When word of the Italian Wine Masters tasting hit my inbox, I was quick to hit the reply button.
In the years I’ve been writing and attending tastings, I don’t recall ever attending a more comprehensive tasting of Sangiovese-based wines from Tuscany than the IWM. Everything from Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino are all on display. Many of the faces you see are easily recognizable, yet each time I attend I’m always happy to find new producers and interesting wines that I have never tasted before.
One of my first priorities at this year’s event was to taste 2007 Brunello. The hype over this vintage has been unavoidable. Already, the pundits of wine criticism are weighing in and waxing praise upon the vintage. I had to wonder if it was truly worthy. Brunello has seen a string of amazing vintages with 2001, 2004 and 2006. However, many people are still recovering from the recent controversy unearthed regarding foreign varietals being added to this wine by a number of Brunello producers, a wine that is only supposed to be 100% Sangiovese by law.
Even though the accusations have subsided, “Brunellogate” (which this controversy has coined) left many Brunello drinkers feeling betrayed and looking to other Sangiovese-based wines from Tuscany. On top of that, further exploration of pure Sangiovese-based wines in Tuscany has shown that remarkable value can be found outside of Montalcino. Brunello as a brand has continued to rise in price, and many feel that the quality in the bottle no longer outweighs the cost.
In the end, Brunello needs a vintage that it can reinvent itself with, and 2007 may be that vintage. But does that mean that it is as good as the ’06? It really depends on what you want from your bottle of Brunello.
At this time last year, when tasting ’06 Brunello, it was nearly painful to work my way through the tasting simply because of the massive structure found in most bottles. The fruit was clean, pure and deep, but not fleshy. The finish was often drying or angular. Yet, on the nose, the wines were highly expressive and layered with masses of fruit, spice and earth - everything a young Brunello should be. We will be enjoying the ’06 vintage for many decades to come, and as they mature, they will only get better.
The ’07s are the exact opposite. I don’t recall ever tasting young Brunello that was so vibrant and juicy on the palate. The noses on most of the wines were highly expressive and very ripe. On the palate, they were juicy and opulent, yet not overripe. Their structure could be found in the close or on the second sip, as a build-up of tannins would remind you that this wine has the capacity to age. Through it all, you find yourself simply wanting to drink it, and that’s where I believe the ’07 vintage will really find its nitch. These are big and beautiful wines, but it’s almost impossible to keep your hands off them now. Regardless, the ’07 vintage will not outlive ’06, and if it’s classic Brunello that you love, you will not find it here.