2009 Brunello di Montalcino

First thoughts on the latest releases.


Readers of these pages will know that I have not been the biggest supporter of Brunello di Montalcino. I had some harsh words for the wines as a whole in the pre-Brunellogate era, and have often been left wanting by many of the wines. Unfortunately I am here today to report a bit of the same. Granted I am going to be discussing the 2009 vintage, one that is being promoted for it’s precociousness and fragrance. These are attributes that in an earlier era might have been referred to as elegance.

Elegant wines. She has a great personality. Really.
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.

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  • Snooth User: geosol
    1461726 26

    You misnamed the article. Even though you keep saying you're going to give Brunello a fair shake after shaking the world with your initial warning that you don't like Brunello historically and in general, you end up spending almost every point about Brunello witht the counterpoint of why Rosso is better. I kept reading because I kept thinking you were going to come to the impartial evaluation, but even the sections you present as impartial are jaded in favor of Rosso. Your article should have been called "Brunello Bites, Rosso Rules. That wasn't impartial at all!

    Feb 11, 2014 at 12:07 PM

  • Snooth User: qutiful
    1333123 36

    Thank you for the honest article.

    Feb 11, 2014 at 7:55 PM

  • Snooth User: smooch42
    769932 16

    No Biondi Santi tasting notes?

    Feb 12, 2014 at 8:22 AM

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