The Consortium of the Brunello of Montalcino is an “association between winemakers bent on safeguarding their wine and on accentuating its qualities.” The group organizes events in Italy and abroad, including trade fairs such as the Benvenuto Brunello. After 47 years of honing their description about one of Italy’s most famous wines, this is Brunello in the Consortium’s nutshell. “A visibly limpid, brilliant wine, with a bright garnet colour. It has an intense perfume, persistent, ample and ethereal. One can recognize scents of undergrowth, aromatic wood, berries, light vanilla and jam. To the taste the wine has an elegant harmonious body, vigorous and racy, it is dry with a lengthy aromatic persistence.”
On March 10, 2014, VINTAGES and the Conzorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino brought an impressive range of Rosso and Brunello to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Infatuation renewed. VINTAGES Shop Online added nearly 100 wines for sale on their website, many of which have no Ontario importer. For fans of Brunello, this offer is the Tuscan equivalent of the kid being given the keys to the candy store.
It was twenty years ago that B.B. King brought love to town and taught a band to play. It has also been twenty years since I last visited Montalcino. The next visit is high on the bucket list. Imagine the room full of happy tasters when Sangiovese came to town by way of Benvenuto Brunello 2014. The Grosso from Montalcino is loved by many.
Many cellars brim with Brunelli from 1997, 1999 and 2001. More than a handful from 2000, 2003 and 2004. The houses most represented chez Godello are Fuligni, Poggio Salvi, Poggio Antico, Agostini Pieri, Ciacci Piccolomini, Poggio Sotto, Siro Pacenti and Lisini. Like salting your food before knowing what it tastes like, there was a time when purchasing was done as much by habit as by probability. From the 2005 vintage forward there has been an apprehension to spend frivolously and without consent by way of tasting, assessing and determining value.
The 2006 vintage is both distressing and exciting. Simply speaking, it’s just not showing well right now and yet it may turn out to be great. Taking a flyer on the 06’s is a leap of faith. Power to those who do and win. The 2007’s are exquisite and in my mind, a short term gain. Some 2008’s are brilliant, others not so much. Picking was crucial, cliché to say, but crucial. The jury is still out on the difficult 2009’s.
So may I introduce to you 25 notes on Rosso and Brunello tasted @ConsBrunello Benvenuto Brunello.
When a Montalcino vintage such as 2011 offers up prolonged heat and hang time, typicity can be challenged. Enter Argiano, Sangiovese specialist in adherence to what is base and necessary. Even in such a vintage, Rosso can never be confused with Brunello, the oak just doesn’t have the time to stake its claim. So here there is sour cherry, leather, currants, licorice, anise and especially spice. In 2011 the spice is royal and ancient. The alcohol is hot but the flavours are resplendent. The cherry is tempered by chalky tannin so as a Rosso, this ’11 will give a little bit. A masculine Rosso, “take his hand, you’ll be surprised.”
A purposed, perennial powerhouse of consistency, the 2008 incarnation of Argiano keeps the streak alive in a not so perfectly certain vintage. A mess of mineral in polarizing magnetism connects red tree fruit to tilled crop soil. Tannins are not noticeably biting so long-term potential appears to be somewhat stifled. Though only one year into its young history, this Sangiovese Grosso already begs to be enjoyed, if admittedly just a few years young to be the life of the party.
If Argiano’s treatment of the 2009 vintage is any harbinger for the community as a whole, sparks will surely fly. Like 2007 there is a sense of flamboyance but unlike ’07 the flirting and cajoling is less about desire and more about sodden, succulent Sangiovese. A rampart of medieval, marching tannin and a keen acidity mark the territory and the terroir. A beautiful vintage, in rejection of rusticity and sure to live for a decade and a half.
Banfi Rosso Di Montalcino 2012, Tuscany, Italy (BCLDB 557967 $26.97, SAQ 864900 $25.00) Such a sneak preview at a precocious young wine can rarely do any true justice in the written assessment but Banfi’s ’12 offers more invitation than most. A wide-reaching, consumer-friendly cherry bomb this Rosso, ergo sumptuous, from a sweet fruit core to the uncritical fringes. Rosso vernacular, for the Hic et nunc.
From estate vineyards in the southern part of Montalcino, clonal selection of the local Sangiovese always plays a focused and pivotal role in Banfi’s Rosso. In 2011 no single-vineyard Brunello wines were made (Poggio alle Mura and Poggio all’Oro) so this Rosso reeks of all the hallmarks of those iconic Brunelli; black fruit, violets, tobacco and the aridty of earth and spice. Most obvious is the sanguine scorched, iron fist that calls for time and as much patience as a Rosso can be afforded. Five years would be nice.
Every bit of obdurate soil and the vintage’s inflexible impart have made their way into Banfi’s extreme games ’08. The pitch is black as night, the aroma dank, expressed espresso and the texture thick as tar. Perhaps it’s the southern Montalcino hills that work severe fruit towards this kind of complex end or maybe it’s just a Banfi thing. Regardless, I can’t think of a recent Banfi normale with such verve, length and attitude. Will settle eventually, to drift off into middle age as a classic Brunello.
Beginning with this 2007, Banfi beamed the 15 year-old single-vineyard Poggio alle Mura fruit into state of the art, Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks. The double whammy effect of a most extraordinary gregarious and flamboyant vintage coupled with the new production style fast trekked this Sangiovese to yet seen, nosed or tasted heights. An elixir of satin sheen and glycerin texture, the Mura walks with a firm iron gait and bleeds a mineral rich, hematic ooze. Fierce and delicious at the same time, it’s almost too hot to handle now. Give it five years to settle and enjoy it for five more.
The single “Poggio all’Oro” (golden knoll) vineyard released in the 6th year after harvest needed every minute of its slumber before giving away any idea of itself. An absolute brut of a Brunello at this stage and this in a very forward vintage. Risible to think you understand him, this growling animale, this swelling bruise of pure, raging Sangiovese. Earthy red, rich, reactive, forceful and 20 years from ready.
As expected, this is a gritty effort from Barbi, in part the impart of a testosterone-laden vintage, along with the drier and cooler climate from Barbi’s southeastern Montalcino vineyards. A low and slow ripening will surely translate to extended longevity, but the rusticity and leather/cherry continuum will never disappear. No doubt a classic example and very well-priced for such authenticity, still it can’t be helped to see Barbi’s ’08 as entrenched in an earlier period of time. The wine will need 10 years to soften its edges and reveal the refinement and elegance of a well-documented Brunello.
Capanne Ricci Rosso Di Montalcino 2012, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0375170, $27.00)
Sangiovese in such a primary state, A steaming, ferric soup of oxhide flavoured with wood spice. The kiss of chalk and grain confirms an aged intent that succeeds here, even if the practice is not normally recommended for the fresh and juicy Rosso and less so for the vintage. No matter, just wait a year and indulge.
Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino 2008, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0375162 $57.00)
An ultra modern Brunello from a vintage seeing more grit than gift. The fresh fruit fragrances and flavours, notably plum and black cherry, are hallmarks of innovation. This under 20 year-old producer dishes out gettable Brunello and this ’08 makes a clean accouch of the practice. Short term gains are on the plate so do no wait.
Any Brunello pushing the 15 percent alcohol by volume threshold could never be accused of resisting forward thinking. The Caprili ’08 revs its engine at the start line while the exhaust performs in a state of cathartic extravasation. Sangiovese Grosso aromas of old spew forth, like leather, tobacco smoke, salty cherry and the mineral grit of mean tannins. The car screeches forth in extravagation, leaves the old character behind and races towards a prodigal future. The zoom forward means a profile more akin to representing a superior clone’s expert ripening ability. Thankfully this Caprili resists homogeneity and sets a fine example for the new Brunello.
From estate grapes grown on the hillside which slopes down towards the Orcia and Ombrone rivers. The Bartolommei family needed a summons of their winemaker’s acumen to reign in advanced fruit from a vintage that saw soaring summer temperatures. This ’09 runs on full throttle, high-octane Grosso and yet is a remarkably, obiter dicta fresh flood of sanguine, berry chalky juice. All that and more actually and while it’s flat out fun to taste at such a young age, its ability to go long is not a sure thing. Plan to enjoy now and for three to five big years.
Caprili’s 2008 Riserva will stand as one of the success stories from a vintage that thrives as a result of where the grapes are planted, a Montalcino truth that is undeniable for all involved. While others sing the blues because of the weather (rain) the Caprili whistles in pentose-underscored Anthocyanin reds, like rooibos and cherry. A leathery Riserva in confident control, marked by great acidity and formidable tannins.
From a golden vintage, this ’97 is crazy good. A fixed, double-edged blade fighting knife dipped into a warm pool of developed liqueur-like sweetness. Seventeen years of languorous modulation and wood-fruit integration had resulted in a gracious Brunello, intrinsically delicious and living large in senescence. Life for the Col D’orcia ’97 is a bowl of cherries. Open one now and for the next three to five years and you’ll know exactly what you’re going to get. Me, “I’ll stick with you baby for a thousand years. Nothing’s gonna touch you in these golden years.”
The Montalcino Sangiovese from 2006 will be long-lived and Col D’orcia’s normale bottling is a poster child for the notion. This wine exhibits everything you would expect from an adolescent Brunello of that vintage. Serious and contemplative, the typicity is patent; leather, cherry, smoke and hemic in texture, this is tightly wound and very real. Like so many renditions of 2006, the Col D’orcia showed well in its first year, stepped back to a gritty state and will show its best beginning in 2016. It will age gracefully for 10 more after that.
The juxtaposition of vintages (2004 and 2006) is both evident and stupefying. The latter is certainly one to look at in terms of 15-20 years, while the former is one of post-immediate gratification. Two extra years of age has done wonders for this Riserva’s evolution and desire to please. Lush, irresistibly delicious fruit strutting down the catwalk in smooth, leggy, creamy and linear fashion. Brunello rarely pleases in taste and refinement with modern clarity like this ’04. Enjoy now and for 10 more enchanting years.
Everything the ’06 Col D’orcia Brunello is, the Riserva is that and more. Densely concentrated, all is amplified; the leather, the cherry and the grit in savoury tannins. The weathered hand of rusticity and blue-collar Sangiovese ethic has a vice-tight grip on the suppressed fruit. It will take a minimum five years to see any type of true release from the natural fortifying acidity of the iron gate prison. Put this Brunello aside and forget about it. Revisit in 2020 and again five to 15 years after that.
If La Fiorita’s 2008 Brunello is thatched of pure silk then this 2007 is a metaphorical pillow quilted and dripping of the finest velvet. Pure strung Sangiovese on the softest rope from a duo of Montalcino vineyards and carried ethereally on a Tuscan wind through Slavonian casks and into bottle five plus years later. All this and still remarkably tannic for a Brunello from 2007. A reversal of vintages in aperture, aroma and taste, the ’08 acting out the convivial philandering of its mates, this ’07 metagrobolizing the notion of a repeat performance but asking for more time.
A stunning example of modern Brunello and the closest to pure silk as any at the Benvenuto. From two estate vineyards, Poggio al Sole and Pian Bossolino, one conveying strength, the other delicata. A “white” Brunello this Fiora, so fine, so fair, so beautiful. The fabric is so stylishly woven, it will never be easy to keep down in the cellar. So enjoy it if you can swing it, now and for five pleasurable years.
La Fiorita’s Riserva is full of wildflower fragrance, deeply concentrated and very much a child of a best fruit forward vintage. Precociously evolved tannins and wizened tree fruit play the a modernity card in a rustic suit. A Brunello with sweet talent, all in for pleasure. A familiar and representative ’07.
Colle degli Angeli’s 2008 Rosso is a pillar of Sangiovese strength with more structure than most, in girth, density and anxiety. The debate may rage on the merits, yay or nay of such seriousness but knowing what you’re getting is half the battle. Not that this is anti-fresh (there is plenty of cherry extract and rosehip), but the layers of fruit, acidity and tannin go deeper, if a bit towards the earth’s crust. Now six years on, a full settling is not entirely likely, but kudos for the effort. Will drink best in 2015 and for two to three years after that.
Paradisone Rosso Di Montalcino 2009, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0374223 $40.00, WineAlign) The success of Colle degli Angeli’s Rosso 2009 lies in its attention to the details of territory. Like the 2008, it sweats the larger things, namely the tensions between soil, vine vigor and the carbolic acid activity by way of the grape’s extract. Breaking down cherry is the obvious aroma and by natural extension, the flavour. In ’09, a splintered and sinewy rusticity dominates the proportion so match it to a sauce, be it dressing up pasta or smothering a stew. The wine will benefit from the companionship.
Paradisone Brunello Di Montalcino 2007, Tuscany, Italy (LCBO 0374215 $69.00, WineAlign) Colle degli Angeli’s 2007 Brunello goes against the vintage’s grain by exerting a testosterone attitude in a chapter of predominantly feminine inclination. Butch‘s horse kicks up 15 per cent abv dust, in well-performed aggregate of high alcohol and a sugar quotient of only 1.8 g/L of rose perfumed fruit. Grips the tannic gun tight and outrides Brunello’s sacred laws of palturition. In other words, despite the grit, this ’07 gives birth to a young wine that is quite approachable. The kid performs a sun dance as per the warm vintage. New to Ontario’s market, it might be asked, “who are those guys?”
Colle degli Angeli’s 2009 Brunello forges a dramatic relationship between grapes, climate and territory. When considered in relative terms to the ’07, the sugar is up a touch (2.3 g/L) and the alcohol down (14.5 per cent). Negligible numbers really but the phenolic make up results in a Sangiovese whose sink is full of funk, alcohol, suede and creamy glycerin. Like the ’07, the grapes come from young, self-willed and boisterous vines ready and willing to tackle both a modern age in Montalcino and the rigors of climate variation. While the azienda agricola may not yet be a household name, the wines are indicative of the goût du terroir as expressed in this rendition.
Good to go!