Eleven bottles isnít a whole lot but thatís what I tasted with few select drinkers around my kitchen table the other night. All bottles got an even shake. They were wrapped up and tasted blindly.
A lot of restaurants tell me they canít sell Brunello these days. What a surprise. The wine has out priced itself. Like, what should you expect to pay? Mostly $65 to $120? And why should you do that? I mean, is it really that good?
Oh, donít get me wrong. I do enjoy a good, solid Brunello and it was good to remind myself what the wine tasted like because over the past few years Iíve either shunned it or Iíve been to tasting where all that was being poured were terribly wooded and cosmetically adjusted wines.
Saturday night, however, the wines were good enough to remind me what I had once liked about them; a comforting sunny happiness. Price aside, the best have a dollop of early summer cherry and cedar and forest honey. There may be some rusty nail, which I love. Or some sanguine, meaty quality. The tannins are not massive, but thereís enough around to age up well. Acidity? Yup. Thatís what makes it such a good pairing with tomato based foods (and many others. I had a wild mushroom dish that it was terrific with, as it did with the roasted red peppers).
Two bottles were stellar.
The most expensive wasnít the best.
In fact the least expensive Brunello was the most beloved. And the shocking news is that a lowly rosso blew all of the Brunellos out of the running. And as far as great producers? Biondi-Santi still makes beautiful wine. Another profound favorite is Mastrojanni. These were the eveningís hits.
2000 Biondi-Santi Rosso di Montalcino $33- $65
(Yup. You can find this wine at multiple prices) I loved this wine. On my first sip it got my attention; wow, what was that? The perfume from crushed, dried warm roses was intense. The cedar note blew off in a few hours. You could smell the sun and a touch of mineral metal, which might sound bad but it was compelling.
1999 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino, $40
Bargain. Thank God. It's delicious. Intense nose. Touches of bergamot via Earl Grey tea and a high C of cherry with a good lively acid bath-- just the right nuance.
1999 Cantina di Montalcino. $51
The wine was expressive though I wasnít exactly sure what it was telling me. It had a meaty (and bloody, in a good way) aroma and taste, made all the more happy by chocolate, cocoa, sun dried olives and apricots, nice rusty nail, silty tannins and a lovely balance.
2000 Piccolomini Pianrosso, Ciacii, $65.
Sure itís a nice wine and if it were $40 it might really be worth it. Some forest, some pine needle, some moss and a definite dollop of that give-me-more- forest honey.
Youíll be pleased to know--as I was-- that the 1999 Barbi, Vigna del Fiore at $109, a modern style Brunello that was rife with cherry vanilla and a muddling point of view was a complete dud. Commercial. Pandering. A waste of money.