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Brunello di Montalcino: 2010 and 2011 Riserva preview

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FINE+RARE buyer Jessica Bryans shares her guide to buying and tasting the upcoming 2011 and 2010 Riserva releases from Brunello di Montalcino

I’ve got Brunello on the brain. Among the many fantastic insights from my recent Tuscany wine tour – from touring the vines with Gianfranco Soldera to tasting Chianti Classico at Felsina – a feeling of excitement about the future of Brunello has stuck with me.

With the much-touted 2010 Riserva set for release in January and the 2011s hot on its heels in the spring, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about this appellation. My tour of Tuscany gave me the chance to try some of the 2011 Brunello while revelling in the spectacular 2010 Riserva. Here's what I found:

Brunello di Montalcino 2010 Riserva

Most wineries will release their Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 at the beginning of 2016. As this is already rumoured to be some of the best Brunello to ever exist, chances are there will be quite a buzz surrounding the release. However, the Riserva is not the only way to get your hands on 2010 Brunello – a sizeable volume of “standard” 2010 remains on the market from more under-the-radar producers.

If you are contemplating purchasing Riserva or standard 2010 Brunello, there are five key differences to consider. Firstly, Riserva is only made in great vintages. Secondly, Riserva represents a producer’s top offering either pre-determined by the best vineyard sites or by the best barrel(s) after the wine has aged for a period of time. Thirdly, Riserva is aged for a minimum of six years (compared to the five-year requirement of basic Brunello). Also, generally, Riserva production is much smaller. And finally, the cost of Riserva is generally 20-30% more.

2010 Riserva – ones to watch

I've been fortunate enough to taste a handful of Riserva 2010 from some of my favourite producers. My favourites include Poggio di Sotto, Gianni Brunelli Le Chiuse di Sotto, Biondi Santi and Canalicchio di Sopra. These will be wines to look out for when they are released early next year.

It should be noted that since production is so small and the buzz around the 2010 Riservas is growing day by day, many of these wines are being tied to the purchase of 2011 Brunello (to be released a few months later in spring 2016).

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Carlo Ferrini’s Sangiovese vineyards

Brunello di Montalcino 2011 – tough times lead to clever methods

While Mother Nature was more generous to Montalcino in 2010, it feels like the vintage was a turning point for Brunello. The bar is now higher than ever and the 2011s show that, despite a tough vintage, standards are staying resolutely high.

No producer is disputing that 2011 was a tough growing season compared to 2010. The season began with an early bud-break and summer was relatively cool up until a heat spike in mid-August. Unfortunately, the spike lasted a few weeks with very little temperature difference between day and night. The result being a lot of over-ripe or even burnt fruit.

Surprisingly good: the fruit of Brunello di Montalcino 2011

The good news is that Brunello producers have shown major developments in their experience and philosophy (quality over quantity) and through meticulous berry selection many producers have ended up with very good wine in 2011.

Hallmarks of the vintage are ripe and juicy fruit and soft tannins. This is the Brunello vintage to drink while you wait patiently for your 2010s to age. Brunello collectors should be selective when purchasing this vintage.

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