One of our somewhat recent regular group tastings was at my house with a theme of Brunello di Montalcino. We started with some Champagne before settling into the formal flights.
NV Jacques Lassaigne Champagne Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut. This was disgorged in September 2011. It features a tight and classy nose of minerals, light ginger, lime pith and talc. In the mouth, it is driven and taut, with an intensely mineral-laden core making it feel rather transparent beneath the pear, apple and citrus fruit flavors. It is rather direct, extremely exuberant and shows a classy sort of energy.
NV Serveaux Fils Champagne Blanc de Noirs Brut. I believe this is 100% Pinot Meunier. Overall, the nose is a bit more characterful, with lots of smoke and struck match notes to go along with flint, toasted bread and raspberry soda sorts of aromas that are cool, dark and muscled. In the mouth, it is much darker in profile, with lots of blue and purple berry fruit flavors in a much more full-bodied and winey sort of package. It is pretty tasty and shows a lot of interesting character. It isn’t real elegant or anything, but I like the change of pace that it offers.
1995 Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino. Right out of the gate with the formal tasting, we were a bit snakebitten, with this first wine being obviously CORKED. Too bad.
1999 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino. This wine opens up a bit foursquare on the nose, but aggressive swirling starts to release some more voluptuous notes of plums, roasted cherries, incense, allspice, toasty barrel spices and pencil shavings. In the mouth, it is round and fairly plump, with a toothsome dose of voluptuous black cherry and dark plum fruit pushing ahead of the fine-grained tannins. It is easy-drinking and free-flowing, with a bit more sticky character on the finish. It may not be profound or anything, but it grows on me.
1999 Solaria Brunello di Montalcino. I’ve drunk and enjoyed this Brunello about a half-dozen times, but this bottle is obviously flawed. It is volatile, stewed and vegetal on the nose, with aromas of compost garbage. It is all cooked flavors on the palate, as well. Damaged.
1997 Marchesi de Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino. There’s a fine and fun bouquet to this wine—full of cherry and black raspberry fruit, red flowers, pine and forest notes that eally work together very nicely. In the mouth, it is creamy, smooth and drinking effortlessly right now. It seems very well-balanced, with good lift and tang to the flavors of cherry, toasty earth and wood spices. This was a favorite for many at the table.
1997 Azienda Agraria Lisini Brunello di Montalcino. This is the darkest-colored and most opaque wine in the line-up. The nose is dark, cool and very gentlemanly, with aromas of black cherry, damson, tobacco, chicory and cool earth. It has an excellent sense of stuffing on the palate to go along with a certain sense of elegance. It is generally pretty controlled, dark and serious, but it really builds and fans out as the night goes on—turning bolder, spicier and warmer over time. There is excellent concentration of dark fruit flavors here and although it flows pretty well right now, I think it is bound to be more special in about 5 years’ time.
1997 Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino. This wine smells a bit over-ripe to me, with strong aromas of figs, dates, rawhide leather, tobacco juice and graphite coming across as a bit gooey, dense and rich. In the mouth, it has a bit more sweetness of fruit to it than most of the other wines in the line-up, along with more tannin. It is a big-framed and thick-boned wine with a lot of volume and mouthfilling flavors leading to a sticky, pasty finish suggesting a few more years of cellar time might help it along.
1997 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino. There are just lovely aromatics here—with a nose full of red flowers, dark cherry, tar oil, lead pencil, forest floor and dark chocolate aromas that are extremely nice and personally appealing. In the mouth, it is nice and fresh, juicy and tangy, while also filling the mouth with flavors of cherry and raspberry fruit. It is warm, layered, juicy and popping all over with fun floral notes. There’s plenty of life in this and it was easily my wine of the night.
2004 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino. This is fresh and berry-laden on the youthful nose, which also shows strong streaks of limestone, tomato plant and leather. There’s much to like here, but it is just getting itself going. In the mouth, it is pretty intense right now, really exploding with ripe cherry fruit but also tons of tannin and a sharp cut of acidity that leaves the finish dry and seems to accentuate the tannic bite. I think this will be a winner, but I would wait 5-7 years on it personally.
2006 Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino. I brought this up from the cellar sort of last-minute to make up for the flawed ’99 Solaria. Like the previous wine, the nose is very fresh, lifted and engaging for such a young wine, showing a lot of fun notes like strawberry licorice rope, gravel stones and fresh herbs. It exhibits a lot of push and a lot of energy on the palate, too, with juicy and bright fruit and taut acidity carrying the flavors of black cherry and earth without effort. The tannins are much more recessive and fine-grained than in the previous wine and I suspect this wine will be ready to drink sooner. Indeed, while I think it needs a little bit of time, it is pretty tasty to dip a toe on now, showing solid promise.
With dessert, we enjoyed a great Vin Santo.
1993 Castello di Monsanto Vin Santo del Chianti Chimera. This is an absolutely delicious Vin Santo and just a delightful wine all around. It is sort of an orange/iced tea color and displays a fabulous bouquet that has multiple gears that it shifts through. It starts out with aromas of salted caramel, honey and toasted walnuts before shifting into prunes, figs, yellow raisins and even a bit of lavender flower. In the mouth, it is wonderfully rich and nutty, with flavors of hazelnut, dried apricot, dates, yellow raisin, honey, toasted orange peel and a bit of balsamic character riding atop a crackling fresh tang of acidity that is wonderful. It finishes absolutely loaded with even more nut and date notes that are amazingly refreshing for having such density and richness. It is lovely stuff.