On the Trail

Post-2010 Brunello Value

Greg St. Clair

2010 was the greatest vintage ever for Brunello di Montalcino and since we sold almost 1% of the DOCG’s entire production here at K&L alone, there isn’t much left to be had, nor would you want to open many of those bottles now anyway. Don't worry, though: 2011 is a really good vintage, especially if you want to drink some Brunello now while your 2010’s age to perfection. There is only one major problem with 2011 from our perspective: it came after 2010. We bought a bunch of 2011’s because the wines are really delicious, but eventually you have to sell it and with the market still submerged in a hunt for the remaining bottles of 2010, we can't sit on inventory. Due to those market forces, I'm here to show you two really good Brunello di Montalcino wines for $25 that are stunning values, especially given their reputation for quality. Previously vintages from both Poggiarellino and Baccinetti—the two properties here—have sold from $35-$40, so the 2010 hangover is really delivering quite a stupendous deal here. Let me tell you a bit more about the wineries, both of which are direct imports to K&L.

Passione senile, or "senile passion," is how Anna and Lodovico Ginotti describe themselves at Poggiarellino. They are a real life Italian version of “Green Acres," and they inherited the Poggiarellino property about twenty years ago just as they were about to retire. Up until that point, the confirmed city dwellers had never put a spade in the earth! Now they are bonafide Brunello producers and watching Lodovico moving from barrel to barrel a is wonderful thing. This is a man who knew nothing going in and now is a veritable fountain of knowledge about growing Sangiovese. The Ginotti’s were fortunate that when they inherited this estate the vineyards were already 25-40 years old, and in a wonderful location in the northern portion of Montalcino with vineyards facing to the southwest. Their tiny estate is located across the street and a little over a mile away from the famous Altesino winery.

Did I mention they are tiny? They make 6,600 bottles of Brunello di Montalcino a year—that’s 550 cases for the world! The 2011 vintage shows what Sangiovese is like in a ripe vintage—the nose is full of ripe plum, chocolate, and tobacco followed by a plump and meaty character. On the palate the wine shows lots of fleshy warmth with chocolate highlights, vibrant marasca cherry flavors, and bits of tobacco. Sangiovese is an acidic grape by nature and, although there is very good acidity in this wine, the richness of the vintage fleshes it out and makes it fuller, longer, and more complete. This is the perfect Brunello to open and drink right now; but I always like to decant Sangiovese for an hour or so because it just tastes better. Or you can let it continue to evolve for another four to five years, as it will mature gracefully for at least another decade.

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned in the wine world and our association with Mieke and Giovanni from Baccinetti is a prime example. Mike “Guido” Parres and I were planning on visiting our usual blitz of producers in Montalcino and six months or so before leaving I received an unsolicited e-mail from one of our loyal customers who had just been to this wonderful estate with "absolutely fabulous" Brunello exclaiming: "we should really import them because they were so good!" I wrote the appropriate thank you e-mail and told him we’ll see what we can do. I had almost forgotten about it until pouring over a map of Montalcino I realized the Baccinetti “La Saporoia” estate was right between two of our existing direct import producers. I didn’t really think too much of it again until making out our schedule a week later when one of our normal stops asked us to come back at another time. That left a gap in the schedule right between Sesta di Sopra and Tenuta di Sesta, two of our stops not more than a kilometer away from Baccinetti. So I booked a visit to meet Mieke (she’s Dutch) and Giovanni, and while exiting the car I told Guido: “No matter how good these guys are the last thing we need is another Brunello producer in our portfolio, so don’t let me buy anything; this is just a reconnaissance mission." We met, tasted the wines, and asked about the prices; it was almost too good to be true! Guido turned, looked at me, and said “Sorry dude, I guess we’ll have to get this one too!”

La Saporoia is a very small estate and rather new to the game, except that Giovanni’s family has owned the property since 1935! It wasn’t until 1999 when they planted the vineyards and then released their first Brunello (vintage 2004) in 2009. This tiny estate has about 8.5 acres of Sangiovese planted along the road from Sant’Angelo in Colle to Castelunovo dell’Abate planted in terre rosse, an iron rich soil that produces wine with prodigious amounts of fruit character. Their wines are pure, unadulterated, and natural; the initial textural smoothness belies its complexity, and the nose is racy, deep red fruit, gamey, filled with sauvage overtones brimming with rich strawberry fruit and layers of spice. Earth and leathery components back up the fruit and spice elements and finish the richly textured body with a subtle grip. The 2011 vintage is ripe, full, and lush, which makes it easier to drink now. Try it with your favorite meat off the grill or American style lasagna!

Living in the shadow of greatness isn't easy, but it can result in a few remarkable deals. In the case of 2011, it's a fantastic vintage still trying to get out from the image of it's bigger, badder brother in 2010. That being said, the value of 2011 Brunello is found not only in its subsequent prices, but also it's earlier drinkability. As K&L's longtime Italian wine buyer, I can't recommend these two wines highly enough.

-Greg St. Clair