Tips For Exploring Brunello Wine Country!

By Christopher Davies & Dean Smith

America's Banfi Vintners are responsible for putting Montalcino and the
Brunello region of Tuscany, Italy on the world wine map. They have invested
more than thirty years into development and research into grape growing.
Their family owned vineyard estate and winery showcases a medieval castle
and modern tasting center that rivals Napa Valley. The estate also features
a taverna that is open for lunch and dinner, balsamic cellars, a museum
dedicated to the history of glass and a boutique hotel within the castle
called "Il Borgo".

The tasting experience at Castello Banfi is exceptional. You will get to
taste mass produced, popular wines, top notch Brunellos as well as limited
production wines that are only available at the tasting center.

A Great Tour of the Best Montalcino-Montpulciano Wineries

by Dean Smith, Burgundy Importer

This tour was arranged with the help of Christopher Davies who suggested the book Grandi Vini by Joseph Bastianich. It consisted of all the wineries in this book in this area plus Castello Banfi. The scores given to the wines, all of which were 100% Sangiovese, are on the 100 point scale. E stands for euros/bottle.

On Day One the first visit was to Casanova di Neri where I met with Giacomo Neri, the winemaker himself. Since he had just arrived from abroad 5 hours earlier, Giacomo only had enough time to let me taste his wines. Montalcino has two major growing areas. The southern area around Mt. Amiata is warmer and produces full wines that are not particularly complex. The northern area, particularly to the east of Montalcino is cooler and produces leaner, more complex wines. Giacomo makes both types. I tasted his ’06 Brunello di
Montalcino from the Tenuta Nuova vineyard from the southern region that sells for 35 E. It has a simple nose and full taste that rated it 92. The star was his ’05 Brunello di Montalcino white label from the northern area. It had a beautiful complex nose that followed into a complex barrage of tastes that rated 95. Because he makes 180,000 bottles/year, he sells this masterpeiece for only 17 E – certainly a best buy. I had a great resonance with Giacomo who immediately sensed my tasting ability.

We proceeded south to Poggio di Sotto that is in the southern area. I talked with Piero Palmucci, the winemaker, then took a tour with his secretary, and then tasted with Piero. This was the one appointment of the trip where I had almost no resonance with the winemaker – he had no interest in the ’08 Pommard that I brought for him to taste and little more in us (my wife Zdenka accompanied me for her only tour). His ’05 Brunello di Montalcino that sells for 53 E had a full nose, but a rather simple taste (92).

We went through the town of Montepulciano to Boscarelli where I had my best resonance of the tour with Niccolo, the youngest of the Boscarelli clan. What Boscarelli lacks in vineyard sites like the northern area of Casanova di Neri, it makes up for by using many areas with a variety of soils and exposures. I tasted their only 100% sangiovese wine, the ’07 Vino Nobile di
Montepulciano Nocio dei Boscarelli that sells for 40 E. It is made by fermenting several different cuvees from several different soils and
blending after their fermentations to obtain added complexity. It had a full complex nose that was followed by a complex taste structure that rated 95 (a fuller wine (from a warmer climate) than the Casanova di Neri ’05 Brunello di Montacino white label – I would pick between them depending on the menu). Niccolo appreciated the ’08 Pommard that I had brought for him to taste and I traded a bottle of this wine for the Boscarelli wine. A nice way to end a wonderful day.

On Day Two I walked through Montalcino to Guilio Salvioni and had a nice tour led by his daughter Alessia, but with both participating. I tasted several years of their Brunello di Montalcino, but the one to which I gave the highest score of 94 was ’05 Brunello di Montalcino that sells for 42 E. I bartered a bottle and when I explained that my wife was sick, Alessia gave me a second bottle to take to her – generous people.

I proceeded to Biondi-Santi by car and had a nice tour of a beautiful estate. I tasted two Brunello di Montalcinos from ’04 and ’05, both selling or 65 E, and gave both of them 92 now. These wines were clearly made for the long haul and will definitely deserve a higher score later. I also tasted a ’98 Brunello di Montalcino that I gave 91 – nice and smooth as compared to the ’04 and ’05, but lacking their complexity. I was given a bottle of the ’05 Brunello di Montalcino – such generous people. I returned and relaxed in Montalcino for a few hours.

The finale of the tour was my visit to Castello Banfi, a 7000 acre estate in the southern region with 3000 acres in vines. My hostess was Lorella Carresi. It started by tasting several Brunello di Montalcinos – I gave my highest score of 94 to their ’05 Poggio alle Mura Brunello de Montalcino that sells for 42 E, but their single vineyard ’99 Poggio all’Oro Brunello de Montalcino (93; 85 E) was also very good. Then we visited the winery and I was impressed by the obvious innovation that almost limitless resources provided. They had tanks that were part wood, part stainless steel, unlike anything that I had ever seen before. The tour ended with the gift to me of a 7 pound 441 page book “The Pursuit of Excellence” by many different authors on many different enological topics – the role of soil, the role of wood, etc. A very fine ending to a lovely tour.


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