An 93pt Olive Branch in Montalcino
Last December, we ran a story about one of the more voluptuous 2007 Brunellos of that unusually warm vintage. Unfortunately, many of you, particularly those in California, never read the story about what Robert Parker's Wine Advocate described as "rich, deep and resonant," packed with dark cherry, and laced with licorice.
The stupendous 2007 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino went off like a rocket ship on that cold Wednesday morning in NYC, and continued to gather speed as the story hit Chicago, St. Louis and Denver. At 12:55 pm EST, minutes before the email was scheduled to go west, we received the call that sent the production team scrambling. Too much had sold too quickly. The importer who had first said that she "had plenty," now realized that "plenty" wasn't close to enough. We pulled the plug just in time. Those who never received the offer for what Parker considered the top under-$40 2007 would never know what they missed.
Most of the time, importers and wineries have short memories. They love it when we move mountains of cases in hours. They send gracious thank you emails after they receive purchase orders with the requisite bank wiring instructions. But when we're short-changed as we were last December, never have we received an apology, much less an olive branch. Until yesterday, when the Argiano importer called to say she hadn't forgotten our disappointment, and had managed to scrape the last 600 bottles of the 2007 Argiano off the Montalcino cellar floor.
The Tuscan Scramble
When we arrived in Montalcino in late 2008, we had plenty of company. The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino had just dropped its highest score on the 2007 vintage. The town was packed and the scramble was on.
A cold, dry winter preceded a gorgeous spring, getting the Sangiovese off to a jackrabbit start. June and July were two of the warmest months on record, thankfully followed by a far milder August. The clusters that were harvested in September 2007 were unusually sweet. Sugars were high, but acids remained intact, casting an unusual New World light on a most silken Tuscan theme.
We were still smarting from missing out on many of the top 2006s, believing the prices were too high -- before the global market snapped up every bottle. This time we were determined not to be shut out. Our wallets were fat and our guns were blazing.
First we eked out small allocations from Costanti, Fuligni and Poggio Antico before turning our attention on what most in town considered to be the bargain of this historic vintage. Drawn from the breezy hillsides of Montalcino, Argiano's vines had managed to shrug off the summer heat. The clusters harvested in September were some of the most physiologically mature of any vintage in this storied estate's history. Despite its understated price tag, Parker's Wine Advocate couldn't hold back.
Deep ruby in color, infused with savory red fruit aromas. After a half hour in an open carafe, the attack deepens, turning even more New World lush and primary, full of raspberry preserves and black cherry. An hour later, the wine becomes more settled -- more Tuscan -- slowly peeling away fine, ripe fruit layers. But it's the cool, high elevation backbone that really sets this one apart, making the 2007 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino one of highest scoring wines of the vintage -- at any price.