Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Casanova di Neri tasting - an overview of the winery

Giacomo Neri is the man of all success of the recent years in Montalcino.

He has been able, though investments, a modernisation of his winery and the adoption of more "international" approach to winemaking (notably the use of small barriques) with the key contribution of enologist Carlo Ferrini (who is also advising Castello di Brolio) to achieve the highest recognition, notably in the American market where Wine Spectator has elected his Brunello Tenuta Nuova 2001 (see picture where Giacomo Neri shows a magnum of this wine) best wine of the year in 2006 and has given 100 points to his Brunello Cerretalto 2001, thus recognising at the same time the extraordinary success of the 2001 vintage in Tuscany.

This has then prompted to the general attention a winery that was created by the father of Giacomo, Giovanni, in 1971 (first production of brunello in 1978) and that expanded over the years to the current 36 hectares of vineyards in various parts of the territory of Montalcino from the original location (and still current winery location) at the East of Montalcino (down the road Montalcino-San Quirico d'Orcia). Other vineyards can be found in Castelnuovo dell'Abate (Pietradonice), South-East of Montalcino (Cerretalto) and at Sant'Angelo in Colle (Cetine).

The tasting last week offered the opportunity to try both the two 2001 Brunello's that were getting so much attention and also the other key wines of Casanova di neri in the recent successful vintages of 2001 and 1999.

Apart from the basic brunello which is still aged in the traditional large Slavonian oak barrels, the other major wines of the winery, the two Brunello cru's Tenuta Nuova and Cerretalto, and the supertuscan "Pietradonice" are aged in small French barriques.

You will find detailed tasting notes by François, who was participating to the tasting, in the blog of the Grand Jury Européen, while I will give some general impressions on the wines.

In general, apart from the first two wines, that are still following a traditional winemaking process for Brunello (I found the 1999 more "rustic" but pleasant, while the 2001 is more balanced and round), the wines of Casanova di Neri follow a modern approach, with strong extraction, density, dark color and power, while at the same time presenting a well integrated tannic structure. The Tenuta Nuova cru, in particular the 2001, appears to be more powerful and riped, with the use of barriques being more evident. The Pietradonice 2003 that we tasted (supertuscan 90% Cabernet sauvignon, 10% sangiovese), reflected strongly the torrid climate of the year 2003 in Tuscany, with astringency and an unpleasant bitterness, despite the solid structure.

The Cerretalto cru clearly emerges, with more personality and finesse, mineral and balsamic notes with a strong spicey nose (I remember tasting a very good 1997 some years ago), but it seems to me very far from the level of complexity that I expect from a "perfect" wine (if any, objectively speaking). In addition, while I recognise that it is a classy wine on its own, it lacks the more polyedric and angular elements that chacterise Brunello, for example in its more traditional expressions like Biondi Santi, Poggio di Sotto, Cerbaiola or Case Basse.

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