***Scroll down to see live coverage of the 2004 Brunello di Montalcino tasting, by Wine Enthusiast’s Italian Editor Monica Larner.***
This year, talk of the global financial crisis was on everyone’s lips as Tuscany’s major wine regions presentedÂ their latest releases to the world, providing glimpses of what the future holds.
Fortunately, an influx of excellent vintages hitting the market couldn’t have come at a better time, as Italy’s celebrated wine regions brace themselves against the looming global financial crisis.
“2009 began under a cloud of general pessimism,” explains Marco Pallanti, president of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium, “and it is truly hard to ignore what has happened and is occurring on world markets. Unfortunately, the global recession has begun to lap our shores and will presumably hit our region too. While not endemic, it is a problem that will have to be dealt with and…producers know very well that for any strategy, however ingenious, to be a success it has to be rooted in wine quality.”
And wine quality was the undercurrent throughout all of last week’s presentations. Here’s what consumers can expect from the newest vintages:
148 producers presented 358 different Chianti Classico wines and 70 barrel samples, ranging from previews of the 2008 to the 2006 Riserva, to over 100 wine journalists and insiders at the Chianti Classico Collection 2009 event in Florence.
In 2008, the rain and cool temperatures throughout May and June permitted few flowers. A dry, hot summer was offset by mid-August rains while optimal day/night temperature differences made for ideal ripening. In recent years the grapes were picked later, however, in 2008 harvesting occurred between the end of September and beginning of October, the traditional period for Chianti Classico.
According to a statement by the Chianti Classico Consortium, “the 2008 wines are revealing elegance and excellent aromas, with an alcohol content and a structure that gives them the rotundity and mellowness typical of the finest wines.”
About 37 million bottles of Chianti Classico wine are produced annually. The biggest importer is the United States (29%) followed by Germany (10%), the United Kingdom (9%), Switzerland (7%), Canada, Japan, Russia, Austria and Holland.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Wine Consortium reports that “the extremely variable weather conditions throughout the year affected the ripening of the grapes, requiring specific and careful agronomic procedures in the vineyards to avert parasite invasion and, in particular, uneven ripening of the fruit. However, the vintage year of 2008 is expected to produce wines with good aging prospects.”
Brunello di Montalcino
In Montalcino, experts declared 2008 to be an “excellent vintage” and awarded a rating of four stars (out of five) at the 2009 Benvenuto Brunello presentation. The rating was announced by the Brunello di Montalcino Wine ConsortiumÂ which had aÂ special committeeÂ of twenty enologists conduct various physical and chemical evaluations.
According to Patrizio Cencioni, president of the Brunello di Montalcino Wine Consortium, “The weather conditions were good during the course of the year: after a winter with rather intense rainfalls, though not particularly cold, the spring was very regular both in its rainfalls and in its temperatures. The rains with dry phases, continued until half way through June, while the periods of high temperatures alternated in June and July with cooler moments and rainfalls.”
Concluded Cencioni: “The result is an excellent year, with wines that in some cases reach top quality levels.”
And here’s what consumers can expect from the scandalous 2004 Brunello di Montalcino vintage:
2004 Brunello di Montalcino
The highly anticipated and soon to be released 2004 vintage also made its debut and it marks the first five-star rated wine to hit the market since 1997. Raffaella Federzoni, of the Fattoria dei Barbi estate, says that the 2004 vintage “is already showing the elegant side of the Sangiovese, a general come back to the classic style of this grape at its best. The common ground is elegance, freshness, more fruit and less wood, longevity. The wines are more smooth and pleasant than in past vintages, very balanced, a joy to drink, but fortunately they also have that touch of austerity and sometimes minerality, in a few words class.”