Tenuta Nuova Casanova di Neri: the 20 years war (1)

by Riccardo Viscardi 02/06/18
2473 |
giacomo neri tenuta nuova casanova di neri brunello di montalcino verticale 20 anni

We took part in a vertical tasting of the first 20 years of Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova Casanova di Neri and here is our report. First, however, a few considerations.

The date was January 19 and the place was Montalcino at the Casanova di Neri winery where a vertical tasting was offered of the first 20 years of their Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova. This has been is a very important wine for the history of the appellation from the year it made its debut, in 1998 with vintage 1993. Fromthe start it created two camps: its enthusiastic supporters and the false prophets. This latter group was filled above all by wine critics many of whom are still skeptical about the wine today. It was a shame that this vertical tasting was restricted to such a limited number of participants because the false prophets will now have to go out and buy their own bottles, even if they are hard to find, should they wish to redeem themselves.

It was in the mid-1980s when Giacomo Neri decided to expand his estate with the acquisition of additional land that would allow him to produce a richer Brunello with characteristics that had particular and different characteristics than those of the estate’s other wines. His goal was not only to make a richer Brunello but also one in which the tannins were less isolated and the drinkability was greater than similar wines on the market. In order to do this, he focused his attention on the southern part of Montalcino which has always produced a bolder Brunello. He then zeroed in on an important and famous zone, Sesta, but slightly below it where the vegetation becomes more Mediterranean with medicinal herbs, myrtle and so on. To mature the wine he opted for barriques to obtain a better color and a greater fruit element than the other wines of the appellation, at least that was the original idea.

From the very beginning, Tenuta Nuova was a great commercial success across the ocean where they went crazy for the wine and American critics gave it their highest ratings. In Italy, on the other hand, the wine’s commercial success was not accompanied by unanimous praise from critics and only Gambero Rosso, then under the supervision of Daniele Cernilli, consistently awarded it with prizes. The majority of critics, however, were unhappy over the use of barriques and other wood barrels which they claimed compromised the wine’s aromatic purity with scents they believed would never come together in the wine. Some critics also doubted whether the wine would have a propensity to age because it was too rounded and soft compared to traditional Brunello.

I feel sorry for these false prophets because the tasting demonstrated how all these concerns were unfounded and some of these critics should have the courage to admit they were wrong.

It was a beautiful evening not only because of the quality of the wines but also the atmosphere that was created. Comparing notes with colleagues of world fame like James Suckling (initially a guru at Wine Spectator magazine and for a few years now the head of a globally successful website under his own name) and Monica Larner (the Italian ‘voice’ of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate) does not happen every day. At my table there were also the volcanic talents Luca Gardini and Pier Bergonzi, the latter from Gazzetta dello Sport. Only two publications saw more than one participant accredited and one of these was DoctorWine, which was an honor for which we thank you readers because it was thanks to you and you confidence in us that this was possible.

The tasting was wonderful and everyone maintained the right attitude even if some corks betrayed the wine. We shared wines between tables, if one as off or different, as well as exchanging views. Everything was very lovely, professional and friendly thanks to the atmosphere created by Neri family who were present in full. Unfortunately, there was only one bottle left of the 1994, a magnum, and it was corked. Vintage 1999, on the other hand, was too different bottle to bottle to make a proper evaluation (although I had a good one). We will avoid any discussion here on the role corks play.

What conclusions can be drawn from the tastings?

Independent of the methods used by different wineries, it is the territory that leaves its mark.

The varietal’s aromas improve with age compared to other wines from the same appellation that are made using the so-called “traditional” method.

The variable nature of the harvest and vintage had a strong impact on the flavor of the wine above all in regard to the tannins.

One last thing before we move on to the tastings: between 45,000 and 70,000 bottles of Brunello Tenuta Nuova are produced annually and so it is not easy to find. This in part is why vintage 2001 was awarded a very important prize with Wine Spectator naming it as the best wine in the world, the first and until now only Italian single, native grape wine to receive such recognition.

Casanova di Neri
 Giacomo Neri
Podere Fiesole
53024 Montalcino (SI)
Tel. +39 0577 834455
Fax +39 0577 846177
Year of foundation: 1971
Total bottles produced: 275.000
Hectares of vineyard: 65
Extravirgin olive oil production

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