Tag Archives: Sangiovese

A great day in Montalcino…

It is weird to think that at 10pm last night we had only just spent 24 hours in Italy.

After arriving late into Rome we left early to drive to Montalcino. It doesn’t matter how many times you come to Montalcino, it is still alway so breathtaking. Each curve in the road presents another fantastic view of the valley below.

We arrived in Montalcino at lunchtime and after a quick plate of pasta we headed to Pieve Santa Restituta, the Gaja’s family winery in Montalcino. This historic estate has been transformed into a modern masterpiece with a barrel room and winery that blends in with the environment.

After a tour we sat down and tried all the 2010 Brunello plus a sneak preview of the 2013. Whilst the 2013 was still quite young, the 2010 across the board presented well and there will be three Brunello from this estate worth buying in 2010. Just a word of advice, like 2010 Barolo: buy as much 2010 Brunello as you can afford. What a magical year.

After finishing at Gaja, we then headed to our favorite estate in Montalcino, Il Palazzone. I have written so much on Laura and Marco from Il Palazzone that it is a given for those that read this blog, know how much I love them and their wines.

A visit to their estate is always a great way to preview upcoming releases and I already know the vintages I am going to buy going forward. One wine that I have gone large on is their 2010 Brunello which will be shipped around March/April next year. I have bought bottles, magnums and doubles magnums of this majestic wine.

For me it is easily the best wine Il Palazzone has made and one of the best Brunello I have tried in a long time. My advice is that as soon as you see this in Oz next year, buy as demand will far outlay supply.

One more (big) appointment today in Montalcino before heading to Florence this afternoon.

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A fantastic visit to Il Palazzone in Montalcino….

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Last year I visited Montalcino for the first time. Whilst I have been to Chianti close to a dozen times, I had up until that point, never visited Montalcino. This seems crazy now but whilst I have admired Chianti, it was not until I had a 1979 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino that made me realize that I was missing out on something special.

So on my visit last year, I visited the cellars of Fuligni (which is imported by my good friends over at Trembath and Taylor) and also stopped by a small estate called Il Palazzone. My intention was to just try the wines, meet Laura and Marco and have a bite to eat. Well, after returning to Australia I knew that I could not let an estate like Il Palazzone go and made the decision to import the wines.

Well it is close to a year since we first starting importing the wines via Mondo Imports. We started with the classic 2006 Bruneloo di Montalcino and it has been so well received in Australia. As a wine that is seven years old. it is just starting to enter it’s drinking window but with 10-20 years left in the tank. We are very lucky to start with such a great wine from the 2006 vintage.

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This year, it was nice to return as the import of Il Palazzone into Australia and have a more in depth look at the operations and speak to Laura and Marco about the philosophy behind Il Palazzone.

Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino is made from three distinct vineyards sites:

The estate has three separate vineyard in quite different areas of Montalcino. The microclimate and extraordinary variety of terroirs means that we are able, on blending the three vineyard harvests, to have three complementary aspects of Montalcino in our Brunello.

The Due Porte vineyard, our youngest vineyard, is 530 metres above sea level. The three small plots are north west facing. Documents indicate that vineyards have been planted in this area since the 13th century; a clear indication of the suitability of the area for quality wine production. In fact, in spite of the altitude and the exposition, the grapes from the Due Porte are high in fruit and sugars and benefit from the excellent ventilation and day/night thermal excursion. The galestro or good clay gives good drainage.

The Vigna del Capa, located down below the hamlet of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, is quite different. Over 200 meters lower in altitude and south facing, the vineyards here are over thirty years old. The harvest is distinguished by lovely saline and aromatic components, thanks to the presence of marine fossils in the soil. The third vineyard, also over 30 years old, is also close to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, in an area with iron, magnesium and manganese in the soil. The grapes from this vineyard have an incredible mineral component. Il Palazzone

It was fascinating visiting each vineyard site and hear Marco (via Laura!) tell us the differences between each site and how it contributes to the overall make up of Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino. Tasting the wine is one thing: seeing why it tastes as it does is priceless and this is one of the key reasons why visiting each estate makes so much sense.

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We also visited the new cellar and barrel room. In the years to come, this will play a big part in the continued improvement at Il Palazzone and whilst it is a massive investment, control is everything. To be able to control every aspect from the vineyard into barrel with the best equipment available will make a big difference in the overall quality of the wines.

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We tried the 2009, 2010 and 2011 pre-releases and whilst all slightly different, you can see the upward trend in quality as the years progress. Marco is a big believer in nature and not messing about unless you have to and it shows in these wines. They are distinctively Sangiovese Grosso  and speak of Montalicino with a purity of fruit and complexity that has given Montalcino the reputation for producing such amazing wines.

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Speaking of amazing wines, the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino absolutely blew us away. Already sold out at the winery, we have begged and pleaded for some for Australia and fingers crossed this happens. In a line up over dinner that included Soldera and Salvioni, the 2008 Il Palazzone Brunello held it’s own and two weeks after returning to Australia, through my mind I can still taste this wine. It is ethereal and powerful in the same breath and has the length, tannins and complexity to never die. This wine showed to me the direction in which Il Palazzone are heading and I am so glad that I am able to join in on the ride.

A week of Sangiovese: Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, Super Tuscans & Brunello di Montalcino

Well sometimes you just have those weeks when you have back to back dinners and because of this, you get to look at some amazing wines. Last week was the case and two of those dinners featured Sangiovese and the best of the best of all styles being made in Tuscany at the moment.

On Monday night, my Italian wine group headed to Mister Bianco to look at Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, so called ‘Super Tuscans’ and Vin Santo. On Thursday, a group of Italian wine lovers went to Scopri with the focus of the dinner being Brunello di Montalcino from the 2004 vintage. Two great dinners, 32 Sangiovese from Tuscany and some pretty amazing food all matched to the wines.

One of the key lessons I learnt from this two dinners is that Sangiovese can be so different depending on the age you drink them and the context as well. Some of the 2010 Chianti Classico’s and 2007 Chianti Riserva’s that I loved at Vinitaly looked all over the shop on Monday night with the biggest crime being way too much oak. As much as I love Chianti Riserva, it almost seems that the person selling oak barrels to Montalcino in the ’90’s has left and moved to Chianti Riserva.

Too many wines showed extreme levels of oak without the fruit intensity to match the oak levels. I must admit to preferring Chianti Classico over Chianti Riserva on the night and those that know my tastes, know how much I love Chianti Riserva. To say I was disappointed is a big understatement and I can’t wait to revisit these wines in five years time to see if the oak has fallen into balance with the fruit. For me, the best wine in this bracket was the 2007 Poggerino Chianti Riserva.

On Monday night, we also looked at some fantastic 100% Sangiovese (but not classified as Chianti Riserva) and also Super Tuscans. These wines looked good with the 2001 Isole e Olena Cepparello and 2001 Percarlo delivering complex wines without the excessive oak of so many Tuscan reds.

It wasn’t the greatest bottle of Cepparello I have had and I think the best Cepparello is still the 1997 or 1999 vintages. Time will tell and to me Cepparello has moved to a slightly more modern style in recent years. I will be interested to see what the 2009 and 2010 Cepparello is like when they land in Australia to see if things are back on top.

Finally on Thursday night we looked at 16 Brunello di Montalcino from the 2004 vintage. Overall the wines showed so well with one of my favourite producers in the world, Fuligni again showing the way with a classical standard 2004 Brunello and an amazing 2004 Riserva. It was a bottle of ’90 Fuligni which made me consider Brunello as one of Italy’s ‘greatest wine styles’ and this dinner again showed why I am now back in love with Brunello.

For me the best Brunello reminds me of Burgundy. They are fragrant, medium red in colour with depth of fruit and velvety tannins that make these wines live for years. It was a stunning dinner with food and wine delivering to the highest standard.

The only disappointment was a slightly corked bottle of 1971 Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino that still had some fantastic fruit lurking below that cork taint.

It will be a quiet week this week and over the next month whilst the craziness that is Christmas descends on everyone.  I can’t wait to jump back into these dinners that highlight certain styles or varieties in early next year.

Who said Rosso is not serious?

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A trip to Montalcino earlier this year really got me excited again for Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino; and it was the wines of Biondi Santi, Fuligni, Soldera and Il Palazzone that I really fell in love with.

After the trip we made the decision to add Il Palazzone to the @mondoimports portfolio and over the last six months I have been drinking Brunello and Rosso from these producers.

Last night we drank a bottle of Biondi Santi Rosso di Montalcino 2008 and boy was it good: complex, savoury and many layers of fruit perfectly matched with fine tannins. This wine will age for many years.

Next month I will be hosting a dinner at Scopri looking at fifteen different 2004 Brunello di Montalcino producers and it should be a blast with the best of the best represented.

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.