As a Sangiovese (the primary grape in Chianti) lover, I consider Brunello di Montalcino best of the best in Italian wines. So I was thrilled to attend the Benvenuto Brunello 2017 wine seminar and guided tasting event hosted by Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino and IEEM last week in Houston. For those unfamiliar, Brunello is Sangiovese from the Township of Montalcino near Siena (Tuscany, Italy). Brunello di Montalcino is highly regulated (varietal, origin, aging, production, bottling, etc.) to preserve its quality and distinction.
Representatives from the Consorzio and each participating winery guided us through eight Brunello tastings, all from the newly released 2012 vintage, with one exception from 2011 vintage riserva. My interest was piqued when representatives explained the region’s microclimates and soils (geology!). A rock geek such as myself can appreciate the different characteristics of the four main soil types as they range from rocky soil decomposed from limestone and marl down to sands and clays. You can find the Consorzio’s brochure (with climate and soil descriptions) here.
As I tasted the wines, I made a few notes. Not as a sommelier, which I am not, and not as a connoisseur, which I am also not. I am a wine lover with a bad nose, meaning I’m not going to pick up subtleties in wine, nor do I pretend to claim to understand them. I typically remark on boldness of aroma and flavor, acidity, color as if it were jewelry, and what I would serve it with in my home (or even drink by itself). So, I am a wine drinker, not a collector, and certainly not an expert. Let us proceed. The wines tasted in the seminar (with my notes) were:
- Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012
- Bright color, modern style, berry/fruit/cherry…love
- Corte del Venti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012
- Aroma more earthy than the first, tastes more earthy…my husband would like this with steak and mushrooms
- Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012
- Traditional aging allows Sangiovese to speak for itself, will age 20-25 years, clean and pure flavor this young…love this
- Paradisone Colle Degli Angeli Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012
- Vineyard proud of green manure and reduced chemical use, smallest vineyard in Montalcino, lovely wine…need food with this
- Sassodisole Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012
- Endearing story about history and connection with the sun, located northeast area with influence from Mediterranean and inland, perfectly balanced Brunello…would drink by itself or with food, love it
- Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012
- Strong berry aroma, firm tannins but not overwhelming…wonderful wine
- Villa al Cortile Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012
- Aromas of roses and sun dried tomatoes, more acidic (so not as ripe), very good, punch me in the face flavor…serve with food
- Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva 2011
- Aroma similar to last but flavor different…very good
Spit or Swallow?
As I looked around the room I noticed several, but not most, had finished their wine. Most had spit throughout the tasting, and most had abandoned what was left in their glasses. I’m small enough that I cannot drink this much wine without getting cross-eyed and passing out. So I reluctantly set the remainder of my wine aside, sad to see it go to waste (before and after below). In all my years of wine tasting, I could never bring myself to spit, even though it’s the professional thing to do. Since wine is my hobby, I have the luxury of enjoying it as I please, and it pleases me to drink it as the winemaker intended. When I drink wine, I am reminded of trips I have taken through wine country, here and abroad. On this day in particular, I smiled fondly at the memories of being in Tuscany three years ago and tasting Brunello di Montalcino during a private tour. How can I spit that out? Quite simply, I cannot.
After the seminar, lunch was provided, which allowed me to taste (not spit) a few more wines not featured in the seminar. This tasting was for wine professionals, importers, and wineries to connect with one another. I looked for a few familiar labels like Banfi, and tried some Rosso di Montalcino (think Brunello’s younger brother), Pinot Grigio, and Moscadello di Montalcino (similar to Vin Santo, a fortified after dinner wine). Rosso di Montalcino, which can be released as early as September 1st the year following the grape harvest, allows the winery to make money while waiting for the Brunello to properly age. An impatient wine, so to speak, and one of my favorites. Rosso is an excellent wine to drink by itself, or enjoy with a lighter food, and does not need cellaring.
While making my way around the room, I recognized a familiar face at the CapAnna table. The representative, Daniele, was the very gentleman who gave us a tour of Poggio Antico in Tuscany three years ago. What an incredibly small world.
I also enjoyed Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino from Canaliccio di Sopra.
And I also enjoyed Rosso di Montalcino (2015) and Brunello di Montalcino (2011 and 2012) from Camigliano, which can be purchased from Houston Wine Merchant.
Everything was just lovely, and I appreciate IEEM for inviting me to attend the wine seminar and guided tasting. Although I am not “in the industry”, as an every day traveler and wine lover, I have and promote an extreme appreciation for wine tourism. Each sip invokes a sense of place, an appreciation for climate, soil geology, geography, and cultural setting. If drinking wine doesn’t make you want to visit the place it comes from, or at least learn about it, it should.
A map of the wineries within the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino can be found here. The area can be visited via tours out of Florence or Rome, and accessed by train.