On May 1, the Antinori wine firm of Tuscany will release the latest addition to its portfolio, the first Brunello di Montalcino from its Pian delle Vigne estate. About 1,000 cases of the 1995 vintage will be brought into the United States, and the wine will retail for about $50 to $60 per bottle.
In a blind tasting, the Antinori Brunello di Montalcino Pian delle Vigne 1995 scored 90 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, and senior editor James Suckling described the wine as having "gorgeous aromas of Indian spice and ripe berries." The medium- to full-bodied wine has silky tannins and a long finish, but still needs time in the bottle.
Antinori, long-established in Chianti Classico and well known for its super Tuscans Solaia and Tignanello, purchased the Pian delle Vigne estate in 1995. Over the past 10 years, said Marchese Piero Antinori, the family firm has been expanding into other top appellations of Tuscany, such as Montepulciano and Pitigliano, in the Maremma region.
"My family could not feel totally relaxed without also having a vineyard in Montalcino," joked Antinori, who now owns eight vineyard estates in six Tuscan DOCs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), including Cortona and Bolgheri, where it makes its renowned Guado al Tasso. The Florentine firm also owns properties in Italy's Umbria and Piedmont regions, as well as Atlas Peak Winery in California and a joint venture in Washington.
Pian delle Vigne is in the southern portion of the Montalcino appellation, north of the town of Camigliano. Of the estate's 148 acres of vines, 67 were planted about 1980, and Antinori added 81 acres in 1996 and 1997. Antinori said he hopes to build a new winery on the property within the next two or three years.
To finance vineyard plantings and production, Antinori held an unusual bond issue in March 1998, essentially selling about 15 percent of the estate's production as futures (young wines still aging at the property; buyers don't take delivery until the wines are bottled). Starting this year, current bondholders will be able to obtain six bottles of the Pian delle Vigne Brunello from each of three vintages: '95, '96 and '97.
Antinori's 1995 Brunello, 100 percent Sangiovese Grosso, aged in oak casks for more than three years and was bottled in early 1999. A total of 1,800 cases were produced, and that figure will grow in future vintages, as the new vines begin providing fruit this year.
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