Posts Tagged Brunello di Montalcino

A Few Days in Tuscany – Day One

Three days in Tuscany

Day one of a three day trip to Tuscany with David Gleave of Liberty Wines. I hadn’t been there for a few years, so it was great to refresh my knowledge and to wonder at the beauty of the area. Not surprisingly some superb food too, including seriously good extra virgin olive oil.

Poggio al Tesoro, Bolgheri

Poggio al Tesoro is based in Bolgheri, a one of the most sought-after strips of land in Tuscany. It includes two of the most famous wine names of Italy, Sassicaia and Ornellaia. Poggio al Tesoro belongs to the Allegrini family, very highly regarded producers in Valpolicella, who acquired it in 2001.This is the region that became famous for producing Cabernet Sauvignon (with Sassicaia) and then Merlot (with Ornellaia). Since then Cabernet Franc has also produced highly successful. Bolgheri is a relatively flat region close to the sea, which mitigates the climate. Further protection is provided by the mountains immediately behind.

Mixed Olive trees and vines at Poggio al Tesoro

The Poggio al Tesoro wines are rich and powerful but not without a certain elegance. I enjoyed them all, the reds having a very smooth sultry ripeness cloaked in suave new oak. However, the wine that stuck out was the white, a Vermentino. This is a grape variety that is widely grown in Corsica, Sardinia, and the south of France; in the right hands it can make very good textured wines with a lovely balance of acidity and rich fruit.

To Try:
‘Solosole’ 2015, Vermentino IGT

Rich peach and pineapple fruits textured and long with a welcome acidic streak. Very good wine. We tried an older vintage over lunch which was excellent.

We then had an extremely pleasant lunch with winemaker Lorenzo Fortini, and his colleague Riccardo Fratton (pictured above) of San Palo, an estate in Montalcino that is also owned by the Allegrini family. Both are from the Veneto.

Classic Tuscan Antipasti – Liver, mushroom and tomato bruschetta (or crostini?) with plenty of good olive oil.


Pachiare – Tuscan pasta with ham, butter and cheese.


Then on to beans (delicious), salume, and pecorino with honey.


We then moved on to Montalcino, home to Brunello di Montalcino, one of the great wines of Italy. Strangely, it is only in the last few decades that the region has found fame, largely thanks to an American love affair with the wine. The wines vary greatly, but at their best combine the aroma, delicacy and freshness of Pinot Noir with some of the firm tannic structure of a Nebbiolo. Given its popularity and relative scarcity, Brunello is never going to be cheap. Expect to pay €40 for a Brunello and €150 for Brunello Riserva. Thankfully the junior Rosso di Montalcino can be very good n the right hands, and is also ready to drink much sooner. A good Brunello will age gracefully for many years, and really needs a decade to become approachable. I have been a bit dubious about the wines of this region in the past, but certainly these two estates produce some wonderful wines. Like much of Tuscany, it is a stunnigly beautiful and well worth visiting.


San Palo, Montalcino

In 2006, the Allegrini family bought two neighbouring estates in Montalcino. This is a small contiguous 16 hectare vineyard, with vines planted in 1990 and 2000. The winery, built in to the hill, is a small perfectly formed building, designed to be as eco-friendly as possible and full of ingenious features. We tasted three impressive structured Brunello di Montalcino, the 2009, 2010 and 2011, as well as a superb, massive Brunello Riserva 2010. More approachable in price and style is the Rosso di Montalcino below.

To Try:
Rosso di Montalcino 2014, San Palo

A classic Sangiovese nose of dark cherries; lovely fresh dark fruits on the plate with good acidity, lingering nicely in the mouth.

Conti Costanti, Montalcino

In your dreams, this is the sort of estate you would love to own; a very small winery producing great wines, perched on top of a hill with amazing views, close to a medieval town. And there are some really great wines at Costanti; an irresistible combination of elegance and power.

Andrea Costanti

The estate is run by the charming, modest and erudite Andrea Costanti. He inherited the estate at the age of 23 when his uncle died. The family arrived in the region in 1551, and were one of the very first to make wine in Montalcino. A geologist by training, Costanti is understandably keen on the soils. Montalcino, he explains, is a big lump of rock surrounded by clay (which is not great for growing vines). His soils, close to the village, have a lot of rocks – galestro- as in Chianti Classico. ‘There is no secret to the way we make the wine’, says Costanti, ‘the secret is all in the vineyard. We are a marriage between the soil of Chianti Classico and the climate of Maremma. Generally there is more acidity, less alcohol around the town of Montalcino, and more body and alcohol the further south you go.’


All of the Costanti wines were delicious, from the fragrant, elegant, Pinotesque Rosso di Montalcino 2014 (€35), the breathtaking but closed 2010 Brunello Riserva (€150) as well as the wine below. The 2015s we tasted from cask were utterly amazing. Costanti believes it is the best vintage since he started in 1983 (obviously beating the much hyped 2010 vintage),. Over dinner, we enjoyed the 2004, 2006 and 2007 Brunello Riserva, all with that same supreme elegance. The 2006 stood out for me.

To Try:
Brunello di Montalcino 2011

A wonderful expressive nose, floral with hints of mushrooms, followed by an elegant, refined palate, still quite young, with ripe red fruits, some spice, and a dry finish. Lovely wine.


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My week in wine (and other drinks)

I drank some very good wines this week. The highlight was the Brunello di Montalcino Reserva 2000 from Col d’Orcia, but a seven year old Beaujolais provided the nicest surprise. I went to the Tesco press tasting, which I found disappointing, as I had with Aldi the week before; lots of clean, correctly made wines, lots of big names like Chablis and Châteauneuf but very little to get excited about. A few euros more really does buy you a lot.

The Black Boar Imperial Oatmeal Stout
This is made by the White Hag Irish Brewing Company, who are based in Sligo, and appeared in my Irish Times online article Take it Home. The company is uncompromising in its attitude ‘We don’t do an accessible red ale, stout and lager like most of the others. Our beers are big and bold, American style made using Irish ingredients where possible. We have a heather ale made without any hops. Our water comes from a bog and is very soft, ideal for stout. It doesn’t have to be treated, filtered or pasteurised.’ So said Joe Kearns, the brewer.

The Imperial stout was textured and packed full of flavour. I sipped a glass slowly one evening. Big (10.2% but never burns), bold and full of roasted barley and dark chocolate, with a lovely smooth texture, this demands careful contemplation on cold winter nights.

Image 2
Joe Kearns, brewer at The White Hag

Moulin-a-Vent Les Trois Roches 2008
Pierre-Marie Chermette, Domaine du Vissoux

That’s right, 2008. I had read reviews waxing lyrical about aged bottles of the above wine. As they are one of my favourite producers, I laid down three bottles five years ago. This was the first I have tried. Moulin-a-Vent has a reputation for ageing but I have only every tried old bottles on a few occasions. It was delicious, light and elegant, very Pinot in style, with wonderful aromas and delicate sweet fruits. The current vintage is available from for €29.50.

Domaine de Sainte Marthe Syrah 2014 IGP Pays d’Oc

This is a wine I have followed for many years, and was once responsible for importing it into Ireland. It is made by the Bonfils family who own twenty estates in the Languedoc and another three in Bordeaux. Generally they make good quality modern wines. The Syrah is a very attractive smooth medium-bodied wine and excellent value at €10.50 from Dunnes Stores. One to cheer you up on a wet Wednesday.

Copain “Tous Ensemble” Pinot Noir 2013
Anderson Valley, California

My sister Frances, who works as a chef in San Francisco, always brings me back an interesting bottle or two on trips home. This wine is from the cool Anderson valley north of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. I travelled up there with Frances a decade or so ago, and loved the wild countryside and the laid-back winemakers. I remember a great visit to Navarro winery who mades some lovely wines and a very good verjus. We also visited Louis Roederer who have their highly successful American sparking wine operation here. Sadly very little gets over here to Europe.

This Pinot was light, juicy and very moreish with lovely succulent vibrant sweet cherry fruits. 12.5%. It is priced at $28 on their website. If only we could get more like this in Ireland.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2000, Col d’Orcia

I was fortunate to drink this at a corporate dinner with a leading firm of solicitors – I was doing the talking. It was an enjoyable evening with some great wines and some very knowledgeable solicitors.

I have never really ‘got’ Brunello, or at least the prices they charge. A few years ago, I spent a day tasting with Erin O’Keefe, Boston-Irish author of a great book on the subject, simply titled ‘Brunello di Montalcino’ published by University of California Press I felt I had advanced my knowledge if not my appreciation. We tasted the modern pumped up oaky sweet versions, which could have come from anywhere, and some deeply tannic, acidic young wines that really needed time. O’Keefe said they would eventually become almost Pinot-like with a cool savoury fragrance and elegant fruit. How right she was!

These magnums of Brunello were superb; the Riesrva is made from a single vineyard, Poggio al Vento, which in good years is released as a single vineyard wine. Pale in colour with quite delicate leafy mushroom aromas with some red fruits; the wine was fully mature with piquant red fruits underpinned by good acidity and light tannins on the finish. Very good with beef.


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