2011 Cupano Brunello di Montalcino

BY ERIC GUIDO | MAY 03, 2021

After the tragic passing of proprietor Lionel Cousin, I found myself digging through my cellar for past vintages of his lovely creation, the Cupano Brunello di Montalcino. I was saddened to look back on my last conversation with Andrea Polidoro, Managing Director at Cupano, during my 2001 retrospective tastings, when he spoke of the passing of Gianfranco Soldera, Piero Palmucci, Diego Molinari, Franco Biondi Santi and Giulio Gambelli as being the most impactful moments during his time at the winery. Now, as of the evening of April 24th, 2021, Lionel Cousin joined this passionate group of innovators and trailblazers in the stars above Montalcino. 

It was in 1998 that Ornella Tondini and Lionel Cousin planted their first three hectares in the south-west of Montalcino, near the town of Camigliano. The well-draining sedimentary soils consisting of sandy clay, fossils and stones at elevations of only 180 to 200 meters are unique to the region. Also attractive was that the land had not been touched for over forty years, and never farmed with chemicals or fertilizers. This was the perfect mix for Tondini and Cousin to start their project, which began as organic and now follows biodynamic principles.

Two thousand marked the first vintage at Cupano. Since then, the winery has had a modern approach to winemaking, following a Burgundian style, influenced deeply by Henri Jayer. When change came to Montalcino in the form of a revitalization of traditional practices, Lionel Cousin wasn’t swayed from his vision. The last nineteen vintages have proven just how magnificent that vision was. These are not wines that hide the character of Sangiovese under a veil of oak. Instead, Cupano finds a balance between richness, elegance and poise. They are softer, deeper and fruitier than most Brunellos upon release, yet with the underlying structure to mature beautifully. My tasting of the 2001, only their second vintage, was revelatory, a perfect marriage of well-integrated oak and pure Sangiovese fruit. On this night, I opened the warm 2011 vintage, which I was sure would be drinking brilliantly - even so, its best expression was literally twenty-four hours after the cork was pulled. 

The Cupano 2011 Brunello di Montalcino is seductively perfumed and sweetly spiced with a rich display of citrus-tinged cherry, balsam, dark chocolate, mint and tobacco. It’s silky and round, almost creamy in texture, balancing its decadence with notes of tart raspberry and brisk acids that create a salty sensation of umami, as grippy tannins slowly mount toward the close. It lingers incredibly long, drenching the senses with a primary concentration of fruit framed well by youthful structure. This is an example of how barrique influence has helped in a warm vintage. The 2011 was simply a pleasure to follow over the course of two days. Beautiful. 93/Drink 2021-2026.