Vinopolpick Thursday – April 3

April 3, 2014

Brunello di Montalcino

Stock list update!

Of the three famous Tuscan wine regions producing wine from the Sangiovese grape, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG produces some of the finest, darkest and most age-worthy.  Producers here grow the Sangiovese Grosso clone, known by its local name of Brunello or ‘little dark one.’  In good vintages, the wines are full-bodied and rich, with notes of berries, vanilla, earth and spice.  

Although winemaking in Montalcino dates to the early 14th century, 100% Sangiovese Grosso wine was not first produced until the 1870s after the unification of Italy.  Before that time, winemakers in the area produced field blend wines that included both red and white grapes.  Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, considered the father of Brunello di Montalcino, was the first to vinify Brunello grapes separately.  He also skipped the standard practice of a second fermentation and aged his wines significantly longer in oak barrels.  His resulting wine was noticeably fresher and expressed more fruit than the rest.  By the end of WWII, Brunello di Montalcino wine had earned a reputation as one of Italy’s finest wines.

In 1980, the region became the first Italian region to be granted DOCG status.  The DOCG rules require that vineyards must be below 600 meters in altitude to allow for optimal ripeness, a problem grapes rarely suffer from in the warm and dry climate of Montalcino.  Vineyards with a southern or western exposure produce intensely concentrated and powerful wines.  Those with northern exposures see slightly less sunlight and ripen slower, resulting in greater retained acidity.  The DOCG rules also prohibit irrigation, smudge pots and any other form of climactic manipulation.  The wines must be aged for four years (five for riservas).  Of this time, the wine must spend at least two years in oak and at least four months in bottle.  Today, there are over 200 producers, mostly small farmers and family-owned estates.  

During the 1980s, a ‘modern’ style of Brunello was developed.  While traditional wines are complex and tannic with restrained fruit, whereas the modern wines have richer fruit notes with a greater oak influence.  The traditional style follows Biondi-Santi’s practice of extended ageing in large oak vats.  The modern style incorporates a short barrel maturation in small French oak barriques.  

Within Montalcino, there are several unofficially delineated sub-zones.  The North includes many small wineries such as Il Marroneto as well as the Montosoli Cru.  The soil here is limestone and clay and the wines are typically richly perfumed with slightly more delicate structure.  In the furthest reaches of the Northeast and Northwest, grapes do best in high-altitude vineyards.  Producers such as Altesino and Silvia Nardi have vineyards in this area.  The South East sub-region Castelnuovo dell’Abate includes wineries such as Mastrojanni and Poggio di Sotto.  The wines are complex and age-worthy due to the soil variation and warm but not hot temperature that allows for acid retention.  Col d’Orcia and Banfi produce their wines from grapes in the warm Sant’Angelo area, where the heat encourages dark fruit expressions and high alcohol.

Of recent vintages, 2004, 2006 and 2007 were considered exceptional.  2004 wines are balanced and highly aromatic.  2006 was slightly cooler than the following year, resulting in austere and linear wines with long ageing potential.  The 2007 was dry and warm, but not hot, with a long ageing potential of its opulent and balanced wines.  Wines from 2008 were very good, and the best producers made wines worth long cellaring.  The 2005 vintage was very good despite some rain during harvest.  It will be ready for you to enjoy while you are waiting for the ’06s and ‘07s.  

Brunello di Montalcino Wines Here Now

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2007 ($89.95) $49 special, 10 bottles available
Wine Spectator 94 points 
“with balsamic and macchia underbrush aromas, this distinctive red also features cherry, leather and tobacco notes. The supple texture is offset by firm yet ripe and refined tannins. Excellent length.”

Altesino Brunello Montalcino Montosoli 2006 ($119.95) $77 special, 3+ cases available
James Suckling 96 points 
“Perfumed and fruity, with dried cherries and citrus fruit. Wow. It really opens on the nose giving so much gorgeous fruit. Full body and very dense, with dried cherries, cedar and hints of coffee bean. Powerful and rich.” 

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 ($69.95) $49 special, 3 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points 
“The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino is a beautiful wine laced with red berries, flowers and subtle hints of earthiness. Soft and supple throughout, the Brunello shows lovely juiciness in its fruit and a delicate, understated personality. The 2006 represents yet another step in the more elegant, refined direction the estate has taken in recent years. The 2006 Brunello was aged in equal parts cask and French oak barrels. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2020.”

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 ($49.95) $33.50 special, 3+ cases available
James Suckling 93 points
 “Love the flowers, ripe berries and minerals on the nose here. Light dried fruits too. Dried porcini! Full bodied, round and fruity, with a decadent and fruity finish. Try in 2013.”

Caparzo Brunello Vigna La Casa 2006 ($89.95) $48 special, 24 bottles available
Wine Advocate 94 points
 “The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna La Casa boasts a deep, dark core of fruit. Ripe black cherries, tar, leather and licorice are some of the nuances that emerge from this resonant, expressive Brunello. In 2006 La Casa shows plenty of muscle but without abandoning the house’s medium-bodied style. Anise and menthol reappear on the creamy, generous close. This is a beautiful, deceptively medium-bodied Brunello from Caparzo. In particular, I admire the way the wine turns minerally on the finish. The Vigna La Casa spent 36 months in Slavonian and French oak casks, but of a slightly smaller size than those used for the straight Brunello. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2026.”

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Cerretalto 2004 ($219.95) $179 special, 1 bottle available
Wine Spectator 98 points 
“Very powerful and rich, with blackberry, licorice and light toasty oak. This has pure fruit. Turns exotic and decadent. Full bodied, with dense, powerful tannins, but velvety and beautiful. Big and powerful. Layered and gorgeous. Best from 2011 through 2018.”

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Cerretalto 2006 ($249.95) $199 special, 3+ cases available
James Suckling 99 points
 “Aromas of ripe strawberries, sandalwood, and flowers follow though to a full body, with soft tannins and a fruity finish. This is so long and gorgeous, with intense fruit and a defined and beautiful structure. Amazing fruit at the finish. Gorgeous now, but will age beautifully. The palate builds and show such depth. So wonderful now, but better in 2015.”

Casanova Neri Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 ($49.95) $33 special, 3+ cases available
Antonio Galloni 91 points 
“The 2008 Brunello di Montalcino sweeps across the palate with superb richness and depth. Dark cherries, plums, spices, tobacco and menthol blossom as the wine opens up in the glass. A decidedly large-scaled, dramatic wine for the year, the 2008 impresses for its pure resonance and rich, enveloping finish. This is one of the most rewarding 2008s to drink upon release, but it should also age well for a number of years.”

Cerbaiona Brunello Di Montalcino 2005 ($129.95) $89 special, 12 bottles available
Wine Advocate 93 points
 “The 2005 Brunello di Montalcino impresses for its elegance, balance and class. Silky, finessed tannins frame dark cherries, flowers, minerals, menthol, tobacco and spices. The 2005 doesn’t have the kaleidoscopic, multi-dimensional personality of the finest Brunellos here, but it reveals outstanding length and plenty of style, albeit in a smaller-scaled, lithe expression of this site. Ideally, readers should open the wine several hours prior to serving. It is a wonderful effort in this vintage. 2010-2020.”

Cerbaiona Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 ($199.95) $139 special, 12 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 93+ points
 “Succulent red cherries, dried roses, violets, tar and spices are some of the many notes that are woven together in the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino. Intensely perfumed, the 2008 shows many of the classic Cerbaiona signatures, even if it is a touch less polished than some of the recent vintages. At the same time, the 2008 has come together nicely over the last few years, so it will be interesting to watch what happens with further time in bottle. Dried rose petals and spices add complexity to the subtle, layered flavors. This is one of the stronger wines of the year.”

Fossacolle Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($59.95) $49 special, 12 bottles available
Wine Advocate 94 points
 “The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Fossacolle is gorgeous in this vintage. Freshly cut flowers, plums, spices, licorice and mint are all woven together in this rich, generous wine. The 2007 impresses for its fabulous depth and power. Layers of dark red fruit saturate the palate on the intense finish. Everything is in the right place. The Brunello was aged one year in French oak barrels followed by a second year in cask. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024.”

Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello 2006 ($69.95) $39 special, 3+ cases available
James Suckling 95 points 
“Frescobaldi’s Brunello always delivers great quality in just about any vintage. Gorgeous nose of ripe berries and slice plums with an almost peach undertone. Full bodied, with a solid core of gorgeously clean and clear dark fruits. Dense and integrated tannins on the finish. So long and fascinating. Best after 2013”

La Fuga Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 ($59.95) $39 special, 15 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer & Wine Advocate 92 points
 “Good full, deep red. Complex, expressive nose offers blackberry, black raspberry, sassafras, cola, earth, licorice, mocha and minerals. Sweet, pliant and rich, but with very good energy and an impression of strong extract to the flavors of red fruits and spices. Boasts very good density and volume but excellent definition as well. Finishes long and subtle, with firm tannins and heady aromatic lift. This wine tightened up with air, suggesting that it really should be cellared.”

La Gerla Brunello Riserva Gli Angeli 06 ($79.95) $51.90 special, 3+ cases available
La Gerla Brunello Riserva Gli Angeli 06 1.5L ($199.95) $119 special, 2 magnums available
Wine Spectator 93 points 
“Ripe plum, cigar box and iron notes are backed by solid tannins and lively acidity in this muscular red. There’s also a suppleness in the texture that should increase as the tannins are absorbed. Best from 2015 through 2032.”

La Poderina Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 ($74.95) $39 special, 3+ cases available
James Suckling 95 points 
“Blueberries, flowers and raspberries. Love the nose, like so many others. Full body, with fine tannins and a silky textured finish. So much going on here. Class”

Lisini Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 ($79.95) $59 special, 4 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 92+ points 
“Good deep red. Aromas of crushed cherry, minerals and pungent smoke. Intense red berry and spice flavors are framed by strong but integrated acidity. Not at all overly sweet but broad, rich and concentrated. Classy, floral sangiovese with superb energy and lift, and the structure to support a slow and graceful evolution in bottle.”

Marroneto Madonna Della Grazie Brunello 2007 ($84.95) $69 special, 13 bottles available
Wine Advocate 96 points
 “The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Selezione Madonna delle Grazie is a huge, explosive wine endowed with fabulous aromatics, beautifully delineated fruit and plenty of supporting structure. Violets, mint, licorice and black cherries develop in the glass, adding further layers of complexity and nuance. The 2007 Madonna delle Grazie possesses stunning richness and power. Today the tannins are firm, but they will soften with further time in the bottle. This is another beautifully balanced, first-class effort from Il Marroneto. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2027.”

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($59.95) $41.90 special, 22 bottles available
James Suckling 95 points
 “Love the aromas of cedar, light vanilla, dark berry and plums. Full body, with layered tannins and and a beautiful mouth-feel. Lingers for minutes. The is a subtle and complex. Mastrojanni is getting better and better. Better than 2006.”           

Mastrojanni Brunello Vigna Loreto 2007 ($79.95) $51.90 special, 6 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92+ points
 “The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto is a new wine from Mastrojanni. Ripe, silky tannins support the fruit in this caressing, expressive Brunello. The generous, inviting style captures the personality of the year in spades. The Loreto is a touch less aromatically expressive than the straight Brunello, but also has an extra dimension of textural richness. The Loreto was fermented in cement and in aged in cask for 36 months.”

Palazzetta Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($49.95) $29 special, 4 bottles available      

Piccolomini Brunello Montalcino 2007 ($69.95) $49 special, 17 bottles available
#9 WINE 2012 Wine Spectator 94 points
 “Though dense and rich, this red is also sleekly proportioned and harmonious. The cherry, raspberry, licorice, earth and tobacco flavors meld with the solid structure. Offers fine length and complexity that increases with aeration. Best from 2014 through 2025”

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello 2006 ($179.95) $119 special, 14 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 97 points
 “The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino is an explosive, structured wine bursting with dark fruit. It is one of the most inward, brooding wines of the vintage. Black cherries, menthol, spices and new leather are some of the nuances that flow as this expansive Brunello literally covers every inch of the palate. This is a totally mesmerizing, sublime wine of the highest level.”

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello 2008 ($49.95) $36 special, 3+ cases available
Wine Advocate 91 points 
“The 2008 Brunello di Montalcino is strikingly beautiful in this vintage. Sweet floral notes meld into raspberries, flowers, mint and spices. A sexy, radiant wine, the 2008 impresses for its balance and overall sense of harmony. The long, polished finish is impeccable. All the elements are in the right place. I don’t expect the 2008 to be a long-term ager, but it is very appealing today.”

Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino 2007 ($59.95) $39 special, 3+ cases available
James Suckling 95 points
 “A very structured 2007 Brunello, with ripe and firm tannins and beautiful fresh fruit. Full body, chewy and intense, with a long finish. This is the best from here in years. Wonderful depth of fruit.”

Vitanza Brunello Montalcino Tradizion 2007 ($49.95) $28 special, 11 bottles available
James Suckling 93 points
 “Rose petals and plums on the nose. Full body, with round and chewy tannins and a ripe finish. Tannic, yet polished texture. Give it two to three years of bottle age. This wine is clearly better in 2007 than 2006”

Rosso di Montalcino here now

Cerbaiona Rosso Di Montalcino 2010 ($59.95) $39 special, 16 bottles available
Antonio Galloni 92 points
 “The 2010 Rosso di Montalcino is drop-dead gorgeous. Sweet dark cherries, spices, menthol and new leather are woven together beautifully in the glass. Savory herbs and licorice notes appear later as the wine opens up in the glass. There is a beautiful weight to the 2010, but no sense of heaviness whatsoever. The firm 2010 tannins are present yet unobtrusive. With time in the glass, the aromas and flavors brightness up in a wine that is pure class.”