~ One of the main streets in Montalcino leading directly to the Fortezza ~

Last month, I published Part 2 of my Annual 2012 Brunello report with the promise that much more coverage was coming. Today we proudly release Part 3 of our Report on 2012 Brunello.  This article includes an array of interesting wines from classic, old guard producers to newer boutique Brunello estates and long time favorites.  This article also puts some added emphasis on food pairings which we feel are uniquely important to the culture and enjoyment of Italian wine.  We’re excited and there is much more to come. So let’s get to it!

2012 Brunello – Part 3

It’s hard to talk about a producer as classy as Altesino without waxing poetic.  They have been on the forefront of Brunello for decades with the pioneering introduction of the first Brunello “Cru” in their Montosoli wine.  The first estate to use barrique in the production of Brunello, it was a decision that surely turned heads.  But today, most producers use some combination of large, medium and small barrels to craft Brunello.  The entrant for our 2012 report, is Altesino’s 40th vendemmia and they show no signs of resting on their laurels.

The 2012 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino is a deep ruby color with a long, classic fade to copper at the rim of the bowl.  The aromatic profile is complex and interesting with notes of ripe cherries, wet stones, fresh tobacco, soft worn leather and balsam wood notes.  Lively and fresh on the palate with bright wild berry, sweet anise and precise dried fennel notes this is a classic Brunello.  Long, juicy finish with noticeable but still caressing tannins.  Bravo to the 40th harvest!  95 points easy.  Shop around. Price varies like crazy here.   Find this wine.

~ As you can see, the Altesino was served with flank steak pinwheels that were rolled with prosciutto and fontina and then basted in olive oil and rosemary. We grilled them for about 8 minutes total to a tender medium rare. Perfetto! ~

Luce della Vite.  The fusion of light, energy and life, for as Lamberto Frescobaldi says; “Nothing in nature would exist without light.”   Lamberto now shepherds the joint venture that was created by his late father Vittorio and the late Robert Mondavi.   From the 88 hectares of vines on the Luce Estate, 11 are devoted to Brunello and the vines rest at approximately 400 meters above sea level.

The 2012 Luce della Vite Brunello di Montalcino sports one of the busiest wine “labels” you’ll encounter; painted “rays of the sun” emanating from the core of the Luce estate announce the bottle in dramatic fashion.  I was very curious how this wine would present itself and there’s no beating around the bush;  I am impressed.

In the glass the wine is deep crimson color, trending toward garnet.  There are violet reflections throughout.  Lovely, enticing nose of crushed cherry, road dust, white truffles and porcini.  Deep, focused, bright, wild berry flavors dominate the palate from fore to aft with little tertiary nuance at this stage.  Fresh and lively with large scale tannins that are well integrated but clamp down on the back end.  Yes, it leans to the more modern rather than the rustic side of the spectrum, but this is high quality wine.  The only drawback is the price.  95 points.  About $120. Find this wine.

~ A rich, seductive and primary wine. We served this with grilled flat iron steak drizzled with a pesto oil, broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes ~

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 2012 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino is special.   A remarkable blend of technological precision meeting time honored tradition.  The color is a brilliant ruby that fades slightly to copper at the rim of the bowl.  Meaty, the dried fennel and cured meat aromas circle around a large scaled core of ripe wild berry fruit.  On the palate, the wine is no less compelling.  Wild berry notes abound and are framed with fennel seed, roasted mushroom, and a dusty texture to the fine tannins.  Paired with buffalo mozzarella, warmed ciabatta, and roasted chicken, this wine simply blossomed even more alongside the food.  Reliable.   94 points and a bargain around $40.   Find this wine.

~ This wine really augmented the buffalo mozzarella in a special way ~

In January of 2016 during the Benvenuto Brunello tasting I was very impressed with the 2011 Collosorbo Brunello but had difficulty tracking it down locally.  Recently, I spied a stash of the 2012 at a very reasonable price, so I took the plunge.   Collosorbo 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 ancient Collosorbo Cellars ~

~ Laura, Giovanna, and Lucia ~

The 2012 Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino leaves a bit to be desired for my palate.  This is a solid Brunello, but it’s clearly suffered from the heat of the vintage as it displays a borderline overripe flavor profile.  Reduced cherry syrup, pine needles and baking spices dominate the nose and palate and the wine comes off as “heavy”.   The value here was amazing, but ultimately it didn’t deliver.  If you’re intrigued, buy one and taste before going long.  Not my cup of tea, though I have a few bottles so there will be more data points in the future.  89 points.  About $30.  Find this wine.

~ The Ciacci family run Collosorbo. They are not related to the Ciacci Piccolomini family ~

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.  When the 2010 vintage was released I enjoyed this wine a lot.  I rated it 93 points and it represented very nice value.  The last two vintages seem to show me that Camigliano isn’t handling hotter vintages well.  The 2011 was noticeably disappointing and the 2012 is almost an identical wine.

The 2012 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino is a medium ruby color with faint violet highlights.  Everything about this wine is “small” and “thin”.  It’s got faint aromas of red berries, vanilla, and some toasted spices.  On the palate, the wine is lacking body and structure.  Simple flavors of red berries, toasted spices, vanilla and hints of sandalwood are bland and not very interesting.  I’m not sure what’s going on here since the 2010, but I have a hard time recommending this wine. I’m curious what the 2013 will be like in January.  87 points.  About $30.  Find this wine. 

~ This is a case where the light color of the wine did foreshadow the tasting experience. Too bad. ~

Any introduction to a winery that starts like this catches my attention:  “When climate and growing conditions do not allow for absolute excellence, we devote the entire grape crop to the production of Rosso di Montalcino.”

Four kilometers south of Montalcino lies the Cerbaiola farm where the Salvioni’s have produced Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino since 1985.  The family insists on maximum quality so the most Brunello that will ever be produced in a given year is 10,000 bottles.  The property extends over 20 hectares, but only 4 are devoted to vineyards.  Salvioni Brunello is vinified in stainless steel and aged for 36 months in 20hl Slavonian cask.

The 2012 Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino is superb.  In fact, the first word on my tasting sheet says “stunning”.   The color is a classic medium ruby that lightens noticeably as it expands toward the rim of the glass.  After being opened for 30 minutes, the aromas shined.  Loads of crushed cherry, wet stones, cypress, and new leather combine with fresh floral notes to form a complex, enticing bouquet.  But it’s on the palate where this wine really rang by bell.   The purity of the flavors and the freshness of the texture are stunning.  Laser precision focused wild berry flavors are accented with chestnut, roasted espresso bean, turned earth and pipe tobacco.  Long, juicy and vibrant, the tannins assert themselves more on the finish but with Milanese and pici con wild boar ragu, they don’t interfere. Simply amazing.  95 points.  Not inexpensive by any stretch near $120.  Find this wine.

~ Interestingly, the Salvioni’s vinify the wine on their property south of Montalcino. However, when it comes time to barrel age the wine, it is transported to the center of Montalcino and aged in cask beneath the family home! The wine is then transferred back to the winery for bottling. ~

~ Perhaps the quintessential of all Tuscan Pastas is Pici. A sort of rustic thick spaghetti that holds ragus like wild boar, sausage and ground pork very well. You can find Pici at Italian Specialty Stores. (or likely Amazon) ~

Earlier this year, I documented a wonderful day spent on the Caprili Estate.  The weather was perfect and the vineyards were just beginning to bear fruit.  We tasted through all of Giacomo’s current releases and some gems from the cellar. One of the wines that day was the 2012 Brunello, which I have since put in my cellar.

~ Cypress trees lining vineyards on the Caprili farm ~

The 2012 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino is a wonderful wine.  I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy this several times already and every time the profile has been consistent and delicious. It’s a deep ruby color with notes of crushed berry, tobacco, licorice and eucalyptus.  Flowers emerge with more extended air time and freshly turned earth appears too.  So round, smooth and elegant on the palate with full bodied and juicy berry flavors accented with fennel, toasted spices, and maybe even some porcini.   The tannins are smooth and  wonderfully integrated.  Long, long finish that just sits on your palate.  The promise of a long life seems a foregone conclusion. Good value!  93 points.  Find this wine.

~ The Caprili winemaking is in the capable hands of Giacomo Bartolommei ~

4 small hectares.  That’s all it takes to make magic. Fossacolle family winery lies in the village of Tavernelle in the south of Montalcino.  Owner and patriarch Sergio Marchetti has familial roots that date to the 18th century,  but Fossacolle is a mere baby in relation to Brunello, having only released it’s first vintage, the 1997,  in January 2002.  The vineyards sit at an altitude of approximately 300 meters ASL in soil that is strongly influenced by clay.  Although the estate is 4 hectares,  only 2 1/2 are devoted to Brunello.

~ Sloping vine rows on the Fossacolle Estate just before harvest ~

The 2012 Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino retains the personality it’s exhibited over the past several vintages. Masculine power.  Everything about this wine is on the darker, mysterious more muscular level.  Black cherry and plummy fruit combine with fruitcake spice, black olive, and leather flavors and aromas.  A slight bitter twinge on the finish reminds of the 2011 which eventually blew off so give this some length in the decanter or better yet, time in the cellar.  Seems like these are always built to age.  93 points.  Find this wine.

~ Montalcino from the Fortezza ~

Andrea and Cesare Cecchi are both dynamic, passionate men seemingly filled with boundless energy and a timeless honor for Tuscany.  The Cecchi brothers have substantial land holdings throughout Tuscany from San Gimignano to Grosseto in Maremma.  From their property south of Montalcino they produce between 20,000-30,000 bottles of Brunello per vintage.  Vineyards like about 435 meters above sea level and traditional methods of production are followed.

The 2012 Cecchi Brunello di Montalcino is a dark ruby color, trending to garnet.  Fresh, inviting aromas of cherry, pomegranate, eucalyptus, sage and warmed clay are reminiscent of the air on the slopes outside town.  On the palate, dried herbs frame a medium bodied core of cherry fruit.  Not a bruiser by any definition, but a solid effort that, like many of Cecchi’s wines, represents an excellent value.  93 points.  Good value around $45.  Not imported.  Find this wine.

~ The Cecchi sample was sent to me unlabeled as Cecchi likes to delay the release of their Brunello so that it rounds out more by bottle aging. Indeed, the link above shows 2011 as the most recently available vintage ~


~Poggio Alle Mura Castle ~

Finally,  I’ll close Part 3 with a wine I’ve tasted about 6 times over the past 12 months and from various size bottles in different settings.  Each time consistent. Each time delicious.   The 2012 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino is a worthy successor to their 2010 and a notch above the 2011.  The gem of the southern part of the zone, near Sant’Angelo Scalo, the wine is deep ruby red with violet reflections.  The nose of this wine is very complex.  Crushed cherry, cake spices, fresh flowers, vanilla and tobacco are plentiful on the nose.  The flavors follow the nose and add dark cocoa powder which is very attractive.  Will be better in a year or two as the tannins soften and the flavors become even more expressive.  Dynamite effort. 94 points. Find this wine.

~ An outstanding effort in 2012 from Castello Banfi and a wine which is widely available. Shop around for the best price. ~

In thinking about 2012 as a vintage on the whole, I think we as wine drinkers have to be very pleased.  Through the first three parts of this years report, there hasn’t been too many wines that haven’t been expressive and enjoyable in their youth. They have the balance and structure to age well; at least until the next great vintage (2015) arrives on the market. By that time, the 2010’s will be ten years old and entering what I suspect will be a prime drinking window.  There’s lots to like if you’re a Brunello lover.

In the meantime, stay tuned here for Part 4 which will be coming out next month.  Plus, future Newsletters will feature additional 2012 Brunello reviews that will be exclusive to subscribers. So come aboard!


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