Wine in half-bottles is a wonderful thing; I wish there were more of it. Not only are half-bottles more convenient for a couple having dinner on their own, they’re a great way to try an unfamiliar label before committing to a full bottle, particularly when it comes to pricier wines.
A while back, I had been shopping online for Brunello di Montalcino, and I saw that the retailer had one of them in half-bottles. It was the 2003 Mocali, a brand I had never tried before, from a very ripe vintage that is ready to drink. I figured I could open it soon while my other purchases matured. At $50 for a full bottle, it wouldn’t have appealed to me, but it had been marked down (which seems to have happened to many Brunelli recently) to $20 for the smaller size. So I considered it a nice chance to see if I liked the style and the vintage character.
My husband and I just got around to the Mocali, with a meal of rosemary-scented lamb in tomato sauce, served over rigatoni. Opening with rich berry aromas, the full-bodied wine had pleasantly earthy, spicy flavors that overlaid the ripe blackberry fruit. It melded perfectly with the lamb, whose rosemary, sage and oregano seasoning brought out herb notes on the finish. The cooked tomatoes posed no problem for the wine, which showed enough bright acidity to stand up, more freshness than I expected for a potentially jammy vintage. 90 points, non-blind. With the half-bottle, there were certainly no leftovers to worry about the following night.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Mocali Brunello di Montalcino 2003 (90, $50).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among Italian reds.