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Until now, wines that could not be included in the wine guides were presented in this section. Now that we have expanded the wine guide to such an extent that there is room for all the wines tasted, short reviews of the various tasting topics of the last few weeks appear here under the title Current Tastings.

For the sake of completeness, we start with notes on tastings, some of which were already carried out last year.

Brunello di Montalcino 2000 and Riserva 1999

Next to Barolo, Brunello is still considered the great, majestic red wine of Italy. To this day, the wines are said to keep for decades, which is probably largely due to the wines of Brunello inventor Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, who first introduced the wine in 1888 and whose winery was the only producer of this wine until the middle of the 20th century (though only four vintages were produced up to and including 1945). Even today, some of these old bottles are still said to be drinkable and some of the following vintages cemented the reputation of the long-distance runner, sometimes impressively.

The area under vines has increased just as dramatically in recent decades as the number of producers, and by no means all Brunellos produced live up to the high expectations. Nevertheless, Brunello can still be considered one of the few wines in Italy that can continue to develop in top form for considerably more than a decade.

This is especially true for those wines that have been vinified in a more traditional style and have not been made up by experienced oenologists and with lots of sweet oak aromas. Although the latter tend to appeal to mass tastes and find much favour in both the local and foreign press, they rarely represent the uniqueness of their origin and in most cases develop rather disappointingly: the wood often dries out the wines much too quickly, complexity and finesse fall by the wayside, and the youthful charm is also gone.

A top brunello of the more traditional kind, on the other hand, is usually rather uncharming and edgy in its youth. Tannin, acidity and fruit are not yet interwoven in a flattering way. But even with maturity, first-class Brunello retains its bite. Despite all the harmony that comes with the years, it will never be a wine for the tasty drinker. The wines remain too independent and stubborn, too demanding to appeal to the masses. But when paired with the right food, these wines really come into their own - and outshine all flatterers trimmed to be pleasing.

Vineyard of the Tenute Silvio Nardi winery in the Manachiara site

But this does not only apply to the wines of the ultra-traditionalists, such as Biondi Santi. In addition to these and the modernists with their eye-catching but rather characterless wines, there are many wineries today that know how to use the positive achievements of modern oenology without, however, producing wines that deny their origins. They certainly profit from the now reduced barrel ageing times. Although their wines are still a little edgy when young, they often develop more quickly and are accessible to a wider public thanks to their power, melting and juicy fruit.

Fortunately, the trend towards forced use of wood now seems to be slowing down considerably. We were also amazed by the care with which most of the wines were produced when we tasted them in 1999 and 2000. Two years ago, on the occasion of a similar tasting with a whole series of very mediocre wines, we were still very worried about the development in the region, which now, also in view of the 2000 vintage, which was anything but simple, but nevertheless predominantly successful, is apparently proving to be unfounded.

The 1999 vintage, from which we tasted mainly the Riserve, can undoubtedly be considered a classic year. The wines are mostly firm, dense and still very young. The prolonged barrel ageing of the Riserva, often criticised because many wines did not survive the long contact with wood and thus air without damage, seems to have been survived this time by a majority of wines without negative effects. At the top of the selection we tasted is a masterpiece from Biondi-Santi, the likes of which we don't often see here either. However, the wine needs several days in the air to reveal all its facets and its true depth. Then, finally, "majestic" is the word of choice to describe it. No Brunello conveys a similar impression of aristocracy. But we were also impressed by the Riserve of La Lecciaia, Casanuova delle Cerbaie, Mastrojanni, Collosorbo and Il Poggione, followed by Capanna, Fuligni and La Togata. It is also pleasing that with Banfi and Barbi, two producers landed in the top ranks, who rather attracted our attention in the recent past with too modern and interchangeable wines, but who gave us a lot of pleasure with their Riserve.

The 2000 vintage is almost complementary to its predecessor. The year has produced Brunello of a much more accessible kind than we are used to. Although the depth and complexity of the great years are rarely reached, the vintage can be enjoyed relatively early without having to forego the typical fruit, the bite and the character of a good Brunello. Many wines are already a pleasure to drink. They are ideally suited to shorten the time for Brunello lovers until the 1999s and 1997s reach drinking maturity.

Not only the wine is recommendable here - also the landscape

The list of recommendable wines is long and we recommend it also and especially to those among our readers who do not want to wait another 5 to 10 years for their wine or who are just beginning to deal with the subject of Brunello. The Brunello by Siro Pacenti is at the top of the presented assortment. At first, we were sceptical because of the present wood and the polished finish. Pacenti, however, is one of the few producers who manage to leave the wines their characteristics and their character of origin despite the brash use of wood. The wine has a density and depth that is almost unparalleled in the region in 2000. After sufficient airing, the wood recedes far into the background and gives way to a fruit that could also come from a first-class year. A great Brunello and one of the few of the vintage that definitely needs time to mature. Andrea Costanti, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, who landed in the top group with two wines, Canalicchio di Sopra, Cerbaia, Fanti, Ferrero, La Fornace, La Rasina, La Velona, Mastrojanni, Talenti, Tenuta di Sesta and Tenimeni Angelini with their "Val di Suga". Another 30 or so wineries rank just below and although almost all of the wines are already drinking nicely, some of them could benefit from another year of bottle ageing.

Rosso di Montalcino 2003

Even though Rosso di Montalcino is called the "little Brunello", the Rossos that live up to this claim are rather in the minority. Most of the wines follow a warmer and more open-hearted style. As a rule, they are a pleasure to drink when young and have only limited ageing potential. This makes them a perfect complement to Brunello, which needs to mature.

Winery Siro Pacenti

Of course, they are also more affordable, even if the prices in recent years have not always been in attractive proportion to the qualities offered. The simpler Rossos are often too indifferent, lacking depth and structure to be worth the asking price. In its best form, however, Rosso di Montalcino is a mature red wine that may lack the complexity of the best Brunello, but which can nevertheless develop very favourably over several years and give great pleasure. The wines from Nannetti, La Fortuna, Il Poggione, Poggio San Polo, Siro Pacenti and Canalicchio di Sotto in particular correspond to this image. Tenimeni Angelini shows with his well-balanced Rosso, as already with the Brunello, that very modern style and quality do not have to contradict each other in Montalcino.

The best vintages

Under the following links you will find our favourites of the respective vintages:

Brunello di Montalcino 2000

Brunello di Montalcino 1999

Rosso di Montalcino 2003

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