Sangiovese is the future: Montalcino’s Rosso and Brunello

Fresh-pressed Sangiovese, Montalcino

Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino forever and always 100 per cent Sangiovese

Over the past four weeks in five online seminars we have been tasting Montalcino’s sangiovese while generating a high level of discourse between Canadian Sommeliers and Media to more than 20 producers of Rosso and Brunello. Isolation and global situations notwithstanding there has never been a joint action of this dimension before, a series of fortunate events that has been made possible because of the forward thinking and openness of the Conzorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino. All because of and in the name of sangiovese, tissue of Rosso, bones of Brunello and grape of the future.

Related – Stamina and staying power: Brunello di Montalcino

In this sixth and final 2020 session it will be sangiovese that holds the spotlight, Tuscany’s most essential grape variety. On Monday, December 7, 2020 I will again play host and moderator, as I have done with the help and support from 25 producers and their sangiovese wines. “Sangiovese is the future: Montalcino’s Rosso and Brunello” the webinar will welcome agronomist Federico Staderini and Tenuta San Giorgio’s Ugolforte Brunello 2015; Sabina Sassetti with her family’s Sassetti Livio – Pertimali’s Brunello 2015; Elia Loia and Palazzo’s Brunello 2015; Andrea Cortonesi and Angela Biagiotti along with both Uccelliera and Voliero Brunello 2015.

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

October Sangiovese, Montalcino

First love

We all remember our first love. We may hide the memory away and rarely speak of it but it’s always there. For me, Brunello di Montalcino was my first. In the spring and summer of 1987 I was a naive young McGill University student living in Siena. Bad hair, bad clothes, not a care in the world. My professor from the University of Toronto knew quite a lot about the wines of Toscana so when we made a class pilgrimage to Montalcino he asked if anyone would like to join him for wine tasting at the Enoteca di Fortezza during the afternoon break. All of my classmates opted for a siesta in the July shade and this at a time when there were no cell phones, computers or tablets to distract us from actually learning something. I was the only one who chose to accompany Professor Wollesen to the fortress.

In retrospect, what happened over those next few hours changed my life. It might have done the same for my classmates were they to taste, guided by a man of sangiovese experience, though 30 samples of Brunello di Montalcino 1982. If only I knew then even a fraction of what I have learned since, what value that would be for me now. No matter, for I have Professor Wollesen to thank for introducing me to the world of Brunello. And here we are.

Related – What the winemakers drink: Rosso di Montalcino  

Let’s talk about clones

What about the long-employed term sangiovese grosso? The word we know as Brunello translates loosely to “little dark one”, in reference to the local vernacular name for sangiovese grosso, “fat sangiovese,” the large-berried form of sangiovese which grows in the area. While Brunello di Montalcino and the clonal sangiovese grosso have been symbiotically synonymous for decades, with clonal selection so varied, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines. It is imperative to learn which clones are nurtured on each estate. This is the quintessential Montalcino situation: Estate specificity for sangiovese and cru.

Related – Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

Abbey Mood

A new era in Montalcino

With thanks to writer and educator Emily O’Hare it’s worth quoting the Brunello winemaking guru Giulio Gambelli who said that “the enological trend to reduce volatile acidity as much as possible annoyed him.” While that trend certainly lasted for at least two decades it seems that traditional ways are making their return, albeit with forward-thinking winemaking in the cleanest and sharpest of ways. There is so much red fruit and sangiovese purity in the 2015 Brunello, but also the 2018 Rosso that things just seem to have opened up a new era in Montalcino.

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

Poggio di Sotto looking towards San Giorgio and Monte Amiata

Tenuta San Giorgio

Tenuta San Giorgio founded in 1982 is the second and sister estate to Poggio di Sotto that was founded in 1989 on the south-eastern side of Montalcino overlooking the Orcia Valley. In 2011 Poggio di Sotto became part of the ColleMassari family of wines and Tenuta San Giorgio has been a part of the group since 2016. Monte Amiata looms and protects while sea breezes blow in for 26 hectares that enjoy a unique microclimate immediately southeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate in the southeastern part of Montalcino at 400m on the top of a ridge. Today the Tipa Bertarelli Family is the custodian of Piero Palmucci’s original vision. Claudio Tipa is the owner of ColleMassari and Grattamacco and beginning in 2011 for Poggio di Sotto and then 2016 for Tenuta San Giorgio he and his team committed themselves to the same quality standards and production techniques that have made the estate’s reputation. The same winemaking team led by Luca Marrone of nearly three decades an Oenologist Federico Staderini continue to produce sangiovese of great transparent, traditional and authentic construct.

San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Ugolforte 2015

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

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.  Tasted February 2020

The stunning white argileux of @pertimalisassetti with the Montosoli hill beyond

Sassetti Livio Pertimali

The wines of Livio, Lorenzo and Sabina Sassetti are made at the famous northern side Montosoli hill with south-east exposure. The Podere Pertimali and its 16 hectares of vineyards are of a terroir that is some of Montalcino’s greatest calcareous clay and the soils are strewn with ancient fossils and shells. On a day of perfect blue sky the light reflects of of these white, yellow and grey soils with blinding clarity. There is nowhere else in Montalcino like it.

Livio is one of the founding 1967 members of the Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino. Today Lorenzo and Sabina Sassetti are the custodians and makers for both the Montalcino and Montecucco properties and they do so with knowledge of modern oenological techniques but also in full respect of family tradition and philosophy. That may be a familiar refrain in this region but in Lorenzo and Sabina’s hands it is as they say in Italian, “è giusto e vero.”

Lorenzo Sassetti

Sassetti Livio Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From primarily grey arglileux (clay) soils though truth be told the variegation includes yellow, black and brown. Also found is Galestro, Pietra (like Forte) and a wide array of fossil shells, all much larger than it would be imagined. Here to the south west of the Montosoli hill is a warm and humid place so airflow is much more important than anything, to prevent disease and because ripeness is rarely an issue. The fruit is dark, hematic, all in. I tasted 45 examples of 2014 this morning and none were like this. It’s also silky smooth without any oak sheathing, make-up or cake icing. Salumi notes define the curative nature, acids are fine and driving, a high-toned moment is slightly Bretty and tannins are super smooth. High quality from 2014. Drink 2022-2032.  Tasted February 2019

Fossil shell at Sassetti Livio, Godello’s hand for perspective

Sassetti Livio Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2009

No shortage of reductive sangiovese funk comes off the nose of this well on its way to aging Brunello. Though the secondary dilemmas of oxidation, dried fruit, old leather and seeping cherries are amassed at this stage, the acidity rages quite evocatively and with what seems to be tremendous purpose. The grand old bariques honesty working with great fruit intensity gives this the kind of old school charm that is rapidly disappearing from the likes of Brunello, Barolo and Rioja. You have to appreciate your tolerable level of Brett, the gritty char, animale and ferric tendencies of these types of reds. More often than not I can find it in my heart and from my palate to abide. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2016

#liviosassetti #legend #brunellodimontalcino

Sassetti Livio Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012

Finally a nose of something not just recognizable but exacting and necessary for Brunello di Montalcino from this frazioni just to the northeast of the village. Dark cherries, rich and luxurious dark cherries. That and a cool minty savour plus a creamy gelato that silkens the palate. The grip and force are 2012 but the refinement is all 2012 and Sassetti. A very stylish Brunello and not even yet entered the zone. Drink 2021-2035.  Tasted February 2019

Vineyard at Palazzo

Palazzo

A great story. Perhaps it was by coincidence or by a curious sign of fate, but in 1983, Cosimo Loia bought the estate “Palace,” which bore the same family name of his wife Antoinette. The Loia-Palazzo family’s property in the southeast of Montalcino covers a total area of 12 hectares, of which four are cultivated with Sangiovese Grosso. Their approach is “Integrated Agriculture” using only organic farming methods. The terroir is mainly Galestro marl, but is also rich in limestone. In 1986 they began producing wine, along with their children. The first harvest was 1995. The work is still presided over by Cosimo and Antoinette, along with their son Angelo and daughter Elia.

Palazzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

From vineyards just directly southeast beneath the village of Montalcino there is a blessed, unobstructed warmth in this wine from a mixed idea vintage. Carries in its mid-weight stride the classic cherry-leather liqueur of central-south Montalcino sangiovese. It’s both traditional and sweetly spiced, with anise, nuttiness and a clearly transcribed Montalcino vernacular. It’s lovely Brunello is what I’m trying to say. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted October 2018 and March 2019

Andrea Cortonesi, Uccelliera (c) Brunello di Montalcino

Uccelliera

The name Uccelliera translates as “aviary” or “birdcage” in Italian, probably dating back to the Middle Ages when falcons where raised in the area. Today the estate holdings are 6.5 hectares of vineyards on different exposures planted to sangiovese in the southeast of Montalcino within the frazione of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, quite proximate to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo and also one of seven or so estates that are situated closest to Mount Amiata.

Andrea Cortonesi’s first Brunello vintage was 1991 but his work in the vineyards goes back much deeper and further. He was the cellar master at Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona until 1990 but also had a hand in helping to create many Montalcino estates, including Poggio di Sotto, La Torre, Poggio degli Ulivi, Mastrojanni, Tenuta di Sesta, Collosorbo, Sesta di Sopra and Podere Salicutti, many of them through the planting of their vineyards. Andrea purchased the Uccelliera farm in 1986 and planted in 1987. That he worked alongside some Montalcino giants of agriculture and oenology is not nothing. Giulio Gambelli, Roberto Cipresso, Maurizio Castelli, Alberto Antonini, and Attilio Pagli are some of those famous names and Andrea might just be the region’s greatest student, collaborator and torch-bearer. I am sure he also has some great stories. The year 1998 was when he was able to dedicate himself full time to Uccelliera. He is first and foremost a farmer. Andrea writes, “how can I believe that everything begins today just because I produce Brunello? Farming today requires considerable individual dedication, but that does not mean that it can be seen as a vocation to solitary labour. Growth must be collective, since if my neighbour makes mistakes, I will suffer the consequences, and vice versa. This is the reason I dedicate time to mutual agricultural concerns, to meetings, to the study of all those things that, apart from work in the fields, are part of our world. Our work has serious meaning for all of our society, so it bears doing with conscientiousness and responsibility.” 

Voliero

Another name for Uccelliera is Voliero, “birdcage” in Italian and the story behind Andrea Cortonesi’s second label is a good one. In 2006 he was running his own restaurant in Siena called Il Casato and a friend of his in Montalcino offered him grapes from a vineyard in the Canalicchio cru in northeastern Montalcino to make a private label wine for the restaurant. The wine was made from those grapes through the 2008 vintage but in 2009 Cortonesi switched to Castelnuovo dell’Abate and 200 metres higher elevation vineyards from which to source Voliero. With the 2020 vintage Andrea will make his 12th Voliero and while it only produces 1,000 cases max of Rosso and Brunello it is now imported into North America.

(c) Uccelliera

Uccelliera Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

A combination of sweet fruit and volatility gather in this tart yet reductive Brunello. The fruit is quite gregarious and almost generous. Hard to figure though because the tannins are also somewhat soft. Will drink well for a few years. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Uccelliera Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

Quite refined, dark-skinned, already showing resolve and fruit resolved, confident and ready to drink. Low acids and tannin, a Rosso for now while others wait and Brunello play seriously harder to get. Drink 2019-2020.  Tasted February 2019

Good to go!

godello!

Fresh-pressed Sangiovese, Montalcino

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino

La Fortezza di Montalcino

VIP tickets to taste four Brunello di Montalcino from the acclaimed 2015 vintage

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020 I will play host and moderator for the second of six online seminars covering the entirety of Montalcino, joined by 25 producers and their exceptional wines. “Backstage pass to Brunello di Montalcino” welcomes Winemaker Francesca Arquint with her Collemattoni Brunello 2015, Oenologist and Proprietor Hayo Loacker and his Corte Pavone Brunello 2015, Violante Gardini Cinelli Colombini with Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello 2015 and oenologist Stefano Tofanelli pouring his Il Grappolo Brunello 2015 Sassochetto.

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

Montalcino, looking east

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. 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. 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. I am 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.

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2020: Montalcino surges ahead

Benvenuto Brunello 2020

The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino vintage

This return to an unequivocally and universally declared vintage of prominence for Brunello in one of both quantity and quality. It has been described as one “made by God,” that is to say all a winemaker had to do was not screw things up. Pundits and critics can’t help but try to break Montalcinio apart by affirming that one area or sub-zone is better than another. What ’15 does is level the playing field and remind us all that the whole is far more profound than any single part. The vintage is one of those automatic ones, marketing itself due to so many good wines having been made. A very good one for business while delivering high quality and most importantly without having caused any undue stress, especially relative to 2014. Despite lockdowns and pandemic related complications many Montalcino estates have pre-sold much of their 2015 Brunello. Will it be one of the longer lived in Brunello lore? Does it compare to let’s say 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007 and 2010? Best that we allow the producers to address that question. What I can say is that the 2015 Brunelli speak to the wounded zeitgeist of our current situation with a knife that cuts straight through to the matter. They are sangiovese of purity, eloquence, accuracy and power.

These are some more comments I have made about 2015:

“A vintage of classic Brunello colour and the dichotomous relationship that bridges power and drinkability.”

“There is a perfume about 2015, a ripe cherry that stands apart.”

“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.”

“The come and get me vintage but don’t be misled, distracted or misunderstood. There are sneaky tannins everywhere.”

“In 2015, inexplicably and inescapably you can recognize the sangiovese from Montalcino.”

Collematoni

Collemattoni is the name of the podere in southern Montalcino dating back to 1672, very close to the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle. Giuseppe Bucci was the first Bucci,  a.k.a. Zappaterra, “the digger,” but there are some other possible meanings that might not exactly make it the most flattering of nicknames. The amazing thing about Montalcino’s oldest families is how they don’t sugar coat their ancestry. Sinners and saints are all remembered as they were. Marcello Bucci is the current generation, son of Ado and Vera, who in the mid-1980s decided to start bottling their own wine. Marcello is responsible for having created what is today Collematoni, an organic company in Montalcino.

The wines are made from 11 hectares of estate-owned vineyards, divided into five areas (Collemattoni, Fontelontano, Sesta, Cava and Orcia) for an average production of approximately 50,000 Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino. In favourable years Collematoni might prodcue 2,500 bottles of Brunello Riserva from grapes out of the Fontelontano vineyard. It is worth noting that thanks to the presence of a biomass fuelled heating system and solar panels, Collemattoni produces the 80 per cent of the electricity needed at the winery. The winemaker is Francesca Arquint who also happens to be married to Marcello. Arquint has also worked and made wines for Mâté and Caparzo in Montalcino.

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2018

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

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2017

A highly specialized terroir-driven Rosso with intensely structured tannins shaped over solid and strong bones. Really intense Rosso with leathery cherries and lots of dried herbs. Very good length. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Collematoni is a ripe one without breaching the grey areas of 2014 Brunello. Fruit in the pomegranate and red currant spectrum is protected beneath a hard tannic shell with circulating acids. Quite a beast this young and needing three to five years to gain its charms. Drink 2023-2028.  Tasted February 2019

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Take a trip away from all you have noted, felt and perceived in the first 25 Brunello tasted from this 2013 vintage and begin anew. Imagine you know nothing of sangiovese nor how it translates from the Montalcino terroir. Take in this Collematini with open eyes, nose and mouth. It’s traditional, you would have to say and the most layered and variegated sangiovese imaginable. It transcends ubiquity and suggests a very personal affair. This is a religious, personal imposition from which there is no escape. The fruit is characteristic of vintage and specific to Sant Angelo in Colle but it comes replete first as a swell from the western sea and then a squall in the eastern wind. The fruit wave is massive, the stiff breeze of acidity equal to task and the tannins building, aboard ships whose masts flutter upon these seas. But it’s both a comfort and a charm, under a spell that you will not be able to avoid, not for a decade or more. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Gorgeous red fruit as generous and dare it be said, magnanimous as it gets. Collematoni is a fruit machine, but also a mineral maker and a long-distance, slow-evolutionary walker. The calcareous-clay impression (from San Angelo in Colle on the southern hill of Montalcino) leaves a lasting imprint on your Brunello soul. This carries fine millefoglie layers of fruit, woven in lattice and with alternative material from that fruit, of ground stone, acidity and sweet, fine-grainy tannin. No shards, no cruising and no need for rehydration. Carries it all in one bag, or bottle. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017

Corte Pavone

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Hayo Loacker started carefully observing his organic terroir and vines 10 years ago and has set up a dynamic micro parcelling of the land, dividing it in different areas to define seven individual single vineyard of Brunello – what he refers to as the “7 dynamic Brunello crus.” They are Campo Marzio, Fior di Meliloto, Poggio Molino al Vento, Fiore del Vento, Anemone al Sole, Terra di Ginestra and Terra Nuova.

(c) Weingut Loacker

Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

From Rainer, Hayo and Franz Loacker in Casanuova to the west of the village. The clay soils pack at upwards of 450-500m on slopes at one of the higher elevations in Montalcino. Here is a big wine from Corte Pavone and one that could only have been difficult to manage in a vintage that tested the communal mettle. Dark fruit, wood spice and finishing chocolate. Drink 2020-2023.  Tasted February 2019

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

Since 1996 Corte Pavone has been owned by Rainer Loacker and his sons, Hayo and Franz. Hayo is the winemaker. It is located in the Casanuova area to the west of Montalcino with hillside clay soils upwards of 450-500m, certainly one of the higher elevations in the territory. Much of the 90 hectares of the estate is covered with meadows and forests. Only four hectares are dedicated to vineyards with vine age 30-35 years old and with a plan of converting another four also blessed with the best exposures. The organic wines are aged in Slavonian casks, French Barrique and Austrian oak barrels. Rainer Loacker is from the family that owns Biscotti Loacker and Remedia Loacker which produces and markets enzymes and other natural nutrients. He also owns Tenuta Schwarthof near Bolzano in Alto-Adige and Valdifalco in the Maremma. We often think about Brunello as coming from either northern or southern vineyards. In Casanuova and what separates it from other zones is the consideration of its western position and how the vineyards are affected by a closer proximity to the sea. More than this is the great altitude so that a cooler prevalence and diurnal temperature swing means Brunello of higher acidity. Though quite approachable for Montalcino sangiovese this ’13 is also reductive, fresh, energetic and its tones are set to high. Great food Brunello. Drink 2018-2026. Tasted March 2018

With Violante Gardini, Azienda Agricola Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Donatella Cinelli Colombini comes from one of Montalcino’s longest running families, of a history and I quote, “where the lives of heretics, jurists, men of the church and grape growers entwine.” In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino on the road to Buonconvento, with sandy clay and Galestro soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Two interesting facts about Donatella. One, she teaches wine tourism in the Master graduate programmes of three universities and two, in 2016 she was elected National president of the Donne del Vino Association. As for her daughter Violante, from 2013 to 2019 she was President of the Movimento Turimso del Vino Italiano, from 2016 to 2019 she was Vice President AGIVI (Young Italian Vine and Wine entrepreneurs) ands in December 2019 was elected President.

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016

Of the first couple of dozen Rosso tasted this is the one with some true, purposed reduction, if only as an early veil of protection, to lock in freshness and deliver this forward. Some pretty firm and fleshy fruit directs the body politic so that the first two years will seem hushed and suppressed. It will open like a flower and reveal some charm, soon after that. Another clear winner of purpose and focus from Donatella Cinelli Colombini. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015

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

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

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2014

Despite and in spite of the northern vineyard’s location of six small plots in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne this from Colombini is quite ripe for the vintage. Strawberries and dusty, savoury accents drive the fruit into a pool of fine, welling and syrupy acidity. It’s an unusually simplified and somewhat flatlined wine for Donatella out of a vintage neither old-school nor flashy modern, yet major challenges are no obstacle for this estate and so her sangiovese is still very full of charm and grace. Drink 2021-2027.  Tasted February 2019

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013

In 1998 when she went out on her own to create a new project and in reaction to the fact that wineries in Montalcino did not trust a female cellar master, Donatella created the first all-female run winery in Italy. It is now an estate run by a team of no fewer than eight passionate women. The restored Casato Prime Donne is on the northern side of Montalcino, with sandy clay soils and has been in Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s family since the end of the 16th century. Of the total surface of 40 hectares, 16.5 are planted to sangiovese and are cultivated organically. Aging for the first year was in (5-7 hL) tonneaux and then continued in (15-40 hL) Allier wood and Slavonian oak casks. The wine comes from six small vineyards in a 10 hectare area surrounding Casato Prime Donne. Donatella describes 2013 as “an old style vintage, a Brunello that is elegant, complex, deep and harmonious, that will last decades. The scarce vintages are nearly always the higher quality ones.” There have been exceptional wines from Donatella in the recent past but the most impressive thing she can do is make a great wine in a challenging vintage. This 2013 does what needs; it’s delicately passed fruit avoids the intensity and drying angst of others, keeping the bright faith, binding it to tannin through the coursing dialectical collection of acidities and then making a valid request for patience. All 2013 Brunello need time, some will never come into their marriages and others, like the ’13 from Casato Prime Donne are already there. It will go further than many. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted February and March 2018

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2013

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

(c) Il Grappolo Montalcino

Il Grappolo

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto, meaning “stone quiet” is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20-plus year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of Galestro, Alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world.

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 Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2013

On 25 hectares with 16 planted south of Montalcino around Camigliano, in an area dense with Mediterranean scrub lying between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Val d’Orcia. The vines look south towards Monte Amiata and west towards the valleys of the Maremma. Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s iconic Brunello made from 20 year-old vines in the south-facing Piano Nero vineyard, planted at 300 metres of elevation in deep, pebble-rich schist soils with decomposed rocks of galestro, alberese, and sandstone.  The wine ferments in temperature-controlled open vats and is given a lengthy maceration; it then matures at least 24 months in French and Slavonian oak barrels and a further 6/12 months in the bottle. Without equivocation and to keep us comfortably seated in the plush authenticity of traditional Brunello it is Sassocheto that confirms our notion of a sangiovese-Montalcino world. Should Il Grappolo’s be considered as more traditional than most? Yes, but just as this 2013 tells us with utmost clarity, the vernacular is spoken through an ever evolving and forward thinking lens. No pretence and all in for the right reasons. Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted March 2018

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2012

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Il Grappolo’s Sassocheto, with very firm and vacuumed aromatics shut and locked in so very tight. The depths are occupied by cherries drying, losing their body weight and settling into a floor of forest leaves and a future occupied by mushroom and truffle. The old-school, fine leathery and old barrel tonic bequeathes much hope for the mouthfeel and it gives every reason to confirm the possibilities. The world as we have known it here in Brunello sits right in this glass. It’s both comforting and filled with ancient wonder. Drink 2019-2027. Tasted February 2017

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2010

Sassocheto is Il Grappolo’s Vigna 2010, a Sant-Angelo in Colle ripper, intense, brooding, formidable and still raging. Some 2010’s have already evolved and settled into their skin but Sassocheto is just getting started. If you are unfamiliar with the house then think of Poggio al Vento from Col D’Orcia for a stylistic comparison. The leather and cherry liqueur mix into roses and volatile syrup for a heady stew that is more traditional than modern. This is serious sangiovese, Montalcino style. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017

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