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
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