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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, March 2 2010. 11:45

Ante Prima Tasting: Benvenuto Brunello 2010

Welcome to the world of Brunello di Montalcino where 136 producers introduced the newly released 2005 vintage of the iconic wine at a Tasting recently along with the younger 2008 of Rosso and the 2004 Riserva. The current release finds itself squeezed between the excellent 2004 and the unreleased 2006 undergoing aging, writes Subhash Arora

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Brunello di Montalcino may be released on January 1 in the fifth year after the harvest. Thus, Mumbai and Delhi wine lovers were internationally the first to taste the 2003 release at seminars organised by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello de Montalcino in mid January 2008. The hot vintage was followed by an excellent 5-star 2004 last year, which though still not ready for drinking, has a great ageing potential.

The weather conditions in 2005 were not conducive to a good crop due to the untimely rains and a cold summer, making it a difficult vintage, making producers like Pieve Santa Restituta not release their Rennina and Sugarille labels and bring out a generic Brunello di Montalcino by blending the two.

Followed by another excellent 2006 which is still in the barrels/bottles and is expected to turn out an excellent 5-star  vintage when released in 2011, the 2005 would find itself in a difficult situation, especially with the recession hit countries like the US becoming more price conscious than ever.

The 2004 vintage which was a 5-star vintage had a more consistent and higher quality while the 2005 appeared to be less homogenous, with wines more austere and less fruity and complex than the previous year.

However, some producers like Tenute Silvio Nardi have been able to resolve the problem to an extent by mixing grapes from vineyards in different locations-since the weather conditions affected the crops differently. Says Emilia Nardi, owner of the winery located near Buonconvento, ‘We have vineyards both in the North and South of Montalcino and we were able to mix the grapes judiciously to make a decent 2005.’  However, she does concede like most other producers that 2005 will drink younger and will not age as well as 2004.

Agrees Patrizio Cencioni, President of the Consortium, who officially declared 2005 as a 4-star vintage at a ceremonial speech on February 20th. ‘Most of our member producers have been able to make the best of a difficult vintage, including our own winery Capanna. Our advice to the Brunello lovers would be to drink 2005 while 2004 is still evolving in the bottle.’

Incidentally, his Moscadello di Montalcino Vendemmia Tardiva 2007 was a superb dessert wine. The late harvest edition of the white dessert DOC wine made from the Muscat grape was dark golden, deliciously balanced wine, with plenty of tropical fruit that left a long and pleasant crisp taste on the palate. This is the only white wine made in the Montalcino stable, if one does not consider another appellation called Sant’antimo from the same area:  a few of which were also available for tasting.

Now, here lies the problem. With 2004 and 2006 being excellent vintages and with 2004 being already under price pressure because of the economic meltdown, why would a customer choose to buy a 2005 unless the price is substantially marked down? Though most producers were putting a brave front and saying the prices of 2005 would remain the same as 2004, it would be a practical problem to sell at the same price as 2004, especially when it is expected that the 2006 may be as good as 2004, with 2007 waiting in the barrels as another 5-star vintage.

Although the producers would not admit, it did appear from the taste in the glass that some of them might have blended the apparently allowable 15% vintage from another vintage and thus using 2003-the hot and ripe vintage, giving the impression on the palate of a less austere and fuller wine than the unblended version. A Tuscan based American journalist who specializes in Italian wine for a popular online website said he had been in the region around harvest time when the weather was cold, rainy and miserable. But the wines don’t show that weather in the glass. ‘The only explanation is that some producers have been smart enough to use the 15% blend allowed from a previous vintage,’ he felt.

The Grand Brunello Riserva 2004

If 2005 was slightly disappointing, the Riserva 2004 showed the potential to be even better than the classic 2004. Most of the wines tasted rated 4.5/5 stars and were more concentrated with black cherry and blackcurrant with a wide spectrum of intense olfactory spectrum and the extra-ordinary tail, with varying complexity. The wines are not ready yet, had juicy tannins and would be difficult to resist with a bottle kept open for a few hours.

It was not surprising when I learnt later that Daniele Cernilli, editor-in-chief of the well known Gambero Rosso wine guide gave the Brunello Biondi Santi 2004 Riserva from the iconic producer Tenuta Il Greppo a rare 100/100 rating and compared it with the greatest vintage years ever produced such as ’55, ’64, ’75 and ’83. I had the pleasure of attending a vertical tasting of the iconic producer at Salone del Vino in Torino in October and also meeting Franco Biondi Santi at his winery a couple of years ago. Biondi Santi does not participate in the Ante Prima Tastings but his Villa Poggio Salvi is a participant and one has to do with tasting these wines only.

Rosso di Montepulciano 2008

The younger and less expensive version of the Brunello 2008 did slightly better than the  2005 vintage for Brunello in its class. Rosso may be released on 1 January, two years following the harvest. Though most of the wines presented were from the 2008 vintage were of fine enough quality, an exception was the Rosso from Castiglion del Bosco owned by Massimo Ferragamo. Well rounded wine with beautiful floral and berry aromas exploding would make a great aperitif wine as well as a food companion.

It was only later that I discovered it was a 2007 vintage!

If we were to buy a Montalcino in India, the 2007 Rosso would suit our pocket better (taxes again! And being the young wine, it is easier to drink, of course). One could store a 2004 for or 3-5 years more and keep a Riserva from a good producer well stored and forget about it for 5-10 years. You may want to taste a 2005 before rushing out to buy it and only at a cheaper price than 2004, and plan to drink in the next 2-5 years. If I had a choice for buying for long term cellaring , I would optimistically wait for the 2006 to be released out next year.

And the Biondi Santi Riserva 2004! I would love to meet up with Franco next February and drink a glass of the same at his winery as a toast to his good health and long life so he may continue to keep the Brunello flag flying high with his iconic wines for a long time, even though they might be a tad beyond the budget for ordinary mortals like us.

Winery Visit - Renovated Pieve Santa Restituta

Pieve Santa Restituta is a historical winery named after the church that has been in existence for around seventh century in the same complex. Angelo Gaja bought it in 1995 from the previous owner who had bought it from the church a couple of decades earlier. Like his iconic wine producing neighbour Gianfranco Soldera, owner of Case Basse, he is one of the few Brunello producers who owns only Brunello classified vineyards and does not produce Rosso di Montalcino in this winery.

He spent 5 years in finishing renovation of the winery in December and no outsider had been allowed to visit the winery till the second day of Benvenuto Brunello. So when Gaia Gaja who had just flown in from Cyprus to meet a few journalists, invited me to visit the winery in the evening after the Tasting at the Fortezza was over, I could not resist the temptation of being one of the first to have a look at the new-look winery.

There was a feeling of Déjà Vu as we reached the winery and as Gaia fiddled through her set of a hundred keys. It reminded me of their Ca’Marcanda winery in Bolgheri. I didn’t even need to ask her- it had the stamp of Giovanni Bo, their ‘family’ architect. Walking me through the winery she said they had tried to duplicate the Barbaresco winemaking and technology. Here too the impression made by Guido Rivella, the winemaker for Gaja since 1957-58 was obvious.

So what did Restituta do for the 2005 vintage? ‘We have two Brunellos- one from a mix of 3 parcels of vineyards which are bottled under the Rennina label whereas Sugarille is a single vineyard wine named after the vineyard. We have blended the two and will introduce a wine which will be simply Brunello di Montalcino 2005. While Sugarille sells for € 80 and the Rennina has the enoteca price of € 65, the new Brunello will be priced at much more affordable € 35.

What motivated the wine estate to take the unusual step? ‘We had bought 7 hA of vineyards in 2007. It would take a few years to get the quality acceptance we want for wines from this 15-year old vineyard. Since 2005 has not been a very good vintage, we decided to introduce this label using the blend and not release either Rennina or Sugarille 2005. From the 2007 vintage, Brunello di Montalcino will have wine from the new vineyards. Needless to say, it was a great experience to taste several vintages of both the wines going all the way back to 1996.

The next step would be to restore the Restituta Pieve (church), said Gaia. I could not resist asking her a parting question. ‘How come Restituta is not an active member of the Consorzio? ‘We are an established wine estate in Barbaresco but are relatively new in this area. We know the decision making is with the people who have been here for a long time-this is quite a traditionalist area. So it does not make any sense for us to be active in this region, at least for a while.’

Now, that is some Brunello di Montalcino 2005 for thought!

Subhash Arora



Janet Says:

Good one! wine... they are the best of all drinks... I wish to attend Benvenuto Brunello 2010.. I visit Napa...very often

Posted @ March 03, 2010 13:36


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