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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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 that allows us to follow with greater precision the fermentation and aging process in order to intervene with greater timeliness on decisions such as pump-over, end of maceration on the skins, racking, contact with air, etc.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “In the vineyard the year of change was 2012. This was the first year with very high temperatures, hydro-stress and intense rainfall just like monsoons. We have leant how to trim back the vines in a different way, using the leaves too protect from the sun. We have learnt that we must reduce the surface of active leaves to reduce the transpiration and so to lower the canopy. We have also learnt that the de-leafing usually done in September (and unfortunately still done by many wineries) damages the grapes because now the UV radiation is much stronger than before. In the harvesting of the grapes the 2017 vintage was a turning point for us. It marked the return to a selecting of the clusters, just as my grandfather used to do, for opposite reasons. 50 years ago his problem was too little sun, we now have too much. In the end, to pick the grapes at their maximum level of ripening we need to pick the clusters one by one, going through the vineyard several times.  Since 2017 we have continued to select the clusters. The concept of “Vigna” as was intended at the end of the 1900’s must be revisited so as to obtain qualitative excellence. For fermentation maybe 2011 was the year that marked the change. The year that taught us most in the management of the grape and must PH. In 2011 the Montalcino wineries encountered Brettanomyces, which previously, was practically unheard of thanks to the high acidities. Now attention on PH and the cleanliness in the wineries are much superior to before.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “With 2010 we have reached a balance between perfume, structure, length, finesse and elegance which has had a constant following in the following years. The age of the vineyards, a greater experience in the management of woods and in winemaking.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The vintage that most changed my life was the 2015 vintage.  It was the first year that our new vineyards produced Brunello quality fruit, the marriage of the new vineyards and old vines coincided with one of Montalcino’s most interesting growing seasons. It was a slightly warm vintage that tested the health and vigour of the vine pushing it to the limit but not beyond.  Fruit was beautiful and crunchy and with ripe seeds and stems which gave way to wines with a good potential for ageing but also very generous and voluptuous also in youth.  A confluence of factors, climate, vineyards, and careful choice of oak framed the 2015 as one of Romitorio’s best vintages of all time.”

Tasting hundreds of Sangiovese over the course of 10 days in Italy would be inconceivable without the tireless work ethic, attentiveness and dedication of all these talented sommeliers. #aissommelier #italiansommelier #associazioneitalianasommelier

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?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “I always make mistakes and always learn from them, every vintage it’s another story and every time I try to do the best choices for my vines and wines. I love it because those mistakes could makes your land-wine-feeling connection stronger.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “I started in 1999 with the first harvest made entirely by me, not having too much direct experience. I can say that the first five harvests were difficult as an approach in the vineyard and then in the cellar. The agronomic part was the same in all the vineyards, but with completely different vintages; hot 1999, very hot 2000, very rainy 2002 and very hot 2003. This diversity made me understand on my skin that the vineyards had to be managed differently. The research on the grapes as well as having excellent ripeness and health is to manage the acidity in the best way during the ripening in order to have an elegant and persistent character on the wine.”

Elisa Fanti, Tenuta Fanti: “Our principal mistake in the past was to “clean” too much our wines. We had left much space at the perfect analytical parameters, at the perfect wines with very definite characteristic. Now we understand it is important to have the real characteristic of the vintage and the terroir in the bottle. Sometimes a little shades and also a little imperfection (why not) are very important to respect the personality of the wine.”

Stefano Cinelli 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.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “Plenty, in the beginning I was trying to go a bit more modern and more approachable style. Also I was doing lower yields for no real reason and picking too late sometime. Now I just go for balance.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Up until the turn of the century, we had a tendency to submit the wines to excessive extractions during fermentation, often extracting dry tannins that needed a very long time in wood and in the bottle to soften. We are now using a much lighter hand thanks to the use of the spectrophotometer as a quality control equipment that tells us exactly when the wine has taken from the skins all it needs to achieve a balanced and elegant wine.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “To begin with, when I left my family’s activity in 1998 to create my own, I needed to differentiate myself, do different things, to experiment a little…A bit like the Barolo boys in Piedmont. Slowly I understood the value of the century-old expertise of the Montalcino grape growers a now we are doing practically the same as them. We are even planting old varieties of wheat on the soil before planting new vineyards. My various Brunello are not powerful and neither fat. My wines are fine, lengthy, harmonious, complex and apt for long ageing. My grandfather was able to produce such wines only a couple of times every 10 years but we can do it practically every year because the climate gives us a helping hand.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “Each harvest has given us something to grow and given the possibility to correct some details, over the years I believe that our wines have bought a lot in complexity, balance and finesse.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The mistakes have been many, and it takes time to find the perfect balance between making wine in the vineyards and in the cellar. It all starts with a vision and intuition and at times the first try can seem to be a mistake and over time prove to be a resource. For instance in the early 1980’s sangiovese had a hard time ripening and most wines barely reached 13%. This was especially true at higher altitudes and often wines from the hills maintained a green “stemmy” character when compared to the wines from the valley. Today things have changed drastically. Advancement in viticultural practices during the 1990’s changed the way that Montalcino practiced its winegrowing as we start to see new methods of planting – closer spacing and more vines per hectare. New farming techniques, lower yields, de-stemming and sorting had an incredible impact on the quality of Brunello di Montalcino. However climate change has been felt also in Montalcino and areas (such as those of the Romitorio) which once may have seemed like a mistake unable to produce world-class Brunello today express some of the highest quality Brunello di Montalcino.

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.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella : “One of the biggest challenges for me has been finding the right aging to enhance the terroir of Poggiarelli. Paolo Cagiorgna, our consulting enologist, has helped a lot to find the right balance. Now we do 24 months of aging in French oak tonneaux and then long bottle aging and I think we have found the perfect equilibrium for a Brunello di Montalcino from a very rocky soil rich of Tuscan limestone with big structure.”

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.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “They usually help keeping the vines less moist, they are helpful during ripening.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Winter winds such tramontana and grecale have limited influence on the growing seasons of the grapes. Summer winds are a constant at Col d’Orcia as we are in the part of Montalcino closer to the coast and have a truly Mediterranean climate. Please remember that Riserva Col d’Orcia vineyards is called Poggio al Vento (windy Heights).”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “I can remember only one occasion, twenty-odd years ago, something really impressive, at the end of August a wind so hot it resembled a hair dryer that dried the vineyards.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “(These winds) are very important for the quality and health of the grapes. If they weren’t there, it would be a real problem.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The Tramontana winds are usually seen as a negative, cold northern winds that brings with it disease and molds.  If in the forest you need to find North you just look at the side with more moss and that is North.  That said Tramontana can have varying effects throughout the growing phases of the vines, in winter and spring it is the main wind that informs the plant when to start waking up from winter, and it can help delay and cool the vines throughout the also summer months.  It’s famous for coming in three’s, 3-6-9.  Any wind coming from the same directions for too many consecutive days can have a negative effect.  The Romitorio lives and thrives in the Tramomtana as it is located in the Northeastern quadrant of Montalcino, therefore as tricky as it might be we are extremely grateful for its powerful cooling effects which are vital for keeping a crunchy sangiovese. The Grecale winds have a similar effect though they tend to be more common during the harvest months and brings serves as a source of cool and dry air also beneficial to the health of the vine.”

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.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “Both are very important winds, especially in the months of September and October to guarantee the health of the grapes and a good temperature range between day and night for a better aromas evolution. I think they are very important for the whole area of Montalcino, but especially for La Mannella area that is a cool zone of the northern slope of Montalcino, so dry and cool winds are crucial to have a great vintage.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: I like those winds as that means cooler temperatures and dry conditions witch give you a very good maturation of the grapes and elegant, vibrant wines. 2013 is a vintage that was influenced by this special condition. 

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “All the vineyards are in the south/south-east part of Montalcino between 400 meters and 250 meters. The influence of the winds is fundamental for the health of the grapes especially in vintages where in September there may be rain or morning mists. Fortunately the mists are not so frequent in the harvest, but in case of rain the ventilation helps to keep the grapes healthy. Certainly recent vintages such as 2008, 2013 and 2014 the winds have helped to have excellent characteristics.”

Northwest Montalcino

The passion and the strong link with mother nature of the winemaker are the best factors to make original and outstanding wines

… Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella

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.”

Montalcino

Va a macchia di leopardo

… Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi

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

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Yes, for Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva we use older vineyards. For the one Vigna we currently bottle (Vigna Nastagio) we use a recent vineyard planted in 2006. Poggio al Vento is produced only in the best vintages, on average 5 vintages out of 10. For all Brunello’s I tend to prefer balanced weather with cool ripening season.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “Evidently I prefer the older vines. I adore wines obtained from older vineyards and I have bought a sort of mechanical mole to burrow holes to substitute the new vines where others have died. We are also learning the Simonit and Sirch technique to save the vines from Esca disease. We are, in other words, doing our upmost to allow our vineyards to age healthily. It would be ideal to have old vineyards with healthy vines and all with a regular quantity of clusters. To produce Brunello Riserva we need winter and spring to be rainy, summers to be hot interrupted by some showers, September with cold nights and sunny days. Just like in 2019.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “Certainly the oldest vineyards give us the possibility of having much much more complexity. Cold vintages often give great satisfaction after 15 – 20 years, often with big positive surprises.

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “The blend of newer and older vineyards is vital in all phases of production of wines from Montalcino.  The tension in any work is always a balance between chiaroscuro which sangiovese embodies in such a magical way. It can be a brooding dark powerful brick coloured wine as it can be a dancy, perfumed and transparent wine.  What’s great about Montalcino is that there is such a wide variety of terroir and cellar practices that give way to a multitude of different expressions of Brunello di Montalcino.  Romitorio is a northwestern hill Brunello and very proud to embody this aspect in our wines and we hope to communicate this from our Rosso di Montalcino all the way up to our Brunello di Montalcino Riserva.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “For the production of the Riserva there is our 40 years-old vineyard together with other younger vineyards all around the cellar, where the microclimate and the characteristics of the soil are the same and homogeneous, but the selection of the wine is the result of a choice of barrels and aging tonneaux. We do not produce the Riserva every year, but for characteristics I would say that the cooler vintages are more elegant, even if in warmer years we have produced the Riserva (see 2007 or 2012), but in any case vintages with very high potential. In the most difficult years where even the quantities of selected grapes are high, we hardly produce Riserva.”

Elisa Fanti, Tenuta Fanti: “I prefer the Riserva because in general it is the best wine of the vintage with important characteristics (the structure and in particular the acidity) well integrated with the aging in the oak. A perfect wine to drink old! I prefer colder vintages, I don’t like the wines very strong and with low acidity.”

Stefano Cinelli 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.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “I prefer to use the oldest vineyards to produce Brunello Riserva. I am a fan of warm vintages because with the selection systems that we have nowadays we can have a great selection of the grapes when they are at the perfect stage of ripening. In cooler vintages, where there are typically abundant rainfalls, it is more difficult to get a perfect ripening of the grapes to obtain wines with a great aging potential as Brunello di Montalcino has to be.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “We don’t do a single Vineyard as Le Chiuse is one block, so for my choice it’s necessary for Riserva. Usually I’m for excellent cold vintages that guarantee a wine full of energy that doesn’t end by the long aging.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

Il Brunello vada molto meglio di altre denominazioni.

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

The last question I posed to the producers concerned the current state of business and affairs in Montalcino.

How are things going for Montalcino?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “Montalcino is at a very good health level, we have not had COVID cases for a long time, certainly better than in other parts. On the other hand, economically it depends on the producer, there are those who have many bottles in the cellar and have sold well. In general, however, I think Brunello is fairing much better than other denominations.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “In Montalcino almost restaurants are open. We have a quite good European tourism now. The business is not too bad actually. Imperative now is to survive from this 2020. About the grape season, until now it’s a beautiful vintage, but August and especially September are the most important months. This week should be one of the hottest (34-36° C).  The Consorzio del Brunello are investing some resources on our main markets like Canada and US. We hope to give some help to our producers and to their agencies/importers promoting our denominations and our wines.”

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.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “Montalcino is very quiet this year. Some Italian tourists around. Very few foreign visitors. We had a good season in terms of rain and heat, but the harvest is still a long way away.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “Sometimes, like in 2019, we had a quantity of super grapes never seen before and so we immediately ordered more barrels. It is a shame that the lockdown blocked the delivery of the barrels and the wine went into barrel late. Unfortunately the splendid harvest 2019 has suffered the effects of the Coronavirus too.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “For now the grapes are beautiful and healthy, we expect an early harvest. Let’s see what the months of August and September will give us. In Montalcino, given the situation, well, we don’t complain…”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “Everything is fine even if it is really a strange period, to see Montalcino without tourists without fans who come to the company to taste.”

The Consorzio’s members come together each February at The Montalcino Chiostro del Museo 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. Though the prospect is dire for this gathering to take place in 2021, Montalcino’s wines will and always need to be tasted around the world. Let’s travel back a bit in time. At Benvenuto Brunello in February 2020 I tasted the following 150 samples of sangiovese, 36 Rosso di Montalcino DOC and 114 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. These are my notes.

Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2018 (31 notes)

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($27.95)

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

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($29.95)

Full intention and focus for Rosso here from stalwart house Argiano in sangiovese pertinence. The combination of wood and a mosaic of ripeness means flavour packet bursts and structural stumbles. Seems a bit wooly and high acid distracted but the youth is important in knowing or at least intuiting what this Rosso will become. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Baricci Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Carries all the 2018 Rosso attributes that set the vintage apart, including full fruit and old school structure but what separates Baricci’s northerly Montosoli is the sprezattura savour. Wild strawberry and a texture that reaches back for more sangiovese. Very specific to this hill that only a few other appellative wines can touch. Pretty structured stuff for Rosso. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

From Gianni Bernazzi and a Rosso treated to a full compliment of Botti wood, adding a sweet vanilla and candied floral spice to his sangiovese. Old school and pure, clear and clean at the same time. Well made, not as crunchy and bright as some though as itself it speaks a true vernacular. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

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

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 (333575, $19.95)

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

Casanova Di Neri Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Giacomo Neri lends his name to the bottle of Rosso which speaks to his desire that meaning is to accompany the appellation. Seemingly combed from Neri’s three or four vineyards dotting the north and east of Montalcino for an estate agglomeration of dark fruit, high tones and great accumulated acidity. Here the baby Brunello concept acquiesces to the notion of strictly made Rosso and for great purpose. Big wine, fine sangiovese, lots of possibility. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($38.99)

From a hectare and a half of a Rosso vineyard that produced 1,000 cases. The general matrix is unique because Colli Senesi is DOCG and this Rosso is a DOC though it commands a higher price. Cool, racy, lean, tight and mean. A fighting machine, just bottled, intense and ahead of the impending magic so use your imagination to the Rosso fullest. There a fulness and a flesh behind that veil of acid secrecy.  Drink 2021-2026. Tasted February 2020

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($28.99)

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($31.78)

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

Risotto, Sangiovese and Taleggio

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

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($33.84)

Gotta love a Fanti Rosso, for its outpouring of sangiovese heart and in the way it so professionally proffers what you know Montalcino is so fully capable of gifting. The fruit is high, the aging possibility nigh and the pleasure probability at the limit of the sky. All in, together of parts as one, for a proper rest day, preferably in the sun. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2020

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2018 ($54.00)

Gianni Brunelli’s ’18 Rosso’s brightness shines as the vintage lights the way, yet also embraces deeper sentiments, from generational impressions to modern perceptions. That is confirmed on a palate brimming with sweet fruit and a salt and pepper seasoning that makes for a complete experience in sangiovese gastronomy. Just a shake of bitters on the finish indicates the request for Rosso patience by way of a year’s settling. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

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

La Màgia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

A deeper, warmer, confident and comforting Rosso from the cerebral and intentional La Màgia, a bit tight and demure in youth. A Rosso that needs some time and in its Brunello-like empathy. More extraction and depth for Rosso in a vintage where some frazioni could not do what this is capable of putting into depth effect. Structured for the appellation. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted February 2020

La Poderina Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

From the younger (10-15 years of age) and lower downslope vines in Castelnuovo dell’Abate and located in front of the historical Benedectine abbey of Sant’Antimo. Insular, taut and tight Rosso, especially for 2018 so the feeling is of a site that when these vines grow more mature will surely feed Tenuta del Cerro Brunello with structured fruit. A long linger in this precocious Rosso, so very red fruit and while a bit nervy, quality and promise of site is all there. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Not a vintage if you are looking for concentration. If you are looking to drink it is perfect. From the same vines employed for Brunello but as per Lorenzo’s idea, only the largest clusters are grabbed. “For our culture it is an important wine. As winemakers we make Brunello but don’t drink it every day. This is what we drink.” Aged in the youngest large barrels for one year (plus two months) and in this vintage it’s back up the truck, glug-glug, pour half the bottle sangiovese. So fresh and with ultimate sangiovese spirit. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017 ($45.00)

Still sitting, waiting and I suppose stabilizing in concrete is this Rosso 2017 that will be bottled in April. The aging requirements met would actually qualify it for Brunello and we’ll just leave it at that. The entire fruit source in ’17 is Castelnuovo dell’Abate harvested between the 8th of September through to the last days in the highest reaches. Fresh and far from heavy though there is a liqueur depth and a skin-contact feel. Youthful tang and sharpness with a minor tannic herb-verdancy and good but not that super-sangiovese 2016 length. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Lisini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Quite tonal, up there is the stratosphere where some Rosso lie, especially with a vintage like 2018. Richer and more texture on the palate with liquid chalk, wood vanillin and plenty of seasoned tang at the finish. Could use a year or two to integrate. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

The best of all Rosso worlds emanates from Mastrojanni’s ’18, part effusive light and part deep rich tonality. Hits the high, the lows and everything else in between. Good acids keep the balance with darker fruit and silken wood texture. All in with great expectation for 2018. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Mocali Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 (286260, $19.95)

Racy, stark and slightly feral Rosso here with some volatility of distraction. Good core of fruit, fully extracted and in that pressing some bitters and bacterials come along for the ride. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Fried Artichoke, La Sosta Montalcino

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Seriously polished, stylish and full compliment filled Rosso from Brizio, very much in the post-modernist Dievole vein. No expense spared to elevate the game, freshen up the fruit and the appellation. A chic wine for current consumption and replete with necessary acidity to capitalize the freshness with a proper “F.” Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Salvioni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Cerbaiolo 2018

What is the question? Taking this Rosso lightly, passing it by or presuming anything on just a whiff and a sip would do it great injustice. There’s a wealth of knowledge and character on the nose, a depth not yet reached because the elemental layering is hard to bypass, just as roots through the fissures in the stone will take a few years to zig-zag for to find the water table below. Segued and extrapolated into this Rosso’s structure, when the integration happens it can be imagined the salts and the minerals to really step forward. La Cerbaiolo for the Rosso ages is the answer. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($48.95)

Here the loosely ambient Rosso stylistic meanders with carefree sway into a world occupied by the natural and the free. Wooly tannins surround variegated red fruit and the matter is so much fun to behold. Not for the masses, perhaps a bit esoteric for you and yet the clarity is dubious in its own singular realm. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Sesti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Sesti’s is serious Rosso but please, enjoy. Ripe red fruit with a decidedly mineral Galestro feel, liquified and run through with hematic and blood orange citrus. This could very well be Rosso Riserva, not exactly Brunello and surely Rosso with more wisdom and beauty. Impressive to be sure. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($30.00)

The Rosso vineyards here are part estate Sant Angelo in Colle and also lower down the valley closer to Castelnuouvo dell’Abate. The prominence is of sandy loam, argiloso and stony soils to make for a full expression that while holding the 2018 wild energy card is represented as deeper than many. Rich and also expressive, full on red fruit of berries fresh picked and a solid core of Rosso tannin. Easily one of the bigger 18s available. Approximately 3,000 bottles made. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Tenuta Buon Tempo’s is a deep one, first in fruit and then welling with acidity. The fruit runs a wide gamut, from tang by berries through blackening red currant to dusty plum. Quite full and worthy of the warm climate from whence it came with an elevated 2018 sentiment in mind. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2018

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

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

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

On the high tone, fruit rising on an acidity elevator up to the upper floors of character. A bit wooly as compared to previous vintages and shows a consistency of style that adheres or more so fully accepts the tenets of the vintage. One of the more effusively sour ‘18s. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Simple red fruit Rosso as per the giving vintage of high acidity and ease of structure. No real bones, road blocks or requests for time. Play on through to a draw at the final whistle. Drink 2020-2021.  Tasted February 2020

Riccardo Talenti

Rosso di Montalcino DOC (other vintages, five notes)

Podere Salicutti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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. Here ’17 is clean, pure, silk threaded and simply put, juicy. One of the longest Rossos you are likely to taste and a triumph for the vintage. 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

Carpineto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Most of the grapes come from Castelnuovo dell’Abate but some are also off of estate vines. A late release Rosso, nearly 18 months after most other Montalcino wineries. Has really settled since October and is drinking beautifully right now.  Last tasted February 2020

Top quality vintage, elegant and balanced, from the non disposto star of Montalcino, Riccardo Campinoti. His is a Rosso for Rosso sake, discriminant, linear, vertical and come up for the rising. If Rosso can be spiritual it would be like this, poignant and effen-solid good. These are the acids of Montalcino and the depth of earth which holds you firm in the face of a fluent perfume. It’s all in this bottle, fluid and affluent. What you need to know and what you want to drink. It can live for a dozen years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted October 2019

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

Col D’orcia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010 ($39.95)

From a vintage that is increasingly showing its stripes at the 10 year mark for Rosso and why should we be surprised? Evolved and into a next level freshness, sideways, sidled, savoury and yet still sweet. The alcoholic and comforting warmth persists, as does the ripeness of 2010 acidity. Proper 10 year move, just past peak and happy to gift another few pleasurable winters. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (71 notes)

Agostina Pieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

As ripe as it ostensibly gets for 2015 in this sweet scenting and viscous sangiovese with real spice cupboard seasoning and a piquing of gathered acidities. The grain of chalkiness runs through and should take this into an umami set of values in the not too distant future. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (994095, $59.00)

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

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

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (15460, $59.959)

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

Armilla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

The tiniest production delivers a very pretty Brunello from 2015 and this Armilla is just the right mix of wisdom and forward purity. There is little ambition, the fruit picking was spot on and the gentle extraction a matter of great gentility. A little Ribena but this is surely a sangiovese of terroir, left to its own devices, without distraction or interference. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Baricci’s Federico and Pietro Buffi

Baricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

There’s just nothing that scents, acts, tastes or structures like a Baricci Brunello. At the height of traditional excellence and slow change improvement there is so much nobility and perfectly seasoned bitterness that allows this linear and purposed Brunello to rise above. No less fruit than structure and more solidarity amongst the parts than so many others. This my friends is Brunello made the way it was and has to be, without compromise and for all the most righteous reasons. Quality is in effect the highest order. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Bellaria’s sweet and strange sangiovese is part terroir and part barrel, like walking in the woods the other day, scents of wet forest and sweet foliage in a warm season. The humidity of this Brunello smells like the past, “seems like 100 years ago.” Needs time to hide away and allow the melting, oozing and scenting wood to dissipate and allow the wine to do its thing.  Last tasted February 2020

Remarkably alternative vintage for Gianni, fresher and more effusive to be clear and sure. Shows with great immediacy and tells a story of vintage variation, especially at altitudes like Bellaria (550-600m) and from soils so poor in organic materials. It’s luxe but also so perfumed, pretty and expressive. Just gorgeous Brunello with fine acidity and sweet tannins. The window will open wide sometime early in 2021 and stay that way for as much time as you need. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

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

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Quite a wood compliment to Capanna’a 2015, much like its 2009, here six years later with more fill in the middle and less angst. Creamy, delicious and soft though not without the possibility for extension to drink well into its fifth season. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (579094, $49.95)

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

Casanova di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (85498, $84.00)

Very polished Brunello tome here from Giacomo Neri, a memo from Montalcino, a song in process. A slide guitar bending entry with a spoken monologue in hushed tones and the agglomeration of soils playing beneath the words. If a Casanova di Neri Brunello could sing, it would sway your impression through its ability to conduct business with swagger and chord change artistry. This one just has a way about it. Files a quick flash of fruit, covers it with micro-oxidative blanket tracks laid down by the grandness of barrels. Then allows for it to breathe by acids, leaves for a break and returns to leave it in slumber while tannins figure out the refrain. The final verse is yet written and that’s just fine with us. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Montalcino from Castello Romitorio

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (236356, $63.95)

A vintage of hue and the dichotomous relationship that bridges power and drinkability. A matter of accumulated acidity from a northwest Montalcino vineyard that doesn’t receive a whole helluva lot of afternoon sun. Salty from growing up in brackish mud and oyster shell from an ancient sea. The wood now speaks for the wine as expected and will fall away again.  Last tasted February 2020

Bottled, finished, now as is for three and a half months in. Pretty like the previous declared Annata from Sandro but truth be told the level of richness and power is raised up albeit without any compromise to construct and yes, elegance. The E word applies here, like it or not because this place demands it and you would absolutely know were this messed with, made up or polished by wood, pomp and circumstance. These are some stretched, elastic and elongated tannins. Will extend for hours, days, months and years, open forever, long before it bounces back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Castello Tricerchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Reductive and underage this sangiovese toys with the idea of youthful ambition and blind faith. A touch past ripe in the teasing vintage of available exceptionalities and the race for potential glory. Certainly a Brunello very close and at the edge of excellence were it not a bit pressed and gone for the win. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (956391, $63.95)

The beautiful middle ground of Brunello di Montalcino expression is graced by Castiglion del Bosco’s 2015 and also because it does the same for the vintage. High level ripe fruit, supportive acids and creamy if spiced chocolate comes across the palate in texture and piqued energy spice. Takes what gives and gives back. Drink 201-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Cerbaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (652446, $66.95)

Cerbaia’s is warm, comforting and blessed Brunello of fruit ripened to the maximum for the most ease imaginable out of 2015. It’s quite creamy and regardless of a northern exposure there’s no lack of unction from this sangiovese. Drink in the early stages of its energetic youth. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (306852, $53.95)

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (237263, $57.95)

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($89.41)

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

Cupano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Cupano’s is a beautiful Brunello from 2015, aromatically gregarious, fruit sweetened in two times ripe ways but most importantly a phenolic access that lifts the spirit. ’Tis a red citrus acidity and a clay depth that combines for ultimate levels of strength and complexity. Lovely wine here and with just a smile of Brett to keep things stylish and rustic. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($74.95)

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (112607, $74.00)

Hello, hello Fanti, you beautifully factual and racy Brunello you. Hello to your calm, your controlled tension and your seamless transitions. Hello to how you say salve and open your arms. Hello to your mind, your body and your soul. Every bit of tradition, soil and acumen runs delicately and with purpose through your mineral veins. Hello to you beginnings, your full middle and your sweet endings. “Just one drink.” Of your loving cup. “In the sweet summer sun.” Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (33498, $46.95)

Always pleasure, always balanced, always proper. This is the Fattoi Brunello world, fruit sweet, energy running high and wine all tolled running long. You can count on this fruit to lift you up and the bones to stay propped up. Never waning, failing or faltering sangiovese with charm and grace. Drink 2020-2026.  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 Cinelli Colombini family’s Barbi faith alive. They are the lifeblood of this wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Del Pino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Il Pino 2015

Now for something set in the purity of the modern Brunello world. Though labeled Annata and therefore fashioned in a Classico estate-driven way there’s just something specific and particular about where this was surely born. A vineyard, a block, a plot, a Climat, a piece of terroir, a place of origin. Has that no lo so of a very special soil, likely fine clay and Galestro because it’s so smooth, confident, non-plussed, focused and finessed. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Fornacella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($54.00)

Fornacella’s brings a fine perfume of candied roses and fennocchio into Brunello quite linear and finely textured. There’s some cocoa dust and dark bitter chocolate shavings melting in and they are well integrated indeed. This is crisp, clean and properly structured sangiovse set to linger over a pretty long run. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Fossacolle Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Reductive and immediately glycerin noted Brunello with so much attraction and ephemeral beauty. The closed circuit is anything but a distraction or a problem because the core of fruit purity within is nothing if not a mass of great expression. Wild cherry, definite new leather and lots of sweet herbs in puréed pesto feel. Very silky and powerful though never cloying or obstructive. Very impressive. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2015 ($63.00)

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

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($67.95)

Fuligni’s is a 2015 intoxicant, a hypnotizing Brunello with no aromatic restraint. The apposite is true about its sympathy, taste and soul-searching proposition, all of which are served in great restraint. There’s a circulative musicality with unexpected and intermittent jangles, bass notes, harmonies and rapid beats. The barrel is so much a part of its present and will melt away in just a few years time. The future looks so bright for this elegant ’15. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2015 ($90.00)

You can heart this Brunello’s beat from a thousand miles away. On its sleeve, in the air and through the fine sense of sangiovese sense of elixir humour. Serious and graceful, reasoned, seasoned and saucy spiced. Gives crazy love. Opens up, every time it smiles. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2015

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

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($46.95)

Completely new set of parameters applied and noted in this 2015 Brunello with an aromatic waft that’s off the floral charts. What is that exotic perfume? ’Tis a rose petal and fresh tar, sweet herbal pesto and even sweeter fruit interned demi-glacé. Rich and far from dusty, like the cool feelings from dusk to dawn, if “nobody knows where it comes or where it goes,” this Brunello has the reds and blues to live long. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (551176, $72.95)

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

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($76.95)

Le Gerla strikes as always, heady and impressive, big-boned, deep and serious vineyard exhumed Brunello. A mouthful of sangiovese like few other in Montalcino, of swagger, fully formed, developed and entrenched in vintage. Boasting of the kind of humid fruit swell that adds up to a sour cherry, leathery chew of Brunello. Full exaggeration and impression, as generous as it gets, deep and mounded in 2015. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2020

La Poderina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta del Cerro 2015 ($82.99)

Located next to Barbi and near to the Sant’Antimo Abbey La Poderina is a dichotomy in Montalcino expressiveness, at once Amaro, botanical herbal and then silky smooth, a liqueur of digestif proportions. Fruit comes from the top of the Bellini Vineyard’s hill, from 15-35 year-old vines facing southeast. If you are a fan of dry Amari-spiced and in liquid chalky grain of tannic addendum then you will relish this Brunello.  Drink 2022-2028. Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Tasting Lorenzo Magnani’s 2015 Brunello only four months later tells an exacting story and speaks to how long his sangiovese holds the capability to age. The medium sized clusters are picked second (after the largest for Rosso) and ahead of the smallest for Riserva. They are the ones that gift this tempered extraction, concentration and texture. Impeccable balance from 2015 that is the one thing showing up early.  Last tasted February 2020

There is a perfume about 2015, a ripe cherry that stands apart for the vintage and even more specific to Le Chiuse. There are cherry trees planted by Tancredi Biondi-Santi here that mimic or rather the aromatics do so, especially in this wine. It’s all texture and a true sense of the land, a feeling of Galestro, rich clay in mouthfeel and Le Chiuse, the place where the dam closed the water off for irrigation. So much fruit and harmony, between acidity, alcohol and tannins. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2019

La Colombina Di Casseli Anna Maria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

An older style, not so old as to bring out the grey but rather a wisdom, an educated guess, a planned parenthood. Rich savoury excess like few Brunelli and formidable of sangiovese acidity. The penultimate one for this undeniable and tractive local delicacy, in efficacy and naturally occurring phenomenon. The old is new again. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (121905, $66.95)

The vintage question is far from a concern with respect to ripeness and a far more important consideration is more about the management of extraction, wood and acidity. La Lecciaia’s work is so properly executed because the acids secure, lift and place the fruit where it needs to be. That is on a mid-level precipice where structure can take over without much ado. All in balance here for mid-term perfection. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($59.95)

Rich and wealthy fruit variegated Brunello here from La Màgia, of blues, reds and blacks all layered and interacting together. That’s so necessary here because the wood sheathing is equally magnanimous and this sangiovese ultimately plunders my soul. So much warmth, depth and deep blues though to be honest I wanted more restraint. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Le Gode Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Le Gode farms a plot on the hill of Montosoli and while there’s a level of that elemental push there too is some less than pure fruit, Brettanomyces and creamy chocolate. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

With Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($115.00)

The Brunello that sits on its skins for three months and so sure of itself that the maintenance on that ferment is really low. A testament to the vintage because this is the longest skin-contact period Riccardo has ever attempted. Still showing its teeth and the great fruit of the year. Still, hands off, don’t touch.  Last tasted February 2020

The come and get me vintage but don’t be misled, distracted or misunderstood. The fraganza di Ragnaie is an intoxicant of the highest order from the highest elevations. This is tonality of verified airy exceptionality. There are fruit landings and destinations, from patches and orchards, without pith and with stone seeds. From only six hectares of the 15 total planted and the balanced one, with Montosoli fruit joining Petroso, Castelnuovo dell’Abate and the four vineyards at 600-plus metres around the winery. Still firm and shadowy so wait three more years. A redux of ’13 but in a wholly antithetical way and only in the ways of Le Ragnaie. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted October 2019

Lisini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Lisini brings a mass of extraction and attraction from their 2015 Brunello, restless energy and a lusty precipice hard to reconcile in its youth. A wine you have a cup of coffee with “until the next time we say goodbye.” This is Brunello of expectation, tradition and once in a while affair. Meet up once a year to catch up and do this for a decade or two. It’s that kind of sangiovese. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($69.95)

Mastrojanni is an aromatic wild one in 2015, florals and full citrus scrape. There’s no letdown anywhere on this sangiovese, fruit having come to fruition and everything pulled from it’s phenolic capabilities. It’s über ripe and conversely tannic, crunchy, chewy, earthy, floral, all of the above again and more. So much length and more to come. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Máté Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Máté is strong mocker in 2015, high level at every angle, turn and precipice reached, namely by sour acids and gritty, brittle tannin. Not so much love at this early stage. But I can say this. Give this sangiovese 10 years and it will simmer down. dole out abbracci and make nice. It just won’t do so with generous fruit. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (64956, $44.95)

High toned and a bit lean for 2015 this does not elicit sentiments of the top, top terroir. A bit saccharine and intense with hard acids and overtly sensory edginess. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Musico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Musico is at the far end of the ripe spectrum or rather sitting in fences at the edge of each. There is fruit of a sun-worshipped, solar-charred kind and then conversely a verdant group marked by dried herbs and legumes. This disparate blending makes cause for short term gain and gone long hollowness. Drink early for best response. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Padelletti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Both rustic and reductive though filled to the inside brim with an impressive core of fruit. Quite raspberry and seasoned with spice that speaks to the edginess and headiness of the wood staying presently ahead. Will integrate in a few years and drink really well. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Pian Delle Querci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

A pretty sangiovese is a beautiful thing that makes for a beautiful life. This would only be said if a wine causes such a thought and so here, from the start, is that sentiment solicited. Sometimes roses emanate and while that may be a sangiovese peculiarity it is not something only reserved for nebbiolo. The palate too offers pretty flavours and red citrus joy. Might seem a bit light and sour-edged to some but like an enchanted old ruin, I appreciate it all the same. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (651141, $61.95)

The 2015 Pian delle Vigne is remarkably smooth, satiny and silky sangiovese. Plain to feel and see. The quality in this Antinori is undeniable so the level of rhythm, blues and soul is not really the point. The fruit is extended out of a mind of many and not just one so it rolls through the stages of its construction with effortless, lack of tension, ease. Classic steak house or cottage deck Brunello, perfect for men of leisure off the course or out of the boat, showered and ready for their steak. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Piccini Villa Al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (434696, $45.00)

In full expectation that the Montalcino house that Piccini built will find seasoned and reasoned success in 2015 is proven by this proud and even profound wine from Villa al Cortille. An alignment of essential, recognizable and desirable aromas, tastes and sensorial aspects makes this as promising a restaurant pour as any from the vintage. Consistency and professionalism incarnate. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

From Andrea Pignattai, winemaker, gentle soul, humble man. A small estate on the northwest corner of the Montalcino hill where so few farm that sector. Only 35,000 bottles produced split between Rooso and Brunello. Andrea’s is authentic from the word nose, rich in dark scented fruit but cool climate herbal, almost minty. Tight, pointed acids, direct and simply the right stuff. Refreshing in so many ways. Grandi Andrea. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Piombaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

High tonality straight away, up and away into the volatile and the inhalant of much repute. Also a touch roasted, like nightshades under the broiler. A bit lean up the middle. If seemingly lacking substance and grace it makes up for that with formidable structure. Rustic and austere and should drink better looking 15 years forward. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Briizio’s is polished and stylish Brunello, perfectly seasoned and reasoned from and for the vintage. Clarity and purity are met with a set of palpable textures; crispy, crunchy and juicy. That’s the crux of what drives this lush and luscious sangiovese. Fruit and mouthfeel, both expressive and adding life, using attributes to the max. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Le Ripi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Amore E Magia 2015

As per the moniker there’s a lotta love emanating from this unctuous and luxe sangiovese to make way with the generous vintage. Rich fruit of the red express kind is never relenting and while acids follow phenolic suit the tannins are sweet and mild. One of the better Brunelli meant for easy and early consumption. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio La Croce Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Rustic and woody to be sure, with plenty of vanilla and a creamed caramel note, though there is some solid fruit underneath. With time it will improve though will always be on the side of hot and spicy. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Poggio Landi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (573980, $54.00)

From the ABFV group of estates that includes Podere Brizio in Montalcino and Dievole in Chianti Classico. Poggio Landi is taken from elevations between 300-500m on heavy clay soils. The is big and rich from 2015, of that there is no doubt though you’d hardly know it for there is too much wood at this stage. Vanilla and baking spice, sweet, confected and not yet conjoined, laying dominantly overtop the fruit. Too much ambition that may yet yield eventual results. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

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 Lucina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Cheese and wood. Wet wool too. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

From Bacci wines connected to Tenuta Renieri and Castello di Bossi in Chianti Classico. Here in the south of Montalcino at elevation (400m) and in the protective shadow of Monte Amiata. Renieri is nothing if not wise, well-rendered and compactly designed Brunello di Montalcino 2015. The fruit is ample to gainfully substantial and the exercise one that practices restraint in the name of balance. No demons needed exorcizing because the handling is one born of acumen, not desire. Another classic restaurant Brunello to represent the appellation and the vintage. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Slightly reductive and also filled with Ribena and raspberry fruit. Fully tests the mettle and the ripeness factor of 2015 and seems acidified. Disparate and problematic. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Roberto Cipresso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Truly big framework here in the Cipresso ’15 Brunello, fruit of another ilk, talent running through all parts from beginning to end. Full fruit compliment, rusty, dusty, plummy, ripe and sour, all in, all the way. The balance afforded by wood and time is estimable, attributable and accountable. Such a well-reasoned and silky seasoned wine. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Ruffino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Greppone Mazzi 2015

A righteous and proper sense of tradition in rustic tones makes Ruffino’s Greppone a prosperous proposition if for a specific crowd that sticks to roads well trodden. Crunchy and earth crusted fruit, high tonal attitude and a linger that repeats the plays again and again. Amazing what consistency times vintage in Brunello such as this can deliver. Solid 2015 from the house built big. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February 2020

San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ugolforte 2015 (212431, $47.95)

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

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (14813, $89.00)

Consistently luxurious and while at the same time of a cure grounded in the natural world. Like salumi, slow-roasted eggplant and a warm pesto of fresh herbs; rosemary, oregano and basil. Plenty of orange pulp and tannin of a liquid chalky kind. Yes this ’15 from San Polino is consistent with what came before but the new advantage and next level formative components will take it deep. All the tenets of agriculture, vintage and cellar work are conspiring to great probability effect. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Sesta Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Fine parts, sways and directions travelled is the directive slowly parlayed in this sweet scenting sangiovese. The purity of fruit beauty is an unadulterated mix of real time agriculture lending a discretion of honesty to the hands that take over and make this wine. No lack of signal in the transfer makes for a palate, a mid-palate and a fleshy finish with fine chains, grains and strains of structure that carry the weight. Will live infamously as one of the better to best 2015s.  Drink 2023-2033. Tasted February 2020

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($117.95)

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

Solaria Patrizia Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Humbly submitted 2015 from Cencioni, well developed fruit gentle in mass, explorative in design and calm in the face of dark sensorial attraction. Acids are just a touch duro but do their parts to lift and support succulence, that plus a dollop of malic cream lending a softening and blanching hand. Perfectly lovely. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($76.00)

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

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (14856, $65.00)

TBT’s 2015 Brunello hits the middle notes with sumptuous ease, bringing a depth of vintage fruit into a house occupied by sweet acids, fine wood and mild tannin. The work here is proper, finessed and leads to a very drinkable wine. Perhaps a bit overtly refined in this vintage with the hopes for next level cause and effect. Highly recommended for a three to seven year run. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

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

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (483800, $70.00)

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

Val Di Suga Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (713719, $54.95)

From Andrea Lonardi, incumbent winemaker at Val di Suga (since 2012) and while 2015 simply is what it is you can feel the work put in to make a proper sangiovese that speaks for the estate first and the vintage second. A balanced and professional wine that sets tor table for what will come, next vintage and going forward. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

All in with all that 2015 can offer to an appellative expression that demands so much. For Brunello this is a weight-packed fruit first, tannin second wine. The drive or length in between is short even in youth, somewhat agitated and exaggerated for the vintage. This one does not trade riffs but gets straight to the point, but that point is set far off in the future. The established credo is all about strength and credibility. Be patient. Wait for it. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($49.95)

Quite a rich and creamy Brunello, more wood in taste and texture than fruit from the hip. Some spice and tannin come about as a result of tannin that again, if at first was pressed from dark fruit now seems squeezed from the barrel. Drink 2021-2023.  Tasted February 2020

Brunello di Montalcino Vigna DOCG 2015 (27 notes)

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

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

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci 2015

A true sense of sangiovese volatility marks the entry in the Selezione from Tassi. So much wood and tannin, a compounding of big elements, attributes and more wood. Will need a decade to integrate. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tassi Di Franci Franca 2015

Tassi’s Franci is antithetical to its Serlezione and it is surely a wine of higher energy and drive. More precision and focus as well, better integrated barrel and length for days. Still the chocolate and the creamy texture. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2020

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

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

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2015 (20750, $79.95)

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

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta Nuova 2015 (85241, $135.00)

Tenuta Nuova takes the sangiovese of Casanova di Neri to another level entirely with a finesse and a polish unparalleled. The wave is long and arcing, accruing flesh and fine liqueur as time passes slowly while you take your time with this fruit of natural sweetness and matching fineness of acidity. Truth be told there is a come and get me now quality about this Vigna designate 2015 and one that will seduce early, in as much as the seduced is willing to be taken. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Filo Di Sesta 2015

From two hectares and only 500 cases of wine are made from vineyards out of which a significant amount of bunches are dropped. First made in 2010, one of the earlier single-vineyard declared Brunelli. “The thread of silk” which refers to the little creek that runs through the forest. A little bit more tonneaux than big barrel and a wealth of riches inherently gathered, layered and reticulated in pocket. Acids are high, mighty and persistent and there is a chalky insistence that matches the energy stride for stride. Not so much a tight sangiovese as a variegated one. Pine, rosemary and darkening fruit, full of sprezzatura. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 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

Croce Di Mezzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

A slight note of rusticity grounds this sangiovese in salty earth while high toned acidity elevates and promotes a lifted sense of composition. Not sure if this comes or goes, weighs down or flies high. Needs to settle, play together in the sand and integrate for mature times in the sun. Will find the way. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Donnatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Prime Donne 2015

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2015 ($89.95)

Vallocchio is just perfect for 2015. Vallocchio delivers fruit like that found in the Annata but deeper, purer and under a gastronomic integration of spice. Vallocchio gives and then gives some more. It gifts sweetness for that fruit mixed with the grain of the barrel. In the end the charm, warmth and caress of kissing tannin tells us not to demand this be the longest Vallocchio but surely expect one of the most graceful. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2015 Rosildo

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

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Madonna Delle Grazie 2015

A taut and yet to fully express itself sangiovese is this tight stunner from il Marroneto. Madonna delle Grazie is full of a cherry depth from which you feel the liqueur and yet the reductiveness keeps the wine safe beneath a hard shell. One of the few 15s that act this way, seriously tight, yet to crack and with 20 years of life safely stored within. Serious wine here from Alessandro Mori. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Fornace 2015

A site in the highest elevation that used to be a lake bed so it’s rich in round stones. Picked earlier in 2015, kept away from jammy and suspended in the high sangiovese zone in which acidity keeps the dream alive. So beautifully judged.  Last tasted February 2020

From Castelnuovo dell’Abate at 400m of elevation, planted in the 1980s. A former lake bed, with clay and round sand stones. Strikes the Brunello accord between richness and balance with more fruit than 10 other houses combined. The transparency is the thing; smells like fruit, perfume and the land, like rocks and sandstone. The bleed of Pietraforte into the blood of sangiovese. There’s really no reason to find fault and in fact there is every reason to breath, exhale and smile. That is what happens when you taste a Brunello like this special single-vineyard wine from Le Ragnaie. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015 ($177.00)

All the Brunelli from Le Ragnaie were kept on their skins for 90 days in fermentation, longest ever for Riccardo. Not convinced anyone else is making Brunello like this. Fresh, lean and linear but not. At this stage the sapidity is raging, omnipresent, marvellous. “I think when they are young they change everyday,” says Campinotti. Well it certainly has done so since October.  Last tasted February 2020

Planted in 1968 and from a warm vintage all the way to the end, into October. Riccardo Campinoti is smiling wryly, knowingly and confidently after he pours and begins to speak of it. “The longer you waited the riper it became” and the healthy grapes allowed for hanging to mid-October. Deeper and of more sponge-soaked earth in the old vines with a higher tone juxtaposed against the depth drawn by long vine roots. The aromatic complexities run, jump and ride off the proverbial charts and you may find yourself drunk and mystified just from the smells. Once you gain palate entry you are hooked and then you climb in, headfirst, unencumbered, no strings attached. A tour de force beloved of sangiovese, Montalcino and old vines. Vigna Vecchia is the epitome of a true structured wine, one which does not grow old, despite the passage of time.  Drink 2023-2039. Tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015

The vineyard was purchased in 2014, 50m on the right of the Baricci cellar. “In my opinion it was good right away,” tells Campinoti so a single vineyard wine was made straight away. Casanovina refers to the house on the property. Another example of a site wine, as opposed to Riserva stylistics which to be honest are not Riccardo’s style. “It doesn’t add much, in my opinion.”  Last tasted February 2020

Riccardo’s first vintage from the Galestro strewn soils at 220m next to Baricci on the northerly Montosoli hill is a completely different animal altogether. The tannic structure is so opposite to the southerly wines, here taut, twined laces pulled oh so tight. Not without the Ragnaie tonality mind you and the transparency, clear, distinct and honest. Not necessarily a terroir vintage and fermentation occurred in oak vats (as oppsed to the concrete for the others) and yet it’s so bloody sangiovese. Blood of Montosoli. Drink 2022-2038.  Tasted October 2019

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Loreto 2015 ($63.95)

Quite a heady and rich Vigna from Mastrojanni, full of dark fruit, caramel and chocolatey flavours. So rich and also youthfully reductive, fruit and acidity thick as thieves. The texture is outrageous, smooth and yet this is the grippiest ’15 around. A beast that attacks the senses with fervour and intent. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piaggione 2015

Piaggione stands apart, namely because the vineyard is lower, lighter in clay and the vines are the oldest of the cru. Lay of the land is 420-450m facing south, taking in sun and developing the biggest muscle. Not just more muscular but also on a broad shouldered frame. The adonis of cru, grippy and ripped, but first from a fistful of fruit strong enough to stand up and be counted. Bigger, more brawn, higher in alcohol, older in school of a certain era, or one that just seems to keep coming around. Stash Piaggione away and forget about it for a while. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sorgente 2015

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

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Teatro 2015

Less than a hectare, planted in 1994 (same year as Piaggione) and as the name suggests the block spreads out like an amphitheatre. The yields on the vineyard are low but through the 2016 vintage they were far less than now because the team have been fighting the voracious eating nottua caterpillar, at night, picking them off buy hand. The oak on Teatro is 10 and 20hL because these are the size that work with the low yields. I love Ieatro it should be said, as it is, indeed dutifully herbal, rich yet ethereal, dry and resinous. Less muscular than Piaggione but more in common with that cru wine. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Salvioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Cerbaiola 2015

Salvioni’s is a deeply welling sangiovese with fully developed and formed 2015 fruit and no less than a 20 year architectural frame on which to hang. All the land’s attributes of growth are there in aromatic waves; brush and bush of herbs, mineral salts, essential oils. So much going on, character all over the expression and the sense of pace so high and squarely intact. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted February 2020

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Helichrysum 2015

Very rich and crafty Vigna Brunello here from San Polino, rich in phenolics and chocolate though not so spirited in acidity and energy. Quite warming and caressing, a couverture of wood blankets and secures the fruit. Drinkable soon and in the near term for sure. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2015 ($120.00)

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

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

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (other vintages, 14 notes)

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

The herbal-amaro-cool savour of the vintage really shows at the present time. That said the silkiness of the tannins and the later note of salty sapidity shows just hop\w long this is likely to age. Drinking really well.  Last tasted February 2020

Just eight thousand bottles made in this vintage with no Riserva in production. A completely different look at 2014 with this bottle, at the top of integrity, with Le Chiuse savour, throwback complexity and great brightness, surely blessed and pushed upwards for the future. Showing the way it was meant to. A reflection of the vintage and proof of time afforded the vineyard.  Last tasted October 2019

Le Chiuse delivers one of the realer deals in 2014 Brunello, with admirably pleasing and concentrated fruit set against a traditional backdrop of ripe acidity, minor Brettanomyces and full-bodied tannins. As it’s not an overly perfumed sangiovese it bucks the vintage trend if only because it avoids botrytis-affected atypical aromas. It’s quite a rich 2014, certainly a bit volatile and capable of going longer than most. Finishes by leaving you a linger of its chewy mouthful. Drink 2022-2030.   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

Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio All’Oro 2013 (443267, $190.00)

Already having entered a secondary stage this from Banfi drives the point that a Brunello Di Montalcino’s aging is done for you, first in barrel and then in bottle, so that when you purchase and pop it is ready to go. Earthy secondary notes of wet forest, funghi and then balsamico are heady and deep. The acids remain strong and persistent for necessary energy and life. A well seasoned and thoughtfully crafted Riserva is the final result. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Somehow, some way this is how Riserva in Montalcino is imagined. The deepest inhalant of savour and the years of barrel aging for an aromatic amalgamation of epochs primary, secondary and tertiary. This ’13 already accesses the move to the next and the next. It is the epitome of what Riserva has come to mean and carries the torch as it has been passed forth. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2013

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

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2012

The ’12 will be released on January 1st, 2022, as per the moniker, a Riserva taken from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. But they were sold to Franco Biondi Santi (and the land was owned by Grandmother Ferella until she died in 1987) until Lorenzo’s parents (Simonetta and Niccolo) began making wines in 1992. Those vines were personally selected by Franco to graft from and plant at Le Chiuse. The name Le Chiuse is quite apropos for this 2012, a relatively big vintage and the wine is quite tight in spite of having already spent eight years in waiting. Yes the nose emanates an intoxicating liqueur and one of deep floral tones but it’s still a bit closed. Some 12s are very aggressive and this is one with the finest and the most balance. Almost too beautiful already so long but not forever. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted February 2020

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010

The finest and silkiest of tannins and a natural complexity that has simply developed on its own. Four years ago this would not have been the case. Begin the drinking journey anytime if you can give it six to eight hours of air, or wait another year or two. The maker would want you to do it right. He held it back for the timing to be just right.  Last tasted February 2020

“A muscle vintage, of huge character,” tells Lorenzo Magnelli. The name of the wine is Diecianni to tell us that Lorenzo’s Riserva is not released until the 10th year. Brings about all the complexities that come from such an extended elévage. Tobacco, savour, forest floor, frutta di bosco and frutto secco but don’t be succumbing to depths and sottosuolo because the freshness persists. A wine so wise beyond its years, like its maker. Sure you can release a Riserva one year after Annata but when it has been protected and taken care of for you then it presents as it was intended to. We are thankful for the triage and the investment on our behalf. The fruit persists with great natural sweetness out of 2010. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted October 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2010

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

Largesse and a firmess of being as per the house style are rampant in Col D’Orcia’s 2010, a wine that reminds me of 1998 and 2000. A wine that will seem lean, mean and terrifying in its youth but will prove everyone wrong when it hits the 12-15 year stride. This is a monster bringing leather and chocolate to the table. It is nearly unapproachable at the present time but you can imagine and embrace the possibility of potential. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted September 2016

Col d’Orcia tasting on the ’00s

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2000

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

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

Sometimes a vintage of great repute and universal declaration does live up to its billing. And yet this from a time when the declarers knew a thing or two about soothsaying declarations. Thirty years and no great movement save for a transfer to the ethereal, the zeitgeist and the Italian version of said realm. No sully and all clarity with a marbling of strength, as in petrified balsamico and bitter chocolate made sweet by a powerful tempering. Tannins still shot out of cannons and leaving vapour trails of dried porcini dust. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1990

Surely an exercise in comparative liturgies to taste two Col d’Orcia 1990s side by each, first the single expression of Poggio al Vento followed by Riserva. Why the first is poured to follow the second is confounding and then the acidity strikes, the power is freed and the understanding is gained. Riserva 1990, much like the 2000 poured 15 minutes earlier is a formidable thing and hopeful in an attempt at admirable restraint. Though it may have been born in the same vintage as the ’90 Poggio al Vento the sibling rivalry is in. Here the acids are aggressive, striking, searing and almost violating. Even more so than the 2000’s. Though the morbido finesse of the PaV wins one battle, the force and further estimable longevity of this Riserva wins the other. If you could pick only one, which would it be? Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2020

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1980

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

With Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano of Col d’Orcia

Barrel Samples

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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. 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

Good to go!

godello

Montalcino Sunset

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

All the wines of Sicily

Temple ruins of Giunone, Parco Valle dei Templi Agrigento

People get ready and listen up. Back in May of 2019 I paid a visit to the great and ancient, melting and wondrous pot of multiculturalism that is the island of Sicily. Sicilia en Primeur, a.k.a Anteprima Siciliana is one of Italy’s finest. JustSicily founder Giusi Macchiarella and her staff on a mission to be great provided my companions and I with an Enotour designed to make tracks through green pastures and winding roads mostly covering the eastern and southeastern sectors of the island. Though it flew by in an instant there was plenty of time afforded intensive investigations over backroads of Catania and Agrigento, replete with return engagements at four near and dear properties; Feudo Montoni, Tenuta Regaleali, Baglio di Cristo Campobello and Feudo Principe di Butera.

Related – Notes from 2019 Sicilia en Primeur

A walk through #villaromanadelcasale to see the exorbitant 4th century splendour of Roman nobility

These visits reconnected me with some of Sicily’s smartest and greatest characters; Fabio Sireci, Melissa Muller, Alberto Tasca, Davide Bacchiega, Carmelo Bonetta, Rosario Ferro, Antonio Paolo Froio and Alessandra Zambonin. It also made cause to pause and be reminded of the important vineyards and wines for which these messengers are custodians; Vrucara, Barbietro, San Lucio, Campobello di Licata and Deliella. On this 2019 leg of the journey a new vineyard discovery called Diodonos told an old nero d’avola story for the Agrigento cooperative Canicattì beneath the temple ruins of Giunone. Perfect segue for a walk through Villa Romana del Casale to see the exorbitant 4th century splendour of Roman nobility.

A glorious finale in Ortigia at Castello Maniace with @siciliaenprimeur

After the 2018 Sicilia en Primeur I asked “have you ever felt so at home or been so comfortable travelling as you have been in Sicily? If you’ve not been then you might not understand what I mean. Sicily is Casa quantu stai e tirrinu quantu viri, “home for as long as you need to be and land as far as the eye can see.” I always assumed it would be the water to captivate me, but from endless seas of wheat to grapevines covering plains, hills and terraces, it would always be about the land.”

“You might also think this island in the southern Mediterranean would ripen grapes with the sort of ease akin to some of the world’s warmest climates, like South Australia or the Western Cape of South Africa. Oh that it were so simple. In Sicily they say, Austu e riustu capu i mmennu, “after August, winter starts.” Growing grapes is truly a matter of place. You need to be specific with your grape varieties and match them to your micro-climate, but also your soils. This is a Sicilian necessity.”

Calling it a day with the @siciliaenprimeur sommeliers @orteapalace

In Siracusa we tasted all the wines of Sicily over two glorious Ortigia days in the palace. I have split up my 136 tasting notes into 12 separate categories, five of which cover the winery visits. If you’d like to go straight to a particular section covered in this report, please feel free to skip forward and click the quick links for any of the following categories:

It’s on the way back home We’ll be there soon.

Sicily’s Viticultural Year: 2018

For those who keep such records, 2018 will go down as the fifth hottest year on the Mediterranean  Italian island since 1900. Sicilia en Primeur took place between May 6th and 10th, 2019 as Assovini Sicilia presented that peculiar vintage to 100 international wine journalists through three days of eno-wine tours and two more of anteprime in Siracusa. This sixteenth edition of Sicily en Primeur hosted 50 producers in the Ortea Palace Luxury Hotel of Ortigia, with more than 500 wines available to taste. The technical presentation was delivered by Mattia Filippi, winemaker and founder of Uva Sapiens. Five masterclasses were presented by five Masters of Wine; Vineyards with a sea view, Travelling through time, DOC Sicilia, Etna, a constantly evolving territory and Small Destinations, a great history.

#piazzadelduomo #ortigia #syracusa #sicilia

We learned three simple truths about the Sicilian wine industry because of the collective reaction to the heat brought forth by 2018. First, production numbers were consistent with 2017. Second, the other two wine production regions of Italy with similar horizontal exactitudes were Piedmont and Tuscany. Third, Sicily proved that staying true to core values, paying attention to quality and limiting yields in the name of productive balance puts the island’s denominations in a league with the country’s elite.

Related – Sicily in review

Sicily’s aromatic whites

In Sicily, the climate and especially the many micro-climates bless the island with levels of aromatic complexity that come straight off of the skins of the grapes, especially the whites. The winemaker attuned to and in tune with his or her terroir is not in search of fat wines because quite frankly, in Sicily they already have so much of everything. So the question begs, “why do they need more?” This fundamental approach is surely an existential one but also one that is highly practical and when followed always leads to some of the most truthful aromatic white wines on the planet. From catarratto, grillo and inzolia to carricante and zibbibo, Sicilian whites are simply killing it. Two prime examples are noted from May visits with Fabio Sireci at Feudo Montoni and Alberto Tasca at Tenuta Regaleali. Many others offered up thrilling discoveries, including those made by Planeta, Tornatore, Donnafugata and Rallo.

Fabio Sireci and Melissa Muller

Feudi Montoni

Feudi Montoni Catarratto Masso 2018, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

Masso is the cru, “conglomerate stone,” from the soil. Fermented in cement, locked in for and with freshness, sapid and ultra fresh. In 2018 it rained every 10 days, including during harvest so the aromatics are an about face from 2017, a vintage that saw no rain from March to October. What was a relative tropical 2017 is now an herbal, verdant 2018, with aromatics filled by wild finnocchio, fava, honeysuckle, chick pea and lentil. So to speak. Great freshness and so linear, with more age potential. More lime in ’18 and sapidity but only having tasted ’17 will you heed to that belief. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019.

Feudo Montoni Inzolia Dei Fornelli 2018, Sicilia DOC (539932, $22.95)

‘Tis a perfumed vintage for inzolia in Montoni’s world and while the length of time for its stay in stainless is not defined, it remains at service, ready when ready and different every year. If it’s floral so be it with thanks to the blooming heather or in this property’s case, the purple honeysuckle. Another indigenous wine extended from the pied de coup, wildly elegant and yet so simple. Will gain some honey and more flinty strike with a few years in bottle. “And we’ll all go together.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Grillo Timpa 2018, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

Like the cattaratto and the inzolia the aromatics have turned 180 degrees in ’18 from the wet year, with linearity and direct to the senses notes. Still the fresh squeeze of lemon gets you quick, with smiling spirit. A wholly soulful grillo that will keep you woke and alive. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nerello Mascalese Rosé Di Adele 2018, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

“For you Adele I will pull out all the thorns and put in roses.” This from Fabio Sereci’s father to his mother. Also symbolic for bringing a vineyard back to life. The only wine not named after a cru, but after mama, the mama, the only mama. The “roses of Adele.” The most sapid, herbal, linear and did I mention sapid Rosé in the these parts and any nearby and far away. Take nerello mascalese, grow it in the wilds of Feudo Montoni and this is the result, elegant, lengthy and certainly piu sale. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Lagnusa 2018, Sicilia DOC (523738, $23.95)

The cru where the nero d’avola grows, the lazy one or better yet the smart one, intelligent one who is a late starter, but when he works he’s very good at what he does. Lagnusa. Also a grape gown in clay soils from which yields are low, once a negative now very positive in terms of quality. Some concrete aging and only a short contact with mostly (approximately 80 per cent) old barrels. Another factor of a vintage, herbal, dusty, so very fennel and aromatic enhancing legumes, non marmalata, far from dense, heavy or over the edge in any possible sense of reality. Just balanced in its slightly wild, feral, cured and elegant way. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2015, Sicilia DOC ($58.00)

The en primeur nero d’avola, finished but so far from even hinting at a readiness. Wild strawberry and the dreams of aromatics to come; carob, liquorice, salumi and all the herbs. Grasses and magical things that grow in a Montoni natural world. Top quality acidity for 2015, reeling, supportive and wild. A truly structured wine and one that will resist growing old despite the passage of time. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2010, IGT Sicilia

From Fabio Sireci’s pre-phylloxera vineyard in which some heritage nero d’avola with unparalleled root structures find water six to eight metres below the sand and clay layers. Some are as old as 120 years and still others have been raised by the Sireci method of propaginato, the bending of a heritage vine cane into the earth and then brought up as a new vine. The savoury here is fed by so many surrounding native plants, aromatic oils and how they share the terroir with the Vrucara vines. It’s a great wine, singular, mature and mellowing but done with such confidence and lessons learned. One of Sicily’s greatest wines of confidence and humility. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Nero d’Avola Vrucara 2008, IGT Sicilia

Still just a baby, curative youthful, high acidity very much in charge with an uncanny at present aroma of wild strawberry. Impactful wild fennel and roses still in bloom. Just the first stages of secondary character are upon the aromatics but structure controls the rest, all of whom still lay in wait around the next decade. We visited the queen by pickup at night where she sits on her throne, as she has for 120 years, with her children born by propaginato, over the course of all that time. Like a cavallo indonato or, if you like, non manzito. Untrained, not wanting to be fenced in, needing time to civilize, habituate and domesticate. We’ll all be long gone.  Last tasted May 2019

The answers are so simple and yet unanswered because magic is involved. You can understand the old vines and the way their fruit turns into wines that begin with ancient wisdom but move so little in the first seven years. What happens at 10 is the turning outward, to express the place and speak the dialect of the cru. The acidity is still high but is now in lift, with fruit at the height and en anergy that flows, really flows, moving across your palate with grace, grab and attention. A contiguous wine from start to finish, with intensity, impression and precision. The structure is come cavallo domato, like a trained horse. Dramatic nd’A but with no drama at all. Tamed and in respect of ancient vine, where it grows and what it wants to give. Ma zitto, a wine to keep you silent. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted May 2018

Feudo Montoni Perricone Core 2008, Sicilia DOC ($22.95)

The most interesting of grapes, known as guernaccia in this part of Sicily, “the grape of the farmer,” thick-skinned, disease resistant and perfect for making home made wine. Full phenolic perricone still has a green pit, picked late (in November), so Fabio cuts/crimps the vine very hard, blocking the flow of sap from the rootstock to the clusters, ostensibly creating an appassimento technique but in the vineyard, one week before harvest. Intriguing from bitter cocoa, through tobacco, carob, bokser and liquorice. You absolutely need lignification, brown stems, for whole bunch fermentation and add all this up, the grape, the techniques and the result is almost singular for any red wine in the world. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Rosso, IGT Terre Siciliane

From nero d’avola and perricone. Upwards of 200 g/L of RS. That nero liquorice and carob is magnified, hyperbolized and liquified. The acidity brings stability and re-introduces the varietal centrifuge and microcosmic sense of place to the wine. This is like the place itself, centre of some people’s necessary universe, where everything goes on and on.  Drink 2019-2029. Tasted May 2019

Feudo Montoni Passito Bianco, IGT Terre Siciliane
From grillo with some cattaratto to elevate and manage acidity in a passito that is upwards of 136 g/L of RS. So much fruit goings on; gelid orange, caramelized orange, burnt pineapple and apricot. Just faintly nutty, surely unctuous and fine. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2019

So good to be back @tenutaregaleali with @albertotasca

Tenuta Regaleali

Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d’Oro 2017, Sicilia DOC

A wine with a nod in ode to Alberto Tasca’s grandparents and their 30th anniversary, made from inzoilia off of the old (back to 1966) Barbieto Vineyard and blended with sauvignon blanc grown at the highest site on the estate. From a hot and quick vintage the two aromatic varieties layer to create something intense and the connection to Bordeaux Blanc in style is somewhat an uncanny one. A seamless and straightforward white wine with top quality sweet acidity and exceptional food pairing ability. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d’Oro 2014, Sicilia DOC

A cooler vintage makes for a flintier, tighter and more snappy white blend, from Barbietro Vineyard grown inzolia and sauvignon blanc. If the hot 2017 was thought to be a Bordeaux ringer than this will double down on that idea, in fact this makes that vintage seem downright tropical. Crunchy, sapid and in the truest sense of the word, so bloody mineral. Lovely bit of grapefruit like bitters with a note on ginger on the finish. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Alberto Tasca

Tenuta Regaleali Nozze d’Oro 2006, Sicilia DOC

A remarkable study in longevity for a Sicilian white blend but you have to delve deeper and into the microcosmic world of the Tenuta Regaleali Estate. Flinty like 2014 though of some more humidity and also residual, semi-tropical fruit substance still relative within the subtext of a cool vintage. It’s like lime dousing mango and gooseberry in cooling mode out of the stufa. Still very flinty and implosive, spirited and gaining speed, if traction even. Impressive look at a 13 year-old joint between inzolia and sauvignon blanc, acidity and structural elegance. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Regaleali Perricone Tasca d’Almerita Guarnaccio 2016, Sicilia DOC

The artist also known parochially as guarnaccio is the magical grape variety of endemic proportions that only Sicilia can claim. A wine that will open doors to perception and change the way you see Sicily, not just because it’s different but because it’s exciting. Like cabernet franc with sweet basil, liquorice and sweet peppery plum. Just an ideal vintage, liquid chalky, high acid, full fruit complement and ideal extract. Crunchy like a mouthful of berry rocks.  Last tasted May 2019

Endemic perricone is the grape that has always existed at Regaleali, since 1954, in the historical San Lucio vineyard. The massal selection allowed for extending the vineyard, because believing in perricone (always known as Guarnaccio at the Estate) means respecting the winemaking past of western Sicily, which was rich in this grape. Because brother Rosso del Conte was always offering an age able wine, it was decided to bottle this varietal wine for freshness and possibility. It sees 12 months in 2nd and 3rd use barrique. The first vintage was 2012 and there is a sweet nuttiness about this grape made in this way, like marzipan or nougat, with currant red fruit and in a way, like cabernet franc but without any pyrazine intrusion. A note of carob or bokser joins in, advantageous acidity for buoyancy and a calmness without any real demand by tannin. So much pleasure and confidence. Too early in its tenure to know about aging solo but how can confidence not speak to an avowal of yes? Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2018

Tenuta Regaleali Rosso Del Conte Tasca d’Almerita 2014, Sicilia DOC

The famous blend of perricone and nero d’avola that does not tread into the danger zone of over ripeness and jam, keeping acidity and running with the devil, for the better part of 50 years. Extremely youthful wine, still reductive, still reeking of its multi-vegetal/floral scents of herbs, legumes, grasses and flowers that grow all around the infamous vineyard. The oak regime is still very much in charge of the fruit and so a vanilla-graphite film rests atop the syrah-like pepperiness of the endemic fruit blend. Should begin talking in a dialect that lends a sense of place in two or three more years time and will be a long-lived RdC. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted May 2019

Tasca d’Almerita Rosso Del Conte 1998, DOC Monreale

The original Super Sicilian is a nero d’avola and perricone marriage though over the years they have swapped place in terms of which one leads. Still a secondary time and place, with fruit coming around again and again, especially at the finish. A perricone bulk head wonder with nero d’avola wings. Very much a creamy chocolate ending that while certainly a matter of oak it’s really quite dreamy and through a connection to earthiness it brings you back to the vineyard. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello C’D’C Cristo Di Campobello Rosso 2018, Sicilia DOC

Proper Rosato, of chalk and a faint feign of sweetness, lithe in legerement, no more than two or three hours of free press run. An expression of nero d’avola, of currants and savoury but also sweet herbs. Perfectly salty and in salivation solicitation. That’s what you need and also because there is fruit, real nero d’avola fruit, inclusive of tiny wild strawberries. Only 8,000 bottles are made, out of an estate total of 300,000, in this the fifth year of blush production. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Adènzia Bianco 2018, Sicilia DOC

The 50-50 grillo and inzolio blend that is the expression of white wine as a philosophy from the estate. A Sicilian dialect word that means “pay attention and take care, to the little details, to something or someone.” A soil enriched white blend with tang, silk, salt and richness. It reminds of some Western Cape chenin blanc with melon and sweet lime flavours filling up a frame built on white crumbling stone and aridity. Good persistence noted from a persistently wet year. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Adènzia Bianco 2009, Sicilia DOC

Now a look at the 50-50 grillo-inzolio joint going back 10 years and a wine you might not expect to age this long. An estate credo for the dialectical expression that asks to “pay close attention, take care of the things and people you know and love.” Still carries some impressive energy mixed with some warmer fruit like banana and mango, dusted with dried herbs and fine chalky salt. The acidity persists cut with tonic. Better showing than than the 2008 poured here one year ago. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Lalùci 2018, Sicilia DOC

And so grillo on its own from Campobello stands alone with a pulse and a stand up to be noticed personality that speaks to a relationship with the land. “A most representative white for us,” says Carmello, “a great variety with a great potential.” Literally translates to “the light,” in reference to times when economics and potential were in the dark. Also means “hope” in light at the end of the tunnel. Rich and sapid, implosive and saline, like peaches sprinkled with rock chalk and fresh basil. Very fresh, very young, at heart. It’s Papa Bonetta who says it best. “I’d like to make a toast with Lalùci, to think positive and see the light in every day of our life.” Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Grillo Lalùci 2013, Sicilia DOC

Two bottles are opened because one is just slightly deeper hued and showing an oxidative note. Each does to an extent which comes us no surprise for a six year-old white from grillo of micro-oxygenated life moments. It’s still reductive, smoky, flinty and like a Sicilian marriage between Bordeaux Blanc and Hunter Valley sémillon. The oxidative bottle is not nearly as smoky or expressive and while it’s not necessarily faulted the advancement must be a result effected by the quality of the cork. It’s actually quite flat in comparison with the sound bottle offering more richness meeting salinity and tension on the palate. More than curious, in fact this is a fascinating look at grillo. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Laudàri Chardonnay 2017, Sicilia DOC

Tasted last year after only only week in bottle, now the reductive aspect and the equalizing barrel are front and centre in this youthful wine from a very warm and even more so, an extremely arid vintage. The chardonnay vines were planted back when no one wanted wines made from autochthonous grape varieties and here twenty some odd years later have become some important heritage vines for the estate. It’s chewy and structured chardonnay, will be improved in another year’s time and while may not live like some cooler vintage brethren, will still develop more interest. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Adènzia Rosso 2017, Sicilia DOC

Silky red, fine, refined and thorough. The blend is 50-50 syrah and nero d’avola, raised in large 100hL barrels. Tini in Legno is the tradition, from tanks meeting barrel where the bottom and the top portions are stainless steel. This allow every aspect of the winemaking to be controlled and the technique combines the old and the new. No surprise this is as smooth as you might imagine. There’s a chalky terroir doubled down by the chalky grain of barrel running through the veins of this deep and warming red blend. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Licata hospitality @cristodicampobello is always on point.

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Lusirà Syrah 2016, Sicilia DOC

Lusirà is Syrah in dialectical Sicilian speak. From a micro-climate and a soil that can express syrah with elevated, aerified and intense aromatics. Fermentation in stainless steel and aging in French oak barriques, new, second, third and fourth passage. All blended back together and the result is rich, richer and richest. It’s a silken feeling, a peppery liquidity and good persistence. Highly modified and prepared syrah for pomp, pop and pleasure. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola Lu Patri 2016, Sicilia DOC

“The father” is the ultimate red wine expression from Campobello for which all things endemic and traditional are drawn upon for the crafted nero d’avola. The process is the same as Lusirà Syrah, stainless steel fermentation and aging in barriques from one through four years old. Rich as nero d’avola can be, of sweetly endowed fruit and plenty of swagger. This nDa knows exactly what it wants to be, sticks to its guns and tells the world. Look at me, I am nero and I am proud. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Del Cristo Di Campobello Nero d’Avola Lu Patri 2009, Sicilia DOC

The father, as opposed to “my father,” so that it celebrates all fathers. That and the fact that nero d’avola is the father of Sicilian grape varieties. A patriarchal wine and three different samples are poured. A bit oxidative and musty with some raisining fruit. More freshness and spirit with good acidity in the second but still showing similar to the first. The third is most similar to the first. They are all past their best but all show what nero d’avola can do if treated with hands off kid gloves. The 2016 is an example of the trending direction en route to finding the strange, kind and fine magic. In the end it grows on you to make you think of things that matter.  Last tasted May 2019

We tasted two bottles of Lu Patri 2009, the first being a bit muted, not very evolved, a character that could be described as one of slow micro-oxygenation. In the second a minute advancement and I agree with Carmelo that this is preferable, because by now it is clear that all of his wines get better with age. They are not that much fun when stuck inertia-like in their undeveloped youth. The evolution at this stage has brought wild cherry, part fresh (Yes!) and part dried. The acidity is linear up and down the sides of the mouth and the length exceptional. First wine with true chocolate and espresso ahead of the balsamico. The last supper nero d’avola. Truly. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted May 2018

Canicattì

Canicattì Catarratto Aquilae 2018, IGP Terre Siciliane

From the contrada of Aquilata, municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. The quickest and fruitiest catarratto there just might be, with straight to the point starlight fruit after just a few months of fermentation/aging completion. Like value vermentino or greco, straightforward of recognizable orchard and tree fruit. The minor complexity is like Eledrflower and blanched almond. Simple, fresh, clean and dry. 4.35 euro ex-cellar price. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Grillo Fileno 2018, Sicilia DOC

From the municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. With some higher altitudes at play (up to 600m) this child of zibbibo and catarratto is a spiced, herbal and wildflower grillo, fresh and direct though quite expressive. There’s a fruit tincture meets tin cup sweetness elevated by arranged acidity and garnished by mint. Solid and very drinkable with a minor lemon pith bitter note on the finish. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Dining with the boys of @cvacanicatti at #restaurantecaico in #valleditempi #agrigento

Canicattì Grillo Acquilae Bio 2018, Sicilia DOC

From the contrada of Aquilata, municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. The organic one and like father catarratto it’s a quick ferment and ageing for easy, fresh, sapid and instant access. What is lacks in complexity as compared to the Fileno it more than makes up for it in acidity, clarity and ubiquitous amenability. No over-thinking needed or involved. Fry some small fishes and exhale. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Rosato Delicio 2018, IGP Terre Siciliane

From the municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. The Rosé is 50-50 nero d’avola and nerello mascalese taken from younger vineyards and aged for four months. More about fruit than acids, although the latter’s presence is noted quite prominently. Strawberries, red delicious apple and currants meet sweet herbs and this is ultimately really well made Rosé with nary a bitter moment. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Nero D’avola Centuno 2016, Sicilia DOC

From the municipality of Canicattì and the “hinterland” of Agrigento off of limestone and silty soils. Saw 12 months in barriques and the graphite-eucalyptus notes confirm the newness of the aging. That said it exhibits some notable varietal character albeit in a lush, modern, oxy and forward manner. Clearly a wine made with a specific idea and executed plan in mind. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Diodonos 2016, Sicilia DOC

Next vintage from the 2010-ish resurrected vineyard beneath the temple ruins of Giunone, off of sandy, alluvial soils at valley floor altitude. This is mostly nero d’Avola two months in tank and 10 in barrels, then six more before release. A sense of place truly comes through from this youthful 2016 with both sugar ripeness and phenolic ripeness walking hand in hand. The 10 per cent coming from nerello mascalese and cappuccio is nicely supportive for a wine that tastes like nero d’avola should. Balanced, bright, fruit full and structured. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Canicattì Diodonos 2015, Sicilia DOC

From a once abandoned and now resurrected vineyard (around 2010) below the temple of Giunone, off of sandy, alluvial soils at valley floor altitude. Varietal nero d’Avola two months in tank and seven or eight in barrels, then six more before release. A sense of place is important because this carries more, albeit some dried fruit varietal character and in spite of 10 per cent coming from nerello mascalese and cappuccio. Chewy, fruit leather character and some finishing bitters. Goes all out for sugar ripeness, pressing and extraction with a minor green seeds astringent note. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted May 2019

It is such a pleasure to travel across oceans, to talk, taste and learn with friends, colleagues and wine’s sharpest minds ~ at #siciliaenprimeur with @principidibutera @antoniopaolofroio and @alessandrazambonin

Feudo Principi Di Butera

Feudo Principi Di Butera Grillo 2018, Sicilia DOC

The child of zibbibo and cattaratto, a recent story actually, from an agronomists’ experiment. This is “A” type of grillo, also know as the “green one,” as opposed to the “B’ used in sweet Marsala production. The green association is a sauvignon blanc one. The verdant character may be present but plays second and third strings to the freshness and the acidity. Implosive grillo and salivating quite frankly. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Inzoila 2018, Sicilia DOC

A new soil which is both a blessing and a curse, a pain and a joy to work with. Quality comes from lower yields and specific soils. Here inzolia grazes into hyper-metallic and mineral territory, protected from the heat of the sun, in avoidance of saturated copper, sunflower and gilded gold. Very short skin-contact and nurturing care turn inzolia into this, sapid and even salty, expressive of the calcareous soil and the sea breezes coming from a mere eight kilometres away. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Inzoila Séro 2018, Sicilia DOC

Serò is inzolia that saw some time in old barrels and also extra time in bottle. It has maintained its vineyard and atmospheric character while also carrying an oxidative note in opposition to the reductive sibling. Takes the varietal out of vintage and into something structured, with tonic spirit and implosive tang. This is surely something new for inzolia, to be taken seriously into something from a winemaker’s (Paolo Antonio Froio) imagination and beyond. The finish adds toasted chestnut and brown butter, not atypical for wines that pass through Bourgogne barrels. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Syrah 2017, Sicilia DOC

The first red to harvest in August at a time with less of a probability to face climate stress. It’s rich, spicy, liquid chalky, peppery and finishing with a minor note of creosote or mesquite. The vintage only accentuates the character, concentrating floral aromas and fine-grained structure without compromise or consequence to über-heightened flavour. A third is put to 350L tonneaux and it shows, in depth of accent and overall composition. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Butera Pasta

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero d’Avola 2016, Sicilia DOC ($18.95)

Find another nero d’avola that smells like this. I dare you. It’s wildly floral, feral and meaty but not really a matter of sauvage. The fruit optimization and concentration is simply unparalleled and while extraction is ambitious this never gets into over mature berries and cherries. Right now there is strawberry and the just ripe cherry but not so far away are balsamico, tobacco, truffle and all things leather. Only large botti and no tonneaux are used, in respect to the terroir.  Last tasted May 2019

Really complex perfume, jumping from the glass, fresh, vital, from large plantings that make up more than 50 per cent of the agriculture. It’s both dark red fruit expressive and also herbal, of fennel and then a territorial limestone impression running through the fruit. Quite chewy and expansive in the mouth, all a result of stainless fermentations followed by older, larger barrels, 30 and 50 hL. Gives a broad, soft, elasticized and stretched palate texture with no departure from varietal and place. Very focused, clean, modern interpretation with no excesses, attitude or conceit, nor ambition neither. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted May 2018

The man, the thinker, the legend- Antonio Paolo Froio @principidibutera ~ calcaire soils, focused wines, ocean breezes, calming vistas and @zoninwines hospitality. A perfect Sicilian storm.

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero d’Avola Deliella 2015, Sicilia DOC ($55.00)

Take everything you think you have come to know about a Butera nero d’avola and begin to multiply, extrapolate and exaggerate. High acidity and a mentholated accent work with the dark purple fruit. Did not think the “normale” was one dimensional but this makes that wine seem simple by comparison. Only the best berries are chosen and only those of the right size and dimension. Precision and focus define this structured wine first produced in 2000 and one that has the potential to age gracefully for up to 20 years.  Last tasted May 2019

Deliella is a selection in the vineyard, from edgy, prurient and analytical investigations in special vineyard blocks with maximum of five bunches per vine to find more concentration from each vine. It’s actually quite a taut and reserved nero d’avola with a slow release of aromatics and charm, dark liquid fruit chalky, structured and quite calm. Takes its time but the acidity carefully climbs up and down the sides of the mouth to stress its position in the overall architecture. Aged in 30 hL casks (and larger tonneaux) for 14 months. There will be some extended longevity here, not forever but likely five to seven years. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2018

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nero d’Avola Deliella 2013, Sicilia DOC ($55.00)

From a time before Antonio Paolo Froio took over the winemaking duties and yet you can’t help but notice the terroir in this single-vineyard nero d’avola. Blacker fruit than red and plenty of spice. Although the oak-aging is stronger than perhaps what needs the fruit persists, the acidity is vibrant and supportive and the concentration handles tannins with great ease. Love the way the caress in energy remains in charge and expressive over the palate. Still very youthful but if you’ve tasted more recent vintages it will then come as no surprise. Very capable wine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Sparkling Wines

Cantine Nicosia Sosta Tre Santi Carricante Brut Metodo Classico 2016, Sicilia DOC ($55.00)

Varietal carricante from Catania province carrying true green character, lime over lemon and dried herbs. Great grape spirit, high elevation airy tension and flavours promising orange zest, spry and finishing fine bitters. Make use of this ambitious, finely leesy and refreshing sparkling wine as a most excellent aperitif. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Cantine Nicosia Sosta Tre Santi Brut Metodo Classico 2014, DOC Etna ($55.00)

The use of nerello mascalese is certainly intriguing for traditional method sparkling wine, here from volcanic soil on Etna. The varietal character is not without its obviousness in light berry meets currant aromas and then the citrus aspect of red fruit takes over on the palate. Tart in just the right way, balanced and driving steady right down the middle of the road. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Gaudensius Blanc De Blancs, IGT Terre Siciliane

Labeled as B de B though a 50-50 carricante and chardonnay joint from Catania province with sulphur and citrus dominating the intensity on the nose. Leesy and creamy with some lemon pith for what adds up to a disparate and meandering sense of pleasure. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Casa Vincola Fazio Grillo Spumante Brut, Sicilia DOC

Here grillo from Trapani delivers the basics, with some sugar residually noted and not entirely captured by quick acting fermentation and acidity. Very peachy as per the varietal, the technical guru’s instruction and the method. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Sibliana Due Sorbi, Sicilia DOC

Trapani raised grillo supports a supple and fairly still bubble with concrete and lime aromas leading to a gain of ascension on a palate that comes as quite a pleasant and tension filled surprise. Goes herbal and tannic at the finish. A program with plenty of potential in need of more lees, more acidity and more time. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Sibliana Grillante, Sicilia DOC

Grillo from Trapani in Grillante form is much more direct, dry, intense and ultimately refreshing. There’s a true lemon and lime spirit in this simple, effective and really well made, balanced and focused bubble. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Palmarès Brut

Grillo of no specific production zone is a child of Trapani provincial heritage (Mazara del Vallo, south-western Sicily) and it’s one of the more leesy sparkling wines in Sicily. That and great acidity balance out the sweetness and the creamy consistency. Kind of goes for all out broke to layer and solicit pleasure, albeit with quite a whack of flavour packet concentration. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Gaudensius Blanc De Noir, DOC Etna

Mount Etna, nerello mascalese and downright intensity are the triad of notation from a sparkling wine of great freshness and drive. The lime notes are there from start to finish and there’s a reductive and peppery green apple bite, with an amazing note of green nasturtium seed. This would pair so well with a salad augmented by salty chèvre or feta with nuts, seeds and fresh nasturtium. Like a Brut Zero from Franciacorta, in a way, with great length and potential right here. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Principi Di Butera Nerlouce, DOC Sicilia

A 100 per cent Charmat method nero d’avola that was first produced in 2018 to initiate a sparkling wine program under the guide of winemaker Paolo Antonio Froio. The new traditional method program will launch in 2020 from the 2016 vintage and this “black light” is a careful play on words for a varietal wine made light, fresh, fruity and a touch sweet from the dark-hued red grape. It’s vibrancy is very useful for midday sipping under the Butera sun with a cool breeze and a view across the surrounding hills. It’s just the beginning of a long sparkling relationship ahead. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Carricante Brut Metodo Classico, DOC Sicilia

The varietal classic method sparkling wine come from the same vineyard as the Eruzione, picked around the 20th of September. First bottles were made in 2009 and first commercial release was 2010. Today the vintage (2015) is defined but actually on the back label. Stoic and sharp, attention grabbing and if short of eruptive, still blowing ash, smoke and pumice. So to speak of course but there is true intention, pet up tension and after a sip, release. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Gurvinder Bhatia

Whites from Etna

Cottanera Etna Bianco Contrada Calderara 2016, DOC Etna

Salty volcanic single cru Etna Bianco (at 750m) with a distinct lava-wild finocchio aroma that demands immediate attention. Also quite floral with as much of a sense of place in pocket as any carricante from anywhere on the volcano. Some tonic and ginger-orange bitters mark the back end in finale. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Cusumano Alta Mora Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

Herbal, rich and lightly salty carricante with yeoman acidity and good soil derived tang. Quickly on the lime and savoury herb angle without equivocation. Basic really and perfectly serviceable. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Gulfi Carjcanti 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane

Highly curious and salty savoury carricante from Gulfi, apposite to Etna Bianco in more than simple denominational ways. It’s flinty reductive, white peppery and bloody spirited stuff, a Ragusa white of parochial and carefully if rebelliously constructed purpose. The tart aspect is angular to implosive and the length a matter of exceptional extract and tannin, if not necessarily acidity. It’s a different sort and so worth the visit. Will age really, really well. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Sant’Andrea Bianco 2016, IGT Terre Siciliane

This Catania Bianco is quite evolved in its own idiosyncratic way, with a barrel influenced note that still indicates reduction in a wine that has clearly seen its share of oxygen. The paraffin and beeswax are just ahead of what soon will be honey and lemon curd entangled romantically for soft lighting and music. A natural, in the local demure of dimly lit carricante for those who need to get lost in their wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Bianco Archineri 2018, DOC Etna

The Archineri cru brings the most laser-like and saltiest intensity to carricate from Etna. It’s a syringe filled with concentrated lemon and grape spirt injected into the utmost varietal conjecture that can be captured from this volcanic moonscape. Such a crunchy mouthful of lava, basalt and love. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

The Etna Bianco normale from Pietradolce shoots less of a laser shot into carricante and while it may be seen as rounder and more amenable than the Archineri and it is a perfectly knowable introduction to Etna Bianco. You should and will not be fooled for its honesty. It shoots from the hip and means serious Etna business. A must have for licensees and those who just want to share the volcano with friends, enemies and colleagues. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Vivera Salisire Contrada Martinella Etna Bianco 2015, DOC Etna

Salsire is by now well accumulated in character from time and evolution to bring a lovely sense of that secondary expressiveness only carricante can do with idiosyncratic oath. It’s round and full of lemons in many respects; juice, curd and zest. Has come to where volcanic Etna can and will. It just is, that’s all there is and it’s alright. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Alessio Planeta

Planeta Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

Planeta’s Etna Bianco is the poster child, smiling face and sharp as a tack example, also carrying a smirk and an all pervasive knowing of what do to. This fruit and the way it is handled go hand in hand with what you want, need and desire from carricante, volcanics and winemaking. There is substance, a serious basaltic injection and more fruit than most white grape varieties are capable of giving without gushing, cloying or tropically distracting your attention. Such an ideal vintage too. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Carricante 2017, Sicilia DOC ($42.99)

Eruzione lies in wait, impulsively structured, set marbled in state as an implosive carricante (with five per cent riesling) class of its very eruptive own. It is a mimic of its volcano, a wine spewing smoulder and gaseous aromatics surrounding a core of fruit so compact, connected, exacting and protected. Perhaps a misunderstood and even strange vintage advance but in a world’s away way the evolution will take time to unwind and reveal what lays behind. There is nothing like fantasy and musical sci-fi imagery in a wine of such mystery and we’re all better off to be caught up in the presence of this great unknown. We’ll find some things out when this casts in a future light so for now, just enjoy whatever laser light show and sonic beeps happen to come your way. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Etna Bianco Scalunera 2018, DOC Etna

Scalunera is a new player steeped in Etna volcanic tradition from the house that Puccini built. The carricante fruit is highly augmented with complexities of almond pit, peach blossom and soft marzipan. It’s both herbal and fruity with these accents providing the salve greeting proviso to consumer pleasure. Can’t go wrong here. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Le Sabbie Dell Etna Bianco 2018, DOC Etna

The blend of carricante and catarratto (60-40) from the sandy basalt on Mount Etna is a rounder and more herbal pesto expression with sweet verdant personality and very lime driven flavours. It’s the salsa verde of Etna with fine acidity and true salinity. Golden and purely pleasurable, if slightly metallic Bianco. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Firriato Cavanera Ripa Di Scorciavacca 2016, DOC Etna

This Firriato carricante-catarratto blend (60-40) takes an about face turn away from the Sabbie sister and goes more linear, direct and intense. Still verdant but this time less herbal and more reductive, with green apple bite. A bigger and more focused and extracted Etna Bianco with more bones and further potential to develop beneficial bitters and secondary notes. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Tornatore Etna Bianco Pietrarizzo 2017, DOC Etna ($34.00)

The cru Pietrarizzo concentrates fruit, style, cause and effect in a carricante (with 10 per cent catarratto) that really builds texture upon a core of stability. There’s a lemon layering as mille-feuille as any on the mountain from which mouthfeel and balance are well-afforded time, grace and place. This is the quintessentially responsible, responsive and remonstrative Etna Bianco. It’s giving, generous and free-spirited, taking cleanest fruit and bringing a Contrada’s specificity to light. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Piano Dei Daini 2018, DOC Etna

If any other Etna Bianco were considered round and generous previous to now, this from Bosco re-writes the script. The fruit is quelling, welling and so up front, mostly citrus in orientation but aromatically speaking this bursts from the glass. Extreme freshness with heavy prejudice towards immediate gratification brings you in and keeps you fascinated. A gregarious wine with a solid core and a karst from bones that bodes very well for the future. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Bianco 2017, DOC Etna

A blend of the two contrade (Santo Spirito and Pian dei Daini) made with 90 per cent carricante blended into by catarratto and inzolia. A triad of clean clarity, salty aromatics and confident fruit unction. Meyer lemon to peach and a metal-mineral set of moments. Basalt tang and pure intensity with persistence to just an amount you would ask for and to manage the bites you are enjoying from various depths plucked out of the sea. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Assorted Whites

Rallo Bianco 1860 2017, DOP Sicilia

No member of the Rallo family remains a part of the winery yet that need not distract us from a catarratto out of the terroir in Patti Piccolo ad Alcamo,with luminous acidity plus low and slow developed phenolics. The fruit has come full growing cycle circle so that the pith is truly a part of the lushness that flirts with the tropical. Organic, perfectly bitter and so drinkable. Nothing neutral or boring here. Should develop a sense of caramelization by way of flinty, smoky and smouldering ways. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Assuli Donna Angelica 2017, DOC Sicilia

A sample somewhat metallic, oxidative and quite glycerin in texture, of catarratto, grillo and zibibbo in the production area of Mazara del Vallo. A completely different style of extraction, longer maceration and lots of richness. Certainly a style and one that will solicit a consumer who likes their fruit and their metals. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Alessandro Di Camporeale Catarratto Vigna Di Mandranova 2017, DOC Sicilia

The parent of garganega (Soave and Gambelara) is a firm, giving and well endowed in acidity catarratto from this single vineyard in Agro di Camporeale. Some wood aging adds tonic and marzipan to what began as a smoky varietal wine. The concentration can handle the movement through wood so that basalt, fruit and elemental fineness all get on the same page. Quite complex and morbido (in two languages) at the finish. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Centopassi Terre Rosse Di Giabbascio R14 2014, IGT Terre Siciliane

From a warm area in San Giuseppe Jato on the northwest part of the island and a cooperative on lands confiscated from the mafia. Long aging adding up to nearly four years in tank plus barrel make for a tannic, evolved, metallic and soft catarratto. Full development and extract of all phenolics available in a wine predicated on winemaking above all else. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Arancio Bianco Riserva Dalila 2017, DOC Sicilia

The blend is grillo (80 per cent) and viognier from Contrada Portella Misilbesi in Sambuca di Sicilia. Very yellow orange, quite muscat like with sauvignon blanc lime, floridity and florality. It’s like how that grape can seem botrytis affected because of the peach sweetness and noble rot sensation. Nothing exciting but surely has its place. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Le Casematte Peloro Siclia Bianco 2018, DOC Sicilia

A blend of grillo and carricante, more than 60 per cent is grillo and yet the carricante develops the good and plenty complexity from high toned aromatics. A flinty and striking scintillant with laser sharp flavours. Lovely wine, focused, mineral, salty and fine. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Dei Principi Di Spadafora Catarratto 2018, IGP Terre Sicilane

Out of northwest Sicily, of land and respect for nature first. An organic vineyard, 100 hectares, 215,000 bottles produced annually. From sand and marl, essentially argiloso, so a very Good texture, some peach and almond pit notes that are gentle and influential. Lovely wine. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Dei Principi Di Spadafora Don Pietro Bianco 2018, IGP Terre Sicilane

A 50-50 split of catarratto and grillo, named for Enrica’s grandfather who first made this wine in 1993 and named it as such in 1994. The grillo adds sunshine but this is in fact more amenable and understandable with a different sort of mineral, here in alloy conglomerate accumulation. A beautifully arranged appellative blend. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Dei Principi Di Spadafora Grillo 2018, IGP Terre Sicilane

Grillo is held back two years, one in concrete tank and one in bottle, to mitigate the potentially obstructive freshness though more so, like riesling, a little extra time will bring more balance and delight. There needs to be middle ground between the old oxidative grillo and the new must drink in the first six months style. This is the compromise but even better the right way to accomplish what’s right, proper and necessary, And one to age as well. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Allemanda, Sicilia Noto DOC

A dry moscato (de Noto) that ranks as one of most aromatic you are likely to come across. While it is dry there’s a sweet and savoury tug at once herbal and then metallic enough to pique your interest straight up into the atmosphere. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Alastro 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

A varietal sauvignon blanc from the unheralded and exceptional outpost of Menfi which just may be Sicily’s version of the wild, wild, west. This is a searing, straight-shooter, powerful, elegant, direct and unintentionally ethereal. There’s a punchiness, a fruit punch lag and great mineral thoughtfulness. All terroir right here. Or if you could make riesling in Sancerre, when done well, this is what it might be. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Cometa 2018, Sicilia Menfi DOC

Cometa has changed or rather in its youthful state of ultimate reductive freshness is so straight-laced, linear, tightrope walking along a razor sharp edge. There’s a tonic injection that helps to propel it forward and the envisioning projects two years ahead to see it develop some sweeter fruit notes, straight from the orchard’s hip. Watch for this special vintage of fiano, the ancient noble variety from Campania that Planeta’s braintrust took a well-advised flyer on in the 1990s. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Didacus 2016, Sicilia Menfi DOC

The chardonnay dedicated to Diego Planeta, from the oldest Menfi vines, planted in 1985. The name Didacus is indeed Diego in Latin and the inherent plus inferred further meaning is as thought, a didactic one, which says something about many things. It speaks to the pioneer Mr. Planeta’s two-toned, ahead of its time work and to the way chardonnay takes Sicily into another realm and brings reductive freshness into buttery bites that ties two voices together. And they will speak as one. Soon. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019

More dry #zibbibo please ~ tasting a diverse lot @siciliaenprimeur ~ terrific wines

Zibbibo

Donnafugata Lighea 2017, DOC Sicilia ($27.99)

Now into the lost art of grillo’s parent zibbibo, a once dominating Sicilian grape that can and will demand your attention when made this way. Like muscat with greater acidity and metal-magic ability, zibbibo carries fine lime and grapefruit bitters like the best of riesling and with a florality that intimates gewürztraminer. Just this example will tell you why some winemakers choose the skin-contact route with a grape that’s such a chameleon and able to maintain acidity plus structure without heading out to salve pasture. Prime example of that right here, finishing with a perfectly tart, just bit into green peach. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Sibliana Eughenes Zibbibo 2018, DOC Sicilia

Another example of dry zibbibo here with less petrol and floral notes but so much citrus fruit. Along with the lemon and lime comes that grapefruit and zesty orange. It’s amazing how it’s expressive of all this plus the kind of bitters that really tie the zibbibo room together. Some will find it challenging but the linger and length are nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Rajàh 2018, DOC Sicilia

Yet again another sort of zibbibo and even within the dry spectrum we see the versatility and diversity of this disappearing variety. More verdancy, herbal pesto, honey dew melon and unction now, with the floral return in lily of the valley and then some drops of orange in a tincture of coriander, stem and hay. The grassiness here is more sauvignon blanc than riesling or muscat and yes, a new way to look at dry zibbibo. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Rallo Al Qasar 2018, DOC Sicilia

The richest and sexiest of the five zibbibo tasted in this flight, of tropical, glycerin fruit and spicy white pepper. Surely less arid than the others, rounder and with added metallics. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Fina Taif Zibibbo 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

Taif is zibbibo from Trapani and once again it’s profile and style is unlike any of the other four tasted in this flight. Though linear, high in striking acidity and certainly lemon-lime focused it’s also an aromatic white of texture and mouthfeel. Brings the muscat nose and zibbibo palate capability together for balanced culpability. Just a terrific example of pleasure meeting structure for the next five years of tight and copacetic togetherness. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Sunset over Siracusa

Rosato

Spadafora Dei Principi Rosato Don Pietro 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

A wild strawberry and mildly earthy-funky Roasto without any bones about who he, she or they happen to be, which coincidentally is nero d’avola of the quickest press for just a hint of varietal inclination. Tart, tight, salty and direct, the brain with knowable and nodding understanding. Serious and who cares at the same time. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Cottanera Etna Rosato 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

Well, now this is really something in nerello mascalese Rosato. It seems at first so fruity, amenable and commercial. The masses will love its fruitiness and what seems like the right amount of sweetness. Then it turns, salty and fine, complexities woven through the extract of time, tannin and crushed rocks sprinkled with lime. It’s chameleon ability to now reel in the the intellect and the discerning one is something to behold. Smart, funny and so charming. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Rosa Dei Venti 2018, IGT Terre Siciliane

A lovely dry and herbal Rosato with a distinct rose petal aroma that leads to saltiness and real Provençal styling on the palate. It’s the way nerello mascalese can imitate, intimate and walk the walk of such a stylistic. Really well made in that regard. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Bosco Rosato Piano Dei Daini 2018, DOC Etna

Daini’s is recognizable nerello mascalese in Rosato styling and clothing with its tart aridity and fruit of a cranberry, currant and pomegranate vein. If that makes sense to you then read on. There’s a red citrus notation that some Rosés just seem to acquiesce and I tend to find it polarizing for those who like Rose. In this instance it can be imagined to work really well for grilled meats. That much I know. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Bosco Etna Rosato 2018, DOC Etna

Rosato from only the pre-phylloxera vines found in Santo Spirito and yes, this is Rosato from those grapes, albeit at the lowest part of the vineyard. The saltiest (within perfect reason) and great fruit concentration rosato that makes you wish you could have the bottle all to yourself. A natural extract sweetness that Rosé so rarely gifts. Just ideal. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Rosato 2018, DOC Etna

Pietradloce does Rosé with certain weight, not in density or heaviness but in magically drawn dry extract and grape tannin. Though it’s lithe Rosato made like a white wine from local nerello mascalese it comes across as a red because the unspoken and hidden possibilities in that extractive process bring trace minerals, elements and earth that most don’t find the way to do. Curious, expressive and with some serious potential. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Rosato 2017, DOC Etna

Perhaps less expressive as ’17 but equally salé with a touch of pepe bianco, or if you concentrate the fruit like this and gift such clarity, the delicasse is more pepperosa. Lovely, fine, special and ideal. Celebrates the young vines growing in the pre-phylloxera Santa Spirito vineyard. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Scalunera Etna Rosato 2018, DOC Etna

Here is truly fruity, amenable and aromatic Rosato from nerello mascalese that walks the textured line. The components are all raised up on the bar; fruit, acids and also sweetness. It’s ostensibly made dry by its balance but the market is meant to be pleased with this style. And it will be. And more because the sneaking factor suggestive of structure raises the ceiling of potential. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Sul Vulcano 2018, DOC Etna

Here Donnafugata serves up a serious yet humorously chic Rosato of more seamlessness when you consider the gathering of fruit, texture and acidity. This just has a way of tying the varietal and purgatorial room together with some method in its magic madness and the result is quite hypnotizing. It’s both gratifying and mystifying from a hermaphroditic wine that crosses between the poles. So for Sul Vulcano there is no mystery. As for the rest of us, there is plenty. Erstwhile will watch to see where this goes. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Assorted Reds

Castello Solicchiata Cabernet Franc 2013, IGT Terre Siciliane

If you are not fascinated by what can happen when cabernet franc takes to the diaspora streets than clearly you are not a golfer. It is unfortunate that this particular bottle is a bit oxidized, not as a matter of age but just the bottle. And yet the captured acidity is still more than intact but it can’t make up for fruit that is at the edge; hints at cooked, roasted, torched and drying. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Castello Solicchiata Cabernet Franc 2012, IGT Terre Siciliane

While the bottle of 2013 is not so sound this 2012 resides in a place of much better condition. The fruit ripeness persists with a drizzle of reduced balsamico and a lingering that really drives the point. There’s a real sense of crunchiness now rendering into chewy leather and liquorice. Highly instructive wine that is a true rarity in these parts around Catania. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Tenuta Gorghi Tondi Dumé 2018, DOC Sicilia

This frappato from Trapani is a fruit bomb in the lightest and most acid-driven expression of the word. The light, airy and unencumbered brilliance is buoyant and responsive. This is clearly on the sour side of frappato and in a wholly intense and gastronomic way. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Valle Dell’acate Frappato Il Frappato 2018, DOC Sicilia

Here is a richer and riper frappato that has been pressed for success and squeezed for every last good and plenty drop it can give. There’s a sour candy apple tartness to the fruit and nearly negligible tannin. Ready to drink anytime you are ready. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Centopassi Cimento Di Perricone 2017, IGT Terre Siciliane

Cimento is high glycerin and rich perricone in the garnacha realm, nearly into syrup and certainly at maximum fruit. Dark and blue blood fruit mysterious with pectic and fine-grained tannin. Really well made. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Azienda Agricola Todaro Perricone Feotto 2016, DOC Sicilia

Rich, thick, unctuous and all pervasive glycerin perricone. Highly modern, extracted and wood modified red. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Assuli Furioso Perricone 2016, DOC Sicilia

The longest living variety in Italy, kept alive by a couple dozen producers that was at a time (in the late 19th century) the most planted variety in Sicily. From Contrada Carcitella in Mazaro del Vallo, far western Sicily. A varietal play with rocks, crunchy texture and highly parochial flavours; amaro herbal, blue pulpy fruit and quite forthright. Juicy, juicy wine. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Todoro Shadir 2017, DOC Sicilia

Varietal nero d’avola from Contrada Feotto in San Giuseppe Jato in western Sicily on the north coast. Clay soils at 450m bring dark, rich and warmth for fig, raisin and caramelized sunshine. Not very expressive aromatically though finely tannic and chalky. Acidity is quite supportive though the toasted fruit is not so interested in what it might improve upon were it so accede. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Baglio Di Pianetto Viafrancia Rosso 2014, DOC Sicilia

Contrada Pianetto in Santa Cristina Gela is the source for merlot (70 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon raised in controspalliera (cordone) trellising. Carries all the hallmarks of international varieties grown in foreign lands where it may or may not have found its way. The acidity is searing while the fruit fades into acetic ways. Chalky and grainy but very tart. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted May 2019

Feudo Maccari Maharis 2016, DOC Sicilia

From Contrado Maccari, in Noto with 100 per cent varietal syrah off of calcareous soils. Quite layered and expressive, peppery, high-toned and fruit liquorice leathery. Fragrant and crunchy at times too with savoury-sinewy, nearly resinous but just dialled back enough syrah style. The name comes from the watchtower built by the Arab inhabitants on this coast. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Duca Di Salaparuta Duca Enrico 2009, IGT Sicilia

This is just a lovely older wine with perfectly intact albeit transmogrified cherry fruit, uncanny as cherries dried, leathery and still somehow deliciously fresh. That it is nero d’avola, allevato ad alberello in Tenuta di Suor Marchesa in Riesi may or not bring further surprise but the tertiary qualities are nothing short of remarkable. Acids are still supportive and though the syrupy palate is advancing into marbella-like territory that earthiness just adds to the overall charm. As does the sweet smoulder of tobacco that comes at you in waves. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Duca Di Salaparuta Làvico 2015, IGT Terre Siciliane

Take a turn about face in such a nerello mascalese, not quite Etna and surely something other. There is a glycerin and wood structuring if mottled by a soothing coolness about this Rosso. It’s lavished with gilded texture and is very lengthy, like a dress on a mosaic depiction that runs the length of a 4th century Roman villa’s welcome hall. Another example of what a particular house in a particular place can do with nerello mascalese. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Gulfi San Loré 2001, IGT Sicilia

Gulfi’s Vigna San Lorenzo is the source for this umami-marmite-vegemite-roasted vegetable-meat curative Alberello raised nero d’avola from Pachino/Eloro/Val di Noto. This is essentially Sicilian royalty winemaking from fruit concentration at its very optimum best. Twenty-four months in all the right vessels has extracted all the magical character in charm and possibility from and for the grape variety. The acidity is extraordinary and the balance just spot on. So much life and further potential lay ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Spadafora Nero d’Avola Selezione Limitada 2013, IGP Terre Siciliane

“We like to wait, we’re in no hurry. When the wine is ready we release it.” So says Enrica Spadafora. This ’13 is the current release, six years forward. The aging has been done for you and this one needed the time, in fact the tannins are still demanding and in charge. The dark fruit has not dissipated a moment or lost a step. Has 10 years left easy. Delightfully structured nero d’avola of tension, purpose and definitive direction. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Spadafora Schietto Nero d’Avola 2009, IGT Sicilia

From Contrada Virzi in Monreale this is nero d’avola fuller and with more tart ability. While the aromatics are less curious or idiosyncratic there is a wet concrete character that suggest less oxygenation and freshness, though with it comes more unresolved tannin. From Sicily’s northwest with rich soil structure that translates into this nero d’avola heading towards the sunset. It’s really good though not necessarily magically complex. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Leonardo di Bella and Enrica Spadafora

Spadafora Cabernet Sauvignon Selezione Limitada 2012, IGP Terre Siciliane

One of the few Sicilian wineries to not just bottle varietal cabernet sauvignon but to do so with such intention and to treat it with the same respect nero d’avola affords. From the island’s northwest and a small total output off of organic vineyards. So bloody smooth, of ribena and chocolate and one of the island’s great textural wines. Quite a Sicilian expatriate epiphany this one. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Spadafora Syrah Sole dei Padri 2009, IGP Terre Siciliane

This 2009 is the current release, held back for the consumer as will all the reds. A 100 per cent syrah, 50 per cent seeing 25hL barrels, 25 per cent in barriques and 25 in stainless tank. High toned, of creosote, graphite and syrah’s distinct pepperiness. Travels far beyond nero d’avola and cabernet sauvignon in terms of reductive expressionism though without the dusty plum or black forest cake syrup glaze. The flavours here are singular and striking, needing even more time to integrate because the tannins are formidable. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina

An arch classic from Sicilia sud Occidentale and more specifically Tenuta Contessa Entellina. Of the oldest wines this is one of the highest tonality, not unlike older and older schooled nebbiolo from Barbaresco, in a queen’s throne sort of way. There is siply no way to argue that this wine did not deserve to be aged this way and to be waited on for such a moment of appreciation. Age worthy and load management indeed, with every resolution hoped for and expected. Brilliance and a benchmark, with a half decade of life still ahead. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Le Casematte Faro 2017, DOC Sicilia

A four-poster blend of nerello mascalese (55 per cent), nerello cappuccio (25), nocera (10) and nero d’avola. Another wine from Gianfranco Vailati that smells and tastes like the sea, like the far northeastern corner on the strait of Messina to almost reach out and touch Calabria. Sea urchin again, great black fruit, acidity and fine tannin. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Le Casematte Nanuci Nocera 2017, IGP Terre Sicilane

A salty and marine, “ricci di mare,” totally and utterly uncanny in how it smells like sea urchin or perhaps Sicilian mussels and this is a red wine to drink with such an animal and to gaze out over the sea. Dark fruit and massive tannin from the native grape variety. Sit on this thymus one, take deep breaths and take in the vastness of life. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2016, DOC Noto ($75.00)

The flagship 100 per cent nero d’avola must be poured last because of the power and the fact that it’s not something so easily understood. If you were to try and taste other wines after this it would be like Eric Clapton going on after Jimi Hendrix. There’s a deep olive, blood orange, tar and ribena profile that you just know will seek out truffle, porcini, tar and roses. Welcome to the world of aging Sicilian wines and in this very specific world, nero d’avola from Noto. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Nero d’Avola Plumbago 2017, Sicilia DOC

Young and chalky, a nero of very blue fruit, very much a Menfi d’avola, led to believe and also to act like it must from the place. The acidity demands mouth attention, not just up and down but also all around. There’s a certainty and a need for time, a waiting period for those grains of tannins to turn liquid, fill in the cracks and solidify as stalagmites and stalactites. Balance is already confirmed so the result will do the same. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted May 2019

The blend in 2017 is 60-40, nero d’avola and frappato and if there was ever so much power before I’m not sure I’ve been there alongside. The nero loves warm vintages and so really takes grippy control of lighter and more submissive frappato, but conjoined they form a formidable fruit team. Peppery plum and pomegranate plus a tarry note on fresh roses that speaks to an idea that reminds of modern nebbiolo. Big structure in the first of two CdV’s. So much teen grape spirit here. Smells like it. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Cerasuolo Di Vittoria DOCG Dorilli 2016

The blend in 2016 is 70-30, nero d’avola and frappato with the addition of 12 months in old grandi botti, 25 and 36hL. If the CdV (non-classico) was considered to be firm, grippy and in charge then just get a load of the chalky, non-grainy tannins that mark the structure in this DOCG. The aromatics speak to time, as in what’s needed to settle the graphite, creosote and distilled extracts that well up in elemental tension. Great liquid smoke of peppery fruit permeates and percolates. This wine is alive, organically reverberating about while it tries to find itself and you.  Last tasted May 2019

Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico is one thing, Dorilli 2016 is another matter altogether. The name of the estate marks the iconography of this Planeta blend, from a chosen vineyard carrying the dialectical tome of the river passing by. The old maps say Dirillo but through time this has changed, just like this Burgundian wine will draft through wake and evolve. There is a minor reduction here so it’s not as open as the normale though it’s offset by an extra year of aging for release 18 months after harvest. Blooming should happen some time in 2019 after the 70 per cent nero d’avola and (30) frappato begin to unfold out of itself for a full and layered Vittoria. Still there is the Cerasuolo fragrance from a guarantee by vintage and for texture. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted May 2018

Planeta Nocera 2017, DOC Sicilia

This varietal rarity from Menfi is a tannic bruiser and while it often offers no respite at all, this vintage, warm as it was brings fruit nearly capable of standing up to the mother of all acidities and tannins. It’s like sangiovese, barbera and tannat all wrapped up in one big package; tart, tight, taut and of the most solid backbone. Black cherries and black olives through and through. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Planeta Mamertino 2016, DOC Sicilia

From Capo Milazzo the blend is 60-40 nero d’avola and nocera, so apposite to what such a blend will be with frappato instead, out of Vittoria. Here from a dry and relatively cool vintage though the vegetation period was fortunate with water filling the table beneath the surface. Richness preserved, ripeness exceeded and fine tannins resolving, nearly, almost, maybe. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Reds from Etna

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Contrada Santo Spirito 2016, DOC Etna

Santo Spirito seems like it doles fruit that wants to solicit immediate gratification when in fact it’s been structured to advance only to this point. It teases that luxe fruitiness and then lashes at you with repeated whips of acidity and tannin. Much bigger, bolder and grippier than the first attack provides and so it just keeps coming at you in waves. Not a wine of first impression so be sure to take your time or it may just overwhelm you. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted May 2019

Pietradolce Etna Rosso Barbagalli 2016, DOC Etna

Barbagalli is not merely just a year older than Santo Spirito but it is a contrada to deliver the most fruit in the Piertradolce stable. There’s also an earthy underbelly impression, plus a richness and an unctuous stability that breeds sour edging over the sweetness of its fruit. Does not fool around in fact it’s structured to last a short lifetime, or 15 years at the very least.  Last tasted May 2019

The estate flagship Etna Rosso Barbagalli is taken from Contrada Rampante in the area that is known as “Barbagalli” in Solicchiata. This northern Etna 80 to 100 year-old pre-phylloxera vineyard delivers the most naturally earth-crusted, umami-laden expression in hyperbole, concentration and peak spiciness. There is a buzz about this nerello mascalese that the rest of the portfolio does not pulse with, neither outward through expressionistic energy nor inward, retracted and self-effacing by implosive feeling. The texture separates itself with multi-faceted tenor and a tremor of explosive potential that might strike at any time, anywhere, any place. This will turn into something ethereal, of that there can be little doubt. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted May 2018

Tornatore Etna Rosso Pietrarizzo 2017, DOC Etna ($34.00)

Pietrarizzo comes with mentholated cool and savoury fruit that soothes the palate, this after having anaesthetized by way of the inhalant it provides. If you hang in there for 10 minutes or so it will exude lovely cherry and tisane notes before coming to grips with its firm constituent behaviour. The development over time shows the character of its building blocks for structure and longevity. Very fine wine indeed. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Tornatore Etna Rosso Trimarchisa 2016, DOC Etna

Tornatore Trimarchisa in Rosso clothing is rich, luxe and luxurious nerello mascalese with darker fruit as compared to many,. The volcanic basalt is reductive and reduced like a lava demi-glacé for Etna Rosso of deep, dark and hematic-blood orange display. Impressive concentration and intensity with seven to 10 years of ideal Etna DOC exemplary drinking ahead. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Rapitalà Etna Rosso 2016, DOC Etna

Here we climb right into the depths of the Etna Rosso glass in a structured nerello mascalese of hematic and ferrous red fruit. Plenty of depth, wood spice and high acidity, not to mention wound up, pent up and grippy tension. That’s the tannin speaking, fully extracted and presented to the fruit, which incidentally want no part of that anxiety at this time. The architecture is Roman and if not for an emperor, is at least at the level of nobility. Wait five years before returning to this place. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted May 2019

Vivera Etna Rosso Martinella 2013, DOC Etna

At nearly six years of age it’s a wonder this Martinella cru nerello mascalese from Vivera is till tight and reductive. It’s quite the spool of tannin this fruit layered with fine acidity is wrapped around. Good fruit concentration brings sour berries and sweet pomegranate into a pool where pectin and acids swirl with the fishes. Fine wine here. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Cittanera Zottorino Etna Rosso Riserva 2013, DOC Etna

Cool vintage, late pick, some rain at harvest for nerello mascalese in Contrada Zottorino, Castiglione di Sicilia. Fruit driven aromatics still quite persistent now coming into flowers and spices. Acidity and freshness plus structure in line with Etna’s possibilities plus an affinity with more famous or more established Italian kin like nebbiolo and sangiovese. Very much alive, less advanced to taste and eight in the window. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted May 2019

Cantine Nicosia Etna Rosso Riserva 2012, DOC Etna

From Contrada Monte Gorna in Trecastagni. Impressively youthful, still pulsating with original fruit and magically or if you will, skeptically un-evolved. Transparent and clear as a late summer afternoon sky with nary a moment of distraction. If only a perfect bottle it matters little because the showing speaks volumes about vintage, luck and acumen. Fruit rom start to finish but also a searing tartness on a sour spectrum that talks the varietal talk. If you love Etna Rosso this is a perfectly vibrant and classic example. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted May 2019

Benanti Etna Rosso Rovittello 2014, DOC Etna

Rovittello cru is a structure gifting one and that much is obvious from Benanti’s 2014, a wine at five years that has yet to move an inch. This from an estate known well for the elegance and understated nature of their nerello mascalese. Sometimes the volcanics in the soils give you pomegranates and at other time they give you demi-glacé. This is a long and winding structured road Etna Rosso travelled one. It winds in and out of fruit, acidity and tannin so where it will emerge remains to be seen. I would imagine the truth will lie somewhere between five years and not more than 20. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted May 2019

Benanti Etna Rosso Serra Della Contessa 2011, DOC Etna

From Contrada Monte Serra I Viagrande on the southeast volcanic slope soils of Etna. More evolution, looser and well into secondary character. Acidity keeps it alive while the fruit has moved into dried, leathery and browning personality. Quite earthy, nearly stewed and further along by a long shot. It’s both a glass of pleasure and also one of puddle mud. That said it’s charming and even if it may seem at least five years older than it really is, there is still something to get onside with, especially with a plate that might sing along. Drink 2019.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Etna Rosso Càuru 2016, DOC Etna

Torre Mora Etna Rosso Càura is the entry level blend of nerello mascalese (85 per cent) and nerello cappuccio (15), meaning hot in the local dialect, taken off of younger vines 7-10 years old. Nicely floral and also a bit salumi curative, tangy and freshly volcanic. Chewy and persistent, somewhat youthfully rustic in the precocious ways of nerreli bambini on Etna’s slopes. Bodes well for what’s more to come. Future vintages from more mature vines will bring next level expressiveness. Count on it. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted May 2019

Torre Mora Etna Rosso Scalunera 2015, DOC Etna

From Imboscamento (inside Rovittello, or hiding in the bush within), the next level blend is not even what the top tier Contrada specific wine will be, either next year of the one after that. Tier two is older vines in the 15-20 year range, with savoury basaltic notes typical of the cooler clime and quite high-toned like Marsannay. An uncanny connection to cooler limestone raised Bourgogne, like the lighting red fruit pinot noir, here in nerelli clothing. Says that this Etna Rosso comes from a place, from a very specific terroir. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted May 2019

Cottanera Etna Rosso Diciassettesalme 2017, DOC Etna

Youthful to say the least and so the operative here is reductive, tight and unforgiving. A swirl, some air and some time releases the essential oils of a nerello mascalese out of a historic contrada with a great history of aging the wines. The fruit concentration is markedly given to the obvious and the fineness of acidity may be equalled by the high level of glycerin available. That said it’s a balancing act performed by going to the edges of all these places and peeling back to try again. This will age gracefully and consistently so that subsequent trips and sips provide new and improved information all along the way. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso 2016, DOC Etna

The Rosso’s fruit is in Contrada Piano dei Dani, with 90 per cent nerello mascalese and 10 cappuccio. It’s ripe, bright, knowable and the fruit concentration reaches an apex of optimization without tempting fate, going over or pressing any problematic buttons. There’s a succulence with thanks to level-headed and easy-handed oaking so that the overall expression goes hand in hand with your wishful senses. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso Vigna Vico Pre-Phylloxera 2015, DOC Etna

The litheness of this nerello mascalese from Mount Etna off of 100-plus years of age pre-phylloxera vines cannot be over-stated or overstressed. The light, ethereal beauty of this wine may very well transport you to a place, to a vacuum within a bubble that is a hidden world inside a biodome. Few words are available when a wine speaks to you such as this Vico does to me at this time. This impossibility of such fruit concentration is also implausibly understated, as are the tannins and the acidity, yet all align and intertwine along a perfectly rendered line. You recognize the automatic brilliance, for the people and from the place. You just know it when you taste it. If you can find this wine, if you ever get the chance to purchase a bottle or two, you owe it to yourself to act, for you and for anyone you might happen to share it with. Drink 2019-2035. Tasted May 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2013, DOC Etna

Allora e adesso. And so we travel back another vintage to when Vico was in its first vintage and the word Vigna was still on the label. Nothing else on the mountain smells like Vico, is as delicate while having fruit concentration that is so mysteriously connected to transparency, grace and structure. Though the vintage was difficult this is Etna Rosso of heritage and love that only this house can procure, from Sofia Bosco, the men and women in her crew. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2019

Tasting @planetawinery with @plantdependent

Planeta Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese 2016, DOC Sicilia ($42.99)

Mainly nerello mascalese but there is in fact nine per cent nerello cappuccio. Not so much an eruptive vintage but certainly a rumbling one, a low murmur, gardening at night. This is imagined to be the nerreli red that would work in the garden, at night, under an Etna moon, no clouds (as if) and absolute quiet. Fruit concentration is outstanding, liquid pepperiness calming and yet grappling for you attention. The grip is easy but wrapped tight and the next five years will see very little movement. A beautifully textured Etna red with everything to look forward too.  Last tasted May 2019

Like the yellow lorry carricante thriller it is Etna Rosso incarnate that is portrayed in this Eruzione red lorry nerello mascalese (with nine per cent nerello cappuccio) from up the mountain’s 890m vineyards of (Contrada) Sciaranuova, but with some fruit from lower altitude at 600m. The vine age is part 2008 and part 20 year-old vines and a small section going back 90 years but just a small spot. The higher you climb for nerello macalese the more finesse you acquire. This Eruzione is swimming through lava with it, smoothed by plenty of silky texture, raspberry and chalky liquid tannin. Nerello, “you ain’t nothing but a true embrace. You ain’t nothing but a hidden face.” Your Planeta edition gets neither more refined, elegant nor focused. You’ve been descried as the “alternative classic” or the new light pinot noir. Maybe frappato, but not you, nerello mascalese. Let’s leave you out of the discussion. Leave you alone. Talk about the weather. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted May 2018

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Don’t you, forget about IGT

San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

Multiple visits to Tuscany over the past 36 months and more specifically to Chianti Classico have meant that nearly a thousand sangiovese have been opened for tasting opportunities. The tours have also acted to allow for benefactor moments, to present table wines made in part or in whole that either do not or have been chosen to not qualify for DOCG appellative status. These cases are purely opportunistic, in the name of IGT Toscana (and other typical geographical notations) for the purpose of impressing the merits from well-maturing vines of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, blends with sangiovese and other solo sangiovese wines of Chianti Classico producers.

The Galestro of Isole e Olena, Barberino Val d’Elsa

The idea of the IGT practice goes back four-plus decades, to a time when Bordeaux grape varieties began to infiltrate and populate Chianti Classico soils. So much of what was planted through the 90s remains and because only 20 per cent of a Chianti Classico can be filled by grapes other than sangiovese, in many cases it is the “international” varieties that fill in and those grapes still need to go somewhere. It is also a consideration that Chianti Classico aged in new oak barrels is a scarcity these days and so those vessels need to be used for something so ecco, it is IGT, big, small, super or baby that gets the nod.

Fontodi vineyards in the Conco d’oro, Panzano

In the mid to late 1970s Tuscany there developed a quick ascent of the Super-Tuscan, wines that eventually came to be called “IGT” as a by-product of a perfect bureaucratic storm. The micro-nationalistic wave of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (e Garantita) served Italy’s elite producers both a blessing and a curse because on one hand it afforded wines the highest level of (Italian) classification while on the other it added unbending restrictions on how those wines could be made. The rule breaking table reds thus became symbols of resistance, wines that told governments and consortiums where to go and in effect led to an eventuality of response, of a sweeping, money-grabbing movement across that region’s wine-producing territories.

Paolo de Marchi and Cepparello 1995

It was nigh twenty years later that authorities got wise to the situation and so Goria’s 1992 Law 164 was created, thus giving birth to the IGT designation. New monies began to line the government’s pockets. So much for rebellion though twenty years was plenty of time to establish and set up a group of famous wines for life.

The main reason for moving away from the appellation was the restrictive law that said you couldn’t make wine labeled as Chianti Classico if it contained 100 per cent sangiovese grapes. Later examples included Monteraponi when Michele Braganti changed from DOCG to IGT in 2012 because at 12.5 per cent alcohol it did not qualify for Chianti Classico and so it had to be Toscana Rosso. The great first wave began as Chianti Classico producers began to dismiss appellative laws by de-classifying their 100 per cent sangiovese. Fontodi’s Flaccianello delle Pieve and Isole e Olena’s Cepparello are two of the more famous examples. Outside the Classico territory and in other Tuscan lands there were others many consider to be the most rogue and famous of them all. Tenuta San Guido’s 1968 Sassicaia, Antinori’s 1971 Tignanello, 1986 Masseto and Ornellaia, first produced in 1985. But in 2019 the push for Chianti Classico’s Gran Selezione category to become a 100 per cent sangiovese appellative wine has sparked not only new debate but also great speculation. Will those once rebellious producers return their top wines and in many cases, single-vineyard sangiovese back to the appellation? Along with Flaccianello delle Pieve and Cepparello, the list of possible returnees might also include the following:

  • Badia a Coltibuono – Sangioveto
  • Carobbio – Leone
  • Castello di Querceto – Le Corte
  • Castello di Rampola – Sangiovese di S. Lucia
  • Fattoria Montecchio – Priscus
  • Il Molino Di Grace Gratius
  • Monteraponi – Baron’Ugo
  • Montevertine – Le Pergola Torte
  • Podere Campriano – 80 (Ottonta)
  • Podere La Cappella – Corbezzolo
  • Principe Corsini Le Corti – ZAC
  • Valdellecorti – Extra
  • Vignavecchia – Raddese

San Marcellino Vineyard, Monti in Chianti

In February of 2019 I tasted 21 assorted IGT wines, from Rosato to Bianco to Rosso. I’ve also added three others tasted a year ago that had not yet made it to print. These are my notes on that 24 strong, eclectic and impressive lot.

Rocca Di Montegrossi Rosato 2018, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Rosato from sangiovese raised from Chianti Classico galestro soils found in Monti in Chianti and only 30 minutes time through press. A 100 per cent sangiovese stunner with absolutely no excess, no onion skin, no oxidation, from all estate vineyards, including San Marcellino’s grapes that once would have been green harvested. Texture, sapidity and character are written down and expressed as a scientific problem out of which complexity sets all to high. One of Tuscany’s great Rosatos, made with great purpose, structure and food friendly to say the least. So good. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted twice, February and April 2019

Lunch at Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2017, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Antipasti wine, house wine, smells like good salumi. The Lepre tank is all the juice from the vineyard blocks where the ripening isn’t perfect and also some pressed juice not used in Chianti Classico. Theoretically from “de-classifed” grapes but in good vintages it could very well be Chianti Classico from a quality standpoint, though wouldn’t qualify because it’s made with 30 per cent merlot. A top notch vintage for Le Lepre, juicy, somewhat tannic and finishing with seed-noted beneficial bitters. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano La Lepre Delle Fonti 2014, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Three years forward and the (70 per cent) sangiovese aromatics are eerily similar to the fresher and very forward 2017. Perhaps more salumi and certainly finnochio pronounced. Holding well with tannins resolved and this from the challenging 2014 vintage though truth be told it was the right one, of structure to carry a “second wine” like this forward. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Vicky Scmitt-Vitali and Guido Vitali, Le Fonti in Panzano

Le Fonti Di Panzano Merlot 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From vineyards planted in 1998 and 2000, this is the second vintage of the varietal hugger, with Le Fonti aromatics stronger than grape. It’s one year in barrel so in the baby Super Tuscan mold, fruity, juicy, lower in acidity and pretty much crushable. Easy and very proper. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Certainly crafted from an easier, less stressful vintage and the blend is about 55-60 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 35 merlot and 10-15 sangiovese. Still those Le Fonti aromatics, of salumi and fennel, but here also pepper, graphite, Cassis and chocolate. Very Tuscan so makes sense in such a vintage for the reference to be Toscana as opposed to the frazione within frazioni called Alta Valle della Greve. Very grippy meeting the expected liqueur elixir and black cherry meeting black currant. Acidity is quite fine, purposed and integrated. Impressed by the length. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Fontissimo 2014, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fontissimo is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese. A wine made in Chianti Classico to break in new barrels and to express territory through the ulterior processes of grape blending and winemaking. Here is where Guido Vitali and Vicky-Schmitt Vitali can work on their chops and hone their craft. Hello 2014, vintage of stars and bars, vintage of ages and for those who are paying close attention. Also, welcome to the highly specific Alta Valle della Greve. There’s a commonality for sure that is found in this valley but there is also a simplicity and a sense of place within a place within a place. Easy drinking actually. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Iacopo Morganti, Il Molino di Grace

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Gratius is the Molino di Grace 100 per cent sangiovese table wine that resides with a dozen other territorial greats in that existentialist realm outside of the appellation. If and when it will become Chianti Classico DOCG remains to be seen but this 2015 sits on the side of tangy, tart and so bloody structured side and yes, the dominant notes are distinctly blood orange. Elongated and elastic it’s offers up a free and equitable look in the varietal mirror, productive in perfectly perpetual inertia, firm, grippy and motivated. Will come together in a few years time and drift ever so slowly for seven more. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

“In my opinion it is young to drink,” shrugs Natascia Rosini. In fact it’s oft considered unusual to hold back white wines to drink, not just here but in Italy as a whole. Then again, who else makes vermentino from estate grapes in Chianti Classico. Salinity and sapidity reign in a shockingly good vermentino. Pear and herbal notes with richness that just put this over the top. Picked late at full maturity and kept in the cellar for two weeks (at four degrees) before pressing. Never failing San Donato vermentino. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Oriana 1997, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The last time I was able to taste such a comparison was 2014 versus 1998, two under-appreciated cool and wet vintages. Now we look at warm years, 2015 and 1997, the latter at the time considered the greatest. Many sangiovese have failed and fallen but this vermentino, well, even if the colour and the nose are far evolved, the palate has plenty of life. Salinity and sapidity still rock and stone their way, with that marine wind from the sea rushing through, into the air and the soil of San Donato in Poggio. Hard to decide between this and ’98 because there is more flesh here (bringing a honeyed apricot), but sometimes lean is so nice. Such a special moment. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Corbezzolo 2013, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From sangiovese planted in 1981 and 1982, a vineyard not certified as Chianti Classico so this wine can’t be called Gran Selezione. To say this is young and perhaps even being unaware of what it can be would be an understatement. It’s calm and powerful, elegant and ready to strike with force. Such identifiable, formidable, indestructible and yet malleable tannins. A mimic of the singular Colombino rock found only here in the territory, calcareous white stone both strong to build houses (and cellars) and schisty to break apart between your hands. Imagine how this will drink when it allows itself to break down in just the right way and at just the right time.  Last tasted February 2019

The Corbezzolo from vine and into bottle is 100 per cent sangiovese and in name “the fruit tree that produces a very tart berry for making jam.” This comes straight from the heart of the Rossini matter, out of the oldest vineyard planted in 1990-1991. It would be hard not too think on Podere La Cappella’s sangiovese as untethered to family, to meals and the kitchen’s hearth. The demi-glacé in Corbezzolo is deeper, richer, slower developing, of graceful, elegant and ethereal aromatics, even a bit exotic verging on quixotic. There is this far eastern temperament because the fruit seems to simmer with cool, jasmine-floral savour in a galestro clay pot. The acumen is variegated in the singular Corbezzolo concentration but this is not a factor of extract or density. Depth is sangiovese light, dancing from 2013, a gorgeous vintage that everyone will want a piece of. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted February 2017

Podere La Cappella Cantico 2012, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

As always 100 per cent merlot with a grafting connection to chardonnay and American rootstock. The vintage is a savoury one for the thirty-plus year-old IGT. It’s a very Mediterranean sensation, of black olive and balsamico, hematic ooze and woodsy floor. It’s actually still quite closed or perhaps it’s entered a dumb or quiet phase but don’t be fooled; there is powerful restraint and it may pounce anytime. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Podere La Cappella Cantico 1999, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A beautifully advanced merlot from vines that would have been 17 and 18 years-old at picking time. If you’ve got a truffle dog, take this wine and go truffling because this merlot is at the head of that aromatic game for the territory. Such a creamy merlot, with plenty of necessary acidity and the freshness of truffle. Merlot as tartufo incarnate. Truly. Delicious. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

John Matta and John Szabo Vicchiomaggio

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle Mandorle 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (80 per cent) with cabernet sauvignon, all fruit and nothing but the fruit, plummy and with a nutty smokiness, but also manageable with simplicity from and for fruit. What works and gives from the basic and forthright IGT ideal. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Ripa Delle More 2016, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Sangiovese (50 per cent), cabernet sauvignon (30) and merlot (20), from “the hill of the blackberry.” A rich, purple flower aromatic, liquid chalky, deeply rendered red. Done up in a combination of new and pre-used barriques. There’s a salumi feel, a musky pancetta and a silky smooth mouthfeel. Nearing glycerin but staying its clay-mineral coarse. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio Villa Vallemaggiore Poggio Re 2016, Maremma Toscana DOC Rosso, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From cabernet sauvignon grown on sandy soils in the warmer maritime area near Grossetto. The grapes comes from “the hill of the king,” and the attributes are so bloody varietal obvious. Cassis, ribena, blackberry, savour and spice. Chocolate and rosemary, tarragon and cinnamon. Very expressive and with good elevated acidity. Quite the tannic beast. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Castello Vicchiomaggio FSM 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

From a project that began in 1995, this is 100 per cent merlot of a small, 3,000 bottle lot. It’s hard to decide if it’s more varietal or more Toscana so let’s just say it straddles the two with perfect ease. Youthful, big and warm, very Mediterranean with gariga, black olive, rosemary and dusty notes. Silky smooth however and finishes in balsamic, viscous and reduced. High quality merlot to be sure, with fine tannic structure. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

Amphora, Fattoria Montecchio

Fattoria Montecchio Priscus 2015, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The IGT is 100 per cent sangiovese of 1,200 bottles aged in 100 per cent terracotta amphora formed, forged and cured on the Montecchio property. Same must/juice as the Gran Selezione so the side by side comparison is the show. Winemaker Riccardo Nuti is interested in this investigation for family tradition, commercial continuity and passion project affirmation. Quick time on skins, fermented in terracotta tanks and racked into “amphora,” in this case elongated egg-shaped clay vessels for the next two plus years. The texture and the spice are higher, as is the volatility but the threshold is not in any danger of being breached. The tannins are more present, demanding and vivid. And I prefer them because they are just that more interesting. This is in fact a remarkable look at the relationship between grape, vessel, material, approach and place. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio Pietracupa 2016, Toscana Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

An IGT blend of sangiovese (60 per cent) and cabernet sauvignon with a percentage coming from San Donato in Poggio vineyards close by. Much deeper, bigger, broader and brooding as a blend with smooth silky consistency and fine silky tannins. Very oaky, completely mature and filled with the flavours that lie on the balsamic-chocolate-blackberry spectrum. Though the sangiovese character is lost it’s a real high-end charmer. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Fattoria Montecchio La Papesa 2015, Toscana IGT, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A varietal merlot of high level ripeness and while it’s a bit overripe and certainly extracted the acidity is supportive, balancing and results in something charming. The tannins are soft and comforting with zero astringency so yes, think of this as a great big San Donato hug. Figs in reduced balsamico are the prevailing flavours, with lots of dark but not bitter chocolate coming through with the finishing next level morbido feelings. As big as it may seem to some palates it’s actually quite easy to drink. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingarella 2017, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A Bordeaux blend from young vines in frost spots and high humidity places not really suitable for sangiovese. The blend is merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and canaiolo. So what is it? Well for one thing it’s the “daughter of the gypsy,” and then it’s a high acid, taste of place before anything else red blend. High tonality, ripe purple fruit and and a boatload of currants. No pyrazine, well perhaps just a bit. Low alcohol for such an animal, remarkably so and once again it’s a great matter of sapidity. Just a hit of chocolate late, as per the grapes which needed to have a say. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Monte Bernardi Tzingana 2015, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “Gypsy,” from the old Greek, or in Italian, gitano or tzigane. This gypsy is the old vine version, of 50 years, top grafted on a sangiovese/malvasia/canaiolo/trebbiano vineyard planted by the previous owner in the late 80s. It’s made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot (but no canaiolo) and also no sangiovese because tells Michael Schmelzer, there is no cannibalizing the Chianti Classico. This is deeper, richer, lower in acidity, still sapid but not as pronounced and higher in finishing chocolate. The wood needs a year more of integration. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Luca Martini di Cigala, San Giustro a Rentennano

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2013, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Percarlo IGT Toscana 2013 is the current vintage of the 100 per cent sangiovese that began in the 1980s when it was forbidden to label such a beast as Chianti Classico. “Percarlo is his identity so he will not come back,” insists Luca Martini di Cigala. Made from the smallest bunches and a selection of the best fruit, yet still from the same vineyards albeit blessed of more from tufo soil. Percarlo carries the same San Giusto richness and acidity working in silky tandem and the tannins are the most plush, which they’d have to be to match the high level of glycerin. Formidable and exceptionally refined sangiovese. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018

San Giusto A Rentennano Percarlo 2005, IGT Toscana, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Once again you would have no idea that any time may have passed, not just because the hue has yet to morph but because the aromatics and fresh gelée are one in the same, together as they have always been. The purity and exquisite texture also conspire for a sublime intertwine and then out of this comes the acidity, trailing like a comet. The tannins are still so strong and so the smoky spirit and intensity of variegated flavour persists, gets reprimanded and is held out for all to taste. Here the maximum coaxed from the grape is acceded above and exceeded beyond. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2018

Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione 2015, IGT Alta Valle Della Greve, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Carbonaione is from the finest sangiovese on the Ruffoli property, a Chianti Classico vineyard declassified, with vines as old as 90 years but in reality, not exactly 100 per cent sangiovese. Some post-phylloxera ungrafted vines and many co-planted with no record of origin perhaps or likely place mammolo, colorino, canaiolo, malvasia, trebbiano and even occhiorosso in five to ten per cent amongst clones of sangiovese. The nose is like the Chianti Classico magnified, reduced, compressed and elevated. The florals rival the Lamole but they are more into potpourri and the acidity is super, super fine. The only comparison might be in acidity like Luca’s San Giusto a Rentennano, with the sandy soil base and the saltiness but the tannins here are set upon broader shoulders. With much less stone worked in the soil you lose the chalky grain streak but gain this broader complexity. With such beckoning and burgeoning acidity the vinatge is put on a great pedestal and the possibility seriously exists for two decades of aging. Ruffoli’s 400-600m elevation, with a long growing season (sometimes seeing pick times up the second week of October) means the full and complete phenolic ripeness is wholly realized. Not to put too much stock in here but 13.5 per cent alcohol. Just sayin’. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2018

Good to go!

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San Francesco, Il Molino di Grace

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