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2009 Brunello di Montalcino: Enjoy Soon

My tasting of the 2009 vintage revealed that it was another challenging year in Montalcino, and the main problem was weather. Scorching summer temperatures and a lack of rain dominated crucial phases of the growing season. As a result, most wines are prematurely evolved, and while this made the best wines enjoyable now, many 09s deliver sensations of cooked fruit, evident alcohol, low acidity and fleeting tannins. Others have more acidity but dried up fruit and aggressive, astringent tannins. And there were many styles in between, ranging from soft and sexy to lean and mean. However, the one trait that distinguished almost all the 2009s was a lack of age-worthy structure, highly unusual for a wine that upon release is famous for racy acidity and bracing tannins that need years to tame.

The best 09s are all about finesse and balance and are going to be superb over the next few years. Their precocious accessibility makes them ideal on restaurant lists. However, those 09s that are forcefully tannic but already lack fruit richness aren’t going to get any better over time. Vineyard location was crucial during 2009, and fuels the raging debate over officially zoning Montalcino. “Our older vineyards in the north, where it’s cooler, performed better in 2009, while our younger vineyards in the warmer southern areas suffered more,” confirms Guido Orzalesi, estate manager at Altesino. “Our 2009 is extremely elegant and ready to be enjoyed.”

A number of the 09s presented a light garnet color and some showed brick edges (it was actually the first large tasting of young Brunellos that didn’t leave my teeth temporarily stained dark purple); further proof they’re evolving quickly. This is a far cry from the many black and inky Brunellos commonly seen before the 2008 grape-blending scandal rocked the denomination, and one can only wonder, then, if some producers also struggled to come to terms with working exclusively with Sangiovese (the only grape officially allowed in Brunello), especially during the challenging conditions in 2009.

Overall, the 2008 Riservas were underwhelming, due in great part to the variable quality of the vintage, which can be broken into two categories: underripe and overripe, depending on when a producer picked before heavy rains marred the harvest period.

Check out my reviews and scores by inputing Brunello 2009 in the search box in the ITALIAN WINE REVIEWS section.

For articles on other vintages click here: Brunello vintage report

Last modified: January 1, 2024