Brunello aging curves question

I am by no means very knowledgeable about BdM’s other than to say I enjoy them and own a case or so my wife and I picked up when we stayed in montalcino a few years back. My question is in regard to their usual aging curve/peak drinking windows in relation to their vintage date. Sure, it always depends on producer and specific vintage, but thought I would ask people more knowledgeable than myself. I always understood these types of sangio’s are pretty long aging wines. However, now that WS is “free” this week, I thought I would take a look on what type of windows this mag gave some of the wines I own, and was surprized to see pretty short windows for a lot of wines I own and others I don’t, many of which were viewed in quite a positive light (garnered high scores, etc.). Some would say “drink now to …like 5-10 years past vintage” right after release. I do not subscribe to the various wine mags/publications so can’t attest to what other “pros” give for windows but was kind of surpised as to the shorter windows I saw given. This is especially true considering I often see TN’s here and various other places on some BdM’s 20 years past vintage date that seem quite positive.

So what are the opinions of the big time BdM fans out there? Drink them young? 5 years? 10 years? More?

On a side note, on the WS forums, of which I pop in on now and then and purely lurk, there are 3 or 4 seemingly very knowledgeable BdM fans. A couple of these particapants say they prefer NEVER to decant BdM’s, even though they do not appear hesitant to decant other wines from other regions (i.e. not adverse to decanting). Any thoughts to this?

Classic Brunelli from good vintages will last a LONG time and you should wait at LEAST 10 years from the vintage to get some of what they have to say…

Speaking very generally, Brunello is usually pretty seductive through its whole life span. It’s not a total fail when you open it at the wrong time like Barolo, Bordeaux, Burgundy and other wines can be. I think it’s one of the very positive points for Brunello, though it can also be hard to keep your hands off them to let them age.

The fruit is more prominent and the wines more hedonistic in the earlier years, and the wines get more complex and elegant as they get older. I think the wine publications probably suggest shorter windows than your hardcore Brunello enthusiasts would, because (a) it’s safer, and (b) they probably prefer the more opulent first half of the wine’s life more than the mature latter half.

There are exceptions, of course. I wouldn’t drink Valdicava or Biondi-Santi young, and some of the most modern ones like Poggio Antico and Castello Banfi I wouldn’t age for as long. But most good Brunello from better vintages is good starting within a couple of years from release, and ages comfortably at least to the 15 year mark from the vintage, often much longer.

I’ve heard the comment about decanting Brunello several times, the idea being that the aromatics will be lost. I don’t know that I’ve found Brunello to be any more averse to decanting than other red wines, but then again, it doesn’t usually need extended decanting for the reasons I described above.

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The modernists can be drunk say 5 years after harvest and might peak around 10; the more traditional producers shouldn’t really be approached before 10 and IMO will hit their peaks at 20-25.

sooth words

I have one remaining '99 Sesti I’m holding for about another year

Thanks for the replies. I suspected as much but wanted confirmation from people with more knowledge than I. I did not look to see if all the short windows were given by the same reviewer or muliple reviewers. If by one, somewhat understandable if he likes 'em young, but makes me scratch my head if as a whole, the reviewers at WS ALL like 'em young. Thanks again.

No doubt good Brunello can “last” and “hang together” for a more than a decade, perhaps more than two. However, from the examples I’ve had, what you’re getting is a good, generic aged red wine of savoury character. Brunello in its best examples is a sanguine (Sangiovese… connexion?), raw, voluptuous wine - those characteristics, in my experience, are best defined and in equilibrium at about a decade in the best cases (though for you fanatics, I agree that not in the very best cases). If I want a “Burgundy-like” profile on my red wine I drink Burgundy; Brunello offers up the best of its defining characteristics earlier on. The manic fascination with older is better doesn’t make any sense and is the product of a bygone, misguided era. “Better” is wine that’s in equilibrium (balance plus refined proportion); now, think about what you love most about Brunello, and then think about what that means in terms of the ageing curve… there you go; you can now put some of that working capital towards wines that achieve their greatness later on the temporal curve.

Brunello is famous for what it is like when well aged, otherwise you are better off buying Chianti.

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Couldn’t disagree more with Mark Pach’s post - as Roberto implies, if you actually believe that Brunello is not designed for bottle aging, why would you ever pay the extra bucks when Chianti is designed for earlier gratification at a much cheaper price.

I tried bottles of the 2001 Le Chiuse and 2001 Pertimali a couple of weekends ago, and both are no where near ready for consumption (although second looks two or three days after opening were very promising).

BTW, at least IMO, even Chianti rewards aging - I just had an '88 Monsanto Il Poggio that was great.

There are no hard and fast rules for aging Brunello di Montalcino wines. Much depends upon the vintage and the producer.
Gianfranco Soldera, for example, makes his wines for the very long term, and one of these days I may
open one of his 1996 Intistieti Riservas to see how these are coming along. Gianfranco has made two wines that he
considered to be maturing a bit sooner than his production of other vintages. These were named Pegasos IGT,
the most recent one taking up the entire production from his Case Base vineyard in 2005. The other vineyard, Intistieti,
made up the entire production of 2005 Brunello di Montalcino. Personally I find the 2005 Pegasos an exceptional wine

  • every bit a Burnello di Montalcino, but not Gianfranco’s idea of what he wishes to produce.

Hank [cheers.gif]

My experience is that the brunello aging curve is even more of a J curve than the barolo aging curve… patience is definitely rewarded… I actually get more enjoyment from a barolo teenager than I do a brunello…

I’d certainly say anything from 1990 or earlier should be good to go, although Biondi-Santi Riservas or Solderas will benefit from further aging. I wouldn’t touch Brunellos from '04 or later yet, except maybe for modernist normales like the Casanova di Neri white label. 1995-01 is where the tough decisions have to be made IMO. Of the Tuscan Sangioveses I’ve drunk from those vintages in the last year, my recommendations would be the following, in case anyone can detect any patterns:

Drink now–or never
2001 Bibi Graetz Testamatta IGT

Near peak but could improve
1997 La Togata Brunello Riserva
1995 Castell’in Villa Chianti Riserva
2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello Tenuta Nuova

Open but will benefit from further aging
1998 Biondi-Santi Brunello Riserva
1999 Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo
1999 Fontodi Flaccianello IGT
2001 Fontodi Flaccianello IGT

Just showing a shadow of potential
1999 San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo IGT
2001 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Vigna di Pianrosso Brunello Riserva

Unless you’re looking at something structurally special, the very good examples in the 97-01 range are providing a high level of enjoyment. I certainly haven’t tasted hundreds, but have done my rounds with a few dozen bottlings in Montalcino (and surrounding area) this summer and that’s where I’m at. For example, I thought the B-S Riservas from the eighties were drinking well now, actually; I also thought that the 2001 CdN Tenuta Nuova and Cerretalto were both ready to be enjoyed as well.

Interesting. I agree on the Tenuta Nuova from experience (though I didn’t like it nearly as much as Suckling did) but was assuming I should hold my Cerretaltos from that vintage. B-S Riservas from 82/85/88 should be fantastic now, probably 81 and 83 too.

Wine Spectator is a wide circulation magazine - certainly their print run is greater than the number of people with serious wine cellars. So they lose a big chunk of their audience if they tell you that a wine needs 20 years or more in the cellar.

Thanks for the tip about the free access to the site, btw. I used it to look up some old bitsI had foggy memories of. For example… Look up James Suckling’s tasting notes for the 1995 Lafite-Rothschild and Haut-Brion when they were released in 1998. The drinking windows are, respectively, “Best after 2000” and “Best after 2001.” You tell me if you think two or three years in the cellar for a Bordeaux first growth from a top year is a drinking window that can be taken seriously! That tells you all you need to know.