Last week brought the first frigid winter air, and I recommended a wonderful antidote: Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino.
In 1975, Roman lawyer Gabriele Mastrojanni established an estate in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, an undeveloped area of Montalcino, the ancient hillside Tuscan town. He produced his first Brunello di Montalcino five years later.
Over the ensuing decades, 30 of the 62 acres planted were devoted to brunello, the local name for the sangiovese grape. Since the early 1990s, Mastrojanni has been under the care of general manager Andrea Machetti and the talented winemaker Maurizio Castelli. The team consistently produced elegant wines, earning awards and respect for Mastrojanni and its area.
Mastrojanni died in 2005, and three years later, the Mastrojanni family decided to sell the winery. Machetti approached Francesco Illy, who had renovated and developed an adjoining property and who is member of the family that owns the world-famous Illy coffee company. The family took over the winery, retained Machetti and Castelli, and made additional investments in the vineyards, winemaking equipment and cellar.
During the last seven months, I have tasted the Mastrojanni wines in our market twice with Riccardo Illy, chairman of Gruppo Illy. He speaks perfect English and has the quiet self-assurance that comes from a life as a successful businessman, politician and writer.
Rosso means red in Italian, but its wine meaning is a young red wine. Under the brunello di Montalcino classification, a rosso di Montalcino is required to be aged only one year, with at least six months in barrel. Mastrojanni’s 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is glistening red, perfumed with red berries and floral scent, and filled with tasty, ripe fruit offering cherry and cranberry flavors with soft tannins. The sum of the parts make the 2009 Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino a very appealing wine that is eminently drinkable and irresistible. It retails for about $27.
Mastrojanni produces an estate brunello di Montalcino and a single-vinyeard Vigna Schiena d’Asino Brunello di Montalcino. I tasted the 2004 and 2006 vintages of each.
Brunello di Montalcino has to be aged at least two years in barrel and four months in bottle. Mastrojanni exceeds the minimum by 50 percent. The 2004 and 2006 show the same pedigree of bright red color, and a plethora of aromas ranging from raspberry, cherry, cinnamon, white pepper, roses and black raisins. Both are medium bodied with delicious fruit emitting raspberry, cranberry and bitter cherry flavors with harmonious tannins. There is an undercurrent of vanilla in the aroma and flavor from the oak barrels that is pleasing because it is not obvious. Each wine retails for approximately $63.
The 2004 and 2006 Mastrojanni Vigna Schiena d’Asino Brunello di Montalcino have the framework of the regular brunellos, but the oak influence and fruit ripeness is at a higher, more intense level. It is a style for wine drinkers who prefer New World wines. Each single-vineyard wines retails for about $99.
I decanted all the wines and each required about an hour of aeration to reveal its traits, including the solid structure that will permit you to cellar them for a decade or two.