Brunello — the crown prince of Tuscan wine — is coming off some rough times. Earlier this year the region, located right in the heart of Tuscany, found itself under attack. Why? Some producers were allegedly violating Italian law and bottling other wines than Brunello di Montalcino (which, by law, has to be 100% sangiovese), but selling them as the real deal. Considering good Brunello can cost $100 or more, that’s a big deal.
It all ended with hundreds of thousands of cases of wine impounded by authorities and a black mark smearing the good name of Brunello. The Consorzio of producers (some 200 operate in this small area) didn’t help when it floated the idea of allowing Brunello to utilize other grapes officially and in small quantities, but that didn’t fly, and Brunello remains a 100-percent sangiovese wine.
Now fighting to regain its status and stature, Brunello’s Consorzio del Vino threw a tasting event for producers to show off their just-about-to-come-out 2004 Brunellos, plus other wines from the region.
There are four main types of wine produced in Montalcino. Almost all the producers bottle the two main ones: Brunello di Montalcino, which requires 50 months of aging, and Rosso di Montalcino, which is bottled young and has no aging requirement. The other two varieties — Moscadello and Sant’Antimo — have extremely small production. And there’s also a new variety called Altero, which requires the same overall amount of time of aging as Brunello but one year less in oak (instead it rests in the bottle).
The Consorzio is pitching 2004 as a “five-star year,” but based on my sampling of 22 wines, including 11 Brunellos from the 2004 vintage, I might not go that far. Overall, the wines are dusty and herbal and still quite tannic — mostly quite drinkable but all likely to improve with age. Two clear favorites emerged: Fuligni and Poggio Antico. The Fuligni Brunello was richer and fuller bodied than anything else being poured at the event, ready for drinking now. The Poggio Antico wines were all good, but the 2003 Riserva Brunello (the Riservas require an extra year of aging before release) was so lush and gentle it made a lasting impression vs. the rest of the field.
Also don’t ignore the value-priced Rosso di Montalcinos. The best way I can explain these wines is that they taste the way most people wish Chianti actually tasted, a fruit-forward and racy wine that goes well on its own or with food. Try one instead of a bottle of Chianti next time you eat Italian food.
Full report follows (prices were not available for the wines poured).
2004 Brunello / 2007 Rosso di Montalcino Tasting Report – Consorzio del Vino Event January 22, 2009
2007 Camigliano Rosso di Montalcino / B
2004 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2003 Camigliano Riserva Brunello di Montalcino / A-
2005 Camigliano Sant’Antico / B+
2004 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2007 Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino / B+
2004 Cosanti Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2004 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino / A
2004 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino / C+
2003 Il Poggione Riserva Brunello di Montalcino / C+
2003 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino / A-
2007 Poggio Antico Rosso di Montalcino / A
2004 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2004 Poggio Antico Altero / A-
2003 Poggio Antico Riserva Brunello di Montalcino / A
2004 Tenuta di Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2004 Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino / A-
2003 Tenuta Oliveto Riserva Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2004 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2007 Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso di Montalcino / B
2004 Tornesi Brunello di Montalcino / B+
2003 Tornesi Riserva Brunello di Montalcino / B+