La Fiorita Brunello: Metaphor for Harmony

La Fiorita Brunello: Metaphor for Harmony

la-fiorita-oliveros-cipresso-meAlong with a small group of wine lovers, I joined Natalie Oliveros and Roberto Cipresso in New York for an intimate luncheon and tasting of wines from their La Fiorita winery.

Located in Montalcino, Italy, La Fiorita produces earthy, rich Brunello, the kind that tempts fine wine lovers and Sangiovese geeks alike.

Cipresso, a self-described “wine tailor” interested in putting together different vineyard expressions of Sangiovese, explained that “…Montalcino is a magic mountain…” and that the expression of terroir is that “magic moment” when wine becomes emotion.

la-fiorita-brunello-2007Lunch kicked off with La Fiorita’s Rosato 2013 which was enjoyable and immensely drinkable, setting the right mood for what was to come.

Wines were served in a single flight during lunch, providing a great opportunity to taste each of the wines alone, compare them to one another, and to experience each one paired with wonderful food plates prepared by La Masseria:

La Fiorita’s Brunello 2007 is typical of the vintage with a soft, warm palate, sporting bigger tannins than the 2008, more muted fruit, while the Brunello 2008 set a deeper, darker tone, moody and magnificent (available in California, not yet on East Coast).

la-fiorita-brunello-pouringCipresso’s Brunello 2006 Riserva has gained even more harmony since my last tasting of that wine in 2013. Complex aromatics, mouth filling density, muscular yet supple. A long life ahead of that one. (for more on this particular wine, see my article, link below). The 2004 Riserva, on the other hand, is a more delicate, refined Brunello, ripe and silky tannins, super elegant with the lightness of fine Burgundy. Ethereal.

Cipresso is not so much interested in the macro view of Brunello as in exploring the possibilities of different growing areas. Interestingly, La Fiorita is a couple of vintages behind many peer producers as they prefer to hold their wines longer, meeting mandatory wood aging requirements for the denomination, but keeping the wines for additional aging in bottle – 30 months, in fact, for the Riserva bottling.

la-fiorita-brunello-2006-riservaAs a group, the wines are connected by unifying suites of ripe, fine tannins and an astounding harmony of elements that are at once both interdependent and independent, not unlike melody lines in the musical counterpoint of JS Bach.

A great tasting of La Fiorita Brunello, intelligent, selfless, wines of depth, beauty and structure, that serve to enrich all that we know about Montalcino and Brunello.

You can read more about La Fiorita and the Brunello 2006 Riserva in my related article here.

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

For those of you pursuing an indie do-it-yourself wine education (Really, who else can do it for you?), you might like to take time to explore one of the great and most important grape varietals of Italy’s south, Aglianico.

You’ll probably notice pretty quickly two confounding things about Aglianico: a) that you won’t find it in every wine shop and, b) that when you do, you will likely encounter Aglianico wines from varied regions such as Campania, Sicily, Molise, Puglia, and Basilicata to name a few.

tenuta-del-portale-le-vigne-a-capanno-2009-1All the aforementioned regions produce noteworthy expressions of Aglianico and you must try them eventually. But, do yourself a favor: begin your exploration with Aglianico from Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture to be specific (takes its name from the region’s dormant volcano Monte Vulture), or from Campania’s Taurasi appellation (named for one of the production area communities), as those two expressions of Aglianico generally set the bar for important Aglianico reference points.

Brief geography: Basilicata is that part of the Italian peninsula that forms the ankle on the boot. You can locate that pretty easily. With only slightly more effort, to find the area for Taurasi, zero in on the Province of Avellino in Campania and you’ll have the place (Hey, don’t complain, I did say “brief” geography, remember? It is do-it-yourself, afterall). Separated by just 40 or so miles, the very common denominator relating the del Vulture and Taurasi production zones is the volcanic soil on which they are situated and in which Aglianico seems to thrive.

I can offer a thumbnail sketch of how the Vulture and Taurasi wines compare: well, actually, I hate doing this kind of broad brush thing, because there are always exceptions, but as you force me:

Aglianico del Vulture wines tend to be wines of complexity and detail, with dark and red fruit tones underlined by mineral character (volcanic, right?) and firm, often dusty tannins, while Taurasi – again, generally speaking – is perhaps the more structured of the two, also has the mineral thing going on, a wine that can show incredible depth and a finish that can go on forever. When cellared, Aglianico wines from either del Vulture or Taurasi areas will reward your patience.

Descriptors for wines from either zone could include red cherry, black cherry, plum, violets, smoke, meat, leather, vanilla, cocoa, menthol and tobacco, and no, that is not a definitive list. Foodie’s will appreciate that Aglianico’s naturally high acidity makes it a great food wine (and also balances alcohol levels that can be north of 14%).

Recommended, reasonable price points and pretty good trade distribution as far as I know:

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture
Tenuta Portale Le Vigne a Capanno Aglianico del Vulture
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina

Benvenuto Brunello 2014, New York

Benvenuto Brunello 2014, New York

If, like me, impatience has driven you to pop a Brunello cork prematurely, you may be interested to know that the 2009 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino will require no personal improvement in self-discipline 😉

benvenuto-brunello-2014-2aBrunello wines from the four-star 2009 vintage previewed January 27th at Benvenuto Brunello in New York. I found the wines to be generally open, opulent, with many …dare I say it … ready to drink early.

Accordingly, the vintage should be a great one not only for the restaurant market but also for the private consumer who wants pleasure in the short term from his Brunello spend. For collectors seeking cellaring potential, however, the five-star 2006 and 2007 vintages remain better options.

A seminar and guided tasting segment featuring eight Brunello di Montalcino wines was presented by Gloria Maroti Frazee, of Wine Spectator School. Maroti Frazee, to her credit, took attendees on a rather Socratic tour of Brunello wines and Montalcino terroir, teaching through astute questioning along the way. The seminar-tasting proved a great roadmap to delineate and distinguish differences between Brunello’s north and south growing zones.

At one point during the seminar, speaking of Sangiovese, the grape varietal responsible for Brunello di Montalcino, Maroti Frazee noted that, “Sangiovese whispers, not shouts, of its tipicita.” I so appreciate that statement as it does hint, I think, at one of the true beauties of Brunello, that being Brunello is so subtly reflective of variations in Montalcino’s altitude, soil, and temperature.

benvenuto-brunello-2014-1aOn the main tasting floor, I encountered many wonderfully open, plush Brunello wines from 2009 as well as stellar normale and riserva examples from the ’08, ’07 and ’06 vintages.

Yet, even in that context, it was obvious that Rosso di Montalcino wines from 2011 and 2012 being shown by producers alongside their Brunello entries were drinking spectacularly well, showing outstanding quality. Not to be too surprised, however: as noted during the seminar, approximately 50% of Rosso di Montalcino is produced from reclassified Brunello grapes. Discerning lovers of Sangiovese will do well to keep Rosso di Montalcino wines on their buying radar especially where a solid fix of good Sangiovese is required at times when the wallet is perhaps too thin to endure the pricier Brunello spend.

In summary, the Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines I tasted at Benvenuto Brunello 2014 NYC give continued testimony to the exceptional quality and terroir of Montalcino.

Memorable among the show’s exhibiter producers:
Canalicchio di Sopra
Cappane Ricci
La Fiorita
Le Ragnaie
Palazzo
Tenute Silvio Nardi
Paradisone – Colle degli Angeli
Santa Giulia
Ucelliera

Special shout out to the IEEM team for hosting the event in a space offering a measure of elegance befitting Brunello wines. Gotham Hall was a gorgeous venue for this event!

Related Post, from my 2012 media trip to Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino – A Reflection

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006

Note: La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006 was provided to me as a tasting sample. If interested, see Vintrospective policy about wine samples here.

la-fiorita-brunello-riserva-2006Between the wine world’s opposing forces of trendiness and typicity, there is often too little room left for originality.

But, every so often, good things happen in small spaces 😉

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006 asserts itself with originality and timeless style, a reflection of both yesterday and today.

Begun in 1992, La Fiorita started life as a project between owner Roberto Cipresso and friends. Cipresso carefully selected vineyard locations from land characterized by richness in soil and climate to align with the estate’s production philosophy.

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006 is produced from 100% Sangiovese sourced from the estate’s Pian Bossolino vineyard. The vineyard, established during the second half of the 90’s, is planted at a density of 7K plants per hectare. The wine ages for 12 months in first and second passage French Tonneaux and 12 months in Slavonian oak.

Pian Bossolino
Pian Bossolino
Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A core of ripe berry fruit surrounded by notes of forest floor, leather, anise, eucalyptus, cedar and mint, join forces together in a massively focused nose. Structured, supple and muscular, the wine is utterly harmonious, a masterful demonstration of artistic restraint. The finish is all about the beauty of the wine’s powerful yet smooth tannic suite, dusted with hints of cocoa. Delicious now, this wine is one not to miss in five years from now. Decanted for one hour.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

This Brunello served with grilled, thick Porterhouse steaks was, for me, one of the year’s best pairings. Need I say more?

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