The first snow of the season has fallen and Toronto is abuzz with the sounds of the season. I came home and made Shepherd’s Pie for a modest dinner with my wife Paula. I went down to the cellar looking for a Monday night friend and came up with a bottle of Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2000. It is fiercely 100% Sangiovese from one of the original three historic producers of this famous region. I say fiercely because of the passion and the dedication of one man, Fabrizio Bindocci. Fabrizio trained at the feet of Piero Luigi Talenti, the most famous Brunello wine maker of the latter part of the twentieth century. I had the blessing of witnessing the two of them together prior to Piero’s death and saw Fabrizio’s devotion with my own eyes. Lifford has represented Il Poggione for more than two decades and it has been wonderful to watch their devotion to carrying on the pursuit of excellence, making huge investments and now reaping the rewards.
Il Poggione is owned by the Franceschi family, a family of noble origins whose history in the region goes back centuries. Of course when you are the local rich family you own the best vineyards and Il Poggione is no exception. To let these great vineyards show their finest expression of the noble Sangiovese grape, the family has invested large sums of money to modernize the winery. It has been truly delightful to see the results of this dedication. I am not going to go so low as to refer to points by some critic or another, but I will tell you that Il Poggione 2004 Brunello was the reference point wine from this vintage in The Wine Advocate, so you can well imagine the points.
But I am trying the 2000 vintage and it was less than grand; a perhaps oaky vintage. Moreover, I am not a big believer in letting Brunello age too long. Sangiovese, to me, needs 5 to 10 years in the cellar at the maximum with few exceptions. So a nine year old wine from a less than stellar vintage? How is it holding up? Well, surprisingly well. Yes the rim is going rather orangey so it is mature but I am thinking that this was a less ripe, higher acid year and the extra acidity has preserved some of the fruit.
And in Toscana, they love their acidity, both in food and wine. How many North American Steak Houses would serve you lemon with your steak? Not many. In Italy it is de rigeur and is a perfect match with their local wines. Try it for yourself, with whatever food you like. When you are having the wine you love, just try the combination with food. Then take a little lemon juice and put it on the food and try the combo again. Nine times out of ten you will prefer the lemony food and wine match better. North Americans love acidity too, we just don’t know where, when, or how to get it? The Italians figured this out a long time ago.
In the end my Shepherd’s pie was not my best, but the glass was better than I had hoped, so I won.