“It was the vintage of 1990 that made the world discover Brunello di Montalcino,” says Francesco Marone Cinzano.
We meet at the family’s beautiful estate one evening in February. The family has invited a handful of journalists from all over the world to a vertical tasting of Brunello di Montalcino from 2015 back to 1980.
I always get butterflies in my stomach when I go to Montalcino. Although I have been there a hundred times over the years. But there is always something new to learn, something new to discover among the talented winemakers and of course a lot of good wines to try.
And the beauty! It is so beautiful that you almost lose your breath as you drive up the winding road to the medieval village of Montalcino, which at 567 meters altitude. If you turn around and look north you have one of the most beautiful valleys behind, Val d´Orcia. It is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage.
The rolling hills with fields of different colours extend towards the horizon. A little here and there you can see the picturesque stone houses that are one with nature. The stately cypress trees stand in long rows. It is a view that is impossible to tire of.
If you then drive on and leave Montalcino’s impressive medieval defence fort behind you and go south, the view changes. But not for the worse. Olive-covered hills, neat vineyards and well-groomed olive trees line the road and to the west, the extinguished volcano Monte Amiata protects from cold winds with its broad shoulders.
Col d´Orcia is one of Montalcino’s biggest vineyards with its over five hundred hectares. It has been run by the Marone Cinzano family since 1973. The farm is located south of Montalcino and gets its name from the River Orcia, which is the southwestern border of the wine region.
The southern part of Montalcino is warmer than the north. Here it is more sand than clay in the soil, the altitude is lower and you have a constant wind from the sea, which is only a few tens of kilometres away. The wines are made from 100 per cent sangiovese. Those from the southern part of Montalcino are fuller, less tannic and have a little lower acidity than those from the northern part.
The Marone Cinzano family are no newcomers to the industry; on the contrary, based in Turin, over the centuries they have devoted themselves to both wine and vermouth production. With great success should be added.
Today it is Count Francesco Marone Cinzano who runs the winery and recently his son Santiago, who is 25 years old, has joined the family business.
“I wanted to be an enologist, but dad said it’s easy to make wine but it’s hard to sell, so I’ve studied economics,” Santiago says, laughing.
They have been working organically since 2010 and in addition to wine production, they also have other crops that seem to thrive in the large vegetable patch. They also grow tobacco and wheat and they produce olive oil and honey.
“Soon we will launch our own pasta and we will also start making beer,” says Santiago, adding “my older brother, who is an astrophysicist, loves beer. That’s why we decided to go into that world as well.” One thing that is certain is that the quality will be high, just like the estate’s wines.
Vertical testing Brunello di Montalcino 1980-2015
Brunello di Montalcino 2015
Elegant, well-made and balance are the key words. Ripe fruit, cherries and light tones of leather, elegant tannins, just enough acidity with an equally elegant finish.
Rosso di Montalcino 2010
This wine shows the quality and how affordable the producer’s second wine is. A 2010 Rosso di Montalcino that performs at least as well as its older brothers, albeit slightly lighter in texture and intensity.
Herb tones with vitality, wild mint, slightly earthy tones, blue plums, high fresh acidity, plenty of tannins but they are elegant. A long, medium-intensive finish.
Brunello di Montalcino 2010
One of the wine region’s best vintages ever and it turns shows clearly in the glass. You can continue to age the wine which is still full of life but it is also fantastic to drink now.
Complex aromas of plums, ripe cherries, liquorice, earthy tones, dried mushrooms, high acidity, elegant but distinctly high tannins, long-term, medium-bodied. Has a long life ahead of it.
Brunello di Montalcino 2000
A wine that has reached its limit. Delicious, mature and juicy but nothing to keep in the cellar longer than this.
Developed tones of coffee, leather, cocoa beans, dried plums, well-integrated silky tannins but which have reached the end of their lives, medium length.
Brunello di Montalcino, Poggio al Vento Riserva 1990
Poggio al Vento is the absolute top wine of the winery and is rarely something that disappoints. 1990 is the vintage that made Brunello di Montalcino a well-known name outside Italy’s borders. It’s easy to understand why.
Delicious scents of coffee, balsamic tones, ripe cherries, soy, mint, leather, dried fruit, dried plums, walnuts, high and lively tannins, still nicely preserved fruit and a long intense finish.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1990
Here, too, a wine that still fills the bill. Complex tones of leather, black pepper, dried plums, hazelnuts, black tea, balsamic vinegar, ripe sweet cherries, white pepper, high acidity, ripe tannins and medium length.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1980
Many people say that 40 is the new 30. If that’s so, this is a good illustration. It is a mature wine that is ready to drink now but has been doing just fine through the decades. Tannins are still there, but are very mature. A juicy, smooth wine with developed tones of tobacco, dried mushrooms, tight high acidity and some volatile acidity that does not yet disturb, long delicate finish.
Åsa Johansson is BKWine’s person in Italy. She lives in Florence since the early ’00s. Asa writes regularly on wine and food in Swedish and Italian publications as well as online.
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