HOME > Chowhound > Wine >

Discussion

help me choose a Brunello!

My husband and I are beginning wine enthusiasts. After a trip to Italy a few years ago, he particularly regretted not buying Brunello di Montalcino to bring home. So, I want to get him a really lovely bottle for a birthday gift, along with some good quality wine glasses. (Hopefully I can get this combination for $200-250?)

I have no idea where to start... how about some suggestions for a wine and glasses. Descriptions are more than welcome!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. Last December, my DH and I spent a delightful afternoon in the tasting room at Castello Banfi, and brought home two bottles of their Brunello. Yum! So smooth, it's like sipping satin. You probably can't go wrong with ANY Brunello!

    1. First, let me qualify my comments by saying I still consider myself more of a beginning wine enthusiast than an expert (though most of my friends would say I've drunk enough that I ought to know a thing or two by now!)

      As for glasses, I do know that Riedel is generally regarded as the "classic." The Vinum series have different shapes intended to enhance the qualities of different varietals, and there is a "brunello" glass - a pair probably runs around $50. That'll help you figure out your wine budget, which gives you lots of room. Even if you're generous and decide to share the wine with a couple of friends, $100 - $150 is plenty to get a good Brunello.

      I also don't profess to be a Brunello expert but can walk you through my basic methodology (other much smarter people than me may be able to recommend specific bottles to hunt for):

      (1) first, focus on vintage - particularly with a more finicky wine like Brunello. You're in luck, 2001 is the current release for Brunello and is pretty universally regarded as a great year. 1997 - 2001 have all been pretty solid if you're able to find back vintages, with 97 - 99 -01 generally held in higher regard than 98 00.

      (2) look for reliable producers - a couple I've had that have been very good are Piccolomini and Ucceliera, but there are lots of others out there that have made great wines in the past several vintages - Altesino, Castello Banfi, Poderina, Sassetti, Siro Pacenti ...

      (3) Most wineries produce both a "regular" bottling and also a "riserva" or other special designation. With your budget you ought to have your choice.

      Enjoy!

      4 Replies
      1. re: Frodnesor

        Ditto all the above and especially focusing on the vintages. Never forget that Brunello is sangiovese which really needs fruit layers to reach it's zenith, otherwise it can be quite harsh... The year makes most of the difference.

        Also, in general decanting really helps this wine.... Lastly you can find great bottles in the $60 - 90 range... If you have a large wine store near you ask when they have their inventory clearances and you can often find them at great bargains. There's a particular chain that I won't mention for selfish reasons that has a fantastic clearance twice a year and the bargains they put on great Italian bottles is frankly amazing, so look for them!

        1. re: Chicago Mike

          It's not Sangiovese exactly...at least not the Sangiovese that's known throughout Tuscany and in Chianti...

          It's a subspecies of Sangiovese called Sangiovese Grosso or Prugnolo Gentile... slightly different in name and with greater differences in flavor and complexity...

          1. re: maria lorraine

            Brunello is the name of the Sangiovese Grosso clone they use in Montalcino. Prugnolo Gentile is used in Vino Nobile de Montepulciano.

            1. re: sharonm

              Brunello (meaning “brownish”), Prugnolo Gentile and Morellino are all local names for the Sangiovese Grosso grape. Brunello in Montalcino, Prugnolo Gentile in Montepulciano, and Morellino in the Maremma.

              Sangiovese has many different clones and strains, and adapts easily to a given environment. The Sangiovese Grosso descriptor was initially used to differentiate
              the Sangiovese of Montalcino, Montelpulciano and the Maremma from that grown
              in the Chianti sub-regions (Sangiovese “Piccolo”).

              Now, the terms grosso and piccolo are falling out of favor, and Castello Banfi, who has led the charge on research on the clonal and genetic differences of Sangiovese, officially says that they grow “Sangiovese for Brunello."

      2. One further thought - given the budget you've suggested you're working with, and your self-description as "beginning wine enthusiasts," consider the possibility of getting 2 bottles and doing a comparison. There are a variety of approaches you could take (if you can find the appropriate wines) -
        - 2 wines from the same producer, different vintages
        - 2 wines from different producers in same vintage
        - a regular bottling and a riserva from the same producer, same vintage

        The opportunity to compare and contrast this way is to me one of the best ways to learn about wine (and to get a better sense of what you like in a wine).

        1. For drinking right now, 1997 Siro Pacenti.

          My favorite wine glasses are the Schott-Zweisel Tritan Divas. For Brunello you could actually use the smaller Cab/Merlot glasses they make, but I would get the larger ones that have like a 24oz capacity... something like that. You'll get muh more good use out of them.

          Or you could get 2 great 2001. If that then the Siro Pacenti and maybe the Sasseti (Pertimali)

          Other producers I like are Uccelliera and Ciacci Piccolomini.

          1. There are almost 200 producers of Brunello according to the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Many variables on style of production as well. Some go for a more modern style using smaller oak barriques and picking slightly riper fruit going for a more lush and good out of the bottle style. Siro Pacenti is one of those with this approach. Then there are others more concerned with structure and potential longevity and in their minds doing thing traditionally accomplishes that better. Larger barrels, earlier picking, higher acidity levels are examples of this perspective. Lisini might go in this category.

            Having said all this here is a list of some that I've tried and liked:
            Siro Pacenti
            Lisini
            Val di Cava
            Collosorbo
            Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona
            Altesino
            Argiano
            La Poderina
            Casanova di Neri
            Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo
            Fanti
            Biondi Santi
            Camigliano
            Il Poggione
            Fattoi
            Sassetti
            Castello Banfi
            Livio Sassetti Pertimali
            Talenti
            Val di Suga
            Le Chiuse

            As far as glasses I find the pricey sommelier-type of glasses to be over the top. They are large and not very functional when it comes to a normal dinner setting. Riedel is the best known and their Vinum series at about $15-$20 a stem are very good. The Schott Zwiesel glasses are a little bit tougher and I like the Fortissimo series. They are between $10-$15 per stem.

            Good luck! Oh, and the 2001 vintage for Brunello is excellent so any choice is going to be pretty good depending on the style.

            Feel free to ask any specific questions. I probably wrote too much...

            4 Replies
            1. re: sebi

              No you didn't. Very informative - thanks!

              1. re: sebi

                i agree that you should look for 97' or 01' vintages for brunello. i just had 01' valdicava which was great and will get better with years of bottle age. cost of this bottle will run you $110+/- and did get 98pts from wine spectator, if that matters.

                1. re: rickym13

                  Ouch! that hurts rickym13. I passed up '01 Valdicava for €40 at the wine shops in Montalcino this spring even though it was on my buy list. I knew it was a mistake at the time, but the other outstanding Brunellos I bought were about €24.

                2. re: sebi

                  Castelgiocondo gets my vote.

                3. IMO and as stated above, Brunello really benefits from decanting. After it opens up, it becomes irresistible. If you don’t already have a decanter, I think there’s room in your budget for one. Glass decanters are very reasonable although not as elegant as crystal, but they don’t contain lead if that matters. I have purchased several 2001s on sebi’s list in the low $40 range in CA. I wonder if serbi’s list is in order of preference?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BN1

                    Trader Joe's has a 2001 Brunello from Trambusti that has gotten decent reviews on Cellar Tracker and Mark Squire's bulletin board - it's only $20. Anyone have any experience with this one?

                    1. re: monkuboy

                      I have tried a Brunello from TJs and it was horrible. It was two years ago...so it wasn't the '01. But I wouldn't count on quality.

                    2. re: BN1

                      Hey BN1, no they were not in order of preference but if someone had a gun to my head I might respond with this:

                      Lisini
                      Collosorbo
                      Siro Pacenti
                      Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona
                      La Poderina
                      Argiano
                      Lambardi
                      Val di Cava
                      Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo
                      Casanova di Neri
                      Altesino

                      As far as food goes, find yourself a excellent prime porterhouse, fire up the real-wood charcoal grill, sear on one side to get nice crust, cook through on indirect heat and open a Brunello. You will see what all of the fuss is about.

                      Oh, and only season with a nice chunky sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Rock 'n' roll!

                    3. Ann...

                      Forgot to mention that a great Brunello is an extremely food-friendly wine. To enjoy this wine to it's maximum you really should serve it decanted, with an appropriate meal!

                      1. Last night I drank a bottle of 1999 La Poderina BdM and it was outstanding. I decanted it for two hours. Of the three vintages mentioned most often (1997, 1999 & 2001), I like 1999 the best -- 1997, while excellent is very new world in style, while 1999 has characteristics of old and new world. 2001 hasn't come into it's own yet.

                        1. Wow... did I come to the right place! Thank you everyone, so much.

                          Yes, I think a set of 4 glasses, a decanter, and 1-2 bottles is a great idea. I'll leave it to the birthday boy if he wants to share or keep it all to himself. I think I will check out a couple of wine shops, as well as probably the super-chain mentioned (are TW the initals, Frodnesor?)

                          Two questions: 1) shall I make this a theme gift and get him a subscription to a wine magazine as well (if so, which one?); 2) are the Schott Zwiesel glasses German made?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: AnnandBailey

                            I was not the one to mention any super-chain. Having said that, my local super-chain, whose acronym might be TW, does have a pretty good choice of 2001 Brunellos though none are at "close-out" prices.

                            1. re: AnnandBailey

                              Yes, I believe the Schott-Zweisels are German.

                            2. Some small producers that I really like are:
                              Talenti
                              Collematoni
                              Collosorbo
                              Collelceto
                              Siro Pacenti
                              1997, and 2001 are definitely vintages to look for. Pricey but will drink beautifully. Schlott (sp?) glassware is very nice. I'm not too fancy with glasses, but I do like Riedel and Spiegelau though it's somewhat delicate. Are you on the east coast?