Brunello Retrospective

~ Sunset over Montalcino as seen from Sasso di Sole ~

Without question, the 2010 Brunello vintage stands among the best vintages in the last 2 decades.  Over the past few months, I’ve been tasting various 2010s to see where these wines stand heading into their 10th birthday.  The results are impressive across the board.

As the growing season that was 2010 began to unfold, it was clear that winemakers in and around Montalcino were very excited. Indeed, that was true for most of Italy.  But vintage evaluations can change over time and often times surprise us.  2008 has turned out a bit better. And who remembers the disappointment of 1997?  However, this is not the case for 2010.  Here’s what I wrote in my article “A Recent Vintage Analysis” :  “The growing season was utterly perfect in every way for the glorious maturation of the Sangiovese grape. The rain was optimal, the temperatures perfect, the winds gentle, and the season long and ideal. It showed in the barrel samples I tasted then and it shows in the finished wines now.”

It’s still showing.

Montalcino Centro Brunello

~ The center of Montalcino on a bright sunny day is a perfect place to listen to the bell Tower and sip a glass of Brunello ~

2010 Retrospective Brunello Tasting

Let’s begin with an iconic producer.

The 2010 Lisini Brunello is a wonderful example of traditionally crafted Brunello.  This is just as juicy and vibrant as ever.  Showing a deep ruby garnet red with violet reflections, this exhibits loads of crushed wild cherry, brown pipe tobacco, leather and focused sage notes.  On the palate the juicy, ripe fruit sapid and mouthwatering. Accented by cured meats, ground coffee and dust this is long, balanced and very fresh.  Definitely more complex than upon release.  96 points.  Find this wine.

Lisini 2010 Brunello

~ Lisini is consistently one of my favorite producers and this is the best wine they’ve made since the 1990 ~

From a large estate in the western part of the Brunello zone, Barbi produces almost 160,000 bottles of Brunello on average which illustrates yet again that excellent wine can be made in larqe quantity.  Since 1981 the Colombini family has produced the wonderful Vigna del Fiore Cru from an optimal 14 acre vineyard.  After fermentation and cold soaking, the wine ages in a combination of small and medium barrels before being transferred to grande botte.

The 2010 Vigna del Fiore shows a lovely garnet to violet color which fades gently to copper at the rim of the bowl.  Bright aromas include fresh flowers, crushed stones, juicy cherries and new leather.  On the palate, the freshness is impressive.  Although this is tannic and can cellar for another 5-10 years easily, I think it’s delicious now.  Full bodied red fruits are punctuated by minerals, leather and fennel.  Delicious and long and a classic example of Brunello.  96 points.  Find this wine.

Barbi Brunello 2010

~ Grilled NY Strips and garlic rubber tomato bruschetta were the perfect foils for this gorgeous red ~

The Spirit of the Place; this is the driving force behind Valdicava and the very essence of their efforts.   Run by the Abbruzzese family, the estate was purchased in 1953 buy the current owner’s grandfather.  Since 1968,  the estate has been bottling wine from the Montosoli Hill, arguably the premier area in the entire Brunello zone.  The property encompasses a total of 333 acres, but only 67 are dedicated to vines.

The 2010 Valdicava Brunello is a monumental Brunello in stature and complexity.  Aromas explode from the glass in this mesmerizing Brunello.  Wild flowers, crushed berries, wild herbs, fresh fennel, pipe tobacco and leather are captivating and intricately woven.On the palate the wine is juicy, fresh and vibrant.  Perfectly ripe wild berries are juicy and concentrated.  Intense without being overdone. Accented with leather, espresso, chestnut, powdered minerals and pipe tobacco, this is simply remarkable.  Can this get better? I asked the question in 2015 and I’ll reiterate now.  It’s hard to imagine how.  98 points.  Find this wine.

2010 Brunello

~ Although pricey, the Valdicava delivers. This is a monumental Brunello that has at least a decade of life left ~

Since at least the 2004 vintage, Uccelliera stands among my favorite Brunello.  This statement comes with one caveat.  To my palate, this property excels in great, more even vintages.  In hotter years, I’ve noticed a tendency for this wine to be over done and its sister estate Voliero, which sits at higher elevation, performs better.

Cortonesi farms 6 tiny hectares in the southern part of the zone near Castelnuovo dell’Abate from which approximately 30,000 bottles are produced.   The 2010 Uccelliera Brunello is a bright violet color throughout.  Fresh cut flowers abound in this Sangiovese. High toned roses, lavender and iris are compelling.   Intense crushed berry, fresh herbs, Tuscan brush appear on both the nose and palate.  Sapid, lively and long.  Another gem that will hold well for another 5-10 years.  97 points. Find this wine.

2010 Brunello Uccelliera

~ Another high toned, fresh and juicy Sangiovese ~

~ Nostalgia on the Il Palazzone Estate ~

As many of my readers will now confirm in the wake of our recent Zoom call, Il Palazzone is on top of their game when it comes to Brunello. They are steadfast in pursuit of high quality. If the vintage doesn’t meet their standards, they don’t produce.  In recent years, this has been true of 2011 and 2014.

The 2010 Il Palazzone Brunello is special indeed.  The wine displays a medium violet color that is bright and reflective.  Despite the lighter color, there’s power behind it.  Intense aromas of crushed berry, violets, cured meat and saddle leather are really pretty.  The flavors echo the nose with purity a major focus.  Bright, juicy laser beams of red fruits are accented by fennel and salume. Grippy tannins are noticeable but not intrusive. I really love where this is at.  97 points.  Find this wine.

Il Palazzone Brunello 2010

~ Through a run of excellent vintages; 2010, 2015 and 2016 it will be interesting to see how all three develop ~

Since he assumed the winemaking duties in 2012, the range of wines from Caprili have improved noticeably and continue to do so.  While the 2015 may eventually eclipse it, the 2010 is no second fiddle.

The 2010 Caprili Brunello is a meaty and muscular Brunello; way more so than I remember.   Deep violet in color with gorgeous reflections, this Sangiovese has become more aromatic with roses, gardenia, crushed cherry and cypress notes.  Full bodied with loads of ripe cherry flavors that add porcini, leather and herb notes.  There’s not let up here at all.  Beautiful wine.  96 points.  Find this wine.

2010 Brunello Caprili

~ This wonderful wine still has a vibrant evolution ahead of it ~

Next up is a broadly available Brunello that shows tremendous consistency; especially given its volume of production. For decades Castello Banfi has been at the forefront of the Brunello revolution.  Whether through its innovative commissioning of their Horizon Hybrid fermentation tanks or its extensive endeavors at soil and clonal research; Castello Banfi leads the way.  Their 2010 remains impressive.

The 2010 Castello Banfi Brunello boasts a medium ruby color with violet highlights.  The aromas from the wine are more elegant than brooding. Fresh flowers, crushed stone, red plums and cherries are notable.  On the palate, the wine is spicy, with hints of pepper, crushed berry and a slight toast of mocha.  Fennel appears on the finish which is fresh and sapid. This one is holding nicely.  94 points. Find this wine.

Castello Banfi Brunello 2010

~ Banfi’s 2010 is in a very nice place right now but like many of its contemporaries in this report, can easily cellar another 5 years ~

In 1998, after a contentious familial split,  Donatella Cinelli Colombini left her family’s estate to start her own endeavor. As part of the agreement, Donatella emerged with the Casato Estate in Montalcino. Along with the vineyards, cellars and farmhouses needing renovation, Donatella received a quantity of Brunello di Montalcino and required  a cellar master to oversee its barrel aging.

She called the Oenology school in Siena asking for a recommended student to hire. She was told that none were available and that these needed to be arranged years in advance. However, they mentioned that they had many female cellar masters available since no important winery in Italy wanted to employ them.  The Prime Donne project was born!

Prime Donne Brunello 2010

~ The all female team at Casato Donnatella Cinelli Colombini ~

The 2010 Prime Donne Brunello is a special wine.  It’s high toned aromas of flowers and spices are joined by herbal notes like cypress and fresh fennel.  Laser like focus on the palate, this is sapid and mouthwatering with balanced acidity and tannins.  Ripe, sweet/tart flavors of crushed cherry are married to flinty mineral and suede leather.  It’s a wonderful wine though with more recent vintages the price has started to creep up. 94 points.  Find this wine.

Prime Donne 2010

~ Prime Donne is always special & this wine is starting to remind me of a Maurizio Castelli influenced Brunello ~

In 1996 Mario Bollag, the former owner of the renowned estate Il Palazzone, broke ground on what was to become his premier winemaking estate.  Terralsole,  “land toward the sun”,  is located south east of Montalcino on the eastern edge of the Brunello zone.  By literally breaking ground on his house and vineyards, he was able to select exactly which clones of Sangiovese he wanted to plant and where.   I’ve written about his compelling 2008 single vineyard Fonte Lattaia and this estate bears watching.

The 2010 Terralsole Brunello is delicious. Meaty and a bit wild on the nose, this blends grilled meat, leather, roses and crushed red fruits in harmony.  The flavors are full bodied and rich with leather, wild cherry, cracked pepper and sandalwood that are persistent and fresh. This has become one my favorite producers and relatively, the wines are good values.  96 points. Find this wine.

Terralsole bottle and glass

~ Mario Bollag is a respected artist and his labels are unique for each vintage ~

With about 500 acres of vines sitting almost 1,500 feet above sea level, Poggio Antico is one of the highest elevated estates in the Brunello zone.  Since 1987, the estate was run by Paolo Gloder and her husband until 2017 when they sold the property to the Atlas Investment Company, a group of Belgian investors.  What was an uncertain event at the time has proven to be a non-issue as the winery continues to craft amazing Brunello.

The 2010 Poggio Antico Altero Brunello is a deep garnet to violet color fixed by its aging in 5oo liter tonneaux.  Crushed cherry, powdered baking spices, mocha, leather and chestnut mark the nose.  On the palate, this lush Brunello is round and ripe with deep flavors of red fruits accented with leather, spices and a hint of toasted vanilla.  Juicy and fresh, the tannins are still noticeable.  95 points.  Find this wine.

Poggio Antico Brunello

~ The Poggio Antico Altero may not be the favorite of Brunello purists, but I love the style ~

A word on these reviews….

It was wonderful to pull these wines from the cellar and check in on them.  They acquitted themselves very well and my scores didn’t move much from my original article.  I decided not to decant these wines but did open them 45-60 minutes before dinner.  Most of them are throwing some sediment toward the bottom of the bottle.

Are they ready to drink?  Absolutely.  The lack of decanting didn’t seem to hold these wines back at all and I can’t say they improved with air over the course of dinner.  That said, there is no rush to drink these.  At a minimum, they have 5 years at this stage and I expect most of them will still be drinking well 10 years from now.  I don’t have that kind of patience or self control – especially given the great 2015 and 2016 vintages that will be around then.  So don’t expect another 2010 Retro Article from me in 10 years! 🙂

Finally…. a special 2010 guest star……

Vineyards on the San Leonardo Estate

~ Vineyards on the San Leonardo Estate in Alto Adige ~

The San Leonardo estate can make the unique claim of employing two of Italy’s most influential consulting winemakers;  Giacomo Tachis and Carlo Ferrini.

Home in the Alto Adige, the estate is surrounded by what appears to be an environment inhospitable to both man and vine.  Yet the mountains shield the vineyards from the harsh winter winds that may seem so bleak.The vineyards of the estate sit at a surprisingly low 150 meters above sea level and are arranged in neat rows in accordance with the slopes of the terrain, thereby maximizing sun exposure.  The winters are often harsh, yet as Anselmo Gonzaga told me:  “The snow, in fact, insulates the vine roots without freezing them and keeps them from drying out during the long, cold winter.  There’s an old Italian proverb, Giovanni.  Under snow there is bread, under rain there is hunger.”

The 2010 San Leonardo is an absolute masterpiece.  Deep garnet to almost black in color with a fade to Burgundy at the rim of the bowl.  A blend of 60% Cabernet, 30% Carmeniere and 10% Merlot, San Leonardo is fermented in cement tanks and then aged in barriques for 2 years.  The barrels vary between new, 1 year and 2 year old barrels.  Balance is the key.

On the nose, the wine is complex.  Ripe notes of small black berry, cigar leaf, Alpine herbs, saline and pepper are interesting and harmonized. On the palate the wine is round and full bodied.  The black fruits are tinged with toasted spice, flinty minerals, licorice and piney herbs. Monderately tannic, and throwing a substantial sediment, I would decant at least an hour at this point.  A classic.  95 points.  Find this wine.

San Leonardo 2010

~ San Leonardo is the best wine from Alto Adige ~

Salute amici!

The next word on Brunello will be 2015 Part 2.  Stay tuned!

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