Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Italian Wine Masters: 2007 Brunello di Montalcino

When word of the Italian Wine Masters tasting hit my inbox, I was quick to hit the reply button. In the years I’ve been writing and attending tastings, I don’t recall ever attending a more comprehensive tasting of Sangiovese-based wines from Tuscany. Everything from Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino are all on display. Many of the faces you see are easily recognizable, yet each time I attend, I’m always happy to find new producers and interesting wines that I have never tasted before.

A massive crowd descended upon the
tables of 2007 Brunello di Montalcino
One of my first priorities at this year’s event was to taste 2007 Brunello. The hype over this vintage has been unavoidable. Already the pundits of wine criticism are weighing in and waxing praise upon the vintage. However, I had to wonder if it was truly worthy. Brunello has seen a string of amazing vintages with 2001, 2004 and 2006. However, many people are still recovering from the recent controversy unearthed regarding foreign varietals being added to this wine by a number of Brunello producers, a wine that is only supposed to be 100% Sangiovese by law. Even though the accusations have subsided, Brunellogate, (which this controversy has coined) left many Brunello drinkers feeling betrayed and looking to other Sangiovese-based wines from Tuscany. On top of that, further exploration of pure Sangiovese-based wines in Tuscany has shown that remarkable value can be found outside of Montalcino. Brunello as a brand has continued to rise in price, and many feel that the quality in the bottle no longer outweighs the cost.

In the end, Brunello needs a vintage that it can reinvent itself with, and 2007 may be that vintage. But does that mean that it is as good as the ’06? It really depends on what you want from your bottle of Brunello.

At this time last year, when tasting ’06 Brunello, it was nearly painful to work my way through the tasting simply because of the massive structure found in most bottles. The fruit was clean, pure and deep but not fleshy. The finish was often drying or angular. Yet, on the nose, the wines were highly expressive and layered with masses of fruit, spice and earth—everything a young Brunello should be. We will be enjoying the ’06 vintage for many decades to come, and as they mature, they will only get better.

However, the ’07s are the exact opposite. I don’t recall ever tasting young Brunello that was so vibrant and juicy on the palate. The noses on most of the wines were highly expressive and very ripe. On the palate, they were juicy and opulent, yet not overripe. Their structure could be found in the close or on the second sip, as a build-up of tannins would remind you that this wine has the capacity to age. Yet, through it all, you’d find yourself simply wanting to drink it, and that’s where I believe the ’07 vintage will really find its nitch. These are big and beautiful wines, but it’s almost impossible to keep your hands off them now. However, the ’07 vintage will not outlive ’06, and if it’s classic Brunello that you love, you will not find it here.

My top 5 picks: 2007 Brunello di Montalcino

Azienda Agricola Capanna

The Capanna farm is located north of Montalcino in the area of Montosoli. It’s a family-run operation with help from consulting enologist Paolo Vagaggini. The grapes are hand-selected and harvested, with four years of aging in Slavonian oak cask for the Brunello and five years for the Riserva. The Brunello of Capanna is traditional in style and truly speaks of its Tuscan terroir.

2007 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed black cherry, plums, sweet and spices with savory notes of brown sauce and mountain herbs. On the palate, it was at first lean with mixed berries and herbs, but it filled out with time as the fruit turned darker yet focused with incredible depth, balance and with a fine tannic structure. It’s remarkably more open than expected at this young stage, yet its balance and structure promised a long life ahead. (93 points)

Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella is a large operation and it produces wines in multiple styles, both in and outside of Montalcino. The vineyards are located in the northwest from Montalcino. The Brunello is made at Casato Prime Donno in Montalcino, a winery known to be the first in Italy to be staffed only by women. The base-level Brunello is an enjoyable yet more modern style of Brunello. However, it’s the special selection “Prime Donne” that I love, which is made in a more traditional style with aging in large oak barrels.

2007 Donatella Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne – The nose was finessed and classic in its performance with dusty red fruits, herbs and old cedar box. On the palate, it showed high-toned red berry fruit with an airy and fresh quality. The finish was long and pure with tannins peaking through at the close. (93 points)

Tenuta Oliveto

Located in Castelnuove dell’Adate, the extreme south of Montalcino, Tenuta Oliveto was a new name to me at last year’s Italian Wine master’s event. However, this year, their wines sang. I actually found it hard to move away from the glass. Vinification takes place in Slavonian oak vats with a maceration of 18 – 20 days. From there, the Brunello sees 30 months in French oak tonneaux before being bottled and rested for another 30 months. Their Brunello is an elegant and wistful wine with soaring aromatics.

2007 Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino – The refined nose showed red berries, airy herbal notes and powdered sugar. On the palate, it was velvety yet structured and focused with juicy black cherry and herbs. On the finish, sour berries lingered yet were turned juicy by this wine’s zesty acidity. This wine was a joy to drink. (93 points)

Il Poggione

Father and son team Fabrizio and Alessandro Bindocci make some of the best Brunello from year to year, with the belief that the secret of producing great red wines lies in tending the vines. Rigorous green harvesting is done throughout the vineyards, and selection of the grapes is done by hand. The Brunello is aged in large French oak barrels. Il Poggione is one of the largest estates in Montalcino, with 125 hectares planted with vines, yet the size of the estate never hinders the quality found in the bottle.

2007 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed ripe strawberry, cedar and minerals with a hint of caramel. On the palate, it was soft and mouth-filling with dark red fruits, baker’s chocolate and a fine structure that was nearly masked by its ripe, focused fruit. The finish was long, long, long. (92 points)

Col d’Orcia

Col d’Orcia is one of historic properties in Brunello and one of the largest producers. The vineyards are located on the southern slope of Montalcino with 106 hectares planted to Brunello. The Bozzolino vineyard produces their Brunello di Montalcino. Aging of the wine takes place in Slavonian and selected French oak.

2007 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed vibrant, lush red fruits, spices and herbs. On the palate, it was round yet focused with intense ripe cherry and spice notes. The finish was cut short by youthful tannins yet showed much promise. (91 points)

Other Brunelli tasted for this article

2007 Donatella Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was earthy yet elegant with ripe red berries and forest floor. On the palate, it was velvety with underlying structure and intense yet juicy red berry fruit. The finish was long and clinging to the palate. (92 points)

2007 Campogiovanni (San Felice) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed black cherry, floral notes, sweet spice and the slightest hint of barnyard. On the palate, it had a velvety texture with ripe red berries and cinnamon spice. The finish showed its tannic structure yet still managed to carry red fruits into the close. (91 points)

2007 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was classic and earthy with ripe red berries, soil and minerals. On the palate, it was lean yet focused with strawberry and cedar box. It appeared smaller in scale than most of the ‘07s I’d tasted yet finessed, pure and likely able to mature into something beautiful. The finish was long, showing massive structure. (91 points)

2007 Azienda Agraria Lisini Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed red berries and spice with pepper and floral notes. On the palate, it was balanced with ripe fruits and a fine elegant structure. The finish was firm, and when placed against it’s intensity of fruit, showed good potential. (90 points)

2007 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed ripe red berries with herbal tea and floral notes. On the palate, it showed intense red fruits and herbs that lingered through the finish. (90 points)

2007 Pian Delle Vigne (Antinori) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed ripe berries, wood tones and spice with a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was lush with sour red berries and mountain herbs. The finish was long and mouth-coating. (89 points)

2007 Pertimali (Livio Sassetti) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed strawberry fruit with undergrowth, soil and herbs. On the palate, it was soft and enveloping with red berries and spice. The finish showed a tight structure with soil and red fruit tones. (89 points)

2007 Frescobaldi Castelgiocando Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed vibrant red fruits and menthol. On the palate, it was lean with sour red berries, leading into a drying, structured finish. (88 points)

2007 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed sour red berries and sweet spice in a bittersweet performance. On the palate, red berries and herbs were on display, yet it came across and one-dimensional and ultimately disappointing through the finish. (85 points)

2007 Fattoria dei Barbi (Colombini) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed sour berries and herbs but it was marked by a server aroma of hay and stable. On the palate, it was soft with strawberry fruits but turned bitter and dry into the finish. (84 points)

2007 Capanne Ricci Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed dried red fruits, funk, manure and old wood. On the palate, it was juicy, showing sweet strawberry, which lasted into the finish. (84 points)


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