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
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.