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Why 2019 Brunellos Might Be Severe Collectibles

Why 2019 Brunellos Might Be Severe Collectibles

This story is from an installment of The Oeno Files, our weekly insider newsletter to the world of fine wine. Sign up here.

Even after a couple of decades immersed in wine, we still take a romantic view of the fruit of the vine, believing that it should be opened and enjoyed rather than hoarded and re-sold. However, it would be naive to believe that everyone takes the same position. The sheer amount of fine wine that is constantly available on the resale and auction market is testament to the idea that, to some people, wine is just another commodity in which to invest and then unload when the time is right.

Having recently tasted through many mouthwatering examples of 2019 Brunello di Montalcino, we are impressed by the overwhelming quality of the vintage while at the same time understanding the possibility that many of these bottles will be purchased by collectors who have no intention of drinking them while they are in their prime. After two above-average but not spectacular years in Montalcino— 2017 and 2018—the latest releases are being hailed as equals to the great vintages of 2010 and 2016, each of which was called “the vintage of the century” by a variety of critics and writers.

Rated five stars (the highest score) by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the group that promotes wine from the region and ensures that production standards are met, 2019 has been called a season of “utter harmony” by Eric Guido of Vinous; noted for a “good balance between acidity, concentration, and tannins” by Monica Larner in Wine Advocate; and lauded for a combination of “intensity, exuberance, and great fruit” by critic Kerin O’Keefe. Fabrizio Bindocci, president of the Brunello di Montalcino consortium, tells us, “The wines denote characteristics of elegance and finesse in the primary aromas.” He also says the well-balanced tannins and structure will provide mid- to long-term aging. All these characteristics add up to wines that are drinking well now but will only improve with age.

The wine that’s called a “diamond in the rough,” according to its vintner.

Poggio di Sotto

Bindocci points out the growing season began with good groundwater reserves thanks to rain in January and February followed by a warm, dry summer with no heat spikes. A slow maturation season allowed for “perfect phenolic and technological ripeness,” while cooler nights in September slowed down the accumulation of sugars, preserving freshness and acidity. Made with 100 percent Sangiovese (which the locals call Sangiovese Grosso or Brunello), Brunello di Montalcino wine must age at least two years in oak and an additional four months in bottle prior to release, but wines may not be sold any sooner than five years after the harvest. While aging prior to release means the wine is ready to drink when you buy it, Brunello’s levels of tannins and acidity make it incredibly age-worthy, so these wines can spend decades in your cellar before opening.

Winemaker Leonardo Berti of Poggio di Sotto called his 2019 release “a diamond in the rough,” which he thinks will be heading toward its peak in seven years. “The 2019 vintage was simply perfect, both in terms of weather and yield,” he says. “It represents one of the iconic vintages alongside 2016, where Sangiovese from Montalcino showed its absolute best.” Poggio di Sotto is among a handful of top producers such as Biondi-Santi, Castiglion del Bosco, and Giovanni Neri that are consistently sought out by collectors and maintain their value.

If you recall the predictions that we made at the end of last year, we told you to look out for Italy’s three B’s: Barolo, Barbaresco, and Brunello, after speaking with Nick Pegna, Sotheby’s global head of wine and spirits, who saw Italy on the horizon at auction. Bindocci tells us the U.S. is the top export market for Brunello di Montalcino, accounting for 30 percent of total foreign sales. More is sold to restaurants than to retailers, but there is certainly plenty of Brunello to go around: The landing page for Zachy’s 2019 Brunello di Montalcino offerings features more than 50 producers with prices ranging from $45 to $325, with the vast majority under $200 and many from well-known producers with price tags below $100.

Winemaker Leonardo Berti

Winemaker Leonardo Berti

Antonio Michael Zaccheo, owner and export manager of Carpineto, referred to 2019 as a “collector’s vintage” and said that his 2019s are in high demand. He elaborated, “It has great intensity and concentration, elegant tannin structure yet is relatively approachable upon release.” He compared it to 2018, a four-star, cooler vintage, which he said, “has comparatively less intensity of flavors and less aging potential.” Carpineto 2019 Brunello di Montalcino, which retails for $70 in the U.S., the brand’s strongest export market, just received accolades from Wine Spectator; critic Bruce Sanderson noted it “combines elegance and power.” We couldn’t agree more. 

As with any potential investment, there is always risk in buying wine strictly for its value; more than any other category, it has a shelf life. Eventually those ripe-fruit and bold-spice flavors will fade to undrinkability, rendering the bottle worthless. And as with all wine regions, the top end of the Brunello market should perform well at auction and resale no matter what, while lesser-known bottles will have to rely on outside factors to achieve gains in value. If softening prices in other categories such as Napa or Burgundy reverse course and begin to soar again, Italian wine will maintain its appeal to those who are priced out of the market for Cabernet Sauvignon and old-world Pinot Noir.

See Also

The 2020 vintage has already been given five stars by the consorzio, so they will compete with the 2019s for price when are finally released. However, if the next two or three seasons are not as highly lauded, both 2019 and 2020 may soar in value, especially as they approach their prime drinking window. Speaking of prime drinking windows, let’s always remember that wine is made to be enjoyed. Yes, your Brunello di Montalcino 2019 may increase in value, but unlike gold ingots or stock certificates, it can also bring great joy to your palate. Along the way to making a killing in the wine market, open a bottle or two with friends and focus on the beauty of a fortunate growing season concentrated in your glass.

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Source: Robb Report

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