‘Brunello di Montalcino 2014 Vintage is ‘Grace Under Pressure,’ Benvenuto Brunello Tasting at Tribeca 360
There are a number of lovely Tuscan wines. One of the finest I have been introduced to is the Brunello di Montalcino.
The DOCG is produced in the area around Montalcino central Italy around 40 kilometers South of the city of Siena. The vineyards and the historic, pristine lands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. Montalcino is mostly one weathered mountain, really al hill, covered by oak forests from which the name Montalcino is thought to have derived.
The small historic hill town is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and seeded crops dotted with renovated stone buildings evidence of ancient cultivation. Montalicino and surrounding hamlets, Castelnuovo dell-Abate, Sant’Angelo and Torrenieri represent a quaint and glorious celebration of the past. The population totals a little over five thousand inhabitants and during the peak tourist season, the population swells. Naturally, it is a gorgeous tourist attraction year-round, but it is best in the spring, summer and fall with its typical Mediterranean climate and elevation of up to 500 metres.
If you are traveling to Tuscany and specifically going to Siena, stop by Montalcino cantinas to sample the wines at the producers I mention here. If you are not traveling there, I list some of the wonderful Brunellos di Montalcinos that you may purchase online or ask your local wine store to order for you. Some information to note about Brunello di Montalcino. To achieve a DOCG the wine must be composed of 100% Sangiovese grapes. It must be aged for at least 30 months in oak barrels. However, some producers age their Brunellos longer. After the oak aging, then the wine is aged in bottles. Again, this may range with some producers between 6 months to a year. The wines age very well, and go fabulously with wild board found in the hills of Montalcino, roasts, sharp cheeses, meaty stews and rustic cooking. But if you are into making wonderful hamburgers with Japanese beef or other excellent, organic beef, then this wine would be smashing with that meat as well.
The 2014 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino was a diversion from previous years. The season was wetter than usual. The producers had to constantly monitor the harvest to prevent fungus. Some producers went to their vineyards four or five times to select the grapes that they determined had finally ripened. Copper was sprayed on the leaves repeatedly because the wetness could have spoiled the entire crop. As it was the yield was much smaller, but the elegance of the wine produced with the attention the vintners gave the harvest was particular to this year. The result is quite amazing, and the wines are ready to drink now.
From the 2014 vintage, I tasted wines in the seminar “Grace Under Pressure: the 2014 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino led by Nick Jackson and Giacomo Pondini, the new Director of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino. The 2014 vintage wines were from the following producers: Ridolfi, Capanna, Beatesca, La Togata and La Magia
The Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2014 Donna Rebecca from Ridolfi Winery was savory on the nose with soft, authentic and welcome tannins to promote a lasting finish.This powerful, earthy Brunello is drinkable with hardy breads and cheeses and meats. If has been aging for four to six years and is ready now. The Ridolfi family has been producing for many years and their lineage harkens back to Florence in 1290.
Their neighbor producer Capanna is in a different section of the territory, but not very far situated in the North of Montalcino. The 2014 Brunello was fruity on the nose and less earthy than the Donna Rebecca. There were elegant herbal notes and those of licorice and spice. The rounded rich fruit was sweeter on the palate with a less savory finish than the Donna Rebecca, but long structured aftertaste nevertheless. I would drink it with less sharp cheeses and with different accoutrements like nuts. And of course as with all the Brunellos, rare steak and pasta dishes with meat sauce, for example a Bolognese or wild boar sauce would be sumptuous.
The Beatesca Winery and vineyards are located in a higher elevation and nearer to Montalcino. On the nose this 2014 DOCG Brunello has sour cherry notes and florality. It is a beautifully elegant wine with plenty of structure and with detail on the palate. The wine differing from the Donna Rebecca is more about finesse than about power because of its fresh, pure taste of jam and melodic tannins. The wine has a 14.5 alcohol content by volume. Total aging as with the other Brunellos is 2 years in oak and 2 years in the bottle.
La Togata Winery produces it 2014 Vintage DOCG Brunello by ageing it 36 months in Slavonian oak barrels and then refines the wine a minimum of 12 months in bottles. The color is a lovely intense ruby red with hints of garnet. The nose is complex and the perfumed aroma speaks of spices and fruit. This is a distinct Brunello that is detailed and has structure and power. The finish is a lasting one.
Finally La Magia Winery is in the central part of Montalcino, in the highest areas in front of the Abby about 400-500 metres high. This wine is an organic vintage with no chemical products. It is very drinkable with minimum tannins. The 2014 vintage produced only 8,000 bottles out of the normal 30,000. And this was accomplished with careful selection of grapes as the vintners went into the vineyards again and again looking for the best and ripest Sangiovese. Copper had to repeatedly be sprayed on the vines to insure a coherent harvest. The power and structure of the wine are balanced and not overpowering. It is elegant, a remarkable wine that is aged for 3 years mainly in French oak barrels. Like the other Brunellos it is ruby red with garnet flourishes. On the nose there are notes of sour cherry, with spices and freshness. The finish is long lasting and pleasurable.
There were two 2013 Brunello di Montalcino vintages that we tasted which were absolutely lovely and different. The vintage was a much easier one as the weather did not feature the extreme rain of the 2014 year.
The Loacker Wine Estates have three wineries. Tenuta Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013 Fiore Del Vento was the wine I tried from the Tenuta Corte Pavone Winnery. The ageing during the first two years follows the Brunello style in smaller then larger oak. It ages in its entirety for three years in oak. It is in the higher area of Montalcino, 450-500 metres. It is currently drinkable and will age nicely for a few decades. It is aromatic on the nose with lovely perfumed finesse. Its expression is authentic with purity and is harmonious and well balanced with no overpowering tannins at the finish.
The Barbi Winery boasts vineyards and a Taverna/Restaurant with lovely food. I tasted the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva 2013 which was wonderful. This is a modern expression of an ancient wine whose family has had a vineyard and wine estate for centuries. In the South East part of the Montalcino area, the soil is sandy and the area with remnants of fossils was under the sea eons ago. But the soil yields a lovely, classic wine that is contemporary. The nose is aromatic and pleasant. It is elegant and vibrant with a depth and structure that goes well with sharp cheeses, pastas and meats. If you check the pictures of the Taverna, you will see what goes best with the Brunellos offered. It is a deep ruby red with garnet tones, a lovely, drinkable wine.
Tuscany, Italy was written about extensively by Frances Mayes who turned her Tuscan memoir and house renovation to a small business empire where she sells oil made from her trees, as an example. Another view of Tuscany is in the Brunello di Montalcinos. This wine is elegant, yet a throwback to the past. It is contemporary, yet has finesse. It is a competitor to the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in the hill town of Montepulciano on the other side of Montalcino. Regardless, both are my favorites because of the Sangiovese grape which my father always talked about when he tried to make wine, but had to send to California for grapes, and truly, they weren’t very good then (1950s). Things have changed, of course. But now since it is easy to go online and have the wines shipped to your door, why make inferior wine? Don’t forget to order the Brunello or ask for it in your local wine store. Chin chin, happy drinking!