Montalcino Previews: 2020 and 2019 Rosso, 2017 Brunello Annata, Vigna and 2016 Riserva DOCG

The year was 2020. We said arrivederci e ci vediamo to Montalcino on a mild and still February afternoon. Little did we or anyone know that a return engagement would not be possible until the fall of 2021. During that 20 month hiatus I hosted and moderated six webinars in Canada with more than 25 Montalcino producers, Each session was accompanied by a thematic article published to godello.ca inclusive of an account for each producer. With thanks to the recent forward thinking and openness of the Conzorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, along with compatriot, friend and travelling companion Michaela Morris, we chalked out our homecoming and dove headfirst into more than 200 current releases. Two immersive eight hour sommelier assisted assessment sessions of Montalcino’s sangiovese, 12 estate visits and meetings, all over the course of five days. Benvenuto Brunello 2021, Drogheria Franci, Caffè Fiaschetteria Italiana 1888, Il Giglio and Trattoria Il Pozzo. Cortonesi and Tenuta Buon Tempo. San Polo, Le Potazzine, Tenuta Fanti, Poggio di Sotto and Fattoria dei Barbi. Biondi-Santi, Conti Costanti, Castello di Romitorio and Le Ragnaie. All because of and in the name of sangiovese, tissue of Rosso, bones of Brunello, grape of the future.

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

Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci and Direttore Michele Fontana

Summing up that last Benvenuto Brunello in 2020 I noted that “Anteprime di Toscana’s culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese.” Later I would write, “no one of sound mind passes up the opportunity to taste Brunello from 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, finding permanence and always seeking to endure. As do their makers and protectors.”

This most recent trip in Montalcino with @michaelawine has taken my lifelong plan to another level. Grazie Miha for teaching me so much about Sangiovese, staying calm, focused and balanced over long days and just plain having a grand old time.

The 2021 vintage

On April 8, 2021 mail from Tommaso Cortonesi brought news of the early April frosts. “Here in Montalcino the Covid situation is under control but in the last couple of days we had to fight a dangerous enemy. Temperatures lower than 0’C. Last night several producers in Montosoli including me, Capanna, Baricci, Val di Suga, decided to burn hay bales to try to protect the vines with the smoke. Fortunately the vegetative state of the vines is still quite early so we hope this action has limited the possible damages. I send you attached some pictures from last night.”

Burning fires at Montosoli, Montalcino April 2021

Despite a significant reduction for yields in many parts of Montalcino, the reasons for optimism are manyfold. Higher elevations above the frost danger zones, say 400-450m and up, especially to the northwest, for the most part remained unscathed. The vines had yet to fully awaken at estates like Corte Pavone, Le Potazzine, Castello di Romotorio and Le Ragnaie. By September things were looking up in many sectors of Montalcino. Though production will be down, significantly so for many estates, the promise for outstanding Rosso and Brunello is surely in the air.

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Godello at 450m, San Polo, Montalcino

At the end of the harvest prospects looked very promising, not for a bountiful vintage but surely one of high quality. A week to ten days into September the temperatures fluctuated 15-20 degrees. On the 7th the high was 29 and the low was 11. Made for excellent acidity retention aboard the march to phenolic ripeness. Younger and lower elevation vineyards began picking around the third week of September while higher points at the beginning of October. The challenge was to find a way to keep the link with the sangiovese of Montalcino and in a warm vintage not to go too far, neither in extraction nor maceration and to deliver a respectful wine. Usually 25-30 days but more like 18-20 in 2017. Also a 26-30 degree fermentation when some vintages it can be as high as 34, if only for a few days. In many cases the fermentations were some of the slowest on recent record. In fact as of November 18th one of Cortonesi’s vats was still at 4-5 g/L of residual sugar and would only likely finish in the first week of December. What Tommaso called “sluggish because of the lowest level of yeasts.”

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

The 2017 vintage

The elephant in the room is obvious and most producers answer before the question is even posed. From a winemaker, oenologist and proprietor you will be hit with this recurring refrain. “You will be surprised by the freshness and acidity of the 2017, despite the warm vintage.” It was hot and dry and “that’s what you need in high elevation vineyards surrounded by forests,” is how Filippo Chia of Castello di Romitorio assesses the situation. When asked what to do with 2017 the pragmatic Andrea Costanti suggests it is a vintage “to introduce new people to Brunello di Montacino” and by extension a good Brunello for restaurants, sommeliers and licensees to take notice.

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

Francesco Ripaccioli of Canalicchio di Sopra remembers 2017 with almost wistful affection. He explains that following a summer during which there were 20 days above 35 degrees it was September that brought about the big surprise. After 40mm of rain on August 31st, through the course of the next month the phenolic maturation happened very slowly and finished late. Veraison at CdS did not begin until September and took nearly 30 days. “Even if you had a dry season (like 2017), you had this temperature fluctuation of on average 25 degrees by day and nine by night. That allowed you to harvest late, with preserved acidity and alcohol not so high. The plants were working very slowly with their reserve of water. (The vintages) of ’17 and ’12 for me are very similar, as seasons, where grapes and their skins wanted to oxidize but September changed everything. We went to school from 2012.”

With Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci and Chef Carlo Cracco

Low does not due justice to how small a vintage was 2017. “We tried to extract less and keep it on the lighter side,” tells Alberto Machetti of Tenuta Buon Tempo. For Riccardo Campinoti of Le Ragnaie yields and production were down 10-15 per cent, at least as compared with the previous two vintages. For Campinoti 2017 is a vintage of “unfinished tannins.” Not quite fully ripe and yet acidity never fell away. Another example of how Brunello can be sold now and for the next five years, especially to restaurants and shops for immediate or near-term consumption.

Related – Sangiovese is the future: Montalcino’s Rosso and Brunello

Riserva 2016

“In the beginning ’16 was…not enough,” begins the soliloquy by Fattoria dei Barbi’s Stefano Cinelli Colombini. “But after a year it changed.” Reading deeper one understands that time is the answer, for sangiovese, Brunello and 2016. “This is why Riserva should be sold after eight or 10 years,” continues Cinelli Colombini. “The problem with tradition is we make a mistake that if it exists, there must be a meaning inherent, otherwise it would not have taken so long. The mistake we make is between what is actually a tradition and the sense of tradition. You only need to taste to know that wine is the most democratic thing in the world.” This so beautifully sums up Riserva and 2016. As a vintage no other in the last seven-plus years is so intrinsically bonded with the grape and how it raises from the territory. Sangiovese and time is the connection and though ’16 is not one of those touted in barrel as of the decade, century or of the ages, it is in fact one of those, if not all.

Montalcino sommeliers

Molte sane, repeats Andrea Costanti as if by mantra through the course of the 45 minutes while we taste, consider and assess his Riserva 2016. Not just Costanti’s but dozens upon dozens of ’16 Riserva. The healthiest sangiovese of great, sheer and utter clarity. Wines that may be described as possessive of a fineness running with liquid chalkiness, fluido or scorrevole. The 2015s may have shown heady structure, power and also generosity but the 16s are the complete package because they are also filled with delicasse, elegance and grace.

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Changes in agriculture and fermentation

Federico Radi is the incumbent oenologist at Biondi Santi, having worked previously at Isole e Olena and Mazzei Bolgheri, Radi is looking at regenerative agriculture, making compost integrating manure (which must be like black butter, aged several months before mixing into the soils), beginning now with cover crops and little disturbance to the soils. “We really want within the next five years to reach two point five per cent of organic matter in the soils.” A real fan of Chomsky, Federico feels the need to keep the carbon in the soils, to help reduce that 25 per cent that agriculture contributes to the release into the soils. “I’m sad when I see the grey and dusty soils. It shows they are dead. This needs to be improved. We have seen in two years that we have different soils so we have to tailor the cover crops to reach section. Not just regenerative but also preventative agriculture.” The plan is to keep alcohol levels from rising even further. “We want Biondi-Santi to stay under 14 per cent.” And so a nursery was started, “since the beginning.” Like when Bob Marley was asked “how long have you been a Rasta?” “Since creation.” Radi insists that it would be dangerous to live with only one clone of sangiovese, so 50 varieties are propagated.

A pensive Alberto Maccheti of Tenuta Buon Tempo. Must have been thinking about the 2017 vintage.

Filippo Chia of Castello di Romitorio is getting even more specific. He talks about one of the major introductions being smaller berries, spargolo berries. Moving away from traditional cask aging may also be a step towards a future in which producers combat climate change with fresh ideas. For instance at Tenuta Buon Tempo Alberto Maccheti has been installing new concrete tanks to replace the more than 20 year old 64 hL Garbelotto casks. Whatever it takes seems to be the prevailing attitude for a region that has to, must do something.

Related – Gambero Rosso’s red wine of the year leads a vertical tasting of Argiano’s Vigna del Suolo

Morning in Montalcino

Much ado and what to do about Rosso di Montalcino

In 2020 I wrote that “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.”

With Francesco Rippacioli and Tommaso Cortonesi

“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.”

Annual pic with the hardest working sommeliers in the business

“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.”

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

Rosso di Montalcino could and should be elevated to DOCG status. To do so requires investment and also a mandatory minimum aging period in wood. The 2019 vintage is proof of why Rosso needs to once again be revisited, to be considered in its own light and of its own accord. This is because as a vintage much less Rosso was made, simply by the reason of across the board quality, raising the prospect of making more Brunello. A matter of available quantities and as an extension, economics. Which means that many vineyards capable of being purposed either way went in Brunello’s direction out of 2019. Which also means that more vineyards need to be designated as Rosso and were a DOCG awarded the rules would need to be altered to make sure the wines are pre-declared as such. There is enough Brunello to go around and the world needs more Rosso di Montalcino.

Drogheria Franci Restaurant Montalcino

Further to that the Consorzio’s decision to hold an anteprima in November causes producers to make choices they would not have had to think about before. The 2019 Rosso would have been shown in February and so November is both too late for producers who have already sold out or at least allocated their’s, but also too early for the 2020s to be presented. I purposely tasted only seven examples and each one was intensely youthful, tighter and more inaccessible than the next. The ’19s on the other hand were glorious, open and generous, as they would have already been just a few months earlier. Late April or early May would be an ideal time to show off the latest Rosso di Montalcino vintage, early enough for the early releasers and late enough for those who need 18 months before putting their Rosso to bed. Keep the Brunello anteprima in November if that works for the majority because the extra nine months (from the usual February event) works wonders for all three levels; Annata and Vigna plus the previous year’s Riserva. I can think of at least one more noble sangiovese producing appellation that would benefit from doing the same.

Here are 222 reviews, mostly from the November anteprima and estate visits but also some drawn from attending the October 2021 Gambero Rosso Awards tasting in Rome. There are 35 Rosso notes, 23 of them for the 2019 vintage. One hundred and seventy-one Brunello reviews, including seven from 2018 and for 2017 there are 103, 69 for Annata and 34 to Vigna. For 2016 there are 61 tasting notes, 45 on Riserva, the rest Annata and Vigna. Also 16 older vintages and IGTs.

Rosso di Montalcino 2020

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

While so many 2020 Rosso are going to be intensely youthful, this from Caparzo is really quite approachable. Classic estate red, like a liquor dosage of itself running and integrating through itself. Tart and expertly crafted with express intention to please. Of this there can be no doubt. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

A vintage of viscosity and deepest of red cherry fruit, off of vines five to fifteen years old. While really young there is access here for drinking a 2020 ahead of many others. Classically dark Barbi fruit and a Galestro feeling. Bottled just less than one month ago and settled into a calm state by now. Will remain stable for a few years, not necessarily gaining in complexity but surely keeping on. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Patrizia Cencioni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Extremely youthful, full deep fruit and whilst the carbonic feeling persists you can’t help but intuit a depth in this Rosso. Mix in an early high tonality and expectation then dictates this will offer up the fullest of mouthfeel. Charged and rich, a luxe Rosso with chalky underlay, a fine rage of acidity and a wine very much working in progress. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Tight, young and early bracing Rosso from Talenti, showing off the darker fruit of the vintage and surely offering a glimpse into what the Brunello will bring three further years down the road. A vintage of well developed fruit and sharp acidity, vividly captured in a sangiovese just like this. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Very much a work just beginning its progress, both carbonic notions and sulphur completely unresolved. Needs a revisit to see where the darkening fruit will go. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Ucceliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

A Rosso further along than many, at least in terms of fermentative culmination and post-shock living. Shows off the hue and depth of vintage fruit with more redness, cherry ingress and tannic redress. You can feel the grip and the controlled power in this sangiovese. Will be a very good one because it already is. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Voliero Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Tight, taut, wound around itself like a wire around a spool and yet having found its way out of fermentation and through bottling. Less fruit than brother Ucceliera and also lower toned, earthbound, grounded and yet the acids are right on point. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Armilla Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Lovely red, red fruit, supple and stylish. As if cherries grew on rose bushes and this light, dusty feeling improvised by a Rosso with a tender modicum of fortifying structure. The right pressing, pushed and from a location ideal for Rosso out of 2019. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Tricerchi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Pushes the boundaries of red fruit into something deeper though the clarity and transparency are evident and true. Lithe yet subtle if also sneaky structured Rosso, one that will please those needing immediate gratification yet with an ability to travel further, while treading lightly into a whole other realm. Great curiosity and possibility here. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Castiglion Del Bosco Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Well-pressed, expressed and all tenets captured Rosso having taken full advantage of a vintage willing to give it all. Feel the ripeness pushed and the effects of so much greenery, a forest of hope and dreams also pressed into this fulsome Rosso. All the immediacy one could want is here for the taking. Drink this young and impressionable. Drink 2021-2022.  Tasted November 2021

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Classic Collematoni liqueur, a glycerin texture that fills every pore, pouring through and through. Just the sangiovese goods in purest form and a Rosso that speaks in clear, ernest and knowable 2019 terms. What’s really special is the way the wine lingers and stays with you without any astringencies nor finishing nut, pith or bitters. A top Rosso for the vintage. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

With Andrea Costanti and Michaela Morris

Conti Costanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Vermiglio 2019

The level of purity multiplied by concentration from 2019 is off the proverbial sangiovese cross referenced by Montalcino charts. This from a vintage when much less Rosso was made because the quality of the Brunello was so important. The fruit is of course deep cherry but branching off into a spectral expanse of darkening reds. The well runs deep, pooling with cool, ethereal and mineral licked waters, the textural breadth reaching into three-dimensional fabric. Also a tomato reduction, sweat of San Marzano, viscous and flessibile or perhaps flessuoso. Nothing remains out of reach or control, instead all is in focus and structured. Most would kill to reach such potential, have, show and sell this as Brunello. In a way this ’19 Costanti is a first of its kind, impressive for Rosso with a set of finest tannins. Long on the chain, capable of the most age-worthy extension. With 20 minutes of air a swarthiness emerges, putting this Rosso commensurate with some historical vintages, say 1985, 1988, 1990 and 1997. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Corte Pavone Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Relatively lithe, dusty and crafty Rosso, giving away the impression of a really purposed example, a sangiovese of credibility and composure. That said there is some grip and intention as well so perhaps wait a year and better still two before seeing where this will travel. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

The 2011 planted vineyard is the youngest at La Mannella and is used exclusively for Tommaso Cortonesi’s Rosso. “In recent years, for my generation we are trying to approach Rosso di Montalcino is a more personal way,” tells Cortonesi. “A fresh wind, brought to the production and (especially) the communication. Finding a real identity, not as a baby Brunello.” The clay soil does not necessarily give big concentration but more so ease, elegance and classic sangiovese. Seemingly dark in hue but bright and tart in such an accentuated way. Can’t really shake the idea of the quality inherent in this specific scope of concentration. A liqueur of sangiovese, moving towards the finish swiftly and courteously across the palate. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

With Violante Gardini, Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Casato Prime Donne 2019

Having a moment with the outward exhale of this perfume because it’s unlike most other Rosso and so the time taken to breathe it in will do all parties well. Clarity of roses and spring flowers, an exotique nearly equal and surely apposite to the ulterior presence of a gamey note that’s so intriguing. This is what Casato Prime Donne brings to the table. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Elia Palazzesi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019 Collelceto

Crisp and pure Rosso for Rosso’s sake, as automatically and knowable as sangiovese as a Rosso from Montalcino can really be. Tugs straight at the heartstrings by offering a cherry red, tightly focused and lightly grippy wine. Perfectly representative for a now to three years Rosso for all who query and consider, each and every day of the week. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta Fanti

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

From 15 hectares of Rosso vineyards with the potential to produce upwards of 50,000 bottles, though in truth much less is actually made. The rest of the unselected juice is sold off or portioned over to the IGT Torto Rosso. So yes a selection, aged for a year and a half in larger (30 hL) casks and some barriques. Not just another high quality and ready, rock-steady Rosso but here in 2019 a bolder and more substantial version of its always loveable and solid self. Gotta love it, any which way, all the time. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

La Colombina Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Somewhat older-schooled, firm and grippy sangiovese in Rosso, a squeezed and captured liqueur that takes hold without letting go. Plenty of portents and intendments in a wine that will need time to ease, settle and deliver. There will be more earth than fruit when that time comes. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted November 2021

La Fornace Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Beautiful gelid liqueur of sangiovese emits with fineness from La Fornace 2019 Rosso, making the vintage happen as it should from this part of town. Really fine tart red fruit capture and equal tannic ability but what’s really special here are the acids merging and making for great freshness. Parts are bigger than some and so well integrated. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

With Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Still a barrel sample because Riccardo Campinoti leaves his Rosso for two years, even though there are hundreds of the appellative wines already having been long ago released on the market. Still this is the final version, of 30,000 bottles produced, more or less. The barrels for the blend were chosen in October and bottling is imminent. Did not make it into this November’s anteprima because there was not enough notice given, also considering when Le Ragnaie puts Rosso to bottle. In 2019 there is 30 per cent Montosoli mixed in with Castelnuovo dell’Abate and even some estate vineyard fruit. A firm and chewy Rosso, not yet settled and ready to play as it will. Substantial everything, beyond fruit, especially texture and real tannins for a Rosso. A harbinger for the Brunello to come, especially with all three (zonal) fruit sources layering their involvement. This will age really well. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Cacio e Pepe, Il Giglio

A Rosso of interest because of the ulterior aromas and motives, of a pomegranate to blood orange citrus tartness and a wish for immediate gratification. This is contrary to many Rosso of more grip and structure. This changes and then the wine shows its teeth. More interest than many and still in a Brunello vein. In a sense this Rosso does it all. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Firm yet a Rosso with more than ample charm and grace, full red fruit and tannin interposed, layered and sharing the sangiovese stage. Takes some time but the fulsome and dusty work here really gains and makes haste of your senses. Takes hold and really does not let go. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Pinino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Intensity of Rosso aromas, rich and invigorating while showing more wood than many. Perhaps some barriques or possible new wood quite seasoned and throwing much in the way of dark chocolate into the wine. Espresso too in a Rosso of such ilk. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Renieri Srl Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

From the word go the Renieri feels like a true and purposed Rosso, with no aspirations but to be Rosso and to take the appellation to a most important next level. This is the thing about Rosso today and in how the last five years have seen to arriving at moments like these. Chewy with red fruit in a liquorice way, lithely tart and a blood orange moment but incremental, a sangiovese climbing up as if on steps, not so much rising as getting to upwards levels. Length is outstanding. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Released in September of 2021, at the time when 2020 Rosso are allowed to be released by the Consorzio. Aged in 40 hL casks, from fruit selected each season out of the eight parcels at San Polo. Oh my what an inviting and reeling Rosso, purity of exacting 2019 red fruit and really quite a deft touch to tie all parts together. Fresh and spirited, a chewy interior but always smart, energetic and gracefully powerful throughout the outer layers. Surely a Rosso of crunch but also a salinity with thanks to all the rocks in these “mountain” Montalcino vineyards. Just feels like a Rosso for Rosso sake. Quite ideal. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Trattoria Il Pozzo, Sant Angelo in Colle

Sasso Di Sole Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Sasso Di Sole’s is a northeasterly Montalcino location in the neighbourhood of Torrenieri, a cooler sub-zone of the territory. Doesn’t necessarily apply when a vintage like 2019 is in bottle because beautiful weather and near perfect growing conditions will put just as beautiful Rosso into the bottle. Still you have to appreciate and focus on the added freshness, perhaps as compared to some jammier and lush examples made in the southern reaches of the region. This is quite a salty and structured little Rosso number, tart and sassy, full of sun yes but also dried herbal, brushy and dusty substance. It’s all in here, a touch idiosyncratic and then with tannins that really turn arid, as felt in the mouth long after the wine is gone. Strong for the DOC, dark of fruit and mildly astringent at the end. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted May and November 2021

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

For Alberto Machetti a similar and equally “cool” vintage with grapes in Castelnuovo facing Monte Amiata. Picking started on the 16th of September in a vintage with great freshness and in this case an intense level of savour. From the seven lowest hectares on alluvial clay soil only 50 metres from the Orcia River. Of double density and yields which work best for Rosso. Fine but relative ease and linear concentration for an easy but more than notable substantial essay of Rosso. Purple fruit and proper acids. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta La Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Bottled in June 2021 and a Rosso of real identity, on its own, connected to Brunello but so much a wine of its own accord. Truly Rosso for the sake of aromas, subtlety and for a starting point for drinking three to four years forward. The 2017 must be at perfect peak now with five years easy left at that level. Indicates what will happen with this 2019, a Rosso delicate and in charge, with power, of itself and also us. Complex and yet easy. The opposite of so many of us. Wait another year or so for the wine to soften and arrive at the right place. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2019

An old-fashioned Italian term meaning single-vineyard, from “Ciampolo.” Stainless steel and 15 months in Slavonian oak, from a vintage of excellent interchange and alternating between sunlight and rainfall. Also a vintage from which Monte Amiata really aided with airflow for freshness and kept acidity. Vineyards face southeast (next to Podere Le Ripi) and their age is up to 20 years of age. Youthful and charming Rosso, a snapshot of young vines and a luxe vintage getting together on the same page for sangiovese surety. Richness to be sure in that regard and a chocolate rendering, part milk and part dark, swirled through the texture of the wine. Fine grain of tannin runs through as well, taking over and finishing at macchianto. A savoury freshness and if you’ve tasted enough vintages of Ciampoleto you will know this is tops, exceptional, potent and seductive. Sweet fennel at the finish. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

High spirit and tonality, a Ventolaio speciality and what is expected from their Rosso. This especially when considering a vintage that could entice a maker to go further and deeper. The commitment to restraint and even more importantly consistency makes this a special wine. Crisp enough to call freshness the lead and with a fullness of texture to feel the barrel and lead this down a four to six year road. Exemplary, dictionary entry. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Rosso di Montalcino 2018 and 2017

Biondi Santi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Tenuta “Greppo” 2018

The harvest started on September 16th, from a season where 800 grams of bunches per plant was almost double the norm so intensive selection was necessary. A tramontana wind came in and so the harvest was quickly concluded on the 26th. There was some fear of botrytis. Though there had been a great variability of ripeness 10 days earlier, the point was reached by the end of the season. Just a two week maceration, noted in the old-school colour, fragrant, never pushed, also perfume in the tannins, replicating the fruit. More to the point is the mimic of acidity so that all three are on the same page. Bottled just about one year ago so really coming into a drinking window. Labeled 13 per cent but in reality clocks in at exactly 12.8, which is nothing less than incredible. “There is something in this estate that is magic” tells Federico Radi. “This is Il Greppo, from the beginning there is balance and you can feel this in the first steps of alcoholic fermentation.” Could there be an easier place to work, in a sense, “because the quality of tannins are so fine.” So very true and as a Rosso an exact mirror into the vintage, lithe and elastic, pliable of structure and ready to drink quite soon. Textured of it’s own accord, disposition and way. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Rainy season early, cool enough with some sun but problematic at the outset by a daily pebbling of the two, followed by a terrific climatic summer. Definite herbal, Mediterranean aromatics, almost like walking and brushing past the hedges on the terrace overlooking the valley. Notably linear and demanding for Rosso, a Brunello (from barrel declassified) after three years. Hyper real, serious and gripped with no less mattering intendment. Remember that this too comes from a selection in the vineyard and so the backbone and probability begins from the day the grapes leave the vine. Teenage angst, rebellious, a bit angry and it will grown up. Proper role modelling and upbringing guarantees this Rosso 2018 will be fine and be great. Peppery piques at the finish and then all goes quiet. Elegance emerged. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Tassi Di Franci Franca Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Lean and transparent Rosso of purity and clarity, fruit far from full extraction and the wood very much a part of the easterly mix. Spice and chocolate shavings, intensity overall and while the barrel makes this immediate statement it falls away and the wine finishes with smooth, morbido and really pleasant consistency. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

The work of Luca Marone (oenologist) and Federico Staderini (winemaking) surely had their cards laid out on the table from which they’ve managed to pick, sort and arrange in the creation of shared common ground sets of elegance and finesse. Not as other vintages per se but there are signs all over this wine to say it will pour like Brunello for years to come. The tannins are chalky overtop maximum sapid occupancy and mineral cuts in angles all across the body politic of this wine. Wait another year. You will be thankful for it. The volume was split between Rosso and Brunello, considering there was no Riserva produced. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

With Gigliola, Sofia and Viola, Le Potazzine

Tenuta La Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Poured from magnum, as Gigliola wishes all sangiovese were but knows it’s not really possible. Put thoughts of a hard vintage aside and just focus, use imagination and pay close attention to realities that tell the ’17 tale of this place. From vineyards upwards and exceeding 500m, a natural ferment, unfiltered and as fresh as any in Montalcino. If Montalcino were a perfume this might be it, inviting but with secrets, open and subtly so. Few sangiovese are as elegant and in such control, youthful but showing the cards to tell us what we should expect. Eventually. Slowly.  Last tasted November 2021

Very pretty pulchritude in the Potazzine Rosso ’17 with spice, charm and a great pulse of energy. This is so very Rosso and so very what Rosso wants, needs and can be. All pulse and vitality, with striking acids and sneaky formidable tannin. Delicious Rosso di Montalcino and a great harbinger for the vintage. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Brunello di Montalcino 2018

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2018

Ahh freshness, the first 2018 in my glass and no offence to 2017 but after tasting 150 ‘17s over four days this is surely a breath of new air. Bright and almost a marine wind blowing through while at the same time showing some substance and bones. Fleshy but elastically so and these tannins are not sharp, nor austere, but forgiving and even generous. Left the barrel after the minimum amount of regulatory time to keep the wine from being tired by the wood. Drink 2023-2028. Tasted November 2021

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casanovina Montosoli 2018

As for Casanovina from Montosoli there is everything one could hope for in fresh, sapid, saline, mineral expressiveness giving in to amenability as it pertains to enjoying, or projecting the enjoyment of Brunello Vigna looking a few years ahead. There is more depth and reserve in 2018 from Montosoli and if the previous vintage did not tell us just how special this northern fruit can be then better attention need be paid. Here we experience the prescience and extension to continued futures of Montalcino. A fruit to acid continuum of fresh sweetness and singular expressiveness. Also a backbone but not one rigid and compact, rather linear and stretching northward. Crisp and with terrific crunch, upward movement and great potential. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted November 2021

Ragnaie Vineyard

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Paso Del Lume Spento 2018

As with the Brunello Annata and in fact all of his ‘18s, Riccardo Campinoti decided to take this out of wood at the discipline number of months to stave off any chance of tiring and oxidation. As with the Annata there is of course great freshness but here magnified with even greater clarity, blue sky brightness and what a palate cleanser it is. Thanks to the 621m of altitude the wine maintains a level of acidity at the top of the tops but it is neither spicy nor piqued, no sign of peppery grinds nor sharpness neither. Cool, gelid, sandstone salt licked and a sangiovese that will never blind a traveller nor turn out the lights. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

 

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2018

Vigna Vecchia as it always does makes sure to remind how this vineyard delivers the most compact tannins in the Brunello portfolio of Le Ragnaie. Mix this omnipresent austerity with the fresh breath of 2018 vintage air and the combination could only be a most excellent and rewarding one. In fact there is less early aggression, either because of the freshness or simply because the vineyard speaks this way in this year, but also because the wine spent less time in wood than other vintages. Sweet meanderings of acidity zig, swirl, zag and twirl to lift and elevate all the parts. Not exactly integrated fully but also not that far away. So much pleasure will come from this wine when that happens. Magnifico. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Brunello di Montalcino 2017

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

A fully macerated, extracted and vintage captured Brunello with a charming run through of transparency. More than a shake of wood spice and earthy grip, a sangiovese of immediacy but also intensity. You can feel the fruit of suffering and the resiliency. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

As one would expect the Argiano comes streaming with magnificent fruit on the heels of a string of recent vintages inclusive and in many ways culminating at their near perfect 2016s. What has been learned and essential changes that have been made have led to making this effortless ’17, relatively speaking but heat being little matter when acumen runs this high. Bernardino Sani has found the sweet spot, a place where optimum fruit ripeness can linger and develop all the necessary accoutrements to acquiesce at a positively proper meeting point. The length on this classic ’17 is outstanding with thanks to the work put in. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Armilla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Armilla’s is truly honest and forthright, ripe cherry captured with zing and more than ample tannin making for a strengthening of multi-tiered structure. Admittedly closed at first, reluctant and reticent with so much lurking below, behind and underneath. There’s a richness that belies the closed nature of this sangiovese which purports to explain and make one expect more. Time is the necessary feature to make this happen. Be patient and allow Armilla to come through. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Banfi’s presents a bit of a conundrum because the fruit is luxe and ripe yet the tannic structure is both tight and demanding. There are two parts to this ’17, the warmth and full character up front and the wall of expectation out back. Many will purchase and consume this early as per the awareness of the name but more than the lion’s share of bottles should better be doted upon, kept sealed and opened a minimum six years after vintage. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Quite the rich and fulsome Brunello 2017, all parts deep and intense, acidity running really high, all else running to keep up. A sangiovese of heat yet one that streaks through its world. The kind of Brunello that makes you feel like you must hurry to taste and figure things out when really what is required is tempo, for qualità and also longevita. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Classic Campogiovanni and Leonardo Bellaccini, full fruit and barrel intertwine, each supportive and enraptured in each other. Hard to imagine and believe that a Brunello di Montalcino could be traced and placed to such a specific locale, estate and winemaker but if there is only one this would be it. Chewy and textured sangiovese, spiced and seasoned, the kind that will impact many lives and offer a very specific kind of pleasure. At full ripeness, wood-aging and frosting of ganache. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2017

Considering the location of Canalicchio di Sopra’s vineyards to the east and north of Montalcino there should be every reason to think that 2017 would not pose a problem to making a top Annata. Francesco Ripaccioli would likely smile that wry smile when he knows that the year was in fact a magnanimous challenge but he would also follow up with that confident smile of his. Ripaccioli has the fortune and the instincts, to mix and match, to layer and compliment, to figure with mathematical precision and this wine expresses all that and more. There is cut and linearity, a finest architectural line and a freshness that belies what heat might want to take control. A fine classico for Montalcino that speaks to the best of all worlds within. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Capanna Di Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Capanna has found the righteous path in 2017, a road paved with credible is softened tannins ushering fruit picked late and having reached great vintage maturity. This was no easy task and their’s is a wine from which higher alcohol is so well mitigated and controlled by the substantial quotient achieved. It helps more than a lot that their location is north of the hill which allowed the longer hang time without the amount of desiccation unavoidable in so many parts of the territory. Capanna’s is flat out a lovely ’17 that drinks like Brunello in the most unassuming and proper way. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

A spike and pique like many 2017s though fruit hangs in there for some extra time and effort. High acid and drying tannins complete the trilogy yet all the sections are set apart. Can’t really see this ever fully coming together as one. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Notable depth and intensity lead the way in Elisabetta Gnudi’s 2017 Annata, a sangiovese for sangiovese’s sake and a wine to consider earlier than some. Quite rich and welling with fulsome varietal liqueur, lightly tart, power in restraint and clearly designed for sooner rather than later enjoyment. Give this an hour or so aeration and get at the fine juice contained within. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Caprili’s is a 2017 Brunello of great bones, back rhythm and structure. A sangiovese from 2017 calculated and so very far from over-pressed, in feeling of vintage warmth plus seasoning but needing years to flesh away. The palate is full of meaty tones currently residing in swarthy pools while finest tannins work their way through the comports of this wine. There can be little immediate gratification here and considering the style and also the build, there really shouldn’t be. Wait three years on Giacomo Bartolomei’s strong and sure Annata. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted November 2021

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

A tightly knit, forcefully wound and really serious 2017 here from Carpineto, full of all the seasoning and spice that can be coerced into crowding an Annata. Crisp, crafty and formidable. Big, big mouthful of Brunello, savoury and brushy to the end. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

It was hot and dry and “that’s what you need in high elevation vineyards surrounded by forests,” is how Filippo Chia sees the situation. Romitorio as a place of lower sun exposure received the hot and dry vintage for what Chia calls “the best vintage ever at Romitorio.” More woodwind instruments and less drums. Vinified and malolactic in cement, aged in 5000L barrels with some 3,600, 2,000L and a few per cent tonneaux. Only 10-12 days of maceration, much less than other years and this is consistent with others who know and do the same. Sourcing from 10 hectares of old and seven that are newer. In a vintage without water a plant like sangiovese saps up the minerals and in this place it’s a red earth, ferrous grab that can’t help but be expressed in the wine. Both pH and acidity really change and there is no rise of the former, or lowering of the latter after malolactic fermentation. A countercurrent Brunello, lithe, effusive and showing the nakedness of the land. Yield was down 40 per cent, concentration is up but not to look at, nor to feel in terms of polish. Healthy vines adapted and survived where others may not have been so fortunate. Big props to the older vineyards, ones that date back to 1985. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Tricerchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

As with their 2019 Rosso tasted just an hour earlier there is great poise, grace and also functionality in Tricerchi’s 2017 annata. A sangiovese that captures the grape’s essence and Montalcino presence while tempering and filtering the vintage demand. A wine crafted with strong hands holding an infant with delicate and appropriate ease. Also a wine that captures imagination which is so very much the point more than most of the time. When a producer steps up in a vintage like this you know they have moved on to new a greater heights. Do not miss out on this or any of these wines starting now. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino 2017

Top grape and emotive spirit emit from Cava d’Onice’s 2017, high-toned in slow-ripened and well-preserved acidity for the vintage. A sangiovese of fine lines, good bones and linear rising attitude. The alcoholic warmth is felt somewhat but the peppery pique is only a fleeting moment in what is otherwise a really good tempered wine. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Celestino Pecci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

From a location northeast and just downslope from the Montalcino hill and a Brunello of notable depth but most of all a linear, saline, elemental and purposed Annata. Benefitted from position and timing, feeling late picked enough and still maintaining red fruit freshness while also accessing full phenolic ripeness. Solid ’17, a success in the end result. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

If the wine’s perfume scents like Col d’Orcia then it must be Col d’Orcia. If one estate could be counted on to keep the faith and consistency of classico Brunello alive then once again, think Col d’Orcia. Here the warmth of the vintage is noted but the mineral and elemental saltiness that cuts through makes sure to keep freshness always at the fore. Will this live in infamy like decades of Brunello that have come before, per haps not but as always, many opened bottles will deliver the experience of being pleasantly surprised. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Lovely and balanced capture of what 2017 has to offer, luxe and seasoned sangiovese but also that which speaks in spirited spikes of freshness. There needs to be more of this style available because it’s pleasing and Brunello di Montalcino will always be inherently taut and structured. Collemattoni’s wines are both consistent and like the chameleon, able to adjust as necessary for and from what happens in every changing vintage. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Andrea Costanti

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2017

Though beauty may be an elusive animal there must be sound reason for Andrea Costanti to follow through with making a Brunello in the 2017 vintage. After all he made the choice to not do so in 2014 and put the best fruit into Vermiglio Rosso. But Costanti clearly saw the forest for the trees and the difference; beyond simply one being cold and wet, the other hot and dry. Substantial fruit and ample tannin are clearly present, the former cherry with a minor key of pith and the latter liquid chalky. A cherrystone Annata, subtle in savour, sweetly stinging in sapidity. Fine and precise, a mimic of the maker, as it is written. Brunello 2017 is a wine needing to be mulled, chewed and considered, things that speak to how it was built and where it will go. Only 14 per cent alcohol adds to the mystique and curiosity for a sangiovese of temperance, divine skill and site. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted November 2021

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Off the top one of the deeper 2017 Annata and of a density that speaks not to excess but to the northwestern red soils of Corte Pavone’s Montalcino sector. There is nothing about this Loacker Brunello that does not talk their localized talk nor walk with style the way a Corte Pavone wine is want to do. Fulsome and highly expressive, a sangiovese of many layers and commentary. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

The elephant in the room is obvious and Tommaso Cortonesi answers before the question is even posed. “You will be surprised by the freshness and acidity of the 2017, despite the warm vintage.” So how exactly can that be? Picked as usual, for one thing, at the end of September. “Montalcino can approach each kind of season and situation during the production process,” explains Cortonesi, meaning climate events, extremes and change be anathematized the vines have been nurtured and equipped to handle stress, especially drought, to sleep if necessary, call upon reserves and take full advantage of late season miracles. The ’17 is smartly piquant, wisely wily, youthful above reproach, even if technically requiring some correction. Levels of acidity and even volatility are high, as per the vintage but in reality drying fruit and tannin are not. Take your time with La Mannella, don’t rush or make any immediate demands of its emotions or time. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casato Prime Donne 2017

Straight away the multi-layered and generational floral perfume mixed with earth, grace and musk that only a Casato Prime Donne will do. There is just something about the layers and treasures in a Donatella Brunello, gelid fruit first, textural movements second and finally the kind of qualities that make for futuristic classicism. Always a matter of how things must be. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Casanova di Neri is one of those Montalcino estates with the fortuitous ability to combine wines from a few terroirs to forge a most consistent and impressively layered Annata. Seeking, finding and capturing the best of the vintage is not just a specialty but a rite of passage. Our palates and senses are put on high alert in accessing the levels of variegated fruit, fine to striking acids and several ways in which structure envelopes it all. Just seems like this 2017 Brunello resides at the epicentre of what is right, correct and also knowable for the vintage. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Lovely capture of fruit from the warm 2017 vintage that while over-stressed it is important to note each and every producer that found the way. To capture freshness and that honesty of sangiovese spirit, here from Montalcino’s south and with fortuitous elevation to keep the acids and the energy alive. Well done Tommasi, what else to say. Bravo. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Elia Palazzesi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Collelceto 2017

The Annata 2017 from Elia Palazzesi Collelceto is one meant for everyone, meaning the combination of fruit substance and constructive optimism makes this so well rounded, formed and adjusted. No longer a child or even an adolescent but a responsbile adult with a sense of fun and adventure. Here sangiovese is beautiful, handsome, fresh and fleshy. Works every rounded corner of the glass, palate and room. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Fanti’s 2017 is just about as transparent a response as is possible for a Brunello to show where it comes from, a brushy, herbal and very micro-climatic territorial wine. Some thankfully refreshing rain at the end of August allowed for an extra two to three weeks of hang time so that this Annata could reach phenolic ripeness. Much of the fruit comes from 450m of elevation in nine hectares near San Polo’s Podernovi, a fruit source so essential for making a ’17 Brunello of energy and freshness. Very much a Brunello with ample concentration and yet that transparency tells you this is a Fanti. Will make itself available as early as any. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Wildly and exotically perfumed, here in Brunello finding the floral expressiveness not always so easy to access in this particular vintage. Follows the aromatique with a well-rounded if full to fleshy palate and then the sangiovese really digs in. Not in a particularly overt tannic way yet surely with some extensive and extending control. Really fine work in 2017 to be sure and a sleeper with all parts working as one. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

An aromatic Annata for Brunello and without a doubt a Barbi, belonging to no one else. There is bosco and brusco, or the decades forward extension thereof, with an average production of 180,000-200,000 bottles, though it could be much larger, selection notwithstanding. Fruit stylistic, cool, sweetly savoury, of clay, sand and Galestro infiltration. The estate style is the most important which means the cellar-master (Maurizio Cecchini) is more important than the oenologist(s). That is the truth. Not a rich wine or vintage obvious but so perfectly correct for style and place. That said there is a Mediterranean feel here, especially in 2017, of black olive, autumn floor and finally sweet wood. Worked as it should be and careful to carry the crest and the flag. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoria Del Pino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Il Pino 2017

Major jam as confiture or at least a basin filled with cherry liqueur is the order of del Pino’s 2017, a sangiovese that speaks straight from the varietal heart. Truly of itself yet missing something after that, meaning middle palate substance and length despite the crust of finalizing tannin. Just missing that spark. Blame the vintage and del Pino’s kinship in time and place. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Fornacina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Lovely lift, red current to berry fruit and real stage presence put this 2017 in a fine and bright vintage light. The timely picking has allowed for good ripeness and phenolic lift, not to mention a level of beauty too many have failed to find. A sangiovese of resilience that will drink with pleasure for more than a few years time. Drink 2022-2027. Tasted November 2021

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2017

A bigger wine in total control from Franco Pacenti in 2017, following the cues of vintage and hallmarks of location to make a wine of necessity and also promise. Quite an effusive aromatic spray moving and grooving into a most gregarious set of palate parameters. Chewy wine that maintains freshness in the face of warmth and great spice. Needs time and will live long. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Il Palazzone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

A crescent moon of a Brunello Annata, partially formed with curves and angles, showing an asymmetrical symmetry as only a poetic sangiovese of this ilk may do. There’s an herbal quality and ulterior style that captures imagination while also doling out the fruits of bosco, noce and earth. A veritable spice, dried fruit and nuts market in a glass of sangiovese. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

More than expectation and in fact understanding directs the immediacy of Il Poggione’s fine and fulsome Annata. The guarantee of quality fruit makes the high spirit, vitality and energy of this 2017 all that much more exciting and especially palatable. Oh how knowledge and experience can work in an estate’s favour to bring charm, freshness and elegance into a Brunello that rises to meet a challenge. Ottimo per duemiladiciassette. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

La Fornace Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Quite a strike of limestone red lightning from La Fornace in 2017 and yet another way for the name and the place to maintain a sense of itself. Tart and just a bit underripe or underwhelming which means an early pick (likely), following by a gentle pressing. No astringency but also no gregarious flavours coming through. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Big and juicy Brunello, fully extracted and from fruit hung longer than some who chose that early exit route. As such there is plenty of character and flavour in La Gerla, but also some tannic demand and sour edging. Gets most qualities right and finishes a bit brittle. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted November 2021

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

La Lecciaia’s Annata emits a vivid and dramatic set of aromatics, namely brushy herbs in a rosemary to tarragon vein. Quite a tannic sangiovese for 2017, rich and fortifying, strong mocker, not shy and likely to outlive many of its peers. Not finding some of the charm and grace most La Lecciaia winds are want to express but this does choose the firm and grippy ’17 side so at least it has made a choice. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Always a most interesting and ulterior aromatic profile, brushy and herbal while shifting gears to juicier and quite frankly fruitier positions. Has its moments here, there and everywhere, drinks with gratification but also reminds of vintage variation. Timing and winemaking are high end here so expect a wine of composure and length. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021
Lorenzo Magnelli’s picking scheme is most beneficial to vintages like 2017 because he’s thinking about berry size matched with appellation and so these medium sized grapes could only be at their optimum, regardless of when they came off the vine. Magnelli would have chosen which plants for when their fruit could do nothing but the best for place and time. Freshness, acidity and tannins are all on point, consecutively arranged while layered within and without. The bonding, seamlessness and insulation show no holes, nor leaking neither. Top quality and come together for the vintage. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted November 2021

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Excellent quality fruit was had from Le Ragnaie at 600m of elevation, also from northerly Montosoli and yet Riccardo Campinoti’s decision was to use southerly Castelnuovo dell-Abate (including that of Le Fornace) for the Rosso di Montalcino. Generally and frankly speaking the fruit at the estate was picked a minimum two weeks ahead of “normal” schedule, usually hanging well in October, but what is normal anymore? Some Petroso fruit was used in here as well. Yields and production were down 10-15 per cent, at least as compared with the previous two vintages. Remained on skins for 40 days, although Campinoti often does 60 or more and has even gone for 90 in the past. He also aims for the lightest extraction when considering skin-contact time and for him 2017 is a vintage of “unfinished tannins.” Not quite fully ripe and yet acidity never fell away. Another example of how Brunello can be sold now and for the next five years, especially to restaurants and shops for immediate consumption. Bottled at the end of August, good glycerin texture, finely sweetened bitters and all that said, one of the Annata’s better set of mostly resolved tannins. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Lisini gets much of 2017 right and beautiful with gently squeezed red fruit from an early but thankfully not too early a pick. Just enough development and juiciness comes through without any serious tannic or astringent concern. A perfectly middle road taken 2017 Brunello that pleases and will drink quite effortlessly, with red citrus bites, in the short to mid term. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021
Later picked of that there can be little doubt and a full throttle red fruit juiciness expressed as only Montalcinese sangiovese can. Some swarthy funk and earthiness, no game or meaty behaviour but surely some acetic and high toned behaviour. This is a style that many relish because it captures a kind of authenticity for producer and territory. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021
Padelletti gets some integral and essential things right in 2017, namely fruit well developed and pressed where no grapes were harmed. The ripeness levels of acidity and tannin are really close to ideal, higher for the first and then lower for the second. Some oscillations are noted on the sangiovese EKG but not enough to cause any distress to the heart and soul
High tonality, great citrus freshness and a sense of pith are part of the overall thematic in extraction from this racy 2017. Notably vintage related and likely picked on the early side. Plenty of character comes on through while some parts are a bit demanding on the palate, including some chains of brittle tannin. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021
Expert consideration revolves and evolves from the ’17 Pian delle Vigne, a wine of combinative picking, layering and exposure. The result here is full fruit expanse, well enough acidities left alone and plenty of structure. Well made through the processes of proper execution. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021
Lovely Annata from owner and winemaker Matteo Perugino, elegant, saline and briny. A perfectly subtle and salutary ’17 from an estate just south and west of Montalcino, close to Ragnaie and well heeded by elevation. Consistent sangiovese from start to finish with fine acids and veritable succulence. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the palate of the imbiber and if Pietroso does not capture all attention the we may not be paying enough attention. This would have been plucked from the vines at the ripest and most perfect time and the juice pressed with soft hands. Delivers a juiciness and a structure that captures the best of 2017 with charm and grace. Will come together in two years time and drink well to the end of the decade. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021
Really nice work here from Brizio in 2017, not a risk-reward Annata per se but one well managed. A lighter, on par with the vintage Brunello yet in delivery of more than ample substance. Crunch and startling red fruit, plenty of forging acidity, simple yet complimentary structure. Neither exciting nor overdone. An explanation of Brizio’s position and their relationship with 2017. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

There will be very few Brunello di Montalcino that act and taste like Poggio di Sotto from 2017. To gain some sort of understanding you would have to go back to the transition of 1989 when the purchase of the property initiated a vision to see how wines and palates would surely converge looking forward 25-30 years. This 2017 does not offer creativity, concentration and construct without that foreshadowing foresight and here it is in the glass. Glycerin, textural seamlessness, torch taken in hand from 2015 and 2016 despite the track being cracked, broken and blistered by the vintage sun. No matter to winemaker Federico Staderini and oenologist Luca Marone who knew and know how to handle such truth because we clearly see that Brunello’s time in wood has brought it to the window. Rosso is no further yet near equally further along. The vintage messes with the relationship but as we pay attention we see the matters of extract and finesse for how they react when poured into glass. This is actually quite ready to drink. Drink 2022-2027.   Tasted November 2021

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Quite a depth of fruit from Renieri and a darker hue, but also a sensation of all parts existing in such a realm. Crisp sangiovese, of an earthy crust that compounds that croccante sensation and while the acid-tannin formation is equalizing there is an herbal-earthy-spice quotient that offers some vintage distraction. Solid if weighty 2017 in the end. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021
Nothing else smells like Roberto Cipressi’s Annata, aromatically gregarious of an intensity not really noted anywhere else. Smells like a pine forest, a bowl of chopped rosemary, essential oils and so much more. A waft like no other, wood spice in waves and glycerin texture, almost appassimento in feeling and that is something I thought I’d never say. Gets no more parochial nor specific than this. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021
Really aromatic 2017 by Salvioni, hyperbole of Annata maceration and development, deep inhalant of varietal meets vintage pooling. Luxe and filled the with fluid and flowing sangiovese blood, naturally sweet and developed. Fine if grippy and slightly bitter tannin will eventually soften and help this wine find a true path. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

San Lorenzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Lithe, medium-bodied and a notably dry, herbal and dusty Annata profile. Older schooled, say late 80s/early 90s feel. Fine stream of fruit and good length albeit drying at the finish. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

Once again the variability of 2017 is on display with great and ever altering difference. Another stylistic shift and this time into gelid and pectic filled Brunello that takes full vintage advantage with immediacy on notice. As early drinking as a San Polino has ever shown. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021
Super warm vintage and quite dry. The wines can only reflect the vintage and San Polo is one of the estates where position made for good fortune in the face of a great challenge. A season to make more Rubio and only Brunello from a stringent selection. One of the juiciest of all ’17 Annata and the elévage remained consistent, using 1000hL Slavonian plus 50 and 60hL Tonneaux. Regard the professional and emotive work in San Polo’s Annata, of fruit clearly allowed to travel long and develop the kind of phenolics and also glycerin needed to hang with these 2017 tannins. Yes there is some late arriving astringency but that is the vintage, perhaps not in every Montalcino sector but more than most. Tannins are grippy yet fine and also sweet on a wine of juicy substance. Sure it’s a red tart, almost sour raspberry vintage but the rocks and the approach harmonize the parts and the style. The great and forward moving positives are the substantial fruit and savour, aspects of a Brunello most needed to be there when the grip softens and melts away. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Sasso Di Sole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Warm, glycerin and luxurious Brunello, a liqueur of sangiovese in the most sweetly aromatic, jammy fruited and silken way. Almost feels as if there could be some residual sugar left in, that’s how sultry and seductive this acts. Curious for the vintage and beautiful in it very own way. A wine with no major structure that needs revisiting to see how it will react with age. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Warm location and elevation conspire to raise the vintage bar for and from Sesti, an Annata of great expectation, fruit force and brut grip. Here sangiovese stands firm, linear and tall, the kind you could almost put a stick inside and watch it stay upright. That’s the concentration and the effect created in a wine that is so substantial and on so many levels. A kick of bitters at the finish is very vintage related but the aforementioned substance will stand up, be counted and last. Wait three years for the troubling tannins to start their subsiding and sliding away. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted November 2021
Riccardo Talenti’s 2017 is an aromatic one, a sangiovese of fruit, earth, forest, brush and herbs. A dusty one, a deep inhalant of place and trust, an Annata that captures all there is to know about this most obtrusive and demanding vintage. So curious in how the palate replays all these notes and notions, in seasoned flavour and savour. A big wine for Talenti and one made in contract with estate vineyards producing fruit of a very peculiar vintage. Here’s how you do it and fulfill what’s promised. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021
Really fine work for a lovely Annata from the Franci family, high-toned and eclectic sangiovese of red fruit at the top end of the spectrum. Crunchy fruit in the true sense of croccante but also scorrevole, sliding across the palate and extending onwards. There is raspberry and blood orange, tar and roses. Feels a little bit like having gone through some Piedmontese cappello sommerso, by long extraction and textured as a result. Fine tannins, finish, some red pith too but time will heal any wounds. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021
Picked between the 7th and 10th of September and only 22,000 bottles made from 12 hectares of vineyards. Low does not due justice to how small a vintage was 2017. “We tried to extract less and keep it on the lighter side,” tells Alberto Machetti and an exception was made to age 100 per cent in used tonneaux (and no Slavonian oak). This is mainly due to dry tannins and the lowest of low yields. So many dried grapes, 25 per cent of the production discarded, the berries so small, the liquid to skin ratio completely out of balance. “More off a Rosso style adapted to make a little bit of Brunello.” The decision had to be made to avoid alcohol through the roof, too risky overall and too little too screw it up. This has turned out as a really well made and blessed Annata with thanks to decision making that pushed the right buttons. Truth conceived, spoken and executed by Machetti and team. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted November 2021
Big wine from La Fuga in 2017, fully ripened, pressed and expressed for breadth of sangiovese possibility. Pectin at a high level and full throttle actionability for a full on example to sell, discuss and impress. This is a wine that will help licensee/restaurant and bottle shop sales because it delivers Brunello expectation. That said it won’t necessarily gift longevity. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

From the moment the Potazzine perfume comes from the glass it is known that few if any Montalcinese 2017 Brunelli will be like this. The advantages are manyfold, a northwest location, high elevation above 500m, later picking times, natural and longer fermentation, no filtration. Even in a vintage like this the women of Le Potazzine, Gigliola, Viola and Sofia can look to take risks for eventuation at reward. More herbal and savoury than ’16 and less concentrated than ’15 but still exhibits characteristics consistent with those bigger and easier vintages. As cool, fresh and salty as it can get but always with that perfume. Le Potazzine style, unassuming and bellissima. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ugolforte 2017

From vineyards facing southeast aged up to 25 years and really now coming into their own. Definite alcohol elevation balanced by fruit hung well into September, also with kept acidity. Perfectly reasoned seasoned ’17 here from Poggio di Sotto’s sister and second property. Fruit spirit and juiciness run up the middle of vintage possibility and as a result there is nary a bitter, overtly herbaceous or astringent moment. This with thanks to plot position, aid and abetting by Mount Amiata. Tannic as a ’17, drying and yet precocious as compared to Poggio di Sotto, concentration a matter of younger vineyards. Unfair perhaps but they are a family and the simplicity here is well-loved, needed and accepted. Different planet, same philosophy, embracing the land and the people who make it happen, without pretension. Brunello simplicity is the captured moment in time when vintage and stylistic merge as they do in San Giorgio’s ’17. No harm, no foul. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

Quite a fortuitously heady Annata for Tenute Silvio Nardi out of the vintage ranging through many derivations or this one way. There are early picked, light and simple wines and their are later picked Brunelli with a full head of fruit and steam. This falls unto the latter with no lack of barrel seasoning and weight behind the thickening fruit. Needs time to settle and allow both wood and density to integrate and get on down. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Big and brawny it might seem is the order of Andrea Cortonesi’s ’17 Annata but these are the things that elevation, solar radiation and poor soil will talk about together. The bones in Ucceliera’s Brunello are one thing but the fruit, the substance and the presence are all together another. These are the types of wines that stand out, separate and shine in a vintage such as this. Fully developed, phenols at the top of the requiem and then a come together because the work once inside is accomplished without supposition. Every estate in Montalcino should be so lucky to receive such consultancy. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted November 2021
Dense, thick and chalky Brunello, fully extracted and developed, nothing left in the vineyard or on the table. Actually quite impressed by how much has been assembled in this super Annata cuvée without the oft-seen ’17 astringency that usually comes along for the ride. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021
That Ventolaio perfume, heady and gracious, always a wine that finds a way to climb into the nether regions of your heart. Alternatively crisp and then chewy, exterior and interior, a sangiovese of layers, spice and relatively early integration. Does well to bring all parts together with elasticity but also finesse. The vintage snapshot is very much in focus. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021
One sniff of this Annata and only 2017 could come to mind. It is important for sangiovese and vintage to come together, forge a symbiotic union and express what only this place can. Villa al Cortile finds the sweet spot between fruit and tannin in a place where ’17’s acids lie, lay and linger. Not too much of anything with respect to excess here and plenty of possibility. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021
Perfectly middle of the road Brunello in ’17, well developed, extracted and pressed though well shy of any distraction. A bit aromatically reticent which goes against the vintage norms but the palate here is quite heady and expressive. The tannins are serious and bit drying but there should be enough fruit to hang in there once the wine begins to turn in a year and half or so’s time. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021
Such a similar profile to Ucceliera if perhaps a bit more sun worship mixed with lower tones to create a deeper and more pressing example of Annata 2017. In that sense a bit of a dualistic sangiovese in this Voliero while true to harmonized, focused and right proper Andrea Cortonesi form. Hard to imagine this wine needing to be anything but what pours into this glass. More fruit and less structure for the correctness of it all. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2017 Vigna

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2017

The northern aspect of Montosoli is perhaps no further benefitted from than in this vintage, a cooler location befitting the warmest and driest of vintages. That said a Spring frost meant lower production but never the mind as the famous and important hill gifts Altesino with a fine Vigna sangiovese. Graces the charms and substance of 2017 with equal rights and finds the sweet spot for what is truly a full throttle and seasoned Altesino. Will be ready earlier than most might think. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Benvenuto Brunello 2021

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Alle Mura Vigna Marrucheto 2017

Strength in fruit is Vigna Marrucheto’s calling card for a 2017 of true black cherry depth. Travels well beyond fruit to a place where all the necessary parts collect, integrate and repeat. Shocking good acids lift spirits and even more shocking sweet tannins tie the entire work together. Banfi’s team surely had an edge in this challenging vintage and while many Vigna canibalized their Annata it is clear that Banfi had plenty of riches to go around. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casaccia 2017

This is where all the recent hard work put in by Francesco Ripaccioli and team really comes to light and fruition. La Casaccia is northerly-ish but certainly not Montosoli and yet the aromatic profile of this Vigna-designate Brunello is laced with cool nuance and found to be full of fine finesse. As per the Canalicchio di Sopra idiom there is plenty of wood casking through the bones of the wine and yet one can feel the highest quality of those large vessels gifting a select strength leading to chic style, surely to be followed by one and a half decades of aging. All what needs, what is and must be for La Casaccia. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2017

Grandiose La Casa from 2017, full of depth. breadth and shadowy nuance. Just a terrific and most important northern Montalcino vineyard with Altesino’s Montosoli side by each, both upon the hill of hopes and dreams. The Corton of Montalcino if you will and here an example of a Vigna wine showing high glycerol content mixed with the mineral white, blue and grey Galestro of the vineyard. Makes for a potent and beautiful mix. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Filo Di Seta 2017

Filo di Seta, done up only in concrete eggs, the first vintage being 2010. A clay and Galestro vineyard, ancient soils at 180m just above Montosoli. Aging in 500L barrels of first, second and third usage. Looking for crunch, chew and roll. Two picks, two or three weeks apart and “you feel the down valley character,” says Filippo Chia. The opposite of high altitude Brunello, “we call it the campone,” a vineyard that existed going back to the 1700s. A place “where there are monks there is wine.” Potent by glycerin as viscosity and an intimate connection to sangiovese’s chiaroscuro. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Tricerchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG A.D. 1441 2017

High-toned, fruit cumulate, juicy appropriated and just fine textural example of Vigna. In just a few vintages Tricerchi has climbed from there to here with a refreshed and nuanced understanding of how to turn their vineyards into the freshest andsmartest of Montalcino wines. There is a fine complement of wood on A.D. 1441 but not without reason and merit. The fruit is up to the task, especially because there is a naturally curated swarthiness to its character. This Vigna will show best in two to three years. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo Del Drago 2017

Here Vigna in a prime example of a wine showing brilliantly if less concentrated than certainly the previous two vintages. That said having tasted both the ’16 and ’17 Annatas it seems apparent that some ’17 fruit normally destined there has remained in this Campo del Drago ’17. A gain to a loss and such is life though hard to think another avenue might have been taken. Nevertheless this fortunate one drinks with substantial weight, stone, fruit filling and desire. Spicy piques at every turn and a long, creative if turbulent finish. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colombaio 2017

Colombaio steals the 2017 Cava D’Onice show, perhaps to the detriment of the classico but as with past adversarial vintages such is life and the show must go on. Here the fruit is plenty good and substantial, pooling with macerations of cherry accented by hints of rosemary and fennel. A fine, stylish and even chic Brunello that shines and will live well into the future. One of longer probabilities it would surely seem. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Del Vento 2017

The first of three Hayo Loacker investigations into the specificities of his Corte Pavone terroir is this Fiore del Vento, literally “flowers of the wind,” an expression that does well to describe this windswept section to the west of Montalcino. A lovely and fruit pectic thickened Vigna in 2017, concentrated yet expertly so, pretty and almost soft but with some shadowy power beneath. Smooth, silky and yet red chalky, almost an iron sensation though the wine that never feels elemental or metallic. Fine bone structure and far from grippy. Lovely, as mentioned at the top. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Di Meliloto 2017

These flowers in Hayo Loacker’s second of three Vigna Brunelli are the delicacy in an otherwise firmer and more distinctly gripper one, again with florals also poking in tines and ferric under tones. This time there is an ionic, mineral and powerful feeling, with stronger tannic chalk and stony address. Still resides in the realm of fine and precise, a bit more chiseled but not expressly demanding. Will take longer to develop and with fruit in good shape this should drink well into the next decade. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted November 2021

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo di Marzo 2017

Clearly the most concentrated and also powerful of the three Vigna Brunelli produced by Corte Pavone and then one to wait, wait some more and finally wait again before seeing this fruit and that structure work together as one. Great and important concentration with vineyard intendment makes Campo di Marzo (field of March) a sangiovese to reckon with and one you will have to show great patience for best results. Drink 2025-2036.  Tasted November 2021

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2017

I Poggiarelli is picked a week to 10 days later than La Mannella and so necessary to allow the acid-tannin structure to develop, lengthen and replicate. A Brunello very much set up in a community and chain of command, fruit imagined as the lead bird behind which all other parts draught, for ease and decreased resistance. In I Poggiarelli’s case the length of time requires acids, texture and tannin to all take turns, in formation, in antecede and relegation. Depending on when this is tasted in the first seven or eight years from vintage there is no telling which will stand out and above the rest. Equally or rather proportionally perfumed and fragrant like La Mannella but from the start you sense the higher levels of backbone and structure. “But our idea is to play with the balance, to keep the link with the sangiovese of Montalcino and in a warm vintage not to go too far,” tells Tommaso Cortonesi. Neither in extraction nor maceration and to deliver a respectful wine. Usually 25-30 days but more like 18-20 in 2017. Also a 26-30 degree fermentation when some vintages it can be as high as 34, if only for a few days. Definitely a vertical Brunello and time matters. Always with sangiovese and especially with I Poggiarelli. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted November 2021

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Progetto Prime Donne 2017

Most excellent exhaling of sangiovese blood, sweat, tears and love emits from Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s 2017 Vigna of great northern Montalcino importance. A project that Donatella, her daughter and team of women have come to create, foster, nurture and gift. For all of us today and set up to keep giving throughout future generations. Few wines find the precise nature of their vineyard and in how they are able to interact so gracefully with human emotion and flavour. The earth and deep-rooted fruitiness in Prime Donne acts swarthy and wild in youth but this wine has not yet begun to become the fine Vigna example it will eventually accede. Top ’17 for sure. Drink 2025-2036.  Tasted November 2021

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2017

Vallocchio at 320-350m and its old 35-40 year-old vines has done well to find resiliency in 2017 with thanks to its very deep and experienced roots. Faces south by southwest and though the lack of water and 35-plus degree temperatures were a clear and present danger this vineyard knew what to do to survive. A selection more direct than other vintages because no Riserva was made and so Vallocchio is both and neither at the same time, with the maceration kept shorter (25-30 days) to minimize bitter aromas and possible astringencies. Certainly a warm Vallocchio for Fanti steeped like a viscous cherry tisane and seasoned with extra spice but always maintains its pedigree and then length. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2017

More specific of course, focused and looking at a vineyard that has been studied for decades. A vineyard of more than five hectares with the resilience to handle the stressors of the 2017 vintage, thanks to many stones and the surrounding woods. “We have been paying taxes on this vineyard for 400 years, so that’s how old it is,” tells Stefano Cinelli Colombini. The current vineyard was planted in 1982 but some parts have been redone. Finding fineness is no easy seek and task at all times but most of all when water and cooling temperatures are absent for many months at a time. This is Vigna of polished fruit, consistency in hyperbole and while less austere than many vintages there is that elusive and often hiding combination of elegance and finesse. The wine achieves what it sets out to do, if no other way, in attitude. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Rosildo 2017

A fine and finessed Rosildo, concentrated though at the precipice without asking too much of 2017. Rich and inviting, picked late enough to gather the optimum quality available through vintage adversity multiplied by possibility. The length and linger here is outstanding, a quality response to how fruit sumptuousness and fine-grained tannins interact. Quite symbiotic in relationship it needs saying. A requiem for specialized success. Drink 2024-2032. Tasted November 2021

Fattoria La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ciliegio 2017

A Massive attack of fruit and power comes at you fast and furious in Ciliegio from La Màgia. Not just a wine of concentration and substance but some of 2017’s grippiest set of surrounding parameters. Big bones, barrel impart and really impressive facial structure. Chiseled and upright, linear and near formidable. A bruiser now that will bring so much umami later. Imagine the porcini possibilities. Drink 2024-2031.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoria La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Manapetra 2017

Manapetra exhibits no shortage or lack of fruit flesh and development and it must be wondered what filled this glass that the Annata did not receive. A top vineyard is needed in times of trouble and so mother Mary fruit was surely reserved in full for this Vigna sangiovese from La Lecciaia. This packs a wallop and a punch though the acidity remains shy and remote. No remorse though as a big glass of Brunello with Vigna credentials is available by the factor this Manapetra emits out of 2017. Perhaps a but atypical for the estate if a credible response to vintage variation. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

La Rasina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Persante 2017

Sweet and substantially rendered fruit forms a great and needful response to a vintage of hoops and hurdles, frost, aridity and grapes so desperately wanting to shut themselves down. The rose to violet florals and high toned peppery piques are quite unrelenting and there is some real structure here. A bit on the acetic side and something that can’t be ignored but the wine maintains its composure and seeks out its main objective. Real Brunello in 2017. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Such an earthy, swarthy and ferric wine from this northwestern section of the northerly Montosoli Hill and a wine that’s really hard to get to know. So much wild behaviour, microbial manifestations and conjecture. Where to begin and when will it end? Needs time and the question is will it go sideways, will the fruit outlast or will the feral-ness get stronger and stronger? Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casanovina Montosoli 2017

From the northern hill at approximately 300m facing east, just past the cellar on the right. Another 2017 that stands apart because of the location though not as glaring as the Paso del Lume Spento at 620m. A sweetly sound and calming liqueur of red fruit and fresh herbs, well scented, floral and as a Brunello, notes darker of fruit and even a bit of tar. More complexity than many, severing and forking into the dimensional and though comparison can be pedantic there is a tightly wound tannic feeling that reminds of nebbiolo. Surely not one to last ages and live in infamy but it should be considered a 10-12 year wine. From a bottle opened two days so that really tells us something. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Paso Del Lume Spento 2017

A most dramatic way to describe a place that essentially means “a pass so windy it could blind travellers, or literally put out the lights.” Actually the pass across the highest point in Montalcino before heading down towards the southern valley below. The most ironic and interesting single-vineyard wine in Montalcino, formerly an IGT and here from the warm and dry vintage. The elevation is 621 meters above sea level and unequivocally the most singular aromatic profile of any in Montalcino. Approximately 60 per cent is used for this Vigna of sandstone on a plateau, flat and even keeled across its perch. Smells of the freshest herbal field but on a dry and crisp day, or crispy perhaps. That cured salumi aroma is so special for sangiovese and especially Brunello and then the palate really elevates the freshness, with just terrific acidity and the precociousness of young vines (planted in 2012), excited plants that could afford to be a little bit more aggressive in a hot vintage. Oh if more ‘17s could be like this and if more vineyards in Montalcino were above 600m. But I digress. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2017

V.V. as in Vigna Vecchia, a place of old vines, planted in 1968 at 600m. With the concentration of ingress by the vines this is a very structured wine of depth as compared to the new vineyard and also Montosoli. Faces southwest so plenty of sun, especially in 2017. Also the most texture of the 17s in terms of glycerol from Le Ragnaie but also the most backbone and early austerity when it comes to the tannins. Yet there is an orange component, not the skin but a gelid or granita of orange. Time is the vanishing point essential perspective and plenty of it, as V.V. always needs, with 2017 being no exception. As much Vigna Vecchia as it is anything else. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted November 2021

Just a classic 2017, fruit ripe, juicy and red cherry inflated, a specific vintage concentration and made all the more pinpointed in Vigna form. Loreto does what needs and wants for a consumer looking for vintage answers and reply. Likely an earlier drinking Vigna for ’17 and one that will gift plenty of mid-decade pleasure. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Helichrysum 2017

My if Helichrysum does not double down on San Polino’s classico, here in a Vigna with quite a push in terms of tannin. Rides to the end of the fruit’s property and build a fence so high there can be no escape until the barriers begin to fall away. In this case that could be ten years but worth beginning to taste and check in three or four. Chalky in swirling liquid form, forceful, youthful, exuberant and maybe even rebellious. Will see where this travels. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted November 2021

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Podernovi 2017

The 1991 planted vineyard of three hectares faces southeast across the Orcia where on a clear morning in November the fog layer settles in the Valley. Aged in tonneaux of 40 and 50 hL for approximately 30 months. Cool and reticent aromatics whilst sweetly floral and easily leading towards the succulence accessed upon the palate. Very gardenia in fact, like a vertical herb garden leading the senses up to clay and stones that compact and make for a concentrated restraint. Podernovi’s softer complexion reflects a more delicate and perhaps also finessed Vigna as compared to sister block-designate Brunello Vignavecchia. The names alone should tells us this in a new versus old vein and so fineness and delicate structuring is the order of this very pretty wine. While the disposition may be understated the white peppery acids and scintillant of piques are surely not. Delicate perhaps but Podernovi still opens one’s eyes and palate to the possibilities of 2017. Awake now because of the freshness and croccante character of this wine. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vignvecchia 2017

The 1989 planted vineyard of two hectares faces southwest on a steep slope aged in tonneaux (lightly toasted) of 60 hL for approximately 30 months. Smallest of the estate’s berries, ratio of flesh to skin minimized and without equivocation the most concentrated wine at San Polo. Like Podernovi also a cool and reticent nose but you can feel the power behind the veil. Hard to hide the ability, musculature and grip of the tight juice extracted from the small and profound tract of localita San Polo land. Clearly the stronger, deeper concentrated and more structured of the San Polo’s Vigne Brunelli and such a contrast in hue, texture and grip when tasted side by side with Podernovi. There is a thickness and swath of Rothko brushstroke in Vignavecchia, its sale captioned and finalized by a firm grip in handshake. Such a chewy wine, of tree fruit in pods and liquorice. Needs time to settle, integrate the notable amount of wood and elasticize towards a brighter future, more so than Podernovi, perhaps to outlive and outlast. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Sasso di Sole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sasso Di Luna 2017

Cherry sangiovese liqueur in all its pooling and welling red fruit incarnations with fine acidity and not easy but also not formidable structure. A Vigna that surely does not try too hard and if it’s not the most substantial version of “Brunello” it surely takes off straight from where the Annata left off. All about love and happiness. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piero 2017

Riccardo Talenti’s 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. This 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. Fruit gets no more developed and carried along to this level of ripeness and while Talenti’s Piero is showing evolution so early in its tenure the purity, honesty and admonition here must be noted. Not just a remark but an opening for props, kudos and general lauding. No pretence and absolute Talenti heart worn on a Vigna sleeve to say this is the vintage, deal with it, work with it and run with it. No forevers but drinking windows open and ready as soon as anyone feels the necessity for ready. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Tassi Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Colombaio DOCG 2017

Quite the open and blessedly pretty Vigna from Tassi di Franci Franca, on the lighter if lightning red fruit side of Vigna 2017 things, sappy tang, cherry liqueur and fine circulating acids. Simply stated, put and offered. No pretence neither, either way you look at it. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Oliveto P. 56 2017

Oliveto is the original name of the farm and the winery before the change in ownership in 2012. From the iron-rich red clay soils and the finest blocks of the vineyard. The location is a hot one but in 2016 there was not too much adversity to find and marry both sugar and phenolic ripeness. Also thanks to a vintage of higher acidity, picked between the 16th and 18th of September. There is a balance between some of Tenuta Buon Tempo’s best ever quality of fruit and a level of acid meets fine tannin structure that also reaches an historical peak. Two weeks of fermentation followed by four days of cappello sommerso and here some new Slavonian oak. A beautifuL Riserva, crisp, sweetly savoury and in perfect harmony. Says Alberto Machetti, “I think it’s the best wine we’ve made at Tenuta Buon Tempo. By a wide margin.” Who are we to argue and so the recommendation is tend to agree. Drink 2023-2033. Tasted November 2021.  Drink 2023-2026

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Doria 2017

Casale del Bosco dates back to XVII century, but the origins of this site are Etruscan. It was bought by Silvio Nardi in 1950 and is the source for the cru Brunello Poggio Doria. Uniquely singular Vigna-designate 2017 Brunello, deeply welling like an aperitif with fine bitters and natural sweetness, black cherry type fruit and well developed texture. Turns fiercely tannic and so the ultimate takeaway is big pressing, full extraction and every little grain that might come through from those stressed 2017 skins. This wine needs plenty of time. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Tiezzi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Soccorso 2017

Quite the developed and verging towards oxidative Vigna Brunello from 2017 with sharp acids and tight if also brittle tannins. Continues along the road to acetic and stays the course. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pomona 2017

Pomona in 2017 is a fine and bright Vigna Brunello of sharp red fruit, tart angles, piques, valleys and blessed pinpoint control. Tart and direct with enough finesse to keep a straight and fine line. Finds the best it can be from a less than generous vintage. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta Il Greppo

Brunello di Montalcino and Vigna DOCG 2016

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta “Greppo” 2016

As with Rosso 2018 there is magic in 2016 and for Federico Radi it was just a matter of blending, having inherited the wines already waiting in cask. Magic because a tempered in control level of alcohol and purity of satin-glycerol consistency is purely and expressly Biondi-Santi. Bottled seven months ago and will be released in March of 2022. The notion of optimum balance will likely set in two or three months from now with a lingering peppery pique and kick still in tow. Also a freshness of summer making for a minor balsamico but one that is far from concentrated in dark syrup. The alcohol is at 14 which for the vintage and current day Montalcino is relatively low, or at least modest. And yet the wine captures your immediate attention, partly because the fruit is fortified but more so by dramatic acidity and a lingering austerity. Also the reddest of citrus notes, almost pomegranate. The acidity number is actually 0.5 per cent higher than (Riserva) ’15, with notes of orange skin, violet and subtle underbrush. More Paco de Lucia than Slash. The latter will fall away in two, better still three years. The Brunello will likely remain in that next state for 10 years and then begin to evolve, slowly, incrementally towards and through a few to several decades life. Drink 2024-2041.  Tasted November 2021

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

Here a perfectly tidy and veramente example of the possibility for existential beauty out of the 2016 vintage. Ripe fruit beyond harmonious compare, weighted in concentration, mildly structured and right there for the taking. Just another year will allow this Brunello to drink at peak. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted October 2021

Filippo and Elisa Fanti

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

The clarity and translatable Fanti terroir in 2016 from the “normale” shines like the bluest of Montalcino days. It’s that simple in terms of growing, picking, fermenting and aging sangiovese from a grounded, persistently consistent and harmonizing vintage. Not a hot one but one hitched upon a long and linear even keel for the Brunello to reach that coveted arena of the elegant. Just what those who get it now want and quite frankly need from Brunello di Montalcino. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

“In the beginning ’16 was…not enough,” begins the soliloquy by Fattoria dei Barbi’s Stefano Cinelli Colombini. “But after a year it changed.” Reading deeper one understands that time is the answer, for sangiovese, Brunello and 2016. “This is why Riserva should be sold after eight or 10 years,” continues Cinelli Colombini. “The problem with tradition is we make a mistake that if it exists, there must be a meaning inherent, otherwise it would not have taken so long. The mistake we make is between what is actually a tradition and the sense of tradition. You only need to taste to know that wine is the most democratic thing in the world.” Yes this Barbi is showing as it should or as it should be beginning to, but tradition is what holds it back, for now. In time it will speak on behalf of what it must be. That is as a sangiovese with a true sense of itself and the tradition it not only represents but one it intrinsically and existentially is. Here from 2016 is one of the great Barbi Annata Brunello. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted October 2021

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

Fuligni’s is well, Fuligni. A classic Brunello with new bones and old school heart. Spice above freshness, seasoning over warmth. The most properly developed layers of southern Montalcino red fruit in a vintage aching to speak in a vernacular passed on through generations. Well seasoned casks impart their wisdom, structural slats and flavours, piqued right across the palate. Feels like white sand with calcareous veins and grey to ochre argiloso, a.k.a. the pangs of tradition and soil tang that historically run through Montalcinese sangiovese. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Giodo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

A different sort of 2016 feeling here from Giodo’s Località Casanova, Sant’Angelo in Colle Brunello. Mixed sensations, savoury and hillside brushy, of rosemary, fennel and lavender, but also mustard, arugula and cress. A masala of Montalcino earthy spice, seasoned purple fruit, tart and full of high-toned energy. Quite wood spiced and very long. Needs time to settle and find the grace. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

Same 35,000 bottle production and like the 2015 a Brunello of great freshness and acidity yet here deeper and less immediately motivated interaction. A sangiovese of richness, layers and yet to be discovered nuance, fleshy to the point of distraction and seeing the structure for the trees. Once again Andrea Pignattai shows the sensibility, humility and grace in his very personal Brunello, capturing the northwest of Montalcino with sincere and respectful exigency. His ’16 is built to age very well. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted October 2021

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

Tasted side by side with Riserva 2016 so its would not be stretch to expect great similarities. First things first. The difference between a Poggio di Sotto Annata and Riserva will always be on blatant display. Moments of clarity each of their own and this ’16 shows something specific, neither lesser nor better but a faithful and loyal expression of the upper vineyards. Great intensity, optimum concentration but not as if or needing to be compared to Riserva’s. Here sapidity swaths over the palate, pesto of herbs and brushstrokes of red velvet ganache. Sweetness of all parts, fruit to tannin, amongst the top for the vintage. Drink 2023-2033.   Tasted November 2021

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Nastagio 2016

Lovely Col d’Orcia liqueur from a newer Vigna-designate wine for the estate and here with as good a vintage as might be to come flying from the gate. It may be unfair because this is being tasted in the middle of dozens of 2017s but my how finesse, focus, depth and concentration all come together in this fine Vigna wine. Cool, ethereal, salt-licked and well, special. Can imagine drinking this for two plus decades. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted November 2021

Francesco Ripaccioli, Fabrizio Bindocci and Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2016

It seems that I Poggiarelli will always be subjected to comparison because of the contrasting style to Cortonesi’s homefront La Mannella. Here the single-vineyard sangiovese rewrites itself in every vintage from the auspices of a warmer, southeasterly Montalcino location at 420m of elevation. Galestro sandy-grey is the ante-soil structure building block whereas La Mannella’s clay gifts earlier charm and elegance. Furthered élevage is a necessity, to instigate depth and structure but not to encourage too much power. Lastly I Poggiarelli is almost always picked a minimum seven days after La Mannella. In 2016 this all adds up to one important, profound and vintage defining word. Fluidity. That’s the ideal to emulate, replicate, relipucate and remunerate. Tommaso’s ’16 Vigna is a fluid mosaic of sangiovese, as if its components were composed of phospholipids, cholesterol, proteins and carbohydrates. Even if they are seen simply as fruit, acid, texture and tannin they all move seamlessly as one, within one membrane, a perfect biological model, effortlessly layered elastic and fluid. Poetic structure. La liquidità di Montalcino. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted November 2021

Luigi Peroni and Natalie Oliveiros, La Fiorita

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Di NO 2016

First vintage was 1993 and Natalie Oliveros came on board in 2011. Fiore Di NO is a special wine for her, a combination of three vineyards and only made in abundant years so as not to cannibalize the Annata. NO, as in the owner’s initials but also “no compromise,” no chemicals, barriques or tonneaux. NO is a wine of grace and power, one that exhales instead of holding in thoughts, emotions and feelings. It expresses itself with confidence and control, deserves all of our respect. Drink it now and for the next five years. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Claudia Callegari, San Polo and Michaela Morris

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

One of the few estates that made the decision for 2016 (by winemaker Riccardo Fratton) to not produce any Riserva. Simply because it was too fresh a vintage and the thinking was that an extra year in wood would compromise that ideal. Still a combination of Vignavecchia and Podernovi which means that all the best fruit outside of the single vineyards are in this freshest of fresh Annata. If you are at elevation and want to maintain the integrity of your vineyards then this is what you do. A wine of ethics, unification, probity, trenchant purpose and if simply idealized there is much complexity to assimilate. Grande. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Viola, Gigliola and Sofia, Le Potazzine

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

This and this only, at least for today is the vintage of “I parfumi di Potazzine,” a set of aromas that define and depict this very particular place. A volumetric aroma set of land and space, woods and air, the transfer by “le donne” through a capture of their home. An “eleganza” and “ricercatezza” unparalleled, a wine of charm and obvious grace, controlled passion and incremental steps taken towards the most natural world of parochial perfection. Wild ferment, no filtration, 42 day maceration, long and slow, a risk taken and now such important reward. You had to do it it is said to Gigliola. “I didn’t know exactly,” she says. I don’t believe her. Such a special Annata and one we can trust with every part of our palates and hearts. Drink 2022-2036.  Tasted November 2021

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura DOCG 2016

How can there be any surprise to behold this massive capture of fruit and structure in Banfi’s much heralded yet somehow under-valued Poggio alle Mura? A wine clearly Riserva over Vigna, not just stylistically but all ways counted and speaking. Feel the barrel spice, notes of iodine, soy and scorched earth, the depth and the welling deep into the ground. Baritone sangiovese, a bit of an ode to the past, set in standard bearing and harmony. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

With Elisa Fanti

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2016

The emotional calculation for Fanti’s Vigna wine in 2016 is a special vineyard multiplied by an exceptionally understated vintage to equal a Vallocchio for the ages. The old vines block upwards of 350m could only love the cool, mostly cloudy and elongated season. Every year the best sangiovese comes from this plot on the hill looking up and to the right (north) of the winery. Vallocchio’s Galestro soil is poor and filled with grey to charcoal stones and was identified back in 2006 as the best block for sangiovese. More depth here than Annata to be sure but also an extenuating and extended level of calm, comfort and satisfaction. Just a wonderful and singular estate expression. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted November 2021

Bright red and juicy concentrated fruit defines and designs this ropey, rosy and ripe liquorice Vigna from Lisini. Tightly wound but with ample to exemplary 2016 fruit of a very specific kind. A Selezione that exhibits all that 2016 truly is, can and wants to be. A vintage of fruit that benefited from hang time so that acids, texture and structure could all catch up to sugar and alcohol. The balance is here. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Classica, an Argiano perfume that fills the glass and then the air, florals and wispy earth, a spray of rose, violet and finely decomposed argilo. There is a restraint, closed constraint and almost no tempt of fate in such a Riserva, sangiovese of maximum occupation if no real hurry to go anywhere and certainly not too fast. It can be imagined that this 2016 will remain almost frozen in this meditative state for up to 10 years. Having tasted through older vintages recently and knowing the current winemaking oeuvre, this grand notion is a given. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted November 2021

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Some 2016s come out at and with great force, or speak so vividly. Riserva by Cannalicchio di Sopra is not so much quiet as it is confident, linear, upright and perfectly sturdy. A wine of great force but only willing to use that power incrementally, one essential step at a time. This is 2016 in a perfectly captured and preserved photograph, a mix of eastern and northern vineyards that gather with near perfect equanimity. Nothing left behind, all there and yet not quite ready, a preserve of Montalcino 2016 that will always persevere. Bank and bet on such a wine to pour with strength and elegance for decades.  Last tasted November 2021

Barrel Sample. A deeper well filled with that cherry liqueur and clearly more extract and concentration. The tannins are still fierce, intensely chalky and fine bitters are very much a part of the mix. A furthered texture Brunello with no less strength than most 16s will surely exhibit but the power is tempered by this feel and polish. Quite a potential here for 20 plus years of longevity. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Capanna Di Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Lithe and graceful for 2016, full yet reserved, a Riserva of purity and tight wind, also linear and sure. The fruit works a rich citrus edge, from pomegranate through blood orange, feeling healthy and spirited, at times coming down to a dry forest floor but always climbing back up. Quality grains of tannin run in chains, not just at the back but regressing in return through the channels of this most complex and grippy wine. Can’t turn away. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Deep and fulsome Brunello Riserva for Caparzo out of a vintage that offers as much as any winemaker wished to make use of. The richness of fruit is so northerly Brunello from an ideal vintage cut with argilo-limestone-Galestro mineral wealth. There is truly nothing lacking in the grape-acid-tannin structure in this all in sangiovese and the only question might be is this too much of a good thing? Is there such a thing? Ultimately time will provide the answer. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Gone for broke, full vintage capture and all in sentiment here from Caprineto’s warm and developed ’16. Will need a few years to render, melt and come together but there will always be the classic dustiness of a Carpineto sangiovese, seemingly no matter the Tuscan area from where it comes. Can there be a more consistent and recognizable house style? Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Drogheria Franci, Montalcino

Casanuova Delle Cerbaie Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Vigna Montosoli 2016

Full-fruit in darkening cherry tone and the one Riserva 2016 to show some blueberry, unusual maybe but there it is. Good combinative crunch, some definite lift, salumi and while some may find this a touch acetic it should be suggested that the line is perfectly acceded and never crossed. There is a full compliment of Botti adding spiced and textured commission, also needing time to work within the parametric style. This will settle and when that happens all the parts will come together, swim in a pool of sangiovese liqueur and make for a truly promising future for the wine. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Looking east towards Montalcino from Castello di Romitorio

Filo di Seta is Filippo Chia’s intuitive “transavanguardia” sangiovese of place, over the ancient beach where he and his father Sandro once painted the Montalcino sea. Mostly early picked fruit, all in tonneaux, at first thinking croccante but that’s too simple a way to describe what texture and sensation is combed in this reserve wine. Bottled on the 29th of June so just arriving at the ready, to look at if not to consume. Here there is a fineness of liquid chalkiness, a fluido or scorrevole to drive the way this sangiovese plays and also sings, a Riserva to move with the wind and musical sway. Somewhat unknown, finely tannic and clearly what could and should be described as “mountain” Brunello. Coming in late is the spice, almost cinnamon and such. Hate to refer to any wine as the best from an estate but too bad. That this is, beyond the avant-garde such as it is. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted November 2021

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Only the old vineyards participate in the ’16 Riserva composition, in which beautiful means small in that air can pass through. A Riserva of sparsity, spargolo chicchi d’uva (grapes), from eight vineyards selected into one tank. Only the 10th Riserva in Romitorio’s history, harvested at 7.5 acidity and lower alcohol. There is muscle, ancient DNA, clonal diversity, forest floor, air and flora and then, time sliding into light strings and dappling all around. Not a flicker but a hum, almost imperceptible of electricity, kinetic, disciplined and smooth. No rattle, out of synch vibration, nor waste of notes to movement neither. A finished composition, Live at the Fillmore, effusive and light, of comfort and potential. Drink 2025-2037.  Tasted November 2021

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2016

Molte sane, repeats Andrea Costanti as if by mantra through the course of the 45 minutes while we taste, consider and assess his Riserva 2016. Many healthy grapes, calories, syllables, words and then adjectives are needed to describe this important if never lithe or shadowy sangiovese. No, it is instead immediately upright, enduring as a vinous edifice and demanding of attention. Aromatically magnetic, floral and prepossessing of magnitude, drawing in close yet tantalizingly teasing at a safe distance. Intimates a feeling, as if standing in a deserted public space rendered in simple geometric forms. Animated de Chirico, mystery and melancholy, vanishing points and parallel lines. Crosses over the palate in mathematically fine lines, everything in order, at peace, perfectly groomed. A strict and generous Riserva, fruit moving two by two, contrapositions of history, tradition and life. In a Brunello for the sake of a Costanti Brunello there is so much to feel and say. Such a wine makes it hard to stop thinking but you must and you will, content with looking forward 12-15 years. Everything is in its right place but should not be disengaged. Not yet, or for a while. Steadily, fermamente, healthily, costantemente, constantly. Drink 2025-2041.   Tasted November 2021

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Anemone Al Sole 2016

This first of two Loacker Estates Riserva for their western Montalcino property is the “anemone in the sun,” surely a reference to sea fossils found in the vineyard, so very typical of this part of the territory. Also remarkable considering the elevation and the aspect where sangiovese does in fact bask in the radiation of the sun while also enjoying some of the area’s greatest temperature fluctuations. Deeply cherry, almost blackening but maintaining brightness with top quality acids. Not the most demanding tannins but they are there and will help see this wine move effortlessly through ten years easy. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted November 2021

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Molino Al Vento 2016

The second of two for Corte Pavone in Riserva terms is from “the hill of the windmill” and speaks to the windswept crest where the vineyard is perched. As such there should be and clearly is more air and breath in this Riserva as compared to the saline cut that runs through Anemone al Sole. Crisp and crunchy sangiovese here, fruit just a shade less dark than the sister vineyard, tannins finer and also grainier with less openness and more waiting time required. One and then the other. Isn’t that always the case? Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted November 2021

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Having an understanding that Tommaso Cortonesi knows how to make his wines and though Riserva is only made in what are deemed “suitable” vintages then 2016 is not an unexpected happenstance. Just so happens to emerge from that stellar growing season and if memory serves correct comes replete with a La Mannella upbringing poised and paused into the very fabric of this wine. A sangiovese of veritable home-front DNA, a torch passing from father and son with oenological consultancy aid and abetting by Paolo Caciorgna. Cortonesi’s Riserva is a linear one, firm of backbone built by later picked fruit and kept acidity. Neither dust nor agitated affectation presides as tannin over juice and in fact this is a very expressive Riserva. One of depth but also one that rises with constant upward movement. Onwards as well with 2016 a high point in the pantheon of the last 15 vintages. Tombola! Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted November 2021

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

The purest sangiovese of greatest clarity for the Donatella classics is this Riserva, not just because it comes from 2016 but for the very fact that time has had a great effect in resolving the special needs of such a wine. What’s so very special about a Casato Prime Donne Brunello di Montalcino is the complex weave of northerly fruit, swarthy sumptuousness and textural crema. Never more on display then in this Riserva and from this vintage, bright and you can almost sense the smile on the face of this expressive and inviting wine. Also structured with great sneak and sly movement, sure, unlike the others, so beautifully crafted, painted as opposed to sculpted. Timeless. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Elia Palazzesi Collelceto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

On the lithe and even jammy side for Riserva out of 2016, pretty enough and fruit red, fine, sweet even though there is a difficulty in shaking the feeling of cherry to raspberry confiture. Chewy and ropey, red liquorice and salty tannins. Intriguing Riserva, more like a really fine Annata but lacking depth and complexity. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2016

As for Le Macchierelle ’16 the contrast to 2015 is not so much night and day but 2015 (and its extra year in bottle) is showing more caress and Riserva delicacy as compared to this really grippy and tannic 2016. More concentration of tannin and not necessarily conversion of fruit. But to split fruit hairs is silly and there is no doubt the grape substance will easily pace and run with the structure to make Le Macchierelle live a very long, fruitful and slowly developing life. Where this diverges into the realm of special and profound is in the architecture that starts from the ground up. Iron-rich, calcareously cemented, skilled and seasoned. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted November 2021

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Fattoi presents what can best be described as a Riserva for their place and time, a bright and effusive sangiovese of honesty, purity and estate vineyards’ transparency. Who could not be wooed, swayed and allayed by the freshness of such a pretty in pulchritude Riserva, cool and composed, with some of the finest acids and sweet grains of tannins imaginable. Top quality for the ilk and style. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

The question is increasingly asked whether 2015 or 2016 is the true Riserva vintage, of the two. Assessing Barbi’s at this early stage does not answer the question straight away but there are some clues. The mineral swath that owes to iron, volcanic and sedimentary Galestro presence really does dominate the aromatics on what is again a could be nothing but a Fattoria dei Barbi sangiovese. Dark cherries that swim, bob perhaps but never over-macerate in their own sweet juices is the hallmark notation of this vineyard’s aromatic pool. Fine tannins are tight but not overtly demanding, acids stream freely and easy, supportive but not in authoritative control. A bit closed (or let’s say contained) to be honest and the warming finish indicates the need for a few years more time. As opposed to 2015 which was necessary and now here a ’16 that might remind of Brunello from the 1970s. Drink 2025-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Fornacina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Slide nearly due east down from the Montalcino hill and you will come to Fornacina, an estate set in this idyllic quadrant of the area where cypress and grey to white sandy clay mineral soils predominate. Expect classic deep dusty plum fruit from a Riserva and a vintage as co-conspirators of calm, breadth and ease of collective breath. These and this are so true to form if not a serious Brunello, then one so knowable, unshakeable and just bloody proper. This ’16 gets it very right. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Fossacolle Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Quite a deep and developed Brunello Riserva ’16, moving well along its way to arrive at the near your and its destination. Slip sliding away, slowly yet surely, feeling no adversity, pouring soft and simple. Make use of this now while so many firm and tannic kin take their time to find a way. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Pacenti’s Riserva straddles two worlds and works both rooms with remarkable distinction. The fruit is open knit, effusive and perfectly consistent with the vineyard’s gifting but there is also a depth to this sangiovese that makes for a two-part wine. By depth this means a down to earth, low tonality and an herbal, fully formed and dense foundation. This is really solid, grounded and architecturally sound Brunello di Montalcino. More so than many and definitive of style. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Il Poggione Brunello Di Motalcino Riserva DOCG Vigna Paganelli 2016

Hard to find a more amenable and also soundly structured Riserva than this by Il Poggione, a Riserva that doubles as a Vigna (single-vineyard) Brunello di Montalcino. This is sangiovese for sangiovese’s sake, from a defined sense of place and made in a style that depicts meaning for a storied estate. Bright with depth, light tripping acids and grounding. Solid construction while always able to dance upon its feet. One of the best ever for the crew. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted November 2021

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Hard to imagine a Riserva from 2016 with more openness and inviting behaviour than this from La Fiorita but what’s clearly at play is the attention to detail, starting with dedicated and regenerative agriculture. A warm location is a challenge and yet fruit here is so well preserved and lifted at the very same time. The mix of textures, at once chewy and then crunchy, the blessings of commitment, passionate and respect, finally the way this wine seamlessly moves with delicasse and power. These are all stages and layers that knit a really fine Riserva. Brava. Veramente brava. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted November 2021

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Gli Angeli is true Riserva, of a density in the depths of earth and fruit while conversely rising with lifted guide. Bone density too, then highlights before returning back from whence it rose. Loads of charred herbs, dusty tannins and a late drying sensation. Needs aeration and time. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

A Riserva from Vallafrico southeast of the Montalcino village set in some of the territories’ most beautiful hills. While the rise and the piques alert the brows and put the buds on alert there too is sensory territorial understanding that gives this wine a grounded and calming sense of place. Leccaia’s fruit wells dark, climbs airy to ethereal and fulfills every point along the tasting journey. A complete wine in every respect, just, stylish and very fine. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Rich and wholesome Riserva of great depth and breadth, though easy on the tannic power. They are there and highly involved but already developed, fine and near to relenting. A vanquished Riserva is a particular style, ready and willing but far from airy and light. Not so much a big 2016 but rather one of density in and amongst the many layers. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

La Poderina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Abate 2016

From a hill above the abbey of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and a warmth running through this Riserva as much as any in the collection. Running tart and a bit brittle, hard tannins and sharp acids taking full control. A year should help settle the anger and the score. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted November 2021

La Rasina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Il Divasco 2016

At the height of what could be considered a lifted Riserva, especially for 2016, tones set to 11 in a sangiovese of great pulse and fiery style. After comes the wood, fulsome and chalky, grains of spice and chocolate through all its iterations. A bit old school and lovely for the sentiment. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2016

Never overstate the Lorenzo Magnelli way of crafting Riserva, that is by aging in cask longer than not just the average, but indeed all others. His Le Chiuse Diecianni carries, drifts and gifts the most succulence whilst exhibiting a spice force to ignite the most sensation and emotion. A veritable melting pot of a sangiovese, complexities bound and wound, circulating throughout the wine’s coefficient of existential and elementary positions. These are the smallest of berries picked to forge what only Riserva can, to be cool, mineral licked, ethereal. Already exhibiting fruit purity and also density for a look at what two decades forward will come from this finest of Brunello wines. Drink 2024-2037.  Tasted November 2021

Padelletti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Finely composed and structured Brunello Riserva here from Padelletti out of the full and complete 2016 vintage. A sangiovese of cherries darkening to blue and black, of fruit oscillations that rise and fade, return and submit to the acids of this wine. Mighty acids they are, lifted and full of vim, vigour and relish. Not quite a vivid Riserva but surely one of what feels like a northerly ilk, cool, savoury and in its own world, blessed of a particular kind of wine. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Solaria Patrizia Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Brightness of tight lightning, red fruit sparked and ready to take on the world. Sharp tang, crisp and crunchy, shifting now, heading into an area occupied by the wood in the wine. Of a school where big cask and time conspire for older fashioning yet here of a clarity that speaks with clean admonition. In the end capitulates and commits to being a fine wine, nice and amenable. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Vigna Ferrovia 2016

Hard to imagine more warmth and deeply rooted red fruit development accessed and gathered in a Riserva from 2016. Pian delle Vigne’s doubles down on the vintage ideal, acting as both a Riserva and a Vigna wine, luxe and direct, full throttle and yet finely finessed. The lover of Brunello for Brunello’s just further back than most recent history will fall in love with this style of Montalcino Riserva. The credibility of the work can never be called into question. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Pietroso’s Riserva from 2016 is a lifted affair and also incredibly youthful, precocious and yet to be understood. Of all the Riserva from 2016 tasted in this session it seems to be one that needs air, contemplation and time. The fruit seems to mimic and intimate so many ilk, freshness mostly but also some moments feeling leathery and dry. Like cacchi (persimmon) for instance, also pods from certain trees and liquorice. A unique Riserva, solo artist from winemaker Andrea Pignattai, so worthy of distinction and as mentioned off the top, must be given plenty of time. In assessment and much further aging. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Brizio’s gives away so many aromas in Riserva, from herbs and brushy hillsides to all the spices in the world. A wine of forest proximate scents mixed with barrel affectation like few others and finishing where all the chocolate lays. The finish is quite soft and the tannins relenting, already at this time. Drink this earlier than many. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Wanting to head straight away into superlatives it must be cautioned not to do so because thinking about how 2016 Riserva relates to what Poggio di Sotto really is must be the first and last consideration. La nota di magnete, a metallic note, florals, red to black fruit and the sapidity of località is more than anything else a classic way to imagine and convince the world that this is exactly what Poggio di Sotto has been, is now and always will be. The same team that has been here and will be here has made this wine, humble professionals that support the Poggio di Sotto expression. Penetrating, intense, opening slowly, acids doing everything they can to elevate the sweetness and persistence of fruit. Keep in mind there is no single vineyard 2016 to cannibalize the top selection for this wine. The idea for this Riserva was known going in and the wine achieves every aspect of the goal. Meraviglioso. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted November 2021

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Straight away on notice for lovely work in Riserva by Renieri with more upfront, right, pure and proper fruit than many. Hard to combine and manage freshness with textural chew and that is the fine accomplishment in this 2016. That and a fineness of acids and tannins also working as one for structural gains. A harmonized, nearly settled Riserva in upright position that will round out when the time is right. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted November 2021

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Il Quercione 2016

Classical Campogiovanni, clearly Quercione and indisputably a wine factored, figured and crafted by Leonardo Bellaccini. Exceptional fruit quality meets barrel excellence, engages with one on one commitment and emerges married until death do they part. Richness and textural luxuries abiding and forever. Likely one of the biggest Riserva to discover out of the idealism of the vintage. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted November 2021

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

The 2016 Riserva from San Polino continues a string of most excellent wines tasted by this esteemed producer, including high quality Annata and Vigna 2017s. The depth and commitment to finesse in the face of power lays somewhere between exemplary and extraordinary with a Riserva unrelenting in its nature of calm, poised and collected spirit. Plenty of backbone and drying grains of fine to wispy tannin helps to drive forth the definitive point. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Phenomena 2016

Exemplary and necessary Sesti vineyards put in the work here for a Riserva 2016 of real gastronomic presence. Feels like a complex preparation, locally sourced and raised, as if by nightshades and also beefy, slow cooked and lean, seared to act as a perfect compliment with a glycerin salsa rossa tying it all together. Chewy and ropey as a savoury confiture to sidle up to cured salumi in yet another gustatory way of looking at Montalcinese sangiovese. All in all a fine and delicate wine. An execution, style and finished plate of own purpose, tradition and accord. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted November 2021

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2016

Pian de Conte is without equivocation a very special wine. The best of Talenti’s vineyard blocks and selections make for a 2016 Riserva as finessed and fine as any. Perhaps the most important aspect and what matters to know about this Riserva is the restraint, the way the wine has gently travelled through its universe of maceration, fermentation and elévage. Pian de Conte is poised, perched and prescient within, upon and without all the points in between picking and pouring, always with an eye on the ultimate prize. That would be aging well into the next decade with one incremental structural step taken at wide, lengthy and unhurried intervals. Such a wine only comes around once in a while. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted November 2021

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci 2016

Franci Riserva is a gift of fruit, actually a gift wrapped package with red fruit at its core and a surround sound of sweet acidity tabled by even sweeter tannin. The lack of grip, pomp, astringency and circumstance is almost remarkable in a Riserva for 2016 that well, hits the sweet spot. Gainful, respectful of place and just a really lovely drop to enjoy nearer and dearer to time and heart. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta La Fuga Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Unusually reductive, especially for sangiovese and for Brunello. Don’t even get started on this but…20 minutes later it has blown off. Make sure to aerate your ’16 Riserva to give them the full respect they so deserve. Behind the curtain is a Riserva of full riches, richesse and real magnanimous behaviour noted by how it swirls in the mouth with so much flavour. Truly a cup runneth over Riserva that will stand a good and credible test of time. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Ucceliera Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Have of late come to know and understand what a Brunello by Ucceliera smells like and this is it. In Riserva form but one of those sangiovese that feels like it has aged to an optimum point yet will almost surely remain right at this state of extant etiquette for many years to come. A Riserva that speaks to fruit edging into a cured, oxidative and dried spectrum though clearly suspended in fresh stopover animation. Brunello of salumi and the earth, of berries, plums and fragola, of bosco and nocie, umami and the future. If more were going in this 2016 there would not be enough bandwidth to take it all in. There is fortunately enough and at just the right amount. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Val Di Suga Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Spuntali 2016

A combination of variegated fruit, red, also some orange and then this deep rooted earthiness. Hematic and a brush with forest floor success. Up level acids foil the earthbound nature and emotions run high in a Vigna Brunello of great parochial curiosity and much moving, stirring and complex behaviour. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted October 2021

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Ventolaio’s Riserva is one of the very few that is simply not a really noticeable departure from the Annata. A sangiovese of incredible clarity and also transparency. If ever a Brunello would speak in exacting, this is what, who and why terms then Ventolaio’s might just be the spokesperson at the head. These are their wines, highly specific, notable, bright and fine. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

A recognizable style of Riserva here, part darker fruit and part high tonality, lifted skywards. Down to earth in terms of substance yet very much submissive to acidity, some tannin but much more of the former. A tart, edgy and drying sangiovese, likely best before too long and not too deep into the years following. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted November 2021

 

Older vintages

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Bigger and more concentrated vintage, even for high elevation, cool and freshest of them all Le Potazzine. Clarity combined with finesse meet at the point where that clarity becomes vivid reality. More tannin and a sense of the Grandi Botti are in this vintage which means more time is still warranted to bring this to fruition. Will live as long as any in Montalcino. This is the reason 2015 is a Riserva vintage for Potazzine, more than most. It can handle and wants the extra year in wood. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted November 2021

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Cerretalto 2015

Explicit, outward, gregarious and highly expressive sangiovese, expansive in every way, by depth, width and breadth. Stretches elastically and widens fleshy with each inhale and exhale, sniff and sip. Wood is a major compliment with fruit the willing acceptor. Able to move freely, stitching parts seamlessly together and the length on this Brunello goes on seemingly forever. Prototypical Cerretalto from paradigmatic Neri, both of which always seem to calibrate shifts in Montalcino connotation. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted October 2021

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colombaiolo 2015

Starts slowly out of the gate, a wine of understatement setting an even pace and in no rush to take the early lead. Charming no doubt, builds power, releases energy, based on high quality vintage fruit substance. Continues on a forward trajectory through sangiovese’s ability to self-assimilate reliable and relatable acidity throughout the taster’s experience. The wine takes over and you realize the freshness of volatility speaks to youthfulness and potential. Needs three more years easy. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

“2015 in my opinion, you will find more structure, the power and the generosity of this wine,” says Federico Radi. Submits to the idea that you won’t feel the power of 14.5 per cent alcohol and the power in your mouth. A gastronomic Riserva, gregarious, more grip than many Biondi-Santi Riserva while maintaining the DNA of pace in place. The vintage is felt, like a warm blanket and only 1997 reached this level of generosity and alcohol, with decisions made by Iacopo Biondi-Santi and a later harvest around the 21st of September. This is when poly-phenolic ripeness was finished but the alcohol rose over those past two weeks. A big wine for the estate, such a bambino now, full of ripe fruit at the apex of possibility, not austerity but near fierce tannins. They surround the grandiosity of fruit so that everything exists at a higher level. Needs more time and though will age for decades it should be suggested to drink these well before 2040. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted November 2021

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 2015

Since the 1980s 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. Tasting Poggio al Vento in the midst of dozens of 2016s is more than curious indeed and in fact this island in that deepening stream is a red faced beauty. Shows the great contrast in vintages with higher tonality and fruit of a very different ripeness. Makes for a style not quite apposite but of a clarity that shows place with more transparency. Also a liquid chalkiness to reflect on the more baritone notes played by many ‘16s. Hard not to compare and contrast at this time while in Col d’Orcia terms the PaV resides in that pantheon with great distinction. Will grace tastings through the ages as well as any that have come before. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted November 2021

With Elisa Fanti and Michaela Morris

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2015

Le Macchierelle is a bit lower down on the slope below and to the south of Vallocchio, same Galestro stone-strewn type vineyard but less grey and now some rosso, iron-rich soil. And so there is less calm and more power here but really only in a slight if relative quantity. Such a rich expression of Vigna Brunello, also concentrated by even older plants, three and a half hectares of 40-plus year old vines. Remarkable for the vintage, full and satisfying, not the meditative wine that is Vallocchio. Also remember that this is Riserva so accordingly acts and disseminates as one. As it should. Just about ready to go. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

Still at this time a closed, iron-gated fortress, yet to reveal the expectation of aromatics but one taste and the full phenolic thrush circles right back to begin the begin again. Says so much about structure and time needed for this house and their truth with respect to Riserva in the vintage. A wealth of fleshy red sangiovese willingness is the dream to hang onto while knowing that three further years minimum are needed before the movement and evolution of the interested parties involved will initiate a secondary response. Only then can the entry be accessed with ease for a seamless and transitional parlay through Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva ’15. Drink 2024-2035. Tasted October 2021

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

Really quite perfect to taste this side by side with 2016 because it was also one of those vintages that would have also been a bit contained or constrained until a year or two ago. Now expressive in a gregarious and generous way, a Riserva excavating and expediting historical attitude and execution to the present day surface. Riserva 2012 is in a wonderful place, wide open and giving, Barbi cherry fruit mixed with Galestro mineral mining and this cool smoulder that graces every part of your insides. Timing for the lover of timeless wines. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2011

At nearly ten years there is clear development in this 2011 and also a most obvious stylistic that has since changed over the years. A little over 3,000 bottles were made and while wines have changed and are made differently these last five years or so this represents what Riserva is and must be with distinction. Persistent Botti spice and texture plus secondary notes in a tartufo, porcini and herbal Amaro vein. All parts have rendered and there is a ganache painting the berries long since melted through this wine. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010

The 2010 was the second Riserva made in a string of six vintages between 2004 and 2019, the others being ’12, 15 and ’16. A bottle showing so well tonight because of its ideal structure (and a really good cork). Still some unresolved tannin, quite fresh, some layers, tiers and parts still needing to break down. Tart and demanding, fruit very much intact and surprising how little it has moved forward. After 30 minutes the umami, frutta di bosco, scorched earth and tartufo emerge. Which is just perfect.  Last tasted November 2021.

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.  Tasted October 2019

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2004

Old leather, cigar box, aging yet raspy singing florals. Whether or not the consensus is top vintage matters little because this ’04 has travelled to reside in a slice of Montalcino heaven. Like a dream and a trip back to the club, as if in the 1980s or 90s, the band playing your favourite song, playing it all night long. As the wine airs the dream continues, spice, tar and brewed notes emerge, all tied back to beginnings, naïveté, early passions and plans for the future. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted November 2021

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Tenuta Greppo 1985

The longevity of this vintage is almost not to be believed. Has been in bottle for as many years as it would have matured in casks. The next year (2022) will se the re-release of this vintage (in 2021 that vintage was 1983) and the year 1985 is the one I entered university. A Biondi-Santi of resolved tannin but remarkably youthful. A wine that saw Grandi Botti more than before, seen in the gentlest of spice notes and the back to the future return of balsamic and pomegranate. Followed a winter of major snowfall, long and cold winter, a regular spring and uneventful summer. The acidity is just incredible, also youthful and so sweet, those lengthened tannins in liquid powdery-chalky form. The connection with 2016 may seem to be an uncanny one but so help me if the chain is not there. The bottle was opened one hour and forty five minutes earlier so grazie to Federico Radi and Biondi-Sandi for perfecting the timing. We can all learn so much from this wine, to be patient, calm, well-adjusted, confident and gracious. Style and temperament to live by. Should continue this way for at least 10 more years. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta Fanti

A few IGTs

Tenuta Fanti Rosato 2020, IGT Toscana

Solo sangioivese from a very late green harvest in the first week of September. If you like soft-pressed, fresh from stainless, salty, little bit of lees cheesed Rosato then stop right here. Only 5,000 bottles are made of this thirst-quenching, satisfying and delicious stuff. Drink 2021-2022.  Tasted November 2021

Cortonesi Lèonus Rosso 2020, IGT Toscana

Sangiovese, as always, like Rosso and Brunello but in Lèonus a quicker skin maceration on earlier harvested grapes. A performative style with low level extraction, especially of tannins and any possible green or astringent distractions. Looking for and finding immediate amenability with the same sangiovese from Montalcino indicator lights that signal place and time. Also higher acidity, better for matching food right now, easy to drink and the bottle will disappear before knowing it has happened. Fresh, clean, crisp and simple. So smart. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

Le Ragnaie Troncone 2019, IGT Toscana Rosso

Bottled in August, of lovely sour orange, currant and pomegranate, just tart enough to call this spirited and full enough to keep you satisfied. Easy and functional with an extra layer of depth, fun and by the glass quality. In 2019 there were 40,000 bottles produced of this sangiovese from vineyards inside and outside of the Montalcino zone. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted November 2021

Tenuta Buon Tempo La Funba Toscana Sangiovese 2019, IGT Toscana

The label is drawn by a French painter (a friend of Camilla’s) that depicts “the first Thanksgiving.” Amphora raised sangiovese for six months, just for fun, pure sangiovese, woolly and youthful, a terroir wine doubled down by the whole bunches and the clay. It’s delicious sangiovese, a new texture and only Gaiole in Chianti’s Riecine IGT sangiovese compares, or perhaps that of San Donato in Poggio’s Le Masse. Changes in the glass so concertedly and becomes a beautiful wine. Just beautiful. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted November 2021

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Twenty-one mind-blowing wines of 2021

The greatest wines are considered as the ones that talk to us, connect with that part of our being that elicits sensory and emotional responses, feelings of zeitgeist and great release. Throughout the course of a year I taste thousands in my glass, countless banal, innumerable competent, others correct and many exceptional. Then there are the rare and peerless capable of altering time and space, chosen ones that after listening we then speak directly to. The mind-blowing wines.

Related – Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

This is what I might say to such a splendid creature. “I look upon the flash of your sheen, you a wine of scientific strategies. Your aromatics sum up for me my educational studies in science and lifelong memories. Your flavours remind me of experiments in vinous physics, your textures of exercises in galactic mechanics. Your structure recalls infinite chemical reactions and architectural engineering. Your energy, though carefully controlled, threatens to ignite and destroy my laboratory and yet binds my existential life together. You blow my mind.

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

Last year’s 20 for 20 was a much different list than ever before. Only 25 days of travel and while I did finally make a return to global discovery that number was even less in 2021. Two trips to Italy and one to B.C. in October and November. Once again just 25 days in total. A yearly schedule usually adds up to 100-plus but fortune also shines on the critics of WineAlign. Through quarantine, isolation and safe-distancing we still managed to taste through thousands of wines. I recorded well and above 4,000 tasting notes in 2021 so it would appear that palate discovery is still alive and well. For the first time ever there are three dessert wines on the list because well, stickies just don’t get enough love. And never before have I included a Canadian wine because I pen a separate list for local but a Thomas Bachelder chardonnay is wholly deserving of going global. These are Godello’s 21 mind-blowing wines of 2021.

Berlucchi Riserva Familia Ziliana Franciacorta DOCG 2001, Lombardy

A blend of chardonnay and pinot nero matured on lees for 218 months and a further 31 months after disgorgement. Zero dosage, tirage in June 2002. Tasting from “the stolen bottle,” and one would swear there is some sweetness in this wine, offset by twenty year-old persistent and rising acidity. The state of grace and ability this 2001 finds itself sitting royally in is quite something to behold. Stands firm and can stride with most any 20 year-old sparkling wine. A simple fact tells us that Arturo Ziliani’s father Franco and Guido Berlucchi decided to create sparkling wines in Franciacorta. They are the pioneers. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Krug Vintage Brut Champagne 2002

The year 2002 dubbed as “ode to nature” marked the first Krug “vintage of the millennium” and was presented after Krug 2003, just as Krug 1988 left the cellars after Krug 1989. A clement year, relatively dry to make for a homogeneous harvest. The blend is 39 per cent pinot noir, (40) chardonnay and (21) pinot meunier. Disgorgement would have been in the autumn of 2015 after having spent at least 13 years in Krug’s cellars. All this tells us that the vintage is one treated to great respect with the acumen to age seemingly forever. This bottle shows some advancement but mostly in toasted and spiced notes while acting so expertly oxidative, in total control of its own and also our senses. Smells of orange skin, zesty and by citrus spray, then pickled ginger and wild fennel. Tasted blind it feels just exactly 20 years old but it’s not hard to be tricked into imagining even older. I admit to guessing 1995 with thanks to a presentation of at once wildly exotic and then exceptional bubbles. Just a matter of being hoked up with celebration. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Kabola Malvazija Amfora 2017, Istria, Croatia

Kabola’s is malvazija istarska raised in traditional clay amphorae in combination with oak barrels. Kabola is found in Buje, not far from the coast and south of Trieste. While the combination of clay and wood seem to confuse or blur the game there is something wholly credible and intriguing about this wonderful aromatic mess. You can not only smell and sense but more deeply intuit the phenolic qualities inherent in here. Skins, pips and even a bit of herbaceous stem. Peach and orange tisane, exotic spice and high, high quality lees. Great winemaking here in the context of leaving your grapes to do the work but both timing and execution are spot on. Raises the varietal bar and shows what’s possible. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted April 2021

Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte DOCG 1998, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia

A wine in which the switch has been flicked at least five times, at least three past the family’s preference but let’s be frank. This is a fascinating Friuli-Venezia-Giulia wine to taste. Oxidative in the most beautiful way, sapid and laden with 23 year-old tang. Very much a young adult of confidence and swagger borne out of phenolic fruit maturation. A long-hanging vintage, a note of botrytis, a late harvest sensation but truly salty, mineral and showing the biodiversity in clones and vineyards that one would expect a white blend of this ilk to display. Just a terrific example of friulano, sauvignon and pinot bianco in their arena of characterful array. Drink 2021.  Tasted October 2021

Bachelder Grimsby Hillside “North Slope, Starry Skies” Chardonnay 2019, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore

New in the pantheon for Bachelder and Niagara wines as an entity is this from Grimsby Hillside, the new frontier, next level up and future for the industry. In fact the time is already upon these precocious vines and their fruit specially formulated for the most wound and cinched kind of chardonnay, so precipitously witnessed in Thomas Bachelder’s “North Slope, Starry Skies” 2019. The vineyard was planted to vitis labrusca and used for Kaddish wine through the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s and just less than 20 years ago re-purposed to vinifera. Just two decades later winemakers like Thomas and Ilya Senchuk have discovered the magic of possibility and greatness of probability. Tasted this first in July with Thomas though it had just gone to bottle. Now the textural level of this GH-N triple-S has hitherto arrived at the immaculate, sweetly viscous, gleefully gelid and just right there at the apex of sensory enjoyment. Tight and delicious is a good combination. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted December 2021

Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Raats Family Wines Chenin Blanc Eden 2018, Stellenbosch, South Africa

A single vineyard chenin blanc and the first vintage to the Ontario market for a unique project celebrating the family farm called Eden. From their Stellenbosch ward of Polkadraai and high density plantings on dolomitic, granitic soils. Of a richness, an intensity of parts and a presence only a handful of South African blanc ever reach. A wine that achieves a level of status by its work underground (through root competition) and a clone called Montpellier that produces small berries and even smaller yields, not to mention the plot is just 0.6 hectares in size. Eden is the mothership and matriarch of this clone and for that variety in South Africa. All parts contribute to a wine of outrageous acidity that is never sharp, vivid or dominant. Fruit, mineral, focus, elements and precision. Wet stone is pure Polkadraai, vaporous, omnipresent, all over the wine. “The most successful winemakers (and wine projects) are ones that specialize,” says Bruwer Raats. This Eden follows the credo to a “T” and with a capital “E.” Really cerebral and also age-worthy chenin, in the upper echelon of the finest in the pantheon. If ever a chenin signified “Bringing it all Back Home,” the Raats Eden is it. “Discuss what’s real and what is not. It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden.” Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted June 2021

With Sofia Ponzini and Vico

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso Vigna Vico Pre-Phylloxera 2018, DOC Etna

Just another immediately memorable Piano dei Daini Etna Rosso Vico, Sofia Ponzini’s Cru-Vigna nerello mascalese (with 10 per cent nerello cappuccio) at 700m from the northern side of Mount Etna. Grown as alberello on a volcanic, sandy matrix with some stones from 100-plus-plus pre-phylloxera vines located in the town of Passopisciaro, Contrada Santo Spirito, parcels “Belvedere,” “Seimigliaia” and “Calata degli Angeli.” A tempest of steel and a feeling that runs with waves of acidity throughout, in many parallel and horizontal lines, at all levels. Spice cupboard, rich waves of red fruit, viscous wisdom, confidential and confident elegance, finishing at precision without recall. True value, scattered patterning, significant and relevant. A vintage of force, restraint and powerful lightness of being. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted October 2021

Domaine De Bellene Nuits Saint Georges Premier Cru Aux Chaignots 2019, AOC Bourgogne

The limestone soil Climat of Chaignots lies in the northern part of Nuits-Saint-Georges, up the slope and edging in location but also feeling towards that of Vosne-Romanée. The affinity is much discussed, real and therefore puts the Premier Cru at the top of what is most desired out of Nuits-Saint-Georges. A tiny (0.14 hectare) plot and simply a coup for Nicolas Potel to be able to secure this fruit. Everything about the aromatic front speaks to the Bourgogne mind and Chaignots heart. Cola but from the root, a tuber underground rubbed, that and a cocoa nut crushed between fingers. An almost diesel waft but not gaseous, instead sapid, nut-based, a liqueur toasted and intoxicating. The fineness of structure is the sort of wiry winding by winch that could cut through limbs due to tension so taut. All that you know, love, don’t know and hope to experience is in this wine. Neither I nor Nicolas Potel will be around when it blows someone’s mind in 2074. Look forward to that day young Alphonse. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted May 2021

Angela Fronti, Istine

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Istine 2019, Radda in Chianti, Tuscany

One must have to look at, walk this and stand in awe of of this vineyard, the steepness at 30-50 per cent grade with a terrace in the middle to break it up. Heavy in Alberese inclusive of massive yellow calcareous boulders and also Galestro. In fact the medium stones removed were transferred to create terraces for olive trees on the other side of the cantina (by Angela Fronti’s father no less). The vineyard faces north so the freshness is off the charts, while the ripeness is so matter of purposeful vintage fact. The label represents the position of the vines in coordinates, echoed in the machicolations of a Fronti sangiovese that drops all the Radda stones on unsuspecting palates through fruit openings between supporting acid corbels of a projecting tannic parapet. Vigna Istine is at the forefront of Chianti Classico’s battle to win over the world. Follow this example. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted October 2021

“Molto parfumato,” binds an aromatic agreement between myself and Paolo de Marchi upon sniffing this ’11 found on Locanda Pietracupa’s wine list. “Cepparello needs time,” says Paolo, understatement of the obvious for the evening, year, decade and history with respect to sangiovese grown in the Chianti Classico territory. Also truth succinctly spoken, roses and violets exhaling and a 100 per cent varietal (or so it seems) profile of succulence and one to fully draw you in. Mint to conifers, multiplicity by complexity value, not to mention vigorous acidity sent straight to a mouth with a full compliment of wisdoms able to think about the situation. A linear Cepparello seeing its wide open window at the 10 year mark. And now a Paolo de Marchi story. “One side of the vine’s grapes were burnt and so I called up (Consorzio Direttore Giuseppe) Liberatore and asked are we changing the name of the appellation? Liberatore said what? To Chianti Amarone replied de Marchi, or sangiovese Port? Joking aside, a stringent selection and a five per cent inclusion of trebbiano did for this ’11 Cepparello what viognier might do for syrah. Not a Chianti Classico so perfectly kosher. A secret until now but all above board. Totally cool. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1999

The 1999 was the last (original) Riserva produced until it was again resurrected in 2011 and what’s so cool about this vintage is how it was held to some early esteem, though paling in comparison to that “vintage of the century” that was 1997. Underestimated over the last 20 years, drinking so beautifully now, with frutta di bosca, tertiary tartufo and fungi. Just doesn’t strike as a fully mature adult reminiscing about the way things used to be but more like a wine with an outlook for more promise, good times and adventures still ahead. If you are still holding onto ‘99s from this part of Toscana you will be very pleased. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2021

Filo di Seta is Filippo Chia’s intuitive “transavanguardia” sangiovese of place, over the ancient beach where he and his father Sandro once painted the Montalcino sea. Mostly early picked fruit, all in tonneaux, at first thinking “croccante” but that’s too simple a way to describe what texture and sensation is combed in this reserve wine. Bottled on the 29th of June so just arriving at the ready, to look at if not to consume. Here there is a fineness of liquid chalkiness, a “fluido” or “scorrevole” to drive the way this sangiovese plays and also sings, a Riserva to move with the wind and musical sway. Somewhat unknown, finely tannic and clearly what could and should be described as “mountain” Brunello. Coming in late is the spice, almost cinnamon and such. Hate to refer to any wine as the best from an estate but too bad. That this is, beyond the avant-garde such as it is. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted November 2021

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Tenuta Greppo 1985

The longevity of this vintage is almost not to be believed. Has been in bottle for as many years as it would have matured in casks. The next year (2022) will se the re-release of this vintage (in 2021 that vintage was 1983) and the year 1985 is the one I entered university. A Biondi-Santi of resolved tannin but remarkably youthful. A wine that saw Grandi Botti more than before, seen in the gentlest of spice notes and the back to the future return of balsamic and pomegranate. Followed a winter of major snowfall, long and cold winter, a regular spring and uneventful summer. The acidity is just incredible, also youthful and so sweet, those lengthened tannins in liquid powdery-chalky form. The connection with 2016 may seem to be an uncanny one but so help me if the chain is not there. The bottle was opened one hour and forty five minutes earlier so grazie to Federico Radi and Biondi-Sandi for perfecting the timing. We can all learn so much from this wine, to be patient, calm, well-adjusted, confident and gracious. Style and temperament to live by. Should continue this way for at least 10 more years. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted November 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979, Tuscany

A cooler vintage, especially as compared to 1978 and truly a Piedmontese style because the cellar workers closed the tanks, went on strike and returned two months later. Resulted in some carbonic maceration and surely an increased amount of vim in freshness. That mixed with true porcini, fungi and fennochiona. The extended maceration makes this act 43 years forward like an older nebbiolo, rich and once demanding tannins now long since melted away, tar and roses still showing with earthly perfume. Fabulous mouthfeel, lingering and lively. Surely the mean steak astringency would have been in control during the first 10 to 15 years but the beast relents and gives way to charm. Patience breeds gentility and the story is now unfolding. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

With Stefano Cesari, Brigaldara

Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2016, Veneto

Stefano Cesari’s farm concerns itself with all things sustainable and while that may seem like a catch phrase, In Brigaldara’s case it most surely is not. The family supports its workers financially, culturally and in health. The young winemaking team is encouraged to study and stage abroad, to learn new oenological skills and languages. The other farm workers and their families are additionally supported by being given stake in the profits of the farm. How can this not reflect in the qualities of the wines, including this very special vintage 2016 Amarone. A magnificent wine and one you can easily drink beyond one glass. Not that it’s a light example but it speaks in soft tones, clearly and with a distinct, precise and honest weight, in vernacular and feeling. All things fruit lead to roads of sweet acidity and fine tannin. A rare Amarone of this ilk and one to savour. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted October 2021

Errázuriz Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2012, Aconcagua Valley, Chile

Don Maximiano 2012 is a blend of 75 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (12) carmenère, (8) petit verdot and (5) malbec. No cabernet franc back in 2012 and aside from the obvious notions ushered in by age there is a distinct lack of herbal notes as a result. This is just in a great place nearly nine years forward from vintage, now settling, acids still in charge but tannins having done most of their melting and rendering. This wine is far from done, in fact the next level notions have just begun to have their say and from a vintage as great as this there should very well be nine years nigh before true earthiness, umami and truffle set in. Pour this blind at dinners with old world counterparts and watch with awe as to the results. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Château Pétrus 1993, Pomerol, AC Bordeaux

Never easy to live in the shadow of siblings clearly designated as mom and dad’s favourites but sometimes overlooked vintages left for dead show greatness later on in life. The 1993 Pétrus is definitely a late bloomer and from a year when only 200 cases were produced, where normally 4,000-plus is the standard. Softened to an almost Burgundian sense of calm but the richness and concentration multiplied by a Spring verdant freshness and sweetly herbal pesto can only indicate one thing and that is Right Bank Bordeaux. I tasted this blind and immediately thought of Pomerol and its close proximity at the eastern border with Saint-Émilion because of the “fromage à pâte molle” feeling gained, along with vestiges of once formidable black fruit supported by a push-pull posit tug of merlot-cabernet franc acidity. A good hunch indeed and a more than surprising set of excellent parameters come to this for a 1993 Bordeaux. All in all a really satisfying and come together wine to hush the naysayers and win in the end. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted November 2021

Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle 1990, AC Hermitage, Rhône

Jaboulet’s 1990 La Chapelle is a kind of an echo of the year in history, an Hermitage of impeccable harmony, much like balance restored in relative peace and prosperity. In 1990 the Soviet Union fell, ending the decades-long Cold War. Hard to find more shiny opaque purple in a 30 year-old syrah plus a splendid floral nose of stone roses, pencil shavings and graphite. The combinative effect of heft and freshness elicit pleasantries from a bad boy able to play soft ballads to mellow a crowd. La Chapelle is a communicative, entertaining and business-like syrah, a link between the northern Rhône and the taster, an internet Hermitage that changes the way we think and feel. Things will never be the same after tasting Jaboulet’s 1990 and for good reason. Has 10 years left without worry of decline. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted November 2021

 

Reynvaan In The Hills Syrah 2017, Walla Walla Valley, Washington

Reynvaan is a family production of Rhône-style wines from two vineyard properties in the Walla Walla Valley. “In The Rocks” is their first vineyard located in Milton-Freewater, Oregon and the second vineyard is called “In the Hills.” short for “Foothills in the Sun.” It is found at the base of the Blue Mountains on the Washington/Oregon border and is planted to syrah, viognier and a gaggle of cabernet sauvignon rows. As one of the highest elevation vineyards in Washington (at 1200ft) and in this syrah co-fermented with up to 10 per cent syrah you might get a rendering of a northern Rhône-ish picture. Sure enough the perfume is floral but more than anything a smoulder of pancetta and smoked meat. Reductive as well, different as such than any syrah, anywhere else on the planet but liquid peppery and tire on asphalt nonetheless. The credibility and accountability here is profound and while the sheer concentration and beauty of In the Rocks in captivating, this In the Hills is alternatively vivid, dramatic and powerfully restrained syrah. Which one is you? Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted January 2021

Sine Qua Non Syrah The Hated Hunter 2017, Santa Barbara County

The hated hunter is named after Austrian immigrant and Los Angeles restaurateur turned winemaker Manfred Krankl’s grandfather, depicted on the label in gear, with rifle and hound. The blend is led by 82.4 per cent syrah with (7.8) petite sirah, (5.2) mourvèdre, (2) grenache, (1.2) petit manseng and (1.4) viognier. Clocks in at 15.9 alcohol but in this regard hardly garners even one per cent of the discussion. All anyone can talk about is the infinite expanse of pretty, pretty floral capture and personally speaking it simply reeks of syrah. A game of meat juices and marbling, part smoked meat and part pancetta. The only question tasting blind is whether to imagine it as Hermitage or Central Coast California. Once the abv is disclosed the answer can only be the latter but a syrah of such reclusive exclusivity is hard to pin down. Derives from a group of prized vineyards; 32 per cent Eleven Confessions (Santa Rita Hills), (41) The Third Twin (Los Alamos), (25) Cumulus (Santa Barbara) and (2) Molly Aida (Tepusquet Canyon). Adds up to the most luxe, deluxe and ultra-fantastic instrumental of a syrah, no lyrics needed. Man, Manfred, take a bow. A hunting bow. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted November 2021

Fèlsina Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico DOCG 2018, Tuscany

An absolutely lovely vintage for Fèlsina’s Vin Santo and for Chianti Classico Vin Santo as a rule because extract, temperament and adaptability are all in collective balance. All that you want, need and expect from this traditional and loyal dessert wine are present and accounted for. Dried and glazed fruit, low and slow developed nuttiness and a freedom of territory spoken through airiness and layering. The upside cake of life turns over to reveal a generational wine of clear standards, perfect layering and endless conversation. Nonna and Nonno would be proud. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted June 2021

Agriturismo Hibiscus Zhabib Passito 2020, C.Da Tramontana, Sicily

From the island of Ustica in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 70 kilometres (36 nautical miles) of the coast of Sicily’s capital Palermo and the work of Margherita Longo and Vito Barbera. The vineyards for this zibibbo (moscato d’Alessandria) are grown very close to the water on volcanic soil and Hibiscus is the only winery game in town. There are other farmers that contribute grapes to this tiny production; also grillo, cataratto, inzolia to go along with the zibibbo that makes this Passito. A place where tomato, grapes and peached co-exist, in the gardens and in the wine. This carries that uncanny sweet to savoury feeling in the most specific and ethereal dessert wine both mind can conjure and emotion shall receive. Of orange, grapefruit, peach and tomato. Balanced, harmonious, silky, woollen and with a super-tonal capacity to love. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted October 2021

Taylor Fladgate Very Old Tawny Port – Kingsman Edition, Douro, Portugal

A bottle of wine is rarely tied to a film, let alone a Douro Port but Taylor’s Very Old Tawny has been blended and bottled to coincide and be product placed in the second Kingsman film, in this case a prequel to the first, this time set in the 1920s. Head Winemaker David Guimaraens chose reserve Tawnys from 70-100 years of age, wines crafted and set aside by generational predecessors past, no stretch for the master blender because we are talking about a house with extensive stocks from which to reach back into. Guimaraens was looking for harmonic balance between concentration and elegance and just a whiff will tell you he and his team have achieved a crossing between a magical vortex and a vanishing point of complexity. Two manifest matters have developed; concentration of sweetness and in this case by association, a focus of acids as well. Together they inspissate and cling comfortably to the skeletal structure. It feels like you are nosing 100 unique aromas, with just seven of them being marzipan, red velvet hazelnut cake, candied ginger rose, rau răm, roasting banana leaf, calimyrna fig and grilled pineapple express. Step six feet away from the glass and the aromatics persist just as sharp as if the glass were in hand. As for a sip of this maraviglioso Tawny, warmth, comfort, delicadeza and forever length make just an ounce last forever. Timeless. Approximately 1000 bottles were produced and in Canada 100 will be made available next September. That is when theatre goers should likely make a return to the cinema to take in the Secret Service spy thriller and Tawny Port fantasy up on the silver screen. Drink 2021-2050.  Tasted February 2021

Good to go!

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Gambero Rosso’s red wine of the year leads a vertical tasting of Argiano’s Vigna del Suolo

Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Just up the road endures the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. The eyes can’t help but peer that way, from the red carpet on the Via della Conciliazione sidewalk and out through the windows of the Chorus Cafè inside the Auditorium della Conciliazione. It is the morning of October 15th, 2021, first of a three day festeggiamento for the top wines of Italy, special awards ceremonies, Guida Vini d’Italia 2022, grande degustazione Tre Bicchieri weekend. The first of three intimate vertical tastings takes place as Gambero Rosso welcomes Argiano CEO and Oenologist Bernardino Sani for a rear-view mirror guardare indietro at the Montalcino estate’s optimum soli affectionately referred to as Vigna del Suolo. In the whole of Italy Argiano Brunello di Montalcico DOCG Vigna del Suolo 2016 is the Gambero Rosso Red Wine of the Year for 2022.

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

Argiano vertical tasting at Chorus Café, Roma – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano 1580

Exactly. A functional wine cellar dating back to the later 1500s. 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.

With Bernardino Sani, CEO and Oenologist, Argiano

In 1992 the estate resettles into the hands of Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano and the wines under the peerless oenological tutelage of Giacomo Tachis. Fast forward to the present, a transfer of ownership and also company direction in 2013 into the hands of Bernardino Sani, who from 2015 is also responsible for making the wines. 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.

Marco Sabellico – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

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, finding permanence and always seeking to endure. As do their makers and protectors.

Gambero Rosso and Argiano – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The Argiano 1580 vertical tasting includes 1971, 1978, 1979, 1980, 2006, 2015 and the Red Wine of the Year Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2016. Gambero Rosso’s tasting lead and renaissance man of three decades Marco Sabellico opens the dialogue. “These are wines that give us special emotion,” he submits and then parleys to Bernardino Sani who declares “we look to make a wine that is terroir-driven, very respectful of the vines, the environment and this amazing, beautiful place.” Vigna del Suolo is the finest parcel, rich in limestone. Though Sani wants to make a wine almost Piedmontese or Bourguignons he ultimately creates one that is local, parochial, Montalcinese.

Gianni Fabrizio – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Gambero Rosso is more than just a leading platform for content, training, promotion and consultancy in the Italian Wine Travel Food sector. It offers a complete range of integrated services to reach potential success in agricultural, agri-food, catering and Italian hospitality sectors, with a significant contribution to the constant growth of the economy. Gambero Rosso organizes international events such as the Tre Bicchieri World Tour, the most prestigious cycle of events dedicated to the excellence of Italian wine in the world, the Top Italian Wines Roadshow or Vini d’Italia Tour.

Lorenzo Ruggeri – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The sentiment can never be overstressed, to bear witness and to participate in exclusive if once in a lifetime vertical sessions. To be gifted not just tasting opportunities but to be privy to ever evolving history, connectivity to tracts of land and to the people who’s hands shape the vines and wines. Grazie tantissimo for this opportunity Luigi (Gigi) Salerno (CEO/GM), Paolo Cuccia (President), Marco Sabellico and Gianni Fabrizio (Authors, Editors and Curators of Vini d’Italia guide), Tiina Eriksson (International Business & Event Manager), Lorenzo Ruggeri (Author and International Editor), Michela Ricotta, Giuseppe Carrus (Author and co-editor of the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia guide) and Crystel Barkany. My notes cover the seven wines.

Argiano vertical tasting, October 16, 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2016

Immediately showing an increased freshness, purity, lift and while only a year removed from 2015 the change in understanding of how to work with Vigna del Suolo is so readily apparent. Cherry as a solo artist, perfect, ripeness of idealism through phenolic development. Quality like the previous vintage but an easier vintage to manage with ample quantity. Low nighttime temperatures allowed for late October picking because sangiovese can go on forever when the autumn lingers such as it did. The barrels were by now a year (literately) older and (figuratively) later, inserting less oxidation and the freshness is truly a super scintillant matter, perfumed and of utter clarity radiating through. Sapidity, equilibrium and pitch perfect acidity will conspire to take this long and deep. 5,000 bottles produced. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted October 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

It begins with Bernardino Sani. “We wanted to make a wine representative of Argiano, of five centuries, it’s history and this oldest Montalcino vintage.” The clones are now being studied because tells Sani “we want to copyright them.” Not the most powerful Brunello and one to mimic or imaginatively replicate the 1580 castle tower in the emotion of those in Firenze and Roma. Chilean geologist Pedro Parra is helping with the soil analysis, looking to directives for finest parcels and positional planting. This led to splitting Argiano’s terroir into five distinct parcels, with 2014 being the first, even if it was not the finest vintage to do so. And so ’15 marks the true beginning of Vigna del Suolo’s new era. Not the vintage of the century but challenging, dry and warm, resulting in elegance, purity of perfume, complexity of citrus spice and specifically the dried and candied peel of an orange. Salty too, so proper for sangiovese, warming, chocolate shavings on the finish. Aged in newly employed 50 hL Garbellotto casks, albeit relatively neutral.  Last tasted October 2021

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

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2006

The Argiano change in ownership happened in the 1990s and the ’06 was made in the ’90s and early 2000s footsteps ways of winemaker Giacomo Tachis who was chiefly responsible for the change in the making of the wines of the time. The introduction of barriques was the main alteration, looking for concentration, oak flavours and power. Considered a five-star vintage at the time and while others may have been moving away from the style, Argiano was still in the throes. Plenty of fruit here 15 years on, berries, plum and orange but also balsamico and a truly luxe and lush feeling sweeping across the palate. Chewy, like fruit leather, lingering oak flavours in and out of every crevice, crease and corner. A wine as a sign of the times in really fine shape. No Riserva or single vineyard wines were made at this time.  Drink 2021-2023. Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1980

The beginning of shorter maceration times and fruit taken from what is today Vigna del Suolo and its surroundings. Three years in Grandi Botti, the beginning of what would become the modern era of Brunello elévage. More development than 1979, a concentration of fruit in all iterations; mainly bosco but also noci secche (dried nuts). Not so much a fungi vintage but more perhaps a salumi or charcuterie one, with a woolly note of pecorino. This is surely a result of the maceration intendment and style therefore the development on the nose outpaces the palate. Quite tannic, present, a structured wine, still able to age. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979

A cooler vintage, especially as compared to 1978 and truly a Piedmontese style because the cellar workers closed the tanks, went on strike and returned two months later. Resulted in some carbonic maceration and surely an increased amount of vim in freshness. That mixed with true porcini, fungi and fennochiona. The extended maceration makes this act 43 years forward like an older nebbiolo, rich and once demanding tannins now long since melted away, tar and roses still showing with earthly perfume. Fabulous mouthfeel, lingering and lively. Surely the mean steak astringency would have been in control during the first 10 to 15 years but the beast relents and gives way to charm. Patience breeds gentility and the story is now unfolding. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2021

Nosing 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1978

Considered a great vintage, cold winter, wet spring and warm summer. Wine production had recently been updated and modernized for the time and the harvest took place in the second week of October. Thirty days of fermentation in cement tanks. Youthful aromatics, perfumed, definite frutta di bosco, apricot and dried orange. Lovely developed spice in a wine showing as well as it can possibly be. Pitch perfect dual, duelling acidities for your palate and emotion. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1971

The back label sports a phrase from Italian poet Carducci who after having a bad experience at home drank a glass of Argiano to lift his spirits. A warmer, classic Montalcino vintage. From a time when aging would have been done in Grandi Botti (likely 5000L) and even some chestnut oak. Piedmontese style fermentation and set up for long aging. High acidity, elevated volatility and notable rustic. Also some TCA in this bottle but somehow a mouthfeel prevalent with energy and verve. Fun, curious and thankful for the opportunity. Drink 2021.  Tasted October 2021

Good to go!

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Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

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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!

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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 Tommaso 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

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

Montalcino, 6pm

My first of six online seminars will trace back through history to the origins of the DOCG classification for Montalcino’s Brunello

No one of sound mind passes up the opportunity to taste Brunello from Montalcino

It was the Baby Boomers in the late 1960s who looked on during the declining years of Italy’s Mezzadria sharecropping system while the founding mothers and fathers of Montalcino got together and forged a territory’s path. These Tuscan pioneers committed to unifying, marketing and selling their wines under the auspices of one consortium. Then through the 1980s and into the 1990s the watchful eyes belonged to Gen Xers at a time when Brunello di Montalcino passed through its formative years and began to develop a recognizable and powerful global identity. Generation X beget Millennials who then bore witness to wines that took the world by storm through the late 1990s and well in the 2000s. By the time Montalcino progressed through the decade of 2010 to 2020 Brunello had cemented its worldwide reputation as one of the most important, cellar-worthy and respected wines.

Municipality of Montalcino, “The land of Wine.” With a capital W, covering a surface area of 24,000 hectares, only 15 per cent of which is occupied by vineyards. Montalcino, 40 km away from the sea and 100 from the Apennines, protected at its southern reaches by Mount Amiata, looming at 1740m, diverter of storms; rain, fog and hail. The zone is roughly a square bordered by the rivers Ombrone, Asso, and Orcia. Sparsely populated, Montalcino the village and surrounding hamlets are inhabited by an overall population of just over five thousand. Since 1967 the territory and its sangiovese have been organized, charted, governed and protected by the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino. On Thursday, November 12, 2020 the first of six online seminars will cover the entirety of Montalcino and its exceptional wines. Over the course of these six sessions we will welcome 25 archetypal Montalcino producers and their wines.

Coming this Thursday, November 12, 2020

In the trusted duty as ambasciatore for Montalcino and its vital sangiovese I will play host and moderator to four of the territory’s most prominent and illustrious producers in this first of six pivotal seminars. Representatives from Canalicchio di Sopra, Fattoria dei Barbi, Tenute Silvio Nardi and Poggio di Sotto will chat up a select group of media and sommeliers through 40 years of Montalcino’s history. The territory’s controlled denominational guarantee has established its reputation since 1980. Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have seen it all, from humble beginnings through worldwide recognition.

With the introduction of Italy’s DOC quality appellation (Denominazione di origine Controllata) in 1963, Brunello quickly thereafter rose in the ranks of the eight most important Italian wines bearing that designation. In 1966, it became a DOC wine, and a year later the Brunello Consortium was founded, “as a free association of vignerons whose aim was to safeguard their product and emphasize its best qualities.” In 1980, it was the first wine to be granted the most important DOCG classification (Denominazione di origine Controllata e Garantita), a superior designation for select wines in Italy bearing a specific seal from the government.

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino was formed in 1967 as a coalition of 25 original members. There were 15 producers who signed the page on this accord kept at Bellaria Estate: Assunto Pieri, Ivo Buffi, Loffredo Gaetani Lovatelli, Giuseppe Cencioni, Bramante Martini, Pierluigi Fiovaranti, Silvano Lambardi, Annunziato Franci, Ferruccio Ferretti, Giovanni Colombini, Dr. Leopoldo Franceschi, Silvio Nardi, Gino Zannini, Lucia Perina and Elina Lisini. The other nine original members were Nello Baricci, Siro Pacenti, Milena Perina, Orazio Machetti, Dino Ciacci, Guglielmo Martini, Emilio Costanti, Sabatino Gorelli and Rev. don Leopoldo Bianchi.

The territory’s wine appellations cover Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Moscadello di Montalcino DOC and Sant’Antimo DOC, all exclusively made from grapes grown within the city limits of the Town of Montalcino. There are 221 registered producers and bottlers with the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino. The President is Fabrizio Bindocci, Vice-Presidents are Giacomo Bartolommei, Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Riccardo Talenti. The Director is Michele Fontana.

Brunello di Montalcino is made from the sangiovese grape, a variety traditionally referred to as Brunello in this area. 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. Rosso di Montalcino DOC is proof of the great versatility of the Montalcino terroir, as it is made from the same sangiovese variety, but is a red wine to be enjoyed earlier. In fact, Rosso di Montalcino is introduced to the market on the September 1st following the year of harvest. Starting with the 1984 vintage, it attained DOC status. 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.

Benvenuto Brunello

The Consorzio’s members come together each February at The Chiostro Museo Montalcino and home to the Consorzio’s offices for Benvenuto Brunello, a two day showcase of the most recent vintages to wrap up Anteprime di Toscana. I recently attended a fourth consecutive collection at Anteprime di Toscana. The culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese. You can read all about it here, inclusive of my tasting notes for 150 sangiovese; 36 Rosso di Montalcino DOC and 114 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

I recently asked a a host of Montalcino producers some pressing questions. Six questions in fact and here is what a couple of our first seminar participants had to say.

What recent vintage would you say marked the turning point for your winemaking, to bring your wines into a place and style that speaks of your particular vineyards, their location and terroir in Montalcino? What or why is the reason?

Stefano Cinellí Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “We have had some turning points. 1931 was the first vintage with “important numbers,” 35,000 bottles instead of the normal 5,000/10,000 we had for a century because my grandfather Giovanni Colombini decided to try to sell it more widely. By mail and through agents in Rome, Naples, Florence and Milan. It was a success, the wine was more alcoholic and very austere. 1964 was rated the best red wine of Italy by the Italian Ministero dell’Agricoltura, obtaining the “Torchio d’Oro” It was a rich, powerful Brunello in a very traditional style, and our first vintage in which we produced more than 100,000 bottles. This was our first vintage appreciated by the Italian journalists, and also the first widely sold abroad. 1975 was a very classic Brunello but more “easygoing”, a turning point in style and marketing. Not so tannic as our previous wines, ready to drink after only five years but able to age very well for decades, it was the final result of years of research on fermentation and on a shorter period in wooden vats. This was very probably the first “modern” Brunello, a style that became the normal one for all the producers. It was an unbelievable commercial success, 235,000 bottles sold from the USA to Japan. 1995 was again something new, still in a very traditional style but larger, bolder even if very elegant. It was our first “fat” Brunello, in a period in which the wines had to be more and more “important” we reached this result avoiding any mechanical concentration with osmosis or similar devices. We increased the vineyards from 50 to 100 hectares, and reduced very strongly the production per hectare. 2007 was another important turning point, after five years of experience we could use for all our production dry ice, the new Ganimede fermenters and a completely “vintage program” which reduced to less than one hour the time from the picking of the grapes to the arrival in the fermenting vats. The result was a better extraction and a better concentration of the traditional flavours of Sangiovese. A more typical and more intense one.

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “2013 may have marked the turning point for our winemaking, in looking for their particular sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in our wines.”

What mistakes have you made and how have you learned from them so that you can make better wines and the wines you need to make from your property?

Stefano Cinellí Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I am really lucky, because my ancestors take notes of the many mistakes they did in the last two centuries. In vineyards they tried at least two times very dense plantation, 1.5 metres per 0.80 and then in 1930 2 metres per 1. They tried alberello, guyot and cordone speronato on two levels. They tried to anticipate the vintage or to delay it. They tried chestnut vats. They tried warmer fermentation, and fermentation from three days to six months with the skins. Any kind of chemical, organic or mist fertilization. The modern Brunello is the result of centuries of mistakes of a group of producers, frequently friends and sometimes parents, which shared their good and bad results. I did just some small mistakes, because somebody else did the big ones.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “We are learning from our mistakes, such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar. Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. These are the three parameters of necessity, especially for Riserva.”

What effect do the Tramontane and Grecale winds have on your vineyards and can you pinpoint a particular vintage when the winds made a big difference in the wines?

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Montalcino is always very windy, so windy that our vineyards are accustomed. The only vintage in which I was able to note a special difference due to wind was 2013, at the beginning of September we had four days which dried the grapes on the top of the hills, which normally are the best places. The valley vineyards, which normally have mould problems, had a serious increase in quality.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “In 2018 the Tramontana wind came on September 16th and the harvest began on the 29th for Rosso. The second wind called the Grecale also blew in to cause up to 30 per cent drying of the grapes. The resulting reduced yields meant for grapes of concentration in both fruit and acidity but also a high number for dry extract.”

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?

Stefano Cinellí 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.”

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

Do you prefer the oldest vines for Riserva or Vigna? And do you prefer them in colder or warmer vintages for these wines?

Stefano Cinellí Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I tried to find a mathematical connection between colder or warmer vintages and quality, but I had so success. The same happened with the rains. I prefer the best vintages for Vigna and Riserva, but sometimes these are warmer vintages and sometimes are the colder ones. Frequently the top vintages are the most “balanced” ones, but not always.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “With vintage variation I prefer the oldest vines (Vigna Mercatale at Canalicchio) in the coldest vintages for Brunello and Vigna. For Riserva I choose the vineyard on the Montosoli hill.”

How are things going for Montalcino?

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Va a macchia di leopardo. It goes wild. More than a third of the Brunello “vintage” has already been sold and there are only two vintages in the last ten in which more has been sold. The prices of the bottles have not dropped. However, the bulk Brunello market (only 8% of the total) is at a standstill and the bulk price has dropped by 40%. Those who have an advanced commercial and / or a large brand suffer little or nothing, while the less organized ones have some problems. But there are not many. Bolgheri is fine, Maremma and Mo rellino benino, the rest of Tuscany ouch ouch.”

The following are my notes for Canalicchio di Sopra, Fattoria dei Barbi, Tenute Silvio Nardi and Poggio di Sotto Rosso di Montalcino DOC and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG tasted over the past two and a half years.

Canalicchio view

Canalicchio di Sopra

Canalicchio di Sopra has been farming the lower northeastern slope below the village of Montalcino since 1962 on 60 hectares, including 19 cultivated with vineyards within a context rich in biodiversity and natural beauty that was granted UNESCO heritage status back in 2004. The vineyards are split within two identified cru; the estate plots at Canalicchio and on the Montosoli hill. Canalicchio is split into six vineyards, including Casaccia which acts for a Vigna, or single-vineyard label. The first bottle of Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino was produced in 1966 and in 1967, the estate was one of the twelve founders of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Primo Pacenti founded the winery in 1962 and his of son-in-law Pier Luigi Ripaccioli began working side by side with him in 1987. Since 2001 the three grandchildren Francesco, Marco, and Simonetta have been involved in the family’s business.

While the others have real defined roles in vineyards and the office it seems that Francesco Ripaccioli has his hands in every aspect of Canalicchio di Sopra. Winemaking is clearly his focus and love but marketing the family’s wines and putting them in a bigger, wider and more collective Brunello di Montalcino context is clearly a life goal. Francesco is one of the territory’s most precocious team player that understands his family’s place in the context of a greater good. He is a fantastic ambassador for all of Montalcino and his wines are off the charts in excellence.

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($39.95)

Only raised in big barrels but not the 2500L larger oak used for the Brunello. Lovely red fruit purity and transparency from a vintage that was at a near all-time low pH. Higher acidity conversely and serious enough to use for food matching ability. Just a hint of pressing is felt but it’s really just a matter of de-stemming that makes a push but not a crush. A little bit of whole berry helps ward of oxidation and the freshness is truly a matter of gentile handling. Such a fine, drinkable and complex Rosso. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

The ’16 Rosso takes all the extract and acidity of the combined coming two vintages and gleans every ripe aspect for the ambitious way that Rosso can go. Deeper and less crushable and truth be told the Brunello appellation is cozied up to. Salty and full of proper tang with seasoning and spice. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Francesco Ripaccioli

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010 ($39.95)

Wildly fresh considering Rosso was not often thought to show such longevity, but in can and will exhibit such tendencies. Potential ability is magnified in a dark fruit vintage that advances with wisdom, morphs and settles. Lives and evolves within itself. Sweet fruit persistence is more than admirable, it’s outright amazing. Scents of carob, dried orange and liquorice, now coming into a baking spice place with persistent acidity. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2015

Back to prominence for Brunello quantity is what 2015 does for business while delivering great quality without causing any undue relative stress. Both Canalicchio vineyards and Montosoli cru fruit make up the cuvée. Welcome to the beauty in cherry liqueur and outright unction from the generous vintage out of which every extra day meant more ripeness, more extract and more texture. The acidity factor is what drives this Brunello because staggered picking equates to an agglomeration of perfect timing. The true estate expression in no unspoken terms. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2015

Casaccia as in the name of the house and the registered name of the vineyard, here a monopole look at Brunello from the larger 14 hectares for eastern Montalcino’s Canalicchio. The idea here is to celebrate a place within a place but without compromising the larger cuvée expression. Takes extract, concentration and purpose to another level, not to mention polish, precision and potential. The acids are elevated and the texture more refined, converse and complimentary. A tightness makes for some early attack that needs time to get past. Quite cool, tannic and intense. Will hit its stride quite far down the road. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

A preview sample. Comes from fruit grown in the oldest two hectare vineyard of Vigna Vecchia Mercatale. The vines were planted in 1987 and in good vintages the potential is gifted, not a matter of grand impact but one of the land, the soil, the brown clay minerals and the elements. And so it’s a matter of longevity and potential, not brut strength. A beautiful example of Riserva, focused, precise and fine. And yet the style is poised in position along a line that includes the Brunello and the Riserva so homogeneity in these soils is more than apparent. This part of Montalcino makes this kind of wine and this house celebrates the consistency. Drink 2022-2036.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

There is a substantiating reality to this sangiovese, typical of the sourness that vintage will not allow to be hidden though with more concentration than many. Chewy really comes to mind when you attack and in turn allows the palate to wage battle on your buds. Things fall into place well enough in spite of what 2014 wants to do to distract from the truth. Clearly a set above the norm. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2013

This ’13 from Francesco Ripaccioli and Canalicchio di Sopra is sangiovese out of the excellent, variable, at times confounding and now at the seven year mark, nothing if not profound vintage. Perhaps even marks the turning point for a winemaker looking for his and his family’s sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in his wines. “We are learning from our mistakes,” he admits, “such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar.” Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. The 2013 comes from what Francesco would still qualify as “not so easy a vintage, a vintage of interpretation.” Cold for a Montalcino season so he, his siblings and team passed through the vineyards on several occasions for preparation, timing and selection. “We like to clean the vineyard, to prepare for the harvest,” he adds. Picking happened in October “of amazingly floral fruit, finishing on the 11th, just as the rain arrived. Better to be lucky than good.” ‘Tis Brunello first of flowers in bloom, a candied scent and fresh herbs. Fulsome and openly fragrant, a silky texture, some chocolate and ultimately, beauty. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Showing beautifully, in a calm stage even, a respite from power and now, simply attractive. All the Canalicchio elements from clay soil show up; mild sweetness, furthered salinity and a deep sort of sapidity. Nothing fully pronounced but all there. Great Riserva vintage.  Last tasted February 2020

Riserva is a selection in the cellar though certain blocks from certain vintages are premeditated and in fact 2013 Riserva is solely selected from the Montosoli hill. The perfume stands apart, rising, haughty and full of fresh roses. The expression of rocks drawn into vines from the new age, climate-affected northern exposure are for perhaps the first time in the Cru’s history a brand new Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello. Salinity, sapidity, power and elegance. Truly. Drink 2022-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

“Reduction is a way to preserve the freshness and the florals of the wine,” tells winemaker Francesco Ripaccioli. Sangiovese is better set up and suited this way and while some Balsamico is now speaking through this ’12 Riserva’s voice, much of the aromatics are still situated in the realm of a high-toned grace.  Last tasted February 2020

A year previous to the ’13 Riserva (which will be made exclusively from Montosoli hill fruit) there is the depth of clay and controlled power out of Canalicchio cru vines. The absolute attention paid to patience and time is noted from a Brunello such as this, spoken out within the constructs of fruit extraction and wood usage. The tannins are red meaning they are ripe and request that you give this wine as much time as it gave before going to bottle and then to market. Lush, consistent from start to finish and just hinting at notes not quite Balsamico but something other, something derived from sangiovese grown in the grey clay of La Casaccia. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016 (Barrel Sample)

Barrel Sample. A deeper well filled with that cherry liqueur and clearly more extract and concentration. The tannins are still fierce, intensely chalky and fine bitters are very much a part of the mix. A furthered texture Brunello with no less strength than most 16s will surely exhibit but the power is tempered by this feel and polish. Quite a potential here for 20 plus years of longevity. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2016 (Barrel Sample)

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 2025-2040.  Tasted February 2020

Stefano Cinelli Colombini

Fattoria Dei Barbi

All visits to Montalcino must include La Fattoria dei Barbi. Barbi has been owned by the Cinellí Colombini family in Montalcino since 1352. The property extends over 300 hectares of fields and vineyards in southern Tuscany, in Montalcino and Scansano. Production of Brunello dates to 1892 and Barbi were the first to export it to Europe, America and Asia. Fattoria dei Barbi is now run by Stefano Cinellí Colombini, current heir to 848 years of lineage, educator, historian, keeper of tales, lore, mythology and chosen one who continues a story that has seen the Colombini family connected to these lands for more than six centuries. Fattoria dei Barbi has been referred to as being “among a prestigious group of estates that has played an integral part in writing the history of Italian wine.” That is the truth.

Fattoria dei Barbi was the first firm in Montalcino to export bottled wine to France (1817), the first to sell Brunello by mail order (1832), the first to export it to America (1962), England (1969) and Japan (1975). After the death of Giovanni Colombini in 1976, Fattoria dei Barbi has been managed first by his daughter Francesca and today by his nephew Stefano. And yet there is also humility and comedy in this family. As stated on the website and reiterated by Stefano last October in Montalcino as we walked through the cellars, “not all the Colombini were saints, others were womanizers and hedonists, like Tommaso Colombini, a mediocre poet member of the early Renaissance group of literates moving around Cecco Angiolieri. Another weird member at the end of the XVI century was Stefano, who in a fight blinded the Governor of Montalcino and had to run away.”

Guided tours of the historic cellars and the onsite museum of wine for the territory are unrivalled in all of Montalcino. Experiencing them with Stefano Cinellí Colombini is more than memorable. Cinellí Colombini’s ability to relive and rejoice every iota of this territory’s history is the crux of everything Montalcino. His deeper understanding is what you need to know and is based in his family’s long time defence of the traditions and values of the culture of Montalcino, whose ultimate and most valuable fruit is the Brunello. A Montalcino education begins with Stefano Cinellí Colombini and their wines are at the peak of traditional combined with always moving forward with the times. Along with Stefano, no one knows more about Barbi’s history and wine producing prowess than Raffaella Guidi Federzoni who is International Sales Manager for the company. In March of 2020 Rafaella penned a letter to our great mutual friend Jeremy Parzen in which she wrote, “Buy wine. The products of people that share with you a past in some remote village of the South or a medieval town in the Centre or a prosperous bunch of districts in the North. Buy wine made with an identity that belongs only to this small and strange country.
A country that now needs help.” That plea was to Americans but it resonated to Canadians as well.

With Raffaella Guidi Federzoni

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Barbi’s vintage acceptance and celebration is commendable to the degree that 2018 from vineyards ripened for pleasure is to be set this way. Such fruit, sweet thing, like “gardens misty wet with rain.” 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. So right, walking and talking without ever growing old. Fresh youth is a beautiful thing. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (928028, $54.95)

C’mon classic Barbi here and the request is for this effectual realization to continue on forever, through the decades of vintages and their Brunelli. You come to expect the sort of juice that needs time, more time, precious time, endless time. You look for this tug of firmness, this posit strength and this creamy centre that ties the sangiovese room together. This does not and don’t ever abandon these roots Stefano, always keeps the Cinellí Colombini family’s Barbi faith alive. They are the lifeblood of this wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

With Stefano Cinellí Colombini

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2015 ($79.95)

Vigna del Fiore. Salty number for the Montalcino location and yet this ease of amenability and the way the Barbi effort solicits affectation is undeniable. This secrecy of structure is a house and Vigna speciality and the sauce is spread liberally across the succulence of the fruit. No denying the effort, the acumen and the persistence of unwavering potential. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

The difficult vintages separate the adulte from the bambine and so expectation can’t help but run high for this storied house. I expect the 2014 may be misunderstood. Though quiet and maybe even needing to be described as in a state of demure, this from Barbi translates to grace. Forget vintage for this is Barbi, albeit in a world occupied by some not so unusual aromatics and flavours. Apples? Limes? Apricots? Perhaps. For now the state of grace is not fully accessible or appreciated. After some passage of time, in conjunction with good grip and slowly dissipating astringency, this will live on as a Barbi Brunello. It will do so in honesty, as if there could be any doubt. Drink 2023-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

If there is another estate in Montalcino with more ode in pocket to tradition and history while always moving and thinking forward then I’d like to meet it. Barbi’s ’13 takes an express leap ahead, away from where it came but with notes and stories that recall its past. This fruit is serious, wise, salumi-frutta di bosco meets fragola based, chewy, ropey and exact. The tannins are drying over round and bounding acidity while the age potential never wavers. It’s a baby, like so many, but in a Brunello as here, as always, there is no speculation, only certainty. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

There are Barbi Riservas and there are Barbi Riservas. Many are the toughest nuts to crack and then along comes a fruit beauty like 2013. Not sure I’ve ever tasted this sort of gregarious nature from a Barbi, normale, Riserva, or Vigna del Fiore. There is no compromise to tradition but there too is no holding back in delivery of ripe, fattened red fruit, sweet acidity and even sweeter tannins. The picking, selecting, vinifying and aging of the components that made up this wine were spot on. A gift to the consumer. Start your Brunello Riserva journey right here. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2012

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

Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna del Fiore 2011

Having tasted the follow-up 2012 a year earlier in Montalcino made for more than a curious moment to look at this 2011 one year later and in Toronto. Nothing against the rock solid ’12 but this vintage is simply glorious. Waiting 12 months was not just worth it but clearly essential. The walls have come down, the sea departed, volcano stepped aside and all that is right in a Castelnuovo dell’Abate Brunello world is also righteous and beautiful. Some of Montalcino’s most famous and iconic wines have come from Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Fattoria Barbi, the oldest of which date back to 1870. There are two centuries of history with thanks to Francesca Colombini. The Vigna del Fiore “vineyard of the flower” or maybe “flower garden vineyard” is unique to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, one of the oldest (and furthest south) in Montalcino. The block is just under six hectares from an area where vines have been cultivated since the XVI century. It sits on the top of a hill that descends toward the Asso and Orcia rivers and faces Mt. Amiata. The hill is a natural corridor between Montalcino and Mt. Amiata and it connects the Crete Senesi in the Val d’Orcia and the basin of the Ombrone valley as you head to the sea. The production varies a lot; in some years it is not produced and at a maximum it reaches the 13,000 bottles range. The first vintage was 1981, chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Francesca Colombini Cinelli. Aged in small to medium size (that is 5-20 hL) oak barrels for the first months, it completes the aging in larger oak barrels for a total period of two years and then is bottled at least four months before it’s released. The oenologist is Paolo Salvi. This represents what matters in terms of Vigna-designate Brunello and what it means compared to broader expressions drawn from and combining several vineyards. So close to drinking perfectly but to tell you the truth, you don’t have to wait. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted March 2018

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto’s certified organic estate was founded in 1989 on the south-eastern side of Montalcino overlooking the Orcia valley and in 2011 became part of the ColleMassari family of wines. Monte Amiata looms and protects while sea breezes blow in for a property that enjoys a unique microclimate immediately southeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The estate’s founder was former shipping executive Piero Palmucci who worked with famed sangiovese oenological consultant Giulio Gambelli. Together they held a deep interest in clonal selection and so in 1997 a collaboration with the University of Milan was established in order to plant new vineyards. Today the Tipa Bertarelli Family is the custodian of the original vision, albeit with Italian passion and Swiss precision. Claudio Tipa is the owner of ColleMassari and Grattamacco and beginning in 2011 he and his team committed themselves to the same quality standards and production techniques that have made the estate’s reputation.

Palmucci believed that dark Brunellos are disingenuous and the wines could not possibly be pure varietal expressions unless they were light and transparent reds. The same winemaking team led by Luca Marrone of nearly three decades an Oenologist Federico Staderini continue to produce sangiovese of great traditional and authentic construct. The sangiovese are timeless, unparalleled for this special part of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Perpetual upholding for decades of generational standards.

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Very fine quality of tannins wind their way around the ripest fruit picked right in time to keep the acidity (6.3 tA) not just in line but up there in full regale with the gathered parts. The red fruit is so very specific to appellation and place, two interchangeable parts that make Rosso shine. Crispy and crunchy with juicy fruit in the savoury candy way that’s just what this ideal new deal has to be. Few Rosso will age like this from Poggio di Sotto. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (337774, $180.00)

No less than a finessed coax of pure higher altitude sangiovese fruit delivers the southern territorial goods in 2015. That and a staggered pick, layered atop one another for a stack of juicy, ripe acid and fine grained chain of tannic goods. The seamlessness and positively structured finesse is beyond comprehensible commend-ability. It’s outright impressive.  Last tasted February 2020

The red fruit of this place and only this place is amplified or better still exemplified in appellative Brunello. There is a glycerin derived and in possession of balance, from soils, elements and climate that is unparalleled for this specific area of Montalcino just to the west and below Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The fine shift from earth to fruit and into tannin through mineral bleed and finally peppery savour all works on the palate. This ’15 is proof of how a team continues to uphold standards of these vineyards no matter the ownership or the hopes, dreams or wishes of those who support and also those who drink from the deep well of this project. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Substance, glycerin and concentration gather for a Brunello of Brunello standards in Poggio di Sotto’s ’14. Intensely saturated and insular the nose is closed and for good reason. What you notice about the quality here is the silk across the palate and the length., It surely indicates quality, fine and ripe tannins and an ability to age. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva persists in a void occupied by reduction and grip, in full protection of fruit not yet needing to really be set free. A few years lay ahead before it will open, bloom and reach towards the the blue light of a Montalcino day. This Riserva is not shy but it sees no reason to open up. The fruit beneath is chewy and crunchy, fresh as the day it was born from the barrel. Very stylish, traditional, culpable in clarity and five years away from laying out the hand it was dealt. Drink 2023-2035.  Tasted February 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

A highly serious, concentrated, richly endowed and full-fruit acquiesced sangiovese with extremely fine tannins overtop just as fine acidity. The style is by now well-known and persistent though it would not be a stretch to note that it’s also something almost impossible to repeat with fruit from anywhere else. The confidence and quiet ego of this wine is owned by Poggio di Sotto and Poggio di Sotto alone. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

There is no shortage of grandiosity in Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva though it does not reach for too much hedonism or flamboyance. Fruit is a wealthy player while acidity ranges from wild to extreme. There is a feeling of tonic embrace and plumped up stone fruit bitters though fleshy and spirited is really the operative. There is this juicy orange note on the back end of the acidity with a long, stretched and syrupy finish. Really big Riserva. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018

Tenute Silvio Nardi

Tenute Silvio Nardi is located in Casale del Bosco which is in Montalcino’s most northwestern sector just at the reach of the east/west portion of the Ombrone River. The estate farms 80 hectares of vines divided into 36 vineyards. Casale del Bosco is the western estate while Manachiara is the east, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. It was purchased by Silvio Nardi in 1962 and is split into three parcels: Colombaiolo, Manachiara and Pinzale. Manachiara is responsible for production of the Brunello cru label Vigneto Manachiara. Casale del Bosco dates back to XVII century, but the origins of this site are Etruscan. It was bought by Silvio Nardi in 1950 and is the source for the cru Brunello Poggio Doria.

Silvio Nardi was from neighbouring Umbria and produced agricultural machines. He is considered to be the first “foreigner” to invest in the wine business in Montalcino and later in 1967 became one of the territory’s founding members. Emilia joined her father’s business in 1985 and through 1990 made many integral changes to the vineyards and also wine production. She has held a most curious and tireless interest in clonal selection. Now 30 years into her winemaking tenure, Emilia Nardi was once quoted as saying “ff Manachiara is the wine of dawn, Poggio Doria can be defined as the one of dusk.” Manachiara was first made in 1995, Poggio Doria in 2004.

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Very cherry, ripe mainly, some sour edges and all dominant in a very fruit forward wine. Explores the essence of sangiovese with a heart struck and set into a Montalcino land. Could be from nowhere else and demands drinkable attention. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Radiant, fresh and effulgent Rosso is a wonderful thing and although this has yet to shed its barrel fat it offers a great glimpse into its fruit-filled, long-lasting and expressive future. There is much to admire in how this puts the fruit at the forefront and then welcomes both fine acidity and some fineness that incorporates structure. Solid Rosso from a range of vineyards by winemaker Emanuele Nardi. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 201

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (922054, $46.95)

Lovely little ’15 from Nardi that grows in stature as you work the glass. Begins with classic dusty cherry and leather earthy fruit then climbs upward with high level acidity. Crescendoes at a higher point and lingers well into the next hour. I can hear this one ‘knockin’. Great Brunello blues riff and groove. Vintage in, vintage out one of the most consistent Montalcino wines. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigneto Manachiara 2015

Serious wine here from Nardi, rich and nectareous, exotic and welling with big fruit flavours. The secondary and tertiary attributes can do nothing but lift and lengthen this wine towards epochs of imitable time. Look to open six bottles every three years for up to 20 in total. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Doria 2015

Poggio Doria is the wild child of Silvio Nardi, a high acid, bigger tannic structure sangiovese of pulse, energy and drive. Fruit substance is high, tones are equally elevated and time will do great things to this wine. Full throttle, edgy, briny, intense, grippy and full of so much Montalcino love. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Nardi takes the vintage hand and likewise opens up their hearts, throws their cards down and makes public the plan. Ripe fruit, short to moderate structure and relatively easy early drink ability. Some more tannin than a few, some it of underdeveloped but for the most part sweet, fine, ready and willing to work with protein, preferably on the saltier side of hard rock life. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Extreme unction and sultry personality separate Nardi’s ’13, in definition and construct away from so many peers. Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. There is no sense of drying fruit and tough tannin in this luxurious sangiovese, no, rather its bright, effulgent and outwardly sexy. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018

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Montalcino, 6pm

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WineAlign

Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Montalcino Sunset

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

Montalcino, February 2020

The sangiovese of Montalcino are not to be taken lightly nor for granted and they are, to a wine, crucial to mind, culture and life as we know it. When presented in times of adversity they are the sort to help us keep our wits about us. To an extent the Rosso and manyfold the Brunello are of an ilk that allow our animal selves to assist in ensuring the survival of our species. Allowing them to age incrementally and gracefully is an important part of the contract. Either by dint or by choice, drinking Montalcino, especially young Brunello, deregulates our homeostatic processes with a kind of sudatory sedation. This is because of an unavoidable youthful aggression and incredibly dense succession of tannins, as if each were linked to the next by an invisible force, to a chain singular and melting into one another. They are known to induce fruit sweats while simultaneously controlling emotion and so we remain in balance. In some reflective respect the act of drinking Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino is akin to a full-fledged carnal embrace. If what follows is a feeling of compunction then guilty as charged is our pleasure.

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. In the trusted duty as ambasciatore for Montalcino and its vital sangiovese next month I will play host and moderator to two dozen of the territory’s most prominent and illustrious producers in six pivotal seminars. In 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, I recently asked a gaggle of Montalcino producers some pressing questions.

Tasting at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, February 2020

Brunello inspired to the best wines made by my grandfather produced between 1970 and 1980

… Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Ten producers, six questions

What recent vintage would you say marked the turning point for your winemaking, to bring your wines into a place and style that speaks of your particular vineyards, their location and terroir in Montalcino? What or why is the reason?

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “2013 may have marked the turning point for our winemaking, in looking for their particular sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in our wines.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “2006 was the first vintage during which I have followed every aspect, from the vineyard management to the winemaking. So that was a benchmark for me. 2012 is a reference vintage in terms of style, with the introduction of the family brand “Cortonesi” and the two different crus La Mannella and Poggiarelli. From this vintage, Brunello “La Mannella” is made just with La Mannella vineyards grapes. Two different Brunellos from two very different Montalcino terroirs. I had in my mind the idea of Brunello di Montalcino as pure expression of his terroir.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “2006, my very first one. From the very beginning it was clear from me how it’s necessary making wines that speak about sangiovese and Montalcino, that’s what make unique a wine from this region and it’s even more important when you have an important historic background like we do here at Le Chiuse.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “The 2010 vintage, not only for the beautiful quality expressed, marked the definitive passage of an awareness and an approach to wine that I am still following today. It was the first to be done in the new cellar where we chose to carry out the fermentation in conical steel with the use of punching down at controlled temperatures. In addition, since 2010 a good percentage of new vineyards have been in production which have helped improve agronomic management. The 2004 vintage marked the awareness of a differentiated management of the vineyards given their different exposure and different terrains. For my youth and little experience they were years and harvests difficult to interpret.”

Elisa Fanti, Tenuta Fanti: “Our vintage is absolutely the 2006. During the harvest and the aging of the Brunello 2006 we have learned the characteristic of a very elegant Sangiovese and we have loved this! We started to select the different Sangiovese from different vineyards, to select also our four different areas of the vineyard and we have started to make our two selection of the Brunello di Montalcino, the Riserva before (on the 2007 vintage) and the Vallocchio later ( 2010 vintage).”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “We have had some turning points. 1931 was the first vintage with “important numbers,” 35,000 bottles instead of the normal 5,000/10,000 we had for a century because my grandfather Giovanni Colombini decided to try to sell it more widely. By mail and through agents in Rome, Naples, Florence and Milan. It was a success, the wine was more alcoholic and very austere. 1964 was rated the best red wine of Italy by the Italian Ministero dell’Agricoltura, obtaining the “Torchio d’Oro” It was a rich, powerful Brunello in a very traditional style, and our first vintage in which we produced more than 100,000 bottles. This was our first vintage appreciated by the Italian journalists, and also the first widely sold abroad. 1975 was a very classic Brunello but more “easygoing”, a turning point in style and marketing. Not so tannic as our previous wines, ready to drink after only five years but able to age very well for decades, it was the final result of years of research on fermentation and on a shorter period in wooden vats. This was very probably the first “modern” Brunello, a style that became the normal one for all the producers. It was an unbelievable commercial success, 235,000 bottles sold from the USA to Japan. 1995 was again something new, still in a very traditional style but larger, bolder even if very elegant. It was our first “fat” Brunello, in a period in which the wines had to be more and more “important” we reached this result avoiding any mechanical concentration with osmosis or similar devices. We increased the vineyards from 50 to 100 hectares, and reduced very strongly the production per hectare. 2007 was another important turning point, after five years of experience we could use for all our production dry ice, the new Ganimede fermenters and a completely “vintage program” which reduced to less than one hour the time from the picking of the grapes to the arrival in the fermenting vats. The result was a better extraction and a better concentration of the traditional flavours of Sangiovese. A more typical and more intense one.

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “In 2006 I started working in a more traditional style with longer maceration time and only big barrels. Also I started focusing on single vineyard sites.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “At Col d’Orcia we pride ourselves in producing traditional wines with long aging potential since even before the arrival of my family in 1973. When we conduct vertical tastings (often going back 50 years) the most important aspect for me is that tasters find aromas and tastes that are constant over time. The key of this approach is that we use only grapes grown on this hill and that we are true to the character of the soil and climate of this estate. Of course there has been an evolution over time, but rather than adopting different manipulations to the wines, we have improved our quality control and the equipment