As part of Vino 2009, which was the first industry convention of Italian wines in America, I had the opportunity to spend a day learning about, and tasting Brunello di Montalcino wines, certainly not a bad way to spend a Tuesday in New York.
The day began with Breakfast at The Waldorf=Astoria on January 27, 2009, that celebrated Italian wine as an intrinsic part of Italian history, culture, and tradition. From panelists Fred Plotkin, Author and Journalist; Giuseppe Martelli, Assoenologi; Darrell Corti, Corti Brothers; and Davide Pinzolo, Winebow; guests learned that there are 20 regions of Italy that produce wine, that Italy produced more wine in 2008 than any other country, and that Italy accounts for 17% of the global wine production.
Fortified with breakfast and new Italian wine knowledge, I was off to the New York Palace for an interesting seminar, Expressions of Brunello di Montalcino - A Blind Tasting, led by Author and Educator, Karen MacNeil. Brunello di Montalcino wines have noble roots, are appreciated throughout the world, are DOCG, and unlike other wines, can only reach the market on the 1st of January of the 6th year after harvest. The Vintage 2004 was released in January 2009, which is the 6th year, counting the year of the harvest. Other important facts for Brunello di Montalcino wines include that they must age for a minimum of 2 years in wood, and then age in bottles for a minimum of 4 months for a vintage, and a minimum of 6 months for a riserva; and the maximum yield of grapes per hectare for Brunello di Montalcino is 80 quintals per hectare.
The seminar provided guests with the opportunity to taste 10 Brunello di Montalcino wines, Vintage 2004, which achieved a 5-star rating. Tasting a series of 10 wines produced by different vintners allowed us to really experience the qualities and style that are representative of Brunello di Montalcino.
Interestingly, we learned that "this region is the most modern that has decided to be old." One-ninth the size of Napa Valley, the area rises 1000 feet providing luminosity, which Karen MacNeil distinguished as sunlight without heat, which allows the grapes to have a slow dance to ripeness, and the slower the dance, the more complex are the results. With grapes, it is not quickness that counts, but rather slowness that produces rich results.
The Sangiovese grape is an ancient grape, and Brunello is made from dozens of Sangiovese clones and provides a multi-faceted base for the wine. The high acidity gives the wine precision and focus, and precise wine has clear flavor. There is also a significant amount of tannins, and she went on to say that tannins and acidity are usually a train wreck in the mouth, however with Brunello di Montalcino, these opposites work well together. It is both powerful and elegant at the same time, and since tannins and acidity are 2 of the 3 preservatives needed for wine, it is also a lasting wine. Brunello di Montalcino is essentially a mineral wine with some fruit, and has dark, black flavors. It has high minerality, which is perceived as salt on the palate and heightens with food consumption.
The seminar focused on "Brunello-ness" where we looked at the ribbon of flavor, the texture that runs through the wine, the aromatically powerful nature of the wine, and did not look at who the producers were. Tasting the 10 wines side by side, resulted in different notes; some exhibited not just black fruit, exotic spices, chocolate, and espresso, but also an almost soy-like savory quality, with dark cocoa, and dusty flavors; a few were a bit fruitier than others, and some were more aromatic than others, but the main thread was the acidity and tannins with a core of dark fruit that ran through all 10 of the wines.
We also discussed the Brunello di Montalcino Vintage 2003, which was an uncharacteristically warm year, and atypical of the wine. Karen described the anomaly as "the wine is the wine, and the vintage should be the mood of the wine, and the 2003 was a mood on steroids, a wild party animal." So for guests who fell in love with, or hated the Vintage 2003, we learned that this was an exception, and not reflective of Brunello di Montalcino.
A Preview of Brunello di Montalcino's 5-Star rated 2004 Vintage Luncheon followed at the New York Palace prepared by Executive Chef James Staiano, with a selection of 40 wines available for pairing with the delectable menu that consisted of Pappardelle with a Rabbit Ragu; Brunello Braised Short Ribs with Gorgonzola Polenta, Cipollini Onions and Roasted Carrots; and a selection of cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano; Brinata Pecorino 20 day; Blu del Moncenisio; and Taleggio, which was a wonderful way to finish a day of celebrating Brunello di Montalcino Vintage 2004. Salud!
Vino 2009, the first industry convention of Italian wines in America took place in Boston from January 24 - 25, 2009, in New York from January 26 - 28, 2009, and in Miami on January 30, 2009. To learn more about Italian Wines please visit the website: www.ItalianMade.com.
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