Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a unique event; an event that has never occurred in the history of Brunello di Montalcino. Prior to 2016, the Brunello Consorzio had never allowed Brunello to be bottled in formats larger than 5 liters. Those rules changed with the bottling of the 2012 vintage and seizing upon the opportunity was Castello Banfi. General Manager Enrico Viglierchio hosted a private dinner where the first ever 12 liter bottle of Brunello was presented and opened. Tuscan Vines covered the event exclusively.
The evening began with one of the newest release from the Castello Banfi Estate; the 2015 Rosso di Montalcino.
This is a lovely bright red color. Crushed berry, lively floral notes, hints of vanilla, fresh herbs and spices mark the complex nose. Flavors mostly mirror the aromas with great balance and medium bodied concentration. More tannic than one would expect. In fact, it’s mildly chewy. Could use a year to come together and soften. 2015 was an outstanding vintage in Montalcino and this is one of the best young Rossos I’ve ever had. Outstanding effort given the volume of production. A potential case purchase. 91 points. About $18-24.
While the 2012 Brunello was poured into a series of decanters to aerate and develop, the dinner continued with a wine from a vintage I’ve become very fond of. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most ballyhooed of vintages, but as I wrote here often, the aromatics from 2008 Brunellos are special.
The 2008 Poggio Alle Mura Brunello Riserva (from magnum) is a single vineyard wine produced only in vintages where the vineyard meets the expectations of the winemaker. Otherwise, it will be used for the estate Brunello. This has loads of tobacco, cherry and grilled meat character on the nose. Very intriguing to smell. There’s also a bit of smoke peeking through. On the palate, this has more power than the average 2008 which relies a bit more on feminine grace. Masculine, yet elegant, with powdery minerals, grilled meat and lots of cherry notes on the palate. Still quite tannic and really needs a grilled ribeye to show its best. But the package is there. Wonderful effort. 94 points. About $70-100.
Next was the unveiling of the 12 liter monster. Ideally, it took 2 people to decant this MOABB; (Mother of All Brunello Bottles). The full bottle weighed about 75 pounds inside its wooden crate. It’s advisable to have someone holding the decanters while the wine is poured.
The 2012 Castello Banfi Brunello (12 Liter – Balthazar) is an example of another very successful vintage for Montalcino. Tuscan Vines will be publishing our Annual Brunello Report later this year and tastings have already begun.
The nose of this wine is very complex. Wild cherry, spices, fresh flowers, vanilla, fresh cut herbs and tobacco are plentiful on the nose. This bottle is so young – it appears as dark as a barrel sample. Chewy on the palate, with silky tannins. The flavors follow the nose and add dark cocoa powder which is very attractive. Really expressive after about an hour in the glass where cured black olive and sage notes become more noticeable. Will be better in a year or two as the tannins soften and the flavors become more expressive. 93 points. About $55-65.
Finally, with some aged cheeses and intimate conversation, Enrico and I retired to a corner table to muse over the final wine of the evening. The 1999 Castello Banfi Poggio All’Oro Brunello Riserva (from Magnum) was eye opening and superlative. A single vineyard Riserva crafted in only the greatest of vintages, Poggio All’Oro has only been released 10 times since 1988.
The color of this wine is utterly amazing. At 18 years of age, it appears to be as dark as a young Napa Cabernet. On the nose, there is loads of Christmas Cake, soft white pepper, cherry cordial notes and dried fig and tobacco aromas. I love this! On the palate, the wine develops cocoa powder notes alongside the cherry, dried fruit and hazelnut flavors. Still very tannic alone, with the cheeses the tannins simply melted away. This is profound and truly a “vino di meditazione”. Relies more on elegance than power and that is what turns me on. 96 points. $130-160.
The prices quoted above are reflective of 750ml bottles. Given that the wines tasted were mostly poured from Magnums, the equivalent prices will be notably higher. This was an amazing event and one of the more interesting I have been privileged to cover.
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