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

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

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

Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci and Direttore Michele Fontana

Summing up that last Benvenuto Brunello in 2020 I noted that “Anteprime di Toscana’s culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese.” Later I would write, “no one of sound mind passes up the opportunity to taste Brunello from Montalcino. When I think of Brunello di Montalcino there are two things that come to mind: Sangiovese and time. Longevità e tempo. Contrasts and comparisons are unnecessary, neither to other grape varieties nor to wine regions that also fashion structured red wines. The sangiovese of Montalcino are like the eponymous medieval hilltop village, an island in a sea of vast varietal openness. They share the impossibility of undergoing the slightest shift in meaning or change, that is, without the assistance of time. They are incomparable, generous and durable but also part of a great community, finding permanence and always seeking to endure. As do their makers and protectors.”

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

The 2021 vintage

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

Burning fires at Montosoli, Montalcino April 2021

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

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Godello at 450m, San Polo, Montalcino

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

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

The 2017 vintage

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

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

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

With Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci and Chef Carlo Cracco

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

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

Riserva 2016

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

Montalcino sommeliers

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

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Changes in agriculture and fermentation

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

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

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

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

Morning in Montalcino

Much ado and what to do about Rosso di Montalcino

In 2020 I wrote that “culturally speaking Rosso di Montalcino is the most important wine. It’s what the Montalcinese drink daily. It’s a Monday night, a winemaker’s night off. There is work to be done in the morning so it wouldn’t be prudent to drink anything heavy or expensive. What to open? The answer is obvious and easy. Rosso di Montalcino. More than one Montalcino winemaker has used the phrase “it’s what we like to drink” and just as many will tell you that Rosso must reflect sangiovese’s character more than any other wine. What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market.”

With Francesco Rippacioli and Tommaso Cortonesi

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

Annual pic with the hardest working sommeliers in the business

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

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

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

Drogheria Franci Restaurant Montalcino

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

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

Rosso di Montalcino 2020

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Patrizia Cencioni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Ucceliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Voliero Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Armilla Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Castello Tricerchi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Castiglion Del Bosco Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

With Andrea Costanti and Michaela Morris

Conti Costanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Vermiglio 2019

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

Corte Pavone Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

With Violante Gardini, Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Casato Prime Donne 2019

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

Elia Palazzesi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019 Collelceto

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

Tenuta Fanti

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

La Colombina Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

La Fornace Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

With Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Cacio e Pepe, Il Giglio

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

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Pinino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Renieri Srl Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Trattoria Il Pozzo, Sant Angelo in Colle

Sasso Di Sole Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Tenuta La Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2019

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

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Rosso di Montalcino 2018 and 2017

Biondi Santi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Tenuta “Greppo” 2018

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

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Tassi Di Franci Franca Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

With Gigliola, Sofia and Viola, Le Potazzine

Tenuta La Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino 2018

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2018

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casanovina Montosoli 2018

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

Ragnaie Vineyard

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Paso Del Lume Spento 2018

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

 

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2018

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

Brunello di Montalcino 2017

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Armilla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

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

Capanna Di Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Castello Tricerchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino 2017

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

Celestino Pecci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Andrea Costanti

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casato Prime Donne 2017

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

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Elia Palazzesi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Collelceto 2017

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Fattoria Del Pino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Il Pino 2017

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

Fornacina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2017

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

Il Palazzone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

La Fornace Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

San Lorenzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Sasso Di Sole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ugolforte 2017

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2017 Vigna

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2017

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

Benvenuto Brunello 2021

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Alle Mura Vigna Marrucheto 2017

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casaccia 2017

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

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2017

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Filo Di Seta 2017

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

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

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

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo Del Drago 2017

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

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colombaio 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Del Vento 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Di Meliloto 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo di Marzo 2017

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2017

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Progetto Prime Donne 2017

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2017

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2017

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Rosildo 2017

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

Fattoria La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ciliegio 2017

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

Fattoria La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Manapetra 2017

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

La Rasina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Persante 2017

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casanovina Montosoli 2017

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Paso Del Lume Spento 2017

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2017

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

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

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Helichrysum 2017

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

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Podernovi 2017

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

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vignvecchia 2017

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

Sasso di Sole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sasso Di Luna 2017

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

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piero 2017

Riccardo Talenti’s Brunelli spend over two years ageing in fine Allier and Slavonian oak. Pian del Conte is a Riserva from the oldest vineyards, near the centre of the estate (400m above sea level) and only made in exceptional years. This selezione Piero comes from two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate dedicated to the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Fruit gets no more developed and carried along to this level of ripeness and while Talenti’s Piero is showing evolution so early in its tenure the purity, honesty and admonition here must be noted. Not just a remark but an opening for props, kudos and general lauding. No pretence and absolute Talenti heart worn on a Vigna sleeve to say this is the vintage, deal with it, work with it and run with it. No forevers but drinking windows open and ready as soon as anyone feels the necessity for ready. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted November 2021

Tassi Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Colombaio DOCG 2017

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

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

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Doria 2017

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

Tiezzi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Soccorso 2017

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

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pomona 2017

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

Tenuta Il Greppo

Brunello di Montalcino and Vigna DOCG 2016

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta “Greppo” 2016

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

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Filippo and Elisa Fanti

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Giodo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Nastagio 2016

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

Francesco Ripaccioli, Fabrizio Bindocci and Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2016

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

Luigi Peroni and Natalie Oliveiros, La Fiorita

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Di NO 2016

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

Claudia Callegari, San Polo and Michaela Morris

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Viola, Gigliola and Sofia, Le Potazzine

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura DOCG 2016

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

With Elisa Fanti

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2016

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

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

Capanna Di Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Drogheria Franci, Montalcino

Casanuova Delle Cerbaie Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Vigna Montosoli 2016

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

Looking east towards Montalcino from Castello di Romitorio

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2016

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Anemone Al Sole 2016

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

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

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Elia Palazzesi Collelceto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2016

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

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Fornacina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Fossacolle Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Il Poggione Brunello Di Motalcino Riserva DOCG Vigna Paganelli 2016

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

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Poderina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Abate 2016

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

La Rasina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Il Divasco 2016

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2016

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

Padelletti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Solaria Patrizia Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

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

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

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Il Quercione 2016

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

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Phenomena 2016

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

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2016

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

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

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

Tenuta La Fuga Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Ucceliera Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Val Di Suga Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Spuntali 2016

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

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

 

Older vintages

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Cerretalto 2015

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

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colombaiolo 2015

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

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

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

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

Since the 1980s it has been Count Francesco Marone Cinzano who continued plantings to the current number at 140 hectares, 108 of which are dedicated to Brunello production. Since August 27, 2010 the whole estate including vineyards, olive groves, other fields and even the gardens are farmed exclusively following organic agricultural practices. The vineyards are located on the southern slope of the Montalcino territory, on hilly lands and extend over 540 hectares, from the Orcia River to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle, at about 450 metres over sea level. Tasting Poggio al Vento in the midst of dozens of 2016s is more than curious indeed and in fact this island in that deepening stream is a red faced beauty. Shows the great contrast in vintages with higher tonality and fruit of a very different ripeness. Makes for a style not quite apposite but of a clarity that shows place with more transparency. Also a liquid chalkiness to reflect on the more baritone notes played by many ‘16s. Hard not to compare and contrast at this time while in Col d’Orcia terms the PaV resides in that pantheon with great distinction. Will grace tastings through the ages as well as any that have come before. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted November 2021

With Elisa Fanti and Michaela Morris

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2015

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

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

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2011

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010

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

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

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2004

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

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Tenuta Greppo 1985

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

Tenuta Fanti

A few IGTs

Tenuta Fanti Rosato 2020, IGT Toscana

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

Cortonesi Lèonus Rosso 2020, IGT Toscana

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

Le Ragnaie Troncone 2019, IGT Toscana Rosso

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

Tenuta Buon Tempo La Funba Toscana Sangiovese 2019, IGT Toscana

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

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Twenty-one mind-blowing wines of 2021

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

Related – Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

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

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

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

Berlucchi Riserva Familia Ziliana Franciacorta DOCG 2001, Lombardy

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

Krug Vintage Brut Champagne 2002

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

Kabola Malvazija Amfora 2017, Istria, Croatia

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

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

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

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

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

Stellenbosch, Western Cape

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

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

With Sofia Ponzini and Vico

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

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

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

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

Angela Fronti, Istine

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

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

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

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1999

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

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

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Tenuta Greppo 1985

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

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979, Tuscany

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

With Stefano Cesari, Brigaldara

Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2016, Veneto

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

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

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

Château Pétrus 1993, Pomerol, AC Bordeaux

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

Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle 1990, AC Hermitage, Rhône

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

 

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

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

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

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

Fèlsina Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico DOCG 2018, Tuscany

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Quality virtual time spent tasting with Querciabella

A few years back I made my first visit to Querciabella, in September 2017, to be exact. Their position in Ruffoli east of the Greve hamlet and the eponymous river is one of the most distinct and perhaps least travelled of Greve’s frazioni. With stunning views towards the Val di Greve, the Colle di Panzano and the amphitheatre of Lamole, Ruffoli carries its very own perspective, one that is unlike any other perch where the Classico are made in Chianti. Several weeks ago I caught up with Querciabella’s n groot winemaker Manfred Ing for a virtual session, replete with a ten-deep taste through of his (and their) lekker wines.

Ruffoli, Greve in Chiani

Related – A river runs through Greve

The Ruffoli hill may not qualify for Chianti Classico’s newly minted UGA (Ùnita Geografiche Aggiuntive), but make no mistake. Ruffoli is the definition of a communal sub-zone in requiem of introspective investigation for its distinct soils, elevation, singularities and peculiarities. It is, as I have said before, “the Chianti Classico poster child for seeing the vineyards through the trees.” Along with Jurji Fiore’s Poggio Scalette and Il Tagliato by Marco e Elena Kupfer there forms a special bond for Ruffoli’s combination of elevation, thick forests and conglomerate soils that have been excavated from beneath those heavy woods. If Querciabella’s decisive resource and secret weapon are vineyard holdings in two other Classico communes, those being Radda and Gaiole, Ruffoli remains the epicentre and the wines can be imagined as residing at the rooftop and pinnacle of Chianti Classico.

Querciabella was founded in 1974 by Giuseppe (Pepito) Castiglioni. His son Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, investor and entrepreneur, converted the estate to organic viticulture in 1988, making Querciabella one of the first wineries in Italy to employ this practice. In 2000 Sebastiano introduced a 100 per cent plant‑based approach to biodynamics that forbids the use of animal products in both the vineyards and in the cellars. The Chianti Classico estate that means “beautiful oak” has always been one that lives for today while always imagining and thinking about tomorrow. The wines arguably act as the most Bourguignons of any in the territory whilst always and unequivocally speaking for the land that gives them life.

In April of this year I asked Ing to assess the damage caused by uncharacteristic mid-Spring frosts. His response: “Unfortunately the cold weather that swiped through Tuscany on the April 6th and 7th caused us some frost damage, having hit especially those vineyards which were ahead in their development. Our team lead by Dales is still assessing the damage and it’s early to say how the affected vineyards will recuperate. We will know better in the coming weeks as the vines develop. In Chianti Classico, where our vineyard holdings are spread in different locations and altitude, isolated pockets of lower lying vineyards were affected, especially those around and below our cellar in Ruffoli. At a first glance, it appears that the frost bite hit some of the early budding Chardonnay and the young Sangiovese vines that were first out the blocks. Most of the higher altitude vineyards buds haven’t fully burst yet, so we are fortunate and remain hopeful. In Maremma, temperatures dipped to record lows in some areas, especially in the early hours of April 8th. The Sangiovese vines had an early start this year so were particularly exposed. Vines are an extraordinary plants which are known for bouncing back. At this stage we can only wait and see. It’s already clear, though, that we are among many other producers concerned about losing some crop to frost damage.”

It remains to be seen how pandemic and travel will play out over these next several weeks but I have every intention of climbing the Ruffoli hill this coming September (or anytime such an endeavour is possible) to see Manfred and team for a walk in the vineyards and a sit-down to taste more from their most excellent portfolio; Vineyard Operations Manager & Master Beekeeper Catiuscia Minori, Agronomist Chiara Capecci, Agronomist & Technical Director Dales D’Alessandro, Direct Sales & Visits Coordinator Daniela Krystyna Cappuccio, Head of Marketing and Communications Emilia Marinig, Global Sales Director Giorgio Fragiacomo, Winemaker Guido De Santi, Winemaking Director Luca Currado, Agronomist & Operations Manager Marco Torriti, CEO & Domestic Sales Director Roberto Lasorte, Marketing Assistant Manager Valentina Bertoli and of course Owner and Honorary Chairman Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni. In the meantime here are the 10 wines we tasted and discussed back on May 31, 2021.

Felt quite real to be talking Ruffoli, Greve, Maremma, Gaiole and Radda with Tuscany’s groot South African winemaker @bottleofgrapes ~ A virtual session with @querciabella maintains the ties that bind with @chianticlassico

Querciabella Mongrana 2019, Marermma Toscana DOC (13653, $23.95)

From 31 hectares south of Grosseto, divided into two re-planted parcels purchased in 1998-1999 near to Alberese, a village and frazione of the commune. Wines are crushed and fermented in Maremma and then transferred to Greve just before or just after malo takes place. The style comes from cement and stainless steel, of fruit purity kept intact and a coastal influence developing some muscle. Picked ahead of Chianti Classico with harvest always beginning two to two and a half weeks ahead of Greve. So much Tuscan coastal bushy and dusty herbology, of fennel and rosemary primarily. Managed by Agronomist & Operations Manager Marco Torriti and team who are responsible for this 50-25-25, sangiovese led blend with cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Drink this by the glass everywhere you go, matching the pasta shape on the bottle, if you are so inclined, wherever possible. Mongrana goes as does L, Maquis shrubland ingrained into an easy drinking, fun, juicy and exuberant blend. Will never mess with any course, nor wine that comes before or after. Has been labelled DOC Maremma since 2017. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2018 (728816, $45.95)

Remains 100 per cent sangiovese, as it has been since 2012, as a three-commune collection; Ruffoli in Greve (40 per cent), on the Volpaia side and across the valley to Radda (20) and San Polo in Rosso from Gaiole (20), across the ravine from Ama. The totality of the Gaiole fruit is raised on Alberese, the Radda in schisty Galestro and Ruffoli, well Ruffoli is really about elevation. A no extremities vintage following a very cold winter and no climate spikes save for the early August heat. The Querciabella richness is foiled but also optimized by a three-part mineral harmony that does not so much cut but adds three district notes to the wine. The epiphany may or not begin with this 2018 but the textural perception has undergone a transformational alteration, now in defence against the drying effect of sangiovese’s tannin. The winemaking team has moved forward from the experimental stage into a full-on working contract with Piedmontese cappello sommerso, keeping the cap submerged for extended periods (up to 45 days). The high elevation fruit is particularly promising, forging true connectivity with the process. You get it completely, intuit the polish and this Annata just melts straight into inherit structure, again with thanks for a portion that has settled early. The wheel is constantly turning for Querciabella’s wines. Stupendo. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($79.95)

Riserva, like most Riservas in Chianti Classico is usually more serious, often blended with cabernet sauvignon and/or merlot, subjected to more wood. Since 2011 Querciabella’s has been 100 per cent sangiovese but still a three commune (Greve, Radda and Gaiole) cuvée, a vibrant varietal wine, lush as it needs to be and what stands apart is its simple purity. The picking decisions are made throughout the season, not just at harvest and certain blocks are given the attention of dramatic foreshadowing. Riserva by Querciabella is a wine of evolution, including monthly tastings along the way (with 20 per cent new wood involved). Riserva is a factor of a trajectory, of sangiovese that is always rising, gaining character, fortitude and fruit in vessel that winemaker Manfred Ing knows in his heart is meant for Riserva. The tannins tell the story, croccante is how he describes or the flavour and texture he looks for, in my mind like crunchy and caramelized almonds and dried wild strawberries of a concentrated yet developing sweetness. A wine to age, surely, though not quite like ’16, but do sleep on this because the efficacy, youthful binding and wound intensity show the promise of great ability. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Turpino 2017, IGT Toscana ($59.95)

First commercial vintage was 2010 when at the time it was 50-50 Maremma and Greve. Since 2015 it identifies as 100 per cent Tuscan coast with more barrel exercise and power than Mongrana, now a cuvée of approximately 12,000 bottles. “Turpino,” as in a character from Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni’s favourite poem, like his son Orlando (and also for the names Mongrana and Palafreno). Frost was a major problem in 2017, followed by heat, no rain and vines that just went crazy. Small pickings were done in the first week of September and then the rain came. The vines dropped in alcohol potential by a degree but the vines were tired and so the fruit could not hang in there like it could (better so) in Ruffoli. A blend of 40 per cent each cabernet franc and syrah with (20) merlot. Spiciness but not in a traditionally Tuscan syrah (Cortona) way and so the franc is to thank for the pique, sharpness and pointed directive of this ripe wine agitative of pricks and sway. In the end this is truly Tuscan coast, carrying the dried and bushy herbs but with an extended olive branch, muscular arm and structured savour. Only 10,000 bottles were made of this succulent, strange bedfellows (for Tuscany) red wine. House wine, Querciabella style. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Camartina 2016, IGT Toscana

The first vintage for Camartina was 1981, originally mostly sangiovese, then in and around 2001-2003 turning towards becoming mostly cabernet sauvignon. Now at 70 per cent with (30) sangiovese since that 2003. With the most spectacular vintage in pocket the possibility and even more so the probability from 2016 is endless. A Vino da Tavola concept that has evolved to make for the most mature, wise and complex IGT from Ruffoli hillsides, but this vintage shows a special energy, liveliness and vim from acidity that gives the wine, regardless of grape varieties, so much youth and life. Another one of nature’s and Greve’s mysterious constants. So Querciabella, of pinpointed DNA. vibrancy and length. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Palafreno 2016, IGT Toscana ($214.95)

Since 2004 has always been 100 per cent merlot, before that being a 50-50 sangiovese and merlot joint. Has to be an ideal vintage for Sebastiano and Manfred to bottle this idealistic wine because it has to, must smell like Tuscany and Ruffoli. Places home to poetic settings which suggest inner meaning and invisible connections. With that essence of 2016, of high priority acidity, sapidity and vibrancy in mind, this drinks so well and truth is shows how merlot has been domesticated upon the Ruffoli hill. The vines average 20 years of age, with some vines nearly at 30, planted in 1995 and/or 1996. Sweet, verdant and grippy tannins with a little bit of grit are surely involved. This will show off some swarthy secondary character and essenza di tartufo in 10 years time. Only 3,000 bottles are made. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 1998 (728816, Price at release: $31.95)

Twenty plus years later and not by any means over the hill. Drinking with captured and preserved youth from a vintage that was passed over for being one to not give any sort of great attention or consideration. Fermented in 225L (some new wood) barrels, some big tanks, picked later than most Chianti Classico of the time and would not have been pure sangiovese. You can feel the botrytis induced blood orange and saffron from a vintage with pioggia, pioggio, pioggia, a.k.a. so much rain. Also liquorice, bokser pod and a smell of wet tar. Really textural Classico, holding firm and strong, with a few years of interest and more complexity developing potential left to seek out. Charm begets pleasure which leads to unadulterated enjoyment. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1999

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

Querciabella Batàr 2018, Toscana IGT ($149.95)

A joint between pinot blanc and chardonnay, whole bunch pressed, with furthered finer attention to detail, picked early in the morning and a decreased amount of new oak over the last 10 years. Now at about 20 per cent and less bâtonnage as well, keeping the strings tight and the backbone straight in the wine. “We don’t need to worry about getting richness in our wines,” tells Manfred Ing, and yes, the creaminess is automatic. There’s more bite to Batàr now, along with focus and precision, with an intention to allow for five (minimum) years ahead for energy to develop, flesh to increase and textural richness to become something naturally orchestrated over time. Batàr is a wine that defies flamboyance, deflates extroversion and muffles the most exultant cry. It knows what it is and what’s up. Terrific vintage for this singular, dual-focused and one goal achieved Querciabella bianco. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted May 2021

Querciabella Batàr 2017, Toscana IGT ($149.95)

The effect of 2017 on white grapes meant a 40 per cent reduction in quantity and chardonnay surely suffered. Certainly true at 350m (south-facing) but also at 600m (on sandstone soils) where it thrives. The pinot bianco faces north so it did well in the season. The flinty reduction comes from the high elevation vineyard and you really notice it more in 2017, but also a fruit sweetness, like biting into a perfectly ripe apple, and also a peach. You still need to exercise patience with this wine because what it really shows you is how this particular cuvée will morph, oscillate and change, for sure and at least in its first five years. Definitely buttery, rich and creamy but let’s not sit on those laurels for too long because herbs, sapidity and a new kind of vim and vigour are just around the corner. A concentrated effort and one with many tricks up its Ruffoli sleeve. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted May 2021

Good to go!

godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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Montefioralle (more than a feeling)

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

They are growing in sangiovese divinity, or should it be said, divino. L’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle, producers with more than a feeling, who share common ground but also something bigger, stronger, more profound. Montefioralle Divino is a September festival that unites this tiny Greve in Chianti frazione and with a purpose all its own. Theirs is a small section of Chianti Classico and one to call their own. This band is so good they named a medieval village after it.

Castello di Verrazzano’s Luigi Cappellini and the Granfondo del Chianti Classico squadra Canadesi

Related – Two sides of the River Greve

Let’s orient you on Montefioralle’s location. Montefioralle is situated on the west bank of the Greve River and close to Castello di Montefioralle, essentially, ostensibly and mostly southwest of Greve and south of Greti. The hamlet has 79 residents and sits at an elevation of 352 meters. As for their famous harvest festival, “Montefioralle Divino è una manifestazione organizzata e promossa dall’Associazione Viticoltori di Montefioralle che saranno presenti alla manifestazione e offriranno i propri vini in degustazione sui banchi di assaggio per due giorni.”

Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti

Two days of wine tasting in Piazza Santo Stefano in the historic centre of medieval Montefioralle, presented by a group in flux, from time to time. In 2019 they were Azienda Agricola Altiero, Brogioni Maurizio, Castello di Verrazzano, Montefioralle, Podere Bucine, Podere Campriano, San Cresci, Grassi Roberto, Terre di Baccio, Terre di Melazzano, Terreno, Villa Calcinaia and Fattoria Viticcio. From year to year membership rises, wanes and changes. And so there are others who bottle within this micro-terroir of i cru di enogea; Belvedere, Le Palei, Luciano Meli, Poggio Riccioli, Schietto and Tenuta Monteficali.

Dinner at Terreno

Related – Feeling Panzano’s pull

The zonazione’s terroir is mostly calcareous clay, with sand and in some cases, outcrops of “compresso indifferenziato argille scagliose,” part schisty calcaire with less instances of Galestro or Alberese and more Macigno. Once again yet another micro-territory in Chianti Classico for Masnaghetti and the geologists to consider in the cartological advancement with an eventual conclusion in menzione geographiche aggiuntive.

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Tasting at Calcinaia

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following wines were tasted with Conte Sebastiano Capponi at Villa Calcinaia, followed by a tasting with the producers of Montefioralle in the same location. The members are producers with estates and/or vineyards holdings around the Montefioralle hill. Two years earlier my group had met with eight such producers at Calcinaia. These 21 tasting notes cover the September 2019 speed dating sit-down with nine estate principals, followed by dinner at Terreno.

Wines of Montefioralle

Altiero Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Always 100 per cent sangiovese, from winemaker Paolo Baldini, from the southeast exposure off the the younger vineyard. This is the perfume of Montefioralle, inexplicable in a way, a very specific combination of flowers and herbs but there is a calm and when made this way, a purity, a clarity. A tradition from before that is forever. Slightly more unctuous and full on the palate with some wood addendum. Proper Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Altiero Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Like the Annata always 100 per cent sangiovese, this time from the older vineyard facing southwest, away on an angle from Montefioralle and looking towards Panzano, the Conca d’Oro and Le Fonti. The red fruit liqueur is quite silky, savoury in a sweet and almost amaro way, so in a word, stunning. Full and polished with some tradition fully stashed away in pocket. From Galestro and Alberese. And it shows. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($30.45)

Essential balance in Chianti Classico Annata, obviously with thanks to the ’16 vintage but even more of a many splendored thing. Concentration and intensity intertwined but truth be spoken this really climbs the hills and then descends, with grace, power and ease. A brilliant Annata from Luigi Cappellini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($49.60)

A sangiovese raised organic and a textural matter really defined by the quality and the length of time in contact with its skins. While not too long the extension was embraced and the certainty of a spot on result is certainly admired. Excellent skins, earthy, rich in tannin and also used to great structural advantage. This Riserva will travel long and go deep. Bank on it. Most rewarding work from il cicliste Cappellini. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Sassello 2015

This is the wine at Verrazzano first made in 1982 as a Vino de Tavola, then as Riserva and finally as Gran Selezione, first in 2013. The Sassello is the small bird that seeks out the best grapes, in this case at 450m from the highest vineyard on the estate. This just intuits and explains vintage, place and appellation, together in harmony. It’s a cool sangiovese of smooth savour, with great length and slow developing parts. Needs more time. Just does. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Lorenzi Sieni, Montefioralle

Montefioralle Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Dry vintage, full fruit, deep red, almost out of cherry and into plum, better acidity than some of its ilk and says Lorenzo, “not greens tannins.” Agreed. Quite silky, almost glycerin and long. Well done Sieni, well done. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Montefioralle Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva is quite lush and full from 2016, no shocker to be sure and of a perfume that moves from Annata and into what grows low to the ground. Really proper appellative effort for the estate and for the frazione, richly embrued in liquified glowing embers and wet spice for days. Needs time to settle in. Very structured Riserva in which to imbibe after some time. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

A perfectly consistent follow-up to a ’15 that stole that vintage’s show, here with equal aromatic excellence in 2016. Now showing as a great floral expression (remarkably early it should be noted) in a full bouquet bursting from the glass. There is a level of roundness and fine acid tang with circulative layers as good as it gets. Succinct as sangiovese, Greve and hanging around the finest of Montefioralle. A true Galestro idea presented clear as a clear blue frazione day. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Two sides of the Greve River

Podere Campriano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Le Balze di Montefiorealle 2015

Perhaps not as balanced a vintage as the follow-up 2016 will bring to this Montefioralle Riserva but ’15 can stand on its feet, no problem at all. No sway but plenty of torque indeed. Love the fruit of 2015, as much as one needs to love fruit. The fruit goes in and then back out of your mouth in equal and opposing fashion. In balance, with acids and tannins in tow. Drink 2020-2026.  Last tasted September 2019

Exactly Campriano, distinct and luxurious in its own perfect way. it’s so very Riserva, unctuous with red fruit that seems almost completely absent of wood. It’s because of the land, a vineyard set in the forest “and still so very present.” That also means it’s in the wine. recognizable every year. Always. The vineyard is west facing above the Greve River, on old terraces, with old stones. You can drink this now even if it’s so young.  Tasted February 2019

Just put to market, the vintage will surely have so much to say and in fact already does, with a combination of perfume and spice. Still dusty, with fennel and endemic herbs, teas and brushy plants. There’s a raspberry to dried currant fruitiness that ’14 doesn’t have, also more mid-palate flesh and overall juiciness. A different sort of structure, still with long capabilities but will likely go into a drier fruit profile after the seven year mark. Elena Lapini is a very busy agriturismo and viticoltore proprietor these days and if these most recent 100 per cent sangiovese from two sides of the Greve river tracks are any indication, she’ll be busier than ever before. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2018

Terreno Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG San Pietro di Sillani 2017

A cru at the highest altitude at 480m of sangiovese and merlot (five per cent) with some time spent in new wood. Altitude meant no frost and also less heat from the arid vintage. Eighteen months in big oak casks, this time in new and while the high up frazione perfume is indeed fully emitting its rays there too is a silky smooth note that recalls the new wood. Looks really good and seems very fine though the wood is very involved. Should be very, very interesting. It’s quite refined. Way too young to call. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico DOCG Vigna Mezzuola 2015

The vigna-designate Annata is likewise a modern take on Chianti Classico label appearances notwithstanding but the smooth texture detail and lush glycerin flavours pale in comparison with the new barrique-aged Riserva. Here second and third passage tonneaux allow the marl and limestone of Montefioralle vineyards to speak a bit clearer and to breath a breath of 500m fresh air into this (85 per cent) sangiovese. The merlot (10) and cabernet sauvignon (5) smooth out all the wrinkles for a lush take on Annata. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Monteficali Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Guardingo Di Passignano 2015

Do not be fooled by the whimsical classicism of the label into thinking this Greve Chianti Classico from the heart of Montefioralle will be old-schooled, rustic and ancient-styled sangiovese. It is in fact a facsimile of such a notion and in point of fact the opposite is true. The salt and pepper seasoning of 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon are more like spice and sauce to prove the first point. The small barriques aging for 18 months is the second, acceding into a textural Riserva at once silky smooth and then oozing with vanilla, balsamic and resiny syrup. A mouthful to be sure and in the style so well made. A fun fact to know is about the Guardingo Di Passignano, a medieval road and the only passage that connected the three main valleys of the Florentine countryside; Val d’Elsa, Val di Pesa and Val di Greve, Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Terre Di Melazzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Cantinato 2015

“Born in the cellar,” of sangiovese with 10 per cent merlot and five cabernet sauvignon. A true glycerin Chianti Classico for Montefioralle, with unction and spice. Sings like a blackbird. Truly Cantinato, truly. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted September 2019

Calcinaia

Villa Calcinaia Mauvais Chapon Rosato Metodo Classico 2014

A tirage of VinSanto in 2015, 37 months on lees and disgorged April 2018. In reference to a siege of Florence by the French in 494, an offer was made, not accepted and the trumpets were sounded. Piero Capponi responded with a call to arms at the gates. A matter of familial propaganda and a wine that reminds of France. Linear, sharp, citric, toasty and so very fine. Really crisp, of utter clarity and streamlined like a sail on a fast vessel. Impressive to say the least. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Sebastiano Capponi

Villa Calcinaia Mammolo 2017, IGT Toscana

Varietal mammolo, fully, completely, capably in control of the wet wool character that only Sebastiano Capponi and (Monte Bernardi’s) Michael Schmelzer can effect, establish and conquer in unique red wine made in the Chianti Classico territory. This is good, righteous and proper volatility surrounding red fruit formed in a cake. Thick and unctuous from 2017 with endless character. Had been looking forward to tasting this finished wine since a first encounter out of concrete tank. Lives up to the billing and the hype. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

This limestone, that Alberese

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG La Fornace 2016 ($74.95)

A warm and unctuous La Fornace in fine form, consistent to its loam-sand origins, planted in 1975, at 250m of elevation. Faces due south and sees oak casks, 10 hL, approximately six years old. Showing secure and prevalent texture admitting everything about itself, a single-vineyard sangiovese sight that draws the sun and uses every iota of its energy. Good showing from the furnace, Surely not a shocker from ’16.  Last tasted September 2019

Vigna Fornace, “The Furnace” is indeed the warmest of the Capponi Gran Selezione, full of gathered 2016 sunshine, ready to melt in the mouth acidity, tannins and in this case, chocolate. The acidity is very different to Bastigano, here cured, developed and dare it be said in such a young wine, assimilated. Drink this younger while ye wait for the bigger structure and high tonal Bastigano.  Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2019

Conti Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Contessa Luisa 2016 ($67.95)

The magical Gran Selezione from the old lady of a vineyard, dating back to 1959. A plot marked by Colombino rock, not quite limestone and not quite sandy Alberese. There is a character in Luisa that no other Gran Selezione displays, neither from Calcinaia or elsewhere. Done up in oak cask, 10 hL, approximately six years old and showing the ease meets power of 2016. Bravissima.  Last tasted September 2019

Now for something completely different. The Contessa’s vineyard is a lifelong dream and confounding sangiovese from which to grab attention. She’s immediately elegant and charming and then so closed. She is predicated on darkening red cherry fruit but her acidity is formidable and so the connection is severe to establish. She lingers with you for so long that you don’t know what to do because she was never really accessible to begin with. Teasing Gran Selezione, an incubus for now, but eventually you will realized the dream. FYI, the oldest estate 1959 planted Contessa Luisa vineyard was dedicated to matriarch Luisa Vonwiller. Drink 2023-2033.  Tasted February 2019

Conte Capponi/Villa Calcinaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Bastignano 2016 ($74.95)

A component of cement egg on top of the 10 hL, approximately six years-old oak casks brings new layers and light to Bastignano and separates it from the other two sangiovese. It also clay darkens and broods, hides in shadows and remains softer, fleshier, but also sneaky in structure. There’s less pinpointed Calcinaia character and more outside in the diaspora personality. If that splits hairs so be it though it needs saying that Bastignano is a man of means.  Last tasted September 2019

Capponi’s Bastignano is a Gran Selezione consistent and repetitively persistent to speak its singular truth. It is truly hematic, a sumptuous, oozing full-fruit sangiovese with above the left bank of the river Greve coursing through its blood. Very smooth, seamless, finely tannic and beautifully high in ripe acida. If all GS carried such acid then the category would float even higher. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Villa Calcinaia Casarsa 2014, IGT Colli Toscana Centrale ($54.95)

Capponi’s varietal merlot is from the 1967 planted vineyard not realized as merlot until many years later. Fermented in cement vats and then 24 months are spent in barriques. A beast really, young at five years in ways most sangiovese are not. So much verdancy, spice, grip, grit, power and need for space, not to mention time. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico DOCG Vendemmia 51 2016 ($23.95)

Only two points of merlot with the sangiovese from two picks, the first of which goes here, for increased acidity. Dark floral and fruit scents for sure and some spice. Really like the mouthfeel and the acid-fruit structure. Tannins are quite easy. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($31.95)

With small amounts of merlot and syrah, it’s quite sappy and resinous. Plenty of smooth chocolate ganache, blackberry and backbone with thanks to a Galestro and Alberese soil mix filled with stone. Big Riserva. Really big. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Montefioralle #sleeper frazione

Twitter: @mgodello

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Feeling Panzano’s pull

During the final days of September 2019 we Canadians made our way to Toscana for a week of Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico business. While a group of road hardy cicliste e ciclisti were racing their team bikes up, down and around the Granfondo del Chianti Classico winding roads of the territory and others were taking in the sights of Firenze, I was strolling through the Sunday market, visiting with friends and pre-tasting some sangiovese di Panzano. Every time I go I find myself feeling Panzano’s pull.

Godello, Cecchini, Manetti

Panzano’s central Chianti Classico location is crucial in so many ways. Its two most famous inhabitants and native sons are the Consorzio’s incumbent President and proprietor of arguably the territory’s most well-known and respected family-run, not too large, not too small sized estate. That would be Fontodi’s Giovanni Manetti. The second is the village’s figlio nativo and world famous butcher, Antica Macelleria Cecchini’s Dario Cecchini. Panzano is also home to the Conca d’Oro and few vineyard enclaves are as prolific, scenic and fertile as this wide swath of sangiovese heaven. The frazione within Greve commune is also invisibly set upon the Greve River flood plane, positioned with stead grace and soil exceptionality.

Within Greve it occupies a centrality bordered by commune neighbours Castellina, Barberino Tavarnelle and Radda. You might actually imagine Panzano as the exact middle inside a circle drawn clockwise from Greve in Chianti (12 o’clock), to Volpaia (three o’clock), through Castellina in Chianti (six o’clock), past San Donato (nine o’clock) and back to Greve. Heart of the matter.

Panzano above the Conca d’Oro

Related – The ins and outs of Panzano in Chianti

Two years ago I wrote about Panzano and its pioneering association of producers, the Unione Viticoltori Panzano. Please click on the link above to get the full story on Panzano and its raison d’être. The original Panzano Winemakers Association was founded in 1995 to celebrate common ground and for like-minded producers to articulate the necessity and pursuit of shared interests. With the famous Conca d’Oro at its epicentre, Panzano encompasses a set of hills aboard and encircling a plateau rich in Galestro and a rather significant altitude where vineyards are planted to between 350 and 500 meters above sea level.

Breathing in the glory of the Conca d’Oro

Related – Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Consider Panzano as a wild unknown country where nothing could go wrong, as a dividing line running through the centre of town, as a ridge slicing on a diagonal axis from Volpaia in Radda to Mercatale in San Casciano, direction Casanuove. All part of the same hill. The ridge’s particular geological composition is consistent and these atmosphera sottosuolo soils that run through Panzano are the epicentral factor in determining the type of physiology common to the sangiovese. Somewhere, somehow, that means something, to someone. It’s a savoury-sapid-saltiness equipped with acidity that makes Panzano’s a freshness not really like any other. This is especially true in Riserva and even in Gran Selezione examples. 

Panzano rocks are all in

These words about Panzano are part of a contiguous acceleration to investigate inward, to focus on the visceral isolations within Chianti Classico. This third such essay published since that September trip means there may be five or more to come in advance of the coming Anteprima and Chianti Classico Collection 2020 taking place in Firenze two weeks from today. Panzano’s story writes itself because the thread of sangiovese consistency has few if any cleaved rivals in the greater territory. Panzano’s wines stand apart with their attention to textured detail, in their ability to shine even in their youth and finally, their acumen to intuit a very straightforward and knowable set of structural values. These are sangiovese of great upbringing, etiquette and most importantly possessive of a great respect for their origins. Panzano is spoken for with great clarity by these producers and their wines.

The Cecchini experience ~ Grazie Dario, Panzano and Chianti Classico #chianticlassico #chianticlassicobootcamp

Related – Looking out for San Donato in Poggio

The following are 34 Panzano sangiovese tasted at Le Fonti, Il Molino di Grace, Fontodi and then followed by dinner at Cecchini. Many are wines I had previously tasted and some of the notes have been updated to reflect new observations. If you ever find yourself in Chianti Classico, I would imagine you’ll not be immune to feeling Panzano’s pull.

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Ca’ di Pesa is 95 per cent sangiovese, raised in second passage barriques (80 per cent) and 20 per cent grandi botti, on average. Dark and rich, black cherry ambitious and really, really modern. A high quality vintage and goes for it, no holds barred. Lots of wood. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Ca’ Di Pesa Chianti Classico Riserva Barrone DOCG 2016

Riserva is 100 per cent fermented in amphora and then moved into barriques, much of it new. Again the ambition is clear. Vanilla, graphite and everything spice. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 ($37.00)

Dario Faccin’s is 100 per cent sangiovese as it will always be going forward and with an amazing acidity of 6.4 (tA). Wow is this still so youthful, even just a touch reductive, from an alcoholic fermentation at a very low temperature. Very low. Oxygen is only introduced at that very low temperature, to preserve not only colour but also aromatics. So be patient because time is its and your friend. The palate is so broad and generous but this is not a barrel tasting. This is real life. Such structure should be illegal. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

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

Tenuta Carobbio Chianti Classico DOCG 2014 ($62.00)

From a vintage that was made for the intensity and manic work of Dario Faccin. You need to investigate so very deep to desalinate and to feel the layers peel away before getting to the crux of Carrobio’s Panzano Galestro and Alberese. Magnificent and large, balanced and massive ’14 oh my. Drink 2023-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Casaloste Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

The amalgamation of ripest, richly purposed fruit and high toned meatiness brings the great divide together between levels of the appellative period. This is what you want from a well-developed and purposed Riserva, in structure, out of passion and back into reality. Most excellent and rigorous work from Gionanni Battista d’Orsi out of Panzano. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

I Canadesi and I Produttori di Panzano at Cecchini

Casaloste Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Don Vincenzo 2016

An equal representation of selections from vineyards east and west, harvested and fermented separately and then brought together. Once again there is ambition and heft but balance is brought on by ripe acidities and everything resisting going to the breaches of edges. Such a fine liqueur for Gran Selezione and one to age for decades. A captured snapshot of 2015 with great structure as a frame to the picture. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Casenuove Chianti Classico DOCG 2015

The first vintage, 80 sangiovese with 15 merlot and 5 cabernet sauvignon. The sangiovese was raised in 25hL botti and the inernational grapes in tonneaux. Darker and deeper than the ’16 to come. Good acidity keeps it moving through the waves of vanilla and graphite. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted September 2019

Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico President Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

Castello Dei Rampolla Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($44.95)

Rampola’s vineyards grace the top of the northern hillsides of Panzano’s Conca d’Oro valley beneath the village. These are some of the most storied slopes in all of Chianti Classico and the castle that bears the name is one of its most famous landmarks. The richest, most glycerin liqueur that sangiovese is capable of reaching is found in this 2016 but not without accompanying acidity and fine-grained structure. Here from one of the territory’s classic rebel child houses is a formidable Annata from a glorious vintage and the kind of bouquet meets boneset that dreams are made of to last decades. It’s really quite something. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted March 2019

Fattoria La Quercia Il Chellino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

From a more northerly vineyard with later ripening and the cool savour is readily apparent. Very expressive, chalky tannic and not yet resolved. Will turn and fire into a terrific expression of Panzano albeit in a highly singular, off the noted grid sort of way. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2016 ($97.95)

Vigna del Sorbo sits in the Conca d’Oro at the southeastern end of the vineyards in clay soils dominated by Galestro and away from the Alberese of the Flaccianello sites. It’s always a refreshing meeting meaty wine but then along comes 2016. The satiating and pleasing factor is there from the start, not wanting for wondering if indeed the possibilities are there. They are in waves with bigger bones, more flesh hanging on though teasing to fall off at the slightest touch of the hand. They will not because structure keeps the meat secure even though it is so bloody tender. With acidity nearing eight on the tA scale there is every reason to believe 2016 Vigna del Sorbo will go 25 years easy, with or without the shedding on tears. Drink 2021-2039. Tasted September 2019

Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Vigna Del Sorbo 2010

Tasted from magnum at Cecchini with fruit wholly, ostensibly intact from a warm and grip-inciting vintage when these Vigna del Sorbo vines would have been in the 35-40 year-old range. Also from a transitional period in the climate change pantheon so therefore a time when climate was more unusual and not yet the new norm. A fruit bomb this sangiovese, juicy and bursting from a blue to black fruit year. Almost Cassis in orientation, cool truth spoken and acidity in the premium value category that lifts the wine with ease. Sip it with grilled beef and the picture is complete. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Standing on the shoulders of giants #flaccianello #fontodi #sangiovese

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2016, IGT Toscana Centrale ($147.95)

“For me this is a Chianti Classico. I’m waiting for others to cross the river together,” says Giovanni Manetti. It tastes of Chianti Classico, albeit with an ulterior profile to Vigna del Sorbo. There is a variegation of Galestro in the soil, along with Alberese, Calcium Carbonate and Pietraforte. The vineyards come down from Panzano and face an opposite direction. Flaccianello is strong and structured, meaty, floral, a compound composition of elements, minerals and the flesh of animale. It’s a big boned boy with acids and structure as a full throttle experience. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese DOCG 2017 ($24.95)

Drawn from Botti now at 18 months and the new plan is to extend that even further so 30 months after harvest will become 33-36 when the bulk of the wine goes to bottle. If anything is going to teach the world about the aging needs and worthiness of Panzano sangiovese and Chianti Classico, well the gentle suggestion and confident persuasion starts right here. Dusty and conversely soft, then grippy and elegant too. Drink 2021-2027.  Last tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Solosangiovese DOCG 2016 ($24.95)

Very little has changed in fact ’16 has moved almost nowhere in the best possible way. Sneaky structure is there, in movements of Bach tones and the usual sangiovese brilliance, especially from these multifarious soils. Galestro, Alberese, Pietraforte, calcium carbonate. All in. Last tasted September 2019

”I think it’s a very good vintage,” announces Iacopo Morganti and that is all you really need to know, though take the time to glide along and feel the in synch moving parts. This is essential and partisan to gain an understanding ingrained of deepest knowing. There is something about this house style, this estate gathering and this layering of no-proviso, 100 per cent sangiovese. It walks you down all the way to Rimocine, down to the bottom of the Grace vinyards, looking up at San Francesco and the vines all around. This transports you to a place. Isn’t that what you want? That and great fruit, acids and fine tannin. Southeast Panzano sangiovese incarnate. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Tasting through @ilmolinodigrace ~ The dramatic ’16s and super surprising ’17s. One breath of Gratius and see how it has separated from the pack. These are Panzano of sneaky grip and structure.

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2017 ($29.95)

Wow ’17 Riserva could handle waiting until 2021 to be released. So grippy, such acidity, so much concentration and while quality is exceptional still the vintage quantities are so low. A number in and around 40 per cent of normal. Wooly tannins, so in control and very fine. Remember there was also a frost in May that decimated the vines, followed by three months of intense heat. Vineyard management and the most pragmatic, accepting and realistic team in place made sure to do everything right. “Corretta” to the nth degree. As is this organic and biodynamic Riserva. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 ($29.95)

Incredible depth and richness in Riserva out of ’16, with layers of variegated red fruit not seen in these parts or this appellative wine in quite some time. The linger and the effect is all encompassing and timeless. There will be very little movement in the next three years and perhaps longer. This came to know the who, what and why from the genesis.  Last tasted September 2019

Welcome to the new world Il Molino di Grace order. Here along, after and in addition to the Annata that changes everything is a crunchy and chewy Riserva of pure, laser focus. An extension of Annata with deeper fruit and confidently brighter than most Riserva. The selection is not merely impressive, it’s necessary. The opening farewell is just the beginning of the end. The fruit sits way up on high, on a hill where acidity and tannin live intertwined, transparent and monumental. Sangiovese on its own in Riserva might need help, a little bit of support to elevate and celebrate a little bit of everything. Not this IMG. Solo suffices with ease. It’s already got a little bit of everything. Marks the first of more steps to come for an estate ready to climb into a highest Chianti Classico echelon where it wants, needs and deserves to be. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2006

Poured from magnum at Cecchini in Panzano. It had been nearly five years since last tasted and the large format has suspended time. Still a matter of all constituent parts lifted, elevated and residing where things are haughty and high. Nigh time to drink up certainly but there is a freshness and an accumulated presence of acidity that speaks of the southeast Panzano site. If land could talk it would utter these sangiovese words. If vineyards could sing these would be the notes.  Last tasted September 2019

An ’06 Chianti Classico Riserva you say, pre-aged, delivered to the Ontario market and presented here in 2014, all in for $24? You can’t fool us. We’ve been duped too many times before. This must fall into the “too good to be true” category. The answer depends on which style of Chianti Classico you prefer. This walks all the halls, plies the trades and hits the marks of the CCR ancients. Comes from a remarkable vintage, holding on but in true advanced, oxidizing and fruit diminishing character. Mushrooms and truffles abound, as does game in the early roasting stage. A note of Brett is here too, not over the top but its presence can’t be denied. Acidity speaks, as does bitter chocolate. This is not for all but all should have a go.  Tasted November 2014

Il Molino Di Grace Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Margone 2017

No change in ’17 “but of course we made less.” Only 15,000 will come of it and don’t expect to see this hit the market for at least two more years. Don’t expect to drink it for three to five beyond that. The concentration multiplied by the concentration multiplied by the barriques makes for an eight digit factor. Yes this is very different than the others and the acidity too but its a magnificent specimen. Massive tannic attack. Just massive. Wait for the elegance to emerge in 2030. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted September 2019

Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2017, IGT Toscana

Gratius expresses the vineyard in ways the Annata, Riserva and Gran Selezione appellative sangiovese do not. This 100 per cent sangiovese reeks of the vineyard; fennel. rosemary and gariga. From the part of the vineyard at the peak of the hill where San Francesco’s hulking sculpture towers and watches over the sangiovese. Grip, intensity, signs, wealth of fruit, knowledge and portents. So fine. Drink 2025-2038. Last tasted September 2019

Only sangiovese as is the plan for the entire estate. That Panzano perfume and glycerin though there is some more weight and bones than others. Reminds of the style that’s constant from Fontodi to be honest. These are some of Chianti Classico’s finest acids, sweet and refined, They compliment and support. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Pomegranates of Panzano

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Le Bambole is the place, the first selection of one piece of land, to have a Chianti Classico that expresses Il Palagio within the territory but more so within Panzano. Richer than some but balanced and sumptuous, big again but you wouldn’t really know it. Definite connection to Annata 2016 even if the vintage is different. And it needs time. No shocker there. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Il Palagio Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2013

Particular, personal, vintage related, so Panzano. So consistent with the wines to come.  Last tasted September 2019

This services one of the more interesting aromatic entries thus far, not quite exotic but certainly different. It’s partly reduction, genesis and youth but also a certain soil plus some new barrel. Perhaps the most tannic wine tasted all day, this is way, way too young to gain any sense early of. The structural steel and petrified wood components are massive and untouchable, immovable and indestructible. There is great fruit lurking there and that soil, “under the soil, the soil, the soil, yes, deep in the soil.” So wait at least three years before supper’s ready.  Drink 2021-2029. Tasted February 2017

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (207795, $19.95)

A floral, bright as a clear blue sky day sangiovese, 100 per cent as such and meaningful. There can be no better compliment that a Chianti Classico can pay then this. It tells you it is happy to see the warmth in your smile and the contentment in your face. That’s because it has charmed you and helped you through. It’s really that simple. Wonderful vintage and the best in modern times for Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2019

The Conca d’Oro below the village of Panzano

Le Cinciole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Aluigi 2014

A rich and luxurious ’14 from a vintage out of which austerity might be expected. Instead there is sapidity and structure, glycerin and silken textures. Really good work, surprising or not from Le Cinciole. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($31.95)

Officially still a tank sample but it is a finished wine, just awaiting DOCG approval. Very firm and juicy, replete with the classic Le Fonti aromatic profile, of salumi, fennel, herbs and salty savour. Fruit, acidity, structure all there in fineness and Panzano culpability. Needs a year to come together, at least, for sure. Essentially 90 per cent sangiovese give or take a point or two with merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyards of Le Fonti

Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015 ($44.95)

Two years in the barrel (400 and 500L, one is Hungarian Kader), again approximately 90 per cent sangiovese and the new wood in ’15 was in the 20 per cent range. Here comes that Le Fonti aromatic profile again, as distinct as any sangiovese you will ever nose. Would like to think they could be picked out of a line-up anywhere. Savoury, salty, cured, elegant and pure pleasure available. The quietest 15 per cent alcohol anywhere and from the coolest part of Panzano, to the east. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019

The vineyard was hit hard by the frost and so only 24,000 bottles were produced, as opposed to the normal number at 55. There’s great freshness especially for ’17. That said the heat stress was not an issue because the right rootstock, the organics and the it factor gave away what was wanted and what was needed. Bright, effusive, even if 2017 offers just a bit less of the place than usual. It’s ultimately elegant and balanced. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Renzo Marinai Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Of 90 per cent sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon. From 8.2 hectares in the Conca d’Oro. 35,000 bottles produced, maximum to 40 in the next few years. Organic since the beginning, in the 90s. Same beauty on display as noted back in February 2019.  Last tasted September 2019

One step closer to a deep, deep understanding is where Marinai has arrived with this welling, oozing and fully rendered Greve sangiovese. There’s some true depth and fullness to this fruit and this constitution, not to mention architecture. Certainly filled with warmth and spice for the lovers here. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2019

Once again the same 90 sangiovese with 10 per cent cabernet sauvignon mix, an extra six months in bottle with some barriques. More of the same, an extension from the Annata and with great consistency. Two peas in a pod. In Riserva the notation is a big wine, of big oak and with big plans that will take quite some time to unfold. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 ($23.95)

Bought in 1970 and 11.5 hectares planted, jut over half of the estate. A warm, rich and heady sangioivese with 15 per cent merlot. Liquid chalky from French oak on the merlot and very textured. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Cecchini

Tenuta Di Vignole Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Campicaia 2015 ($44.95)

Sangiovese blended with cabernet sauvignon in a Cassis, resiny and sappy Riserva. Plenty of ripeness, richness and ambition. A modernity not always witnessed. Could be Napa cab and a good one at that. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Vallone Di Cecione Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Sangiovese with 10 per cent canaiolo, eight months élevage. A slight wet wool note though just slight and blended delightfully into the glycerin fruit and high reaching acidity. Just what Annata from Panzano needs to express, light, bright and naturally curated. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted September 2019

A completely new floral approach to Annata, of flowers and herbs specific to the place though not necessarily a stretch to imagine the aromas like Balinese or Vietnamese exoticism.  Last tasted September 2019

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Talk about exotics. The aromatics are all perfume and spice; cinnamon, clove, liquorice, star anise and Szechuan pepper. It’s a veritable Pho broth in Greve in Chianti, sangiovese clothing. The barrel is an obvious influence but the fruit remains lightning quick and culpable for place. I find it a bit thin and lean for 2016 so it’s a bit of a disparate accumulation. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Rock of Panzano

Vecchie Terre Di Montefili Chianti Classico Grand Selezione DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2015

A vineyard planted in 1982 and a matter of big barrel élevage. Lovely savoury and brushy perfume again, hyperbolized and extended to extenuating GS style. Lovely texture and mouthfeel. This is the way of connectivity to the land and the place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

 

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

1964

Tout vient à son heure pour qui sait attendre, wrote Clément Marot, Renaissance poet. Everything comes at its appointed time. From Cahors to Turin. War, peace, hate, love, fruit, acid and tannin. Wine is all about the pauses and the balances. At its core the value is in that feeling of things being natural and equal. That’s the way it should be. When you drink you enjoy what you have, without competition. One sensation after another. You feel like you have more, even if you have less. Like consomée with just a chop of vegetables.

Welcome to Godello’s annual list of the most conspicuous, head-turning and psychotropic moments, better known as his 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019. Godello first initiated the concept for a year-end culminating evaluation in 2012 though did not actually coin the phrase until publishing his 14 mind-blowing wines of 2014. Call it the sixth or the eighth but who really cares because the wines are the crux and the heart of the matter.

Related – Eighteen mind-blowing wines of 2018

Related – Seventeen mind-blowing wines of 2017

Hard to know how many wines he actually tasted in 2019 but the best guesstimate would be 2,500 because that is how many reviews have been posted to WineAlign in this calendar year. A couple hundred were for wines tasted in 2018 but the editing and posting of at least that many for wines tasted in 2019 have yet to become permanent. So the number is pretty close, one way or another.

There were at least a few dozen stellar and jaw-dropping wines that should of, could of, would of made this list. For every one chosen another was left behind for no reason other than necessity and its relationship to the mother of invention. These images exhibited are but a few that had every reason to be one of 19’s 19.

Related – 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

With thanks to everyone who poured a glass. The producers, winemakers, export managers, friends, colleagues and pirates, please be encouraged and read on. Godello’s 19 mind-blowing wines of 2019.

AB Wines Opçāo Avesso “A” Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal

From winemaker/oenologist António Sousa’s personal label (with partner Bernardo) and a vineyard planted in 2003, in Amarante. These are avesso grapes just a few years away from what António considers the optimum age, when they reach 18 years, 10 years older than the age from which they begin to deliver excellence. This A is in position A, from a perfect vantage point out of a very good vintage. This is the role model and exemplar for avesso, from a project that began in 2016, with all the adjunct components in line; lemon, lime, orange, ripe acidity, juicy nature and just a minor creamy, fleshy and boozy happiness. Great balance. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano Collio DOC 1997, Friuli, Italy

So remarkable, from the old messaging in the riesling/tocai bottle, stricken from the consorzio record. This is now a wine bottled in Bordeaux style but this look back 20-plus years shows freshness, spirit and only the beginnings of secondary character. Gassy and lemon intense, a near-perfect example of what was and could be, of how aged whites of Collio can keep freshness and the saltiness of place. All thjis and without crazy acidity. That is the conundrum and the magic of Collio. The persistence is romanticism incarnate with fruit oozing out of pores in great remain. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted May 2019

Goisot Gulhem Et Jean Hugues Gondonne 2017, Bourgogne Côtes D’auxerre AOC, Bourgogne, France

A soil of kimmeridgian and marl, of white and blue, with great layering of fruit and that is in fact what you feel from Gondonne. There is something rich and overtly expressive here and while it’s anything but simple it could be imagined that so many consumers would understand this chardonnay, love it and want to drink it with abandon. That said the structure, goût de terroir and joie de vivre are just exceptional. The wood and the land just melt right in. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted November 2019

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2007, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa

These Helderberg vines would have been 33 years of age at the time and to think the wine would have cost $10 or so. Now 12 years later we’re graced with this hyperbole of toast, smoulder, lit paraffin and the edge of saffron honey. It’s hard to believe and this the from the tier-two, non-selected grapes at the back of the line behind a Forrester wine like the FMC. Nothing less than incredible. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted October 2019

Ornellaia Bianco 2016, IGT Toscana Bianco, Tuscany, Italy

The Bianco was first introduced in 2013, following fast forward to the original 1980s and 1990s work with Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia. That project had been abandoned because says Axel Heinz “stylistically it just wasn’t right.” That wine was mainly sauvignon blanc on one of Ornellaia’s great vineyard sites. What was wanted was something more than a varietal wine and a new age of finding vineyard sites that were more than merely good for white wine. That means making use of northern slopes and those blocks favourable to whites, including the use of (indigenous) vermentino and viognier. The practice had already been proven with success by colleagues. Bianco is the alter ego to the Rosso, priced as such “and reflects the spirit of Ornellaia, but it had to build itself up to that premium level. We intend to make one of the great white wines of the world,” explains Heinz. That may sound like bragging swagger but the reality is that experience, acumen and especially confidence breed the truth. I Bianci are aged for 12-15 months in (30 per cent new) barriques before bottling. I do dare you to find a wine that smells anything like this Bianco. They are flowers unnamed or perhaps not yet discovered. The flinty reductiveness is also truly and wholly unique. Though the way sauvignon is raised and the place are surely not the same, the Bordeaux styling and sensibility of affinities are more than uncanny and even served by purpose. The vintage brings great maturity, fruitiness and salinity. Fruit presence under the spell of fleur de sel. Nothing but a brilliant combination. Says Heinz without equivocation, “it’s a benchmark for us, ’16 that is.” Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2019

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2017, AOC Bourgogne, France

The couverture is all encompassing acting as a full sheathing tapestry in surround of a fruit core of sheer concentration and yet as a whole so understated. It’s hard to imagine more coaxing and less pronouncement. Relatively speaking there’s no estate equal to what has happened here. Great mineral crash into life and love, into fruit and impossible acidity. A magnificent chardonnay with 25 years of life ahead. Drink 2021-2039.  Tasted September 2019

Adelsheim Pinot Noir Boulder Bluff 2015, Chehalem Mountains AVA, Oregon

From a steep, southwest facing site and picked really early, especially in the warm 2015 vintage. Again the confluence of vineyard conflagration of more than one soil type leads to an estate stylistic but let’s face it one that is bent into shape by focus and precision. There is great generosity and freshness, again in spite of or despite the hot vintage. More floral from this bluff and bigger, albeit finer quality signature tannin from this neighbourhood, with more thanks to basaltic blocks. Long ageing surely ahead with fruit turning to bramble, at times. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted April 2019

Tenute Bosco Etna Rosso DOC Vigna Vico Pre Phylloxera 2015, Sicily, Italy

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

Donnafugata Mille E Una Notte 1996, DOC Contessa Entellina, Sicily, Italy

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

Scarpa Barbera d’Asti DOC La Bogliona 1996, Piedmont, Italy

At 23 years you just have to launch yourself headfirst into the blood orange. That this piece of barbera wow factor happened before the year 2000 is the thing, especially because climate was very different. Rain fell often and slowly through the year, as opposed to the deluges of globally disaster-orchestrated today. Higher acidity simply speaking and this of the great lean, salty and direct-fitted pieces of barbera composure. Still fresh with dried fruits and low alcohol (at 13.0 per cent declared) but who knows which way the marketing directed labelling in those days? More than a lovely look back. Educational, instructional, cerebral and mind-bending from the lesser appreciated Piedmontese sector. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

Maison Roche De Bellene Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2012, AOC Bourgogne, France

Do not adjust your set. The vintage brought everything to the table and while the foreground presents a picture crystalline and transparent the entirety of the frame is frozen clear. As for the aromatics this teases a meaty cure like few other and teases as if by the ambience of a cave, restricted of access, hiding what lurks, hangs and excites. Crunchy to say the least, layered to say more and complex to speak the ultimate truth. Magnifique and still twenty years away from the beginning of the end. Drink 2022-2037.  Tasted September 2019

Domaine De La Pousse D’or Pommard Premier Cru Les Jarollières 1964, Appellation Pommard Controlée, Bourgogne, France

Calling this 55 year-old Bourgogne Premier Cru a piece of history is not enough to do justice because family, lineage and the passing of the generational torch beyond domaine lines are everything that matters. Nicolas Potel pulled this one out of thin air and not merely by a human ability to disappear and reappear. No, Nico chose the way of disapparating and then apparating (in the wizard sense of “apparition,” a magical form of teleportation). His father Gérard’s ’64 was in his hands and a great big, merde-eating grin was posted all across his face. Les Jarollières is a 1.44 ha plot of marl and calcaire and even today half of the plantings are those that were fitted in 1925 and 1962. It was Gérard Potel who resurrected Domaine de la Pousse d’Or to its glory and in 1964 he acquired the domaine through a marriage to the then owner’s niece. Along with Henri Boillot this cru has been famous being meaty, earthy and owning an ability for supernatural integration. This 1964 had taken all that, everything and more, left nothing in the vineyard and had now become the epitome of the ethereal. The fruit was fully intact, so bloody strawberry, still with lightning quick reflexes and able to pour fresh glasses of spirit and energy over the course of a full hour. The experience was a once in a lifetime type, a shared moment and the kind to create a banked memory that will always be generous when a good one is needed. Thank you Nico. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted December 2019

 

I Fabbri Chianti Classico DOCG 2000, Tuscany, Italy

At the time it was labeled as an (Annata) Chianti Classico though it was really Riserva. Yes it has evolved but 18-plus years should have moved it much further along. Carries a spice like the exoticism in resemblance to 2006 but this is something other. Still some very fine, present and notable acidity. Amazing purity, honesty, luck, circumstance, place and gentile personality. The sapidity is there again and the age ability nothing short of remarkable. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted February 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Il Puro 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($150.00)

Il Puro takes her purity to another level in 2015 with fruit so silky fine and chalky tannins integrated into liquid even finer than that fine. The accumulation is just impressive and the charm meeting grace even more so than that. The Mascheroni-Stianti family has really found a stride in this GS to explain why it exists and how it can make many people happy. The structure here will take this through two or three decades of unfolding. There is a house record to prove it, ironically regardless and in spite of the bottle’s name. This is sangiovese. Drink 2023-2037.  Tasted February 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010, Tuscany, Italy

“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

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2015, Tuscany, Italy

Andrea Costanti is convinced this is a great vintage. “One of the best.” The weather was perfect following a beneficial cold winter. The harvest was early but not compromisingly so and it saw no hurdles, obstacles or intendments. The barrel use is bigger, older and wiser. This is the sort of concentrated Costanti that speaks to the 2019 philosophy, of acidity, ripeness and balance. Time on skins was about a month (including two weeks of fermentation and oxidation introducing délestage) and no protective sulphur. There is a control in this sangiovese, a powerful restraint but more than that, more so a calm, but not before storm. Finesse, grip and beauty, like a statue of a stag, in a courtyard, lit by moonlight. Tannins are all pervasive, fully stated, yet to feel a necessity for attack. They will and we will retreat, Then we will advance, with caution, further to find full pleasure for two decades. At the very minimum. Drink 2023-2039.  Tasted February 2019

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

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

Antiche Cantine Dei Marchesi Di Barolo 1990, Barolo Riserva, Piemonte, Italy

A grande dame or marchesa in the parlance of these woods, a nebbiolo of persistence, resilience and strength of character. Initiates contact with the past and a contract with tradition by way of the things that matter most. Family for one, roots dug into the earth second and the vineyard’s tongue, if it were able to speak. The overall gist in the parlance is heard and even understood although the dialect is hard to decipher if you are not of this place. This 1990 is found to be of high though level tempered energy and then with an ear, a nose and a soul so close to the earth. Smells like the soils amalgamated, preserved and demonstrated through the tempered liquor of a wise old 29 year-old nebbiolo. So much more than a piece of the past, this is an auguri gathering of storytelling, kin, culture and DNA. You must pay thanks for a chance to taste a thing such as this. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted December 2019

Gaja Sorì Tildìn 2016, Barbaresco DOP, Piemonte, Italy ($810.00)

Angelo Gaja sees 2016 as a perfect vintage in Barbaresco and the one from which climate change is viewed with great irony in the wink-wink guise of parenthetical thanks. That means the cosmic and astronomical alignment makes for wines that are both pleasant in their youth and also impossibly structured to age. Named for the sunny position of the slope and Mr. Gaja’s grandmother Clotilde. Now the clay and the calcaire have conspired, along with the purchased land of which Clotilde was custodian and in how she pushed her husband to make great wine. The vines are now on average 50 years-old and the composition meeting aspect bring a depth of complexity as poignant as it gets in this tiny part of nebbiolo production. All the flowers, rocks and elements are contained within the interior walls of this gently forceful Langhe red. It mimics the matriarch by the strongest power of suggestion and will not take no for an answer. Perhaps never will. Drink 2025-2045.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

1964

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Spotlight on South Africa in VINTAGES August 6th

South Africa’s South Coast

as seen on WineAlign

Rosé all day, an absence of whites, reds in Portuguese, French and Italian dress plus choosing South Africa like falling off a log

It has been nearly a year since I last visited South Africa and every time VINTAGES rolls out an easily managed thematic collection of wines from that great country the heart swells and memories flood back into the brain. The powers that be within the LCBO’s New World buyers’ department do their finest no sweat work and narrowing down when it comes to Western Cape collections, surely witnessed and proven by the duck soup choices made for both the July 20th and August 6th releases. But we can’t lay too much emphasis on their easily accomplished selections as being the be all, end all reason for the successes. Producers are fortunate to work with exceptional terroir that includes dozens or more old vine blocks in many Cape nooks and transversely the Ontario purchasing choices are so numerous it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The winemakers adage of “just don’t mess it up” translates into kudos to the buyers for getting things right. The fact is South African wines are of such high quality across varietal, producer and regional lines they speak for themselves and do so with great heart.

What do you do with the Swartland Swingers? Lawn bowls in Malmesbury of course

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

Which brings me to what struck so strong in September 2018, straight to the heart and without equivocation. Heritage and diversity are the country’s two greatest strengths. Sure as a circle will turn you around there is this third tangible and credible something that seems so unmissable about South Africa and South Africans. Resilience. Neither politics, nor conflicts between and in the oppression of peoples nor drought can deter the farmers, workers and producers of this nation. The human condition mimics its heritage vineyards planted to century-old varieties, to perpetuate and to persevere. This is the South African way. And it is the wines that are exceptional in ways that require great levels of explanation.

Over the last several centuries grape varieties were brought, expatriated and forced into the blending of exile. No peoples should ever be de-humanized nor taken for granted and neither should wines be quietly dismissed. With each passing varietal situation time has been sublimed and wines produced in South Africa teach us that they simply are not examples of minor beverages. It has taken place in the heart of agriculturalist and winemaking ability, to change small things and see greatness in ascension to that which is simple, authentic and refined. It’s a matter of having felt sensations introduced into the absurdity of our lives.

We begin with some wines tasted and assessed back in September 2018. These are a cross-section of what the country’s makers do best, some unknown, others better known and collectively they act as examples in performance at the highest level.

Fourteen South African producers and wines you need to know

A. A. Badenhorst Chenin Blanc The Golden Slopes 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

The Golden Slopes is chenin blanc planted on granite hillsides, vines in the 80-ish years of age and this surely has much to do with the paradigm of success predicated by a focus on texture. Remarkable heritage vines on the Badenhorst for which Adi is able to seek, measure and play. Like the Secateurs it is indeed all about texture but here, this is something other. Conatus. The Golden Slopes are marked by intense and impressive warmth, lees and the effects of managing lost acidity. Adi finds a way for them to be kept by the moments gained in flesh and layers. Old vines do what the young and inexperienced do not. They achieve an innate inclination, in this case for chenin blanc to continue to exist and enhance itself. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

Like the sister Firs this Faure Vineyard site is also 21 years of age, east facing towards the Heldeberg, with rocks in the soils. The name is more than familiar to Jeanine Craven, who was a Faure before she merged with Mick. What really separates this place is the marine air, three kilometres from the sea, as far as the African Black Oystercatcher flies. Again the planning involves whole cluster pressing and on skins seven days, to make pure syrah. Separated by 15 kms the Faure is antithetical to the Firs, salted by the sea and of a furthered intensity in a different form. It’s near searing, linear, grippy and with acidity lifting everything. Really juicy, pushed by a wow factor, clean, no funk and so much spice. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2018

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2017, WO Swartland (WineAlign)

One of two single vineyard explorations from the Sadie’s work is this 1968 steen planted in deep soils to the west, towards Darling. This fourth vintage is a demure of chenin blanc’s deepest, richest and most glycerin textured possibilities. Time and a warming in the glass causes this floral emergence in a spiced space time continuum usually reserved for white wines like Condrieu. But this is entrenched in heritage steen genetics, not viognier and the acidity is all local, parochial and fine. The complexities are circular by nature, in rotation and encompassing all that we hold sacred for Cape wines. Takes hold of your mind and controls your breathing with its life affirming energy, like an invisible blanket wrapping you up in the desert, at night, under stars. Total production is 45,000 bottles. Get some. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted September 2018

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 1997, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley (WineAlign)

It was 1997, a point 10 years deep into the Hermanus pinot noir investigations and what Anthony Hamilton Russell called “the year the Dijon clones kicked in, or at least the use of them.” This is seemingly more evolved than that ’86 if only because the über ripe fruit may have baked a bit in the sun. Tastes so old school Beaune now with a cane sugar-cocoa-vanilla trilogy of development. Powerful pinot noir now in the throes of its soporific times. Drink 2018.  Tasted September 2018

Huis Van Chevallerie The Hummingbird Colibri Kap Klassique 2017 (WineAlign)

The Hummingbird is composed of 70 percent viura with chenin blanc from Christa von la Chevallerie’s Nuwedam Farm in the Paardeberg. The first viura as far as we can tell in South Africa, a Spanish grape variety not very high in acidity picked up and elevated by the chenin. This first vintage kick at the sparkling can in a Cava style is mostly 2017 fruit, in bottle 12 months so very much adhering to a Cap Classique model. Christa thinks both outside the box and the varietal groove with this textural beauty and so its moniker naturally importunes as Kap Klassique. As a bottle of bubbles it offers a forward rush of life, crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted September 2018

Ken Forrester Wines Chenin Blanc The FMC 2004, Stellenbosch (WineAlign)

FMC, as in Forrester (Ken), winemaker Martin Meinert and chenin blanc. Here looking back 14 years to a time when they and only a handful of others had the true understanding of foreshadowing as to what the signature grape variety could become for South Africa. That is why they set to making this highly specific and purposed example. From a single vineyard, then 34 years old (now pushing 50) and the eighth vintage, by 2004 fully commanded stylistically by its makers. Barrel fermented and bloody rich, still viscous, now so honeyed and lit like a candle in a cool cave. A true original, like the Ford Motor Company, a female main character kicking butt in an action film, FMC. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted September 2018

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton (WineAlign)

From the Cape’s south coast and Samantha O’Keefe’s Greyton Farm down a dusty road. The Estate sees 500L barrels, 35 per cent new and is a best fruit selection cuvée. It’s also about the ferment “to keep a limey tension,” tells O’Keefe, so it’s really about the combination of the two. Like the “normale” the orchard fruit persists but here there are stone fruits joining the apples and now the grip takes hold. If the other needs a year in bottle this “Reserve” could entertain three. In quite an awe-inspiring way it travels to and fro on a Meursault-Marsannay line, of high construct and palpable intensity. I’d wait the three for the grace and beauty of its future. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2017, WO Western Cape (WineAlign)

There are some South African winemakers who just seem to intuit what grenache is capable of realizing comme il faut from a Cape raising. Marelise Niemann is one of a select few who have mastered the art and science of grenache pulmonary resuscitation. Hers is 90 per cent Paardeberg and (10) Voor Paardeberg, so not labeled as such. “The most important red grape in South Africa,” she says with varietal diffidence and I will not be one to argue. Not with Marelise. These are bush vines, all itching to succeed off of decomposed granite. These vines scratch and claw their way out of the aridity and the adversity to gift a purity of fruit and very special tannins. Pretty and with a level of tension seen in its face, after some time on skins and a natural ferment crawled out of whole bunch pressings. Spiced and spicy, demurred, matured in old oak 16 months, wise, mature and nurturing. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted September 2018