Sangiovese is not a grape that necessarily works well with extended ageing, or heavy doses of new oak for that matter. Herein lies my biggest issue with Brunello. It frequently lacks some freshness, and shows more of a winemaking signature than does a comparable Rosso. Not to paint with too broad a brush, but I personally get more of a taste of terroir with Rosso di Montalcino than I do with Brunello. Brunello does often speak loudly of its variety, that special clone of Sangiovese known as Brunello. But it also speaks loudly of wood ageing, and specific woods at that. Call me a curmudgeon if you will, but I find that few vintages in Brunello have the sheer brilliance that allows them to transcend the techniques involved. When they do, look out, because brilliance is indeed what they offer, though when they don’t they are simply excellent wines. As are the great Rossos.
So it’s really a matter of degree. I find plenty of Brunello to love, but more Rosso, and the Rossos, fresh, and lively and pure, work better with most of my meals. Brunello, for better or worse tends to be reserved for more important meals. And that will bring me back to the subject at hand. 2009 Brunello.
2009 is a vintage where the ability of the producer to manage their vineyards, and be strict in selecting fruit, was vital to success. The summer of 2009 was fairly warm, and the wines reflect this with their moderately lower acidities. Autumn was quite attractive with lingering warmth during the days and cooling nights preserving the acidity that the grapes did have. The resulting wines show some of the opulence of a warmer vintage, though with the attractive perfumes that come from a more classic growing conditions. What really distinguishes the wines though are the tannins. Rather soft, and while able to support ageing, not requiring much, unlike vintages such as 2004 and 2006.
So the party line is that 2009 is what we would call a restaurant vintage. One that offers immediate satisfaction, perfect for consuming young, which is typically what is featured on a restaurant wine list. I would tend to agree. Ignoring for the moment the preceding screed. if you are faced with a selection of Brunello on a restaurant list and you would prefer to enjoy your wines this evening as opposed to having an intellectual experience, then 2009 could be the perfect choice.
As to those intellectual experiences. Most of the vintages of the 00s have yet to really hit their strides, thought he 2001s are drinking very well indeed. Of the recent vintages it’s worth noting their states of evolution.
2006 remains the most impressive vintage of the 00s. Big, powerful, a tad over-ripe at times but with impressive depth and structure they will be wines for the long haul, and ones we have to continue to wait for.
2007 is the most highly acclaimed of the recent vintages, though the 2010s will assume that role when they hit the shelves. Rich, opulent, and powerful; 2007 was a warm vintage from start to harvest and the wines show that. It’s a flamboyant vintage, yet quite structured, but without the elegance and finesse of 2006.
2008 was a cool, classic vintage. Rich with red fruits, austere tannins, and plenty of acidity; these wines are sleepers that need age to blossom. Never as impressive as they opulent 2007s or chiseled 2006s, these will evolve into elegant Brunellos, perfumed, medium bodied and with excellent cut and energy in the mouth.
And finally we are back with 2009. Softer than the preceding vintages, though with darker fruit than all but 2007. These are generally plump, aromatic, and friendly wines. Whether they are right for you is a personal question, though there are of course stand out wines from the vintage. i recently attended Benvenuto Brunello, the annual reveal for the newest releases of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. Before the event, a large scaled walk around tasting, there was a seminar featuring the Brunello of 2009. I tasted my way through these eight wines and include my impressions of each below. During the walk around portion of the tasting I focused not on Brunello, which will no doubt be very well covered, but rather on the Rossos that are so dear to my heart. I’ll be following up with notes from that portion of the tasting next Tuesday, but I wanted to share these impressions of Brunello with you before moving on to that tasting.
The notes that follow are the wines shown at this event in the order they were tasted.