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01.25.2006

The Best of Brunello: Thoughts on The 2001 Vintage

Like many people, I suppose, I fell in love with Tuscany the first time I visited several years ago. Ruth and I managed to hit it perfectly at the peak of Spring -- the hills were green, the poppies in full bloom, little puffy clouds in the sky, 80 degrees, oh. Makes me misty-eyed just thinking about it. It's definitely a magical place. While we were there, we spent an awful lot of time driving around the roads near Siena, Montepulciano, and Montalcino, and an awful lot of time tasting the Sangiovese-based wines of the region.

The most famous of these wines, of course, is Brunello di Montalcino, a wine made from 100% Sangiovese in and around the picturesque little hill town of Montalcino. Ruth became so enamored of these wines while we were there, that she pretty much compares every big red wine to them, and often finds them lacking. "Nope, not as good as a Brunello," she often says, as we're tasting some big dark red. We've decided that we're going to name our first dog Brunello -- we just have to get to a place where we aren't so busy that we'd neglect the poor thing.

In any case, as you can imagine, I was very pleased to hear that Brunello was coming to San Francisco. That is, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the trade group representing the appellation, held the first ever "Benvenuto Brunello" tasting in the United States on Monday, and I was there to welcome them. Along with benvenuto.jpgseveral hundred other journalists, wine buyers, restaurateurs, and distributors. We gathered in the old Federal Reserve Banking hall, and spent four hours tasting through the just-released 2001 vintage.

For those who are perhaps less familiar with the wines of this appellation, here's a 30 second primer. Wines can only be labeled Brunello di Montalcino if they are made from grapes grown in and around the town of Montalcino, and if they are 100% Sangiovese, and if they are aged for no less than two years in oak, and one year in bottle, and are not released before 5 years after harvest. Because that's a long time to keep a wine around without being able to sell it, winemakers may also produce a Rosso di Montalcino which also must be 100% Sangiovese, but can be sold after just one year of oak aging. Finally, and this was news to me as it didn't even exist while I was in Tuscany, there is a new appellation called Sant'Antimo which covers roughly the same geographic region as Montalcino but whose designation allows winemakers to pretty much make any sort of wine they like with whatever sort of red grapes they want. This designation was created to allow them a little more freedom to experiment while still giving them an appellation specific wine.

There are about 170 producers of Brunello di Montalcino in the region, and so this tasting was most certainly the best opportunity to experience the current vintage of Brunello without leaving the US.

So how was it? Well, I should start by explaining my own bias. I really, really, like Brunello, but I think that most of it is not so great. Put another way, there are a lot of people who make pretty average wine in Montalcino, and only a few who make really good wine, and fewer still who make exceptional wine. Despite this, prices for Brunello are pretty high across the board, regardless of quality, so it's very important to ferret out the good ones (the ones you like). As for the vintage, at least with the impression I was able to form at this tasting, 2001 is certainly better than 2000, and heads and shoulders above 1998, but perhaps not as good as 1999. In general, for most producers, their 2001 wines were significantly better than the 2000's -- as you can see from the tasting notes below, many brought their 2000s as well as some 1999's so it made for excellent comparisons.

On the whole, I'm pretty excited about the 2001 vintage, and will be buying some to throw in the cellar for the 6 to 10 years that are really required to let this wine become what it should be.

Here are my notes from the tasting.

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO

2001 Tornesi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9.5. Cost: $44.
1999 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9.5. Cost: $90.

1999 Capanna Rosso Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $80.
1999 Col D'Orcia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $45.
1999 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $70.
2000 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $58.
2001 La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $40.
2001 La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $45.
1999 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $55.
2000 Poggio San Polo Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $50.
2000 Tenuta Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $70.
2000 Tenuta Caparzo " La casa" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $130.
2001 Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $80.
2001 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $60.

1999 Valdicava "Madonna del Piano" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $105.
2001 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $90.
2000 Capanna Rosso Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 9. Cost: $80.
2000 Casanova di Neri "Cerre Talto" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $125.
2001 Casanova di Neri "Tenuta Nuova" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $57.
1998 Col D'Orcia "Poggio al Vento" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $85.
2001 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $58.
2000 La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $45.
1999 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost:$90.
2001 La Velona Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $65.
2001 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $35.
2001 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino Riserva(barrel sample). Score: 9. Cost: $55.
2000 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 9. Cost: $60.
2001 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $40.
2000 Solaria Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $41.
2000 Lisini "UgoLaia" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $100.
2001 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $60.
2001 Tenuta Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $70.
2001 Tenute Silvio Nardi "Manachiara" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $90.

2001 Solaria Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $45.
2000 Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $N/A.
2000 Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $59.
2001 Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $70.
2001 Tiezzi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $52.
2000 Tornesi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $44.
2001 Lazzeretti Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: 40 Euros
2000 Casanova di Neri "Tenuta Nuova" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $54.
2000 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $50.
1999 Capanna Rosso Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $50.
2000 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $60.
2000 Col D'Orcia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $45.
2001 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $65.
1999 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $48.
2000 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $36.
2000 La Lecciaia "Mana Petra" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $40.
2001 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $59.
2001 Marchesato degli Aleramici Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $54.
2001 Poggio Antico "Altero" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $40.
2001 La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.

2001 Donatella Cinelli Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2001 Fanti Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $90.
2000 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $49.
2001 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $65.
2001 Donatella Cinelli Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $60.
1999 Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 8.5. Cost: $50.
2000 Fornacina Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2001 Fornacina Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
1999 La Colombina Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $60.
2001 La Mannella "Il Poggiarelle" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $65.
1999 La Pescaia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $N/A.
2001 La Pescaia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $N/A.
2001 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $36.
2000 Pian dell'Orino Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2000 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $50.
2000 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino "Especial". Score: 8.5. Cost: $84.
2001 Castello del Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2000 La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
1999 S. Lucia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $N/A.
2000 S. Lucia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $N/A.

2001 Pian dell'Orino Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.
2000 Capanna Rosso Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5>. Cost: $50.
2001 Capanna Rosso Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $50.
2001 Col D'Orcia Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $45.
2000 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $65.
2000 Fattoi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $58.
2000 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $48.
2000 La Velona Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost:$65.
2001 Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $N/A.

2001 Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $50.
2000 Donatella Cinelli "Prime Donne" Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $ .
2001 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $51.
2001 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $ .
2001 Fattoi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $58.

2001 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $??.
2001 La Colombina Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $48.
2001 Le Machioche Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $ .

2000 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 7.5. Cost: $45.
2001 Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 7.5. Cost: $??.

ROSSO DI MONTALCINO

2003 La Velona Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $30.
2003 Tornesi Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $18.
2004 Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $25.

2003 Valdicava Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2003 La Lecciaia Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $ 16.
2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 9. Cost: $25.

2004 La Mannella Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $17.
2003 Lazzeretti Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: 6 Euros
2004 Pian dell'Orino Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2003 Col D'Orcia "Banditella" Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $28.
2004 Poggio Antico Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $20.
2004 Tenuta Montluc Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $40.
2003 Terralsole Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $23.
2003 La Gerla Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $18.

2003 Marchesato degli Aleramici Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $23.
2004 Collosorbo Rosso di Montalcino (barrel sample). Score: 8.5. Cost: $17.
2004 Costanti Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
2004 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $26.
2004 La Fortuna Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $18.
2003 Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $30.
2004 Lisini Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $29.
2003 Solaria Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $26
2004 Tassi Rosso di Montalcino (inaugural vintage). Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Poggio San Polo Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $25.
2004 La Poderina Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2004 Tornesi Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8.5. Cost: $18.

2003 Fattoria dei Barbi Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $20.
2004 Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Col D'Orcia Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $19.
2003 Fanti Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $30.
2004 Fattoi Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $26.
2003 Innocenti Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 La Pescaia Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $N/A.
2003 La Togata Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $24.
2003 Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $24.
2003 S. Lucia Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $N/A.
2002 Solaria Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $26.
2003 Ridolfi Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.

2004 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $25.
2003 Fornacina Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $?
2004 La Colombina Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $28.
2002 Le Machioche Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $
2003 Castello del Romitorio Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $??.

2004 Casanova di Neri Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $18.
2003 Tiezzi Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $23.

2004 Camigliano Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 7.5. Cost: $20.
2003 Capanna Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 7.5. Cost: $25.
2003 Palazzo Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 7.5. Cost: $??.

2004 Le Chiuse Rosso di Montalcino. Score: 6.5. Cost: $??.

SANT'ANTIMO BLENDS

2003 Casanova di Neri Petra Donice (94% Cabernet, 6% Sangiovese). Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $89.

2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Sant'Antimo Blend (70% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot). Score: 8.5. Cost: $60.
2003 Capanna Sant'Antimo Blend (Merlot/Sangiovese). Score: 8.5. Cost: $N/A.
2004 Casanuova delle Cerbaie Sant'Antimo Blend (70% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot). Score: 8.5. Cost: $60.
2003 Fanti Sant'Antimo Red Blend. Score: 8.5. Cost: $N/A.
2002 La Velona Mefysto Red Blend (Sangiovese. Merlot). Score: 8.5. Cost: $46.
2001 Castello del Romitorio Sant'Antimo Red Blend (80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet). Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.

2003 Camigliano AGT Cabernet. Score: 8. Cost: $ N/A.
2003 La Fortuna Sant'Antimo Red Blend (Sangiovese/Cabernet). Score: 8. Cost: $27.

2004 Collosorbo Sant'Antimo Red blend (Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet, Sangiovese). Score: 7. Cost: $38.

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