~ Piazza and Campanile in Montalcino. At the lower right are the tiles that are placed to commemorate the stars awarded to each vintage ~

It’s been a busy few months between Benvenuto Brunello, Slow Wine, Gambero Rosso and the power outages from the winter that won’t quit!  Nevertheless, here is the 5th and final part of our coverage of 2012 Brunello. Soon the 2013s may begin trickling onto shelves and we’ll be poised to bring you data points on those too, including our impressions from Benvenuto Brunello.  So stay tuned!   Andiamo….

~ Proprietor & Winemaker Mario Bollag (left) during the 2010 Vendemmia ~

Terralsole is Mario Bollag’s creation after having departed from Il Palazzone.  Meaning, “Land Toward the Sun”, Mario’s philosophy for Terralsole has always been simple:  “Great wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cantina.  I love the style of his wines and that hasn’t changed with his highly aromatic 2012.

The 2012 Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino is a medium ruby color in the glass, but do not be fooled by it’s common looking appearance.  It’s highly aromatic, with lots of fresh flowers, ripe cherries, leaf tobacco and baking spices on both the nose and palate.  The texture of the wine is amazing and there is wonderful, bright, juicy length to the flavors.  Lots of fresh sapidity is mouthwatering.  Elegant, but with subtle power behind it. I just love this.  94 points.  The 2012 is not yet fully released.  Find this wine.

~ Terralsole has never let me down ~

I’ve always said that wine tells a story and perhaps there is none more intriguing than the tale of Donatella Cinelli Colombini.   Told she couldn’t succeed, told she didn’t know anything about growing grapes or making wine, this resolute woman created her all female winery team and is making perfumed elegant wines.  Vintage after vintage they impress me and I recently had the opportunity to try all three of the estate wines with Donatella’s daughter Violante.

~ The team at Casato Prime Donne: Violante is first on the left ~

The 2012 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino represents the most approachable of the estate’s bottlings.   Violante told me that 2012 was a much more successful vintage for the estate than 2010 and although I haven’t compared the wines directly, the 2012s impress.   Deep crimson in the glass with an iodine rim there is lots of perfume here.  Lovely flowers and soft sandalwood aromas compliment the ripe cherry and tobacco notes.  On the palate this is layered with flavors of ripe cherry and anise. Sapid and mouthwatering with added notes of fresh sage and oregano.  Without food this is quite tannic but with roasted lamb, the tannins melted away and the sweet and sour cherry flavors took over.  Very attractive.  92 points.  A bit pricey around $60.  Find this wine.

~ Since 2010, Violante told me the estate has a new winemaker named Andita Vigna… how apropos! ~

The next entry from the estate is typically one of my favorite Brunello.  The Brunello “Prime Donne”  (First ladies) is crafted by a panel of four female wine experts that choose the best lots of the estate’s production for the Prime Donne bottling.  The panel consists of a Master of Wine, a European critic, an Italian Sommelier and a PR professional.

The 2012 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne is a single vineyard selection.  Slightly darker than the estate wine, there’s loads of ripe cherry, coconut and exotic spices on the nose that add fresh fennel.  Full and round on the palate with loads of ripe wild berry, warmed terra cotta, sweet pipe tobacco and leather notes.  Slightly austere on the finish where the tannins clamp down and even after decanting for 60 minutes, this remains tight.  There’s lots of potential here, but I’d note this as a cellar selection.  94 points and where pricing is similar, I prefer this to the Estate wine depending upon your goals and patience.  Find this wine.

Finally, I was privileged to taste a Brunello that Donatella gives her name to and for which production, in the best vintages only, is limited to 600 bottles.   The 2012 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino “Io Sono Donatella” is a remarkable wine.  The darkest of the three Brunello, this barely lightens at the rim of the bowl.  In 2012, only one barrel was chosen to craft this wine.  Lots of cypress, sage, fennel, and crushed red fruits perfume the nose and are complimented by an underlying earth note.  This is very tertiary already.  Full bodied with fresh, juicy berry flavors accented by new leather, porcini mushroom and roasted coffee. Very sexy.  Although very tannic, the structure appears nimble and the long, long finish is quite smooth and caressing. Still, 2-4 years will do this wonders.  Monumental wine.  95 points.  Due to the limited production, this wine doesn’t appear at retail very often. Look for it in fine restaurants.

~ The etched label of Io Sono Donatella ~

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.  Their 2012 is very well done and a few steps up from the overripe 2011.

The 2012 Castelogiocondo Brunello di Montalcino bears the hallmarks of wine produced in the southern portion of the zone; yet this is nothing like past warmer vintages (2009/2011) where this estate did not excel.  Warmed, ripe aromas of black cherry, licorice and meat make for an interesting array of smells. Fresh and lively on the palate with wild berry, black pepper, warm toast, cocoa and coffee character.  Long, muscular and very well done it stays fresh all the way through the long finish.  93 points.  Good value at $42.  Find this wine.

~ A really wonderful wine in 2012 ~

Carpineto is celebrating 50 years with their 2012 vintage and they have surely done themselves proud. This estate, which had kind of fallen off the radar has been revitalized by proprietor Antonio Zaccheo and you would do very well to revisit both his Brunello and his Riserva and Single Vineyard Vino Nobile wines.

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.

The 2012 Carpineto Brunello di Montalcino shows lots of elegance and grace. Ripe cherry compliments the very floral nose which features blue flowers like violets and lavender. This is perfumed and I can’t get enough of it.  Medium to full bodied on the palate with fresh crushed cherry notes framed by nutty Christmas cake spices and green tobacco leaf.  Peppery finish.  92 points.  Good value around $43.  Find this wine.

~ Lovely classic color to this Brunello from Antonio Zaccheo ~

Standing on the summit overlooking a hill surrounded by holly oaks, cypress trees, flourishing vineyards and olive groves is the little town of Sant’Angelo in Colle that Il Poggione calls home. Here the Franceschi family have been wine growers and farmers since the end of the 19th century. Today the estate is run by Leopoldo Franceschi who continues the traditional practices of the estate as he was taught. With winemaker Alessandro Bindocci at the helm, Il Poggione’s wines have never been better.

I’ve had the good fortune to taste with Alessandro on many occasions and his wines reflect his personality; humble yet confident. Poised, but aggressive. Sturdy yet graceful. Today, Tenuta il Poggione covers approximately 1,300 acres though only 336 are devoted to vines while the balance is attributed to olive groves, grains and livestock. The vineyards sit between 475 and 1,500 feet above sea level and are located just 6 miles from the center of Montalcino.

~ The Il Poggione barrel cellars were completely renovated in 2004 ~

The 2012 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino is no exception.  It’s another triumph for Bindocci and frankly, has become a staple Brunello in my cellar.  Deep, full ruby in color this shows lots of tobacco, earth and leather on the nose to support the ripe core of crushed berry aromas.  On the palate, the crushed ripe cherry notes are fresh, lively and very juicy with an intense mouth watering sapidity to the fruit and the tannins.  Toward the back end dried porcini mushroom and dried tobacco are added to the mix.  This shows lots of fruit and finesse but has already developed some wonderful tertiary character.  94 points.  Shop around.  About $50-60.  Find this wine.

~ Another wonderful effort from the team at Il Poggione ~

Tenute Silvio Nardi’s three estates, Casale del Bosco, Manachiara and Bibbiano, are comprised of 36 individual vineyard plots that are situated to the east and west of the town of Montalcino, at elevations ranging from 800 to 1,300 feet.  Some of the vines located on the Manachiara estate are among the oldest in the region, now approaching 50 years of age.  Nardi is a classic producer of “old school” Brunello.  Since the early 1990s the estate has been run by Silvio’s daughter Emilia who has quietly become one of the DOCGs most respected women.  The wines have improved greatly during Emilia’s tenure and the future seems bright for Nardi.

~ These are vineyards on Nardi’s Poggio Doria estate which is the farthest West in the Montalcino DOCG ~

The 2012 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino contains fruit from both the Casale del Bosco and Manachiara properties.   It’s a classic medium ruby color with faint violet reflections in the glass.  The nose is highly perfumed with wild flowers and crushed berries.  Black tea and autumn leaves add complexity.  On the palate, the wine starts out a bit austere but on the midpalate, a burst of juicy ripe fruit becomes the center of attention.  Needs at least an hour in a decanter as this improved greatly with air.  Well integrated tannins are dusty and powdery and the fruit stays fresh and vibrant throughout the long, mouthwatering finish.  Well done. A classic Brunello.  94 points.  Price varies widely so shop around.  $32-$55  Find this wine.

~ Don’t let the lighter color fool you. This is a mouthwatering, full bodied wine ~

Situated to the Southeast of Montalcino, not far from the ancient Abbey of Sant’Antimo, lies the picturesque estate of San Filippo.  Founded in 1972,  the estate is comprised of 22 hectares, of which just over 11 are under vine.   The estate was recently purchased by Roberto Gianelli who set about restoring the outbuildings, the gardens and updating the cellars.  This renewed dedication is paying dividends.  Since first tasting San Filippo’s single vineyard Brunello Le Lucere in the 2004 vintage, I’ve been a fan of this estate.   For this report, we’re including the estate bottling.

The 2012 San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino is vinified in stainless steel and then transferred to a combination of small and large sized oak barrels.  At the moment, this is very straightforward on the nose with ripe cherry, hints of rosemary and soft wood notes.   On the palate, the wine is focused on crushed red fruit flavors that are joined by pepper, spice and tobacco flavors.  While the wine isn’t very complex at the moment, the texture is really wonderful.  Lively, juicy, fresh with sweet/sour cherry notes that are lip smacking and mouthwatering.  A solid effort and a good value.  91 points. About $40-$45.  Find this wine.

~ A well done Brunello, but the Le Lucere bottling is much more compelling ~

Almost since I’ve known what Brunello was I’ve been a fan of Poggio Antico.  When I learned earlier this year that the estate had been sold, I had to admit to feeling someone wistful, if not downright uneasy.  The jury is still out on what is to become or remain of Poggio Antico.  However, when I stopped at the estate last May, things were gorgeous.   The sky was a brilliant blue, the smell of Spring and cypress permeated the air, Paola Gloder was her charming self and the wines were brilliant.

~ The Entrance to Poggio Antico ~

Poggio Antico crafts two Brunello; the white label which is more traditional in style and Altero, which is more modern.  The main difference between the two wines is the duration of oak aging and the size of the vessels employed.  The Classic Brunello spends 3 years in large oak barrels and 1 year in bottle while Altero spends only two years in smaller tonneaux and two years in bottle.  Although the estate is almost 500 acres, only 75 are devoted to vineyards and some of that is Cabernet for the estate’s super Tuscan.

The 2012 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Altero is a modern, fleshy Brunello.  Deep crimson in the glass, it fades to ruby and then copper at the edge of the glass.  The aromas were reticent at first but with extended air time they evolved nicely to include crushed cherry, vanilla, tobacco and spices.  Round and smooth on the palate with lots of ripe crushed cherry, mocoa, baking spices and sweet pipe tobacco to add complexity.  Without question, the additional bottle age and tonneaux usage have made this 1) more accessible earlier on and 2) quite different than its sibling.  The purists will not want to come near this wine, but I appreciate variety and this wine was widely enjoyed at my brother in laws house during the 2nd of our recent storms/power outages.  And as I sit typing this, I’m thinking we may be back there soon as yet another 3rd storm is apparently bearing down on us.  Happy First Day of Spring!  Somewhere anyway.  Here?  Well, let’s just say the good Lord must have a sense of humor/irony.   91 points.  About $45.  Find this wine.

~ Definitely a different take on Brunello and not one that will appeal to the most ardent of traditionalists, but it was tasty nonetheless ~

Well, this concludes our coverage of 2012 Brunello which has been the most extensive we’ve ever conducted.  Over 50 wines were tasted and over the next few weeks, some additional reviews on 2012s will go out exclusively to Newsletter Subscribers.  In addition, we’ll be writing up our impressions from Benvenuto Brunello and discussing some of the 2012 Riservas and earlier tastings of the 2013s.   So stay tuned and salute!

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