Brunello di Montalcino 2009: a restaurant vintage? I’m not so sure…

The hillside town of Montalcino.

This is a so-so vintage with immediate, sometimes overtly evolved wines that are better suited for near-term consumption. Vintners were put in a difficult position after an extreme heat spike in mid August that offset the alcoholic versus the phenolic ripeness of the notoriously finicky Sangiovese grape. Those who harvested early (mid to late September) got arguably more balanced wines in terms of acidity, but the mouthfeel is often lean and watery. Those who waited longer (the first or second week of October) got less balanced wines that sometimes felt jammy and hot. I had hoped that 2012 Rosso would save the day, but I suspect that many producers opted to put their best fruit aside for their Brunello. Monica Larner, The Wine Advocate

The above note is from Monica Larner to subscribers of The Wine Advocate (which I am).  When it comes to Italian wine, there are a select number of reviewers who I follow and think my own palate is closely aligned to. Antonio Galloni and Monica Larner are two people who are worth the subscription to the respective publications (Vinous and The Wine Advocate) just to hear the views on Italian wine.

Hence, it was interesting to read the note from Monica on the 2009 vintage for Brunello di Montalcino. I can’t remember if I have tried the 2009 Brunello from Biondi Santi (who I represent in Australia) but I have tried and loved the 2009 Brunello from Il Palazzone when I was at the winery last year.

brunello logo

With the release of allocations for the 2009 Brunello, it has definitely made me be a bit more cautious on importing the 2009 Brunello’s into Australia.  Cautious in that I will retry the wines when I am in Italy in March/April and then make a call. If I like the wines (like I loved many of the 2008’s) then we will import the 2009’s. If I do not think they are up to speed (like the 2007 vintage for Brunello) then I will make the call to give it a miss and instead buy a back vintage Brunello from their cellars as a replacement.

That is the beauty about wine and one of the great things about Brunello. If you do not like a vintage (regardless if it is rated highly or not), there are many other vintages in the cellars of wineries in Montalcino available to purchase. One thing I try and do, is import wines I love to drink. Both now and for the long term. If I like it, regardless of the reputation of a vintage, I will import it and vice versa.

A dinner with Fatalone @ Scopri…


Well for those that have been lucky enough to book a spot via the Scopri mailing list, we have Pasquale in Melbourne for one night on Monday 10th of February for a special dinner. This dinner sold out in record time and there are 30-40 listed on the mailing list.

The wines of Fatalone at Radici del Sud 2012
The wines of Fatalone at Radici del Sud 2012

It should be a great night with a sneak peak of Pasquale’s new and unreleased 2006 Riserva (which will be released sometime this year) available to try on the night. The wines will be matched with typical Puglese dishes.

Pasquale from Fatalone is coming to Oz…. For Rootstock Sydney 2014, 8 – 9 February Carriageworks


We love the wines of Pasquale Petrera  from Fatalone winery in Gioia del Colle in Puglia. I first tried the wines of Fatalone at Radici del Sud in June 2012. As soon as I tried the wines, I knew we had to have these in Australia.

Well the good news is that Pasquale is now coming out to Australia for the natural wine festival Rootstock to showcase his range of wines. Pasquale will be pouring wines from his family estate and I look forward to joining Pasquale and hearing what he has to say about Gioia del Colle, Puglia and his amazing winery. It should be a great few days.

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The huge success of our sold out inaugural Rootstock Sydney festival in 2013, sees us move to an exciting and larger (!) home at the iconic heritage listed Carriageworks building.

Join us for one, or all three, Wine Festival sessions. A rare opportunity to meet inspiring and exceptional artisans and growers from around the world who share common philosophies on sustainability, and wines that are alive and expressive. Taste from over 50 International and Australian wine artisans showcasing over 200 of today’s most unique and exciting wines.

16 Masterclasses entertain and enlighten. Wine masterclasses are hosted by 2 of Australia’s leading wine writers and journalists, Max Allen and Rootstock Sydney’s very own Mike Bennie. Joined by an exciting line up of local and international wine artisans; international journalist and author Alice Feiring; and international musical maestro and wine enthusiast Giovanni Bietti. As part of Rootstock Sydney festivities Bietti performs at the Sydney Opera House on Monday 10th February!
Food Masterclasses take us on a journey through regional NSW with hosts Martin Boetz (Cooks Co-Op | Rushcutters), James Viles (Biota Dining) with Pecora Dairy (Robertson), Bryan Martin (Ravensworth | Clonakilla Wines). Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong) with Aboriginal Elder Aunty Beryl Van Oploo showcase indigenous plants and fruits in their unique and personal masterclass. Learn how to make cheese and yoghurt with Kristen Allan. Talk and taste coffee with Rueben Hills, Mecca Espresso and La Soledad or beer with brewmasters Leonardo from Birra del Borgo and local brew crew Young Henry’s in their masterclasses and at their stalls.

Our Sunday Marketplace runs 10am-4pm. Featuring NSW’s top chefs and restaurateurs utilising NSW’s best produce. Sample authentic food from Billy Kwong & Outback Pride, 3 Blue Ducks & Bird Cow Fish, Martin Boetz Cook’s Co-Op, Movida & Wapengo Lake Oysters, Biota Dining & Pecora Dairy, Nomad, Vini, Fratelli Paradiso, Ocello, RivaReno Gelato and many more.

Both nights see the Rootstock Sydney Night Festivals from 5-11pm. An amazing line up of chefs will be cooking dishes based around their favourite wine, which will also be poured on the night. Luke Powell, Daniel Pepperell (10 William St), Mitch Orr (121BC), O Tama Carey (Berta), Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong), Pasi Petanen (Cafe Paci), Mat Lindsay (Ester), Kristen Allan (Full Circle), Luke Burgess (Garagistes), Louis Tikaram (Longrain), James Parry & Daniel Puskas (Sixpenny), Clayton Wells (Momofuku Sei?bo), Federico Zanellato (Ormeggio), Mike Eggert & Jemma Whiteman (Pinbone), Shannon Debreceny (Three Blue Ducks). Create your own dining and drinking experience by visiting your favourite chef stalls throughout the evening. Guest DJ David Miller will provide the tunes!





‘2010 vintage in Barolo is shaping up to be a modern-day classic….’ – Antonio Galloni


For those that follow Italian wine, know that Antonio Galloni is the man to listen to when it comes to which vintages and which wines to buy. Whilst there is sometimes a difference of opinion (ie Soldera 2006 with my wine group), I value and judge his opinion more than anyone else on Italian wine.

Antonio Galloni
Antonio Galloni

Vintage 2010 Overview

The 2010 Barolos have all of the attributes of a cool, late-ripening vintage; expressive aromatics, chiseled fruit, plenty of site-specificity and the potential to develop beautifully for years and decades in bottle.  At the same time, the wines have gorgeous depth and richness, perhaps a result of the high temperatures in July. Next to the 2008s, which were generally brought in later, the 2010s have a bit less aromatic intensity, more tannic clout and greater overall structure. A number of growers mentioned that the berry size was small in 2010, which explains why the wines have the tannic presence they do. As always, there are a handful of underperforming wines, but they are the exception rather than the rule. In general terms, it is clear the Barolos are more successful than the 2010 Barbarescos, pointing out the need once again to consider each of these two areas individually. The 2010 Barolos are also several notches higher in quality and far more exciting than the 2009s.

Overall, 2010 can be characterized as a vintage with cooler than normal temperatures and a mid-October harvest for Nebbiolo. Total degree days were lower than both 2009 and 2011. Growers reported fairly normal conditions during fruit set, although for some estates rain in early May delayed flowering. June saw quite a bit of rain, but towards the end of the month, after flowering was completed. July was very dry with daytime temperatures at the high end of normal. Evenings were cool throughout the summer months, creating the diurnal temperature swings that are so favorable for gradual, even ripening. October brought with it high amounts of rain. Well-drained sites handled the rain well, but some vineyards were penalized. In a cool, rainy vintage, proper balance in the vineyards and reasonable crop loads were especially critical. Most estates harvested their Nebbiolos around the middle of October, which today is regarded as a normal time frame. By comparison, both 2008 and 2013 were quite a bit later, while 2007 and 2009 were earlier harvests.

Readers who have tasted the 2010s from Tuscany (especially Chianti Classico) and/or the 2010 Red Burgundies will have a very clear idea of the style of the vintage. It is a year that will appeal to classicists, as the wines are translucent and incredibly expressive. Stylistically, the 2010s remind me of the 2004s, but with more mid-palate pliancy and overall depth. Simply put, 2010 is the greatest young Barolo vintage I have tasted in 18 years of visiting the region and a lifetime of buying, cellaring and drinking these wines. Antonio Galloni

These wines will be released throughout this year and I will be spending a lot of time when I am in Italy and the Langhe in April trying these wines. Throughout the year, I will also try and organise a dinner focused solely on this Barolo vintage.

So bottom line is that if you want to start to collecting Italian wine and Barolo in particular, the 2010 vintage for Barolo is probably the perfect way to start.

Kermit Lynch: a source of inspiration..


The only real work related matters I did on my holiday’s was drink good wine (not really work is it?!!) and read a fantastic book called ‘Adventures on the Wine Route: A wine buyer’s tour of France) written by Kermit Lynch 25 years ago. This book, re-released to celebrate this milestone is still relevant to every wine importer and buyer today.

Here is a bit of history on Kermit:

Kermit Lynch was raised in San Luis Obispo, but his name has become synonymous with French and Italian wines. In 1972, with a $5,000 loan and maybe a bit of gumption, this writer/musician opened Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant with thirty-five cases of wine stacked on the floor. Attracted by the Old World wine cultures of Europe, Kermit became a retailer, distributor, and national importer for authentic wines that express theirterroir. Much like his close friends, the late food writer Richard Olney and Chez Panisse’s Founder Alice Waters, Kermit’s influence has been enduring. He has had so much success shining the spotlight on small, artisan producers that he has won two James Beard awards and was knighted by the French government with their prestigious “Legion d’Honneur”. 

Kermit’s creative nature continues to extend beyond the two doors of his Berkeley storefront. In 1998, he purchased the historic Domaine Les Pallières in Gigondas in partnership with his friends, the Brunier brothers of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. In addition to having three books published, Adventures on the Wine Route (1988, Veuve Cliquot Wine Book of the Year), Inspiring Thirst (2004), and the 25th Anniversary Edition: Adventures on the Wine Route (2013), his passion for roots music has driven him to record four CDs so far. Kermit and his wife, photographer Gail Skoff, divide their time between Berkeley, California and Provence, France—where Kermit says he is “near enough to Domaine Tempier that I can fill up the trunk of my car whenever I need to.Kermit Lynch


What I find so inspiring about Kermit is his thirst to learn and keep on improving the way he selects and buys wine. Not content on buying a label, his ability to identify wines within wines (ie that are still in barrel) and to ask or improving bottling for his own clients and markets shows the levels of dedication needed to become one of the best in your field. In reality, you can use this approach to any field that you work in or in life in general.

I know it has inspired me to keep pushing the boundary on what I think makes a good importer. The first year we started importing, the quantity of wine we imported was tiny. However I thought that this was a great start. The next year we sold even more. Five years on we are importing roughly 100 containers from Italy into Australia.

Do I want to import more?

No. What for?

I want to become better at what we import.

For instance, we have worked with local artist Meredith Gaston on improving the label on the highly successful Umberto Luigi Prosecco. The wine has always been fantastic. Now we have a label that is an equal to the quality of wine in the bottle.

Moreover, the way we select parcels from each winery is going to become even more precise.  We have always loved the wines of Piero Benevelli from Monforte who makes fantastic Nebbiolo and Barbera. We asked Massimo to blend these two wines together to make a Langhe Rosso for the first time and it has been a big success. Sometimes, if you sit with your hands in your pocket, you will only go so far.

As an importer Kermit shows the lengths you need to go to, to be one of the best in your field. If you haven’t read his book I highly recommend you go out and buy a copy, it is really an inspirational read.

A new year and a new look for an old favorite: Luigi Umberto Domenico Cosmo Prosecco

Whilst I have always loved Umberto Prosecco, the label always was a sore point considering how good the juice is that goes into this wine.

So I thought I would act. My wife, always switched on with a great eye had bought artwork from Australian painter Meredith Gaston. These works reminded me so much of Italy: the colours and illustrations especially.

So when it came to a label design I knew Meredith was the right person for the job. The brief was something Italian. No parameters or guidelines. Something that summed up Umberto.

Well after getting it past design stage, the final result is better than I ever imagined with the new label to debut in Australia mid 2014z