Sunday, July 6, 2008

Great Brunello evening

Last thursday we finally organised the great brunello event.

The nine Brunello of the evening were tasted in the following order:

Poggio Antico Riserva 1990
Mastrojanni 1997
La Gerla 2001
Valdicava 1999
Castelgiocondo Ripe al Convento 1999
Banfi Poggio all'Oro 1990
Casanova di Neri Cerretalto 1999
Biondi Santi 2001
Soldera Case Basse Riserva 2000

It was decided to open and decant the 3 last wines from the beginning of the evening, while all the others, apart from the 1990's, were opened half an hour before tasting them.

The group of friends was as usual very multilingual/multicultural, with representatives from Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark and Spain. 14 in total (maximum number for an adequate tasting), almost all of them never tried most of these Brunellos but they knew well the key names of the evening, Biondi Santi, Soldera...

And now let's pass the floor to the sensations of the evening.

The Poggio Antico Riserva 1990 unfortunately had already largely passed its peak. The color brownish revealed and the nose confirmed that not very much remained of the fruits. On the palate the wine was flat with no structure neither tannins.

The second wine of the evening, the Brunello Mastrojanni 1997, comes from a producer that has rarely disappointed my expectations. The precision of the nose, not an explosion of fruits but instead a more discreet evolution of fruits with flavors of leather and ink, was followed perfectly by a very elegant taste, with satin but still firm tannins. A wine that can still age for 3-4 more years even if I would be rather incline to profit immediatly since it achieved its peak.

The La Gerla 2001, clearly the pupil of the whole bunch of our brunellos, despite being a good representative of the vintage, lacked the personnality that most of our brunellos showed today. However, I was more than happy, and my friends too, to introduce it in the bunch as a very good example of a good brunello that will age well at least 4-5 more years. Even if lacking the elegance of the Mastrojanni 1997, its cherry nose and good structure make of La gerla a very pleasant experience.

Then we moved to the Valdicava 1999. Its very dark color reveals a strong concentration and a actually Valdicava represents a rather modern interpretation of the wine. Both the nose and the taste confirm the impressions of the color. A strong but rather mono-dimensional aroma, with mostly riped cherry, and on the palate the impression of the wine that would gain more from more cellaring if in particular losing part of its ripeness and concentration.

One of the friend was waiting strongly for the Castelgiocondo Ripe al Convento 1999, since he still enjoyed the souvenir of a fantastic 1997. I was in fact not particularly impressed by the Castelgiocondo. The wine is indeed showing great balance, and is very very pleasant to drink. The tannins still very firm indicate that it is promised to a long life. Possibly the wine is still too young, confirming the impressions that 1999 was a very good vintage that is offering a long life for those who have the patience not to open them too early. However, after a while, Catelgiocondo reveal a more complex nose, it opens more to leather, ink and tobacco, and it also appears more elegant on the palate.

I was very curious to finally open one of the two bottles of Poggio all'Oro 1990 that I bought 2 years ago and left resting in my cellar since then. Clearly the wine has passed its peak, and it should have been a much better bottle 3-4 years ago. However, there was an interesting evolution and elegance with a leather/ink-driven nose. On the palate some of the tannins were still present even if the finish was rather short.

Cerretalto 1999. I first discovered cerretalto with the 1997 vintage. It was at Vinitaly and I was strongly impressed by the complexity and lenght of the taste of this wine. The 1999 that I opened today does not give me the same sensations however. Still closed despite some 3 hours decanting, Cerretalto does not unveil very much in terms of aromas and taste, despite a very good structure and body, is is not as long as expected. Some more time in the glass was clearly helping it and I would suggest waiting some more years.

It was then the time of opening the 2001 Biondi Santi. Well, you probably already guess my sensation in front of the elegance of this bottle. Starting from the colour we are back to the tradition of wines that do not play the card of extra-riped and concentration. The style recalls the bottle of Mastrojanni earlier in the evening but with extra additional layers of nuances and then complexity of spices, ink, even some kind of mushrooms. The taste perfectly matches the sensations of the nose. A great precision, the sensation of a great balance and a long finish. A great wine! I shared some comments with friends and I saw an unanimity of judgements among the "connoisseurs". But even those who could not be qualified as "connoisseurs" enjoyed greatly Biondi Santi and its different character.

The tensions then mounted....Soldera Riserva Case Basse 2000 was waiting for us after 4 hours+ of decanting. The nose explosion of sensations...on line with the finesse of Biondi Santi but more...radical and like escaping in different directions. It is indeed like if Brunello was meeting Bourgogne, but I would quote Bourgogne not for the specific aromas but for the large range of complexity of the nose. Then the taste, of great perfection, elegance, structure and perfect tannins and this long, long finish. Simply perfect, and if you think that this is the product of such a torrid vintage. Gianfranco Soldera is capable of creating an object which is at the same time ethereal and so deeply anchored to the hills of Montalcino.

I then ask myself...but if his Brunello is coming to such a perfection, why there are so few people who are following his route...?

But then I know that there are many, starting from Franco Ziliani, who would be able to respond much better to such a question.

My guests are happy, and as usual I ask them to rank the wines of the evening according to their preferences. The first three bottles of the evening have been Soldera Case Basse, Biondi Santi and Cerretalto.

And I am very happy too, especially knowing that there are some more bottles of Gianfranco Soldera waiting for me (including the great Riserva 1983).

My wine tastings take a break...until September.