Truly great Sangiovese is exceptionally rare for the potential of the grape. It should produce a wine of elegance, aromatics, and mid-weight purity. It should embrace its acidity. It should offer vibrant aromas of herbs, leather, and red fruit with a tangy bitterness like no other. There should be no or virtually no imprint of oak.
My list of Brunello producers in this group: Soldera, Biondi-Santi, Il Marroneto, Conti Costanti, L’Aietta, Pian dell’ Orino, Salvioni, Poggio di Sotto (until its recent sale), and now, Stella di Compalto. This last producer has recently catapulted into the upper-echelon for her distinctively elegant, purists Sangiovese.
Compalto’s vineyards are located in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, which is a more southerly and warmer region of Brunello. Her traditional winemaking style and biodynamic viticulture on land that has never seen chemicals gives rise to a wine that disproves some naysayer theories that southern Brunello is inferior to the north. Of course, there are plenty who would attack such simplification, pointing to the likes of Mastrojanni or Poggio di Sotto to prove the extreme quality of Castelnuovo. Stella di Compalto, however, is in a class of her own with the recent sale of Poggio di Sotto (following the retirement of genius Pierro Palmucci, and attendant price gouging and decrease in quality). Compalto is young and, given her quality trajectory, in my view could become as legendary as the likes of Biondi Santi.
Compalto’s wines have progressed significantly over the past several years. An early taste of her 2007s, 2008s, and 2009s showed me significant promise, but her recent batch of Brunellos and Rossos have completely blown me away.
Her 2013 Rosso di Montalcino drinks like a Brunello, but is slightly more forward. Its richness is well balanced with a core of acidity and minerality. I would choose this over many Brunellos.
The stars of Compalto’s lineup, however, are her Riserva bottlings. The 2011 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva shows a master at work in a comparatively challenging, warm, vintage that turned many producer’s Brunellos soft and oxidative, without ageing potential. Stella di Compalto harvested the power of the vintage but maintained an incredible floral aromatic sensibility with, once again, a ripping core of acidity that balances the wine’s forward power.
These are wines for lovers of purist, traditional Sangiovese and are sure to become allocated cult wines in time.
$86.86 + tax at Marquis Wine Cellars
2011 Brunello Riserva:
$148 + tax at Marquis Wine Cellars