Classic taste: great brunello vintages

REPOST: Michael Robinson, Grape Expectations Sep 25, 2020

Borgo San Felice is an ancient Tuscan stone village dating back to Medieval times, now converted into a hotel following a lengthy conservative restoration project supported by the Allianz Insurance Group

There is something enchantingly sophisticated about a fine brunello di Montalcino, it just reeks of classic taste and ethereal aromas.

Made 100 per cent from the brunello clone of Italy’s sangiovese grape, it is the only Tuscan wine that insists that no other grapes are blended in — sangiovese and that is it.

I would not want to upset any of my friends that make wonderful barolo, chianti and super Tuscans, but many critics do consider brunello to be the most supreme wine that Italy can offer.

Mother Nature does not always co-operate with vineyard owners in Tuscany, but when she does the results can be magic. For instance, 2015 rates 95/100 on vintage charts and the healthy fruit gave us ripe, rich wines with dense tannins; 2013 offers elegantly balanced and vibrant wines and 2012 was a vintage that garnered a 96/100 on the charts. The wines are concentrated and rich and structured to age.

Poggio Antico vineyards are among the highest in the Brunello region and their proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea assures a steady breeze that is beneficial in dry or rainy seasons. These wines are renowned for their elegance.

James Suckling rates Poggio Antico 2015 Brunello di Montalcino a close to perfect 97/100 and has this to say: “This understated brunello delivers dried cherries, cumin, terracotta, rust and bark. The full-bodied palate presents an intricately detailed tapestry of interwoven tannins, interspersed with compressed, vibrant cherries gilded in colourful, gleaming acidity. The finish is vivacious and polished and very long.” $77.85 (Stock #9068).

Suckling also rates a second wine from them with a 97/100. It is the Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Altero. This is made from a blend of the best wines in their cellar. You will find juicy red currants, cherries and sprigs of fresh rosemary that are robed in vanilla, baking spices and a wisp of smoke. $85 (Stock #9071). If you are having dinner guests, think about how impressive a magnum is. $178.45 (Stock #9075).

Borgo San Felice is an ancient Tuscan stone village dating back to medieval times, now converted into a hotel following a lengthy conservative restoration project supported by the Allianz Insurance Group. Since 1992, one year after its opening, it has been the only Relais&Châteaux establishment of the Chianti Classico area.

They also happen to be surrounded by their vineyards and I have the highest respect for their winemaker Leonardo Bellaccini, who has been our house guest here. Staying at San Felice is wonderful and there is no better restaurant in Italy!

San Felice Brunello di Montalcino Campogiovanni 2015 is, in Leonardo’s words, “intense ruby red in colour. The aromas are of ripe forest fruits, blackberry conserve and notes of tobacco and leather.”

Wine Spectator magazine writes of “cherry and plum flavours shaded by tobacco, spice and woody notes. Wild herbs and sun-baked loam accents the finish 92/100”. $56 (Stock #8976).

Also available are magnums of San Felice Brunello from the 2013 vintage and regarding this wine, Wine Spectator offers this appraisal: “A fruity style, boasting plum, cherry and spice aromas and flavours. Well-rounded tannins provide support and accents of iron and tobacco chime in on the long finish. Shows overall harmony. 93/100.” $118.40 (Stock #8979).

Although I am concentrating on three vintages today, I should mention one other — the only riserva that we have — and it is San Felice Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Il Quercione 2011.

Wine Spectator comments: “This is mellowing into a mix of sweet plum, cherry, liquorice and roasted-almond flavours, with accents of tobacco, leather and caramel. Firm yet harmonious, with a refreshing, energetic finish.” Drink now through 2028; 583 cases made.

With a same rating of 93/100 Robert Parker writes, “The 2011 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Campogiovanni Il Quercione is a dark and brooding wine that boasts top-notch power, intensity and balance. The bouquet revs up slowly with a first layer of dark fruit and plum followed by spice, leather and dry tobacco leaf. The various aromatic elements are bold and sharply defined — yet they come together in seamless fashion. Firm tannins and soft-fruit flavours give the wine power and length.”

The opinion of Wine Enthusiast magazine is, “Big and powerfully structured, this opens with aromas evoking truffle, sun-baked earth, fruitcake, iris and a whiff of game. The round meaty palate shows raspberry compote, fleshy morello cherry, clove and a hint of nutmeg alongside chewy tannins. You’ll also notice the warmth of alcohol on the finish. Drink through 2023.”

Piccini Villa Al Cortile 2013 Brunello delivers an earthy expression of sangiovese that offers aromas of black cherry, rose and eucalyptus notes. The palate features wild cherry, raspberry, clove, savoury herb and liquorice alongside gripping tannins and firm acidity.

Critical acclaim from Wine Enthusiast states: “Aromas of red-skinned berry, tobacco and underbrush emerge from the glass. The juicy palate reveals bright-red cherry, clove and star anise alongside fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity. 91/100.”

James Suckling rates it the same 91/100 and finds “attractive aromas of tangerines, plums, cherries and fresh flowers. Medium body, integrated and juicy tannins with pretty fruit and a flavourful finish. Drink or hold.” $47.25 (Stock #7962).

These wines offer such a special treat. They are so worth experiencing!