Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Bordeaux & Brunello Recommendations?

Posted by JonDerry, Dec 20, 2010.

Still in my early days of wine appreciation, i've spent most of my time sifting through california wines but feel like I have enough of a handle on CA at this point and am ready to explore some new world-renown regions.  Have spent some time tasting CDR's from France, with mixed results - but this region seems pretty straight forward.

So with that, i'd love to start tasting some stand out wines from Bordeaux & Italy, namely Brunello's (and even though I dislike the moniker, Super Tuscans).  Like anyone, i'm looking for the best QPR wines from $20-$60, and can afford the occasional prize from $60-$125.00 or above.

Every Brunello I seem to pick from a wine list seems to be very nice, but i'm sure there's another level there i've yet to experience.

Thank you in advance,



Reply by lingprof, Dec 20, 2010.

Great questions!  I'm curious to hear what people say.

It might make you feel better to know that the "super" in Super Tuscan does not mean "great!" like in Superman (which would be annoying, I agree).  It means "outside of" or "laid over" as in "superficial" or "superimpose".  Do you like it better now?  ;-)

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 20, 2010.

"Super" can also mean "superexpensive."  Since the designation came about because they used non-approved varietals or were occasionally otherwise out of bounds, they can vary quite a bit.  Many also come in less expensive versions, like Brancaia Tre or Villa Antinori, the down market product of the maker of Tignanello. Tre can be had for about $20-24 if you shop around.  Villa Antinori can be had for sub-$20 at TraderJoe's.  A typical Sassicaia is 10x that. 

Right this second, Garagiste has an offer for seriously discounted Brunello. 2004s are highly prized (although they were also the subject of some serious fraud, but that seems to have been pulled out of the market), but this is a 2003 that may be very underrated and underappreciated.  Search "garagiste wines" for the site.  I find them a little glitchy, but worth reading because Rimmerman is all about the Euro natural wine thing.  It's a radically different perspective from Laube's crowd and Parker.

Don't be so sure that CdR is so straightforward.  Yes, there's a type to quite a few CdRs, but the individual villages that have become appellations can show a lot of variation, and there's quite a bit of de-appellated wine that gets sold under the CdR banner that rivals the village wines and even the big names--tastes like a CdP at a fraction of the price.  Within the appellations of the Rhone, there's a lot to explore that isn't CdR.  Ventoux is not Gigondas--even a piker like me would detect the difference.  At your $20-60 range, you can get striking Gigondas and even CdP. 

Reply by dmcker, Dec 20, 2010.

Also, the difference between CdR's from the south and the north of the region can be striking. Mini-C9dPs down south with lots of grenache, etc., mini-Hermitages (or at least St. Josephs) with lots of syrah up north. JD, you should graduate beyond CdR and look at the other regions within the Rhone. Foxall's mentioned C9dPs, also try St. Joseph, Crozes Hermitages, Cornas and Cote Roties, all with options in your price range.

Regarding Brunellos, if you want to understand sangiovese it'd also be a good idea to touch base on the Chiantis, especially the Classico Riservas. Ditto the better Rosso di Montalcinos. Greg DP did a good series that you can search for in the Articles part of this site. There are also a couple of threads I started on better Chiantis and better Brunellos a year or so ago:

Good Chiantis

Good Brunellos and other reds from Montalcino

Reply by GregT, Dec 20, 2010.

Don't be so sure that there's another level.

The only fraud with Brunello that I'm aware of is the price.  The wines that should be about $25 - $30 are now $70+.

So if you want to try those wines, go ahead, and what you'll find is that you're paying a little more for some wine that shouldn't cost quite as much.  Better off staying with Chianti and Chianti Classico

They had a little "scandal" in Brunello in that people used grapes that were not Sangiovese, but that's completely meaningless to me, as they can just change their rules.  In the 1970s,they decided that Brunello must be 100% Sangoivese. Some people added some Cab or Merlot or Syrah.  When they did that in Chianti, the people were smart enough to simply change the rule.  So now instead of calling the wine "Super Tuscan", they can call it Chianti or Chianti Classico.  In Montalcino they haven't changed the rule yet, so it's a scandal.  As soon as they change the rule, no more scandal.

Same with Bordeaux in a sense.  Don't be so sure that there's another level.  Some good wines to be sure, but I've never had one that simply made me stop in my tracks.  That includes the wines from the $500+ range as well as the sub-$50 range.  

You can spend a lot of time tasting Cotes du Rhone - it's a vast region, far far larger than the Brunello region, and there are many kinds of wine produced.  I'm there next month. The variety of wines is staggering.

Reply by JonDerry, Dec 21, 2010.

Really appreciate the primer everyone.  I didn't mean to sound so over-confident on the Rhone's of France, there's obviously a vast amount there to explore.  What I meant was that I had already targeted that region and had done some research on it already, with the CDR distinction, Villages, and CdP.  I've tasted wines from all three and kind of see it as a Napa/Sonoma/Russian River Valley.  Huge wine region, with certain areas offering high QPR's, and others with inflated prices, but as with all regions, the best of the best can pretty much compete with anything to a point.  I will say that I find myself exploring this reason just by the history and fuss I hear about it, and I find the dominance of the Grenache, Syrah, & Mouvedre grape combinations a little unappealing on paper, but I guess it's the same ingredients as what's making Paso Robles such a hot region now so I'm sure I just have to find the right wines.

The insight on the Italian wines is very useful in particular.  I had resisted this region for a long time, but Brunello's I guess have been my "gateway drug" in a sense.  Will check out some recommended Chianti's and Chianti Classico's.  From what I hear you saying Greg, from a QPR standpoint, Brunello's and Super Tuscan's are more than a bit overpriced. 

Any directions in Bordeaux I should be looking at to start?

In the world wine theme, I just opened a bottle of TorreOria Reserva 2001 from Utiel-Requena in Spain - believe this is a predominantly Cabernet/Pinot blend and it's been a bit of a revelation. Are Cabernet/Pinot blends rare?  I'm not so sure i've ever had a burgundy style like this. Tastes like pomegranate juice with a touch of alcohol, very tasty stuff.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 21, 2010.

GregT is ever the iconoclast.

Yeah, it's not like they used propylene glycol but if you were going to learn about brunello, named for the strain of sangio grape, it would be a drag.

dmcker is, as usal, right about the CdRs from the north, which I glossed over because the south has more CdR regions designated as such, and the north has a larger percentage with specific appellations, as I see it.  This is one of the funky things about the French system--CdR as an app is not even close to continuous.  Even saying "the Rhone" is close to saying "California" or at least, "Northern California."  It's pretty vast.  I made the mistake (?) of getting interested in Rhones around 5 or 6 years ago and now realize that there's a lifetime of wine to drink.  So maybe I should switch to Italy... but that's two or three lifetimes.

Meanwhile, I envy GregT--I don't need to tell him to have a great trip.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 23, 2010.

Brunello is tough. The best wines really hit their peaks at about age 12-15 and stay there for another 10-12 years. I really enjoy Brunello from several producers but much of what has been produced over the past decade has been less than inspiring.

If you want to learn about Brunello learn about Rosso di Montalcino first. You'll get and understanding regarding house styles without blowing through too much money.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 23, 2010.

GdP: I've heard this advice enough that I think I am going to buy some Rosso di Montalcino soon.  My intro to Brunello was through my wife, who travelled a bit in Italy.  She avoided Rossos because she felt they were really inconsistent and only rarely surpassed mediocrity.  We bought quite a bit of Brunello for a while, but perhaps drank it too young and without enough knowledge.  We now buy it pretty selectively and are happy with the results, but it has never moved me the way great Cab and Pinots have, or even the way my favorite RdDs do. Meanwhile, we have been drinking more aglianico than ever and had a superb one the other night at her office's annual dinner. 

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