MONTALCINO WINE TASTING REPORT

While spending two weeks traveling through Italy, my wife, son and I spent six of our nights in the quaint hill town of Montalcino, a perfect home base to visit some of the very best vineyards in all of Italy while staying within walking distance to some of the most authentic Tuscan dining experiences that can be found. Over this period, we visited six wineries and I tasted 50 Italian wines. We really enjoyed the format for tasting in Italy, which is far different than the “belly-up” tasting bars in Napa, and is actually quite different to the experiences we had in France as well. Our plan was to visit one or two wineries a day maximum, with a day or two reserved for day trips and hanging around in the hill town of Montalcino, as each visit is an intimate,  thorough two hour experience that begins with a complete tour and ends with a tasting of a large amount of wine. I for one found the pace to be quite relaxing, and a huge contrast to what I am used to doing when we visit Napa and Sonoma every year. So, I’ve broken down the six wineries we visited and have tried to provide some commentary about each one’s unique style of winemaking and history. It truly was revealing to visit so many different types of wineries within such a close proximity, so I’ve made an effort to give due credit to each. Spoiler Alert: I pretty much loved every single one of them.

ALTESINO:

We began our winery tour at Altesino, which is reached by taking the third turn off the roundabout in Montalcino and heading north towards Strada del Brunello. Our tour guide Mia, a young Danish woman who had moved to Italy a year ago because she decided she “should have been born an Italian”, was an absolute delight. She walked us through the property overlooking vineyards and olive trees (Below), and then into the sparkling clean fermentation and barrel rooms while giving us an overview of the wine making process at the winery as well as the rules that wineries must adhere to in order to classify their wines as Brunello. We learned that almost all Brunello is aged in large Slavonian oak barrels rather than French oak, which imparts much less oak flavors to the wines and allows the fruit and earth character to shine.

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Mia had informed me over email of the three wines we would be tasting, but ended up offering us double that amount for the same price (€12 per person). The private seated tasting overlooked the vineyards and our son was able to run around the grounds while we tasted. Imagine a similar experience in Napa at that price. It does not exist. In terms of the wine, stylistically these were the most expressive of tobacco flavors of any of the estates we visited. The 2010 Toscana Rosso, a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, (90 Points) begins with red fruit but quickly evolves into tobacco and cigar box notes through its persistent finish. The 2008 Brunello di Montalcino (93 Points) is showing incredibly well for its youth, with intense black fruit and floral notes that lead into  sweet tobacco and leather. The single vineyard 2008 Brunello di Montalcino Montesodi (94) benefits from a bit of a smoother texture and complex elements of chocolate to go along with the signature tobacco note, but probably isn’t worth double the regular Brunello, which appears the better buy. I walked away with two bottles of the Rosso and a bottle of the Brunello.

CIACCI PICCOLOMINI D’ARAGONA

On our second day we ventured out to Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, which can be reached by taking the second turn at the roundabout in Montalcino towards Sant Antimo Abbey. Our tour guide was Nicoletta, and she provided us with information regarding the unique family history of the estate while walking us through the wine-making process and showing us the rooms where all of the many bottles lie as they age and await labeling and shipping (Below). She also gave us some time to visit the pet wolves that the family keeps on the premises, which was a huge highlight for our son.

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Our tasting took place in a private room and included 5 wines as well as an olive oil sampling and a bonus pour of grappa, all for a cost of €14.50 per person. The style of these wines can best be described as toasty and rich. The Rosso di Montalcino 2011 (88 Points), for example, showcases some darker fruit flavors than is typical for that table wine across the region. The highlights, of course, are the Brunello wines. We tasted the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino (91 Points) in the tasting room, and it is a sure winner , showing a silky texture of blackberry and blueberry fruit above dark chocolate, cigar box and a crushed gravel finish. The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino (94 Points) is not offered to taste at the estate, in fact, the bottles you see in the above photo are all that remain of that vintage, which was awared the #9 ranking for the year in 2012 by the Wine Spectator. I was able to secure a bottle to take home to my cellar, and also purchased a half bottle to taste while in Italy. The hype is justified, as this smooth, rich wine practically melts in your mouth with dark fruit flavors of blackberry, black cherry and licorice that gain complexity from briary herbs and cocoa powder, showing a finish that goes on and on. Also of note was the single vineyard Brunello di Montalcino Pianrosso 2007 (92 Points), an earthy, balanced wine that shows cedar and tobacco up front above black cherry, mocha spice and gripping iron and stone mineral notes.

BIONDI SANTI:

Following lunch at Fattoria dei Barbi, we headed for the mecca of Brunello at Biondi Santi’s Tenuta Il Greppo, with its long driveway lined with cypress trees (Below). The history at this estate is staggering, as the Biondi Santi family was responsible for the creation of the 100% Sangiovese wine back in 1888 that we know as Brunello today. The rise to prominence of this wine arguably saved the economy of Montalcino, which was long impoverished following Florence’s conquering of Siena by the Medicis in 1555. I had to wiggle my way into a 4:30 appointment and the winery had made it sound as though they were opening a special spot for me at that time, but in reality I went on the tour with at least a dozen other people–the only non-private tour and tasting during our visit to Tuscany.

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In any case, the tour was highly informative. I was surprised by the small size of the barrel room relative to the wineries we had visited previously. Biondi Santi produces only about 80,000 bottles annually, which was far and away the smallest of the places we toured.

The meticulous production process differs at Biondi Santi, as in contrast to many other producers, they ferment the harvested grapes in concrete vats rather than steel, and then use oak barrels that are over a hundred years old to develop the grapes further, rather than replacing these barrels every decade or so. The result is a very subtle oak presence that really allows the terroir of the vineyard to express itself. Also, since Biondi Santo takes the term “Brunello” very seriously, they will declassify any vintage that they feel is not up to their standards and instead release the wine as a specially bottled Rosso called Fascia. They also tend to barrel age their wines for three a years, a year longer than is required by law.

Not surprisingly, these techniques result in wines that are more rustic, round and balanced on the palate thanks to the extra bottle age, low yields and the very subtle influences of the ancient oak barrels. It would be safe to say that the texture of each of these wines was on another level in terms of weight on the palate than anything else I tasted in Tuscany. The tasting was supposed to include two wines for €15, but our tour guide actually added a 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (94 Points) that was open- a $425 bottle- to the mix!  This was the oldest wine that I tasted on the entire trip, and from a spectacular vintage, so it was really a special treat. The wine was extremely rustic, with fruit dissipating and earth showing, but the texture on the palate was simply amazing, with subtle black cherry and blackberry gaining backbone from the tar, asphalt and mushroom notes that are beginning to show through. The more recent 2007 Brunello di Montalcino (93 Points) also made a strong showing, with an equally impressive texture and a floral red fruit body that leads into complex mineral and tobacco spice. Even the Rosso di Montalcino (89 Points) maintains the typical soft, balanced structure through its vibrant, acidic body, although at $75 a bottle, is a bit overpriced even for one of the best of its style in the region.

0422_BiondiSantiRainbowAbove: A rainbow appears above the fields behind the Biondi-Santi Il Greppo Estate.

POGGIO ANTICO:

On our third day, we headed another direction, taking the first turn out of the roundabout south towards Grosseto. While all the roads in Tuscany are beautiful, this was probably my favorite to drive on. Our friendly tour guide Davide took us on a thorough tour that included every aspect of the wine-making process, and even let our son look inside the empty steel tanks that were undergoing cleaning. We managed to stumble upon the actual labeling process here, and also were allowed to step inside the ancient cellar where the winery’s owner keeps a collection of all the estate’s vintages (Below). I’d sure like to have a tasting in there, wouldn’t you?

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At Poggio Antico, their philosophy is an interesting blend of old school tactics and new innovations. While their traditional Brunello is aged three years in Slavonian oak, the Altero Brunello differentiates itself by spending just two years in French oak, resulting in a completely different flavor profile for the same grapes from the same vineyard. Additionally, for the so-called Super Tuscan Blends of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, the winemaker prefers to ferment and age these grapes separately in French oak, and then combine them together at the end of the process so that they can all develop their own characteristics from the oak on an individual basis. They do all of this while still limiting production to around 100,000 to 120,000 bottles per year, which is on the lower end of the production spectrum.

This was probably my favorite actual tasting, as Davide began pouring huge samples of Brunello all over the spectrum for us to try, including two Riservas, two Alteros, and a Classic Brunello, in addition to the Madre and Lemartine (Below). We shared these since the pours were large (we would have been there all day otherwise, which would have been fine with me, but we had another appointment looming), and the total was €23 for the 7 large pours. Stylistically, these were the most heavily perfumed and complex wines I tasted during this trip, as they were all big, ripe and rich, but powerful expressions of the style. The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (95 Points) is actually the winery’s top scoring wine ever from the Wine Spectator, and it was my very favorite of all the wines that I tried on this trip. Showing a complex balance between heavily perfumed black fruits and rustic, funky earth and mineral notes, all through an elegant texture, this wine has it all, and is impressive for its overall power. It was interesting to taste both the 2006 and 2008 Brunello di Montalcino Altero wines (92 and 91 Points respectively) against the 2006 Brunello di Montalcino (93 Points). The difference between the two was astounding, as the French oak influences are really quite evident on both vintages of the Altero, and while I respect the excitement over this trend and the richness and power it creates in the wine, I am still partial to the more classic style. The 2006 Brunello shows a more nuanced and elegant overall package, with notes of lifted, floral red currants that combine with smoked meat, game and tobacco.

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ARGIANO:

After a wrong turn that took us into the tiny hill town of Sant Angelo en Colle, we found our way back onto the same highway and finally found Argiano. Don’t let the maps trick you, just follow the same main road from Poggio Antico and look for the sign on the right after about 10-15 minutes of driving. I was happy to have found it, because in terms of pure beauty of the entire property, Argiano is second to none. The long road leads up the hill to the enormous grounds, which explode with scenic views and most of all, history. The main villa was built in 1581 by the Pecci family (Below).

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The most impressive aspect of this estate is undoubtedly the underground cellar, which was built around the same time and is still used to age the wines in barrel. You can really feel the age on this place from the smell alone, not to mention the large amount of mold and dirty soil ground that is in stark contrast to many of the modern facilities that we had visited prior. Argiano also has a modern production facility where they age some of their wines, but this underground cellar was a real eye-opener in terms of how valuable the estate considers its history, as using the ancient cellar is certainly not going to win any efficiency awards. It is pretty amazing down there though. I kept saying “this is crazy” to our tour guide because I was in such disbelief that such an ancient cellar was still in use for such a large scale producer. I’m not sure if that got lost in translation or not. (Below).

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Our guide then led us around the property to the two large apartments, complete with a swimming pool, that can be rented out for a very reasonable fee -think €150- on a three night minimum basis. The views from here, like most areas of the estate, are spectacular (Below). I was pleased when she informed me of the wild animals, such as wild boar, that roam in forest below and pose a threat to the estate’s grapes; it made me feel as though I’d been eating fresh local game all week. I couldn’t help but offer, “Well, that’s ironic…the boar enjoy eating your grapes, and I enjoy eating THEM!!!” She gave me a look of horror.

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On to the wines, which for my money were the most terroir driven and balanced of any we tasted, with fruit hiding at the back of the palate. My wife liked these the most, probably because she is a fan of balance and an enemy or ripeness. We tasted five wines each for a cost of 15 Euros per person. The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino (94 Points) is striking, with a remarkably balanced body that shows wet mineral and herbs before any of the black fruit makes an appearance, yet neither component ever dominates the other, as the wine picks up steam through a long, refined finish. The famous Super-Tuscan Solengo 2008 (92 Points), a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, is big and aggressive with its leather, smoke and tobacco notes that hover above black currant fruits, oak and finish with chalky mineral and crushed rocks. Even the bargain priced Non Confunditur 2010 (91 Points), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese, shows similar qualities, with its juicy cassis notes quickly balanced out with cedar, briary herbs and spicy tobacco. Everything from the bottom up, including the intensely perfumed, heavily floral example of a Rosso di Montalcino (2011, 89 Points) is an essay in winemaking technique. I walked away with a bottle of the Non Confunditur and a bottle of the Brunello.

BANFI:

Following the road south past Argiano, you can find Banfi’s Castello Il Borgo, although GPS is a must as the road is not very well labeled. For a small fortune approaching €600 per night, you can stay on the property. Since it is a considerable distance from all of the great dining that Montalcino has to offer, even if you feel like a splurge, it’s probably better to just spend the day there instead. After a long lunch at the fantastic Taverna, we opted to skip the 4 pm tour (offered for free Monday-Friday) and spend the afternoon tasting at the Enoteca, where they sell glasses of pretty much everything the winery produces as well as tasting flights. There is a lovely outdoor seating area where you are free to take your wine to taste, and I did this as the weather was beautiful that day (Below).

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Banfi is essentially the Italian equivalent of Mondavi, as they produce a massive quantity of wine at all ends of the spectrum, from $8 bottles of swill to very expensive high end bottlings that set the standard for their varietal. During my time there, I tasted large samples of three different wines (a bottle of Belnero 2010 at lunch, two different glasses of Brunello 2007 at the Enoteca). The style of these wines was the most intense and dark of all the wines I tasted in Tuscany, coming off with a chewy, rugged edge. With my lunch of wild boar pasta and pancetta, I ordered a bottle of the Toscana Belnero 2010 (92 Points) which may have been the single best value wine of the entire trip. The palate shows remarkable polish for such a young wine, with rich dark plum and black cherry fruit above intense cedary spice that lingers long. It was a fantastic food match. Later, I would try a glass of each of the Brunello di Montalcino 2007 (91 Points) and the Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2007 (92 Points). Both surprised me with their thick, chewy texture of deep black fruit, chocolate and leather notes, with the Poggio Alle Mura showing the slighest bit of extra complexity in terms of depth.

COMPLETE RUNDOWN OF THE TOP WINES I TASTED IN TUSCANY (score ties broken by price):

BRUNELLO RISERVA:

1) Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2004, 95 Points, $180-  Funky and complex, with earthy leather and wet mineral shading the black currant fruit notes. Heavily perfumed yet rustic, with blackberry and black cherry pulsating through a remarkably smooth ad refined texture. This bursts into notes of violet, chocolate, crushed rocks and dried tobacco leaf, filling into a spicy, leathery finish. Lots going on here, and the dark juicy fruit keeps pumping.

2) Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1997, 94 Points, $425- Extremely rustic and rich on the nose with its mushroom earth and asphalt notes above cherry and plum fruit. Seamless texture, with rich black cherry and blackberry fruit flavors leading into complex mushroom earth and asphalt and tar mineral. All in balance, with soft, silky tannins adding length.

3) Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2007, 93 Points, $145- Toasty oak aromas with floral red cherry and plum on the nose. Elegant red currants show a heavily perfumed style, with bright raspberry and cherry elements running over the smooth, creamy texture, lingering with vanilla bean and tobacco spice. Extremely well done, if a bit brighter fruit and less complex than the 2004.

BRUNELLO ANNATA:

1) Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 94 Points, $60- Rich on the nose, with big, beefy black cherry, black licorice and violet notes. Amazingly smooth and silky for its richness, as black cherry and blackberry fruit carry over the melt-in-your-mouth texture, eventually showing even deeper complexities of melted licorice, cocoa powder and briary herbs. Rich, creamy and spicy through the long finish, lingering for minutes with impressive structure.

2) Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 94 Points, $70- Very rustic on the nose, with wet limestone, understated black currants, violet and white chocolate. Clean and elegant on the palate, which starts with herbs and wet stone mineral at the front before evolving into steady layers of black cherry, cocoa and tobacco, which are all in perfect balance and refuse to take center stage in front of one another. So seamless, with a finish that goes on for minutes.

3) Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montesodi 2008, 94 Points, $120- Lovely, elegant nose of chocolate-covered cherries, tobacco and minty mineral. Amazing mouthfeel, super light on the palate yet super intense, bursting with plum and cherry that are taken over by tobacco spice, chocolate and understated soy notes. Long, long finish.

4) Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 93 Points, $65- Balanced aromas of well-water mineral, tobacco and baked red currant fruits. Complex and intense, with juicy plum, black licorice and cherry draped by violety floral notes, sweet tobacco spice, leather and chocolate. Silky and complex through the long finish. Vivid, juicy and spicy, with leather and tobacco really dominating late.

5) Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 2008, 93 Points, $80- Extremely aromatic and perfumed, with juicy flavors of cherry, red licorice, candy sugar and an edge of dried floral potpourri. Smooth, silky and creamy, finishing with understated vanilla bean, spice and stone mineral notes. Extremely elegant and long.

6) Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino 2006, 93 Points, $80- Lifted aromas of red licorice, smoked meat, game and dried flowers. Intense on the palate with juicy red fruit flavors of raspberry and cherry that run over a super silky texture, finishing with crushed rock and gravel, lingering with an enticing note of sweet tobacco spice. Complex smoked meat nuances are engaging throughout. Spectacular.

7) Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino 2008, 93 Points, $95- Vibrant aromas of perfumed black cherry and dark raspberry. Complex and silky on the palate with a streak of smoked bacon fat above the juicy black cherry and dark raspberry fruit. Incredibly elegant and balanced, with a finish that kicks long with spice and mineral lingering.

8) Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 93 Points, $175- Very floral and minerally on the nose, with violet and rustic red fruits. Texture is phenomenal, with bursting floral fruit notes of cherry and raspberry, leading into complex layers of mineral and tobacco spice, lingering long through the smooth finish. Separates itself with texture, smooth as can be.

9) Castliglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2006, 92 Points, $50- Black olive and black currant on the nose. Ripe yet dark, with raisin, plum and blackberry above black olive and mineral earth. Deftly balanced, as hints of powdery chocolate and vanilla bean creep in late, with an element of sweet tobacco spice lingering long with the fruit.

10) Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello di Montalcino Pianrosso 2007, 92 Points, $75- Black cherry, cigar box and wet mineral aromas. There is tobacco and cedar up front, leading into black cherry, mocha spice and a gripping undertone of stone and iron minerality. This really deepens as it evolves, with toasty spice lingering long. Elegant and intense through the finish.

11) Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2007, 92 Points, $80- Intense, dark and deep aromas of leather and black currant, with a trace of minerality. Thick and chewy, with blackberry and dark plum above dark chocolate, leather and cedar earth, gaining notes of black tea and wet limestone. Firm tannic grip with tea notes lingering. A dark version of the style.

12) Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto 2008, 92 Points, $80- Explosive aromas of intensely perfumed cherry, raspberry and eucalyptus. This is very soft and silky on the palate, providing bright, juicy fruit notes of cherry, plum and raspberry backed by subtle tobacco spice. Finishes on a creamy hazelnut note. Lovely stuff.

13) Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Altero 2006, 92 Points, $95- Usage of French Oak is evident in the side-by side with the regular Brunello, with bing cherry and wet mineral aromas. Smooth and ultra-ripe, with strawberry, red cherry, licorice, raspberry pie and some wet mineral notes through the long, creamy finish. Smoother than the 08, as these tannins have softened up already.

14) Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 91 Points, $55- This is very intriguing, with a chewy, leathery texture that leads into rich blackberry and dark raspberry that are backed with notes of cedar, smoked meat and vanilla bean through the long finish. This lingers with a strong note of tobacco. Firm tannins creep in, but there is great structure and promise here.

15) Ciacci Piccolomino d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2008, 91 Points, $60- Lovely aromas, with violet, tobacco and wet stone. Silky body with a fantastic texture of blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors above notes of dark chocolate, cigar box and a long finish of crushed gravel. Lingers long with spicy chocolate and chalky mineral notes.

16) Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 91 Points, $60- Rustic barnyard nose with aromas of tobacco and red currant. Very smooth and textured, with layers of tobacco and oak above the subtle red cherry and baked plum notes.

17) Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 91 Points, $65- Light on the palate with its red cherry, plum and smoked game notes, filling out through the finish with crushed wet rocks and a distinct redness. Firm tannins creep in through the long finish, which carries the fruit with its lively acidity.

18) Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Altero 2008, 91 Points, $95- Bright red fruit and minty mineral on the nose. Complex body with toasty oak running through the red fruit body. Vibrant and acidic red plum and cherry is backed by vanilla from the French Oak, which is persistent through the long finish.

19) Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 90 Points, $55- Marked by red cherry and wet limestone aromas. This is very smooth and juicy, with acidty carrying the plum and cherry fruit over the spicy herbs and wet stone minerality. Finishes with a tannic grip, but the length carries long.

20) Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2007, 90 Points, $65- Distinct red licorice aromas. Medicinal mineral combines with licorice and cherry flavors on the smooth palate, giving way to wet stone and hints of tobacco. The finish shows a firm tannic grip and a dryness that closes off the fruit just a bit.

SUPER-TUSCANS AND BLENDS:

1) Castello Banfi Belnero Toscana 2010, 92 Points, $30- Lovely aromas of perfumed black currants, minty cedar and herbs. The palate shows remarkable polish for such a young wine, with rich dark plum and black cherry fruit above intense cedary spice that lingers long. Rich and spicy through the long finish, which carries with silky, refined tannins.

2) Argiano Solengo Toscana 2008, 92 Points, $75- Huge nose of smoke, leather and tobacco mingles with black currant fruits. Complex, with earthy tobacco spice, cedar and leather above softly understated blackberry and black cherry across a smooth, velvety texture. Finishes with crushed rocks and chalky mineral that showcase the terroir, and lingers long on a creamy oak note.

3) Argiano Non-Confunditur Toscana 2010, 91 Points, $25- Rich aromas of dark plum, herbs, tobacco and cedar. Juicy cassis notes are balanced out with cedar, briary herbs and tobacco that linger with a spicy presence. Very smooth, creamy texture.

4) Altesino Rosso Toscana 2010, 90 Points, $20- Strong aromas of heavily perfumed red fruit and well-water mineral. Fruity and ripe but balanced out nicely with tobacco and cigar box spice. Persistent finish. Lovely balance betweeen its perfumed fruit and spice. Tannins add grip, with tobacco the dominant lingering element.

5) Poggio Antico Madre Toscana 2006, 90 Points, $84- Earthy nose of cracked pepper and forest floor above red currants. Dry mouthfeel with lots of cedary earth, tobacco and briary herbs above intense cracked pepper and dark raspberry and cherry. Finishes with a spicy sandalwood bite and a dry tannic grip.

ROSSO:

1) Argiano Rosso di Montalcino 2011, 89 Points, $25- Very heavily perfumed, with violet shading black cherry and plum notes. Juicy purple fruit, with an intense floral note throughout including violet, lavender and potpourri elements. Some wet mineral influences creep in through the long finish, a lot going on here for a Rosso.

2) Biondi-Santi Rosso di Montalcino 2009, 89 Points, $75- Vibrant, lively acidity of bright cherry, strawberry and medicinal mineral. Very well balanced and finishing with a tobacco note. Age shows as the fruit is in balance with the earth elements.

3) Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2010, 88 Points, $20- Dense and juicy, with ripe black cherry and red licorice flavors at the forefront, showing deeper character of plum and wild raspberry as it deepens. Suave and fruit forward, but not cloying. Lingers enjoyably with a hint of tobacco spice.

4) San Polo Rosso di Montalcino 2010, 88 Points, $25- Minty mineral, red currant aromas. Very bright and minty, with medicinal mineral qualities that supplement the black cherry and raspberry fruit flavors lingering with a hint of tobacco.

5) Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso di Montalcino, 88 Points, $30- Perfumey aromas of black cherry. Plush texture, with bright, juicy black cherry and dark plum fruit backed with subtle cedar, tobacco and crushed rocks. A bit dry through the finish, but this has much darker fruit than a typical Rosso, and a bit more complexity.

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