50 California blasts from the past

Godello in the Napa Valley mustard

As each calendar year counts down I set out on a long December inward journey, sifting through thousands of tasting notes, looking for reminders to trigger emotion. The purpose is a honing, a zeroing in process, first to create a shortlist and then a numbered final register to match the century’s yearly suffix. The latest was Godello’s Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020. A bit painstaking to agglomerate while simultaneously offering a grouping of days in recollection of the year’s finest sips though rumination over the previous 365. On this the first of March 2021 there is a looming and gloaming of a particular sort, forced upon us by circumstance as the auspicious anniversary approaches. Thus it seems like a reasonably credible idea to act upon the concept of creating more top lists, or rather further “gathered reminiscences,” blasts from the past. These are 50 California wines tasted years ago, assessments that up until now remained raw and unfinished, just now committed to public record.

Carneros, Napa Valley

Chardonnay

Patz & Hall Chardonnay Alder Springs Vineyard 2014, Mendocino County

A vineyard of altitude and cool seven miles from the ocean at 1200 ft with fruit also sold to Kosta Browne. Her for banana, lemon and intense dry extract. Crisp as possible, freshness, balance, length, carries it all. No butter, no oil, no gratuitous aromas or flavours. Exceptional. Donald Patz has now retired having sold to Chateau Ste. Michelle. Buy it up. May never be this exceptional again. Wild ferment, full malolactic, 70 per cent new French wood. $60-70 US. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted August 2016

Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley

In the zone, reduction blowing off to the edges of the compound. The liberally spread butter fully absorbed, the wood subsidy subsided, now all laid out in retrospect. Ripeness from that beautiful vintage has settled into a cool, lemon curd tart and nectarous nectarine delectation. All tolled the cumulative is an effect of elegance, though in this case not necessarily richesse. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Kutch Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2014

Santa Mateo County, really reductive, very mineral, the most thus far in a line-up of 13 California chardonnays , from what is surely the coolest spot from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Great rocks, stones and bones. Yes bones, by karst and the sea air reaching out to make this seriously cool. The great mountain tang and natural acidity, intense, snappy, snapping back and long. From Jamie Kutch, “Burgundian to a fault,” this being his first effort with chardonnay. An “abandoned” chardonnay vineyard, 12 per cent abv, pH to give you lemon juice but when you get lemons you know just what to do. $40 US. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted April 2016

Keller Estate Chardonnay Oro De Plata 2014, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County

This makes the previous wine (RS) seem oxidative. Reductive is at the fore for the Keller, freshness locked in, really wound on the coastal spindle, intense fruit and even more so, acidity, circular, reeling, wild. A Petaluma Gap leader to be sure, chardonnay of heritage with a winemaking tie to Hansell. No malolactic and all neutral oak. This is so very Chablis, Côte de Lechet and so, wow. $35 US, 800 cases. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted August 2016

Benovia Chardonnay Fort Ross Seaview 2014, Sonoma County

A coastal vineyard (and fruit that is also employed by Flowers) and many will rank this as the coolest spot in California for growing grapes. Mike Sullivan is the winemaker, with fruit that used to go to Marquesan. This done in a richer, expressive, layered style. Some tropical notes, deeply hued, mango, nectarine, creamsicle. Fresh, tart depth, Champagne like with toast and brioche. Luscious custard, 40 per cent new wood, 400 cases made. $55-60 US. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted August 2016

Melville Verna’s Estate Chardonnay 2014, Santa Barbara County

Both rich and really reductive, deeply hued, fully sun-worshipped and deftly but intently extracted fruit. A bite into a barrel, a Mutsu apple and the inside of a platinum pipe. Big, unabashed style with never ending mineral, tart, ripping and wisely no real malolactic. Plenty of lees though and the oldest of the oak. It’s all fruit, lemon curd and so dessert-like chardonnay but of savour and spicy sapidity. Saline finish. $40-50 US. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2016

Migration Chardonnay 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County

The richest and most “old-school” California of the lucky 13 tasting, fruit orchard apple and pear albeit folded and blended through ripe and creamy custard. Or at least the renderings thereof. Likely able to attribute that opaque, cloudy, clotted cream sensation from the fog injection. $40-45 US. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2016

Presqu’ile Chardonnay 2014, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County

Nice reserve on this nose, teasing some tropical fruit but keeping it calm, cool and collected. The calcareous aromas are quite fine, delineated like a chalky streak though less so on the palate follow through. Quite tart and nicely dry extract turn to creamy texture but not so thick in fluidity. Like barrel fermented chenin blanc so a unique expression. Listed at 13.9 abv, low pH, neutral oak and stainless, half and half. Matt Murphy is winemaker and co-owner. $35-40 US. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016

Ramey Chardonnay 2014, Russian River Valley

Some reduction and quite a corpulent, sweet herbology, genovese basil, pine nut and quality olive oil. Pesto of herb, glade, lemon and fine acidity. Always perfectly Russian River Valley, with a warm steal but ultimately cool. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted August 2016

Ramey Chardonnay 2008, Russian River Valley

Really showing some age from not the top of the top vintage, holding up but in display of its new barrels, nose oxidized and flavours still buoyed by acidity. So the corrective structure seems out of balance now while the wine marches on. Musty and microbial at this point with a fading sweetness on the finish. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted August 2016

Sonoma County vines
Photo (c): https://www.facebook.com/SonomaCountyVintners

Beringer Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley

Continues along the Beringer scaling line of wood retreat, cool climate clarity and as a result a wider commercial appeal. Who would have predicted the success but it’s really working. There would never be a mistaking and the shining is always in play but the admiral work and practicum really does what is base, necessary and appreciated. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2016

Martin Ray Chardonnay 2015, Green Valley Of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County

A greener understanding, like the smell of algae on rock in a pretty little creek. Carries some unction and creamy sherbet texture on the palate. Listed at 13.7 abv, toasty by 40 per cent new french oak, full malolactic. It leans delicious but also verdant and commercial. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2015, Sonoma Coast

Classic taut and reductive chardonnay with Petaluma Wine Gap scream, in suffragette of creamy, rich fruit. Early harvest, compressed vintage. The fruit is caught in the wine’s vacuum, a wine tunnel creating this centrifuge of richness and acidity. Commercial, composed and so very effective. $25 US Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted August 2016

Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands

A Wagner Family of Wines property, a fine restraint and a shine to cooler thoughts come from this highland chardonnay, with more than enough orchard pressed fruit to fill a trough for the quiet and the masses. Really ramps up and fleshes on the palate with some wild biters late. Good length. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2016

Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay 2015, Central Coast

San Luis Obispo County, ocean proximate, cool spot, from the oldest producer in Edna Valley. Nicely lean, briny, saline, good acidity. Add some fish or seafood flesh and it will sing. Fresh and crisp. $18 US. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Menage A Trois Gold Chardonnay 2015

From the Trinchero Family Estates stable, classic buttery rich and slightly toasty broad California style. Barrel rendered middle road taken, wax polish, enamel-oleaginous spray. Intensely inward and uni-dimensional for commercial lobster fishing, crack a shell and pour into red plastic cup enjoyment. You know what’s it’s good for. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted April 2016

Scheid Chardonnay Escolle Road Vineyard 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County

The aromatics here are off the charts in the 13 strong grouping of this tasting. Waxy, caramel, smoky, flinty, butterscotch in gobs. Really odd conclusive nose and even stranger to taste, with a pencil lead and rubber tipped pencil flavour that reminds of childhood class boredom chewing mistakes. Inoculated, 7 per cent new oak, some of it “European.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted April 2016

Sonoma Coast
Photo (c): http://www.sonomawine.com/

Other White

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley

Ripe and creamy aromas take this sauvignon blanc into fresh and exotic territory but it’s one of those wines that really improves on the palate, carrying weighty and energy together, expanding and elevating the status in so many ways. A gregarious and resourceful sauvignon blanc with more upside than many peers. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2016

St. Supéry Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley

The high stirred SS, SB style, from high and dry extract effect, fine acidity and faux sugary spell. Full fleshy mouthfeel and terrific 2015 tang. Lays out the green carpet for the vintage, the varietal and what’s to come. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted April 2016

J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2015, California

J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2015, which strikes as pinot grigio in style, dry extract to aromatic sweetness, warm and inviting. Tart and citrus intense, very appealing commercial style and a buttery finish which tells some barrel is involved. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted April 2016

Treana Blanc 2015, Central Coast

A blend of 45 each marsanne and roussanne plus viognier, a bit of aromatic reserve, quite rich and dense on the palate. Flavours of very ripe pear and even riper apple. A bit into the sauce and the purée. Could use a more purposed shot of acidity and courage. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted April 2016

Cabernet Sauvignon

Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley

As only Heitz can do this provides the combination of elegance and structure and what may just be the finest tannins available from Napa Valley for cabernet sauvignon. That this is so understated speaks volumes about the essence and the incredulity of a Martha’s and with the dry backdrop of a perfect Napa growing season this clambers through its reps with effortless ease, muscular tension and satisfying performance. More ballerina than gymnast and certainly more statesman than warrior. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted April 2016

Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oakville, Napa Valley

Continues the thread of dry, dusty, beautifully savoury and fruit fleshy cabernet sauvignon from the Groth team. It’s like biting into that perfectly ripe and juicy plum, in texture, not sweetness or even specific to the fruit, but that texture, its unmistakeable. Seamless, tender, age worthy and so friendly (but at the same time serious) cabernet sauvignon. Grothiness refined and defined. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted April 2016

Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley

A different world here, very floral, historic site with vines that go back as far as 1972, organic since the mid-1980’s. With a slice of reduction to grant forward structure where candied roses will always be there. Classic 1990’s Napa style, rich and full but focused, pure and detailed. Complex, 20 months in French wood, 60 per cent new, 88 per cent cabernet sauvignon 88 plus (8) cabernet franc and some petit verdot. The potential is great. This will become picture perfect. $185 US. Drink 2019-2032.  Tasted September 2016

Etude Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley

The combination of fruit (could it be any riper or improved upon), acumen and no expense spared makes this the cabernet sauvignon of great esteem in that echelon where few reside. Berries in many forms; fresh, puréed and in clafouti are fully engaged. What will this not do for you, for 20 years and more? Everything. The most refined and sophisticated such a wine can be. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted April 2016

J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley

From Schramsberg Vineyards, a Napa Valley aromatic beauty, the most floral of any on this table and in so many ways the most Bordelais, or perhaps more specifically Margaux with such perfume only a scant few know or understand. So pretty and powerful, lovely, structured and intense. This will age for two decades easily and tasting this really puts it all into perspective. The palate brings more of the divine, silky, fleshy and with some spicy bite and chew. Really fine. Really, really fine. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted May 2016

 

Gallica Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, St. Helena, Napa Valley

Oakville valley floor Napa fruit gravelly soil, from Rosemary Cakebread. First wine in this haute line-up to amalgamate the blue, red and black fruit, with some volcanic aromatics. Acidity works in and all around and so this has it all going on with a chocolate finish more refined. Mainly (75 per cent cabernet sauvignon plus (25) cabernet franc, suave from blueberry to red currant to black berry. The corporeal tone is elegant and muscular. Has some real elegance and is is simply excellent. 249 cases. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted September 2016

Young Inglewood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, St. Helena, Napa Valley

Deep, low, bench land gravelly soils, extended maceration, rich concentrated depth, amazingly void of chalk and grain though the tannin is intense. Very refined, spicy and great acidity. It’s all in napa, all in from Josh. Wow, so long. $157 US. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, Unfiltered

From 1990 planted hillside, bench site vineyards, gravelly with good drainage, young but structured, just east of the Silverado Trail. Rich, black fruit, chalky, fine-grained and very sweet tannin. All natural yeasts, 22 months in 65 per cent new oak. All in but because the fruit is so rich and pure there is balance. Rich, spicy and focused, tempered chocolate finish, a prime example of today’s Bordelais in the retro-modern world. $156 US. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted September 2016

Silverado Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley

Also high-toned but the level of serious, depth and bad-ass intent is on the table. From steep shale soils, there is a mountain herb aroma that is distinct, ahead of the chocolate curve,. All in 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 45 per cent new wood, heat factor notably reduced. There is a cool-menthol note but the flavour is a change of pace, into cool, thin mountain air and the tannins are a beast. Tart and grainy finish. Needs five to seven years to integrate. Exceptional wine. $150 US. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2016

Y Rousseau Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley

Yannick’s work, in reduction and Mount Veeder depth. Further south with fog-maritime coverage so here winemaking is in, Bordelais for sure, reminds of St. Éstephe. Dark, pitchy, cimmerian, with a steep remoteness about it. Volcanic, serious at 2000 ft, so great acidity that just seems natural and raging. Candied flowers and this is just simply intense, gorgeous and alone. Eastern exposure, naturally fermented, 18 months in 75 per cent in new oak. The structure here is second to none with focus, determination and very aggressive tannins. Quite hot on the finish being the only detractor. 150 cases made. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2016

Daou Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Soul Of A Lion 2013, Paso Robles

Carries a cool, Mediterranean savour on the nose, with spirit, vitality and a black olive tapenade. Seamless, ripe in acidity and intensely naked but never wavering from its energy. This is a massively structured wine and no doubt will last 25 years but touched anytime in the first 10 will require hours of aeration and a more than obvious, double-digit ounce weighed, protein fleshy sidekick. It may be big and high octane on the nose, carry a truck load of architectural bones on its corpulent frame but it never loses sight of finesse and dare it be said, elegance. Well, maybe not elegance but it is charming, handsome and fine, even in the face of massive extraction. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted April 2016

Honig Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley

Going deeper and darker on the floor, ripe and tart black raspberries, dusty Rutherford fruit, 87 cabernet with a long splash of petit verdot, with some merlot. Aged in 100 per cent American oak (30 new). Good valley floor fruit absorption, some exotic black and white fruit, pod and kernel. Acidity is low profile, tannin slightly more but this is quite easy to get at for a Honig. A wine of good volatility. $78 US. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted September 2016

Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley

High Mediterranean-savoury component, in black olive and caper volatility. So much ripe but tang-tart-sour raspberry, a product of high sun hours at elevation with the need for canopy management. Old vines, erosion hills, fog-influence, history and repetition. Very savoury and another wine with its very own kind of funk. Oak and spice with grainy tannins all over the finish. Wild, disparate and complex wine. A bit early to get to know and then it carries a bit of an advanced character or a natural cure to it that may always be there as it ages over a good long period of time. $175 US. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2016

Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley

Valley floor fruit where healthy ground cover leads for major florals and minor Mediterranean scents, namely black olive. Gravelly, Oak Knoll natural acidity giving rise to the AVA nature, that ripe and round acidity for a cool feel. Aridity, pinch of salinity, rises and lingers. Minor pitches from malbec, petit verdot and merlot. Overall epitome of red fruit. Better value than most. $60 US. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2016

Rocca Family Vineyards 2013, Napa Valley

Single vineyard on a 21-acre farm, high toned, dark fruit from a warm bench land site, alluvial soil, organic. Sees 20 months in 75 per cent French oak and in this case it is necessary because the fruit and the acidity are ravers and ragers. Such a cooling back side, minty, chocolate mint, rubbed between the fingers, yes, like malbec. Oak is huge. $108 US. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2016

Darioush Napa Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley

More of a proprietary red, 75 cabernet with some merlot and a minor amount of cabernet franc, plus malbec and petit verdot. More acetic tendency, tart and direct, even stark at first. High octane over bullish concentration, not so subtle, aromatically closed but the acidity and the overall structure is gritty. This needs time to settle, for the composed acidity to get together and layer into the fruit. The finish while hot is more composed. There is some dried fruit advanced character. Multifarious, both by varietal and picking times, or so it would seem. $95 US. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Farella Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley

The tones are on the rise, up in the air, quite the herb influence, whiff of pipe tobacco, seems like a higher percent of malbec and/or petit verdot. From the most recently designated AVA, volcanic meets foxy, dried fruit with spice, fig, cherry, apricot, peach and plum. Chewy dried fruit, you need to work a while (it’s actually 100 per cent cabernet) some grainy, chalky tannin and really good length. New oak is well-integrated. Not as cultured and understood in fact perhaps a bit disjointed but so much potential and expectation runs high for what will come next. Oak is an imbalance factor. Simple finish. $65 US. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted September 2016

Sara d’Amato, ROM September 2016

Pinot Noir

Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros

The fullest of fruit, with spice and San Pablo Bay influenced tension. The combination of ripe and ripping, rich and ricocheting. Has found the right place. Typically atypical for Carneros or rather as Carneros within a Napa to Sonoma connectivity. Holds an ability to age like few varietal sistren or brethren in either AVA. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted April 2016

Longoria Wines Pinot Noir Lovely Rita 2015, Sta. Rita Hills

“Nothing can come between us.” A wine with a song in its title, offering up the lowest hanging fruit and ready for lyrical association. Fine and elegant pinot fruit, with slender, long fingers and legs, plenty of confidence and so perfectly Sta. Rita Hills representative of place. Restrained, elegant, beautiful and ethereal. That’s a really fine pinot noir with a shot of garrigue. Drink early, If for no other reason that there is no way to resist temptation. Drink 202017-2020.  Tasted April 2016

Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County

Now under the ownership of Chateau St. Michelle Wine Estates, this is one of Donald Patz’s swan songs, a wine that has swept into a new price stratosphere, 50 per cent increase in the last what seems like five years (but is probably more like ten). Sweet pinot fruit in such a refined, elegant and classically secure Sonoma Coast style, with altitude, diurnal temperature changes and the maritime air all influencing the style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2016

Marimar Estate Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir 2013, Doña Margarita Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Marimar Estate’s Mas Cavalis 2013 pinot noir shows great tension as always, acts nominally rustic and engaging. A turnkey pinot noir, expertly ripe and accented with sweet if spicy oak, tart but never lactic. Just terrific varietal wine noting vineyard and AVA with alternating slash double entendre distinction. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2016

Reata Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands

From out of the Santa Lucia Highlands and a property owned by Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. Rich and velvety, slightly spicy but certainly spiced, very consumer friendly at the higher end of the scale, interesting in that it hits all the right notes and lingers nicely but it’s almost too vivid and appealing. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted April 2016

Benovia Pinot Noir Cohn 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County

Sweet tension, red berry emotion, tar and roses, not as intense as perhaps expected. Great example however of Russian River Valley fruit, though low acidity, easy to like, hard to keep around. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted April 2016

Other Red

Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cépages 2013, Sonoma County

Full on deep, dark, arid and ranging wide trodding a silk road. Extensively far reaching red blend and with great formidable tannin and structure so perhaps the best of its ilk in many a moon. Top quality from Margo Van Staaveren through the looking glass of vivid transparency and vibrancy. Best I’ve tasted. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted April 2016

Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot 2012, Napa Valley

Duckhorn’s Three Palms ranks amongst the finest in Napa merlot and from 2012 I could paint my plate with this reduction. Thick, beautifully chocolatey and yet chalky, tart, angled and nearly bradding. It could pass for Masseto. Really Italianate and intense. So much chocolate and spice, clove, nutmeg, purple flowers. Not sure just anyone can handle its vivid truth but it’s a very intense and stylish merlot. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted April 2016

Twomey Merlot 2012, Napa Valley

From Silver Oak Cellars, just now coming into its window with the formidable barrel continuing its slow melt, now in a calm and gelid stage. Coconut and plum combine and then there is this chocolate smooth consistency and always the dusty feel of merlot. Still pulsing with energy but this is such a full on expression. All chocolate and espresso on the finish. So much oak. Silver oak. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted April 2016

C.G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery Syrah 2012, Sierra Foothills

From the Sierra Foothills, this is deep mahogany red pitchy, meaty and cured syrah, full aromatic fleshy and mouth coating/filling with terrific silky addendum. A seamless syrah from start to finish. Turns into something firm (feels like granite) and even porcine at the finish. There’s a lot of fun complexity and ever-changing personality, from its roots to the Rhône and back again. Fascinating. approx. $40 CAN. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted April 2016

Cline Big Break Zinfandel 2013, Contra Costa County

Cline’s Big Break zinfandel 2013 is rich, brambly and so full of dark berry fruit, though also a bit of oxidation. Chalky, lactic, not overtly tart and I like the fennel, tar and roses aspect. Complex and really big. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted April 2016

Good to go!

godello

Godello in the Napa Valley mustard

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WineAlign

Retrospective, alternative Argentina

One of my favourite all-time documentaries is the 1967 “Don’t Look Back,” D.A. Pennebaker’s backstage biopic of Bob Dylan on tour. Who can forget “Don’t look back, ooh, a new day is breakin’,” by the mysteriously, somehow and against all odds timeless band Boston. Crazy as “F” Van Morrison sang “Don’t look back, to the days of yesteryear. You cannot live on in the past. Don’t look back.” Finally, in his wistful 1980s Boys of Summer ode to better days Don Henley sang, “A little voice inside my head said don’t look back, you can never look back.” Yet here I am, doing just that, but in this case for good reason.

Gerardo Diaz

Related – Making tracks in Argentina

Related – High altitude heliophiles in Argentina 

Time allows for such things and when you remember unfinished business there is some truth to fulfilling a long ago made promise. A silent accord of salient requiem with passionate people who shared prized bottles and as a wine writer you are bound by the unwritten and unbinding contract. Things demand closure and so the August 2015 sit-down with Gerardo Diaz and David Neinstein at Barque Butcher Bar finally comes full circle. Gerardo’s then epiphany happened in Argentina and the alternative universe he discovered was spoken through a few cases of wine he paid 10 times in duties as compared to what he shelled out at the source. Later in April 2016 we sat down with Emily McLean and Josh Corea (I miss them all) at Archive 909 and tasted the lava. A volcanic time was had by all, naturally. Meanwhile, what does alternative Argentina even mean six years later? By the time I had visited Argentina in November of 2018 the idea of alternative varietals, new, innovative and alternative winemaking styles were already a part of the fabric. But in 2015 the examples were few and far between. Gerardo sniffed them out long before bottle shops lined with labels of the far, wacky and away were even a thing. These were the sixteen we shared and my notes were blessedly easy to transcribe, a testament to Gerardo, the wines and their rebel makers.

Bodega Cruzat Charmat Style Chardonnay, Uco Valley, Mendoza

Juan Carlos is the winemaker for tis fine lithe chardonnay of fine mousse with yeast induction. A yeast of gastronomy, already having passed through some development, long hanging, creamy, rich, full, well-made. Nettles, sharp, pointed, a new Charmat direction and idea. Decent length, peach fleshy flavours and then citrus, ripe and late. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015

Bodega Cruzat Cuvée Nature Método Tradicional, Uco Valley, Mendoza

A blend of 60 per cent pinot noir and (40) chardonnay, full malo, 24 months on the lees. Full on dusty, leesy, funky fizz, on the platinum, concrete, oxidative side. A grower’s crust, and such righteous proper fromage making this something experiential. Ginger and endemic yeast, like red fife bread, with ferric tones. Goes new and old at the same time. It’s actually chewy! Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015

Domaine Alma Negra Brut Nature NV, Mendoza

A traditional method Rosé and while Josefina Alessio insists “we don’t confess on grape varieties,” this is in fact a pinot noir and malbec sparkler of eight to as much as 16 months on lees. The grapes comes from uncertified biodynamic vineyards in the production zones of Vistaflores, Tunuyán, Mendoza (3,608 feet) and Gualtallary, Tupungato, Mendoza (4,265 feet). An implosive bubble, all about energy and a side-step, two-step into texture. Raspberry is everywhere, as if it could be nerello mascalese sidling up to malbec. Low pH and just about dry adds up to red fruit, lime and overall zest. Drink 2018-2020.  Last tasted November 2018

Aged in 20 per cent new oak and 14 months on lees, unfiltered, smoky as a cranberry marsh brush fire, from Tupungato. Limestone, smoky, sharp and unctuous of candied peach, inciting the need to match this with the smell of an open charcoal grill. Such an amazing response to changing the face of making South American sparkling wine. Turns to cheese and stone on its slow decline which will be six, seven, maybe 10 years down the Uco road.  Tasted August 2015

Bodega La Azul Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza

Steel to bottle for six months rest, 10,000 cases and ostensibly a $10 wine. Reductive, fresh, noting quinine, sparked, pinging and so saline. A briny capering of South America and there is nothing like this, though no capsicum or overt grassiness. Neutral, big mineral, sweet stones, a bit dilute on the palate but also no inspiration. Just La Azul. Drink 2015.  Tasted October 2015

Bodega Finca La Escarcha Viognier Entrelíneas 2011, Tupungato

Saw 10 months in French barriques, a rare Uco Valley sighting, read between the Viognier lines. Clearly about where it’s from, in bite and texture. Would be hard pressed to pick it out blind as viognier yet the oak gives cream and custard, also a bit reductive and yet chardonnay like. So wild, natural, divine. Great length, like the unfurling of a long strip of savoury, saline taffy, smooth and effortless in glide down as if over the sloping ups, downs and moguls of a water slide. Beautiful bitter citrus finish. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015

Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda 2012, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza

The grape of the people, what people care for and an integral part of the the future for Argentina. No matter how hot it gets, acidity remains. Dark current of currant juice running through a charcoal vein, spice in its drip, bursting of iron, VA and sprays of cooking oil flavour. Velvet tongue and much more spice than many. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015

Alma 4 Sparkling Bonarda 2011, Santa Rosa, Mendoza

Alma 4 project was started in 1999 by Mauricio Castro, Agustín López, Marcela Manini and Sebastián Zuccardi. Avant-garde, on the radar ideal, 10 day maceration, natural fermentation, 36 months lease the lees, traditional method MASH. A grape Ne-Hi, slice of black cherry pie, yeasty oven aroma, then metal smoulder. Dry as the desert with more acidity than Lambrusco. Santa Rosa nary minerality, sanguine and wound very tight. Dramatic departure from still bonarda, hung for ripe fruit but vilified with zero dosage. Beautiful oxidation. Oh where this might go. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted August 2015

Alma 4 Sparkling Bonarda 2012, Santa Rosa, Mendoza

Lithe by comparison, still oxidative and more elastic, not as rigid and more purity, clean, playful and clear, a blue sky day versus a cloudy brood. Still the grape soda, the current and the ripeness but something softer and prettier here. Lingerer too and the finish is even more blessed with natural aridity. That said the 2011 was a whole helluva lot more fun. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted August 2015

Cara Sur Bonarda 2014, Barreal, San Juan

Dry farmed, down a garagiste of a dirt road, small production, Zuccardi funded. Natural run-off water and yeast, 500-600 bottles, from north of Mendoza, “Valle de Calingasta.” The natural cure is off the charts, the Emidio Pepe of Argentina, Winemaking is really just perfect, smells like the scrape of the amphora, already holds the aromatics of years, the answers of age, the design of ancients. You could keep this in the glass for a week and it will hardly evolve, 40 year wine for sure. Purity incarnate. Drink 2015-2030.  Tasted August 2015

Cara Sur Criolla 2014, Barreal, San Juan

Not gamay, though could very well be, but criolla (cree-oh-jah). Dusty and so floral, earthy of sweet variegated beets, THE Cru of/for criolla, fresh and yet of terra firma. Still has the natural cure, expert finesse, allowance for reality glaring and expansive,. Heads to the atmosphere, hovers as if on magic carpet or broomstick. Pure roses distillate. Taste the novella in the glass, but not the frostbite. The natural sweetness is of a remarkable rusticity. Warmer on the finish than expected. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted August 2015

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Vista Flores Single Vineyard 2011, Mendoza

Organic and biodynamic, bruiser, big-boned, so much oak. Chocolate, ferric, sanguine, top-tier commercial malbec, were malbec to be made in Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. Graphite, pencil lead, full on massive flavour, truly varietal, layered, chalky, full grain and big tannins. Huge bleeping wine yet somehow bleeds natural. Somehow. You really feel the alcohol in the late palate (14.8 per cent). Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted August 2015

Carmelo Patti Malbec 2006, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza

The indigenous natural cure persists in malbec form, eccentric winemaking here, a contrarian Malbec, non-aggressive of fruit jam yet muscular, masculine, oak coffee-chocolate driven. But with Bretty, wood spice character, on the rubber reductive side. With the age of patience, the need for thinking, the lack of care for conventions and standards. Not a major concern for aggressive acidity. Best days are passed but so very flavourful and characterful. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015

Mar E Pampas Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Patagonia

Young vines, terpenes in juicy waves, very tacky, concentrated, but not so very ripe . Piercing acidity, a grapefruit citrus, not grassy at all and very little spice. Quite in tune with cool climate sauvignon blanc or riesling. Direct, crisp crunch and bite. Drink 2015-2016.  Tasted August 2015

Mar & Pampa Gewürztraminer 2014, Patagonia

As fresh as gewürztraminer will ever be, like muscat from the flats of Patras and not nearly tropical. Pear for sure, from sea level flats, with salinity, crisp and delicate. First vintage, waxy and glade citrus, pretty amazing. A late night tang that will keep it from being as simple as say, gewürz nouveau. The most interesting gewürz emotion from bubble gum to bones. Producers in Patagonia be woke. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015

Mar & Pampa Pinot Noir 2014, Patagonia

Has natural cure, funky socks, brightness of cranberry being. Just a terrific funk, a concrete feel from natural yeast. So pure, with porcine intent, spice, truffle, but again, so bright. Would never guess its origins. The terroir is correct for pinot noir. Has nuance in its litheness. Not exactly Burgundian, no surely Argentinian, clearly Patagonian. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted August 2015

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Yearning for the Langhe

Godello in Cherasco

My kingdom for an Albese plate of Tajarin at Osteria dei Sognatori or a platter of Plin at Ristorante La Libera. What a wine writer would not do for a Langhe reprise, a Piedmontese redux, a tasting of any Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Dogliani, Alba or Langhe Barbera and Nebbiolo, Langhe Roero Arneis, Na’Scetta e Favorita. Were things normal and they most certainly are not, but were life being lived now as it was one year ago we would be convening in Alba in two weeks time. What I would not give to break bread with a winemaker, colleague or friend in Piemonte.

Related – Barolo DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2016, Riserva 2014, 2006 and Riserva 2004

Mark these words. The two specialized and specific DOCs of Nebbiolo d’Alba and Langhe Nebbiolo will gain prominence and become a two-headed beast in 2021. The world will gather to exult, raise up and drink these fine and vastly underrated examples of classified nebbiolo. Of this I became truly privy to one year ago but also throughout 2020 as more and more nebbiolo came to be assessed across my desk. Yes it was back in January 2020 when I travelled to Alba in Piemonte for Nebbiolo Prima 2020 and Grandi Langhe. I tasted more than 600 nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera, arneis, freisa, chardonnay, pelaverga and even riesling during the eight day work staycation. Grande.

Grandi Langhe 2020

Related – Barbaresco DOCG previews and retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2015, 2007 and 2005

Nebbiolo Prima and Grandi Langhe Trade Fair are a back-to-back cumulative by the work of many, not the least of which are organizations such as Consorzio Albeisa, a.k.a Unione Produttori Vini Albesi, Consorzio di Tutela Barolo Barbaresco Alba Langhe e Dogliani, Consorzio Tutela del Roero and Regione Piemonte. During that trip I tasted and reviewed 230 Barolo: DOCG 2016 (197), Riserva DOCG 2014 (6), DOCG 2006 (20) and Riserva DOCG 2004 (7). For Barbaresco the number was 92: DOCG 2017 (59), DOCG 2015 (15), DOCG 2015, 2007, 2009 and 2005 (18). As for Roero DOCG, 38 notes: DOCG 2017 and 2016 (33) and DOCG 2006 and 2007 (5).

Related – Roero DOCG Previews and Retrospectives: 2017, Riserva 2016, 2007 and Riserva 2006

Here’s to hoping for a return at any point in 2021, or in 2022 for the 25th Nebbiolo Prima followed by Grandi Langhe, if that’s how it will be. In the meantime here are 44 further reviews of wines tasted in and around Alba back in January, 2020. Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Barolo DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Barbera d’Alba DOCG, Verduno Pelaverga DOC, Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC, Langhe Favorita DOC, Roero Arneis DOC, Langhe Rosato DOC, Vino Rosso and Birbét. Care Langhe, spero di tornare presto.

Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC

Diego Morra Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC 2016

F.rom northern facing vineyards that receive no direct sun so essentially a cool Langhe climate. Nebbiolo that sees a short maceration and French wood. Not your everyday or expected nebbiolo in a really light and transparent style. Extremely fresh and refreshing, taut, high-toned and yet this creamy texture. Richer than half-and-half, perhaps like 20 per cent fat though lactose free and not enough to be whipped. So different. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Nebbiolo d’Alba Doc Bric Merli 2017

From the vineyard directly in front of Bric Volta. A lighter, but far from unstructured nebbiolo with a new and certain grace and still unmistakeable Canale DNA. Here you can mark another reference point, not to mention the genetic and torch passing material provided by 650 years of history, information and accumulation in experience. The demeanour is confident and gracious. Who would not want a glass every night? Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC Parigi 2017

Comes from the same type of marly soil as the barbera, here out of vineyards located in the villages of Alba and Diano d’Alba. The vines are around 20 years of age and the wine sees one year in (30 per cent new) American 40L and French 30L barrels. The idea is to draw out soft and elegant tannins, especially by the American oak. That much is true in a nebbiolo heading towards that direction though not quite yet there. A return in two to three years should do the trick. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Nebbiolo Langhe DOC

Elvio Cogno Nebbiolo Langhe DOC Montegrilli’ 2018

A name taken from Valter Fissore’s grandfather’s vineyard in the Roero, not Barolo and yes this is a nebbiolo and a wine to drink. Immediately gratifying in so many ways. From vineyards on the other side of Novello, southwest exposure and very sandy soil with just a minor amount of sandstone. Fragolina di bosco and white raspberry, a juicy wine that can quench your thirst. Just a minor grip and chalk of tannin. Hardly causes any confusion and allows you to sip and sip and sip. Grill some fish and Montegrilli’s your friend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Nebbiolo Langhe DOC 2018 ($27.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

From two vineyards, one in La Morra (estate) and one in Roero. Less than a year in old, large barrels and a purposeful one, for early and often drinking enjoyment. Bright fruit, easy, forward and will surely solicit many a happy palate for dual-drawn, doubling down pleasure. Floral, well made and proper. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Bollito Misto, Sinio

Azienda Agricola Taverna Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018

Declassified nebbiolo from Barbaresco with mildly candied fruit, slightly oxidative, but charming. Only been in bottle maximum one month. Drink 2020.  Tasted February 2020

Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018 (454017, $32.95, Le Maitre de Chai)

Youngest vines in the Basarin Vineyard at 18 years old grown in sand and clay at the foot of Neive. The Langhe nebbiolo sees 20-30 days on skins (as opposed to 30-40 for the Barbaresco), ferments naturally and at low temperatures. Glaring as a vintage with a big grin on its face, unprecedented concentration, healthy extraction and completed by elevated dry extract. Incredible intensity for the appellation, something already noted in 2015 but bears repeating, like a mantra, for kicks, compliments, giggles and kudos. The Piedmontese maceration brings so much texture and chromatic accents; tangerine, vermillion, sorrel and umber. Longer maceration, less wood (four months) and no love lost for aging, not to mention waxing rhapsodically on. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Osteria dei Sognotori, Alba

Barolo DOCG

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Pichemej 2015

Pichmej is a combination of two vineyards, Bussia and Santa Maria, what Valentina and sister’s Serena and Denise Marrone call “our grandfather’s wine.” Who happened to be Carlo. A nebbiolo that you really can drink now but then again that’s the thing about young Marrone Barolo. They and this ’15 Pichmej display a sense of the ethereal in their youth. Nature in conjunction with nurture, a delicate touch and phenolic regulation to near perfection. If you would like to access the portal into the reality of how nebbiolo needs to be made in modern times then begin right here and know what’s what in 2020. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Agricola Marrone Barolo DOCG Bussia 2015

Compared to Pichmej this nebbiolo from Bussia is a step up in concentration and also structure, the latter being in kinship with Bussia 2016. That said there is absolutely zero compromise to the stylistic execution that makes for a Marrone Barolo. Simulates the phenolic beauty of Pichmej and of ’16 but the fullest, deepest and most complete journey happens here. Enologist Donato Lanati has coaxed the fruit but not the bitters while the sisters Marrone find excellence in completing Bussia and all the rest. Lightness of being is also accrued while the wine clocks in at a hidden 15 per cent alcohol. Magic happens and success follows. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barolo DOCG Baudana 2015

From Serralunga d’Alba and the apposite Barolo cru, forceful, grippy, demanding, always mired in posit tension tug. That alone explains no differing opinion but pay attention to the kind of “tensione” Adelaide’s creates. The numbered beats are off, out of time, or at least not understood in fours, yet orchestrated and aligned as they should be. As in five or taking the fifth, with a spoonful of notes, lines, vocalizations and structural arrangements feeling like they are unanswered. A vintage that men are dumbfounded by but girls can tell. Baudana is a hyper real get together of brushy aromas, dedicated flavours and highly functional architecture. This one stretches and creates an elastic musculature, flexible and persistent. Wouldn’t mess with Baudana. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted January 2020

Simone Ortale and Giuliana Drocco, Cascina Adelaide

Cascina Adelaide Barolo Riserva DOCG “Per Elen” 2014

A blend of two cru and says Simone Ortale “we choose the best to make Riserva. It’s our jewel.” The same grandi botti (as per Preda and Cannubi) but here 62 months of aging time. The most mouthfeel, filling and the silkiest chalky liquidity, tannins and layering of multifarious, mille-feuille multiplicity. A nebbiolo for the decades. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo DOCG Gomba 2015

A smooth, elastic, stretched and elongated nebbiolo from the Commune of Barolo and Boschetti’s estate fruit. Drawn off of the higher reaches and also some that is sold to Marchesi di Barolo. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2015

Sernìe is the cru inside the cru, a selection within the selection and a word in Piedmontese dialect that essentially means just that. Surely the richer, more concentrated, fully stretched, entirely elastic and truly elongated nebbiolo. Has the violets, purple fruit, foie gras and decadence. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Boschetti Barolo Riserva DOCG Sernìe 2012

This older version of the cru within the cru comes from a very select parcel and as an estate flagship nebbiolo is only produced in select vintages. The formidable 2012 season made a request that winemakers (in this case Maurizio Delpero) did not try to extract too much fruit which would also mean an excess of tannin. Yet Boschetti’s Sernìe was subjected to a Piedmontese 40-day maceration (a cappello sommerso), a classic technique that eight years later establishes an exaggeration of nebbiolo riches. Was also a generous vintage that saw to healthy fruit and quantity. Serious Barolo right here. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Crudo – La Libera, Alba

Diego Morra Barolo DOCG 2015

From the river between La Morra and Verduno, two plots with separate soils and expositions to combine for a double cru cause and effect. Balanced and dynamic, a nose of power meeting finesse. No winding or cinching but more a zig-zagging, ying versus yang, AC-DC, nebbiolo going both ways. Lovely spice. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barolo DCOG Monvigliero 2015

From four hectares in the Verduno cru and the three Ms, Mosca, La Morra and Monvigliero. The V in the middle is for Verduno. The 2015 nebbiolo is a really pretty one, floral and understated but of obvious power. Near formidable in its restraint with bursting a real possibility at any near moment. Not quite there yet but it’s coming, it’s real, leaving meaning. “In a room made of stone your future was made.” Wait for it. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barolo DOCG Bricco Pernice 2015

Ages three years in wood, one year further in barrel. One hundred per cent Lampia clone. A little bit more classic in terms of what is Barolo. The partridge is a special hill and a place that gives away these highly specialized nebbioli and 2015 is on the border between a red and a black vintage. More black then red. A vintage that will be so right and so joyous in middle age and ideal for salty (aged) cheese and meat. Splendido nebbiolo. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted January 2020

With Valter Fissore

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravera DOCG Vigna Elena 2014

Rosa clone of Ravera, not quite yet released (will be in three months), dedicated to daughter Elena. A registered menzione geografica named many years ago so the size on the label is set above the DOCG. More of a Bourgogne style. Rose petals and potpourri. Red fruit and red citrus so obviously a red year. Cured like salumi, bresaola maybe or at least eat some alongside. A touch vegetal and that is ’14, sun-dried vegetable and yes, like pinot noir. The first vintage was 1997. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted January 2020

The quality of the wines gives everyone at Mauro Sebaste every reason to smile

Mauro Sebaste Barolo DOCG Cerretta 2015

Less weight and density in 2015, both in Serralunga fruit and also tannin. Much interest here in how it intimates the richesse of ’16 but not the youthful aggression of the tannin. More freshness, linearity and understanding. No hard edges, really easy to like and enjoy and enough grip to see it develop nicely over the next seven plus years. Might even last longer than imagined. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barolo Riserva DOCG Ghè 2014

Ghè is the Riserva of Cerretta fruit but only the smallest berries are chosen. A mega clonal version per se, a Cerretta of Ceretta. Celebrates and argues the merits of a challenging vintage, spends 36 months in tonneaux and like the Cerretta there is pure and substantial fruit. Acidity and tannin too, more than you might imagine considering the wood. Tension and grace live side by side and this is just beginning to act like it will for its essential and optimum 10 year window. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Del Commune Di Serralunga d’Alba DOCG 2016

A true commune Barolo drawn off of a scattering of vineyards, a Serralunga liqueur warming, comforting and reliable, plus a vintage tannin more stringent and yet to crack. Spent two years in grandi botti plus six further months in bottle. Of roses and tar, youthfulness and tension aboard a nicely balanced and upright frame. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barolo Riserva DOCG San Bernardo 2013

The “oriental plot,” from the other side of the Ornato cru and a nebbiolo to speak of extended elévage just as it should. Now into a balsamico cadence and a tartufo lilt. A matter of funghi, acciuga and back to that truffled sensibility. So much umami, the anchovy sitting like a salty and briny slice of maritime butter on toasted crostini with shavings both pencil and earthen nuggets in origin. Oh how the feeling of the block and the greater Piedmontese emanates from one glass of Barolo that only San Bernardo seems capable of gifting. The secondary nature of this nebbiolo is astonishing, if like Christmas come early but why not celebrate now? Should keep developing, morphing, giving again and again. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted January 2020

Renato Ratti Barolo DOCG Marcenasco 2004 (713479, Halpern Enterprises)

Has quite obviously rounded into form, now beautifully rich and preserved. Poured from magnum yet showing all of its age, fruit sweetly hanging in the balance and as a whole an elegant nebbiolo worthy of the reference. Drink 2020-2024.  Last tasted January 2020

Of the famiglie Pola e Ferro is polar as compared to the non of the Burdin. AM and D nose “car exhaust.” I am tricked by its charm and think New World Syrah, but am reminded that the colour lacks gloom. Hugely muscular, girded by plastron and decades ahead of itself. “Leave it open all night and it’ll be amazing” says Dr. C.  Tasted April 2012

Cherasco

Barbaresco DOCG

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbaresco DOCG 2017

Comes from one vineyard, the top part of the hill, Gaia Principe it’s called, one of four that make Barbaresco in the MGA. Quick maceration, only seven days, not very Piedmontese and because the house tradition is to make wines to drink and drink now. A very fresh nebbiolo, sweetly perfumed, clear, pure and precise. Drink this most days. No good reason not to. Drink 2020-2025.  Last tasted February 2020

Very ripe and organized, developed and heading forward with great haste. Acids are brighter than some so there is light streaking through the Neive vintage darkness. Another example that speaks to the great variability in 2017. Drink 2020-2024.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Barbera d’Alba DOCG

Cascina Adelaide Vigna Preda Barbera d’Alba 2016

Same vineyard as the nebbiolo for the Preda Barolo but here the barbera fruit is notable deeper and darker. Spends up to 18 months in big barrel and high acidity for Alba with just the right and deft touch of necessary volatile acidity. Rich, luxurious and lovely. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Cascina Adelaide Barbera D’alba Superiore Docg Amabilin 2016

Named after the creator himself Amabile Drocco who as a child was called Amabilin. The name chosen for the wine pays homage to the family’s origins. The yields are ridiculously low (half a kilo per vine) from 3,000 kg per hectare that represents half of the consorzio’s disciplanare rule. So concentrated and a true gem in the Adelaide portfolio, in fact this is truly one of the tops in all of what is labeled Superiore. Includes eight to ten per cent Barolo fruit but not that which might end up as DOC Nebbiolo. High acidity again (as with the Preda) and ultra special tannins. Only 2000-2300 bottles are produced. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted January 2020

Diego Morra Barbera d’Alba DOCG 2016

Roddi is the source and direct sun exposure provided for a terroir-varietal relationship that is necessary when you consider acidity rates, ripeness measurements and structural assets. Here barbera gets into beneficial bitters, speaks with assuring alacrity and extolls the virtue of a mainly steely exterior. Really spirited, fresh and alive. Drink 2020-2024. Tasted January 2020

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Bricco Dei Merli 2017

Single vineyard, aged for one year in wood. The hilltop of the blackbird and a wine nosing succinctly of black cherry. No way this is simply the wine of the osteria or the honky tonk bar. The maturation here is set so high on both fronts, first sugar and then phenolic. Acidity is supportive and there is no burn. There is no jam. What shows is body strength, spirit and a soft finish. Comes from elevation where the wind blows and you can feel the cool breeze running in the veins, like cool water. Picked late September and we are thankful for that. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

The view from Elvio Cogno

Elvio Cogno Barbera d’Alba DOC Pre Phylloxera 2018

Pre-Phylloxera because of these barbera vines’ ability to survive with thanks to sandy soil and 500m of elevation. A red soil that was not inhabitable to the louse. The vineyard is rented from Marcarini and Valter likes to farm it to to keep the history of his family’s work alive. Lower acidity, higher concentration and an affinity with northern Rhône syrah. Cool, smooth, silky, crystal clear and the pinnacle of barbera beauty. Incredible texture. Only 2,000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2029.  Barrel Sample tasted January 2020

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera d’Alba DOC Giardono 2018

From a single vineyard, eight yearsold and aged in concrete, for a reductive environment and more important a low, natural and slow ferment. A rich deep cherry barbera to be fair, sure and completely honest with a modernity of acidity that belies the reasons why barbera fell out of favour and became hard to sell. This will do the yeoman work to continue the resurrection. A spice market from a time gone by connects Giardino to a loyal and traditional wine. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Barbera D’alba DOC Mezzavilla 2015

From 75 year-old vines in the Mezzavilla Vineyard, located between the villages of Cisterna (towards Asti) and Canale. Just a few percentage points of oak because the fruit demands it and concrete will keep freshness but doesn’t quite do enough for this fruit. Such a soothing acidity and a presence that speaks to the sand and the clay of the land from whence it came. Taste this fruit and you will understand. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Molino Barbera d’Alba Doc “Legattere®”‎ 2017 ($24.95, Le Sommelier Inc.)

A selection of barbera vineyards of soils calcareous/clayey, maceration of six days, fermented in steel, aged in French oak. Just a classic, pure red fruit, high acid and smooth texture/tannins. Round flavours, big yet somehow understated. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted January 2020

Mauro Sebaste Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Centobricchi 2016

On the hill just above Alba on the way to Serralunga, of low yields that produce just about one bunch per vine. Spends one year in new French oak to gift spice, savour, silk and palate fineness. High acidity, at times too high but necessary to foil the hedonism. A piqued and plentiful barbera that in the end comes down to farming. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted January 2020

Palladino Barbera d’Alba Superiore DOCG Bricco delle Olive 2017

Big barbera, 15 months in (50 per cent new) tonneaux with violets and spice smothering all else. Despite the enormity of it all this is barbera in a balanced varietal world and Bricco delle Viole is clearly a Superiore terroir from which to approach with great ambition. All assets are encouraged and flaunted  within the grand scale of this particular Alba spectrum. Will improve with some further wood integration. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Azienda Agricola Taverna Barbera d’Alba DOC 2018

The red fruit juiciest and most succulent Barbera d’Alba with great acids. Make you wish more varietal wines like this would align, draft and glide alongside. Fresh and just lovely. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Verduno Pelaverga DOC

Diego Morra Pelaverga DOC 2018

Diego Morra’s pelaverga ’18 is clear, concise and pure, lying with a varietal heart at its most effusive. Prim as is imaginable while a big expression for a light and silken grape. From a “normal,” manageable and consistent vintage. A wine executed with molecular gastronomy to an end forged by a grape-wine relationship. Social, artistic and technical pelaverga, investigating the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in farming and then, winemaking. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted January 2020

Vino Rosso

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Donna Costanza Cardunaj Vino Rosso 2017

A digestif wine, a Brachetto vinified dry and so curious. A dessert wine with no fizz and just a touch of sweetness. A moment’s Amaro bitters but no sense of liqueur. Odd to be sure. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Pas Dosè Método Classico Vino Spumante Di Qualita

A 50-50 nebbiolo and arneis mix, seven years on the lees, from the 2012 vintage and disgorged in October 2019. Yes you read this properly, seven years on lees. The Malabaila connection to the Esterhazy royalty in Austrian indirectly bridges two estates and you can’t help but think about the Blanc de Blancs made in the Burgenland. Zero dosage means lean, direct, sharp and energetic bubbles with remarkable precision. These are Grandi Langhe bubbles from Roero, not to be missed. First vintage was 2010. Can’t be Millesimato because it’s a blend. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Rosato DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Rosato DOC 2018

From Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila with perfectly typical Rosato colour for nebbiolo taken from Roero lands. ’Tis a coppery hue, sexy rusty, mimicked in flavours with a note like lemon tisane. Steep in some currants and sweet herbs and you get the picture. Poured from magnum and good thing because a table of six would have otherwise gone very thirsty. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC

Elvio Cogno Langhe Nascetta Del Comune Di Novello DOC Anas Cëtta 2019

Cold stabilization and some wood aging but in botti, no longer in barriques. I have yet to put the nose to my glass and the aromatics are coming out. A semi-aromatic grape with here in 2019 from peach, elderflowers and high level acidity. I would imagine it’s most akin to chenin but even that is a stretch. The drinkability meeting complexity is off the charts. Once you go tactile-textile nascetta like this you may never go back. Approximately 16,000 bottles produced. One of now 30-plus producers in the Langhe. Barrel Sample tasted January 2020.  Drink 2020-2023

Le Strette Nas-cëtta Langhe DOC Pasinot 2018

Nascetta, or Nas-cëtta, as they say in the commune of Novello with fruit out of Pasinotti, Bergera, Pezzole and Tarditi at altitudes of 350 to 420m. Planted over many decades, in 1948, 1983, 2009, 2014 and 2016. The Piedmontese grape rarity likes the sandy, calcareous clay and its emission is semi-aromatic. This example sits somewhere between riesling and gewürztraminer though truth be told seems closer to friulano what with its glycerin and off-dry sentimentality. Novello is the place and the heights help bring about the oiliness and preserved citrus notes from the grape. Needs another year to fully bloom. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted January 2020

Langhe Favorita DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Langhe Favorita DOC Donna Costanza 2018

A label made by Lucrezia’s father (who passed away in 2010) for his wife and her mother. Endemic, full of drive, a touch of a sweetness and in a way a cool, northern example that is linked to inzolia, or even zibbibo. More texture here and alloy notation. Lingers with herbs and sweet citrus. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Roero Arneis DOC

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Arneis DOC Pradaj 2018

Pradaj in Piedmontese is “A valley with grass and flowers” and clearly a reference to the aromatics in the grape variety from this place. A perfectly correct and referenced arneis indeed and an ideal match to the local Plin agnolotti filled with herbs. When the arneis from Roero speaks clearly it does so like this, unadorned, floral and calm. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted January 2020

Birbét

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Birbét Donna Costanza 2018

Mosta d’Uva parzialmente fermentato or, grape must partially fermented to five point five per cent alcohol. Served traditionally as dessert though it could certainly be employed in aperitivo format, as Brachetrto d’Acqui often is. Very cherry, lightly carbonated and sweetly herbal. Simple pleasure. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted January 2020

Good to go!

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Godello in Cherasco

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WineAlign

Twenty Canadian wines that rocked in 2020

(c) @tiny.wide.world and @winealign

Year-end lists and greatest hits have always elicited a personal introspective fascination, not any lists mind you but mostly those involving music. Always curious to find out if someone else thought the same songs or albums aligned with your own. Such lists are met with growing skepticism and so the words “top” or “best” should be taken with a grain of salt, scrutinized with impunity, viewed with subjective prejudice. Music and wine need not be considered as ranked, top or best but instead contemplated with dead reckoning, as if throwing a buoyant opinion overboard to determine the speed of the mind’s emotion relative to thought, which was assumed to be dead in the waters of judgement. The feeling of being moved, stirred up in sentiment, excited and reaching deeper into understanding, these are the reasons to tally a culminating register. Neither for enumeration nor for classification, but for the indexing, of harbingers and that which makes us feel.

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

What transpired over the previous 12 months has not left the arena of the unfathomable and the absurd, but with respect to Canadian wine there can be no doubt that a next level of greatness was reached. Holiday time will be somewhat solitary as 2020 winds down and while the sharing of bottles will surely mean more repeated sips for the few involved, they will be sweet ones and are not to be taken for granted. As for the exercise of creating a rocking roster of Canadian made wine, well here on Godello this so happens to be the eighth annual for an instalment that first appeared in 2013. Now adding up to seven more entries than the first and acting as natural segue, a transition and salvo towards crossing over the threshold where 2021 awaits.

Related – Nineteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2019

Twenty. Not an arbitrary number but rather an arbiter of perpetual and developmental prowess of a nation’s wine-producing ability and surely while knowing that no fewer than 20 others could of, would of, should of made the grade. The quote is a timeless one and will be employed once again. This curated list is “biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it.”

Related – Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

In 2020 Canadian wine came to my tasting table in ways no other year made it happen. There were no excursions to British Columbia, Nova Scotia or Quebec, save for a 36-hour round-trip drive to Halifax in delivery of precious human cargo. No Cuvée or i4c. No VQA Oyster competition, Somewhereness or Terroir Symposium. No walk-around tastings. Despite going nowhere the opportunities to sample Canadian wines were of a number higher than ever before. Safely distanced tastings at WineAlign headquarters, at the welcome emptiness of Barque Smokehouse and in our homes brought Canada’s finest bottles to us. Though we were unable to convene in June at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada, a prodigious alternative became surrogate in the guise of the Guide to Canada’s Best Wines, a.k.a WineAlign’s GCBW. Over the course of six weeks we tasted through 860 samples and not just any mind you but truly Canada’s best. We were sad to miss Tony Aspler’s Ontario Wine Awards and David Lawrason’s Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates. Here’s to hoping 2021 will usher in a return to assessing and celebrating together.

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

The numbers chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine continue to march ahead, as promised by the annual billing. In 2018 the list counted 18. In 2017 there were 17 and in 2016, 16 noted. In 2015 that meant 15 and 14 for 2014, just as in 2013 the filtered list showed 13. Last year? You would be correct if you guessed 19. There is no red carpet for 2020, it just doesn’t feel appropriate or right but keeping on is essential. “Whence comes the sense of wonder we perceive when we encounter certain bottles of art?” Here are 20 most exciting Canadian wines of 2020. Twenty Canadian wines that rocked.


Le Vieux Pin Ava 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($29.99)

Calculated, figured and reasoned, a 51 per cent roussanne, (36) viognier and (13) marsanne organized, Rhône motivated blend that just fits right. A kiss of new wood and a 35 per cent wood campaign, slightly more in steel and then the other freshener, that being a fifth of this exceptional vintage fruit having seen time in concrete tank. Yes the aromas are wildly fresh, far away tropical and cumulatively enticing. A white blend of rhythm and soul, actionable in every part of its drift and coil, democratic, of no accident, come up to please and at the same time, foil. Offers this and that, high tempo acids opposite fully ripened fruit and all tolled, wrapped up with a tailored bow. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted October 2020

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($29.95)

Cave Spring’s is Ontario riesling and along with three or four others the CSV has been the benchmark for decades. CSV is one of the reasons to believe in riesling, versatile, brutally honest, speaker of the mind, telling us like it is. As for 2018, frosts in late ’17 reduced the upcoming vintage’s yield potential. Long, hot and dry was ’18’s summer and so doubling down occurred. Less yet highly concentred fruit was pretty much assured before September turned wet and humid. CSV embraces and stands firm in its dealings with nature so while there is more flesh and flavour intensity there too is the tried and true structural backbone. Surely a highly phenolic riesling but every aspect is elevated in this game. A hyperbole of itself, gangster riesling, the jumbo package, age-worthy and stone-faced beyond compare. Best ever, perhaps no but perchance something new, riveting, magnified, extravagant and well, fine. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted October 2020

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2017, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($37.20, Stratus Wines)

The concept behind Baker’s single-vineyard riesling is for the top tier one to be possessive in the matters of majestic and dignified, which quite honestly it is. Funny vintage that ’17 was and yet in riesling there can be this slow melt, tide and release of intricacy and intimacy, which this Picone does. Like taking a picture with the slowest shutter speed, allowing the sensor a full allotment of time in its exposure to light. This is the dramatic and hyper-effect and how Baker captured the highest riesling resolution imaginable. The succulence in the acids over top juicy, juicy fruit and this great entanglement is majestic and dignified. My goodness Charles, I think you’ve done it. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted April and October 2020

Martin’s Lane winemaker Shane Munn

Martin’s Lane Riesling Simes Vineyard 2016, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($45.00)

First tasted at the winery in 2018 after only one year in bottle. A cooler vintage and less residual sugar (4 g/L vs. 6 in 2015) and also one reaching for its phenolics. The Alsace Clone (49) planted in 2008 is coming into the zone with this textured ’16 from one of three single vineyards on granite in East Kelowna. There is that minor number of sugar but there are acidities and reminiscences to the motherland that supersede and infiltrate the nooks and crannies of the fruit. Who in the Okanagan neighbourhood would not be envious of the clean clarity that this riesling achieves. Very focused, tightly wound and surely able to unravel ever so slowly, developing beeswax, honey and gasses as it will, over a ten year period. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted April 2020

Tawse Chardonnay Quarry Road Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($37.15)

Wound tight like a coil around a winch with precise threading and pinpoint spacing for chardonnay that wins the vintage. Reductive style to be sure but only truly noted because of the freshest vibes this side of Motown. Got rhythm and blues, not to mention funk and soul. Clean beats, in step, three-part backing vocals and a purity of sound. Taste relays all these things and more, of succulence and in satiation guaranteed. In other words timeless and the willingness to pour on repeat will be a continuous thing of perpetual satisfaction. Last tasted October 2020. There is no secret that 2016 can align itself with the best of them in Niagara and chardonnay is clearly right in the middle of the discussion. Knowing that, how could the iconic triad of varietal, producer and vineyard not rise like fresh summer fruit cream to the top of the discourse? The years of Pender and Bourgogne barrel studies have come to this; spot on in blending Quarry fruit from wood and associated forests, staves and toasts, here the crux of sonic, sonar, and olfactory waves are met in optimum phenolic crash. The crush of chardonnay, the cryogenic liquid wait and the ultimate goal is achieved. Balance is struck at 12.5 degrees alcohol and all the perfectly seasoned grape tannin you could want. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2020

Leaning Post Senchuk Vineyard Chardonnay 2018, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario ($45.20, Nicholas Pearce Wines)

Set apart from the Bench wineries and while still beneath the Niagara Escarpment Senchuk Vineyard sits on more of a plain that gently slides down the Lincoln Lakeshore and into Lake Ontario. Perhaps it will become Ontario’s next sub-appellation. Sandy soil is maculated by largish stones three to four feet down. This atop a bed of grey clay so the low vigour of the sandy soil will be offer up a flip-side, a foil to the heavy clay of nearby locales like the Beamsville Bench. This third chardonnay from the home vineyard comes off of vines planted in 2011 so now this seven-year old fruit is starting to really mean something. And Ilya Senchuk is a winemaker who studies, concentrates and plans his work around clones. It’s not just about where to plant which varietals but which clone will work best and where within the greater where. Vineyard, vintage and variance. Senchuk truly believes that greatness is determined by varietal variegation, from vineyard to vineyard and from year to year. From 2018: 64 per cent Clone 548 and (36) Clone 96. Listen further. Warm season so picked on September 18. The grapes were gently whole cluster pressed (separated by Clone), allowed to settle in chilled tanks over night. The juice was then racked into barrels; Clone 548 – one puncheon and three barriques, Clone 96 – three barriques, where they underwent spontaneous alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. The lees were not stirred and it was allowed to age for 16 months. Power, body, tons of fruit, definite barrel influence, a southern Bourgogne kind of vintage, so maybe Pouilly-Fuisée or Maconnais Village with a specific Climat. For the time being we call the Village Lincoln Lakeshore and Senchuk Vineyard the geographical designation. The lemon curd and the acidity are there in a great tangle so yes, this is trés cool chardonnay. I think we can safely say already that the Pinot Noir and the Chardonnay grown in Ilya and Nadia’s home vineyard is on its own, one of a kind and makes wines that don’t taste like anywhere else. This 2018 cements the notion and opens the next stage of the discussion. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted July 2020

Lightfoot And Wolfville Ancienne Chardonnay 2017, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia (462093, $56.95)

Exceptionalities worthy of hyperboles are befitting this chardonnay of concentration, textural satisfaction and immediate gratification. Apple distillate to nose, a walk through a perennial garden on Fundy shores in late summer bloom and then citrus in so many ways, incarnate and teeming with briny, zesty flavour. If your are counting at home, this Lightfoot family wine by way of Peter Gamble and in the hands of winemaker Josh Horton is now six years into its tenure. As the crow flies, qualitatively and quantitatively speaking refinement has never ceased to improve. Has arrived at its new Minas Basin tidal heights, crisp and salivating, finishing on the highest of notes. Chardonnay god of ocean tides, “all night long, writing poems to” Nova Scotia. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted October 2020

(c) @tiny.wide.world and @winealign

Mission Hill Perpetua 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($60.00)

Dichotomy in chardonnay, grand and graceful, powerful and elegant. Reductive and not acting this way but rather in what is now descried as the post modern style of chardonnay, from Australia to New Zealand, Bourgogne to B.C. Huge fruit concentration, wood equalizing yet in check, acids controlling yet relenting, structured assured though not overly complicating. Orchards combed and fruit brought in to make the composition sing with flavour while the work put in shaves down the rough edges and pieces fit snugly together. Top vintage for this label. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2020

Blomidon Cuvée l’Acadie, Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia ($35.00)

The entirety of a sparkling wine oeuvre is modified and transmogrified, designed and decreed of a new morphology where l’Acadie is concerned. It must be conceded that the Nova Scotia varietal speciality is destined to create cracker, lightning rod, back beats and bites in Nova Scotia sparkling wine. This from Blomidon adds spice, apple skin, orange zest and stony moments throughout. It’s amazing. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2020

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc De Blanc 2015, Traditional Method, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (315200, $49.95)

As always 100 per cent chardonnay and 2015 is perhaps the vintage of the most golden toast, as if made by agemono, with the most lemon and lees ever assembled in a Cuvée Catharine, vintage-dated Sparkling wine. An intensity of aromas swirl around in citrus centrifuge into which the gross cells don’t seem to want to go. On the palate is where they rest, layered and leesy, textured with a sense of weightlessness and wonder. Henry of Pelham channelling an inner Japanese cooking technique. Feels like some time is warranted to pull all this together. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted October 2020

Stratus Blanc De Blancs 2013, VQA Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario ($75.00)

The first (commercial) J-L Groux foray into traditional method Sparkling wine has been six plus years in the making, or in this case, senescence as the lees fly and his Blanc de Blanc has finally arrived. A notable moment in the Stratus continuum as they too now own a program of development, time, investment, research and acumen. The nose on this bubble tells a pensive story, or as fantasy goes like dipping your face into a tale-spun pensieve as it takes you back in time. In 2013 chardonnay excelled on the Niagara Peninsula and still today in 2020 we are drinking vintage examples persistent in their freshness and durability of construct. That this reeks of varietal lore is a hallmark moment, that and a conscientious adherence to reverence for solids and the focus on rotational detail. Speaks a Blanc de Blanc vernacular as a chardonnay should, with a bite out of a sharp fall apple, a pesto of verdant aromatics and a crunch of texture before drifting saline, briny and fine. Pretty good work J-L. Kudos for getting from there to here with intelligence and humility. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted November 2020

At a Somewhereness gathering a few years back Thomas Bachelder poured me his first gamay and while I remember the light, I could not have known what complex cru notions the maniacal monk had up his sleeve. Who knew that Twenty Mile Bench gamay would gain standing in “Villages,” “Naturaliste,” and two Wismer-Foxcroft iterations. And so here we are with the more intense of the two whole cluster siblings and the one chosen to celebrate its 52 per cent wild bunch inclusion. The fermentation technique transposed seems almost “alla vinificazione Piedmontese a cappello sommerso,” though by way of sangiovese in Chianti Classico what with a glycerin feel and a formative fabric so tactile to the mouth’s touch. Stemmy? Not a chance. Herbal? Nope. More like a Côte de Brouilly to the Wismer-22’s Brouilly, not quite Morgon but savour and structure are serious, righteous and very much here. That I did not buy cases of this stuff is a real concern. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted November 2020

Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (524231, $29.95)

What Courtney brings to the table in gamay is what we’ve come to expect from Ontario, that is structurally contracted and age-worthy wine. Now understood to be a Cru designate, carved from a decade of research and well-defined. You could build an entire cellar by way of Malivoire’s multi-varietal work and the many tiers they fashion from drink now, through mid-term aging and up to here in a gamay that will go long. I’ve tasted a few older Malivoires lately and have been blown away by their longevity and also tasted this Courtney from barrel last winter. The whole bunch strategy has come to this, a knowable, beautifully swarthy, fruit protected and into the future protracted guarantee of fortitude and change. Reminds me of Michael Schmelzer’s Montebernardi Panzano sangiovese. Grande. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2020

Rosehall Run’s Dan Sullivan and Goode

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2018, Prince Edward County, Ontario ($42.00)

Fortuitous time and place are the combined recipient of the primary assist for Rosehall’s JCR Vineyard pinot noir, a varietal stunner that seduces from the word go. A drinking vintage, early, ethereal, not lacking but easing in and out of structure, ready to please in the proverbial vein of immediate gratification. Then the County tones, reverb and static mosey on in like a Telecaster’s light jing-a-ling. Rises to an interlude crescendo and explodes into rock ‘n roll bands. In the County the poets make these things happen, then “sit back and let it all be. Tonight, in Jungleland.” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted July and October 2020

CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir Block 2 2017, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($54.90)

Block “2” is genuine and fine pinot noir, a pinpointed example multi-faceted in its origins. An exclusive block and also a dedicated clone to make this what it is; ripe stem earthy in phenolics ripe and ready plus a natural and wild fruit sweetness that can’t be replicated by anything but what happens on and from the vine. Anytime pinot noir is experienced as a wine at one with site, clone and vine you know it, feel it and intuit the connection. The forging is a bond unbreakable, as here with Block number two. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2020

Culmina Hypothesis 2014, Golden Mile Bench, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (414243, $49.95, Arterra Wines Canada Inc.)

The Triggs original, Hypothesis is an Okanagan Valley flagship red that celebrates the upper benches in what has become the great Golden Mile. This district is no longer a matter of new fashion, it is in fact a place to make serious Bordeaux-varietal red wine. Whether cabernet franc or merlot take the lead there is always cabernet sauvignon to tie the room of lit luminescence together. Culmina’s is bright-eyed on a face of dark fruit, chewy like liquorice and sweetly herbal, naturally sweetened by dessert warmth ripening. You smell, feel, sense and taste the land in this wine. That’s what makes it so special. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted June 2020

Black Hills Nota Bene 2018, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($68.99)

Methinks winemaker Ross Wise is giddy (and that’s a stretch for the stoic man of leisure) in what he must know will be the great eventuality of the Nota Bene 2018. By way of reminder this is one of Canada’s most accomplished and massive reds of great notoriety. The flagship of Black Hills in Bordeaux blend apparel, master of ceremonies and lead singer for B.C. Climat, Somewhereness and terroir. The maestro blend to speak of mystery, riddle and enigma. This ’18 is smooth and I mean smooth, ganache silky and focused. In youth you chew the mouthful, later on you’ll draw and imbibe. Further on down the road you will sip and savour. Quietly luxurious, rampantly delicious and pridefully profound. Top. Grande. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wide.world and @winealign

Megalomaniac Reserve Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario ($49.95)

Ah, finally! This is the aromatic profile of a reserve style Ontario cabernet franc, well, not “the” but “a” godly one. Concentrated and layered, like phyllo or puff pastry folded again and again upon itself. May seem dense and without air at this time but with time the folds will expand and stack with weightlessness. The variegated red fruit in betweens are juicy, sumptuous and so packed with flavour they will burst when bitten into, or in this case, explode in the mouth. Texture too is all pleasure, as will be the eventuality of exceptionality created by a triangle that includes complete and fine tannin. One of the finest and from a vintage that holds the cards for cabernet franc excellence. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted October 2020

Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($75.00)

Niagara’s most premium solo cabernet franc is turned upside in 2017 and does everything that needed doing to make what is quite possibly the best solo effort in that vintage. Of fruit so dark yet pure and allowed to act, move and speak as varietal in place. Walks that Beamsville Bench walk and talks that cabernet franc talk. World-beating, wholly and truly. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted October 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Hidden Bench La Brunante 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($85.20)

From a La Brunante year to speak of truths and there is no doubt the team was excited about the prospects of this formidable Beamsville Bench blend. The triad is merlot (43 per cent), malbec (35) and cabernet franc (22). I’d say it was the warm climate and long season that lead to then winemaker Marlize Beyer’s decisions of assemblage. You could pour this blind with red blends from Bordeaux and Australia with nary a taster being able to truly separate one from many others. And yet there is a singularity about these aromatics that are so hard to define, like spices in their simmering infancy ahead of what brand of togetherness they will assign. As for texture and length, balance is exemplary and longevity guaranteed. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted May 2020

Good to go!

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(c) @tiny.wide.world and @winealign

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

There are times when you do it just for the continuity because time marches on, no matter the circumstances. There is no disputing how different 2020 was and frankly the flip to 2021 will not bring about significant change or any semblance of a return to what was, at least not in the first several months. Yet the compelling urge is there, to quantify and qualify this annual Godello list of wines that opened, expanded and blew a mind in 2020. The concept for a year-end summation was launched in 2012 though it was the publishing of 14 in 2014 that made it very official, if only in the mind of one Godello. Matters little whether this qualifies as the seventh or the ninth because in wine one should always eschew semantics for the liquid truth found inside the bottle, elixirs they are of most profound, ethereal and honest propriety.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

This will be a much different list than ever before. While I did manage to squeeze in 25 days of travel in the first 56 of 2020 those were the last of this calendar year. That’s at least 75 short of my normal yearly schedule and so imagine that if an average of 30 wines are tasted each and every day on the road, well then that would tell us that at the very minimum 2,250 wines were missed this year. Not entirely true because at least half that many, if not 75 per cent more were made available to me and my WineAlign colleagues over these past nine month of quarantine, isolation and safe-distancing tastings. Still the make-up of what was tasted has been very different, the most notable being the lack of unrepresented or not found in market wines. Less discovery in 2020 to be sure.

Campo Spritz

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

According to my personal critic’s database on WineAlign I reviewed 4,450 wines in 2020, keeping in mind that many of those reviews were for wines tasted in 2019. Up until this year I was consistently behind or back-logged with hundreds if not more than a thousand tasting notes in the queue, unedited, unresolved, not yet reconciled, unfinished, not-posted. Since the global pandemic abruptly delivered me home in the dead of a late February night from Faenza to Firenze, through Frankfurt and to Pearson I have not been able to resume travel. These last 10 months have allowed for a massive catching up. There are now a thousand less wines to finesse and publish then there were this time last year, very few raw and rustic songs waiting for the editing process. All the choices on this 2020 list have been solidified and already been opined with confidence for the world to scrutinize. In 2020 there is nothing left on the table.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

Slipped outta Dodge under the cover of darkness…

This year’s list is indeed different. The get togethers were few and far between. The travel non-existent. That is why you will recognize more producer names and also a more “archetypal” bent to the choices. The year dictates such a direction and as we all know, you have to listen to what the vintage tells you but also to remember and thank the true pioneers for getting all of us here. Perhaps the greatest influence on how this composition came to be was a conscious choice to omit the older vintages tasted in 2020. There were less to be sure but it just feels like keeping them kind of secretive is the way to go. Let’s hope a connection to that part of this exercise will make a return in 2021. As always, heartfelt thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, so please be encouraged and read on. Alas, Godello’s 20 mind-blowing wines of 2020.

The Heldeberg from Stellenbosch

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2019, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (23128, $17.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Gets me every time. Not just one of the finest meets best value chenin blancs available out of South Africa but an example to hang all your hats on no matter where white wine comes from in this world. Still the knowing nod and incredulous head shake that $18 CDN can buy you fruit from six blocks that are mainly 38 years of age but could possibly include 1974 Helderberg planted vines in Stellenbosch. “Core of the business” and arrow through a chenin heart. Great ferment, like a (catherine) wheel. Layers of design, creamy with thanks to secondary lees aging but somehow still texturally chewy. Barrel notes make a point in a vanilla brûlée way and yet each sip is like taking a bite from a piece of firm, ripe fruit. “I need more texture. You need to give me more texture, texture, texture. You need to give me more texture.” Old Vine Reserve obliges every time. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Selbach Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2018, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (17498, $45.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

The triad of producer, appellation and vineyard gets no more arch classic than this with a riesling in Spätlese form at the hands of Selbach-Oster. The pitch and sway in this Wehlener Sonnenuhr vinyeard is 2018 dance card perfect, tight and fluid. Succulent acids are burgeoning and urging the fruit forward, sideways and every which way but loose. This is a wine that gets what needs and gives what is wanted. Will only improve with a few years and then there will come a day when an air or vapour trail falls away. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted November 2020

Tyrrell’s Belford Sémillon 2017, Single Vineyard, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, South Australia (14322, $46.95, Select Wine Merchants)

Belford Vineyard (formerly Elliot Farm) is Hunter Valley leader Tyrrell’s single-vineyard leased sémillon with so much promise in its corner. A top varietal vintage for one thing and the well-draining sandy soils for another. Sémillon thrives in these conditions and so what comes from this awe-inspiring wine is exactly what you possibly wish for when selecting from Hunter Valley. This wine is swiftly, justly and perpetually lit, a smoky, paraffin waxy, über salty, elemental, aerified, verified mineral wine. So focused and precise. Mon dieu, Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted June 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Fresne Ducret La Grande Hermine Champagne Premier Cru 2008, AC Champagne, France ($78.00, Nicholas Pearce Wines)

Hard to believe the age because while this almost certainly achieved an immediately retro toasted and evolved stage in its youth and though 12 years have passed the present day imaginings are dreamed to persist within that very immediate stage. As creamy as it is toasty, the textural body politic in La Grande Hermine is one of great cerebral and figurative impression. You feel, intuit and embrace such honesty and possibility. Drink this vintage dated Champagne all winter long. Its calming presence will preserve you in a state of grace lower than a snowman’s blood pressure. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted September 2020

El Esteco

El Esteco 1947 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina (15082, $24.95, Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.)

From Argentina’s northern desert where some of the country’s oldest vines perpetuate existence while thriving fiercely in a hot climate. So yes it is true that some fruit from 70-plus year old vines, well trees really, make their way into this special Salta wine. Dense and concentrated, Cassis times 10, savoury and truly expressive. Oak is well-managed, not shy mind you but these old vines deserve some added and fortifying structure. Do not miss this. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted August 2020

Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Maipo Valley, Chile (403980, $160.00, Escalade Wines & Spirits)

Though essentially a cabernet sauvignon at minimum 90 per cent, it would normally need saying to never discount the blending attributes of cabernet franc, merlot and in recent years, petit verdot. The nooks and crannies filled by the other grape varieties are some of the senses of wonder that have illuminated and elucidated the magic of Don Melchor. And yet years of such thought is turned on its head in 2017 with a 98 per cent pure cabernet sauvignon Don Melchor and only two bits of cabernet franc. Speaks to winemaker Enrique Tirado’s vision of the varietal and vintage relationship. After all, this is his baby, a passion project that spans 20 vintages, from which he looks to “harvest the beauty of the balance of the Puente Alto terroir.” From Viñedo Don Melchor, D.O. Puente Alto and Valle del Alto Maipo, old vines planted 1979 to 1992, new from 2004-2013. The vintage was above average in terms of warmth, cooler temperatures at harvest preserved acidities and sealed the (near) mono-varietal deal. At 30 years into its tenure Don Melchor hits a new stride and it would be hard to argue against the levels of subtle, demure, balanced and ethereal in this 2017. Perfect fruit? Pretty darn close and a bouquet of fresh picked flower-herb-fruit that merge, meld and grace together. One for this age and to age gracefully, slowly and predictably for 20-25 years. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted October 2020

Taub Family Vineyards Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley, California (849434, $235.00, Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd.)

From proprietor Marc Taub who’s family has been prominently part of the Napa Valley wine fabric since prohibition and who in 2013 acquired Napa Valley producer Heritance, later evolving into Taub Family Vineyards. His winemaker is Tom Hinde, a Sonoma and Napa specialist who cut his teeth for seven years at Flowers, but also at Kendall-Jackson, Hartford, La Crema, Lakoya, Cardinale, Stonestreet and Verite. Add in a mere three acres within the historic 300-acre Beckstoffer Vineyard first purchased by Beaulieu founder Georges de Latour in 1928, called Beaulieu Vineyard Number 3 and made by winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. The 2017 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon are a very special lot. That much we know. Add in the pedigree, torch passing and respect for these necessary tenets of wine-producing business and well, hello. Utmost attention to detail, optimum extraction and concentration, sultry, supple and ultimately divine. There is this fine, fine, almost indescribable salty vein that cuts through the fruit and the fat like perfect umami seasoning in the most decadent dish. With meat or seafood, California or Japan, take your pick. Drink this either way. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2020

Olive and Anthony Hamilton Russell

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2018, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley, South Africa (999516, $59.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.)

Even though the ’18 HR PN took my breath away nine months ago, the not yet understood nuance of this wine surely clouded first impressions. However small a sample size this may be is more than enough to prove time’s effect on wine, pinot noir and Hamilton Russell’s spiritual connection with the grape and how it personifies the Hemel En Aarde Valley. Fragrance, perfume, essential oils, Lilac, Lilly of the Valley and the sweetest tobacco smoulder. Captivating now and quite likely will be so into the mid 30s.  Last tasted August 2020

There have been many Hamilton Russell pinot noir poured in my anxiously awaiting glasses over the last five years. It’s hard to believe we are here at 2018 but time is a joy when you are having a noirmance. The fruit is exceptional in this vintage because it just feels like the warm day/cool night fix is in. The diurnal flux has locked in freshness and sweet tension like no recent memory can recall. Makes for a most grippy yet excitable pinot noir of concentration, presence and promise. Benchmark in every respect. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted November 2019

That Marco Cirese Sangiovese stare. His Noelia Ricci and Pandolfo are crucial, fundamental and illustrative of what is possible in Emilia-Romagna. #sangiovesediromagna #viniadarte #viniadarte2020

Noelia Ricci Pandolfa Romagna Sangiovese Predappio DOC Godenza 2018, Emilia Romagna, Italy (The Vine Agency)

Godenza was the name of the podere (house) on site at a one hectare vineyard at 340m, the highest section of Ricci’s land. The introduction of concrete tanks is surely responsible (in part) to the freshness and reduction but also poor, well-draining calcareous soils that complete a relationship with open-knit and fragrant red fruit. Adds up to complexities and beauty, not to mention the hands-off, unadulterated feel of this wine. At the top end of quality and elaborate expression for the appellation. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted twice at Vini Ad Arte, Casa Spadoni, Faenza February 2020

Because he’s Dario F-in Faccin, that’s why g-dammit! #carobbio #sangiovese #chianticlassico #panzano #galestro

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy ($33.60, Alta Wines)

Stop in here for a rest and exult in the near perfect grace, charm and collective soul in the heart of an Annata. To say that the Novarese family and Dario Faccin should feel the greatest sangiovese reward from this appellation would be a grand understatement. This version of Panzano and Chainti Classico DOCG is what it is, what it can and must be. Should be. Has to be. Richly glorious and confidently understated. The cleanest sangiovese and the one that speaks most succinctly of the land. These are the reasons why Carobbio is the most underrated, but for how long? This ’16 will see proof to that and so much more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2020

With the brothers Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli

Now to introduce you to the Boscu Bianchi Bandinelli brothers, Alessandro and Andrea, two men who covet, own and articulate their western wing of Castelnuovo terroir. As custodians of these classic southern Chianti Classico Alberese and Galestro vineyards they have come to understand their nuance and their specialities. So, Riserva from 2015 now comes to its beginning having needed every bit of the extra two years in bottle it has received. Yes this Geggiano ’15 Riserva still needs time and if you abide by the premise it will come alive, surmise and in turn, surprise. In fact it will make a lasting impression and stay with you forever. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Di Monsanto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Stem Wine Group)

The acumen, wisdom and also the persistent reduction are formidable in this incredibly concentrated wine. So Monsanto, so in delivery of San Donato in Poggio, so Laura Bianchi. Seemingly equipped with the needed stuffing in the way that 1968 managed to accrue over 50 years of travels. Here in Gran Selezione form the tendencies and the abilities are multiplied tenfold. Magnificent and magnanimous, the concentration is foiled by focus and precision, from all that has come before, moving into the present and then going forward with everything that occupies, in hopes and dreams. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted February 2020

Vineyard at Salicutti

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sorgente 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The last of the cru, single-vineyards planted at Salicutti and not surprisingly the one with most red fruity juiciness that keeps a lineage with the Rosso. If a portal into knowing what it makes to taste the bright side of 2015 could be described then why not make use of this ethereal Sorgente to learn of such things. Voltage, tension and vibration. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Francesco Ripaccioli

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Le Sommelier Inc.)

Barrel Sample. Now this is something exceptional. This is what Casaccia is obviously capable of producing, The sweetest Canalicchio fruit of all, to date and with a rising low and slow angling of acidity (as opposed to straight verticality) that carries the fruit to great heights. This will be a triumph and in fact it is already tasting like a piece de Canalicchio resistance while it sings a long maestro song. A soloist that needs no accompaniment although food, company and peace would not hurt at all. Obviously this is more than just the northern side of Montalcino and more than Canalicchio. This is Casaccia. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted February 2020

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2013, Tuscany, Italy

The ’13 will be released on January 1st, 2023 and as the name Diecianni suggests it is a Riserva that 10 years minimum are needed before readiness begins to take shape. The selection is from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. The vintage of the great polyphonic-phenolic, elastic and stretched ripeness, by photosynthesis without heat, of muscles with energy and ones that will develop, remain and use their power to keep the fruit alive. That said it’s a wine of wood and the highest level of salinity, sapidity and a tang that is exhibited by no other Brunello di Montalcino. A concentration that is simply outstanding and in some minds, will even be eclipsed (or not) by 2016. The finesse and architecture of this wine are as good as it gets. Drink 2026-2042.  Tasted February 2020

Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila

Malabaila Di Canale 1362 Roero Riserva DOCG Castelletto 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($59.95)

From Canale vines 50 years old and the most historical vineyard for Malabaila, as documents show. Riserva here means two years in two, three and four year-old barrels. Yet another silky Roero and example of nebbiolo that could not have been born anywhere else. The “little castle” is a charming nebbiolo, fine of all its constructive parts with an ease of sensuality that just shows how confident, casual and natural life as it is just happens to be. Castelletto knows what it is. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted January 2020

Elena Sottimano

Sottimano Barbaresco DOCG Basarin 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($103.95, Le Maitre de Chai)

Basarin in the newest Cru for Sottimano, established in 2014 though the vines are already between 45-50 years old. Released just at the start of 2020 and already displaying a prominence in aromatics that speak to this exceptional nook just below Neive. From a vintage blessed for its place in history matched by a requiem for a dream. Crunchy for nebbiolo surely caused by the policy of classically long Piedmontese maceration, drawing fruit with gentle impunity and long-grained tannins in thrushes and intermingling chains. Pure dark fruit (almost raspberry) and a generous application of wood varnish. Architecture, length and character, all together. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted January 2020

With Francesca Vaira

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Bricco Delle Viole 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($113.95, Groupe Soleil)

The thing of Bricco delle Viole that is beauty emits with gala fruit force into the canals of the layers. Bricco dell Viole the singular Barolo cru, from which fruit, texture and extension are consistently planned out, mapped and organized. So wound, so found and following a path that runs along a line along a circle. Slow unwind and unfolding coming, culminating in developed notes, to be far away, somewhere between then and then. Too soon to tell. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted January 2020

Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2017, South Australia, Australia (12016, $150.00, Mark Anthony Group)

Another old friend, St. Henri, once a wine for a special occasion, now one for all times. No, not a baby Grange but to me this is to Penfolds as Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus is to Maison Bouchard Père & Fils. Not that there is any resemblance to pinot noir save for the fact that in terms of shiraz, St. Henri is the elegant or if you will, the Burgundian one. Penfolds like to refer to Henri as “an intriguing counterpoint to Grange,” and that seems right in the sense that power and optimum concentration are never the point. It is a multi-regional blend, from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley and Port Lincoln. There is no new wood exercised; it spends 12 months in 50-plus year old vats. Distinct style, unique pedigree and alternative execution. Adds up to intrigue, enigma and mystery, which is just what an iconic and signature counterpoint should do. Acidity and structure are tops, bar none. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted October 2020

(c) @tiny.wild.world and @WineAlign

Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 2018, Douro Valley, Portugal (12076, $160.00, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits)

The third consecutively declared Vintage Port by Taylor is one of 18’s most powerfully restrained. Taylor describes their 2018 from a “year (that) seems to have given it an additional layer of density and weight.” Apropos it needs saying because texture this viscous is clearly vintage driven. After record aridity in 2017 it was a wet March that was welcomed with open arms and water tables but the rain kept up and so mildew became the challenge. Worse was damage from hailstorms in the Pinhão area, including Taylor Fladgate’s Quinta do Junco. But the heat came and on August 3rd at Quinta de Vargellas they recorded a temperature of just over 44°C. Ripening happened in a shorter and more concentrated window, a good thing in the world of VP, as witnessed by the no holes, all in, singular in vision and style Taylor 2018. Not the gangster power surge of some others mind you and the violets give little aromatic space to fruit nor perfume that tries to steal the spotlight. These are remarkable tannins and it could be periods of ages and epochs before this begins to move into complexities secondary and tertiary. If I were as young as I think you are I’d invest in this Taylor for the next 30-plus years of evolution. Drink 2027-2044.  Tasted November 2020

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Sangiovese is the future: Montalcino’s Rosso and Brunello

Fresh-pressed Sangiovese, Montalcino

Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino forever and always 100 per cent Sangiovese

Over the past four weeks in five online seminars we have been tasting Montalcino’s sangiovese while generating a high level of discourse between Canadian Sommeliers and Media to more than 20 producers of Rosso and Brunello. Isolation and global situations notwithstanding there has never been a joint action of this dimension before, a series of fortunate events that has been made possible because of the forward thinking and openness of the Conzorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino. All because of and in the name of sangiovese, tissue of Rosso, bones of Brunello and grape of the future.

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

In this sixth and final 2020 session it will be sangiovese that holds the spotlight, Tuscany’s most essential grape variety. On Monday, December 7, 2020 I will again play host and moderator, as I have done with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “Sangiovese is the future: Montalcino’s Rosso and Brunello” the webinar will welcome agronomist Federico Staderini and Tenuta San Giorgio’s Ugolforte Brunello 2015; Sabina Sassetti with her family’s Sassetti Livio – Pertimali’s Brunello 2015; Elia Loia and Palazzo’s Brunello 2015; Andrea Cortonesi and Angela Biagiotti along with both Uccelliera and Voliero Brunello 2015.

Related – Ready for a long-term relationship? Brunello di Montalcino Vigna and Riserva

October Sangiovese, Montalcino

First love

We all remember our first love. We may hide the memory away and rarely speak of it but it’s always there. For me, Brunello di Montalcino was my first. In the spring and summer of 1987 I was a naive young McGill University student living in Siena. Bad hair, bad clothes, not a care in the world. My professor from the University of Toronto knew quite a lot about the wines of Toscana so when we made a class pilgrimage to Montalcino he asked if anyone would like to join him for wine tasting at the Enoteca di Fortezza during the afternoon break. All of my classmates opted for a siesta in the July shade and this at a time when there were no cell phones, computers or tablets to distract us from actually learning something. I was the only one who chose to accompany Professor Wollesen to the fortress.

In retrospect, what happened over those next few hours changed my life. It might have done the same for my classmates were they to taste, guided by a man of sangiovese experience, though 30 samples of Brunello di Montalcino 1982. If only I knew then even a fraction of what I have learned since, what value that would be for me now. No matter, for I have Professor Wollesen to thank for introducing me to the world of Brunello. And here we are.

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino  

Let’s talk about clones

What about the long-employed term sangiovese grosso? 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, with clonal selection so varied, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines. It is imperative to learn which clones are nurtured on each estate. This is the quintessential Montalcino situation: Estate specificity for sangiovese and cru.

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Abbey Mood

A new era in Montalcino

With thanks to writer and educator Emily O’Hare it’s worth quoting the Brunello winemaking guru Giulio Gambelli who said that “the enological trend to reduce volatile acidity as much as possible annoyed him.” While that trend certainly lasted for at least two decades it seems that traditional ways are making their return, albeit with forward-thinking winemaking in the cleanest and sharpest of ways. There is so much red fruit and sangiovese purity in the 2015 Brunello, but also the 2018 Rosso that things just seem to have opened up a new era in Montalcino.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Poggio di Sotto looking towards San Giorgio and Monte Amiata

Tenuta San Giorgio

Tenuta San Giorgio founded in 1982 is the second and sister estate to Poggio di Sotto that was founded in 1989 on the south-eastern side of Montalcino overlooking the Orcia Valley. In 2011 Poggio di Sotto became part of the ColleMassari family of wines and Tenuta San Giorgio has been a part of the group since 2016. Monte Amiata looms and protects while sea breezes blow in for 26 hectares that enjoy a unique microclimate immediately southeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate in the southeastern part of Montalcino at 400m on the top of a ridge. Today the Tipa Bertarelli Family is the custodian of Piero Palmucci’s original vision. Claudio Tipa is the owner of ColleMassari and Grattamacco and beginning in 2011 for Poggio di Sotto and then 2016 for Tenuta San Giorgio he and his team committed themselves to the same quality standards and production techniques that have made the estate’s reputation. The same winemaking team led by Luca Marrone of nearly three decades an Oenologist Federico Staderini continue to produce sangiovese of great transparent, traditional and authentic construct.

San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ugolforte 2015

The second estate of Poggio di Sotto delivers a solid core of sangiovese fruit swagger with more than a modicum of high acid tang in 2015. Tart, driven, ultra-phenolic and on the road to both freedom and happiness. I feel they are still figuring out the nuance and the possibility of the estate and 2015 is sending the team well on their way. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2018

Quite the expressive Rosso here at heights across the valley from Sant Angelo in Colle and situated at a half tier away from parent Poggio di Sotto. A well extracted and healthy macerated sangiovese that brings some structure, multiplied by the rich barrels making their seasoning statement. Really like the finish on this flashy wine. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

The stunning white argileux of @pertimalisassetti with the Montosoli hill beyond

Sassetti Livio Pertimali

The wines of Livio, Lorenzo and Sabina Sassetti are made at the famous northern side Montosoli hill with south-east exposure. The Podere Pertimali and its 16 hectares of vineyards are of a terroir that is some of Montalcino’s greatest calcareous clay and the soils are strewn with ancient fossils and shells. On a day of perfect blue sky the light reflects of of these white, yellow and grey soils with blinding clarity. There is nowhere else in Montalcino like it.

Livio is one of the founding 1967 members of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Today Lorenzo and Sabina Sassetti are the custodians and makers for both the Montalcino and Montecucco properties and they do so with knowledge of modern oenological techniques but also in full respect of family tradition and philosophy. That may be a familiar refrain in this region but in Lorenzo and Sabina’s hands it is as they say in Italian, “è giusto e vero.”

Lorenzo Sassetti

Sassetti Livio Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From primarily grey arglileux (clay) soils though truth be told the variegation includes yellow, black and brown. Also found is Galestro, Pietra (like Forte) and a wide array of fossil shells, all much larger than it would be imagined. Here to the south west of the Montosoli hill is a warm and humid place so airflow is much more important than anything, to prevent disease and because ripeness is rarely an issue. The fruit is dark, hematic, all in. I tasted 45 examples of 2014 this morning and none were like this. It’s also silky smooth without any oak sheathing, make-up or cake icing. Salumi notes define the curative nature, acids are fine and driving, a high-toned moment is slightly Bretty and tannins are super smooth. High quality from 2014. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2019

Fossil shell at Sassetti Livio, Godello’s hand for perspective

Sassetti Livio Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2009

No shortage of reductive sangiovese funk comes off the nose of this well on its way to aging Brunello. Though the secondary dilemmas of oxidation, dried fruit, old leather and seeping cherries are amassed at this stage, the acidity rages quite evocatively and with what seems to be tremendous purpose. The grand old bariques honesty working with great fruit intensity gives this the kind of old school charm that is rapidly disappearing from the likes of Brunello, Barolo and Rioja. You have to appreciate your tolerable level of Brett, the gritty char, animale and ferric tendencies of these types of reds. More often than not I can find it in my heart and from my palate to abide. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2016

#liviosassetti #legend #brunellodimontalcino

Sassetti Livio Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

Finally a nose of something not just recognizable but exacting and necessary for Brunello di Montalcino from this frazioni just to the northeast of the village. Dark cherries, rich and luxurious dark cherries. That and a cool minty savour plus a creamy gelato that silkens the palate. The grip and force are 2012 but the refinement is all 2012 and Sassetti. A very stylish Brunello and not even yet entered the zone. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted February 2019

Vineyard at Palazzo

Palazzo

A great story. Perhaps it was by coincidence or by a curious sign of fate, but in 1983, Cosimo Loia bought the estate “Palace,” which bore the same family name of his wife Antoinette. The Loia-Palazzo family’s property in the southeast of Montalcino covers a total area of 12 hectares, of which four are cultivated with Sangiovese Grosso. Their approach is “Integrated Agriculture” using only organic farming methods. The terroir is mainly Galestro marl, but is also rich in limestone. In 1986 they began producing wine, along with their children. The first harvest was 1995. The work is still presided over by Cosimo and Antoinette, along with their son Angelo and daughter Elia.

Palazzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

From vineyards just directly southeast beneath the village of Montalcino there is a blessed, unobstructed warmth in this wine from a mixed idea vintage. Carries in its mid-weight stride the classic cherry-leather liqueur of central-south Montalcino sangiovese. It’s both traditional and sweetly spiced, with anise, nuttiness and a clearly transcribed Montalcino vernacular. It’s lovely Brunello is what I’m trying to say. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted October 2018 and March 2019

Andrea Cortonesi, Uccelliera (c) Brunello di Montalcino

Uccelliera

The name Uccelliera translates as “aviary” or “birdcage” in Italian, probably dating back to the Middle Ages when falcons where raised in the area. Today the estate holdings are 6.5 hectares of vineyards on different exposures planted to sangiovese in the southeast of Montalcino within the frazione of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, quite proximate to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo and also one of seven or so estates that are situated closest to Mount Amiata.

Andrea Cortonesi’s first Brunello vintage was 1991 but his work in the vineyards goes back much deeper and further. He was the cellar master at Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona until 1990 but also had a hand in helping to create many Montalcino estates, including Poggio di Sotto, La Torre, Poggio degli Ulivi, Mastrojanni, Tenuta di Sesta, Collosorbo, Sesta di Sopra and Podere Salicutti, many of them through the planting of their vineyards. Andrea purchased the Uccelliera farm in 1986 and planted in 1987. That he worked alongside some Montalcino giants of agriculture and oenology is not nothing. Giulio Gambelli, Roberto Cipresso, Maurizio Castelli, Alberto Antonini, and Attilio Pagli are some of those famous names and Andrea might just be the region’s greatest student, collaborator and torch-bearer. I am sure he also has some great stories. The year 1998 was when he was able to dedicate himself full time to Uccelliera. He is first and foremost a farmer. Andrea writes, “how can I believe that everything begins today just because I produce Brunello? Farming today requires considerable individual dedication, but that does not mean that it can be seen as a vocation to solitary labour. Growth must be collective, since if my neighbour makes mistakes, I will suffer the consequences, and vice versa. This is the reason I dedicate time to mutual agricultural concerns, to meetings, to the study of all those things that, apart from work in the fields, are part of our world. Our work has serious meaning for all of our society, so it bears doing with conscientiousness and responsibility.” 

Voliero

Another name for Uccelliera is Voliero, “birdcage” in Italian and the story behind Andrea Cortonesi’s second label is a good one. In 2006 he was running his own restaurant in Siena called Il Casato and a friend of his in Montalcino offered him grapes from a vineyard in the Canalicchio cru in northeastern Montalcino to make a private label wine for the restaurant. The wine was made from those grapes through the 2008 vintage but in 2009 Cortonesi switched to Castelnuovo dell’Abate and 200 metres higher elevation vineyards from which to source Voliero. With the 2020 vintage Andrea will make his 12th Voliero and while it only produces 1,000 cases max of Rosso and Brunello it is now imported into North America.

(c) Uccelliera

Uccelliera Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A combination of sweet fruit and volatility gather in this tart yet reductive Brunello. The fruit is quite gregarious and almost generous. Hard to figure though because the tannins are also somewhat soft. Will drink well for a few years. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Uccelliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Quite refined, dark-skinned, already showing resolve and fruit resolved, confident and ready to drink. Low acids and tannin, a Rosso for now while others wait and Brunello play seriously harder to get. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

godello!

Fresh-pressed Sangiovese, Montalcino

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

Decades old Brunello di Montalcino

Examining the longevity, structure and age-ability of Brunello di Montalcino

When I think of Brunello di Montalcino there are two things that come to mind: Sangiovese and time. Longevità e tempo. Contrasts and comparisons are unnecessary, neither to other grape varieties nor to wine regions that also fashion structured red wines. The sangiovese of Montalcino are like the eponymous medieval hilltop village, an island in a sea of vast varietal openness. They share the impossibility of undergoing the slightest shift in meaning or change, that is, without the assistance of time. They are incomparable, generous and durable but also part of a great community. With the Conzorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino at the heart of their matter they find permanence and always seek to endure. As do their makers and protectors. 

Related – Ready for a long-term relationship? Brunello di Montalcino Vigna and Riserva

We’ll be searching for answers to Brunello’s aging capacity on Monday, November 30, 2020 when I play host and moderator for the fifth of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino” will explore vintages from 2015 back to 2010 to unlock some secrets behind Brunello’s immutabilità. The webinar will welcome Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano and his Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Elisa Sesti with her Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Lucrezia Messina and Franco Pacenti’s Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Riccardo Bogi with Argiano’s Brunello di Montalcino 2014; PierAngelo Tommasi and his Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2010.

Fortezza di Montalcino

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

 

Anteprime di Toscana’s culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese

 

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Post Benvenuto Brunello street party at Alle Logge di Piazza

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the GalestroArenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. 

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

With Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano of Col d’Orcia

Col d’Orcia

History, tradition and strutura do not dig any deeper in Montalcino than at Col d’Orcia, an Orcia Valley, (Val d’Orcia) southern slope estate in the Montalcino territory. The lineage dates back to at least 1890, when records show the Franceschi family of Florence purchased the property, then known as Fattoria di Sant’Angelo in Colle. One of two brothers Stefano Franceschi inherited the property, split from Leopoldo in 1958 and then re-named it Col d’Orcia, “{hill above Orcia” after the river that runs through the property. Franceschi later married into the royal family of the future King of Spain Juan Carlos and sold the property to the Piemontese family Cinzano in 1973. At that time only a few hectares were under vine and it was Count Alberto Marone Cinzano that pushed the reach up to 70 hectares by the early 1980s. Since then it has been Count Francesco Marone Cinzano who continued plantings to the current number at 140 hectares, 108 of which are dedicated to Brunello production.

Since August 27, 2010 the whole estate including vineyards, olive groves, other fields and even the gardens are farmed exclusively following organic agricultural practices. The vineyards are located on the southern slope of the Montalcino territory, on hilly lands and extend over 540 hectares, from the Orcia River to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle, at about 450 metres over sea level. Cold d’Orcia’s soils are loose, skeletal and permeable, poor in clay, rich in limestone and inert materials. Fog, ice and late frosts are of little to no concern and breezes blow frequently for persistent and profitable vine health conditions. Climate is typically Mediterranean, with limited rainfalls concentrated in the months of March, April, November and December. Col d’Orcia the third largest owner of Brunello vineyards in Montalcino.

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Classic closed Col d’Orcia youth, nose of earth crusted berries and not nearly the mature notes of what the future surely holds. Though meant to be consumed much earlier than Riserva or Poggio al Vento there’s no escaping the place and the winemaking ways of the house. It is truly appreciated how youth in a Col d’Orcia sangiovese does not mean chocolate or vanilla, nor any overbearing barrel notes. It does regard spice and piqued feelings that bode well for a long future. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A gregarious and sour-edged entry marks the ’14 Col d’Orcia with plenty of spice. Cinnamon and star anise are exotic notes off the top and then things turn tough and closed. This is a tightly wound 2014, clearly one of the ambitious albeit traditional attempts at perpetuating great and storied Brunello glory. Remains to be seen if it can reach the heights of 1979. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2010

Brunello at 10 years is like the Rosso in advance and then not at all. The fruit aromas are all skin, scraped, studded and seasoned. You can feel how special the vintage phenols were and continue to be, now in their twilight of first stage freshness. It may be remembered as a vintage less than eventful but you can also make note of what must have been great bold bitters and demanding skeletal framing that kept pleasure down. Rising now, flesh in pulse and equitable tacit celebration. Heady and big Brunello from a vintage gone long on stuffing. Drink 2020-2030.  Last tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2000

So hard to know how Col d’Orcia’s Brunelli are able to glide so stealthily through time without haste and with so much slow moving grace. But here is yet another bit of restrained sangiovese power, wild of fruit heart and subtle in animal behaviour. The high acidity vintage spreads the energetic love with great and intentional fervour, showing as credibly and forcefully as could possibly have hoped or expected. Cold, cloud cover vintage does the yeoman work for sangiovese lifeblood to send it 20 years forward for all to believe. 2000, baby. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia tasting on the ’00s

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1989

A huge Col d’Orcia, perhaps the biggest, broadest and most ferric I’ve ever tasted. That pool may only be 25 but this bites twice and is far from shy. It’s obviously vintage but also feels like a vintage of ambitious winemaking. The oak, oak spice, alcohol, unami and dried fruit are all fully throttled and simply add up to deliver a vibrant massive attack. Red fruit is nowhere to be found, left instead in a void filled by porcini, sanguine carne and herbal potpourri. The acidity eventually brings out more charming moments but this is really an unrelenting sangiovese. Will live 15 more years easy although there wont be the type of fruit still lingering shown by the 1979. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1969

Tasted from three different bottles, the first showing TCA, the second alive and quiet, the third singing. Bottle variation is not surprising at all, especially in wines of this ilk and age. The family arrived at the estate in 1973 to find some vintages in barrel and this ’69 in concrete. Because the third sample was not just the best but the one with real personality we’ll just concentrate on it. The nose is very floral and full of toffee, toasted chestnut and burnt orange. The palate is lively, hopping really. A mild bitterness marks the finish, still pulsing with acidity though not with tannin. Great look back. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 2012

Not so surprising I suppose that Poggio al Vento 2012 is still reductive, closed and locked tight. There is a massive Poggio (al Vento) of fruit piled high inside the shell from the windy hill above the river. Fine tannins are even more impressive is the fine-styled acidity. When the shell cracks the riches will spill out, across and over. Over everything. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 2010

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 1990

Oh my word 1980 carries plenty of residual acidity in an antithetically mild, wholly and utterly unexpected way. Energy, potency, drive and this unrelenting need to express itself. Tight, taut, slinging arrows of tension that make the fruit or what’s left of it almost inconsequential. In actuality there is fruit, namely red currant, sour cherry and pomegranate. Improves with these flavours away from the clay-earthy aromatics and lingers good and plenty. Stays with you, as it has done for 40 years. Drink 2020-2023.   Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 1979

Quiet, not just at first, but in continuum, a good thing with just a few initial hints of age. There can be immediate concern of this being 40 years-old. It’s hidden talents prevent you from knowing and of those, fineness of acidity is at the top of the heap. I’d say there was some astringency and mean streak tannin in the first ten years, or perhaps maybe more. It seems this Riserva was a beast for so long and only the last ten years have allowed it to deliver such gentility and charm. It’s amazing really and glad this bottle hung in there. It’s very special. In fact it’s still unfolding. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Sesti

Sesti

Giuseppe Sesti planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. the estate consists of 102 hectares, of which nine hectares are planted to vineyards. The rest beiing olive groves, grazing and woodland. Now in the hands of Giuseppe Maria Sesti and Elisa Sesti, Giuseppe the astronomy expert restorer of the Castello. Elisa, born in Toscana and raised at the Castello, educated in Italy and England, returned in 1999 to help with the expansion of the family business.

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Sesti’s is lightning red fruit meets high acid sangiovese for one of the lighter, brighter and sneaky powerful Brunelli. Creeps and climbs, moves, shakes and graces the palate with sharp fruit, raspberry in tang ways and then earthy, properly volatile and respectably edgy. Will seek and find balance between that tension and the other-worldly umami before too long. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

From Giuseppe Sesti who planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. Now in the hands of Elisa Sesti the élevage is territorially appropriate and necessary thirty-nine months in 30 hL botti. The result is quite a gregarious one this Sesti, with really bright acids circling the sangiovese wagons and tying the fruit up in ropes and casings. You can sense the alcohol though it’s not really a heavy, pulling or dragging feeling. It persists as airy and free in spite of the early heat spikes. Should float on, through the skies for a decade or more. Classic finish of deep red cherry liqueur. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted February 2018

Lorenzo, Lisa and Serena Pacenti (c) Franco Pacenti

Franco Pacenti

The origins of the Piacenti Family – later transformed into Pacenti – of noble Tuscan lineage, date back to the 13th century: Muccio Piacenti, maternal grandfather of the famous Santa Caterina da Siena, Patroness of Italy and Europe, was among the most popular and well-known poets of his time. As early as 1400, the Canalicchio was an important centre of reference for the agricultural market of the Val di Suga. Rosildo Pacenti, born in 1924, son of a family of peasant origins, purchased the Canalicchio farm in 1962 and is one of Montalcino’s founders and part of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino’s forming in 1967. Franco Pacenti was born in 1958 and joined his father in the fields and then took over in 1988. Franco’s three children, Lisa, Serena and Lorenzo, the third generatio, are the lifeblood of the company. The company’s 10 hectares of vineyards face northeast at an altitude of 300m at the foot and to the east of the Montalcino hill.

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2015

The Franco Pacenti Brunello 2015 is an impressive beast. A sangiovese of hearty warmth, strength and openly fragrant but edgy red fruit. This is a vintage Brunello that takes a little risk, knows the fruit has transferred over the line into a world fully phenolic, then exposed to ultra violet light. There’s no hole to fill, no barrel to overwhelm and all the best attributes to gain. So promising and exceptional. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2014

Clear, transparent, honest and finessed. This is what you hope for from the 2014 Brunello. The clarity here is apparent from the get go, with fruit locked and shut tight beneath a reductive shell. Acids are succulent and far from sour, tannins pure, sweet and of the finest grain. Not about concentration because the vintage will resist allowing it. But this is made in the best possible way and will live a few decades or more. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2019

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Rosildo 2015

If the 2015 Annata from Franco Pacenti was the bomb then what does that make the Vigna Rosildo? Excuse my English but this Rosildo is the shit. The great shit. Grande. Rosildo fineness is that of regal sangiovese style. Acid, tannin, structure, all together seamless and hungry to integrate simpler parts, make them complex and whole. Here is what should and must be considered one of the wines of the vintage. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2020

Looking south towards Monte Amiata

Argiano

Wine cellar since 1580. With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The name is thought to derive from the first settlements in Roman times – ‘Ara Janus’, referring to the god Janus. Another potential origin could be ‘the land of the River Orcia’ – known in ancient times as ‘Orgia’ and therefore Argiano. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m.

Argiano practices an organic and sustainable method of agriculture. Since 2019 Argiano is the first company in Montalcino to become plastic-free. All single-use plastics have been eliminated. The team consists of CEO & Winemaker Bernardino Sani; Agronomist & COO Francesco Monari; Cellar master Adriano Bambagioni; Winemaking assistant Roberto Caporossi; and Sales Manager Riccardo Bogi.

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Argiano goes all in for this sumptuous and unctuous ’15 of fruit, earth and acids long, sharp, linear and long, Big expressive and chocolaty sangiovese with wood a major factor and structure a fact of the matter. All purpose Brunello and so bloody effective. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Argiano is expressive of a lovely herbal nose with blood orange and a little bit of sanguine personality. Typical vintage character done right, proper and well. Fleshy like a very ripe peach crossed with a tart red plum and certainly offers more of the it Brunello character than many or most in the field. A bit commercial for the house but understood of a vintage clarity and appreciated out of great necessity. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m. In 2013 a stolen vintage warmth is readily apparent on the nose, with a fine elemental streak through thick air willing and able to carry this sangiovese through its formative years. The palate and texture are next to brilliant with the great feeling of plush, silken tapestry, woven for complexity and thinking about the future. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2018

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

The vineyard down below is appositely named in apropos significance because the sentiment is high, lightning struck and quick as a whip. Crunchy and earthy fruit is ripe and near delirious, tripping the lights and adding fantasy to an already heady if effusive substance fantastic. So much going on in complex waves, severities and notions. Will transfer and oscillate, groove and titillate for a decade to come. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Casisano Estate

Tomassi – Casisano

The Casisano estate lies on a natural terrace at 480 meters above sea level, overlooking the south-eastern zone of the Montalcino region, eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle and facing the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. The soils are made up of sandstone rocks and schistous marl containing stones, clay, and tuff of volcanic origin. The estate covers an area of 53 hectares, of which 22 are vineyards and 8 are olive groves. Nine hectares are dedicated to the production of Brunello, seven hectares to Rosso, and the other six hectares to the Sant’ Antimo denomination. At a near 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. Casisano is entirely planted with Sangiovese Grosso and Colombaiolo is the Riserva Brunello, after the family purchased the estate in 2011, though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. The vineyard was planted in 1991 on a hectare and a half on the Sant’Angelo in Colle estate. 

The oenologists are Giancarlo Tommasi and Emiliano Falsini. Pierangelo Tommasi is the Executive Director of Tommasi Family Estates. He is one of nine members of the current fourth generation of this historic winemaking family, six of whom run the wine business and two of whom run hospitality. Pierangelo gets to work in Montalcino. Lucky guy.

Vineyards at Casisano

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

A lightning red fruit Brunello out of 2015 from Tommasi’s Casisano with tight acids and a lightness that allows for a breath of fresh Brunello air. A thriller this one, not a killer and blessed with ease of amenability. Tannins build with more strength then expected though ultimately speaking the heights are scaled early and no great amount of time is needed to make headway with this wine. Terrific first five years sangiovese, for food expected and wholly unexpected ways. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The Casisano Estate is found eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle, incidentally of population 204, as noted by a 2011 census. At 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. The Brunello developed here (like Ragnaie) turns out classic red clay and stone derived deep cherry liqueur but of a constitution and flavour unlike any other sangiovese on earth. It’s almost brambly and even a bit scorched. It’s rich, proper and righteous. Best of all, the best years still lay ahead. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March 2018

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

From Casisano in Sant’Angelo in Colle, to the south of the village. Tomassi’s Montalcino situation is another one of altitude and therefore a great choice of location from which to develop a strong and structured Brunello ideal. This ’12 is not unlike the ’13 but perhaps with a bit more hyperbole, at times of warmth and at others, elegance. It’s not completely sure of its position, but that is both a matter of vintage and still getting to know the lay of this land. The follow-up 2013 will continue to cement the altitude influence and the understanding of these exceptional vineyards. This ’12 is a great building block for the future of what will be one of the more storied cru in Brunello di Montalcino. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2018

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011

This Brunello organizer is the Tommasi family from Verona and their Montalcino foray. Though not the easist of the Brunello vintages this 2011 from Casisano takes what is given and delivers a classic rendition from traditional motives. There is some dried plum and fig fruit, slightly baked and certainly firm to match the tannic structure of the vintage. This will shrivel into dried goods, mushroom and balsamic territory before too long. Drink now for fresh results and later for a much more old school way. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colombaiolo 2013

From Tommasi this is only the third Riserva after the family purchased the estate in 2011, though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. The vineyard was planted in 1991 on a hectare and a half on the Sant’Angelo in Colle Casisano estate. The fruit is quite variegated, full and ripe. The acids are supportive, on the high-toned side and the tannins are really fine. A nice balance and a tri-symbiotic relationship exists between the three friends and in the end a structure of fine accord is managed. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

godello

Decades old Brunello di Montalcino

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WineAlign

Ready for a long-term relationship? Brunello di Montalcino Vigna and Riserva

 

A four vintage vertical look at age-worthy, single-vineyard and Riserva Brunello di Montalcino

These are the sangiovese the agronomist and the oenologist spend their most time with, from vineyard work, by grape ferments and through botti epochs that receive the most nurturing and care. Montalcino’s Vigna and Riserva will change a winemaker, either for better or for worse and they are also the ones that will stand the test of time. The question worth posing to these Montalcinese makers is why? What makes that vineyard block so special and for wines already aged longer than most, why go even longer, sometimes five years further in wood? What is the impetus for it being better to be a thinking monk than a post-modern thinker?

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

The answers may be forthcoming on Thursday, November 26, 2020 when I play host and moderator for the fourth of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “Ready for a long-term relationship? Brunello di Montalcino Vigna and Riserva” will travel back from 2015 to 2012 to see how vintage, elévage and specific vineyard blocks intertwine to create Brunello’s most structured sangiovese. The webinar will welcome winemaker Tomasso Cortonesi and his Cortonesi I Poggiarelli Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Francesca Bindocci with the Franceschi family’s and also her father’s (Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci) Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2014; Giorgio Masellis for Consorzio Vice-President Riccardo Talenti’s Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Pian di Conte 2013; Alessandra Angelini with hers and her mother Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini’s Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino Vigna La Casa 2012.

The hill that is Montalcino. The look that is Godello. The argilo of the northern vineyards #tuttoèpossibile

Vigna or cru wines have increasingly become the most talked about sangiovese within the trilogy comprised of Brunello, Vigna and Riserva. They are the territory’s answer to any question that prods or provokes a discussion regarding sub-zones and menzione geografica, a.k.a. MGAs. Chianti Classico as an example is delineated by eight communes and while the system is far from perfect, thinking about sub-zones by commune is a natural way to divide up the territory. Montalcino is really one entity and not all that large a zone as a whole. There are villages and hamlets scattered about and within but to say that all the vineyards in and around say Sant’Angelo in Colle produce Brunello with similar characteristics is just not possible. It would be like saying all Champagne made near Mesnil-sur-Oger should be classified together but it can’t be done and that is why Champagne opts for Premier Cru and Grand Cru designations. But Montalcino is not in need of any new or imagined such rankings. What would it offer the community as a whole that it does not already have?

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

The regulations governing wine production dictate that the maximum production of grapes per hectare must be less than eight tons per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine). It also dictates the date of the wine being released onto the market, which is January 1st of the fifth year after harvesting. During this long period, the wine must spend at least two years in wooden barrels and age at least four months in the bottle. The Riserva wine must age at least six months in the bottle and is released a year later onto the market. To many Montalcino winemakers Riserva translates to “I’ll simply rack the wine from barrel and bottle it when ready.” In some cases that means releasing a Riserva in the seventh or eighth year, perhaps even further after harvesting.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

I recently asked a gaggle of Montalcino producers the pressing question on elévage.

How or why did 12 or 24 months, or in rare cases, 60-plus months further become the defined reason for how to make and qualify Riserva?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “We release our Riserva 60 months later than our Regular Brunello because I believe it helps the wine to get a stronger identity from Brunello showing a better balance and more complexity. Brunello Riserva, it’s not the wine that you want to drink young, in this way you really can’t.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “As a philosophy we do not exceed 36/40 months of aging for the Riservas and we do not produce the Riserva every year, but only in vintages that we believe have high aging potential, making a selection of barrels from the vineyards around the company positioned at 400 meters.”

Elisa Fanti – Tenuta Fanti: “The Riserva is a selection of the best Sangiovese in the vineyard. This Sangiovese, in the beautiful vintage, probably has a big structure, complexity and acidity and it is necessary for more time of aging (in the oak or in the bottle), to have an important wine with all its aromatics feature well integrated.”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “In my opinion any true Brunello is at his best between eight and 20 years, it is due to the peculiar character of the Montalcino Sangiovese grapes.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “I am not a big Riserva guy, I keep all my wines three years in barrel and I think it’s enough. I much rather prefer single vineyard expression, I keep my best sites for single vineyards. Lately I prefer colder vintages. Warm vintages are too extreme and the wines are not that interesting.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “When my father arrived at Col d’Orcia in 1973 he found wine in the large barrels dating back to vintage 1968 (60 month). This was the tradition in Montalcino and still is the practice at Col d’Orcia when a vintage requires it.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “The Brunello Riserva is born in the vineyard, not in the cellar. The clusters must have grapes that are very small, perfect in health and with thin skins. In other words we cannot produce Riserva with just any old cluster of Sangiovese. For this reason the amount of Brunello Riserva we make increases or diminishes, and so aggravates my sales office. Obviously the perfect grapes create wines that need a longer stay in barrel and then in bottle.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “We do not produce Riserva, our Brunelli at most spend 42 months in wood. Brunello Cerretalto comes out in the sixth year but with twelve more months raised in the bottle.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “Sangiovese is a very finicky grape that is really tied to the climatic conditions of the vintage, every so often in great vintages its power and abundance can withstand additional ageing in oak, large or small, and most producers tend to go to bottle sooner in order to avoid keeping the wine in stainless steel or wood for too long.  Usually it’s a barrel selection and when tasting the wines it is apparent when you can make a Riserva without cannibalizing your “Vigna” and without over-oaking and oxidizing the wine. Therefore normally only the very best and most balanced and structured fruit can give way to a Riserva.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “The oak is not an ingredient. It’s a kneading for the wine.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “The Production Requirements ask for 24 months minimum for Brunello Riserva, but many wineries do a much longer wood aging. We do 48 months in large barrels and our Brunello Riserva is only produced in the best vintages from our oldest vineyard in La Mannella.”

Cortonesi and Cortonesi

Cortonesi

Cortonesi’s estate base is at La Mannella, down on the flats just below and to the northeast of the Montalcino hill. Tommaso Cortonesi also farms a second block, the single-vineyard sangiovese I Poggiarelli from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation quite near to Biondi-Santi.

Tommaso Cortonesi is a young superstar full of spirit who knows and understands the beauty and enchantment of wine. Sangiovese that gives you the feeling of having come through a storm because of simple wines that make you happy with the present moment. Also complex wines of great functionality, pragmatism and all due to great work ethic. Tommaso completed his tenure as a Vice-President of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino but just watch his father pumping juice at dusk in October and you will understand all there is to know about this family and their dedication to Montalcino. The future is here, in these hands, with great humility, ethos and promise.

With Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Tommaso Cortonesi’s Rosso ’18 is pure La Mannella, expressly northeasterly Montalcino and bright as a February Benvenuto Brunello day. Crunchy and raised with all the land caught inside, the fruit expressive and elastic, the finish blessed with just a few years notability by structure. Promising and effective, proper and precise. Still showing some wood so wait a year. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Lovely aromatics, sexy and spicy, plenty of spice cupboard, herbs and flowers. Smell the argileux and the small rocks littering the vineyards. Tells a story of place so succinctly and what’s coming over the next few years. Sweet acids balance and foil drying tannins for classically trained and executed Rosso. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Not simply freshness but unction, fruit culpability and basic perfection. The young vines of five years are just now coming into their speciality, that being quality fruit meeting and melting into more than a modicum of grip and structure. You could pour this Rosso for young Brunello seekers and old Rosso knowers. It will solicit and win over their collective hearts.  Last tasted October 2019

#tommaso @cortonesi_wine @brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2015 Brunello is a ruby-red, spice studded star in 2015, high-toned and so very expressive. What spice oh my, what tripping fantastic light across the tongue and so very taut in its youth. Intensity does not begin to explain the freshness and the youthful nature of its being. Need to revisit La Mannella in one year and the 2015 sangiovese it has gifted in five years or so.  Last tasted February 2020

I’d like to say the tannins on 2015 Annata are sneaky but they are so much more than that. These are grippy, layered and nearly formidable tannins. Good thing the easy, generous and lush fruit is somehow capable of defending itself. Boom this is one of Tommaso Cortonesi’s most accomplished Annata and more capable of aging than even he would probably have guessed he was making. Power and beauty. This is that and more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Like the same vintage Rosso the Brunello is showing with perked up freshness and almost no development. Slavonian oak and just the right amount of time has elevated the game and brought all the parts into line. There’s fresh porcini in this moment so no matter that Tommaso found none on a quick forage today. Good earth and crunch from in depth older vines construction and very impressive length. Fine quality for 2014 from a producer to look for when adversity tests your mettle.  Last tasted October 2019

Cortonesi works through the challenge with a sangiovese in 2014 that finds critical mass and therefore celebrates la vita bella in Brunello. With no reason to choose a Vigna-designate nor a Riserva to produce, the best of the best therefore finds its way into this eponymous family Brunello. It’s equipped with notable vintage fruit, finer acids than many and a tannic structure that is not only correct but highly promising. Lengthiness is one of the best in the vintage. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The vintage posed more than one problem but success has been won by the Montalcino producer who after the heat waited out the rain, followed by a few weeks of settling and thus allowed their grapes to complete the phenolic journey. Case in point Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2013, a modern, many steps forward taken Brunello with little to no fear of a world hard to figure. It remains calm and focused in light of the challenging vintage. The fruit is intensely driven, the acidity equally so and the finale a continuance of linger in the face of great tension and demand. A northern location and an expertly farmed estate block (as opposed to single-vineyard) is the catalyst to this ’13’s success. The composure and details of minutiae acquiesced add up to a fine effort, not presently a matter of delicasse but certainly a result that is sure and exacting. This will be one of those fortunate Brunelli built to outlast a bigger group conjoined by jammy fruit, green tannin and astringency. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2015

Skipping straight pass and over the sunless, tenebrous and obscured 2014 vintage it is this Tommaso Cortonesi 2015 I Poggiarelli that rises from the vineyard looking up the Montalcino hill to the southeastern side. Te offer is an ulterior one, an expression in contrast to what comes from northerly La Mannella. Warmer, fuller and without question more precise. Cortonesi has used the tools available to provide it a bigger architectural frame and the flesh of this vineyard dutifully abides, bedecking the incrustation of the facade and adorning the fills of the interior. Quite structured and yet fully fleshy of 2015 density and weight. Impressive stuff from Tommaso. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2013

Tommaso Cortonesi’s Brunello from a single-vineyard at 420m hails from the southeast section of Montalcino. Warmth is not the only advantage/alternative to growing conditions but also soil which is rocky and rich in marl, as opposed to the clay-sandstone earth of the northern vineyards. The expectation persists for richer, deeper and darker, at least in terms of fruit. There is in fact this aphasic maroon sensation felt at the heart of the Poggiarelli matter. The rocks are so important to the southern vines, notably Galestro because it streaks through the tenebrous dimension with a clarity of cool savour. Power is kept in tow so that notes in mind of things like svelte and grace are given due consideration. This southern slice shows Tommaso’s specific mentality, as will the other, but here it’s one of care and precision. Poggiarelli as a cru is not La Mannella, but they are inextricably tied together by their one maker. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012

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

#Repost @nicholaspearcewines (@get_repost) ・・・ Serious Brunello talk going down #therealmontalcino #cortonesimontalcino @mgodello @marcora85 @barquebbq @brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

La Mannella Riserva ’12 is composed of grapes taken from the oldest vines though by a predetermined decision communicated to the consorzio one year before release, whether it turns out to be a vintage from which a Riserva is made or not. This is an essential rule that prohibits producers from not giving a wine an identity. Riserva is a completely different wine than the Annata, as always with more mature notes though here in salumi hyperbole, long aging oak spice and fruit elongation. Cortonesi’s spent four years in large Slavonian oak barrels and at this five point five year mark it turns to wild strawberry, chocolate and cocoa. It’s both elegant and taut while just now beginning to stretch its legs. Even if you can’t quite imagine or envision what will be, there has to be some level of blind-spotting or just plain denial to not see this is as pure magic. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted March 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010

Now talking post-aggressive behaviour in Riserva not yet advanced ahead of time. There are secondary aromatic hints but the tannins remain in tact, charged and controlling. There’s a circular motion happening hear as fruit and acidity whirl around, outrunning the tannins or at least attempting to. All the sweet things that grow wild and are picked to accent your braises are swirled into the aromatic potpourri of this fine sangiovese of whispers, shadows and silhouettes. It’s a chiaroscuro of a Brunello, all in and we are in turn fully engaged.  Last tasted October 2019

Il Poggione

The story of Tenuta Il Poggione began at the end of the 19th century when Lavinio Franceschi, a landowner from Scandicci, near Florence decided to purchase the estate. Today Tenuta Il Poggione is one of Montalcino’s largest wineries covering an area of 600 hectares, of which 125 hectares are planted with vines. The vineyards are at an altitude between 150 and 450 metres, including Vigna Paganelli, planted in 1964, benefitting from the proximity of Mount Amiata and the Tyyrhenian Sea. Lavinio’s work was carried on through Leopoldo and Livia, followed by current generation Leopoldo Franceschi. In Montalcino Il Poggione is synonymous with the hilltop hamlet of Sant’Angelo in Colle and Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci is arguably the “King of Sant’Angelo in Colle.” Since 1999, Bindocci has been General Manager of the Franceschi family’s Il Poggione, for which he has worked since 1976. He was elected in the spring of 2019 and will serve in the position through 2021. Bindocci believes in focusing on and investing in the younger generation.

With Christopher Sealy, Alo Restaurant and Fabrizio Bindocci, President of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Top quality reach in expertly crafted ubiquity makes this a Rosso from the brightly lit vintage for all to explore. Take this road oft taken and use it to gain understanding of the DOC, the village and the ways of local sangiovese. High toned, generously oak spiced and really transparent. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

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

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Il Poggione’s tells a Brunello vendemmia tale, in delivery of that vintage’s generous fruit, followed by a generosity of barrel and all the spice it can carry forward. High constituent parts, syncopated for possibility and most likely, probability. That says age will not catch up to a wine of great health because it was taken care of and will continue to take care of itself. You should pay it the same respect. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

This is found to be a dense, compressed and intense sangiovese and as a result the tannins are quite formidable at this youthful early stage of its evolution. Nothing says strutura like this angular and impressive Brunello but anything less than five years of patience will do little to offer an immediate or near-term reward. Plus the necessity for fruit longevity is part of the package of hope. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018

Talenti

Talenti

“Everything starts from the Pian di Conte estate.” That is where Pierluigi Talenti moved from Romagna to set up shop. Today, his grandson Riccardo Talenti runs the winery and continues to tirelessly research so that he can make some of Montalcino’s most important sangiovese. “Pian di Conte” is a stone’s thrown from Sant’Angelo in Colle, on the southern slope of the Montalcino hill and occupies a total of 40 hectares. The vineyards are divided into eleven different plots, each with different altitude, exposure and soil composition.

Talenti’s Brunello and Rosso come from vines in Sant’Angelo in Colle and Castelnuovo dell’Abate, a selection of sangiovese grown in estate-owned vineyards situated on the south-easterly and south-westerly slopes of the municipality of Montalcino, at altitudes carrying from 250 to 400 metres above sea level. The Brunelli spend over two years ageing in fine Allier and Slavonian oak. Pian del Conte is a Riserva from the oldest vineyards, near the centre of the estate (400m above sea level) and only made in exceptional years. Selezione Piero comes from two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate dedicated to the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti.

With Riccardo Talenti

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Riccardo Talenti’s Brunello is always a combinative, bringing together of double entendre ideals in the name of achieving the great estate balance. Fruit for the sangiovese comes from vineyards both southwest and southeast of Montalcino, aging is done 60-40 in 500L tonneaux and grandi botti of French and Slavonian oak. The vintage that does it all, a largesse of fresh fruit, the earth liquified in sand, clay, Galestro mineral and finally, the most stretched and generous tannin imaginable. The pinnacle and epitome of professionally executed high quality Brunello that never abandons its sense of place. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Here comes a sangiovese with swagger and confidence born and bred out of understanding and finesse. Sweet rose and violet candied floral fruit gives way to a caressing palate of fine acids and some of the vintage’s finer tannin. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Talenti’s Annata comes from vineyards in the area of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and like the Rosso but 10 times more concentrated and focused this is sangiovese of a most intense aromatic, flavourful and textured liqueur. Cherries never came swelling and macerating so succinctly pure and fascinating as they do here, taking every advantage of vintage and how it works in conjunction with place. This is what happens when vines spend long hours in an arid yet humid place to develop grapes for the purpose of variegation and structure. The layers will take two years to peel away and expose the true character, followed by five more for a classic transparency of expression. Talent’s 2013 builds like a jet engine preparing the craft for take-off. The two years will pass and you’ll then feel the angle skywards while you press back in your seat. This is the effect created by truly tactile Brunello. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted March 2018

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2015

A Sant’Angelo in Colle viilage treasure is this Riserva made from fruit grown on estate vines at 400m just northwest of the administrative frazione. There is so much wine, substance and intensity at play in this near massive 2015. It is one with a soft core in its heart and so you can imagine the elasticity, nimble agility and the incredible length that will be the matter when the time comes to right. That fruition is at least five if not to be 10 years away. So much fruit from which tonneaux, grandi botti and variegated soils support the idea. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2013

A Sant’Angelo in Colle treasure is this Riserva made from fruit grown at 400m nearby. One year later the fruit just seems to rise, swell and flesh with great fervour.  Last tasted February 2020

Pian di Conte is only made in the worthiest of years from a select curation of grapes, much like Piero that comes off of 20-plus year-old vines out of two highly specific blocks on 20 hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. At 400m of altitude it is the special vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. The ’13 Riserva exhibits that combination of wise and stylish, a well-dressed and seasoned veteran Brunello with expertise born of talent and ethic. The acids are some of the most succulent for 2013 Riserva, surrounding, lifting and extolling the virtues of a well-executed harvest. The texture meets the architecture in a seamless transition though not without that notable crossroads of tension-welling acidity and tannin. Impressive wine. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2019

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2012

Two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate are dedicated to the the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Pian di Conte is only made in years deemed worthy of carefully selected grapes from 20-plus year-old vines out of this highly specific, 400m of altitude micro-climate block. It’s a wow Riserva from 2012, perfumed with classic extra time in barrel that Annata Brunello only seems to reach. Notes like dark berries, pipe smoulder and rich ganache, the 2012 is already showing some maturity signs of integration. It’s a fineness of tart dark citrus styled-sangiovese wrapped so tightly around the structure’s finger, indelibly inked, modern and with all parts fine-tuned in synchronicity. Riservas will often sting until they pass at least a ten-year mark but Talenti’s croons romantically with stand-up base note ease. For Montalcino it’s a hit of the vintage and to it I can safely say “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.”  Drink 2020-2030. Tasted March 2018

Vigna La Casa, Montalcino

Caparzo

Caparzo is located in the north of Montalcino where you can find the famous Montosoli hill and cru and is owned by Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini. The Caparzo Brunello is the label with the signature of Elisabetta Gnudi, an anniversary wine that spends three years in botti grandi. From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino is the single-vineyard La Casa, true ambasciatore of Caparzo’s Galestro-dominant terroir and residing next to sister Vigna Brunello Montosoli which is bottled under the Altesino label. 

Elisabetta’s daughter Alessandra Angelini earned her undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from La Sapienza University in Romeand participated in research projects designing Formula 1 cars and racing dinghies. In 2013, she began working for Rolls Royce North America designing airplane engines. In 2008 she was a member of the Italian Olympic Sailing team. She returned to the family business of wine and hospitality in 2017.

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Though the fruit source is an amalgamation of Montalcino in a multi-disparate form you can’t help but feel or at least sense the Galestro of Montosoli young vines making their way into this Rosso. Wet stone, crumbled earth’s elements and a crust of decomposition meets the cherries head on for a salty and sharp sangiovese. Really proper wine here. You know it, I know it, they will know it. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

As in the Caparzo 2015 in Brunello the fruit bounds forward with red juiciness that Rosso di Montalcino raised in Grandi Botti will do from a gathering of fruit wide ranging in scope. Once again the vivid and bright acidity takes on citrus and sweet herbs but there’s a darker feel to this 2016. Raised on promises perhaps but after all, she was, a Montalcino girl. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted October 2019

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 

Caparzo is surely driven by the wood it spends quality time in getting to know and the material sent to those barrels is up to the mixing and swirling task. You understand this fruit and its dark cherry upbringing. You inuit the way vessels work through the pores while acidity flushes and raises the level of ability. Finally you get to know these sweet tannic grains and chains that work magic for the fruit. Will all come together soon, or at least sooner than many vintages. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Caparzo’s is blessed with a sweet aromatic perfume, at once exotic but also different. At first it’s almost as if it strikes like riesling with botrytis-affected fruit notes but no, it’s more about flowers and fruit on the ripe side of life. The fruit is drawn from a few Montalcino poles but the southern blocks are what try hardest to keep it balanced. In the end it’s highly consumable, commercial and drinkable. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The Caparzo Brunello 2013 is the label with the signature of Elisabetta Gnudi, a celebratory anniversary wine that spent three years in botti grandi. Caparzo’s Classic sangiovese gathers fruit from several sources, including the northern vineyard where La Casa is borne. This deep inhalant and liqueur also delves into earthly sand, Galestro and clay microbes in which earth and fruit challenge the notion of complexity and to which direction it pulls the senses. The earthy funk sifted though black cherry rich and always fresh and elegant fruit assumptions tells us this is part of the vintage package. High acidity into slightly volatile air confirms and eventually carries the visa to conform. Drying tannins are not a huge surprise considering the pressing matters of this wine. The low alcohol, easy to access, fresh and fleshy sangiovese carries a feeling, final and calm. Lovely wine. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2018

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2015

The ripeness of La Casa in 2015 is at the precipice if not the next step where denouement begins in descent. The aromas are quite fine and discreet while the flavours pool in a deep well of full on berry and plum, dusty and of a twinge that’s Ribena in twangy tang. It is what it is, this version of gregarious 2015, seemingly easy and generous but the pick was all you had. Great La Casa is spot on. This one misses by a hair. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2013

Tasting Caparzo’s home block Vigna La Casa 2013 this young may be even more difficult an assessment than looking at 2012 this time last year. But if noting what a year further in bottle did for that 2012 than some plenitude must be afforded the more confounding 2013. From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, La Casa sits next to sister Montosoli (Altesino) and its pure fruit doles out high-level Montalcino elegance and in more ways than the normale Caparzo. It also behaves with more calm and collected demeanour. Though reduced with early bite and taut finings this is clearly a very refined Caparzo for the people. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2012

From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, quicker to amalgamate and settle than many in the region, the ’12 single-vineyard La Casa is a true ambasciatore of Caparzo terroir, rich and regaling but lithe and elegant. If you are trying to gain an understanding of the Caparzo way this is the place to start, in 2012, from a living, breathing Vigna, out of the storied vineyard. Perfume and finesse are special and this is how it’s done, without pretension and with class. So much to learn from an extra year in bottle. Drink 2019-2026.  Last tasted February 2018

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

Good to go!

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WineAlign

What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

Culturally speaking Rosso di Montalcino is the most important wine: It’s what the Montalcinese drink daily

It’s a Monday night, a winemaker’s night off. There is work to be done in the morning so it wouldn’t be prudent to drink anything heavy or expensive. What to open? The answer is obvious and easy. Rosso di Montalcino. More than one Montalcino winemaker has used the phrase “it’s what we like to drink” and just as many will tell you that Rosso must reflect sangiovese’s character more than any other wine. What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market. On Monday, November 23, 2020 I will play host and moderator for the third of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino” will celebrate the region’s young sangiovese. The webinar will welcome winemaker and Consorzio Vice-President Giacomo Bartolommei with his Caprili Rosso 2018; Brunello, Montepulciano and Chianti Classico producer Antonio Michael Zaccheo Jr. and his Carpineto Rosso 2016; Robin Shay of San Polo with their Rosso 2017; and for comparison, Alessandra Angelini be will showing her Altesino Brunello 2015.

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

#torrecampanaria

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the GalestroArenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. Montalcino. Village at 564 metres above sea level and many vineyards reside at a similar altitude. Plots, blocks and Italy’s most famous village overlooking great swaths of rolling valleys; Asso, Orcia, Arbia, Ombrone. The first known wine label dates back to the 1800s and the DOC was recognized in 1966. Brunello was afforded DOCG status in 1980, Italy’s first, followed by Rosso as a DOC in 1984.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

 

What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market

 

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Brunello’s maximum yields are eight tonnes per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine) and the aging requirement is five years (six for Riserva), of which two must be in oak barrels, followed by four months in bottle. It may be introduced to market on January 1st of the 5th year after harvest (January 1st of the 6th year for Riserva). Rosso’s maximum yields are nine tonnes per hectare and it may be introduced to market on September 1st of the year after harvest. There are nine million bottles of Brunello and half that of Rosso produced on average each year. More than a quarter are certified organic and/or biodynamic and that is double as compared to just five years ago. Seventy per cent of the wines are exported. Current vintages on the market are 2015 for Brunello, 2018 for Rosso.

The most fascinating thing about Rosso di Montalcino is that every producer has a unique philosophy and a personal relationship with the appellative wine. To some it persists in the old-school way, that is to think of it as a “baby Brunello,” or second wine, if you will. The days of Rosso being considered only in this way are long past. The baby Brunello concept now acquiesces to the notion of Rosso strictly made for Rosso, with great purpose and also meaning. There are some Rosso that really need to be considered and assessed just as you would Brunello and it is only where such structured sangiovese fit relative to the estate’s other Brunello that need qualify it as Rosso. In today’s Montalcino one’s Rosso is another’s Brunello. It’s now more than ever a matter of location, soil and altitude.

Rosso can refer to the sangiovese berries themselves, meaning the winemaker will pick the largest for Rosso, the medium berries for Brunello and the smallest ones for Riserva. Others will designate vineyards to the Rosso, or plant new ones and use the youngest fruit. Still there will be some who pass through all their vines and designate specific blocks, referring to it and even labelling it as a cru. Finally there are some who wait and craft Rosso in the cellar, after the fruit has come in and been pressed. There are many ways to skin a Rosso but these days it is always a wine treated with respect. In terms of elévage, Rosso will more likely than not be raised in big barrels but not the Grandi Botti often used for the Brunello. As for vine age it seems the sweet spot is between 15 and 20 years.

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

What about Rosso vintages?

2018: A vintage from which acceptance is required, to seek pleasure only, not to look too deep into the future. The kind of tart and tang on cherry and more cherry is what you want from sangiovese meant for the table each and every night. Freshness and youthfulness is a beautiful thing. The wildcard of 2018 is sprezzatura, which translates as contempt but refers to Rosso with old school structure and texture in defiance to the average or general lightness of vintage. Some 2018 Rosso just have that disregard for normal.

2017: The driest and hottest of vintages and so making really high quality Rosso was like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill. If you did it a day late you were likely going to come up a dollar short. If you got it right you made great wine with surprising structure. Advice to Sommeliers? Don’t miss out on selling Rosso from 2017.

2016: These are Rosso for Rosso sake, discriminant, linear, and vertical. If Rosso can be spiritual they would be these, poignant and so good. In 2016 these are the acids of Montalcino and the depth of earth which holds you firm in the face of a fluent perfume. What you need to know and what you want to drink. Rosso in 2016 should be crispy and crunchy with juicy fruit in the savoury candy way up against high and ripe acids. When this happens the best of the 2016 Rosso can live for a dozen years.

2015: 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. I have tasted several 2010 Rosso in the last year and their remarkable freshness shows just how long they can go.

Altesino

Altesino

Located in the north of Montalcino where you can find the famous Montosoli hill and cru. Giulio Consonno purchased the property in 1970 and Altesino became part of the new Brunello revolution as one of a handful of Brunello producers who pushed for increased quality through the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 2002, the winery changed hands with new owner Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini taking over, adding to Tenuta Caparzo she owned nearby, also to the north of Montalcino. There are approximately 44 acres under vines and 220, 000 annual bottles produced under the winemaking team led by Simone Giunti and Alessandro Ciacci. Altesino is responsbile for not merely introducing but successfully marketing one of Montalcino’s most famous cru wines, Montosoli Brunello, named after the sought after vineyard. Rosso di Montalcino is a selection of sangiovese sourced from the younger vines in the Altesino, Pianezzine, Macina, and Castelnuovo dell’Abate vineyards. North and south combine for an estate Rosso.

Alessandra Angelini earned her undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from La Sapienza University in Romeand participated in research projects designing Formula 1 cars and racing dinghies. In 2013, she began working for Rolls Royce North America designing airplane engines. In 2008 she was a member of the Italian Olympic Sailing team. She returned to the family business of wine and hospitality in 2017.

Emotional tasting through #altesino & @caparzowines with #elisabettagnudiangelini #brunellodimontalcino #montosoli #vignalacasa

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Altesino’s is consistently rich and baritone for Rosso, even in light ’18 and gone in all for one with not much left to the imagination. An amenable, commercial and viable proposition for anyone and everyone to take part. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Generally aged right to 10 months is large Slavonian oak barrels. Takes off straight from where 2015 left us, that is to say from fruit and into more fruit, of sangiovese in wild berry form, expected and imagined. Exactitude from winemaker Alessandro Ciacci, polished, crunchy and then more tannic as a vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

Certainly richer and deeper than cousin Caparzo but really just a different child for Elisabetta Gnudi and just as important in its own right. This Altesino Rosso exhibits the ’15 freshness but with a year further under wing it has settled and added some weight, albeit in liquidity, sweet, viscous liquidity. So much joy here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Very polished and made Brunello with a wealth of statuesque parts sculpted out of the high level materials presented the team that crafts this wine. Speaks to a very broad swath of place and a perfectly good drink of consumer appeal.  Last tasted February 2020

From the vintage where agriculture, winemaking and now selling came and will come easy so you can expect the warm, fuzzy, generous and soft. Perhaps too straightforward to be what the powers that be call a five-star vintage but if Brunello is what you want or even what you think you need then begin or continue the journey right here. Very berry, ultra liquorice and über morbido. Soft, amenable and unencumbered. Positive but certainly not overbearing structure. A now and through mid-term years drinking Annata. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2019

Caprili

Caprili is located in the southwestern sector of Montalcino near the small village of Tavernelle. The podere dates back to 1965 after Alfo and his father Alberto Bartolommei decided to buy the property from the Castelli-Martinozzi family and split from the famous Pieve Santa Restituta estate. Alfo’s family originated from Podere Marzolo in the Municipality of Cinigiano (Province of Grosseto). In the same year they planted the first vineyard, still called “Madre” and their first bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from the 1978 harvest was put on the market in 1983. In 1997,  Alfo’s children Manuele, Paolo and Paola took charge of the estate.

Fast forward another couple of generations and 23 further years to arrive in the world of current owner and winemaker Giacomo Bartolommei who is also one of three incumbent Vice-Presidents of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Giacomo’s first actual vintage of Brunello was 2010 though he had been active in the family business for many years prior. 

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Caprili is quite tense, nervous, unable to relax. It pulses with acidity and tannin, structure is certain and intensity over the moon. Welcome to one side of the tracks, the one without compromise and where Brunello is Brunello and over on the other side sangiovese is sangiovese. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

 

Carpineto

Carpineto Appodati comprises five Tuscan estates; Dudda and Gaville (Greve in Chianti), Montepulciano, Montalcino and Gavorrano (Maremma). No less than 28 different wines are produced off of the five properties and while their Vino Nobile sangiovese from Montepulciano have garnered the most international accolades, it is the Rosso and Brunello that concerns us most today. After all, as noted by Antonio Michael Zaccheo, Carpineto brings “la Toscana e i suoi vini magliori” to the world.

Carpineto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Carpineto’s 2016 comes from higher (450-500m) elevation than many, is aged longer (three years in large oak barrels) and so 2020 is just about the perfect time to enjoy its charms. This 100 per cent sangiovese off of marl and clay was picked into October and it so dutifully expresses the appellation, grape and territory. The all in fulsome red cherry is now joined by a silkiness of texture because the calcaire and the wood have softened, liquified and swirled right through the fruit. A fresh one from a structured vintage and put succinctly into that five to six years Rosso di Montalcino aging window. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February and November 2020

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Carpineto and proprietor Antonio Zaccheo Jr. produce 28 Tuscan labels on five Tuscan estates; Dudda and Gaville (Greve in Chianti Classico), Montepulciano, Montalcino and Gavorrano (Maremma). The Montalcino property is at 450m on a ridge just on the southwest corner to outskirts of the hilltop village. For 2014 it continues to swim in deep, dark and ripe waters but there is an ethereal coolness here and as such makes this a real winner for the season. Just entering an optimum window now it would be hard to figure any reason not to make this a go-to Brunello for the 20/21 and 21/22 winters. Smooth in all ways, most notably the palate and the ganache of chocolate across the finish. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted August 2020

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Carpineto’s is not just an exemplary 2012, it’s a bloody delicious one. The aromatics are pure vintage-related, of the deeper than many (darkening to black) cherry liqueur and the liquid dusty pearls of all things Montalcino sangiovese fruit, acidity and tannin. A very balanced Brunello in all regards, ready to be enjoyed and blessed with structure for five years (plus) moving forward. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Poggio San Polo

San Polo

Poggio San Polo was tarted in 2005 and is situated in Podernovi, on the southeastern slope of the Montalcino hill above the valley of Sant’Antimo with Mount Amiata looming to the south. The locals call this area a “Mezzopane,” meaning that to admire the beautiful view is to ‘take one’s fill’, like food for the soul. Two years later 2007 marked the beginning of the new era for San Polo and the Allegrini family, one of Veneto and Valpolicella’s most famous names in Fumane. The Estate is composed of two holdings: San Polo, planted in 1990 and Monteluc, planted more recently with a density of 7,000 vines/hectare, for a total of 22 hectares, The first winery in Tuscany and the second in the world to have earned the Quality Seal from the CasaClima Wine Certification. CasaClima Wine is a Quality Seal issued by the Bolzano-based agency, created to provide objective, credible evidence of the efforts made by wineries towards achieving more careful management of their business and to assess the environmental compatibility of winery buildings, comfort and suitability of work spaces, consumption of energy and water in the production of wines, choice of packaging materials, as well as the impact of transport.

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

San Polo’s Rosso grows at 400m so it speaks in a high elevation appellative voice. The wine is usually the Allegrini estate’s most floral and mineral expression of sangiovese grosso but then along comes this 2017 vintage. The usual bracing acidity is there but a tripling of warmth is the result of hot ’17, southern vineyard fruit and southern exposure. San Polo dry farms which only accentuates the atypical profile. Most accumulation ever, at least in recent times when it comes to richness, extract and colour. Not a baby Brunello but structure and power are truly there. That said its best years will be the first so get at it and defend the cellar. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February and November 2020

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Lovely sweet candied rose and herbal nose to this sangiovese and for the first time some reduction. Quite intense, locked down, massive and working for a living. Give some credit to this wine. It will settle into a lovely place in a few years time. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The vintage is a terrific one for San Polo, transparent in its fruit clarity, inflective of warm south Montalcino vineyards. Località Podernovi is found on the southern slope with Mount Amiata acting as the mitigator for winds whipping in from the sea. The vintage was not a scorcher and how this walks a neither hot nor cold line is how it finds its grace. The fruit and acids are both of the appetizing and epicurean kind, equally opposing and nicely in synch. Lovely freshness to this Brunello. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2019

Good to go!

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Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

La Fortezza di Montalcino

VIP tickets to taste four Brunello di Montalcino from the acclaimed 2015 vintage

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020 I will play host and moderator for the second of six online seminars covering the entirety of Montalcino, joined by 25 producers and their exceptional wines. “Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino” welcomes Winemaker Francesca Arquint with her Collemattoni Brunello 2015, Oenologist and Proprietor Hayo Loacker and his Corte Pavone Brunello 2015, Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini with Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello 2015 and oenologist Stefano Tofanelli pouring his Il Grappolo Brunello 2015 Sassochetto.

Related – Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials: 40 years of Brunello di Montalcino DOCG

Montalcino, looking east

The Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino have for decades been recognized as residing in the premium realm of Europe’s finest red wines. You might think that a territory with such rich history, iconic figures, foremothers, forefathers and next generation figureheads would be content to rest on laurels and see little need to fix something that isn’t broken. Not so and while the new or next era of wine producers are certainly the obvious catalyst for exacting evolution, if at times gentle revolution, the answers run deeper and the interconnectivity with the past is well, unavoidable. I’m not a clairvoyant. If nothing out of the ordinary happened or presented itself I’d still see things the way everyone else does, or sees. In that sense I am the epitome of the boring writer. But I am a most fortunate writer because I travel a considerable amount. My game can’t help but to be elevated with the knowledge that a confident Montalcino is once again passing through a portal into a time of re-invention. I am trying to get to the source of what in recent years has been the impetus for a more than discreet across the board profound rise in quality.

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Benvenuto Brunello 2020

The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino vintage

This return to an unequivocally and universally declared vintage of prominence for Brunello in one of both quantity and quality. It has been described as one “made by God,” that is to say all a winemaker had to do was not screw things up. Pundits and critics can’t help but try to break Montalcinio apart by affirming that one area or sub-zone is better than another. What ’15 does is level the playing field and remind us all that the whole is far more profound than any single part. The vintage is one of those automatic ones, marketing itself due to so many good wines having been made. A very good one for business while delivering high quality and most importantly without having caused any undue stress, especially relative to 2014. Despite lockdowns and pandemic related complications many Montalcino estates have pre-sold much of their 2015 Brunello. Will it be one of the longer lived in Brunello lore? Does it compare to let’s say 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007 and 2010? Best that we allow the producers to address that question. What I can say is that the 2015 Brunelli speak to the wounded zeitgeist of our current situation with a knife that cuts straight through to the matter. They are sangiovese of purity, eloquence, accuracy and power.

These are some more comments I have made about 2015:

“A vintage of classic Brunello colour and the dichotomous relationship that bridges power and drinkability.”

“There is a perfume about 2015, a ripe cherry that stands apart.”

“The vintage question is far from a concern with respect to ripeness and a far more important consideration is more about the management of extraction, wood and acidity.”

“The come and get me vintage but don’t be misled, distracted or misunderstood. There are sneaky tannins everywhere.”

“In 2015, inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize the sangiovese from Montalcino.”

Collematoni

Collemattoni is the name of the podere in southern Montalcino dating back to 1672, very close to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle. Giuseppe Bucci was the first Bucci,  a.k.a. Zappaterra, “the digger,” but there are some other possible meanings that might not exactly make it the most flattering of nicknames. The amazing thing about Montalcino’s oldest families is how they don’t sugar coat their ancestry. Sinners and saints are all remembered as they were. Marcello Bucci is the current generation, son of Ado and Vera, who in the mid-1980s decided to start bottling their own wine. Marcello is responsible for having created what is today Collematoni, an organic company in Montalcino.

The wines are made from 11 hectares of estate-owned vineyards, divided into five areas (Collemattoni, Fontelontano, Sesta, Cava and Orcia) for an average production of approximately 50,000 Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. In favourable years Collematoni might prodcue 2,500 bottles of Brunello Riserva from grapes out of the Fontelontano vineyard. It is worth noting that thanks to the presence of a biomass fuelled heating system and solar panels, Collemattoni produces the 80 per cent of the electricity needed at the winery. The winemaker is Francesca Arquint who also happens to be married to Marcello. Arquint has also worked and made wines for Mâté and Caparzo in Montalcino.

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Such a consistently fashioned Rosso from Collemattoni, also a posit tug between freshness and structure, always to the proper precipice and edge of tang, tart and sour. Lingers with texture and wood rendering. A subtle wine that gains flesh as it works through the nervous system. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

A highly specialized terroir-driven Rosso with intensely structured tannins shaped over solid and strong bones. Really intense Rosso with leathery cherries and lots of dried herbs. Very good length. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Collematoni is a ripe one without breaching the grey areas of 2014 Brunello. Fruit in the pomegranate and red currant spectrum is protected beneath a hard tannic shell with circulating acids. Quite a beast this young and needing three to five years to gain its charms. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Take a trip away from all you have noted, felt and perceived in the first 25 Brunello tasted from this 2013 vintage and begin anew. Imagine you know nothing of sangiovese nor how it translates from the Montalcino terroir. Take in this Collematini with open eyes, nose and mouth. It’s traditional, you would have to say and the most layered and variegated sangiovese imaginable. It transcends ubiquity and suggests a very personal affair. This is a religious, personal imposition from which there is no escape. The fruit is characteristic of vintage and specific to Sant Angelo in Colle but it comes replete first as a swell from the western sea and then a squall in the eastern wind. The fruit wave is massive, the stiff breeze of acidity equal to task and the tannins building, aboard ships whose masts flutter upon these seas. But it’s both a comfort and a charm, under a spell that you will not be able to avoid, not for a decade or more. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

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

Corte Pavone

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Hayo Loacker started carefully observing his organic terroir and vines 10 years ago and has set up a dynamic micro parcelling of the land, dividing it in different areas to define seven individual single vineyard of Brunello – what he refers to as the “7 dynamic Brunello crus.” They are Campo Marzio, Fior di Meliloto, Poggio Molino al Vento, Fiore del Vento, Anemone al Sole, Terra di Ginestra and Terra Nuova.

(c) Weingut Loacker

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Heady and high floral aromas beget a formidable Brunello of fortitude and strength. Deep as black cherry emits in sangiovese from a certainty of high elevation, warm vintage solar radiation. A different sort of ’15 from the northwest adjacent Romitorio and surely a soil so different despite being so close. Rich, strong acids and loose tannin. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From Rainer, Hayo and Franz Loacker in Casanuova to the west of the village. The clay soils pack at upwards of 450-500m on slopes at one of the higher elevations in Montalcino. Here is a big wine from Corte Pavone and one that could only have been difficult to manage in a vintage that tested the communal mettle. Dark fruit, wood spice and finishing chocolate. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Only four hectares are dedicated to vineyards with vine age 30-35 years old and with a plan of converting another four also blessed with the best exposures. The organic wines are aged in Slavonian casks, French Barrique and Austrian oak barrels. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Though quite approachable for Montalcino sangiovese this ’13 is also reductive, fresh, energetic and its tones are set to high. Great food Brunello. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted March 2018

With Violante Gardini, Azienda Agricola Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini comes from one of Montalcino’s longest running families, of a history and I quote, “where the lives of heretics, jurists, men of the church and grape growers entwine.” In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino on the road to Buonconvento, with sandy clay and Galestro soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Two interesting facts about Donatella. One, she teaches wine tourism in the Master graduate programmes of three universities and two, in 2016 she was elected National president of the Donne del Vino Association. As for her daughter Violante, from 2013 to 2019 she was President of the Movimento Turimso del Vino Italiano, from 2016 to 2019 she was Vice President AGIVI (Young Italian Vine and Wine entrepreneurs) ands in December 2019 was elected President.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Of the first couple of dozen Rosso tasted this is the one with some true, purposed reduction, if only as an early veil of protection, to lock in freshness and deliver this forward. Some pretty firm and fleshy fruit directs the body politic so that the first two years will seem hushed and suppressed. It will open like a flower and reveal some charm, soon after that. Another clear winner of purpose and focus from Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

The 2015 is a deeper study in DCC soil and Brunello invention. You need to know that the northerly Donatella Cinelli Colombini terroir is more than offset, singular and testable. The makers of these Brunelli investigate every grain of sand, mould of clay and tumble of stones to forge the various cuvées of their sangiovese stable. This Annata carries a lyrical contralto in as much as that is a thing in Montalcino. A Cher, Annie Lennox, Nina Simone voice. It is precise and profound. It will live longer than the men. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Donnatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Prime Donne 2015

Prime Donne is a highly specific single expression of the most important fruit raised by Donatella, Violante and team. The dichotomy here is more perfume cross referenced in adjacency to more barrel inflected structure. More notions to consider, vineyard dirt expressed through morbido tones and wood scents in gentle baking spice. Quite weighty in tannins, surely a love song so divine, certainly a wine that will stand the test of time. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Despite and in spite of the northern vineyard’s location of six small plots in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne this from Colombini is quite ripe for the vintage. Strawberries and dusty, savoury accents drive the fruit into a pool of fine, welling and syrupy acidity. It’s an unusually simplified and somewhat flatlined wine for Donatella out of a vintage neither old-school nor flashy modern, yet major challenges are no obstacle for this estate and so her sangiovese is still very full of charm and grace. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. It is now an estate run by a team of no fewer than eight passionate women. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino, with sandy clay soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Donatella describes 2013 as “an old style vintage, a Brunello that is elegant, complex, deep and harmonious, that will last decades. The scarce vintages are nearly always the higher quality ones.” There have been exceptional wines from Donatella in the recent past but the most impressive thing she can do is make a great wine in a challenging vintage. This 2013 does what needs; it’s delicately passed fruit avoids the intensity and drying angst of others, keeping the bright faith, binding it to tannin through the coursing dialectical collection of acidities and then making a valid request for patience. All 2013 Brunello need time, some will never come into their marriages and others, like the ’13 from Casato Prime Donne are already there. It will go further than many. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February and March 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Welcome to the Brunello Riserva you may just want to drink right now. From estate vineyards at Casato Prime Donne. The fruit is luscious and as full as ’13 can be, ripe to the max and this from the northern zone. Herbal in an Amaro way, some desiccation to create this red, black and blue sangiovese liqueur. Rich and chewy with a silky mouthfeel and even chewier tannins. Not particularly grippy or tannic by demand, it flows and apportions full circle, ode to the earth, all in and blood orange bright. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

(c) Il Grappolo Montalcino

Il Grappolo

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto, meaning “stone quiet” is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of Galestro, Alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world.

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2015

“Stone quiet,” signature wine for Il Grappolo, from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300m near Sant’Angelo in Colle. Schist soils are strewn with Galestro, Alberese and sandstone, the whole Montalcino masala, all in veritable contribution. Sassocheto, exacting sangiovese, as in Brunello that is just like looking in the territory’s mirror. Pure and harmonious with sly power both “subdolo” and “furbo,” because tannins like these wind in two directions, depending on which was the fruit winds just happen to blow. A worthy “campione” of the 2015 vintage, to set an example for how to win when your vineyards gift such exemplary fruit. One of the great values of the year. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February and November 2020

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2013

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20 year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of galestro, alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world. Should Il Grappolo’s be considered as more traditional than most? Yes, but just as this 2013 tells us with utmost clarity, the vernacular is spoken through an ever evolving and forward thinking lens. No pretence and all in for the right reasons. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted March 2018

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2012

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Il Grappolo’s Sassocheto, 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

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2010

Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s Vigna 2010, a Sant-Angelo in Colle ripper, intense, brooding, formidable and still raging. Some 2010’s have already evolved and settled into their skin but Sassocheto is just getting started. If you are unfamiliar with the house then think of Poggio al Vento from Col D’Orcia for a stylistic comparison. The leather and cherry liqueur mix into roses and volatile syrup for a heady stew that is more traditional than modern. This is serious sangiovese, Montalcino style. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

Good to go!

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