The War on Terroir: A New Benchmark for Brunellos

Valerie Bilgri and Ben Hammer of DC's VBH Wines.

Valerie Bilgri and Ben Hammer of DC’s VBH Wines.

We invited Ben Hammer and Valerie Bilgri, passionate wine drinkers and foodies, to contribute this guest post on how to think about wine choices. Ben and Valerie are the cofounders of VBH Wines in Washington, D.C. They offer personalized wine consulting, tastings, and events, and introduce small-lot wineries to new consumers. 


 

By Valerie Bilgri and Ben Hammer

Looking for a wine that’s drinkable now and will be even better if stored properly for several years? Look no further than the crop of 2010 Brunellos that have just come to market.

“This is the new benchmark for Brunello. It’s the vintage of a lifetime,” says Jared Prager, a Culinary Institute of America grad, and manager of Bell Wines in the Dupont Circle area of D.C.

Brunello di Montalcino is one of Tuscany’s classic wines, along with famous cohorts Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti.  Brunellos are made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown on the slopes around Montalcino, a Tuscan hilltop village 20 miles south of Siena.

Weather-wise, 2010 was described as a near-perfect for growing conditions.  Now, after the required five-year aging period, the vintage is finally hitting the market.  Industry experts are describing the 2010 Brunellos as full of more character and finesse than in years past.  Brunellos characteristically are known for their dark fruit, tannic, and earthy characteristics. All are still present in the 2010s, but with added layerings of spice and aromatic characters.

Jared Prager, manager of Bell Wine & Spirits in DC, and Ben Hammer of VBH Wines, review some of the 2010 Brunellos that have just become available.

Jared Prager, manager of Bell Wine & Spirits in DC, and Ben Hammer of VBH Wines, review some of the 2010 Brunellos that have just become available.

Brunellos are terrific for aging, and most of the new releases are recommended for cellaring at least a few years before popping the cork.  That said, many of the 2010s are quite open and drinkable even now, eliminating the anticipatory wait to see if the vintage lives up to its reputation.

Here are a few recommendations:

 

2010 Argiano – Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – James Suckling from Wine Spectator rates the Argiano 98 points, describing it as a “powerfully structured wine with fabulous grilled-meat, granite, dried-berry and flower-petal character. Full-bodied, chewy and intense. Great structure. Extremely long and intense. Sexy austerity.”

2010 Fossacolle – Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – Wine Advocate rates the Fossacolle 93 points, noting that the wine is “bursting” with dark fruit but also displays good aging potential.  Will be even better in five years.

2010 Valdicava – Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – James Suckling awards this Valdicava 99 points, with the promise of a bright future:  “Absolutely stunning aromas of nectarine, orange peel, sweet black cherry, plum, flower, licorice and mushroom. Full body with layers of ultra-fine tannins and hints of tangy acidity. Such beautiful length and beauty to this wine. It’s powerful and structured but shows a gorgeous finesse and length. Truly wondrous. So long and refined. The texture is phenomenal. Better in 2016.”