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Sangiovese’s Ultimate Expression: Brunello di Montalcino

2012 March 13

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ITALIAN INVASION PART II: BRUNELLOS – Italian Wine Masters Seminars & Tasting, Terra Gallery, San Francisco, California (2/9/2012)

The focus of this year’s Italian Wine Masters trade tasting was two-fold: Prosecco (the subject of the first morning seminar, and well represented in the trade tasting) and Sangiovese. Tuscan Sangiovese in the form of Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino was the subject of the second morning seminar, and all three Sangiovese-based wines were presented by multiple producers in the afternoon trade tasting.

Because I wanted to taste through all the Proseccos assembled for the event, on which I reported here, I had to choose which version of Sangiovese I was going to focus on for the rest of the afternoon, as there was no way I could have tasted all the red wines on offer that day in the time allotted. Naturally I chose my favorite expression of the Sangiovese grape, Brunello di Montalcino, taking full advantage of the opportunity to taste through 69 Brunellos from over 30 producers.

I am quite sure I made the right choice. The 2006 and 2007 Brunello vintages, which were the bulk of what was available for tasting and that are now coming to market, were both outstanding, albeit in different ways. The 2006 wines have the massive structure, complexity and capacity for long aging that we saw in the magnificent 2004 vintage. 2007, on the other hand, was a ripe vintage, whose relatively lush and accessible fruit tends to obscure the fact that the wines also have serious tannins and structure, although probably not destined for quite as great longevity as the 2006s. And there were many terrific producers on hand, offering both normale and riserva Brunellos that captivated the senses with their gorgeous perfumes and complex, delightful palates. I definitely experienced Brunello heaven for good long stretches at this event. I also enjoyed talking with producers who were present. A special treat was a brief meeting with Matt Kramer, pictured below, who is not only one of my favorite wine writers, but also one of my most valued sources on Italian wines.

My favorite producers present, each responsible for one or more wines that I rated 92 points or higher, were Banfi, Barbi, Campogiovanni, Capanna, Coldisole, Collemattoni, Fanti, Il Poggione, Le Chiuse, Loacker Corte Pavone, Luce, Oliveto, Pinino, Poggio Salvi, Uccelliera and Voliero.

My favorite wines of the tasting, which I rated 92 points or higher, were:
2006 Castello Banfi Riserva Poggio All’Oro – 92+ points
2006 Fattoria dei Barbi (Colombini) Riserva – 93+ points
2006 Campogiovanni (San Felice) Riserva Vigna del Quercione – 92 points
2007 Capanna – 93 points
2006 Capanna Riserva – 94 points
2007 Coldisole – 93+ points
2006 Coldisole – 92+ points
2005 Coldisole – 92+ points
2001 Coldisole Riserva – 92+ points
2006 Collemattoni – 92 points
2006 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) – 92+ points
2005 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) – 92 points
2004 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) – 93+ points
2006 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Riserva Vigna Paganelli – 92 points
2004 Le Chiuse – 95 points
2001 Le Chiuse Riserva – 95+ points
1999 Le Chiuse Riserva – 93 points
2007 Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone – 93 points
2006 Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone – 92 points
2007 Luce – 92 points
2004 Tenuta Oliveto Riserva – 93 points
2006 Pinino Clan Destino – 93 points
1994 Poggio Salvi – 92+ points
2007 Uccelliera – 94+ points
2006 Uccelliera Riserva – 96+ points
2007 Voliero – 92+ points

For my complete tasting notes, and additional background on selected producers, please see below.

Banfi

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Barbi

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Belpoggio

  • 2007 Belpoggio Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium ruby color; oak, red berry, plum nose; plum, berry, dried berry, oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Camigliano

  • 2007 Castello di Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark ruby color; oak, berry, dried berry, ripe raspberry, spice nose; ripe, soft, tart berry, oak, spice, baked cherry, baked raspberry palate; approachable now; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Campogiovanni

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Capanna

These were terrific wines. This property, in the northern part of Montalcino, has been owned by the Cencioni family since 1957. Vineyards now cover about 20 hectares. There are a mixture of new and old techniques involved. A long, cool fermentation is carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel fermenters fitted with rotating paddles that mix the cap of skins with the fermenting juice. The 2006 then spent 38 months in large Slavonian oak casks, or botti.

  • 2007 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, plum, dried berry nose; tasty, dried berry, tart black fruit, tart plum palate; needs 4-5 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark ruby color; lovely, ripe cherry, red berry, sandalwood nose; tasty, tart berry, dried berry, sandalwood palate; needs 5 years; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)

Capanne Ricci

  • 2007 Capanne Ricci Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; oak, green herb nose; tart red berry, oak, herbs palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Castelgiocondo

Coldisole

Lionello Marchesi, pictured below, owns three estates in Tuscany, including Coldisole in Montalcino. The name translates as “hill of the Sun.” Coldisole comprises 11 acres of vineyard in the eastern part of Montalcino. This is a modern style Brunello, typically aged three years in French barriques. These are very consistent wines, and the ’07 in particular was delicious.
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  • 2007 Coldisole Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; lovely, dried berry, cherry nose; tasty, rich, cherry, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Coldisole Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; dried berry, herb nose; tasty, dried berry, herb, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Coldisole Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking medium red violet color; herbs, oak, tart cherry nose; herbs, oak, tart cherry palate; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2001 Coldisole Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking medium dark red violet color; maturing, red berry, very dark chocolate nose; tasty, maturing, mushroom, tobacco, dried cherry, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Collemattoni

  • 2006 Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking dark red violet color; brett, dried berry nose; rich, dried berry, chocolate, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Fanti

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  • 2006 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking medium red violet color; aromatic, dried berry, incense nose; tasty, incense, roses, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark ruby color; rich, aromatic, dried berry, dried cherry nose; tasty, dried berry, dried cherry palate with integrating oak, needs 5-plus years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2004 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; lovely, ripe berry, baked berry, dried berry, tar nose; tasty, dried berry, roses, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark ruby color; aromatic, oak, loam, potpourri, dried berry nose; tasty, tart berry, dried berry, raspberry, spice, potpourri palate; approachable now but could use 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Il Greppone Mazzi

Il Marroneto

  • 2007 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking medium red violet color; nice, dried berry, plum, cedar nose; tasty, dried berry,k plum, cedar palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; dried berry, plum, violet nose; tasty, dried berry, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Il Marroneto Rosso di Montalcino Ignacchio – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; dried berry nose; tasty, dried berry, black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Il Poggione

La Lecciaia

La Poderina

  • 2006 La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking medium ruby color; dried cherry, dried berry nose; tart berry, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Le Chiuse

This was the source of one of the two sets of outstanding Brunellos I sampled at this tasting. The vineyard was first planted by Franco Biondi Santi, the uncle of the current owner. He used grapes from this vineyard for his Riserva. Biondi Santi’s niece, Simonetta Valiani, and her husband Niccolo Magnelli, are the current owners of the vineyard that now amounts to seven hectares. Le Chiuse is certified organic and uses indigenous yeasts for fermentation.
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  • 2004 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, dried berry, incense, tar nose; delicious, dried berry, dried cherry, tart palate; needs 4-plus years; long finish (95 pts.)
  • 2001 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; redolent, dried berry, dried cherry nose; impressive, dried berry, dried cherry, tar palate; needs 4-5 years; long finish 95+ points (95 pts.)
  • 1999 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking medium red violet color; maturing, mushroom, dried cherry nose; maturing, mushroom, dried cherry, raspberry, truffle palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Le Chiuse Rosso di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; lovely, dried berry, sandalwood, green olive nose; tasty, tart plum, dried berry palate with depth; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Lisini

Loacker Corte Pavone

Luce

  • 2007 Luce Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; ripe berry, dried berry, black fruit, sandalwood nose; ripe berry, dried berry, black fruit, sandalwood palate; needs 6-7 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Oliveto

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  • 2007 Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; oak, red berry nose; red berry, plum, spice palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; oak, tart plum, red berry nose; oak, tart plum, red berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2004 Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; lovely, red berry, dried berry, anise nose; tasty, dried berry, anise palate; long finish (93 pts.)

Palazzo

Pian Delle Vigne

Pietroso

  • 2007 Pietroso Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Dark ruby color; oak, green herbs nose; oak, green herbs, tart red berry palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)

Pinino

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  • 2007 Pinino Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; sandalwood, red berry, dried berry nose; sandalwood, red berry, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Pinino Brunello di Montalcino Clan Destino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Dark red violet color; lavender, dried berry nose; tasty, dried berry, tart plum, spice, lavender palate; needs 3-plus years; long finish (aged in French barriques) (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Pinino Brunello di Montalcino Pinone Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium ruby color; ripe berry, dried berry nose; tight, dried berry, red berry, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Poggio Salvi

  • 1994 Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Bricking medium red violet color; mature, mushroom, savory, sauteed chanterelles, tart red berry nose; mature, tart cherry, tart red berry, mushroom palate with spice lift and integrated oak; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium ruby color; dried berry nose; dried berry, dried cherry palate; appealing and open now; medium-plus finish (30 mos. in Slavonian oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium ruby color; dried berry, plum nose; dried berry, plum palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (40 mos. in oak) (91 pts.)

Sassetti (Livio)

Sassodisole

  • 2007 Sassodisole Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; dried berry, loam, oak nose; dried berry, loam, black fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Sassodisole Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; tart red berry, oak, herb nose; tart red berry, oak, herb palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Terre Nere

  • 2007 Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; redolent, dried red berry, oak, berry no9se; dried red berry, oak, berry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2006 Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; oak, tart red berry, herb nose; oak, tart red berry, herb palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Uccelliera

This was one of the two standout producers of the tasting for me, along with Le Chiuse. Owner Andrea Cortonesi first purchased the original four hectares, including a half hectare of old vineyard formerly belonging to Ciacci Piccolomini, in 1986. He retained the original name of the farmhouse on the property–Uccelliera–which means “birdhouse.” He acquired an additional two hectares for a total of six, which are high density planted, with 3,000 to 5,000 vines per hectare. The vineyard is farmed organically. The wines are aged in Slavoninan and French oak barrels for a minimum of two years, and up to 36 months in some vintages. The receive an additional six months aging in bottle before being released for sale. The Riserva, which is made in outstanding years, is aged for a minimum of 36 months in barrel and up to 42 months, with an additional 18 months in bottle.
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  • 2007 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; redolent, berry, dried berry, anise nose; tasty, refined, dried berry, plum palate; medium-plus finish 94+ points (94 pts.)
  • 2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium red violet color; dried strawberry, dried berry, sandalwood nose; tasty, rich, complex, dried berry, dried cherry, sandalwood, strawberry palate; medium-plus finish 96+ points (96 pts.)
  • 2010 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino
    Medium ruby color; plum, red berry nose; rounded, red berry, plum palate; medium finish (90 pts.)

Voliero

  • 2007 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino – Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
    Medium dark red violet color; dried berry, dried cherry nose; ripe berry, dried berry, cherry, sandalwood palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Matt Kramer
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