2004 was a classic vintage in Tuscany. Of the vintage, Jancis Robinson wrote that it was an "exceptionally good vintage, central Italy’s equivalent of the perfect growing season that France experienced in 2005." Like in most great vintages, growers were counting on a warm and sunny September. They got that in spades, and by the time wines were in barrels, some winemakers were already making comparisons to the classic 1997 vintage. "I have never seen Sangiovese with such quality, with perhaps the exception of 1997," said Roberto Guerrini, of Eredi Fuligni in Montalcino (one of my favorite Brunello producers).
I opened some of the vintage's young Brunello shortly after release, but I really have not revisited these wines much since. So it was a surprise and a pleasure when two friends reached out on the same day with the offer to share a 2004 bottle from their cellars. Based on the wines that I tasted, we are all in for treat over the next 5-7 years. Search your cellars in the coming years for whatever you have, and start enjoying these beauties. Music optional. Here are my tasting notes.
Brancaia Toscana 'Il Blu' 2004
Brancaia's Il Blu was one of the most talked about wines of 2004. James Suckling gave high praise with comments such as "the aromas leave me speechless" and "a finish that goes on for minutes." I recall tasting this around 2009, and I found it overwhelming, tannic and heavy on the oak. Six years has worked miracles for this wine, which is now stunningly beautiful. While its tannins are still integrating, this has already evolved into a world-class wine. It is bold, textured and layered, with waves of dark fruit. There is so much beautiful fruit, I didn't mind that it was still trying to shed its 20 months in French oak. The blend is 50% Sangiovese, 45% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. If you are lucky enough to own this one, give it another year and drink it with a slow dinner. We powered through this one without a speck to eat. Che peccato!
Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino 2004
I love this small, family estate in the medieval town of Tavernelle in southern Montalcino. While this is the warmer end of Montalcino, the area benefits from the wind of nearby coastal Maremma. I always get the impression that it is this unique influence that really drives the character of Fossacolle wines. This is elegant, seamless and is already in its prime. While Brancaia's Il Blu delivers satisfaction with pure, brute strength, this seduces with freshness and depth. This balanced wine delivers aromas and flavors of cherry, flowers and minerals. It is drinking so well now, I don't see any reason to hold on to it. But if you're rotation is back-logged, don't worry. There is so much structure, acidity and purity that this should stay in a sweet spot for another 5-7 years.
Like the Brancaia, we enjoyed the Fossacolle without food. We did, however, pair some great music. A discussion about U2's important recent concert in Paris recalled memories of their powerful Superbowl halftime performance in 2002, just a few months after 9/11. At 6:15 in this video, after Beautiful Day and a moving rendition of MLK with the names of victims of 9/11 scrolling into the air behind him, Bono yells "America!" and shouts to the sky as the band leads into Where the Streets Have No Name. If you don't have chills watching that, check your vital signs. This is optimism and the power of music at its finest. We could all use a bit of optimism these days.