There is, understandably, a cult for the great traditionalists across the storied regions of Europe. Such wines tend to express terroir more consistently and transparently. Brunello di Montalcino is a hit and miss story for many sommeliers and wine buyers, who can just as easily lambast a rich, modernist Brunello as adulate an ethereal wine like Soldera. While my preference too lies with transparency and the apex of the soft-touch approach, I also believe modernist Brunello can be delicious and can age very well.
My two examples for today are both squarely in the very modern camp, with new oak, and a more opulent style. I had both this year, at 15 years of age. They are not my most prized bottles of Sangiovese, but both over-delivered for both price and reputation.
Both wines offered a lot of umami and more acidity than you may expect. The oak has fully integrated and these wines have a savory, herbal quality that is distinctly Italian. They were fantastic with and without food, and in fact were some of the best red wines I have had this year so far.
Luce della Vita’s Brunello di Montalcino 2004 is designed to be clean and spiced: fermenation in stainless steel and ageing in a split of Slavonian Botti and French Barrique. When young it is less distinct, but aged it is an outstanding bottle, with tobacco leaf, tomato, red fruits, umami, and a supple texture. Excellent+. About $300 if purchased today, though on release it was under $100.
Cassanova di Neri Tenuta Nuovo 2004: another modernist wine with ageing in French oak Tonneaux, from grapes grown on sandy soils. As such, this is fruity and forward, though the age has mellowed the intensity of the wine, offering, again, more umami, herbs, and savory notes. This is less balanced than the Luce, but with the proper cellaring in my personal cellar and served at the right temperature I did not get any of the pruney notes experienced by others (see cellartracker). Excellent to Excellent+. About $150 today.