About The Author:
"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.
Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Brunello di Montalcino: A Wine to Celebrate!
The Wine Guy recently passed a milestone. It’s called retirement. Although I’ll still blog, will work a couple of days a week and volunteer a couple more, I’m considered a retiree, drawing a partial pension as well as social security. To celebrate the advent of this auspicious occasion, the fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I retreated to a cabin at the Briarpatch Inn in Sedona’s Oak Creek Canyon (the photo at left shows The Wine Guy with Wooley, a permanent resident at the Inn). Over the years, it’s been one of our favorite get-away spots, well suited for this kind of celebration. It seemed appropriate, as well, to have a special wine on hand for the occasion, so accompanying us was a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, The Wine Guy’s favorite wine.
Brunello translates from Italian as the nice, dark one. That’s a fitting description for this magnificent wine made solely from one grape varietal, Sangiovese Grosso. While it’s suspected that production of Brunello may date as far back as the early 14th century, the first recorded mentions of such wine were scattered the 1800’s. This included a mention that a Brunello was the prize-winning wine at an 1865 agricultural fair in Montalcino. In 1888 Ferruccio Biondi-Santi released the first of the modern style Brunello, featuring long aging and low yield production. At the end of World War II, Biondi-Santi was the only government recognized commercial producer of Brunello wines. The winery, at that time, had only 4 declared vintages of Brunello: 1888, 1891, 1925, & 1945. In 1999, Wine Spectator chose the 1955 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Reserva as one of the top twelve wines of the 20th Century.
By the 1960’s, there were 11 producers and Brunello di Montalcino became an Italian D.O.C. in 1968. In 1980, Brunello di Montalcino became Italy’s first D.O.C.G. it’s highest appellation status. Currently there are approximately 200 producers of Brunello di Montalcino producing in excess of 300,000 cases a year. One out of every three bottles of Brunello di Montalcino produced is destined to be consumed in the United States. It has becomes a popular premium choice among American wine aficionados.
Black fruit chocolate, leather and licorice are among the dominant flavors in this complex wine and there is almost always a lingering aroma of earth and violets even after the glass is empty. Brunello di Montalcino, by law, is not released until 5 years after harvest and is capable of incredible aging. (An 1891 Biondi Santi tasted in a special vertical tasting in 1994 was given a perfect rating by a renown Master of Wine..that's 103 years after harvest!).
My selection for our intimate retirement dinner in Oak Creek Canyon was a Talenti Vigna del Parelaio Brunello di Montalcino Reserva 1999. We had actually purchased this wine in Montalcino during a Tuscan vacation (see photo of Mr. & Mrs. Wine Guy at a Tuscan winery in 2004) and had been holding it in our cellar for a special occasion. We decanted for about two hours prior to dinner and we nursed our wine into a pleasant enjoyable evening before the open fireplace afterwards. It was, in short, a superb choice. Sip after sip yielded a smooth, flavorful wine with a long, lingering, almost palate caressing finish. It was, indeed, a special wine and made the evening a special and memorable event.
Sangiovese Grosso is a finicky grape, as difficult to properly grow as the most stubborn Pinot Noir. Additionally a low-yield, full maturation growth is needed to make a good Brunello di Montalcino. The DOCG requires that the wine be aged at least two years on oak and one in bottle and it must await a total of five years from harvest before release. All this adds to the higher cost of the wine but its rewards are often worth the price. It is, in my opinion, one of the better values in premium wines.
Currently the 2004 vintage is on the market and the trade reviews point to this being an exceptional banner year for Brunello di Montalcino. The Wine Guy recommends you splurge and buy not one, but two bottles. Enjoy one now and cellar the other. It will come in handy a few years down the road when you want to make a special occasion truly memorable with a special wine. It worked for me and I hope you have the opportunity to have it work for you!