Twenty-two mind-blowing wines of 2022

Godello in the Stellenbosch heather, Reyneke Wine Estate

We are who we are and we choose to live in a world according to wine. Within its walls are endless permutations and revelations, of the dark moments and the light, the romantic entanglements and the failures. We witness cycles of passion, highs and lows, endless accounts of quirky little episodes that reveal how grapes really live under the circumstances of a vintage. How they survive and thrive, eventually turning into the wine they become. A wine’s history is a lovely aside accompanied by a recorded and constructed account through the lens of someone who observes its transformations. We are messengers who take the land, plant and maker into consideration and always abide, recounting the story to those who would choose to listen. According to WineAlign I reviewed more than 3,000 wines in 2022, which means I tasted at least 3,500, if not more. In order to surmise this final list from a shortlist of more than 100 mind-blowing wines it meant another 2,900 are not even in the running and yet surely no less than a quarter are exceptional wines in their own right. That is how difficult, personal and stringent an exercise this annual choosing has become. I find it near impossible these days and yet somehow feel compelled to continue the drill. 

Godello in Chianti Classico

Related – Twenty-one mind-blowing wines of 2021

The year 2022 afforded multiple opportunities to get back on the road in search of great wines in places across the ponds and beyond. To Tuscany in both February and March, for the for the Chianti Classico Collection and also as chaperone to La Squadra Canadese for a week of exploration throughout the 11 UGAs of the territory. Forever in Chianti Classico included a masterclass presented by Italian wine expert Filippo Bartolotta and Consorzio President Giovanni Manetti titled Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi. This year-end summary includes one of those Chianti Classico wines dating back to 1949 but a few more could been here as well, including the fascinating Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 1958. At Laura Bianchi’s estate the Castello Di Monsanto Sangioveto 1986 was one to blow my mind, as did Luca Martini di Cigala’s San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 2018 and VinSanto del Chianti Classico 1998. As a proud, card-carrying Ambasciatore there are dozens upon dozens of Classico and affiliate sangiovese that move me each and every calendar year. Il Molino Di Grace Gratius 2018 is an example and just one of many.

Related – Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

After that Tuscan adventure I moved on to Sicily for a five day exploration of The five estates of Planeta earth and my stay turned into two weeks. Covid-19 had caught me and yet the humanity of Alessio Planeta, Patricia Tòth and several winemakers aboard L’Etna turned a challenging test result into many days of discovery and deeper volcanic understanding. In fact L’Etna and Parco Statella saved my Sicilian quarantine. So many producers’ wines could and should be on this list: Azienda Agricola Sofia, Calcagno, Donnafugata, Eduardo Torres, Feudo Pignatone, Girolamo Russo, Graci, Scirto, Tascante, and Vigneti Vecchio. Oddly this was not a year for nebbiolo with likely the least amount of opportunities made available and yet a month from now I will spend 10 days in Piemonte to make up for the absence in 2022. That said there can be no forgetting Réva Barolo Cannubi 2018, from which impartiality is off the table because if you do not fall in love with this Barolo then you are not setting your palate free.

Travels in June and Abruzzo in four-part harmony included a bucket list visit with Emidio Pepe where I found that an unwavering commitment to land is everything that matters in making exceptional and memorable wine. It’s not only what you do but also who you are. Ahead of that trip I had tasted La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC Bellovedere Riserva Terre Dei Vestini 2017, and there can be little doubt that it is a wine that resides at the top of the montepulciano food chain because this Riserva hails from a most specific and important terroir. After Abruzzo and then Rome I moved on to attend the first ever Anteprima for Simply Red: Rosso di Montalcino where the Brunello were set aside for one day only and the 2020 vintage of Rosso got directly under my skin, including Lorenzo Magnelli’s mind bending Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020. Dieci Anni di Rosso di Montalcino (Ten Years of Rosso di Montalcino) and Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino (Rosso di Montalcino Selection) showed wines of age-ability and purpose; my if Alessandro Mori’s Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Jacopo 2019 did not blow my mind. A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini meant a pour of Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Io Sono Donatella 2015 for the most profound barrel expression of Le Donne’s Brunelli. 

Menfi

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

In October the Cape Wine congress resumed after a four year absence and now more than ever this is what I have to say. South Africa is the most exciting and mind-expanding wine universe alive today. There are no less than 40 Western Cape wines from two dozen or so producers tasted in 2022 that could have made this list: A.A. Badenhorst, Alheit, Beaumont, Boekenhoutskloof, Crystallum, David and Nadia Sadie, Hamiilton Russell, Huis van Chevallerie, Kanonkop, Ken Forrester, La Motte, Leeu Passant, Klein Contsantia, Meerlust, Momento, Mullineux, Old Road Wine Company, Porseleinberg, Raal, Raats, Radford Dale, Restless River, Reyneke, Savage, Sijnn, Storm and The Sadie Family. To name but a few. Other southern hemisphere wines were killer in 2022, namely Torbreck Grenache Hillside Vineyard 2019, a special Barossa block to be sure.

With John Szabo MS and Rosa Kruger at the Old Vines Project tasting

In November a return to Montalcino for Benvenuto Brunello 2022 meant a look at the 2018 vintage but also the Riserva of 2017. At Col d’Orcia the Conte Francesco Cinzano Marone and his son Santiago led yet another vertical tasting, this time on the 8s and it was Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 1988 that stood both out and also the test of time. From Montalcino it was on to Vienna and then a Wagram-Traisental discovery tour that was both too short and mind-expanding – A return must and will happen soon. Meanwhile a tasting at home in the WineAlign office showed this Rheingau gem to the crü. Leitz Berg Schlossberg Grosses Gewächs Riesling Trocken 2019 is grand Rüdesheim indeed. 

These are the wines that blew my mind in 2022

Most of all 2022 was a year when associates, colleagues, wine professionals and especially friends reunited to break bread and taste great wines together. At a birthday party I had the opportunity to taste the following in one evening; Château Lafitte 1986, Château Mouton-Rothschild 1986, Chave Hermitage 2010, Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Turque 1999, Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle 1990, Dom Perignon 2000, Veuve Cliquot La Grand Dame 1995 to name just seven of 20-plus icons. Bordeaux made several prominent appearances in ’22; Château Margaux 1989 (and 2004), Château Haut-Brion 2012 and Château La Mission Haut-Brion 2012. More importantly in 2022 we shared bottles of all ilk, pedigree and origin, not only the expensive and famous labels but all the great wines, big and small. Thank you to every person who poured, for every sip and taste, with heartfelt thanks. These are Godello’s 22 mind-blowing wines of 2022.

Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner Berg 1ÖTW 2021, Traisental, Austria

Highest and coolest vineyard of the Traisental Erste Lage because by three or four pm the forest casts shade over the vineyard. Limestone based soil as well, upwards of 380m and the only portion that has iron rich red elements in the earth. Actually finding a richness in this, surely vintage related and that is unexpected but it’s also the most savoury, minty cool, eucalyptus accented, or the like. Curious by comparison to Alte Zetsen and Zwirch, in what is assessed as almost dark, smoky, spicy volcanic-simulate stuff. Brings whole and utter meaning to grüner veltliner at the Grand Cru level. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted November 2022

Godello with Charla Bosman

Sijnn White 2019, WO Malgas, South Africa

Up above the Breede River there are vines of chenin blanc, viognier, roussanne and verdelho, varieties that have been working towards a common goal, to eventuate at something great. Then 2019 comes along and the world changes. This is the vintage from which David Trafford, Sijnn and winemaker Charla (Hassbroek) Bosman take full reign of their collective charge. To be truthful the agriculture, winemaking and face of the brand is Bosman and were I in the market to hire someone of her passion, ability and professionalism I could not help but remunerate her like a top European footballer. But lucky we all are that she and Sijnn are together because she is at one with this impossible yet absurdly beautiful environment where wines like this White Blend are made and will blow your proverbial mind. They attach themselves and get so close to that personal part of you. Imagine Châteauneuf though I’d much rather consider Malgas because that is what this is. Rich and perfectly viscous, spicy, structured and fine. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted October 2022

Girolamo Russo Etna Bianco DOC San Lorenzo 2020, Sicily, Italy

From the single vineyard at 730-740m of elevation and vinified in tonneaux. The 2009 was the first vintage of San Lorenzo Bianco for a wine that leads amongst the 80-90 thousand total bottles made by Giuseppe Russo from 18 hectares. A strong selection from the plants of carricante with cattaratto and grecanico. The carricante are the oldest and they provide the breadth in the mouth, the texture in unction and the presence that really makes you feel the vineyard. The difference between it and Nerina is really in the selection of the grapes. Giuseppe wants his whites to speak for his territory, here to be a bit more generous and 2020 obliges first because it was easier and second because it is such a vintage specific to the white wines. Such beauty and emotion is purity and life. No stress and a wine you want to drink. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted March 2022

David And Nadia Sadie Wines Plat’Bos Chenin Blanc 2021, WO Swartland, South Africa

At a tasting where everything is Old Vines Project certified there must be something extraordinary about a wine to stand out from a crowd of greats. David and Nadia Sadie are in fact turning heritage vines chenin blanc (amongst other varietal explorations) into content born of context harboured though never paraded. They are rhythmic and scientific with just enough fantasy and romanticism, but never too much. Plat’Bos stands above Skaliekop and Hoë Steen because 2021 asks it to do so, not because it is better or more important, but it is surely chenin blanc profound. The 1981 Swartland planting is in the steady zone, shed of the mercurial and in ’21 so very linear yet salty of the earth in its sombre-sepulchral tone. There is reduction here because the poor soil nutrients demand that this chenin begins this way. The levels of tension and intensity are most elevated, sufficing to say as high as any from the Western Cape. Attention is paid unwavering to detail, sequencing is in order, purity incarnate, grape and place together pristinely kept. In Plat’Bos 2021 the palate is taken down to the whipping post by a wine built to endure. Given time there will be calm, healing and reward in the end. Drink 2024-2036.  Tasted October 2022

The Sadie Family Die Ouwingerdreeks Mev. Kirsten Wyn Van Oorsprong Stellenbosch Die Sadie Familie Wyne 2021, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The vines that supply Mev. Kirsten Wyn are the oldest chenin blanc in the country, out of Stellenbosch and planted in 1905. In 1947 every second row was pulled out to make room for tractors and the configuration still exists this way. “If South Africa has a true apex white Grand Cru vineyard then this is it” insists Eben Sadie. Facts are facts are you just can’t accede these levels of power, concentration, extract and tannin anywhere else. The nose communicates as an intoxicant of sublime forces and these grapes bestow chenin blanc 2021 are those that transcend fruit, deliver ethereality and a heightened sense of awareness. An awakening from necessary tension, crisis and personal freedoms, existential off the charts, poetic and epic. One hundred and sixteen stanzas recorded, in the books and the finest verse written right here in the most recent vintage. If enlightenment is to be gained from chenin blanc in the Western Cape, Mev. Kirsten would provide the fodder. “The grail. End of fucking story” concludes Sadie. All hail. Long live the queen. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted October 2022

Iconic Bourgogne

Domaine De Bellene Vosne Romanée Premier Cru Les Suchots 2020, AC Bourgogne, France

“Suchots” originates from “souches,” the name given to the woods before the land was prepared to house these vines. Les Suchots is but a small 13 hectare part of the larger 220 in total for Vosne Romanée and was first planted in 1937. La Romanée and Saint Vivant are the closest plots, south of Echezeaux, north or Richebourg and though just six per cent of the appellation it is actually the largest Premier Cru Climat therein. The vineyard is divided in two by a road. The eastern part below lays just above the cemetery and the village terroir called Hautes Maizieres. The top part is located below Les Beaux-Monts. The 2019 was a dream, crème de la crème and yet 2020 seems to embrace the powerful vintage with a most extraordinary level of perfume. That and fruit concentrated to a maximum degree without falling into any of the trappings associated with hyperbole. The concept of pinot noir reaching regional levels like this seems counterintuitive to the variety-appellation contract but the balance and harmony at the top is something the likes almost never seen. This will surely be one of the wines that explain with hyper clarity what 2020 is as a vintage. Drink 2026-2040.  Tasted May 2022

Graci Etna Rosso DOC Arcurìa Sopra Il Pozzo 2017, Sicily, Italy

Sopra il Pozzo describes a special portion of the signature Arcurìa vineyard (and contrada of the same name), a block “above the well,” 100 per cent nerello mascalese picked in the last week of October. Treated to the same maceration and elévage as the Rosso for the same spontaneous style and time as Feudo di Mezzo. However Sopra il Pozzo’s “refuse” soil composition is different and requires patience in the name of time, due to its alternating layers of decomposed volcanics in stone and coarse sand. This is a section of recast material and the corresponding mascalese is both emasculated and chivalrous. The degree to which layers of fruit, mineral and umami incorporare and completare is finite and contiguous yet also lengthy, scorrevole and endless. There is rare Etna glycerin texture and perfectly timed acid tang. Tempismo perfetto. Grande. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted April 2022

Elisabetta Foradori

Foradori Granato Teroldego 2019, IGT Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

Granato from Elisabetta Foradori resides at or near the peak of the Trentino-Alto Adige wine chain, a Dolomite force of varietal nature, richness incarnate and cragged to gain your full attention. Fruit comes at a great premium, not by absence of the heart but because so much site, land and space speak louder than words. A static red stuck in a state of cryogenic freeze, immovable and surely able to handle immobility and also time. Will drink beautifully for a decade and a half, or possibly more. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2022

Garage Wine Co. Truquilemu Vineyard Lot 97 Dry Farmed Old Vines Field Blend Carignan 2018, DO Maule Valley, Chile

The eastern facing side of the Coastal Range where the old vines grow, in places where you had to make wines for the Catholic Church, “to save souls.” The most aromatic of Derek’s wines, a true field blend with a je ne sais quoi of varieties bursting off of dry farmed bush vines. Showy with that combination of outright juiciness juxtaposed against iron-fisted structure. A wine that comes from a place where the farmer worked to break up the “los camellones”, strange diagonal lines drawn and a framer who shows how to separate the land so that making great wine is easier. This is a remarkable example of old, bush and real. Drink 2024-2030. Tasted July 2022

Barone Ricasoli Castello Di Brolio Chianti Classico 1949, Tuscany, Italy

Tasted as part of “Il Chianti Classico in 9 Decadi” led by Filippo Bartolotta with Giovanni Manetti at Stazione Leopolda in Florence at the Chianti Classico Collection. The oldest wine in the flight. apropos and just when you consider the Ricasoli heritage and lineage. A mineral layering which instinctively mimics the compaction of argiloso, macigno and calcari from Brolio’s soils, no longer feeling the separation or mille-feuille effect but now just all morphed into one and the same. There were surely some white wines in this mix, as per the formula written decades earlier by Bettino Ricasoli. Probably helped keep the freshness for some time and while this is now all earth and stone the wine is very much alive. There’s even some sweetness and citrus showing, indicative of blood orange some 73 years later, finishing with a trebbiano and malvasia Vinsanto tang.  Tasted March 2022

Isole E Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy

“I did not like Gran Selezione, I did not have anything against Gran Selezione but the discussion about UGA (sub-zones) was already underway so why not wait for this next change to the appellation?” The thinking for Paolo de Marchi was more about the wines that did not qualify for the appellation becoming wines that now qualified, the issue being a new rule could not apply to only 30 or so producers. So what is needed for that to happen? “All grapes born here should be able to travel with a passport.” If it is more complicated than that then there is much more to discuss. A Chianti Classico from a long, linear and fortifying vintage delivers equally appropriate and extending tannins, gripping the composition while proposing to become elegant and fine. The seamlessness and never wavering focus keeps on keeping on, in the ways of emotion in motion. Will remain in bottle one year more before being released to the market. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted February 2022

Great anticipation to taste La Casaccia and Montosoli side by each from a vintage carrying no option but to act out the passion play through the glaring clarity of a sense of place. There are facts involved and there is no hiding the truth formed by these plots of sangiovese in this vintage. By now it is understood how 2018 exists on its own accord at one with nature though Francesco Ripaccioli will tell you there are similarities with 2013, if only because that vintage was greatly ignored and is drinking well at this time. La Casaccia in the località of Canalicchio is the wildcard of Montalcino and tasting several wines from the frazione reveals a collective affinity supplied by the year’s gifts. Nothing was portioned or taken away from the ’18 Annata and yet this Vigna sings with even more range and depth than that wine. The acids are simply out of this proverbial world, the linear aspects drawn with precise architectural or even, in Old English speak, a Cutter’s line. Remarkable reserve in concentration and forward slicing finesse. Forever long. Forever young. Drink 2025-2038.  Tasted November 2022

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy

Riserva 2016 is the 42nd such vintage since 1888 from estate vineyards and the oldest parcels therein. Meanwhile olive trees and other compatible local species grow in those places and there always seems to be lower pH and higher bright acidity coming off the grapes. The Federico Radi team seeks to broaden biodiversity with unlimited scope and more vineyards would benefit by following such a plan. When Biondi-Santi gets to their next position we can expect even more refined and higher quality wines. Meanwhile the harmony and extant abilities in this ’16 Riserva are almost impossible to believe. A Riserva of fruit termed as the locus of the points drawn at an equidistant from the centre. Sangiovese of no stops and starts existing on a special kind of ellipse in which the eccentricity is zero and the two foci are coincident. Simple descriptors like crunch, chew or crust are not in the lexicon nor do service to speak about the texture of this remarkable sangiovese. Subtlety and strength, a dappling of early morning light, patterning and shimmering as if on water. The phenolics are spot on, coherent and the connection with both palate and tannins perform as an unbreakable bond. A canvas flooded with colour and while there is a level of transparency there are no white spots. Everything is filled in. Clocks in at 14 per cent abv. Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted November 2022

Fontodi Flaccianello Della Pieve 2001, IGT Toscana Centrale, Tuscany, Italy

Youthful is the proverbial understatement, zesty and full of Panzano life the other. A sangiovese in strike of ideal accord, freshness captured in bottle and development low, easy and slow accrued. Just like the season, stress-free, never too hot, never too wet. Stellar autumn of warm days and retentive cool nights. A late harvest and full phenolic character. It all shows in this 20-plus year-old Flaccianello, singing a ballad, verse after verse, refrain post refrain. After 20 minutes a sweet porcini perfume emits and one wishes for a 50 day dry-aged Chianina Fiorentina. What fortune! Along with the special effects of smoky rosmarino and wild fennochio. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted February 2022

Sassicaia 2019, DOC Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy

Priscilla Incisa’s Tenuta San Guido is located one hour south of Pisa, going back many generations. The surface area covers 2,500 hectares in a “classic Tuscan agricultural estate, of vines, olive oil, cereals including wheat and feed for thoroughbred horses. There are 500 hectares towards the seashore dedicated to a wild life refuge “paradise” free from hunting and for migrating birds coming from northern Europe and heading to Africa, especially because a good part of the land is covered by water during the winter. Before 1994 the appellation was Vino da Tavola. The grand vin Sassicaia is always a minimum 80 per cent cabernet sauvignon (as per the appellation) with cabernet franc. The youthful perfume of Sassicaia is really something other, an invitation to the plume of a great and mighty bird that will soon migrate or not be seen or heard from until another season. The fruit is both wound taut and also layered, a mix of liquids, gasses and decomposed mineral, turning on its axes, literally the earth itself. The effort put in speaks volumes about the quality and yet the seamless transitions are as if there are no transitions at all, only one contiguous entity. Will release in Ontario as an Online Exclusive by lottery on October 20th. Drink 2025-2034.  Tasted September 2022

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2002, Abruzzo, Italy

The subtle and gentle elegance of 2002 is almost mystifying, if at least a surprise that kinda hypnotizes. Memory serves up a case of conflict and adversity, if also vintage envy for the bookends of 2001 and 2003. And yet the cool of the night prevails to elongate a montepulciano for our pleasure and make it sing 20 years later. It was also decanted to reduce the lees sediment and then re-corked for our benefit. Words cannot express what a beautiful place this 2002 EP is found to be. It is a treat to taste and also behold, exactly as of right now. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Planeta Santa Cecilia 2005, DOC Noto, Sicily, Italy

Finding oneself in a state of utter disbelief upon nosing an older Santa Cecilia has just happened with thanks to this 2005 and the unthinkable aromatics it possesses. There have been some older examples like 2007, 2008 and 2011 which all showed morphological magic but this, this is something other. The state of perfumed preservation is impossible, the floral emanations and fruit continuance implausible and in suspension of belief. The 2005 is almost perfect, dark berries and red citrus alive, acids in perfect condition, wood dissolved, resolved and walked straight out the door. The life and vitality reside in the arena of the flawless, faultless and achievable. This is what nero d’avola, Santa Cecilia, Noto and Planeta can be, at its collective finest. Will drink this way (and also that) for five more years and with ease. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted April 2022

Château Cheval Blanc 1998, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé, Bordeaux, France

The 24 year-old 1998 has been argued and predominantly defended as a Right Bank vintage, especially for merlot based wines, which the 1998 Cheval Blanc happens to be. Clocks in at 65 percent plus (35) cabernet franc and the two combine for hypnotic aromatics to put mind and palate in an immediately dizzying and gratifying tizzy. Dark, dark fruit of the “cimmérienne” kind yet of a grace and genteel manner shared by other profoundly distinguished red wines. Thoughts can wander and wonder as a result of tasting this blind and considering the depth it is nebbiolo that is imagined. Only for a moment because the numerous dual-toned vibrations direct towards knowing this to be a blend and so Right Bank combinations lead by their impression. Both of ’98 Cheval Blanc’s are blessed of ripenesses, acids and structural bones all having peaked at a shared summit. The conclusion can only be a two-part perception, of balance and beauty. Drink 2022-2042.  Tasted November 2022

Mullineux Schist Syrah 2019, WO Swartland, South Africa

Vines planted in 1999, mature if still 12 years away from being classified as “Old Vines.” Schist is the home Brownstone Vineyard, shallow and rocky of less than 20 cm of soil. An extreme site in which vines attempt to grow, but so much comes down to the where and how. Rows are close together and planted in an almost race track configuration within an amphitheatre. The roots spread and dig deep within the stripes of schist interspersed with iron and the grapes are harvested plant by plant to create two apposite cuvées. Visually these are small vines with smaller leaves and an airiness – physically speaking. The skeletal backbone here is upright, towering and commanding, the juiciest of varietal fruit hanging as flesh, taut and muscular upon these bones. Unyielding yet never brooding nor astringent, but bountiful and beautiful. Drink 2024-2032.  Tasted July 2022

Penfolds Grange 1981, South Australia

Poured blind and easily recognized as a wine of great depth with at least two decades of maturity. Either older or hastily advanced but there are indicators to the former, namely high tones, substantial crunchy acids and full on perfume. There is a touch of Brettanomyces but only a feathery tickle and the wine still has something left to give and also to prove. Great depth is provided by wood notes, of soy, balsamic, wild fennel and all together now a reduction keeping its form, a foxy liqueur, once Cassis but now Amaro, finishing with flavours bloody and gamy. The reveal as Grange 1981 explains that while shiraz is always the game and king it had been a season for which the cabernet sauvignon portion exceeded 10 percent. Winemaker John Duval felt that ’81 was a tannic one but they left the building long ago. Both Barossa and McLaren Vale were involved and so this look back at blending expertise matters in the context of all Aussie blends being tasted today. Being present to be poured a taste of Grange represents good fortune and from 1981 there abides a full and fair suck of the sauce bottle.  Drink 2022-2025. Tasted November 2022

Donnafugata Ben Ryé 2019, Passito Di Pantelleria DOC, Sicily, Italy

Ben, as in “son of” and Ryé, a Sicilian riff on the concept of making strong mocker from the wheat grass. Think of grapes instead, in this case zibibbo (muscat of Alexandria) grown off the southwestern coast of Sicily on the Island of Pantelleria. Passito di Pantelleria DOC is one of the world’s great sweet wines, found only on this windswept promontory where the grapes concentrate, drink in the sea and express a view to which only this place commits. The warmest of vintages develops and comprises these particular sugars into something surreal. Extraordinary orange-ginger crème brûlée, perfectly embittered and made viscous in the most natural of ways. Layers of dedication and spice, health affirming herbs, respiratory fixing drops and sweetness captured, effortlessly and to gift plaisir. Apricots ripe and glazed, zen zero limone, giusto intenso. Nearly perfect. Drink 2025-2039.  Tasted April 2022

Vintage Port (c) Sarah Goddard/WineAlign

Niepoort Vintage Port 2019, DOP Douro, Portugal

Expect top concentration in Vintage Port from what Niepoort calls a “return to balance in the vineyard” type of season. Summer was unseasonably cool and the timely rainfall on the 26/27th of August was invaluable, allowing fruit maturity to go to completion. A recall to 2008, of natural, acid driven, balanced musts. Foot trodden in circular granite lagares with 100 per cent stems, racked soon after harvest, aged in “tonéis” (large oak vats) in the Douro over the winter, and then moved to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia in the Spring of 2020. Acid vintage indeed, fruit caught by circumfuse so as to be surrounded, ignited and eventually dispersed for decades of slow release power. The liquid chalkiness of tannin is so fine-grained you swirl and mull over just how hypnotizing it is. Truly great Vintage Port will act out this passion play. Drink 2025-2048.  Tasted October 2022

Good to go!

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Simply Red: Rosso di Montalcino

Red Montalcino in the Fortezza di Montalcino

On June’s busy calendar a fast and intense 36-hour window opened for a flash visit in Montalcino, too short yet one so worth the sidle. A great privilege it was to attend the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino’s new Rosso event called “Red Montalcino.” In November of 2021 the decision was made to migrate away from the larger event of Anteprime di Toscane and with the launch of Red Montalcino the full division has now been made. Simply Red for Rosso, solo artist now, with Brunello di Montalcino’s Benvenuto event returning again this coming November.

With Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci of Il Poggione

Hours well spent with home away from home Il Giglio family, two masterclasses in the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino and a walk-around in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino. A fascinating retrospective look back at 10 years of Rosso di Montalcino in masterclass number one titled Dieci Anni di Rosso di Montalcino. Longevity and the subtleties in secondary characteristics came of age through the lens of eight stellar examples. Masterclass number two called Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino brought the idea of “cru” or “selection” to light for a DOC appellation of ever increasing importance. Vino Sapori e Inspirazioni Nel Cuore Di Montalcino is a sentiment that refers to so much more than just flavours. Rosso di Montalcino defines the new profound in Italian wine.

Montalcino

On arrival there was a hop into Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini’s car for a three-hour tour of Casato Prime Donne, a first and finally crossed off bucket list visit. The two night, one day sojourn culminated with an energizing Red Montalcino gala under the stars in the Fortezza di Montalcino where Lara Gilmore and Food for Soul Italia brought innovation and zero waste food execution to Toscana.

Related – A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

Red Montalcino 2022

The 2020 Rosso di Montalcino vintage is best described as one of blanketing and nurturing, a child of a warm and dry season, devilishly if dangerously low in quantity and one in Rosso terms to envision as lasting for a very long time. There was less disease pressure and the plants just knew what to do. Also great temperature fluctuations, seemingly all through harvest to allow the complex development of aromatics with increasing intensity. This application is becoming an annual occurrence, a positive attribute of climate change, if you will. A season gifting viscosity and that deepest of red cherry fruit.

Montalcino by night

The vintage gains importance because 2020 holds both joy and also grip. Many estates only produced 20-30 per cent as compared to 2019 but surely a number as a factor of the average, norm or potential. Adversity and low yields aside the purity is unrivalled for Rosso, the liveliness too, before transitioning to true sanguine sangiovese coursing through. The dichotomy by way of a 2020 Rosso comes from swelling fruit and aching acids through tannins sweet and unsurprisingly supportive. At its best it is like discovering the first ever vintage of something profound. 

Awards presentation in the Montalcino Theatre

As for 2019, notes from the November 2021 Benvenuto and those tasted this past June transcribed below will tell a story of a vintage out of which quality is right up there with quantity. A season of purity and clarity, what Rosso should be. An exacting transcript of terroir, a mirror held up to località; profumato, sfumato, evocativo…the essence of the land. For a Godello primer on the most fascinating aspects about Rosso di Montalcino, please read on ahead.

Food for Soul Italia

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

In the Godello article about Benvenuto Brunello 2021 the phrase “Much ado and what to do about Rosso di Montalcino” began a quest towards seeing the changes and more importantly the future of the appellation. As a reminder, “culturally speaking Rosso di Montalcino is the most important wine. It’s what the Montalcinese drink daily. 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.” The attitude prevails. “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. 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.”

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

Fortezza di Montalcino

Tasting Rosso di Montalcino over the course of two days in June proved with unequivocal doubt that quality across the board has never been greater or higher. This assessment is based on three crucial criteria; first are the guarantees of character and calibre in the two most recent vintages, they being 2020 and 2019; then there is the accordant longevity of both Selezione Rosso but also 2010s decade wines as noted through examples poured at the morning session in the church of Sant’Agostino. Here are the notes on the 44 Rosso di Montalcino tasted on June 10th and 11th, 2022.

Red Montalcino Masterclass

Dieci Anni di Rosso di Montalcino (Ten Years of Rosso di Montalcino)

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010

Truth straight and inherent from a Rosso nearly 12 years of age, fresh and immovable. Speaks the structure of a vintage, even for Rosso, were it crafted in this way and equipped to speak on behalf of sangiovese’s age-ability, no matter the what, where and why of the fruit. Camphor oil, anchovy and a melange of “salato” umami to speak of Sant’Angelo in Colle and then, all of Montalcino. Beautiful wine with a long, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Pietroso Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2011

Less grip and hold then 2010 and were it tasted here, also 2012 as well. This Rosso has moved into next level and territorial existence, now porcini and tobacco, frutta di bosco and all the earth, mulch and woods once waiting in the wings. Showing as a wise and well-aged Rosso that has seen its best days though drinks with sweet savoury clarity in the here and now. Drink 2022.  Tasted June 2022

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2013

From the producer, that being Lorenzo Magnelli, man who looks to the largest berries for his Rosso di Montalcino. The great surprise that is 2013 sangiovese from Montalcino resides in a glass like this, evolving yet holding its line with great acumen. The northern side of the village surely aids and abets in extending the life of Rosso. Hard to believe the beauty inherent and the elasticity of this fruit. Suave, assured and holding all the cards to keep on keeping on.  Drink 2022-2026. Tasted June 2022

Masterclass wines

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

The Rosso ’15 from Francesco Rippacioli is not what should be called immovable or formidable yet there is some depth and even brood to its dark back cherry constitution. Rich and certainly the sort of sangiovese that leaves an impression, a mark and a depression on one’s palate, but also heart. Keep and enjoy this Rosso for several years still ahead. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

San Lorenzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

The Annata 2016 is the most democratic and elongated of them all, that is with respect to recent times. In Rosso this means elasticity, stretched tannins and fruit made leathery, adhering to the structural organization like no other vintages come earlier or soon to follow. San Lorenzo’s shows chewy fruit, part plum, part persimmon, part liquorice and also a pod aspect, like bokser as an example. Acids are along for the ride and chalkiness in not exactly sweet tannin persists. A Rosso in several parts, linear above all else, all of them interesting. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

With Asa Johansson in the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino

Ridolfi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Of lithe structure and fading light, a Rosso in descending denouement, trailing fruit and acids as it falls behind the horizon. Lovely in its maturity though the stuffing was not there to support more than a few years of flesh and depth. Drink up. Drink 2022.  Tasted June 2022

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

From 2019 Rosso rests in a red fruit Poggio di Sotto vacuum, surrounded by walls of structure to maintain a vintage exaggeration, which is in fact what their Rosso style is consistently all about. Upon further examination the fruit is found to exists in a state of both precocious maturity and one that will hold for years. Understanding arrived early and yet there will be no great hurry to move forward with any great haste. A wise Rosso with some swagger and confidence. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Lara Gilmore in the Montalcino Theatre

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Incomparable to the rest of this 10 years of Rosso di Montalcino flight. Raw, emotion-filled and aromatic of florals, wood spice and new fabric scents. Complexity abounds with an almost graphite-creosote-fresh tobacco trilogy, unresolved, staid and secure. Truth of the sensation is pure Argiano, chewy, leathery, rich and yet clear, transparent and open-knit. Should get really interesting in three to four years. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Masterclass two with Francesco Saverio Russo

Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino (Rosso di Montalcino Selection)

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Selezione Colombini 2020

One whiff and Barbi it is, unequivocal, knowable of an ilk and administered idiom not to be denied. The scent of history and experience while perhaps not quite the democracy of say 2016, yet this Rosso 2020 comes eerily close. Purity of southerly red fruit picked and layered in equanimous fashion, confident and telling the breadth of a Barbi story. Lifted, rising weightless into high tonality. All this in the micro-vernacular of a selection made purposeful for the specificity of this cuvée. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi

Casanova Di Neri Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Giovanni Neri 2020

Named in light of proprietor Giacomo Neri’s son and produttore Giovanni. There are few Rosso as open, gregarious and generous as this 2020. Quando buono e buono, when it’s good, it’s good and that is what really matters in Neri’s Rosso Selezione. Round, circuitous, acids draughting fruit and tannin trailing acidity. Comes back to the beginning and starts the process all over again, on repeat. Humility and classicism are in this Rosso, which seems to make perfect sense. Wood needs to integrate before the best days arrive. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

The Neri brothers, Gianlorenzo and Giovanni

Col d’Orcia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Banditella 2019

There seems to be a trend forming with respect to Rosso Selezione because this by Col d’Orcia is so very eponymous and must be regarded as aching in notation of the estate and place from where it comes. The scents, of fruit blossoms, bosco and sweet tobacco link Banditella with Rosso and Brunello. In this sense Selezione is neither but instead the bridge connecting sangiovese to both. If that is the point then Col d’Orcia is a builder of relationships and new traditions. More barrel felt upon the finish, also the sharpness of yet to fully integrate acids and so with patience allow for a coming together. Can guarantee this will drink well in 2030. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted June 2022

Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Rossofonte 2019

From 33 year-old vines, more barrel than some other Rosso Selezione and thus the link is closer to Brunello than Rosso. Noting tobacco smoulder, brown butter, toasted nuts and vanilla, strong wafts that confirm the suspicion. A full and creamy Rosso is the result, classic for the lineage and highly representative of the house style. Needs another year for secondary notes to come out and replace some of the cloud cover created by the wood. Drink 2023-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Gabriele Gorelli MW

Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Jacopo 2019

And now for something completely different. Aromas unlike any other Rosso Selezione in the flight, more fight than flee, that much is known and free. An intensity of spice, east and west, the full indy or monty, tied together by a vivid set of fruit on top. Might feel like a big Rosso, a.k.a Brunello but the truth is Jacopo is just a bit more grown up, ambitious and steadfast in conviction than many others. Expresses 2019 with utmost flesh, fruit (including blood orange) showing a slight mature to transformative edge. Great grip will send this further so that density and compactness can melt away. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Alessandro Mori, Il Marroneto

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Caduta 2017

Once again the gears are changed, the climate and soils alter, the aromas deliver what the first five Selezione had not in this Rosso flight of eight. Quite fine, very mineral and surely the Rosso child of true Galestro terroir. Also warm and developed yet kept in check by northerly attitude, making things straight and right out of 2017. The affinity with La Casa (Brunello) seems obvious, with the stones and the slope bearing similar fruit. Showing some age and peppery heat but perfectly in the window right now. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Fattoria Del Pino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Il Jeccardo 2016

The conspiring factors are all quality ones to bring Fattoria del Pino’s Rosso into fine current form. The gift of vintage, the concept of Selezione and the block party that is Il Jeccardo. The soils are schist-marl (Galtesro), calcareous and sandy (Arenaria) for one of Montalcino’s most diverse. Brings the amenities for Rosso that are crushable, elegant and structured. These are all present in FdP’s 2016, accounting for and representative of the soil conglomerate that makes this a wine both special and humble. A joy to drink. Drink 2022-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Alle Loggia della Piazza

Franco Pacenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Gemma 2015

Travelling back six-plus years for Rosso may have been an exercise once only reserved for a select few but the pastime is now a normal and oft repeated vocation. Franco Pacenti has captured 2015’s generosity and fruit first commentary with great distinction and the Selezione Gemma is filled with copious aromatics. Moves into stone rolled linearity running right through the middle of a fleshy wine that speaks in a structural vernacular. What’s amazing is how this truly stands out as a complete wine in a flight for 2015-2020 as the only truly resolved and ready to justify the means. Individually or collectively, either or for both. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Il Giglio

Simply Red: A Rosso di Montalcino walk-around tasting

Armilla Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Fine and classic if on the full and textured side, though nothing out of the ordinary as it pertains to the vintage. Does well to merge the rise of fruit into the structured spectrum. All fruit and spirit, a side show of acids and those tannins which support in full cohort. Does 2020’s warm and generous vintage proud. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Call this Rosso balanced, even if what emits is not quite the same the equanimity of 2019. Still there is nurturing from out of the blanketing warmth of 2020, a linear progression from grippy fruit through acid succulence. The construct of structural motion is more than just a notion and the wine is in constant flux, unsettled, not having arrived anywhere near its final, or intended destination. Will move with the times, be transferable, able to reinvent itself time and time again. As a Canalicchio di Sopra it most certainly will. Bottled only three months ago so understand why there is so much speculation. Francesco Ripaccioli believes the evolution will be like 2016. Drink 2024-2029.  Tasted June 2022

Capanna Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Fragrant and floral Rosso from violets to roses, liquid chalky out of the gate and poised to burst with fruit in the glass. A fine and approachable Rosso with just a minor verdant grip in urgency at the finish. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Giacomo Bartolommei, Caprili

Caprili Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Must find common ground here with Giacomo Bartolommei in thinking this will be a very long lasting vintage in Rosso terms. Not a wine so knowable from the start per se but one of evolution, of gaining stature because of inherent structure. More than seven months since this would have first been shown and there is a renewed potential, fruit quality and substance in action on a current high, estimably positive and representative of this ever-impressing estate. Grapes are chosen based on the differentiations of the vineyard, not de-classified from Brunello as in the past. Yet the elévage is similar, just shorter and crucial decisions are made after the first year. So good. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Elena Pellegrini and Marco La Brusco, Cerbaia

Cerbaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

“To us Rosso di Montalcino is important because we take from the Brunello vineyards and in 2020 only 4,000 bottles were made, though Rosso is not produced in every year,” tells Elena Pellegrini. From the youngest vines out of a single plot planted in 2002. Decision making occurs during harvest and at least two or three passes are made. The potential is 30,000 at Cerbaia and so Rosso is a special wine, never an afterthought, always carefully considered. It shows in the restrained power, the elegant confidence, the nurturing and matriarchal presence. Again there is dichotomy by way of a 2020 Rosso, from swelling fruit and aching acids through tannins sweet and unsurprisingly supportive. Spent four months in Grandi Botti 25-50 hL and readiness is just ahead. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Spent 18 months in 30 hl Slavonian Botti, longer than many and only bottled four months ago. From two vineyards, one near the cellar in Sant Angelo in Colle and the other on the road to Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The latter brings the chalky mineral to compliment Colle’s fruit and fleshy power. A push-pull Rosso, from sweet youth to rocks and sand of grit and fine-grained tannin. Persistence is a key factor and that classic Collemattoni red Rosso signalling all the way through. Will come together after another winter. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Corte Dei Venti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Perfectly dusty like dried roses, pressed and petals crumbling. Potpourri fragrant and a clarity expressive of 2020, like discovering the first ever vintage of something profound. When Rosso has lift it acts just like this and yet there is some weight though also a weightlessness about the way it’s always rising. In that regard it should be chocked up to the concept of restrained power. Great showing. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Rosso di Montalcino is the child of a warm and dry season of which incidentally Tommaso Cortonesi is a big fan. Less disease pressure and a vintage where the plants just “knew what to do.” Also great temperature fluctuations, seemingly all through harvest to allow the complex development of aromatics with increasing intensity. This application is becoming an annual occurrence, a positive attribute of climate change, if you will. Cortonesi has been increasing aging times over the past 15 years from six to 12 and now nearly 15 months, spending botti time (20 per cent new) for 14 out of 2020. Top edging fruit and edgy accents elevate the aromatics so that the terroir is allowed to shine on through. Behold this prime work ethic, use of wood and also time in all the right ways. Place is at the fore. Grande. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Godello and Violante

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Casato Prime Donne 2020

“We need to explain that this is a wine that is very different than the Brunello and during the harvest we decide which grapes will be for Rosso and for Brunello.” The words of Violante Gardini introduce a wine that respects nature in a very specific vintage, made for freshness, fun and not as a baby Brunello. “Otherwise it will be a disaster. It must have identity, to show this wine in a different way.” The vintage gains importance 2020 because 2020 holds both joy and also grip. It does not try too hard, nor is it asked to do too much. Extraction is low, oak usage big, in botti. Donatella would like the consumer to drink this young but this vintage will do well for a minimum three plus years. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Elisa Fanti

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Fanti grows 15 hectares for Rosso for a potential of 120,000 bottles though only 50,000 were made from 2020. Ages for a year in big barrels plus some fourth passage barriques. As a rule this is a classic vintage, very different than 2019 and bottling happened in January. Another ilk, other worldly, no way to mix this season into the memories of any other. Fanti’s Rosso takes ownership, even at this stage just five months in, a standout to be counted 2020. Balance and execution are what brings it to this. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Now sweetly and juicily fruit forward, if a bit out of character as such. This is the “normale” Rosso (as opposed to the Selezione Colombini) and so elévage is just six months in wood. All in the name of approachability and amenability, perhaps the most ever, or a new chapter in Barbi Rosso. For the people, fresh as a rule, democratic.  Last tasted June 2022

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

Stefano Bambagioni, Fossacolle

Fossacolle Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Rosso sees 10 months in Botti (25 hL or less) plus some time in concrete. Selection is from young vines though as they age that availability lessens and so some barrel selection is necessary to be part of the mix. Makes decisions more difficult, having to include some barriques in Rosso. An underdog vintage things Stefano Bambagioni, one out of which after 12-18 months something magical will begin to happen. All this to say that Rosso is “something that is alive,” and balance is the ultimate goal, as witnessed here, in the result. Smooth as silk, of sweet tannins and clear as present danger of a potential for aging. Five to seven years easy. Drink 2023-2027.  Tasted June 2022

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

The finest sangiovese grain and naturally occurring sweetness come from Lorenzo Magnelli’s 2020 Rosso, a varietal humectant of such pleasing mouthfeel to reside at the top of the region’s ever-improving appellative echelon. Few Rosso are able to achieve this ilk of floating nirvana, where once its largest of berries macerated towards fermentation in great solicitation of emotive capability. It all makes cause to pause and reflect. Really succulent and also architectural, a construct of stone, bone, acid and karst, vertical, linear, moving forward and winning. Drink 2024-2030.  Tasted June 2022

Alessandra Pacini, La Lecciaia

La Lecciaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Seemingly night versus day in contrast with the soft and resolved 2018 but time is likely the reason. The force is felt immediately on the nose, not exactly hot but surely grippy, agitative and a bit bothered. A matter of early circumstance, the reason to exercise patience and wood in charge an unavoidable result of all these matters. Re-visit in 2024. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

La Màgia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Quite a dense mat and full mess of fruit for 2020, magnanimous, fulsome, fully set glycerin and pectin. There is balance despite the nearly jammy constitution as a by-product of the vintage. Raised at elevation (500m) in the southeast of Montalcino. From 15 hectares, all Brunello capable and in fact the affinity here is with the bigger wines with only elévage separating the Rosso. Prepares us for what the Grand Vin will be like as it pertains to this specific vintage. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Lisini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Yet another archetypal 2020 Rosso, fragrantly perfumed to the calcareous hilt and also notably structured from all points leading out from go. Feeling a true mineral streak running through, elevating cherries in season, juicy and fleshy, ripe and fully formed. Well made, balanced and truly essential Rosso work. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Red Montalcino gala dinner

Piancornello Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Somewhat reductive though the fruit set is magnified and of a clarity in black cherry, followed by a waft of tobacco. Works the glass with credibly strong and accountably forceful tannin. In a Brunello vein, there is lots of wine here. Drink 2023-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Andrea and Gloria Pignattai, Pietroso

Pietroso Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

A selection is made from all grapes coming in for 17,000 bottles of Rosso out of 2020. Ages one year in a combination of botti and tonneaux, from the start showing great promise. A warm vintage and it shows. Mainly Galestro, a stony soil that comes through in the combination of glycerol and chalkiness. Not gravelly but a sandy-stony feeling gained, of smooth grain, easily transferred over the palate and sweetly endowed with acid and tannin. Another star rising to the top of the Montalcino pantheon. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Riccardo Talenti

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Heady, big-boned, exemplary of combing and combining two terroirs’ contribution to layer Rosso di Montalcino. The ripeness of 2020 fruit is at appellative peak, tightening further, compact, compressed and staid. For now and with two years further the fleshy juiciness will surely emerge. 25,000 bottles produced.   Last tasted June 2022 

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

With Filippo Bellini, Tenuta Buon Tempo

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Just bottled two months ago, fermented spontaneously in steel, aged primarily in cement with a short stay in Slavonian oak. A late frost resulted in only 8,000 bottles being produced (as opposed to 55,000 in 2019) so hang on to these precious gems from rare Montalcinese alluvial soil just above the canyon of the Orcia River. Adversity and low yields aside the purity is unrivalled for Rosso, the liveliness too, before transitioning to true sanguine sangiovese coursing through. So right and proper, vanguard and directly linear for Rosso. Needs two years settling time. Treat this like a category within a category, or just as one on its own. It could be said that 2020 is like proprietor Filippo Bellini, a case of half and half. Drink 2024-2028.  Tasted June 2022

Lunch at Alle Loggia della Piazza

Ucceliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

Along with Voliero the Rosso at the hands of Andrea Cortonesi is one of agriculture, above all else. If the term may be used this way then Ucceliera is Riserva to Voliero’s Annata. Here the compactness of earth on fruit is layered, beginning with the strata below and culminating in the fruit above. Does indeed need to unwind, shed tannin and terroir while staying focused and in its contiguous state of meditation over agitation. This it will.  Last tasted June 2022

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

Farming, farming, farming. When Rosso come across this way, profumato, sfumato, evocativo…it is the essence of the land. Southerly Montalcino at elevation, taut, persuasive and meaningful, a seamless sangiovese missive. For Rosso, what is just, necessary and right.  Last tasted June 2022

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

Col Di Lamo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

“A little Brunello, so we prefer more time,” tells Giovanna Neri. Spends eight to 10 months in large Botti, plus 10 per cent in tonneaux and barriques. Then two further years in bottle. Vineyards are on the road that connects Buonconvento with san Quirico. Still a touch reductive, of liquorice and spice, fennel and salumi. From sandy clay soil in a Rosso of intense hue but also texture. All red fruit with balsamic seasoning in a very specific Rosso style. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Lorenzo Pacenti

Franco Pacenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Rosso sees a year in 25 hL botti, the fruit coming from 10 hectares of vineyards with the youngest vines now 20 years of age. On average Rosso makes up 8,000-10,000 bottles of the total production. Here from 2019 purity and clarity, what Rosso should be. An exacting transcript of terroir, Località Canalicchio di Sopra snapshot of place and most importantly a right here, right now transcribing of vintage. Crisp and crunchy, of fine acids, easy and yet sneaky of structure, so very well composed. Always a pleasure to taste with Lorenzo Pacenti. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

Still tight and terroir driven, that much is clear. Fragrant inclusive of earth and smoulder, woodsy in that aromatic way. Settling in just now yet quite structured and savoury for ’19 Rosso. Persistent, not of buzzing energy but surely from a place. Rosso as Rosso.  Last tasted June 2020

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

What a good looking crew

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

As mentioned in the 2020 note there are 55,000 bottles of this 2019 (as opposed to 8,000 for 2020) and yet quality is right up there with quantity. Balance arrives without adversity after an elévage “sensa” concrete, only Slavonian cask, or as it is said, “tronco conico,” 64 hL. An aromatic Rosso, so bloody ripe, arrived at nirvana with a sense of place intact, that being Podere Oliveto. From 2019 Rosso is defined by democracy and generosity.  Last tasted June 2022

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

La Lecciaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

This ’18 is the current vintage because La Lecciaia chooses to hold their Rosso back in even years. The 2020 will release in November. All done up in 25-35 hL botti for a minimum six to eight months, often up to a year. “For us we need more time,” tells Alessandra Pacini. Rosso 2020 is warm and nurturing, a cross of sangiovese and cask, silky of texture, soft, juicy and also peppery. Fine and never cumbersome, unencumbered because of time gone by. Sweet tannins, fine acids, nicely done. Showing at peak. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Good to go!

godello

Red Montalcino in the Montalcino Fortress

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WineAlign

A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

From Casato Prime Donne to the western hills of Montalcino and beyond

Interactions and conversations with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini over the years have been some of the most pleasurable and heartwarming, but most importantly they have been so very real. Violante’s approach is somewhere between extremely charming and matter of fact, specifically as it pertains to family history, Montalcinese culture and wines being made from two Tuscan estates. Her manner is inclusive and honest, her inherited view of societal matriarchy readily apparent. After all she is the daughter of Donatella Cinelli Colombini, founding mother, goddess and pioneering vigneron of Montalcino.

Godello and Violante

Donatella is the sister of Stefano Cinelli Colombini, proprietor of Fattoria dei Barbi, one of Montalcino’s most important and longest tenured, ancient estates. In 1998 she cast out on her own in the northern sector of Montalcino at the estate of Casato Prime Donne, the first Italian winery staffed entirely by women. In the Orcia Valley sits the second estate called Fattoria del Colle Trequanda. Back in 1998 a cellar master was needed but none were available. That is to say no unemployed men were in search of such a job. This sparked Donatella’s quest. To hire only women, promote equal representation and give life to the Progetto Prime Donne that is made up of four components: Casato Prime Donne winery, Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne, Casato Prime Donne Award and Prime Donne Trail – Ilda Bartoloni Hall.

In 1998 Donatella Cinelli Colombini created a new estate giving it her name while incorporating two properties into one brand; Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino and Fattoria del Colle Trequanda. In 2001 and 2002 the two wineries were inaugurated and 34 hectares of vineyard were almost entirely replanted. Donatella’s husband Carlo Gardini was born in Siena and in 2010 concluded his banking career in Florence at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro where he had been in charge of training personnel for the Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Abruzzo branches. Which brings us to Violante, born in Montalcino in 1984 and graduated in Business and Economics at the University of Florence. After her Masters at OIV (International Organization of Vines and Wine) that took her all around the most famous viticulture areas of the world she now works in the marketing sector of her mother Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s wines. In 2008-2009 she was Tuscan president of the Leo (young Lions). From 2013 to 2019 she was President of the Movimento Turimso del Vino Italiano, from 2016 to 2019 she was Vice President AGIVI (Young Italian Vine and Wine entrepreneurs). In December 2019 she was elected President of AGIVI.

Heart marks the barrel

Sustainability and the Casato Prime Donne Awards

“Many wineries are committed to sustainability but few are capable of communicating it because they make ethical choices out of conviction and not out of marketing.” Donatella is a keen observer of women studying the work of other women, in this case a case project carried out by (Valpolicella’s) Marta Galli of Le Ragose at Milan’s University of the Sacred Heart, together with professors Roberta Sebastiani and Alessia Anzivino. The study in 2021 concluded that for many producers (in this case female producers) showed great respect for the environment and support for local communities, but as a way of living and working, not a marketing tool. Eco-sustainable choices are more widespread than they appear because they are not put in the spotlight. Donatella’s ultimate conclusion? “Choices regarding environmental, social and economic sustainability are part of us, of our way of being and are not dictated by marketing. I like to think that it is a widespread attitude, especially among women.”

Nature and nurture of Casato Prime Donne

After a two year Covid hiatus the 22nd annual Casato Prime Donne Awards were presented to three Italian journalists, given to those who have contributed to the affirmation of the new role and new contribution of women to society and the world of work. “The award has now the new “mission” of incubator of local talents. The goal is to stimulate young Tuscan people, strengthening their motivations, giving training and visibility opportunities so that their success becomes a positive example for their peers.” Chiara Beghelli was chosen for the podcast on “Il Sole 24 Ore” on 23.01.2022 in which she talks about Brunello di Montalcino following the Wine Intelligence investigation. The second recipient was Aldo Fiordelli for numerous articles including “Il Divin Brunello now also has its temple,” published in the newspaper “Corriere Fiorentino” on 10-07-2021. The third winner was Elena Testi, who covered the Covid front, then migrants and then Ukraine for Tagadà La7.

Theatre in the cellar

After a trip to Abruzzo this past June I made my way up to Montalcino for the Rosso Anteprima. Over the last several years I had tasted with Donatella and Violante, hosted Zoom seminars with them on as guests and corresponded with mom and daughter. But I had not visited Casato Prime Donne. Ahead of the opening Red Montalcino evening journalists’ dinner at Il Giglio I had time for one visit. There was zero doubt as to which Montalcino producer that needed to be. Violante obliged and on a breezy June 10th afternoon she fetched me on Via Soccorso Saloni for a few hours afternoon passeggiare at Casato Prime Donne, followed by a tasting of 10 wines.

Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Sanchimento 2020, Toscana IGT

One hundred per cent traminer planted in the early 1980s down by the chapel in Trequanda by Violante Gardini’s grandfather Fausto Cinelli who received the property of Fattoria del Colle from his mother Lelia Socini. Violante’s mother Donatella has talked about living at Colle, tough at first “but right from the beginning strange things began happening, practically saying welcome, we have been waiting for you for a long time.” After white grapes could no longer be used with sangiovese for Chianti Fausto didn’t like the way his trebbiano made a white table wine. He planted traminer instead, if only as a trial at the beginning. Sanchimento in dialect is a simpler medieval way of saying San Clemente. So very aromatic, even for traminer, a bowl of yellow fruit, notable grape hyperbole and so refreshing. Less metallic and juicier than northern counterparts. Grandfather made a good choice. Made by the same women who make the wines at Donatella Cinelli Colombini under the consultancy of Valeri la Vigna. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Leone Rosso 2019, DOC Orcia

A wine dedicated to the Socini family in a blend of 60 per cent sangiovese and 40 merlot, fermented in stainless steel, aged just a few months in Slavonian oak. From the Fattoria Del Colle Estate at Trequanda in the Orcia Valley right in the middle between Montalcino and Montepulciano. Dark fruit, feels like raspberry, smooth and lightly peppery, juicy and easy. The kind of wine you choose “when you want to have fun,” simple stated and rendered with uncomplicated food, a slice of pizza or a piece of fish in tomato. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

Looking east from Casato Prime Donne

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Il Drago E Le 8 Colombe 2019, Toscana IGT

Dedicated to Violante Gardini’s father Carlo. A blend of 60 per cent sangiovese with (20 each) merlot and sagrantino, all grown at Fattoria del Colle in Treqaunda. The sagrantino are vines taken from Marco Caprai in Umbria. Brings the spiciness, adding to the verdancy and roundness of merlot, both to compliment the acidity and elegance of the sangiovese. A complete package, affectionately referred to as le ali della colomba, the wings of the dove and then, the teeth of the dragon. Perhaps papa was sometimes tough and sometimes gentle but truth is in a sea of women he’s the only man in the office and on the team. Always a solid and delicious red blend, satiating and satisfying. Drink 2022-2025.  Tasted June 2022

The reds of Fattoria del Colle Trequanda

Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Fattoria del Colle Trequanda) Cenerentola 2018, DOC Orcia

Fattoria del Colle was where Sant’Egidio from Querciola made his hermitage, a saint from the XII century about whom very little is known. Livio Socini bought the estate in 1919 because “it was a real bargain.” As a wine from this Trequanda location Cenerentola (meaning Cinderella) was born in 2001, around the same time as the Orcia Consorzio. Her fairytale story is one of winning the prince, who chooses her over her two nasty sisters. The label shows a woman with no face, a pictorial allegory depicting an idea that if you put in all your efforts you can succeed and perhaps also win the prince. The blend is 65 per cent sangiovese and 35 fogliatonda, similar (in DNA only) but surely not the same. A richer, deeper and grippier red as compared with the Leone Rosso, acidity totally different and due to the fogliatonda acting out its passion play as a more beefy, pumped up and macho grape. Drink 2022-2024.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

“We need to explain that this is a wine that is very different than the Brunello and during the harvest we decide which grapes will be for Rosso and for Brunello.” The words of Violante Gardini introduce a wine that respects nature in a very specific vintage, made for freshness, fun and not as a baby Brunello. “Otherwise it will be a disaster. It must have identity, to show this wine in a different way.” The vintage gains importance 2020 because 2020 holds both joy and also grip. It does not try too hard, nor is it asked to do too much. Extraction is low, oak usage big, in botti. Donatella would like the consumer to drink this young but this vintage will do well for a minimum three plus years. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

This Brunello is 38,000 bottles while the Prime Donne is only 3,000 and the third Annata (Progetto) is 3,300 (in 2017) to a maximum of 10,000 bottles made from a blind tasting by four women (including two masters of wine, Madelaine Stenwreth and Rosemary George) sampling top quality sangiovese aged in different barrels. This largest quantity Brunello was picked at exact maturation time, requiring 18 pickers and no stopping until the harvest was done. Freshness, aromatic clarity from northern Montalcino and equilibrium are the result. Bigger than many vintages with acidity captured through that haste plus fine, if still somewhat austere tannins. As good as it gets for the vintage in this style. Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva means “the best of the best, thinking about the future and expressing sangiovese in a wine that will become one for celebration. It must tell the story of a long life, eventually with more things to say.” As if one needed a clarification about a Donatella Riserva and yet these words from daughter Violante place you in a frozen trance, if only until the next wine is poured. Tannins are still in charge but the wine is beginning a new chapter. Look ahead one year for new words in and out of the glass.  Last tasted June 2022

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

Riserva is a wine “to celebrate the best moments of your life” explains Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini and in this case of more structured vintages you would have to exercise more patience. Those rigid sangiovese will be even better in the future but if you want to taste a superstar Riserva right now you can choose 2015 for such an experience. Just now entering this stage though not without continuing grip and plenty of pop. Boundless energy, warming and with chewy fruit all the way through. Definitely evolving faster than 2016 yet still quite a ways away from 2013. Even so both are in “the zone.” Drink 2022-2026.  Tasted June 2022

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Riserva is about times that will come. “Maybe you tell a story today that you will describe differently at another time in your life, or something new or different will become evident in those times.” Now fully entrenched in the secondary tales of its life, still with great pulse and presence. Some dried fruit and baking spice, good tart edges and boundless character.  Last tasted June 2022

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino “Io Sono Donatella” DOCG 2015

The first vintage of Io Sono Donatella was 2010, as a response to journalist comments on wines that were “different.” And so Donatella decided to say this is what I am and who I am. It remembers studying gold and enamels from the Middle Ages. Also made in 2012, 2013 and 2016. This ’15 is the current vintage made from only barrel. This is Brunello and not a Riserva, aged no more than 26 months and finished in cement eggs. The best expression of what Donatella likes and wants, from the vineyard, but then the women place hearts on the barrels to signify which she is to choose from. The most concentration but even more important is this tightly wound spool of acid and tannin making for the most profound barrel expression of Donatella’s Brunelli. Certainly more power and longevity here as compared to the other ‘15s. Wait two years. Drink 2024-2033.  Tasted June 2022

Good to go!

godello

From Casato Prime Donne to the western hills of Montalcino and beyond

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