2018 Piancornello, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
2018 Piancornello, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

2018 Piancornello, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Tuscany, Italy 2018 (750mL)
Regular price$65.00

2018 Piancornello, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

We’re back with another killer Sangiovese, this one from Montalcino, and the proposition is this: Would you like to add a true blue-chip collector’s item to your cellar without going anywhere near three figures? This is your wine. As respected as Italian wine has become in the US, especially from appellations like Montalcino, there are still many under-appreciated, under-valued producers like Piancornello lurking around out there. However, based on the rave reviews they’ve gotten from the critics in recent vintages, Piancornello is no longer really under the radar—they seem to be very much on the radar, even if their pricing doesn’t quite reflect that. Experts will tell you to approach 2018s with caution (it was an inconsistent vintage), but that’s what we’re here for: To seek out the overachievers and get them to your door. This ’18 is spot-on in every way, and you can drink some now and lay some down, too. It’s a win-win, so don’t hesitate!

Piancornello epitomizes how Montalcino wines have evolved. For a long time now, Italian wine lovers have tussled over the question of whether “traditional” or “modern” Brunellos are better. So-called traditional styles have tended to be lighter in color (Sangiovese is not an intensely pigmented variety, and Brunello is meant to be 100% Sangiovese, so….) and aged in larger, older oak barrels (resulting in more oxidative notes, hints of cedar and smoke, and less noticeable wood tannins). The more modern styles have typically shown a darker cast, more extract, and a more prominent new oak sheen; at times, some of these wines have rather aggressive oak tannins when young. But few Montalcino wines today fall neatly into one of these two camps—Piancornello’s being a perfect example. It is clean, ripe, and polished, but it’s also earthy and smoky, and while it is indeed aged in larger-sized barrels, they’re not so old as to be funky, rickety artifacts of another era. It’s a “third way” approach that kind of renders the whole “modern versus traditional” question moot.

The Piancornello property is tucked away in the hamlet of Sesta, at the southern end of the Montalcino DOCG near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. It has been in proprietor Claudio Monaci’s family since the 1950s, but they sold their grapes to others for many years before introducing their Piancornello label in the early 1990s. Claudio and family farm about 10 hectares of vineyards organically, and obtained official certification in 2015; their small dimensions may prevent them from becoming a more-famous name in Montalcino, but the exceptional quality of the wines may win out. Fermented in a mixture of stainless steel and concrete vats, using only the native yeasts that collect on the skins of the grapes, their flagship Brunello di Montalcino is aged in a combination of new and used French oak barriques and tonneaux for about 10 months, followed by another 24 months in larger botti of 40-hectoliter capacity. Then there’s the Montalcino DOCG-mandated bottle aging period before release.

Piancornello’s ’18 is a perfect mix of ripe fruit, a kiss of expensive wood, lots of nerve, and the smoky underbrush notes that characterize Sangiovese. In the glass, it’s a shimmering, not-quite-opaque ruby moving to garnet at the rim, with seductive aromas of black and red cherries, blackberries and currants, tomato leaf, fennel, tobacco, sandalwood, turned earth, and hints of balsamic. It is full-bodied but doesn’t come off blocky or chunky—there’s sleekness and lift to the wine thanks to great balancing freshness. The tannins are firm and still need more time to resolve, so if you’re dipping into your stash soon, decant it about an hour before serving at 60 degrees in large Bordeaux stems. Pair it with some grilled bistecca, or braised short ribs, or something else rustic and woodsy, as in the attached recipe. This is the real Tuscan deal. Enjoy!

2018 Piancornello, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

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