Here we are at my fourth "Cellar Saturday" and I've decided to go back to my love of Italian wines, and particularly the wines of Tuscany. Now of course you can't explore the wines of this region without taking some time for the undisputed king of Tuscan wines, Brunello di Montalcino, and this case the 2003 vintage of Piancornello. For those familiar with Brunello, you'll immediately recognize that vintage as one that caused quite a stir with the confiscation of four producers' 2003 Brunello on charges that they had fraudulently included foreign varietals in their wine labeled Brunello. By law, Brunello must be made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, and although the investigation was somewhat inconclusive, the U.S. government blocked the import of 2003 vintage Brunellos that could not prove they were made with 100% Sangiovese (so I suppose this one is safe!). The laws also require that the wine be aged a minimum of 2 years in oak, and 4 months in bottle before release, though most producer age their wines in oak for 3 years.
This wine has been in the bottle for considerably longer than 4 months, as most Brunellos really start coming into their own when they hit about 10 years old, so this one is just about to hit its stride. The color on this wine is a rich garnet hue, certainly a bit lighter than your typical Napa Cab. The nose has quite a bit of herbs, some classic spice, anise, and ripe red fruit with a hint of sweetness. The taste was a bit tart up front but quickly transitioned into some rich ripe fruit and even a bit of prune midpalate which gave way to some interesting chocolate notes. The tannins are somewhat subdued providing for a long, silky smooth finish that left me wanting another sip every time!
Overall I would rate this wine a solid 8.5 and perhaps even a 9 given the value. I bought this one through Wines Till Sold Out back in 2010 for just $35, which is pretty good for a Brunello! Tonight I am pairing this wine with a simple but delicious Italian dish, bucatini with mussels. I simply sauteed some guanciale (this is a cured pig jowl, but you can use pancetta if you can't find guanciale) with some crushed garlic, then added some olive oil and about a pound of fresh mussels. Once the mussels opened up, I added 2 cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes and about a cup of red wine (but not the brunello!). Let that simmer for 20-30 minutes on low heat and then toss with some al dente bucatini (bucatini is a long pasta shaped like a drinking straw, but if you can't find it at your local store a nice linguine or spaghetti will do fine). Top the dish with some fresh basil and some freshly shaved Parmesan and you have a lovely dinner! Tutti a tavola a mangiare!