Brunello di Mon­tal­cino 2012

The warm­ing cli­mate is in­creas­ingly a fac­tor in this revered cor­ner of Tus­cany, says Richard Bau­dains, but care­ful se­lec­tion in top ter­roirs is still pro­duc­ing great wines

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

123 wines tasted An­other hot Tus­cany vin­tage, but there’s good con­sis­tency among some high-scoring wines

IN the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tury, Fer­ruc­cio Biondi santi se­lected a bio­type of san­giovese and used it to make an in­no­va­tive bar­rel-aged, mono­va­ri­etal wine. to all in­tents and pur­poses he in­vented Brunello. oth­ers took it for­ward (no­tably the pro­duc­ers’ con­sorzio in the 1960s), but with­out the Biondi santi fam­ily there would prob­a­bly be no Brunello di Mon­tal­cino.

Brunello is san­giovese in its most in­tense, full-bod­ied man­i­fes­ta­tion, but in terms of spe­cific tex­tures and aro­mas there is vari­a­tion on the ba­sic theme. In­di­vid­ual wine­mak­ing styles play a part. es­tates that age in bar­rique or ton­neaux (a mi­nor­ity, to be hon­est) make more im­me­di­ate wines with a big ini­tial fruit im­pact and smoother tan­nins. Long mac­er­a­tion and age­ing in large slavo­nian oak bar­rels cre­ate drier, ini­tially more ret­i­cent wines. More sig­nif­i­cant is the in­flu­ence of soils and cli­mate: to gen­er­alise, the fur­ther south you go, the fuller, softer and rounder the wines be­come. on the ridge to the east of Mon­tal­cino and in the area to the north, the wines have a more lin­ear, savoury char­ac­ter and gen­er­ally evolve more slowly.

Iden­ti­fy­ing spe­cific crus is fer­tile ground for much dis­cus­sion. From ex­pe­ri­ence, most would agree that there are cer­tain ter­roirs which give wines a very par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter, but pin­ning them down by name is dif­fi­cult. Mon­tosoli is one that is widely recog­nised, sesta could be an­other, and the smaller sub-zone of canal­ic­chio an­other still. Al­co­hol lev­els are also an is­sue of some de­bate. A string of scorch­ing, dry sum­mers com­bined with low yields and strict fruit se­lec­tion have seen sugar contents soar. Many pro­duc­ers are start­ing to re­think their vine­yard man­age­ment to ob­tain more bal­anced al­co­hol, but once again it is ter­roir that makes the dif­fer­ence. higher, cooler slopes have a great ad­van­tage in the ever more fre­quently tor­rid sum­mers.

all in the tim­ing

this was the case with 2012. the sum­mer was long, hot and dry with tem­per­a­tures that re­mained un­usu­ally high at night, in­creas­ing the risk of drought stress on south-fac­ing slopes. Al­though september rain brought some re­lief, pro­duc­ers who picked early to keep acid­ity of­ten made wines with un­der-ripe tan­nins. Fresher ar­eas made wines that have the power and con­cen­tra­tion of the vin­tage, but also good acid­ity and fresher fruit.

Brunello built its orig­i­nal rep­u­ta­tion around the aura of old vin­tages and its leg­endary longevity, but the drink­ing win­dow of mod­ern wines starts much closer to the date of re­lease than its rep­u­ta­tion sug­gests. six to eight years is a good rule of thumb for an average vin­tage, say 10 for a great vin­tage from a top pro­ducer. the 2011s are drink­ing now, while the ex­cel­lent 2010s would ben­e­fit from an­other cou­ple of years.

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