Diverse soils, geography and climate create spectacular wines
Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere
The Consortiium of the Brunello of Montalcino Wines brought more than a hundred of its best wines from 40 renowned wineries in this unique Mediterranean paradise in Italy's famed Tuscany region to the elegant confines of Gotham Hall in midtown Manhattan and The Fairmont Hotel atop San Francisco's Nob Hill to reveal for the first time in the U.S. the Brunello di Montalcino 2010, along with their Brunello di Montalcino Rioserva 2009, Rosso di Montalcino 2013, Sant'Antimo and Moscadello di Montalcino. The events, only open to qualified members of the wine trade and the media were at the top of the list for connoisseurs anxious to taste some of Europe's most spectacular wines.
Montalcino is the crown jewel of Tuscany with a Mediterranean climate and complex soil variations that make for exquisite wines. Each area produces wines that are distinct to its micro-climate, hence the bredth of flavor and texture exhibited by each of the wines. Their lush, robust fruit-forward character is balanced by delicate floral notes and subtle hints of herbs, spices, tobacco and chocolate all wrapped around a firm spine of pronounced body and acidity. These are terrific wines with food or enjoyed alone for contemplation or with aged cheeses or a good cigar.
The wines presented at the tastings were as different as the geographic locations of the wineries they came from: from the Mediterranean breezes of coastal estates, to the sunny slopes and sun-drenched hills inland, the wines present a diversity of character that is unique. The production area is bounded by water, rocks and rivers, with mount Amiata protecting the southernmost border from cloudbursts and hailstorms from the atmosphere and its 'sides' washed by the Siena's most important rivers.
Made primarily from Tuscany's indigenous Sangiovese grape, some of the wines tasted were like visiting with old friends; Banfi, Talenti, Bottega and Capanna. Others were revelations.
Among the favorites: Banfi Brunello di Montalcinho DOCG Poggio Alle Mura 2010-$70, a 100% Sangiovese Banfi clonal selection with a limited production of only 40,000 bottles. This wine has distinct flavors of dark red fruit; blackberries, currant and casis with a backnote of cinnamon bark and a hint of tobacco. Likewise Barbi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Vigna del Fiore 2010-$45, a 100% Sangiovese with a total production of only 4,000 bottles, is a rare beauty with complex dark fruit flavors and floral notes that seem to unfuld the longer they sit in the glass. This is a wine to be purchased now, then laid down in a temperature-controlled cellar. Resisting the temptation to drink a bottle or two now with a Prime Aged Steak is a temptation that you should not deprive yourself of.
With prices ranging from $30-$200, the wines represent a real bargain when you consider their quality in comparison to comparable wines from France or the Napa Valley which trump them with price tags double that and more. Look for the wines of Brunello di Montalcino at your local wine shop. Don't hesitate to dig deep and buy a number of different labels. You'll be both surprised and deeply satisfied with the bounty of treasures to be explored in the glass and on the palate.