The 2010 vintage was special for many Italian varietals. Perfect weather for wine growing helped along vineyards at every step of the harvest.
No surprise, then, that this year yielded an especially high quality of Brunello di Montalcino.
Produced from a provincial Sangiovese clone, these DOCG wines are among Italy’s most renowned. Brunello di Montalcino wines are smooth, complex, fleshy, and blackberry in flavor. Their high acid holds up against heavier meats. Aging is recommended. They are strongly structured and can develop in bottles for decades.
I had opportunity last night to taste five Brunellos from La Mannella. This vineyard sprawls across 56 hectars of prime winemaking region outside of Montalcino. A range in altitude provides balance between warmer and cooler vintages. About one-third of the hectars are devoted to production of Brunello di Montalcino.
La Mannella producer Tommasso Cortonesi was present at the tasting at Paola in Manhattan. “The 2010s are the best vintage I’ve seen in the past 15-20 years,” he said.
The wines backed up his assertion. We tasted La Manella’s 2010 Brunello di Montalcino ($71.99 per 750-ml. bottle), 2010 Brunello di Montalcino I Poggiarelli (single-vineyard, $94.99 per 750-ml. bottle) and 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva ($249.99 per 750-ml. bottle).
They shared an impressive balance between complexity and drinkability.
These are rustic wines, “manly” as Cortonesi said, with bold aromas and flavors of wood, spice, leather, and dark-red fruits. Fermentation takes place with maceration in Slovenian oak vats, before 24-48 months aging in large Slovenian oak casks.
The single-vineyard also spends time in French oak tonneaux, and had a wonderful minerality. The Riserva — which is made only for exceptional vintages, Cortonesi said — is less rustic and more subtly complex.
For all their structure, the 2010s were clean and sharp. They do not smack you in the mouth, but go down rich and savory.
Even at six years old they contained tight tannins. Cortonesi for this reason said that his 2010s were “not for restaurants.” Rather, they could benefit from time spent aging in personal cellars. Though I found the 2010s a fine pairing for my entrée of pappardelle with wild boar ragu. They work well now with heavier meats.
The idea was suggested at our table that retailers buy two cases of the 2010. One case they sell immediately. The other they keep back and age, test year-by-year, and proceed based on the wines’ development.
The tasting also featured La Mannella’s 2013 Rosso di Montalcino (sweet, flowery, vibrant, with a slight spice finish; $29.99 per 750-ml. bottle) and 2011 vintages of the Brunello di Montalcino ($71.99 per 750-ml. bottle) and Brunello di Montalcino I Poggiarelli ($94.99 per 750-ml. bottle).
The difference between 2010s and 2011s was pronounced. Which is not to critique the latter. If anything, the 2011s may have wider appeal.
They are sweeter, lighter, and more approachable than the 2010s. Cortonesi believed they were preferable for restaurants (like the 2009s) for being less intense and more food friendly.
That sort of Brunello di Montalcino is a best-seller at upscale restaurants across America. Many wine menus will feature the 2011s. They can be sold right away as ideal pairings for a wide variety of dishes not overly heavy.
Whereas the 2010s belong in basements for 5-6 years as they loosen up and develop. Either that, or pour them as a standalone glass to sip and ponder, or alongside something as substantial as wild boar ragu.
Cortonesi takes pride in his products, especially because they come from such a well-known DOCG.
“You need that quality for a Montalcino,” he says. “Everybody thinks of Montalcino as a place of high quality. Consumers will pay $10 more for a quality wine from Montalcino.”
La Manella is imported by Quintessential Wines, who hosted the wine dinner.
Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of Cheers Magazine. Reach him at email@example.com