The re­sults

A very good if hot vin­tage showed its qual­i­ties with plenty of high scores, good con­sis­tency and some new names to be dis­cov­ered, as John Stimp­fig re­ports

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Go­ing into this tast­ing, Michael Gar­ner had high ex­pec­ta­tions. ‘2012 is quite a hyped vin­tage and, thus far, there haven’t been many words of cau­tion around it. But even so, to come away with seven out­stand­ing wines and so many 90-plus rated wines clearly en­dorses that es­ti­ma­tion. With­out ques­tion, this is a re­ally good vin­tage for Brunello.’

his fel­low tasters were equally en­thu­sisatic. over­all, said Su­san hulme MW, this was a pos­i­tive show­ing: ‘Crit­i­cally, there were lots of very good wines and very few low points.’ Bruno Besa noted: ‘Twenty years ago, you would never have had such a con­sis­tent re­sult as this. To­day’s Mon­tal­cino pro­duc­ers de­serve credit for mak­ing such progress in a rel­a­tively short time.’

The 2012 grow­ing con­di­tions were cer­tainly be­nign, if not en­tirely per­fect. Ac­cord­ing to Gar­ner, the sea­son was hot, dry and oc­ca­sion­ally tor­rid. As a re­sult there were some big, high-al­co­hol wines, nudg­ing 15% and more, which was clearly a con­cern for all three tasters. Yet de­spite that caveat, there was uni­ver­sal agree­ment that this is a qual­ity vin­tage that con­sumers can buy with con­fi­dence – pretty much across the board.

But just how good is 2012 com­pared to the even more hyped 2010 vin­tage? For Gar­ner, the main dif­fer­ence was that there weren’t the same num­ber of re­ally top-flight wines: ‘Un­for­tu­nately, these 2012s didn’t make the earth move for me in quite the same way as the best 2010s. So i’d put it a notch or two be­low.’

While hulme agreed that 2010 showed more ex­cep­tional qual­ity and high points, she also felt 2012 was a more evenly bal­anced and ac­ces­si­ble vin­tage: ‘That’s im­por­tant, be­cause not ev­ery­one is look­ing to store wine for 20 years.’

Two dis­tinct styles or in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the vin­tage also emerged. on the one hand, the fresher, nervier, ‘pure’ San­giovese style; on the other, a more con­cen­trated,

richer, riper ‘show-stop­ping’ style. Con­sumers need to de­cide which stylis­tic ap­proach they pre­fer, noted hulme.

When should drinkers be­gin to broach the wines? ‘The best wines have medium lev­els of acid­ity, which is why 2012 prob­a­bly won’t have the great­est fu­ture ahead of it,’ said Gar­ner. Besa rec­om­mended three to five years for the big­ger-style wines: ‘The more el­e­gant, long-lived ver­sions will last an­other 10-12 years at most.’ hulme took a dif­fer­ent tack on when to pull corks: ‘i would drink quite a few of them now, be­cause they’re cur­rently so ap­proach­able with food. There is suf­fi­cient fresh­ness, and the best of these wines have re­fined tan­nins. in many in­stances, i’d open them sooner rather than later.’

Wine­mak­ing and fruit ex­pres­sion also drew pos­i­tive com­ments from our panel. ‘You can eas­ily ruin fruit in the win­ery, but very few peo­ple have done that,’ noted Gar­ner. ‘over­all, the stan­dard here is very high.’

As is of­ten the case in these dis­cus­sions, the topic of oak was touched upon, par­tic­u­larly in re­la­tion to fruit ex­pres­sion. in some cases, the wines were dom­i­nated by sweet oak spice, which Gar­ner some­times at­trib­uted to smaller French oak. ‘Per­son­ally i al­ways feel that the charm of Brunello is best ex­pressed through larger, older Slavo­nian casks rather than bar­riques.’

An­other pos­i­tive from the tast­ing is that it threw up some gen­uine sur­prises, un­der­lin­ing the ex­cite­ment, di­ver­sity and dy­namism in Mon­tal­cino. not only did the rel­a­tively un­known and af­ford­able Pog­gio Landi come top in this tast­ing, there are sev­eral other new names for wine lovers to dis­cover and be­come ac­quainted with.

‘I would drink quite a few of them now, as they’re so ap­proach­able with food’ Su­san Hulme MW

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