The vintage after…. 
It’s a phrase that suggests reduced expectations at the least, outright disappointment at the worst. I’ve always tried my best not to compare vintages, but it’s human nature to use benchmarks and if we focus on the great vintages of the last 10 years:  2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010, then the 2011 Brunello clearly do not belong in that group. That being said, the vintage offers many enticing wines, and some exceptional examples, that will allow more classic vintages to slowly mature in your cellar.
 
The 2011 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 allowed for early vegetative growth and flowering.  June was nice but once July arrived, the heat spiked severely and it remained hot throughout the end of August.  Several days of near 100 degree temperatures were strung together toward the end of the month. 
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.  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 at least one producer refused to bottle 2011 Brunello.
~ Montalcino ~
With the wines from the 2011 vintage now earnestly appearing in shops,  the timing is perfect for the release of our Annual Brunello Report.  As is the case with all comprehensive Tuscan Vines tasting reports, all wines were tasted with and without food in a casual relaxed setting with a keen eye toward preparing dishes that would allow the wine to show best. Almost all wines were decanted 30-60 minutes prior to the initial tasting and many evolved slowly over the course of the meals. Suggested Retail Prices have been provided by the Importers & Distributors that provided the samples for review.  In my experience, actual retail prices vary greatly and are typically noticeably less.  I reference them throughout based upon local searches.
 
Brunello di Montalcino – 2011
 
Proprietor Giovanna Neri is charming and engaging.  I think those traits of her personality carry over into her wine.  Col di Lamo produces wine from 80 hectares located near Torreniere.  The Brunello is crafted in a combination of oak vats and stainless steel and then blended and aged in medium sized oak barrels.  The result is an elegant, and yes, feminine approach to Brunello.  

The 2011 Col di Lamo Brunello is a deep ruby red with a classic looking copper rim at the edge of the bowl.  Full bodied, with loads of ripe cherry fruit.  Juicy on the palate, with cherries, cake spices, and grilled meat aromas.  This is more tannic than expected but the balance is deftly accomplished.  Dark chocolate notes develop on the finish which is rather long.  I am impressed.  Perfectly paired with seared filet mignon and a porcini topping.  92 points.  About $65.

 
~ Col di Lamo appears to have handled the heat of the vintage well ~
 
~ The Mother Daughter team at Col di Lamo ~
 
Castelgiocondo is the Frescobaldi family estate in Montalcino which is located in the southern portion of the zone.  One of the DOCG’s largest estates, Castelgiocondo produces about 240,000 bottles of Brunello from its 375 acres of vineyards.  

The 2011 Castelgiocondo Brunello is a bright ruby, very deep color.  Ripe, rich aromas of reduced cherry and porcini mushroom are evident.  The flavors follow the aromas with lots of vibrancy and freshness.  The ripeness reflects the vintage certainly, but does not appear as overdone as it did last January.   This is really nice now and many guests® enjoyed this wine more than I did.  91 points.  About $55.

 
The next winery has been on an impressive roll for a few vintages and I have loved the high toned, aromatic style of their Brunello.  Maurizio Castelli does a masterful job imparting his style to seemingly every vintage regardless of character and the 2011 Mastrojanni Brunello is no exception.  
The color here is deceptive, it’s a light ruby with violet reflections that you can almost see through.  There’s ample sweet berry and cedar notes on the nose.  On the palate, the wine is more expressive with medium to full body and lots of crushed berry and fennel notes.  Fresh acidity leads to some leaf tobacco notes before it turns slightly hot and peppery on the finish.  Good value here as the wine is likely to retail for around $50.   90 points.
~ Classic color from Mastrojanni which was served with three tomato salad, a selection of cheeses and chicken cutlets ~
 

~ The sun settles behind Castello Banfi~

 

Podere Brizio is a relatively young estate, but with vines approaching 30 years of age, the estate’s wines are developing more complexity.  After tasting the 2010 Brunello,  I commented that the future was bright and that the 2010 was the best wine I’d ever had from the producer.  This 2011 confirms those presumptions.   
 
The 2011 Podere Brizio Brunello is a classic deep ruby color with a slight copper hue at the rim.  Perfumed and aromatic on the nose with flowers, spices and crushed red fruits.  Lots of fresh virility on the palate. This is alive and nimble with juicy red fruits punctuated by fennel and earth notes. This is really pretty and a great value.  93 points.  About $42. 

 

~ The 2011 sports a new label design ~
 
It’s funny.  When I looked back on my notes for the next wine during the 2010 vintage,  I noticed that it started slowly and then blossomed more as it settled down.  This encourages me because the tasting of the 2011 was equally “fussy” in July of this year.  
The 2011 Capanna Brunello is incredibly dark.  It’s almost garnet in color and it’s nearly opaque.  In gazing at the glass, one shouldn’t be surprised that the wine seems tight and backward.  This is very shy on the nose with red fruits and just a whiff of cinnamon. Crushed cherry is center stage on the palate which is more austere than other Brunello tasted and the tannins are slightly drying which shorten the finish.  This needs quite a bit of cellar time to come together and blossom. Based on long experience with this winery, I think it can. 90 points.  About $50.
What a difference a vintage can make; though I have to admit, even as I write this having tasted the wine twice (once blind) I’m still somewhat surprised.  The 2008 and 2010 vintages of this wine were lovely and I’ve put the latter in my personal cellar. Something however is amiss here.

The 2011 Uccelliera Brunello exhibits very ripe aromas of reduced cherry fruit, almost to the point of being overdone.  Very ripe cherry, menthol and sweet  spice notes dominate the palate. I much prefer the 2008-2010 vintages from this estate.  This does not appear to be at its normal level.  89 points. About $50.

~ After the first tasting seemed a bit “off” we re-tasted the wine blind several weeks later, with similar impressions ~

The Voliero estate is owned by Uccelliera’s Andrea Cortonesi and rather than blend this fruit into his Uccelliera Brunello,  Cortonesi has decided to bottle the wine separately.  Voliero is located in the northern portion of the zone at a slightly higher altitude than Uccelliera and Cortonesi uses this to extract wonderfully high toned floral notes in this wine.  Given the higher altitude, I’m not surprised that in a warmer vintage, this wine excelled compared to its “cousin”. 

The 2011 Voliero Brunello is a deep ruby red color with cedar, spice, rosemary and cherries on the nose and palate. Fairly complex and with good body. More tannic in structure than I would have expected, this could use a year or 2 in the cellar to smooth out. The alcohol notes on the finish are slightly warming.  Overall, nicely done.  90 points and a good value around $40. 

~ Ever since tasting this estate a few years ago at Benvenuto Brunello, I have been impressed with its quality for the value ~
~ A quiet street in Montalcino ~

Tenimenti Angelini is now a conglomerate comprised of 5 different estates spread across Italy.  The Val di Suga estate is their Brunello property located in the northern part of the Brunello zone, about 15 minutes ride from the center of town.

Although located in what many would consider the “Classico” area for Brunello,  Val di Suga is the opposite of what people would sometimes expect given the size of the production which can easily top 100,000 bottles. 

The 2011 Val di Suga Brunello is a very worthy successor to its amazing 2010. In fact, in my mind, this estate is on a serious roll right now.   Medium to deep ruby in color, I absolutely love the aromas on this wine.  Flowers, spices, and black cherry are notable. Lovely full body with perfumed fruit flavors; this is savory with herbs and lots of crushed berry.  Very fresh with mouthwatering acidity and good tannic structure. A wow.  93 points and a bargain around $40. 

~ This was tasted earlier in the summer as you can see by the amazing looking tomatoes from my garden. With grilled porterhouse, utterly amazing! ~


From the 2008 vintage on, the Fanti’s shifted the style of their Brunello.  Although not a drastic departure, it has made a noticeable difference for the better.  The wines of Fanti are consistently excellent and are very good values.  You can read about the philosophical changes here:  Interview with Elisa Fanti

Roasted or grilled pork has great affinity for Brunello and Sangiovese in general. Here a pork roast is butterflied, stuffed with spinach and fontina and then wrapped in pancetta



The 2011 Fanti Brunello is a deep ruby colored wine. Spicy cherry, hazelnut, and flowers on the nose are attractive. This is lovely on the palate with ripe red plums and crushed berry. Moderate tannic structure with refreshing acidity and good length overall. Solid effort. Elisa Fanti is all over it. 92+ as I think this can improve with cellaring.  About $45.  

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.   

The 2011 La Magia Brunello is not quite to the level of the 2010.  The deep ruby wine is already showing a bit of reduced color.  On the nose, the wine displays moderate aromas of ripe cherries, hints of alcohol, spices and wood.  On the palate, the heat of the vintage is notable and the wine seems to be a bit advanced in its flavor profile.  Good, not great.  Tasted twice with consistent impressions.  89 points.  About $40.

~ La Magia can be nice value in better vintages ~
~ Vines of Tenuta Fanti.  In the background is the historic Abbey at Sant’Antimo ~

Andrea and Cesare Cecchi have been propelling their family winery forward in a quality revolution that is second to none.  From their Villa Cerna Estate to their mastery of Coevo, the pair have made Cecchi and its numerous estates a force in Tuscany.  Their work with Brunello is one such example. 

The 2011 Cecchi Brunello is classic and precise.  In the glass, this lighter ruby colored wine offers generous aromas dried flowers, crushed raspberry and soft spice notes. Don’t be fooled by the color.  On the palate, the tannins are finely integrated and the flavors mirror the aromas with fresh acidity that keeps this vibrant.  Like the 2010, this leans more toward elegance than power and although not to the level of the 2010, it is a very good value.  90 points.  Not imported to the US.  Retails at approximately 40 Euro.


~ The label of the Cecchi Brunello is a nod to the brothers Andrea and Cesare ~
“Alessandro Mori and his Brunello blend to the point that the man and his wine don’t seem to have a sharp boundary. Maybe theirs is an empathy, a way of living and sharing the moments of life, a coexistence in which alternate moments of love, moments of confrontation, and moments of comfort tug at each other….until you get to say that one would not be the same without the other.”  

I cannot improve on such an introduction.  

After his high scoring 2010s were released, Mori had very big shoes to fill with his 2011s.  This tasting reveals that he has done so admirably. 

The 2011 Il Marroneto Brunello is a classic medium ruby color.  Firm red berry and currant notes dominate the palate with juicy, fresh acidity and ripe flavors.  Flowers, spices and chestnut on the nose. There are no signs of over ripeness here and as the wine evolves, it picks up more sweet fruit and lovely tobacco notes.  Really delicious.  92+ points.   About $55.

~ Lovely classic flavors and aromas to this meaty, rustic Brunello ~


~ For these tastings I created a “Braised Short Rib Risotto”.  If there were ever a meal fit for Brunello, I think this is it ~


The 2011 Il Marroneto Brunello Madonna delle Grazie is a very worthy successor to the 100 point 2010.    Although technically not a Riserva, this wine gets treated similarly in that it’s crafted from severely selected lots of grapes and sees extended aging regimens.  

The “Madonna” is a deep garnet ruby in the glass. After one hour in the decanter, we served this alongside standing rib roast.  What was a tannic beast without food, was tamed by the roast.  Be warned.  The aromas are classic.  Deep red fruits combine with floral notes, tobacco and dried herbs.  Juicy, bright fruit appears on the palate with meat, tea, cypress and sandalwood.  This is just simply gorgeous.  It’s hard to resist, but aging this will be rewarded.  Impressive effort.  95 points.  Price varies widely, so be patient in shopping.  $115-$150.   Considering the 2010 will set you back upwards of $300+ this is a bargain.  

~ If this wine is made, buy it with confidence.  I see no reason to spend the extra money on the 2010 if other vintages are in reach ~


~ Argiano ~

Venerable.  After a slight downturn in the wake of “Brunellogate”, of which I am still somewhat skeptical given my insights, and an ownership change, Argiano continues to be a renowned leader in Brunello.  Their wines have never been better and the venerable reputation is well deserved. 

The 2011 Argiano Brunello is dark garnet in the glass, with virtually no fading at the rim.  The nose is dotted with vanilla and spice notes and after swirling vigorously (a concept known as swirlitude) loads of crushed red fruit, wild berry and leafy tobacco are notable. Flavors essentially echo the nose with good persistence and some powdery pepper notes on the finish.  You can find this wine under $40 and for a top Brunello producer, that’s a steal.  91 points. Good value.  

~ A cistern on the Argiano Estate ~


Just a short distance from Sant’Angelo in Colle lies the estate of Collemattoni.  The estate takes its name from the farmhouse on the property which dates back to the year 1672.  Since 1798, the estate has been in the hands of the Bucci family who has lovingly crafted classic wines.  Despite the history, Collemattoni has been improving their wines and their estate rapidly. Since 2012, the estate has received a certified organic designation and now generates over 80% of the electricity they need from owned dedicated solar panels.  

The 2011 Collemattoni Brunello was an eye opener for me.  In the glass, it’s a brilliant shimmering ruby with the classic copper rim.  Very elegant on both the nose and palate with crushed berries, light floral notes and spices on the nose. Long, lively classic palate with spicy red plums, sweet tobacco and just a hint of orange rind. Intriguing.  Aged in large Slavonian botte.  This was a favorite of many that tasted it over the course of dinner.  92+ points.   Another nice value around $45.  

~ The cast of characters ~


Just south of Montalcino,  near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, lies the 60 acres of vineyards of La Poderina, now owned by the Saiagricola group.  Riccardo Cotarella is the winemaker.  It may fit, therefore, that La Poderina’s belief is that “innovation serves tradition” and in that vein, the wines are aged in barrique as well as large cask.  

The 2011 La Poderina Brunello is clearly a more modern take on Brunello.   It’s dark, deep ruby color is clearly more modern.  Lots of red plums, spice, vanilla and toast on the nose with cherry, smoke and licorice on the palate.  This is behaving just as it did at the Vias Tasting.  It won’t be everyones cup of Brunello, but it’s impressive.  92 points and another great value around $36. 

~ Castello Poggio Alle Mura;  home to Castello Banfi ~ 

 
The 2011 Castello Banfi Brunello proves once again that excellent wine need not be crafted in minuscule amounts.  Decanted 60 minutes, the deft hand of winemaker Rudy Buratti reveals the gorgeous spice, crushed cherry and soft vanilla aromas of this deep ruby colored wine.  Flavors follow the nose and add leaf tobacco and mushroom.   Balanced and long, this stays fresh even as the tannins clamp down a bit on the finish.  Can use a year or two in the cellar to soften.  If trying it now, decant an hour or more.   92+ points.  About $55.  

~ Pan Seared Roasted Karobuta Pork Chop with caramelized onions ~ 


When Ferenc Mate first purchased his estate near Montalcino, it was in need of quite a bit of work.  As chronicled in his lovely yarns about restoring the vineyards, the estate and the villa, one day Mate was working in his front yard when a car started kicking up dust by coming down the long driveway.  Out of the car emerged Mate’s new neighbor who had come to welcome them with a bottle of Brunello. The neighbor?  Angelo Gaja.  

The 2011 Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello is a deep medium ruby in the glass.  Flowers, ripe red fruits and baking spices dot the nose.  Classically framed with high toned acids and ripe, juicy berry fruit. Full in body with lots going on. Ripe tobacco, crushed berry, earth notes and balsam notes complete the package.  Tough not to love this.  92+ points.  This will get better with age.  Lovely.  About $70, so not the best  value.

~ Sergio Marchettti of Fossacolle ~

The 2011 Fossacolle Brunello is perhaps the most backward wine in this entire report.  Like the 2010, it’s a bruiser that has all the stuffing to cellar unless you’re prepared to treat it properly.   This is deep ruby in color, trending garnet, with charcoal, grilled toast, cinnamon, and grilled meat on the nose.  Full bodied and massive with spicy and peppery accents joining black olive and crushed cherry.  Without food, this is a “no go” zone at the moment.  With standing rib roast,  the tannins melted and this wine blossomed like it was two faced. This is the mission of TuscanVines exemplified in the glass. Wine is meant for the table.  I’d still ferret this away in your cellar for 5 years.  But the promise is wonderful. 92+ points.  About $46.

~ Library wines from Col d’Orcia ~
Proprietor Francesco Cinzano is not one to rest on his vast laurels.  For decades he has helmed Col d’Orcia yet about 10 years ago when it became apparent that some of the focus at the estate was lost, Cinzano acted with passion and direction.

Since 2010, Col d’Orcia, literally the hill overlooking the Orcia river,  is proud to call itself an “organic island in Tuscany.” The entire estate has been certified organic and operates naturally in complete respect for the land it guards.  Located in the southern part of the Brunello zone, it is one of the appellations largest producers. 

The 2011 Col d’Orcia Brunello continues the run of excellent wines from this estate since at least the release of the 2006 vintage.  This classic wine is light to medium ruby with that lovely copper rim.  I wrote on my tasting sheet  “It looks like Col d’Orcia alright!”  Red cherries and fennel dominate the nose at the moment with minerals, cherries and dusty tannins appearing on the palate.  Perhaps not as complex as its “trio mates” but the sweet, ripe, juicy elegant fruit here is compelling.  Well balanced.  91 points.  About $45 and a very good value.

~ This trio was served with standing rib roast.  That’s the Gaja in the glass at right ~



~ Vineyards in Brunello ~


From 16 hectares just north of Montalcino hill, lies the Podere Pertimali of Livio Sassetti.   Among the slopes of the Montosoli hill, the Sassetti’s have been making wine for three generations.  Hand crafted, the wines spend 36 months in large botte and 6 months refining in bottle prior to release.  The 2011 is a worthy successor to the excellent 2010. 

~ The Pertimali Estate ~

The 2011 Pertimali Brunello always represents a degree of “animale” that I love in Brunello.  This is masculine rusticity.  Medium ruby with flowers, cherries and mushroom on the nose.  Muscular, with grilled meat, dried herbs and larger scale tannins than I suspected.  Wild cherry on the finish.  This is delicious and stands out uniquely among its peers in this report.  A classic.  92 points.  About $48.

~ Absolutely lovely Brunello ~


“That abandoned piece of land, after much hard work, proved itself with its fruits”.  

Carlo Vittori is the driving force behind the small family winery that is Molino di Sant’Antimo.  After renovating abandoned vineyards on the edges of the Brunello territory, today the family farms the vineyards together and creates honest, accessible Brunello. 

~ Vineyards of Molino ~

The 2011 Molino d’Sant Antimo Varco Brunello is a single vineyard wine from the estate’s oldest vineyard and the strictest selection of grapes.   The wine is a deep medium ruby.  On the nose, it is classically aromatic with fresh flowers, crushed berries, chestnut and soft wood notes.  Smooth, ripe and expressive on the palate with loads of cherry fruit, pipe tobacco, and velvety tannins. Juicy and caressing.  This is impressive.  We had a few bottles open that night so my one caveat here is that the remaining wine fell apart badly the next day.  Open and finish!  92 points and one of the better values in all of Brunello.  About $38.

~ Good value here in this wine from Molino di Sant’Antimo ~


The next wine from Molino, the estate 2011 Brunello,  is also a rather nice value.  To me, this is nearly identical in style to the Varco bottling, with everything dialed down a notch.  Bright berry fruit and vanilla on the nose leads to red plums, leaf tobacco and soft tannins that are unintrusive. Lively and fresh, this is drinkable now and pleasing enough but it’s not built to age.  90 points, about $30. 

~ Approachable and easy drinking, this wine gives a good indication of the vintage early on ~

Along with the iconic Biondi Santi and Frescobaldi, Il Poggione is one of the three original producers of Brunello di Montalcino.  For over a century,  the Franceschi family has been tending their farm southwest of Montalcino and producing wines of stature and elegance. With vineyards at 400 meters above sea level, the cool breezes from the Mediteranean allow for cool nights and even ripening as the gentle winds help to prevent rot and fungus in the vineyards.  

The 2011 Il Poggione Brunello is a worthy successor to the 2010.   In the glass, this vibrant ruby wine displays classic aromas of Christmas spices, menthol, dried herbs, and ripe cherries; perhaps a bit too ripe for some.  Medium to full bodied, with mouth watering sour cherry flavors, fresh acidity, dried spices and warm cherry compote notes.  Not as high toned and floral as cooler vintages, but I love the juicy fruit driven finish.  92 points.  About $65.

~ A favorite. An estate I seek out in almost every vintage ~


As I’ve written before, the all female team at Donatella Colombini plays second fiddle to no one.  Since 1998, they have been consistently turning out excellent Brunello; including the two in this report . 

~ The all female team at Donatella Colombini.  At left is Donatella’s daughter Violante, who overseas marketing for the winery ~


The 2011 Donatella Colombini Brunello is a medium ruby with pretty violet reflections.  Interesting dried oregano and thyme appear on the nose in rather pronounced fashion.  Lovely concentration of juicy, dusty wild berries with hints of spice and vanilla. New leather emerges on the nose with aeration.  This shortens up on the finish a bit under the pressure of some slight stemminess.  Good, but not the best value.  90 points, about $55. 

The crown jewel of the estate is clearly the 2011 Prime Donne Brunello.   This wine had enormous shoes to fill after the lovely 2010, but it has done so admirably.  This is deep ruby in the glass with violet reflections.  Warm vanilla, cherry cola, and floral aromas are lithe, interesting and impressive on the nose.  On the palate, the wine is loaded with spice and ripe cherry notes.  Absolutely loaded with high toned arching fruit. Classically structured with wild berry and tobacco on the finish.  Great concentration and length. The freshness is impressive.  93 points.  About $72. 

~ Fast becoming one of the regions best Brunello ~


The San Polo estate is owned by the Allegrini family, who brings their Veneto wine making prowess to Montalcino.  The estate has wonderful terroir and claims Biondi Santi and Fattoria Barbi as neighbors on either side.  Yet stylistically, San Polo usually leans more toward the modern side of the spectrum. 

The 2011 San Polo Brunello is very nice.  The color is a medium ruby with a copper rim, perhaps already a bit advanced looking for its age.  Vanilla, cherry and flowers on the nose lead to a forward, juicy palate with spicy pepper, cherry and licorice.  Delicious, medium bodied and with quite a bit of pepper on the finish.  Seemingly devoid of tannin.  Drink now.  91 points.  About $55-$60.

~ Note the copper color at the rim of the bowl.  ~


Terralsole, literally the “land toward the sun,” was established in 1996 and is the inspiration of veteran winemaker Mario Bollag (formerly of Il Palazzone) and his wife Athena Tergis, two artists who combined their love of  music with their passion for winemaking.

Terralsole is a tiny micro estate of only 11 hectares, approximately 27 acres, of vineyards.  Echoing the harmony between Mario and Athena, the vineyards combine two distinctive terroirs in Montalcino to create full-bodied, elegant and balanced wines. 

 
~ Monte Amiata behind Cantina Terralsole ~

The 2011 Terralsole Brunello is a monumental wine.   This deep violet colored Brunello has all the hallmarks of a great vintage.  High tone floral aromatics dominate the aromas which add crushed berry, tea, and soft wood notes.  Loads of crushed berry on the palate with tobacco, cured meat and tea notes that are fresh and lively.  Wonderful balance from the integrated tannins and refreshing acidity.  Drinkable now or should age well 5 or more years.  This is like a 2010.  95 points.  About $55.

~ Grilled Karobuta pork chops accompanied the Terralsole Brunello, which is as good as many 2010s ~

The Poggio Alle Mura vineyard lies just outside the walls of Castello Banfi and is planted with optimal Sangiovese clones for the soil, exposure and altitude; the fruit of Banfi’s extensive clonal research project.  The vineyard is really coming into its own.  Are the best days ahead?  Perhaps.  But it will be hard to imagine given the current quality.  

The 2011 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello boasts a deep violet color.  This is another example of a very fresh Brunello in a challenging vintage. Vibrant aromas of cedar, crushed berry, black tea and spices combine on the nose and palate where the latter adds some vanilla and espresso bean.  Classy and refined, this is very well balanced. Tannins are more assertive toward the finish so laying this away 2-3 years may not be a bad thing. Still, this will make it much easier to keep your hands off your 2010s.   93 points  and pricing varies widely.  About $55-70.  

~ Another wine from the appellation that deserves annual attention ~


The last review I wrote of a Biondi Santi Brunello ended with the words, “The Legend Lives”.   I think Franco Biondi Santi may rest easy realizing that his estate is in capable hands.  I am never overwhelmed by the Brunello from Biondi Santi, but despite the warmer vintage, this 2011 is fresh and appealing.

~ 1888 Brunello in the Biondi Santi Cellars ~ 

 
The 2011 Biondi Santi Brunello is a deep violet color with pretty reflections.  It reminds me of the color of the 2009, though perhaps not quite as dark.   Tightly wound, this shows muted black plum, chestnut, dried herb and fennel character across the nose and palate which are graceful and feminine. Fresh, with mouth watering acidity that brightens and lifts the entire package.  There’s good reason to expect development here and this is very well done for the vintage.  Decanted for 3 hours.  Follow through with that or hold 5 years.  90 points.  About $125. 

~ The 2011 is a much better effort than the 2009 and stylistically more of a “cross” between 2008 and 2010 ~ 

There are some wines that just ring your bell.  Whether it’s the hand of the winemaker, the terroir, the style, who knows?  There is a reason wines become our favorites.  In my case, Baricci is clearly a wonderful example.  I think it’s the Montosoli environment that seems to permeate the very nature of this wine.  It never disappoints. 

~ Scratch and Sniff.  I wish you could. ~

The 2011 Baricci Brunello is the latest effort from the winery to bear the hallmarks I associate with this great property.  This violet colored wine is fresh and lively with aromas of crushed berry, cypress, and fennel.  It’s that cypress note on the palate that seems to mix with dust, pine, chestnut and dried flowers that gives Baricci its identity. It’s hard to pin down, but if you stand on the road above, you can smell it.  It’s like sea air at the ocean. And it marks the wine in a way that I love.  Dusty, classy red fruits glide on the palate and finish fresh.  Lovely wine.  92 points.  Price varies, but you can find it for about $40-$55.

~ Terroir first in this wine, but not at the expense of bright red fruit ~

Another member of the Montosoli Hill, so to speak, is the iconic Altesino.   Altesino claims the first “Cru” Brunello produced from Montosoli in 1975 along with other “firsts” including barrique usage and grappa produced from Brunello must.  To be sure, they are an estate focused on quality and their 2011 is very nice. 

~ Medium sized botte at Altesino ~ 

The 2011 Altesino Brunello is a shimmering violet color in the glass.  Decanted for 30 minutes and served with rosemary marinated grilled lamb chops, the wine displayed lovely aromatic notes of crushed cherry, fresh flowers, menthol and sandalwood.  The color is light, but don’t let that fool you.  This is medium to full bodied on the palate with a fresh but ripe core of bright berry fruit, fresh leaf tobacco, soft vanilla notes and a pretty powdery texture.  Graceful and refined.  91 points. Around $50. 

~ The Altesino Annata Brunello sees mostly Slavonian Botte aging ~ 


~ Oven braised short rib over parmigiano risotto ~


Since 1965, the Bartolommei family has been cultivating grapes on its Montalcino estate.  Giacomo was one of the earliest winemaker interviews we conducted here on Tuscan Vines and its since been updated.  Giacomo now plays a more significant role in the winemaking as of the 2010 vintage and the wines from Caprili have never been better.  

The 2011 Caprili Brunello  is a dark ruby color, very deep, with faint violet reflections.  The aromas from the wine are pronounced and masculine with ripe cherry, grilled meat, cured meat and fresh tobacco.  It’s wild.  On the palate, the beefy cherry flavors are full bodied and powerful with ripe notes of fennel and cured meat.  Long, spicy, peppery finish.  Perhaps a bit of alcohol on the finish, but it doesn’t detract from the overall package. 91 points. Good value around $42. 

~ The Caprili Brunello was served with grilled hangar steak and truffled french fries ~

Carpineto’s vineyards in Montalcino are some of the highest in the appellation and sit at approximately 1,400 feet above sea level.  The farm consists of preserved stone buildings, olive groves and over 25 acres of north west facing vineyards which are all surrounded and protected by forest that shelters the vines from some of the harsher winds that come up from the Maremma. 

When I tried the 2011 Carpineto Brunello at Benvenuto back in January,  I was impressed with the quality of the wine and have been pleased to taste much more from the estate throughout the course of the year. Similarly, especially built on newly founded expectations, the wines continue to impress. 

The 2011 Carpineto Brunello is a classic looking light ruby color, but like the Altesino, do not be fooled.  The aromas are elegant and “soft” and seem to seamlessly blend, crushed berry, sandalwood, spices and tea leaves.  On the palate, the wine delivers warm ripe cherry flavors with chestnut, pepper and roasted coffee notes.  It’s fresh, approachable now and very appealing. Very nice effort.  90 points.  About $50.

~ This wine behaved very similarly to its showing at Benvenuto Brunello in January ~

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.  Today the estate is run by the founder’s daughters, Laura and Lucia.  

The 2011 Collosorbo Brunello was one of my favorite wines that I tasted at Benvenuto Brunello.  Nothing I’ve tasted since has changed my mind.   The wine is a deep ruby red throughout the glass. The nose offers loads of freshly crushed flowers, cypressy pine, Christmas spices and ripe wild berries.  The flavors echo the aromas with precision and  elegance. Long finish with a minty, juicy sensation.  Lots of finesse.  93 points.  Really nice value around $40.

~ Laura and Lucia with their Mother at Collosorbo ~


The Camigliano Estate was acquired by the current owners in 1957 who immediately set about creating a high quality Tuscan wine making estate.  Today there are 220 acres under vine with about 125 of those dedicated to the production of Brunello. 

I’ve been able taste the 2011 Camigliano Brunello on four different occasions now;  once at Benvenuto Brunello, once at the Vias Portfolio tasting and twice for this report. Each time the wine has shown consistently and each time it’s been disappointing. 

In the glass, the wine is a very light, weak looking violet color.  Unlike some of the wines mentioned above, the color transcends to the body of the wine.  On the nose, the wine displays very ripe cherry notes and slightly charry oak notes.  On the palate, the wine is lean, and light bodied with primarily red fruit flavors backed by oak notes and nutmeg spices.  It’s a bit simple, almost like a Rosso di Montalcino.  I’m not sure what happened here, but it’s off from its typical quality.  88 points.  About $35.

~ I enjoyed the 2010 from this estate, but this 2011 is a let down ~

The 2011 Lisini Brunello, like its 2010 sibling is a wonderful example of traditionally crafted Brunello.  This juicy, lively, very fresh red shows a deep ruby color with  violet reflections.  Aromas of sweet cherries, fennel and dried herbs mark the nose.  On the palate the ripe fruit is joined by roasted espresso and spice notes.  Maybe there’s a touch of heat from the vintage at the end.  Really nice for the vintage.  91 points.  About $45.

~ The Entrance to the Lisini Offices and Cellar ~

Closing Impressions

The wines for this report largely confirmed the impressions I formed shortly after tasting many examples at Benvenuto Brunello.  For the vast majority, they are wines that are charming and accessible early.  The consummate restaurant vintage?  Perhaps. Generally, they certainly offer lots of ripe fruit flavors and moderate amounts of complexity without the need for lengthy bottle aging. 

The wines in this report scored in fairly tight range, from 88-95 with many of the wines clustered even tighter within the 90-93 point window.  I think that speaks highly of the improvements the appellation has made over the past 2 decades in managing weather patterns that are less than ideal. 

2011 will also provide a very nice bridge to the more age worthy vintages like 2004, 2006, and 2010.  Although certain producers did not produce a 2011, I did not find the vintage overall to be as “hot and uneven” as 2009.  Many of the 2009s are straightforward wines with warm, ripe fruit.  The 2011s display more finesse and more complexity and I think overall, fit somewhere between the 2008s and the 2009s in terms of style.  

I would like to thank all of the many importers and producers who contributed to this report. In addition to the samples themselves, they were generous with their time, comments and estate information.  Furthermore, a special thanks to you, the Tuscan Vines readers who have helped this website grow exponentially into the force it has become and without which, we would be nothing.  Thank you all and Merry Christmas!  

Buon Natale! 


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