India's First Wine, Food and Hospitality Website, INDIAN WINE ACADEMY, Specialists in Food & Wine Programmes. Food Importers in Ten Cities Across India. Publishers of delWine, India’s First Wine.
Skip Navigation Links
About Us
Indian Market
Wine & Health
Wine Events
Retail News
Contact Us
Skip Navigation Links
Wine Tourism
Book Review
Photo Gallery
Readers' Comments
Video Wall
Media Partners
Ask Wineguyindia
Wine & Food
Wine Guru
Gerry Dawes
Harvest Reports
Mumbai Reports
Advertise With Us
US Report on Indian Market Released
Top Ten Importers List 2015-16
On Facebook
On Twitter
Delhi Wine Club
Benvenuto Brunello: Viva Brunello- Viva Montalcino

Posted: Tuesday, 12 March 2013 11:04

Benvenuto Brunello: Viva Brunello- Viva Montalcino

Mar 12: The annual Tuscan Tasting event ‘I Tre Maestri’, held every year in the Tuscan cities of Florence, Montepulciano and Montalcino to taste the latest released vintage, reached a crescendo with the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino welcoming about 150 journalists on the last two days of the event held on 19-23 February, writes Subhash Arora, a regular participant in the tri-event

Click For Large ViewLashing cold breeze, blinding fog and generally depressing weather with a bit of snow thrown in were there to say Benvenuto Montalcino Brunello to the journalists this year to make them taste the weather extremities the area producers have to face to bring out one of the top wine of Italy. However, It didn’t deter the visitors who were looking for an opportunity to taste the latest release of 2008 vintage; Brunello di Montalcino may be released after four years of harvest on January 1 of the following year, according to the laws of this appellation. Thus the 2008 was officially released on January 1, 2013 although several producers plan to keep it slightly longer in the bottle, releasing during Vinitaly in April or even as late as September.

Similarly the lighter, younger, cheaper and thus more affordable version, Rosso di Montalcino had 2011 available as ‘Anteprima’. As in the other areas of Tuscany, the Riserva 2007 was also released, treating the visiting journalists as early birds to taste and judge the vintage for themselves and their followers. The consortium of producers also utilizes the occasion to announce the traditional stars awarded by a panel of experts (Maximum of 5-stars are awarded in exceptional years) for the current vintage-in this case 2012.

Click to watch videoIt might have been a leak or an educated guess by the experts based on the weather conditions for 2012 vintage. There was plenty of speculation by several journalists who reasoned that more stars and more points from well-established writers translate into dollars. At any rate, it had been an open secret even before the coaches and cars transporting the journalists entered Montalcino past 10 pm from Montepulciano that 2012 would be declared a 5-star vintage. There seemed to be no bets against the vintage to be rated 5-stars at the traditional ceremony held on 23 February at the appointed hour of 11 am. There was an additional feature of live streaming so that the interested audience could watch the proceedings live.

Since the event was shifted to the Museum from the earlier venue, the Fortezza (the historical fortress on the top of the hill), it is getting better organised every year. With the wine bar lined up at the corner of the tasting room that seems to have become a standard venue, round tables of six filling up the huge hall, the place is full of activity bright and early at the appointed hour of 9:30 am. Each visitor is personally greeted by the efficient and warm staff, led by the Director of Consorzio Stefano Campatelli and the senior staffer Stefania Tocca who know all the old hats and warmly welcome them all. Even the young coat ladies are spritely and eager to help. The meeting areas where one can relax or meet producers are well heated and welcoming.

Benvenuto Brunello! Welcome to Brunello!!

There were 136 producers who were showcasing the Brunello 2008, Brunello Reserve 2007 and Rosso 2011. There were also Sant’Antimo DOC wines from the area and Moscadello di Montalcino and even a sprinkling of Vin Santo.

One could request 6 pre-numbered bottles at a time, with one sommelier assigned to each table, ably assisted by other sommeliers around if the going got ‘hot’. It is also the time and place for the top Italian journalists to taste wines under one roof. Monica Larner, the Italian editor for Wine Enthusiast is at her table sharp on time.

Click For Large ViewOne could see Tim Atkin MW, perhaps the greatest wine tweeter on the palate, seriously tasting in his favourite corner (‘I always choose this same spot’, he tells me) and perhaps tweeting away after every spit. Pedro Ballesteros, the only Spanish MW after Pancho Campo abdicated the MW crown a year ago, is willing to offer his expert advice to any of the younger journalists who seek it. Nicola Lefarge MW of the 1980 vintage, an author of 4 books on Italian wines is more reserved and is quietly taking notes.

John Salvi, another MW is one of the oldest and regular tasters visible at the event. Daniel Thomas who was the right hand man of Robert Parker for Italian wines till 2006 is always looking bored when tasting but no less concentrating. Just as you think he might have dosed off nosing, he starts scribbling notes like he is driving a Ferrari. An interesting and exciting sight, that!

Grapes for Brunello

Brunello means different things to different people-but it must all be made with 100% Sangiovese from the grapes from designated vineyards.  Different clones are used by different producers but most producers desist from referring to the grapes as Sangiovese Grosso now as bigger berries generally give more juice and lighter wine. There have been impractical suggestions that perhaps the grape should be referred to as Brunello.

Not only will it create confusion for Rosso di Montalcino doc,  which uses the same grapes, but as Marchese Leonardo Frescobaldi, the owner of Castel Giocondo, the second biggest family producer behind Banfi ,explains, ‘if grapes are named  Brunello, producers all over the world could take a clone and call it Brunello di Nashik, for instance!’ Prosecco has already got itself in a complex situation. Brunello di Sonoma was in the limelight a few years ago. However, the Consorzio guards the appellation very zealously and takes legal action against the ambitious producers across the world.

Click For Large ViewThere was a section of the press, however small, which speculated that a few of the Brunellos still contained Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot by looking at the dark colour. Not only does it seems incorrect, but every producer and the Consorzio denied it vehemently. After a complex situation in 2008, involving the 2003 vintage (delWine had played a lead role in communicating the story) that was resolved with ministerial intervention and even caused a short term blemish to the appellation, there have been even more advancements in detection and stricter vigilance.  In case a producer were caught, he would be socially ostracized and this possibility ought to be ruled out.

Variation in Quality

There is no denying that there has been more variation in the flavour in 2008 than before. There are two styles, one more elegant with spices that may even remind one of an Indian kitchen where you may not be limited to cinnamon or white pepper but something like garam masala which is ground from different spices and defies individual identification.

Click For Large ViewOf great interest to the Indian Brunello lovers would be the outstanding vintage of Col d’Orcia being imported by Ace Beveragez. One of the biggest family estates (I would put it at no.3), is known to produce volumes of very good value-for-money Brunello. However, Brunello di Montalcino 2008 has been superb and was one of the top 5 wines for me this year. A rather elated Francesco Marone Cinzano who has visited India as the President of the Consorzio and also in November 2011 acknowledges it and says, ‘I don’t think I will ever be able to repeat the feat. This was thanks to the hail storm on 15th August, 2008. I got a call from our viticulturist that the hail storm had destroyed 40% of the crop. This meant higher cost of production but our fruit was very concentrated.’ Unwilling to compare with the 2004-perhaps the best vintage of the decade (and highly recommended for purchase and storage by delWine in 2009) and which is drinking beautifully now, the 2008 will drink beautifully in a couple of years but may have less aging potential, he says.

I would highly recommend the discerning Indian restaurants that stock duty free wines to go the whole hog and store as many as the finance man lets them and send me a Thank You note in a couple of years. But a word of advice, the Count confirmed to me that the price would be kept more or less the same (it is very difficult to increase the price of Brunello di Montalcino at this point, in any case), so the sales price should not be more than before; the extraneous factors that increase the costs, exclusive to India notwithstanding.

The Powerful Brunello

Video of Tasting with Brunello ProducersMore and more Brunello producers are going for the modern fruit forward version. Some even use the different grading and style of wood to effect the colour and tannins and supposedly a better structure which in any case should be there, taking the higher acidity of Sangiovese into consideration. Not surprisingly, some of the wines had dry tannins which would drop the fruit quality as they mellow down during the years when the bottles are laid up.

To me the beauty of Brunello starts before the palate gets to taste it. The brick red colour of a majority of wines of elegance, further acquires a beautiful colour when swirled. Most tasters laugh (some snigger) when I tell them such swirled Brunello reminds me of a Flamenco dancer dancing away with full and fiery energy in a brightly coloured outfit. I would love to give 11 out of 10 points for such wines for colour in the international competitions that I judge since we are supposed to give 10 for any normal colour, but I am afraid it would be misunderstood by the organisers and the score thrown out by the computers.

With increasing demand and more producers entering the arena, the wider spectrum is inevitable making the job of sommeliers and importers difficult But Brunello is a serious wine and deserves personal intervention.

Somehow, there is always more to taste than the time permits and after spending a considerable time with the producers we are ready to go to the hotel, already looking forward to the next year’s event that would afford us the opportunity to taste out of a possible 250-300 wines of Montalcino, a majority being Brunello di Montalcino- the very name makes one salivate.

The Last Supper and the Gala

Click For Large ViewOne week in Tuscany and no pizza! The Last Supper for the residual crowd of about 30 being feted with a multi-course dinner at a local trattoria is delicious and ever-so-extended and stretched as the past many nights. I make a special request for no Primo, Secondo and Dolce, but only a delicious pizza. I part with a heavy heart and full stomach as my friends are still on the Secondo. I have to leave at 5:45 in the morning for the Florence airport about 110 kms away.

Ready to give free advice anytime, I tell the organiser to have a pizza dinner next finale - with different meats and toppings to try with several Rosso di Montalcino which I thoroughly enjoyed. I must admit the Brunello was too noble for the pedestrian but finger-licking good pizza with selseccia  picante (hot Italian sausage) but the previous night’s gala dinner- a very elegant sit-down event (the best I have enjoyed at the Tuscan Tastings so far) was a great opportunity for matching several of the Noble wines of Italy. Thanks to my Dutch friend and neighbour Fred Nijhuis and the influence he could exert on our Sommelier, we tasted the best of Brunello the host producers had to offer.

A grand finale for a great week of tastings. Arrivederci Brunello. Arrivederci Montalcino!

Subhash Arora

Tags: Anteprima, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Wine Enthusiast, Pancho Campo, Brunello, Castel Giocondo, Banfi,



Sidd Banerji Says:

A wonderful note again with explicit description of happenings there and all with wines.Splendid to go thru every line.Finally,as an entertainment for foodies,the final pizza dinner picture with suggested wines shall inspire many.

Posted @ March 14, 2013 15:45


Want to Comment ?
Please enter your comments in the space provided below. If there is a problem, please write directly to Thank you.

Generate a new image

Type letters from the image:

Please note that it may take some time to get your comment published...Editor

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy, World Wine, World Wines, Retail, Hotel


Copyright©indianwineacademy, 2003-2020 |All Rights Reserved
Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet