Most wine tastings I attend are, of course, integral to my job with my principal clients and approached with solemnity and reverence. Occasionally an opportunity comes along to attend a tasting purely for the purpose of learning – and, dare I say it, for the pleasure of experiencing less familiar wines.
So when one of the UK’s most important merchants, Fine & Rare Wines, invited me to taste 60-odd Brunello di Montalcino’s from the outstanding 2010 vintage……well, I had to, didn’t I?
It was, of course, fascinating. It is clear that 2010 is an exceptional vintage for Brunello, with the majority of wines showing good depth, structure and – key to a long life – good balance. There was a certain amount of variation, possibly a little more than I would expect in a comparable range of Bordeaux, and a minority of wines were marked by dilution and/or clumsy oak management.
So what did I learn? That top Brunello, which is of course pure Sangiovese, is not necessarily too deep in colour; that the colour seems to age a little faster than the aroma or palate; that good oak handling adds attractive nut and spice notes to the natural cherry flavours of the grape; that a freshness of flavour courses through the most thrilling examples; that the best wines have no heaviness yet still exhibit an intensity of flavour and persistence; and, of course, the perennial reminder that the common denominator of all great wine is balance.
If you are buying (for yourself or for me!), my favourites were Gianni Brunelli, Caparzo, Ciacci Piccolomini, Poggio di Sotto and Salvioni.