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The Tuscan Takeover

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage that faces the just-released 2011 Brunellos is that they come on the heels of the widely acclaimed 2010s. Awarded four out of five stars by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the 2011s won’t be remembered as a classic vintage.

Overall, the wines have an immediate, juicy appeal that exceeded my expectations from what was a difficult, torrid growing season. The best show some staying power, and more than a few display unexpected complexity­.

Erratic weather conditions show the challenges growers faced in this vintage: From early bud break in the beginning of April (at least 10 days earlier than usual), to an extremely rainy midsummer, followed by soaring heat in August and September.

Thanks to the elevated temperatures close to harvest, sugar content in the grapes rose dramatically. As a result, the 2011 Brunellos are full bodied and concentrated, with high alcohol levels and moderate acidity.

While some of these high-octane expressions have enough fruit richness to mask the alcohol’s heat, others are thrown off balance by scorching alcohol sensations. Still others are already extremely evolved.The overall quality of the vintage is still very good. However, wines exclusively made from grapes grown in Montalcino’s­ high-altitude vineyards—where cooler temperatures and evening breezes kept the vines refreshed—­garnered some of the top scores.

Le Potazzine 2011 Brunello di Montalcino; $70, 97 points. Perfumed and elegant, this opens with enticing scents of rose, violet, fragrant berry, baking spice, tilled earth and a hint of new leather. The delicious, silky palate is loaded with finesse, offering juicy wild cherry, cinnamon, chopped mint, black tea and a note of pipe tobacco. It’s already drop-dead gorgeous but will develop more complexity over the next several years. Enjoy through 2026. de Grazia Imports LLC.

Capanna 2011 Brunello di Montalcino; $50, 95 points. Scents of wild berry, fragrant blue flower, tilled soil, new leather and a whiff of Mediterranean herb lead the nose on this fantastic wine. Rich layers of juicy black cherry, fleshy raspberry, cinnamon, licorice and mint weave throughout the palate while firm but refined tannins provide structure. Drink 2019–2029. Masciarelli Wine Co. Cellar Selection.

Le Chiuse 2011 Brunello di Montalcino; $59, 95 points. Poised and structured, this gorgeous wine opens with intense, enticing scents of perfumed berry, rose, violet, leather and a balsamic note. The delicious palate doles out juicy wild cherry, black raspberry cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg and star anise alongside firm, velvety tannins and fresh acidity. Drink 2018–2028. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. Cellar Selection.

Lisini 2011 Brunello di Montalcino; $80, 95 points. Intense, lovely aromatics of wild berry, fragrant blue flower, crushed herb and a whiff of tilled soil lead the way. On the powerful palate, youthfully assertive but refined tannins frame layers of crushed black cherry, blackberry, mint and ground pepper while a licorice note closes the lingering finish. Boasting structure and finesse, it shows surprising aging potential for the vintage. Drink 2020–2031. Soilair Selection. Cellar Selection.

Baricci 2011 Brunello di Montalcino; $50, 94 points. Aromas suggesting underbrush, scorched earth, mature black-skinned fruit and a whiff of dried mint jump out of the glass. The big, chewy palate doles out mature Marasca cherry, graphite, chopped herb and dark cooking spice alongside firm, refined tannins. It’s delicious. Drink 2019–2026. K&L Wine Merchants. Editors’ Choice.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini 2011 Progetto Prime Donne (Brunello di Montalcino); $105, 94 points. Baked plum, fragrant blue flower, dried herb, eucalyptus and cake spice aromas unfold on this full-bodied red. The elegant, structured palate offers mature black cherry, licorice, mocha and grilled herb while firm, fine-grained tannins provide the framework. This shows more aging potential than many of the 2011s. Drink 2019–2031. Banville Wine Merchants. Cellar Selection.

Il Marroneto 2011 Brunello di Montalcino; $80, 94 points. Elegant and structured, this offers enticing scents suggesting wild berry, pressed flower, chopped herb and baking spice. The refined palate delivers ripe wild cherry, cinnamon, star anise and tobacco alongside tightly knit, refined tannins. It’s tempting to drink now but it will be even better in a few more years. Drink 2019–2026. Montcalm Wine Importers.

Livio Sassetti 2011 Pertimali (Brunello di Montalcino); $55, 94 points. Floral and refined, this opens with alluring scents of violet, iris, perfumed berry, earth and a whiff of pressed powder. The savory, elegant palate offers up juicy wild cherry, raspberry, truffle, anise and white pepper framed in a network of silky tannins. It’s already extremely accessible and will offer fine drinking pleasure for the near and mid-term. Massanois Imports.

Altesino 2011 Brunello di Montalcino; $55, 93 points. Fragrant and sleek, this opens with scents of blue flower, pressed powder, perfumed berry and chopped herb. The balanced, full-bodied palate delivers licorice, ripe black cherry, clove and tobacco while firm, velvety tannins lend structure and finesse. Winebow.