James Suckling’s “Powerful” 95-Point Brunello
Ever since Pierluigi Talenti bottled his first Brunello in 1981, he’s been revered as a legend in Montalcino. Boasting “powerful depth of fruit and wonderful length,” the 95-point 2012 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino is a top producer’s benchmark offering from the year that James Suckling called “a rockstar vintage.” When we drank it with Riccardo Talenti himself, over dinner at Danny Meyer’s Marta after the Consorzio’s Gotham Hall event in January, well, it’s a good thing we were already sitting. At just $55/bottle this is a wine for collectors, destined to go down as one of the wines of the vintage.
The gorgeous Talenti estate, now guided by Pierluigi’s grandson Riccardo, is perched on a mountaintop overlooking the picturesque Orcia River valley near the medieval Sant’Antimo monastery. Incredibly, the wine is even better than the view. Before planting his vineyards, Pierluigi spent substantial time researching the most suitable Sangiovese clones. The vineyards, planted in clay and marly soils with abundant rocks at 660-1,320 feet, benefit from a valley location that provides just the right amount of cooling. All told, the vines enjoy a microclimate most winemakers can only dream of.
Wine Enthusiast called 2012 “a return to finesse,” with “more consistent quality across the denomination than even the highly acclaimed 2010s.” Here’s why. A cold, wet winter in Montalcino was followed by a hot summer. The steady heat produced tight clusters of small, massively concentrated berries. Recognizing the riches that lay in front of him, Riccardo made the call to harvest early, preserving freshness and acidity in Sangiovese. The result of his meticulous handiwork is a selection that’s as good as it gets — for Brunello, for red wine, for Italian wines, for wine. Period.
If you visit Talenti’s lofty perch, you’ll also witness vineyard care and winemaking elevated to their highest levels. Grapes are harvested by hand to preserve quality, and are de-stemmed and hand-sorted to ensure that only perfect berries go into the wine. They are aged in casks made from Slavonian and Allier oak, imparting just the right amount of influence to structure the wine while allowing the Sangiovese to shine. The wine gets its beauty sleep in oak for 30 months and then rests for another year in bottle before hitting the market.