2004 Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille Gaja, Pieve Santa Restituta
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Lovely deep colour. This has touches of licquorice on the nose, as well as hallmark assam tea and roasted herbs. On the palate incredibly mineral, with black fruit emphasis and notes of cocoa - even dark chocolate. Really silky, with finely grained ripe tannic structure and vital acidity. There is greater intensity here than with Rennina, a bit more reserved at this stage but with more elevated minerality. A long, rich textural finish. Simply exemplary - drink from 2011 to 2025.
The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille is darker and richer than the Rennina. Black cherries, plums, tar, licorice, minerals and leather all come together in this brooding Brunello. The fruit remains intense and full-bodied all the way through to the powerful and deeply satisfying close. Despite the wine?s heft, all of the components are woven together with remarkable harmony. This is a wonderful effort from Angelo Gaja. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2026. Angelo Gaja?s wines from Montalcino seem to get far less attention than his wines from Piedmont and Maremma, but they can equally compelling. Gaja did not produce his Brunellos in 2002 or 2003 which demonstrates his commitment to putting only the finest juice in the bottle. Robert Parker
When Angelo Gaja took the reigns of his family’s estate in Piedmont in the 1970s, he set about breaking all the rules of Barbaresco - not only planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc alongside the native Nebbiolo, but also blending Barbera with Nebbiolo grapes from both Barbaresco and Barolo vineyards, so that many of his best wines could not take those famous appellations.
So when, in 1994, it emerged that Angelo Gaja was to purchase an estate in Tuscany - a province where planting French grapes and thumbing a nose at tradition had become a way of life with its own breed of iconaclast (Super-Tuscans), one could forgive Tuscan traditionalists to sigh just as deeply as Angelo’s own father did when he started replanting the original estate. And one could almost imagine the Sangiovese Grosso vines digging their roots in just a little deeper, in anticipation of the coming Armageddon.
Instead, ever the confounder of expectations, Gaja set out to make Pieve Santa Restituta one of the greatest producers of classic Brunello di Montalcino.
Gaja, Pieve Santa Restituta is named after a tiny fourth-century church on a hill towards the south of the Montalcino appellation, which had fallen into disrepair until Gaja stepped in. Over the following decade, he set about restoring the church and returning the estate, first established in this magnificent, wild countryside, to its former glory. The 4,000sqm state-of-the-art winery and cellars are hidden below ground, while what are most visible are 16 hectares of immaculately manicured vineyards.
Angelo Gaja’s exacting standards, which are upheld by his daughter Gaia - who, these days, is the one tirelessly shuttling between Piedmont, Tuscany and the rest of the world - mean that yields have been drastically reduced, and selection has been ruled with a strictness a medieval nun paying her respects at Santa Restituta would have been proud of. No wines were produced in 2002 because of excessive rainfall, nor in 2003 - this time because of excessively hot temperatures.
In the first 10 years of Gaja’s involvement, two wines were produced on the estate, from different vineyards but under the same process - four weeks’ fermentation in steel, 12 months’ ageing en barrique and a further year in 30-year-old botti. Although all are located at around 350m, south-west-facing, have excellent drainage and are cooled by sea breezes from the Tyrrhenian, the soils are subtly different and the personalities are clearly expressed in the resulting wines. Brunello di Montalcino Rennina comes from three parcels with lime-rich sandy soil and tends to be the more delicate of the two expressions. Sugarille is the parcel closest to the walls of the church. Its compact, chalky, stony soil produces a powerful, compelling singlevineyard Brunello with more tannic structure and ageing potential to rival anything coming from Montalcino.