Tag Archives: Brunello

Wine needs time…


Last week, my regular wine group (we have been meeting roughly once a month for over ten years) got together at one of our favorite venues, Scopri for a dinner focused on Tuscan Sangiovese.
We looked at all styles (Brunello, Chianti Classico Riserva, Vino Nobile and Supertuscan). Whilst most of the wines I had drunk before, it again highlighted to me just how good this grape variety is and importantly how much times it needs to open up.

A perfect example was the Biondi Santi Brunello do Montalcino 2006z this wine was opened 8 hours before dinner and even after it was poured, it was only in the last glass or so did it really start to shine. In the last hour, it opened up to show complexity, structure and tannin. I would have loved to keep a glass to drink the next day.

So it shows that great wines need time. I love watching a wine evolve. However if your are drinking top line Italian varietals, they need any hours, if not a day to really open up if you decide to drink them before they enter their drinking windows.

The late Franco Biondi Santi always opened the bottle the night before with one glass always taken out to let the wine breathe. After drinking his 2006, I could not agree more with this great man.

Montalcino: a town of utter beauty…

The estate of Il Palazzone

Whilst I have been to Tuscany many times, strangely enough I have never been to Montalcino. A town that is so breathtakingly beautiful, that the drive in took my breath away. The term ‘beautiful’ would simply not do it justice.

I had an appointment with Fuligni before lunch and I was looking forward to this very much. Trembath and Taylor have done an amazing job importing the wines of Fuligni into Australia for many years and the wines of Fuligni would have the largest share of Brunello in my cellar. The 2010 Rosso di Montalcino blew me away. Wow, what a wine! Also the 2006 Brunello Riserva was top shelf and all the other wines were of a very high quality.

I do not import from Montalcino, but I do now have a better understanding of the region and style and appreciate the work involved in making such a famous wine.

Before dinner we stopped by Il Palazzone and met the contagious spirit of estate manager and guardian Laura Grey and her husband Marco.

About Il Palazzone:

Il Palazzone, or “The Big Palace” is a small estate that has been producing wine for over ten years. While the estate is roughly 20 acres, the land authorized for the production of Brunello di Montalcino is a mere 10 acres. Obviously, a property of these dimensions creates a tightly controlled environment which is determined by its owner. A New Yorker and a wine lover, not necessarily in that order, the proud owner takes an enormous interest in the vineyard despite the time constrains imposed by his day job as a business man. He is personally present at harvest time and all other key moments of the wines development. No care is spared in the entire vinification process, which end result is approximately 20,000 bottles each year.

Located on the western side of Montalcino, the estate is quite high in terms of altitude – roughly 480 meters above sea level. This altitude ensures excellent ventilation which is salutary for grapes, as it reduces mold production to a bare minimum. The constant action of the wind combined with the characteristics of the soil on the western side of Montalcino reinforce the character of the elegant wines produced by the estate. The vines themselves are over twenty years old and have therefore grown long root systems making them more resilient during periods of drought. These deep roots are able to reach minerals and components that are not present in the top soils and enrich the taste and aromas of the wines. Il Palazzone follows all the EEC regulations regarding only organic intervention in the vineyard. Il Palazzone

The new winery of Il Palazzone

Laura gave us a tour of the estate and then we sat down for a tasting to try the 2005, 2004 Brunello Riserva and 2006 Estate Brunello.

All the wines look really good. However, if I had to pick one it would be the 2006 Brunello. Wow, amazing wine that looked great from start to finish.

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo

Before dinner Laura took us to Abbazio di Sant’ Antimo and it would have to be the most spiritually beautiful church in the whole of Italy. It’s mystic charm (together with chanting priests inside) made it an unforgettable experience.

We then headed to Montalcino for dinner with Laura whilst Marco babysat their three kids!! The wines stood up well during dinner and it capped off a fantastic day and night in Montalcino.

I am now in Verona and ready for the craziness of Vinitaly. Already the town is buzzing and it is going to be a hectic few days.

May I have your attention please? Would the real Ezio Rivella please stand up?…..

‘The Real Ezio Rivella’?

May I have your attention please?
May I have your attention please?
Will the real Ezio Rivella please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Ezio Rivella please stand up?
We’re gonna have a problem here

I am not sure in today’s world if there is a man that polarizes the Italian wine community more than Ezio Rivella. There has been two great blog posts by Franco Ziliani at Vino al Vino http://vinoalvino.org/blog/2012/02/rivella-a-barolo-sceglie-la-strada-dell%E2%80%99insulto-tutti-d%E2%80%99accordo-i-produttori-di-montalcino.html and also Jeremy Parzen at Do Bianchi http://dobianchi.com/2012/02/15/ezio-rivella-tradition-is-a-ball-and-chain/ which will give you all the background information on this uproar.

This is my view on the Ezio Rivella.

For me the big question is do we really know Ezio Rivella? Who is the real Ezio Rivella?

Is he the one who represents 250 wineries as President of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino?

Or as a free man, without any tie to any organisation or company?

According to the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino:

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino was founded in 1967 after the recognition of the D.O.C., as a free association of producers with the intention of safeguarding a wine whose prestige was asserting itself more and more. It has during the years embodied an instrument of scrupulous and responsible self-discipline, bringing together old and new, small and large estates, in such a way that the wise consolidated customs became a common strategy for qualitative success. The Consorzio safeguards and promotes all four Montalcino denomination wines: Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Moscadello di Montalcino andSant’Antimo Doc; the remaining part is planted with Igt.

Now tell me, when Ezio Rivella tells producers from Barolo and Barbaresco who attended  Strada del Barolo that “Tradition is a ball and chain. At best, it serves as historical anchor.” Is he talking on behalf of the President of Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino? Or as a free man, without any tie to any organisation or company?

For me, if you hold such a title THEN every comment you make must be on behalf on the Consorzio. It is like Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia going to Italy and stating to the Italians that ‘Australia should not recognize the rights of women’ then coming back to Australia and stating the opposite.

As president you represent the whole Consorzio. From large producers to small. To traditional producers to ultra modern. You must respect all positions and work on outcomes for the benefit of all. Not a small minority.

If I was a traditional Brunello producer, I would withdraw my membership and support of the Consorzio. Does Ezio Rivella work for all of the Consorzio or just the select few that benefits from his outrageous statements? Whichever, these sort of comments tarnishes the image and reputation of Italian wine and no good can be made of it.

Brunello di Montalcino: baby it’s back…

Over the last few months I have had some magnificent bottles of Brunello that have left me gobsmacked. Fuligni http://www.fuligni.it/eng/azienda_en.html has featured strongly in this with a bottle of the 1990 up there with one of the best bottles I have drunk from 2011. The bottle of 1990 was shared with friends at one of our favorite restaurants. It was paired with some other great wines (like 1989 Viette Castiglione Barolo) and it was by far, head and shoulders above all other wines on the night.

This week I have had a bottle of the 2004 Fuligni and it again left me in awe of it’s quality. Sometimes you just need to be reminded by great bottles, just how GREAT some varieties are. I have always loved to buy and drink Brunello. However, I no longer import into Australia as I have found that most of the Brunello producers I have spoken with treat it as a business first, and then as a labor of love second. I prefer the other way round. I am heading to Montalcino for a couple of days shortly and I can’t wait. Will I find some other outstanding producers? Or will they all pale into comparison?

At the moment the likes of Fuligni already imported into Australia (and with a fantastic importer who has championed Brunello for many many years), it seems pointless to import and promote a winery when you know they are just second best. If you see bottles of 2001, 2004 and 2006 Fuligni Brunello buy them. They will be treasures (like the 1990) in years to come. The 2006 Brunello Riserva has yet to be released, but big things are expected. When it is released in Australia, hold onto your horses as we will all be in for a great ride…

A more detailed look at Fuligni:



The Fuligni Viscounts, a long-standing Venetian family, moved to England in the 14th century at the head of a troop of mercenaries at the service of Edward III. With the succession of the Absburg- Lorraine to the Grand Duchy, Luigi Fuligni was transferred to Tuscany as general of the new sovereignty and, around 1770, received an extensive concession of land in the Maremma from the Grand Duke, Pietro Leopoldo. Fuligni’s task was to see to the reclamation of the land as was the wish of the enlightened monarch. Giovanni Maria Fuligni settled in Montalcino at the beginning of 1900 and started to produce wine just as his family had previously done predominantly in the area around Scansano in the Maremma. The Fuligni Estate in Montalcino, directed by Maria Flora Fuligni consists of approximately 100 hectares of land at varying exposures to the sun. The vines, which extend over about ten hectares, are situated on the eastern part of the hill, a traditional area for Brunello. The cellars are located at Cottimelli (about three kilometers from Montalcino in the direction of Siena) in an original 18th century residence once the home of Medicean Grand Dukes. Wine tastings are also held on the premises in recently restored rooms which used to accommodate a small monastery of monks in the 16th century.


The Fuligni Estate spreads over approximately one hundred fully-cultivated hectares of land in an almost continual strip on the eastern side of Montalcino where, historically, the most authentic production of Brunello emerged. The vines, which extend over ten hectares, are primarily located at Cottimelli at altitudes varying from 380 to 450 meters above sea level. Here, the land, which predominantly faces east, belongs entirely to the Santa Fiora (marl) geological formation of Eocene origin and is made up of a prevalently rocky terrain.


The vines, which extend over ten hectares, are primarily located at Cottimelli at altitudes varying from 380 to 450 meters above sea level. Here, the land, which predominantly faces east, belongs entirely to the Santa Fiora (marl) geological formation of Eocene origin and is made up of a prevalently rocky terrain. New vines have been planted facing southeast on land which is a mix of “tufo” and clay. The average age of the vines is about twelve years while some others date back over thirty years preserving the old Sangiovese clones of the estate with a lesser density per hectare. The cultivation system is the classic two-strand trellis with a limited load of buds per plant and with a density which varies from 3.333 to 5.000 main stems per hectare. A thorough pruning is done which involves the important process of thinning out the grapes to ensure a yield per hectare ranging, on average, from 50 to 55 hundred kilos of grapes. The harvest is done manually and includes the personal participation of the owners with frequently repeated walks between the rows of vines to guarantee a rigorous selection of grapes. The various Fuligni vineyards, S. Giovanni, Il Piano, Ginestreto and La Bandita are harvested separately according to their type of land and exposure, and are subsequently brought together keeping in mind the type of wine they are destined to become (Brunello, Brunello Reserve, Rosso DOC).

The crazy little thing called Christmas…

My wife always knows when Christmas is getting closer. Longer hours, shorter temper and more dinners drinking great wines sometimes with her, sometimes without her 🙂

Whilst is a crazy time of year, I do love December. It seems like you work like crazy, then balance it all with some great family time together and then, as always, a very lazy January. This year has been even busier and I can’t really complain with family, work and life all treating pretty well.

So far, I had to pick my favourite wine of December is would have to be the freakin amazing 1990 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino served around a table amongst friends at one of our favourite restaurants called Scopri. For some reason, when I sit down at dinner with fellow Italian wine lovers, I do not tweet or take photo’s of bottles. It doesn’t matter. This is the best bottle of Brunello I have drunk. Period.

Tonight as I am about to eat a bowl of Pasta alla norma and drink a glass of the Fuligni Rosso di Montalcino, it reminds me of just how great that bottle was. And that is what December is all about: sharing great bottles of wine with friends.

Tomorrow night I am heading back to Scopri with my tasting group and no doubt the December theme of sharing great bottles with friends will continue. More on the later in the week….!

Who needs Brunello when you have Chianti Riserva…..?

Ten years ago, if you were to ask me my favorite wine style Brunello would have been up there. Ask me what I thought of Chianti Riserva and I would have shrugged my shoulders and given the impression that it was good without being great.

Fast forward ten years and my perception of Brunello has changed quite dramatically.  Recently I was asked if had an 2006 Brunello from my import stable and I politely stated that I gave up importing Brunello years ago when I could not justify buying it at double the price of Chianti Riserva.

Don’t get me wrong there is some truly amazing Brunello out there. Brunello that I do consider ‘great’ and ‘world class’. There are dozens of producers that make benchmark Brunello and I would be happy to (and do) have these wines in my cellar.

However, it seems for the rest that using the words ‘Brunello’ on the label regardless of the quality gives them the automatic right to charge top dollar for some seriously average wine. Why is Brunello double the price of most Chianti Riserva? It doesn’t make sense. What makes more sense is having Chianti Riserva in your cellar. It arguably ages for longer than Brunello and for me makes a better example of both the terroir of Tuscany and also Sangiovese as a grape variety.

I have had some great old bottles of Chianti Riserva (none better than this Castello Monsanto Chianti Riserva 1980 which we drank in Italy two years ago) and whilst I have not drunk many bottles of old Brunello, aged Chianti Riserva and Brunello drunk at the same ages has shown to me, that I prefer aged Chianti Riserva.

If your looking for benchmark Chianti Riserva in Australia, make a beeline for the single vineyard Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia.

Expression of a vineyard

If there is exceptional location to gaze out over all of Fèlsina and its surrounding areas, that place is the vineyard on the ancient Rancia estate, at over 410 metres altitude. Its grapes are vinified and bottled separately. The vineyard lies completely within the Chianti Classico zone; its climate and soils are characteristic of the entire valley centred on Siena and bear witness –not only ideally- to its close relationship to the areas of Montalcino, of Montepulciano, and of the Maremma.

From 1983 on, Rancia’ s 100% sangiovese has consistently reflected its own terroir, demonstrating a lengthy progression, a liveliness, and an elegance truly rare and distinctive.

If you looking for good vintages of Chianti Riserva, I would buy 2004, 2006 and 2007. Vintages 2004 and 2007 are classic Tuscan years with perfectly weighted savoury fruits and tannin in perfect balance. Vintage 2006 is a more robust year, with darker, richer fruits and equally sizable tannins. It will be a very long lived vintage.