Extremes can serve as either creative or destructive forces, a fact with which the vintners of Burgundy are well acquainted. The region is known for its dramatic contrasts—especially the volatility of its weather. These meteorological vagaries are both the bane and the blessing of Burgundy’s growers, and 2012 showed nature at its moodiest. An unusually warm March preceded two months of rain and cold, delaying the flowering of the vines and elevating the risk of mildew and mold. By mid-July, however, the weather saw periods of great sunshine, and by August the vines basked in sunny, dry days that lasted until harvest. Thus, the vintage yielded smaller-than-usual quantities of such superior wines as the Joseph Drouhin 2012 Gevrey-Chambertin ($65, drouhin.com), a classic red with fragrant black-cherry and black-currant fruit, and subtle notes of sandalwood, mushroom, nutmeg, and leather.
No region in Tuscany embraces its winemaking traditions more fervently than Montalcino, the home of Brunello di Montalcino—perhaps Italy’s best-known and most-collected wine. Yet this 100 percent Sangiovese is not the only Montalcinesi red on wine enthusiasts’ radar. In the 1990s, Vittorio Frescobaldi joined forces with Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi to collaborate on a new wine from the area that would not only combine time-honored and modern techniques but also embody the best of Old World and New World ideas. The latest release of their brainchild, Tenuta Luce della Vite 2011 Luce ($93, lucedellavite.com), is a blend of 55 percent Merlot and 45 percent Sangiovese that offers up warm scents of blackberry, black raspberry, violets, and vanilla bean, while on the palate its silky texture buoys up notes of ripe boysenberry, cinnamon, and smoke.