Simply Red: Rosso di Montalcino

Red Montalcino in the Fortezza di Montalcino

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

With Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci of Il Poggione

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

Montalcino

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

Related – A visit with Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini

Red Montalcino 2022

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

Montalcino by night

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

Awards presentation in the Montalcino Theatre

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

Food for Soul Italia

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

In the Godello article about Benvenuto Brunello 2021 the phrase “Much ado and what to do about Rosso di Montalcino” began a quest towards seeing the changes and more importantly the future of the appellation. As a reminder, “culturally speaking Rosso di Montalcino is the most important wine. It’s what the Montalcinese drink daily. More than one Montalcino winemaker has used the phrase “it’s what we like to drink” and just as many will tell you that Rosso must reflect sangiovese’s character more than any other wine. What we know is that the Rosso are the protagonists of the new market.” The attitude prevails. “Rosso di Montalcino could and should be elevated to DOCG status. To do so requires investment and also a mandatory minimum aging period in wood. More vineyards need to be designated as Rosso and were a DOCG awarded the rules would need to be altered to make sure the wines are pre-declared as such. There is enough Brunello to go around and the world needs more Rosso di Montalcino.”

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

Fortezza di Montalcino

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

Red Montalcino Masterclass

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

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010

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

Pietroso Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2011

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

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2013

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

Masterclass wines

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015

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

San Lorenzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

With Asa Johansson in the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino

Ridolfi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Lara Gilmore in the Montalcino Theatre

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Masterclass two with Francesco Saverio Russo

Selezione di Rosso di Montalcino (Rosso di Montalcino Selection)

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Selezione Colombini 2020

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

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi

Casanova Di Neri Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Giovanni Neri 2020

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

The Neri brothers, Gianlorenzo and Giovanni

Col d’Orcia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Banditella 2019

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

Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Rossofonte 2019

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

Gabriele Gorelli MW

Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Jacopo 2019

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

Alessandro Mori, Il Marroneto

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Caduta 2017

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

Fattoria Del Pino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Il Jeccardo 2016

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

Alle Loggia della Piazza

Franco Pacenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Gemma 2015

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

Il Giglio

Simply Red: A Rosso di Montalcino walk-around tasting

Armilla Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Capanna Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Giacomo Bartolommei, Caprili

Caprili Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Elena Pellegrini and Marco La Brusco, Cerbaia

Cerbaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Corte Dei Venti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Godello and Violante

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Casato Prime Donne 2020

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

Elisa Fanti

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

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

Stefano Bambagioni, Fossacolle

Fossacolle Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Alessandra Pacini, La Lecciaia

La Lecciaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

La Màgia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Lisini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Red Montalcino gala dinner

Piancornello Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Andrea and Gloria Pignattai, Pietroso

Pietroso Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Riccardo Talenti

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

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

With Filippo Bellini, Tenuta Buon Tempo

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Lunch at Alle Loggia della Piazza

Ucceliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

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

Voliero Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

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

Col Di Lamo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Lorenzo Pacenti

Franco Pacenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

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

What a good looking crew

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

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

La Lecciaia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Good to go!

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Red Montalcino in the Montalcino Fortress

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WineAlign

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

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

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

Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci and Direttore Michele Fontana

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

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

The 2021 vintage

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

Burning fires at Montosoli, Montalcino April 2021

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

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Godello at 450m, San Polo, Montalcino

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

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

The 2017 vintage

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

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

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

With Consorzio President Fabrizio Bindocci and Chef Carlo Cracco

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

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

Riserva 2016

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

Montalcino sommeliers

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

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Changes in agriculture and fermentation

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

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

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

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

Morning in Montalcino

Much ado and what to do about Rosso di Montalcino

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

With Francesco Rippacioli and Tommaso Cortonesi

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

Annual pic with the hardest working sommeliers in the business

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

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

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

Drogheria Franci Restaurant Montalcino

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

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

Rosso di Montalcino 2020

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Patrizia Cencioni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Ucceliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Voliero Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2020

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

Rosso di Montalcino 2019

Armilla Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Castello Tricerchi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Castiglion Del Bosco Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

With Andrea Costanti and Michaela Morris

Conti Costanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Vermiglio 2019

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

Corte Pavone Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

With Violante Gardini, Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Casato Prime Donne 2019

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

Elia Palazzesi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019 Collelceto

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

Tenuta Fanti

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

La Colombina Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

La Fornace Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

With Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Cacio e Pepe, Il Giglio

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

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Pinino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Renieri Srl Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

San Polo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Trattoria Il Pozzo, Sant Angelo in Colle

Sasso Di Sole Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Tenuta La Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2019

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

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2019

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

Rosso di Montalcino 2018 and 2017

Biondi Santi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Tenuta “Greppo” 2018

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

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Tassi Di Franci Franca Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

With Gigliola, Sofia and Viola, Le Potazzine

Tenuta La Potazzine Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino 2018

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2018

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casanovina Montosoli 2018

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

Ragnaie Vineyard

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Paso Del Lume Spento 2018

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

 

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2018

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

Brunello di Montalcino 2017

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Armilla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

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

Capanna Di Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Caprili Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Castello Tricerchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino 2017

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

Celestino Pecci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Andrea Costanti

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casato Prime Donne 2017

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

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Elia Palazzesi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Collelceto 2017

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Fattoria Del Pino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Il Pino 2017

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

Fornacina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2017

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

Il Palazzone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

La Fornace Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

San Lorenzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Sasso Di Sole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ugolforte 2017

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2017

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2017 Vigna

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2017

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

Benvenuto Brunello 2021

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Alle Mura Vigna Marrucheto 2017

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casaccia 2017

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

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Casa 2017

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Filo Di Seta 2017

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

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

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

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo Del Drago 2017

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

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colombaio 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Del Vento 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Di Meliloto 2017

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo di Marzo 2017

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2017

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Progetto Prime Donne 2017

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2017

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2017

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Rosildo 2017

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

Fattoria La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ciliegio 2017

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

Fattoria La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Manapetra 2017

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

La Rasina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Persante 2017

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casanovina Montosoli 2017

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Paso Del Lume Spento 2017

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Vecchia 2017

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

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

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Helichrysum 2017

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

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Podernovi 2017

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

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vignvecchia 2017

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

Sasso di Sole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sasso Di Luna 2017

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

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piero 2017

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

Tassi Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Colombaio DOCG 2017

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

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

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Doria 2017

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

Tiezzi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Soccorso 2017

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

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pomona 2017

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

Tenuta Il Greppo

Brunello di Montalcino and Vigna DOCG 2016

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Tenuta “Greppo” 2016

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

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Filippo and Elisa Fanti

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Giodo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Nastagio 2016

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

Francesco Ripaccioli, Fabrizio Bindocci and Tommaso Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2016

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

Luigi Peroni and Natalie Oliveiros, La Fiorita

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fiore Di NO 2016

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

Claudia Callegari, San Polo and Michaela Morris

San Polo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Viola, Gigliola and Sofia, Le Potazzine

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2016

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

Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura DOCG 2016

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

With Elisa Fanti

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2016

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

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

Capanna Di Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Carpineto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Drogheria Franci, Montalcino

Casanuova Delle Cerbaie Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Vigna Montosoli 2016

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

Looking east towards Montalcino from Castello di Romitorio

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Conti Costanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colle Al Matrichese 2016

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

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Anemone Al Sole 2016

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

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

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Elia Palazzesi Collelceto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2016

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

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Taverna dei Barbi

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Fornacina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Fossacolle Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Il Poggione Brunello Di Motalcino Riserva DOCG Vigna Paganelli 2016

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

La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

La Poderina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Abate 2016

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

La Rasina Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Il Divasco 2016

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2016

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

Padelletti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Solaria Patrizia Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

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

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

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Il Quercione 2016

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

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Phenomena 2016

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

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian Di Conte 2016

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

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

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

Tenuta La Fuga Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Ucceliera Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Val Di Suga Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Spuntali 2016

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

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Verbena Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

 

Older vintages

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Cerretalto 2015

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

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colombaiolo 2015

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

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

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

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

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

With Elisa Fanti and Michaela Morris

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2015

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

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

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

Tenuta Le Potazzine Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2011

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010

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

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

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2004

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

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Tenuta Greppo 1985

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

Tenuta Fanti

A few IGTs

Tenuta Fanti Rosato 2020, IGT Toscana

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

Cortonesi Lèonus Rosso 2020, IGT Toscana

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

Le Ragnaie Troncone 2019, IGT Toscana Rosso

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

Tenuta Buon Tempo La Funba Toscana Sangiovese 2019, IGT Toscana

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

Good to go!

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WineAlign

Twenty-one mind-blowing wines of 2021

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

Related – Twenty mind-blowing wines of 2020

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

Related – Nineteen mind-blowing wines of 2019

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

Berlucchi Riserva Familia Ziliana Franciacorta DOCG 2001, Lombardy

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

Krug Vintage Brut Champagne 2002

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

Kabola Malvazija Amfora 2017, Istria, Croatia

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

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

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

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

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

Stellenbosch, Western Cape

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

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

With Sofia Ponzini and Vico

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

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

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

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

Angela Fronti, Istine

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

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

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

Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 1999

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

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

Biondi Santi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Tenuta Greppo 1985

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

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979, Tuscany

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

With Stefano Cesari, Brigaldara

Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2016, Veneto

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

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

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

Château Pétrus 1993, Pomerol, AC Bordeaux

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

Paul Jaboulet Aîné La Chapelle 1990, AC Hermitage, Rhône

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

 

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

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

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

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

Fèlsina Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico DOCG 2018, Tuscany

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

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

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

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

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

Good to go!

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WineAlign

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

Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Just up the road endures the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. The eyes can’t help but peer that way, from the red carpet on the Via della Conciliazione sidewalk and out through the windows of the Chorus Cafè inside the Auditorium della Conciliazione. It is the morning of October 15th, 2021, first of a three day festeggiamento for the top wines of Italy, special awards ceremonies, Guida Vini d’Italia 2022, grande degustazione Tre Bicchieri weekend. The first of three intimate vertical tastings takes place as Gambero Rosso welcomes Argiano CEO and Oenologist Bernardino Sani for a rear-view mirror guardare indietro at the Montalcino estate’s optimum soli affectionately referred to as Vigna del Suolo. In the whole of Italy Argiano Brunello di Montalcico DOCG Vigna del Suolo 2016 is the Gambero Rosso Red Wine of the Year for 2022.

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

Argiano vertical tasting at Chorus Café, Roma – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano 1580

Exactly. A functional wine cellar dating back to the later 1500s. With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The name is thought to derive from the first settlements in Roman times – ‘Ara Janus’, referring to the god Janus. Another potential origin could be ‘the land of the River Orcia’ – known in ancient times as ‘Orgia’ and therefore Argiano. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m.

With Bernardino Sani, CEO and Oenologist, Argiano

In 1992 the estate resettles into the hands of Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano and the wines under the peerless oenological tutelage of Giacomo Tachis. Fast forward to the present, a transfer of ownership and also company direction in 2013 into the hands of Bernardino Sani, who from 2015 is also responsible for making the wines. Argiano practices an organic and sustainable method of agriculture. Since 2019 Argiano is the first company in Montalcino to become plastic-free. All single-use plastics have been eliminated. The team consists of CEO & Winemaker Bernardino Sani; Agronomist & COO Francesco Monari; Cellar master Adriano Bambagioni; Winemaking assistant Roberto Caporossi; and Sales Manager Riccardo Bogi.

Marco Sabellico – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

When I think of Brunello di Montalcino there are two things that come to mind: Sangiovese and time. Longevità e tempo. Contrasts and comparisons are unnecessary, neither to other grape varieties nor to wine regions that also fashion structured red wines. The sangiovese of Montalcino are like the eponymous medieval hilltop village, an island in a sea of vast varietal openness. They share the impossibility of undergoing the slightest shift in meaning or change, that is, without the assistance of time. They are incomparable, generous and durable but also part of a great community, finding permanence and always seeking to endure. As do their makers and protectors.

Gambero Rosso and Argiano – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The Argiano 1580 vertical tasting includes 1971, 1978, 1979, 1980, 2006, 2015 and the Red Wine of the Year Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2016. Gambero Rosso’s tasting lead and renaissance man of three decades Marco Sabellico opens the dialogue. “These are wines that give us special emotion,” he submits and then parleys to Bernardino Sani who declares “we look to make a wine that is terroir-driven, very respectful of the vines, the environment and this amazing, beautiful place.” Vigna del Suolo is the finest parcel, rich in limestone. Though Sani wants to make a wine almost Piedmontese or Bourguignons he ultimately creates one that is local, parochial, Montalcinese.

Gianni Fabrizio – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Gambero Rosso is more than just a leading platform for content, training, promotion and consultancy in the Italian Wine Travel Food sector. It offers a complete range of integrated services to reach potential success in agricultural, agri-food, catering and Italian hospitality sectors, with a significant contribution to the constant growth of the economy. Gambero Rosso organizes international events such as the Tre Bicchieri World Tour, the most prestigious cycle of events dedicated to the excellence of Italian wine in the world, the Top Italian Wines Roadshow or Vini d’Italia Tour.

Lorenzo Ruggeri – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

The sentiment can never be overstressed, to bear witness and to participate in exclusive if once in a lifetime vertical sessions. To be gifted not just tasting opportunities but to be privy to ever evolving history, connectivity to tracts of land and to the people who’s hands shape the vines and wines. Grazie tantissimo for this opportunity Luigi (Gigi) Salerno (CEO/GM), Paolo Cuccia (President), Marco Sabellico and Gianni Fabrizio (Authors, Editors and Curators of Vini d’Italia guide), Tiina Eriksson (International Business & Event Manager), Lorenzo Ruggeri (Author and International Editor), Michela Ricotta, Giuseppe Carrus (Author and co-editor of the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia guide) and Crystel Barkany. My notes cover the seven wines.

Argiano vertical tasting, October 16, 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2016

Immediately showing an increased freshness, purity, lift and while only a year removed from 2015 the change in understanding of how to work with Vigna del Suolo is so readily apparent. Cherry as a solo artist, perfect, ripeness of idealism through phenolic development. Quality like the previous vintage but an easier vintage to manage with ample quantity. Low nighttime temperatures allowed for late October picking because sangiovese can go on forever when the autumn lingers such as it did. The barrels were by now a year (literately) older and (figuratively) later, inserting less oxidation and the freshness is truly a super scintillant matter, perfumed and of utter clarity radiating through. Sapidity, equilibrium and pitch perfect acidity will conspire to take this long and deep. 5,000 bottles produced. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted October 2021

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

It begins with Bernardino Sani. “We wanted to make a wine representative of Argiano, of five centuries, it’s history and this oldest Montalcino vintage.” The clones are now being studied because tells Sani “we want to copyright them.” Not the most powerful Brunello and one to mimic or imaginatively replicate the 1580 castle tower in the emotion of those in Firenze and Roma. Chilean geologist Pedro Parra is helping with the soil analysis, looking to directives for finest parcels and positional planting. This led to splitting Argiano’s terroir into five distinct parcels, with 2014 being the first, even if it was not the finest vintage to do so. And so ’15 marks the true beginning of Vigna del Suolo’s new era. Not the vintage of the century but challenging, dry and warm, resulting in elegance, purity of perfume, complexity of citrus spice and specifically the dried and candied peel of an orange. Salty too, so proper for sangiovese, warming, chocolate shavings on the finish. Aged in newly employed 50 hL Garbellotto casks, albeit relatively neutral.  Last tasted October 2021

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

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2006

The Argiano change in ownership happened in the 1990s and the ’06 was made in the ’90s and early 2000s footsteps ways of winemaker Giacomo Tachis who was chiefly responsible for the change in the making of the wines of the time. The introduction of barriques was the main alteration, looking for concentration, oak flavours and power. Considered a five-star vintage at the time and while others may have been moving away from the style, Argiano was still in the throes. Plenty of fruit here 15 years on, berries, plum and orange but also balsamico and a truly luxe and lush feeling sweeping across the palate. Chewy, like fruit leather, lingering oak flavours in and out of every crevice, crease and corner. A wine as a sign of the times in really fine shape. No Riserva or single vineyard wines were made at this time.  Drink 2021-2023. Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1980

The beginning of shorter maceration times and fruit taken from what is today Vigna del Suolo and its surroundings. Three years in Grandi Botti, the beginning of what would become the modern era of Brunello elévage. More development than 1979, a concentration of fruit in all iterations; mainly bosco but also noci secche (dried nuts). Not so much a fungi vintage but more perhaps a salumi or charcuterie one, with a woolly note of pecorino. This is surely a result of the maceration intendment and style therefore the development on the nose outpaces the palate. Quite tannic, present, a structured wine, still able to age. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1979

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

Nosing 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1978

Considered a great vintage, cold winter, wet spring and warm summer. Wine production had recently been updated and modernized for the time and the harvest took place in the second week of October. Thirty days of fermentation in cement tanks. Youthful aromatics, perfumed, definite frutta di bosco, apricot and dried orange. Lovely developed spice in a wine showing as well as it can possibly be. Pitch perfect dual, duelling acidities for your palate and emotion. Drink 2021-2024.  Tasted October 2021

Image (c) Gambero Rosso

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1971

The back label sports a phrase from Italian poet Carducci who after having a bad experience at home drank a glass of Argiano to lift his spirits. A warmer, classic Montalcino vintage. From a time when aging would have been done in Grandi Botti (likely 5000L) and even some chestnut oak. Piedmontese style fermentation and set up for long aging. High acidity, elevated volatility and notable rustic. Also some TCA in this bottle but somehow a mouthfeel prevalent with energy and verve. Fun, curious and thankful for the opportunity. Drink 2021.  Tasted October 2021

Good to go!

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Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 1978 – Image (c) Gambero Rosso

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WineAlign

Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

Decades old Brunello di Montalcino

Examining the longevity, structure and age-ability of Brunello di Montalcino

When I think of Brunello di Montalcino there are two things that come to mind: Sangiovese and time. Longevità e tempo. Contrasts and comparisons are unnecessary, neither to other grape varieties nor to wine regions that also fashion structured red wines. The sangiovese of Montalcino are like the eponymous medieval hilltop village, an island in a sea of vast varietal openness. They share the impossibility of undergoing the slightest shift in meaning or change, that is, without the assistance of time. They are incomparable, generous and durable but also part of a great community. With the Conzorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino at the heart of their matter they find permanence and always seek to endure. As do their makers and protectors. 

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

We’ll be searching for answers to Brunello’s aging capacity on Monday, November 30, 2020 when I play host and moderator for the fifth of six online seminars covering all aspects of Montalcino, with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino” will explore vintages from 2015 back to 2010 to unlock some secrets behind Brunello’s immutabilità. The webinar will welcome Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano and his Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Elisa Sesti with her Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Lucrezia Messina and Franco Pacenti’s Brunello di Montalcino 2015; Riccardo Bogi with Argiano’s Brunello di Montalcino 2014; PierAngelo Tommasi and his Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2010.

Fortezza di Montalcino

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino

 

Anteprime di Toscana’s culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese

 

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Post Benvenuto Brunello street party at Alle Logge di Piazza

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. 

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

With Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano of Col d’Orcia

Col d’Orcia

History, tradition and strutura do not dig any deeper in Montalcino than at Col d’Orcia, an Orcia Valley, (Val d’Orcia) southern slope estate in the Montalcino territory. The lineage dates back to at least 1890, when records show the Franceschi family of Florence purchased the property, then known as Fattoria di Sant’Angelo in Colle. One of two brothers Stefano Franceschi inherited the property, split from Leopoldo in 1958 and then re-named it Col d’Orcia, “{hill above Orcia” after the river that runs through the property. Franceschi later married into the royal family of the future King of Spain Juan Carlos and sold the property to the Piemontese family Cinzano in 1973. At that time only a few hectares were under vine and it was Count Alberto Marone Cinzano that pushed the reach up to 70 hectares by the early 1980s. Since then it has been Count Francesco Marone Cinzano who continued plantings to the current number at 140 hectares, 108 of which are dedicated to Brunello production.

Since August 27, 2010 the whole estate including vineyards, olive groves, other fields and even the gardens are farmed exclusively following organic agricultural practices. The vineyards are located on the southern slope of the Montalcino territory, on hilly lands and extend over 540 hectares, from the Orcia River to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle, at about 450 metres over sea level. Cold d’Orcia’s soils are loose, skeletal and permeable, poor in clay, rich in limestone and inert materials. Fog, ice and late frosts are of little to no concern and breezes blow frequently for persistent and profitable vine health conditions. Climate is typically Mediterranean, with limited rainfalls concentrated in the months of March, April, November and December. Col d’Orcia the third largest owner of Brunello vineyards in Montalcino.

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A gregarious and sour-edged entry marks the ’14 Col d’Orcia with plenty of spice. Cinnamon and star anise are exotic notes off the top and then things turn tough and closed. This is a tightly wound 2014, clearly one of the ambitious albeit traditional attempts at perpetuating great and storied Brunello glory. Remains to be seen if it can reach the heights of 1979. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2010

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2000

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

Col d’Orcia tasting on the ’00s

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 1989

A huge Col d’Orcia, perhaps the biggest, broadest and most ferric I’ve ever tasted. That pool may only be 25 but this bites twice and is far from shy. It’s obviously vintage but also feels like a vintage of ambitious winemaking. The oak, oak spice, alcohol, unami and dried fruit are all fully throttled and simply add up to deliver a vibrant massive attack. Red fruit is nowhere to be found, left instead in a void filled by porcini, sanguine carne and herbal potpourri. The acidity eventually brings out more charming moments but this is really an unrelenting sangiovese. Will live 15 more years easy although there wont be the type of fruit still lingering shown by the 1979. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1969

Tasted from three different bottles, the first showing TCA, the second alive and quiet, the third singing. Bottle variation is not surprising at all, especially in wines of this ilk and age. The family arrived at the estate in 1973 to find some vintages in barrel and this ’69 in concrete. Because the third sample was not just the best but the one with real personality we’ll just concentrate on it. The nose is very floral and full of toffee, toasted chestnut and burnt orange. The palate is lively, hopping really. A mild bitterness marks the finish, still pulsing with acidity though not with tannin. Great look back. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento 2012

Not so surprising I suppose that Poggio al Vento 2012 is still reductive, closed and locked tight. There is a massive Poggio (al Vento) of fruit piled high inside the shell from the windy hill above the river. Fine tannins are even more impressive is the fine-styled acidity. When the shell cracks the riches will spill out, across and over. Over everything. Drink 2023-2036.  Tasted February 2019

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 2010

Poggio al Vento Riserva 2010 is so very smoky and wood charred so you wonder about the fruit but air brings a fleeting glimpse of that red toned life before the wind swirls to send it back to the smoky embers beneath the roasting bones of the cinghiale. Charm in Poggio al Vento is hard to come by so early and this is far too early. The palate is richer than you think and again with wood so prevalent. There is no doubt that a wait of five more years is needed before beauty can be coaxed out of this formidable Brunello. The vintage, the vineyard and the traditional house style all conspire for this Etruscan structure, meant to impress, influence and last just long enough. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017

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

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Poggio Al Vento Riserva 1979

Quiet, not just at first, but in continuum, a good thing with just a few initial hints of age. There can be immediate concern of this being 40 years-old. It’s hidden talents prevent you from knowing and of those, fineness of acidity is at the top of the heap. I’d say there was some astringency and mean streak tannin in the first ten years, or perhaps maybe more. It seems this Riserva was a beast for so long and only the last ten years have allowed it to deliver such gentility and charm. It’s amazing really and glad this bottle hung in there. It’s very special. In fact it’s still unfolding. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2019

Sesti

Sesti

Giuseppe Sesti planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. the estate consists of 102 hectares, of which nine hectares are planted to vineyards. The rest beiing olive groves, grazing and woodland. Now in the hands of Giuseppe Maria Sesti and Elisa Sesti, Giuseppe the astronomy expert restorer of the Castello. Elisa, born in Toscana and raised at the Castello, educated in Italy and England, returned in 1999 to help with the expansion of the family business.

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

From Giuseppe Sesti who planted his vines at Castello di Argiano in 1991, a 13th century property with Etruscan origins just west of Sant Angelo in Colle. Now in the hands of Elisa Sesti the élevage is territorially appropriate and necessary thirty-nine months in 30 hL botti. The result is quite a gregarious one this Sesti, with really bright acids circling the sangiovese wagons and tying the fruit up in ropes and casings. You can sense the alcohol though it’s not really a heavy, pulling or dragging feeling. It persists as airy and free in spite of the early heat spikes. Should float on, through the skies for a decade or more. Classic finish of deep red cherry liqueur. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted February 2018

Lorenzo, Lisa and Serena Pacenti (c) Franco Pacenti

Franco Pacenti

The origins of the Piacenti Family – later transformed into Pacenti – of noble Tuscan lineage, date back to the 13th century: Muccio Piacenti, maternal grandfather of the famous Santa Caterina da Siena, Patroness of Italy and Europe, was among the most popular and well-known poets of his time. As early as 1400, the Canalicchio was an important centre of reference for the agricultural market of the Val di Suga. Rosildo Pacenti, born in 1924, son of a family of peasant origins, purchased the Canalicchio farm in 1962 and is one of Montalcino’s founders and part of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino’s forming in 1967. Franco Pacenti was born in 1958 and joined his father in the fields and then took over in 1988. Franco’s three children, Lisa, Serena and Lorenzo, the third generatio, are the lifeblood of the company. The company’s 10 hectares of vineyards face northeast at an altitude of 300m at the foot and to the east of the Montalcino hill.

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2015

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Canalicchio 2014

Clear, transparent, honest and finessed. This is what you hope for from the 2014 Brunello. The clarity here is apparent from the get go, with fruit locked and shut tight beneath a reductive shell. Acids are succulent and far from sour, tannins pure, sweet and of the finest grain. Not about concentration because the vintage will resist allowing it. But this is made in the best possible way and will live a few decades or more. Drink 2024-2038.  Tasted February 2019

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG Rosildo 2015

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

Looking south towards Monte Amiata

Argiano

Wine cellar since 1580. With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The name is thought to derive from the first settlements in Roman times – ‘Ara Janus’, referring to the god Janus. Another potential origin could be ‘the land of the River Orcia’ – known in ancient times as ‘Orgia’ and therefore Argiano. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m.

Argiano practices an organic and sustainable method of agriculture. Since 2019 Argiano is the first company in Montalcino to become plastic-free. All single-use plastics have been eliminated. The team consists of CEO & Winemaker Bernardino Sani; Agronomist & COO Francesco Monari; Cellar master Adriano Bambagioni; Winemaking assistant Roberto Caporossi; and Sales Manager Riccardo Bogi.

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Argiano is expressive of a lovely herbal nose with blood orange and a little bit of sanguine personality. Typical vintage character done right, proper and well. Fleshy like a very ripe peach crossed with a tart red plum and certainly offers more of the it Brunello character than many or most in the field. A bit commercial for the house but understood of a vintage clarity and appreciated out of great necessity. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

With five centuries in place and 130 years of Brunello making history on side Argiano is the model of Montalcino consistency. The estate vineyards benefit from a micro-climate situated between Poggio alla Mura and Sant Angelo in Colle on a plateau at 300m. In 2013 a stolen vintage warmth is readily apparent on the nose, with a fine elemental streak through thick air willing and able to carry this sangiovese through its formative years. The palate and texture are next to brilliant with the great feeling of plush, silken tapestry, woven for complexity and thinking about the future. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February 2018

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

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

Casisano Estate

Tomassi – Casisano

The Casisano estate lies on a natural terrace at 480 meters above sea level, overlooking the south-eastern zone of the Montalcino region, eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle and facing the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. The soils are made up of sandstone rocks and schistous marl containing stones, clay, and tuff of volcanic origin. The estate covers an area of 53 hectares, of which 22 are vineyards and 8 are olive groves. Nine hectares are dedicated to the production of Brunello, seven hectares to Rosso, and the other six hectares to the Sant’ Antimo denomination. At a near 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. Casisano is entirely planted with Sangiovese Grosso and Colombaiolo is the Riserva Brunello, after the family purchased the estate in 2011, though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. The vineyard was planted in 1991 on a hectare and a half on the Sant’Angelo in Colle estate. 

The oenologists are Giancarlo Tommasi and Emiliano Falsini. Pierangelo Tommasi is the Executive Director of Tommasi Family Estates. He is one of nine members of the current fourth generation of this historic winemaking family, six of whom run the wine business and two of whom run hospitality. Pierangelo gets to work in Montalcino. Lucky guy.

Vineyards at Casisano

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

The Casisano Estate is found eight kilometres south of the town in Sant’Angelo in Colle, incidentally of population 204, as noted by a 2011 census. At 500m the vineyards benefit from temperature swings and the necessity of prevailing cool winds from the sea to the west. The Brunello developed here (like Ragnaie) turns out classic red clay and stone derived deep cherry liqueur but of a constitution and flavour unlike any other sangiovese on earth. It’s almost brambly and even a bit scorched. It’s rich, proper and righteous. Best of all, the best years still lay ahead. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted March 2018

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

From Casisano in Sant’Angelo in Colle, to the south of the village. Tomassi’s Montalcino situation is another one of altitude and therefore a great choice of location from which to develop a strong and structured Brunello ideal. This ’12 is not unlike the ’13 but perhaps with a bit more hyperbole, at times of warmth and at others, elegance. It’s not completely sure of its position, but that is both a matter of vintage and still getting to know the lay of this land. The follow-up 2013 will continue to cement the altitude influence and the understanding of these exceptional vineyards. This ’12 is a great building block for the future of what will be one of the more storied cru in Brunello di Montalcino. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted March 2018

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2011

This Brunello organizer is the Tommasi family from Verona and their Montalcino foray. Though not the easist of the Brunello vintages this 2011 from Casisano takes what is given and delivers a classic rendition from traditional motives. There is some dried plum and fig fruit, slightly baked and certainly firm to match the tannic structure of the vintage. This will shrivel into dried goods, mushroom and balsamic territory before too long. Drink now for fresh results and later for a much more old school way. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted March 2017

Tommasi Casisano Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Colombaiolo 2013

From Tommasi this is only the third Riserva after the family purchased the estate in 2011, though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. The vineyard was planted in 1991 on a hectare and a half on the Sant’Angelo in Colle Casisano estate. The fruit is quite variegated, full and ripe. The acids are supportive, on the high-toned side and the tannins are really fine. A nice balance and a tri-symbiotic relationship exists between the three friends and in the end a structure of fine accord is managed. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

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Decades old Brunello di Montalcino

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WineAlign

Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Montalcino Sunset

Anteprime di Toscana’s culminating 2020 presentation of 2018 Rosso DOC and 2015 Brunello DOCG raised the bar for Montalcino’s venerable sangiovese

Montalcino, February 2020

The sangiovese of Montalcino are not to be taken lightly nor for granted and they are, to a wine, crucial to mind, culture and life as we know it. When presented in times of adversity they are the sort to help us keep our wits about us. To an extent the Rosso and manyfold the Brunello are of an ilk that allow our animal selves to assist in ensuring the survival of our species. Allowing them to age incrementally and gracefully is an important part of the contract. Either by dint or by choice, drinking Montalcino, especially young Brunello, deregulates our homeostatic processes with a kind of sudatory sedation. This is because of an unavoidable youthful aggression and incredibly dense succession of tannins, as if each were linked to the next by an invisible force, to a chain singular and melting into one another. They are known to induce fruit sweats while simultaneously controlling emotion and so we remain in balance. In some reflective respect the act of drinking Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino is akin to a full-fledged carnal embrace. If what follows is a feeling of compunction then guilty as charged is our pleasure.

The Rosso and Brunello of Montalcino have for decades been recognized as residing in the premium realm of Europe’s finest red wines. You might think that a territory with such rich history, iconic figures, foremothers, forefathers and next generation figureheads would be content to rest on laurels and see little need to fix something that isn’t broken. Not so and while the new or next era of wine producers are certainly the obvious catalyst for exacting evolution, if at times gentle revolution, the answers run deeper and the interconnectivity with the past is well, unavoidable. In the trusted duty as ambasciatore for Montalcino and its vital sangiovese next month I will play host and moderator to two dozen of the territory’s most prominent and illustrious producers in six pivotal seminars. In trying to get to the source of what in recent years has been the impetus for a more than discreet across the board profound rise in quality, I recently asked a gaggle of Montalcino producers some pressing questions.

Tasting at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, February 2020

Brunello inspired to the best wines made by my grandfather produced between 1970 and 1980

… Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Ten producers, six questions

What recent vintage would you say marked the turning point for your winemaking, to bring your wines into a place and style that speaks of your particular vineyards, their location and terroir in Montalcino? What or why is the reason?

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “2013 may have marked the turning point for our winemaking, in looking for their particular sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in our wines.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “2006 was the first vintage during which I have followed every aspect, from the vineyard management to the winemaking. So that was a benchmark for me. 2012 is a reference vintage in terms of style, with the introduction of the family brand “Cortonesi” and the two different crus La Mannella and Poggiarelli. From this vintage, Brunello “La Mannella” is made just with La Mannella vineyards grapes. Two different Brunellos from two very different Montalcino terroirs. I had in my mind the idea of Brunello di Montalcino as pure expression of his terroir.”

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “2006, my very first one. From the very beginning it was clear from me how it’s necessary making wines that speak about sangiovese and Montalcino, that’s what make unique a wine from this region and it’s even more important when you have an important historic background like we do here at Le Chiuse.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “The 2010 vintage, not only for the beautiful quality expressed, marked the definitive passage of an awareness and an approach to wine that I am still following today. It was the first to be done in the new cellar where we chose to carry out the fermentation in conical steel with the use of punching down at controlled temperatures. In addition, since 2010 a good percentage of new vineyards have been in production which have helped improve agronomic management. The 2004 vintage marked the awareness of a differentiated management of the vineyards given their different exposure and different terrains. For my youth and little experience they were years and harvests difficult to interpret.”

Elisa Fanti, Tenuta Fanti: “Our vintage is absolutely the 2006. During the harvest and the aging of the Brunello 2006 we have learned the characteristic of a very elegant Sangiovese and we have loved this! We started to select the different Sangiovese from different vineyards, to select also our four different areas of the vineyard and we have started to make our two selection of the Brunello di Montalcino, the Riserva before (on the 2007 vintage) and the Vallocchio later ( 2010 vintage).”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “We have had some turning points. 1931 was the first vintage with “important numbers,” 35,000 bottles instead of the normal 5,000/10,000 we had for a century because my grandfather Giovanni Colombini decided to try to sell it more widely. By mail and through agents in Rome, Naples, Florence and Milan. It was a success, the wine was more alcoholic and very austere. 1964 was rated the best red wine of Italy by the Italian Ministero dell’Agricoltura, obtaining the “Torchio d’Oro” It was a rich, powerful Brunello in a very traditional style, and our first vintage in which we produced more than 100,000 bottles. This was our first vintage appreciated by the Italian journalists, and also the first widely sold abroad. 1975 was a very classic Brunello but more “easygoing”, a turning point in style and marketing. Not so tannic as our previous wines, ready to drink after only five years but able to age very well for decades, it was the final result of years of research on fermentation and on a shorter period in wooden vats. This was very probably the first “modern” Brunello, a style that became the normal one for all the producers. It was an unbelievable commercial success, 235,000 bottles sold from the USA to Japan. 1995 was again something new, still in a very traditional style but larger, bolder even if very elegant. It was our first “fat” Brunello, in a period in which the wines had to be more and more “important” we reached this result avoiding any mechanical concentration with osmosis or similar devices. We increased the vineyards from 50 to 100 hectares, and reduced very strongly the production per hectare. 2007 was another important turning point, after five years of experience we could use for all our production dry ice, the new Ganimede fermenters and a completely “vintage program” which reduced to less than one hour the time from the picking of the grapes to the arrival in the fermenting vats. The result was a better extraction and a better concentration of the traditional flavours of Sangiovese. A more typical and more intense one.

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “In 2006 I started working in a more traditional style with longer maceration time and only big barrels. Also I started focusing on single vineyard sites.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “At Col d’Orcia we pride ourselves in producing traditional wines with long aging potential since even before the arrival of my family in 1973. When we conduct vertical tastings (often going back 50 years) the most important aspect for me is that tasters find aromas and tastes that are constant over time. The key of this approach is that we use only grapes grown on this hill and that we are true to the character of the soil and climate of this estate. Of course there has been an evolution over time, but rather than adopting different manipulations to the wines, we have improved our quality control and the equipment that allows us to follow with greater precision the fermentation and aging process in order to intervene with greater timeliness on decisions such as pump-over, end of maceration on the skins, racking, contact with air, etc.”

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

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

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

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

What mistakes have you made and how have you learned from them so that you can make better wines and the wines you need to make from your property?

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

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

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

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I am really lucky, because my ancestors take notes of the many mistakes they did in the last two centuries. In vineyards they tried at least two times very dense plantation, 1.5 metres per 0.80 and then in 1930 2 metres per 1. They tried alberello, guyot and cordone speronato on two levels. They tried to anticipate the vintage or to delay it. They tried chestnut vats. They tried warmer fermentation, and fermentation from three days to six months with the skins. Any kind of chemical, organic or mist fertilization. The modern Brunello is the result of centuries of mistakes of a group of producers, frequently friends and sometimes parents, which shared their good and bad results. I did just some small mistakes, because somebody else did the big ones.”

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

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

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

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

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

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “We are learning from our mistakes, such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar. Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. These are the three parameters of necessity, especially for Riserva.”

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

What effect do the Tramontane and Grecale winds have on your vineyards and can you pinpoint a particular vintage when the winds made a big difference in the wines?

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Montalcino is always very windy, so windy that our vineyards are accustomed. The only vintage in which I was able to note a special difference due to wind was 2013, at the beginning of September we had four days which dried the grapes on the top of the hills, which normally are the best places. The valley vineyards, which normally have mould problems, had a serious increase in quality.”

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

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

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

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

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

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “In 2018 the Tramontana wind came on September 16th and the harvest began on the 29th for Rosso. The second wind called the Grecale also blew in to cause up to 30 per cent drying of the grapes. The resulting reduced yields meant for grapes of concentration in both fruit and acidity but also a high number for dry extract.”

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

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

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

Northwest Montalcino

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

… Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella

How or why did 12 or 24 months, or in rare cases, 60-plus months further become the defined reason for how to make and qualify Riserva?

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse: “We release our Riserva 60 months later than our Regular Brunello because I believe it helps the wine to get a stronger identity from Brunello showing a better balance and more complexity. Brunello Riserva, it’s not the wine that you want to drink young, in this way you really can’t.”

Riccardo Talenti, Talenti: “As a philosophy we do not exceed 36/40 months of aging for the Riservas and we do not produce the Riserva every year, but only in vintages that we believe have high aging potential, making a selection of barrels from the vineyards around the company positioned at 400 meters.”

Elisa Fanti – Tenuta Fanti: “The Riserva is a selection of the best Sangiovese in the vineyard. This Sangiovese, in the beautiful vintage, probably has a big structure, complexity and acidity and it is necessary for more time of aging (in the oak or in the bottle), to have an important wine with all its aromatics feature well integrated.”

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “In my opinion any true Brunello is at his best between eight and 20 years, it is due to the peculiar character of the Montalcino Sangiovese grapes.”

Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie: “I am not a big Riserva guy, I keep all my wines three years in barrel and I think it’s enough. I much rather prefer single vineyard expression, I keep my best sites for single vineyards. Lately I prefer colder vintages. Warm vintages are too extreme and the wines are not that interesting.”

Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano, Col d’Orcia: “When my father arrived at Col d’Orcia in 1973 he found wine in the large barrels dating back to vintage 1968 (60 month). This was the tradition in Montalcino and still is the practice at Col d’Orcia when a vintage requires it.”

Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Casato Prime Donne: “The Brunello Riserva is born in the vineyard, not in the cellar. The clusters must have grapes that are very small, perfect in health and with thin skins. In other words we cannot produce Riserva with just any old cluster of Sangiovese. For this reason the amount of Brunello Riserva we make increases or diminishes, and so aggravates my sales office. Obviously the perfect grapes create wines that need a longer stay in barrel and then in bottle.”

Giacomo Neri, Casanova di Neri: “We do not produce Riserva, our Brunelli at most spend 42 months in wood. Brunello Cerretalto comes out in the sixth year but with twelve more months raised in the bottle.”

Filippo Chia, Castello di Romitorio: “Sangiovese is a very finicky grape that is really tied to the climatic conditions of the vintage, every so often in great vintages its power and abundance can withstand additional ageing in oak, large or small, and most producers tend to go to bottle sooner in order to avoid keeping the wine in stainless steel or wood for too long.  Usually it’s a barrel selection and when tasting the wines it is apparent when you can make a Riserva without cannibalizing your “Vigna” and without over-oaking and oxidizing the wine. Therefore normally only the very best and most balanced and structured fruit can give way to a Riserva.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “The oak is not an ingredient. It’s a kneading for the wine.”

Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella: “The Production Requirements ask for 24 months minimum for Brunello Riserva, but many wineries do a much longer wood aging. We do 48 months in large barrels and our Brunello Riserva is only produced in the best vintages from our oldest vineyard in La Mannella.”

Montalcino

Va a macchia di leopardo

… Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “I tried to find a mathematical connection between colder or warmer vintages and quality, but I had so success. The same happened with the rains. I prefer the best vintages for Vigna and Riserva, but sometimes these are warmer vintages and sometimes are the colder ones. Frequently the top vintages are the most “balanced” ones, but not always.”

Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra: “With vintage variation I prefer the oldest vines (Vigna Mercatale at Canalicchio) in the coldest vintages for Brunello and Vigna. For Riserva I choose the vineyard on the Montosoli hill.”

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

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

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

Il Brunello vada molto meglio di altre denominazioni.

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

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

How are things going for Montalcino?

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

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

Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi: “Va a macchia di leopardo. It goes wild. More than a third of the Brunello “vintage” has already been sold and there are only two vintages in the last ten in which more has been sold. The prices of the bottles have not dropped. However, the bulk Brunello market (only 8% of the total) is at a standstill and the bulk price has dropped by 40%. Those who have an advanced commercial and / or a large brand suffer little or nothing, while the less organized ones have some problems. But there are not many. Bolgheri is fine, Maremma and Mo rellino benino, the rest of Tuscany ouch ouch.”

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

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

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

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

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

Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2018 (31 notes)

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($27.95)

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

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($29.95)

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

Baricci Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($39.95)

Only raised in big barrels but not the 2500L larger oak used for the Brunello. Lovely red fruit purity and transparency from a vintage that was at a near all-time low pH. Higher acidity conversely and serious enough to use for food matching ability. Just a hint of pressing is felt but it’s really just a matter of de-stemming that makes a push but not a crush. A little bit of whole berry helps ward of oxidation and the freshness is truly a matter of gentile handling. Such a fine, drinkable and complex Rosso. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

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

Though the fruit source is an amalgamation of Montalcino in a multi-disparate form you can’t help but feel or at least sense the Galestro of Montosoli young vines making their way into this Rosso. Wet stone, crumbled earth’s elements and a crust of decomposition meets the cherries head on for a salty and sharp sangiovese. Really proper wine here. You know it, I know it, they will know it. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

Casanova Di Neri Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($38.99)

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

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($28.99)

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

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

Tommaso Cortonesi’s Rosso ’18 is pure La Mannella, expressly northeasterly Montalcino and bright as a February Benvenuto Brunello day. Crunchy and raised with all the land caught inside, the fruit expressive and elastic, the finish blessed with just a few years notability by structure. Promising and effective, proper and precise. Still showing some wood so wait a year. Drink 2021-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Risotto, Sangiovese and Taleggio

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Barbi’s vintage acceptance and celebration is commendable to the degree that 2018 from vineyards ripened for pleasure is to be set this way. Such fruit, sweet thing, like “gardens misty wet with rain.” The kind of tart and tang on cherry and more cherry is what you want from sangiovese meant for the table each and every night. So right, walking and talking without ever growing old. Fresh youth is a beautiful thing. Drink 2020-2022. Tasted February 2020

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($33.84)

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

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

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

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Top quality reach in expertly crafted ubiquity makes this a Rosso from the brightly lit vintage for all to explore. Take this road oft taken and use it to gain understanding of the DOC, the village and the ways of local sangiovese. High toned, generously oak spiced and really transparent. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

La Màgia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

La Poderina Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017 ($45.00)

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

Lisini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

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

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

Fried Artichoke, La Sosta Montalcino

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Salvioni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Cerbaiolo 2018

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

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($48.95)

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

Sesti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($30.00)

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

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2018

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

Very cherry, ripe mainly, some sour edges and all dominant in a very fruit forward wine. Explores the essence of sangiovese with a heart struck and set into a Montalcino land. Could be from nowhere else and demands drinkable attention. Drink 2020-2022.  Tasted February 2020

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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