Wines of the Week: Poggio di Sotto & Silver Heights

Poggio di Sotto 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 95
Silver Heights 2021 Marselan Helan Mountains Ningxia 95
by Ian D’Agata

Poggio di Sotto 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva        95

Bright red. Deep aromas of super-ripe red cherry, cinnamon, sandalwood, licorice, tobacco and ancient leather, complicated by hints of coffee and forest floor. While the nose is captivating, I found myself thinking that it could use a little more freshness. Very smooth and broad in the mouth, with a ripe quality to the red fruit flavours and tannins. The mouthfeel is rich and structured, and the flavours linger impressively on the long, open-knit, forward back end. The grapes were picked in organically farmed vineyards, and the wine was aged for five years in large Slavonian casks. Poggio di Sotto is probably the best producer of Brunello wines today, and this beauty from what was not an exceptional vintage only adds further proof to that statement.  Drinking window: 2024-2034.

To be frank, reviewing the 2010 Brunello di Montalcino wines is always very tough going. Not because the wines are bad, because they aren’t, but because the vintage was initially overrated by everyone. The slew of attendant high scores are for the most part nowhere near the true quality of the wines. There were undoubtedly some great wines made (and the Poggio di Sotto 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is among them) but for the most part, these wines were nowhere near as great as you might have been led to believe. [By the way, the exact same thing is true of the 1997 Brunellos, perhaps the worst vintage of overrated wines in Brunello’s history: sell all you have faster than you can blink.

Then you have, of course, the exceptions. At Poggio di Sotto, in many respects the best Brunello winery there exists today, they cannot seem to make a bad wine even if they set out to do so on purpose. The skill of the technical team and the competent guidance of the ownership is that much more obvious in light of the amazing work the estate has done with its sister property, the nearby San Giorgio. Anybody who likes Brunello would do well to hunt down the San Giorgio 2019 and 2018 Riserva Brunellos, as they are the best wines that estate has ever made, of a quality level that I would not have thought possible five years ago. Over the years Poggio di Sotto has made some of the greatest Brunellos of the whole denomination (the 1999, 2001) and the quality level of the estate’s wines, beginning with their marvelous Rosso di Montalcino (that is better than 80% of all Brunellos made), are year after year, exceptional.

Silver Heights 2021 Marselan Helan Mountains Ningxia            95

I have always been impressed by the Silver Heights Marselan wine, ever since I first visited the winery and was tasting from barrels now years ago. Owner Emma Gao, who trained at Chateau Calon-Ségur, likes to experiment and is very successful with all the grapes she chooses to measure herself with (I wrote about the winery’s very successful cider wine last year here on the TerroirSense Wine Review). Her wines also reflect their Ningxia provenance, such that her Marselan wine is usually very fleshy, rich ripe and relatively high in alcohol (14%+) in the typical style of that warm weather viticultural climate zone. But the 2021 Marselan throws us a curve ball, being fresher, more austere and less full of fruity flesh like it usually is. And yet it has such marvelous balance that I really think it is the best Marselan wine she has yet made to date.

Deep vivid ruby-red. Intense, precise aromas and flavours of dark cherry, smoky plum, violet, graphite, Oriental spices and herbs. At once luscious but  elegant, it enters fruity and ripe, turning more classically austere in the middle, with very smooth tannins nicely framing the deep red and blue fruit on the long suave finish. By any stretch of the imagination, this is a superb wine and for my money most likely the best Marselan Silver Heights has yet made to date. This wine’s pleasantly austere graphite note is such that, if I didn’t know better, it would have me wondering if a little Cabernet Sauvignon had found its way into a vat or two; but no, this is rather a case of Marselan’s great capacity to change and improve over time. Knockout wine that puts many established famous red wines from Europe to shame. Drinking window: 2025-2034.



Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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  • Love your takes on Brunello in general, and producers specifically. I’m new to it but have been obsessed with collecting ever since my first trip to Montalcino in summer of 2022. (HOT!).

    The view on 2010 is interesting. I’ve seen videos over on Tony Woods site where the winemakers at two top producers – Il Marroneto and Biondi-Santi – were both asked what their most valuable bottle is, and they both said 2010 (the Madonna delle Grazie, in A. Mori’s case).

    Anyway, keep up the great work and thanks for all you do, Ian!

    • Cheers! I think 2010 is a fine Brunello year, but I think there have been others, even recent ones, that have been as good if not better.

Ian D'Agata