So what is my beef with Brunello di Montalcino? It is rarely special. And I know I just made some enemies so let me explain myself. The problem, as it were, does not lie solely with Brunello. One of the issues I have with Brunello is that the so-called second wine of Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, offers far better value at times. Consider today. I am comparing the 2009 Brunellos with Rossos from 2010-2012. Both 2010 and 2012 are superior to 2009, and while 2011 may be comparable to 2009 in quality , the Rossos of one are far different from the Brunellos of the other.
Don’t get me wrong. Brunello can be a fabulous wine, certainly among the world’s finest, but it happens more rarely than we might want to admit. To a large degree the quality of the wines relies on weather, though Brunello does have a varied enough meso-climates to produces qualitative outliers in most vintages. Vintages such as 2006, 2004, 1995, and 1988 produced a bevy of beautiful wines. What about all the remaining vintages? Well, for starters there were and are the Rossos from the greatest vintages still to drink. Wines that can challenge the quality of many a basic Brunello for significantly less money. Then there are the Rossos from the greatest producers which might be priced like a basic Brunello, yet deliver more depth, complexity and nuance bang for the buck. Here's a short list of some of the Rossos that I look forward to trying:
But that brings us back to Brunello. So I often prefer a Rosso from a great vintage to a Brunello from a lesser vintage. I also sometimes prefer a Rosso from a lesser vintage as well. The fundamental difference between the two wines is the mandatory ageing period that each requires. 24 months in wood for brunello, a period that for my palate seems to be excessive in all but the best vintages and finest properties. Rosso on the other hand requires no wood ageing, though the best do see some, and are ready for sale a year after harvest.