Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Noble B's; Brunello, Barbaresco and Barolo, strut their stuff at Zachy's City Winery Event, New York

The Wide World of Wine: Italy's Noble B's: Brunello, Barbaresco and Barolo

by Dwight Casimere

Everyone knows Italy's Chiani wine, made from it most famous indigenous grape, Sangiovese, in Tuscany. Not as many are familiar with the great and noble "B's"; Brunello,  Barbaresco and Barolo, which are similarly terrific Italian red wines, which have their own specific greatness and following among wine aficionados.

Brunello is among the most coveted and expensive of Italian wines. It is extracted from a particular strain of the indigenous Sangiovese grape, Brunello di Montalcino, which is made from a particular strain of the Sangiovese grape, which is specific to the regi(hence the name, Brunello, "little brown one"). The wines are very complex, with rich black and red fruit flavors, complex aromas and velvety tannins. They benefit a great deal from cellar aging, but most people who love Brunello, like that sort of wild, fruit forward, highly tannin "rush" they get from first tasting. It's a wine lover's high that is rarely experienced with other varietals!

The new crop of Brunello, Barbaresco and Barolo wines have just been shipped and are available everywhere in the US. Check your local wine shop for the newest releases.

This was the kind of tasting "rush" experienced by several hundred connoisseurs at the US introduction tasting hosted by James Suckling and Zachys Vice President of Marketing, Andrew NcMurray at City Winery in New York's SoHo. The unique environment, which combines the elements of a wine bar, on site wine making, cellar storage,  restaurant and a music venue, made for a heady experience that enveloped all of the senses.

All of the great names were there: Banfi, Casanova di Neri,  Marchesi di Frescobaldi, Fontanafredda. These are but a few of the historic estates creating great wines that are now available. The remarkable thing about these great wines is that the majority of them are well below the $100 mark, most in the $40 range, which makes them an incredible value when you consider the flavor and aging potential. The wines are just reaching stores in your local community, many with sale pricing through the end of the month. It's a fantastic opportunity to stock up on some terrific Italian reds that will provide drinking pleasure now and for many years to come!.

James Suckling with Andrew McMurray, Vice President of Marketing.

Barolo and Barbaresco are both from the Piedmont region (the top left part of the "boot" of Italy), and both are made from the Nebbiolo grape, but they are named after the districts they hail from. Barolo and Barbaresco have wonderful, distinctive aromas of tar, roses, licorice and truffles. Barolo has a reputation for being more massively tannic and rich, while Barbarescos are more graceful and approachable, but there are many variations of styles out there. (There is one more Piedmont "B," and that's Barbera, which is the name of both the grape and the wine. Barberas are kind of the opposite of Barolos and Barbarescos; they're light and crisp, with lower tannins, and they drink well young.)

Brunello, on the other hand, is made from a particular strain of a different grape (Sangiovese) in a different part of Italy (Tuscany, near the center). The best versions of Brunello have luscious, bold, rich black and red fruit flavors. Decanting and aging is good for Brunello, when you give it a chance to express its complex aromas and velvety tannins.

Here's a peek at my tasting notes of some of my favorites:

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2009 $65 (introductory sale price $52). This is an elegant, approachable wine that makes the normally overpowering Brunello a softer, pleasurable experience. The wine opens up with its bright fruit flavors and soft tanins, creating a blanket of fruit flavors on the back of the tongue. Its very drinkable now and will make a terrific wine for al fresco dining with a rack of lamb on the grill or a rosemary and garlic basted strip steak roasted over embering coals.

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2007 $44.99 (introductory sale price $39.99). This was one of the real bargains of the new releases. If you love the taste of fresh plums , combined with the unusual combination of lemon rind and hints of brioche or pie crust with a lovely, velvety finish, this is the wine for you. It's an unusually soft and elegant presentation for a normally aggressive red wine. This is a wine that truly reveals the creative hand of the winemaker. Ripe cheeses, artisinal hams and salumis with a side of olives are the best way to appreciate this wine. A hearty meal would overpower the sheer pleasure of drinking a well-balanced wine, made with extreme care.

Marchesi de Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2009 $74 (introductory sale price $54).  The Frescobaldi family has been making fine wine since the days of the Medici's, yet they continue to rewrite the history books. The wines all come from the greatest vineyards in Tuscany, and it shows. The 2009 is rich and full-bodied with a polished texture and long finish. This is among the highest rated wines in the batch and it deserves the recognition and accolades it has received.

 Antonio D'Ambrosio, Empson USA with Lisini Brunello di Montelcino 2009
 Sabine Lodahl, Castiglion Del Bosco, , Campo del Drago

 Robert Spierer of Perelson Weiner LLP
 Luciano Castiello, Castello Banfi Ambassador and Joe Janish, Director of Public Relations, Banfi

Galen Crippin. Export Manager USA at Marchesi de Frescobaldi.
 Candace Ma'te' of Mate Montalcino

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