So what does an under-employed, unemployed and semi-retired wine snob do in his spare time?
What else....he goes to wine tastings!
So that's what I found myself doing on a most recent Saturday. Looking for wine establishments willing and able to open a number of different wines hoping to entice me to purchase a couple bottles of grape juice. To be fair, it is ALCOHOLIC grape juice and it can be the "cat's meow." (If you didn't know how old I was, you could make a good guess when I use phrases like that one).
Unfortunately for me, there was little going on this particular Saturday. The closest one around was a good 15 or so miles from my house. Now in the old days, nothing would have stopped me, but being more frugal in my retirement. How I can say that with a straight face when I go out and spend as much as I do on wine, I have no idea. I try and keep things a little closer to home.
As luck would have it, I received an email from a "local" wine shop mentioning they were having a tasting. What I really like about this place is they are not afraid to list the wines they will be pouring. That makes the decision to go or not much easier. If I don't see anything I'm interested in, I just opt out. But on this particular occasion, one of the wines they were going to be pouring happened to be a favorite of mine. I have a couple different ones from this Italian winery, but of an older vintage, and one that was almost perfect. Not having had this new vintage, I was intrigued. Actually, it was enough for me to jump in my car and saunter on down to the shop, with the sole purpose on tasting ONE wine. BUT WHAT A WINE!
Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino 2012
This is the one commonly referred to as their "White Label." They have another named Tenuta Nuova or new property. Not quite a single vineyard, but definitely on the same level. The 2010 scored a perfect 100 from Wine Advocate!
What about the White Label? For 2012, Wine Spectator rated it 95 Points and 94 for the 2010. Not too bad.
I arrive and am greeted by the store manager, who knows me well enough, and I explain that I am here to try only one wine. I ended up trying two due to the fact that I had been to breakfast earlier in the day and had French Toast with maple syrup. I didn't realize how long maple syrup would linger in my mouth. So I pick one and knock that one back, swish it around my mouth to "cleanse" my palate and then ask for the Brunello.
To set the stage (I know I've already done a great deal of that) there a few things that one should know about Italian wines and Brunellos in particular. Located in the Tuscany region of Italy, Brunello di Montalcino in 1980 became the first Italian wine region to be awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation. The wines can only be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and while there are minimum aging requirements, both in oak and bottle, most producers exceed the minimum to help produce this noble wine. In fact, this wine sees 43 months in oak, far exceeding the 2 year requirement.
Never had a Brunello? Like the wines of Barolo, these legendary wines may come across a little, dare I say, harsh. When young their acidity and tannins tend to dominate the palate. Not that they can't be enjoyed young, they just will need a good decant time and a hearty meal to help offset those qualities. Best enjoyed after a good 5 years or more, the wines will become more harmonious and show it's true potential. In youth, the wine shows deep dried fruit flavors alongside some earthier notes of leather and spice. One other side note, don't expect a deep dark opaque wine. Sangiovese is a thin-skinned grape and as such produces a more translucent wine. The body of the wine coming from the substantial aging in oak.
What's my verdict?
I do like the wine and I feel that given time, this wine will evolve into something great. For those wishing to try and drink sooner, as I mentioned, open that puppy up and give it 3 to 4 hours of proper decanting time. At a price around $60, you will want to get your money's worth.