Brunello di Montalcino can be sublime. For many people it is sangioveses best expression – more powerful and with more of character than the wines from neighbouring Chianti to the north.
But Brunello can also be a bit of a disapointment. All too often the wines are too oxidized, too tannic and too dry for their own good and lacking the fruit intensity to match the tannins. The wines of the past also needed ages of cellaring – but it was also those same wines that built up the reputation of Brunello as a vin de gard that could match some of the worlds greatest wines.
The interest in Brunello has been massive the last decade or so. But you need only to turn the clock back to 1980, the year of DOCG nomination, and there were few vino aficionados outside Italy had heard of or tasted any of the wines. In fact – Brunello used to be one of the poorest wine regions i Tuscany!
The DOCG certainly ended that. American winelovers were quick to take the district to their hearts and that interest had a sky-rocketing effect on the prices. But all is not good. In 2008 a scandal hit Brunello. The scandal is known variously as Brunelloppoli in Italy and is usually referred to as Brunellogate in english speaking countries. It involved high profile winerys and producers who were accused of sweetening the sangiovese juice with international varietys. All in the aim to make Brunello wines more accessible for modern winelovers.
Happily it all ended with a vote among the producers on if they should change the DOCG-rules to allow for international varietys as cabernet, merlot and syrah. But a clear majority voted for the rules to stay unchanged – and only 4 percent wanted a modernization.
Personally I couldn’t be happier with that result. The producers in Brunello already got the means and oppurtunity to make blend of sangiovese and international varietys and label the wines as IGT Tuscany/Toscana. They do not need to do those wines under the Brunello denomination. They can, and should, continue to do outstanding sangiovese wines that are a true expression of their origin and terroir!
Poggio San Polo was to my knowledge never implicated in Brunellogate. The winery has produced outstandig sangiovese for some time and has gone from strength to strength since the 1997 vintage (a vintage that for me epitomizes and is the true beginning of modern Italian winemaking). As late as 2007 it was bought by Veneto-veterans Allegrini (who also invested in Poggio al Tesoro in Bolgheri).
I bought a couple of bottles of Poggio San Polo 2001 a few years back and this past weekend i opened the last one – and it was gorgeous.
The grapes are sourced from San Polo and Menteluc in Montalcino. The malolactic fermentation takes place in french barriques and the wine get a total of 24 months on oak. After that it is aged another 6 months in bottle.
The colour – dark ruby. Still a bit closed on the nose with hints of cocoa powder, dried fruits, game and dark cherries. The taste is still powerful, medium bodied, velvety and concentrated. Loads of dark cherries, cocoa-chocolate, game an herbs (rosemary and thyme). Good acidity and still quite firm tannins that are enveloped by soft and delicious fruit. Drink now or age for another 3-5 years. 4,5/5 points!