Friday, January 23, 2015

1994 Soldera Riserva Brunello Di Montalcino

A classic example of great wine making.

It is said that the best wine makers still make good wine in difficult vintages, they just make less of it. The 1994 Soldera is a classic example of that statement. I have tasted this wine at least eight times, and it has consistently shown as a truly great example of the qualities Brunello Di Montalcino can attain. 1994 was a less than stellar vintage, with a few challenges, but you can't tell that from this wine.

1994 Soldera Case Basse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 13% ABV $450

Tasted November 2014

Opened and poured, the '94 is still going strong. This bottle shows tart red cherry, cardamom, coffee, and a little orange rind on the nose.The palate has a plush texture that is typical of Soldera, with blended Asian spice, red cherry, penetrating acidity, a little brown sugar, and super-fine tannins.  It stands up well over the course of the meal, and develops notes of tobacco leaf, and charred Earth near the end of the bottle. Elegant and nuanced, but still powerful at is core. 94 Pts

Tasted May 2009

Popped and poured. More floral / perfume than previous bottles. Still complex but the fruit is, unfortunately, fading. Even as this star burns out, it produces new colors. Or maybe it just this bottle. We'll see.

Tasted June 2008

Garnet red with a hint of brown. Sour cherries at first, quickly blew off to a nice tartness, which also mellowed after twenty minutes. Incense, warm spices, mushroom, young cherries. Almost fully integrated tannins. This, once again, plays like a middle aged burgundy. Great complexity of nose and palate. Wonderful development in the glass such that the last sip is a regret. Seemed like it was fading, but then came back strong over the course of 2 hours. Opened 1 hour beforehand and sampled. Not decanted.

Tasted November 2007

Pretty, light ruby red with lovely clarity. All characteristics are elegant and subtle. Nose of bright cherry, fine shale and roses and a hint of charcoal grill. On the palette clean medium body with cherry, bramble, leather, anise, carmel and asian spice. Seamless. Great balance of sweet acid, fruit and fine tannins. Incredibly long finish. Once again, a fine Burgundy like Brunello.

One unfortunate element of the Soldera story is the financial impact of the 2012 vandalism attack the resulted in the loss of nearly all wine in barrel from recent vintages. Market prices have soared since that event. This particular bottle could be found for under $150 before the attack; today I see it priced between $425 and $625, making it virtually unattainable for many lovers of Brunello.  Given the very limited quantities of the 2007 thru 2012 vintages that remained after the barrels were drained, the prices won't be going down any time soon. Still, if you can, you should taste Soldera to experience the glory that Sangiovese can achieve at the hand of Gianfranco Soldera.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

1993 Biondi Santi Riserva

1993 Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 13% ABV $400?

From the producer that "invented" Brunello Di Montalcino, this is typical of the Biondi Santi style, built firstly for aging, and it does so at a glacial pace. Over 15 years after its release, it still takes focused attention, and time in the glass, to recognize the greatness here, but be assured it is great.Cologne, spice, and incense lightly coat the finessed nose that opened very slowly over time in the glass with mushroom, anise, and Earth showing later. The palate is dark and firm with black cherry skins, flint, charred Earth, and violets.The acidity and tannins are in harmony and balance perfectly with the fruit. Nothing is missing, and there's no indication of decline. Rather, it is clear that this wine is still opening, and developing in the bottle.

This is a style that has rare opportunity to be appreciated these days, as it is built to be consumed with many years of aging under its belt. That is something that few consumers are inclined to or able to do, especially since much of the wine loving population has been "raised" on wines designed to please immediately, and in a big, straight forward ways. If you want to enjoy Biondi Santi's Riserva Brunello's, be prepared to wait.

Monday, December 29, 2014

2004 Poggio Di Sotto


2004 Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $240

The wines of Piero Palmucci are consistently outstanding, and this one is no exception. The nose starts off with roasted red cherry, mulling spices, and brown sugar overlaid with sweet tobacco leaf and sandalwood. It is very giving on the nose, but still quite finessed.The palate is full of textured red cherry, and Asian spice, with a gentle chewiness and a weightless feel on the palate. The fruit is pure and delicious, as the acidity and tannins complement but don't overshadow. This is a wine that disappears quickly; as it drinks effortlessly due to near perfect balance, and finesse.
Later the nose shows some forest floor, and more tobacco, but holds the amplitude of its components right to the end of the bottle.
The 2004 was made by Piero Palmucci, but this winery has changed hands, being owned by Collemassari for the last few years, and their full impact remains to be seen. One immediate impact was an increase in the price of Poggio Di Sotto Brunellos. This bottle was $90-$100 when I purchased it, three years ago; today it goes for $250 from the same source. 94 Pts

Read more on Poggio Di Sotto here.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sagrantino Di Montefalco

A Big Beautiful Red for Those Crisp Autumn Nights

Montefalco and Its Beautiful Surroundings

Located about 2 hours south of Siena, in Umbria, Montefalco is the namesake village of a DOCG dedicated to a unique, and excellent, Italian veriatal. The Sagrantino Di Montefalco DOCG was awarded in 1992, establishing a set of rules intended to preserve and promote the quality of wines made from Sagrantino.
The Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco requires that only Sagrantino grapes be used, and that thirty months of aging occur before the wine is released. The aging must be for a minimum of twelve months in oak barrels, and at least four months in bottle before release.

Sagrantino is its own grape, not resembling any other, and is only found in the Montefalco region, thus making it rather special and worth investigating.
The thick skins of this red varietal are the main contributor to the longevity of these wines, which are able to age for years, and develop further complexity.

After tasting through a number of samples, a few consistent characteristics became apparent.  These wines are quite solid, and well structured.They have good acidity, and deep, dark fruit profiles, that work in conjunction with the consistently present tannins, thus resulting in balance.The thick skins that fuel this structure, also provide aromatic notes that lay on top of many example, and add complexity.
All of these qualities make Sagrantino from Montefalco an excellent choice for cooler nights, and hearty winter foods. Below are three fine examples, from the more than fifty producers of this wine that you should get to know.

2008 Arnaldo-Caprai "Collepiano" Sagrantini Di Montefalco DOCG 14.5%ABV , $50

Dark black cherry and dusty mineral Earth on the nose, with subtle vanilla bean and aromatic blackberry. The palate is quite chewy with dried, blackberry notes, black cherry skins, char-grilled meat and violet incense. There's a pleasant bitterness on the finish, and a little bite. Big and burly, but it seems to have what it needs to come together into something more after a few years in the cellar. 89Pts

2008 Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino Di Montefalco DOCG 15% ABV $39

Popped and poured, dark ruby in color. The nose is a bit reserved, with the dense, dried, black cherry fruit that is solid, but not round, with faint vanilla, and a hint of cocoa dust. There are also notes of dusty underbrush supporting. The palate is well structured and perfumed with blackberry, black cherry, a pleasant bitterness, a hint of forest floor and a tart juicy finish. Firm, dusty, tannins a present throughout, and drive the character of this wine. Although a bit awkward at this stage, there is a general character of firmness, density, and masculinity. 89Pts

2009 Perticaia Sagrantino Di Montefalco DOCG 14.5% ABV $44

The nose is finessed and lovely showing pretty blackberry scents with underlying cedar, subtle Asian spice, and dried flowers. The fruit is pure and fresh in nature; very appealing.The palate starts off with a soft attack, aromatic black cherry, a little menthol and savory notes trailing. The balance is very good with chewy tannins, easy acidity and depth of fruit. Lean, dark, a little savory, and easy to drink, with fine tannins and a little bite on the finish. A complete pleasure.91Pts.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo 2007

Top Chianti Classico

If you've never tried Fontodi's outstanding single vineyard riserva, you should put it on your short list. This is a wine that displays the character of Sangiovese, in a wonderful way, and in every vintage. On paper this sounds like a overblown, crowd-pleaser, with lots of oak and alcohol, but in the glass it's a whole other story.

2007 Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo, Chianti Classico Riserva, 15% ABV $65

 Aromatic black fruit, covered in distinct scents of rose petals, is the first impression on the nose, followed by black cherry flesh, some raspberry, sandalwood, and tobacco. Deep and alluring. The palate is masculine and elegant at the same time with black cherry skins, dried blackberry dust, espresso grounds, and some aromatic herbs. There is no indication there of the surprising alcohol level, no doubt due to the warm vintage. I love to see how good wine making can offset high alcohol. While it is not fully integrated, it is perfectly balanced, with fresh acidity, ripe tannins, and a solid stock of fruit to feed years of aging. The texture is varied, showing some silk on the attack, but a fine chewiness on the finish. Complex and satisfying. Aged in French oak (specifically from Troncais and Allier), 50% new, for 24 months.  30,000 bottles produced.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon 94 Pts


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poggio Scalette

Wonderful Sangiovese Manifestations

Located in Greve, in the heart of Tuscany's Chianti Classico zone, Poggio Scallete consistently produces wines that show the finest character of Sangiovese. These wines, especially the Il Carbonaione, are made with great structure and balance so that their aging potential is assured. With vineyards at an average elevation of 450 meters, these vines see conditions that help develop intensity, elegance, and structure, which is all you can ask for from any varietal. Below are two notes from recent samples, and one (2005) from a couple of years ago. The wines of Il Carbonaione are a must try / have for any Sangiovese lover.

Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione IGT 2011 13.5% ABV $60

Pure, deep, dark fruit aromas are noteworthy on the nose. Black cherry flesh and blackberry along with some tobacco, and a subtle layer of cut flower scents on top. The dark fruit continues on the palate, with some Asian spice, and sage. There is solid acidity carrying it all from mid-palate to the moderately long finish that shows firm grip and green tobacco. Excellent balance. Lovely, easy to drink now and built to last as well. 92 Pts


Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione IGT 2005  13.5% ABV $50

 Quite solid and structure-centric. Leather, earth, violets, and dried cherry on the nose. The palate has a great texture with a pleasing, fine, granularity, like ground-up, dried, black cherry skins and scorched earth. Despite the finessed fruit, it still comes across as well balanced and complete. There is a wonderful finish, with fine grained grip and excellent aromatics of sandalwood, grilled meat, and leather lingering. Improved steadily over two hours drinking, and was going strong on the last sip. Great structure and balance, with the impression of being built for the long haul.92Pts. 



Chianti Classico DOCG 2012  13% ABV $23

Deep, serious black cherry flesh and black current form the foundation on the nose with tobacco, and sandalwood compliments. The palate has solid structure showing blackberry, mineral Earth, some forest floor, and fine grained tannins. Good acidity adds energy and life to balance things out. The lean fruit takes a primary role here, and makes for this approachable.  90Pts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Le Pupille, Poggio Valente Riserva

 2009 Fattoria Le Pupille, Poggio Valente Riserva  Morellino di Scansano 14.5% ABV, $35

From the single vineyard, Poggio Valente, at 280m elevation, the Poggio Valente is yet another great example of the quality and value that can be found in Morellino Di Scansano. The nose has a lot to offer with aromatic blackberry and black cherry, Earthy Asian spice, and savory aromas under the fruit. There is a restrained ripeness at the core that adds depth and takes this wine to the next level of enjoyability. The palate starts with a smooth attack and more black fruit that is firm, and nicely chewy. The savory component is present on the palate too, with seasoned, mixed grill flavors supported by flinty Earth, and some tobacco. The finish is long, aromatic and savory. Quite satisfying. 40,000 bottles produced. Aged 15 months in French barriques, 40% new / 60% second passage. 97% Sangiovese, 3% Merlot 94Pts