Siro Pacenti Pelagrilli Brunello di Montalcino 2010

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Another vaunted vintage is upon us. The sheer number of declared top vintages for great wine regions in Europe surpasses the wallets of most and plays into North Americans’ love of hype and spectacle. Most of the time such declarations precede large price increases and most such declarations mean a warmer, higher alcohol vintage.

Brunello has succumbed to this sort of hype in 2010. I think this does the region a disservice as it underplays great wines from lesser vintages. On the other hand, Brunello is one of the few remaining great wine regions of the world where the wines remain in the affordable range, especially in so-called off-vintages (help yourself to a bevy of delicious and inexpensive 2008’s languishing on store shelves as we speak).

All that said, so far what I have tasted from 2010 supports its designation as the best vintage since 2004, though classicists should stick carefully to their preferred producers (e.g. Costanti, Poggio di Sotto, G. Brunelli).

To Barrique or Not to Barrique

In contrast to the classicists, Siro Pacenti is a well known modernist who uses barriques. The wines are more extracted and darker in colour than those classicists listed above. His approach is controversial amongst the Brunello cognoscenti and expert Kerin O’Keefe explicitly excludes them from her excellent book on Brunello, lumping them into a quickly disposed-of group of producers in the northern part of Montalcino that still use barrique. In her view, the northern reaches of the zone, with their high altitude and extreme geological variation, are ideal for perfumed, elegant wines that prefer botti. She claims all of the best producers have reverted to Botti after some experimentation with barrique. Pacenti, of course, remains dedicated to the French oak barrel.

In my view, while the 2010 Pelagrilli is definitely darker and more extracted than wines from other producers in the north such as Pertimali, Il Marroneto or Canalicchio di Sopra, the wine also manages a degree of elegance and succeeds at integrating its rich fruit with the barrique such that I do not find the wine over-oaked. But it certainly is not a ‘pretty’ Sangiovese. Its major downside is borderline low acidity, with .5% total acidity and a Ph of 3.5. Combine this with 15% ABV (listed, so perhaps 15.5% actual) and the wine may for some feel a little heavy compared, say, to some more traditional producers such as La Gerla who has total acidity about .6% and Ph closer to 3.4 and alcohol about 1% lower. This may seem small, but it has a significant effect on the wine’s freshness. For my tastes, the Pelagrilli skirts the line just enough to stay on my good side. It helps, too, that the price is very fair.

The estate has been around since the 1970’s and became more serious in the late 1980’s. They are amongst the best (and most highly decorated) modernist, barrique-loving producers in the zone and the 2010 continues that legacy.

Very Good+ to Excellent
~$65 + tax at Kits Wine

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