How can you possibly follow up a year like 2010 in Barolo? The proclaimed, best modern vintage has had collectors stockpiling wines in fear that they might miss the boat on the last of the ‘10s to hit the market. To a large degree, they are correct. The 2010 vintage wines will soon disappear, and what will be left are bottles in the secondary market, which will only continue to rise in value.
However, it would be a tremendous shame to miss out on 2011 because of all the hype over 2010. We’ve seen this happen before; ’99 and ’01 comes to mind. Granted, those were classic vintages that were overshadowed by a ripe vintage (2000), which became the darling of a number of critics. To this day, people try to sell me 2000 Barolo on decade-old hype that has since been proven unwarranted, yet the savvy Barolo collector continues to watch for opportunities to grab ‘99s as they hit the market. However, I’m getting off track, but the real reason for this post is how much I’ve been enjoying the 2011 vintage.
2011 was doomed to fail with collectors from the first time that Antonio Galloni announced that it was open, expressive and (the black mark in the minds of Barolo lovers) “to drink well pretty much upon release.”
Hey, I get it, I’m just as sensitive to these reports as the rest of you, and when I think of Barolo, I think of aging them for decades with the hope of finding the next 1978, 1989 or 1996 sometime down the road. However, I can’t stress enough, how much Barolo has changed since those great vintages. In fact, I would be very surprised if any of the vintages of the last decade age anything like the vintages of 20 or 30 years ago. That said, they will mature and likely into something marvelous—but we just don’t know what that marvelous experience will be yet.
The 2011 vintage was the result of a warm spring, which resulted in early flowering, followed by near-perfect yet warm weather and a relatively dry season throughout. However, the game-changer was a lasting rise in temperatures in mid-August. We’re not talking about the heat of 2003 but enough to increase sugars in the grapes and push dehydration to the limits.
In the cellar, many producers bottled earlier than expected, as they realized that the wines could be adversely affected by extended time in wood. The results are very much in line with the word from critics. Yes, these are Baroli that are already enjoyable today, yet in many cases, they also have a firm underlying structure, contrasted by their natural acidity and creating a rather attractive mix.
The question is, is there really anything wrong with a young Barolo that can be enjoyed upon release? These are not the full throttle and fruit extracted ‘07s, nor are they the sappy and over-the-top ‘09s—and don’t even think of comparing these to 2003. For me, 2011 is something of a happy middle ground between ’08 and ’07. They have the balance and acidity of ’08 with the fruit intensity of ’07. Trust me; it’s a great mix and a really enjoyable experience.
In the end, the best way to choose is by tasting. However, if that’s not an option, see below for my tasting notes of some of the best 2011s I’ve tasted recently. I believe you’ll be happily surprised.
On to the tasting notes:
2011 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cerretta – The nose showed masses of dark red fruit, dusty spice, mushroom, savory herbs, soil and undergrowth. On the palate, it was youthfully taut yet showed a core of intense tart, dark fruit with hints of cedar and mineral tones coating the senses. Tannin clenched the palate throughout the finish, yet it was unbelievably long on dried fruits and savory spice. This wine is so young and full of potential, even with the forwardness of the 2011 vintage; it stands as a powerful and structured Cerretta. Give it a decade or two in the cellar. (95 points)
2011 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero – The bouquet was simply stunning, with pretty and soothing notes of ripe cherry, cinnamon, sweet roses, mint-menthol and a hint of black olive in the background. On the palate, it was pure, lifted and truly gulpable (hard to believe this is young Barolo), showing focused red fruits, spice and vibrant acidity, like a veil of silk on the senses. A light coating of fine tannin coated the palate with a slight buzz of acidity throughout the finish along with dried cherry and hints of sweet herbs. This is simply gorgeous and so easy to like today, but I believe the best is yet to come as it gains weight in the cellar. The hard part here will be keeping your hands off, yet I can’t wait to see what this will be like in five years. (94 points) @morrell
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Villero – The nose was deeply perfumed with spicy, dark fruit, rose, soil tones, and hints of pine. On the palate, it displayed angular textures with dark, sappy red fruits (which seemed sometimes bitter and sometimes sweet), exotic spice and minerals. The finish was long, as tart black cherry and fine tannin wrapped the senses tight, and hints of orange peel and spice lingered long. Fenocchio knocked it out of the park with the 2011 Villero. (94 points) @morrell
2011 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova – The Via Nuova stands out for its wildly appealing nose of deep, warming red fruits, intense florals, animal musk, licorice and dark, almost sensual spice notes. On the palate, this showed classic yet open, and it was already alluring with ripe red fruits and inner floral tones carried by silky textures. Its tannic spine came forward on the finish, as the fruit turned tart and saturating to the senses. This is a beautiful wine, which will mature in the cellar but is so hard to not drink now. (94 points)
2011 Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera – This is already quite enjoyable, with a bouquet showing intense dark fruits, licorice, cedar and sweet spice. On the palate, it displayed silky textures with vibrancy and remarkable freshness for the vintage. Tart blackberry, mushroom and tobacco lasted long into the finish, along with a tug of moderate tannin. (93 points) @morrell
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Castellero – The nose was lifted and sweet with ripe cherry, pretty floral tones, rich brown spices, hints of menthol and tobacco. On the palate, it was feminine and refined with focused ripe fruits and inner floral tones. Fine tannin appeared near the close, leaving an alluring display of tobacco, rose petal and sweet herbs on the finish. This is stunning! (93 points) @morrell
2011 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Mosconi – A big, driven and dark wine with immediate appeal on the nose, as black cherry, fresh-turned soil, minerals and exotic spice mixed together to create a truly seductive bouquet. On the plate, it came on strong with a mix of velvety textures contrasted by gripping tannin, as its red fruits and plum notes fought hard to stay present, and ultimately won. The finish was deep and concentrated with saturating dark fruit and youthful energy. (93 points)
2011 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi – The 2011 Cannubi showed a radiant bouquet of dark-red fruit, minerals, and rosy florals with a hint of spice. On the palate, it was angular in its youth with tart red fruit and a stern acid-driven structure. Tannin clenched down hard on the finish, yet focused, tart red fruit remained. This is a baby to be sure and not typical of the open and racy style of most ‘11s. (92 points)
2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione – The nose was classic, with woodland, earth and herbs up front, followed by crushed cherry and wild berry. On the palate, it was youthfully tart, yet there was a vein of acidity, which kept it lively and fresh. Cherry, inner floral tones, leather and savory spice all saturated the senses with tannic clout that lasted throughout the long finish and provided a very classic expression. I love it, and as usual, it’s one of the best values of the vintage. (92 points) @morrell
2011 Fratelli Alessandria Barolo Monvigliero – The nose showed sweet spice and floral tones along with notes of saline-minerality, green olive and tart red berry, which came to the fore late. On the palate, it was densely coiled in a mix of tart red berry, spice and minerals, accented by inner floral tones and notes of herbal tea. It’s tannins were sweet and very fine, drying out the senses over time, yet never overwhelming the fruit. The finish showed dried cherry and sweet inner floral tones. Unlike most 2011 Barolos, this seems to need 5-10-years to really come together, but should be a great wine to put away by the case and check in on from time to time. (92 points) @morrell
2011 Elio Grasso Barolo Gavarini Chiniera – The 2011 Gavarini Chiniera showed a lively and pretty bouquet of woodland pine and cedar with bright cherry, raspberry and licorice. On the palate, I found tart cherry and cranberry, which darkened and sweetened as it traveled across the senses, adding balsamic tones and mint going into the finish. This was showing the 2011 exuberance, with it’s focused fruit and silky finessed textures, yet still as a young Nebbiolo, with hints of fine tannin lingering on the close. (92 points) @morrell
2011 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo Cannubi – The nose showed intense red berry, spice, and red floral tones, all while remaining lifted and fresh. On the palate, it was center-focused with tense red berry, rose and hints of cedar. A wave of tannin reminded me that this was young Barolo and balanced the wine perfectly. It’s beautiful, but there’s something missing on the mid-palate here that prevents it from feeling complete. (91 points)
2011 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Tre Tine – The nose was highly expressive in its black cherry, mint, exotic spice and herbal tones. On the palate, it was pliant and round with vibrant cherry, spice and sweet herbs, all given thrust by a wave of brisk acidity, which was then followed by a coating of youthful tannin. It finished grippy and firm with lingering red fruits. I enjoyed this, yet I feel it ultimately lacked depth. (91 points) @morrell
2011 M. Marengo Barolo – The nose showed rich notes of ripe red fruits, sweet florals, pine nettle and a hint of cocoa. On the palate, it had silky-smooth textures with notable vibrancy, displaying dried black cherry, inner floral tones and minerals. The finish was long with palate-saturating fruit. (90 points)
Article and Tasting notes by: Eric Guido
Nostalgia is one of the most powerful tools in the chef’s arsenal. It’s a direct line to the hearts and minds of your guests. It’s that smell from mama’s kitchen. It’s that flavor, which will always remind you of home. Or that memory of togetherness around a family table, the food you ate and the happy memories you shared. Would it surprise you to know that nostalgia is a topic taught in culinary school? Well it is, and for very good reason because with nostalgia you can create a dish that will not only taste divine, but also speaks to the diner’s soul. That’s how pumpkin risotto ended up on my menu.
Pumpkin risotto is an extremely versatile dish that combines sweet earthy flavors with rich, creamy textures and a salty, spicy snap at the end of each bite. The pumpkin adds a weight to the palate that takes this from being just another rice dish to becoming a centerpiece of the meal. It’s warming and speaks to that part of us that loves home cooking, yet it easily translates well into fine dining.
When it comes to a wine pairing, you could go with an earthy Italian white with brisk acidity or a Barbera, but I wanted something a little different and I’m glad I chose the route of exploration. Ever since I first developed this recipe, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to pair it with a spicy, new-world wine. Let’s just say, I was not disappointed. The Ridge Geyserville, accentuated the sweet spice in this dish, while taming the heat from the pumpkin seeds. Add to that, a slightly firm structure and pop of acidity that cut through the pumpkin stock and rich butter–and you have a match made in heaven.
Geyserville is essentially a field blend, made primarily from Zinfandel, along with Carignane, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre. Not only is it irresistible in its youth, but it’s also a great candidate for short-term cellaring.
Pumpkin Risotto (with peas and spicy pumpkin seeds)
5 oz. unsalted butter
1⁄4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 quart of chicken stock
1 cup of water
1⁄4 cup white wine
1 shallot (chopped fine)
15 oz. pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups risotto rice
3/4 cup English peas (can use frozen green peas)
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated fine
3 Tbls. Pumpkin seeds
Salt and pepper
Fresh sage (garnish)
To cook the peas, prepare an ice bath and pour the chicken stock and one cup of water into a pot and bring to a simmer. Pour the peas into the simmering chicken stock and allow them to heat through for four minutes. Then remove them from the pot and place into the ice bath for two minutes before removing them to reserve for later use. Lastly, whisk (10 oz.) of the pumpkin puree into the warm stock and set aside for when you are ready to cook the risotto.
In a sauté pan over a medium-‐low flame, melt two ounces of butter. Once the butter has melted and come up to temperature, add the pumpkin seeds, cayenne pepper and a hefty pinch of salt. Raise the flame to medium and toss the pumpkin seeds in the butter and pepper mixture. Once the seeds have toasted, pour them into a bowl and keep them in a warm location until ready to use.
When you are ready to make the risotto, place a medium size pan over a medium-‐ low flame. Add two ounces of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the shallots, a pinch of salt and allow the shallots to sweat. When the shallots have sweated and begun to turn translucent, add the rice and stir to coat the rice in butter (if the mixture looks too dry, you can add a little more butter before adding the rice).
Raise the flame to medium and continue to stir vigorously for about one to two minutes. However, do not allow the rice or shallots to take on any color. Add the wine and stir it into the rice until it cooks off. Return the flame to medium-‐low and add the last half (5 oz.) of pumpkin puree, the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine completely and add your first ladle full of stock.
At this time, the risotto should take anywhere between 17 and 19 minutes to finish, and throughout that time you should be stirring regularly. After adding the ladle of the stock and pumpkin mixture, stir the rice slowly but regularly. Be careful with heat management with this recipe, because the pumpkin puree can burn if not stirred regularly up from the bottom of the pan. As soon as the first ladle of stock has absorbed or evaporated by half, add another ladle full.
Continue like this for 10 – 12 minutes and add a good pinch of salt to the rice. Add more stock and continue to stir. As you approach 16 minutes of cooking time, taste the rice to test the degree of doneness, all the while continuing with the process of adding stock and stirring. At 17 minutes, add the peas, stir in completely and taste again for doneness.
When the rice is done (al dente), add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the last of the butter. Stir to combine completely and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. (Seasoning is what really brings out the pumpkin flavor in this recipe. Without it, it will seem bland.) If the rice seems too thick, add a little more stock to loosen it up.
Plate the risotto into warmed bowls and top with the toasted pumpkin seeds and a rough chop of sage leaves. Serve.
2013 Ridge Geyserville – Rich, decadent yet wonderfully vibrant on the nose, showing blueberry, raspberry, sweet herbs, spice, a hint of vanilla and cola. On the palate, I found silky textures contrasted by vibrant acidity with concentrated red and blue fruits, spice and a hint of licorice. The finish was long with dark, spicy fruits and cola. This is drop dead gorgeous today, yet still tightly wrapped up in its youth. (92 points)
Article and tasting notes: Eric Guido
The fact is that we have been bombarded from all sides by every critic, every retailer, and every blogger (myself included) about the level of quality and truly stunning set of wines that Montalcino produced in 2010. My first introduction was last winter at Benvenuto Brunello, and what I tasted wowed me. Since then I’ve been able to taste many more and re-taste a number of others; each time I’m left with the same feeling of satisfaction. I would even go as far as saying, amazement, as I’ve become accustomed to being let down by many of the past “Vintage of The Century” proclamations of the media.
This time, they all got it right. The 2010 vintage in Brunello started with slightly wet and cool springtime temperatures, which carried on into the summer months. Alternating sunshine and showers throughout the fall, along with mild temperatures, gave growers all they needed to pick at leisure. It was a relatively late, yet healthy harvest; the resulting fruit was better than anyone could have hoped for. The most important role of a winemaker in 2010 was to allow the wine to make itself, showing a transparent mix of perfect fruit and terroir.
These are cool, yet powerful Brunello of radiant fruit, soaring, sweet floral perfumes and classic structure. Most are already showing surprisingly well, yet the potential for the cellar is remarkable. Balance is the key here, along with fruit intensity, which nearly masks their tannic structure.
At a recent event, hosted by Antonio Galloni of Vinous, we were presented with a selection, hand-picked by Antonio, to show the diversity of locations, wine-making character and overall quality—the best that 2010 Brunello has to offer. There was not a single bad wine throughout the evening.
Stylistically, the traditional school of restraint and uber-natural methodologies stood out to me, as they are my preference. Yet I cannot deny the shear quality, potential and likability of even the most modern producers. These are wines that belong in our cellars. As much as it seems like the fountain of 2010 Brunello will not run dry, I assure you that a time will come when we will not be able to find these in the market any longer.
I left that night with a smile from ear to ear and a grocery list of wines which I purchased the very next day.
Below are my notes, which I am eager to share with you. If your love is Brunello, or for some reason you’ve chosen not to jump into the 2010 vintage before now, I urge you to consider any one of the examples below.
On to the Tasting Notes:
Flight 1: This was a flight of contrasts. The Siro Pacenti stood out for its intensity and modern leanings against Costanti and the—yet to be released—Stella di Campalto. Costanti drank beautifully right out of the gate. This is a wine that we should all put in the cellar. As for Stella di Campalto, I loved this wine tremendously, but it was not what I was expecting by any measure. Ethereal, finessed, with tremendous depth but lacked the youthful structural components that we associate with Brunello. Will it age on its balance alone? Quite possibly. All I know is that it’s so good today, that I found it hard to put down.
2010 Costanti Brunello di Montalcino – At first restrained yet quickly coming to life, with a dark and focuses display of crushed red berries, cedar and herbs. It was unexpectedly open on the palate with pure cherry and spice notes, which seemed to coat the senses as a wave of mouthwatering acidity added vibrancy. The finish was gorgeously long and focused, showing ripe cherry and hints of spice. This is simply beautiful—youthful—but giving tremendous enjoyment already. (95 points) @morrell
2010 Siro Pacenti Pelagrilli Brunello di Montalcino – I was greeted by unbelievable depths of dark red fruits and espresso bean, followed by rich earth, leather, hints of cheese rind and forest floor. On the palate, it displayed intense dark fruits and mocha with saturating tannin, which lent grip to its otherwise velvety textures. The finish was redolent of dark wood and dried fruit, with moderate tannin lingering long. Aromatically, this wine wowed me, but on the palate it came across as too heavily affected by it’s barrel aging. Still, it’s a beautiful wine. (92 points)
2010 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – Where do I start? What defines a Brunello? For the longest time, I would say a classic structure to age would be a point in the corner of a wine this young, yet here I found such a delicate nature and mesmerizing layers, that I’d find it difficult to leave in the cellar for longer than 5-10 years. Coming across more ethereal Burgundy than Brunello, the Stella di Campalto displayed a highly expressive nose, which seemed to continue opening with each tilt of the glass. There was earth, leather, crushed berries, dried flowers—which turned to deep and lively floral tones over time—as well as a savory toastiness, which wasn’t oak but something rich and warming. On the palate, it was soft, caressing, yet brilliantly focused in its ripe red fruits, sweet spice and herbal tones. The most elegant of tannin wrapped around the senses, yet were never drying. It clung to the palate throughout the finish, with saturating dark fruits and fine tannin. (97 points)
Flight 2: Il Poggione stole the show in flight two. There’s so much potential in this cool and classic Brunello. Antonio has been singing their praises for years, and the 2010 hit the nail on the head. It’s hard to believe this is such a large production wine, as it is simply gorgeous. The Biondi Santi was unexpectedly enjoyable at this young age, and far from typical for this historic property. Again, the modern leanings of Casanova di Neri were apparent in this lineup, however there’s no denying the quality in the glass.
2010 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova – The nose showed rich dark fruits, coffee bean, sweet herbs and spice. On the palate, I found smooth, silky textures with a balanced contrast of gripping tannin, which carried ripe black cherry across the senses. There were noticeable depths of fruit here with a drink-me-now personality, finishing on black cherry and dusty dark chocolate. (91 points)
2010 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino – Classic in every way and enjoyable on its potential alone, the Il Poggione showed focused bright cherry with spicy floral tones and undergrowth. On the palate, I found cool, focused red fruits, leather strap and earth, as fine-grained tannin coated the senses. It finished on structure with hints of dried cherry lingering long. This is a classic in the making, and all it needs is time in the cellar to come to life. (95 points) @morrell
2010 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino – This was restrained at first, yet it opened slowly on the nose, as hints of dried cherry, cedar, leather and minty herbs wafted up from the glass. On the palate, it was tightly woven with a mix of tart red fruit, leather, herbs and lingering minerality. Tannin coated the palate throughout the finish, along with hints of cherry and minerals. (93 points)
Flight 3: Flight three played from strength to strength, as each glass seemed to add more and more satisfaction to the overall experience. The Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragon is a big wine to be sure, coming from the south of Montalcino, yet the balance here is spot on. Call it a bridge wine, if you will; a great way to introduce a new-world wine lover to Brunello. Salicutti took it up another notch, adding more lift and floral/herbal tones with a perfectly balanced yet structured palate. It’s a wine that will reward cellaring. Then there was Pain dell’Orino, which I couldn’t stop thinking about for the rest of the evening. It’s a wine of remarkable beauty and intensity. It stays firmly grounded in the earth while also exploring a collage of fruit and exotic spice. Like I said, this flight played from strength to strength.
2010 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Vigna di Pianrosso Brunello di Montalcino – This showed an intense and extroverted bouquet of vibrant red fruits, spice, sweet floral tones and milk chocolate. On the palate, a wave of silky textures delivered intense ripe fruits with mouthwatering acidity and spice, which seemed to coat all of the senses. The finish showed tart cherry pits and herbal hints. This is an incredibly attractive Brunello. (94 points)
2010 Salicutti Piaggione Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was bright and lifted yet vibrant, showing focused red fruits, sweet herbs, and floral undergrowth. On the palate, it was a game of contrasts, as youthful structure met playful vibrancy and balance with a core of spice and minerality driving intense red fruits across the senses. The palate was coated in refined tannin throughout the finish, promising many years of development here. The Salicutti Brunello is drop-dead gorgeous. (95 points)
2010 Pian dell’Orino Brunello di Montalcino Versante Amiata – The nose showed rich, ripe cherry, plum, exotic spice, floral funk and fresh-turned earth. On the palate, I found silky textures with a pulse of driving acidity delivering intense dark-red fruits, exotic spice and orange rind. The finish was long on dried cherry, sweet herbs, leather and spice, but also substantial fine-grained tannin. It’s a classic in the making. (96 points)
Flight 4: Then there was the grand finale. Antonio saved the best for last, with a flight of the top traditional, artisanal and limited production Brunello to come out of the 2010 vintage. The Salvioni and Cerbaiona seemed to face off at the table, as most participants went back and forth over which was the wine of the night. Both were majestic and truly remarkable wines. Through all of the excitement the Il Marroneto sat on the sidelines, watching the chaos ensue, yet anyone who ignored the beauty of Il Marroneto lost out in the end. Il Marroneto was simply stunning on this night, a perfect example of traditional Brunello, crafted by a master. In a perfect world, we could put all three of these wines in our cellars.
2010 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino Madonne delle Grazie – This was highly expressive and defined best as refined intensity, with a bouquet of fresh ripe cherries, cedar, spice, airy herbal tones, and chalky minerality. On the palate, this was simply stunning, displaying silky textures which seemed somehow weightless all the same, with saturating cherry fruit, exotic spice, medicinal herbs, and grainy minerality. Long and saturating on the finish with formidable structure. (96 points)
2010 Salvioni Brunello di Montalcino – Revelatory, and possibly the best young Brunello that I’ve had the pleasure to taste, the 2010 Salvioni displayed a multifaceted bouquet of bright red fruits, floral funk and spice which became deeper and richer over time, turning to dark, mulled spices, tobacco and rich fruits. On the palate, it was seamless as it hovered over the senses with sweet and savory cherry fruit, minty herbs and minerals. This went on and on with notes of cherry pit and inner floral tones. It was flat-out gorgeous, getting better with every minute spent in the glass. (98 points) @morrell
2010 Cerbaiona Brunello di Montalcino – Stunning for its finesse contrasted by remarkable elegance, the 2010 Cerbaiona provides a bouquet of lifted red fruits, exotic spice, provincial herbs, and pretty red floral tones. The textures were silky and refined, hovering on the palate, with notes of fresh savory herbs, green olive, and ripe black cherry, which seemed to swing back and forth from sweet to savory. A coating of fine tannin saturated the senses with hints of cherry and herbs on the long finish. (95 points) @morrell
Click HERE, for Morrell’s full selection of 2010 Brunello di Montalcino.
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
— Morrell Wine (@morrellwine) October 12, 2015
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