2010 Brunellos Make Their Case

by Chuck Hayward

Each year, it seems a vintage and a growing region combine to become the wine on the lips of everyone who loves the fermented grape. Recently, it was 2007 Napa cabernets or 2009 Bordeauxs. They are examples of a wine of the moment that everyone must taste and collect. itself into a state of heightened publicity among wine consumers and the trade. In the early part of this year, it was the Brunello di Montalcinos from the 2010 vintage that captured everyone’s attention and the wines have still retained a sense of excitement as fall weather starts to appear.

It wasn't that long ago that another vintage of Brunellos had captured considerable attention. The wines from 2006 were best sellers when they entered the market in 2011 thanks to the quality of the vintage and a wide array of high scores from critics like James Suckling and Antonio Galloni. Now the 2010s arrive to a market that has not seen such quality in almost half a decade. Coupled with the excitement of the wines themselves is the fact that the 2010s are very well priced thanks to a strong dollar. This has led the 2010 Brunellos to become one of JJ Buckley's top selling wine categories of the year.


How Brunello is Comes to Market

The DOCG requirements for Brunello di Montalcino frame the way the wines are promoted and sold. The finished wines cannot be sold until they are five years of age (six years in the case of riserva cuvees). Consequently, in the years before their release, only a few members of the trade get a chance to taste the wines as they mature. Consequently, the vintage is defined more by hype and conjecture then by tasting the finished product.

The frenzy really begins at the end of February each year. That's when the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino holds their annual Benvenuto Brunello tasting giving the press and trade the first chance to sample the finished wine. An event that usually left a limited impact on the global wine scene has now become a required stop for anyone with a serious interest in Italian wines. Critics and journalists rush to assign scores and publish their pronouncements on the latest releases and the sales cycle begins. And when the hype is strong, as was the case for the 2010 vintage with plenty of scores in the high nineties to go alongside a number of perfect ratings, it becomes hard to keep up with the demand.

Nevertheless, the initial sales of 2010 Brunellos were based largely on what was said by those lucky enough to have tasted the wines in Italy. In a very smart move, the Brunello Consorzio has recently taken their vintage introduction tasting on the road with producers visiting major markets around the world. So when the tour ended up in San Francisco, JJ Buckley’s staff had an opportunity to wade through a packed tasting to sample through a selected range of 2010s and we all agreed that the new wines were very impressive.

What impressed us was the impeccable sense of balance and harmony that could be found in all the wines. Much like the style found in Bordeauxs from the same year, these are wines of complexity, not power. The fruit has a sense of freshness with acidity that is integrated into the palate. It was also evident that the diversity of wine styles showed clearly as well. Whether showcasing a modern approach to winemaking found in wines like Banfi or a more classic style seen in the staff's favorite cuvees from Le Ragnaie, Brunello enthusiasts will find excellent examples of the styles they prefer.


The Wines Have Landed

Six months later, many of the 2010 Brunellos that we could only read about have arrived to our shores. Now that they have had a chance to settle in, they are tasting even better than in the past. The hallmark sense of balance is there but the wines have gained richness and texture. The initially subtle footprint of tannins have gained intensity as well leaving a classic line of firmness on the finish. Now that the latent power and intensity of the vintage is becoming apparent, it's also clear that the 2010s will provide exquisite drinking over the next 20 years.

Given the strong sales for the best wines before they arrived, finding many of these bottlings will be even harder now that everyone has had the chance to taste them. As consumers traditionally begin to fill their cellars in the fall, the demand for 2010s are expected to swell even further. Our advice is to act quickly to secure your favorite wines because unlike many "wines of the moment," the 2010 Brunellos are the real deal.


A Few Favorite 2010 Brunellos from JJ Buckley

2010 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino

2010 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino

2010 La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino

2010 Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino

2010 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino