While the hype surrounding these currently entering the market 2007 Brunelli doesn’t quite match that which preceded the fanfare of last year’s versions (as evidenced by the multiple 100 pointers consumers witnessed for those oh-so-glorious 2006s), the news is none the less exalting. Early reviews from certain publications exclaim back-to-back 5-star vintages; while wine-makers from Castelnuovo dell’ Abate to Camigliano posit insights ranging from, “it’s a wine-maker’s vintage” (suggesting that only the finest of produttores released 5-star wines in 2007), to “it’s even better than our 2006s” (leaving everyone to believe that they’ve produced their vintage of a life-time). Be one a pessimist or eternal optimist one thing is certain, the happy medium of all this free flowing information is a vintage most certainly worthy of our attention.
So it was with that sense of enthusiasm for these newly arriving 2007 Brunelli that I and a group of colleagues set out for the annual Italian Wine Masters Tasting today, which was held in San Francisco on this absolutely beautiful Spring-like day on February 9, 2012. Scheduled to present their wares was no less than 3 dozen of the most highly regarded Brunello producing estates (along with dozens and dozens of additional producers spanning every district from Valdobbiadene to Veneto as well as the other Tuscan zones to include Chianti, Montepulciano and more). To state that our team of professional tasters was eager for this experience is quite the understatement.
As the notes that follow will attest, 2007 is indeed a vintage for Brunello which covers the range. Top producers – as should be expected – released excellent wines. Did they produce their greatest wines ever? Not quite; but certainly quite nearly. As for those producers who routinely hang their hats in the “nearly-there” or “almost as good as the greats” range, well: 2007 definitely had a way of showcasing the shortcomings of the average wine-makers. In summary, not only is 2007 a 4 (out of 5) star vintage, it’s a vintage where consumers as well as buyers need to know full well what they’re doing.
This property describes themselves as “between the modern and traditionalist camp”.
2007 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
The color here is gentle, pale rose. Aromatically this seems a bit closed, somewhat tight and reticent, only gently hinting at the fruit today. On the palate this is soft, not overly expressive, but with some bright and clean fruit nuances of cranberry and Bing cherry. The acidity is soft, leaving a juicy quality overall and a bright, lifted, moderately intense finish. Nice.
2006 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
Medium-dark ruby in color. 50/50 on the wood regimen here: barrique and Slavonia. More expressive aromatically here; with a floral nuance apparent. Again, though: not overly forthcoming today. Certainly more body, with black fruits, good tannic structure and some wood spice. Just not as complex as one looks for in a Riserva. Smoky/barrique notes do add complexity, with the black fruits coming through to add a modern touch to the overall character. Good overall.
Here we encounter another of the steadfast traditionalists, yet an estate who practices fermentation exclusively in new barrels. And while the barrels are solely Slovenian – both for fermentation as well as the extended aging before bottling – that’s about the only aspect at this estate that one could consider truly traditionalist in nature. Having tasted multiple vintages of these ethereal beauties, as for this taster, the only conclusion is we have a very forward-thinking producer with Capanna.
2007 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Very deep ruby in color here. Smashing aromatic profile combines myriad torrefaction aspects with deeply fruited, jammy aromas of pure currants and other black fruits. Jammy, sweetly spicy, cinnamon, clove, allspice; just amazing. Very modern, jammy, sweet and powerful style of wine making. This is a real wow wine. Big, powerful and quite serious. Very complex, completely balanced and all there. Wow.
2006 Capanna Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Opaque. An aroma that captures the senses and fills the room. This is penetrating. This 06 Riserva is big, deep, powerful, massive; just a huge, sweet, structured, decadent, gripping, unreal wine. There are buckets of the most complex fruit nuances, all allied to ethereal power, precision and punch. Aspects of dates and macerated currants melt seamlessly into the wood smoke and other torrefaction notes as vanilla extract coats the palate. A three minute finish suggests decades of pleasure ahead – but why wait? This is possibly as good as Brunello gets.
Col d’Orcia’s owner, Count Francesco Marone Cinzano presented the wines of his family’s estate today. To say that the man doesn’t suffer fools gladly is the understatement of the decade; but once you engage the man on his family’s steadfast adherence to the traditionalist approach, you’ll understand. The man has quite literally written (if not the book) several documents on the subject. This is THE traditionalist estate of the Brunello zone.
2007 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Traditional color here: brick-ish red. Beautifully floral aromatics married to crushed cherries – quite expressive aromatically. Also quite the palate presence, with grippy tannins and a big, powerful, bracing, black fruited personality. Amazingly structured wine. Quite long and palate staining. A real wow wine.
2004 Col d’Orcia Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG
Approaching opaque in color. A cornucopia of aromatic nuances. The wood smoke is very well integrated and frames nuances of sweet spices to include cinnamon and clove as well as a bevy of floral aspects. While completely palate coating, this remains soft, subtle, deeply complex and very serious. The fruit is equally complex and wrapped in toasted / roasted characteristics of truffle, smoke and graphite that allow the currant notes to really linger. Very fine stuff.
When one turns to the dictionary and looks for the definition of traditionalist – in terms of Brunello producers – one just might expect to find these folks as a reference. Not only were there no English speaking folk anywhere in sight at the table in San Fran on this day of tasting, the phrase “barrique” (as in French barrels) was met with utter distain. This is as “old school” as they come.
2007 La Lecciaia “Normale” Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Classic, pale, rose petal color. Very plummy, very juicy nose, combining the fruit and classic floral nuances to offer a very traditional yet forward aromatic flavor profile. This is extremely juicy / fruity and mouth-coating, with palate drenching fruit nuances of dates and ripe Bing cherries. Adding to the flavor cornucopia is a bevy of spices, especially cinnamon. Absolutely delicious wine. Full bodied, very ripe, yet classic and well balanced. A potentially long-lived wine in the making. Another wow wine.
2007 La Lecciaia “Manapetra” Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Again, very pale, rose petal in color. Here we have a more earthy, minerally, peaty nuance combining with the sweet fruit aromas. While not as expressive in the fruit category, certainly interesting in the earthier sense. Still a very sweet fruit attack on the palate, with a very jammy, plummy style to the fruit and that juicy style found in the “normale”. Good tannic grip here, but overall I prefer the normale to this one. Quite good, though.
2006 La Lecciaia Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Pale red rose in color. Nice red fruits on the attack are met immediately and intensely with a strong whiff of earthy minerals. This is a very old school style of wine, that while very juicy / fruity on the palate – with literally buckets of red fruits and jammy nuances – may be simply too earthy for the “modern” world. Combining this much truffle with macerated fruits will have a LOT of folks murmuring.
2006 La Lecciaia “Manapetra” Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
The first of these wines to be approaching the opaque spectrum, while remaining rosy colored. This is almost Gevrey-like, with a Burgundian nose of ripe plum, mineral, assorted dark fruits, truffle and forest floor. On the palate, this really sings, with a full body, rich, mouth-coating fruit and a complexity and balance one expects in a Riserva. Great balancing acidity, grip, focus as well as dynamite fruit complete the package. Quite nice.
As one begins to make their way through a few dozen Brunelli, you begin to assume that the colors of the wines will indicate a wine-maker’s position as it relates to the modernist versus traditionalist camp (or so Col d’Orcia would have us think). Darker colors tend to indicate a more modern approach to wine-making, while those “faded” colors announce an old-school wine-making theory. And then we discover the exception to the rule. Here we have the quintessential “modernist” Brunello wine-maker: 100% French barrels, no old Slovenian to be found. And yet the colors of some of the wines are as “faded” and rosy as many of the traditionalists in Tuscany today. Completely modernist – and proud to pronounce that fact – yet unless tasted, one might not recognize that fact.
2007 Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Medium pale ruby. Mostly wood smoke and over ripe plum in the aromatics. Very fruity and forward on the attack. This is extremely expressive in its modern style and sweetly fruited nose as well as palate. Almost exotic on the palate. Very candied, too. This is as modern as any tasted today. This is a wine that makes folks drink wine – a pleasure seeker’s wine. While not complex or one meant for aging, this is a fun wine for immediate consumption and gratification. A fun wine.
2006 Tenuta Oliveto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
A bit deeper in color than the 2007 – the wine-maker states this is indicative of the vintage differences. This aromatic profile is loaded with wood smoke nuances. The smoke and truffle aromas border on interfering with the otherwise sweet, candied and jammy red and black fruits. The 2006 is a bit more structured and serious than the 2007, but retains the jammy house style. There’s a tannic grip to hold it all together. This is a powerful wine and it’s a bit aggressive, but for those who like power, this will capture one’s attention.
2004 Tenuta Oliveto Riserva Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Approaching opaque in color. This is so loaded with wood smoke, charcoal and barbeque notes on the nose that it recalls many a California Cabernet sampled recently. This is decadently thick, rich, roasted, jammy, smokey, yet tannic, and very grippy. This is so powerful, and the prunes, dates and currants – again – recall California Cabernet more than Brunello. While certainly a fine wine on the scale of wine in general, this may be too controversial for some in the scope of Brunelli. Worth trying for the experience itself.
A winery whose representative coyly answered the questioned regarding traditionalist versus modernist with the answer, “the best of both worlds…”
2007 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Deeply colored here, towards the darker spectrum. Quite a modern aromatic profile of red fruits. Quite juicy with a spicy nuance combining zesty cinnamon with the juicy / fruity/ plummy fruitiness. This shows a powerful palate presence with a big, gripping style and buckets of fruit. There’s a lot of wood spice as well and the finish is big, lush and a bit tannic. Good stuff.
—- Christopher Massie