2011: A HOT YEAR FOR BRUNELLO!
The Montalcino terroir dealt well with the heat and drought of the 2011 summer growing season. In fact Montalcino faired much better than its neighbor Chianti Classico. According to many experts, the region produced Brunelli that offer ripe flavors with soft tannins for extended aging potential. Full bodied reds with jammy flavors and soft textures all while maintaining good balance. Are these fine Sangiovese reds already charming and drinkable ? Do these full flavoured, elegant terroir wines display fruit maturity and richness as expected ?
At Les Conseillers du Vin, we decided to taste a selection of wines from reputed producers to verify the aging potential, richness and balance of this very good Brunello di Montalcino vintage. How long should we leave these fine Brunelli in our cellar? And how much should we pay for these high quality Sangiovese based reds? A group of 16 experienced tasters analysed 7 Brunelli plus a mystery wine in the usual blind tasting format.
Results: Overall the wines faired well, but not as consistent as hoped. To establish the order of preference of the tasting panel, 3 points were awarded to a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
Most participants agreed, the overall quality level was quite variable. Some wines showed good balance and concentration, others slightly angular, lacked richness and character. Surprisingly the mystery wine, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Fonterutoli, was the preferred wine with 23 points. It must be mentioned that the Fonterutoli Chianti crafted in more modern style seduced many of the tasters with its obvious structure and concentration. Tied for second with 17 points we find Donatella Cinelli Colombini Prime Donne and Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova. Right behind in fourth place was the Caparzo Riserva with 16 points. It seemed obvious that 2011 vintage is not as impressive and complete as the great 2010 Brunello di Montalcino harvest. As previously mentioned the 2011 Brunelli are inconsistent, mainly because of difficult climatic conditions (excessive heat and drought), but also due to the varying styles of Brunello that are being produced in the region. My suggestion to the Brunelli aficionado is to start focusing on the more consistent 2012 vintage. Always keep in mind that you will find varying styles in this prestigious appellation: the more classic, lean and firm traditional style, but also the ripe, full of fruit, darker coloured modern style. A positive trend that gives consumers a choice (of style)! My top three wines were: 1-Casanova di Neri, 2-Donatelli Cinelli Colombini Prime Donne 3-Caparzo Riserva . See my tasting notes below.
The wines : Order of blind tasting:
1- Brunello Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova $90 (Group score: 17 pts)
This was my favourite wine of the tasting. Superb nose displaying spicy, fruity and floral scents Deeply coloured, good extract and structure. This fresh and well balanced Brunello should age well (4 to 6 years). Finished tied for second with 17 pts. My rating: 93/100
2- Brunello Caparzo Riserva $82 (Group score: 16 pts)
A bit more on the firm side, the Caparzo Riserva reveals solid tannins with fresh acidity. Deep ruby colour, with some oak and dark berry aromas. Slightly bitter/austere finish for now. Very good aging potential (4 to 6 years). Finished 4th with 16 pts. My rating: 90+/100
3- Brunello La Gerla Gli Angeli Riserva $129 (Group Score: 0 pt)
Finished dead last with 0 pts! Traditional pale colour. An odd nose displaying wood, spices and rubber. Very elegant classic old school style: high acidity in a lean and firm body. Not sure this wine can get better? My rating: 88/100
4- Brunello Palazzo $64 (Group score: 5 pts)
Orange/reddish colour showing some evolution. This lovely Brunello offers some ripe fruit in a medium bodied style. Balanced with lively acidity. Some red berry enhanced with floral and animal hints. Some potential: 3 to 5 years. Finished 7th with 5 pts. My rating: 89+/100
5- Brunello Sasetti Pertimali $62 (Group score: 8 pts)
Medium ruby colour with orange rim. The nose displays fruity, spicy and mineral scents. More elegance than richness. Traditional high acid, lighter bodied style. Some potential: 3 to 5 years. Finished 6th with 8 pts. My rating: 88/100
6- Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, Fonterutoli $48 (Group score: 23 pts)
The preferred wine of the tasting with 23 pts. This very modern style Chianti displays deep colour, dark berry scents with lots of firm tannins. Seems a bit over-extracted. Lacks finesse/elegance. Aging potential: might not come around? My rating: 88?/100
7- Brunello Donatelli Cinelli Colombini Prime Donne $73 (Group score: 17 pts)
Made in ripe seductive style that remains balanced. Well extracted fruit flavours. Soft acidity and a hint of bitterness add elegance. Good potential: 4 to 6 years. The ripe nose is marked with a hint of volatile acidity. Finished tied for 2nd with 17 pts. My rating: 92/100
8- Brunello Banfi Poggio alle Mura $70 (Group score: 10 pts)
Ruby colour with orange rim. A surprising (slightly) oxidised nose with jammy berry scents. Firm tannins, fresh acidity with a light bitter/austere finish. Some aging potential? Not sure it will soften? My rating: 87/100
Photo: Nick Hamilton