Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Montalcino Sunset

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

Montalcino, February 2020

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

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

Tasting at Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, February 2020

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

… Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Ten producers, six questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northwest Montalcino

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

… Tommaso Cortonesi, Cortonesi – La Mannella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montalcino

Va a macchia di leopardo

… Stefano Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria dei Barbi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

Il Brunello vada molto meglio di altre denominazioni.

Lorenzo Magnelli, Le Chiuse

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

How are things going for Montalcino?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2018 (31 notes)

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($27.95)

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

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($29.95)

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

Baricci Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Casanova Di Neri Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($38.99)

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

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($28.99)

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

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

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

Risotto, Sangiovese and Taleggio

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Fanti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($33.84)

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

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

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

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

La Màgia Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

La Poderina Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017 ($45.00)

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

Lisini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Mastrojanni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

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

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

Fried Artichoke, La Sosta Montalcino

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Salvioni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Cerbaiolo 2018

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

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($48.95)

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

Sesti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018 ($30.00)

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

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Tenuta San Giorgio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Ciampoleto 2018

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Riccardo Talenti

Rosso di Montalcino DOC (other vintages, five notes)

Podere Salicutti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Here ’17 is clean, pure, silk threaded and simply put, juicy. One of the longest Rossos you are likely to taste and a triumph for the vintage. Drink 2020-2025.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

The ’16 Rosso takes all the extract and acidity of the combined coming two vintages and gleans every ripe aspect for the ambitious way that Rosso can go. Deeper and less crushable and truth be told the Brunello appellation is cozied up to. Salty and full of proper tang with seasoning and spice. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

Carpineto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2010 ($39.95)

Wildly fresh considering Rosso was not often thought to show such longevity, but in can and will exhibit such tendencies. Potential ability is magnified in a dark fruit vintage that advances with wisdom, morphs and settles. Lives and evolves within itself. Sweet fruit persistence is more than admirable, it’s outright amazing. Scents of carob, dried orange and liquorice, now coming into a baking spice place with persistent acidity. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2020

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (71 notes)

Agostina Pieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Armilla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Baricci’s Federico and Pietro Buffi

Baricci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG “Canalicchio Di Sopra” 2015

Back to prominence for Brunello quantity is what 2015 does for business while delivering great quality without causing any undue relative stress. Both Canalicchio vineyards and Montosoli cru fruit make up the cuvée. Welcome to the beauty in cherry liqueur and outright unction from the generous vintage out of which every extra day meant more ripeness, more extract and more texture. The acidity factor is what drives this Brunello because staggered picking equates to an agglomeration of perfect timing. The true estate expression in no unspoken terms. Drink 2022-2031.  Tasted February 2020

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

Caparzo is surely driven by the wood it spends quality time in getting to know and the material sent to those barrels is up to the mixing and swirling task. You understand this fruit and its dark cherry upbringing. You inuit the way vessels work through the pores while acidity flushes and raises the level of ability. Finally you get to know these sweet tannic grains and chains that work magic for the fruit. Will all come together soon, or at least sooner than many vintages. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

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

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

Montalcino from Castello Romitorio

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

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

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

Castello Tricerchi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2015 Brunello is a ruby-red, spice studded star in 2015, high-toned and so very expressive. What spice oh my, what tripping fantastic light across the tongue and so very taut in its youth. Intensity does not begin to explain the freshness and the youthful nature of its being. Need to revisit La Mannella in one year and the 2015 sangiovese it has gifted in five years or so.  Last tasted February 2020

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

Cupano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always pleasure, always balanced, always proper. This is the Fattoi Brunello world, fruit sweet, energy running high and wine all tolled running long. You can count on this fruit to lift you up and the bones to stay propped up. Never waning, failing or faltering sangiovese with charm and grace. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (928028, $54.95)

C’mon classic Barbi here and the request is for this effectual realization to continue on forever, through the decades of vintages and their Brunelli. You come to expect the sort of juice that needs time, more time, precious time, endless time. You look for this tug of firmness, this posit strength and this creamy centre that ties the sangiovese room together. This does not and don’t ever abandon these roots Stefano, always keeps the Cinelli Colombini family’s Barbi faith alive. They are the lifeblood of this wine. Drink 2023-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Fattoria Del Pino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Il Pino 2015

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

Fornacella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($54.00)

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

Fossacolle Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2015 ($63.00)

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

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($67.95)

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

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

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

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2015

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

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($46.95)

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

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

Il Poggione’s tells a Brunello vendemmia tale, in delivery of that vintage’s generous fruit, followed by a generosity of barrel and all the spice it can carry forward. High constituent parts, syncopated for possibility and most likely, probability. That says age will not catch up to a wine of great health because it was taken care of and will continue to take care of itself. You should pay it the same respect. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2020

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($76.95)

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

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

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

La Colombina Di Casseli Anna Maria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($59.95)

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

Le Gode Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

With Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($115.00)

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

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

Lisini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($69.95)

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

Máté Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

Musico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Padelletti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Pian Delle Querci Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Pietroso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Piombaia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Podere Le Ripi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Amore E Magia 2015

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

Poggio La Croce Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

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

No less than a finessed coax of pure higher altitude sangiovese fruit delivers the southern territorial goods in 2015. That and a staggered pick, layered atop one another for a stack of juicy, ripe acid and fine grained chain of tannic goods. The seamlessness and positively structured finesse is beyond comprehensible commend-ability. It’s outright impressive.  Last tasted February 2020

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

Poggio Lucina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Renieri Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Roberto Cipresso Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Ruffino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Greppone Mazzi 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Sesta Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($117.95)

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

Solaria Patrizia Cencioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($76.00)

Riccardo Talenti’s Brunello is always a combinative, bringing together of double entendre ideals in the name of achieving the great estate balance. Fruit for the sangiovese comes from vineyards both southwest and southeast of Montalcino, aging is done 60-40 in 500L tonneaux and grandi botti of French and Slavonian oak. The vintage that does it all, a largesse of fresh fruit, the earth liquified in sand, clay, Galestro mineral and finally, the most stretched and generous tannin imaginable. The pinnacle and epitome of professionally executed high quality Brunello that never abandons its sense of place. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

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

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

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 (922054, $46.95)

Lovely little ’15 from Nardi that grows in stature as you work the glass. Begins with classic dusty cherry and leather earthy fruit then climbs upward with high level acidity. Crescendoes at a higher point and lingers well into the next hour. I can hear this one ‘knockin’. Great Brunello blues riff and groove. Vintage in, vintage out one of the most consistent Montalcino wines. Drink 2022-2028.  Tasted February 2020

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

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

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

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

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

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

Brunello di Montalcino Vigna DOCG 2015 (27 notes)

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Suolo 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2015 ($79.95)

Vigna del Fiore. Salty number for the Montalcino location and yet this ease of amenability and the way the Barbi effort solicits affectation is undeniable. This secrecy of structure is a house and Vigna speciality and the sauce is spread liberally across the succulence of the fruit. No denying the effort, the acumen and the persistence of unwavering potential. Drink 2022-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2015

Casaccia as in the name of the house and the registered name of the vineyard, here a monopole look at Brunello from the larger 14 hectares for eastern Montalcino’s Canalicchio. The idea here is to celebrate a place within a place but without compromising the larger cuvée expression. Takes extract, concentration and purpose to another level, not to mention polish, precision and potential. The acids are elevated and the texture more refined, converse and complimentary. A tightness makes for some early attack that needs time to get past. Quite cool, tannic and intense. Will hit its stride quite far down the road. Drink 2024-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2015

A preview sample. Comes from fruit grown in the oldest two hectare vineyard of Vigna Vecchia Mercatale. The vines were planted in 1987 and in good vintages the potential is gifted, not a matter of grand impact but one of the land, the soil, the brown clay minerals and the elements. And so it’s a matter of longevity and potential, not brut strength. A beautiful example of Riserva, focused, precise and fine. And yet the style is poised in position along a line that includes the Brunello and the Riserva so homogeneity in these soils is more than apparent. This part of Montalcino makes this kind of wine and this house celebrates the consistency. Drink 2022-2036.  Tasted February 2020

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

The ripeness of La Casa in 2015 is at the precipice if not the next step where denouement begins in descent. The aromas are quite fine and discreet while the flavours pool in a deep well of full on berry and plum, dusty and of a twinge that’s Ribena in twangy tang. It is what it is, this version of gregarious 2015, seemingly easy and generous but the pick was all you had. Great La Casa is spot on. This one misses by a hair. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2020

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

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

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Filo Di Sesta 2015

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2015

Skipping straight pass and over the sunless, tenebrous and obscured 2014 vintage it is this Tommaso Cortonesi 2015 I Poggiarelli that rises from the vineyard looking up the Montalcino hill to the southeastern side. Te offer is an ulterior one, an expression in contrast to what comes from northerly La Mannella. Warmer, fuller and without question more precise. Cortonesi has used the tools available to provide it a bigger architectural frame and the flesh of this vineyard dutifully abides, bedecking the incrustation of the facade and adorning the fills of the interior. Quite structured and yet fully fleshy of 2015 density and weight. Impressive stuff from Tommaso. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2020

Croce Di Mezzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Donnatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Prime Donne 2015

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

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2015 ($89.95)

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

Franco Pacenti Brunello Di Montalcinio DOCG 2015 Rosildo

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

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Madonna Delle Grazie 2015

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Fornace 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015

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

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

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

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

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piaggione 2015

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

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Sorgente 2015

Organic, biodynamic and unfiltered, from the then first in Montalcino, at the hands of Francesco Leanza, in 1995. Now (and since 2015) in the custodial hands of Felix and Sabine Eichbauer, halfway between Montalcino and Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The last of the cru, single-vineyards planted at Salicutti and not surprisingly the one with most red fruity juiciness that keeps a lineage with the Rosso. If a portal into knowing what it makes to taste the bright side of 2015 could be described then why not make use of this ethereal Sorgente to learn of such things. Voltage, tension and vibration. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2020

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Teatro 2015

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

Salvioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Cerbaiola 2015

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

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Helichrysum 2015

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

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

A Sant’Angelo in Colle viilage treasure is this Riserva made from fruit grown on estate vines at 400m just northwest of the administrative frazione. There is so much wine, substance and intensity at play in this near massive 2015. It is one with a soft core in its heart and so you can imagine the elasticity, nimble agility and the incredible length that will be the matter when the time comes to right. That fruition is at least five if not to be 10 years away. So much fruit from which tonneaux, grandi botti and variegated soils support the idea. Drink 2025-2035.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigneto Manachiara 2015

Serious wine here from Nardi, rich and nectareous, exotic and welling with big fruit flavours. The secondary and tertiary attributes can do nothing but lift and lengthen this wine towards epochs of imitable time. Look to open six bottles every three years for up to 20 in total. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted February 2020

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Poggio Doria 2015

Poggio Doria is the wild child of Silvio Nardi, a high acid, bigger tannic structure sangiovese of pulse, energy and drive. Fruit substance is high, tones are equally elevated and time will do great things to this wine. Full throttle, edgy, briny, intense, grippy and full of so much Montalcino love. Drink 2024-2034.  Tasted February 2020

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (other vintages, 14 notes)

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

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

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

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

This ’13 from Francesco Ripaccioli and Canalicchio di Sopra is sangiovese out of the excellent, variable, at times confounding and now at the seven year mark, nothing if not profound vintage. Perhaps even marks the turning point for a winemaker looking for his and his family’s sense of place, for a unique eastern to northeastern Montalcino sapidity in his wines. “We are learning from our mistakes,” he admits, “such as those we made in 2007. We are now much more going in the direction of purity in fruit and clean clarity out of the cellar.” Brunello is all about freshness, verticality and depth. The 2013 comes from what Francesco would still qualify as “not so easy a vintage, a vintage of interpretation.” Cold for a Montalcino season so he, his siblings and team passed through the vineyards on several occasions for preparation, timing and selection. “We like to clean the vineyard, to prepare for the harvest,” he adds. Picking happened in October “of amazingly floral fruit, finishing on the 11th, just as the rain arrived. Better to be lucky than good.” ‘Tis Brunello first of flowers in bloom, a candied scent and fresh herbs. Fulsome and openly fragrant, a silky texture, some chocolate and ultimately, beauty. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

Showing beautifully, in a calm stage even, a respite from power and now, simply attractive. All the Canalicchio elements from clay soil show up; mild sweetness, furthered salinity and a deep sort of sapidity. Nothing fully pronounced but all there. Great Riserva vintage.  Last tasted February 2020

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

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

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

La Gerla Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2013

The ’13 will be released on January 1st, 2023 and as the name Diecianni suggests it is a Riserva that 10 years minimum are needed before readiness begins to take shape. The selection is from the smallest grape clusters in estate vineyards and mainly the oldest vines, originally planted in 1987. The vintage of the great polyphonic-phenolic, elastic and stretched ripeness, by photosynthesis without heat, of muscles with energy and ones that will develop, remain and use their power to keep the fruit alive. That said it’s a wine of wood and the highest level of salinity, sapidity and a tang that is exhibited by no other Brunello di Montalcino. A concentration that is simply outstanding and in some minds, will even be eclipsed (or not) by 2016. The finesse and architecture of this wine are as good as it gets. Drink 2026-2042.  Tasted February 2020

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

“Reduction is a way to preserve the freshness and the florals of the wine,” tells winemaker Francesco Ripaccioli. Sangiovese is better set up and suited this way and while some Balsamico is now speaking through this ’12 Riserva’s voice, much of the aromatics are still situated in the realm of a high-toned grace.  Last tasted February 2020

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2012

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010

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

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2010

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

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

Col d’Orcia tasting on the ’00s

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2000

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

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

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1990

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

Col d’Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 1980

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

With Conte Francesco Marone Cinzano of Col d’Orcia

Barrel Samples

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2016

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

Canalicchio Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Casaccia 2016

Barrel Sample. Now this is something exceptional. This is what Casaccia is obviously capable of producing, The sweetest Canalicchio fruit of all, to date and with a rising low and slow angling of acidity (as opposed to straight verticality) that carries the fruit to great heights. This will be a triumph and in fact it is already tasting like a piece de Canalicchio resistance while it sings a long maestro song. A soloist that needs no accompaniment although food, company and peace would not hurt at all. Obviously this is more than just the northern side of Montalcino and more than Canalicchio.  This is Casaccia.  Drink 2025-2040.  Tasted February 2020

Good to go!

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Montalcino Sunset

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WineAlign

Conceptual and aesthetic Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino, 6pm

October 2019

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

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

Brunello 2019

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

Road to Montalcino

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

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

Montalcino sunset

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

Related – Awash in Brunello di Montalcino

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

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

Related – Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Cathrine Todd, Godello, Jeff Porter and Christopher Sealy

Conceptual versus aesthetic function

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

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

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

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

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

The visits

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

Le Ragnaie

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

Mario Bollag

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

Athena Tergis Bollag

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

Felix and Sabine Eichbauer

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

Cortonesi and Cortonesi

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

Gianni Bernazzi

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

Francesco Ripaccioli

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

Lorenzo Magnelli

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

Montalcino from Le Chiuse

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

Poggiali

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

Poggio di Sotto

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

Altesino

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

Leonardo Bellaccini

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

Filippo Chia

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

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

Stefano Cinelli Colombini

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

With Stefano Cinelli Colombini

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

The tasting notes

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

Altesino

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016 ($27.95)

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

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

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

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

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

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015 ($121.95)

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

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2014 ($121.95)

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

Fattoria dei Barbi

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

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna Del Fiore 2012

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

Bellaria

Bellaria Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

Bellaria Estate

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

View of Bellaria

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

Gianni Bernazzi and Assunto Peri

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2015

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

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Assunto 2013

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

Gianni Bernazzi

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Assunto 2012

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

Canalicchio view

Canalicchio Di Sopra

Canalicchio Di Sopra Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

Zonazione investigations with Francesco Ripaccioli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Romitorio vineyard soil

Castello Romitorio

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017 ($28.99)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Rossofonte 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pianrosso 2015

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

Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Pianrosso 2013

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

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

Cortonesi

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2014

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

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

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

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

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2005

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

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

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

With Tommaso Cortonesi

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

Lorenzo Magnelli

Le Chiuse

Le Chiuse Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

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

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

Le Chiuse Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Diecianni 2010

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

Riccardo and Godello

Le Ragnaie

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016 ($45.00)

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($115.00)

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013 ($114.00)

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Fornace 2015

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

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

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

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2015

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

Poggio di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto

San Giorgio Ciampoleto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

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

San Giorgio Ugolforte Brunello Di Montalcino 2014 DOCG

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

Poggio Di Sotto Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

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

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

San Felice – Campogiovanni

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

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

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

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

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigne Vecchie 2011

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

Vineyard at Salicutti

Podere Salicutti

Podere Salicutti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

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

Podere Salicutti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Piaggione 2013

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

View from Terralsole

Terralsole

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

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

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

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

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

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

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2007

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

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Montalcino, 6pm

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