Any vintage that followed the perfect 2010 was bound to have the cards stacked against it.  However, 2011 – ranked a 4 star vintage by the Consorzio – portrays itself admirably.  With larger than imaginable shoes to fill,  the Brunello producers poured their 2011 wines for the first time in public last month.  Tuscan Vines covered the event – as you saw with my earlier Brunello for Breakfast article.   This exclusive article provides greater depth of coverage.  Included below are general comments about the vintage, selected wine reviews for both 2011 Brunello and 2010 Brunello Riserva,  and various winemaker commentary.  Due to the setting not being ideal and the small tastes of the wines presented, only score ranges are provided. 

Overview – Vintage 2011

The vintage started with a moderate winter with cold but not unbearable temperatures and moderate amounts of rain and snow.  An earlier than normal start to Spring was very warm and rainy and seemed to allow for early vegetative growth and flowering.  June was very nice but once July arrived, the heat spiked severely and it remained hot throughout the end of August.   Temperatures moderated by harvest time, but overall, the grapes were harvested earlier throughout the zone.  Generally, the vintage is considered similar to 2003 and 2009.  Some producers described the overall climatic conditions as “similar to 2010, but more extreme”.  Producers with vineyards at higher elevations fared slightly better than producers with lower lying vineyards in warmer areas.  Yields and production levels were down and some producers refused to bottle 2011 Brunello at all. 

Benvenuto Brunello 2011 – I Vini

2011 Caprili Brunello

This is deep ruby with lovely aromas and flavors so typical of classic Brunello.  Berries, flowers and a bit meaty.  Good persistence, but maybe just a touch too smokey on the palate at the moment.  89-91.   About $40.

2010 Brunello Riserva Adalberto

This is from a one – 1 – acre vineyard that sits just over 1,090 feet above sea level.  Winemaker Giacomo Bartolommei hit this one out of the park.  Deep ruby with barely any lightening.  Roasted espresso, fennel, spice and cherry aromas and flavors dominate this young wine.  Flowers too – this is all there.  Fruit – acid – tannins – superb.  97-99 points.  SRP = $100

~ The Caprili Lineup consistently impresses  ~

It was good to catch up with winemaker Alessandro Bindocci who was on hand to present his wines.  This estate – and Bindocci – are in the midst of a major roll right now.   

2014 Rosso di Montalcino

2014 was such a horrid year in Tuscany and well, this wine represents exactly what I anticipated after seeing the rains that hit the area that year.  As Alessandro confirmed, this wine has “tons” of declassified Brunello in it.  It’s what’s saving the wine.  Simple, medium bodied flavors of berry, spice and a hint of vanilla are pleasing enough.  Nothing exciting here, but expectations should be lowered.  84-86 points.

2011 Il Poggione Brunello

This was one of the freshest 2011’s at the tasting.  Lovely fresh crushed cherry with lots of finesse, structure and style.  Loads of berry, flowers and spices on the nose and palate with good length.  90-92 points.  

2010 Brunello Riserva Vigna Paganelli

It’s hard to describe this.  Today, I can still taste it.  It’s become a memory.  Astounding. Pure. Rich. Elegant. Vibrant.  That’s what my tasting sheet says.  Loads of elegant powerful fruit hits your palate in waves with fennel, tobacco, herbs, flowers and espresso all in the package.  This is one of the best Brunello I’ve ever tasted.  97-100 points.  

~ The Vigna Paganelli Riserva was the first of many potential 100 point wines tasted on the day ~

I made a beeline for Il Palazzone.   Enough said, I suppose.  But………

Il Palazzone is one of the producers that did not bottle a 2011 Brunello.  Some of their lower lying vineyards were “too baked from the heat” and the fruit didn’t meet their standards.  Needless to say, the Rosso del Palazzone from that year will be outstanding.

2009 Brunello 

I’ve enjoyed this wine each and every time I’ve had it.  It’s ripe and accessible, yes – but the balance is there.  This has pretty cherry based structure with notes of fennel and now cured meat.  This is perfect to drink in the near term and I stand by this note.   91 points. 

2010 Brunello

This is another wine that I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few times over.  This is why you want the 2008’s and 2009’s in your cellar if you get an urge for Brunello.   This wine is simply remarkable but what it’s showing now is a fraction of where it can go.  97 points.

2010 Brunello Riserva

I last tried this wine with General Manager Laura Gray in Montalcino as a barrel sample over a casual lunch.  Right then and there I knew it would be miraculous.   This wine is potent elegance.  It’s spent over 5 years in big barrels because of the intense structure of this wine. Yet it maintains its elegance.  Waves of berry, fennel, flowers, chestnut, pipe tobacco, fresh herbs and dusty tannins that are integrated and this goes on and on.  It’s already in my cellar.  97-100 points. 

~ Another great line up ~

Castello Banfi is in the southern most area of the Brunello zone yet this didn’t impact the quality of their 2011 in terms of freshness.  The estate’s versatility is impressive across the line up.  

2014 Rosso di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 

Contains lots of declassified Brunello from this vineyard and it is impressive.  I enjoyed a glass of this with lunch immediately following the seminar and this was juicy, fresh and delicious with penne pasta with sausage, and vegetable panini.  Lots of bright berry flavors accented with spice, vanilla, and a hint of olive.  The best 2014 rosso I tasted that day.  88-90 points. 

2011 Brunello 

This deep ruby wine displays pretty floral notes, with warmed clay and lots of bright berry character. The acidity is fresh and lifting and there’s some fresh red licorice on the finish.  Solid effort.  90-92 points. 

2010 Poggio Alle Mura Brunello Riserva 

Only 1,000 cases of this select Riserva are produced from vineyards just outside the Castello walls.  Deep ruby with  lots of flowers, toast, spice, meat and berry character.  Polished and elegant, there’s lots of power here.  Not yet released.  95-98 points. 

2010 Brunello Riserva Poggio All’Oro 

Single vineyard Riserva and simply one of the best wines from Brunello each year that it’s made; which has been only 11 times since 1985.  This is deep ruby in the glass with only a slight fade to brick at the edge of the bowl.  A bit shy on the nose initially, the aromas blossomed considerably with more air time.  Huge berry and cherry aromas and flavors dominate with sweet pipe tobacco, spices and chestnut joining in.  Lots of structure, lots of acid, lots of tannins.  Elegance and power combined, this will cellar and develop well for a decade or more.  Lots of fennel emerges on the finish. Love it!  97-100 points.  SRP = $125

~ Poggio Alle Mura in the glass.  Note the temporary labels on both wines ~

I’ve been impressed with Camigliano in the past, particularly from a value standpoint, but their wines were not impressive at this tasting.  

2014 Rosso di Montalcino  

Light to medium bodied with strawberry character and some oak aging to provide vanilla.  My tasting sheet says “meh”… though I don’t ascribe blame given the vintage.  82-84 points. 

2011 Brunello 

This is really ripe.  Rich and slightly overdone with plum/prune character to the fruit on the nose and palate which is joined by heat, oak and spice.  Too charry.  86-88 points.  

2010 Brunello Riserva Gualto 

This is tough as nails right now.  Deep color with ripe berry and cherry notes on the nose and palate which adds vanilla, spice, tobacco and fresh sage flavors.  This has lots of potential I think but needs time to soften.  Balance well, but the tannins are assertive.  92-96 points.

~  Again, note the temporary label on the Riserva ~

Canalicchio di Sopra sits on a hill north east of Montalcino.  Despite their elevation, they saw some reduced production in 2011 and 2014.

2014 Rosso di Montalcino

Another Rosso with declassified Brunello and another wine that’s “ok”.   There’s nothing special about this wine – it’s a typical mid-weight Sangiovese that I suppose had to be produced.  This has good berry flavors with a hint of tobacco.  84-86 points.  

2011 Brunello 

Charry on the nose.  This deep red Brunello is ripe and concentrated but despite the hints on the nose, is remarkably fresh on the palate. Display mushroom and spice notes in nice proportion.  89-91 points.  

2010 Brunello Riserva 

Ah, this is really wonderful.  Elegant, delicate, feminine.  Good length and balance with supple tannins and lots of mouthwatering, juicy wild berry fruit. Savory herbs, delicious.   93-96 points. 

~ The Riserva is the wine to seek out here ~

Amadeo Cencioni was again on hand to pour his wines.  A pleasant young man to engage with.  

2014 Rosso di Montalcino

Tasty and delicious.  Fresh and vibrant with lots of declassified Brunello in the wine.  Really remarkable given the vintage.  Hint of eucalyptus?  One of the better Rossos on the day.  88-90 points.

2011 Brunello

Deep ruby and exuberant on the nose already with flowers, red plum and licorice notes.  I like the dried herb character on the palate that yields to stones and minerality.  Balanced well and fresh.  One of the better 2011’s on the day.  91-93 points. Not yet released. 

2010 Brunello Riserva

Just like the 2006 which sits in my cellar, maybe better.  This is concentrated and full with loads of fruit, tannin, acid, tobacco, earth, chestnut, hazelnut, coffee. My God it’s delicious. Juicy, tannic, represents power and elegance combined.  Another one to watch for.  97-100 points. 

~ Note the temporary labels on the wines not yet released.  A compelling lineup ~

After the seminar,  I wanted to taste the Carpineto again – after it had been opened for a while.   The wine impressed in the morning and was impressive at the end of the day as well.  Should be a very nice value too once released.

~ Antonio Zaccheo with his wine ~

Carpineto’s vineyards lie 2 kilometers west of Montalcino Centro and proprietor Antonio, who presented the wine called the vintage “a roller-coaster”.  Carpineto produces about 18,000 bottles of Brunello from 24 acres of vines that sit at 1,476 feet above sea level.  


2011 Brunello

The 2011 is a medium ruby with slight brick coloring at the rim.  I love the nose!  Warm, ripe cherry fruit with chestnut and roasted coffee notes.  Ripe, lower acid palate with flavors that follow the nose. Moderate tannin structure make this approachable and enjoyable now.  Really nice effort from this producer.  89-91 points.  SRP = $45
~ The classic looking Carpineto in the glass  ~
Sandro Chia was an artist before he was a winemaker and thankfully his labels are loud and unique because I typically find them difficult to read.   The winery was represented by Sandro’s charming son who is American born.  

2011 Brunello 

This is very good. A smaller production of 2,000 cases this has ample cherry, earth, mulch and sage notes on the nose and palate with good concentration and persistence.  89-91 points.  

2011 Brunello Filo di Seta

Not a Riserva. Yes, a single vineyard but the fruit for the 2011 normale comes from the same place.  The vinification is the same.  The selection is somehow different but I didn’t see any difference in these two wines.  89-91 points.
2010 Brunello Riserva 

The first word on my tasting sheet is “Wow!!”  –  Technical huh?  But it indicates the level of intensity in aroma coming off this wine.  Pure fruit, juicy ripeness, high toned floral notes, minerality, Tuscan dust and Cypress.  Powerful and so well integrated.  Has decades of life ahead.  Astounding.  98-100 points.
~ L to R : 2011 Normale, 2011 Filo di Seta,  2010 Riserva ~

Proprietor Giovanna Neri was on hand to pour her two latest offerings from Col di Lamo.   Completely organic.  Producing 3 wines from 80 hectares in Torreniere,  Col di Lamo uses only green manure practices and organic fertilization.  The first vintage for this estate was 2003 and the vines are just now 15 years of age.  

2014 Rosso di Montalcino

Typical of the vintage, the medium weight Rosso has some nice characteristics of berry, spice and vanilla nut.  Better than many Rossos tasted, but not quite a stand out.  85-87 points.  

2011 Brunello
This is very nice with deep ruby color and a slightly smokey nuance to the cherry and fennel flavors.  Pipe tobacco on the nose and finish, with a bit of musky undertone.  Well done.  89-91 points.

~  The distinctive Col di Lamo bottles ~

Collosorbo is owned by the Sardo family who farm 66 acres of vineyards located at 1,150 feet above sea level near Castelnuovo del’Abate.  I was so impressed with this wine that I spent considerable time later in the day chatting with proprietor Lucia Sardo to compliment her and taste the rest of their wines. 
~ Lucia Sardo of Collosorbo discussing her wines and the recent vintages ~

2014 Rosso di Montalcino 

This was a barrel sample brought by Lucia.  At the time, the wine was scheduled for bottling by late January.  This is another nice example.  Soft tannins, juicy fruit, lots of declassed Brunello.  Very pleasant.  87-89 points. 

2011 Brunello

The 2011 is a deep ruby color through to the rim.  The nose is replete with fresh flowers, pine, spices and wild berries.  Flavors follow the nose with lots of elegance and delicious long, juicy sensations.  Lots of finesse here and maybe one of the best 2011’s tasted that day.  91-94 points. 
2010 Brunello Riserva
Deep ruby red with aromas of blood, crushed wild berry, stones, tobacco, sage.  Everything is there on the palate with full body, juicy mouthwatering fruit, salinity – this is really special.  96-98 points.
~ These were some really great efforts ~

The Innocenti family farms 5 hectares of vineyards in the far corner of Brunello near Torrenieri.  Founded in 1961 by Sabatino Innocenti, the family concentrates on producing Brunello in the traditional manner. 

2011 Brunello

This is another excellent example of the vintage. Remarkably fresh and vibrant with a solid core of berry fruit, wild brush, tobacco and pine.  I love how high toned it is.  Suave tannins are well integrated and the acidity is again refreshing. This is really delicious.  90-92 points. 

2010 Brunello Riserva

Only 4,000 bottles produced, but it would be worth seeking out.  Botte aged for almost 5 years, this masterful Riserva has Christmas spices set among the wild, tart cherry flavors.  All balanced by minerals,  flowers, herbs and chestnut.  The 2010 Riservas can do no wrong.  95-98 points.

~ 2 lovely efforts ~

1976,  that’s when the Schwarz family put roots down in Montalcino on a hill overlooking the ancient Sant’Antimo abbey.  Today Fabian Schwarz makes wine from 15 hectares of vines which are now 40 years old and sit at 450 meters above sea level.   This wine was new to me as they were not previously imported to the United States.   They are now brought into the NY market, but are looking for distribution elsewhere in the country.   This was an excellent Brunello that was a pleasure to get acquainted with. 

2010 Brunello 

Stainless steel vinification and French oak aging,  this Brunello is deep ruby colored with a slight fade to the rim.  Roses, spice, berries and cypress pour from the glass and flavors follow the aromas with wonderful parallel.  This is really wonderful and I hope I can find some in the market.  92-94 points.

~ La Magia has just arrived in the US Market ~

If I had to choose between Ferenc Mate’s books and his wine,  it would be a hard choice.  I’ve read his books while enjoying his wine.  It’s a punishment I wish on everyone.  I spent and extended time discussing these wines with Candace Mate who was in attendance and ever so gracious with her time and knowledge.   Taken as a whole,  it would be hard to argue that the stable of wines here are bested by anyone.  They are that good.   The only drawback is that some of the wines suffer from limited production so availability can be an issue at times. 

2014 Rosso di Montalcino

Only 4,000 bottles produced and “a lot” of Brunello went into this wine, per Candace.  It’s obvious, because this is one of the best Rosso’s tasted on the day.  Lovely character of berry and spice with hints of herb.  Medium body and really good persistence.  88-90 points. 

2011 Brunello

Classic.  Ruby red with orange highlights.  Tobacco,  fennel, chestnut and berry on the nose and palate.  Not intense, but elegant. A lovely effort and no signs of being over done.  91-93 points.  

2010 Brunello Riserva

Take a guess?  Yeah, this is awesome.  What’s not to like?  Berries, coffee, roasted nuts, leather, meat, flowers – it’s all there on both the nose and palate with long length, wonderful integration.  Simply a magnificent effort.  97-100 points. 

2012 Mantus

100% pure Merlot and I’m in love.  Silky, ripe black fruit with licorice and mint character on the nose and palate where leather is added for good measure.  Only 3,400 bottles made, but worth the search and it’s a great value.  92-94 points.

2012  Mania

This is 100% Cabernet and is absolutely massive.  Huge fruit and tannins with the acidic backbone to match.  This is a bruiser and needs cellaring to flesh out.  From terraced vineyards the Mate’s planted that date to the ancient Etruscans – I’ll let you read the story, but it’s worth it.  Only 1,600 bottles produced, but again, this is a wonderful value.  93-95 points. 

~ This amazing portfolio of wines features new labels now too ~

Last year I introduced this winery with a simple question:  Who thinks large wineries can’t make great wine?  Again, I implore people to taste each wine on the wine’s merits and not some preconceived notion.  

Val di Suga is located due North of Montalcino centro with vineyards scattered throughout the zone.  The estate Brunello production often exceeds 120,000 bottles but don’t be fooled.  It’s excellent. 

2011 Val di Suga Brunello 

This wine is aged in combination of French & Slavonia oak. The production was down a bit from 2010, about 5,000 bottles less.  Good color and concentration here with ample berry notes, with flowers, spices and leather. Balanced very well, this will impress soon while the 2010 cellars. Not quite to the level of the 2010, but very good.  90-92 points.  

2010 Val di Suga Brunello Granchio

Ahh, the crab! Literally, The Crab Hill, which is situated in the south eastern part of the zone.  This vineyard faces southeast and is mostly galestro with small amounts of limestone that was formed by the sea.  3,000 plants per hectare.   Loads of ripe fruit here with berry and cherry character on the nose and palate.  It maintains its elegance with the addition of dried herbs, sweet pipe tobacco, salinity and a mineral note on the finish.  Just under 10,000 bottles produced.   This is a stunning effort.  Very complex.  95-98 points.

~ Andrea Lonardi at right, from Val di Suga ~


Finally,  we’ll close the report with another winery that is “fledgling” imported to New York and currently looking for other importers throughout the US.  It’s a bit ironic since the estate is run by the man who owns the Enoteca inside the Fort in Montalcino!   Fabio Tassi farms a tiny parcel of land just outside the historic walls of Montalcino and presented three Brunello, two of which are still not yet released.  

2011 Tassi Brunello

This is high toned and floral, very aromatic and fresh with an almost aqualine character about it.  Solid and typical for the vintage, but it didn’t distinguish itself for me – especially in light of the other company.  88-90 points.  

2011 Brunello Franci Selection 

Not a Riserva, not a single vineyard.  But a far superior wine.  I wrote on my tasting sheet “this could be a 2010”.  It’s full bodied and aromatic with crushed berry, cedar, spice, leather and mulch.  Very fresh and lively on the palate with full body and concentration.  One of the best 2011 on the day.  Note the sticker on the label – not yet released.  92-95 points.  

2010 Brunello Franci Riserva 

Wow!  It’s amazing to me that something this massive can remain so elegant.  This has everything you could want in a stellar Sangiovese.  Fruit, earth, flowers, herbs and spices.  Everything.  The perfect seamless nature from tannin to acid and fruit yet everything is woven together.  Stunning.  98-100 points.

~ The Tassi Selection is impressive ~




Closing Comments

As I wrote this article I was laughing to myself because after a while all of my notes on the 2010 Riserva’s sounded the same. 

As you’re criss-crossing the room tasting various wines,  you lose track and your palate re-calibrates so it’s often difficult to pick up on trends.  As nice as the 2011’s were, the show was completely stolen by the 2010 Riservas.  They are once in a lifetime wines.  Why do I say that?  I’ve been drinking Brunello since the 1985’s were released.  I thought they were great. I thought the 1988’s and 1990’s were great.  The 2010’s blow them away.  Vineyard practices, vine age, cellar practices, knowledge, and passion have all increased and improved so much since then.  The leap is magnificent and these wines illustrate all of that.  They aren’t cheap. Not by a stretch.  But they’ll be alive and delicious 20 years from now and in that respect, they’re still favorable comparisons to the world’s greatest wines. 

The 2011s overall are very nice wines.  I go back to my earlier comment.  If not following 2010, I think the vintage would be regarded in even higher esteem.  Many of the wines rate 90 points or above and that speaks to the general quality. Yet, some producers didn’t produce a 2011 and many drastically reduced their production because of the warmer than ideal conditions.  

The 2014 Rosso di Montalcino that I tasted were, as expected, very variable and not wines to expect very much from.  The more declassified Brunello that went into the wine, the better they were.  The Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura, the Collorsorbo and the Mate were standouts, but even saying that, they’re not wines I’d want to buy in great quantity.  

In Memory of my friend Simon Law, Author, Sage of San Quirico and resident Shed Master.   Riposa in pace, amico.

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