Following on the heels of the classic, firmly structured 2006s, the 2007 vintage in Tuscany’s Montalcino zone produced an altogether more user-friendly style of Brunello: fleshy, generous and ripely tannic, and likely to offer far more early pleasure than is typical of the category.
In fact, the 2007s have intrigued me ever since the local Brunello consortium awarded its highest rating to this vintage in early 2008–this following a similar five-star rating for 2006. After all, 2007 was a growing season that began with a very early flowering and generally remained quite warm through the summer. So I wondered whether the characteristically rich and powerful version of sangiovese produced in the Montalcino zone would be able to retain its ineffable fruity, floral, earthy perfume. Would the wines show the bracing acidity and firm tannic spine that make the best Brunellos one of Italy’s three “Killer Bs,” along with Barolo and Barbaresco?
It turns out that my worries were largely beside the point. Yes, the vintage is fleshier, fruitier, sweeter and less classic (i.e., less austere) than the 2006s, but there are many glorious 2007 Brunellos with compelling sangiovese perfume and terrific depth of flavor. The fruit reached high levels of potential alcohol in ’07 and tannins were generally ripe and supple. Unlike in 2003, there were no prolonged periods of extreme heat during the summer of 2007, and even during the warmer spells temperatures moderated enough at night to protect acidity levels in the grapes, especially during the crucial period leading up to the harvest.
Many ’07s seem accessible already owing to their sweetness of fruit and pliant texture, even if they have the material and balance for at least medium-term aging. The rule of thumb that Brunellos from successful vintages need a decade of aging for their tannins to soften and their various elements to come into harmony does not apply to the majority of the 2007s–so much the better for impatient consumers.
I surveyed my coverage of nearly 200 Brunello di Montalcinos from the current issue of the International Wine Cellar in search of outstanding 2007s (i.e., wines rating 90 points or higher on the IWC’s scoring scale) that can be purchased for roughly $50 or less. Brunello is never inexpensive, but in the standout vintages the better values are worth a splurge.
The example from Collelceto ($44; Montecastelli Selections) leads off with aromas of cherry, smoky minerals and subtle oak spices lifted by a floral perfume. It’s silky and fat without showing any undue weight, like liquid velvet in the mouth. The tannins are fine and the finish vibrant and long.
Another silky-sweet, velvety Brunello with immediate appeal is the Collosorbo ($35-$50; A Bommarito Wines; Frank Johnson Selections). This wine features musky red cherry, currant, tobacco and a whiff of leather on the nose, followed by pliant, mouthfilling flavors of red fruits, spices and flowers. It’s sexy right now thanks to its saline impression of extract, fully ripe tannins and lingering earthy perfume.
A fruity, juicy style of Brunello, the La Colombina ($40; Michael Skurnik Wines) is a perfect example of the essentially gentle 2007 vintage. It offers enticing aromas and flavors of raspberry, tobacco, dried rose and underbrush; a silky, seamless palate feel; and firm but suave tannins.
The Fattoria La Lecciaia Vina Manapetra ($35; Monsieur Touton Selection) may be the best value of all of these selections. Its wild, smoky aromas of raspberry, earth, dried flowers and truffle are already extremely expressive. And with its smooth flavors of plum, redcurrant and underbrush, its fine-grained tannins and enticing lingering sweetness, it already delivers serious drinking pleasure.
The Poggio Nardone’s ($48; Kysela Pere et Fils) slightly liqueur-like aromas of cherry, spices, flowers and meat reminded me of a ripe-year Burgundy. This is a fat, pliant and relatively sweet style of Brunello with very ripe fruit and spice flavors framed by slightly edgy acidity on the back. The plush tannins arrive late, allowing the wine to saturate the palate and expand on the aftertaste.
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona’s Vigna di Pianrosso bottling ($53; Michael Skurnik Wines) is a perennial Brunello star, and the 2007 release is distinctly dark in character, beginning with its aromas and flavors of black cherry, dark raspberry, licorice and graphite. It’s chewy and large-scaled but not heavy, finishing with fine-grained tannins and lingering notes of licorice, dark chocolate and smoky minerality.
Finally, the Voliero (Cortonesi) ($57; a Marc de Grazia Selection; numerous importers) is a few bucks beyond this article’s price range but is such a beauty that I had to include it. Its scented, soil-driven aromas and flavors of red cherry, redcurrant, dried flowers, leather, minerals and tobacco are more than worth the price of admission. This urgent, penetrating, sappy Brunello boasts superb inner-mouth energy in its youth, and its palate-staining floral perfume suggests that it will age slowly and gracefully.