Benvenuto Brunello is always one of the events I look forward to each year. With both an in-depth seated tasting and a walk-around session, it is the best way to get a read on the newest vintage without visiting Montalcino in person. At this day long tasting, producers pouring the previous vintage’s Riserva, the current Brunello and their young Rosso di Montalcino, are there to talk up the vintage and answer all of our questions.
This year, it was 2011 Brunello and the highly anticipated 2010 Riserva category, which brought the crowd. I myself was quite excited going in, and what I left with were over eighty tasting notes, just as many photos and a whole lot of insights on both vintages. Being a huge fan of Brunello, I will say that I take this very serious, and I hope it provides my readers with all they need to make some smart purchasing decisions.
Today we’ll talk about 2011 Brunello and 2013 & 2014 Rosso di Montalcino. Later in the week, I’ll post the 2010 Brunello Riserva write up and notes. Enjoy!
2011 Brunello di Montalcino: Shop Smartly
They’ll tell you that these are the wines to drink while you wait for your 2010s to mature in the cellar, and to a small degree, that’s a very a good point. However, I have a slightly different outlook on 2011 Brunello di Montalcino, and while these are wines that will give the most satisfaction over the course of the next five years, the quality level is nowhere near as it was in 2010.
The 2011 vintage was the result of an early bud break and relatively cool spring and summer. This, coupled with large water reserves from the rain and snow during the winter, gave growers a lot of hope for a long, cool growing season. Unfortunately, temperatures soared in the end of August, and with it, the fruit ripened at a fast pace. With that said, you can’t look at 2011 across all producers as a ripe and early drinking vintage that you can buy broadly throughout. While some properties managed the temperature swing and turned out gorgeous wines that take advantage of the vintage’s ripe fruit–while also providing varietal character and the balance to remain enjoyable–others are simple, hedonistic versions of Sangiovese.
The bouquet on nearly all the 2011s I’ve tasted have been attractive, highly-perfumed and with a ripe fruitiness that can seduce the senses. It’s on the palate where most of these wines fall short. The intense, ripe fruit hits the senses in a silky wave (does that sound like Sangiovese?). This would be all well and good IF that burst of fruit was followed by vibrant acidity, minerality or depth in any form—but in many cases, it isn’t. In fact, the tooth-aching sweetness found in a number of these wines was unbelievable and unwelcomed.
Here’s the rub. There are a small number of 2011s that do take the ripeness of the vintage and contrast it with that balanced acid and depth, which forms a towering example of Brunello that critics will call “very good for the vintage.”
Very good to be sure, because what I’ve found is that most of the 2011s are either forgettable or highly memorable, and there’s very little in between.
So should you buy 2011? My answer is, a hesitant, yes. However, you must pick and choose. I’ve already found a few of my usual suspects that didn’t live up to expectations, while others have happily surprised me.
So, while 2011 may be the vintage to drink while the 2010s mature; just make sure you’re drinking the right wine. In the end, the best of 2011 can be put on your table tonight and will please a broad audience.
On to the tasting notes:
2011 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Brunello di Montalcino – One of the standouts of my recent tastings, the 2011 Il Poggione Brunello brings together the ripeness of the year while still maintaining a classic feel and vibrancy on the palate. The nose showed deep, dark red fruits, with hints of undergrowth, leather and charred meat. On the palate, I found a balanced display of silky textures, brisk acidity and fine tannin, with notes of ripe strawberry, bitter cherry and minerals. It finished long on dried red fruits and inner floral tones, with a coating of fine tannin. Very nice! (93 points) Find it at Morrell
2011 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was gorgeous, showing rich, dark red fruits, sweet floral tones and a hint of cedar. On the palate, I found ripe red fruits, which were perfectly balanced by a core of vibrant acidity, followed by spice and a coating of fine tannin. The finish was long on black cherry and plum along with a boost of mouthwatering acidity which kept the experience wonderfully fresh. (93 points) Find it at Morrell
2011 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was dark and youthfully restrained, showing fresh floral tones up front, followed by red fruits and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, it displayed medium-bodied textures in a refined expression of dark red fruits, balanced acidity and fine tannins. The finish showed inner floral tones and dried berries. The resulting experience was one of a classic Brunello, even in this warm vintage. (93 points)
2011 Tenuta di Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was layered and highly expressive with notes of ripe cherry, undergrowth and funk, opening to reveal floral tones and dusty spice in a ripe yet beautifully perfumed expression of Brunello. On the palate, I found ripe cherry balanced by brisk acidity with a tooth-coating minerality, which ultimately came across as fleshy yet balanced. It finished on dried cherry, minerals and gorgeous inner floral tones. The Collosorbo was a real standout. (93 points)
2011 Belpoggio Brunello di Montalcino – This property is new to me, and the 2011 is a great introduction. The nose showed a classically expressive mix of strawberry, dusty earth, fresh floral tones and hints of cedar. On the palate, I found rich and silky textures in an elegant expression of palate-coating cherry, spice and dried fruits. A bump of acidity cleansed the senses, making way for its slightly tannic finish with notes of strawberry and leather. (93 points)
2011 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino – Outclassing its cousin Uccelliera in 2011, the Voliero showed dark black cherry, cranberry and mulling spice on the nose, which continued to evolve, revealing dark and savory tones of roasted meat. On the palate, it was juicy and full of energy, displaying focused red fruits and hints of exotic spice offset by zesty acidity. Inner floral tones, tart cherry and herbs lingered on the finish. (92 points)
2011 Armilla Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was highly expressive and refined, showing pretty floral tones, spicy red fruits and minerals. It was intense on the palate, yet perfectly balanced with brisk acidity giving way to pure cherry fruit, spice and leather. The finish showed saline-infused red fruit and spice with hints of fine tannin. This is a very classic expression for the 2011 vintage and worth checking out. But be warned, production is only 6800 bottles. (92 points)
2011 Tenuta Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed deep red fruits and sweet floral tones with hints of exotic spice. On the palate, I found broad, silky textures ushering in rich red fruit with a perfect balance of zesty acidity and fine tannin. The finish turned to bitter cherry in a grippy display of structure and refinement. The 2011 Col D’Orcia was quite classic. (92 points)
2011 Castello Tricerchi Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed dark, rich fruit contrasted by moist earth and mentholated freshness. It was dense on the palate, yet ultimately balanced, with brooding textures giving way to ripe strawberry, plum and spice. Dark red fruit coated the senses throughout the long finish, with hints of herbs and spice providing depth. (91 points)
2011 Palazzina Le Macioche Brunello di Montalcino Le Macioche – The nose displayed focused fruits with strawberry and plum, leading to earth tones and sweet florals. On the palate, it displayed silky textures contrasted by a zing of welcomed acidity and notes of young cherry, leather and herbs. The finish was long with fine tannin, cherry and autumnal spice. (91 points)
2011 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed fresh red berry fruit, floral tones and a medicinal note of hard red candy. On the palate, I found silky textures contrasted by balanced acidity, as ripe strawberry and cherry fruits coated the senses. It finished on bitter cherry and dark inner floral tones, along with a coating of fine tannin. (91 points)
2011 Pian Delle Vigne (Antinori) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed pretty floral tones, along with ripe black cherry and chalky minerality. On the palate, I found intense and fleshy ripe cherry and spice notes. The finish was long with hints of mocha and dried berries. The Pain della Vigna was ripe to be sure yet not overdone in any way. (91 points)
2011 Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was wonderfully expressive and perfumed, showing fresh cherry and undergrowth with hints of herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures with a perfect acid-to-tannin balance, giving way to flavors of ripe strawberry, black cherry and minerals. It was slightly linear yet so easy to like, finishing on fine tannin and dried fruit. (91 points)
2011 Carpineto Brunello di Montalcino – The Carpineto explodes from the glass with a vibrant and pretty bouquet of perfumed red fruits and cherry followed by hints of mulling spice and wild herbs. On the palate, it was rich and dense, with concentrated textures revealing ripe cherry and dark spice with medicinal tones. Saturating red fruit resonated throughout finish with hints of cedar and ending on sour cherry. It’s a big wine, but there’s no denying its balance. (91 points)
2011 San Giorgio Brunello di Montalcino Ugolforte – The nose was more restrained than most of the ‘11s I had tasted, showing floral perfumes with small red berries and hints of menthol. It came to life on the palate, with sweet cherry, spice and herbs in a finessed and feminine performance with an excellent balance of fine tannin and zesty acidity. The finish showed cranberry and plum, which slowly turned to inner floral tones and hints of spice. It will be interesting to see if this evolves over the coming months into a more expressive wine. Until then… (90 points)
2011 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was restrained, requiring quite a bit of coaxing to reveal it notes of cherry, spice, herbs and earth tones. On the palate, I found ripe red fruits on a balanced frame, but very little in the way of depth. The finish was long with palate-staining red fruits and spice. (90 points)
2011 Val di Suga (Angelini) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose was ripe and intense with a mix of red fruits offset by hints of dried spice. On the palate, I found soft textures along with juicy acidity with a drink-me-now persona, as fresh cherry notes lingered into the medium-length finish. (89 points)
2011 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed intense dark red fruits, spice, cedar, and hints of mocha. With time in the glass, dark floral tones came forward, along with a hint of oak. On the palate, a rush of ripe red fruit was contrasted by zesty acidity and spice over a veil of silky textures. It finished on tart cherry and a lingering note of crushed flowers. (89 points)
2011 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta – The nose showed cherry, floral tones and dusty spice. On the palate, I found tart cherry and inner floral tones, yet the fruit seemed to have suffered here from its time in wood, coming across and dried-out and astringent. The short finish showed dried red fruit and gripping tannin. (89 points)
2011 Piccini Brunello di Montalcino Villa Al Cortile – The nose showed rich red fruits, savory charred meat and hints of menthol. On the palate, silky textures and soft fruit tones prevailed with notes of cherry and spice, yet I craved some much-needed acidity. The finish was light and slightly short with hints of dried cherry. (88 points)
2011 Castello di Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino – The nose showed sweet red fruits with perfumed floral tones and a hint of toasty oak. On the palate, I found tart red berry fruit on a wiry frame, yet little depth to contend with the wine’s acidity. It finished tart and floral. (88 points)
Rosso di Montalcino 2013 & 2014: The Future is Bright
Both 2013 and 2014 are presenting a lot to like from the Rosso category. The ‘13s are showing classic, cool fruit and wonderful acidity; some even seem to be begging for a little time in the cellar. Meanwhile, the ‘14s have attractive fruit, fine tannins, and juicy acidity, making them fun to drink now. I personally believe that too many people pass up on this category in favor of Chianti at a similar price. Yet I feel that these are a great way to get a glimpse into the future of our favorite Brunello producers.
2013 Rosso di Montalcino
2013 Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino – The Pacenti Rosso was quite beautiful today and showed potential for the cellar. The nose was intense and forward with tart cherry, pine nettle, minerals and floral notes. On the palate lean red fruits gave way to dried spices and herbs, showing refined tannin and excellent balance. Notes of tart cherries and herbs lingered long on the structured finish. This is a Rosso that had wished to be a Brunello; it’s quite impressive. (92 points)
2013 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Rosso di Montalcino – The bouquet was gorgeous and incredibly fresh, showing crushed cherry, dusty floral tones, spice, sandalwood, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found saturating, tart red fruits with hints of herbs and zesty acidity. Notes of cranberry, rose and bakers chocolate lingered on the finish. (91 points) Find it at Morrell
2013 Palazzina Le Macioche Rosso di Montalcino Le Macioche – Pretty red fruit and floral tones on the nose lead to a savory palate with wild berry fruit. The finish was refreshed by a bump of acidity and lingering red berries. (91 points)
2014 Rosso di Montalcino
2014 Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino – On the nose, I found fresh red floral notes offset by sweet strawberry and minerals. It was lifted and focused on the palate with pure red fruits, beautiful mouthwatering acidity and spicy grip. The finish was long, showing red berries, herbs and mineral tones. (91 points)
2014 Il Poggione (Proprietá Franceschi) Rosso di Montalcino – The nose was pretty with sweet red fruits, floral tones and herbs. On the palate, I found feminine textures with an engaging bump of acidity giving way to focused and deep red fruits. It finished on inner floral tones and cherry skins. Yum! (91 points)
2014 Voliero Rosso di Montalcino – The highly expressive nose showed spicy red fruits with exotic floral tones in a perfect balance of ripeness and refinement. It was fresh on the palate, with balanced acidity giving way to cherry, spice and inner floral tones. The finish provided just enough grip to keep thing real, while also leaving a delectable note of crushed red fruits. (91 points)
2014 Armilla Rosso di Montalcino – The nose was remarkably fresh with notes of pure cherry fruit and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, it was focused and pure, showing cherry and spice. It was a bit one-dimensional yet so easy to like. The finish was staying with a display of tart berry and dried flowers. (90 points)
2014 Belpoggio Rosso di Montalcino – The nose showed crushed red berries and floral tones with hints of leather. On the palate, I found finessed, acid-driven textures and a display of vibrant cherry and herbs. It finished fresh, juicy and quite satisfying. (90 points)
Article and tasting notes by: Eric Guido