WSET Completion Celebratory Wine Review: 2003 Terralsole Brunello di Montalcino

16 11 2011

(Wine) school's out for summer! W00t!

With the WSET Advanced course finally in my rear view mirror, it was time to celebrate:  whether I actually passed or not, I figured I’d earned a bottle from my “good fridge”, the one that houses my pricier, more ageworthy wines.  This one definitely qualifies.  I’ve been loving Brunello more and more lately, to the point where I think it’s become my favourite kind of Italian wine; it strikes that ideal balance between being approachable and enjoyable in youth while still reaping the benefits of aging.  It also deftly marries complexity with drinkability, something a surprising number of expensive wines can fail to do…bringing a wide spectrum of flavours to the table doesn’t mean much when you don’t want to have the resulting glass with dinner.  I don’t own that many bottles of Brunello currently, but that’s something I’ll be looking to fix in the near future (or once my salary doubles, anyway).

By way of brief refresher, Brunello is a grape, a clone of Sangiovese also called Sangiovese Grosso that’s known for its tawny colour (hence the name:  “Brunello” means “little brown one”).  It’s grown near Montalcino in Tuscany (“Brunello di Montalcino” = “Brunello [grape] from Montalcino [place]”), and it’s not a stretch to say that it’s generally regarded as being the finest expression of Sangiovese anywhere in the world.  As a bonus WSET-learned fact, the Brunello di Montalcino region has the highest minimum aging period of any wine region in Italy:  wines have to spend at least 5 years in barrel/bottle before being allowed to hit the market, which contributes to the wine’s namesake hue once it’s finally opened.

Cork Rating: 6/10 (Sort of Cirque du Soleil-esque, but I'm up for whimsy every now and then.)

Eight years into this wine’s life, I was expecting to see a ton of faded brown in the glass, but surprisingly there was just a slight coppery/garnet tinge to the Terralsole’s deep ruby core.  This was one of those wines that’s just a pleasure to look at, with a warm colour that was deep but not dense (if that makes sense), intense without being murky.  On the nose it was textbook Brunello, trotting out a huge array of both fresh and preserved aromas:  I jotted down dried flowers, earth, cranberry, strawberries, liquorice, iron, pepper and sage before forcing myself to stop.  And then came the moment of truth that anyone faces with any wine worth aging that’s sat in the cellar for a little while:  did I open this too soon?  Not soon enough?  This time I split the uprights:  the ’03 Terralsole is drinking wonderfully right now, with lots of juicy fruit left but also noticeable age-generated leathery/spicy notes that ratchet up the interest factor.  The wine was soft and mellow, but still lush and vibrant; it retained a streak of juicy acidity that kept it from tasting tired, but its tannins were smooth and integrated, giving it an almost creamy, luxurious texture that supported flavours of roses, raspberries, sour cherries, vanilla and dust all the way through a finish that just went on and on.  If the number of adjectives in this paragraph didn’t tell you already, I quite enjoyed this wine.

Out of curiosity, I looked up a couple of professional reviews of the Terralsole written just shortly after its release in 2008, and both were somewhat restrained in their scoring (high 80s), saying that the wine seemed thin and tight.  One was prescient enough to say that the wine needed some time to open, and I can vouch for the fact that it is in full bloom right now and not being anywhere near as withholding as it apparently was back then.  Amazing what a couple years in bottle can do — all the work to create the wine is long since finished, but it just keeps on evolving.  There’s nothing quite like it…that’s why I drink the stuff!

92 points

$65 to $75 CDN

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