More Brunello, Young and Old (Mastrojanni)

More Brunello, Young and Old by Bruce Sanderson Decanted 8/29/11

Since my visit to Tuscany in April, I have had opportunities to taste quite a few Brunellos di Montalcino thanks to visiting producers. Lunch with Riccardo Illy of the Illy coffee company provided the setting for an introduction to his Montalcino estate, Mastrojanni. Riccardo's brother, Francesco, already owned property in the region (Fattoria Le Ripe) and when the owner of the adjoining estate died, encouraged Riccardo to purchase it. This was in 2008. Mastrojanni consists of 222 acres; 62 acres are planted to vines, 36 in the Brunello appellation. It lies in the southeastern part of the region, near the Orcia River. The soils are alluvial and low in vigor, mostly limestone with some clay. In addition to the Brunello di Montalcino, in the best vintages (2001, 2004, 2006) there is a single vineyard Brunello, Schiena d'Asino, and next year will be the first release of Loreto, another single vineyard from the estate. Andrea Marchetti is the longtime agronomist at Mastrojanni and enologist Maurizio Castelli makes the wines. 

The Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino 2009, a brilliant ruby color, offered pure cherry and raspberry flavors, all ripe and juicy, with a lingering finish. The Brunello di Montalcino 2005, from a lighter year, exhibited pure floral, cherry and strawberry aromas on a linear, taut and elegant frame.

By contrast, the Brunello 2004 offered a deep, rich nose of ripe cherry and blackberry, accented by iron and sanguine notes. Powerful, it was full of sweet, ripe fruit, intense and complex, with a long, mineral aftertaste. The 2006 showed a slight reduction, then with air revealed black cherry, blackberry, iron and raw meat notes. A brooding, muscular red, it finished with mineral and spice elements, very complex and long.

The Schiena d'Asino, from grapes planted in 1975, is fermented in wood vats and aged three years in 15-hectoliter casks (compared with larger casks, up to 54 hectoliters for the normale). The 2006 Schiena d'Asino boasted an ethereal nose of rose, cherry and raspberry, a wine of finesse, yet powerful and long with a spicy, peppery and minerally aftertaste. The 2004 Schiena delivered ripe cherry, raspberry and licorice aromas and flavors. Very sweet, round and mouthfilling, its cherry jam, licorice and tobacco notes linger on. "This spice is a characteristic of '06," said Illy. "The '04 is more fruity, with the flavor of cooked fruit, like jam."


Sophisticated Spice

Old New Orleans Cajun Spiced Rum commands a substantial premium compared to the mass market brands. It brings real artisanal craftsmanship to the traditionally playful category. This pot still rum, made from Louisiana blackstrap molasses is infused with a proprietary blend of real fresh ground spices, including cloves, cinnamon, Jamaican allspice, ginger, nutmeg, a dash of cayenne and other secret spices.

"This marriage of true spiced rum and matured aged rum creates a product that has incredible flavor complexity, yet finishes smooth like a fine aged rum," explains Erick Lewko, brand/sales manager, Old New Orleans Rum, noting that other brands may use artificial flavors and colorings that don't exist in Old New Orleans.

Spice-Y Cocktails
Spiced rum goes down easy with essential mixers like Coke and ginger ale, but the depth of its flavor profile also lends itself well to more complex cocktails, like updated swizzle variations. Other variations include "The Sailor's Sweet Tea" with spiced rum, black tea, demerara syrup, lime and thyme. Or try a "Black and Stormy with Stirrings ginger syrup, Blenheim spicy ginger ale and lime juice or cane sugar, muddled mint and fresh lime. 

Spicing Up Rum taken from the August 2011 issue of the Illinois Beverage Guide.

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