Thematic Tasting: Brunello Reunion

April 2, 2015

Thematic Tasting Brunello 1

BACKDROP

A short while ago our friend flew into Kyiv from San Francisco for a short stay. He doesn’t visit very often so this was a special occasion and, thus, called for special tastings. We settled on Brunello and Barolo as the themes.

Cellars and wine fridges were raided and this is what the cats dragged out for the Brunello part.

All wines were decanted 3 hours prior to the tasting and served blind.

A short summary: Two wines from the Montosoli hill, three bottles of Soldera, one clear outlier and a lesson on how pedigree can resist storage sins.

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TASTING NOTES

April 2, 2015

Name:Soldera
Vintage:1995
Type:Red Wine
Varietal:Sangiovese Grosso
Producer:Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Intistienti
Region:Italy / Toscana / Montalcino / Tavernelle
Alcohol:14.0%

Again some questions to the provenance (at least a part of it) of this Soldera. Blindly it showed older than the 1995. And yet again the pedigree manages to compensate for compromised storage conditions.

Oldish and delightful. Quite evolved tertiary nose and flavor are balanced and in harmony. Underbrush and dried cherry dominate the nose and aftertaste. The other typical tertiary elements, like leather, cedar and herbs ebb and flow on the palate and in the nose, masking the underlying freshness of sour cherry. A pleasant warmth of freshly pressed linen frames everything nicely.

Forgetting the disconnect between the implied and real age of this wine, it offers a great aged, long and solid middle - probably indicative that the storage faults were not severe or prolonged. The aroma and flavor evolved too quickly, but the structure remained intact in terms of both, tannins and acidity. 

The bottom line: I liked this bottle a lot as an aged Brunello, but it underwhelmed as a 1995 Soldera Intistienti. 


April 2, 2015

Name:Livio Sassetti
Vintage:2007
Type:Red Wine
Varietal:Sangiovese Grosso
Producer:Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Region:Italy / Toscana / Montalcino / Montosoli hill
Alcohol:14.0%

Sassetti family has been farming their vineyards in Colle for years, but were never fully happy with the result. Eventually, in the 1970s they sold that land and bought the Pertimali property on the prized Montosoli hill. From their Brunello zone estate they produce the typical Montalcino trio - Rosso, Brunello and Brunello Riserva, but also some. Rosso (~15k btls) sees no wood. Brunello normale and Riserva are aged for 36 months in large Savonian botti, a full year longer than required. The key differences between the normale and Riserva are: 1) Riserva is produced only in exceptional vintages and 2) Riserva receives extra bottle ageing, as per the legislation.

First thing you get on the nose is a great mix of proper, classy red fruit, biodynamic notes and a whiff of that good-old hearty country barnyard that Sangiovese can muster like no other. You either love it or hate it. I lllove it!

Funky as it is, the traditional style comes across strong. It's not what you might call an ultra-classic Brunello, but definitely traditional. Focused, juicy, salty, trim and tight, nice rolling texture and lightness of character typical for Montosoli. It may not deliver the level of sophistication that a Poggio di Sotto, Le Chiuse or Paradiso di Manfredi, but it has a lovely personality and plenty of complexity to take you away from the "everyday" wines' pleasant simplicity without breaking the "special occasion" wines budget.

In my book, Sassetti Livio has been offering a very good price/quality Brunello normale and Riserva option for a few years now and this instance just confirmed that it can punch above its weight (or at least above its price).


April 2, 2015

Name:Silvio Nardi
Vintage:2006
Type:Red Wine
Varietal:Sangiovese Grosso
Producer:Brunello di Montalcino
Region:Italy / Toscana/ Montalcino / Bosco
Alcohol:13.5%

Unmistakably modern in style, but more conscious of the limits than some.

Starts off with cream and tobacco nose, but instead of going heavy into vulgarities of the oak use, it takes the savoury wood route.

I guess that's where their restraint in usage of new and small barrels comes into play. The elevage is one year in a mix of new and old barriques is followed by a year in botti.

However, it is still quite big and brawny, oaked and weakish in the middle. Not my style.


April 2, 2015

Name:Soldera
Vintage:2000
Type:Red Wine
Varietal:Sangiovese Grosso
Producer:Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse
Region:Italy / Toscana / Montalcino / Tavernelle
Alcohol:13.0%

This bottle provided the unflattering comparison base for the identical Case Basse served just before it. Initially the difference was stark, it was impossible to say these two came from the same cantina.

Unlike its predecessor, sophisticated pedigree of this one was evident right away.

It started quiet, coy and elegant. Over the next two ours in the glass it opened up finally. Nicely integrated dried sour cherry, fennel, liquorice and violets. Gentle cola aromatics, a Brunello telltale for me, revealed themselves later. Clean aromatic line sparsely sprinkled by tertiary aromas of dark bread crust and underbrush.

The flavor was a logical continuation of its aromatic portrait. A very pleasant, restrained and classy mix of dry red fruit and shy floral elements with herby and earthy savouriness of traditional-style Brunello.

Unfortunately, while still very good, I did not feel inspired by this bottle. The wine did not feel as vibrant and focused as the top-notch Brunello, let alone Soldera, should be. In all honesty - after the bottle was revealed, I did feel the pressure to reassess my perception upward. But re-reading the "blind" notes it just didn't click. This particular bottle was good, but not special.

As is the case with great wines underperforming - the cause could be a myriad of factors. From the drinker's skewed perception, to storage issues, to opening it at the wrong time on its evolution cycle, etc.  Which one of them played its role here? Who knows.


April 2, 2015

Name:Soldera
Vintage:2000
Type:Red Wine
Varietal:Sangiovese Grosso
Producer:Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse
Region:Italy / Toscana / Montalcino / Tavernelle
Alcohol:13.0%

Patience is a virtue. The first nose was hugely maderized and the initial reaction was that this wine has, by and large, perished.

With seven wines being served as one set, table real estate was at a premium and most of the people opted to give back this glass, writing it off as a goner.

My person preference when faced with a serious wine which seems overly evolved is to stay with the glass for the duration of the tasting and observe. Sometimes nothing happens and the dead stay dead. However, at times - amazing things occur. This is especially true with old Baroli, so don't rush to judgement if your bottle of 1964 Barolo from a serious producer at first appears far over the hill. It might just need more time to wake up.

With this Case Basse Riserva the turnaround was not quite of the Benjamin Button proportions, but remarkable nonetheless.

By the end of the night, whatever was left in my glass was a wounded soldier, who will never fully recover, but hardly a goner. I would like to think that it was a tribute to how a great pedigree can withstand some storage abuse and emerge crumpled, but alive. A lesser wine would simply not have that spine strength to bounce back, even if partially.

The second bottle of the same wine was in a much better shape and provided a stark contrast to compare this one to. They were cleverly served next to each other and it was impossible to say this was the same bottle.


April 2, 2015

Name:Canalicchio di Sopra
Vintage:2008
Type:Red Wine
Varietal:Sangiovese Grosso
Producer:Brunello di Montalcino
Region:Italy / Toscana / Montalcino / Casaccia
Alcohol:13.5%

An off bottle. Diluted nose and lack of vibrancy. Dusty warm leather. Some hint of violets, but quite flat.


April 2, 2015

Name:Baricci
Vintage:2007
Type:Red Wine
Varietal:Sangiovese
Producer:Brunello di Montalcino
Region:Italy / Toscana / Montalcino / Montosoli hill
Alcohol:13.5%

Baricci, is one of the very few anti-pop winemakers from the prized Montosoli hill in Montalcino. Poduction is quite small and limited to only Brunello (no Riserva) and Rosso. Notably, the entire Brunello production from its 5ha is aged in one botte for 36 months to yield roughly 12-14,000 bottles.

Normally Baricci produces Brunelli which are light, elegant, gentle and somewhat shy.  Distant bloody cherry pit and creamy violets in the nose carry onto the palate not only in flavour, but also in texture.

Airy and light texture make it extremely quaffable and easy to enjoy, but do not discount it as simple. It is one of those wines which deliver simple pleasures easily, but are more than capable of giving you seriousness and depth if you give it more of your attention and focus on listening rather than just drinking.

Best when drunk alone versus being crowded by other wines. Its a ballet dancer, so don't expect it to perform like a gentleman fighter or an aristocrat fencer. Unfortunately, I feel that, at least for me, this bottle of Baricci fell victim to the context of the tasting (read more of my thoughts on this here) and three stars reflect this.

Bottom line: One of the best inexpensive Brunelli with a focus on elegance and quiet charm. I am still a big fan.