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If you are fond of Tuscany, you are probably a fan of Brunello di Montalcino (aka Brunello). This wine holds the highest DOCG classification, and most wine critics find it to be the best of all Italian wines.
By law, Brunellos are made from 100 percent Sangiovese with anticipated nose/palate experiences that center on preserved sour cherries, spices (oregano, red pepper), red bricks, and – as the wine ages – figs, tobacco, leather, and espresso with moderate tannins.
Sangiovese grapes are noted for their thick-skinned berries, producing bold fruit-forward wines with high tannins and lots of acidity, and it is the tannins and acidity that makes a mature Brunello perfect decades after it has been bottled. Many wine critics suggest Brunello lovers wait 10-25 years before opening the bottle.
As with many things – some years are better than others. In the case of Brunello, the Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino has declared 2007 and 2012 as outstanding vintages.
At a recent Brunello wine event held at Gotham Hall on Manhattan’s Westside, I had the opportunity to look, smell, swirl, sip, and spit a selected group of 2013 Brunello’s.
Thousands of wine journalists, sommeliers, importers/exporters, sommeliers, and wine educators made their way to the venue, mindless of the freezing outdoor temperatures, and grey overcast sky.
Gotham Hall is a popular site for events attracting large groups. On this cold, wet and otherwise dreary weekday hundreds (thousands?) of wine professionals crowded around tables hosted by 30 wineries to experience the 2013 Brunello’s, trying to select bottles for their wine shops, restaurants and bars, magazines and newspapers, and/or their wine cellars.
The Gotham Hall event space was originally built (1922-24) as a bank. As a steel-reinforced limestone and sandstone structure, noted bank architects York and Sawyer, designed it in a classical revival style with Corinthian columns on three sides of the building, rusticated walls and a Roman-style dome. Visitors should look for sculptures of Minerva (wisdom) and Mercury (commerce) around the bronze tellers’ screens. The exterior and first floor interior were landmarked in 1992 and the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (2005).
Where to Start
My recommendation is always to find the way to the buffet before grabbing a glass and finding a path to the wines. Charcuterie and cheese selections are standard fare and predictable at trade events. With minimum seating, the high-top tables offer tasters an oasis in the middle of the crowd to contemplate the array and complexity of the available wines and catch-up on emails.
Jeff Porter, Beverage Operations Director at Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, and Giacomo Pondini, Director of the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium
The Wines. Curated
1. Tenuta Fanti. Brunello di Montalcino 2013. Varietal. Sangiovese 100 percent. Vinification: 25-30 days in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperate. Barrel ageing: 28 months in oak barrels; bottle ageing – 12 months.
The estate is located in the center of Tuscany, in the valley of Castelnuovo dell ‘Abate, and lies in the south of Montalcino. The soil is relatively sandy and poor in organic substances although the unique micro-climate makes this area suitable for growing vines and olive trees.
Luca Vitiello, Commercial Director, FANTI
The eye appeal is directly linked to deep ruby reds with violet highlights. The nose finds lots of alcohol that –fortunately – dissipates as it warms to room temperature. Patience is rewarded with the aroma of dark cherries and strawberries and the palate gets to experience sour cherries, spices, crushed stone, new leather and hints of floral that are tempered by tannins that soften an otherwise cherry cola finish.
2. Casisano. Brunello di Montalcino 2013. Varietal: Sangiovese 100 percent. Vinification: traditional on red grape skins for 25 days; aging – 3 years in Slavonian oak casks; refining in bottle – 4 months. Located in the southern area of Montalcino, near St. Antimo Abbey, Podere Casisano controls a 53-hectare estate.
Look for a range of shades from deep dusty rose to coral pink (at the edges). As the wine warms the fruit breaks through offering the nose a delicious whiff of cherries, strawberries, wood, oak, anise, spice and limestone that are enhanced with soft tannins that leads to a short finish.
3. Caparzo. 2013 Brunello di Montalcino. Varietal. Sangiovese 100 percent. During the first two days of fermentation special attention is paid to the seeds which are eliminated if they are not ripe enough. Primary fermentation takes 7 days at controlled temperatures (28-30 degrees C). This is followed by dele-stages and pump over. The wine is kept in contact with the skins for an additional 10-15 days. Malolactic fermentation is spontaneous at a controlled temperature of 20-24 degrees C, immediately after racking; aged in wood for at least 2 years and bottle aging for at least 4 months.
The first vintage of Brunello di Montalcino was produced in 1970. Because there were only 13 other wineries in the vicinity, Caparzo is one of the historic Brunello producers. The vineyards are in multiple geographic locations allowing the estate to draw the most from the different microclimates and terroirs in Montalcino.
Dark cherry tones set the stage for this Caparzo. The nose identifies soft fruits of ripe strawberries, cherries, wood, moss, and cloves, conjuring up memories of deep plush cushions and deep pile rugs. The finish is velvety smooth and sophisticated – like an aging beloved movie star.
4. Castello di Romitorio 2013. Varietal. Sangiovese 100 percent. Fermentation in stainless tanks with an initial short period of cold maceration (below 20 degrees C) on the skins for about 24 hours. The next step takes up to 24 days for macerations at higher controlled temperatures. Separation of the skins and the vio fiore starts approximately 22 days later – once the fermentation has finished. Matured in oak for approximately 2 years. After bottling the wine, it is aged in Castello Romitorio’s temperature controlled cellars for one year prior to release.
Filippo Chia, Director, Castello Romitorio
The eye is rewarded with a deep garnet reminiscent of dark cherries – an inch before they become over ripe. The nose detects old tree bark and ancient forests. Young tannins create an unusual and unexpected berry-sweet finish.
5. Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Voliero 2013. Varietal: Sangiovese 100 percent. The harvested fruits are selected, destemmed and crushed and the must obtained is kept 4-5 days at low temperature. The temperature is then increased, and alcoholic fermentation is launched naturally. This step takes place in steel and runs for 15 days at a temperature of 38 degrees C. Simultaneously the must macerates on the skins lasting, depending on the year, another 7 days. After drawing off, the wine is kept in steel where malolactic fermentation occurs. The wine is then transferred to wooden containers of various dimensions, part in first and second passage barriques and part in oak barrels in which it remains for 6 months. During this period, it is racked occasionally. After ageing and 5 months of settling in steel, the wine is bottled for further refinement of 8 months before it is released into the marketplace.
The Voliaro presents a deep purple trending to black to the eye. The nose is rewarded with cherries, strawberries, wood, tobacco and lush sensuous perfume. On the palate dry fruit is discovered and the well-balanced taste experience may be thanks to the oak aging. This is perfect for immediate gratification.
6. Piancornello e Podere Del Visciolo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2012. Varietal: Sangiovese 100 percent. Minimum aging of 24 months in oak barrels, followed by a minimum of 6 months in the bottle.
The visibly deep garnet red encourages the nose to inhale the delicious aroma of fruit and forests and trees and berries. Soft tannins make this delicious for immediate enjoyment.
For additional information, contact the Consortium of Brunello de Montalcino. Since 1967, at the beginning of the DOC designation, this association of winemakers has focused on safeguarding their wine and its quality.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.