Last week was a fantastic time for wine lovers in New York City as many Brunello producers were in town for the much anticipated Benvenuto Brunello – an event that pours various wines and vintages from a plethora of Brunello di Montalcino producers. It is an event that people travel from around the world to attend. This year was certainly highly anticipated since there have been a handful of magnificent vintages over the past decade.
Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello di Montalcino offers the most well respected wines in Tuscany and they are among the most respected wines in all of Italy. There are some wine connoisseurs who would argue that they make some of the greatest red wines, although no one wants to admit that too loudly because they don’t want prices to go up. It is astonishing to think what they have accomplished in such a short amount of time, since the demarcation of the Brunello di Montalcino area has not been around that long, even though the local families had been making wines for centuries.
Brunello proves that Sangiovese is a noble variety due to the strict regulation that it must be 100% of that grape variety. Tuscany is a wine region that most New Yorkers know, whether through travel, movies or books, and Montalcino has the quintessential Tuscan landscape that shapes our dreams. But it is not only the stunningly picturesque views that impress, it is their spirit to prove that Sangiovese, under particular circumstances, can make some of the most exquisite red wines in the world.
I was able to have an intimate conversation with a few of the producers in town before I attended the grand Benvenuto Brunello event, and my time with Il Poggione’s winemaker, Alessandro Bindocci, certainly stands out as a special meeting. Il Poggione is not only one of the four original families that started producing Brunello di Montalcino, but Alessandro is the son of Fabrizio Bindocci, Il Poggione’s director and head winemaker, as well as former vice president of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino.
Alessandro represented everything that is wonderful about Brunello di Montalcino – rooted in a rich history of the area, well versed in the ideal ways to express the Sangiovese grape and open to new ways to improve their work in the vineyards and winery. He talked about how the winery uses solar energy, newer techniques to produce intensely aromatic wines and social media to communicate to wine lovers around the world.
Respect for Tradition
When you talk to the older generations of Brunello di Montalcino, they say that it was initially a threat to some of the other Tuscan Sangiovese wine producers that they would make a wine that had to be 100% Sangiovese, since traditionally it was commonly blended. In the end, Brunello gives more prestige to the Sangiovese variety and lifts the reputation of all those who use it – blended or single varietal wine. Initially, an act that seemed to go against tradition in the long term ended up respecting it by uncovering its full potential. I think that is part of the reason why so many New Yorkers have had a long love affair with Brunello di Montalcino wines such as the Il Poggione wines. They are similar to us, in the way that all New Yorkers come from other traditions to live together in this one urban jungle, and with respect for each other, all of us reach a higher potential than we could have ever imagined.
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
2015 Il Poggione, Brancatom, Rosato di Toscana IGT, Italy ($14): 100% Sangiovese. This rosato (rosé) had 24 hours of skin contact and so it creates a wine with a light pink color and flavors of fresh raspberry and lemon oil. It has a fun, fruit-forward quality.
Special Occasion Wine (from $15 to $50)
2014 Il Poggione, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($30): 100% Sangiovese. 2014 was a difficult vintage for Brunello di Montalcino and so it is good news for its little brother, Rosso di Montalcino, since a lot of the fruit meant for Brunello was declassified and placed into the Rosso. This is a dark, savory Rosso that needs time to open, but once it does it gives tobacco leaf, dusty earth and a sweet spice on the finish. A good wine to drink now while you are waiting for your Brunello wines to age.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
2011 Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($85): 100% Sangiovese. I was completely surprised by this wine. 2011 was a very good year, yet not a great one, but this wine proved that an excellent producer can make outstanding wines even in a lesser than heralded vintage. This wine jumped out of the glass (after a couple of hours of being decanted) with an intensely floral nose with exotic spice and fresh leather. It has the ideal amount of weight on the body balanced by a moderately firm structure that makes it generous yet regal. This is, hands down, the best 2011 I have had and it reminded me that you can’t choose a wine purely based on the generic vintage information. I had to check the label a few times because I couldn’t believe it was a 2011.
2010 Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Riserva, Vigna Paganelli, Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($125): 100% Sangiovese. I knew this was going to be an outstanding, blow your mind kind of wine. All of the 2010 Brunello wines are rock stars. This single vineyard Brunello Riserva was singing, which is remarkable since it will probably improve over the next 20 years. It slowly uncoiled with delicate hints of lily of the valley, volcanic rock and schist with a fierce power on the palate that carried cassis flavors along the long, expressive finish.