Sangiovese/Brunello

Italian Poise

This section is for brief reviews of wines that I have recently enjoyed drinking. For quick reference I have given a * rating for each wine from one to five stars.

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Any mention of Tuscany immediately recalls scenes from one of E. M. Forster’s novels, beautifully brought to life in the film productions of the Merchant-Ivory duo. Intimate piazzas and cool, dark, secluded cloisters contrast with the open countryside made up of undulating hills of olive groves and vineyards. The scenes are thoughtfully balanced. Just like wonderful literature, music or film, wonderful wines also have innate balance.

It is this poise that I recently discovered in one particular wine during a tasting of wines from the designated area of Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany. This year the association that controls and safeguards the wine quality of this tiny area, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) designation. When the DOC was assigned there were a mere 11 producers, of which Biondi Santi is considered as the original home of Brunello di Montalcino. Today there are 258 producers of Brunello di Montalcino and exports have reached 70 percent of total production. Although the region’s reputation has experienced some untoward challenges in recent years, the standing of the vast majority of producers remains intact and the DOC continues to be at the high end of Italian appellations. Such has been the high quality of production recently that producers (namely Allegrini and Bottega) from elsewhere have been investing in the region’s vineyards, which was the first Italian region in 1980 to become a DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) – Italy’s highest quality designation.

Regulations require that all Brunello di Montalcino undergo a minimum of four years ageing, of which two must be in wood prior to bottling. An additional 12 months is necessary for wines labeled ‘Riserva’. Inevitably this results in a significant hiatus between actual vintage and market release of the wine. There has been such a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the 2010 that I was more than eager to try producer Campogiovanni’s 2010 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva ‘Il Quercione’. Riserva wines from the 2.5 hectare Quercione vineyard are only produced in exceptional years, such as the excellent 2010. The wine spent two years in 500 litre French ‘tonneaux’, followed by 36 months in bottle prior to its release. It was worth the wait, as my tasting notes attest. High density crimson in colour, the nose displayed concentrated, pure black fruit aromas. The palate showed an incredible precision with glorious black and blue berry fruit, fabulous dusty tannins and delicious freshness. Above all, the wine had poise and elegance, utterly superb. *****

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