Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino

I recently went to a seminar at B21 where Vittorio Marianecci spoke about the wines of Casanova di Neri, a 39-year-old Brunello winery owned by Giacomo Neri and located south of the town of Montalcino.

According to Vittorio, Brunelo di Montalcino has grown rapidly from its roots as as a Biondi-Santi-family-introduced clone of Sangiovese Grosso.  Brunello became a DOC in 1966 and became the first red DOCG in 1980.  It has grown from 11 producers in 1968 to 300 producers today with over 2000 hectares currently under vine.  Legal requirements for Brunello include 5 years aging (6 years for Riserva) with a minimum of 2 years in wood and a minimum of 12.5% alcohol.  Stellar Brunello vintages include 1990, 1991, 1997, 1999, and 2000 and ,according to Vittorio, 2006 may well turn out to be the vintage of the century.

Casanova di Neri was founded by Giovanni Neri who bought the property in 1971.  The winery currently consists of 48 hectares divided among four vineyard sites: Fiesole, Pietradonice, Cerretalto, and Cetine.  The estate is site-driven, using these four sites in a cru-type construct to produce three distinctive Brunellos and one Cabernet Sauvignon.  The entry-level Brunello is the White Label, a 100% Sanigovese which is crafted from 35-year-old vines and aged in Slavonic oak for approximately 40 months.  The second wine is the Tenuto Nuova, a 100% Sangiovese made from 35-year-old vines sited in the Fiesole vineyard.  Maceration and fermentation for this wine takes 25 days after which the wine is aged for 29 months in French 500L tonneaus.  The quality of this wine is reflected in the fact that the 2001 vintage was designated as the 2006 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator.  Vittorio revealed that Giacomo was dissatisfied with the grapes for the 2005 Ceretalto and blended them all into the 2005 Tenuto Nuova; something to keep in mind when that vintage is released.

Cerretalto is a 100% Sangiovese drawn from a vineyard of the same name located at 750-900 feet elevation.  Maceration and fermentation takes 20 days and the wine is aged for 27 months in French barrique.  The fourth wine, the Rosso di Toscana, is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Pietradonice Vineyard in Tuscany.  The wine is macerated and aged for 15-18 days and then aged in small French oak barrels.

As a part of the seminar, we tasted the '03 ($52.49) and '04 ($69.99) Tenuto Nuova and the '05 ($99.99) and "06 ($99.99) Pietradonice Sant Antimo.  The '03 Tenuto Nuova was bold, exhibiting the ripe fruit associated with a hot vintage.  It has relatively low acidity and is ready to drink at this time. Probably a 15 year life.  The '04 has more elegance and also more acid and will probably need 4 to 5 years before being ready to drink.  Probably 20-year aging potential.  Both of the Cabernets compare very favorably with international Cabernets but they are very robust wines at this time with the '06 requiring the most time of the two before being ready to drink.

Casanova di Neri is a producer of quality Brunello di Montalcino with entries at three market pricing points.  Both the Tenuto Nuova and Cerretalto are in my personal cellar.  Of the wines tasted, if you are looking for a Brunello to drink now, the '03 Tenuta Nuova should be your choice.  For cellaring, choose the '04.

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