Blind Brunello Tasting: Kirkland vs. Altesino vs. Cantina di Montalcino
It happened again. Another epic side-by-side-by-side blind tasting. This time we went down the rabbit hole with Brunello di Montalcino - the famed wine made in the beautiful hilltop town of Montalcino (Italy) made from the Sangiovese grape.
After being fortunate enough to visit Tuscany in 2016 and actually tour some of the vineyards of Montalcino, we are always eager to drink a wine from this region. Especially intriguing to us is seeing how the yearly release of the Kirkland Signature Brunello is drinking. It's always released at a reasonable price, but how does it compare to others? Now that we've got this little passion project going, we have the perfect excuse to try a few of these beautiful beverages in real time and at the SAME time.
Here is our selection of 2015 Brunello di Montalcino:
Kirkland Signature ($26.99)
Cantina di Montalcino (29.99)
As you can see, this tasting is about as level as possible. We have a trio of Brunello wines from the same vintage; two of them close in price point; and two available at Costco (1 in Atlanta and the other just off of I-75, about 8 hours South). The final wine (Altesino) was procured from Total Wine, since our Atlanta Costco did not have another 2015 Brunello that was under $100.
Wine #1: Forward and intense on the nose with bing cherry, high alcohol, and bright red fruits wafting from the glass. On the palate this wine seems bright, assertive, acidic - food friendly for sure. The back end is a little bitter and sour, without overpowering the friendliness of the wine in general. Solid wine and will be even better in the years to come.
Wine #2: Immediately out of the glass comes strong evidence of oak and vanilla, baking spices, and dark fruit - none of the bright and fresh notes that wine #1 provided. On the palate it drinks smoothly but a bit flabby. This does not seem to be an overly complex wine and leaves us wondering how it will evolve over time in the bottle.
Wine #3: The nose on this wine is "heaven in a glass" and "pure Brunello". It is beautifully floral, with hints of dried cherry and strawberry, it welcomes the first sip with a fruity hug. It is well balanced, with acidity present but not overpowering. This wine tastes like honest and well made - just the way Brunello should express the sangiovese grape. It has finesse, and a delicacy that the other two wines do not quite possess.
And the verdict?
This was an even split between #1 and #3, each garnering two votes as the "winner".
The odd man out in this tasting was wine #2 - which was revealed to be the Cantina di Montalcino. This is somewhat disappointing since it is an attractive price point for wines from this region (and because there are still 4 more bottles of the 2014 vintage in our wine cellar!). That leaves 2 people preferring the budget-friendly Brunello and the other 2 preferring the more pricey option. Wine #1 was the Kirkland and the wine #3 was the Altesino. Very fascinating tasting indeed!
Is it worth it?
For the Kirkland voters, the Altesino is clearly not worth the extra expense. But what about the VinoVistas, who did prefer the Altesino? Is the extra $33 worth it? The answer is a resounding no. For us to spend more than twice the price of the solid wine in the Kirkland bottle, the $60 bottle ought to be lights out. While the Altesino is clearly a good wine, we wouldn't classify it as a "lights out" bottle. At least not yet. Brunello can be expensive, but we've also had fantastic bottles in that $30 range - Molino del Piano comes to mind as another producer that tends to show up at Costco from time to time. What we would really love to see show up at Costco on occasion is a Rosso di Montalcino, which can give you great wine from the same town in Tuscany at a great price.
These wines are still just babies and have a lot of evolution yet to experience over the next few years of bottle aging. Just like our recent 2013 Barbaresco post, Brunello can age extremely well and can change dramatically over time. Our recommendation is to stock up on some of the Kirkland Brunello and lay it down for a few years - it's fantastic price on a very, very good wine.