...will never have an identity crisis. Following a conversation with neighbor and fellow winehound Jim (who until yesterday was still a stranger to me), Inspiration kindly met me at my doorstep. The mailbox, rather. A nicely typed flyer and a yellow sticky, perfectly folded, waited patiently in our banal dropbox, oblivious to the record cold-snap of Monday, 8 February. As the flyer indicated, Jim has the reigns at D.O.C. Kaiserslautern's own Italian wineshop 'DiVino' this Saturday, when and whence I suspect many a great wine will be opened, much great food consumed, and oodles of Italian inspiration shared amongst addicts. However, it was a single comment Jim made on the flyer that fueled my own flames of inspiration, and left me panting for the self-same blaze of Tuscany all over again.
"Brunello di Montalcino is my absolute favorite red wine on the planet," Jim's flyer said emphatically.
While I could never bring myself to pick an overarching 'Favorite', I can say with conviction that every time I've had good Brunello, it's been my favorite wine of all time, too...until the bottle's empty and I move on. For reasons unknown, I have a much easier time saying Grenache or Pinot Noir is my favorite grape of all time, but no sooner do I utter those words than a Sangiovese of stunning grace and bedazzling fruit comes along and smacks the Chateuneuf du Poop right out of my mouth. Ironically, it's all the same; Brunello is as much a grape as Grenache or Pinot Noir. Why not say Brunello's my favorite grape? Because it's more than just Brunello, I tell myself. It's Montalcino that's really speaking here; it's not 'just' Sangiovese. While Grenache and Pinot Noir have become as ubiquitous as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Sangiovese will forever be germane to Tuscany. And Brunello? Forever rooted in Montalcino. Without driveling too much on the vagaries of ampelography, let me say simply that I required instant gratification Monday night, and that required Poggio il Castellare's 2004 Brunello di Montalcino (14% abv), courtesy of San Gimignano's Baroncini family. Favorable coverage from Signore Suckling and a 21 Euro price tag drove this purchase, and I'm fairly certain I'll be heading back to the Einoed Globus for more, as this was as close to teleportation as science has ever come (and no doubt the cheapest it will ever be). To Jim: Thanks for the inspiration.
This Brunello is the color of blood: muddled garnet red, rusty on the rim...Brunello. Check. The nose is the richest dark chocolate-covered cherry one could ever imagine, covered in dry, dusty earth. The nose just soars. It's not overwhelmingly complex at this point (45 minutes open), but what it lacks intellectually at first, it more than makes up for electrically. There is voltage here, amplitude, a Marshall stack of Schnapps-y kirsch, laced with thyme and paprika, and smothered in Prosciutto grease.
The palate is a veritable power plant: MGMT's 'Electric Feel' in all five senses, charged with ever-so-prickly acidity, velvet sheen tannin, and fruit weight that seeps its way into every ridge and draw of taste bud topography. The faintest impression of toasted baguette lingers, but it's fleeting, overwhelmed by masses of mulled plum, Grandma's baking cherries, wintergreen, and Zotter's Bird's Eye Chili Chocolate.
The finish is 60+ seconds. No lie. As a word of caution, the nose starts off pretty reticent, even a bit corky. This blew off completely within 5-10 minutes. Another word of caution: Chances are this wine, or ones like it, will get you hooked for life on Brunello. I speculate at least one other person has undergone this Sangio-vation. OK, that was supposed to be something along the lines of 'salvation'. Either way, there's an undeniable conversion experience I have with nearly every Brunello (even some Rosso, like Salicutti's), and I suspect this religion will only get more powerful as the zealots are recruited from the already addicted. Jim may in fact be their Messiah; if so, I'm definitely looking forward to Saturday's DiVino taste-a-thon. Lisini's '04 Brunello is scheduled to show, and from most accounts she'll be as prophetic and mind-bending as this or any other 'Favorite' I've ever had...
...until the bottle's empty and I move on.