Break out the red carpet for Brunello!

Notes from the premier Brunello event of the year.


Benvenuto Brunello, the annual vintage preview tasting sponsored by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino just passed through New York City, leaving behind a lasting impression both of the quality of the wines on offer, as well as the resounding success this tasting continues to enjoy. Building on previous iterations, this year's Benvenuto returned to New York City's Gotham Hall, where the tasting in the round format facilitated by the inner rotunda of the address keeps the tasting intimate, yet expansively accessible. 
The annual Brunello seminar, perched above the rotunda floor, was capably helmed this year by none other than Christy Canterbury, MW. Focusing on the 2010 vintage -- a vintage that is seen by many as establishing a new benchmark for the region, the seminar I attended featured a flight of eight wines from an exciting array of producers. Standouts from this modest flight included the well-priced Talenti 2010 Brunello di Montalcino which retained the earthy complexity that makes Brunello so distinctive while showing off the fresh, bright intensity of fruit that is the vintage’s calling card. At the same level, though in a decidedly more modern and fruit driven style, was the 2010 Pian delle Vigne. This was a pleasant surprise for this jaded traditionalist and further proof of the broad based success to be found in 2010.
In fact most of the 2010 Brunello that I tasted is worth recommending, showing off an elegance that we have not seen since the 2004 vintage coupled with the kind of power that makes vintages like 2006 so appealing. All this comes courtesy of an epic growing season that saw no heat spikes, great diurnal shifts, sufficient and well timed rains, and a long growing season that allowed for the harvest of healthy, ripe fruit.
After the seminar I spent a few hours on the floor at the walk around tasting where I bumped into a few friends of Snooth such as Eric Guido, newly hired as the Content Developer for Morell Wine here in NYC, Brunello Bob’s own Bob Fyke, who would have been sorely missed had he not made an appearance, and friends such as Joe Czerwinski, Managing Editor of Wine Enthusiast, along with a slew of off-premise and sommelier stalwarts.  
The ability to attract such a fabulous cross section of New York's wine community is testament to the quality of the Benvenuto event, but at the end of the day we were all there to taste the wines, and this year there were so many fabulous wines to try it would have been impossible to even begin to think about sampling them all. Making the process even more difficult were the untold numbers of back vintage bottles being proffered by some of my favorite producers. 
With so many great wines available and so many friends to chat with I didn't spend much time with any single wine, though I did come away with an impression of the vintage. These are great, classical Brunellos. To be sure they are drinkable now. That, after all, is one of the advantages their extensive barrel aging program confers on Brunello di Montalcino. They are even enjoyable today, but the greatness of these wines is in their future. The tannins that are firm, yet ripe and velvety today, will soften with just a few years in the bottle. The fruit, ripe and vibrant, yet fresh and red, is admirably supported by wonderful zesty acidity. It's a recipe for greatness and longevity. 
If you are a Brunello aficionado you can't afford to miss the 2010s, and if you just dabble in Brunello now is the time to stock up on your favorite producers. Prices for Brunello generally remain affordable, but with pricing pressures rising on fine wines from Italy we may not see this intersection of value and quality again for quite some time.
Five value 2010 Brunellos to try:
2010 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino (30,000 bottles produced) $50
2010 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino (5,200 bottles produced) $50
2010 Ferrero Brunello di Montalcino (5,490 bottles produced) $40
2010 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino (100,000 bottles produced) $50
2010 La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino (55,000 bottles produced)  $40

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