Wine Thieves-The Mystique of Brunello, Feb. 2007

Dear New York Vintners Friends,

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As you may know, Brunello di Montalcino has recently received a bevy of media attention, in addition to some unprecedented recognition from the wine world. In the midst of this impromptu Brunello celebration, we at New York Wine Co. thought it might be a good time to look at this wine a little more closely. Sangiovese Grosso, a superior clone of Sangiovese, produces Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s most lovely and prestigious red wines. As it turns out, the towns of Montalcino enjoy warmer, drier air than other regions of Chianti, and the open, surrounding countryside offers both ideal ventilation and cool nights. And these characteristics allow Brunello, translated as “little dark oneâ€? because of the grape’s brown hue, to fully ripen and produce the wine’s fuller, richer taste. A bit on Brunello’s history: after Ferruccio Biondi-Santi produced the first Brunello vintage in 1888, the wine went on to have halting, sporadic beginnings. There were only four vintages – 1888, 1891, 1925, and 1945 – declared in the first 57 years of production, and by 1960, there were only 11 total producers. So by the time the region had its boom of vineyard restoration in the 1970s and 1980s, the wine’s rarity had led to both higher prices and a veil of mystery and prestige. But it’s Brunello’s more recent history that might spark slightly heated discussions around a wine lover’s table. As production has increased over the last decades, Brunello’s traditional winemaking process has changed quite a bit. Traditionally – and as late as 1989 – Brunello had a minimum cask ageing of 42 months, in addition to bottle ageing. But the cask ageing regulations have been almost halved in the last decade and now stand at 24 months. This lower ageing minimum mixed with Brunello’s popularity has fed an increase in the use of barriques (small oak barrels that add more pronounced flavor), which results in the more standardized, uniform taste that traditionalists frown upon. So where does this leave all of us, in terms of selecting a bottle of Brunello? A wine, we should remember, can be “modernâ€? in its ageing process and still retain its sense of place, or the characteristics it draws from its particular soil and climate. So, in that spirit, here are some of New York Wine Co.’s Brunello di Montalcino recommendations for you to taste and explore. Enjoy!New York Wine Co.

Talenti 1999 Brunello di Montalcino, $59.00
The Winery was founded in 1980 when Pierluigi Talenti decided to acquire the property which had so enchanted him since the 1950’s, the period in which he decided to relocate from the mountains of Emilia Romagna to the beautiful and isolated hills of the Montalcino region. With the experience and the long cloning research made on the territory of Montalcino it was possible for the wineryto elevate itself to the highest levels of quality with respect to traditional teachings.

Valdicava, 2000 Brunello di Montalcino (375ml), $70.95
Valdicava, 2001 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “Maddona del Piano�, $185.00

Located in the Montosoli section of Montalcino, Valdicava creates wines with a great balance of body and aroma. Vincenzo Abbruzzese pays the utmost attention to maintaining the individual characteristics of his wines in order to exalt the spirit of his estate; and his steadfast dedication to Sangiovese is regularly recognized: his Brunello and Brunello Riserva are snapped up by collectors as quickly as they are available.

Argiano 2000 Brunello di Montalcino, $39.00
In 1581, at the summit of a hill in southwest Montalcino, the Villa of Argiano was built among vineyards and olive groves. Today, the estate spans over 100 hectares in a particularly favorable geographical location: the vineyards enjoy year-round, mid-day southern exposure, a reasonable altitude, and constant ventilation from the Maremma. Adriano Bambagioni, Argiano’s supervising cellar master for over 20 years, and the world famous Danish winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers, now guarantee that the quality of the wines obtained from Sangiovese Grosso is the ultimate expression of the terroir.

La Torre 2001 Brunello di Montalcino, $69.00
La Torre 2000 Brunello di Montalcino, $66.00
La Torre 1999 Brunello di Montalcino, $95.00
La Torre 1997 Brunello di Montalcino (1.5L), $195.00

Originally from Calabria in southern Italy, the Anania family purchased this vineyard and farm south of Montalcino in 1977. La Torre owner and winemaker Luigi Anania’s seven hectares are planted entirely with Sangiovese Grosso and have full southern exposure. La Torre’s first vintage was the fabled 1982, which set a fine precedent for the future work.

Gianni Brunelli 2000 Brunello di Montalcino, $58.00
Winemaker and full-time chef, Gianni Brunelli, divides his time between his family’s restaurant, Osteria Le Loggi, in Siena and the Brunelli estate’s vineyards. Using large, Slavonian oak botti in the traditional winemaking method, Brunelli, with the help of oenologist Paolo Vagaggini, produces rich, approachable wines.

Soldera 1999 Brunello Riserva, $315.00
Owner Gianfranco Soldera, a former business executive, and his botanist wife, Graziella, first discovered the then-abandoned Case Basse property in southwest Montalcino in the early 1970s. Since then, the couple’s strict and intriguing philosophy of “enlightened agriculture� has produced a singular Brunello of the utmost quality. Their acclaimed Soldera Brunello di Montalcino is sought after by wine connoisseurs worldwide; and with a production of only 15,000 bottles, it is a rare treasure indeed.

Pieve Santa Restituta 1995 Brunello di Montalcino “Sugarille�, $164.00
This winery’s namesake, the parish church, or pieve, of Santa Restituta has record of the Sugarille vineyard as far back as 1547. Renowned producer Angelo Gaja bought the property in the early 1990s and began to take advantage of the vineyard’s unique position and soil structure¾calcareous clay with gently sloping southern exposure. Starting with his 1995 inaugural bottling, Gaja has produced outstanding, long-aging single-vineyard Brunello from this very special terrior.

Cerbaiona 1998 Brunello di Montalcino, $89.00
With soil of marl and clay and an elevation of 300 meters above sea level, Diego Molinari skillfully manages this small vineyard’s annual 1700-case production. “Il Maestro,� as Molinari is nicknamed, works with his prime raw materials and climate to create a distinctive, firmly structured style of Brunello with great Sangiovese character.

Col d’Orcia 2001 Brunello di Montalcino, $48.00
The Col d’Orcia estate has its roots in the first half of the eighteenth century with the noble family Delle Ciaia of Siena. As one of the oldest producers in Montalcino, the Col d’Orcia estate produces Brunello in the traditional style.

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