In my recent Tuscan Vintage Analysis article, I alluded to the nature of the 2013 vintage as possessing the ability to produce finished wines that are somewhat mercurial. As we begin Part 2 of this years Brunello coverage, I think you’ll see a few examples of what I mean.
Super value? or you get what you pay for? I’ll admit to being confounded by the 2013 Caparzo Brunello. Medium ruby in the glass with some bricking out by the rim. It’s a classic, pretty color. High toned floral and berry notes with earth and tobacco on the nose are nice and fairly complex. Linear. Really austere and drying on the palate where the finish turns slightly stemmy/bitter. What in the world happened here? Tasted twice with consistent impressions, this is a nice introduction to Brunello for the novice taster, but it’s not something to cellar or go long on. The La Casa bottling is always consistently excellent so I’m not sure what happened here. 87 points for the nose alone. About $31 Find this wine.
Founded in 1986, the estate of Uccelliera is in the capable hands of family winemaker Andrea Cortonesi and his lovely wife. Located near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Cortonesi farms 6 tiny hectares in the southern part of the Brunello zone and produces almost 30,000 bottles of Brunello annually. My tastes for Uccelliera have crystallized. Cooler, more even vintage – I love it. Hotter vintage? Not so much. This is evidenced by the 2008, 2010 and 2012 residing in my cellar while the 2009 and 2011 are notably absent. The 2013 falls somewhere in between.
The 2013 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino is a medium ruby with violet reflections. Major tobacco notes on he nose are joined with crushed red plums and hints of dill. I hate dill in all its forms. Yet this was so faint that it was somehow interesting and not off putting. I’ve literally spit out Napa Cabernet when its covered with dill infused American oak, so this really surprised me. Frankly, I love the nose of this wine. Color me shocked.
On the palate, this Brunello remains rather austere. Lithe. The flavors open up more with some air time in the decanter. Loads of tobacco, crushed fruit and earth comprise the flavor profile. I find this almost atypical for Uccelliera but it is very good nonetheless. Try a bottle before you put this in your cellar. A different animal. 92 points. About $55 Find this wine.
Precision. Singular focus. That is the drive at the Brunello wine estate of La Fiorita. In a time when most wineries in Montalcino produce, seemingly at a minimum, a Rosso di Montalcino and some form of IGT, La Fiorita remains steady with its production of Brunello and Brunello alone.
La Fiorita’s story began in 1992 when Roberto Cipresso harvested one tiny 1/2 hectare vineyard in Castelnuovo dell’Abate that yielded a mere 1,000 bottles of Brunello. The famed Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence bought the entire production of the estate for their Ristorante. Slowly, as new vineyard plantings have come online, production has increased to about 25,000 bottles.
Since 2011, Natalie Oliveros has joined Cipresso and the estate has increased the acreage under vine without sacrificing the quality of their Brunello. As of 2014, the estate is moving toward organic viticulture.
The 2013 La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino is a pretty ruby color. Crystal clear. Floral and red fruit notes are expressive on the nose. Ripe sour cherry flavors on the palate are tinged with spicy cracked black pepper. Juicy and mouthwatering with solid but ripe tannins; this could use 2-3 years in the cellar at a minimum but is attractive now with appropriate food. 92 points. About $50-60. Not yet fully released. Find this wine.
The next entrant is a newcomer to our annual coverage. Azienda Verbena is a working Agriturismo, i.e. a working farm and holiday destination where wine production is typically only a portion of the agricultural output. This is not a strange phenomenon. Agriturismi can be found acros Italy. However, in my experience, when properties such as these make wine, the wine isn’t usually top quality. Verbena flips that notion on its head.
The 2013 Verbena Brunello di Montalcino is a really pretty, deep ruby color. The nose of the wine is dominated by intense crushed cherry and floral notes with hints of lavender. Gorgeous. Smooth, long, ripe, sweet vibrant fruit on the palate. This is a fruit bomb with lots of well integrated tannins to balance it out. These fade nicely on the juicy finish where brisk acidity plays nicely as tobacco and fennel notes lay in wait. The more the wine is open, the more expressive it got. Eye opening. 95 points. Tremendous value about $40. Find this wine.
“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.
The 2013 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino is classic and classy. In the glass it’s a medium, clear ruby color. Lots of sandalwood, dusty cherry and mushroom on the attractive nose. Loads of dusty tobacco on the palate with cherry and spicy black pepper and menthol notes. Medium to full bodied this is more elegant than muscular. Great with crusty bread and tallegio. This really gained steam on the palate as it aired. Juicy ripe berry fruit and sweet fennel notes join the party. An excellent effort, but not inexpensive. 94 points. About $60. Find this wine.
The Carpineto 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 2013 Carpineto Brunello di Montalcino is a worthy successor to his excellent 2012. In the glass, the wine is a classic medium ruby color. Spicy, floral, crushed cherry aromas dominate and add hints of floral tones as the wine opens. Rather complex. Ripe, expressive cherry fruit is up front and forward – very similar to the Verbena above. Sweet fennel and tobacco notes are persistent and delicious. Dusty, but substantial tannins need some time to settle down. So delicious now but better and smoother in 2-3 years I think. Good acidity and balance on the finish with a spicy ending. Great effort! 93 points. About $45 and a good value. Find this wine.
One thing that is resonating with this Part of our 2013 coverage is that there are lots of interesting values to be found. Value and Brunello don’t often belong in the same sentence and one of my axioms is that “you almost always get what you pay for, almost.” Readers can enjoy this take away though and here’s another steal.
The Collosorbo Estate is owned by the Sardo family, who farms about 30 hectares near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The estate’s Brunello rests in a variety of barrels sized from 12 to 57 hectoliters which are French and Slavonian oak. Giovanna Ciacci runs the estate alongside her daughters Laura and Lucia.
The 2013 Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino is a marked step up compared to their 2012 effort. We carried the wine to a local Trattoria and so did not decant the bottle. It didn’t need it. In the glass, this Brunello is a deep, vibrant garnet color that fades at the rim of the bowl to bright brick.
Very expressive on the nose and palate with aromas of crushed cherry, fresh flowers, new leather, lavender and mint. Flavors follow the nose and pick up slight hints of roasted chocolate? (that’s not a typo) Long, lively and well balanced the tannins do assert themselves on the finish but with the variety of food we had, the wine matched very well and was rather versatile. 94 points and an excellent value around $30. Find this wine Note: Shop around locally too. I’ve seen this wine in the high $20s and that’s not reflected in the link.
While this next wine would be hard pressed to be considered a value, that doesn’t bother me. Why? Because it consistently impresses. Vintage after vintage. Bottle after bottle. It drinks well young. It ages gracefully. If there are any “guarantees” when buying Brunello, I suggest that this is one of them. If you’re looking to set aside a few special bottles, you could do little better than Il Poggione.
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 2013 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino is as reliable and delicious as it’s always been. From the lovely hamlet of Sant’Angelo in Colle, winemaker Alessandro Bindocci crafts wines that marry the intricate task of power and elegance deftly.
In the glass the wine is a classic looking ruby color. Lots of crushed red fruit on the nose with warm chestnut and leather. Love it. On the palate the wine is wonderful with lots of ripe crushed berry flavors with spices, anise, brisk acidity and great length/balance. Juicy and refreshing. The tannins are integrated very well, but they are noticeable in the absence of food. My tasting sheet closes with “I love this. Always so reliable.” 94 points. About $60-$65 but again, shop around. Find this wine.
Fattoria Barbi is one of Brunello’s largest producers but like many others in this report, quality doesn’t suffer in the least relative to the size of the estate production. I reject that argument on its merits. Passion and the insistence of quality begets quality. It matters not how large or small your production is.
Barbi has been around for over 6 centuries and today is helmed by Stefano Cinelli Colombini. The estate sprawls for over 300 hectares from which 200,000 bottles of Brunello are produced in most vintages. The wine cellars in Montalcino hold Brunello as old as 1892. Barbi ages its Brunello in small and medium sized barrels for the first few months of the wine’s life and then it is transferred to larger oak barrels.
The 2013 Fattoria Barbi Brunello di Montalcino is a vibrant ruby to violet color in the glass. Don’t let the lighter, somewhat clear color fool you; this is a full bodied wine that, like the Il Poggione, is both powerful and elegant.
On the nose, the wine displays pretty aromas of crushed cherry, violets, and sandalwood. Somewhat muted, this wine needs to sleep or needs a long decanting. We did decant this, but only for about 40 minutes. Juicy on the palate, with leather, wild sour cherry, tobacco and cured meat notes that linger nicely. The fruit is graceful on the mid-palate but brawny tannins make their presence felt. We had this over the summer with the pictured Caprese along with grilled NY strips; so it may be coming around a bit more now. Try one over the holidays. 92 points. Again, shop around. Wide price range from $45-$55. Find this wine.
In last years report, one of the lowest scoring wines was the Lazzeretti. I wasn’t familiar with it. It had gotten a good review that turned out to be a major outlier and it was a large disappointment. Fast forward to the 2013 and well, a cooler vintage sure didn’t help.
The 2013 Lazzeretti Brunello di Montalcino is a clear medium ruby color, classic looking. But honestly, that’s about all I can say here that is redeeming. I just don’t get it. On the palate the wine displays nice aromas of dried herbs, dried fruit and mulch. It’s ok. But the palate is so taut, so linear, so austere that it’s drying and rather lean. I’m not sure if this is unripe fruit or if it’s been dried out from too much barrel aging. I don’t get it. But even at the affordable $32 it isn’t worthy buying. There are other options, as evidenced above. 86 points.
That’s a wrap for Part 2. Stay tuned as there is much more to come. In the meantime, Buon Natale!