Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Mar 5, 2016

“TreMonti” Italian Anteprime, 2010 Brunello, and More.
By John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Each year, wine regions throughout Italy organize tastings to showcase the latest vintage released to market, called anteprime, the Italian equivalent of Bordeaux’s en primeur tasting, with the one difference being that in many, but not all cases, wines are already finished and in bottle. In this week’s report I cover the best new releases from the “TreMonti”, the trilogy of central Italian hill top towns of Montalcino for 2011 Brunello (by law, Brunello must be cellared five years before release), 2013 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and 2012 Sagrantino from Montefalco in Umbria.

The VINTAGES March 5th release features California, already covered last week by David, as well as mini-feature of 2010 Brunello di Montalcino, rated a five star vintage by the Consorzio di Brunello. The collection on offer is modest, though includes one superlative wine. I’ve also picked out five smart buys from the rest of the release, with some great wines on offer from Spain, France, and Oregon. Read on for all of the details.

Benvenuto Brunello 2016

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Brunello do Montalcino DOC in 1966 (DOCG as of 1980), and it would be hard to overstate the meteoric rise of Brunello in the ensuing years. From one of Siena province’s poorest communes at the beginning of the 19th century – a rural backwater of woods, mixed agriculture, honey production and wine sold by the liter in demijohns – Montalcino has become one of the wealthiest. And the success has been built almost entirely on wine and the gastro-tourism it encourages. In 2015, 1.2 million tourists clambered up to the charming hilltop town (population: 5,272) and surrounding hamlets, lured in large measure by the allure of Brunello di Montalcino, now one of Italy’s most famous wines. Read more …

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Like Montalcino, Montepulciano lives on wine. The industry drives 70% of the local economy. Some 2200 hectares under vine are farmed by over 250 growers (1300 registered for Vino Nobile), and bottled by 90 companies. Average production per estate is higher than in Montalcino, with 7 million bottles of Vino Nobile reaching the market in 2015. But exports are higher, representing 80% of turnover, of which a modest 2% is sent to Canada. Vino Nobile also celebrates its 50th year as an appellation in 2016, first official defined as a wine with “ruby red colour, dry, slightly tannic taste, a scent of violets, and alcohol content of not less than 12 degrees” (now 12.5%).

Vino Nobile had the toughest gig among the various anteprime this year, presenting the challenging 2013 vintage. Read more… 

Montefalco Sagrantino

Around the turn of the millenium, Umbria’s flagship native grape variety sagrantino was very likely not on your radar, nor even most Italians’ radar. I know it wasn’t on mine. Despite it’s 500+ year history in the region around the town of Montefalco in the region of Umbria (“The green heart of Italy”), by the 1960s the grape had all but disappeared. But Umbria, and Montefalco, are on the move. Tourism is up significantly. The number of producer-bottlers has risen dramatically in the last couple of decades, now numbering over 60. If a glass of Montefalco Sagrantino has yet to pass your lips, chances are that will change very soon. Read more…

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 5th: Brunello & More Smart Buys

Click on the link above to get the jump on the latest releases of Brunello from the variable 2011 vintage. A handful of 2010s are offered in the March 5th VINTAGES release, of which the Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona 2010 Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($72.95) is easily the finest, and most expensive. It’s a classy and complex Brunello from the southern sector of the appellation near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, aged in large old cask. Despite apparent light and elegant styling up front, this has power in reserve, building layers of complexity on the palate and continually expanding. Tannins are ripe and silky but present in abundance, and the length is terrific. Aromas and flavours are faithful to traditional sangiovese, all bright red fruit and flowers, gentle spice and earth. Very fine wine, best after 2018 or hold until the end of the ’20s.

Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire 2014 Descendientes De J. Palacios Pétalos 2013

Among the miscellaneous whites in the March 5th release, the Domaine Lafage 2014 Cuvée Centenaire, Côtes du Roussillon ($19.95) is well worth a look. I rated the 2011 very highly, the last vintage to be released back in 2013, and the vines have only gotten older. As before this is a blend of Lafage’s oldest grenache gris and blanc, and roussanne, including some centenary vines (with an average of 90 years overall). It’s a lovely, perfumed, floral, fresh but fleshy wine, still a year or two away from prime enjoyment. I like the peach and peach blossom florality, the balanced alcohol and acids, and the fine, lingering finish. There’s lots of character here for the money. Best 2017-2022.

Spain delivers two fine values this week, the first, a perennial favourite and consistent value champion, the ever-delicious Descendientes De J. Palacios 2013 Pétalos, Bierzo, Spain ($24.95). 2013 is another fine vintage, and I’m also very happy to see the price holding steady over so many years when the past success of this wine might have demanded an increase. It’s just such a lovely and floral, succulent and appealingly dark fruit flavoured wine that it’s hard to resist. A streak of stoniness will engage the punters, while everyone else simply enjoys this fruity-savoury, saliva-inducing beauty. Best 2016-2023.

The other side of northern Spain is the origin for another old vine value, the Jardín de Lúculo 2012, Navarra Spain ($23.95). The wine may be young, born in 2004, but the vines are old, among the oldest garnacha bush vines in Navarra, pre-soaked and wild fermented, followed by half a year in mostly old barrels. I love the firm but fresh, structured palate and the spicy, liquorice and orang peel-tinged flavours. Tuck this away for another 2-3 years for maximum aromatic development. Best 2017-2025.

Jardín De Lúculo 2012 Faiveley Mercurey 2014 Scott Paul La Paulée Pinot Noir 2011

Pinot noir drinkers have at least a couple of wines to track down, starting with Faiveley’s 2014 Mercurey, Burgundy, France ($29.95), a wine that effortlessly captures the joyful, forward fruit character of the Côte Châlonnaise, offering lots of pleasure at a reasonable (Burgundian) price. It’s perfectly in line with the Burgundian style but with more approachable and up front red berry character. Best 2016-2022.

Scott Paul 2011 La Paulée Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, Oregon USA ($50.95) is a gentle transition to the new world, a wine with definite old world sensibilities. La Paulée is a blend of vineyards in the Dundee Hills, Ribbon Ridge and Chehalem Mountains, from three different soil types, made by the delicate hands of winemaker Kelley Fox. It’s a wine of considerable finesse and elegance, balance and restraint. There’s nary an overt sign of oak, while acids and alcohol seamlessly integrate and the finish lingers impressively. A lovely, silky, beguiling Oregon pinot all in all, and considering that Paul has sold the business to long time frined, and Fox is no longer the winemaker, I’d snap this up while it’s still around. Best 2016-2023.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

From VINTAGES March 5, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All February 20th Reviews

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