Two 100-pointers for Brunello di Montalcino. The region is on a roll, both in Italy and abroad. As you know, my home is in Italy, so I spend a fair amount of time in Tuscany, and it never ceases to amaze me when I ride my bike or drive my sports car to Montalcino and gaze at the mountain of the medieval city. It is breathtaking. If any place on earth should make great wine, Montalcino should. It is one of the most beautiful in Italy, an archetypal wine region for the world with hillside vineyards, olive trees and warm stucco houses and wineries.
I first went to Montalcino in 1983. I borrowed money from my parents to go on a wine trip to Italy with friends and I remember how amazed I was with the region. I visited Caparzo and Costanti, among others. The silky wines seemed like nectar from the gods. They still do.
I don’t know a wine producer in Montalcino who doesn’t say that 2001 is one of the best vintages ever. Strangely, the growers' association in the region only gave it four stars out of five. Oops! The president of the group said they made a big mistake. But the quality of the vintage was not only what nature gave the winemakers of the area. They all worked better in their vineyards as well as their cellars, which combined to give them some of their best wines ever.
I remember a couple of weeks ago when I was with James Laube and we found a bottle of 2001 La Rasina Brunello di Montalcino Il Divasco in a small restaurant and wine shop in Napa, called Bounty Hunter. (You should go if you are in town!) It was magic. It developed so wonderfully in the glass, first impressing you with its wonderful complex aromas and then wowing you with its opulent yet silky palate. I think only 80 cases were imported to the States. I couldn’t even find any in Italy.
I've noticed a number of wine experts saying that Brunello is no longer popular, or that the top wines, such as the 100-point 2001 Valdicava Madonna del Piano Riserva, and 100-point 2001 Casanova di Neri Cerretalto are modern wines that don’t represent the region. They need to spend some time in Tuscany, or at least talk to people in the wine world.
The fact is that Brunello is Italy’s No. 1-selling premium wine, and Americans drink close to one out of every three bottles. Drink some outstanding 2001 Brunello and you’ll see why.
John Thomas — Annapolis, Maryland — February 8, 2007 4:13pm ET
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