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A Sound Bite on 2003 Brunello Riservas

Posted: Mar 6, 2009 10:23am ET

I have been tasting through a range of 2003 Brunello di Montalcino riservas today. In fact, I have to go back and taste 10 more. But I keep asking myself, “What is the point?”

I really can’t understand why Brunello producers made reserve reds in 2003, a very good vintage considering the boiling weather during the grapegrowing season, but nothing exceptional. Some very good to outstanding quality Brunellos were made in 2003, but the quality of the wines for the most part were not high enough to make reserve reds, which not only are supposed to be exceptional quality but usually sell for a premium compared to the “classic” or “normal” bottlings.

Not all producers made a 2003 Brunello di Montalcino riserva. In fact, it appears that many didn’t. I have about half the normal offerings of Brunello riservas in this year's tastings. Obviously some Brunello makers didn't think the 2003 vintage was up to scratch for riserva reds.

A riserva Brunello is sold six years after the harvest instead of five, and the wine also must age a minimum of two years in wood. Most riservas sell for a premium compared to normal bottlings of Brunello. The two dozen or so riservas that I tasted today ranged in price from about $65 to $185 a bottle. I really can’t see spending that sort of money on a 2003 Brunello di Montalcino riserva, even though all the wines I tasted today were very good quality. Besides, the 2004 Brunellos are on the market at the same time, and they are better quality and less expensive for the most part.

Now back to tasting …

David Nerland
Scottsdale —  March 6, 2009 11:06am ET
It's all about money. Why have consumers pay less when they will pay more.
Jayh Henchen
Rochester, NY —  March 6, 2009 11:36am ET
Thanks for the info, I will take that into consideration when I'm shopping. So that is why they anded different varietals to the Sangiovese, it was a weak vintage and they wanted to beef it up.I think I'll boycott the vintage but I have a quite a few 99's and 01's to keep me occupied.
Robert Horvath
March 6, 2009 4:34pm ET
James,I am not surprised considering some of the ratings of the 2003 vintage. There were quite a few high scorers of Normale from '03 and they are expecting the Riserva's are a great opportunity.I am still waiting for you guys to publish the scores on the 2004 Brunello and 2007 Rosso's. Any idea when?
Scott Oneil
UT —  March 6, 2009 9:57pm ET
Thanks, once again, for calling it the way you see it with the utmost honesty. When I realized that many producers made Riservas from '03 grapes, I thought that perhaps I had underestimated the vintage, as I bought very, very little '03 Normales. Like Robert, I'm eagerly awaiting your reports on the '04 Normales. Perhaps that premium on the '03 Riservas will decrease dramatically when the possibly superior '04 Normales are competing against them at a much lower cost. We'll see.
Brad Schier
Texas —  March 7, 2009 1:54am ET
Agreed. Would wait for 2004s or look for 01's. James on a different note - what are your thoughts on Vegas Grand Tour this year? What do we have to look forward to?
Bart Van Eck
Amsterdam —  March 7, 2009 7:57am ET
James, I'm also waiting anxiously for your 2004 Brunello report. Do not torture us any longer!
Bert Pinheiro
Baltimore Maryland —  March 7, 2009 10:51am ET
James I agree with Bart. We are all anxiously awaiting your report.
James Suckling
 —  March 7, 2009 11:51am ET
It's out in the next issue of the magazine. I think the 2004s are very, very exciting with wonderful aromas and a great balance of refined tannins, ripe fruit and bright acidity.
Robert Horvath
March 7, 2009 6:01pm ET
Brad,I just had a bottle of the 2001 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello, it was amazing. I think that the 2001 from Friggiali called "Donna Olga" is also drinking well. Both are going to continue to get better.
Siena Italy —  March 10, 2009 1:45pm ET
Hi James, I agree with you, I really don't understand why many producers decided to make the Riserva 2003, anyway I know that many of them made a small quantity of it. Talking about the 2004 I have to say, after a 3 days full immersion in Montalcino during "Benvenuto Brunello", that I'm really impressed ( in positive ) by many small producers that really made outstanding products.Someone is still young, as it would be, but many are going to be ready. this is my personal list of the best I've tried, hoping to be close to your choices:Fuligni;Mastrojanni;Val di Cava;Poggio di Sotto;La Rasina;Baricci;Sesti;Agostina Pieri;Uccelliera;Casanova di Neri;Talenti;Lisini;Siro Pacenti;Stella di Campalto. Bye Bye, Federico Pieri Sommelier of 50vinitop.it

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