The Hong Kong summer. Ask anyone who’s spent any length of time here and the words you’re likely to hear will include hot; humid; hot; sweaty; hot; suffocating… not quite the words that imply the ideal climate for a wine tasting focused on the titanic Italian regions of Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, are they? Maybe not…
With vintages as good as the 2011 and 2010 (and the air conditioning turned up to max), it’s not that surprising that so many of our customers were happy to join us for our comparative tasting in the office last month. Interest in Italian wine has been growing at a phenomenal rate over the past few years – driven in no small part by some incredible recent vintages for Barolo and Brunello.
The 2010 Brunello di Montalcino campaign, in particular, has been quite remarkable so far. With unanimous praise and high scores from the major critics, record sales numbers – despite the fact that this has been a vintage slowly maturing in many a tenuta for nearly five years – alongside a fair amount of hype, not even the most optimistic proprietor or merchant could have predicted just how good the wines were going to be.
We were delighted to host a tasting of over 40 different 2010 Brunello and 2011 Barolo – the largest of its kind in Hong Kong to date. Given the recent excitement around the vintage, the 2010 Brunello were the main attraction; but the 2011 Barolo, from a vintage perhaps still under the radar for most, was not overshadowed in the slightest. In fact, most of us were struck by how approachable both of these vintages showed themselves to be despite their relative infancy.
Out of the 40 wines we had on display it was hard to pick a favourite – there were genuinely so many standouts – however if we really had to pick a top three, the following would be hard to beat:
Il Poggione - **94+ points Antonio Galloni**
Il Poggione's 2010 Brunello di Montalcino is a remarkably beautiful wine. Rose petal, mint, cinnamon, sweet dark cherries and smoke lift from the glass in a translucent, wiry Brunello built on energy and power. This is an especially lifted, precise and nuanced Brunello from Il Poggione, with more emphasis on length and mid-weight structure rather than overt volume. In many ways, the 2010 comes across as a modern-day version of the 1982 Riserva. Readers who have tasted that wine know just how special that is. For the money, there is not a single better wine being made in Montalcino than Il Poggione's Brunello. Truth is, it is also better than many far more expensive offerings. There are two Brunellos I would buy confidently in any vintage. This is one of them.
Argiano - **94 points Antonio Galloni**
The 2010 Brunello di Montalcino jumps from the glass with notable energy and precision. Grilled herbs, smoke, tobacco, rose petal and mint are all beautifully delineated in the glass. Distinctly savory and mineral notes add complexity to the expressive, stone-inflected fruit in a chiseled, pulsating Brunello endowed with considerable energy. The tannins need time to soften, but Argiano's 2010 is unquestionably a winner.
Mastrojanni - **97 points Antonio Galloni**
The 2010 Brunello di Montalcino is gorgeous. Vibrant and alive in the glass, the 2010 is impeccable in its balance. Sweet red cherry, plum, smoke, tobacco and Mediterranean herbs are some of the notes that are laced together in a Brunello of exquisite beauty. Rose petal, mint and a host of floral/savory notes develop in the glass. The expansive, broad finish is a thing of beauty. The very best qualities of the year come through loud and clear in a mysterious, seductive Brunello that will provide fabulous drinking over the next 20-30 years. What a fabulous and noble wine the 2010 is.
Vietti Castiglione - **89+ points Antonio Galloni**
The 2011 Barolo Castiglione is an excellent choice for drinking over the next decade or so. Open and resonant in the glass, the 2011 captures all the raciness of the years in its expressive red-toned fruit. Sweet spices, flowers and mint add attractive overtones. Today, the Castiglione appears to be showing some ill effects from its recent bottling, something I am seeing for the first time in the 2011.
Scavino Bric del Fiasc - **93+ points Antonio Galloni**
The flagship 2011 Barolo Bric del Fiasc is the wine that seems to have suffered the most from its recent bottling. The signature mineral/ferrous notes are present, but the wine hasn't fully come together in bottle. At this stage, the 2011 is quite reticent, especially compared to how it showed from tank prior to bottling, but I am not at all concerned given the wine's brilliant track record and this site's history for producing tannic, ageworthy Barolos. Today, though, there is not a lot of vintage 2011 sexiness.
If you are interested in attending our future events, please contact our Hong Kong office, and we would be delighted to keep you up to date with any tastings or dinners we have in the pipeline.