Brunello di Montalcino is not only one of the most important and long-lived wines in all of Italy – although it certainly deserves more than that status. The city of Montalcino itself and the almost overwhelmingly beautiful part of Tuscany, where it is located, have also become more important destinations for visitors to the region.
Due to the pandemic, however, visits there have not really been an option for the Americans. And while travel restrictions are certainly loosening, it’s probably still some time until it flies into Florence and then is as easy as it once was to drive just under two hours’ drive south to Montalcino.
Fortunately, thanks to Il Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the trade organization that represents both winemakers and promotes food (saffron, honey, white truffles and so much more), history (medieval architecture is amazing) and culture so deeply connected with the region, Brunello di Montalcino comes to New York. From June 14 to 20, Brunello Week (which is part of the broader program known as “Finally Brunello”) will feature the wines of 56 Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino producers. During the week, a private club and 41 restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan not only have the wines themselves, but will also have specially designed tasting menus set up to pair with and highlight the wines.
It’s an important promotion: Brunello di Montalcino, too often treated like a trophy, is on top of his pride in the basement, yet may not quite as often show up with a big casual dinner on a random Tuesday. This is the case with many of the world’s great wines.
But it does not have to be. If the last year has taught us anything, waiting for the perfect moment to open large bottles of wine is a risky strategy. And that with good food and friends there really is no wrong time to drink the “good stuff”. As New York in particular and America in general continue to emerge from the past year, events like Brunello Week and Finally Brunello are more important than ever: They not only bring more and more people together in ways that just weren’t possible until recently. , but they also help support the restaurants that have had such a hit over the past year.
In the event of events like Brunello Week, they also provide the opportunity to learn more – or be recognized – with some of the most delicious, terroir-specific, food-friendly and age-worthy wines in the world. And if you’re not near New York, you can still enjoy much of what Brunello has to offer by opening your own bottle.
Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to taste a variety of Brunello, both youthful and more mature, that show the breadth of what they are capable of. I can highly recommend the following eight bottles, listed alphabetically.
Castiglion del Bosco 2015 Brunello di Montalcino
Arragons and fennel seeds are mixed with red berries, purple plums, gently grilled apricots and porcini broth, all creating the scene for a juicy, generous palate sewn with vanilla-kissed oak, cherry-rhubarb compote, sun-heated strawberries, gently caramelized stone fruit and oolong tea. This beautiful wine disappears in a generous, mocha-like finish and promises to evolve over decades. But with a little air, it’s also beautiful right now.
Castiglion del Bosco 2010 Brunello di Montalcino
Cherry cream, eucalyptus, candied violets and vanilla bean dance with lavender, candied satsuma and an unexpected scent of brown butter: The nose here is World War II. These fireworks translate into a palate sewn with energetic acidity, and in addition to the black raspberries and blackberries, there are also vanilla-cherry crème brûlée notes, a long-lasting hit of caffè latte and a touch of bresaola, meaty mushroom and dried thyme , which develops with air, especially on the finish. Even at the age of 11, this still shows an astonishing tension between the energy and strength of youth and just began to emerge characteristics of bottle age. Fantastic now and with another 25 years ahead.
Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2016
This starts with a light beam of red cherries, associated with hints of juniper, lavender and a balsamic lift, all of which go in front of a palate of generosity and absolutely beautiful fruit. Cherries, small wild strawberries, sweet spice, juniper, the hint of oregano, violets, lavender and a more salty, licorice-laden note on the finish. This is a lovely young Brunello who boasts brilliant balance, beautiful acidity and a silky texture whose sweet tannins promise two decades of development.
Col d’Orcia Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2013
I spent more than a month in Tuscany with my family in 2019, and smelling this immediately brought me back to Montalcino – it just smells like Tuscany of my memories. Wild boar salami and a mint lift for the cherries can be felt in the back of the throat, and then sweet fennel seeds, plums and pipe tobacco also rise from the glass. On the palate, this is sweetly fruity and so generous with a serious mineral seam that cuts through the beautifully ripe cherries, lavender and blood-orange flesh and oils. The tannins become more confident as the finish rolls on, so either enjoy it with rich food right now, or put it down for the next 20 years and over. Either way, it’s a privilege to open a bottle of this.
Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo 2015 Brunello di Montalcino
Lifted with aromas of lavender and violets, floral peppercorns, blackberries, blueberries and balsamic vinegar and mint notes, this is already unusually complex. Sipping reveals a palate of detail, balance and grip with flavors of red and black raspberries, canned blood oranges and tamarind paste. Very much a food wine right now, although you could easily age it through 2045.
Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo 2008 Brunello di Montalcino
Aromas of sung eucalyptus, vanilla-cherry crème brûlée top right after the torch is removed, espresso with a dab of warm milk, roasted chestnuts and a mineral flavor spiced with star anise set the stage for a palate that unfolds in layers of cherry pipe tobacco, sweetened ribs, blackberry shredder and candied violets. A distinctly balsamic character runs through it all, and the chestnuts from the nose sweep back into the finish. This will continue to sing for another decade plus.
Fuligni 2015 Brunello di Montalcino
Rich aromas of blackberries and black plums are dusted with chocolate and joined together by violets that stretch a palate of chocolate-covered orange peels, blood oranges and café mocha. Need time for the gripping tannins to soften a bit, but the wait will definitely reward the patient. Enjoy from 2022 and beyond.
Val di Suga 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Spuntali
Need air, but with a few minutes in the glass, aromas of wild cherries, cherry pits and the hint of flowers emerge. These are associated with mineral notes that pulsate through each sniff, as well as licorice and woody spices. The palate is concentrated and elegant with serious tea-like tannins that frame deep mineral flavors as well as cherry skin, violets, wild berries, balsamic notes and lots of salty spices. Give it a few years, then enjoy the following 25.