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Tasting a New Brunello from Luce della Vite

Posted: Oct 16, 2007 1:17pm ET

I drank the first bottle ever of Luce Brunello last night in a restaurant in Montevarchi near my house in Tuscany. It's a brand-new wine from the Frescobaldi family, who have been making a Super Tuscan wine at the Luce della Vite estate in Montalcino ­since 1993.

No one has publicly tasted the new Luce Brunello, except the family. A big black tie event is organized for Saturday near Florence to launch the new wine. Lamberto Frescobaldi brought the first bottle of the 2003 Brunello di Montalcino off the bottling line to dinner last night. I was pretty chuffed. That's why I am hamming it up a bit with Frescobaldi on my video blog with this. As you can see, Lamberto was pretty happy as well.

Okay. It may not be better than Prada, as I joked in the blog, but it is very good indeed. In fact, I think it is excellent quality, especially for a 2003 Brunello. The label is super cool, too, and reminds me of a Jackson Pollack painting, with its big white splash of lines like a sunburst. The wine shows loads of licorice, violet and cherry character on the nose with just the right amount of vanilla underneath. It¹s full bodied, round and fresh with a velvety texture and a fruity, creamy aftertaste. It was delicious with our main course of sautéed veal with prosciutto on top in a tangy lemon sauce.

The more I taste 2003 Brunellos, the more I like them. I thought that they were going to be a little flabby and overdone, considering how hot and sunny the growing season was in 2003. But the 2003 Brunellos I have tasted so far from the top producers in Montalcino has showed good structure and freshness. They will be very approachable young but they will improve with age as well. They will start arriving on the market early next year.

Lamberto said that the Luce Brunello came from Luce's 27 acres of Sangiovese within the appellation of Brunello di Montalcino. In the past, the grapes were declassified to Indicazione Geografica Tipico and blended with Merlot to make the Luce della Vite. "We are very excited it is going into Brunello," he admitted. "Maybe we made a mistake in the past, declassifying the grapes?"

I would say yes, and if you consider how popular Brunello is and that Super Tuscans are waning in popularity, I would say a double yes.

The production of the 2003 Luce Brunello is a little less than 10,000 bottles, and about 30 percent of the production is expected to go the States. Luce della Vite will continue to be produced, as well as the second wine, Lucente. The 2003 Luce Brunello should be about $125, more or less, when it comes out next year, but the exact price had not been set.

Some of you might remember that Luce della Vite was originally a joint venture winery with the Robert Mondavi family, before they sold out a few years back to Constellation. The Frescobaldis bought the winery from Constellation Brands. ­Michael Mondavi, who imports Frescobaldi thorough his company Folio, only has a tiny percent of ownership in Luce della Vite.

Norbert Spielmann
Wertheim Germany —  October 17, 2007 2:19am ET
Dear James,I can see you having a great time! I think the label of this new Brunello is outstanding. Congratulation to Lamberto`s taste, may be he should be one of the future designers for "PRADA"...
James Suckling
 —  October 17, 2007 10:39am ET
Hey Norbert. Thanks for the message. Hope all is well in Germany!
Bryan Bucari
Baton Rouge, LA —  October 17, 2007 1:03pm ET
James, speaking of Frescobaldi, I still have a 1993 Ferre botting they did. Should I still hold off, or should I pop it open? It just seems like too pretty a bottle to open, but I would rather experience the wine than just look at a pretty bottle the rest of my life.
Steven Balavender
Tampa, Fl —  October 17, 2007 3:15pm ET
Very cool bottle indeed...hopefully the timing of it's release will coincide with my Tuscany trip next year. BTW....what Prada outlet honey...I have no idea what they are talking about;)
Adriano Lisi
Woodbridge, Canada —  October 17, 2007 9:50pm ET
Hello James, I've just subscribed to WS online and went straight away to your blog. I see your enjoying the food and wine of Tuscany as I did a couple of months ago on a family vacation. Loved the wine, especially the Brunello. Brought back a couple of bottles from Casanova Di Neri 2001 Cerretalto. I paid dearly for it but I was very excited to bring back such a great wine that I thorougly enjoyed with family and friends. I hope to try Luce della Vite when it finally hits our shores. I look forward to reading more of your insightful articles. Keep up the good work.
Kevin Andrews
houston —  December 29, 2007 4:34pm ET
James-I'm happy to see that you are also a big fan of Brunellos. I have been visiting Umbria & Tuscany with my wife and two girls for about five years and am curious if you have any recommendations on places to taste Brunellos. We will likely visit Montalcino again this March. I have been very impressed with the wines produced by Frescobaldi and Casanova De Neri in general. What other makers are of similar quality across their wines/vintages?Thanks, Kevin

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