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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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

Good to go!

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Montalcino, 6pm

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