~ The Poggio alle Mura Castle is home to Castello Banfi ~

Last month, we published Part 1 of our Annual 2012 Brunello report with the promise that it was only the beginning.  Today we continue our coverage of what is likely to be the best Brunello vintage since 2010; at least until the 2015s are released.  While some 2012s reflect the dry, warmer weather conditions that dominated that vintage, the vast majority are excellent wines with juicy, fresh fruit, well integrated tannins and long sweet, ripe fruit finishes.  They may not display the power and brawn that 2010 showcased, but they are sleek, racy and refined.

2012 Brunello – Part 2

Situated Southwest of Montalcino,  heading towards Tavernelle,  is the 27 hectare estate of Podere Brizio.  Founded in the late 1970’s,  the estate has 9 hectares under vine and 2 devoted to olive trees.  The vineyards have south westerly exposure and sit at 350 meters above sea level.  With vineyards approaching 30+ years of age, this comparatively young estate is beginning to produce grapes and wines with more notable complexity.

The 2012 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino displays a dark garnet color clear through to the rim of the bowl.  Flavor and aroma profiles are very classic.  Ripe red fruits, pipe tobacco, fresh flowers and fennel are witnessed on the nose and palate.  The long finish is high toned, juicy and mouthwatering. An exceedingly good value.  93 points.  About $40-$45.   Find this wine.

~ Although prices are creeping up slightly, this wine is still a nice value in Brunello ~

With its sister wine reviewed in Part 1 of our report, I was anxious to try a new wine from Tenuta Fanti.  The San Filippo estate has vineyards located within sight of the ancient abbey near Sant’Antimo.

~ Vineyards of Tenuta Fanti ~

The 2012 Tenuta Fanti Brunello di Montalcino “Vallocchio” is a single vineyard, non-Riserva Brunello.  While I’m often skeptical about single vineyard wines and the typical premium they usually command, I can easily attest that Elisa Fanti has hit it out of the park with this wine.

Vallocchio is a deep ruby color with a very expressive, pretty nose.  Loads of flowers, wild berries, dusty cocoa and mint aromas are very attractive. I love how this smells!  Nothing short of a “wow” on the palate.  Ripe, juicy crushed red fruits are in abundance backed by a unique mint undertone. Long, long finish with silky tannins that are powdery and minerally. Fresh and lively.  This is superb.  95 points.  About $55. Find this wine.

~ Vallocchio is vinified in stainless steel and then aged for a total of 30 months; half of which is in 500 liter tonneaux and half of which is in large casks ~

San Polino is a small, family-run estate that closely follows biodynamic and organic principles. Located Southeast of Montalcino centro, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, 2 1/2 hectares of vineyards are surrounded by the wilderness of Mediterranean shrubland. San Polino’s soils are a complex composition of sandy loam with a high content of rock and marl, interspersed with clay and red ferrous earth.  The vineyards sit at approximately 400-450 meters above sea level and enjoy an almost constant southerly breeze coming from Monte Amiata.  Run by Luigi Fabbro and his two partners, the estate is making wines of exceptional quality.

~ The logo on San Polino’s label is a replica of the Etruscan symbol for the Sun ~

The 2012 San Polino Brunello di Montalcino is exceptional.  A bright ruby color, the aromas are intense and feature ripe, forward aromas of crushed cherry, red berry and notes of iron.  On the palate, the flavors coat your palate front to back with wild cherry and dusty earth notes. The purity and finesse here are noteworthy. Red river stones and new leather punctuate the finish. I love this.  Incredible length and lift. 94 points.  About $65.  Find this wine.

~ A copse of Cypress trees on bucolic hillsides near La Rasina ~

La Rasina was founded in the 1970’s by Santi Mantengoli as a simple sharecropping endeavor.  However, in 1988, with the popularity of Montalcino and Brunello soaring, Mantengoli began focusing exclusively on premium wine production.  Now organic, since 1997 the estate which includes 11 hectares of vineyards, has been run by Santi’s son Marco.   The vineyards, which are only between 2 and 30 years of age, sit at approximately 350 meters above sea level.

~ The cypress lined white road that runs past La Rasina’s property ~

The 2012 La Rasina Brunello di Montalcino is a deep garnet red throughout the glass.  The wine was decanted for 30 minutes before taking it to a local trattoria. Pretty aromas of red fruits, cypress needles, and sandalwood dot the nose.  On the palate, the wine is round and seductive with no hard edges.  Red and black plum fruits are framed nicely by dried spice and vanilla notes.  A reliable Brunello and one which I typically consider an early harbinger of the vintage since it seems to be among the first to show up at retail.  A great value around $40.  93 points.  Find this wine.

~ La Rasina is aged for 24 months in 20 and 40 hectoliter barrels before being bottled and resting before release ~

~ Castello Banfi, as seen from the vineyards of Cupano ~

I love the description of the Cupano farm from proprietor Carlo Magno.

“Our farm is on the hills south of Siena, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, where nature and art melt in exquisite harmony. We live on a stony hill above the Ombrone river with good drainage, high mineral content and a wonderful view. Carlo Ferrini selected the land for the vines and the vine-stocks, the growth system and the height of the vines. François Bouchet assisted us in becoming biodynamic; like the simple and efficient biodynamic old gentleman farmer he was. And only when Giulio Gambelli, glass in hand, looks at us in silence and gives us the thumbs up, we bottle.”

~ The boulder strewn vineyards of Cupano. Terroir like this cannot be underestimated in the amount of “stoniness” and minerality that gets imparted to the wine. ~

The 2012 Cupano Brunello di Montalcino is an absolute masterpiece.   My tasting sheet begins simply with the word “wow”.  There is stunning purity here. The deep ruby color impresses and portrays aromas that lead to crushed red plum and wild cherry, flinty wet stones, sweet tobacco leaf, cedar, fennel and exotic baking spices.  On the palate, this is smoooooth.  Not a rough edge to be found.  Integrated tannins are like a silky baby’s behind. Full bodied and fruit driven from fore to aft, the traces of complexity are in the powdery, minerally aspects of this wine which gets tinged with cocoa powder, eucalyptus and cypress. An absolute joy.  97 points.  About $90.  Find this wine.

The Cupano farm consists of about 7 hectares of vineyards that lie about 200 meters above sea level. They produce approximately 14,000 bottles of wine per year.

~ To top it off, I love the label too; a cypress changing color ~

The 2012 vintage also gives birth to another entrant from San Polino.

The grapes for Helichrysum come from the oldest and highest plot of San Polino’s vineyards. Here the vines are 22 years old and planted at 5000 vines per hectare. Due to their age the vines naturally produce a low quantity of compact bunches. The name Helichrysum refers to a beautifully aromatic herb, which grows spontaneously and in wild abundance around the vineyards on the San Polino hilltop.

The 2012 San Polino Brunello di Montalcino “Helichrysum” is another amazing wine in this vintage.  Deep ruby with violet reflections in color, the wine displays aromas of wild flowers, cypress needle, fresh herbs, fennel and crushed berry.  On the palate, the crushed berry notes are elegant and graceful and dominate the flavors.  Silky tannins and juicy acidity make for a mouth watering experience while dried fennel and leather notes lend some complexity to this young Brunello.  Better I think after 2-4 years in the cellar.  What a future! 95 points.  About $80.  Find this wine.

~ A very pure expression of Sangiovese with a long cellar life ahead of it. Impeccable Balance ~

The Pietranera estate is owned by the Centolani family and consists of approximately 200 hectares.  Tenuta Friggiali is also owned by the Centolani family.  Located about 1 mile from the famous Sant’Antimo Abbey, the Centolani’s employ and interesting regimen for aging their Brunello.  French oak is employed from Allier in 20, 30, 50 and 100 hectoliter sizes.

The 2012 Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino displays a classic looking color.  The aromas feature high toned floral notes, red berries, spices and dried flowers.  Lots of bright juicy red fruits on the palate which is somewhat straightforward but very fresh and lively. A solid effort that may develop more complexity as it matures, but I wasn’t blown away.  92 points.  About $40.  Find this wine.

~ Very pretty color in this affordable Brunello ~

Artist turned winemaker Sandro Chia has always taken things to the limit.  Emboldened by the phrase, anything worth doing is worth overdoing, his passion for art and wine have merged successfully.  I have always enjoyed his wines; they are full of energy and even rambunctiousness.  However, in 2012, his Brunello has risen to another level.

~ Castello di Romitorio lies within sight of Il Palazzone not far from Montalcino Centro ~

The 2012 Castello di Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino is special. Very special.  It’s a classic deep ruby with violet reflections that seem to shine in the glass.  Great complex nose of wild berries, fennel, pipe tobacco and cocoa.  The flavors seemingly echo the aromas  but the tactile nature of this wine is stunning. Very juicy, mouthwatering red fruit flavors go on and on. Fresh, lively with hazelnut and fennel notes on the long, long finish. Again, finesse and power at once.  Really gorgeous. 96 points. About $45-$50.  Find this wine.

~ A slightly different image to match the complexity of the Romitorio label. The artwork on each Brunello is always different. It always manages to make the producer name difficult to read, but the art itself is really all I need to see in order to recognize the producer ~


~ Vineyard posts designate parcels of vines belonging to Argiano ~

Over 5 centuries, Argiano has been witness to some tumultuous times in Montalcino.  The 125 hectares that are farmed in the southern part of the Brunello zone produce rich wines with masculine characteristics.  Despite the varied changes, which have seen consultants like Giacomo Tachis make their mark, US importers come and go, and new Brazilian ownership as of 2013, Argiano seemingly marches on.

The 2012 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino is a wine true to the estate’s style.  This deep ruby colored wine displays faint violet highlights. Rich, meaty and masculine this is filled with cherry, dark chocolate powder and pipe tobacco aromas and flavors.  Fresh and vibrant, the long, long finish is dotted with pepper and baking spices until the well knit tannins begin to assert themselves. Really good now, but should improve as it sheds its baby fat.  94 points.  Good value under $40.  Find this wine.

~ Beautiful color and a gorgeous wine from Argiano in 2012 ~

Just south of Montalcino,  near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, lie the 60 acres of vineyards of La Poderina, now owned by the Saiagricola group.  Riccardo Cotarella is the consulting winemaker.  Therefore, it may fit 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.  As a result, the Brunello tends to take on a more modern “flair” stylistically.

The 2012 La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino is a light to medium ruby color with violet reflections and a slight fade to copper at the rim of the bowl.  Everything about this wine seems muted at the moment.  Like a fine singer in another room that you hear through the wall. Something is amiss.  This displays soft sandalwood, cherry, earthy and herbal notes on both the nose and palate.  Everything is in place, but there’s no intensity at the moment.  Perhaps this just needs some cellar time to come together?  90 points.  The bump in price concerns me.  Now edging close to $50.   Find this wine.

~ Note the color of this Brunello ~

As an interesting companion to Part 2 of Brunell0 2012, this month’s Newsletter will feature an article devoted to Montalcino;  where to stay, where to shop, where to buy wine and things to do when you’re visiting the famous hill town.  Stay tuned!

Part 3 of Brunello 2012 will be published next month.  Producers to be featured include:   Altesino, Castello Banfi, Cerbaiola, Caprili and many more.


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