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Moderately priced Brunello?

I have a minor occasion coming up and I've always wanted to try a Brunello di Montellcino (sp?). They have one from Banfi for $52 at Whole Foods. Is this a good example? Or will I still not know what a good Brunello tastes like? Someone on Chowhound told me a couple of years ago it would "change your life" ;-)

If no to the Banfi, any other recs that might be easy to find? TIA

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  1. Obviously all depends upon the vintage . . .

    However, all things being equal, Castello di Banfi is indeed a good choice for a "beginning" Brunello in the more modern style. In other words, Banfi has taken great care (and expense) to produce a top-quality Brunello, now their flagship wine, and while they may be/are better wines, Banfi seems to be consistently in (arbitrarily, let's say ) the "Top 25." AND it has the great advantage of being relatively easy to find!

    Whether it changes your life or not is a question I cannot answer, of course, but you can always opt to "stick your toe in the water" -- uh, wine -- by first trying (if you haven't already) a "baby Brunello," aka a Rosso di Montalcino.

    1. Had an excellent rosso Sunday night - 2004 Poggiarellino Rosso di Montalcino. It's a directy import by K&L, a wine retailer in the San Francisco area, and only $11. Give it a couple hours to open up and show its breeding. One of the few that earns the title of "baby brunello".

      1. EVERYTHING depends on the vintage. This is Sangiovese... 1997 and 1999 are really the two years to look at right now. Brunello Montalcino is a selective DOC with reasonably uniform quality.

        If you have a choice of an "average" vintner in a great year, or a great vintner in a so-so year, go with your first choice every time. I've had many tastings where Brunello of a great year was the hands down table favorite over an excellent Barolo... at a recent dinner the 1997 Angelini "Val di Suga" was a showstopper... just go with the best 97 or 99 your local store can supply.

        In great years it's a stupendous wine, in lean years quite austere and unremarkable.

        1. Chicago Mike is correct, 1997 and 1999 are great years for Burnellos (or most Italian Red wines in fact). 2001 is alos a good year, but those wines are just not ready to drink yet. However, it is also possible to look for certain producers for Burnello in a range of under $60 (it is real easy to spend more than that) who year in and year out tend to produce good wines. Castello Banfi makes fine Brunello. Castello di Camigliano is another producer that has a good track record. Another to look for is Marchesi de' Frescobaldi. However, if you ever get a chance to drink a really superb Burnello like the 1997 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli or the wonderful 1999 Fanti Brunello di Montalcino you will understand why they say it can be a life altering event.

          3 Replies
          1. re: dinwiddie

            Oops. The Banfi at Whole Foods is a 2000. I suppose I should keep looking.

            1. re: danna

              2000 was not a bad year by any means, but not the best either.

            2. re: dinwiddie

              I found an Altesino, but it's a 1998. $59. Do I want that, or the 2000 Banfi?

              Thanks for your indulgence!

            3. For those of us that just aspire to the $50 and above level of wine consumption, I got a 2000 La Fortuna Brunello in July at K&L Wines for $37. It kinda changed my life: I want more, lots more. This was one of the best tasting bottles of wine I've ever had out of more than I would care to admit. As a yardstick, 2001 Altamura ($24) is the basis to which I compare sangiovese.

              1. This just in... Wine Spectator #1 of 2006

                Casanova di Neri
                Brunello di Montalcino
                Tenuta Nuova 2001
                score 97
                4,830 cases made

                3 Replies
                1. re: zack

                  thank you, sounds perfect...except...does that rating mean for drinking right now? or for holding a few years? I'm eager.

                  1. re: danna

                    Good luck. It will be very difficult to find and it won't be $70 anymore. It can be drunk now, but should age well. The rating means that WS thought that it was the best wine available this year using a combination of factors including quality, availability, price and the "X" factor or excitment.

                    BTW, the 2000 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino is not bad at all and drinking well right now.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      It would be foolish to drink the 2001 now. I bought 3 bottles pre release from premiercru for 30 dollars a bottle! That was before the wine spectator rating. Would that I had bought a magnum or two...
                      When searching for any wine, always check
                      wine-searcher.com. It is an incredible resource.

                2. A good source for Italian wines, including Brunellos, is
                  "Wines 'Til Sold Out"

                  Each day, they post a wine of the day, priced 25-50% below retail. Shipping is usually free on quantities of 3 or more bottles.

                  Two weeks ago, they offered an earlier vintage of Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year, a brunello by Casanova di Neri.

                  Their offerings aren't limited to Italian wines...they have offered American, Australian and other wines in recent weeks.
                  Shipping is prompt...usually receive their shipments in three to five days.

                  1. Trader Joes is selling a Brunello for $19.95. I have not tried it and make no claims to how good (or bad) it might be.

                    As noted above, many wineries in the Montalcino area produce a "Rosso di Montalcino," which is much less expensive and can be very drinkable. You would probably not want to drink a Brunello that is less than 5 or 6 years old, but a Rosso di Montalcino is drinkable upon release and can give you some sense of what Brunello is about.

                    Another option is a good "Vino Nobile di Montepulciano." The village of Montepulciano is about 30 miles east of Montalcino. The 2003 Avignonesi "Vino Nobile di Montepulciano" recently made the Wine Spectator list of the Top 100 Wines of 2006 and sells at a list price of just $22.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: DavidT

                      I second both the idea of a Rosso di Montalcino and a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Both are wonderful and you can find some terrific buys. 1997 was considered the "harvest of the century" in Brunello-land: Montalcino. If you want to try a Brunello, get a year that's ready to drink, and then (more bucks here) buy a Riserva.

                      Brunellos are my favorite of all wines to drink. Good luck and report back.

                      1. Castelgiocondo, Marchesi di Frescobaldi