Category Archives: Brunello

My Favorite Brunello at La Pizza Fresca

I first discovered Il Marroneto when I was doing a portfolio tasting of the wines represented by Riccardo Gabiele and Elisa Bosco from Pr VIno. One of the wines was the Brunello di Montalcino of Il Marroneto “Madonna della Grazie”, owned by Alessandro Mori. It was the best wine of the tasting and one of the best Brunellos I have ever had.

I few months later I went to a seminar conducted by Alessandro and tasted a number of different vintages of his Brunello and liked them all.

I remember Alessandro saying that the wine really makes itself and he only does what is necessary. He has a traditional and minimalist philosophy both in the vineyard and in the cellar.

IL Marroneto is one of the 10 historical wineries of Montalcino and was purchased in 1974 by Giuseppe Mori, Alessandro’s father. The towers of the city of Siena are the backdrops of the estate’s vineyards located high on the north slope of the hill of Montalcino. The vineyards are at 400 meters and extend to the walls of the town. This is an area where grapes have been cultivated since the times of the Etruscans.

Alessandro said that they grow only Sangiovese grapes and follow a biodynamic approach to cultivation (although not certified), always abiding by the strict Montalcino regulations.  No herbicides are used on the plants.

A few weeks ago Brad Bonnewell, owner of La Pizza Fresca, invited me to join him at a tasting of the wines of Il Marroneto. I would have the opportunity not only to taste the wines but also drink them with food.

There were six of us tasting and drinking the wine and we had a number of different pizzas, a pasta, and steak to accompany it.

The Wines

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 100%. We drank the 2002, 2007,2009,2010, 2011 and 2012 Sangiovese. Fermentation lasts for 11/12 days. The wine is aged in 2,500 liter oak barrels for 39 months and 10 months in the bottle before release. All of the wines will last for 20 years or more. These are complex and elegant wines and have a certain easy feel in the mouth that is very pleasing but hard to describe. They have hints of black and red fruit, spice, and licorice with a touch of tobacco and leather. They will age for a long time.

The 2007 and 2010 were that the favorites of the evening. 2002 was a poor vintage in Tuscany yet this wine was showing no sings of age and could last for a number of years. The 2011 was a bad bottle.

Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie” 100% Sangiovese. We drank the 2011 and 2012 This wine is made from a selection of grapes from the historical vineyards that surround the house. The name of the wine comes from the little 12th century church very near the vineyard, Madonna della Grazie. Fermentation is in Allier oak vats where it remains untouched for 2 days and the fermentation lasts for 20/22 days. The wine is aged in 2,500 liter oak barrels for 41 months and 10 months in bottle before release.

These are complex wines with aromas and flavors of citrus, cherry, licorice and mineral notes. They have a wonderful aftertaste and a long finish. They are excellent food wines and will age for a long time.

The vines were first planted in 1975 near the church of Madonna della Grazie, (which the estate’s top Brunello comes from). The original building dates back to 1247. The rest of the estate’s vineyards were planted in 1979 and 1984. The soil is coarse sandy soil rich in minerals. There is natural grass planted between the rows of vines with longer time for pollination. Pruning takes place in March. The vineyards are planted for low yields and low density. The training system is spurred cordon. Grapes are harvested only when the stalks start to turn to burnt colors, indicating that the seeds have reached optimum maturity.

The estate’s name derives from a central tower that was once used to dry chestnuts (castagne or marroni in Italian), long a source of flour in Italy. The wines are aged in the base of the tower in large Allier and Slovenian oak barrels.

These are very traditional made wines with plenty of pumping over. Alessandro added there are no barriques on the estate!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Dinner Party in Rome

Daniele Cernilli, aka “Doctor Wine,” and his wife,  Marina Thompson invited us to dinner at their lovely apartment in one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Rome.

There were 3 other guests, including a professor from John Cabot University in Rome.

Daniele greeted us with glasses of Champagne Clos des Goisses Brut 2002 made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The grapes are grown on a pure chalk hillside with a 45 degree slope facing due south in Mareuil- sur-Ay. Goisse, in the old Champagne dialect, means steep slope. It has a very low dosage. Vinification is mainly in wooden casks and malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of pears and apricots, floral notes, a touch of toast and an exceptional long finish. Daniele said 2002 was a great vintage in Champagne.

With the Champagne we had caviar. You can’t go wrong with Champagne and caviar, and Marina enhanced the combination by serving it with burrata, a tender, fresh cheese from Puglia. Slightly firm like mozzarella on the outside, it is sweet and creamy within. Though it might seem like a strange combination, not only did it work, it was wonderful.

Daniele also served another wine with the caviar and burrata that he believed was a better combination than with the champagne. Pinot Bianco Colli Orientali del Friuli “Zuc di Volpe 2008 Volpe Pasini made from 100% Pinot Bianco from the Togliano “Zuc” Vineyard. Fermentation is in stainless steel and the wine spends some time in bottle before release. This is a full-bodied white wine with hints of white peaches, citrus and almonds. It was showing very little sign of age.

Though I liked the Pinot Bianco, I preferred the combination of the Champagne with the caviar and burrata.

Grignolino of the Monferrato Casalese “ Bricco del BoscoVigne Vecchie2011 Giulio Accornero & Figli made from 100% Grignolino from the Bricco del Bosco vineyard. Maceration is on the skins for 20 days. The wine is aged for 30 months in oak barrels (tonneau) and 24 months in bottle before release.

Daniele Cernilli

Every other Grignolino I have tasted was meant to be drunk young. By the time this one is released all the others would be too old to drink. Here is how Daniele describes this wine in his book The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017  Intense and lively red. One of the best versions of the last years. Complex smokey and spicy notes, raspberries, pomegranate and rhubarb. Strong, intense, warm, enveloping flavor with tannic hints and extraordinary persistence.” We discussed this wine for some time.

With this wine we had pasta prepared by Daniele. He told Michele that the recipe had been given to him by the late Paola di Mauro, a great winemaker and legendary cook. Daniele roasted sweet cherry tomatoes with olive oil, capers and breadcrumbs then tossed them mezze maniche, a short wide tubular pasta, before serving. It’s a great way to make the most of out of season fresh tomatoes.

Brunello di Montalcino 1995 100% Sangiovese Donatella Cinelli Colombini. I looked at the label and told Daniele that I have the 1995 at home but the label is different. He said this was a special bottling made in honor of a wedding that took place in 1995. I am not sure how this wine was made or aged and I know they have changed their production methods over the years. This wine is a classic Brunello.

We had the Brunello with braised veal.

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2005 Rocco di Montegrossi made from 95% Malvasia Bianco di Toscana and 5% Canaiolo Nero. The soil is calcareous loamy. The harvest is the first week of October. During the drying phase the bunches of grapes are hung one by one on nets in a well– ventilated area under the rafters. All of the nets are hung from rails and are affected by noble rot–botrytis. The rails allow the nets to be shifted so that deteriorated grapes can be removed. Pressing takes place in January. The must goes into small casks of 50 and 100 liters of cherry, oak and mulberry wood. The wine ferments and ages for 6 to 7 years, only indigenous yeast is used. This is a complex intense velvety dessert wine with hints of apricot, dried fig, toasted almond and caramel.The grapes are pressed between the 13 and 20th of December. Only organic farming methods are used and there is no filtering or fining. The wine spends 6 years and 4 months in small barrels called caratelli made of cherry, mulberry and oak wood, then one year in bottle before release.

With the Vin Santo we had cheese then finished with coffee and artisan chocolates.

 

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Filed under Accornero Winery, Brunello, Champagne, Clos des Goisses, Clos des Goisses Brut, Daniele Cernilli Doctor Wine, Donatella Cinelli Colombibi, Grignolino, Pinot Bianco, Rocca di Montegrossi, Vin Santo, Volpe Pasini winery

Tom Maresca on the 2017 Tre Bicchieri Winners

I missed this event because I was in Rome. So here is the next best thing- a report by Tom Maresca

2017 Tre Bicchieri Winners

February 16, 2017    https://ubriaco.wordpress.com/

On the day of our heaviest snowstorm so far this year, the annual New York presentation and tasting of Tre Bicchieri award-winning wines took place just about half a mile from where I live.

trebicchieri-2017

So I slogged through the flying snow and the street-corner slush to take advantage of what I hoped would be a sparse crowd and a lot of idle winemakers, thus allowing me to actually taste some wines. For the first hour, I was right, and I did have the opportunity to taste some remarkable wines – but then the storm let up and the hordes came in, and my chances for thoughtful tasting ended. I’m happy for all those hard-working winemakers that the Tre Bicchieri tasting is such a popular event, but as a hard-working journalist I do most seriously wish there was some better way to experience and evaluate these wines.

But you’ve heard that lament from me before, and are probably quite tired of it now. Besides, the key thing about this particular tasting is how many top-flight Italian wines it gathers in one room, and I don’t want to let the circumstances of the tasting obscure that. My palate and the collective palate of the Tre Bicchieri judges don’t always agree 100%, but those guys sure get an awful lot right, so a collection of almost 200 top-ranked wines amounts to an event to pay serious attention to, no matter how many people you have to elbow aside to do it.

Not that even under the best circumstances I could manage to taste all 200 in one afternoon, but I did my best to get to a reasonable assortment of old-favorite, regular prize winners and some of the new kids on the block. I was impressed by everything I tasted, without exception. I don’t get the chance to say that often, so let me repeat it: Every single wine I tasted that snowy afternoon deserved its Tre Bicchieri designation. Here are the ones I tried: first reds, then whites.

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red-wine

 

From Basilicata

Re Manfredi’s Aglianico del Vulture Manfredi 2013, a wonderful example of a grape I love

From Piedmont

Elvio Cogno’s Barolo Bricco Pernice 2011, another masterpiece from winemaker Valter Fissore

Bruno Giacosa’s Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2011, one of Barbaresco’s finest crus, beautifully rendered

Elio Grasso’s Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté 2012, benchmark Barolo, as always from this estate

Giacomo Fenocchio’s Barolo Bussia 90 Dì Riserva 2010, macerated 90 days on the skins, with consequent depth and intensity

Oddero’s Barolo Bussia Vigneto Mondoca Riserva 2010, a classic Barolo of a great vintage

Vietti’s Barolo Ravera 2012, a lovely, beautifully balanced wine with potentially great longevity (and I also liked Vietti’s very nice but not prize-winning Barbera d’Asti La Crena 2013)

From Sicily

Palari’s Faro Palari 2012, year after year the best red wine made in Sicily, in my opinion (and the 2012 Rosso del Soprano is right on its tail in quality: It got Due Bicchieri)

Planeta’s Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico Dorilli 2014, a lovely light-bodied wine, refreshing and vigorous

From Tuscany

Boscarelli’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Il Nocio 2012, as always an elegant, complex wine

Castellare di Castellina’s I Sodi di San Niccolò 2012, graceful and lovely Sangiovese from winemaker Alessandro Cellai

Castello di Volpaia’s Chianti Classico Riserva 2013, medium-bodied, perfectly balanced, with the elegance that always marks Volpaia

Il Marroneto’s Brunello Madonna delle Grazie 2011, as always from this remarkable cru and maker, a very great wine

Mastroianni’s Brunello Vigneto Schiena d’Asino 2010, maybe the best Tuscan wine at this gathering of greats

Ricasoli’s Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledilà 2013, a luscious, juicy wine that drinks far too easily

Terenzi’s Morellino di Scansano Madrechiesa Riserva 2013, very young Sangiovese, with this maker’s trademark balance and elegance

From the Veneto

Allegrini’s Amarone 2012, already big and textured

Bertani’s Amarone 2008 and 2009, both still young and evolving, with great depth and the promise of decades of life

Masi’s Amarone Vaio Armaron Serègo Alighieri 2011, a stunning wine from a great site

Speri’s Amarone Vigneto Monte Sant’ Urbano 2012, another fine example of what seems to be a great year for Amarone

Tenuta Sant’Antonio’s Amarone Campo dei Gigli 2012, an infant Hercules

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I doubt anyone is surprised by the fact that Italy is producing so many fine red wines, but for me the best news of the day was how superior so many white wines showed themselves to be. Every single one I tasted had distinct varietal flavors joined to genuine goût de terroir. This for me was the most fun of the afternoon, and I kept switching from big reds to whites of every kind to keep my palate fresh. (It worked for a couple of hours, then I gave out.)

white-wines

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From Alto Adige

Abbazia di Novacella’s Valle Isarco Sylvaner Praepositus 2015, a stunning, fresh, and vigorous wine from a grape of usually no great distinction, this year slightly better than the Abbazia’s normally superb Kerner Praepositus

Produttori San Michele Appiano’s Pinot Grigio St. Valentin 2014, high-altitude, rounder than usual PG – a real dinner wine

Produttori Valle Isarco’s Sylvaner Aristos 2015 – this seems to have been Sylvaner’s year; a lovely, lively wine

From Campania

Marisa Cuomo’s Costa d’Amalfi Furore Bianco 2015, a lovely, fragrant dinner wine coaxed from postage stamp-sized terraced vineyards along the steep Amalfi coast

Fontanavecchia’s Falanghina del Sannio Taburno 2015, lovely, characteristic Falanghina, invigorating and lively

Pietracupa’s Greco di Tufo 2015, medium-bodied and deeply flavored, with strong mineral accents, a fine wine, almost as good, in my opinion, as the same maker’s Fiano di Avellino, which didn’t get Tre Bicchieri

From Friuli Venezia Giulia

Livio Felluga’s Bianco Illivio 2014, a masterful blend of Pinot bianco, Chardonnay, and the native Picolit, sapid and intriguing

Primosic’s Collio Ribolla Gialla di Oslavia Riserva 2012, one of the briefly fashionable orange wines, but better than simple fashion: intense, distinctive, rich, and with the right food incomparable

Russiz Superiore’s Collio Friulano 2015, a lovely medium-bodied, deeply flavored (hints of almond) example of Friuli’s native grape

Torre Rosazza’s Pinot Grigio 2015, what PG used to be, fresh, vigorous, almost rambunctious

From Lazio

Casale del Giglio’s Antium Bellone 2015, distinctive, flavorful wine from an almost disappeared variety that merits preservation (Charles Scicolone has written about this estate here)

From the Marches

Cocci Grifoni’s Offida Pecorino Guido Cocci Grifoni 2013, a lovely wine from a variety that had been in danger of disappearing

Velenosi’s Offida Pecorino Rêve 2014, another fine example of the same grape variety, medium-bodied and mouth-filling; very enjoyable

From Sardinia

Vigne Surrau’s Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala 2015, textbook Vermentino, fresh and bracing

From Sicily

Cusumano’s Etna Bianca Alta Mora 2014, capturing beautifully the volcanic nuances of Etna’s slopes

Tasca d’Almerita’s Sicilia Carricante Buonora Tascante 2015, a very characteristic version of Etna’s great white grape

From the Veneto

Pieropan’s Soave Classico La Rocca 2014, always the finest cru from this consistently great producer

Graziano Prà’s Soave Classico Staforte 2014, one of many excellent cru Soaves from this producer, all fresh, enjoyable and very age-worthy

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There were many more wines to taste, but I had about reached my limit for tasting accurately and for elbowing, so I trudged my way back home through the remnants of the snow storm. I wish I had had the capacity for more, because I’m sure there were more discoveries to be made and reported on. Ars longa, vita brevis. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Non sum qualis eram, etc. You get the idea: I’d do more for you if I could, but . . .

 

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Benvenuto Brunello NYC 2016

The Consorzio del Vino  Brunello di Montalcino presents Benvenuto Brunello USA 2016 in NYC, its annual trade tasting, celebrating 50 years of DOC wines and showcasing the Brunello di Montalcino 2011. The walk-around tasting featured over 40 wineries from Montalcino.IMG_9587

I also attended the seminar on the 2011 Brunello. I enjoy the seminar because I can taste the wine, listen to the speakers, and find out the latest news from Montalcino. The Moderator was Jeff Porter, beverage director for the Batali and Bastianich hospitality group.

There was an overview of Montalcino and then a discussion of the 2010 and 2011 vintages. Jeff Porter   and the representative of the Consortium agreed that 2012 was a great vintage and a better vintage than the 2011 and I had to agree. The Consortium gave the 2010 5 stars, its highest rating and called it an outstanding vintage. The 2011 was given 4 stars and called an excellent vintage. Mr. Porter said that it would be a good restaurant wine because it is more approachable than the 2010. He added that it is a good wine for the consumer as well.

I liked the 2011 vintage and it probably will not age as long as the 2010 but that is something only time will tell.

While we use terms like more approachable, restaurant wine, consumer friendly etc, I would not even think of drinking the 2011  until 2021, after all it is a Brunello!

There were 7 wines tasted and 6 of them were my kind of wines. All of them were aged in botti, large oak barrels. Only one was aged in both 500 liter barrels and botti. There was not a barrique in sight. I asked the representative if this was done on purpose and he said the wines were picked at random. Trying to bring my point home I asked if there was a movement in Montalcino away from barriques and concentrated wines toward wines which tasted like the grape and the terroir. Mr. Porter said that he believed that this was true not only in Montalcino but in the wine world in general. He said this was in response to the consumers that now prefer this type of wine.

The BrunelloIMG_9588

Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011 Belpoggio The soil is calcareous with many skeletons and the elevation is 350 meters. Traditional fermentation takes place with 15 to 18 days of maceration at a controlled temperature. The wine is aged for 24 to 36 months in 30 to 40 hl oak casks. $50 IMG_9589

Brunello Di Montalcino 2011 DOCG Capanna. The soil is Galestro, with many stones and the elevation is 855 to 984 ft. Harvest is by hand, with careful selection of the grapes. They are immediately de-stemmed and fermentation with the skins takes place for 20 to 22 days in Slavonian vats at a controlled temperature. After drawing off, the wine completes the malolactic fermentation in the same vats where it is naturally cooled down.$40

The wine is aged in Slavonia oak barrels 20 to 30 hl until bottling in June of 2015. The bottles are refined in thermo-conditioned rooms and went on sale January 2016. $45IMG_9590

Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011 Castello Tricerchi The vineyard is at 300 meters and the exposure is south/west and the soil is clayey and sandy. Training system is spurred cordon, there are 4,000 plants/hectare and the vines are 15 years old. Harvest is by hand in early October. Maceration is in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature for 14 days. Malolactic fermentation continues for 5 months. Aging is in 15 to 20 hl Slavonic casks for 42 month and 6 months in bottle before release. For them 2011 was a very good vintage. It has hints of black cherry, strawberry, tobacco and spice. $45IMG_9591

Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011 Col D’Orcia. Made from a particular clone of Sangiovese selected by Col d’Orcia. The vineyard is at 300 meters in the hills over looking the Orcia River with a south/southwest exposure, the soil is from the Eocene period in origin, loose, with little clay and rich in limestone. Fermentation is on the skins form18 to 20 days at a controlled temperature in 150 hlwide and shallow stainless steel tanks, designed in order to extract tannins and color efficiently but delicately. Aging is for 4 years: 3 years in 25, 50 and 75 hl Slavonic and Allier oak casks followed by at least 12 months of refinement in bottle. Since 2013 Col D’Orcia is the largest wine-producing farm in Tuscany. $55IMG_9592

Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011 Pian Delle Vigna (Antinori) 3.5 miles south of Montalcino. There are 65 hectares under vines, and the soil is mostly clayey and calcareous with many small stones. After a careful selection both in the vineyard and cellar, the grapes are de-stemmed and delicately pressed; the must then goes into temperature controlled stainless steel tanks where it ferments and remains on its skins for a period of about 3 weeks. The wine has then completed malolactic fermentation. Aging is in 30 to 80hl oak casks for over 2 years. The wine was bottled in April of 2014. $80IMG_9593

Brunello Di Mantalcino 2011 DOCG Tenuta Buon Tempo the vineyard surface area is 5 hectares at 350 meters and the soil is sandstone-galestro marl. The exposure is south/east, the training system is spurred cordon and there are 3,33/6,250 plants per hectare. Harvest is from September 10 to 20. Fermentation with natural yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel, with minimum possible oxygenation, with pumping over and a duration of 7 to 10 days. Maceration in stainless steel, carried out without exposure to air for 15 to 20 days. Aging 24 to 30 months in 500 liter French oak barrels (20% new) and 12 to 18 months in big 64hl Slovonian oak casks and 6 months in bottle. $50

New owners brought the property, changed the name and are moving away from new oak. The former owners used 50% new oak.IMG_9594

Brunello Di Montalcino 20111 DOCG Uccelliera. Production area Castelnovo dell’Abate, south/east of Montalcino, vineyard extension is 15.5 acres at 820ft. The soil is rich in minerals, medium textured sand and clay, with some gravel. The grapes are selected, de-stemmed and crushed. The must is kept for 4 to 5 days at low temperatures. Later the temperature is raised and alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally for 15 days in stainless steel. At the same time, the must macerates on the skins for about 7 days. After drawing off, the wine is kept in steel, malolactic occurs and the wine is kept in Slovenia and French oak barrels for 36 months, then aged in bottle for another 18 months, before release. This wine was a little more international in style. $64

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The Best Brunello di Montalcino!?

Last year I was contacted by Riccardo Gabriele and Elisa Bosca of Rg Pr Vino, a PR company representing a number of Italian wines to speak about their wines at luncheon and meeting of wine journalists. They have an interesting portfolio so I agreed. One of the wines I presented was the Brunello di Montalcino from Il Marroneto owned by Alessandro Mori. For me, it was the wine of the tasting and one of the best Brunellos I have ever had. Riccardo asked me if I wanted to take one of the wines home and this was my choice.

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Alessandro Mori

A few months later, Montcalm Imports was doing a tasting and one of the producers was IL Marroneto. I was introduced to the owner, Alessandro and his son, and for the first time tasted their Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie.” It was wonderful.

Fast forward a few months and Alessandro was in New York giving a seminar about his wines featuring Brunello going back to 2006. Alessandro said that wine really makes itself and he only does what is necessary. He has a traditional and minimalist philosophy both in the vineyard and in the cellar.

IL Marroneto is one of the 10 historical wineries of Montalcino and was purchased in 1974 by Giuseppe Mori, Alessandro’s father.

The towers of the city of Siena are the backdrops of the estate’s vineyards located high on the north slope of the hill of Montalcino. The vineyards are between 305 and 400 meters and extend to the walls of the town. This is an area where grapes have been cultivated since the times of the Etruscans.

Alessandro said that they grow only Sangiovese grapes and follow a biodynamic approach to cultivation (although not certified), always abiding by the strict Montalcino regulations.  No herbicides are used on the plants.

The vines were first planted in 1975 near the church of Madonna della Grazie, (which the estates top Brunello comes from). The original building dates back to 1247. The rest of the estates vineyards were planted in 1979 and 1984. The soil is coarse sandy soil rich in minerals There is natural grass planted between the rows of vines with longer time for pollination and pruning takes place in March. The vineyards are planted for low yields and low density. The training system is spurred cordon. Grapes are harvested only when the stalks start to turn to burnt colors, indicating that the seeds have reached optimum maturity.

The estate’s name derives from a central tower that was once used to dry chestnuts (castagne or marroni in Italian), long a source of flour in Italy. The wines are aged in the base of the tower in large Allier and Slovenian oak barrels.

These are very traditional made wines with plenty of pumping over. Alessandro added there are no barriques on the estate!IMG_8643

We tasted 6 Brunellos the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Brunello along with the 2010 Madonna della Grazie.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 100% Sangiovese. Fermentation lasts for 11/12 days. The wine is aged in 2,500 liter oak barrels for 39 months and 10 months in the bottle before release. All of the wines will last for 20 years or more. These are complex and elegant wines and have a certain easy feel in the mouth that is very pleasing but hard to describe. They have hints of black and red fruit, spice, and licorice with a touch of tobacco and leather. They will age for a long time.IMG_8640

Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie”  2010 DOCG 100% Sangiovese. This wine is made from a selection of grapes from the historical vineyard. The name of the wine comes from the little 12th century Madonna della Grazie church very near the vineyard. Fermentation is in Allier oak vats where it remains untouched for 2 days and the fermentation lasts for 20/22 days. The wine is aged in 2,500 liter oak barrels for 41 months and 10 months in bottle before release. It a complex and elegant wine with aromas and flavors of citrus, cherry, licorice, mineral notes, and that certain something wonderful on the palate that just keeps on lingering. It has an extremely pleasing aftertaste and a long finish. they are excellent food wines and will age for a long time. Wine writer Monica Larner called this wine “The purest and most profound expression of Sangiovese on the market today and gave it 100 points, the Wine Enthusiast gave it 99 points and Vinous (Antonio Galloni) gave it 97points.

I have never done this before, giving other people’s “point scores” but for once I have to agree with all of them and the wine lives up to their praise.

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Dinner with Lars and Karen

Dinner at Lars and Karen’s house always begins the same way.IMG_8533

Lars takes a large silver sword from its box, holds a bottle of Cuvee Aurora Rose sparkling wine in his other hand, and with one fell swoop slices the cork and the top off the bottle.IMG_8534

We watch in amazement while they fly across the yard.

Lars Leicht is the head of the Cru Artisan division of Banfi. Here are the wines he served that night. He also did most of the cooking!IMG_8540

Cuvee Aurora Rose Alta Lange 2011 DOC 100% Pinot Noir Banfi Piemonte. The grapes are grown in the hilltop vineyards of the Alta Langa, south of Alba in Piemonte, in a mix of clay and calcareous soil. There is one hour of skin contact and cold maceration, which prepares the grapes for soft crushing. The must is clarified and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The final cuvee consists of 90% clear wine and 10% of the previous vintage wine. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. Fermentation takes place in the bottle (Classic Method). Yeast contact is extended for at least 24 months followed by a traditional hand riddling (remuage) on pupitres and degorgement a la glace. A period of brief aging follows. The wine is pink in color, with small bubbles and hints of strawberry and apple.IMG_8543

Lars served this wine with an assortment of appetizers including sauteed eggplant with cherry tomatoes, a Neapolitan dish.IMG_8541

Pecorino “Cortalato” Colli Aprutini IGT 2014 100% Pecorino Cerulli Spinozzi. The vineyards are in the Colli Aprutini in Abruzzo. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation is in stainless steel, prior to malolactic fermentation and it is aged on its lees fro 5 months prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and peach with notes of apricot and orange and a touch of bitter almond on the lingering finish. I recommend this wine often and it is a true bargain at less than $18 a bottle. Enrico Cerulli has taken over the management Cerulli Spinozzi his ancestral property. I have met Enrico a number of times and am always impressed by his knowledge and passion for his wine. The consulting winemaker is Franco Bernabei, who I consider to be one of the best.IMG_8548

With it, we ate hand rolled pici pasta (like thick spaghetti) with clams and herbs.IMG_8546

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Torre Migliore” 2009 Cerulli Spinozzi made from 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo in the Colli Teramane DOCG area. The soil consists of compact layers of shale and is rich in nutrients. Selected grapes are hand harvested in small boxes. The juice is fermented on the skins for 15/18 days in oak for at least 16 months. The wine is aged for 6 months in the bottle before release. This is a complex intense wine with hints of ripe cherries, blackberries and a touch of clove. This wine will age and is a bargain at about $18IMG_8556

With the red wines, we ate an assortment of grilled sausages and lamb chops.

The next three red wines are from Palari owned by Salvatore Geraci.IMG_8564

Santa.Ne 2008 100% A Francisa. I asked Lars about this unusual grape and he said “As Salvatore Geraci explains it to me, a century ago they planted a French varietal in that vineyard but no longer recall what it is. The farmers simply refer to it as “the French one,” or ‘a Francisa‘ in local dialect. Some hypothesize that it could be Malbec or Petite Verdot, but in any case over the decades it has morphed into something unique to its conditions.”

The grapes are grown in soil that consists of clay (argilla) in vineyards located in Santo Briga in Messina, Sicily. The wine is aged for 14 months in new barrels of Troncais oak. The wine is then bottled and allowed to rest, unfiltered for at least two more years before release. It has hints of tobacco, leather, red berries and a touch of spice.IMG_8557

Rosso Del Soprano 2011 made from 60% Nerello, 15% Nocera, 20% Nerello Capuccio, 2% Acitana, 2% Jacche and 1% Coe’e Palumba. After a soft pressing and fermentation with native yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel, the wine ages in one-year-old barrels of Troncais and Allier oak. It is then bottled and rests, unfiltered, for about another year before release. It has hints of ripe red berries and undertones of spice with a persistent finish.IMG_8566

Faro 2009 Like the Rosso Del Soprano above, this wine is made from the same indigenous grapes but with a different selection. Salvatore Geraci the owner of Palari saved the Faro DOC from extinction by taking over the 6 hectare vineyard and producing the wine. The wine is aged in new barrels of Troncais and Allier oak for at least 12 months. The wine is then bottled and allowed to rest unfilited for an additional year before release. This is an elegant and complex wine with notes of ripe red fruit, spice and a touch of vanilla. It has a very long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Faro means lighthouse in Italian.IMG_8568

Brunello di Montalcino 1982  Villa Banfi 100% Sangiovese, select clones from estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino. The grapes are grown in stony, calcareous and well-structured soil at an altitude of 720 ft. A careful grape selection is followed by vinification with skin contact for 10-12 days. The wines are released the 5th year after the harvest. Current vintages of this wine are aged a minimum of 4 years, 2 years in oak barrels of various sizes, mainly French oak barriques and partly in Slavonian oak casks.

I do not believe the 1982 was aged in barriques and I do not believe the “clone selection” was the same back then. This is an elegant and complex wine with hints of red fruit, violets, and a touch of licorice and spice. It is showing no sign of age. A delightful Brunello.IMG_8574

Malvasia Delle Lipari 2011 100% Malvasia, Florio. The wine is produced in Malfa, on the island of Salina, archipelago of the Aeolian Islands. The soil is of volcanic origin and sandy. The vineyards are planted on the coast less the 50 meters above sea level. The grapes are hand harvested then laid on reed mats to dry in the sun for about 20 days.

The raisined grapes are gently pressed and left briefly with skin contact. The must is then drained and fermented slowly at controlled temperatures and fermentation stops naturally. The wine is aged a minimum of 5 months in 25 liter fine oak barrels. The wine has hints of raisins, dried apricots and a touch of honey

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Filed under Abruzzo, Banfi Brunello, Brunello, Cerulli Spinozzi, Cuvee Aurora Rose, Faro, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Malvasia delle Lipari-Florio, Rosso del Soprano, Santa.Ne, Sparkling wine, Uncategorized

Lunch with Barone Ricasoli at IL Gattopardo

One of my favorite Italian restaurants in NYC is Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). Gianfranco Sorrentino is a most gracious host and Chef Vito Gnazzo always prepares a memorable meal.  Recently, I met Barone Francesco Ricasoli for lunch there.IMG_7693

The name Ricasoli has been tied to Chianti from the 19th century when Bettino, known as “the Iron Baron,” developed the blend for Chianti . Francesco is the great grandson of the Iron Baron. The family traces its involvement in wine back to 1141 and theirs is one of the oldest wine estates in the world.

Barone Francesco Ricasoli

Barone Francesco Ricasoli

250 hectares of vineyards surround the castle of the estate which is the largest in Chianti Classico. The 1,200 hectares between the villages of Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga include valleys, oak and chestnut woods, and 26 hectares of olive groves.

Francesco took over the running of the family estate in 1993 when he bought back the Castello di Brolio from the British company that it had been sold to. With the  collaboration of universities and a key scientific research center, he began to look more closely at his estate and what he could do to improve it.

The Soil

 

The Wines

Brolio Bianco 2013 Made from Chardonnay, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Cold maceration at 5°C for 6-8 hours without oxygen. Fermentation in stainless steel at extremely low temperature 12/16°C. (53.6°-60.8°F). Trebbiano, Malvasia and part of the Chardonnay ages in 500-litre French barrels (first and second use). Sauvignon Blanc and the rest of the Chardonnay are vinified in stainless steel. The bouquet is delicate, fragrant and slightly fruity with floral notes. Dry, smooth taste, pleasantly fruity with an underlying note of almonds. $25IMG_7683

Francesco wanted to find out what the best clones of Sangiovese are, what is the best soil for that specific clone, and what is the best wood for it to be aged in. Beginning in 1995 the ancient Brolio vineyards were gradually being replanted. Francesco started a research project to study and select biotypes of Sangiovese and other typical Chianti varieties. In 2005, 12 were identified, considered to be the best with the most potential for the purpose of selection, and good candidates to become new clones together with those already officially recognized. Three years later, the rootings obtained from these clones were planted.  Francesco told me that there was an independent institute working with the clones and trying to have them certified by the Ministry of Agriculture. He added that all the grapes were picked by hand.

Terroir has a most important role to play. They are making a map containing all the data for each vineyard: physical-chemical composition, elevation, sun exposure and micro-climate to select the most suitable rootstock, the appropriate variety to plant, and the best row orientation. This has become known as the Cru project. Three of the wines involved at the moment are Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG, Casalferro IGT and Colledila Chianti Classico DOCG.  In 2002 they introduced stainless steel for vinification. Francesco said that because the estate is so large they can have single vineyard cru wines like they do in Piedmont.IMG_7691

Brolio Chianti Classico 2012 Sangiovese and other complementary  grapes from the estates, vineyards in Gaiole in Chianti which are at 280 t0 480 meters. Vinified in stainless steel with 16 days of skin contact and 9 months in large barrels and barriques. The wine has fruity black cherry aromas and flavors with hints of spice and violet. $23 Francesco said the 2012 was a poor vintage for Chianti Classico and as a result almost all of the grapes, even those intended for the cru wines, went into this wine. It has floral notes of violets, with hints of black cherry and spice. $24IMG_7694

This was served with a Tuscan classic caciucco di ceci alla toscanaIMG_7686

Colledila Chianti Classico 2010–100% Sangiovese.  Francesco said  2010 was a great vintage for the Chianti Classico region.  The vineyard is at an elevation of 380 meters and faces southwest. He felt that this was the most beautiful and representative part of the estate. It is a single vineyard which Francesco referred to as a cru because it is the right combination of Sangiovese clone in the right soil which gives you the best grapes. The wine has hints of black cherry and strawberry and a touch of vanilla. N/AIMG_7696

With this we had the pappardella con sugo di lepre

The land is Paleocene-Eocene in origin and forms part of the geological formation “Monte Morello.”  The soil is brown with a fine clay structure, very chalky, with subalkaline pH and little organic material. It is well drained and very stony. The grapes are destemmed and fall by gravity into special fermentation vats with a conical shape that are open at the top. During the alcoholic fermentation and the maceration period, a soft pressing is carried out between 2 and 6 times a day as well as the delestage. The maceration on the skins is between 5-9 days in stainless steel vats. Malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel vats. Francesco went on to say that the wine is aged in new barrels and casks for 18 months.

Francesco made a point of saying that the choice of wood used is the result of experiments using 20 different types of the best French oak from different geographical areas (Vosges, Troncais, Nevers, Allier, and Limousin) with medium and medium-plus toasting levels and standard to tighter grains. He also said that they use many different size barrels.

Because of all of this, he felt that this wine was the top expression of Sangiovese at Brolio and that the aroma is so specific, intense and typical that it could not be confused with any other wine.

 

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Casalferro IGT 2010 100% Merlot.  The vineyard is at 400 meters and faces south. Each small plot in the vineyard is vinified separately. The grapes are vinified in open fermentation tanks. Thermo-regulated fermentation takes about 9 days during which soft pressing and the delestage are carried out. The wine in aged in new oak barrels 90% French and 10% American for 18 months. $65

He said that in this particular terroir the Merlot “is “Sangiovized” meaning that in this harsh but generous territory it takes on sangiovese-like qualities.  Because of this for the first time the wine is 100% Merlot.

Francesco added that he did not consider this wine a Super Tuscan, in fact he felt the time of the Super Tuscans had passed–it was a wine of the 1990’s. I could not have agreed with him more but for me it did not pass soon enough.IMG_7687

Brunello di Montalcino 2009 ” Torre Della Trappola” 100% Sangiovese The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature with 23 to 30 days skin contact. It is aged for 12 month in French oak and 14 months in Slavonian oak. It rests in the bottle for 6 more months before release. This is a Brunello with hints of cherries and spice and a touch of licorice with a nice finish and long aftertaste. $75IMG_7697

With the wine we had the  arista di maiale alla fiorentina con patate al forno

Frencesco said that the wine is named after a property which belonged to the Ricasoli family in 1329. This Brunello di Momtalcino represents their  first concrete example of diversification into other important areas of Tuscany. The wine was made with the cooperation of Castello Romitorio and the direct involvement of their wine maker Carlo Ferrini. The first vintage was 2009.IMG_7688

 Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2010 Sangiovese with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Grapes come from the best 230 acres of vineyards at 250 to 450 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. Vinification in stainless steel tanks with 7-9 days of skin contact and 18 months in barriques and new casks. The wine has aromas and flavors of black cherry, blueberries and a nice finish and long aftertaste. $65

This was served with an assortimento di formaggio con mostarda di frutta.

 

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Filed under Barone Ricasoli, Brolio Bianco, Brolio Chianti Classico, Brunello, Brunello Torre della Trappola, Casalferro, Castello di Brolio, Chianti Classico, Colledia, Tuscany