seen from my tasting notes of vintages with 10 years or more under their belt.

Rosso di Montalcino was created to allow producers to have an early release wine that can be enjoyed upon release by consumers. These wines can be highly variable, but they can also provide great value and, in some cases, they verge on a quality level that is often referred to as “baby Brunello.”

On to the notes:

2006 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino – The Capanna Brunello di Montalcino is painful to drink in this early stage. The nose showed dark red fruits and hints of barnyard. On the palate, sour red fruit and herbs fought against the tannic structure of the wine but were ultimately shut down as they coated my palate in tannin. This wine needs many years before showing what it’s truly capable of. (90 points)

2004 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – The 2004 Riserva showed a gorgeous nose of dusty dark berries with soil and dark woodsy notes. On the palate, this showed remarkable richness yet refinement, as flavors of sour strawberry and spiced herbal tea tantalized the senses. The finish gave way to palate-coating tannin, which should keep the concentration on the palate in check for some years to come. This is a wine that I would choose for my own cellar and will be very happy to enjoy in its maturity. (94 points)

2006 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed elegant floral notes against rich red fruits. On the palate, this wine was focused with spicy sweet cranberry yet restrained by its large structure. (91 Points)

2005 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli – The Riserva Vigna Paganelli took the elegance of the noramale, yet added rich dark fruit and wood tones to the nose. On the palate, this wine was big in structure with mouth-filling raspberry fruit fading to an uncharacteristically short finish. (90 points)

2005 Azienda Agricola Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino – The nose of the 2005 Le Ragnaie was beautiful, yet not classic to Brunello in any way, as aromas of floral cranberry were joined by an unmistakable wash of coconut. On the palate, it was light and fresh with red berries, but dry going into the finish. (89 points)

2006 Azienda Agricola Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed manure and saddle leather. On the palate, I found red berries and spicy cinnamon stick. It ended in a simple yet enjoyable finish laden with red fruits. (90 points)

2006 Campogiovanni (San Felice) Brunello di Montalcino - The nose showed ripe strawberry, animal musk and hints of wood. On the palate, I found sour red fruits with a savory round body and hints of salinity, leading to a long structured finish. (91 points)

2005 Il Greppone Mazzi (Ruffino) Brunello di Montalcino – On the nose, I found red fruits and herbs. The palate showed soft, but drying red fruit with hints of cedar and spice. (87 points)

2006 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was classic with crushed wild berries, fresh leather and hints of barnyard. On the palate, I found dark strawberry fruit and savory herbs leading to a long red berry finish. (91 points)


2006 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino Selezione Franci – Darker and slightly more elegant that the regular Brunello, the Selezione Franci showed an intoxicating note of cherry pipe smoke on the nose. On the palate, I found a balanced, fresh, yet structured Brunello with rich dark fruits and cinnamon leading into a long cherry laden finish. (92 points)

2005 Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – The nose showed red fruits with earth and a hint of manure. The palate was full-bodied and nicely structured, while showing black cherry and minerals. The finish was medium-long with hints of menthol. (89 points)

2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino – The nose on the 2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino was fragrant with dark fruits, lush flowers and undergrowth. On the palate, I found a structured, full-bodied wine with ripe red fruits and spicy wood. The structure continued into the finish and left the palate wrapped in tannin. This should be an interesting wine to follow over many years. (91 points)

Later this week, I’ll be publishing my notes from the Sommiliers Cellar, which will include a number of notes from aged bottles of Brunello di Montalcino. It will be well worth the wait, so check back throughout the week.

The Brunello di Montalcino rundown (by score):
2004 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (94 points)
2006 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino Selezione Franci (92 points)
2006 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino (91 Points)
2006 Campogiovanni (San Felice) Brunello di Montalcino (91 points)
2006 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino (91 points)
2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino (91 points)
2006 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino (90 points)
2006 Azienda Agricola Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino (90 points)
2005 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli (90 points)
2005 Azienda Agricola Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino (89 points)
2005 Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (89 points)
2005 Il Greppone Mazzi (Ruffino) Brunello di Montalcino (87 points)

Rosso di Montalcino

2008 Capanna Rosso di Montalcino – The nose showed wild black berries and violets. On the palate, this came across and fresh yet simple with red fruit and slightly astringent tannin on the finish. (87 points)

2008 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Rosso di Montalcino - The 2008 Rosso showed crushed wild berries, green stems, white pepper and menthol. The palate was velvety and full with lush red berries and cinnamon, which lasted into the long finish. (90 points)

2009 Terre Nere Rosso di Montalcino – The nose showed dark, older wood with red fruit and hints of chalk. On the palate, I found faded red fruit and wood, which led to a red candied finish. (86 points)

2009 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino – The nose showed plum reduction, leather and floral perfume. On the palate, I found spicy red fruits, but the slightest hint of alcohol marred the finish. (87 points)

Sant’Antimo

2007 Tassi Sant’Antimo BAC – The 2007 BAC was an interesting departure after tasting so much Brunello. It showed pomegranate, green stems and chalk dust on the nose. The palate was full and chewy with blackberry fruit, bell pepper and herbal greens. The finish was long and reminiscent of the palate. This was an interesting blend of Cabernet and Petit Verdot, yet I feel that the Cabernet brought too much greenness to this wine. (87 points)

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