What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

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. On Monday, November 23, 2020 I will play host and moderator for the third of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino” will celebrate the region’s young sangiovese. The webinar will welcome winemaker and Consorzio Vice-President Giacomo Bartolommei with his Caprili Rosso 2018; Brunello, Montepulciano and Chianti Classico producer Antonio Michael Zaccheo Jr. and his Carpineto Rosso 2016; Robin Shay of San Polo with their Rosso 2017; and for comparison, Alessandra Angelini be will showing her Altesino Brunello 2015.

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

#torrecampanaria

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the GalestroArenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. Montalcino. Village at 564 metres above sea level and many vineyards reside at a similar altitude. Plots, blocks and Italy’s most famous village overlooking great swaths of rolling valleys; Asso, Orcia, Arbia, Ombrone. The first known wine label dates back to the 1800s and the DOC was recognized in 1966. Brunello was afforded DOCG status in 1980, Italy’s first, followed by Rosso as a DOC in 1984.

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

 

What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market

 

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Brunello’s maximum yields are eight tonnes per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine) and the aging requirement is five years (six for Riserva), of which two must be in oak barrels, followed by four months in bottle. It may be introduced to market on January 1st of the 5th year after harvest (January 1st of the 6th year for Riserva). Rosso’s maximum yields are nine tonnes per hectare and it may be introduced to market on September 1st of the year after harvest. There are nine million bottles of Brunello and half that of Rosso produced on average each year. More than a quarter are certified organic and/or biodynamic and that is double as compared to just five years ago. Seventy per cent of the wines are exported. Current vintages on the market are 2015 for Brunello, 2018 for Rosso.

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.

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.

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

What about Rosso vintages?

2018: A vintage from which acceptance is required, to seek pleasure only, not to look too deep into the future. The kind of tart and tang on cherry and more cherry is what you want from sangiovese meant for the table each and every night. Freshness and youthfulness is a beautiful thing. The wildcard of 2018 is sprezzatura, which translates as contempt but refers to Rosso with old school structure and texture in defiance to the average or general lightness of vintage. Some 2018 Rosso just have that disregard for normal.

2017: The driest and hottest of vintages and so making really high quality Rosso was like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill. If you did it a day late you were likely going to come up a dollar short. If you got it right you made great wine with surprising structure. Advice to Sommeliers? Don’t miss out on selling Rosso from 2017.

2016: These are Rosso for Rosso sake, discriminant, linear, and vertical. If Rosso can be spiritual they would be these, poignant and so good. In 2016 these are the acids of Montalcino and the depth of earth which holds you firm in the face of a fluent perfume. What you need to know and what you want to drink. Rosso in 2016 should be crispy and crunchy with juicy fruit in the savoury candy way up against high and ripe acids. When this happens the best of the 2016 Rosso can live for a dozen years.

2015: So many Mediterranean wine regions reaped huge benefits from the 2015 growing season but I’ve not personally seen such an across the board level of quality from a group of structured wines as I saw in the Rosso Annata. You would have to go back to 2010 to find a vintage with a near-chivalrous level of generosity and as far back as 2001 for its equal. That said I would suggest with extreme prejudice that 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is the vintage to change your mind about its quality and its ability to stand alone. As an entity, the Rosso are produced from grapes farmed explicitly for a purpose and it is this ’15 vintage that can be used to back up that very proposition. Rosso are fashioned to make a young sangiovese distinctive and antithetical to Brunello, but with the resolution to forge ahead with an intrinsic and personal level of structure. I have tasted several 2010 Rosso in the last year and their remarkable freshness shows just how long they can go.

Altesino

Altesino

Located in the north of Montalcino where you can find the famous Montosoli hill and cru. Giulio Consonno purchased the property in 1970 and Altesino became part of the new Brunello revolution as one of a handful of Brunello producers who pushed for increased quality through the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 2002, the winery changed hands with new owner Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini taking over, adding to Tenuta Caparzo she owned nearby, also to the north of Montalcino. There are approximately 44 acres under vines and 220, 000 annual bottles produced under the winemaking team led by Simone Giunti and Alessandro Ciacci. Altesino is responsbile for not merely introducing but successfully marketing one of Montalcino’s most famous cru wines, Montosoli Brunello, named after the sought after vineyard. Rosso di Montalcino is a selection of sangiovese sourced from the younger vines in the Altesino, Pianezzine, Macina, and Castelnuovo dell’Abate vineyards. North and south combine for an estate Rosso.

Alessandra Angelini earned her undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from La Sapienza University in Romeand participated in research projects designing Formula 1 cars and racing dinghies. In 2013, she began working for Rolls Royce North America designing airplane engines. In 2008 she was a member of the Italian Olympic Sailing team. She returned to the family business of wine and hospitality in 2017.

Emotional tasting through #altesino & @caparzowines with #elisabettagnudiangelini #brunellodimontalcino #montosoli #vignalacasa

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Generally aged right to 10 months is large Slavonian oak barrels. Takes off straight from where 2015 left us, that is to say from fruit and into more fruit, of sangiovese in wild berry form, expected and imagined. Exactitude from winemaker Alessandro Ciacci, polished, crunchy and then more tannic as a vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

Certainly richer and deeper than cousin Caparzo but really just a different child for Elisabetta Gnudi and just as important in its own right. This Altesino Rosso exhibits the ’15 freshness but with a year further under wing it has settled and added some weight, albeit in liquidity, sweet, viscous liquidity. So much joy here. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

Caprili

Caprili is located in the southwestern sector of Montalcino near the small village of Tavernelle. The podere dates back to 1965 after Alfo and his father Alberto Bartolommei decided to buy the property from the Castelli-Martinozzi family and split from the famous Pieve Santa Restituta estate. Alfo’s family originated from Podere Marzolo in the Municipality of Cinigiano (Province of Grosseto). In the same year they planted the first vineyard, still called “Madre” and their first bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from the 1978 harvest was put on the market in 1983. In 1997,  Alfo’s children Manuele, Paolo and Paola took charge of the estate.

Fast forward another couple of generations and 23 further years to arrive in the world of current owner and winemaker Giacomo Bartolommei who is also one of three incumbent Vice-Presidents of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Giacomo’s first actual vintage of Brunello was 2010 though he had been active in the family business for many years prior. 

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Caprili is quite tense, nervous, unable to relax. It pulses with acidity and tannin, structure is certain and intensity over the moon. Welcome to one side of the tracks, the one without compromise and where Brunello is Brunello and over on the other side sangiovese is sangiovese. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2019

 

Carpineto

Carpineto Appodati comprises five Tuscan estates; Dudda and Gaville (Greve in Chianti), Montepulciano, Montalcino and Gavorrano (Maremma). No less than 28 different wines are produced off of the five properties and while their Vino Nobile sangiovese from Montepulciano have garnered the most international accolades, it is the Rosso and Brunello that concerns us most today. After all, as noted by Antonio Michael Zaccheo, Carpineto brings “la Toscana e i suoi vini magliori” to the world.

Carpineto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Carpineto and proprietor Antonio Zaccheo Jr. produce 28 Tuscan labels on five Tuscan estates; Dudda and Gaville (Greve in Chianti Classico), Montepulciano, Montalcino and Gavorrano (Maremma). The Montalcino property is at 450m on a ridge just on the southwest corner to outskirts of the hilltop village. For 2014 it continues to swim in deep, dark and ripe waters but there is an ethereal coolness here and as such makes this a real winner for the season. Just entering an optimum window now it would be hard to figure any reason not to make this a go-to Brunello for the 20/21 and 21/22 winters. Smooth in all ways, most notably the palate and the ganache of chocolate across the finish. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted August 2020

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Carpineto’s is not just an exemplary 2012, it’s a bloody delicious one. The aromatics are pure vintage-related, of the deeper than many (darkening to black) cherry liqueur and the liquid dusty pearls of all things Montalcino sangiovese fruit, acidity and tannin. A very balanced Brunello in all regards, ready to be enjoyed and blessed with structure for five years (plus) moving forward. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted October 2017

Poggio San Polo

San Polo

Poggio San Polo was tarted in 2005 and is situated in Podernovi, on the southeastern slope of the Montalcino hill above the valley of Sant’Antimo with Mount Amiata looming to the south. The locals call this area a “Mezzopane,” meaning that to admire the beautiful view is to ‘take one’s fill’, like food for the soul. Two years later 2007 marked the beginning of the new era for San Polo and the Allegrini family, one of Veneto and Valpolicella’s most famous names in Fumane. The Estate is composed of two holdings: San Polo, planted in 1990 and Monteluc, planted more recently with a density of 7,000 vines/hectare, for a total of 22 hectares, The first winery in Tuscany and the second in the world to have earned the Quality Seal from the CasaClima Wine Certification. CasaClima Wine is a Quality Seal issued by the Bolzano-based agency, created to provide objective, credible evidence of the efforts made by wineries towards achieving more careful management of their business and to assess the environmental compatibility of winery buildings, comfort and suitability of work spaces, consumption of energy and water in the production of wines, choice of packaging materials, as well as the impact of transport.

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

San Polo’s Rosso grows at 400m so it speaks in a high elevation appellative voice. The wine is usually the Allegrini estate’s most floral and mineral expression of sangiovese grosso but then along comes this 2017 vintage. The usual bracing acidity is there but a tripling of warmth is the result of hot ’17, southern vineyard fruit and southern exposure. San Polo dry farms which only accentuates the atypical profile. Most accumulation ever, at least in recent times when it comes to richness, extract and colour. Not a baby Brunello but structure and power are truly there. That said its best years will be the first so get at it and defend the cellar. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February and November 2020

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Lovely sweet candied rose and herbal nose to this sangiovese and for the first time some reduction. Quite intense, locked down, massive and working for a living. Give some credit to this wine. It will settle into a lovely place in a few years time. Drink 2021-2025.  Tasted February 2019

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The vintage is a terrific one for San Polo, transparent in its fruit clarity, inflective of warm south Montalcino vineyards. Località Podernovi is found on the southern slope with Mount Amiata acting as the mitigator for winds whipping in from the sea. The vintage was not a scorcher and how this walks a neither hot nor cold line is how it finds its grace. The fruit and acids are both of the appetizing and epicurean kind, equally opposing and nicely in synch. Lovely freshness to this Brunello. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2019

Good to go!

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Gone Vajra in Piemonte

Stained Glass Window by Padre Costantino Ruggeri and Vajra’s Inox Tanks

Head west from the village of Barolo, climb the SP3 up to 400 metres above sea level and you will arrive in Vergne, the highest village of the regal Piedmontese appellation. This is where the most forward thinking, visionary and traditionally romantic estate of G. D. Vajra is found. Vajra is the house that Aldo and Milena Vaira built, are in the continued process of building (literally) and produce wines along with their children, Francesca, Giuseppe and Isidoro. On a recent December 2019 trip to Piemonte I drove down the A33 from Asti through Alba, skirted Barolo up the SP3 to spend a few hours with Isidoro and Francesca Vaira on a soggy Sunday morning. Vajra’s wines have been trending big time, gaining ground, rising in prominence and spreading fast. I knew it was time to find out why things have gone Vajra.

Family, roots and vineyards. Having talked and tasted with Francesca and Isidoro @vajra_barolo there can be no doubt many words and feelings will follow. Their’s is a story of resilience and constant renewal.

If you engage in obsessive study or even share a casual interest in religious iconography and emblematic ordnance then the term Vajra will no doubt be recognizable. Vajra, a symbolic ritual tool or object used in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism to represent the unyielding power of spirit. Vajra, the symbol of the Vajrayāna school of Buddhism, a type of club with a ribbed spherical head, the “diamond thunderbolt.” The family may not adhere to the far eastern credo or for that matter even mention any possibility of connection, but a listen to their story and a study of their life’s work can be looked at in the emblematic light of ideals relating to indestructibility and irresistible force. An explanation is forthcoming and in due course.

Dude’s getting married next week. No wonder Isidoro Vaira is a happy man.

It’s only one week before his wedding and Isidoro generously takes the time to meet. He begins with a winter’s tale, extolling the virtues of snow cover, which incidentally arrived to the slopes in December and early January, then subsequently disappeared for the remainder of the mild 2020 winter. The Piedmontese saying goes like this. Sotto la neve, il pane, orunder the snow, the bread.” Snow is better than water because it holds more oxygen and encourages the plants to draw more nutrients from the soil. This is an example of generational knowledge because as Isidoro reminds us, when you spend time with your father and the elders “you learn the importance of nature.”

sotto la neve, il pane

under the snow, the bread

Aldo Vaira began this six decades old journey in 1970 with a 0.3 hectare plot at Bricco Viole. The first vintage was 1972, of no ripeness and fruit sold away. He thought “with this money I don’t pay for my work,” and so began to bottle for himself. By 1986 Aldo was farming seven hectares but on the 29th of May the storm of the century killed everything, save for 300 bottles worth of fruit. He was in his mid-30s, with one child already born and two more to come over the next four years. It was what we call the point of calling it quits or forging ahead with no turning back. Milena stepped up, in fortitude, conviction and an ultimatum issued to her husband. Aldo responded, made a life decision and ploughed ahead.

The Vairas began anew, hailstorms occurring five to seven times each decade be damned and dug their heels into the Vergne terra firma.  With experience as a teacher and having built a winery Aldo became affectionately known as Dutur, a dialectical Piedmontese term of endearment which could allude to the word doctor but also as a part of the Italian word for producer, or produttore. Francesca tells me that 1986 is the vintage form which “you could have (or begin) your dream, by being resilient, persistent and move forward.” She shrugs. “It had to be a priority.” And so from 1986 on the Viaras completely changed direction and course.

Thirty-three years have beget great success. Francesca explains the impetuses for how her family goes about their lives. “What we have learned from our parents is not just life and to make wine but a social motivation to have the life of the people. Imagine a life without these things; music, art, books and wine. It’s not possible.” The goal is to make connections. “We need to make wine to make people happy. Our prices are very democratic.” There are always new considerations, like the “diversification of risk” and it has become the ingrained philosophy, in terms of wines and varieties but also the idea of a two-month long picking time. Always diversity, all the time. One step inside the winery and the light shines in. The stained glass windows that adorn the fermentation room are a reflection of everything that is embodied by the Vajra oeuvre.

They hang in their stark and prolate ways as a severe yet arrant contrast to the line of steel tanks below. When Aldo and Milena went to visit the artist at Canepanova Convent in Pavia he answered the door dressed as a Franciscan Monk with a blue hat. A crazy man in a crazy beautiful studio. Padre Costantino Ruggeri was in fact a real monk, ordained a priest in 1951 by Cardinal Schuster in the Cathedral of Milan. That meeting yielded no conclusion for a commission, or so thought the Vairas, that is until the Father showed up with the first installation, in 1989. He was given no instruction or direction. The rest as they say is history and the works are nothing short of magnificent. They succeed, in Ruggeri’s words, “in that moment of light and mystery the stained glass window captures (the infinite) and introduces it naturally into the temple, as a total dimension that is divine as well as human.” The metal that holds the glass is effected a piombo, aplomb, vertical, exact. No two pieces are the same.

What congruence links a Ruggeri stained glass to other masterpieces of art? Gazing upon the padre’s windows elicits a feeling of consonance and beauty is easy to find. They are arranged exactly as they should be, that much is clear. Their power is felt because of their interaction with their cold and utilitarian surroundings. They hold our gaze and work together with us, inexplicably and without reservation. Their universal appeal transfers energy, pivots, solicits our personal and singular nature so that we share in their consonant form.

On June 24th 2007, his last sculptural work representing “Franciacorta’s Facets” was presented in Adro, his birthplace. On the following day, June 25th 2007, Costantino died at the hospital of Merate, near the convent of Sabbianello, where he had spent the last weeks of his life. The spirit of his work carries on at Vajra where 160 different fermentations are carried out because explains Francesca “harvest is the only time of year when you can really learn. If you have to ask for permission then you are not a true artist.” Just like Father Costantino who created without asking.

“Always think of the cherry. The grapes will follow,” reminds Isidoro. Organics. Methodologies. Patience. Picking decisions are made day by day, by brother Giuseppe and by Aldo. For them 2018 was a great nebbiolo vintage, of cold nights and warm days with humidity. The high risk of rainstorms at harvest made for some sleepless nights and the weather was tough on the skins of the grapes. So 100 pickers were employed, to ensure quality but Vajra’s altitude and attitude makes them one of the last to pick so the harvesters were available. They finished on October 22nd and in 2019 on the 23rd. 

On that day in December Francesca poured seven of her family’s wines, including riesling, dolcetto, freisa, barbera and nebbiolo. These are my notes.

G.D. Vajra Riesling Pétracine 2018, Langhe DOC ($55.95)

The law changed to be able to plant in 1985 and a new opportunity arose in 2018 for a vineyard with sandy soil beneath the clay. Going back the first planting came from a Geisenheim clonal selection and planted at the top of the hill above the cru Fossati. The second vineyard is from Marcel Deiss clonal selection material, just outside the Barolo production area. Here a combination of the two, and the first wine that got together was 2011. There’s weight, energy and balance to this riesling and it is so very real. Remarkable verve and youthful freshness and the impression of great aridity. It is in fact quite dry. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Coste & Fossati 2018, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC ($31.95)

From two old cru Barolo vineyards, Coste di Vergne and Fossati, close by to one another at the top of their shared hill. De-stemmed and crushed separately, of vines 40 years in age. If there is dolcetto that carries the structure to age you best believe this is the one. Tannic in its youth, a house with the potential to grow roses in one year and then violets in another. Modern and grounded, better with fresh eggs and delicate proteins, certainly the romantic tartufo Piemondtese. Already teasing something floral but still in a shell and cast under a spell. Wait two years or more. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba DOC 2017 ($31.95)

Like the dolcetto, barbera is drawn off of two vineyards with tow soil types, from Bricco delle Viole and in Serralunga d’Alba, Bricco Bertone. An east-west expression, at once rich and luxurious and then inward, implosive and almost intolerant. Could only be barbera with its sweet fruit and dark berry compote but it’s a variety that needs time, it needs the bottle and then, the glass. Somehow bright through all the dark fruit, like the singular stained glass that allows light to shine in.  Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Kyè 2015, Freisa Langhe DOC ($60.95)

Like the French “C’est qui?” this dialectical freisa is actually two syllables, key-eh, and you cannot define this wine with anything or any other freisa. Darker, woolly and a bit of wild, feral and animale beauty. Like somewhere between red Sancerre and Faugères but bigger, more power and also more control. Herbaceous, iron-clad and hematic. Mimics blood-red preparations of proteins; duck breasts, rack of lamb, venison. Also Rhône-ish and laying somewhere between barbera and nebbiolo. Make your head spin with comparisons when none are correct. There is evidence of climatic cut and biodynamic preparations. Earthy, rich and poignant. Drink 2022-2029.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo DOC 2018 ($34.95)

The Baroli are made from vines minimum 10 years old and the younger vines are used for this Langhe, which includes fruit from Bricco Bertone just outside the territory. Creeps up with its structure, nothing powerful or demanding but nebbiolo architecture nonetheless. Cherries, pencil lead and mountain herbs. Keeps the vineyard faith and accumulates even as it opens which tells us it is also youthfully closed. The potential is two years and thence forth. Tasted from two bottles opened a day apart, the first ready and willing, the second yes at first and then making a request for time. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Coste Di Rose 2015 ($101.95)

A very sandy decomposed peculiar site and soil type rich in Arenaria (sandstone) with the presence of sandstone rocks of quite decent size. The first vintage is this 2015 and from vines 30 years old going up the hill from Bussia. Delivers very pretty fruit of sneaky structure and intent. The rose floral gift of a vineyard, part apposite and part complimentary to Bricco delle Viole. It’s a ventilated place translating to a great freshness in the wine. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted December 2019

G.D. Vajra Barolo DOCG Bricco delle Viole 2015 ($113.95)

An about face in style and character with more dimensions accessed and so many aromatics acquiesced. Vines are 40-80 years old and the handling involves a diversification of treatments; longer maceration and fermentation, up to 45-60 days. A tight, compact and fine-grained construct with so much taken from the beneficial skins and the assistance of a submerged cap (a merso) during that fermentation (in stainless steel), followed by at least 24 months in large casks, some 25hL and some 50 hL. Some tonneaux but just as an addendum. Such a tactile nebbiolo, fruit of presence and intricacy out of a Cru that is felt as much as it is nosed or tasted. It’s not just a matter of nebbiolo and Barolo but a thing of great importance, mainly tradition and family. Drink 2023-2034.  Tasted December 2019

Good to go!

godello

Stained Glass and Inox Tanks

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Chianti Classico’s big Raddese

Radda Rocks

Modern discourse concerning the sangiovese of Chianti Classico submits to a motif of matters integral and essential in observing a common style found in the territory’s wines. While the variegate of soils in clay, limestone, schist and sandstone decomposed into the Galestro, Alberese, Macigno, Calcari, Colombino and Arenaria are the lifeblood, it is acidity that acts as the crux and the catalyst for elevating these particular sangiovese. Matters swell, flow and develop even deeper when communes, sub-zones and frazioni are taken into account. In the case of Radda there is an exacting set of acidities that come to the forefront of these wines. They are the big Raddese.

Related – Get Radda for Chianti Classico

Radda in Chianti

L’Associazione “Vignaioli di Radda”

L’associazione “Vignaioli di Radda” ha come scopo principale la diffusione della cultura vitivinicola di Radda in Chianti presentando strumenti, provvedimenti e politiche che sostengano la viticoltura, ed in particolare la produzione di vino di qualità. The association of vignoli, a group of producers with the mission to spread Radda wine culture by presenting tools, measures and policies that support viticulture, and in particular the production of quality wine.

Val delle Corti, Radda

Radda’s 24 produttori are a strong and unified unit. They are Allesandro Gallo (Castello di Albola), Alyson Morgan (Podere Capaccia), Andrea Samichelli (Cantina di Castelvecchi), Angela Fronti (Istine), Barbara Widmer (Brancaia), Bernardo Bianchi (Colle Bereto), Claudia Guercini (Terrabianca), Cristina Grilli (Podere Terreno), Daniele Ciampi (Castello di Monterinaldi), Diego Finnochi (L’Erta di Radda), Federica Mascheroni (Castello di Volpaia), Gabriele Rosi (Borgo Salcetino), Ilaria Anachini (Fattoria di Montemaggio), Martino Manetti (Montevertine), Michele Braganti (Monteraponi), Orsola Beccari (Vignavecchia), Oscar Geyer (Borgo la Stella), Paolo Cianferoni (Caparsa), Piero Lanza (Poggerino), Riccardo Lanza (Pruneto), Roberta Contrino (Podere L’ Aja), Roberto Bianchi (Val delle Corti), Stefano Peruzzi (Castello di Radda) and Valentina Stiaccini (Tenuta di Carleone).

Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce to you, Roberto Bianchi @valdellecorti

In the words of Roberto Bianchi. “Large and small we are all aware of being guardians of a very special spot of Tuscany. The differences of wine production within a territory is its greatest asset. As for the vintage, ’18 is complicated with a bit of greenish tannins. The heat and then rain, followed by two weeks of tropical humidity in late August. Higher elevations were a real plus, despite the factor of less concentration but those who hung longer and avoided mold and mildew made elegant wines.” Climate change has opened the door for this fringe commune to take centre stage.  Says Bianchi, “other communes have tremendous problems of overheating. We don’t have that problem in Radda.”

Nadia Fournier, Philippe Boisvert, Carl Villeneuve-Lepage and Krysta Oben at Casa Chianti Classico

In the words of Godello when last he waxed on about Radda. “Most likely you’ve arrived at this page because you know that the story of Radda in Chianti will make for a terrific read. If you’ve landed here and do not yet know the blood of Radda’s sangiovese or are not yet excited about the commune’s 2017 harvest then I urge you to press on. In Radda they are farming higher, further and edgier. Their time in the sun as the cool kid on the fringe of selvage sangiovese viticulture in Chianti Classico has begun. Like all wines subjected and connected to global climate change, in Chianti Classico the future of sangiovese will be inextricably tied to those from Radda. Until now it has been generally understood that above 550m (or so) of altitude it is more than difficult to ripen sangiovese in Chianti Classico. That too is changing and the 2017 vintage will offer great proof.”

Canadians at Val delle Corti, Radda in Chianti

In September 2019 a fourth visit to Casa Chianti Classico in the past three years could only yield a deeper understanding. The educational and promotional home of the Consorzio is housed in what was once the Franciscan Convento di Santa Maria al Prato in Radda in Chianti. It is here that the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico has set up its new education and events centre to promote the wines of the Gallo Nero. This time around 13 professional, intrepid and curious Canadian sommeliers and journalists attacked a comprehensive tasting of Radda’s sangiovese. John Szabo M.S., Nadia Fournier, Philippe Boisvert, Jean-Sébastien Massé, Carl Villeneuve-Lepage, Christina Hartigan, Robert Stelmachuk, J.P. Potters, Toni Weber, Krysta Oben, Faye MacLachlan, Adam Hijazi and Godello. A visit earlier in the day with association president Roberto Bianchi at his Val delle Corti property opened 26 eyes to Radda’s high, cool and fringe possibilities. Here are tasting notes on 30 such examples replete with the commune’s big Raddese acidity.

Chianti Classico Annata

Poggerino Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

You must walk these Radda vineyards to understand what’s in this glass. Regard the way the rows of vines change colour in September and give up a variability of timing. It is these stops along the way where winemaker Piero Lanza makes his picks then crushes, macerates and collectively ferments. It results in the most seamless, albeit high alcohol, glycerin and textured sangiovese. It is Chianti Classico made precisely the way it needs to be made from this very specific place. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February and September 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

What has one year brought to Annata ’16? Not much to be honest. A roundness of Raddese acidity has come about. A result of slow and steady work in the vineyard that strays away from acidity that disturbs but instead allows for a doming effect, a cappello sommerso, a rounded cap with help from what was done inside the walls.  Last tasted September 2019

Just bottled and I mean just bottled, a sangiovese of bright red to purple fruit with a 30-40 per cent assistance by what Roberto Bianchi employs through fermentation called piemontazino, or macherazione carbonica a capello sommerso. Leaving 30-40 per cent of the fruit in stainless steel tank on skins for three to four months. Tames the Raddesse acidity for the Annata and makes it more than drinkable. In 2016 it’s crushable, back up the truck gulpable. Beauty in sangiovese “questa, è radda.” This, is Radda. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Brancaia’a Barbara Widmer with Vancouver’s Christina Hartigan

Brancaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (519173, $24.95)

Brancaia ’17 shows some breath of fresh restraint air out of a vintage not exactly simple to effect. There is some glycerin and also some warmth but there too is balance and joy. Solid ’17, the kind I’d like to meet. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 ($31.95)

Bernardo Bianchi’s 2017 benefitted from the most stringent if mechanical sorting process to bring about a clean, transparent, effusive and spiced Annata. It’s modern and also refreshing, fully expressed and crunchy, as Radda should be. Not one for the ages but clearly high level in its class. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Volpaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2017 (953828, $28.95)

Pretty taut for Volpaia though truth be told this Radda sangiovese always requires some time. Fullness of fruit and equally supportive acidity meets the texture of altitude and the advantage of acumen. There are layers here that many ‘17s will just not have, exhibit or develop. A tour de vintage force really. Drink 2021-2028. Tasted February and September 2019

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

A young, tense and reductive Annata, not yet responsive, quiet and bashful. Plenty of fruit lurking and needing some air to open up. A touch of green tannin on the back end. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Walking on Alberese with Angela Fronti in her @istine_raddainchianti and #cavarchione Gaiole in Chianti vineyards ~ #chianticlassico #vignaistine #vignacavarchione

Istine Chianti Classico DOCG 2017

Angela Fronti’s come together of twofold Radda plus Gaiole vineyard fruit is the future of crafting balanced and understandable Annata. In the world of changing climates you will need to balance elevations, acidities and ripenesses in order to keep Chianti Classico on point. Welcome to the microcosmic confluences of Istine, with fineness, fruit and spice. Some solid tension too. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Lovely glycerin and elastic sangiovese not without a generous component from barrel. A touch of greenish tannin from that wood but plenty of fruit to swallow it up, or at least will do so in time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Tasted with Orsula Beccari in Radda in Chianti, from a just about ready barrel sample. The dusty rose and violet perfume, pretty and savoury of a particular Vignavecchi localitá nose. This is the Macigno and the Alberese speaking, of elegance woven through structure. Lovely purity. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2018 and September 2019

Castello Monterinaldi Chianti Classico DOCG Dall’Anno Mille 2016 (383604, $19.95)

A huge leap in quality for the Radda producer, clearly a sign of work put in the vineyard and steps towards making the right, correct and delicious local sangiovese. A really textural wine and of really fine acidity. Molta buona. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted September 2019

Castello di Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2016 (339937, $19.95)

Albola’s are some of the highest of any vineyard not only in Radda but in Chianti Classico, ranging from 350-680m of elevation. The average age of the vines is around 20 years, and since 1999, 10 hectares have been replanted per year. The Acciaiuoli family of Florence built the Castle in the 15th century and commissioned the estate to plant in the 15th century as a symbol of their high status. The estate was acquired in 1979 by the Zonin family. The Annata is aged in 3,400-liter Slavonian grandi botti for a year, followed by three months in bottle. In a changing climate the ripeness of this sangiovese and with help from an ideal vintage means the highest level of glycerin red fruit, sweet savour and silky tannins. Top shelf stuff in 2016. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Sweet fruit, simple, red and ripe, all red berries, nothing flashy or fashionable. Straightforward and a touch into the syrup. Drink 2019.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Terreno Chianti Classico DOCG 2016

Terreno’s lights are flashing with sangiovese of bright fruit and ultra high tones. That said there is a macerated and extracted depth to this, with layered acidity and grippy tannins. It’s very youthful and not showing its best, at least not yet. Might allow the shell to be cracked in a year or more likely two. Drink 2021-2027. Tasted February and September 2019

Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

Riserva follows the ’16 Val delle Corti line, a selection from the original 45 year-old vines and young beyond estate compare. A visceral, glycerin-collective, more perfume inclusive of what grows and yet the attack of acidity is ulterior, of another motive all together, relatively speaking as compared to the Annata. This is Riserva of truth and potential, to live longer than those wishing and crying out for immediate rich attention. This does not beg for anything. You should let it lie, allow it to breath and drink it in. Later. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Val Delle Corti Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Much, much hotter than ’16 and now with two more years of bottle age, which is so necessary. There is an emergence of floral spice, a tickling, salty that gets in the sense of smell and wakes you up. Enlivening vintage of sangiovese Riserva from Bianchi. Also comforting so it does both for you, with great generosity.  Last tasted September 2019

The 45 year old vines are responsible for this single cru, 100 per cent sangiovese that while older is yet bolder than the barrel sample tasted of 2016. Here you feel the hottest weeks of the summer, less elasticity, fluidity and fluency than that 2016. And yet it is so intuitively elastic, fluid and fluent in mineral rich, marly limestone soil. Here from the Corti Valley on the east facing slope above the river below. Richness, weight and red fruit so specific to this place meets the Radda acidity head on but can’t help but be submissive and respectful. Pure expression of estate, valley and commune. Truly. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted September 2018 and February 2019

Caparsa Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Caparsino 2016

From Paolo Cianferoni on a 12ha Radda estate at 450m. A citrus note lines the aromatic front, almost white grapefruit but also bleeding red, of pomegranate and red currant. Lovely mid palate, pure and purely ’16, with purest Radda acidity and chaste laser focus. Great attention to detail in the vineyard is more than apparent, translating with utmost unalloyed and unsullied clarity straight down through the glass. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (260802, $36.95)

Perhaps the richest Brancaia Riserva to date while keeping the supporting parts bin balance, movement and support right alongside. Namely acidity, Radda acidity to be sure and the most proper and correct actions to boot. Does everything it should, it needs and what you wish for from the house and the place. Will be long-lived and accept plenty of secondary notation; balsamic, iodine, tartufo and porcini. Can’t wait. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (705335, $40.00)

A perfectly brilliant Riserva from Radda’s Volpaia in ’16, not exactly shocking but nothing taken for granted. Texture is the greatest portent and harbinger for time, age worthiness and slow melt. The linger of collective parts all in synch also bodes to the future, well, good and timeless. Timely wine right here, tidy and generous. Would only be normal to imagine what the Gran Selezione Il Puro will do but then again curiosity plus knowledge leads to great anticipation. For now the present moment concentration allows the foreshadowing to speak of a 15 year run in excellence for this top echelon Riserva. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Podere l’Aja Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016

A linear sangiovese in the finest sense of fruit crashing through acidity, each taking on a component of the other. Bright, lifted and effusive there is red and more red, low in savour and high in energy. Should find some good distance from this Raddese. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Albola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2016 (315150, $23.95)

Great strides, long strides, strides in the shadows of Radda at the end of harvest. The eloquence is understated and the fullness of fruit quite impressive, though not without the work of the Radda acidity. Just a touch of tonic late indicates that mid-term aging is the product of a correct imagination. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted September 2019

Castello Di Monterinaldi Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Dall’anno Mille 2016

Lovely vintage in Riserva form for Daniele Ciampi, of fruit sweetly developed, ripe and effusive. Full extract, tang and force all combine to grip the palate and keep it all swimming upstream. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted September 2019

Istine Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Levigne 2015

The amazing confluence of Gaiole and Radda come about as a variegation of all possible soils and climates. It’s a lovely generational wine that bridges worlds, places and people. Fine structure makes the fruit seem plentiful, as it obviously is and allows the wine to stretch, whisper and then speak within control, but especially with emotion. Buona. Better than before. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

No disrespect intended and in fact a great compliment is paid to winemaker Bernardo Bianchi for his ability to craft exceptional Chianti Classico in the most difficult of vintages. That his 2013 and 2014 Riservas were two of the better efforts for Radda’s terroir and the great curving amphitheatre of Colle Bereto vineyards is a testament to the ethic and the ethos. This 2015 is clearly a polished and generous sangiovese from a vintage that was almost too easy for a man of Bianchi’s modesty and talents. The wood only adds to the smooth textures and plentiful flavours and it is these barrel notes that here are more obvious if respectful in their obvious interference. Once again highest quality tannin works with the sangiovese and the specific Radda acidity. Drink this earlier than the others. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted September 2019

Podere Capaccia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2015

Unique aromatics, part violet floral and part carbonic. Very fresh especially for Riserva, full of candied notes over stones, rocks and savour. Not overly extracted or pushed in any way, just comfortable and of a simple, lively and fun acidity. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG Bugialla 2016 ($45.00)

Some Chianti Classico just are; exact representations and looks of knowing, mirrored or not, of who they are. But even more so, where they are from. On the bigger and brighter side in balance of Radda, of a specific vineyard site and within clear, knowable and transparent sight. So proper and distinguished, if schooled by essential knowledge and possibility.  Last tasted September 2019

Piero Lanza’s selection is so smart, protracted and tidy within the framework of what a Poggerino Riserva just happens to be. It’s almost as you find yourself scanning the vineyards and your mind’s eye settles on a few perfect plants. You taste the berries from those vines and imagine them bound together in wine. This is the sangiovese mimic of those isolated points of a very special vineyard and also a perfectly constructed stone house in Gaiole, variegated, tightly intertwined and just beautiful to behold. Perfectly streamlined, built to last a few hundred years, but I would suggest to drink it 280 years before that. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2019

Pruneto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2011

Savoury, liquid dusk and dusty, from a grippy vintage and showing some age. Bretty and gritty, noticeable volatility and some angst. Drink 2019.  Tasted September 2019

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG

Castello Di Radda Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

Deep toned and lifted together, fruit of many layered splendour and full throttle acidity. Big and bigger components working separately at present. Give this five years for the weight of the early ferment to aerate, re-coagulate and tie il all together. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted September 2019

Borgo Salcetino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG I Salci 2015

Glycerin fruit, full ripeness on the palate and a touch of verdancy in the phenols. Rich and unctuous, perfectly heady and bountiful sangiovese for the shorter splurge and be content term. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted September 2019

Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG Odoardo Beccari 2015

There really is nothing else in Radda that emits the aromas of a Vignavecchia sangiovese. Like sweet fennocchio but a slow-cooked, rendered and caramelized one. Also contrario of an unwashed rind sheep’s milk cheese. There’s an acidity of effusion and then a verdant note, a legume, like lentils cooked down. Plenty of gastronomy here while missing a step of structure so abundant in the ’14. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted September 2019

Castelvecchi Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG “Madonnino Della Pieve” 2012

Big-boned, roasted osetta of a sangiovese with compounded and hyperbolized mountain savour. There is so much brushy green botanical presence here, prescient and possessive of great staying power. Needs time. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted September 2019

Good to go!

godello

Radda Rocks

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Conceptual and aesthetic Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino, 6pm

October 2019

Montalcino. Harmony and Unesco Heritage Centre of a surface area totalling 31,200 hectares, 3,660 of which are vineyards planted predominately to sangiovese. An accord of 2,100 to Brunello di Montalcino and 510 for Rosso di Montalcino, delineated and defined in consensus by the late 1990s, set into the Galestro, Arenaria and Calcare soils on hills and over valleys in surround of its medieval village. The merits of change, alteration or expansion have been debated, voted upon and ultimately dismissed every three years and so there has yet to pass any thought of increase or reconfiguration. Neither for Rosso nor for Brunello. What was learned on this particular October visit? For one thing the idea that patience, exactitude and static sobriety are assumed of a confident Montalcino. That and the new discourse concerning both a conceptual and an aesthetic Brunello di Montalcino.

Montalcino. Typically a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cold winters, 700 millimetres of annual precipitation and a moltitude of soils; alluvial fluvio-lacustrine, clay, clayey-marine, sandy-marine, limestone, sandstone, shale, siltstone, magmatic rock. Argille, Calcare, Sabioso, Galestro, Alberese, Macigno, Arenaria. In every permutation, inculcation and combination, though the understanding in Montalcino is perhaps more readily defined because the pockets of specific soils are large and often uniform. This means that diversity and complexity can be distilled into a deeper and knowable comprensione. The confidence of Montalcino.

Brunello 2019

I’m not a clairvoyant. If nothing out of the ordinary happened or presented itself I’d still see things the way everyone else does, or sees. In that sense I am the epitome of the boring writer. But I am a most fortunate writer because I travel a considerable amount and during a most recent visit to Montalcino extraordinary things were in fact presented to me. My game can’t help but to be elevated with the knowledge that a confident Montalcino is once again passing through a portal into a time of re-invention. In due course I will explain.

Road to Montalcino

Montalcino. Village at 564 metres above sea level and many vineyards reside at a similar altitude. Plots, blocks and Italy’s most famous village overlooking great swaths of rolling valleys; Asso, Orcia, Arbia, Ombrone. The first known wine label dates back to the 1800s and the DOC was recognized in 1966. Brunello was afforded DOCG status in 1980, Italy’s first, followed by Rosso as a DOC in 1984.

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

Montalcino sunset

Brunello’s maximum yields are eight tonnes per hectare (approximately 52 hl/ha of wine) and the aging requirement is five years (six for Riserva), of which two must be in oak barrels, followed by four months in bottle. It may be introduced to market on January 1st of the 5th year after harvest (January 1st of the 6th year for Riserva). Rosso’s maximum yields are nine tonnes per hectare and it may be introduced to market on September 1st of the year after harvest. There are nine million bottles of Brunello and half that of Rosso produced on average each year. More than a quarter are certified organic and/or biodynamic and that is double as compared to just five years ago. Seventy per cent of the wines are exported. Current vintages on the market are 2014 for Brunello, 2017 for Rosso.

Related – Awash in Brunello di Montalcino

Most of the October visits were arranged and facilitated through the auspices and generosity of the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino. President Fabrizio Bindocci, Vice-Presidents Giacomo Bartolommei, Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Riccardo Talenti. Director Giacomo Pondini and Consorzio facilitator Martina Iannotta. One month after returning from Italy the Consorzio paid us a visit here in Toronto for a gala event and 2015 vintage preview at Alfonso Iaccarino’s two Michelin-starred Don Alfonso 1890.

We traversed the roads and landscape in covering much of the parts that make up the whole of Montalcino. We being a group of four, two Canadians and two Americans; Christopher Sealy, graduate of French Language and Literature Degree from University of Toronto, Sommelier and Wine Director of Toronto’s Alo Restaurant Group. Cathrine Todd, a.k.a Dame Wine, New York, WSET Diploma graduate, Freelance Wine Writer, Forbes Contributor and the Wine Columnist for La VOCE di New York. Jeffrey Porter, Sommelier, Consultant, Educator, NYC-based beverage professional with over 18 years experience in retail and restaurants. Now starring in his video series creation, SipTrip Italy, an exploration of many of Italy’s best wineries and wine regions: the ultimate Italian wine adventure.

Related – Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Cathrine Todd, Godello, Jeff Porter and Christopher Sealy

Conceptual versus aesthetic function

Consider this phrase. “Discontinuity attains a level of aesthetic creation.” If we look at this through the lens of conceptual versus aesthetic truth and apply it to the Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino then we are on to something. Examples of both are what define the appellations in southern Tuscany. A tradition exists in which making wines is ensconced in rational truth but these last two decades have seen a wave of aestheticism rival, take over and even surpass that of rational winemaking behaviour. The wave of richness, ripeness and over-oaking the local sangiovese is not over and there still persists many pockets and factions of IGTism. To each his own and yet the pendulum has begun to swing with more producers coming back to basics. The neo-conceptualization of Montalcino sangiovese has returned a freshness to Brunello and the gleaning is real because a greater void has opened up for all to share. It’s a mathematical game of philosophical implication.

Part of a week’s pasta induced coma thanks to Montalcino. #gnocchialtartufo

“Continuous functions are of utmost importance in mathematics, functions and applications. However, not all functions are continuous. If a function is not continuous at a point in its domain, one says that it has a discontinuity there.” Sangiovese and even more so grape varieties like merlot and cabernet sauvignon grown in the Montalcino hills form a discrete set, a dense set, or even the entire domain of the territory’s function. They are examples of appellative discontinuities “in the simplest case of functions of a single real variable taking real values.” They are wines that represent the aesthetic function.

Let me count the ways. Comfort and classicism from Mario, Anna and Michele at Il Giglio, Montalcino

Sangiovese of purity, honesty, transparency and a sense of place are those that hold court for the conceptual truth of Montalcino. They are neither better or worse than their aesthetic brethren and sistren but they are making themselves open for discovery in 2019, 2020 and beyond. If you travel to the region at this time you will collide with them and their makers because they are crying to be heard. In October of 2019 I heard from both sides and their stories were expressed in understated forms of beauty, at times in the varietal austerity of the times and at others quite spiritual. In all cases we are taught that we are nothing and that we are all deserving of life. And to taste the wines from Montalcino. Wabi, if you will.

The visits

Le Ragnaie Winery was established in 2003 by the Campinoti Family. The estate follows the guidelines for organic agriculture and the vineyards are divided into three distinct parcels throughout Montalcino which allows the production of three diverse Brunello terroir. There is no usage of fertilizer but instead cover crops are planted of legumes, clovers and grasses.
 This helps to regenerate the land after a long summer season of work and aids in enriching the organic substance of the land all the while penetrating deeply the roots of the various planted species.
 The diversity of plants in the vineyard prevents superficial erosion and instead favours the absorption of water and creates an important habitat for many species of animals and insects.
 This process guarantees the formation of an ecosystem full of life which is essential to the health of the vines.

Le Ragnaie

Riccardo Campinoti at Le Ragnaie poured so many instructive sangiovese that work their conceptual way into his poignant, powerfully restrained and profound Rosso and Brunello. He also afforded a glimpse into two new aesthetic behavioural wines, the Vino Bianco and Fiano. Both are seven day skin-contact Montalcino whites, the first made from estate grown malvasia and trebbiano. They are fashioned like reds, with punch downs and very traditional styles in a Tuscan white vein. The Bianco is all orange skin and lemon arid as it gets but also gelid, surging, textured. The fiano is made for fun, tastes salty and acts so fine. So delicious and only 600 bottles made.

Mario Bollag

At Terralsole Mario Bollag and Athena Tergis Bollag reside on a hilltop peninsula plateau that is surely one of Montalcino’s most beautiful locations. They embrace aesthetic function like no others, in the food they cook, the music they play and the wide array of wines they make. Philanthropy, art, whimsy, generosity, warmth, sangiovese and the only cabernet franc in Montalcino.

Athena Tergis Bollag

Trio is a real “Super Tuscan” because it’s made from international varietals; cabernet franc, merlot and syrah. Takes 18 months in barrel and seven more years in bottle give or take, to be ready. Super fruit forward, super heady and super structured. Now integrated and singing smoothly, silken and fine. Coldoro, Solista and Pasticcio round out the symphony. Their first vintage for Brunello was 2000, 2001 for the Rosso.

Felix and Sabine Eichbauer

Podere Salicutti is in a south-eastern Montalcino location, on route SP 55 towards Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Now in the altruistic stewardship of owners Sabine and Felix Eichbauer who heed the tradition and ideology created by its previous owner, Francesco Leanza. The agriculture and winemaking team remain to keep the promise and the faith for all of the estate lands and and inner workings. They do so as custodians of three essential vineyards, Piaggione, Teatro and Sorgente. We should all look forward to what this power couple and team will bring to the community, wines and landscape of Montalcino.

Cortonesi and Cortonesi

Your next trip to Montalcino must include a stop at La Mannella to discover the conceptual present and future of the area. Tommaso Cortonesi is a young superstar full of spirit who knows and understands the beauty and enchantment of wine. Sangiovese that gives you the feeling of having come through a storm because of simple wines that make you happy with the present moment. Also complex wines of great functionality, pragmatism and all due to great work ethic. Watch Tommaso’s father pumping juice at dusk and you will understand. The future is here, in these hands, with great humility, ethos and promise.

Gianni Bernazzi

The Bellaria Estate first came into being in September 1963, when Assunto Pieri and Bruna Tempori purchased a farmhouse and land in one of the finest and most characteristic Montalcino winegrowing areas. Bellaria’s position just a stone’s throw from the village speaks to its founders’ connection and who else but Gianni Bernazzi could carry forth what his grandfather “Sunto” had set out to accomplish. In ode to his grandfather who passed away in 2018 at the age of 97, a man who in 2017 was one of two remaining original members from the original coalition at the 1967 signing of the Brunello community’s accord. Now Gianni is blessed with extraordinary terroir filled with Galestro schisty clay, iron, Alberese limestone and Arenaria sandstone.

Francesco Ripaccioli

Conversely at Canalicchio di Sopra with Francesco Ripaccioli a Rosso di Montalcino 2018 barrel sample instructs that sangiovese is built on dry extract. It is silky, sensual, full of acidity and fine chiseled tannins. Very giving and also serious but in a nurturing way. The Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 50th Harvest “Canalicchio di Sopra” 2015 barrel sample is a fist full or armistice, liquid cocoa limestone gold, in a desperate state and full of mineral of potential explosive nature and ready to spew graphite and chalk all over the place. It currently sits at 15.6 alcohol and 6.5 acidity. Crazy talk.

Lorenzo Magnelli

At Le Chiuse it was Lorenzo Magnelli who introduced us to a Montalcino speciality, the sparkling Stellare Rosé from the most recently planted vineyard (Pullera) at Il Greppo. This vineyard is destined for Le Chiuse Riserva when Lorenzo’s daughters will be making these wines. For now it’s a no dosage, picked three weeks early, two to three years on lees Rosé made from 100 per cent sangiovese. Quite a lot of sangiovese fruit with high acidity taking this into tart currant territory. An eight hour maceration and healthy hue extraction. Named for Lorenzo’s wife, Stella Renzetti. A wine that says “you can’t have a full barrel and a drunk wife at the same time.” All about happiness, in marriage and making sparkling wine.

Montalcino from Le Chiuse

The sangiovese made by Lorenzo Magnelli are not merely genetic ties to Biondi-Santi. They are without argument some of the most important and expressive Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino in the territory. And they are produced for reasons so intrinsically correct the results perfectly fit the methods. Learning from Lorenzo is the best two hours you could ever hope to spend in Montalcino.

Poggiali

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona estate is located on the South East hillside of Montalcino, close to the medieval village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and to the famous Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona is more than a storied estate and in fact lies in the heart of the Val d’Orcia Park, UNESCO World Heritage. In 1985, after the end of the Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona family, Giuseppe Bianchini took control of the winery that is managed today by his sons and nephews. That includes pro cyclist Paolo Bianchini who moved giros to switch paths en route to becoming one of Montalcino’s most important winemakers.

Poggio di Sotto

Luigina Villadei led us through Poggio di Sotto’s certified organic portfolio. The estate was founded in 1989 on the south-eastern side of Montalcino and in 2011 became part of the ColleMassari family. Monte Amiata looms and protects while sea breezes blow in for a property that enjoys a unique microclimate immediately southeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The same winemaking team of nearly three decades continue to produce sangiovese of great traditional and authentic construct. The sangiovese are timeless, unparalleled for this special part of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and the rising of San Giorgio. Perpetual upholding for decades of generational standards.

Altesino

It would have been a great pleasure to spend another visit with Elisabetta Gnudi nevertheless at Altesino we sipped on aesthetic Palazzo Altesi, made from 100 per cent sangiovese. The barriques used to aged this Altesino IGT for 12-14 months change everything about the way the grape is expressed from Montalcino vineyards. Younger, less experienced fruit succumbs to the silky beauty and vanilla lushness for an elixir that’s just different than the local Rosso and Brunello, Call it international or what you will.

Leonardo Bellaccini

Thankful to Leonardo Bellaccini for driving down from Castelnuovo Berardenga in Chianti Classico to Campogiovanni in Montalcino to walk the San Felice vineyards and pour for us the Brunello only he can make. At San Felice’s Campogiovanni property we walked the vineyards with Leonardo Bellaccini and tasted Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Il Quercione out of the barrel. There is lift and bright character in 2017 despite the desiccation, concentration and aridity but this was well judged, especially in picking time so poly-phenolic ripeness matches the sugars. It’s big and brawny but curiously, magically and mysteriously carries ripe and ripping if round acids. It keeps everything buoyant and alive. There is 2016, a vintage with excess everything, namely fruit and tannin. This is the year where balsamico and vineyard notes speak louder, of Galestro, clay and calcari. There is more balance between all the parts even while the fruit acts deeper, broods more and talks with more barrel adjunct. Big vintage to be sure and will be long lived. 

Filippo Chia

Then there is Filippo Chia. Filippo’s father is painter and sculptor Sandro, considered the leading member (along with Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi) of the Italian Neo-Expressionist movement,  baptized as Transavanguardia by Achille Bonito Oliva. Sandro Chia bought Castello di Romitorio in 1984, producing his first vintage in 1987 from neighbours’ grapes, now the Loacker property. The Martinis, father and son, have been cellar masters at Romitorio for six generations. Said Sandro, “sangiovese aged for five years is the most extreme and also the most naive. It’s sweet and kind and are wines made by dreamers.” Surely one of Italy’s first expressionistic ideas after the unification of 1861, in 1868 it began with Biondi-Santi. Said Filippo. “Inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize sangiovese from Montalcino. I like a Brunello you can drink six months after release, after it’s five years of aging.”

I had been tasting Filippo Chia’s Castello Romitorio wines for a few years and so now it is this discourse, tasting and northwest Montalcino experience that brings it all together. Another sangiovese epiphany. Thanks for your time Filippo. Of dramatic note is the new vineyard Filippo has cleared for Romitorio’s future. You must stand on this rocky, deeply ferric red soil to understand the estate’s position and its future in Montalcino.

Stefano Cinelli Colombini

All visits to Montalcino should conclude at La Fattoria dei Barbi. Barbi has been owned by the Cinellí Colombini family in Montalcino since 1352. The property extends over 350 hectares (865 acres) of fields and vineyards in southern Tuscany, in Montalcino, Scansano and Chianti. Production of Brunello dates to 1892 and Barbi were the first to export it to Europe, America and Asia. Fattoria dei Barbi is now run by Stefano Cinelli Colombini, educator, historian, keeper of tales, lore, mythology and chosen one who continues a story that has seen the Colombini family connected to these lands for more than six centuries.

With Stefano Cinelli Colombini

Stefano Cinelli Colombini’s ability to relive and rejoice every iota of this territory’s history is the crux of everything Montalcino. His deeper understanding is what you need to know and is based in his family’s long time defence of the traditions and values of the culture of Montalcino, whose ultimate and most valuable fruit is the Brunello. A Montalcino education begins with Stefano Cinelli Colombini, in museums housed of edifice and in mind. What a visit.

The tasting notes

The following 56 tasting notes cover the Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino tasted at the 13 estates we visited in October 2019. Hundreds more will follow when I visit Montalcino again in February 2020 for the next edition of Benvenuto Brunello.

Altesino

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016 ($27.95)

Generally aged right to 10 months is large Slavonian oak barrels. Takes off straight from where 2015 left us, that is to say from fruit and into more fruit, of sangiovese in wild berry form, expected and imagined. Exactitude from winemaker Alessandro Ciacci, polished, crunchy and then more tannic as a vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (994095, $56.95)

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

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014 (994095, $56.95)

Making the most of the vintage and a quantity 20-30 per cent down from the norm there is a stoic, classic Altesino benchmark quality about the knowing impression derived. It’s just the thing, the feeling, the absolute confidence and polish and precision, out of fields, through winemaking and into glass. Fruit arises out of savoury ashes and ultimately there’s a sense of inclusion, amenability and proper consciousness. Good acids and fine tannins come about without any overbearing qualities. Fine work to no surprise. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015 ($121.95)

Expect more from Montsoli, open your mind and palate to the possibilities and 2015 will deliver more complex notions as it must and should. Always the savour, the rocks bleeding or rather in 2015 causing the fruit to bleed through acid structure and then tannins, ever-bearing and in charge. Not quite the power and ability of other vintages in this regard but still Montosoli generated. Also a mid-term prospect but clearly destined for a minimum 10 year run. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2014 ($121.95)

Montosli is so antithetical to the Annata, a Brunello cuvee that takes its fruit from a wide gamut of Montalcino sources. The northern Galestro-strewn hill brings brushy and bushy savour, a pinch of salt and plenty of site specific sapidity. The cherry aspect is replete with a charred sense of skins and a dusty, alloy bled feeling. Grippy, taut and structured. We’ll see about Montosoli from 2014 but you can bet on the house. The track record is undeniable. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Fattoria dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012 (928028, $54.95)

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2012

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

Bellaria

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

One year in Slavonian and French oak. In more than one way a deep and developed Rosso though when you look at the iron-rich Galestro vienayrds there’s little surprise. To many this would strike with Brunello immediacy and in fact many producers would make Brunello from this level of juice. There’s some VA though beneficial integration is the command and the order of its ways. Quite ferric and traditional with a salty, near volcanic-esque, certainly mineral vein. A tannic Rosso that will improve with two years time. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted October 2019

Bellaria Estate

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

View of Bellaria

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Spent 28 months in Slavonian and French oak. An extension from the Rosso in every respect; colour, depth, volatility, tannin and the edge of ripeness. The 550-600m of altitude would have been a problem in the past and was indeed in 2014 so don’t come here in search of lush, fruit bomb Brunello. This is sangiovese in requiem for years of time. It’s as grippy, firm, traditional and prim as you are ever going to taste. That said a few minutes of air brings about a swelling of liquid chalky texture. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Gianni Bernazzi and Assunto Peri

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2015

Stratified depth of vineyard layers are so controlling, the sangiovese classically styled, Gianni acting as messenger, custodian and shepherd for this place. It’s all here; Galestro, iron, Alberese, Arenaria, tradition, nonno Assunto and everyone else who made Brunello happen in Montalcino. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2013

Selection of grapes from the oldest (30 year-old) vineyard, 30 months in French oak. First produced in 2006 and now an ode to Gianni’s grandfather who passed away in 2018 at the age of 97. An ode now to a man who in 2017 was one of two remaining original members from the original 16 at the 1967 signing of the Brunello community. Rich, luxurious, deeply traditional and long, with fine tannins and plenty of barrel feel. Old school, wood spiced and spread throughout the mouthfeel, though never cloying or misdirected. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted October 2019

Gianni Bernazzi

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Assunto 2012

A vintage with everything in place and though the barrel speaks with so much deeper resonance there’s a variegation of shadows, sweetness and intensity to watch over you, control you and let you know what’s happening in this place. It has become silky smooth, elongated, angles erased with beautiful curves and acidities everywhere. Fine, from another era and living longer than just about anyone else. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Canalicchio view

Canalicchio Di Sopra

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Gets neither more ripe nor more effulgent than this Rosso from the vintage of extreme heat salvaged by late season rains. From plants that knew when to shut down and protect themselves before being saved by water re-introduced by nature just before harvest. Taut and near bursting so get at these 17s straight away. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Zonazione investigations with Francesco Ripaccioli

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra ” 2014

Quite fulsome and layered for 2014 with a push-pull sensation that charms while conversely creating tension between two vineyards, La Casaccia and Montosoli. More fruit than most from this vintage with thanks to six people making a prudent selection by hand, almost to the point of prejudice. Three passages in the vineyard also led to the clarity, purity and plain fruitiness of what came from these challenged grapes. Explains Francesco Ripaccioli: “What we harvested for Brunello was grapes from all blocks that only added up to a tank and a half as compared to the full 19 of potential out of 2015.” Luxurious sangiovese to be sure and so much better understood with six further months in bottle.  Last tasted October 2019

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

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

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2012

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

New Romitorio vineyard soil

Castello Romitorio

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017 ($28.99)

Re-tasting the ’17 Rosso with Filippo Chia begins like this. “It’s Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill, like making wine in Montalcino. If you do it a day late you’re going to come up a dollar short.” Don’t miss out on selling Rosso from 2017. A good if hot year but this is a cool sector in Montalcino. Some second and third passage French tonneaux to gift a sweeter perfume, a development into pretty rich liqueur, an acidity that keeps on driving, the fruit, the energy and the point.  Last tasted October 2019

A bigger and richer Rosso with fully extracted and rendered red fruit, somewhat sour and ripping, grippy acids and totally present tannins. Needs a year or two to be itself and then drink respectfully of the appellation for five more. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2019

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

Dad (Sandro Chia) bought the estate in 1984, the first vintage being 1987 from neighbours’ grapes, now the Loacker property. Martini father and son, as in cellar master, have been here for six generations. Sandro is known to say this. “Sangiovese aged for five years is the most extreme and also the most naive. It’s sweet and kind and wines made by dreamers.” Son (Filippo) will remind that it’s one of Italy’s first ideas in 1868, after the unification of 1861. Begins with Biondi-Santi. “Inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize sangiovese from Montalcino. I like a Brunello you can drink six months after release, after it’s five years of aging.” This 2015 was bottled, is finished and now as is for three and a half months in. Pretty like the previous declared Annata from Sandro and Filippo Chia but truth be told the level of richness and power is raised up, albeit without any compromise to construct and yes, elegance. The E word applies here, like it or not because this place demands it and you would absolutely know were this messed with, made up or polished by wood, pomp and circumstance. These are some stretched, elastic and elongated tannins. Will extend for hours, days, months and years, open forever, long before it thinks about bouncing back. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted October 2019

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 (236356, $63.95)

Upward push, rising perfume, no bass or very little. Red fruit, clean and fresh as there needs, wants and must be on this ridge at heights above the warmer valleys, from variegated soils, lots of red earth, tons of fine mineral expediency. This is what you want to drink in 2013 Brunello. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

The Rosso that has been produced since 1987, now approximately 30,000-35,000 bottles per year. Six months each in Slavonian oak and in bottle. From the third warmest vintage of the last 100 years. A spicy and well-spiced Rosso from humidity, baked grapes and concentrated fruit at the height of Rosso while finding freshness and accepting being quite high-toned. Speaks resolutely of an accumulated expression for the southern vineyards of the place. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Rossofonte 2015

A cru selection from four blocks at Brunello yields (six tonnes per hectare) and unique for Rosso. Surely no other Rosso di Montalcino noses this way or speaks with such elevated discourse. Quite aristocratic as such, stubborn of acidity and strong in tannin. Not an everyday wine but one with identity, grip and circumstance. Try to understand that this is Rosso from micro activities; vineyards, climate, selection and production. Which means don’t rush though tasting or thinking about this one. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (1065, $84.95)

You can’t help but note the southern Montalcino tone of this fruit first Brunello because there’s just something stingingly distinct about the aromatic tones. It’s a specific savour, direct, grippy and intense. Ages in Grandi Botti, 60-70 hL making for a breadth of fruit, acids and tannins that span a great horizon. Comes from the lighter grey-yellow sand, clay and Galestro soils and it shows in the language of this broad shouldered sangiovese. Lush and perfectly clean. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014 (1065, $72.95)

The only label representing the winery in 2014 is this Annata, inclusive of all the grapes brought forth by Pian Rosso. A highly savoury, sandy Galestro spiced sangiovese that just has to stand of its own accord. Firm, linear and taut. Will age without question or equivocation.  Last tasted October 2019

Ciacci e buono, from the beginning, instilled with confidence, finesse and grace. The fruit is beguiling Brunello sangiovese, sour cherry sweetening and flashing as it sits and you taste. Gathers all the necessary attributes along the forest path, through the well-attended vines and into a cellar ready to make things happen. That they do, with charm and structure. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 (1065)

Unheralded perhaps and should never be considered as such because 2013 is wonderfully expressive, effusive, very much alive. Showing its colours in truth and clarity today. Needed exactly this amount of time. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pianrosso 2015

There was no Pianrosso made in 2014 and so Pianrosso the cru returns from the warm, easy and generous 2015. A large cru with red Galestro soils, deeper in mineral content and so imagine everything magnified, magnetized and hyperbolized. The fruit carries some dried character, surely dark berry flavours and a sweetness of salty sapidity. It’s grippy and tannic but also a touch toasty, sun-dried and roasted. Magnanimous whelp of a Brunello, big-boned, structured and surely capable of developing balsamic, porcini and tartufo character. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted October 2019

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pianrosso 2013

Similar to 2015, Pianrosso is baked and toasty, fruit very much in the dusty, plum, sun-dried dark berry, frutta di bosco and fragola realm. Liquorice leathery and red soil crusted for quite the structural, stylistic and textural variegation.  Last tasted October 2019

Striking aromatics emanate from Ciaaci’s 2013 Pianrosso and you know immediately where it stands and where you will be taken. The level of excellence is noted without hesitation and the launch into taking it all in is done without trepidation. A beautifully lit sangiovese, flitting and twirling, “like a flame dancing in a candle, lighting up your living room.” Great presence and finesse, a tight little strummed set of chords and soulful if traditional harmonies. So beautiful and refined. Drink 2021-2032.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Not simply freshness but unction, fruit culpability and basic perfection. The young vines of five years are just now coming into their speciality, that being quality fruit meeting and melting into more than a modicum of grip and structure. You could pour this Rosso for young Brunello seekers and old Rosso knowers. It will solicit and win over their collective hearts.  Last tasted October 2019

Lovely effulgent fruit in this Cortonesi family Rosso radiates to extrapolate for a 2016 Brunello future, in many ways. First it is this Rosso that benefits from the particular handling, showing in an immediately gratifying plus available sangiovese that drinks with fast-forward Rosso promise and does so on its own terms, for the right Montalcino reasons. Second, even though the producer’s approach to Brunello is another matter in which generally speaking it deals only with older vines, it is this youthful exuberance and wealth of amenability meeting attack that bodes well for the impending grandi vini. It is here that we see the present and the future of Rosso di Montalcino and the respect it is both given and deserved. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2014

Mostly from the youngest vineyard above the winery on the way up and on the northeast side of the Montalcino hill. No more than six months in big barrel in terms of elévage. Still quite fresh for Rosso and from the challenge of the vintage. Carries a texture too, almost like a dry candy melting, with liquorice and herbal undertone by summer savoury. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (279083, $66.00)

I’d like to say the tannins on 2015 Annata are sneaky but they are so much more than that. These are grippy, layered and nearly formidable tannins. Good thing the easy, generous and lush fruit is somehow capable of defending itself. Boom this is one of Tommaso Cortonesi’s most accomplished Annata and more capable of aging than even he would probably have guessed he was making. Power and beauty. This is that and more. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Like the same vintage Rosso the Brunello is showing with perked up freshness and almost no development. Slavonian oak and just the right amount of time has elevated the game and brought all the parts into line. There’s fresh porcini in this moment so no matter that Tommaso found none on a quick forage today. Good earth and crunch from in depth older vines construction and very impressive length. Fine quality for 2014 from a producer to look for when adversity tests your mettle.  Last tasted October 2019

Cortonesi works through the challenge with a sangiovese in 2014 that finds critical mass and therefore celebrates la vita bella in Brunello. With no reason to choose a Vigna-designate nor a Riserva to produce, the best of the best therefore finds its way into this eponymous family Brunello. It’s equipped with notable vintage fruit, finer acids than many and a tannic structure that is not only correct but highly promising. Lengthiness is one of the best in the vintage. Drink 2023-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2005

Quite evolved, certainly a bottle specificity and now diving well into the funghi and the porcini. That said I sense and even think these to be classic 2005 acids still moving upwards while the fruit settles into an ulterior classic pool of liqueur. Just a moment’s amaro and plenty of languishing action, with or without anguish. Drink 2019-2021.  Tasted October 2019

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010 ($202.95)

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

With Tommaso Cortonesi

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

Lorenzo Magnelli

Le Chiuse

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Chosen from the bigger clusters aged in the youngest barrels for one year. “Rosso must reflect sangiovese’s character more than any other wine,” insists Lorenzo Magnelli. Balance is key and perhaps more of a challenge out of ’17 so expect more flint (soil) and spice (fruit and wood) in this vintage. “For our culture this is the most important wine, it’s what we drink daily.” Morbido, with spice and frankly just plain get me delicious. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

Le Chiuse delivers one of the realer deals in 2014 Brunello, with admirably pleasing and concentrated fruit set against a traditional backdrop of ripe acidity, minor Brettanomyces and full-bodied tannins. As it’s not an overly perfumed sangiovese it bucks the vintage trend if only because it avoids botrytis-affected atypical aromas. It’s quite a rich 2014, certainly a bit volatile and capable of going longer than most. Finishes by leaving you a linger of its chewy mouthful. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2019

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010

“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

Riccardo and Godello

Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016 ($45.00)

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($115.00)

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 ($114.00)

Forty days on skins from a vintage of beneficial balance acting out of cool weather. The content and concentration are from the long maceration, not from hard pressing or mechanization. Now eighteen months since last tasted it has come into elasticity and more length. It’s the real deal.  Last tasted October 2019

Le Ragnaie farms four vineyards in the central zone of Montalcino; Vigna del Lago, Vigna Fonte, Vigna Cappuccini, Vigna Vecchia but also plots in Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Petroso close to the village. It is the gathering of contrastive and complimentary fruit that deals in defining an estate stylistic for the Classica Brunello. Le Ragnaie’s emits the most exotic perfume of almost any of the oft-stingy ‘13s, in fact this brings a level of fragranza that’s almost impossible for the vintage. I will admit to having waited the entire morning to come across such a floral sangiovese from a vintage that seems reluctant to give such aromatics away. The palate follows along, with smoky smoulder and spice, then turning wonderfully savoury, sapid, salty and herbal. This is the complexity we’ve come to covet from Montalcino, along with a fineness of acidity and lightness of touch. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Fornace 2015

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

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015

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

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto

San Giorgio Ciampoleto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

From Poggio di Soto’s somewhat recent acquisition. Quite the rich expression of dark red fruit, early harvested, low yielding and carefully extracted. Attention to detail makes for a remarkably drinkable Rosso but one with a serious, tight and intense expression on its face. Very smooth and round. Vine age in the 15 year range, soils of tufo, with gravel and calcari. Drink 2019-2022.   Tasted October 2019

San Giorgio Ugolforte Brunello Di Montalcino 2014 DOCG

From Poggio di Soto’s somewhat recent acquisition. Ugolforte was a 12th century bandit who led a rebellion against Siena. Ugo the strong he was called. In a year when Poggio di Sotto is mitigated with extreme prejudice and no Riserva was made it is this San Giorgio that is allowed to sing and express the quality fruit separated from the chaff in this vintage. It’s a beautiful one, silky smooth and available for interaction right at the word go. Acids are fine not just for the vintage but for clarity and future understanding. Vine age in the 25 year range, soils of tufo, with gravel and calcari. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

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

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

San Felice – Campogiovanni

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Docg Il Quercione 2015 ($136.00)

The combinative adjunct of extract, barrel and soul are at the crux of the San Felice grasp and the very core of winemaker Leonardo Bellaccini’s life work. Never shy, always looking for density, in vineyard plantings, vintage and concentration of this Brunello. Leonardo is very happy with these results if questioning the balance between big fruit and even bigger tannins. What is amazing are the acids he finds, coaxes and extends to lift this from its depths. Done up in 100 per cent oak. Unparalleled for Montalcino. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted October 2019

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Docg Il Quercione 2008 ($136.00)

The 2008 expresses a character or at least has transformed with one that smells so much of all the pretty bushes and herbs that grow so low to the vineyard’s ground. Here the true spirit of the Campogiovanni Azienda comes clean, speaking in pure vernacular tongue and expressing all that is this place. Don’t misunderstand that this Brunello is as its namesake suggests, a wine of big oak, but also bones and persisting fruit. The tannins are so fine, plush and still in control. So much texture, very precise actions and wholly deserving of a place at the table. A real style and a product of new oak blanketing the fruit of old vines. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2019

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigne Vecchie 2011

A perfect sunny summer, like 2010, with some late August showers. Just before harvest there were two heat waves, spiking the sugars from 22 to 25 brix. The potential alcohol breached 16 per cent as a result. The Aussie shiraz vintage, of faux sugar and unusual for Brunello. Glycerin persists just as it showed so early in fermentation, ripe to the edge but did it cross over? To be honest, no. But there is a reduction of balsamico, a tarry feeling, a Sant Angelo in Colle character. Plenty of chocolate, warmth and zonazione personality. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted October 2019

Vineyard at Salicutti

Podere Salicutti

Podere Salicutti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

There’s something special about a Rosso di Montalcino that speaks to a place, in this case the moderate specificities of the Sorgente vineyard for a 6,800 bottle lot of pure and focused sangiovese. An ease back on the sugar ripening and colour content throttle makes for a transparency and clarity of delight in the way Rosso should be, at least for this lower section of the three main estate vineyards. Inox fermentation, 18 months in larger Allier barrels, further bottle refining and then no filtration makes for Rosso of true to Salicutti spirit, bright, effusive, uncompromising and willing to stick with what works. What else do you need from Rosso di Montalcino? Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted October 2019

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piaggione 2013

Salicutti is in a south-eastern Montalcino location, on route SP 55 towards Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Now in the altruistic stewardship of owners Sabine and Felix Eichbauer who heed the tradition and ideology created by its previous owner, Francesco Leanza. The agriculture and winemaking team remain to keep the promise and the faith for all of the estate lands and and inner workings. They do so as custodians of Piaggione, the movie star of Salicutti’s vineyards, fastest to ripen from both a sugar and phenolic standpoint but also lending the deepest colour to its grapes. That in itself creates some great oxymoronic irony because Salicutti’s are some of the most transparent and clearest expressions of sangiovese in the territory. As is this stunning 2013, a Brunello of pure, unadulterated and sexy fruit with all of its natural, vintage specific and structured parts on full display. The combined effects of three years spent in an array of French and Slavonian barrels has come to this, meaning the fruit has been coaxed but never pushed so that is speaks only of Piaggione. Blood orange acidity and lightning strike energy make for such a buzz of a Brunello. Barrel tastings of 2016 through 2018 ferments will only magnify and hyperbolize these feelings. The future will hold and be something else. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2019

View from Terralsole

Terralsole

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Always a blend of the two vineyards, including Vigna Pian Bossolino, which incidentally was not made in this vintage. The tannins here are nothing short of remarkable, silken, succulent and so strong. A woody and hematic sangiovese with blood and oranges running through its veins. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

This is the baby and yet already more in the approachable realm, offering up lush fruit, ganache of a rich consistency, spice rendered and layered. A chewy Brunello, fruit leathery, up front and generous. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted October 2019

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

A concentrated vintage, with muscles and also highest quality phenolics. Truth is spoken in that last bit of content because this noses high, mighty, rich and ripe. The fruit carries a sweetness from which skins and seeds are most certainly responsible. Always Terralsole silky, fine and golden in liquid sangiovese form. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted October 2019

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2007

Even if ’13 and ’12 Riserva are current releases it is this ’07 that should be considered the present tense. The label depicts and angel with an attitude, by Whistler artist Lisa Geddes. Showing its 12 years of development, with plenty of rendered chocolate. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2019

Good to go!

godello

Montalcino, 6pm

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