March 25: It started as a small annual pre-Benvenuto Brunello dinner for a select few around a table but Count Francesco Marone Cinzano, owner of Col d’Orcia in Montalcino, has expanded it into a 50-guest dinner at his winery-cum-residence with a vertical tasting this year on Valentine’s Day of different labels of 2009,1999,1989,1979 and 1969 vintages, writes Subhash Arora who found 1979 the best with food and still vibrant after 40 years in the bottle
The ore-Benvenuto Brunello dinner last year showcased vintages of Brunello di Montalcino ending with 8 -2008, 1998, 1988, 1978 and 1968. This year it was organised with wines harvested a year later and featured at the dinner on February 14. Such evenings at Col d’Orcia are well structured and yet informal. Each table of 8 has name tags for each guest-an onerous task due to the mix of guests.
Arora had been allotted a seat next to Michele Shah who had first introduced him to the Count in Delhi in 2007 when he had visited India, tasting 2003 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino, as the President of the Consortio Brunello di Montalcino and has met him several times at different places including Montalcino and Delhi. These wines have been imported even before Count’s maiden visit and the two variants Cold d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino and Poggio de Vento Riserva Brunello are doing extremely well in the difficult market through their importer, Ace Beveragez.
Count Cinzano played host along with his photographer wife and son Santiago Cinzano who is now working full time in the winery, looking after domestic market- but slated to visit India in June this year. The evening started as always with the popping of double magnums of Louis Roederer Brut champagne, served with delicious aperitifs with elan
The sit-down dinner started with the pouring of Rosso di Montalcino 2009 from the magnum bottles. Relatively lighter but amenable to the palate, it was a good match with the Duck Terrine with bread and dried fruits and still singing well despite 2009 not being a good year in the beginning.. Brunello di Montalcino 2009 served was fuller and somewhat of a winner.
The next course had for pairing Brunello di Montalcino 1989 and Riserva 1979 (there was no Poggio al Vento Riserva at that time). By far, the latter won hands down because of its freshness, complexity and elegance. It was not as perfumed as 1999 but still a nice bouquet with balsamic notes and a slightly chocolate brown colour. It was a great match with the chicken stuffed Plin and went down smoothly with what appeared to be a Piemontese dish. The 1989 was also homogeneous wine with finesse but when compared it was a notch out of step.
Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1999 took head on against the oldest vintage of the evening Brunello di Montalcino 1969. Poggio was very perfumed, intense, elegant, spicy wine that was persistent on the back palate and rather long. It was a lovely wine, still fresh and vibrant with brilliant and young colour notes. The 1969 had shades of balsamic in the bouquet and appeared to be past its prime, playing a different concerto, I felt. It was quite adequate with the meal though I preferred the Riserva 1999.
My verdict was clear-1979 as the Wine of the Evening though there were quite a few takers for the 1969 for the top spot. Interestingly, the 1969 had not been produced by Count Cinzano’s team since his father bought the state only in 1972 and the wine came as a part of the dowry.
The discussions on the table were quite animated since most people at the tables were known to each other and the democratic procedure was being followed to discuss the wines and their flavours- even with the serving of the excellent dessert. Earlier, I had gone off course and requested for a salad for main course, which was absolutely delicious- the play of cut fruit with crisp and fresh salad leaves sang an interesting, novel tune that was very pleasing on the palate.
The convivial atmosphere made it a perfect start for the Benvenuto Brunello event next day. The Tuscan Chef Roberto Rossi of Il Silene Restaurant in Seggiano in Grosseto won the hearts of every on present, as did the serving staff. The Chef had created a culinary heaven for the evening where the wines made the food dance well with different tunes in each course.
Till the next Col d’Orcia dinner with vertical tasting ...! Jai Ho! Cheers!! Cin-Cin!!
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