Every year the Brunello Consortium holds a grand tasting and seminar featuring the current release. This year it was the 2009 vintage. A panel of three speakers included the moderator, Gloria Maroti Frazee from the Wine Spectator, Francesco Ripaccioli representing the Brunello Cossortium, and Jeff Porter from restaurant Del Posto in NYC. The panel members began by speaking about the Brunello area and the laws that govern the wine.
The production area is the commune territory of Montalcino. The grape variety is Sangiovese, known as Brunello in Montalcino. It is interesting to note that at the seminar they did not refer to the grape as Sangiovese Grosso, but only Sangiovese.
The wine must be aged 2 years in oak casks and 4 months in bottle–6 for the Riserva. Bottling must take place in the production zone. The wine is available for sale from the 1st of January of the 5th year following the harvest (6th year for the Riserva). Brunello di Montalcino can only be sold in Bordeaux type bottles.
The panelists agreed that 2009 was a changeling vintage for Brunello because of the weather. There was less production because of more vine growth due to the heavy rainfall. There were very hot summer days so there was more sugar and they spoke of less tannin, sweeter tannins and a sweet sensation in the wine. It was a good vintage, not a great one and received four stars. The panelists agreed 2009 was a very approachable vintage, it can be drunk sooner, and Mr. Porter pointed out that it would therefore be a good restaurant wine.
In my experience Brunello needs to age at least 10 years before (even in a not so great year) I would even think of drinking it. Brunello improves greatly with age. If you want to drink something “approachable” and ready to drink young, then drink a Rosso di Montalcino because that was why they were produced.
There were 7 wines from the 2009 vintage in the tasting from different zones in the Montalcino area and the panelists out pointed how these wines differed according to their geography. The higher the altitude, the cooler it will be and the grapes will ripen later. Gloria pointed out that there is a 10 to 2 week difference between when the grapes are harvested in the northern part of the zone than in the Southern. There are also many different types of soil adding to the differences.
When the representative of the consortium was asked if there was any chance that they would rate the different zones and producers, his answer was “no.” He made the case that all of the zone was a limited cru and had many characteristics in common. After tasting the wines I could not see the difference between north, south, east and west and wondered if the panelists could have picked them out if it was a blind tasting!
Collosorbo- South of Castelnuovo Del Abate. The soil is a medium texture. The harvest is by hand and then there is a sorting of the grapes, also by hand. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled and there is a testing of the wine twice a day before racking. The wine is aged for 36 months in medium and large French and Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for at least 6 months before release. $50
IL Poggione- near Sant’Angelo in Colle. The altitude of the vineyards is 492 to 1,475 ft. and it is mixed soil with a lot of rocks. The vines are estate grown and are at least 20 years old. Alcoholic fermentation takes place with the submerged cap technique for 15 to 20 days. The wine spends 3 years in 50 HL French oak barrels and in bottle for 12 months before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting. It is classic traditional Brunello and will last for at least 20 more years. At $85 it was the most expensive but in my opinion worth the money.
La Togata- South of Tavernella The vineyards average 250 ft. and the soil is clay tuff rich in fossils and the vines are 20 years old. The vineyards are at 250 meters and there are 5,500 vines/hectare. Intense extracting initiates the stages of fermentation followed by a long quiescent maceration on the skins. The wine is aged for 6 months in French barriques and then for 24 more in Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for another 6 months before release. This is a very up front wine with more than a hint of cherry.
Ridolfi –Northeast of Montalcino This was the producer with the smallest production – only 4,900 bottles. The soil is clay and sand with many large stones and the altitude if the vineyard is 300 meters. The training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in truncated-conical oak vats and in temperature controlled steel vats. Maceration time depends on the vintage and can last up to 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels observing the Montalcino tradition. The wine has very nice fruit with tart wild berry aromas and flavors, a hint of black cherry and a touch of spice. This wine is a very good buy at $36.
Solaria -East and slightly South of Montalcino The average vineyard altitude is 1000ft. The soil is clay, sandstone and gravel. There are 4,000 vines per hectare. The training is balanced spurred cordon. There is a long maceration of the skins and frequent pumping over. -The wine spends 24 months in medium sized Slovenian and Allier oak barrels and is then 6 months in bottle before release. $75
Talenti– In the south by Sant’Angelo in Colle. The soil is clay and very stony. Temperature controlled fermentation for 20 days in steel tanks with daily pressing? The wine is aged for 30 months in 60% Slavonia oak barrels and 40% Allier Tonneaux. Bright cherry aromas and cherry candy on the palate. Jeff said it is approachable and would make a good restaurant wine. $70
Uccelliera south-east of Montalcino near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The vines are at 820ft. and the soil is mineral-rich, medium textured sand and clay with some gravel.
The grapes are selected, destemmed, crushed and the must is kept for 4 to 5 days at a low temperature. Alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally in temperature controlled steel tanks and it lasts for 15 days. The must remains on the skins for about 7 days depending on the vintage. Malolactic fermentation takes place in steel. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 36 months and another 10 months in bottle before release. Mr. Porter said that this was a wine he would give to his customers as a transition wine for those that liked California Cabernet Sauvignon. He said the wine was complex, big, bold and beautiful with a texture of sweet fruit. The only thing that I agree with him on was that the wine was complex. $60