My long-time friend Alessandro Bindocci was in Chicago recently, and I was happy to meet him for lunch, taste his latest wines and catch up on what his father and he are doing at their estate in Montalcino.
Alessandro and his father Fabrizio are the winemakers at Il Poggione in the small town of Sant’Angelo in Colle in the southern sector of the Brunello di Montalcino production zone. Established at the end of the 19th century, Il Poggione was one of the founding members of the Brunello di Montalcino consorzio in 1967.
A significant producer is always more than facts and figures, no matter how impressive they may be, and Il Poggione has always been one of my favorite producers for their style and consistency. While some producers in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s decided to age their wines in smaller oak barrels – in effect to craft a riper, spicier, more “modern” or “international” style of wine – the Bindoccis along with owner Leopoldo Franceschi have stayed the course of tradition, always maturing the wines in large casks (grandi botti). The oak itself may be French these days, rather than the traditional Slavonian used by many other producers, but the results are as elegant and pure as ever.
I tasted four wines with Bindocci at lunch: Brancato, a dry rosato produced exclusively from Sangiovese, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino 2018 and the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli from 2016. Here are some thoughts about the wines from Alessandro:
Rosato Brancato 2021 – “100% Sangiovese from young vines … maximum of 24 hours skin contact, but it’s never that much. We then treat it like a white wine, with 25-30 days maceration at low temperatures. You have the beautiful natural acidity of the Sangiovese. With the low temperatures, the fruit stays intact and you have the freshness. It’s a substantial style of rosé; it’s not too thin or light, it’s a food friendly rosé.”
I enjoyed the wine very much, especially its texture and dry elegant finish, which is round and highly complex. Enjoy this wine with any number of foods from roast chicken to pork to lighter red meats over the next 2-4 years. (90 points)
Rosso di Montalcino 2020 – Noting that many wineries produce their Rosso di Montalcino from grapes that were left over after Brunello production, Bindocci commented that at Il Poggione they have vineyards dedicated to Rosso that are between 15-25 years old (which incidentally are not the youngest vineyards they own). He added that they use the same process for making Rosso di Montalcino as for their Brunello, which means selection in the vineyards as well as in the cellar (using an optical sorter which eliminates grapes that are less than ideal).
“It’s a young Brunello style, because we decided we always wanted to make a Rosso in the style of Brunello.”
The wine has excellent harmony, with impressive Montalcino style. There is good structure, the tannins are round and the finish is quite long and flavorful. A pleasure to try tonight, although this should drink well for another five to eight years, perhaps even longer. (91)
Brunello di Montalcino 2018 – The 2018 vintage for Montalcino resulted in more subdued wines than in recent years, so the vintage has not received the same praise as with 2015 0r 2016, yet Bindocci is a fan of this particular year. “I really like the 2018,” he remarked. “2018 for the true Brunello lovers is really special.”
Medium-full with very good acidity and impressive structure, this displays superb harmony and perfectly integrated wood notes, along with precise acidity and elegantly styled medium-full tannins. There is lovely finesse and charm.
Again, this is not a powerhouse Brunello, but a more refined wine that will drink well for 12-15 years. One additional note: In the finest vintages, Il Poggione will produce a single vineyard Brunello di Montalcino riserva named Vigna Paganelli, after the eponymous plot. For the 2018 vintage, this riserva was not produced, so the grapes from the Paganelli vineyard were incorporated into this wine, giving it a bit more richness and complexity than in many years. (93)
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli 2016 – “2016 was the ideal vintage,” Bindocci said. “That’s the vintage everyone is looking for.” He explained that the 2015/2016 winter was quite cold, and there was good accumulation of water into the soil in the spring; “there was a good amount of rain, but not too fast.” He added that summer was warm, but not as hot as some recent years; that combined with cool temperatures at night during August and September created ideal ripening conditions.
The Paganelli vineyard was planted in 1964, so this wine has fruit from vines that were 52 years old at the time. Medium-full with outstanding texture, this is an outstanding Brunello with impressive ripeness, delicious ripe cherry fruit with a hint of clove in the aromas. There is very good acidity, excellent persistence, perfectly integrated wood notes and a lengthy, fruit-filled finish; the tannins are rich and elegantly styled. This is a classic – a seamless Brunello di Montalcino that should drink well for at least another 20 years. (94)
I asked Bindocci about various vintages – how much do the wines differ from year to year? I also asked him about their style and his they have resisted change after all these years.
“The vintage will definitely be more concentrated in the style of the wines, so some wines will be more concentrated – I’m thinking of 2017, for example – but winemaking at controlled temperatures, using big barrels where possible really brings a style of wine that is fresher and more refined.
“That might be boring, but at Il Poggione, we like our style.” So do tens of thousands of wine lovers around the world, Alessandro.