To begin with, we should take a look at the vintage currently being hawked. It’s another successful vintage, of that there is no doubt. Consistency seems to be the buzz word du jour, which speaks not only of the evenly warm and pleasant growing season, but also the newly leveled playing field. Everyone is sticking to 100% Sangiovese for these wines.
The warm growing season has endowed many of these wines with the richness associated with great vintages of Brunello. The wines also retain expressive aromatics, another check in the plus column. One minus that continues to mark Brunello is the temptation to produce bigger, “more important” wines. What that means is open to interpretation, but I continue to see too many wines marked heavily by new oak and suffering from over extraction. Brunello does not need to be a power house wine! Let it be the medium bodied, if richly expressive Sangiovese it wants to be!
Photo courtesy Megan Mallen via Flickr/CC
In all honesty, I’ve found a lot to like in 2006 Brunello, but that doesn’t necessarily make this the vintage to buy. You might be better off sourcing something from 1998, 1999, or 2001 for similar money but with the benefit of the age that so many of these wines deserve. And with the lack appreciation these wines tend to show, you can buy five years of ageing for free!
That’s not the entire truth. The horrible economy coupled with Brunello-gate has had an effect on pricing. Many Brunello prices have softened appreciably over the past several years, so while in many cases older vintages haven’t appreciated, they remain a bit more expensive than current releases wines. In some cases, very high scores for previous vintages have driven the scores up significantly, but these are rare occurrences.
So what about the wines?
Like most of Europe, Brunello has been blessed over the past few years with wonderful vintages. Here’s a brief rundown of the styles so that you can better decided whether dipping into the 2006 vintage is right for you or if perhaps another vintage better suits your needs. As always, buying back vintage wines can be a tricky matter, so use reliable retailers and ask them about older wines!
2006: Rich with expressive ripe fruit and moderate to long ageing potential.
2005: Lighter styled and very aromatic with moderate richness and ageing potential.
2004: Rich yet elegant with a lovely transparency, should drink well over many years.
2001: Arguably the best of this bunch, tannic yet fresh and for the cellar.
1999: Among my favorite vintages, notable for purity and balance. Drinking well today, though I will enjoy them for many years to come.