Category: On the Road with the Grape Guy
(September 2021) ... Barbi is a winery with a rich history, but also a strange history. They were established in 1790 and were the first in Montalcino to accept visitors, so hospitality runs deep in the family. The family Colombini (owners of Barbi) owned vineyards in the area dating back to 1352 - but in 1790 they bought the land that the current winery sits on.
The Colombini family made their money the old-fashioned way, through banking and mercantile; back then (as now) land was a status symbol, and so that is what they purchased it for - it was 60 to 80 hectares of vineyards and they expanded their holdings through the generations to the 400 hectares they have today.
So we have mentioned the name of the family that owns the winery, Colombini, yet the winery is named “Fattoria dei Barbi” - the naming of the winery has two origin stories: one, either an ancient family name of people who lived on or near the land where the winery sits - or better yet, and the more appealing of the two stories: while planting the vineyard, fossils of a local monkfish were found, the fish was known to have a mustache (or beard) and was locally known as "barbas" ... So, the winery is either named after someone long dead and forgotten, or a fossilized fish, take your pick.
Back to the Columbini's for another moment: in 1999 the vineyards were divided between the two children. The son, Stefano, received the brand and 2/3 of the vineyards; his sister Donatella, received 1/3 of the vineyards and started her own label: Donatella Colombini-Cinelli (mother was a Colombini - while dad was a Cinelli).
As with most Italian wine families, they started out as bulk sellers of wine and no one knows for certain when they started bottling the wines instead, but the earliest bottle anyone could find dates back to 1892 ... They began exporting wines to the US in 1969 and their restaurant / taverna (another side of their hospitality legacy) dates back to the '60s.
2018 Brusco dei Barbi
This no oak Sangiovese (90%) & Merlot (10%) wine is sourced from young vines (5 to 15 years old) and is named for a bandit that lived on the property. This is a fresh-ish wine with good acidity and structure and plays well with food. Meant to be drank young. (*** ½)
2019 Morellino di Scansano
This 60,000 to 80,000 bottle production Sangiovese (85%) and Merlot (15%) spends 4 months in large oak casks ... Plenty of black cherry fruit and has really good acid punch with a smoky character on the finish. On the palate it's round and supple with really pretty fruit characteristics, it's fruit-forward and easy to drink with subtle spice on the finish. (*** ½+)
2019 Rosso di Montalcino (DOC)
Fruit taken from vineyards aged 8 to 12 years while the wine is age 6 months in larger oak barrels ... Simply put this wine has a really nice acid/spice combination; but digging deeper finds spiced-plum, spiced-cherry, spice-strawberry plus floral and balsamic notes. Good structure, good balance and well-made. Production ranges from 40,000 to 80,000 bottles. (****)
2016 Brunello di Montalcino
As per the rules this is 100% Sangiovese ... It has an herbal quality yet supple note with a really nice smoothness. Plenty of red berry fruit with a blackberry backing - and as with a few of the previous Barbi wines, a lovely spiciness with good acidity to carry the wine through to the finish. Gets better with each sip and the oak integration here really is on-point. They make a 180,000 to 210,000 bottles annually. (****)
2016 Brunello di Montalcino - Vigna del Fiore
The first vintage of this single vineyard offering was in 1981 - it's a southeast facing vineyard that sits at 250 meters above sea level and the oldest vines within the vineyard are between 20 to 25 years old. The wine spends one year in older barriques of three to five years of age; then another two years in 500-liter Slavonian oak (aka tonneau) ... Only 5,000 bottles are produced - so quite a small lot. Nice concentration and depth, yet subtle in so many ways ... Red fruit: cherry, red currant, strawberries and that oak is hidden so well behind a wall of spice and red fruit; there's even a floral aspect to this wine. It totally delivers on what single vineyard wines should be. (**** ½)
2015 Brunello de Montalcino Riserva
This wine spends 3 years in oak and is a selection of the best grapes from the oldest vineyards; it is only made in selected years (in recent memory there was no Riserva made in 2009/2002/2014). It's earthy and seemingly lean but with smoky notes, juicy red fruit, dried cherry, fig, balsamic and a big tannin bite. Quite the revelation as there is just great balance in this wine - nothing overwhelms or under delivers ... though it does need time to fully integrate and open. (****+)
Category: On the Road with the Grape Guy
(September 2021) ... Meeting up with my old friend Enrico, the GM of Banfi - who wastes no time with the pleasantries of a tour - instead we sat down with meats and cheeses to taste wine the way civilized people do. But first we began with bubbly, as any good get together should. Then we got right down to some "simple” wines before moving to the main event: Brunello and beyond.
2018 Rosso - Poggio Alle Mura
Enthralled me with the 2016 offering so I was interested to taste this 2018 endeavor. It's a 60-70,000 bottle production and it's a single vineyard (which really is a rarity when one really thinks about it, for a company this size). The simplicity here is wonderful with plenty of red berries, smoky oak, white pepper and floral ... It really is a wine you can sip all day. (*** ½+)
2017 La Lus - Albarossa
I was a fan of this wine from my first sip of the 2008 vintage. Made from a Nebbiolo/Barbera crossing (called Albarossa), which they said was a more drink now kind of wine than ageable one (I have proven that wrong) ... Now with the 2017 version I remain a fan of this wine, maybe now more than ever. Juicy at its core, darkly colored in the glass: red cherry, plum - dense and very aromatic with a richness of both aroma and flavour. (****)
The Brunellos ...
From the "base model" to the single vineyard - to a brand new offering - it was a veritable cornucopia of comparison tasting one vintage to another.
2016 Brunello di Montalcino
Considered one of the great vintages in Tuscany (and really much of Italy) - fresh and lively with good acid backbone - but the fruit is sitting a little on the lean side; it actually opens lean and subtle, which I found surprising, yet there is a freshness here as that oak and fruit mixed together nicely. (*** ½)
2017 Brunello di Montalcino
A tougher vintage to wrap one's mind around; but sometimes from tough vintages gems emerge. Average vine age here seems to be around 7 to 25 years. Starts off with rich fruit character with a little smoky component: then in comes plum, blackberry, black cherry all with a good acid / tannin backbone and then everything comes into focus by the third sip. But it's the richness of fruit that really plows its way through, making it a real delight for the senses. (****)
2016 Brunello di Montalcino - Poggio alle Mura
Vines for the Poggio alle Mura wine were planted between 1990 and 1993... Another one of those 2016s that seems to be a little shy: pleasant dark and red cherry with strawberry, smoke, spiced-plum and oak notes all with a nice long finish of smoky spices. (*** ½+)
2017 Brunello de Montalcino - Poggio alle Mura
The dark fruit is the first thing to show up (and stick around), it's rich and concentrated with a cherry, kirsch and smoky note on the finish. Meanwhile the acidity is a late arrival to the party (third / fourth sip), but once it shows it really makes its presence felt. (****)
2016 Brunello di Montalcino - Vigna Marruchetto
The vineyard Maruchetto are a three parcel, 10-hectare plot of land planted in 2008/2009 - the wines are aged in big oak casks (60/90 hectoliters) - and while this started out as experimental it proved to be too good to remain as such - single vineyards, single plots are what make wine so interesting. Now, this is the first commercial vintage. Silky smooth mouthfeel with dark fruit dominating the nose and palate. The oak is delicate, the finish is full of smoked-cherry and the finish is medium in length - a lovely “first effort”. (****)
2017 Brunello de Montalcino - Vigna Marruchetto
If at first you succeed, try and replicate what you did - not exactly the old saying, but this “new version” is exactly what should and did happen with Vigna Maruchetto ... But this time with even better results. The nose is identical to the 2016 offering with its cherry, kirsch, dried cherry notes, but the palate is richer and fruitier, and the acidity hides behind some pretty robust tannins. This is a delightful version of a single vineyard wine and shows why they decided to make wine from this specific plot. (****+)
2016 Brunello de Montalcino Riserva - Poggio alle Mura
Well I found the 2016 alle Mura to be a nice wine, those grapes really benefited from the extra time in cask. Here the fruit totally dominates, while the acidity takes a backseat ... It drinks very well now, but should be even better, and benefit, from some time in the cellar: 10 plus years with ease. (****)
2017 Brunello de Montalcino Riserva - Poggio alle Mura
When compared with the 2016 this 2017 offers more enjoyment right now: deeper, richer, fruitier - there are just so many pluses, and ticks so many of those boxes for a delicious wine now; but also hits the mark for future drinking too concentration of dark fruits like plum, black cherry, plus fig and balsamic notes, all backed with acidity and tannins that don't get in the way of all of that scrumptiousness. This is an all-night kinda wine Lionel Richie would be proud of. (**** ½)
2016 Brunello de Montalcino Riserva - Poggio All'Oro
Another single vineyard reserve Brunello, this one made from vines planted in 1979 (though a replant is underway for this vineyard). The concentration of dark fruit here is truly amazing and sucks you in completely ... Tannins rise up to try and grab the spotlight, but they are almost immediately swatted down by that dark fruit core and finish. Deep, dark and delicious, are the descriptive triple D's that best describe the feeling this wine brings to the senses. It should age beautifully, but it's also a wine that is ready to drink now, which is an amazing feat unto itself. (**** ½+)
The Other Wines ...
A blend that is usually comprised of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon along with Sangiovese and Syrah. The age of the Cabernet Sauvignon vines is approximately 16 to 18 years old (while the Syrah is over 20).
Generous black fruit with hints of blue fruit and white pepper on the finish dash acidity is on point and helps to propel the wine forward. (****)
Very perfumed and very fruit forward with dark plums and black cherry dominating both the nose and palate. Elegant and delicate with a good backbone of acidity that manages to push its way through all that fruit to show it whose boss - but ultimately helps carry the wine to its next sip. Deep dark fruit wins the day here. (****+)
This is Banfi’s Cabernet / Merlot blend
A lovely perfumed aroma lifts its way out of the glass and lures you in to take a sip ... This wine is ready to go right now with sweet cherry, blueberry, plum and a repeat of cherry, cherry, cherry on the finish, finish, finish. Nice mid-palate pushes thru to the lush fruit-forward finish - this is ready for immediate consumption. (****)
The first sip dolls out sweet fruit; the second is when the acidity parlays its way into the mix ... subsequent sips allow the fruit and acidity to join into a cohesive red and black fruit cacophony of flavour. There's plenty of time to enjoy this bottle, but right now is as good a time as any. (****+)