I was not happy this morning. It was sunny in Tuscany, but icy cold. The temperature was hovering around 20° F. I was already late to drive to Montalcino to blind taste a range of 2005 Brunellos and my car wouldn't start! Luckily, I jumped it and we were off to the hilltop town.
About two miles before arriving in Montalcino, I stopped to take a photo of the sea of clouds just below the village. And my car wouldn't start again! I was lucky enough to run into a Florence wine merchant I knew with a wine importer from Singapore in tow. They helped me push my car down the hill to jump the clutch. It started!
All in the life of a wine critic! I parked my car on a big hill in Montalcino in case I needed to jump the clutch again to get it going …
but it was worth it. I really enjoyed tasting the 40 or so 2005 Brunellos. I don't think that the vintage is going to be a great one in the end, but there most certainly will be some excellent wines. They show lovely aromas of ripe fruit, medium to full palates and firm tannins. Some are a little acidic. But a year or two of bottle age will take away what rough edges they may have.
It's obvious that the intermittent rains during the harvest in 2005 took their toll on the wines. Winemakers had to be extremely careful and precise in their picking and cellar techniques to offset this precipitation. Otherwise, as I found in about half the wines I tasted today, the 2005 Brunellos can be slightly hollow on the midpalate, or even diluted.
After the tasting, I had a quick lunch with Enrico Viglierchio of Banfi, who said that the 2005s might be difficult to sell with 2004s still available on the market, 2004 riservas coming on to the market and the anticipation for the potentially great 2006 vintage. He thought that most producers had dropped their prices with their Brunello 2005s to attract buyers.
Enrico and I went over to Uccelliera's cellar with owner Andrea Cortonesi, about a 15-minute drive from Montalcino. Enrico thinks 2007 is a better vintage than 2006, but I think the opposite. The tasting at Uccelliera proved neither of us right!
Uccelliera is a sweet little winery with about 16 acres of prime vineyards near some of the top vineyards in the region, including Casanova di Neri and Ciacci Piccolomini. The tiny multilayered cellar is full of small French oak barrels as well as 32-hectoliter Slovenian oak casks. Andrea moves his Brunellos from the different containers over their three-year maturation period, "depending on the style of the vintage and strength of the wine."
I tasted cask examples of his Brunellos as well as riserva Brunellos from 2009 to 2006. And I must say that my two favorite wines were the 2006 riserva and the 2007 regular Brunello. Both had great depth of fruit and ultrapolished tannins as well as a bright freshness. They are going to be some great wines.
Meanwhile, I also was surprised with the beautiful fruit and richness of the 2008 Brunello from Uccelliera. If this is a good indication of the vintage, it may be better than I expected. And the baby 2009 also looks very good to outstanding, with harmony of fruit, ripe tannins and bright acidity.
Uccelliera, which in recent years has been making top wines (the 2004 was my highest ranked 2004 Brunello last year), has some outstanding to great reds in the works. And if it's any indication for Montalcino as a whole, it means plenty of excellent Sangioveses in the future.
And, yes, my car did start ... without rolling it down the hill.
(You can now follow James Suckling on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/JamesSuckling.)
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