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Montalcino Offer Part 1 – Rosso, Brunello & Riserva

Rather than concentrate on just Brunello, this year’s offer will put a focus on other great wines being produced around the town of Montalcino. Not only does this highlight wines new to the UK market but also a wide spectrum of price points with an aim to feature something for everyone. This email focuses on the traditional 100% Sangiovese Grosso wines of the region and another featuring ‘Super Tuscans’ will be sent in a few days’ time.

In both mailings I will sometimes refer to tasting notes from Vinous, an online magazine owned by Antonio Galloni who is generally accepted as the leading critic of Italian wine in the world. Although I like to assess all wines I feature myself where possible, I do find that Antonio and his team’s palates and opinions tally with mine on a regular basis.

We begin this offer with a stunning Rosso di Montalcino.

Rosso di Montalcino is a classification that can easily confuse the consumer. Some producers look at this as a way of making a quick buck by selling mediocre wine that still has Montalcino on the label. On the other hand, the top estates understand that making an exceptional Rosso di Montalcino can be a way to introduce their wines to a market that has more modest budget. In difficult vintages many producers will declassify some of their Brunello as the wine suit shorter ageing in cask (to be labelled a Brunello the wine cannot be released until five years after the harvest and must age for a minimum of two years in cask and four months in bottle). But then you get vintages like 2019 which is looking superb for both Rosso and Brunello alike and Mastrojanni’s effort is looking like one of the best for the former.

2019 Rosso di Montalcino, Mastrojanni @ £155 Inc. VAT per case (6)

Established in 1975 by lawyer Gabriele Mastrojanni, this is widely recognised to be one of the finest estates in the appellation. This success owes no small debt to Andrea Machetti and Maurizio Castelli who since the early 1990s have held the roles of viticulturist and winemaker respectively. Mastrojanni’s Brunellos are the stuff of legend (the 2010 is one of the most memorable wines I have ever tasted) however recent vintages of Rosso di Montalcino, which costs a fraction of the Brunello, have been outperforming many other producers’ best efforts. The 2019 is already showing a glorious fragrance of sour red cherry, blackberry and wild herbs. The tannins are soft and silky and the wine has a pure elegance. Just beginning to hit its stride, this has the structure to age for at least five years but only the strictly disciplined will keep it that long. Wine will be available end of Feb and any remaining stock will be available to purchase by the bottle at £29.

2017 Brunello di Montalcino, Castello di Romitorio @ £290 Inc. VAT per case (6)

Castello Romitorio is an estate that blends wine with art. The castle’s foundations date back to the Roman times but its incarnation as a wine producer began in 1984 when the property was bought as a ruin by artist Sandro Chia. As well as the Castle, Chia took over the vineyards and winemaking on the estate was revived.

In 2005 Sandro’s son, Filippo Chia, joined the company and started a process of profound renewal of the wines and winemaking style, betting on extremely elegant single varietal Sangiovese to embody the characteristics of the terroir. After being one of the highest scoring wines in both 2015 and 2016 the estate has done it again in 2017, producing one of the wines of the vintage. This wine usually retails at circa £55 a bottle.

“The 2017 Brunello di Montalcino is dusty, dark and floral at first, but with time, it becomes exotic and spicy. Black cherries lifted by minty herbs and camphor give way to floral undergrowth and tobacco as the 2017 gains in volume with each swirl of the glass. It’s silky-smooth and pliant yet shows remarkable purity and cooling acidity, as you perceive its red and hints of blue fruit slowly drenching the palate, leaving salty minerals and a coating of primary concentration. The long, penetrating finale mixes fine tannins and nuances of sour citrus in a powerful yet wonderfully balanced expression of the Romitorio vineyards. The 2017 Brunello has only gotten better since the first time I tasted it in Montalcino, and it is a highly promising expression of the vintage from Castello Romitorio.” 93+ points, Eric Guido – Vinous.com

2016 Brunello di Montalcino, Poggio il Castellare @ £195 per 6 Inc. VAT per case (6)

This estate has seen some changes in recent years that have had an astounding effect on their wines. Investment in the winery and the coming of age of winemaker Nicola Berti has seen the quality of wine produced here soar. Although they export to many markets around the world, they had yet to find the right importer to represent them in the UK when I came knocking on their door (sadly for me this was a ‘metaphorical knock’, although I am due to visit the winery later this year). We hit it off straight away and it soon transpired I had made the right move when their 2015 Brunello made it to the top 3 in Decanter Magazine’s panel retasting of that vintage last year. Even better news is that they excelled in the 2016 vintage too.

Soils on the estate are clay and limestone and the vineyards are planted on a hill which catches the wind and keeps them healthy. In the winery the wine is aged for 30 months in Slavonian oak barrels and then a short period in French oak. Further ageing in bottle resulted in the wine being very composed on release.

On the nose 2016 displays the classic black cherry aroma along with ripe plum and wild herbs. On the palate it’s beautifully smooth and is harmonising nicely already with the soft tannins and lush, ripe fruit and spicy finish. Good now but will definitely improve with cellaring.

Eric Guido of Vinous was also impressed –

“A lovely mix of incense, crushed violets, dried strawberries, blueberries, allspice and candied ginger forms a sweetly seductive bouquet on the 2016 Brunello di Montalcino. It’s velvety-smooth and round in the mouth, yet it maintains balance with floral-laced red fruits and minerals, further enlivened by bright acidity. You hardly notice the slow build of youthful structure taking hold until the finale, where fine tannins clench the senses under an air of minty herbs and autumnal spice.” 92 points Eric Guido, Vinous

 This is certainly one of the best value Brunellos on the market at the moment. I have 5 cases available in the UK at the moment and another ten reserved at the winery due for shipment in April. I have a small amount available by the bottle at £35.

And finally…

2016 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva ‘Pian Bossolino’, Poggio il Castellare @ £295 per 6

Made from grapes sourced exclusively from the Pian Bassolino vineyard, this is a wine produced for the long haul. The vineyard sits high on the southeast slope of Montalcino, just behind Biondi Santi (the founding estate of modern Brunello). The soil is a mixture of clay and limestone schist and it enjoys cooler weather which gives the grapes excellent balance of juicy fruit and fresh acidity. This Riserva sees 48 months in large Slavonian barrels, 6 months in French barrique and then 6 months maturing in bottle. The wine has only just been released so I have not tasted it yet, however once more it has charmed the gang at Vinous.

“The 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Pian Bossolino lifts up with intensity, as bursts of peppery wild berries offset by spiced citrus, cedar and dried florals keep you coming back to the glass. This is like pure silk on the palate, as weighty, textural waves of ripe red fruits and savoury herbs give way to fine tannins and a hint of tobacco toward the close. It finishes structured yet long and primary, with residual acids that maintain freshness, as a saturation of raspberry and hints of clove taper off. This impressive 2016 Riserva from Poggio Il Castellare has a long life ahead of it. Make sure to lose it in the cellar for at least a few more years.” 93+ points, Eric Guido

Considering most 2016 Riservas are being released with a price tag of £100+ per bottle this is exceptional value. I have an allocation of five cases only (production is tiny of this wine) and if it doesn’t sell out pre-shipment then remaining stock (excluding what makes it to my cellar!) will be available at £55 per bottle when it arrives in late Spring.

Well that’s my pick of the bunch and all the wines are available to buy under bond. As always I am happy to guide you towards the wine that suits you personally so please feel free to drop me a line for any extra guidance on jonny@songbirdwine.co.uk

Happy hunting,

Jonny Wren, Songbird in chief

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