Not your typical Brunello

It’s been a little quite on Vino in Love lately. That’s mostly because I was first in Dusseldorf for the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting and ProWein and just a few days later I headed to Verona to taste some amazing Italian wines at VinItaly. I’m not a big fan of writing summary posts on these events because I feel that you, my readers, will gain very little by them. But if you are following me on Twitter, then you might have noticed that I tweeted lots of pictures from these wine events. Instead of writing about ProWein and VinItaly I highly encourage you to attend one of these trade shows at least once in your life time. So what am I writing about today, you might be wondering. The answer is: Brunello.

About three years ago, I moved back from Bologna to Munich. Shopping for wine in Bologna is great because the city offers so many great wines. Small wine shops and international chains like Eataly, which has stores around the world including in New York and Tokyo, offer a wide range of stunning wines for affordable prices. In one of the smaller Enotecas I bought a case of 2007 Vitanza Brunello di Montalcino Tradizione. Last Thursday I enjoyed my last bottle of it. I had not planned to uncork it just yet but one of the two wines which I had planned to drink that night corked and so the Vitanza Brunello was quickly put in the decanter.

2007 was an exceptional vintage for Brunello and it received the highest possible rating (5 stars) from the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium. However, I personally prefer Brunello from 2006 and 2004 which also received the highest rating.

Tenuta Vitanza

Tenuta Vitanza is a rather young winery and was founded about 23 years ago in 1991 by Rosalba Vitanza. Rosalba had initially purchased about 16 hectares and after immense success she slowly expanded her vineyard area. She is being consulted by Paolo Vagaggini, a renowned Italian wine maker who was nominated by Wine Enthusiast in 2013 for a Wine Star Award in the category best wine maker of the year. Vagaggini also consults wineries like Biondi Santi and Poggio Antico.

Montalcino landscape. Photo by Eric Huybrechts. License: CC BY-SA 2.

Montalcino landscape. Photo by Eric Huybrechts. License: CC BY-SA 2.

The winery produces three styles of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG with the main difference being the aging process. Brunello Vitanza is a modern interpretation of Brunello and the aging takes place in parts in French tonneaux and in parts in large oak casks. The Brunello Tradizione ages only in large Slavonian oak casks. Slavonian oak casks have been used by Brunello wine makers for centuries. Brunello Riserva ages only in French tonneaux. All three wines age for 36 months in their respective barrels and are all sourced from eleven-year-old vineyards.

Brunello does not require the use of tonneaux/barrique in my opinion. It tends to dominate the Sangiovese too much. The tight DOCG regulations for Brunello dictate that the wine has to be produced with 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Is that always the case? Hard to answer. In the past there have been scandals involving Brunello di Montalcino. Montepulciano grapes from Marche and Abruzzo were loaded on trucks and sold to wineries in Montalcino which tend used them to produce “Brunello”.

Tasting Notes 2007 Vitanza Brunello Tradizione

Prior to drinking, the wine was decanted for about two hours. This is absolutely necessary.

2007 Tenuta Vitanza Brunello Tradizione

Brunello Tradizione has a deep garnet red color in the glass. The label listed alcohol by volume was 14.5%. The nose opens with intense aromas of roasted coffee beans, licorice, marasca cherry liquor and hints of blackcurrant. These are joined by leather, smoke and cocoa. In the mouth, the wine is dry, complex and still fresh. The tannins are very smooth. Earthy texture, medium-bodied and well-balanced. Notes of dark chocolate and forest fruit recall the cocoa aromas from the nose. This is an elegant, fine Brunello. Lingering after taste.

4 / 5 stars      

In the headline I wrote that this is not your typical Brunello. Why? Because usually when people think of Brunello they think of powerful, very full-bodied, overly complex, heavy wines. Brunello Tradizione from Tenuta Vitanza is different in that regard which makes this wine so interesting because it shows how elegant and fine a Brunello can be.

However, I found this Brunello much more difficult to pair with food than the average Brunello. It is in my opinion best enjoyed without much food. Serve it with some aged Parmesan cheese.

Parting Words

A bottle of Tenuta Vitanza Brunello Tradizione has an average retail price of €39 on Wine Searcher. A fair price for a Brunello di Montalcino.

This was the second bottle of wine we enjoyed that evening. The first one was a 2004 Castello di Trebbio Pazzesco – a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah from the heart of the Chianti Ruffina. Even though the Pazzesco was slightly older, the Brunello Vitanza was a perfect-follow up.

What is your opinion on Brunello? Do you like it? Hate it? Let me know in the comment section below. Cheers!

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11 comments on “Not your typical Brunello”

  1. Bill Dufton Reply

    I appreciate Brunellos. I do, however, find that quality varies significantly regardless that entry level pricing is moderately high. It scares me away a bit so I tend to stick to labels that I’m very familiar with or vintages that were exceptional. Every once in a while getting a small producers Brunello. It’s OK to waste a purchase on a bottle of $20 Chianti Classico that’s not great but $60 on a substandard Brunello irks.
    However, I will keep buying and trying lesser known Brunellos as I like the idea of the little guy/woman. And that’s the fun part of wine anyway. Thanks for the post. I am opening a 2007 Brunello tonight on account of it.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Bill,
      Unfortunately there are some poor Brunello out there and so I understand your frustration with substandard Brunello. I rarely buy a Brunello which I have neither priorly tasted , for example at a trade fair or wine tasting. That way I can reduce the risk of buying a poor bottle of Brunello.
      Red wine from Tuscany is very hyped but there are some very good ones out there in Tuscany for which you don’t have to rob a bank 🙂

      Which Brunello did you drink? I hope it did not disappoint you. Cheers!

  2. talkavino Reply

    I have a very interesting relationship with Brunello. I have a lot of respect for it, and in a general conversation I will only leave the highest remarks for it. However, I generally avoid buying it, as I don’t believe in Brunello at $25, and I don’t want to risk $50 on a bottle of wine which I might not enjoy. My tasting experiences at various events generally are only moderately successful – Brunello need either lots of age, or a very long time in the decanter, so I often don’t enjoy the wines in the tastings…

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      The problem I have with wine fairs is that wineries have the habit to showcase only their brand new vintages and when it comes to wines like Brunello or Barolo then these wines are far from ready.
      Sometimes producers bring some of their older vintages to fairs like VinItaly which helps but that’s an exception to the rule. But as long as these wines sell exceptionally well, it was reported that the new 2010 Brunello vintage sold out extremely fast, the producers have no reason to change that habit. But this issue applies to many wines…

      Anyways, if you are looking to purchase a Brunello someday then I can recommend you a few Brunello which have never disappointed me.

  3. Luana Reply

    Great post, Julian. I vote for Ridolfi Montalcino and Castello Romitorio!
    Daniele, my friend from Castello Romitorio is always happy to explain the entire process of producing this noble wine. Once there, you can taste a selection of vintage Brunello and enjoy the food their cook will prepare for you ( she is so funny, besides).
    Cheers!

    Luana

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thank you so much, Luna!
      I have not tried the wines from Castello Romitorio yet but I will definitely try to remember to stop by that winery the next time I am in Montalcino. Maybe I can even find a bottle of their Brunello here in Germany 🙂 Cheers!

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