Valpolicella, Ripasso Valpolicella

#rondinella #valpolicella #novaia

In September of 2016 seven Ontario friends, colleagues and I paid visits to 18 Valpolicella estates over four days. We stayed at the perfectly situated Hotel Villa Moron in Negrar. We were formally introduced to the Veronese gastronomy and a set of Valpolicella wines at Locanda ‘800, a Negrar Valley institution. I expect some of you will know it. We visited the following estates. Buglioni, Pasqua, Santa Sofia, Ca’ La Bionda, Novaia, Sartori di Verona, Nicolis, Tenute Salvaterra, Valentina Cubi, Fidora, Cantina Valpolicella di Negrar, Ettore Righetti, Tenuta Santa Maria Alla Pieve, Massimago, Corte Adami, Bertani, Zonin and Ca’ Rugate. Dinners were also taken at Osteria Numero 1 in Fumane, Antica Osteria Paverno in Marano and Ristorante Nicolis in Verona. It is my pleasure and, indeed, my privilege to tell you this Valpolicella story. Such as it is.

Valpolicella 101 for i canadese #locanda800 @C_Valpolicella

The permutations are many but well-defined. Valpolicella, a style of wine as much as anything though qualified as a set of possibilities all capable of being labeled as a DOC; Valpolicella, Valpolicella Superiore and Valpolicella Classico Superiore. Ripasso, a next level stylistic, a traditional technique that promotes a second fermentation through the basic Valpolicella’s contact with warm dried grape skins from which Amarone has been pressed. This practice slightly decreases the acidity and increases the alcoholic content and enriches the wine with a greater concentration of sugar, glycerine, dry extract, polyphenolic substances and aromas. Ripasso intends to promote a heavier structure and longevity.

Amarone knowingly set aside, at least outside the terms of this report, tradition looks to Ripasso as the top of the pyramid for Valpolicella wines but when we talk of terroir, of marl, clay and limestone, of 11 valleys and all the hills, what represents the truest expression of Valpolicella? Authenticity must be borne out of spontaneity, in a product that shows itself in different ways, in every year. It should never act the same way twice. Valpolicella must remember the primaries; geology, geography and climate but also colours, uncontrollable forces and natural tendencies. Memories are only built on that which is not forced. “The importance of little details,” with thanks to Camilla Rossi Chauvenet.

Lavoro stradinario da cuoco Diego Donatelli #locanda800 #negrar #valpolicella

It’s all about the valleys. Do the grapes grow in the Valpolicella Classica or not? Corvina is king, corvinone and rondinella (often for colour) support while molinara may or may not bring up the rear. Sometimes there is croatina and oseleta. Pergola or Pergoletta Veronese is perpetuated as the training system of record, at times in double Pergoletta style. Guyot and high density planting continues to creep into consciousness. The Burgundy ideal will always play into the minds of all.

Valpolicella hails from the hills north and east from Verona. To the immediate west is Lago Garda and further to the east, Venezia. The Valpolicella extends from Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella to Val Tramigna in three sub zones, Valpolicella DOC Classico, Valpolicella DOC Valpantena and the eastern or extended Valpolicella DOC. The valleys; Fumane, Marano, Negrar (Valpolicella Classica), Quinzano and Avesa (Valpolicella), Vaplantena (independent), Squaranto, Marcelisse, Mezzane, Illasi and Tramigna (Eastern Valpolicella). The area is 80,000 hectares of which 7,600 are planted under vine. The Classico area is 45 per cent of the total. More than 60,000,000 bottles are produced annually, 45 per cent of which are Ripasso and (32) Valpolicella. For an in-depth analysis of the appellation production zone and a proposal for the delimitation of the principal viticultural areas of the hillsides seek out the map of Valpolicella Crus by Alessandro Masnaghetti.

Masnaghetti contends “however vast and variegated it might be, the Valpolicella is rather easy to sum up and describe.” Geographically speaking, that much is true. From a quality standpoint, there can be much debate. Tradition, even if spoken in terms of dry red wines, is hard to break and in Valpolicella the collective style is virtually unparalleled anywhere, considering the breadth and quantity of wine produced. Over the past 20 years the area of vineyards has doubled in the Valpolicella and the 60M bottles produced put it highest for any Italian PDO. The consistency of homogeneity is clearly a harbinger of sales and quality but sustaining such growth without a compromise to quality is surely the tallest of orders. Those producers attempting to challenge the current order are necessary for diversity and to preserve the perpetual health of Valpolicella.

When the light is just right #verona

A trip to Valpolicella is a most intense, concentrated and often repetitive exercise, much like and in mimic of the wines produced throughout the vast area and so pit stops in and out of Verona are both obvious and necessary. Verona may be most famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet but it is truly one of the unconscionably beautiful cities of this world. It is a place that brings characters and events to you. With eyes open wide and faculties able to maintain focus you will continuously look and carefully listen, so that the stories come to you. Verona repeatedly delivers moments of awe. At dusk overlooking the Adige from the Ponte Pietra. At night in the busy Piazza delle Erbe. Musing over several hundred varieties of Gin at the Frz Lab Bar. Sipping on Champagne outside of Osteria Alcova del Frate and Patrick Piuze Chablis at Antica Bottega del Vini.

Via Marconi, #verona #frzlab #ginbar

I’ve included some examples of IGT Verona at the end of this report to expound on two polar bookends of the 21st century ideal. Winemakers make use of the designation to fashion Super Veronese, wines of local meets expatriate varietals bathed in oak. Still others make Valpolicella doppelgängers with traditional varieties that can sometimes act more like Valpolicella than so many legal examples approved under the DOC. The IGTs with international grape varieties blended in and subjected to new oak need time to develop and will age into their bubbles welling with balsamic, chocolate, espresso and even truffle. There is no disputing the modernity and mimicry of other Italian brethren and sistren. Recent changes to labelling say that a wine exceeding 80 per cent of a local variety (like corvina) could in fact now be called a Classico Superiore though if the methodology of winemaking (and/or growing) messes with the plan there are some that don’t resemble one in any shape or form.

More pertinent to this investigation is in holding hope that wines produced under the auspices of rogue decisions will soon find their way out of the scrap heap piled high due to discriminatory DOC penalties. Things like bottling under screwcap, omitting sulphites and exploring “the terroir and grape varieties to the fullest by pushing all boundaries.” Valpolicella is and can be even more progressive, not just to increase market presence, Amarone sales and the bottom line of all Valpolicella wines riding the skins of their provider, but also to lead with innovation.

This report is due with great respect and thanks to Olga Bussinello, Director of the Valpolicella Consorzio Tutela Vini. Also to John Szabo M.S. and Federica Shir. The trip and subsequent 8,500 words would not be possible without the company of esteemed, stupid smart and even funnier colleagues; Julie Garton, Joshua Corea, Annette Bruley, Lauren Hall, José Luis Fernández and Nick Chajoglou. Last but certainly at the top of the list are the Valpolicella wineries, their proprietors, winemakers, export and marketing folks who received us. Tiziano Accordini, Roberta Speronello of Bertani, Mariano Buglioni, Alessandro Castelanni of Ca’ La Bionda, Giorgia Lanciai of Ca’ Rugate, Valentina Cubi, Gabriele Righetti (and the whole family) of Ettore, Eugenia Torelli and Emilio Fidora, Camilla Rossi Chauvenet of Massimago, Luca Bissoli of Cantina Valpolicella Negrar, Martina Fornaser and Giuseppe Nicolis, Marcello Vaona of Novaia, Chiara Pinamonte of Pasqua, Gianpiero Rotini of Salvaterra, Alex Guardini, Elisa Biasolo and Giancarlo Begnoni of Santa Sofia, Carmen Stirn and Andrea Sartori, Gaetano Bertani of Tenuta Santa Maria and Francesco Zonin.

I give you 64 reviews; Valpolicella, Ripasso Valpolicella and IGT.

Great old table, Villa Mosconi Bertani

Valpolicella

Bertani Valpolicella DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Bertani’s Valpolicella is not classified Classico because the grapes come from Valpantena and Valpolicella Classica, 80 per cent corvina and 20 rondinella. Fermented in stainless and aged one year in concrete. Basic, commercial, effective, red cherry and tanky leather, seamless and untouchable. Commercially corrected and correctly traditional Valpolicella. Low in alcohol, acidity and complex capability. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016  cantine_bertani  churchillcellars  @CantineBertani  @imbibersreport  @cantine.bertani  @imbibersreport

Cantina Di Negrar Valpolicella DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy  (467936, $11.95, WineAlign)

It gets neither more obvious or direct in a perfectly commercial Valpolicella package, one that is highly fruity with a sidle over to the funky cherry side and would always benefit from a slight chill. A leathery note more suede than new strop distracts but only for a moment because of the omnipresent acidity. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted June 2016  cantina_valpolicella_negrar  noble_estates  @CantinaNegrar  @Noble_Estates  @CantinaValpolicellaNegrar  @NobleEstates

Ca’ Rugate Valpolicella DOC Rio Albo 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, SAQ 10706736, $18.00, WineAlign)

Rio Albo is drawn from vineyards in the hilly area of Montecchia di Crosara and is a blend of corvino (45), corvinone (40) and rondinella (15). Fresh fruity, very tangy, viscous, liquorice and plum Valpolicella. Firm but very juicy, with quite a bit of concentration. Very modern and forward but not overly extracted or pressed. Just up there with the ambitious, confident and in balance. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  carugatevini  @carugate.aziendaagricola

Tasting at Fidora

Fidora Valpolicella DOC Monte Tabor 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Monte Tabor is the name of the Sant’Ambrogio estate and this is pure delight from the purest, cleanest and most honest red fruit found anywhere in Valpolicella. Fermented and aged in only stainless steel, to push the fruit borne in requiem of a proper selection, even in the giving 2015 vintage, but pushed by higher learning from the challenge of the previous one. Establishes a base, like a song in celebration tells Emilio Fidora. “We are very good farmers, even if we are not super with making wines.” Joking aside there is no cheating here, just honesty and back to basics ethics. The notes talk of cherries at peak but then there is this calcari and marbling as per the mimic of the terroir. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016 and July 2017  fidorawines  thelivingvine  @eugeniatorelli    @TheLivingVine  @fidorawines  The Living Vine inc.

Fidora Valpolicella DOC Monte Tabor 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

From the Illasi Valley, composed of 50 per cent corvina, (30) corvinone and (20) rondinella, another singular effort in its inaugaural vintage, rusty and rustic, not exactly light in spite of its transparency. Great visceral soil tang, in line with a top notch bardolino and while firm there is a brightness about it. A moment of tonic. Could drink this often and with thanks to some good length in its persistence. Excellent for the vintage with 5 g/L of RS and also richer than you think. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

“I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me.” @massimago #special #brassinpocket

Massimago Valpolicella 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Few reference points can prepare you for Massimago’s style of Valpolicella so simply use this as the ingress. Plucked from vines in the Mezzane Valley in the east part of Verona province, rising from the village of Vago towards Mezzane di Sotto. Camilla Rossi Chauvenet’s precocious blend is the crisp, crunchy, pure as driven white limestone portal into the soils laid out in amphitheatre vineyard grid. Camilla uses only stainless steel tanks here to accentuate a basal clarity brush stroke on her Valpolicella canvas. This from a selection of the grapes that will not enter the Amarone process, the second and third pass harvested bunches. Cherry and silty saline mingle at the interces of limestone. How can you miss the white stone in the naked Valpolicella? You can’t. It’s without make-up, transparent, naked to the world. The wine speaks a natural vernacular and the land is spoken for. If villages-level Bourgogne were made like this all would be well in the world. Lithe, delicate and perfumed. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Marcello Vaona of Novaia

Novaia Valpolicella DOC Vino Biologico 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Family history matters. It begins with Paolo Vaona, then Bruno, followed by two sons, Gianpaolo and Cesare. Today it is Marcello (Gianpaolo’s son) and Cristina (Cesare’s daughter) who have transformed Novaia, or “new courtyard” into the organic farm it is but also to the new age for Valpolicella, predicated on experimentation, mistakes, triumphs and changing the way the region will think about its storied wines. Because, as Marcello reminds us, “in the beginning there was only Recioto. So getting to this moment was a long journey and Novaia’s Valpolicella named Vino Biologico can’t be labled Classico because it’s under screwcap. That will change. It’s fresh, spicy and of no oak. It’s natural ease and yeasty feel mesh with saline, terroir-drawn variegate and it’s so very specific and focused. Love the cherries and the lithe 12 per cent frame. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  bwwines  @NovaiaAgricola  @bwwines  Marcello Vaona (Novaia)  @bwwines

The last tasting with The Master and the Canadian apostles at #fumane

Valentina Cubi Valpolicella DOC Iperico 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Iperico (St John’s Wort) is made of corvina (65 per cent), rondinella (25) and molinara (10), a wine confidently in purport of the ’14 intel., with an early note of musty, damp forest floor, currants and flower compost. All of the earthy components are exaggerated by the vintage with nothing to cover it up, but the palate is silky in a transparent way and acidity that softens, like a saline streak, as an ancient underground river would impart, as if by Willamette Valley pinot noir. This is singular stuff in Valpolicella. As before, raised only in steel. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Valpolicella DOC Iperico 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Iperico is a blend of corvina (65 per cent), rondinella (25) and molinara (10), similar in character to 2014 but with a compressed reduction to the compost and yet a striking come about from an increase to the sharpness. The acetic push is a key factor in the linear definition. Torched marshmallow skin, bitter herbs, umami savour, the flowers still fresh, the fruit vibrant and all tolled, a beautiful vitality. An intense wine, again like pinot but also like Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol teroldego or Piemonte alter-ego varieties, specifically grignolino. As with Sin Cero, raised only in steel. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016  #valentinacubi  @valentina_cubi  Valentina Cubi

Good times in #valpolicella with @johnszabo

Valpolicella Classico

Buglioni Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In 2014 the entire crop was sold off to bulk wine because the quality was not considered up to standard. The Valpolicella Classico 2015 is composed of corvina, rondinella and 18 per cent croatina, with no oak and a flash raised three months in stainless steel. An increase in quality might arise from training by Guyot (2-4 but generally 3 kilos) says Mariano Buglioni, but this Valpo is from vines trained by pergola to yield quantity (3.5 to five kilos per vine). Certainly some warmth on the nose and the result here is both floral and acetic, fully crushed, simple, firm and fruity, though not too firm nor infirm. The vintage is promising across the range and here this lingers quite long, clean, crisp and a bit chewy. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted September 2016  buglioni_azienda_agricola  marianobuglioni    @cantine.buglioni.9

A sense of wonder beneath the pergola, Vigneti di Ettore

Vigneti Di Ettore Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From the Righetti family, from grandfather Ettore to grandson Gabriele, Vigneti di Ettore’s Valpolicella Classico may just be possessive of the most quaffability of any Classico, all red fruit and in the optimum bring it on zone. The acidity and whatever momentary firmness accorded is functiional and better still, beautiful. As basic and categorical as life in Valpolicella grapes should be and only made more complex because it pleases so. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016 vigneti_di_ettore     @vignetidiettore

Vigneti Di Ettore Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Stylistically this Ettore Valpolicella Superiore ’14 is a departure, or perhaps it is ’15 that changes course. I get the feeling there is more grandfather Ettore inherent here and grandson Gabriele drives the ship next season. Or perhaps it’s just a case of vintage. Nature versus nurture arguments aside this ’14 takes a step deeper and away from simple red fruits into a more variegated gathering that includes blue (berry) and black (currant). Still quiet and quite restrained, elegant even, said despite the creative license employed with that word. Greater acidity balances the more developed and deeper fruit and so balance is fully realized. More pleasure in a slightly adjusted bell-curve way. I’d drink up some ’15s for a couple more months while waiting for the more awkward 14s to come around. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Santa Sofia

Santa Sofia Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

So simply pure, clear, concise and precise. Ripe cherry, brightness, transparency and unadulterated. Every day Valpolicella, the way it was and the way it needs to be encouraged to remain. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  santa_sofiawines  @SANTASOFIAwines  @SantaSofiaWines

Tasting and lunch at Tenute Salvaterra

Tenute Salvaterra Valpolicella Classico DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

A post oxidative must has made transference to personality lifted by a reductive odour within and expressive of ripe, firm fruit without. Dark but not exactly black cherry, with little to no oak but certainly cariries the characteristics of a wine that has had a cup of coffee with wood. The collection is ultimately reductive, smoky and dangerous. The caramel finish is a sign of a wine not unlike some new world takes on old world grapes. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  tenute_salvaterra  tre.amici.imports  @vinosalvaterra  @treamiciwines  @tenutesalvaterra  

Buongiorno from @sartori_verona @C_Valpolicella

Sartori Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (378109, $12.95, WineAlign)

This silly inexpensive blend of 45 per cent corvina, (30) corvinone, (20) rondinella and (five) croatina spent five months housed in the big barrels. Valpolicella of stronger, deeper, traditionalist methodology. Firm and low tonal, baritone Classico, mahogany and leather, naugahyde and deep black cherry. Clean and balanced. Old school with a great understanding of things done right. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  sartoriverona  fwmcan  @Sartori_Verona  @FWMCan  @SartoriVerona  @FWMCan

Zonin Valpolicella Classico DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (475145, $13.10, WineAlign)

Zonin’s Valpolicella Classico 2015 is corvina with some molinara and rondinella, aged in 2nd and 3rd passage large barrels but no barriques. Clean red fruit and despite some tonneaux time really quite fresh. Sour cherry, textbook, elevating, commercial, technically sound. Clean as a whistle. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  zonin1821  @Zonin_USA  @zonin

Ponte Di Castelvecchio

Valpolicella Superiore

Massimago Valpolicella Superiore DOC Profasio 2012, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Profasio establishes new territory for Valpolicella Superiore from Mezzane Valley fruit in a wine over dinner “that lets you talk.” A careful and specific selection of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella (65/30/5) is subjected to “un leggero appassimento,” or a “slight withering” from one month of drying and the rest kept thankfully and respectfully fresh. The child is raised in stainless steel for five months plus one year in 2nd and 3rd passage barrels. This is Valpolicella meant to partner up with dinner for two, replete with secret recipes and crossing glances. “We feel the appassimento method is about levels of aromatics,” tells Camilla Rossi Chauvenet. In such a contrary to Superiore belief we find freshness and anti-jam the goal and as a result, the wine is allowed to tell a story. A script written cursively, crisp and pure, crunchy like the normale with an addendum of aromatic profiling; cherry, leather and red citrus. Profasio is a wine of good temper and vision (and could mean profezia, or prophecy, or perhaps a surname in reference to Dante and the Veronese ebraico’s Almanacco Perpetuo), a Valpolicella into a second level of contemplation, but not too much. The wine causes no worries, no anxiety and shoes are left at the bottom of the mountain. Profasio with its hint of dried momentum is a wine of communication and a new way of communicating. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016  massimago  @Massimago  Massimago

Valpolicella Classico Superiore

Buglioni Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Mariano Buglioni’s Valpolicella Superiore 2013 sees a blend of French and Slavonian oak, aged for two years, the first 18 in Inox plus six months in the barrels. The blend is nearly the same as the Valpolicella Classico 2015 but with eight to 10 per cent croatina. A well-balanced split between fresh and dried fruit comes through on the nose, with some fennel, tar and rosemary. Firm and mildly tannic, black cherry and bokser to the palate, chewy again, of texture, with structure and the slightest tingling fizz. Not so much a fizz as much as an electric current tang. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Good morning @C_Valpolicella from @accordinilgino

Stefano Accordini Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

From the Fumane Valley, an airy, aerified, soft and blowsy, carbonic felt Valpolicella, at once to a whole bunch sensory response and then for thoughts to big hose pumpovers. Saline, from vineyards stretching up the hillside from 350 up to 500 plus metres high. Classic red fruit and nettle meets impartial red limestone, citrus with as much salty sting as their can be. Many Valpolicella turn out this way but few are as blatant and obvious as this. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  accordini_stefano  majesticwinesinc  @AccordiniIgino  @MajesticWineIn  @accordini  @majesticwinecellars

Once you go Casal Vegri you can never go back, Eh @lesommelierwine ?? #calabionda

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

In 2015 the blend is 70 per cent corvina, with 20 corvinone, rondinella and molinara. Some producers decide not to produce this level in Valpolicella but Alessandro stresses its importance. It allows him to make a selection for the other categories and the young vines can better service this wine. Only in stainless, bottled in February, this is beautifully natural. Molinara has less colour but brings salinity (a.k.a minerality). Here plays the opening card for the cellar. Fresh cherries, inviting acidity, such freshness, bright, effusive, so drinkable. Began the harvest on September 2nd. Must have been the first in town. The acidity is that special. As a footnote, no Amarone is made from this vineyard. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  #calabionda  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  Azienda Agricola Cà La Bionda  @LeSommelierWine

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

In the world of Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2014 was a difficult vintage with lots of rain, some development of botrytis and as a result many bunches were dropped, reducing the output from 120,000 to 80,000 bottles. It was also (and concurrently) not a great vintage for Amarone so some of the vineyards that would feed the big wine were diverted to the Superiore. Aged 18 months in oak barrels, averaging 20 years (16-25) from Casa Vegri vineyard, the wood is by now integrated, the vintage compendium resolved with kept freshness and ripe tannins. Very young, alive, in and out of biting but never sharp. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2012, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

It was a warm vintage, similar to 2009, here at four years with a stand up and be counted, noticed and no questions asked applauded level of maintained freshness, despite the heat of the moment. I say this because there is a slight elevation in volatility, a hyperbole as compared to 2014, but also more compression and mineral tonic. With eyes shut tight I get to this point with such properly rendered corvina, corvinone et al swirling in my mouth and my senses acute to the variegated fruit character. And I know this is more serious and of a Campo Casal Vegri structure to let it age another seven to eight, at the least. How does this apply to later vintages? Only time will tell. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Dry, baby dry. Corvina at #calabionda

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2010, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

Alessandro Castelanni comments how “it’s nice to taste old vintages because we have to stop and note the things we need to do. To figure out how to get acidity, freshness, lesss quantity, more quality.” Looking forward to 2016 Campo Casal Vegri will be the first vineyard of full organic certification and looking back 2002 was the last year using selected yeasts. And 2010? “One of my favouritre, classic vintages,” smiles Alesandro, “cool, with some rain but not too much.” A season of the enervating diurnal shifts in temperature and with “the colour of corvina.” Late September harvest, now here, suddenly, the magical Classico Superiore impossibility, shy but real, the moment of volatility anything but, the plum-cherry-strawberry current running through with live wire elegance. Natural wonder of corvina and subsidiaries, with secondary character just beginning though they were always there, fennel, the territory occupied by he who may not be named, but fresher, cleaner, more precise. Again, not a baby Amarone and not giving the market what it ignorantly thinks it wants. This wine can establish or re-establish the market, to bring back (or bring the contiguous and contagious style from out of the dark and into the mind of tasters that need to be directed. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ La Bionda Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Campo Casal Vegri’ 2008, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $32.95, WineAlign)

A little bit more rustic than the foward ’10 and ’12 vintages, more liqueure and from a smaller production, more bretty volatility, certainly concentrated, with colour and yet the acidity is still buzzing. “Too rustic for my tastes,” insists Alessandro and here greener than the younger vintages. The linger is quicker and the drying tannin a force more blunt than the forward years. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Generations of Ca’ La Bionda

Corte Adami Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

When the vintage offers great fruit ambition often follows and so the strength, volatility and power comes with little surprise. A really dense and equally tart Superiore has this citrus streak running through. After an hour in the glass it’s all chocolate and the perception of heat units increases though 13.5 per cent alcohol is a reasonable frame on which to cling. Give it a year to come together and see it seduce with some secondary notes, including balsamic, dried fruit and spices. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016  corte_adami  coliowinery    @ColioWinery  @CorteAdami  @coliowinery

#lastsupper #nicolis #verona

Nicolis Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

The traditional wines of Nicolis are mostly from the Valpolicella Classica region which are night and day different than those from Valpantena (central Valpolicella and eastern Valpolicella “alla garta,” the stertched boundary. Their Classico shows high acid, cherries, past red before black fruit, liquid pomegranate, red ruby chalk. Reduction keeps talking, a bit hot methinks but with some air it cools off and just acts simple, amenable and what it needs to be, which is fruity. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016  nicoliswinery  #thevineagency  @NicolisWinery  @TheVine_RobGroh  @NicolisWinery  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency

Novaia Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2012, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

This Valpolicella is ahead of the Ripasso in terms of quality because it is a particular Superiore, from a volcanic soil and single vineyard, “I Cantoni” at 400m. The wine submitted to a 10 per cent loss during the one month drying process plus 18 months in wood in a combination of barriques but also 1000L and 1500L larger barrels. An expanded, airy, moussy, floating fresh Superiore. There is spice in its step and so it dances on the tongue. Not so much floral as ambrosial in its rich and thick aromatics. Definite bitter chcolate and cimmerian dried fruit but the palate is not heavy or cloying. Some mushroom and truffle demi-glace, savoury, umami initialization in in the stages of the begin. But it can still improve. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Vero @SantaSofiawines @C_Valpolicella

Santa Sofia Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Montegradella 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Montegradella is 70 per cent corvina and corvinone plus 30 rondinella that saw 40-45 days of drying. The grapes come from the Valpolicella classica region, from vineyards planted on loamy marl in the hilly countryside of Fumane, San Pietro in Cariano and Marano. A special multi-vineyard designate Valpo aged for two years in 70 per cent large oak and 30 per cent small barriques. Some of the terse corners receive the smooth couverture of the amalgamation of barrels, the amore and aroma deeper into black cherry and beginning to hint at chocolate melting into espresso. Structure forms like the first sculpted clay to practice and prepare before switching more permanently to work with the marble of it to receive its first chisled stroke. Persistent and concentrated, Montegradella is a full cupboard of slow-developed spice. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Il Tabarro 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Il Tabarro (The Cloak) is an opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Adami, based on Didier Gold’s play La houppelande. Il Tabbaro the Valpolicella is a house-consistent blend of corvina (65 per cent), rondinella (25) and molinara (10) plus some wood aging after the steel. The use of selected yeasts, temperature control and some sulphite addition separate it from Iperico though the Guyot, Pergola doppia and Pergola semplice growing methods are the same. A selection is completed both in the vineyard and in the winery to pick the right grapes for this classification. Deeper and richer but still pure red fruit, wild cherries and because of the treatment, an extra level of refinement. I would still drink this any day over a high percentage of the region’s Classico Superiore. Bright and alive palate with nothing but fruit and spice. And length. Plenty of length. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

A #verona right of passage #getinthere

Ripasso Valpolicella

Bertani Ripasso Valpolicella DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (395087, $17.95, WineAlign)

Just released, also a combination of Classica and Valpantena fruit, 85 per cent corvina, 10 merlot and 5 rondinella. Not much distinction from the Valpolicella, of a similar fruit profile, cherry and leather, here restained in alcohol and in avoidance of seeling itself with sugar. Some firm grip, a step towards liqueur but very clean, celar and precise for Ripasso. Quite dry especially in relation to many other regional takes. Aged in Slavonian oak barrels. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Fidora Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Monte Tabor 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Certainly carries the torch forward from the Valoplicella but with some pomace addendum, without the concentration and with a mere tacky furthering from the barrels. Older ones (225L) and for just six months. Same on the verge but quite shy of oxidative so that the fruit stands out and the rusty quality remains bright. Plums are fresh with that variegated purple skin/red fleshiness and then plenty of spice. The sugar level is 6.5 g/L RS but it’s negligible considering the style. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Massimago Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Marchesi Mariabella 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $40.95, WineAlign)

Yet another new launching point, this time for the much maligned Ripasso category, acquiesced through the fresh urgency of the whimsical Marchesi MariaBella. The fruit is borne of a a much earlier ripening vineyard outside of Massimago, perched only at an insignificant 100m on Argileux soil. This a Ripasso I will wager large you have never tasted before. La Bella Poesia, “is different because its literary destiny has followed a strange path.” To say that a feminine disposition, temperament and engagement fills not just the aromatics but also the texture would be a Valpolicella understatent of this early century. There is virtually no dried fruit on the nose; there is more tension than the two classic Valpolicellas which is both counter-intuitive to terroir and to methodology. Ripasso needs to carry both weight and tension. It needs to have some elegance. It requires acidity and freshness. This walks that very line and it will age gracefully and with beauty. Incidentally to answer the query of whimsy each character on the label represents the democracy of the proletariat. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Ripasso Valpolicella DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From a not very good to certainly difficult vintage, the alt-Ripasso is made in the following manner because Macrello Vaona explains that “it’s a strange way to make wine but we do it to improve the body and the structure.” No drying, just the use of the wet skins towards the second fermentation. This has a very elegant, smooth, controlled, cool (13.5 abv) temper. Sees one-year in barriques and larger tonneaux, very little new to gain the calming Ripasso. Black cherry though light and fresh but on the flip side firm and direct. “What I want to produce is a drinkable wine, without thinking too much because the wine is too strong and has destroyed the food.” Well done Marcello. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Novaia Ripasso Valpolicella DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vintage in Novaia’s hands is antithetical in terms of Ripasso, with more acetic notes but also elevated florals, more fresh than potpourri. It’s quite spiced but in deep, masala ways, into the umami of mushroom and a roasted forest wood smoulder. Plenty of tea and then a clearing of the skies with brightness at the finish. One of the more variegated Ripasso studies to ever come across. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted June 2016

Post i canadesi light lunch carnage @PasquaWinery

Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore

Pasqua Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC Romeo & Juliet 2014, Veneto, Italy (476903, $18.95, WineAlign)

In the realm of Ripasso this busy label Romeo and Juliet love letter of a Venetian is markedly more Valpolicella Superiore in style. No Ripsasso ever breathes so fresh and light and the Pasqua-made red is therefore part deception and part delight. I for one am pleased with the result, all fruit and little to less hydration and rehydration. There is a simplicity to it that leans nouveau but again, the simple and pure act of red fruit love is a laudable attribute. Just a bit of white peppery spice late reminds that fruit was once passed over some Amarone lees and that barrels parts were in the leavening mix. Chill this for best results. Many a consumer will enjoy the platitude. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted twice, September 2016 and February 2017  pasquawines  #ChartonHobbs  @PasquaWinery  @ChartonHobbs  @pasquawinesitaly  

Hey #rossettadimontagna endemic grapes drying museum #cantinadinegrar #valpolicella #totallycool

Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2014, Veneto, Italy (85159, $19.25, WineAlign)

An inviting initial feigned freshness but then a posit tug of structure in the difficult vintage. Plum fruit and the same balsamic tone afforded the Classico but here the darkness begins to cover the fruit, with the classic but modern secondary fermentation passage over the Amarone skins. One year in French oak plus some large Slavonian oak. Already showing some secondary mushroom and truffle. High acidity, stark and driven, like a Doors Texas back beat. The smokiness heads straight to the back of the brain. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2010, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite similar and consistent to the ’14 though with more personality and further resolved into the secondary character traits; mushroom, truffle, forest floor, savoury herbs, tart berries, juniper, tonic and nearly umami. Pretty much what would be expected. Some affirming vitality reappears at the end. Nice Ripasso. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2009, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite evolved, deeper into the boletus and digging into a spongy, mid-autumn forest. Composted pine and some limestone here with more chcolate than either of the two younger (’11 and ’14) were showing. Seems to be more oak impart in 2009, either because the barrels were newer or because the vintage made the request or showed some intrinsic accord with it. Acidity is still quite solid, tannins nearly past. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Stefano Accordini Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Acinatico’ 2008, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

More acetic vintage and not as much oak as expected, especially as compared to 2009. A consistency of secondary aromas is noted, from the woods and the boletus that appears every fall, depending on the vintage, in 2008 not quite as pronounced. Good persistence, very classic, totally in the zone. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Buglioni Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ‘Bugiardo’ 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Fermented on skins from the Amarone, Buglioni’s Ripasso went with four weeks of drying grapes, blended as 75 per cent with 25 per cent. Nicknamed “Bugiardo,” the liar, because this is what the wine is. Another electric Valpo but here with some salumi, quite a bit of salumi actually and some liquid cherry smoke. Also earthy with a truffled note and then more smoke, smoulder, in the chamber beside the fire. Quite an even keeled Ripasso, in between concentrations, acidity and tannin. Clocks in at a very reasonable 14 per cent. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Here we are again fully entrenched in 2014, from whence it was nearly impossible to make a really fine, elegant and getable Ripasso. Again 45, 45 and 15 (corvina-corvinone-rondinella), the holes filled in with more extract and careful selection than many. The green current and tobacco are not instigators but rather spectators to the fruit. Perhaps a lower percentage of skins here and more fresh fruit. This has the liquid red ruby citrus-grapefruit and orange play and then some grain in the tart, quite tannic structure. Modernity again and a success for 2014. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Ca’ Rugate Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2015, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Produced in the traditional way where the pomace from the dried Amarone grapes are left to referment in a Valpolicella wine from the same vintage. The wine is aged half and half in tonneaux and stainless steel for approximately eight months. The gravel and limestone estate vineyards are located in the hills around Montecchia di Crosara. This 2015 perpetuates the house blend of (45 per cent) corvina, (40) corvinone and (15) rondinella, consistent and familial similar to ’14 but carrying more freshness, bite and intensity. It will require a year more settling to bring the Ripasso vigour and rigour into real time Valpolicella by way of Amarone connectivity. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Le Roselle 2014, Veneto, Italy (620831, $17.95, WineAlign)

Le Roselle is a woman’s name, the diminutive of Rosa but in Valpolicella terms her character is both rich and acetic, fully consumed from Amarone skins and pressed to the maximum for colour and potential. Her name should see her as feminine from head to toe, but here in Ripasso she is highly permeable to the atmosphere of wherever she happens to be. She can repeat herself too, like the bird or parrot, so that her consistent nature will translate wherever she is consumed. In 2014 the results are quite intense, with full-on acidity wrapping up the optimum concentrated fruit in a Ripasso package so global, so far and wide reaching. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Domìni Veneti Vigneti Di Torbe 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Domìni Veneti Vigneti Di Torbe Ripasso is made with the skins of Recioto (as opposed to Amarone), drawing uopn the sweet-bleeding for refermentation towards a developing potential, with heavy fuel, dense compression and brooding character. Another Cantine Negrar cooperative stylistic to make the biggest wine possible from a variegated collection of Classica grapes. Full bore plum fruit, a rage of acidity and some Amaro tannin. Even bigger of an expreession than the already glycerin-listed Le Roselle. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Cantina Di Negrar Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Domìni Veneti Vigneti Di Torbe 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

This is the third of three Negrar Ripassi tasted side by side by each from a much better vintage without the necessity to over do, not from pressing, not for extract nor to dish hyperbole of concentration and last but so very important, accomplished without heavy oaking. The fruit is a bit baked but not without charm, the sun-ripened and passed over skins sets of berries turned to dehydrated plum and piqued by a contiguous found balance from major wood spice. The equilibrium here is quite improved and born that way. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Vigneti Di Ettore Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Ettore’s Ripasso comes from 20 year-old vines, of four grapes, corvina (45 per cent), corvinone (30), rondinella (15) and croatina (10). Needs air because of a minor reduction and a whiff of SO2. The first vintage was 2008 (as with all the Ettore labels) and here the small portion of dried grapes melds into passed over Recioto skins for a (5 hL) tonneaux experienced Ripasso of great spice and cool savour. This is arid and tense Ripasso with linear drive and vital spirit. Ripasso of clarity and direct connectivity, to the 40 million year old friable rock soil, the calcaire and the basalt. Well-made in a very difficult vintage. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Vigneti Di Ettore Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The aromatic tones are quite high and even acetic (especially as compared to the bookend vintages) but this Ettore is as floral as they come. It’s a veritable potpourri flower bowl and then meaty, in dried charcuterie and splashed by balsamic. Deep flavours dip into chocolate and then a back bite into char-crusted, rare roast beef. Acidity pierces into the finish, with an injection of pure vanilla and finally some sour cherry. A satisfyingly gastronomic wine. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016.

Lunch at Ettore Righetti

Vigneti Di Ettore Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2012, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Assuming Ettore’s Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore ’12 grape make-up is the same as in 2014 the benefit is beautifully obvious from a most excellent vintage that is a gift (especially in comparison to ’14). The real purport to avoid the “sumo-warrior” Valpolicella shows in this bottle of finesse and one that you can finish. These are pure plum notes, in aroma and flavour, with balancing acidity and really fine tannins. This wine is so young still, spicy and spirited, jumping from the glass. What Ripasso can be. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore Seccal DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $29.95  WineAlign)

Seccal is a single-vineyard Ripasso, 70 per cent corvina, (20) rondinella, plus five each molinara and croatina. It spends 16 months in big Slavonian oak barrels and takes the stylistic reigns from the fruit juicy Classico. With a firm grip it adds low and slow big wood time lapse release to develop breadth and slightly bretty volatility. Reductive again (a recurring Ripasso theme) dry and tangy, very soil-driven to supersede the volatility and so it really reminds of cooler climate grenache (top part of the southern Rhône Valley) or even salty, marine cannonau. I find this really terroir driven with the fruit less prominent but acids are high and tannin low. A very specific, old-school, the way it used to be Valpolicella but with a tie to the vineyard that is undeniable. Though the grapes comes from a single vineyard because Amarone grape skins are used for the second fermentation its single-vineyard status is changed. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

The @garton_jules and #godello at such a nice place #tenutasalvaterra

Tenute Salvaterra Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The closest of cousins to the Valpolicella Classico, from a different vintage but similar in styling. Reductive and silky in texture, with the dried grapes addition adding layers of impression and compression. Acidity is neither tough nor linear and while it is present, its support is a lift, not a distraction. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Santa Sofia Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2013, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

The Ripasso 2013 is 70 per cent corvina and corvinone plus (30) rondinella, of no dried grapes, only secondary fermentation with amarone grape skins, simply and originally Ripasso. “Many Ripasso are like the small brother of Amarone,” explains proprietor Giancarlo Begnoni, “but in our case Ripasso is the big brother of Valpolicella Superiore.” Something added, augmented, not taken away. Aged only in old (up to 30 years) old (Slavonian) oak barrels. This is completely new and yet so very old, modern but ancient. The great dichotomy built through slow evolved structure. Tense, terse, direct, liquid yellow tufo rock with red citrus, pomegranate and the most refined tonic. More structure than so many but less freshness than some for sure. Superiore speaks only to the appellative minimum content plus context and speaks nothing to structure. That changes in the stylistic hand of Novaia. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Andrea Sartori and our Lauren Hall

Sartori Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Valdimezzo 2014, Veneto, Italy (Agent, $17.95, WineAlign)

Sartori’s Ripasso Valdimezzo is a blend of corvina (60 per cent), corvinone (20), rondinella (15) and croatina (five) in a mix of medium and large format oak casks. The deep mahogany wainscotting and black cherry notation is recognized for aligning house style clarity though the acidity and the vital tonality are elevated. The purple to black plum fruit controls the depth. Really high acidity. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Old school indeed @dobianchi @tenutapieve #gaetanobertani #classico

Tenuta Santa Maria Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Some vibrant bright red fruit bridging fresh to dried, right on that line. The kind of Ripasso that feigns fortified when it really isn’t that way at all. Lots of spice and once again the liqueur like old school, old barrel aged tempranillo or sangiovese but here on the fresher side. Plush texture and tannin. Very solid for a 2014 and not so dry, with 8 g/L RS. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Arusnatico 2013, Veneto, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Arusnatico is dedicated to one of the few underground groups that refused to submit to the Romans. This is hard to be believed as Ripasso, light, cool, crisp, very citrus (orange) directed and a bite into chocolate that might be white or dark I couldn’t really say. The nose does not speak to Ripasso (nor does the hue or the construct) but the palate does more so. Richness is observed and permitted with grace throughout and and as more than just an impression. Hard to believe that Amarone pomace is used and in fact it will be impossible to know what churns this Ripasso until we return and the similarly vintage-dated Amarone is tasted. Once again in a league of its own. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2014, Veneto, Italy (170142, $16.40, WineAlign)

Very similar, in fact impossibly consistent with the Classico, of red fruit first, freshness second and commerciality in confident control. Clean, crisp, here smoky and with just those slight notes of earth, forest floor, savour, tobacco, umami. The additions are the smokiness and the 2014 challenges unable to find their clear. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Zonin Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2005, Veneto, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A test of time for this Ripasso is an all well and incredible Superiore certainty, now all mushroom and truffle, earthy forest, umeboshi plum, darkening soy sauce and bubbling brown sugar. The acidity is clearly alive, then tempered chocolate, dried and slightly torched espresso bean, ground and pressed. Very alive. One punch and a knockout, short finish. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

Valentina Cubi

IGT Rosso Verona, Veneto and Venezia

Valentina Cubi Sin Cero IGT Rosso Verona 2015, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

The truthful or sincere one is the third vintage after 2012 and 2013 (there was no 2014), a blend of corvina (75 per cent) and rondinella (25), of zero sulphites and possessive of the naturalische, straight from the soil and a breath of fresh air. There too is a bready, yeasty, enzymatic air and this is IGT you are pleased to put in your mouth. Spontaneous fermentation and microbes no other Valpolicella varietal IGT (or approved) has thus far granted. Is it typical? No. Could it be labled Classico Superiore? Stylistically speaking why not. But it’s bloody atypical, potentially consumer confusing but there is every reason to drink it. It’s beautifully dirty and with a cereal quality, like sugar crisp but not the commercial, fructose glazed crap, but more like the bulk bags of slightly earthy, whole foodies stuff. Fermented and aged only in steel. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016

Bertani Secco-Bertani IGT Rosso Verona 2013, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Secco Bertani is an IGT Verona composed from corvina (80 per cent), sangiovese grosso (10) plus equal parts merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Aged in (cherry and chestnut) Veronese barrels, this is IGT of high tones, red and black fruit and dry-aged beef bresaola. Travels through an acidity fire and comes out smouldering with tobacco and chocolate. Cimmerian IGT of high acidity and big, sweet tannins. Needs two years to settle down before beginning to age into balsamic and truffle territory. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Vigneti Di Ettore Rosso Veronese IGT Arsi 2011, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Arsi is from 15 year year-old vines at 400m in volcanic soil. No malolactic and higher acidity bleed lava from corvina veronese (30 per cent), corvinone (30), croatina (30) and pelara (10). A different wine for Valpolicella and for IGT, the wine is highly saline, from grapes dried for 50 days, of lovely red fruit with the saline streak that is not found in the other wines. A wine I feel many winemakers, especially from the larger houses and cooperatives would not understand. Though there is some emptiness on the palate this highly distinctive, salty umami Rosso is in a world of its own and that world is one I am delighted to visit. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Nicolis Rosso Verona IGT Testal 2012, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Testa, “the head,” from grapes at the head of the vine, left to hang for two or three weeks longer than usual. The Ripasso aspect is the short drying time on the vine. A late harvest IGT from Corvina (90) and 10 per cent other (not named) varieties. This alters the house style and does something other, something Classico Superiore but it can’t be this because it exceeds the DOC Corvina maximum of 80 per cent. The large casks have added more sheathing than you might expect. This is highly wooded and toasty with quite a bit of vanilla, lavender and clove. Certainly made for a crowd that loves this style. Changes to labelling mean you can’t call this Rosso del Veronese anymore but now this wine could in fact be a Classico Superiore. Though it doesn’t resemble one in any shape or form. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Pasqua Passimento 2014, IGT Veneto, Italy (141952, $13.95, WineAlign)

Passimento is “Passione Sentimento,” part of the Romeo & Juliet line, composed of merlot (40 per cent), corvina (30), and croatina (30). It’s somewhat experimental and yet traditional, from grapes partially dried for one month, half way between Valpolicella Superiore and Amarone, in weight and alcohol. Four months in barriques has given this lean and green red a decidedly merlot bent, with memories of stems and herbal dill plus some balancing corrected sweetness. At 14 per cent alcohol and extra body it represents market driven wine in a nutshell. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Tenuta Salvaterra Rosso Delle Venezie Igt Lazzarone 2011, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The word Lazzarone comes from Campania, from the men who hung around the church either begging money or looking for a day’s work. Just a small portion of grapes are dried (30-40 per cent) and for a shorter period than Amarone, between five to seven weeks. A baby Amarone this one, maybe with a bit more umami or certainly a different one, wooly and weedy, herbal and crazy. Some teroldego is added in here with the corvina and rondinella. Some freshness and palate softness but still, it’s the modern house style. The soft back side is filled with plump raisins, fresh figs and a shave of truffle. Oh will people eat this up, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Elisa Biasolo and Giancarlo Begnoni of Santa Sofia

Santa Sofia Igt Rosso Del Veronese Arlèo 2011, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Arléo is 85 per cent corvina, the wine Giancarlo Begnoni is proud to have invented, from a longer (60 day) dry-aging, more like Amarone, plus 15 per cent of (not dried) merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Two years in large Botti plus one year in barriques, for body, complexity and variegated intensity. Bretty volatility delivers in the great and righteous stylistic success that walks up to the threshold, teases to climb over, turns, grins and perches at the precipice. This shares a commonality with sangiovese, either Brunello or Gran Selezione, in more ways than you would imagine or think it should. But this is structure, traditional risk and wisely decided upon confident decision making, calculated and successful. The right grapes are essntial to pull it off and the winemaker musty have known otherwise or would not have moved them or this wine in this direction. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Tenuta Santa Maria Igt Rosso Veronese Pràgal 2013, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pràgal is corvina (50 per cent), syrah (25) and merlot (25), all estate fruit and admittedly kind of foxy and boxy. Dried red fruit, fresh figs and grape must. Rustic and oxidative. Then an old Rioja or Chianti liqueur, so in some ways this walks the line. Quite the smouldering, bretty, lit up experience with a note of pickling brine and wet horse. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted September 2016

The Verona gang, Ponte Di Castelvecchio

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Frankenwein: The creed of silvaner and passion for pinot noir

In March of 2017 the Deutsches Weininstitut invited me to ProWein, the international wine congress in Düsseldorf, Germany. My hosts included the ProWein press department, Messe Düsseldorf and Wines of Germany. A few months ago I commented that Prowein is “of such immense proportion that words, description and explanation just fail to do it justice. If you are an agent your goals are simple; meet with your incumbent suppliers and taste with enough new ones to fill the holes in your portfolio. But what if you are a journalist like me? What do you concentrate on? Were do you start?”

“Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner”

On day one I made a beeline for the Germany pavilion, epicentre to the ProWein universe. Gravity would naturally pull you to the Mosel and yet I was in search of an alternative experience. With travels to the Ahr Valley and the Rheinhessen looming I gravitated (naturally) to Franken and more specifically to an intensive workshop with silvaner and spätburgunder. The Bavarian wine region is located east of Frankfurt (and 65 km/40 miles east of the Rhine) on south-facing slopes lining the Main River and its tributaries. The centre of Franconia is the town of Würzburg, home of the famed vineyard Stein, which gave rise to the generic term Steinwein, formerly used to denote all of the region’s wines. It would be an understatement to call Franken a cool-climate growing region. Even in a world gripped by climate change it can still be too cold for riesling. This is where silvaner thrives, in spite of cold winters, high annual rainfall and very cool autumn conditions. Müller-Thurgau is the most planted grade variety and silvaner is second.

Franken Silvaner

The most prized Franken wines were (and to some extent still are) traditionally bottled in a Bocksbeutel, a squat green or brown flagon with a round body. A loyalty to history contends that considerable recognition value is added to the region’s wines but the days of the old flattened ellipsoid, field bottle silvaner packaged in traditional Franconian Bocksbeutel are receding behind us. We are seeing a diurnal shift as they are increasingly replaced by modern, clean and pure examples that match up with the great mineral fresh whites around the planet. The silvaner slogan “Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner” led me to discover the great white history and future of this most important Franken grape.

Passion für Pinot Noir!

Passion für Pinot Noir! is the avant-garde Deutscher Qualitäswein Franken slogan for spätburgunder. The idea behind pinot noir in Bavaria is just about as outsider a concept as making wine instead of beer or habituating Protestants in a world of Catholics, but micro-climates are a wondrous thing. The avant-garde Franconia winemaking is one of the great overlooked stories in wine today and nowhere else is this evident than in the work being put in with pinot noir on the Franconian fringe of varietal possibility.

The producers have entered into an era of defining cru vineyards, like Sulzfelder Maustal with soil rich in shell limestone, Sommeracher’s Katzenkopf and Centgrafenberg, in Bürgstadt. The styles on display at Prowein duly noted in a flight of 12 were varied, sometimes mimicking other German regions, California and Burgundy. More often than not they are purely and expressly Franken, of dusty red cherry, mineral, bright energy, citrus and with oak working for bites and spice. A heed and a warning: Once you taste Franken pinot noir you may never go back.

Related – Godello’s March through Prowein, The Ahr Valley and The Rheinhessen

Records indicate the last Ontario VINTAGES German silvaner release was on May 10, 2014. The two before that were on July 6, 2013 and February 2, 2013 . You would have to look back almost another full calendar year, to May 12, 2012, for the one previous to that. Since nothing has come through again, allowing so many years to pass without offering a single bottle of Franken silvaner to the Ontario wine consumer amounts to a crime against Frankenwein. With respect to spätburgunder I can find no history of VINTAGES releases in Ontario. In fact there are currently only two German pinot noir available here at home, one from Pfalz and the other, Baden. Franken isn’t even on the radar. There are no Franken wines anywhere to be found.

I was very impressed with the quality of both the silvaner and the spätburgunder in my two sit-downs at the Prowein Franken booth so hopefully I can shed some light on what everyone is missing. Once again it is important to recognize the people responsible for allowing me to take part in this German wine experience; Stefan Egge, Christiane Schorn, Brigitte Küppers, Michael Mandel and Carola Keller. Until ProWein 2018, here are 22 notes on Franken silvaner and spätburgunder.

“Das Glaubensbekenntnis! Silvaner”

Weingut Brennfleck Silvaner Trocken Mönchshöflein, Großes Gewächs, Sulzfelder Maustal 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A warming, humid and rich 14 per cent dry silvaner, unctuous and viscous. The aromas peel ripe yellow-fleshed peach and scrape concrete while the texture comes leesy and exceptionally tart. A very mature, adult, dry silvaner for rich fish and seafood. Scallops would adore this, but pork belly would also cut a rug with its agile stepping ability. Also carries the most subtle effervescent tingle. So very interesting and part of the developing story. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017     #Brennfleck  Weingut Brennfleck  @frankenwein   #frankenwein  Frankenwein Fränkische Weinkönigin  @weininstitut  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca  germanwine_ca  wines_of_germany  @germanwinecanada

Selsam + Schneider Silvaner Trocken, Escherndorfer Fürstenberg 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Silvaner of herbology and spirit, dry but with aromatic faux botrytis, white peach and white flowers. Tastes like there is some barrel ferment on the fruit because it shows that sauvignon blanc sweet note, but also some grapefruit and lime. Quite spirited though I’d wish the acidity were more demanding and that the finish would linger longer. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Rudolf May Silvaner Retzstadter Langenberg Der Schäfer 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

May’s Der Schäfer silvaner comes from the Retztadter Langenberg, a slope of muschelkalk (predominantly from the lower muschelkalk, or wellenkalk) that characterizes the soil. Looking east the location is protected by the Retzstadt deciduous forest and the warm air of the Maintales flows from the west. This specialized and extra-special silvaner is balanced in its aromatic ability meets proper and right-willing alcohol (13.5), with great quality acidity. True salinity and caper brine put my mind’s senses into concepts where this shares a kinship with assytrtiko. It’s brilliant, stony-gemstone able, savoury, no actually sapid, and exceptionally mouth salivating. Just a touch of texture driven lees builds character and great persistence. Bitters before the end are finely distilled and character building. Fresh to drink now and with more ability than most to age. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted March 2017    #rudolfmay @Weingut.Rudolf.May  

Rainer Sauer Ab Ovo Silvaner Vom Ei Ursprünglich Von Anfang An 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Faux sweet leesy, of a lactic nose but dry, this is made in that Stellenbosch chenin blanc style; tart, taut and high in white citrus acidity. Really tart palate but beautifully so, nicely rendered salinity in a simple package. Not the most complex but the easy drinking silvaner. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted March 2017    #rainersauer  Daniel Sauer

Weingut Otmar Zang Silvaner J40 Alte Reben Sommerach 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

The amphora silver shines, bringing a concrete meets waxy richness, and you can smell the bees and the wet aggregate mix. Herbs and salt are generous but suppressed or at least stirred in, like lees and in a way, like a dry into wet baking mix. Thicker and unctuous on the palate with a touch of residual sweetness, this runs the gamut from savoury to just slightly confected so ultimately the goal here is the time-accumulated eventuality of honey. Tastes a bit like young figs or dates and so the interest level is high in terms of silvaner. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017  @WeingutOtmarZang

Baldauf Clees Silvaner Spätlese Trocken, Ramsthal, Pfarrwengert 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This is the platinum, metallurgical, alloy mineral silvaner, the inside of the pipe and the soil tart, old school expression but also pure, clean and dry. Still an air-dry silvaner, rich on the palate and very varietal obvious. This kind of tart is so specific to the history and perpetual tang of such locale-driven silvaner. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  @Weingut.Baldauf

Franken Riemenschneider Silvaner 1er Traube Spätlese Trocken, Asthheimer Karthäuser 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Perhaps the most old school of the lot and the acumen so confident in delivering the most convincing need for traditional style. What Spätlese is to Franken silvaner it is not to anywhere else with the late harvest style. This is saline, balsamic briny, yellow plum acidity laced and of an almond blossom sweetness that just simply melts in. Power in commitment and longevity are a given, R.E.M. melodic, even in later career composition. “If this is what you’re offering,” of great persistence, “I’ll take the rain.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  #Riemenschneider

Weingut Weigand Der Held Silvaner Trocken, Iphofen 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Done in Amphora from hold, stall and grant beginnings, there acts by hue and from aroma a bit of skin contact. Carries a lees and beeswax note, along with wet rock salt and the humidity inside of a concrete tank. Both agreeable and complex, the palate elevates this wine, never relaxes and defaults into simple viscosity, but continuously refreshes. This is the first to carry a true lemon and lime tune, the most reigned in richness and a sense of cure. Modern and serious but more about how much it knows its capabilities of taking hold of tradition and moving it forward. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2017  weingut_weigand_franken    @WeingutGaestehausWeigand

Weingut Horst Sauer Silvaner Sehnsucht Trocken, Escherndorfer 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Back to the faux sweet, very leesy silvaner, this is about texture and mouthfeel after the citrus and mineral sweet aromas. Again this reminds of South African chenin blanc, tart and taut, very dry and of a typicality that modern silvaner will do in a risk aversion way. A proper introduction into what modern silvaner has to be with very good length. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  #weinguthorstsauer     @weinguthorstsauer  Sandra Sauer

Juliusspital Silvaner Trocken, Würzburger 2016, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Also from amphora, the mineral bronzing in hue and on the palate is again old-school, what it was and has been. Waxy on the nose and palate and this combines the old school amphora with the new way chenin style, but this has some palate sweetness mixed with a very tangy-tart taste. Quite intense though the mid-palate thins while the acidity shines and then it’s very long. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  #juliusspital  #Juliusspital  Juliusspital Weinstuben Würzburg

The world also needs more #frankenweine #spätburgunder #prowein2017 #pinotnoir

Passion für Pinot Noir!

Weingut Josef Walter Spätburgunder Hundsrück “J” Trocken 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Very pretty, perfectly evolved, all strawberry but some of it in dried and dusty garnish form. Certainly spirited, high-toned, elevating, rising still. Beautifully tart, seemingly calcareous, easy to drink, with soft but sweet tannins and most excellent. For every day though with some light heat on the finish. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Divino Pinot Noir Trocken Gg, Grobes Greväches, 1m Barrique Gereift 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A very ripe, high octane (14.5 per cent alcohol) grand cru spätburgunder, still rustic and leathery, some dried fruit and though high-toned, quite evolved. The oak is very noticeable, as are the tannins and finishing bitters. Much happening and this really reminds of a warm New Zealand, ripe and extracted pinot. North Island stuff in the Franken. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted March 2017  #divinonordheim  @divino_nordheim  @divino.nordheim

Zehnthof Luckert Wein&Gut Sulzfelder Maustal Spätburgunder Gg, Vdp. Grosse Lage 2012, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This is the completely other grand cru, go tell it to the world pinot noir, pencil and graphite laden, lead and dusty cherry. Great mouthful and brightness with vitality and energy despite its age. Pure, red-spoken citrus and spice. The oak here works for bites and crisp baking moments, not smoulder or finished cake accent. Love this energy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  zehnthof_luckert    @VDP_Estates  @zehnthofluckert  Philipp Luckert

Weingut Roth Spätburgunder Gg Trocken Biowein, Wiesenbronner Heller Berg, Vdp Erste Lage 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Organic and warming (at 14 per cent abv) but this seems to be the median norm for phenolic ripeness and with or without the oak treatment of choice. This certainly treads on the darker cherry fruit plain though that pinot noir Franken/Ahr/Baden/Alsace tonality is present, accounted for and wholly acceptable within the parameters of omniscient typicity. The only one with a reductive note so far so air and more time will help inflate and then deflate the vacuum. Very tart and a bit of Chinese five-spice, sweet and sour with chunks of pineapple worked in. This unique specimen is possessive of a savoury-sweet commingling. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  #weingutroth  @Weingut_Roth  @Weingut.Roth

Weingut Then Authentisch Spätburgunder Trocken Sommeracher Katzenkopf, Authentisch Kommt Von Then 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

The most volatile and reductive of the lot, this is funky-dirty, full of dark red fruit and so taut. Most of the aromas are dominated by the suffocation spume and then this turns so tart and sour. It has character and potential to be sure but the fruit is having trouble speaking out. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017  #weingutthen  Weingut Then

Dürr Münch Then Zehner Krämer Russ Wolter Familie Gewächs Spätburgunder Trocken 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

So young and bright, beautifully fresh, wild berry and cherry pinot noir. Exactly what you want from a warm and forgiving vintage, but this has sneaky underlying structure and great natural acidity. The deliverer is nothing if not a pure, totally natural and honest example of Franken spåtburgunder. Answers both questions with yes and yes. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017

Höfling Spätburgunder Trocken Kalbenstein Gambach, Großes Gewächs 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

This strikes as the great ambassador, middle of the road, best of both or even all worlds GG and (there is enough complexity in Franken pinot noir to make this declaration). Bright and pure, phenolically ripe and from the strawberry vintage, with the ridge crested between the fresh and the edge of drying fruit. This is like really honest, never over-wooded Chianti Classico and/or CCR Riserva from a similarly farmed vintage. It’s almost sangiovese like in its rusticity, tradition and honest to goodness cherry, leather and red citrus acidity. Seminal stuff. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017  @weinguthoefling

May Spätburgunder Recis Retzbacher Benediktusberg 2013, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

From Rudolf May, another stinky and reductive pinot noir but with a mess of bright red fruit so chalk this limestone-nosing one up to structure and be patient. There is something pure about this risk-taking one, like (Ontario reference alert) Norm Hardie of impossible litheness and in fact at 13.0 per cent this is very low and slow for the locale. Wow, this is so distant cousin to the County! I would guess this ferment was sluggish and tardy so be wary of the reduction and give it air or hopefully two more years time. It’s atypical for 2013, somewhat of a rogue and clearly destined to be a future star when pinot noir becomes this producer’s primary focus of intent. It already seems to be. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2017    #rudolfmay @Weingut.Rudolf.May

Franken Riemenschneider Spätburgunder Trocken Mainstockheimer Hofstück 1er Traube 2015, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

A step up in quality and cru for 2015, from a block that most certainly has been identified for its pinot noir plant and gift ability. The premier cru for varietal Franken, of a deeper mineral push and what must be exposure and aspect with excellent solar receptive capability. It shows in the darker fruit, licking Sonoma and with its firm grip perhaps a nod to Russian River Valley. This carries exceptional fruit in its character pocket, really fine round acidity and even finer tannin. It will age without much evolution for three to five years and linger for an equal amount of time more. Not the brightest and lightest get to know me example but clearly one to seek out in the pinot noir diaspora. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted March 2017  #Riemenschneider

Weingut Richard Östreicher Spätburgunder No. 1 Sommeracher Katzenkopf 2013, Franken, Germany (WineryWineAlign)

No. 1 takes not only the estate’s best pinot noir pick but Franken spätburgunder and paradigmatic pinot noir to an entirely new level. The Katzenkopf (“cat’s head”) is Sommeracher’s best vineyard and it is Weingut Richard Östreicher that demands great respect. As I am about to pour myself a taste a ProWein Franken booth associate swoops in and slips me a Burgundy glass, so this must be different. Certainly an elegance and a refinement not seen yet. I’m thinking only on its perfume from the get go but this Franken sensibility is more important, a soil component that just acts of its own accord in the magic it brings to pinot noir. The compatibility of fruit and acidity with the finest grains of sweet and refined tannin is a revelation. The vintage is an important one to be sure and the firm but still amenably sweet finish mixed with a dash of tonic tells me about the longevity this No. 1 is capable to execute. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted March 2017  #richardöstreicher  Richard Östreicher

Fürst Spätburgunder Centgrafenberg Gg, Bürgstadt 2008, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

Here is the only older pinot noir on the table and a terrific example of the age ability of Franken. Though the fruit is waning the brightness has not yet left the building. The lightness, airy and earthy enough to remind you that Burgundy feeling is the entry point and the history lesson. The lactic acid is fading but there is life yet. A bit chewy and it can be imagined how fleshy this once was. No mushroom or anything of that ilk has come through so this will fade nicely into the pinot noir sunset over the proceeding three plus years. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017    Weingut Rudolf Fürst

Weingut Schenk Spätburgunder Handverlesen Trocken 2014, Franken, Germany (WineAlign)

One of the magically lithe and unassuming pinot noirs of the lot, the berries are rubbed with light sandy earth with that granite current running beneath. The shading is a bit darker considering the light personality so the lactic edge is reduced and this will evolve a bit quicker than some others. A great duck accompaniment and very Beaune in a modernist’s way. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted March 2017  weingutschenk  @weingutschenk

So much to say about #silvaner and #spätburgunder #pinotnoir

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Benvenuto Brunello 2017 report: Rethinking Rosso and disciplined Brunello

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #montalcino #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

It was a milestone edition of Benvenuto Brunello and also a gathering of symmetrical proportions. Looking back a half century, just after recognition of the D.O.C., it was in 1967 that the consortium was set up as an association of producers, “as a free association between winemakers bent on safeguarding their wine and on accentuating its qualities.” Twenty five years later the Benvenuto concept was conceived and now fifty years later this 2017 and 25th Benvenuto Brunello presented a preview of Annata 2015 Rosso di Montalcino, Annata 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva 2011, Moscadello and Sant’Antimo. Every year in February the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino organizes Benvenuto Brunello and by my count in 2017 there were 133 producers and 379 wines on hand to taste and evaluate, grouped together on February 17th and 18th in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino.

The vintages on hand offered up a study in contrasts beyond the obvious connotations served by the youth of Rosso Annata contrastive to aged Brunello. So many Mediterranean wine regions reaped huge benefits from the 2015 growing season but I’ve not personally seen such an across the board level of quality from a group of structured wines as I saw in the Rosso Annata. You would have to go back to 2010 to find a vintage with a near-chivalrous level of generosity and as far back as 2001 for its equal. That said I would suggest with extreme prejudice that 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is the vintage to change your mind about its quality and its ability to stand alone. As an entity, the Rosso are produced from grapes farmed explicitly for a purpose and it is this ’15 vintage that can be used to back up that very proposition. Rosso are fashioned to make a young sangiovese distinctive and antithetical to Brunello, but with the resolution to forge ahead with an intrinsic and personal level of structure.

The Brunello vintage at the 2017 Anteprima is the one that growers, producers, marketers and critics will chime in with a wide variance of opinion. There are many ways to look at the 2012 growing season. It is prescribed as a five-star vintage by the Consorzio, putting it on par with the best of the last 20 years, including 2010, 2007, 2006, 2004 and 1997.  Critics remain skeptical and producers seem content to say “we’ll see,” knowing that structure is a guarantee but that fruit may peak early. There is little doubt that fruit quality is prodigious to say the least and that to a wine, these are fine and refined sangiovese. The producers who resisted temptation to make huge wines and the ones who took a step away from the machine will likely be the ones who found the best balance and in turn will have forged the longest aged Brunelli. I for one see 2012 as closer to 2008 and 1998, firm, a little misunderstood in the early days and capable of improving dramatically with five to seven years of age. The fruit just seems to speak this truth.

Buongiorno #montalcino La Fortezza di Montalcino

Montalcino is one of the most iconic Tuscan hilltop villages, a high density designed labyrinth of winding streets with the medieval La Fortezza di Montalcino at the peak and heart of the city. La Fortezza is a monument rich in history and a symbol of the last glorious defence of the Sienese Republic in 1555 against Spanish-Florentine troops. Begun in 1361 to improve the fortifications of the city, the fortress became a symbol of the then dominant Sienese power, however, counterbalanced by the opportunity that was offered to the residents of Montalcino to have Sienese citizenship while delocalised. It was precisely this fact that led to important political, economic and administrative relations between the inhabitants of the two cities. By the time the 16th century came to a close the fortress had lost its military significance. La Fortezza Wine Shop and Wine Bar founded in 1980 by Mario Pianigiani and Marzio Giannelli sits inside the main tower of the fortress.

Montalcino rests at 564 meters above sea level between the valleys of three rivers; Ombre, Asso and Orcia. This island city has for centuries been cut off from major transit roads and subsequently avoided or missed out on the typical economic practices of the surrounding region. So it developed wine and olive oil as its primary industry. The world and Montalcino are all the richer for this fortuitous destiny.

#montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is referred to as “a very modern and ingenious intuition,” a phrase that so aptly depicts how it has separated itself from other sangiovese producing neighbours, namely Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only the Brunelli are possessive of a very certain and special sort of sangiovese aromatic liqueur, an amalgamation of deep, dark cherry, fresh leather, earth and flowers that differs from the others. Brunello also carries its own unique type of acidity and a fineness of tannin that speaks to how the grapes develop on the slopes and in the valleys below.

Only 15 per cent of a surface area totalling 24,000 hectares is planted to vines, just under 60 per cent to Brunello, approximately 15 to each Rosso and Sant’Antimo, 1.5 to Moscadello and 10 per cent to other grape varieties. The vineyards are set in a charmed square amphitheatre of geology, with the 1,740m high Mount Amiata to the south acting as protector and climate mitigator. Soils vary but at its most beautiful the decomposition of quatenary rock gives way to marl and albarese. The area is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, thankfully free of frost, great temperature fluctuations, the disease combative frequent presence of wind, mild and full days and in the end long, phenolic developing growing cycles.

Benvenuto Brunello gala dinner

Brunello’s rules call for maximum yields of eight tons per hectare and an obligatory ageing period in wood of two years in oak casks. A further four months (six for Riserva) is required in bottle. Bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of January in the fifth year following the harvest (sixth for Riserva). Only Bordeaux style bottles are permitted.

Rosso’s rules call for maximum yields of nine tons per hectare, bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of September of the year following the vintage. Like big brother Brunello, Rosso can only be housed in Bordeaux style bottles.

Moscadello’s yields climb to 10 tons per hectare for both natural and bubbly (five for Late Harvest) made from moscato bianco. The wines may be made available for sale on the first of January of the second year after the harvest, for the Late Harvest type. Sant’Antimo’s yields are set at nine tons per hectare for the Bianco and Rosso and eight for the other reds. It can be produced from all grape varieties recommended and authorized in the province of Siena, with specific limitations for the types with a variety name and for the Vin Santo. Bottling must take place in the province of Siena.

Sommelier service at Benvenuto Brunello

The Cooperative Cellars Biondi-Sant & Co are mentioned in the volume “Vini Tipici Senesi,” published by the chair of agronomy at the Università di Siena in 1933. The cooperative winery Biondi Santi & Co. was established in Montalcino in 1926 by a group of enthusiastic land owners who were also wine producers. They understood the necessity and importance of promoting two of Tuscany’s classic wines, Brunello and  Moscadello from Montalcino. The Brunello di Montalcino style did not emerge until the 1870s, soon after Il Risorgimento (the unification of the Italian regions into a single state). Its evolution was expressly due to the efforts of Ferruccio Biondi-Santi. A soldier in Garibaldi’s army, Biondi-Santi returned home from the campaigns to manage the Fattoria del Greppo estate belonging to his grandfather Clemente Santi. It was here that he developed some state-of-the-art winemaking techniques which would revolutionize wine production in Montalcino and greater Tuscany.

The word we know as Brunello translates loosely to “little dark one”, in reference to the local vernacular name for sangiovese grosso, “fat sangiovese,” the large-berried form of sangiovese which grows in the area. While Brunello di Montalcino and the clonal sangiovese grosso have been symbiotically synonymous for decades, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines.

Vancouver’s Michaela Morris, Godello and our amazing sommelier Leia

Montalcino’s reason for breathing, loving and living is to celebrate the wines of its immediate territory and the most noble locally-produced sangiovese has made the history of Brunello while the younger Rosso have taken up the challenge to become the protagonists of the new market.

This report is due and with great thanks to the producers from Montalcino, Patrizio Cencioni, Chairman and President of The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Vice Presidents Tommaso Cortonesi, Andrea Machetti and Riccardo Talenti. Benvenuto Brunello is the culminating visit for the larger, week long roadshow of Anteprime di Toscana and so thanks is also afforded to Regione Toscana, Tuscany Wine Consortiums, PromoFirenze and the entire Anteprime di Toscana team. My 88 reviews in total cover 22 Rosso Annata 2015 and 2014, 26 Brunello 2012, 34 Brunello Vigna 2012 and six earlier vintage Vigna and Riserva.

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

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Rosso Di Montalcino 2015

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quite delicate and elegant in Rosso from Barbi so perfectly executed to suit the effects of the vintage. A poster child actually, with brightness belied by red fruit and then enough grip to solidify the future. This will drink perfectly consistent from now and to the end of these ‘10s.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From warmest of warm southwest sandstone and marl Montalcino vineyards of solid rock and altitude. Marks the old school/new school twain as an undisguised expression and honestly prepares you for more structured Brunello without ever abandoning what Rosso must be. Red fruit, chalky liquidity and some fine tannins. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Capanna Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Capanna’s is a drink as fast as you can sort of Rosso with red tinging to black raspberry red fruit. There is a plum pudding space from the short barrel and such an inflection gifts true blue baby Brunello character. Enjoy this while the older siblings develop some of that formidable 2012 charm. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @capannamontalcino  #capanna

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

As young, fresh, beautifully whole-bunch startling and come get me by the trunkful as Rosso di Montalcino can really be. Strawberries soaking in their own macerating juices and straight out of the vat lithe tartness and beauty. For every day and just a hint of what tannin will want to be in the bigger, slowly rendered wood-spiced Brunello. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

Firmer than some other Rosso but not in sacrifice of charm or elegance. Depth of berries and even a hint of plum both in aroma and on a silky, pleasurable and meaningful palate. Grown-up is one way of naming it but I prefer to think of Collematoni’s Rosso as in a category of its own, neither Rosso nor Brunello but something to take pleasure without needing any supply from either or. Rosso for next year and five after that. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The advance is a young winemaker’s approach, using fruit from the youngest vines but from the same vineyards used for Brunello production. Clonal selection permits early success from the fourth to fifth leaf for precocious wines off vines so young. Others may use vineyards dedicated to Rosso, so farmed with ulterior motive and expectation, neither better nor worse, but different. The old way was simply a matter in selection of grapes, something young winemakers are abandoning for now one or the other ways of making Rosso. Tommaso Cortonesi’s is luminous and bright within a frame of ascension in reference to the darker cherry sangiovese point spectrum, with three levels of variegated hue and aromatic profile. Char, fennel and fruit. Great structure, agreeable and yes, drinkable now Rosso. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Donatella’s is a beacon at the shore, up on the fortress and statuesque at the central piazza, standing sentinel to draw attention to the 2015 vintage. Rarely will you find this combination of bright and firm, lithe and intense, ripe and in charge. All the attributes of Montalcino sangiovese are ingrained, albeit with a feminine hand, into its bricks and mortar. Perfectly sculpted and executed, with grace and humility.  Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fattoi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Relatively reserved as far as Rosso is concerned, with a darker berry, heavier clay and expressly extracted into juicy palate. Bigger expression that take full advantage of the generous vintage to be sure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.00, WineAlign)

Le Chiuse Di Sotto, “the closed below,” is beautiful, full and yet not so generous on the nose (above) in sangiovese pure and simply wanting to give Rosso expressly to the palate. The mouthfeel graces better than most, not wanting for anything more than what it knows and has. Nothing astringent about this firm grip and of a concentration yet elegant in tension. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 12921974, $25.15, WineAlign)

Refined and expertly executed if on the side where acidity really makes a play for queen in this Rosso. In a matter for when fruit so red, smoky and ripe is up to the balancing task. Another Rosso that just kills it for the vintage. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

La Fiorita Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Simpler and straightforward for Rosso, with the feel of quickly pressed fruit with little extra time spent waiting for its response. There is this herbal note on the palate and a chalky feel that is floral, like a candied pansy and/or exchanged for/mixed with something dairy, even enzymatic. A bit unusual that needs time to settle in. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2017   @NatalieLFiorita  @natalie_lafiorita  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches  La Fiorita Wines (Natalie Oliveros)

La Leccaia Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Resides on the roses and ethereal side of Rosso, of lithe and bright fruit, red all the way to the end. The palate is less expressive and somewhat carbonic, pulsating and pushing its way to the back. Deferential in ways not tasted yet. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino Carillon 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

If an imagining of the 2015 Brunello vintage can be foretold in the eyes, nose and mouth of a Rosso, La Torgata’s Carillon, “a group of small bells,” may just be the oracle. Sweet fruit in red cherry, ripe plum and then the dusting of fennel pollen will turn this to flow fluidly over river stones. So bright, light and pleasant. Could drink this with my pasta every night, no matter the preparation. Rosso like this is perfect, come questo è perfetto, for right now. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino La Togata 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Togata is firmer than the estate’s Carillon and quite certainly taken from lower, deeper and heavier clay. La Torgata also confirms a pleasing vintage to come for Brunello. Fruit is just that much darker and with more grip and welling tension. Deep earthy charity all over the palate leads to great tang on the finish where the tannin thankfully arrests and relents. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Lazzeretti Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Very modern and expressive. Unexpected but bright and wonderfully fanciful. Fantasy Rosso to imagine ways you had not before. A bit of a wild, natural child. Would look forward to watching this develop over the course of an hour or two. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

Maté Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Maté’s is darker, richer and more productive on track with dead aim to please. Got graphite in the pencil and plenty of savour.  Spice is at the top in between and down below. Sultry really, hot and bothered. Good long finish. Drink 2017-2019.   Tasted February 2017  @MateWinery  mate_winery  Candace Máté  @MateWine

Scopetone Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone’s Rosso is quite perfumed, nimble and of a nose that thinks potpourri. Here Rosso again needs the palate to flesh and firm up the overall package. Turns just a hair musty and dusty in that respect but does proper work, for the house and for ’15. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Tiezzi Rosso Di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Poggio Cerrino certainly acts on the nose more like the reputedly bigger Brunello so this is the provider of such a style. As a Rosso this is the most liqueur focussed and so defines their corner of the 2015 market, of which the school is older and the tone slightly volatile, not to mention deep in extraction. Deeply entrenched in tradition with plenty of tannin, including some verdant strands. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

More than just rustic and charming, here carefully considered to present a modern expression of sangiovese and what it amounts to is a refined, purposed and most excellent expression. There is this anaerobic, aerified inhalant impression that really takes away from expression so think about waiting a year to let the two fronts come together for a more perfect storm. Nothing precious about such a Rosso, only the sort of pure sangiovese roots laid down for success. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Rosso ’15 highlights from #benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #latogata #carillon #castellodiromitorio #collemattoni #giannibrunelli #donatellacinellicolombini #ventolaio

Rosso Di Montalcino 2014

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino V. V. 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A more than beautiful rendition from 2014, regal and rewarding. Elegant and firm to nose, not so perfumed and holding back a touch, with thanks to the Montalcino old vines compression. Firm is the operative, elongation the plan. A mineral-focused sangiovese with years of persistence lay ahead. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino Petroso 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Petroso is much more beautiful and even on the edge of ethereal as compared to the old vines Rosso. This has bright red fruit and a lightness of Rosso character. Really perfumed, not so much, exactly or specifically fruit but also the mineral, wood and plenty of spices. Love the cross-section of firm, tangy and grippy. This just goes, flows and keeps flowing. Very long and definitive, of vintage and certainly, ostensible, place. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It is a pleasure to discover the beautifully rendered combination and complimentary connection between the bright and the structured in a best of both colliding worlds Rosso. Some weight also lends credible Brunello regional character, followed by a mouthfeel silky, fluid and in the end, full of tension and grip. It’s a veritable roller-coaster sangiovese ride, slowly climbing the hill to the crest and pausing, as if in a dream, without going over the edge. Fantasy and edging in Rosso di Montalcino. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Eyes on annata 2012 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #benvenutobrunello 2017 #montalcino #toscana

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (154609, $54.00, WineAlign)

A solidified crust of earth and red fruit intertwine in Argiano’s 2012, a Brunello that resides on the firmer as opposed to brighter side of the 2012 vintage. Argiano will always deliver the goods, in quality fruit, from important terroir and with the building blocks to carry it for 10 to 15 years. The palate brings viscosity, unctuousness and more than enough finishing chocolate ganache. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (928028, $53.95, WineAlign)

Barbi accomplishes an Annata Brunello just haste in 2012, taking expressly written sangiovese red fruit and pushing it to the limits of its natural tendencies, in hue and expression. I would have to say that consistency from this house is an absolute guarantee and that its style trumps vintage as much as any other. This is simply more Barbi than 2-12. That’s all there is to it. Tannins are firm, acidity is strong and fruit is up to the 15 year task. Nothing time sensitive about it and its timeless structure cements the absolution. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brizio’s is quite fresh for Brunello in a style that won’t knock you down, from marl and galestro soils expressive of plum fruit and non-quelling oak. The warm southwest Montalcino corner rolls out a convection of buterred savoury pastry as though this were like Champagne in a sangiovese, Brunello style. Red velvet brioche and gingery exoticism from Montalcino with the fineness of tannin. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 236356, $69.99, WineAlign)

Take a deep breath and take this beautiful 2012 Castello Romitorio in, full of the purest sangiovese, florals and a moist crust of the earth. Seamless, already full of clean and open window clarity and ultimately beautiful. There are no astringent moments of heavy, barrel chested wood huffs or puffs. This Brunello is traditionally pure while at the same time clean as a whistling sangiovese. Nothing finer or more enjoyable to drink, without any cure or a care. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (956391, $59.95, WineAlign)

This is the press train to get to the 2012 station, of the right and correct fruit but with the sense to pull in on time. You do not have to wait for Bosco to fight its way through the Brunello crowd. The journey is already complete so if you need a drink me now Brunello this is your train. The fruit darkens and fleshes just in the time it travels from glass to mouth, with temporal, juicy acidity and easy tannin. Finishes with a shot of fine espresso.  Drink 2017-2021. Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Brunello 2012 in the hands of Cava d’Onice is blessed of a most heady and pretty perfume in a decidly gregarious expression, though with no danger of inching over the strada. Really tests the limits of fruit and wood and comes out clean and fresh, with much liquid ruby, chalky and spiced addendum. It’s the sangiovese equivalent of old school charm in modernist, retro clothing. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Typically Col D’orcia for Brunello, firm, grippy and designed with angles, lines and box vector precision. Fruit is not at once ready and willing to tell a story because tannins are on top and suppress the basket down. I will admit that the vintage is more relenting than many, not quite 2007 mind you but certainly not a factor of 2008. This normale will need three years to open up before it really begins to celebrate its fruit and then offer evolving subtleties for five to seven after that. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.99, WineAlign)

Gorgeous red fruit as generous and dare it be said, magnanimous as it gets. Collematoni is a fruit machine, but also a mineral maker and a long-distance, slow-evolutionary walker. The calcareous-clay impression (from San Angelo in Colle on the southern hill of Montalcino) leaves a lasting imprint on your Brunello soul. This carries fine millefoglie layers of fruit, woven in lattice and with alternative material from that fruit, of ground stone, acidity and sweet, fine-grainy tannin. No shards, no cruising and no need for rehydration. Carries it all in one bag, or bottle. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella, meaning the manna from heaven is a five hectare, five block vineyard in surround of the winery at the centre of the Cortonesi universe. A vineyard that is used exclusively for the production of the estate’s Rosso and La Mannella Brunelli. La Mannella (as opposed to I Poggiarelli) is a single block Brunello but not a “single-vineyard,” planted in 1985 and 1998 in a relative Montalcino colder northern clime. This emits and represents the epitome for floral sangiovese, a bouquet that speaks to violets and elegant, light purple fruit. The penetrability and explicability of purlieu is an act of focus and the cynosure of assessment. Brunello should be exacting, something you get and it must define itself in clear sangiovese-speak. Large slavonian oak for 36 months maintains and celebrates the perfume. The wood shows up late, in white peppery spice and that just have to lay on your tongue and swallow with sublime delight, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (431718, $58.00, WineAlign)

Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s ’12 presents a step up in character provided by the soil in her most masculine expression, if there is indeed such thing from this house. More density, seemingly lower-slope and deeper soil inflection comes replete with a handsome terroir-funky feeling. The fruit is currently secondary and not the most obvious for 2012 as a whole, though it is for the house. The palate is typically rendered by Donatella, creamy and fluid, liquid mineral ruby and carried by a fineness of tannin all the way to the finish. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (245225, $61.95, WineAlign)

Fuligni’s is a fine and refined sangiovese and quite perfect for and from the 2012 vintage. Quite an inhalant at first, savoury, strong and then turning tannic, properly rigid and wood-tough on the chalky and chocolatey palate. It’s not quite how it once in delivery a more traditional statement, now more streamlined, internationally understandable, bigger, grander and in search of suits around the table at a steakhouse. Will work for Tomahawks. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017     @HalpernWine  Fuligni  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

The Brunello from Chiuse Di Sotto is lovely in that it enters with that classic sangiovese purity, namely fruit but with the vineyard stowed comfortably in its iron-rich pocket. This strikes as perhaps schisty (or the Montalcino equivalent) Brunello, with a slight hematic and ferric aromatic complement. Really full, rich and acidity-laced palate is followed by a grand finale from which you wished you’d have been afforded an additional four years to make the assessment. Alas, that’s not how this works. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017.  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Grappolo Brunello Di Montalcino Sassocheto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Sassocheto’s Il Grappolo, with very firm and vacuumed aromatics shut and locked in so very tight. The depths are occupied by cherries drying, losing their body weight and settling into a floor of forest leaves and a future occupied by mushroom and truffle. The old-school, fine leathery and old barrel tonic bequeathes much hope for the mouthfeel and it gives every reason to confirm the possibilities. The world as we have known it here in Brunello sits right in this glass. It’s both comforting and filled with ancient wonder. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @GrappoloFortius   #ilgrappolo  @IlGrappoloFortiusMontalcino

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

High on the red liqueur but not equally so with high-octane tones, this is more accessible than you might think. It’s really big on its fruit, both on the nose and the palate. Quite classic in every respect and wholly respectful to the vintage. Bright and firm, direct and down to earth. Plenty of new wood will send this deep into the next decade. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

Like the 2015 Rosso the house style really concentrates fruit and soil, here into a solidly constructed, carefully considered architectural Brunello from the ground’s foundation all the way up. Aromas and texture act argilo-calcaire in origin, deep, humid and alive. The mouthfeel is fuller than many in 2012, tasted here in 2017, full of liquid chalk, 80 per cent cacao and really fine if currently intrusive tannin. Will need time, this grippy 2012. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (121905, $57.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s 2012 continues the house roll with a fourth straight proverbial, essential and impressive Brunello. As much as any this is a true, red-blooded 2012 and after tasting near 100 samples it really stands out as exemplary and respectful to the vintage. There is this rustic but very pure curative quality in the way such wines remember everything that came before without pausing to crawl forward into the future. This drinks as it always will, with clean and fiery temper alongside flesh and freshness. Lovely example of 2012 that will age really well. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $50.00, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s ’12 is reductive and terroir-driven, the combative combination rendering this Brunello reserved and shy. There is a modicum of freshness from the fruit but also some dried character, likely a cause and effect created by its aggressive tannins. I like the way it switches gears to the palate with no break or change of pace and how it reaches deep into the well for more fruit and tannin. Several years will be needed to scale the wall, pry open the cracks and spill out the charm. Three at least. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (64956, $44.95, WineAlign)

Highly aromatic but also warm, the alcohol on this Mocali seems elevated to the higher end of the 2012 scale. For this reason the fruit succumbs to it and the tannin. There is plenty of stuffing and modern styling to keep Mocali’s sangiovese afloat so that it may glide well into the next century and reveal a Brunello charm from Montalcino roots. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  #mocaliwine  liffordgram  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (651141, $62.95, WineAlign)

A perfectly perfumed Pian Delle Vigne from 2012 is vintage-relegated and vintage-captured. You need to appreciate how the Antinori team has kept the handling and the sheathing to a comfortable minimum, allowing fruit and collection of place to shine. Well made Brunello for 10 years easy. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  #piandellevigne  halpernwine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Warm and in full dispensation of all that 2012 has on offer, the fruit is at once bright and then deepens, in hue and aroma, by extraction. There is this fennel to liquorice scent that isn’t so very 2012 but that extra bit of personality is Poggio Antico’s calling card. The mouthfeel is one of the better in this Benvenuto Brunello line-up, cool, sapid and elastic. Wild cherries are all over the tannic finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Altero 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 11300367, $90.50, WineAlign)

Altero might be considered in all of its possible meanings; elevato, nobile, dignitato. Lofty, noble and dignified. It provides a step up in extraction, firm tannic grip and a blessedly variegated aromatic personality built on pure sangiovese perfume. This really is a clean and fine, structured and clearly alterarsi (alternative) Poggio Antico expression, if more than obviously transparently defined Brunello di Montalcino. The level of refinement is felt in shivers, palpable and loaded with contentment gifted Brunello terms. Modernity is not so much a stylistic choice as much as it is necessity. Drink this comfortably for 20 years but not into the next dark ages. Drink 2018-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (337774, $180.00, WineAlign)

The present and the future are only bright coming from the heady and purposeful red fruit in the Poggio di Sotto glass. This is pure, clear and distinctly 2012, so very well made and quite elegant. I’m not sure what more you could ask from the vintage in a Brunello prepped to drink beginning of next year and for five equally lustrous more. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    #poggiodisotto  Poggio di Sotto

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “little knolls” comes with a whiff of old hides, barrel cellar walls and already a note of forest mushroom so the first thought is certainly placed back into another time. The palate is so welling with liqueur, acidity, tannin and endless possibility. There is grip but not too much and while this lingers it does so with waning grit and grip. So in the end, modernity is part of the plan and in what is ostensibly a big, sumptuous mouthful of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Bionsega “Lifestyle” 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Poggiolo’s Bionsega is a very amenable sangiovese, ready to drink in the short term while the others bide their developing and softening time. The “Lifestyle” moniker will clearly be written in Brunello stone for a group of imbibers who want the label without the anxiety. This will indeed offer them immediate pleasure and gratification if they can afford the money and the necessary if unavoidable cerebral time. But to be honest at the end of the glass the good and sincere Bionsega is not so out there so drink up and enjoy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Terra Rossa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Terra Rossa soil is a fascinating thread, connecting disparate wine regions by soil, from Coonawarra to Chianti Classico and here into Montalcino. The territory’s red soil sangiovese delivers distinct purity and clarity earlier than the “normale” from Il Poggiolo. This Brunello is bright, cheery and full of ripe red cherry. Just a touch of grippy tannin comes swift but the impression is more tang from that soil and how the wine must be made from there. An earlier drinking Brunello to be sure and quite progressive in style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Scopetone Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone is higher in tone and alcohol warmth but balanced by top quality and the clarity of fruit. Though the vintage does not necessarily bring such a fractive sort of behaviour the Scopetone sections itself into fruit, acidity and tannin, after it has stopped acting so bloody reductive. The hematic and ferric aspects mix with burgeoning acidity and a return of that exceptional fruit. This will live so very long and as such it’s deferential attitude to the vintage is easily forgiven. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012 (Vigna)

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Montosoli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10221683, $104.50, WineAlign)

In its present state Montesoli is a beast. There, I’ve said it. Shut tight, chains securely in place, reduction the retaining wall to keep predators out and so good luck on unearthing any early secrets. You know there is classic and earthy red fruit hiding but you can’t quite feel it. The palate is chewy, crunchy, propitiously and indubitibly enriched. This is a massive Brunello with underlying elegance and charm but ultimately all-powerful. Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  #altesino  rogersandcompanywines  Winery/Vineyard  @rogcowines

Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

As expected a rich, preserved and developed liqueur from Poggio Alle Mura but what is exceptional is the lesser or lack of barrel on both the nose and the palate at such a young stage. This is the most red-fruit reasoned PAM I have ever tasted and I can only say that Banfi has listened to the vintage and the land with great exception and care. The chocolate and the viscosity are left behind so that purity and traditional (or is it forward-thinking) tenets of sangiovese can take centre stage. Bravo. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @CastelloBanfi  @AuthenticWineON  castellobanfi_ilborgo  awsmwest  @CastelloBanfi  @awsmon

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Del Fiore 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10217300, $64.75, WineAlign)

Barbi has also listened to the wind and vintage ear worms sung from their iconic, 16th century vineyard known as Vigna del Fiore. Red fruit of clarity and purity reigns while acidity is at its finest for the house. The rusticity of cherry, leather and roasted beets combine for full gastronomic effect and lead into a rather sumptuous and mouth coating texture for the palate. This scales the wall and retreats again to stay in the game in which you can play now (well, soon), then repeatedly, at consistent increments, later and later. VdeF from Barbi is a best of both worlds Brunello for both consumer and collector. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino Assunto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (206854, $36.95, WineAlign)

Bellaria’s Assunto is funky and truffle earthy, etched and forged from and for the past. Red citrus concentrate and wild thyme are further scents gotten and then such tart compression on the palate. Hard acidity and desperate tannin take this straight down the line. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino Paesaggio Inatteso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Camigliano’s sangiovese is rather reductive and ornery at this stage, perhaps specific to the Paesaggio Inatteso Vigna bottling. It is a wine that will not give up easy. The dusty rustic fruit and heady to woodsy aromas are surely meant to spread some kind of traditional word but it’s hard to get past the fortress gates. Quite out of touch with fruit it’s hard to imagine that this will not develop much more charm anytime soon. The barrel is very strong on the flavours so added up you get what you got. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2017

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino La Casa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CaparzoWines  @TheCaseForWine  #caparzowinery  

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Filo di Sesta 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A perfume of fine spun sweet red fruit fills the glass and prepares you for what can only be a case of smitten by love in sangiovese. The tree fruit is ripe and falls into the hand almost before it is picked. The traditions of the Brunelli are deeply entrenched into the genetics of such a wine and onto the palate we go with more sweet acidity-laced and tannin-gripped fruit. Quite seamless and propitiously endowed with a quiet and highly effective linger. Not as tough as many and yet indicative of the vintage without needing to scream for to be heard. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino Campo Del Drago 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10708424, $63.25, WineAlign)

A divergence from the normale comes from the dragon, with an increased level of aromatic airiness and simultaneous inhalant, like gastronomy coming from the kitchen of demi-glacé, herbs and roasting meats. Such culinary wafts are perfect for preparing the palate and the crunchy, chewy and marbled work is a reminder that salty protein (I’m really thinking fresh Tagliatelle and wild boar) is the focus in handling such sangiovese. The grip on the finish indicates a long life ahead. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino Colombaio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Cava D’Onice’s Colmbaiao delivers high quality red fruit antics form the aromatic front in cloud-burst vitality from what is nothing but a striking expression of sangiovese. Expertly straddles the line between acidity-laced, sour-edged and ripe from extracted excitability. Bright, fresh and full of spirit. Sweet viscous purity of palate fruit, a bit of roll-up and then such round acidity. Ben preparato e qualificato. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Celestino Pecci Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Al Carro 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wagon (or perhaps, chariot) “Al Carro” delivers a single-vineyard’s increased level of aromatic liqueur, reductive as if by concentrate and is the first to really give off that feeling of cherries seeping in their own syrupy liquid. Such an oozing coulis of sangiovese is what we have come to expect from Brunello though I don’t think it typical of the 2012 vintage. What it says is lower elevation fruit, likely from a warmer Montalcino spot and not quite so efficiently managed to stay cool, elegant and alive. It is delicious in current state but without sufficient grip and tannin structure not necessarily built for the long haul. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017     celestinopecci  Celestino Pecci

Citille Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Poggio Ronconi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (187955, $49.00, WineAlign)

This single-vineyard Poggio Roncioni exhibits quite a bit of reduction and the warmth wells deeply on the nose with notes that bring some pine forest and cypress into the mix. Really layered and also firm, though decidly extracted and sitting cross-legged on the palate with some of that bitter red citrus pith and slightly astringent tannin. Solid if hard-working Brunello. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #citilledisopra

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Prime Donne 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy ($69.95, WineAlign)

With a nod to an all female produced Brunello, Donatella Le Cinelli Colombini’s Casato Prime Donne vineyards specific Brunello is rich, traditional, firm, seamless and structured. Really fine. Exceptional purity from red fruit and an ideally calculated transference of rusticity gives it that supplicated balance, from what was and going forward must be. There is this cooler site and climate-controlled type of phenolic fruit ripeness managed for a struck accord that will see this age gracefully for two decades. In a vintage that in many ways was predicated on a called for requiem of combined blocks and sites this is a true blocks of specific vineyards success. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Valocchio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $84.69, WineAlign)

The four vineyard Valocchio is Fanti’s Vigna-designate Brunello, a massive sangiovese speaking for four blocks; Vigna Bellavista, Vigna Sassone, Vigna Casabandi and Vigna Macchiarelle Nuova. This strikes as hailing and indeed fact checking tells it does come from a south-east exposed warm spot with some density in the soil. The red fruit is deeply submerged in earthy-rich demi-glacé. There is a mild-mannered personality of volatility on the nose so some old-school thoughts creep in though I would not call this overly traditional Brunello. It is not hard to see past the microbes and to dig deeper into the concentration and grains of ropey acidity meeting tannin to clamber over the ever intense finish. Huge Brunello. Too much for now and in great need of a calming slumber. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017 @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Though certainly concentrated and likely from a warmish location the clarity on the nose and obvious purity of fruit renders this Madonna delle Grazie a great success. Cherries never smelled so fine and the palate that follows brings the same sort of brightness with thanks to equal and supportive acidity. When the fruit is finished occupying all your time you can expect those sweet but persistently chalky and tight-grained tannins. Drink 2019-2031. Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

La Fornace Brunello Di Montalcino Origini 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fornace’s Vigna Origini is reductive and volatile so exercise as much patience as you can before passing judgement on the origins and path forward of this Brunello. Keen herbal and savoury aromas come clean, along with tart red citrus and a zest of grapefruit. This is really steeped somewhere in the pretty deep distant past and at present acts with the sort of character that lacks the fruit density to keep up with today’s forward thinking Brunelli. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

La Fortuna Brunello Di Montalcino Giobi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fortuna’s Giobi is much more approachable and gifts sweet perfume in 180 degree about face opposition to the previously tasted La Fornace Origini. The fruit’s warmer location has granted better possibility in conjunction with the older-stylistic and what comes from Giobi is more concentration and focus. Though a knowing nod comes from current character it’s not quite ready now and the future will offer further personality qualified as copacetic and correct. As for and from 2012 and relative to Brunello as a whole, this sangiovese is still quite present. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017 #tenutalafortuna  @lafortunaaziendaagricola

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Manapetra 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (185009, $59.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s Vigna Manapetra delivers a fair bit of welcoming Montalcino demure and the lithely floral aromas are the entry-point for this pulchritudinous sangiovese. Manapetra is a wine that just seems to jest and tease what is to eventually come. The feminine rapport is a lovely side-track to the ripe vintage away from the producer who failed to manage the duality of ripeness and over-bearing tannin. The presence, precision and clarity here edges forward and nears the divine. One of the best so far. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Fattoria La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Ciliegio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Ciliegio brings the best of the 2012 vintage to light and here we have come into the depth and elegance of what the most modern of Brunello can and really have to be. The fruit is ripe and I imagine the winemaker walking the vineyards every day coming into and at harvest time, eating grapes, chewing on seeds, waiting for that optimum combination of tannin resolution and crunch. This found the sweet spot. Elegance, purity, precision, focus, organically divined and from the most obvious of terrific terroir. Drink 2019-2039.  Tasted February 2017  @fattorialamagia  lamagiamontalcino  @lamagiamontalcino

Cantina Leonardo Da Vinci Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Sweet, sour, salty and earthy fruit make a total sangiovese play for well rounded pay dirt in the Da Vinci Brunello and yet this is expertly high-toned and succinct in edgy ways. There is some flesh and unctuous palate activity so the cumulative is deemed more than respectable in a Brunello next door kind of way.. Finishes with chocolate shavings and dusty espresso. For best results drink this in the early stages. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CantineLeonardo  cantineleonardodavinci  @CantineLeonardoDaVinci

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino V. V. 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

I sense an increase in alcohol from the old vines and perhaps this is completely necessary because of what they do in terms of compression and density. As a rule I am not finding high alcohol in 2012 even as I do find richness and ripeness that is not always easy to manage. These old vines are not a problem for the latter but the heat on the nose mutes the fruit and is ill prepared to set up the palate for acidity and tannin management. A bit rustic and old-school and certainly right for fans of the style. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino Fornace 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s Fornace (the furnace) is riper than the old vines but lower in warmth, and I suspect, alcohol. Also prevalent on the nose is some reduction, along with more obvious wood than many. The intent here is clearly for size so more than a few years will be needed to settle the heavy door on its hinges and nearly immoveable parts. The reduction will dissipate in a few and the tannins should begin to relent in two more. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Loreto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

Mastrojanni’s Vigna Loreto takes an express route through vintage ripeness to some jam and warmth in the nose though the fruit is really quite pure and rendered with clarity. The mouthfeel is round and fulfilling, markedly ripe again with pure fruit though not in the same kind of jam that seemed first apparent on the nose. To say this is exemplary for 2012 would be a gross understatement. Tannins are well-managed to package up the fruit and acidity in solid structure. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino Mercatale 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Some traditional rendering comes clean from the start with rich liqueur, those classic cherries and even some nebbiolo-like tar and roses. Continues the thread and coats the tongue with sour-sharp acids followed by anxiety styled tannin. I suspect the vintage posed stiff challenges to the house style and though the fruit will wane this will show its best after a few further years in bottle. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2017  Societa’ Agricola Ridolfi srl

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Helichrysum 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Depth and reserve make cause to wonder what will be though it is the combination of breaching ripeness and warmth that seem to dominate the internal, in the present moment’s discussion. Richness of fruit is undeniable, from red clay depths and the advancing severity of tannin make this a formidable and virtually irreproachable ’12. Five undisturbed years lay ahead for this Helichrysum sangiovese from San Polino and one should hope the fruit will outlast the bitter chocolate, grainy tannin and chalky sensibility. Probability, recent track record and a heavy hunch say this will work out just fine. Plain and simple, put this away. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Fattoria Scopone Brunello Di Montalcino L’Olivare 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The amount of fennel and amaretti cookie on the plateau of aromatics is joined by really traditional but such a fine inhalant of Brunello specific-sangiovese. This L’Olivare vigna-designate from Scopone carries all the necessary attributes; cherry, leather, fine-distilled syrup, roses, fennel again and always a seamless integration of it all. As classic as classic gets, all moving parts within reason and decades of future in its proverbial ancient but timeless pocket. You know where you are. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Plenty of vacuuming liquor is sucked up into the bubble supported over the thinner air of this sangiovese. Warm to fiery fruit is traditionally rendered and fully accountable for its actions. There is just a touch of fungi and forest floor on the umami-configured nose so complexity is in despite the heat and the volatility. The palate offers some sweetness of fruit and a first hint of advancing times. Drink this traditional Brunello early with a rare bisteca and enjoy the fine ganache on the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A small production of this Brunello out of Castelnuovo dell’Abate develops a deeper clay-influenced and markedly darker black cherry-raspberry fruit rendered sangiovese. This Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci is distinctly polar to Tassi’s Franci Franca normale. As a result the wood is more on top while the acidity and tannin wait, but only for a few moments, before attacking with fervour. So much chocolate swaths the palate with that fine-grainy brushstroke of tannin. This selezione is a big wine that needs a few years to back down. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino P.56 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tenuta Buon Tempo’s plot specific p. 56 is quite full-throttle on the nose but a bit reserved or rather locked in within that aromatic structure, as if it needs some sort of catalyst to find its way out of the shell. What I reach for is fruit but I get a mineral streak first, something almost calcari but certainly argilo in origin. This must be from a higher location as it is cool-tempered and very refined. The palate is cool again, not so much herbal as it is swelling with the holy trinity of fruit, acidity and tannin. Were the acidity just a touch elevated I think this would travel over mountains, rivers and valleys to decades ahead. It’s just that close but will still commit to being a 15-20 year wine. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted February 2017    tenutabuontempo  @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Doria 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Silvio Nardi’s Poggia Doria is fruit forward for Brunello with a wild cherry to black cherry lineage, but also some fragola di bosco. The ripeness is pushed to the limit for 2012 and this continues onto the very rich and sumptuously endowed palate. There is plenty of chocolate and tongue climbing acidity on that smothered palate. Drink this early and often. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

In opposition to the Poggio Doria, Nardi’s second Vigna delivers a complete about face turn around to see the other side of the moon, this time the landscape where Brunello is found in the Manachiara. If at first it seems a bit rendered in stencilled acetone keep drifting into its fine liqueur and patiently wait out the transformation. It deepens, condenses and then breathes. This is a fine-grained, tight coiling, re-coiling and fanning out across the moonscape sangiovese. The wood is very much in charge, with baking spices and cool, sapid and savoury edges. It needs time. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tiezzi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Soccorso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Funky and markedly reductive young Brunello is easy to discount as problematic but something tells me to hang in there with Tiezzi’s Soccorso. The tension is palpable and the fruit suffocating behind the microbial wall of fame. Traditional can go either way; southerly sour or northerly nettled. This will mark the twain but the fruit will never be the focus of attention. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

La Togata Brunello Di Montalcino La Togata Dei Togati 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A quite firm and traditionally challenged Brunello here from Togata cries for patience before it has even slipped from the glass into your mouth. Reserved to unrelenting at least aromatically, when you have a taste you are reminded that history, tradition and ancient sensibility must be apart of the future. The old large botti have established a void for which this sangiovese to hang and suspend so that it will be reluctant in its early bottle years. With time it will release its flesh and charm from out of a carefully crafted and designed complex system of architecture. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino Pomona 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A new era of sweet Brunello fruit is borne from Poggio Salvi’s Pomona, one that is hard to describe but here goes. It’s like a cross between pink roses, sweet ruby grapefruit and wild saskatoon berry, or the Tuscan equivalent. The newfangled aromatics aside this is also older school than expected and yet is graced with incredibly fine tannins and very purposed acidity. More palate fruit would elevate the game but this should gain some flesh and slowly unwind for 10 to 12 years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017    @HalpernWine  #villapoggiosalvi  halpernwine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Brunello Di Montalcino 2011 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Looking rearward into the recent past what comes into near focus is the combination of liqueur and firmness, a handful for sure and yet it seems that time (even just an extra year or two in bottle) brings out that specific Cortonesi perfume. The tang and richness of concentrated acidity really elevates at this stage so that tannin begin its resultion so young and impressively so. This is not the big, bad Brunello but the one to make enjoyment haste. The length is exceptional with pretty tonic and bitter moments that pop in and out. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

If the argument was ever made to sway in the “yes it was and is” direction, this Cortonesi example from the exceptional vintage leads the parade with aromatics that go exotic and then return domestic. A spirit of the east, of bougainvillea and hibiscus plus a Montalcino gustatory aromatic spice. Then that return to fennel, a walk through flora Montalcino brush and sweet French tonneau spice. The liquorice is one bred out of aromatic acidity, like a fine chalky dusting of red crimson and ochre to purple powder on a plate next to a perfect charred slice of beef. Elegant sangiovese cuisine in a glass, deconstructed and all obvious in their parts but when you taste you pause and it all comes together. The flavours mingle and weave, of cherries and fruit leather, more mellowed spice, still lingering fresh, persistent and remarkably bright. Southern vineyard be damned, this is a cool, elegant and lithe drop. Harkens back to a mind’s eye and nose in memory of Brunello 1998, maybe a bit of 1999, but more like 1998. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Consistency shines in the Brizio sangiovese triumvirate, from Rosso through Brunello and into this fine, precise and focused Riserva. The wine is once again aged in 54hL Allier French oak casks but for Riserva the time increases to 48 months, followed by bottle rest refinement for no less than one year. Riserva 2010 goes straight to the heartstrings, rich and warming. That liquor is red cherries and fine new leather with incredible structure. The linger is great, warm but within means. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Poggio al Vento 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

Poggio al Vento Riserva 2010 is so very smoky and wood charred so you wonder about the fruit but air brings a fleeting glimpse of that red toned life before the wind swirls to send it back to the smoky embers beneath the roasting bones of the cinghiale. Charm in Poggio al Vento is hard to come by so early and this is far too early. The palate is richer than you think and again with wood so prevalent. There is no doubt that a wait of five more years is needed before beauty can be coaxed out of this formidable Brunello. The vintage, the vineyard and the traditional house style all conspire for this Etruscan structure, meant to impress, influence and last just long enough. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Good to go!

Godello

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