In early January 2014, I was invited to an exclusive tasting of almost 200 soon-to-be-released 2009 Brunello di Montalcino wines by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino at their headquarters in the center of the celebrated hilltop town.
My tasting of the 2009 vintage revealed that it was another challenging year in Montalcino, and the main problem was the weather. Scorching summer temperatures and a lack of rain dominated crucial phases of the growing season. As a result, most wines are prematurely evolved, and while this makes the best wines enjoyable now, many ’09s deliver sensations of cooked fruit, evident alcohol, low acidity and fleeting tannins. Others have more acidity, but dried-up fruit and aggressive, astringent tannins. And there are many styles in between, ranging from soft and sexy to lean and mean. The one trait that distinguishes almost all the 2009s is a lack of ageworthy structure—unusual for wines that are famous for racy acidity and bracing tannins that need years to tame.
The best ’09s are all about finesse and balance and will be superb over the next few years. Their precocious accessibility makes them ideal on restaurant lists. However, those ’09s that are forcefully tannic but already lack fruit richness aren’t going to get any better. Vineyard location was crucial during 2009, and fuels the raging debate over officially subdividing Montalcino.
“Our older vineyards in the north, where it’s cooler, performed better in 2009, while our younger vineyards in the warmer southern areas suffered more,” says Guido Orzalesi, estate manager at Altesino. “Our 2009 is extremely elegant and ready to be enjoyed.”
Although Brunello is the star of this issue’s Buying Guide, we also take a look at selections from Austria, Spain, France, Argentina, California, Washington and New York. And, as always, be sure to check out our complete database at buyingguide.www.winemag.com.
94 Il Marroneto 2009 Selezione Madonna delle Grazie (Brunello di Montalcino). This gorgeous Brunello proves that top producers can make outstanding wines even in challenging vintages like 2009. It opens with an elegant bouquet of violet, red berry, spice and a whiff of new leather. The delicious palate delivers fleshy black cherry layered with mint, licorice, balsamic herbs and cinnamon-spice. It’s impeccably balanced with firm tannins and fresh acidity that give it an age-worthy structure. Drink 2016–2024. Montcalm Wine Importers. Cellar Selection. —K.O.
abv: 15% Price: $NA
92 Altesino 2009 Brunello di Montalcino. Structured but poised, it opens with balsamic aromas of menthol, red berries, blue flower, Asian spices and a hint of new leather. The succulent palate offers dark cherry accented with notes of mint, lemon sage and chocolate alongside polished tannins and just enough freshness. It’s delicious and already approachable so enjoy soon. Winebow. —K.O.
abv: 14.5% Price: $65
92 Belpoggio 2009 Brunello di Montalcino. It offers earthy aromas of black berries, meat juices, Mediterranean herbs and a touch of leather. The juicy palate delivers ripe red cherry, black raspberry and black spices together with a mineral note on the close. Well balanced with firm, ripe tannins, it will develop complexity over time. Wine Worldwide, Vino Direct. —K.O.
abv: 14% Price: $52
92 Casato I 2009 Voliero (Brunello di Montalcino). An earthy wine, it opens with aromas of black and red berries, toast, cooking spices and meat juices along with a whiff of farmyard. The palate delivers fleshy black cherry and raspberry in the forefront along with notes of cinnamon-spice, mocha and sage, all supported by a solid tannic backbone. de Grazia Imports LLC. —K.O.
abv: 15% Price: $40
92 Centolani 2009 Poggiotondo (Brunello di Montalcino). This bold, balanced wine opens with classic Sangiovese aromas of underbrush, dried tobacco leaf, red berries, blue flower and a waft of leather. The juicy palate shows depth, delivering ripe wild cherry accented with white pepper, licorice and a mineral note alongside solid but refined tannins. Drink 2016–2024. Soilair Selection. —K.O.
abv: 14% Price: $85
92 Il Marroneto 2009 Brunello di Montalcino. Elegant and structured, it unfolds with black berry, blue flower, spice and leather aromas. It has dense wild cherry flavors accented with notes of Mediterranean herbs, white pepper, sage and mineral alongside assertive tannins. This should develop nicely over the next few years. Drink 2016–2024. Montcalm Wine Importers. —K.O.
abv: 15% Price: $NA
92 Le Macioche 2009 Brunello di Montalcino. This outgoing Brunello opens with aromas that recall blue flower, leather, rose, black fruit, meat juices and Mediterranean herbs. The juicy, delicious palate delivers fleshy black cherry, soft raspberry, milk chocolate, licorice and grilled herbs. The wine is friendly and approachable. Drink through 2019. Vintner Select. —K.O.
abv: 14.5% Price: $NA
92 Marchesi Antinori 2009 Pian delle Vigne (Brunello di Montalcino). This structured wine opens with aromas of black fruit, underbrush, mint and spice with an earthy touch of saddle leather. The juicy palate delivers a core of black cherry accented with notes of thyme, sage, espresso and mocha supported by a tannic backbone. It’s well balanced, with enough freshness to ensure it will develop complexity over the next few years. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. —K.O.
abv: 14% Price: $75
92 San Polino 2009 Helicrysum (Brunello di Montalcino). It opens with intense red-rose aromas that carry right over to the palate. Bright red cherry and black raspberry flavors are accented with cinnamon, white pepper and lemon sage that add depth. It’s well balanced with brooding but refined tannins while fresh acidity gives it energy. Drink 2015–2024. T. Edward Wines Ltd. —K.O.
abv: 14.5% Price: $85
91 Altesino 2009 Montosoli (Brunello di Montalcino). This wine, from perhaps Montalcino’s most famous single vineyard, opens with fruit aromas of black plum, black berries, cake spices and a whiff of new leather. The ripe, round palate delivers sweet black cherry layered with notes of chocolate and hints of vanilla alongside friendly tannins. While it lacks its usual complexity, it’s juicy, delicious and extremely accessible. Drink 2015–2019. Winebow. —K.O.
abv: 14.5% Price: $125