Prepping For “Montalcino March” with Some Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2011…

Burgundy En-primeur has taken ownership of months January and February, Bordeaux April and May. So the gap in between had to be filled by Montalcino March. This region’s new releases now command more interest with drinkers than almost any other Italian releases including Bolgheri, Barolo and Barbaresco. Their quality, wine style and importantly, release prices, have struck a cord so loud and true that demand continues to grow year on year and demand is now outstripping supply. 


With our own Brunello EP tastings in London just days away, I thought I would start getting into the mood properly with a sexy bottle of last years Gaja Brunello di Montalcino 2011 release. Here’s my Wine Safari verdict…


Tasting Note: The Brunello di Montalcino 2011 is made from a blend of fruit from different vineyard parcels in the north west of Montalcino. The sites have more cooler northerly exposures than those of the Cru vineyards Rennina and Sugarille located further south around the winery, where warmer south and south easterly exposures dominate. The aromatics are dark, broody and spicy with a melange of dried herbs, tobacco, oregano and thyme and an overtone of aniseed root, raisined cherries, blood oranges and vermouth spices. You can taste the slightly cooler, spicier taughtness of the northerly sites which are crisper, fresher and more linear and angular on the palate. There are no over ripe fruit notes despite the 15 Abv, with the crisp fresh acids keeping the palate taught and slightly fours-square. The mid palate fruit is beautifully seductive and silky, spreading out across the palate to leave a long, pithy, graphite laden black cherry and aniseed finish. There is more frame, more angles, more spice than riper southern Montalcino wines. This wine is unashamedly youthful and minerally grippy but also vibrantly fresh. It does not possess the depth and power of the epic 2010, nor the sweet opulent generosity of the 2012, but it’s a thoroughly pleasing wine to swirl and savour. Start drinking in 3 to 5 years time.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the New Release Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2012 with Giovanni Gaja…

There are few regions as close to my heart as Brunello di Montalcino. The opulence, the complexity, the age ability, and the sheer magic that the very best examples reveal to their drinkers. I have always been a massive fan of the Gaja Brunello wines ever since I enjoyed the 1996 at a tasting with Gaia Gaja many years ago at Theo Randall’s restaurant. But Since 2007/8, the wines have really started to reach new heights of quality.


The 2012 vintage marks another change in the production of Gaja Brunello with all the wines being vinified in 500 litre tonneau instead of the usual mix between large barrels, barrique and tonneau. This move, Giovanni insists, will give the wines greater elegance, purity and textural finesse.


2012 was indeed a warmer, dryer vintage producing rich, opulent wines with higher alcohol and massive extract. Hence the decision was taken to christen the new oak tonneau in this vintage and blend all the Cru’s into just one estate wine. So like Gaja’s Barbaresco 2012 which included all three Cru’s, the Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello 2012 is a super cuvee that includes the fruit harvested from Rennina and their excellent five-hectare Cru site of Sugarille with galestro limestone soils and all-southern exposures. Suckling has already called the 2012 Brunello vintage “A Rock Star Vintage”… so expect big, dense, showy wines.


Tasting Note: The 2012 is a dark, dense seductive beast. Richly fruited with a lush, fragrant bouquet, there is a lot to this wine which reveals the profound, complex notes of a warmer, more exotic vintage in Montalcino. The nose offers up black cherry, kirsch liquor, cherry blossom perfume, and vanilla and licorice stick. There is a massive textural concentration and opulence immediately evident. This might be a first date but it’s not a wine shy to reveal all its assets. Vibrant layers of raisined black cherry, cranberry and forest strawberries emerge in a luxurious, opulent, hedonistic expression. But the wine never looses is varietal typicity of cherry stone fruits, licorice, aniseed root, dark damson plum spice and sweet tannins. Along side all the textural palate richness is a vibrant, fresh, cherry acidity that moves in parallel to the rich, harmonious fruit. A very generous wine that finishes broad and long with the most pretty bruleed, aniseed and white toast finish. Drink from release and over 8 to 10 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fine Wine Friday… at Chez Bruce

A thoroughly enjoyable gathering of wine friends today at restaurant Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, London, with a super selection of Autumnal dishes cooked by chef Bruce Poole. 


Fine wine is of course not made to be tasted, but drunk, and preferably enjoyed with great food. Our first course, Tagliatelle with braised duck paired beautifully with an impressive Gaja Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 1986 (94+/100) and a mature but impressive Carretta Barolo Cannubi Riserva Speciale 1971 (93+/100).


The Carretta 1971 showed alluring notes of blood oranges soaked in cognac, with hints of stewed winter fruits, sour plums, orange rind, and barley sugar. Very sweet and plump, the tannins were powdery and the structure seamless and lengthy. Evolved seductive wine showing plenty of tertiary, foresty complexity. 


Next blind pair was very intriguing, matched with venison medallions served with a mini shoulder pasty. Beautiful dish, delicious wines. First up, a Chateau Lynch Bages 1970 Pauillac brought along by Neal Martin. This was a rich, earthy wine with lipstick and leather, black berries, licorice, burnt sugar, sweet meat juices and a slightly rustic grainy elegance. (92/100). 


The second wine of the pairing was another Bordeaux, a Chateau Haut Bailly 1970 Pessac-Leognan. A touch stinky to start, this wine opened up beautifully to reveal classic cedary spice, earthy gravelly forest fruits, bloody irony complexity and precise, linear acids. Very pretty, regal wine. (93+/100). 


Other notable wines on this Fine Wine Friday included a tantalising Francois Mikulski Meursault 1er Cru Genevrieres 2013 (95/100), Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 1995 (92+/100), Bodegas Protos Gran Reserva 1964 Ribera del Duero (89/100) and a Joseph Leitz Riesling Beerenauslese 1997 (91+/100).


Many thanks to the wonderful Chez Bruce staff who helped make the day so enjoyable. 

A once in a lifetime fine wine event…

It was never going to be easy deciding what to write about for my first ever ‘fine wine safari’ blog post, but fortunately, the opportunity to attend one of the most anticipated food and wine celebrations of 2016 presented itself… and the rest as they say is history.

On the 8th and 9th of September 2016, a small select group of UK wine trade buyers, journalists and big hitting private clients were invited to Barbaresco, Italy, to join the iconic producer Angelo Gaja and his family, in celebrating their 20 year long relationship with UK importer Armit Wines. I was privileged enough to be invited on this once in a life time experience.

Here are my highlights…

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My vintage and one of the finest wines of the entire trip.
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A name that resonates in the fine wine world.
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Sitting on the top table next to Angelo. A true honour.
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Nebbiolo. The grape that makes it all possible… here in the Costa Russi vineyard.
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The beautifully photogenic Gaia Gaja.
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Rossana Gaja in the Costa Russi vineyard.
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Sunrise over the hills of Serralunga.
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Giovanni Gaja talking viticulture.
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The infamous Barbera vines that used to be included in the Gaja Cru’s until 2012.
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The famed honey bees above the Costa Russi vineyard.
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The chapel in Barbaresco.
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Dusk over Barbaresco.
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The Gaja cellar… one to be envied.
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The Gala celebration dinner.
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Fantastically long aged whites.
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The epic maiden vintage of Gaja’s Gaia & Rey Chardonnay 1983. Fresh as a daisy!
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Two of the Crus of Gaja, Sori Tilden and Costa Russi, and the Barbaresco 2001.
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Barbaresco 1958. Drinking fine wine history. One of the wines of the night with the 1971.
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The 2013 new release Barbaresco DOP Crus. The dawn of a new era at Gaja.
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Name the mystery fine wine buyer… ??
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Trattoria Antica Torre… a favourite of the Gaja family and winery staff.
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Vitello tonnato… to die for.
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Who doesn’t enjoy a wagon wheel of fresh Parmesan?
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Why open one bottle of 1958 Barbaresco when you can have five?!
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Beautifully pure and fragrant Gaia & Rey Chardonnay grappa to end an historic evening.
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A wine selection to die for. Almost certainly never to be matched or repeated anytime soon! With Angelo’s signature of approval….