135 producers participated at Benvenuto Brunello this year. An impossible feat to try them all, but impossible to resist the temptation to at least try! In the beautiful setting of Palazzo Pieri and the courtyard of the museum, there were flowing rivers of one of the world’s most important wines, sipped and analyzed by journalists, sommeliers and importers of every ilk and origin.
The morning was spent with my friend Roberto Cipresso, one of Italy’s greatest enologists and philosophers on wine, bouncing along the dirt roads of his winery La Fiorita. A great way to clear the mind and prepare the soul for an afternoon dedicated to contemplating the latest vintages of Brunello di Montalcino and its pious cousin of lesser fame, Moscadello di Montalcino. I am in awe of the saintly vintners who still produce this delicious nectar…
The vintage of Brunello Annata on preview was 2008. I have to admit that it did not elicit an enthusiastic response from me, so I won’t dwell too long on it. For those, like myself, who love Sangiovese with great body, strong acidity and important tannins, the ’08 is just not for us. For a Brunello it is surprisingly ready-to-drink, heavily fruity, almost fluffy.
The Brunello Riserva available for the first time was the 2007, and here the tune changes. Still on a musical note, you could almost say that the Riserva ’07 is a shockingly harmonious mix of Chopin’s elegance and the intense rage of Heavy Metal. It is a vintage with an absolute elegance that is already discernible, and yet can easily be aged for decades.
I was particularly impressed by La Fiorita’s ’07 Riserva, produced in only 6,000 bottles. Other producers who continue to create standard-bearing vintages are Franco Pacenti of Canalicchio, La Togata and Mastrojanni. I really enjoyed Siro Pacenti’s ’07, and found La Gerla’s Riserva degli Angeli simply divine. Also of note were the ’07s of Canalicchio di Sopra and Caprili. An excellent year as well for Capanna, which produces what I consider to be Montalcino’s very best Moscadello, and for Agostina Piero, that indomitable woman who produces a Rosso di Montalcino that gives most Brunellos a run for their money.
Leaving behind the din & clatter of the tasting rooms, I went to visit my friends at Il Greppo, where we previewed the Rosso and the Brunello. Here the Brunello won out, but in my opinion the ’08 Biondi Santi is not a true Biondi Santi…. of high calibre, no doubt, but the acidity and power that Biondi-Santi lovers are used to simply weren’t there in this vintage. Those with palates that prefer ready wines and greater subtlety will be happy.
And to finish the day off with a bang, we visited my friend Giacomo Neri to try this year’s masterpieces. The ’08 Casanova di Neri Brunellos have their characteristic fruitiness and softness, and the Brunello Tenuta Nuova and Brunello Cerretalto both brought tears to my eyes. Divine. No other words can describe them. If God drank wine he would no doubt be a regular visitor to the cellar of Giacomo Neri.