Age is not just a number for a good Brunello

Sangiovese grapes in Montalcino.

It’s that time of year again already, seems to come a little faster with each passing year. Spring cleaning, spring forward, March Madness, the drunken revelry of St. Patrick’s Day, and inevitably my birthday. As I anticipate blowing out an extra candle this weekend, I can’t help but think of that tiny little word that apparently means so much: Age.

I find myself reflecting on the past 12 months. What have I achieved? How do I feel? Do I look any different? Is age really just a number or a state of mind? Well if you’re a bottle of wine, age is definitely not just a number.

I’m sure you’ve heard the notion that that wine always gets better with age. Well, that’s not entirely the case. Some wines can actually taste worse if they are aged too long. Take a Beaujolais Nouveau for example. It’s released every November and meant to be drunk immediately to appreciate its fresh fruit quality. On the other hand, a very tannic Cabernet from Bordeaux is probably something you’ll want to store for a while, or maybe at least until the 2nd Avenue subway line is finally completed. So as my birthday creeps up, I ask myself. Which one am I? A Beaujolais nouveau? Or a Bordeaux that’s going to get better with age?

While 2004 doesn’t seem that long ago to many, a lot has changed in the world since then. As I can recall, there were two highlights from that year. Greece won the Euro Cup and shocked the world, and it was a great wine vintage for Tuscany.

This week I am drinking one of Tuscany’s greatest red wines, Brunello Di Montalcino. It is made from the Sangiovese grape, but not blended like its famous Tuscan cousin, Chianti. You will never drink a Brunello that has not been aged because Brunello cannot actually be released before the fifth year after the harvest, with a minimum of two years in oak as well. Brunello will continue to improve for years after its release. My pick was the 2004 La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino, and it did not disappoint.

On the nose, my first note was something semi sweet, like mocha, or chocolate. I then got dark fruit notes as well, like black cherry and a little bit of spice. On the palette, it’s medium to full bodied, but still tastes fresh and fruity. The wine is dry, but I don’t find it overly tannic, as I assume it has softened in the few years since it’s been released. The more I taste the more I enjoy the different layers of flavor. Fruit, smoke, licorice, and prune are all blending together nicely in this Tuscan treat. It has a nice long finish which brings it all together.

Because this is a relatively young Brunello, I’d be curious to try it in another few years, and see how my notes would change with its age. On the other hand, I’ll be older and wiser too, and perhaps have different tastes. Well, the older part is a given, not so sure about the wiser.

My perfect birthday dinner would be a pairing of Brunello and a pasta dish with lamb ragu at Il Buco in NYC- absolute heaven. My perfect year on the other hand would be channeling Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun and moving to Tuscany on a whim, where I could buy and renovate an old villa, fall in love with a tall dark stranger and drink all the Brunello my little heart desires. Hey, it’s my birthday; I am allowed a wild wish or two.

You can pick this Brunello up for roughly $30. For a great selection of wines, check out Crush Wine & Spirits on East 57th Street, where they will gladly deliver to all five boroughs.



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