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Please pick a Brunello

I'm throwing a party and have to choose some wines from a list at restaurant prices. Which of these would you pick from a value standpoint? TIA

Altesino
Brunello di Montalcino
2003
$115

Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona
Brunello di Montalcino
2006
$105

Siro Pacenti
Brunello di Montalcino
2005
$160

Siro Pacenti
Brunello di Montalcino

$180

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  1. They are all too young to drink. However...

    From a purely vintage reputation standpoint, 2006 was better than the other two years. And it's the lowest price. That's looking at vintage alone. BTW, vintage is missing from your last wine listed, but noting the price, I would guess it's either 2006 or 2004.

    From a purley producer standpoint, Siro Pacenti is arguably better than the others. But Altesino wines tend to be enjoyed by many.

    If your party guests aren't big wine geeks, pick the cheapest of the bunch, banking on overall vintage quality. Or go with something lower in price than Brunello.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Brad Ballinger

      thank you. I'm still getting over this incident: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/748254

      I'm not looking for anything earth shattering, It's just that I STILL haven't tasted a good brunello, and I wanted to try again. The last one was , in fact, 2006.

      I'm happy to go w/ the cheapest one, if you think it's likely to be a reasonably good example of the wine. thanks!

      1. re: danna

        These are all too young - they may be too tannic or closed to be enjoyable to drink. If you do decide to drink one now, try to decant or leave open for a long period of time before drinking. Drink with fatty foods.

        Of the three, the 2006 is the best reviewed on Cellar Tracker at this moment. Seems somewhat accessible young - so I'd go for that one.

        1. re: goldangl95

          I'm not convinced that these are too young. These are not the best Brunellos, but those I've tried are big and fruity. I've not had much luck aging that type of wine. I think these wines made to meet the modern rating systems of WS, WE and RP are meant to be consummed young. I love older wines and hunt them down when I'm in Italy, but I drink these young.

        2. re: danna

          I don’t think the cheapest is your best bet. Unless you are used to the more restrained European wine, I agree with Brad that the Altesino is the safest bet. I would consult with the wine manager about why these particular wines are on the menu. You have not identified the particular wines and each house makes more than one Brunello, some good, some not so much. I love Brunello and drink cases of it, but mostly 2001 or earlier and 2004. They are all different but Fanti, Il Poggione and La Fortuna are some of my favorites. Prices have gone crazy on Brunello, so a restaurant is a tough place to taste. I don’t see any bargains on your list.

      2. If it is the “Montosoli”, I had the Altesino in 2009. I liked it, but if I remember correctly, it was a pretty big Brunello. It's not listed in the Gambero Rosso, but it was a 90 pt. wine in the Wine Spectator, which tells you it is a fairly lush example.

        Siro Pacenti is a modern producer. I don't have notes on their Brunello I've tried, but I would guess it is big with ripe fruit like the Rosso I have.

        From research, my guess is that Ciacci Piccolomini d"Aragona is a more traditional producer with more restrained Brunello.

        1. I would like to give one word of warning about Rosso di Montalcino. If you recoil at the price of Brunello, you might be tempted by a Rosso that some describe as a baby Brunello. I have never found that to be the case. Although I have tried many from Valdicava to Siro Pacenti., I have yet to find one I really like. When I step back from Brunello, I like a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano made from the same Sangiovese Grosso grape.

          1. Well, my first response would be "None of the above," followed rapidly by my first question, "Why are you buying Brunello in the first place?"

            My second response would be, "Drop the gun. Grab the Altesino. It is the safest bet of the group," followed by, "Why are you buying a Brunello, again?"

            2 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              Why?

              1. always wanted to try one
              2. 1st attempt failed (see above)
              3. opportunity to buy one w/ OPM
              4. friends to share it with (my husband doesn't drink so I shy away from opening expensive bottles by myself)

              However, these responses have more or less decided me that this is not, in fact, my Brunello opportunity. oh well. thanks to all.

              1. re: danna

                I share your disappointment. Restaurant wine-lists can be so frustrating, so discouraging, and this beyond the basic complaint of price-gouging. Why am I constantly confronted with either heavily marked-up mediocrities, otherwise good wines from horrid vintages presumably dumped on restaurants by distrbutors who can't unload them through other channels, or potentially very fine wines that are far, far too young to be drinkable? It's rampant.

                Goldang referenced Cellartracker in the post bellow, and I hope you're aware of this helpful resource. As you have access to the winelist, you might be able to find a gem. Note that the Ciacci is well liked, does not appear to be in a shut-down phase, but of course is still very, very young. And don't forget Chianti. Though BdM is generally considered superior, it is basically a type of Chianti, essentially the same grape grown within the same larger region and with a similar flavor profile. While some of us think the best examples of each reach the same heights, there is certainly considerably more bad Chianti being made, some of it the very worst plonk. But select carefully, and you can find wines that are very similar and just as compelling as Brunello.

            2. I'm fond of Brunello, but I wouldn't purchase any of those wines for current drinking.

              I don't like Siro Pacenti. New toasty French oak + sangiovese grosso = gross sangiovese. Cross it off your list entirely if you want to get to know Brunello.

              Ciacci and Altesino are both fine producers. 2006 is a far better vintage than the poor 2003 vintage, but is nowhere near ready to drink. It would likely show little beyond chunky tannin and a dark brooding black hole of flavor. 2003 is readier to drink, but it would rank as the worst vintage of the last decade if it weren't for the totally disastrous 2002. That aside, would that 03 still give you an idea of what decent Brunello tastes like? Almost certainly not. You'd be spending $115 for a wine that likely tastes no better than a basic rosso.

              Kyle Phillips, Italian Wine Review writes: "To be frank, 2003 is not a good vintage -- on a scale from 1 to 5 I'd give it 2.5 -- and its timing was especially bad for producers coming off an equally difficult 2002 vintage; had 2002 been better I suspect many would have channeled most of their 2003 wine into Rosso di Montalcino, which would have been a more appropriate place for it. Because even the better Brunello from the 2003 vintage is atypical, lacking (with one or two exceptions) the easy grace and elegance coupled with power that is the hallmark of Brunello. ... I'm sorry to come down hard on a second consecutive vintage, but a person unfamiliar with Brunello who buys a bottle of the 2003 vintage will likely come away with a distorted view of what Brunello is all about, and this is a shame considering that some of the older but still available vintages, for example 1999 and 2001, are developing beautifully."

              3 Replies
              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                Agreed in part. Which is where I find cellartracker useful. While Altesino is one of the more old-schol respected producer of the three, the reviews of the 2003 include statements like "disjointed," "total disappointment at this price point," "rough edges," "underperforming for the price."

                1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                  "New toasty French oak + sangiovese grosso = gross sangiovese."

                  Well said, sir. Well said.

                  1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                    Thanks for the quote from Kyle Phillips. He's such a bright man, and pulls no punches on the inside scoop on all things Italia. I really admire him.