Diversity in Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Benvenuto Brunello is the highlight of many people’s calendar, for good reason, because there are few wines that can match its depth, class, character and structure. No one of sound mind passes up the opportunity to taste a pile of Brunello from Montalcino. And those who know understand the remarkable fact that it is indeed quite special to find such a level of consistency across a spectrum of very high end wines.

For a look at our reports published over at WineAlign where John Szabo and I offer opinions on the 2013 Brunello, please click on these links.

Coming Home With Brunello di Montalcino

Feature Report: Brunello di Montalcino 2013 Vintage and Buyer’s Guide

The travelling Brunello experience is taking place in the Consorzio’s 52nd year, now in the hands of Patrizio Cencioni, Chairman and President of The Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Vice Presidents Tommaso Cortonesi, Andrea Machetti and Riccardo Talenti. On March 5th, 2018 the 27th road show came to the Carlu in Toronto and I had the ambassadorial pleasure of presenting the wines alongside Brunello Consorzio Director Giacomo Pondini. The session was just the third international presentation of the new vintage of Brunello, the first having taken place in New York and Chicago in late January and the second just over two weeks ago in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino. That the Consorzio continues to view Canada as such an important market and partner speaks volumes about our longstanding relationship with Italia, Toscana and Montalcino.

Benvenuto Brunello

Related – Benvenuto Brunello 2017 report: Rethinking Rosso and disciplined Brunello

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.

A #benvenutobrunello2018 discussion with @marcora85 on all things #montalcino means there is lots of thinking to do ~ #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino

Last month I came to Montalcino for the second straight year to assess the presentation of the current Annata and along with tasting more than a hundred of those architectural 13s I went out into the field to visit important vineyards. Because two ears are better than one mouth I also spent time listening in with other journalists and with producers to get a consensus on the vintage. In 2018 there isn’t one and in my view, that is a very good thing.

The mixed messaging coming from talk about the 2013 Brunello may seem confounding but as Mark Twain wrote, “it were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.” Thinking about a year like 2013 makes for a terrifically exasperating enigma because it presents a very particular kind of challenge. To some it was a case of extreme or at least unusual and unsettling weather patterns and the many shifts made harvest and winemaking decisions crucial, but also far from universally obvious. The vintage is to me a head scratcher because of how many opinions I’ve heard expressed as to its overall quality. I like to refer to the wines as ones of structural expressionism but however you choose to qualify them, the Annata wines are perhaps the most diverse that Montalcino has produced in a very long time.

The hill that is Montalcino. The look that is Godello. The argilo of the northern vineyards #tuttoèpossibile

The 2013 vintage began with a rainy and snowy winter. The spring was cold and the rain played havoc on bud break and development. Veraison was very slow. The harvest for many took place in late September through the first week of October. A common play for journalists or anyone trying to assess a vintage like 2013 is to lay blame on and conversely congratulations to producers who choose to pick their fruit at one junction or another. In this case, either before or after the September rains. If we have learned anything from Montalcino, where your estate vineyard or vineyard holdings are located will determine when, how and why you make your decisions. Every cru, block, plot and row carries a specific picking window and in 2013 even further under the microscope. It would be fruitless to try and generalize and to say that the greatest wines were made because they were picked before or after one pinpointed day during harvest.

So, are the 2013s much better than the 2012s?  Do they exhibit more character, structure and depth? I would say better is the wrong word, especially because we are discussing sangiovese, all of which, as I’ve said many times before, are snowflakes. As for character, structure and depth? Many wines speak of all three and many more will, in time, even if many of you are not yet convinced that this will happen. I am confident that history will be kind, even apologetic, to the 2013 Brunelli and in turn, the wines and their producers will look forward to reconciling with the early naysayers. Diplomacy, kindness and patience will reward us all.

#montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is referred to as “a very modern and ingenious intuition,” a phrase that so aptly depicts how it has separated itself from other sangiovese producing neighbours, namely Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only the Brunelli are possessive of a very certain and special sort of sangiovese aromatic liqueur, an amalgamation of deep, dark cherry, fresh leather, earth and flowers that differs from the others. Brunello also carries its own unique type of acidity and a fineness of tannin that speaks to how the grapes develop on the slopes and in the valleys below.

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.

As with anywhere grapes are grown, your vineyard passes must act on phenolic ripeness and when it hits, the qualities that come along for the ride in that package are the ones you must work with. The best wines are the ones that speak this truth so if your site achieves optimum ripeness with dark fruit and generous alcohol, make that wine. If its ripe centre includes transparent, lithe and verdant fruit, make and own that elegant style of sangiovese. Be true to variety and location. In Montalcino this is the greatest compliment you can pay to your vines and your fruit.

#Repost @michaelawine・・・Because I just can_t get enough of Brunello di Montalcino – and @mgodello @brunellodimontalcino #brunello #benvenutobrunello #bbcanada2018 #tuscany #tosc

To gain a keen understanding of what separates one bottle of Brunello di Montalcino from another, especially when trying to compare and contrast from a specific Annata, I would suggest you concentrate on the location of the vineyards that produce the fruit. In some cases it’s a cru or a single estate set of blocks and in others a gathering of sangiovese from several locations. The advantage of the latter is the ability of multiple fruit sources to mitigate the deficiencies of one through support by the others. It also helps to create a house or estate style.

You have to know where you are relative to the hill of Montalcino; south, north, northeast, northwest, far south and even more specifically, from which block and micro-climate you farm within that zone. You have to consider the zones; running clockwise from the centre of the region, first on the hill of Montalcino (together with La Croce and Canalicchio), next to the north we have Montosoli, then to Torrenieri in the northeast, to the east – Pianelli, the southeast – Castelnuovo dell’Abate, extreme south-southwest – Sant’Angelo in Colle, southwest – Tavernelle and Camigliano, to the west Casanuovo and finally Bosco, to the northwest. While some zones are more widely recognized than others it is important to associate each with the style of wines they are prone to produce. Our goal here is not to dwell too much on sub-zones and it often requires great generalizations to try and do so, but it is still a very useful tool to align your palate and to gain an understanding of Montalcino’s diversity through multiple places of origin.

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

In the 1970s the number of Brunello di Montalcino producers increased to 25 vintners producing approximately 70,000 cases. According to the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, 120 producers made 300,000 cases of wine in 1995. Today, there are well over 200 producers in the Consorzio producing more than 500,000 cases of Brunello.

Before I get to the 83 Rosso and Brunello tasted and reviewed in Montalcino, at the Toronto seminar we poured, compared and contrasted 10 Brunello di Montalcino, eight from the current Annata, including one Cru, plus a 2011 Vigna and 2012 Riserva. Here are my tasting notes, replete with background information on those 10 wines.

Tasted through all 60, you know, for your safety #brunellodimontalcino

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

From the northern hillside vineyard of five hectares facing south next to Caparzo’s La Casa and one of the most historical vineyards in all of Montalcino. Montosoli is blessed of an ancient limestone soil and an exceptional 360 degree exposure. It combines 380m of elevation and great quality Galestro in clay, was first produced in 1975 and only in years deemed worthy of its abilities. It is traditionally aged for four years prior to release; at least two years in Slavonian oak barrels, three to four months in medium-toast Allier barriques, and four months in bottle. If the normale is rich and elegant this is fuller, bigger, uncanny of that omniscient blueberry fruit and unlike any other Brunello in all of Montalcino. Is it the clone, the rocks, the place? What is it? Is is a different grape? No, it’s the terroir. But how? The Montosoli clone, mixed with the land and farmed by the people. True-blue, more than just climat-esque in Montalcino? Yes. How else to explain it. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted February and March 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Cupano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

In Montalcino you can find Cupano on 34 hectares of land in Tavernelle on the stony hill of a rolling plain above the Ombrone River. Their seven hectares of vines (three of which are new) grow at an average altitude of 200 metres on terroir with good drainage and high mineral content at the far edges of the territory. Their organic and biodynamic estate is a cultural marriage between Ornella Tondini, an Italian, and her husband Lionello Cousin, a Frenchman. They credit great mentors; Henri Jayer from Bourgogne who is a firm believer that wine is made in the vineyard, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, low yields, native yeasts, malolactic on the lees and aging in French barriques over Botti. Carlo Ferrini selected the land for the vines and the vine-stocks, the growth system and the height of the vines. François Bouchet introduced the idea of biodynamics and finally, approval from the great sangiovese enologist Giulio Gambelli. From “a regular Tuscan summer which led to a good ripeness and structure,” Lionello Cousin feels “pretty confident of 2013’s potential.” If the early presence of even-tempered and richly endowed fruit showing its flesh through well-aligned teeth is any indication than longevity will be a real asset to this Brunello. Everything points forward and there is zero doubt as to the passion, attention and provenance paid to the method, the gurus and the teachers. This is sangiovese worked by the hands of agriculturalists and winemakers on the ball, present at all times. It does not speak of consulting oenology popping in and out of view. Very special and singular in kind. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cupanomontalcino  @Cupano_Brunello  @CupanoMontalcino

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (113357, $64.95, WineAlign)

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    donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (112607, $72.00, WineAlign)

Fanti’s 10 hectares of 20-30 year old vines have been developed in the amphitheatre of the south facing hills of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, at 350-430m, a part of which are quite proximate to the Roman Basilica of Sant’Antimo. This seems to be the optimum age for vines in Montalcino and for the production of a classic, estate or house style. Also a matter of manual harvest and the use of the sorting tables. Their Brunello is a classic expression of a gathered terroir. Ageing is done in part French oak barriques and partly in medium capacity (3,000L) casks for a minimum of 24 months (usually 28). Before release the wine is bottle-aged for a minimum of four (but usually up to 12) further months. Fanti’s 2013 is a deeply swelling affair of cherry liqueur and fresh leather, rich, decisive and quite intense. The liquid gelée is fully and completely welling in fruit and earth with more tonic and fine bitters in linger than most. This is a very specific sangiovese with a composed and singular style, chalky, variegated and gregarious. It will have many fans on restaurant lists all over the greater diaspora for Brunello. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February and March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Il Grappolo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Sassocheto 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $58.00, WineAlign)

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  #ilgrappolo  @GrappoloFortius  @IlGrappoloFortiusMontalcino

La Colombina Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (445650, $69.95, WineAlign)

La Colombina di Caselli Anna Maria is the full name, a small three hectare estate in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, bordering on both the Ciacci and Uccelliera estates. The vineyards have been in the Caselli family for generations. Though they had always chosen to sell the grapes rather than bottle their own wines it was in 1997 when they converted to specialist wine growing with the planting of the three hectares and released their first wines in 2001. The Brunello is aged in a combination of barriques and tonneaux plus Bottle aging for eight to 10 months. Castelnuovo dell’Abate is one of Montalcino’s hottest sub-zones, protected from cold easterly winds by the extinct Amiata volcano and open to briny hot Mediterranean winds on from the west. The speciality of this zone and micro-climate bring great structure to La Colombina’s sangiovese though in 2013 a concentrated effort to emit amenable and enjoyable fruit puts this in an earlier frame of mind. That said it will outlast the ’12, a wine of fine liqueur. This is surely a consistent follow-up to that wine. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  #lacolombina  wineonline_ca    @wineonline_ca  WineOnline.ca

Tenute Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (237263, $59.00, WineAlign)

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  #cortepavone  

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (363028, $49.95, WineAlign)

Pierluigi Tagliabue purchased the “healthy hill” Villa Poggio Salvi in 1979, now 21 hectares of vineyards owing its name to its historical location on the south side of Montalcino, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. The altitude is between 300 and 500 meters, with a rich weave of clay soils and a beneficial breeze. Pierluigi Tagliabue’s grandson Luca Belingardi is the winemaker. The Brunello spends 30 months in oak casks plus a minimum 6 months in bottle. The 2013 is an agriculturally clean, sound and precise wine meeting a viniculture on the same, extended plain for sangiovese of substance, passion and flare. This is quite tart and angular though only because the structure is meant for a launch forward, beyond the turn of the decade and forward to the next. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February and March 2018  #villapoggiosalvi  halpernwine      @HalpernWine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna del Fiore 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $79.95, WineAlign)

Having tasted the follow-up 2012 a year earlier in Montalcino made for more than a curious moment to look at this 2011 one year later and in Toronto. Nothing against the rock solid ’12 but this vintage is simply glorious. Waiting 12 months was not just worth it but clearly essential. The walls have come down, the sea departed, volcano stepped aside and all that is right in a Castelnuovo dell’Abate Brunello world is also righteous and beautiful. Some of Montalcino’s most famous and iconic wines have come from Stefano Cinelli Colombini and Fattoria Barbi, the oldest of which date back to 1870. There are two centuries of history with thanks to Francesca Colombini. The Vigna del Fiore “vineyard of the flower” or maybe “flower garden vineyard” is unique to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, one of the oldest (and furthest south) in Montalcino. The block is just under six hectares from an area where vines have been cultivated since the XVI century. It sits on the top of a hill that descends toward the Asso and Orcia rivers and faces Mt. Amiata. The hill is a natural corridor between Montalcino and Mt. Amiata and it connects the Crete Senesi in the Val d’Orcia and the basin of the Ombrone valley as you head to the sea. The production varies a lot; in some years it is not produced and at a maximum it reaches the 13,000 bottles range. The first vintage was 1981, chosen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Francesca Colombini Cinelli. Aged in small to medium size (that is 5-20 hL) oak barrels for the first months, it completes the aging in larger oak barrels for a total period of two years and then is bottled at least four months before it’s released. The oenologist is Paolo Salvi. This represents what matters in terms of Vigna-designate Brunello and what it means compared to broader expressions drawn from and combining several vineyards. So close to drinking perfectly but to tell you the truth, you don’t have to wait. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted March 2018  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Riserva 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $222.00, WineAlign)

Massimo Ferragamo purchased the 2,000 hectare estate in 2003. With close to 60 hectares planted at 350-450 metres to sangiovese, Castiglion del Bosco produces three wines: Brunello di Montalcino, the single-vineyard Campo del Drago and this Millicento Riserva. Located in the northwestern part of the zone, an isolated tract of wild forest surrounds the vineyards, all part of the Val d’Orcia Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park. The organically farmed vines were planted in 1998 and some new planting took place after the purchase in 2003. There are two distinct growing sections, the 20-hectare Gauggiole vineyard, just beneath the borgo and Capanna, with 40 hectares. As for soils, it was five million years ago that sea levels dropped leaving sand and clay deposits across the Val d’Orcia. The Radicofani and Amiata volcano eruptions also spread a dark magma known as trachite, resulting in a soil mixture perfect for growing sangiovese. Marl and Galestro predominate. Since the debut vintages, winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi has decreased both the predominance of barriques and the amount of new oak. Since the 2012 harvest the Millicento Riserva has only been aged in 33 hectoliter casks, but sees an additional year in bottle. This is just the third vintage of this bottling and the first to set the record straight because the vintage is a true barometer of what it is to benefit from an extra year of aging. The effect of altitude and a surround sound of forest solicits the gelid savour and cool, elemental, semimetal, crystalline coal streak that runs through the luxuriance of mahogany fruit. Brunello has the ability to layer density and weightlessness in a way that is impossible yet understood. Like here, in the Castiglion del Bosco Millicento 2012. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted March 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

The future so sub-zone we’ve got to draw maps

“Montalcino is too small for micro-zones,” explains La Mannella’s Tommaso Cortonesi. “We have to communicate about winery crus or zones, this will be beneficial for the territory, but 95 per cent of consumers have no idea where Montalcino is, so why do we need to divide it up into micro-zones? Cru, but nut sub-zones.” It’s true, each producer knows the soil, the vines, the specifics of their cru and what needs to be done to make the best wine possible from that cru.”You have to exult the main characteristic of your single-vineyard. You can talk about freshness in the north, but not in the warmer parts of the south. And you have to work in the right way to exult the freshness or conversely the big body possibility of that area. Work woith what the zone gives you.” Generally speaking, the northern side has much more vigour, on more clay and more water, where green harvest at least once or twice must be performed. On the southern side the yields are lower.

My friend and colleague Monty Waldin wrote “there’s no better way to understand this intriguing wine than to seek out the single-vineyard expressions.” Identifiable single-vineyard Brunello will more than likely be completely different from one other, “proof, if it were needed, that differences between Brunello terroirs are something that can unite rather than divide the region.” But there is also the concept of single vineyards versus single terroirs. The latter is also a good way to divide and make sense of the region.

Many have raised the question “to zone or not to zone,” a debate hotly contested for years but still with no clear answer. Is Montalcino ready for sub-zones or is it still far too early, decades early even, to be expecting this shift? Does zoning runs the risk of giving imprecise and misleading evaluations? Are many more years of experience required to figure out where (as in Bourgogne) are the locations of the best soils and cru? Is it not generally agreed already which ones these are? Remember that sangiovese is the only grape allowed in Brunello, is notoriously site-sensitive and performs differently depending on its environment. Do the producers know with certainty where it consistently works the best?

Annata 2013 #benvenutobrunello2018 highlights from a confounding vintage with some inspired upside. Wait for it. #benvenutobrunello #brunellodimontalcino #poggiodisotto #salvioni #sanpol

One way to look at Montalcino is as an inverted cone with its peak just south of the town of Montalcino (think of dividing the square into four isosceles triangles as shown on the map, with the center forming the apex of the cone). From the center, the slopes generally descend out- ward across the region. It thus becomes apparent that one of the most influential variables in the character of these wines is altitude. This wine zone enjoys a Mediterranean climate as well as high altitudes that provide a cooling effect that is beneficial to the grapes and prevents disease. The differences in altitude and exposition throughout the zone play a substantial role in the vegetal cycle of the vines. Due to high altitudes, cooling conditions from winds and evening temperature drops sustain a slower cycle in vineyards. It is important to note that all variables are not constant and generalizations can oversimplify a complex subject. Individual site soil, exposure, viticulture and vinification technique, producer style, and vintage conditions can change these characteristics.

Here are the notes on the wines tasted in Montalcino; 62 Brunello and 21 Rosso.

Brunello di Montalcino

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (994095, $63.00, WineAlign)

Lovely exotic spice on the nose of the Altesino Brunello ’13, something the ’12 did not at first and continues not to show, but this is not too dissimilar to some other 13s. This northern song of multi-vineyard, micro-climate and terroir fruit carries itself admirably, with admiration for its variegated origins and for what you do with such a complex and volatile subset of territory. The dark fruit meeting rich and warm texture quotient trips off the tongue like E Più Ti Penso in what is surely of the more beautiful classica annata 13s. “Non ha l’acqua per nuotare.” Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Montosoli 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $126.00, WineAlign)

A year makes an incredible difference. No dissipation of the richness and deep liqueur though now the emergence of marked elegance and of course, the Montosoli blueberry. Still a calcareous pietraforte vein runs through in chalky liquidity but a year makes such a difference and now the breathing is calm, undisturbed, lovely. Last tasted February 2018.

In its present state Montosoli is a beast. There, I’ve said it. Shut tight, chains securely in place, reduction the retaining wall to keep predators out and so good luck on unearthing any early secrets. You know there is classic and earthy red fruit hiding but you can’t quite feel it. The palate is chewy, crunchy, propitiously and indubitibly enriched. This is a massive Brunello with underlying elegance and charm but ultimately all-powerful. Drink 2021-2037. Tasted February 2017  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

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

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $126.95, WineAlign)

Let’s talk about what changes in a year, with the settling of tannin and acidity still working its magic, munching away on the wood and the fruit, combining and alone united front getting all together. Unlike Montosoli however, Altesino’s Riserva ’12 exhibits a high level of spice that is still biting, like a Riserva does. Though I prefer to drink the Vigna, usually, but especially with Motosoli, there is no doubting the layering and age forward ability of a Riserva like 2012. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018  altesino_winery  rogersandcompanywines    @rogcowines  Altesino Srl  Rogers & Company

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (65114, $64.95, WineAlign)

More wisdom is readily apparent from Pian Delle Vigne through the art of estate blending to amalgamate, mitigate and ultimately realize the best for the vintage. Deep cherry, smoky to smoldering fruit solder but with a sense of calm beneath the warm. A swarm of red fruit and then this marly mineral streak running deep into the drupe. Absolutely defining, no matter how few or many you will taste from 2013, this is how it happened and will continue to do so for a decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted February 2018  marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (154609, $55.00, WineAlign)

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

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (928028, $49.95, WineAlign)

If there is another estate in Montalcino with more ode in pocket to tradition and history while always moving and thinking forward then I’d like to meet it. Barbi’s ’13 takes an express leap ahead, away from where it came but with notes and stories that recall its past. This fruit is serious, wise, salumi-frutta di bosco meets fragola based, chewy, ropey and exact. The tannins are drying over round and bounding acidity while the age potential never wavers. It’s a baby, like so many, but in a Brunello as here, as always, there is no speculation, only certainty. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Though not yet convinced that 2013 will be a the vintage of the century it is always a pleasure and indeed an honour to taste a house moving from strength to strength. You can feel the give and take of the grippy framework, certainly before all else but behind a textured weave of a curtain there is the fruit lying in patient wait. The whole package brings about a well-thought out design, from that calm and collected fruit through very fine acidity and into the masonry of supporting structure. Drink 2021-2031. Tasted February 2018  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This is bright, cheery, wild cherry and fresh leather sangiovese with a medium body meets semi-plush texture, medium acidity and some drying, grippy tannins. It’s extremely correct for its take on 2013 and ostensibly tells the story of the vintage. You can use a Brunello like Camigliano’s to benchmark wines in either or all directions. It offers a vantage point at the centre of a four-corner intersection with traverses in right angles and on diagonals in all directions. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  commercialecamigliano    @camiglianomontalcino

Canneta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

From a most challenging 2013 vintage, this can only be Brunello di Montalcino, with ripe, intense, dusty and edgy fruit wrapped up in grippy tannin. There is a verdant streak running through the tannin, not surprising considering the vintage and there too is the black cherry, leather and cypress savoury liqueur. The acidity is well-managed, the typicity bang on and in the end, a perfectly correct example of vintage and place. Drink 2018-2020.  Tasted February 2018  #canneta    Società Agricola Canneta Srl

Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 378513, $47.00, WineAlign)

It is here where so much collision occurs, terroir, weather, climate and agriculture are all involved, without recourse, to machinate a sangiovese of deep warmth and wealth by fruit and earth. This is the deep liqueur of Brunello di Montalcino, extreme of vintage and skilled as only this place can be. The fruit ability is equally matched by ministrative acidity, maneuvering the moving parts and delivering them into the grippiest of tannin. What a formidable mouthful this is, at present lacking a bit of charm but hopefully, in time, will all balance out. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  #capanna    @capannamontalcino

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (579094, $49.95, WineAlign)

The Caparzo Brunello 2013 is the label with the signature of Elisabetta Gnudi, a celebratory anniversary wine that spent three years in botti grandi. Caparzo’s Classic sangiovese gathers fruit from several sources, including the northern vineyard where La Casa is borne. This deep inhalant and liqueur also delves into earthly sand, Galestro and clay microbes in which earth and fruit challenge the notion of complexity and to which direction it pulls the senses. The earthy funk sifted though black cherry rich and always fresh and elegant fruit assumptions tells us this is part of the vintage package. High acidity into slightly volatile air confirms and eventually carries the visa to conform. Drying tannins are not a huge surprise considering the pressing matters of this wine. The low alcohol, easy to access, fresh and fleshy sangiovese carries a feeling, final and calm. Lovely wine. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted twice, February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

La Casa, Montalcino

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna La Casa 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.95, WineAlign)

Tasting Caparzo’s home block Vigna La Casa 2013 this young may be even more difficult an assessment than looking at 2012 this time last year. But if noting what a year further in bottle did for that 2012 than some plenitude must be afforded the more confounding 2013. From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, La Casa sits next to sister Montosoli (Altesino) and its pure fruit doles out high-level Montalcino elegance and in more ways than the normale Caparzo. It also behaves with more calm and collected demeanour. Though reduced with early bite and taut finings this is clearly a very refined Caparzo for the people. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Vigna La Casa 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.95, WineAlign)

From the south-facing vineyard on the north quadrant of Montalcino, quicker to amalgamate and settle than many in the region, the ’12 single-vineyard La Casa is a true ambasciatore of Caparzo terroir, rich and regaling but lithe and elegant. If you are trying to gain an understanding of the Caparzo way this is the place to start, in 2012, from a living, breathing Vigna, out of the storied vineyard. Perfume and finesse are special and this is how it’s done, without pretension and with class. So much to learn from an extra year in bottle. Drink 2019-2026.  Last tasted February 2018

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $112.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2012 is from a producer with parcels all over Montalcino, even though the estate is located in the northern sector. This seems today like a very smart forward-thinking decision. The bringing together of multi-geographical and climatic fruit helps to mitigate variability and vintage variation and towards keeping away from the heat, jam and heavy concentration to raisining of the southern vineyards. This is particularly poignant in an age of climate change or more important, weather extremes, but it is Elizabetta Gnudi’s holdings all over Montalcino that put together the balanced blends that Caparzo can do. Case in point this noble Riserva from which the very idea of freshness and light wines are always the result. The ideal is furthered with a set of wines, even at Riserva level that relatively speaking are always affordable. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (956391, $54.95, WineAlign)

Warmth to nose and a deep inhalant of sangiovese liqueur are a calling card of the northwest regional house in a Brunello of proper wealth and massive appeal. Yet another wine to define vintage it is the house style that truly takes centre stage, from grippy tradition through exfoliated structure and down the deep well of varietal elixir. Castiglion del Bosco carries baggage with purpose and extends an outstretched tannic hand forward as we and they are making plans for the future. Drink 2020-2028. Tasted February 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Campo del Drago 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10708424, $63.25, WineAlign)

Campo del Drago is Castiglion del Bosco’s cru from the finest vineyard in the Capanna area, a hectare and a half at 450m, marking the highest elevation. Structure, refinement and pure sangiovese expression are the intent through content and goal by execution. The dragon keeps it old-school, travelling loyal to tenets of experiences learned and known. A bigger oak presence is felt in the tannic architecture so that the wine is still in chains, but also in love. The clay-shale and gravel-pebble terroir decides what this Brunello can do. It speaks to you, “all these changes everywhere, just go ahead and take my hand…we can try to learn to make it through, cover the other side.” Density and high acidity determine the plan so looking ahead, the feeling and deeper understanding will come, in three years time. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018  castigliondelbosco     @LiffordON  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

 

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Classic is the operative for Col D’Orcia and in this vintage, a deeper understanding of Brunello di Montalcino and how feeling determines expectation, that no matter the pain we may or may not want to feel this early, the eventuality will be a positive affair. The structure in here is nothing short of pyramids strong and so know this. You will drink this is 15 years and have nothing but positive, wistful things to say. As for right now, perhaps not so much. So grippy. Wow. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.99, WineAlign)

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  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (279083, $70.95, WineAlign)

The vintage posed more than one problem but success has been won by the Montalcino producer who after the heat waited out the rain, followed by a few weeks of settling and thus allowed their grapes to complete the phenolic journey. Case in point Tommaso Cortonesi’s 2013, a modern, many steps forward taken Brunello with little to no fear of a world hard to figure. It remains calm and focused in light of the challenging vintage. The fruit is intensely driven, the acidity equally so and the finale a continuance of linger in the face of great tension and demand. A northern location and an expertly farmed estate block (as opposed to single-vineyard) is the catalyst to this ’13’s success. The composure and details of minutiae acquiesced add up to a fine effort, not presently a matter of delicasse but certainly a result that is sure and exacting. This will be one of those fortunate Brunelli built to outlast a bigger group conjoined by jammy fruit, green tannin and astringency. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

With @nicholaspearce_ the #brunellodimontalcino man himself @marcora85 poured his exceptional #sangiovese so we fed him the archetypal @barquebbq wings. And it was good #poggiarelli #lam

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG I Poggiarelli 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Tommaso Cortonesi’s 420m high, single-vineyard Brunello hails from the southeast section of Montalcino. Warmth is not the only advantage/alternative to growing conditions but also soil which is rocky and rich in marl, as opposed to the clay-sandstone earth of the northern vineyards. The expectation persists for richer, deeper and darker, at least in terms of fruit. There is in fact this aphasic maroon sensation felt at the heart of the Poggiarelli matter. The rocks are so important to the southern vines, notably Galestro because it streaks through the tenebrous dimension with a clarity of cool savour. Power is kept in tow so that notes in mind of things like svelte and grace are given due consideration. This southern slice shows Tommaso’s specific mentality, as will the other, but here it’s one of care and precision. Poggiarelli as a cru is not La Mannella, but they are inextricably tied together by their one maker. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted March 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

#Repost @nicholaspearcewines (@get_repost) ・・・ Serious Brunello talk going down #therealmontalcino #cortonesimontalcino @mgodello @marcora85 @barquebbq @brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella Riserva ’12 is composed of grapes taken from the oldest vines though by a predetermined decision communicated to the consorzio one year before release, whether it turns out to be a vintage from which a Riserva is made or not. This is an essential rule that prohibits producers from not giving a wine an identity. Riserva is a completely different wine than the Annata, as always with more mature notes though here in salumi hyperbole, long aging oak spice and fruit elongation. Cortonesi’s spent four years in large Slavonian oak barrels and at this five point five year mark it turns to wild strawberry, chocolate and cocoa. It’s both elegant and taut while just now beginning to stretch its legs. Even if you can’t quite imagine or envision what will be, there has to be some level of blind-spotting or just plain denial to not see this is as pure magic. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted March 2018  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Vallocchio 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Vallocchio is Fanti’s single (Vigna) expression from Castelnuovo dell’Abate fruit gained off of vines up to 35 years old from what the estate refers to as their mosaic of uniquely gifted plots; Vigna Bellavista, Vigna Sassone, Vigna Casabandi and Vigna Macchiarelle Nuova. The two hectares produce only 10,000 bottles (in many but not all vintages) in what can only be translated as “the valley of the eye,” or it is these highly perceptive vines that see the forest for the trees. Always a rather grand and impressive expression of Brunello with big bones, fruit and alcohol, Vallocchio is remarkable for how it smells and even more so tastes like limestone, with thanks to the presence of Galestro in sand. The focused and precise 2012 is aged mostly in large casks with just a few barriques, an elévage stylistic that will only continue to trend in the direction of older wood restraint as time goes by. Drink 2020-2031.  Tasted March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Le Macchiarelle 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $139.95, WineAlign)

Two and half hectares of old vines (averaging 35 and some as old as 40 years) at 250m is Fanti’s cuore di sangiovese vineyard called Le Macchiarelle, or shall we say “the little thicket.” The soil is critical to this sangiovese, sandy with scattered Galestro rock in the marl. Like the Vallocchio the terroir is very much the same but the wine so very different. Structure rich, layered and extrapolated is the understatement but “raffinato” is exactly what this Riserva should be called. That it speaks to refinement or “sottile” is amazing considering how much its size, wildness and density attempt to obscure or blemish (macchia) the beauty of its red fruit. A broad expression it surely is but one that will stretch, extend and unwind over a decade or more of time. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted March 2018  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Fattoi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (33498, $39.95, WineAlign)

It gets neither more modern nor accessible than this fruit-centric Fattoi, a sangiovese of primary charm and acidity to manage that precocious, boyish charm. Expect early returns from this succulent sangiovese but less structure for longevity. This needs to be expressed and turned into a positive because some Brunelli need to offer immediate gratification. Perhaps not too many but this is the one to take one for the team. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (245225, $92.00, WineAlign)

Fuligni’s is classic Brunello, as expected, because it really celebrates its acidity more than it presses for tannin to lead it into a long future. Though the tannins could not be accused of not drying a bit and the fruit may not live for two decades it is the fine acidity that will keep it very much alive. I for one will look forward to seeing how this particular Fuligni keeps the energy alive. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018    @HalpernWine  Fuligni  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.00, WineAlign)

The push-pull, ying-yang workability of density and elegance move to and frow in Gianni Brunelli’s 2013, a wine of substance and finesse. The Le Chiuse Di Sotto estate fruit from an area south of La Croce and north of Castelnuovo dell’Abate has a lovely freshness about it, fully expressed in chalky cherry liquidity and a side addendum of smoulder and wood spice. Good to very good structure will deliver a long run into the next decade and beyond. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2018  giannibrunelli  brixandmortarwineco  @brixandmortar  Laura Brunelli (Le Chiuse Di Sotto)  @brixandmortarwineco

Il Palazzone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

If you wish to be quick to point out a sangiovese as acting as a classic poster child for the vintage almost before it has even lived, this from Il Palazzone could very well be the one. It’s as fresh as a 2013 can be though also compresses deep down into the syrupy Brunello well. Once again it is a vintage related affair that speaks quite clearly through the opaque lens of 2013 eyes. Young by territorial standards with the first vintage having been produced in 1990, the estate’s (just southwest in direction) close proximity to the village of Montalcino links it to the centre of the regional psyche. I would not hesitate to make use of Il Palazzone as a yardstick from which to measure the 2013 Annata in every and all directions. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2018  ilpalazzone  @ilpalazzone  Il Palazzone

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

This is found to be a dense, compressed and intense sangiovese and as a result the tannins are quite formidable at this youthful early stage of its evolution. Nothing says strutura like this angular and impressive Brunello but anything less than five years of patience will do little to offer an immediate or near-term reward. Plus the necessity for fruit longevity is part of the package of hope. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

Vini Lazzaretti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (318352, $53.95, WineAlign)

The deeply hematic, ferric and brooding nature of Lazzretti’s 2013 demands attention and time though there is hardly that much available at this early stage. This is one of the grippiest and firm of the lot, a wine of intensity, full throttle activity and ambitious-driven functionality. Everything here is grand; fruit flesh, strong bones and heavy footprint. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Modernity for 21st century Brunello is truly forged from sweetly ripe, perfectly phenolic fruit. Just as noted in the estate’s ’12 Cilegio I once again imagine the winemaker walking the vineyards at harvest, chewing on seeds, waiting for that optimum combination of tannin resolution and crunch. Sweet spot found once again. In 2013 there is also a new found spice, so much it bites but the precision, finesse and elegance remains. The fruit is of a deep red clarity, at times downy soft but then the pique moments strike, again and again. So much fun. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Brunello di Montalcino La Màgia is aged for three years mainly in 500 litre French oak tonneaux with an eye towards grip and a construct to age, all the while staying true to the ripe and the elegant. This 2012 tasted side by side with 2013 is quite similar and the consistency is bred from great phenolics. It is admittedly firmer here in ’12 but the red berry fruit and spice are both hushed in quieter tones. Tangy tart edging mixes with grippy, chalky tannin. The two wines will age in similar fashion. Drink 2018-2029.   Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

La Màgia the name is likely from “magione” a Tuscan rendition of the French “maison.” The house produces exceptional south-central Montalcino Brunello and this Riserva from vineyards at an altitude of 400-450m is only produced in exceptional years, from the very best old vines (35-40 years) grapes. It’s aged in new (500 litre French oak) casks for a period of three and a half to four years. The profile from Annata through Riserva and into the estate’s Cilegio is consistently uncanny and with subtle variegation, also magical. The Riserva highlights and perhaps even hyperbolizes the liquid chalky and talcy feel of the others, along with an elevated tonality and acidity. It’s age proposition is boundless. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted March 2018  lamagiamontalcino  @fattorialamagia  @lamagiamontalcino

La Palazzetta Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From Luca and Flavio Fanti’s 20 hectares of vineyards on the hill overlooking the Badia valley of Sant’Antimo, southeast from Montalcino in Castelnuovo dell’Abate. La Palazzetta’s is the rare and elusive Brunello at once full-throttle yet still elegant enough to remind that it can only be a factor of sangiovese. Even with a full-pressed compliment of fruit and acidity it’s actually quite pretty and certainly full of flesh and charm. The acidity is in fact quite striking, as are the grippy and hydration stripping tannins. Some time will be required to bring it all together. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  lapalazzetta  pillitteriwines    @Pillitteriwines  La Palazzetta  Pillitteri Estates Winery

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $114.00, WineAlign)

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  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Fornace 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $171.95, WineAlign)

Tasted one year later the special selection, 2,000 bottle lot from the Castel Nuovo Vigna Loreto vineyard has come to teach us a thing or two about Montalcino patience. If only the Benvenuto could skip a year to allow vintages like 2012 to gather themselves in bottle then the unresolved angst of fruit heft, wood and structure might never be noted. Fornace is now a matter of layering, stratified by mille-feuille intersectionality of earth, acidity and dark fruit. The pieces fit snugly together and move as one, without the sort of tension that makes you hold your shoulders high. The relaxed state is such a better way to go. Imagine the weightlessness two years from now.  Last tasted March 2018

Le Ragnaie’s Fornace (the furnace) is riper than the old vines but lower in warmth, and I suspect, alcohol. Also prevalent on the nose is some reduction, along with more obvious wood than many. The intent here is clearly for size so more than a few years will be needed to settle the heavy door on its hinges and nearly immoveable parts. The reduction will dissipate in a few and the tannins should begin to relent in two more. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2017  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG V.V. 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $171.95, WineAlign)

The 60-70-year-old vines (Vigne Vecchie) Brunello planted at 620m in Ragnaie’s Vigna Vecchia make it the highest altitude vineyard in Montalcino. The more you discuss with winemakers what makes for and separates great sangiovese from its peers, the more altitude comes up in such discussions. Winds from the Maremma, vineyard situation with respect to Monte Amiata, soil composition (with or without Galestro marl) are all matters of importance as well but it is the winds and temperature fluctuations at heights that producers are so keen to impress. Ragnaie’s trump card is this vineyard and that is exactly why this wine, especially from a vintage like 2012 (and 2013 won’t change this attitude all that much), why this wine needs time. I did not understand or see the clarity through the clouds when I tasted it last year. The skies have cleared, the polish and the beauty have emerged and the heat by day has turned over to a great sapidity and cool savour of the night. Traditional and old-school ideals are still the order of the day with the old vines digging deep into the dirt and keeping a compression of the faith. The window will not open for a while yet but when it does the air will be fresh, sweet, pure and honest. Last tasted March 2018

I sense an increase in alcohol from the old vines and perhaps this is completely necessary because of what they do in terms of compression and density. As a rule I am not finding high alcohol in 2012 even as I do find richness and ripeness that is not always easy to manage. These old vines are not a problem for the latter but the heat on the nose mutes the fruit and is ill prepared to set up the palate for acidity and tannin management. A bit rustic and old-school and certainly right for fans of the style. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted February 2017  #laragnaie  lesommelierwine    @LeSommelierWine  @leragnaie    @LeSommelierWine

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

This is thicker, deeper and well-pressed Brunello, now typically vintage-driven, with sharp acidity and drying tannin. The fruit is generous and up front so though some time will be needed to fully realize the potential, that fruit will fade and morph into an artful, earthy, truffled and leathery mix before it travels too long. Enjoy this in the mid-term. Drink 2020-2024.  Tasted February 2018  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (64956, $44.95, WineAlign)

Mocali’s 2013 is a warm, rusty and dried fruit roll-up compressed sangiovese, with grippy tannins and a fleshed-up corporeal feel. Seems to be most typical of ’13, with some time needed to feel its way through to the amenable side. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #mocaliwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (434696, $37.00, WineAlign)

A fruit first, copacetic and highly floral sangiovese from the Villa al Cortile estate southwest from Montalcino in the Tavernelle zone. Winemaker Santo Gozzo accesses varietal purity through sincere concentration on place, altitude (350m), climate (breezes that blow in from the Maremma coast) and soil (limestone with schist and clay). Red fruit honesty and exquisite texture lubricated by wood build this Brunello home with solid intent. Villa al Cortile is a true, honest and lithe expression, using the vintage with exact and correct complication. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted at the estate February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Piccini Villa al Cortile Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 205724, WineAlign)

When you consider how firm and grippy the 2012 Riservas can be this Villa al Cortile is just beautiful. Winemaker Santo Gozzo comments “we don’t need café or vanilla. These things are not about the identity of the sangiovese or the place.” And so wood is not used to flavour but rather to slowly oxidize, develop flavours and exchange information with the outside world. The fruit swells forward accompanied by gentle and mild developing spice. Still just a baby and not yet morphed into its true character but the assurance for longevity is assumed by a taut structural quotient understood. It’s layered yet elastic and will be easily adjustable to and the ups and downs laid out by the adversities of time. Is it an example of a five-star Brunello vintage? “Stars are for meteorologists,” notes Santo, “not for rating vintages.” Then quips Mario Piccini “I have wine, women and music. Which one do I give up first? I give up music. Next? Depends on the vintage.” Drink 2020-2029.  Tasted at the estate February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Podere Le Ripi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Cielo d’Ulisse 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Impressive debut for a new Ripi Brunello, from schist and limestone just northeast of Castelnuovo dell’Abate. Quite a closed and reserved for 2013, built on promises and ideas, with a chalky vein, salty even, and a temptation for a sensuous future. Le Ripi is in no hurry to give anything away for free, choosing structure over all else though the complete absence of astringency says so much about the strength of the agriculture and the winemaking. This promises to be beautiful. Drink 2022-2033.  Tasted February 2018  podereleripi  @PodereLeRIpi   Podere Le Ripi

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Really forward, beauty before beast ’13 Brunello that speaks to the fineness of sangiovese. This strikes as coming from an estate that chose to do less is more from the dangerously confounding and mistake tempting vintage, with a celebration of fine fruit balanced by equal and supportive acidity. Would have really climbed to a next level elegance by restraint away from the modernity of sweet oak, but still there is much to learn from this early enjoyment style and approach. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Altero 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

First made in 1983, the Vigna-designate Altero spent two years in French Oak, so at the time it couldn’t be labeled Brunello. Then in 1995 the regulations were brought down from three years to two, so it left IGT and became labeled as a second Brunello. Altero is the one of the two Annata gifted greater structure, deeper notes that think of the wood and how it spices the fruit and finally, what happens down the road. The smoulder and spice are much greater, the shoulders broader and the musculature ready for bigger fights. The composure is quite something, the confidence great and the results striking. Drink 2021-2029.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

In terms of the structured and the formidable it is this Poggio Antico Riserva that sits in the upper reaches of such a stratified realm. If the Altero is broad shouldered (in either or both 2012 and 2013) than it is this ’12 Riserva that walks with fierce confidence. With an extra year to show for its troubles Poggio Antico’s Riserva 2012 has accumulated more body, what seems like greater acidity and certainly a wild side. Here the reminder that more is sometimes more comes out in Riserva level impression. The oak is massive and intense, fully in charge, in a how do you say, a Silver Oak Napa Valley way. This is a massive expression of top quality selected fruit and its youthfulness is only exceeded by its over the moon acidity. Just a massive construct that will take 10 more years to begin to break down. Why anyone would touch this before 2022 would fail to teach me anything. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted twice, February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2007, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

With six more years in the rear-view mirror the wood has integrated substantially and so the beauty and the charm is beginning to be revealed though the barrel will always be a part of the equation. There is this sense of savour and sapidity now that would not have been in the mix before. Even still the cask strength quality dominates and so the largesse and impressive concentration can not be denied, though the finish is all sweet digestif and demerera sugar. Big oaky Brunello, very international in style, in adherence to time and more specifically, vintage. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (337774, $180.00, WineAlign)

A highly serious, concentrated, richly endowed and full-fruit acquiesced sangiovese with extremely fine tannins overtop just as fine acidity. The style is by now well-known and persistent though it would not be a stretch to note that it’s also something almost impossible to repeat with fruit from anywhere else. The confidence and quiet ego of this wine is owned by Poggio di Sotto and Poggio di Sotto alone. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

There is no shortage of grandiosity in Poggio di Sotto’s Riserva though it does not reach for too much hedonism or flamboyance. Fruit is a wealthy player while acidity ranges from wild to extreme. There is a feeling of tonic embrace and plumped up stone fruit bitters though fleshy and spirited is really the operative. There is this juicy orange note on the back end of the acidity with a long, stretched and syrupy finish. Really big Riserva. Drink 2021-2033.  Tasted February 2018  #poggiodisotto    Poggio di Sotto

Salvioni Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG La Cerbaiolo 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

The utter freshness of sangiovese is the ideal and the rasion d’être in Giulio Salvioni’s most important work, with little to no encumbrance. This is a Brunello that eschews bright, clear and deeply honest work from out of the shadows cast by years of adulteration. Salvioni is the never wavering producer, continues to dream lightly and without panic, in the most calm and collected manner. The vineyards southeast of Montalcino at 420 meters are a collection of exceptionally rocky, friable marly soils and from 2013 they open the window into fruit, structure and longevity. It’s cool and soothing sangiovese for the beautiful in everything that is Montalcino. Drink 2021-2034.  Tasted February 2018

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.95, WineAlign)

Certainly one of the more aromatic sangiovese from 2013, with exotic scents, floral and spice, far from feral and dangerous. There is warmth to be sure but not out of a compressed or angry place. There is also a bit of brettanomyces, well beneath the threshold and serves to develop character within the fine-grained chalky network. This needs several years to integrate and ultimately come into balance. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $169.95, WineAlign)

San Polino. This is just beautiful. Though the richness of juicy, fleshy and tangy fruit is so important to the core, it is this sweet earthy compost that really brings the character and the charm. The acidity is rounder than some though its integration is seamless. How this will evolve into a wise and curative secondary sangiovese will come about because of the turning to nuts and dried fruit stone. Finally it will fade into a truffle and tea sunset. Drink 2020-2038.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Scopetone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

In certain Montalcino vintages a house will craft a sangiovese that pulls no punches nor pushes the river. Scopetone’s is really big, warm and clearing of the throat speaking sangiovese, with smoulder by tobacco and deep black cherry fruit, pressed to deliver quicker access and hopefully, success. So we can get down to the real tang and the real soul. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2018  #scopetone    Scopetone

Fattoria Scopone Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Another deep and pressed 2013 with a very drying impression so there is no question about the tannic quality and age potential. The fruit too is a bit dried, with a currant-salumi-pomegranate mix that takes quick, sharp turns as if along angles of geometry. This needs time to gather its thoughts and to take fuller advantage of its greater cool abilities, of herbology and savour. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  

Sesti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $89.00, WineAlign)

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

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $76.00, WineAlign)

Talenti’s Annata comes from vineyards in the area of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and like the Rosso but 10 times more concentrated and focused this is sangiovese of a most intense aromatic, flavourful and textured liqueur. Cherries never came swelling and macerating so succinctly pure and fascinating as they do here, taking every advantage of vintage and how it works in conjunction with place. This is what happens when vines spend long hours in an arid yet humid place to develop grapes for the purpose of variegation and structure. The layers will take two years to peel away and expose the true character, followed by five more for a classic transparency of expression. Talent’s 2013 builds like a jet engine preparing the craft for take-off. The two years will pass and you’ll then feel the angle skywards while you press back in your seat. This is the effect created by truly tactile Brunello. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Talenti Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva DOCG Pian di Conte 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $120.00, WineAlign)

Two of the 20 estate hectares in Castelnuovo dell’Abate are dedicated to the the vineyard Paretaio, planted to a sangiovese clone selected by Pierluigi Talenti. Pian di Conte is only made in years deemed worthy of carefully selected grapes from 20-plus year-old vines out of this highly specific, 400m of altitude micro-climate block. It’s a wow Riserva from 2012, perfumed with classic extra time in barrel that Annata Brunello only seems to reach. Notes like dark berries, pipe smoulder and rich ganache, the 2012 is already showing some maturity signs of integration. It’s a fineness of tart dark citrus styled-sangiovese wrapped so tightly around the structure’s finger, indelibly inked, modern and with all parts fine-tuned in synchronicity. Riservas will often sting until they pass at least a ten-year mark but Talenti’s croons romantically with stand-up base note ease. For Montalcino it’s a hit of the vintage and to it I can safely say “I can see the destiny you sold turned into a shining band of gold.” Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

 

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

This is a most beautiful, composed and seamlessly constructed southern Brunello di Montalcino 2013, with exceptional blending of vineyard fruit for balance and pure pleasure. What is so special here is the realized Castelnuovo dell’Abate area phenolic ripeness and the way in which great Galestro marl and sandstone terroir, exceptional micro-climate and hands free viniculture conspire for such elegance. Tenuta Buon Tempo delivers the vintage warmth with grace and the deeper understanding. It is precise and focused for what needs to be accomplished, in a modern world with so much temptation but ultimately it is restraint and doing things the right way that matters most. Drink 2020-2033.  Tasted February 2018  tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenuta Crocedimezzo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

A lovely freshness in the wild berry fruit of Crocedimezzo’s ’13 brings fine definition, that and bright acids with chalky, grippy tannins. The purity and honesty in this focused sangiovese is a breath of fresh, not connected with before air. The relationship should continue for a decade, then on to subsequent anticipatory vintages. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018  tenutacrocedimezzo  @crocedimezzo  Tenuta Crocedimezzo

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Docg Tuscany, Italy (922054, $44.95, WineAlign)

Extreme unction and sultry personality separate Nardi’s ’13, in definition and construct away from so many peers. Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. There is no sense of drying fruit and tough tannin in this luxurious sangiovese, no, rather its bright, effulgent and outwardly sexy. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunello that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2018  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (483800, $49.95, WineAlign)

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

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (483800, $49.95, WineAlign)

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

Tommasi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG Colombaiolo 2011, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tommasi’s Colombaiolo Brunello is the pinnacle of their tier from grapes sourced out of the 1991 planted, hectare and a half single vineyard on the Sant’Angelo in Colle Casisano estate. This 2011 is Tomassi’s first vintage though a wine has been made from Colombaiolo fruit since 1996. Fermented in wood vats and then aged ion Slavonian casks. No French wood is used, as per the direction of oenologist Emiliano Falsini. The ’11 dovetails as only Riserva can so “dream, if you can, a courtyard, an ocean of violets in bloom.” This is an ethereal prince of Brunello di Montalcino thieves, thick as black cherry liqueur, sumptuous, chalky, coming down like purple rain. It’s the juice of a revolution, now integrated, evolved but as music that stands the test of time. It’s also hard to get in its very structured way so you may find it too demanding or that you’re yelling at each other. More time and reconciliation will bring you and it together. “This is what it sounds like, when doves cry.” The finish is just on point, between balance and perfect. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirit

 

Ventolaio Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Ventolaio’s leads with a new age earth wealth of grippy charm and accentuated perfume right from the word smell though the rock layers are many and the well runs severely deep. This is an ambient sangiovese of seriously condensed and compressed liqueur, hematic and poignant, dense and yet somehow the eventuality of the ashra electrical meets the minimalist ethereal will be found. In the deep distance. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2018    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Rosso di Montalcino

Altesino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

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

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (467787, $31.95, WineAlign)

Pian delle Vigne is quite a perfumed affair in 2016, raspberry to plum fruity and then a courtyard of exotic flowers in early bloom. The fruit is very primary, almost fresh from the tank and so early in its evolution. This will smell and taste so completely different in six months but looking past this should act and play out as an ideal indicator for the fleshiness and grippy nature of the vintage. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018    marchesiantinori  halpernwine  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Argiano Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

With new winemaking ideals in place since 2013 Argiano is now coming into its new own, into a place and position of deep confidence and mature mastery. Though tighter and grippier than many this persists as a joyous bit of Rosso, albeit more in a young Brunello vein than many. Should live with its tart fruit and grippy acidity for five years minimum. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted February 2018  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brizio’s is a strong candidate for one of the firmest 2016 Rosso that delivers a distinct and serious impression. It too seems so recently drawn from the barrel with piqued notes that bite and sting overtop not yet developed fruit. This is a serious Rosso, ambitious, woody and wise. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  poderebrizio  @PodereBrizio  @poderebrizio

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (333575, $20.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo’s 2015 is a red fruit forward, ropey, rosy and wild citrus Rosso di Montalcino done up in botti grandi for one year. In replay of that aromatic intensity it follows with a vivid and bright red acidity and a flavour run in the pomegranate-currant-sweet basil vein, pretty and fresh and all in all, just a lovely rendering. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC La Caduta 2013, Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 857987, $34.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2013 is from fruit in La Caduta vineyard, the name the place used to have, on the west side of Montalcino, where vines take advantage of the winds from the sea. The Rosso is aged in tonneaux and then after in bottle. It’s quite a fresh and fragrant Rosso, not taking itself too seriously but certainly with more power and for certain intents and purposes, may as well be Brunello. A terrific expression that would just make grilled and roasted meets rock and sing. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  caparzo_winery  @CaparzoWines   @TheCaseForWine  Caparzo

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

The finest of fruit-acidity-tannin continuums comes through in Romitorio’s Rosso ’16, a wine of more structure than most. This is a Rosso from whose lens will really help to imagine where the Brunello will come from and to where they will go. Firm, strong, grippy and intense, not only for Rosso but Romitorio has crafted a sangiovese to stand as a beacon for the greater Montalcino good, whole and exemplary of the vintage. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2018    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $31.78, WineAlign)

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  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

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  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino DOC Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $44.00, WineAlign)

Le Chiuse di Sotto ’16 is blessed of lots of firm flesh and full fruit extraction to mark a territory of style, a wine as much in common with Brunello as any Rosso from the vintage. This runs deep, into macerating cherry and a real feeling of wet argilo filling in as mortar in the crevices of brix. Not exactly formidable but this is certainly one of the bigger and more structured wines of the Annata. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  giannibrunelli  brixandmortarwineco  @brixandmortar  Laura Brunelli (Le Chiuse Di Sotto)  @brixandmortarwineco

Mocali Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (286260, $19.95 WineAlign)

Quite fresh and reeling Rosso from Mocali in 2016 brings the energy of 2015 and adds another stratified layer to the appellative compendium. If this is any indication then it would suggest more structure, grippy and drying tannin will come from the 16s. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018    #mocaliwine  liffordgram    @LiffordON  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Piccini Villa al Cortile Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (460295, $20.00, WineAlign)

It is here that we see Rosso having been produced in the right way with honest intentions and correct handling. It just has to be fresh like this, rich but responsible, ripe and just a bit firm. This is exactly how a three to four year Rosso should and can act. Excellent work from Villa al Cortile with a deep respect for the vintage. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted February 2018  picciniwines  picciniwine  wineloversca  @PicciniWinesUK  @WineLoversCA  PICCINI WINES  Piccini Wines UK  Wine Lovers Canada

Poggio Antico Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

As with all wines, Poggio Antico’s Rosso, like everything is vinified separately, along with Annata, Riserva and Altero. A sharp and fleshy Rosso from a longer fermentation after a longer ripening period, with clearly more structure than 2015 and this cool, almost minty savoury streak. It’s darker and surely carries a deeper intensity and in the end, a nice Rosso is made. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutadelpoggioantico  halpernwine  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

San Polino Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $48.95, WineAlign)

San Polino’s is a beautifully earthy, funky and natural Rosso with a fleshy red fruit upside and fine, liquid chalky grains of acidity meeting tannin. There are some Rosso that really need to be considered and assessed as Brunello and it is only where such structured sangiovese fit relative to the estate’s other Brunello that need qualify it as Rosso. In today’s Montalcino one’s Rosso is another’s Brunello. It’s now more than ever a matter of location, soil and altitude. This San Polino is quite a tart affair that needs two years to soften and ultimately please. Drink 2020-2026.  Tasted February 2018  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Talenti Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $30.00, WineAlign)

Riccardo Talenti’s is Rosso for Rosso addicts, a pure, unaffected, grippy cherry liqueur welling sangiovese of ultra-precise focus and deliciousness. That it manages to acquiesce the holy trinity of Rosso di Montalcino ideals of flavour, texture and structure means that it can accomplish the two most important aspects of sangioveseness. Drink and enjoy now or wait five years for it to begin breathing anew. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted March 2018  talentiriccardo  brixandmortarwineco    @brixandmortar  Talenti Montalcino  @brixandmortarwineco

Tenuta Buon Tempo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Tenuta Buon Tempo offers up just a lovely aromatic profile in delivery of what 2016 should and could, with exotic florals, red citrus starlight and a sense of airy breaths. The best of 2016 acidity is brought out, alongside and of hands intertwined and interlaced with the fruit. The slightly firm finish indicates a few years of low and slow development. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2018   tenutabuontempo    @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenuta Crocedimezzo Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

There is a nice bright freshness in this 2016 Rosso by Crocedimezzo, a sangiovese of great presence radiating in its effulgent nature. You really have to appreciate the round acidity circulating to encompass the red fruit and then the earthy quell that helps to soften the firm composure. A really correct, clean and pure Rosso. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  tenutacrocedimezzo  @crocedimezzo  Tenuta Crocedimezzo

Tenute Silvio Nardi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Radiant, fresh and effulgent Rosso is a wonderful thing and although this has yet to shed its barrel fat it offers a great glimpse into its fruit-filled, long-lasting and expressive future. There is much to admire in how this puts the fruit at the forefront and then welcomes both fine acidity and some fineness that incorporates structure. Solid Rosso from a range of vineyards by winemaker Emanuele Nardi. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tommasi Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2014, Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Pierangelo Tommasi notes that they began making Brunello but decided mid-gear to declassify and only make a Rosso instead. With best available fruit in hand Tomassi went ahead with this firm, grippy, saucy, sassy and forest-scented verdant sangiovese. It’s oh so drinkable but with more structure than many of the fresh, spirited and tart red fruit specimens that populate the Rosso spectrum. The ’14 is like Brunello but with the vintage savour and who knows how long this can go. Just might fool us all. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted March 2018  tommasiwine  univinscanada  @Tommasiwine  @UNIVINS  @tommasiwines  Univins et Spiritueux / Univins & Spirits

Val di Suga Rosso Di Montalcino DOC 2016, Docg Tuscany, Italy (455683, $24.95, WineAlign)

Val di Suga offers a lovely turn for the 2016 vintage and for the house, clearly making a statement of fruit first and all else second. There is an airy freshness about this Rosso and still the sensible firmness of backbone to carry it forward. A shot of juniper tonic marks the final stages of its youth. Should develop into next stage character with a lovely secondary impression. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2018  #valdisuga  churchillcellars    @imbibersreport  Val di Suga  Churchill Cellars Ltd.

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino DOCG 2016, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Ventolaio tries neither too hard nor does it try to be exaggerate in the direction of either too lithe or too strong. It’s this candid and focused confidence that shows the strength of resistance to speak in a Brunello voice. The precision and clarity make this sangiovese certainly act Brunello-like but this always remains grounded in the Rosso culture. Just terrific as the previous vintage was, so consistency from Ventolaio persists in the guarantee. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2018    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Montalcino
(c) Consorzio Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

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WineAlign

The group of twelve

History may one day remember them as the group of twelve, or perhaps, “The Ontario School.” They are the 12 wineries who have banded together to ensconce a strange but beautiful word on the tongue, in the dictionary and out in the world. Somewhereness.

They are purveyors of the land from which their grapes grow and ferment into wine. Facilitators of terroir, working a canvas forged by millions of years of geological and climatic evolution. Their assembly is based on both exigency and on Moira; destiny, share, fate.

Like that other famous group, “collectively they agree.” Ontario’s cool-climate wine regions need to qualify and certify a distinctive winemaking style. In juxtaposition to old world, European tradition, the intensity of Somewhereness needs to reflect an increasingly Ontario-centric partiality.

These are the members. 13th Street, Bachelder, Cave Spring, Flat Rock, Hidden Bench, Hinterland, Malivoire, Charles Baker, Norman Hardie, Southbrook, Stratus and Tawse. Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator used the term and now it defines an enterprise. “As a group of 12 wineries growing small lots of site-specific vines in Ontario’s ancient glacial soils, we’ve invoked Somewhereness as a word enabling us to articulate in one collective voice.”

How do you get to Somewhereness? As related to wine that is like asking, Who am I? Why do we exist? What is the meaning of life? The Somewhereness movement, the notion, comes to light through this statement. “Somewhereness is revealed in the mysterious time capsules we know as bottles of wine. As ethereal gifts of a carefully tended location and a moment in time, each is imprinted with a vineyard’s sense of place,
its soil, climate, seasons, vintage variations — and its maker’s methods.”

In 2013 I wrote about Somewhereness over the Canadian wine rainbow. “Above all else, the rainbow’s fulcrum is the “somewhereness” of Canada’s wine regions. Terroir is the great catch word for wine. A vine’s home determines its potential, its structure, its sense of place. Micro-climates, soil, geology, altitude, slope and vegetation all contribute to the make-up of a wine forged from that specific parcel, lot or locale.”

In Come together, over wine I continued the discussion. “Intensity is in the air. The artists are at work, blessed with a geographical, geological and climatic canvas unique to the planet. They share arts and letters, compare and contrast methods, style and results. The sense of community is palpable, obvious and quite frankly awesome. They are Ontario winemakers and they are coming together. Right now.”

At the end of last year my column 13 Canadian wines that rocked in 2013 reviewed what Canadian winemakers do best. “That is producing unique, cutting edge and brilliant takes on cool climate grapes. They also match beautifully with the songs referenced in their tasting notes. When the wines are assessed and considered in part or as a whole, who would dare to say there are no great wines being produced?”

On Wednesday April 9th, Somewhereness brought the band to St. James Cathedral for a full-on tasting that is rapidly being recognized as a must not miss Ontario event. Here are notes on some of the wines I sampled.

From left to right:

From left to right: Malivoire M2 Small Lot Gamay 2012, Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2012, 13th Street Sandstone Old Vines Gamay Noir 2012, Southbrook Whimsy! Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2011, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2008 and Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2012

13th Street Pinot Gris 2012, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Here you have an honest, 100 per cent stainless steel treated Pinot Gris from an estate vineyard located adjacent the market on Fourth Avenue in the Creek Shores appellation. So very dry and really fine fruit, crisp, neoteric, rising and falling in waves of tempered acidity. Made in a comfortable, country-twanged, folk-rock style, like a Cowboy Junkie. Juicy, mouth-watering work and very easy to fall for. An angel mine, this 13th Street, “and I know that your skin is as warm and as real as that smile in your eyes.” This effort by Jean-Pierre Colas is as good as it gets, a tally for Creek Shores and its kinship with the variety.

Malivoire M2 Small Lot Gamay 2012, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

A six-month lay in French oak for 60 per cent of the Gamay fruit sourced exclusively from Malivoire’s Beamsville Bench estate vineyard is just what the go doctor ordered. Only Malivoire’s Gamay smells specifically like this; of tart and savoury capers, of small, earthy gemstones, of peppery currants, of meaty braising Bouille. A striking wine from a fortuitous Gamay vintage and great value that puts me in mind of how special the Courtney will be. Though the soils may differ, proximity wise they are close cousins.

Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (578625, $19.95, WineAlign)

Just add three months and witness a new evolution, a density, from a honeyed thing. Entering a pre-adolescence with a new bounce in its step. From my earlier, January 2014 note: “A champion cyclone of forces combined to elevate the already incumbent position of this Twenty Mile Bench Riesling. An ideal growing season magnified transmission upon a paradigmatic two and a half-acre block. This southern-most and highest altitude section of Flat Rock’s vineyard rests aboard a solid bed of limestone and wake me up if that rock was not drawn up into the vines in this stellar Riesling vintage. Sure its warm and nearly off-dry but such an effortless squeeze of lemon hydrates and elevates orchard fruit and honey out of the year of the lemon. After each sip its “every time you kiss me, lemon crush.” Love this prince of a Twenty Mile white in 2012, the dynamism smiling on the tart, succulent fruit. The length is one of outright bravado. This will develop for 20 years, of that I am convinced. There is just so much fruit. A Nadja for the ages.”

Cave Spring Dolomite Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

Part Beamsville Bench (70 per cent), part Twenty Mile Bench (30), this best of both worlds Pinot is full of calcium magnesium carbonate, Jurassic bark. Playful as opposed to angry, this is not so much Snoop Dogg’s Dolomite but more like an animated Futurama. Seduces with a sweet red berry entry and bound by a really fine acid/tannin/fruit balance. Admittedly not overly complex but for the price it shows good structure. As far as Pinot goes, this one is a made for beef or rack of veal.

Hinterland Whitecap 2013, VQA Ontario, Charmat Method, Ontario (332809, $22.00, WineAlign)

The most versatile fizz in the Hinterland portfolio, what winemaker Jonas Newman refers to as his “chameleon.” As aromatically floral as this Charmat method bubbles (secondary fermentation in tank) ever gets, the ’13 brings out the garden under the mist of a sprinkler, late on a summer evening. It’s not so much about fruit as it is about texture, pollen and wet rocks. Try it at Barque.

Bachelder Niagara Pinot Noir Wismer Park/Lowrey (Tank Sample) 2013, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146985, $29.95, WineAlign)

This binary vineyard symbiosis will be bottled as the Niagara Pinot. Just filtered a few days ago it strides out with the utmost confidence in swagger, with a purity of fruit is spite of Thomas’ shock, awe and reductive apology. A bright sway of terroir gives rapture to a peaking raspberry bush imagined forward into a cooled pie. A renewed elegance abides with an absence of humidity and with a fully ameliorated knowing that a fleshing will happen. Really fine.

Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (146985, $29.95, WineAlign)

Gamay may be winemaker Shiraz Mottiar’s decisive resource but Chardonnay is his thing. The Moira’s ranks as one of Niagara’s best, vintage in, vintage out and this Mottiar, from the winemaker’s home vineyard is the trump card. This Malivoire special agent is set in 2 – 5 year old 300 L French oak hogsheads and aged on the lees in barrel for 10 months. The result? Texture. With the use, or lack thereof in new oak, Mottiar’s Chardonnay becomes a study in compages, with strong abilities and the accents of green orchard fruit and a faint sensation of blanched nut. Nothing toasty mind you because it’s all about density and girth; a Shiraz thing. I find his Chardonnay is all about texture.

13th Street Sandstone Old Vines Gamay Noir 2012, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130195, $29.95, WineAlign)

If roses were stones they would produce an aroma that only 13th Street’s Sandstone Gamay would recall. Some previous vintages have pushed the boundary to sky-high excess and a subterranean ferrous burrowing but in 2012 the perfume is both grounded and ethereal. The sandy tuff rock is so in that glass, like the smell of a rugged beach, mist and salinity spraying and rising off the rocks. The ’12 now knows “I don’t have to sell my soul.” Wholly singular Gamay and with hopes it will always be this going forward. Where as before it said “I want to be adored,” it now confirms “you adore me.”

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2011, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (130997, $34.95, WineAlign)

A lean Laundry with as much finesse as winemaker Paul Pender has ever shown in his poignant Cabernet Franc realm. When a vintage deals you calm and scale you sit back and relax. The Lincoln Lakeshore advancing in years vines bring yet unseen front end red berry, licorice and red currant softness in 2011. There is elegance but also a refusal to yield its back-end bite. A level of enveloping grain and chalk is unique to this bottle and should be seen as a very good effort with the possibility ahead for movement and a gaining of flesh. A graceful, gently pressed Laundry.

Southbrook Whimsy! Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (260281, $34.95, WineAlign)

A 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon whose barrel aging specs are integral to discussing its unfolding. This Whimsy is a seven barrel (172 case) lot of which 86 per cent was aged for 13 months in (71 per cent) French oak. Plain and simple, a wood-heavy decision that has provided allied excellence five years after that demanding vintage. The agglomeration is one of steroidal currants, rocket red berries and an assiduous savoury edge. Just now are the beginnings of a caramel oozing from out of the centre of a dark chocolate house. Really quite an amazing, rich cake example from the vintage. Showing so right and so strong now, in its territory and wheelhouse.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (125310, $35.20, WineAlign)

Hardie’s 2012 County Pinot Noir is a beacon, a flashing light on the shore, an invitation to copycats because this is what making red wine from limestone foundations is all about. To taste this ’12 is to experience Hardie’s purest berry maceration and distillation to date. It’s as if there was no alcohol present and in fact, at 11.5 per cent it is a modest and transparent pronouncement. Longevity may not bless the ’12 as in other vintages but this is certainly the most groomed and coiffed County Pinot Noir.

Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2008, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (241182, $35.20, WineAlign)

Tasted at Somewhereness 2014 as part of a vertical retrospective going back to 2007. The Vinemount Ridge’s now famous Picone Vineyard is set within a 10-acre estate on the Niagara Escarpment. Planted to the Weis 21 clone, the Riesling grown here digs in for complexity from sectional moieties of clay and sandy soil atop a unique base of limestone bedrock. Charles Baker began working with these grapes in 2005 and it is this 2008 where the learning curve took a turn for the Riesling stratosphere. The ’06 found luck in the stars but this vintage lays the framework and foundation for a master plan. At this stage in the ’08 evolution there is a prodigious and viscous honeyed textured. Ripening tree fruit juices run like maple sap in spring and the run off is beginning to think syrup. A cutting ridge of acidity arrests the sugaring, allowing citrus and flinty rock to recall the wine’s first, fresh steps. Baker’s Riesling time travels in circles with no real beginning and no real end. From my earlier, September 2012 note: ““Whoo-ahhh” Mojito, green apple skin scent of a Riesling. Seductive to sip, a bodacious body of influence, then back-end bite. A wolf pack in sheep’s clothing.”

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2010, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (505610, $38.20, WineAlign)

No other Niagara red and for sure no alternative Peninsula Bordeaux blend exists in such a vacuum of dichotomous behaviour. Act one is an out-and-out boastful, opulent show of Rococo. Act two a gnawing and gnashing by beasts. The pitch and pull of the Terroir Caché 2010 optates and culls the extraordinary through the practice of extended délestage, what Hidden Bench notes as “a traditional method of gently draining the wine and returning it to tank with its skins during fermentation.” The ’10 is about as huge as it gets, highly ferric and tannic. Still chemically reactive, you can almost imagine its once small molecules fitfully growing into long chains. Berries of the darkest night and he who should not be named black fruit are confounded by minerals forcing the juice into a cold sweat. Will require a minimum of 10 years to soften its all-powerful grip. From my earlier March 2013 note: “has rich, voluptuous Napa Valley written all over it. Sister Merlot dominant, Beamsville Bench sledge monster. Plumbago, mineral, blackberry and coffee in a wine that will be the ringer in a blind tasting 10 years on. Harald may be saying “this is our family jewel.” Mr. Thiel, you make good wine”

Stratus Cabernet Franc 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $38.20, WineAlign)

Patient as ever with the cool-climate, slow and low ripening Cabernet Franc, winemaker J-L Groux stuck with belief, regardless of the warm 2010 vintage. The Stratus single varietal space and time continuum of let it hang (though not to December), 20ish months of aging, nearly half in French oak barrels, has brought forth the most dense and luxe Cabernet Franc to date. “It’s never old school, all brand new,” with Groux so this red swells in wholly pure black currant fruit and is as big as it gets for J-L, which is saying something. This beastie boy will age over a 20-year period. Style is the thing, and yes, the aromatics.

Hidden Bench Locust Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (winery, $48.00, WineAlign)

The Locust Lane Vineyard, originally planted in 1998, was Hidden Bench’s first acquisition, in 2003. It has a unique perpendicular cross-slope effect, undulating in all four directions, gathering sun hours in its own special way. The vineyard produces the richest and warmest Pinot Noir with fruit flavours more akin to ripe plum and black cherry than almost anywhere on the Beamsville Bench, certainly as any from the Hidden Bench stable. While the ’11 is not the biggest beast nor the Bordeaux bully of the Terroir Caché, it is surprisingly tannic and strong. It’s anything but hot, though it attacks with fervor. Big berry fruit, macerated strawberry, rich pie notes and spice. A great Locust vintage.

Good to go!

 

https://twitter.com/mgodello

What’s in a wine vintage?

What\'s in a wine vintage?

The question is always being asked, what’s in a wine vintage?
Photo: Rostislav Glinsky/Fotolia.com

as seen on canada.com

There was a time when Ontario wine held no candle to my thoughts, filled no glass in my tasting regimen and occupied no place in my cellar. My how time and five years of enlightenment have changed me. Rarely does a day go by when that holy trinity of wine attention does not focus on something from Ontario.

My current obsession lies in the white wines from the 2012 vintage. The two previous years were so different, 2010 at first seemingly hot and bothered, then having emerged from its shell it has since clearly spoken in a language of elegance. The 2011 that followed gave wines of piercing acidity, verve and even austerity. Chardonnay, Riesling and Semillon all grabbed my acidulated attention.

First encounters with 2012 provided great skepticism. I continue the journey of ’12 discovery and the doors of perception are beginning to open. As a white wine vintage in Ontario, 2012 is shaping up to be a classic. Candour and acidity are there, but it is the rich, fullness of the wines that have taken the industry’s prowess to a whole new level. Riesling is brilliant. Pinot Gris the best ever. Though conditions may have not produced the coolest Chardonnay, winemakers who exercised restraint made beautiful wines. White blends that made use of highly aromatic varieties made their best wines to date. Reach out and touch Ontario’s 2012 whites.

The question is always being asked, what’s in a wine vintage? Not long ago I was emphatic to state there are no longer bad vintages in Ontario. The wisdom, experience and winemaking acumen has rendered that notion obsolete. There are challenging years for sure and this harshest of 2014 winters will certainly test the mettle of winemakers. Vintage variation is real and yes, there are no bad vintages, only different ones.

The new Kew Vineyards in Beamsville is on to something and 2011 was a terrific vintage to sidle up to their unique production of red wines. While appassimento remains an Ontario enigma, not quite like growing and producing a southern Italian grape like Aglianico, but the method is still a bit of a side-show. Kew reigns in the practice and matches it to the parameters of the Ontario vineyard and the climate. Kew the new red in Ontario.

Here are six new releases, a new Kew, a Prince Edward County classic Sparkling and four definitive whites from the 2012 vintage in Niagara.

From left: FLAT ROCK TWISTED 2012, TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2012, KEW VINEYARDS SOLDIER'S GRANT 2011, FLAT ROCK NADJA'S VINEYARD RIESLING 2012, SOUTHBROOK VINEYARDS TRIOMPHE CHARDONNAY 2012, and HUFF ESTATES CUVÉE PETER F. HUFF 2007

From left: FLAT ROCK TWISTED 2012, TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2012, KEW VINEYARDS SOLDIER’S GRANT 2011, FLAT ROCK NADJA’S VINEYARD RIESLING 2012, SOUTHBROOK VINEYARDS TRIOMPHE CHARDONNAY 2012, and HUFF ESTATES CUVÉE PETER F. HUFF 2007

FLAT ROCK TWISTED 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula (1578, $16.95, WineAlign) VINTAGES ESSENTIAL

Though the warmth of the 2012 vintage could have suffocated a blend such as this Twisted, to the contrary, this harmonious white unfolds as a cold play. Cool, crisp, wonderfully tart and full of citrus zest. Plenty of sunshine but no burn. Waxy and rich like excellent Moscato along with the creamy confection of mango and the tang of what pale, trenchant pineapple used to be, before it went golden. The blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay magnetizes the opposing forces of residual sugar and modest alcohol. “And you are not wrong to ask who does this belong to? It belongs to all of us.” Best Twisted to date.  89  @brightlighter1  Tasted January 2014

TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (89029, $17.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES, February 15th, 2014 Release

Frothing at the glass, full on soda aromatic entry, verging to off-dry white peach and yellow plum flavours. Full of tang and zest, enriching flavours that render the soda irrelevant. All in, vigorous ’12, most ever perhaps. From my earlier note: “s’got quite the tropical warmth for Bench Riesling. When considered in terms of the vintage, this is nearly a Riesling in the service of a Pinot Gris. Very juicy fruit, dry but bursting in fricative verve. Extreme quality, low-cost. Now on tap at Barque Smokehouse.  89  Tasted August 2013 and January 2014  @Tawse_Winery  @Paul_Pender

KEW VINEYARDS SOLDIER’S GRANT 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula  (367318, $18.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES, February 1st, 2014 Release

Winemaker Philip Dowell draws upon his Aussie roots, delves into a northern Italian technique (appassimento) and along with Beamsville grower Graham Rennie, does the practice proud. Vineland Research Institute has been working towards developing a Niagara appassimento thing, already embraced by the likes of Foreign Affair, Pillitteri and Colaneri. Now Kew takes the torch but with an altered finesse and restraint. Raspberry and the wet warmth of spring sun, saturated earth give way to dusty, sour cherry with an accent of peppery, herbaceous Loire-style Cabernet Franc. The dust ultimately trumps the sharp and then submits towards a metallurgical length. Would work with eclectic flavours, like Buffalo Chicken Nachos. It’s true.  88  @kewvineyards  Tasted November 2013 and January 2014

FLAT ROCK NADJA’S VINEYARD RIESLING 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula (578625, $19.95, WineAlign)  From the VINTAGES, February 1st, 2014 Release

A champion cyclone of forces combined to elevate the already incumbent position of this Twenty Mile Bench Riesling. An ideal growing season magnified transmission upon a paradigmatic two and a half-acre block. This southern-most and highest altitude section of Flat Rock’s vineyard rests aboard a solid bed of limestone and wake me up if that rock was not drawn up into the vines in this stellar Riesling vintage. Sure its warm and nearly off-dry but such an effortless squeeze of lemon hydrates and elevates orchard fruit and honey out of the year of the lemon. After each sip its “every time you kiss me, lemon crush.” Love this prince of a Twenty Mile white in 2012, the dynamism smiling on the tart, succulent fruit. The length is one of outright bravado. This will develop for 20 years, of that I am convinced. There is just so much fruit. A Nadja for the ages.  92  @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd  Tasted January 2014

SOUTHBROOK VINEYARDS TRIOMPHE CHARDONNAY 2012, VQA Niagara On The Lake (172338, $22.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES, February 15th, 2014 Release

A sachet of fiendish raising agent and scotch kindled toast seem initially atypical for the vintage but are kept in check and work alongside one another to great effect. Halfway in there are notes of lemon butter, saltwater-marked wooden ship, pine forest on a warm morning and organic smells of the world outside. The glow and ardor of what Chardonnay can rightfully be in 2012 take the lead at the mid-point and carry Triomphe through to an eco-rich, full-bodied good glass. “On the water, very free, and easy.”  89  Tasted February 2014  @SouthbrookWine

HUFF ESTATES CUVÉE PETER F. HUFF 2007, Traditional Method, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (198754, $39.95, WineAlign) From the VINTAGES, February 15th, 2014 Release

This is a glorious vintage for the classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir flagship Huff bubbles. Lees affected in waves of chewy, fernetty, lime sherbet, ginger, coriander seed and apical almond butter. The humidity of the vintage plunges this complex sparkler into the brewing smells of a late fall apple orchard. Bronzing in attitude to middle age, a kind of medieval bubbles, hard on you, not letting go of its barbaric hold. The colour speaks of age but there is a huge amount of verve and life left yet. Your full attention is required to gather Huff’s traditional thoughts and this is quite possibly the most rambunctious PEC fizz I’ve ever encountered.  So different from the 2008 ”austere, dry, flinty wine of slate.”  92  Tasted February 2014  @HuffEstatesWine

Good to go!

Canoe trip recipes for success

as seen on canada.com

Canoe trip cooking adheres to a less is more, zen-like philosophy. The chef must manage the intensity of absences, the maximization of omissions. The carrying weight of a tripping pack, storage restrictions and spoilage all combine to limit the boundaries of mis en place. Culinary science as outdated rhetorical lunacy, the act of banal heroism. My muse may not be a Jack Tripper Coq-au-Vin but “Lordy, Lordy, Lordy,” cooking outdoors is just plain fun.

The simple and meditative act of back country canoe camping perculiarizes the anthology of Canadian culture. Long before the assembly to dominion it was a summoning that defined our call to being. Today, the courir dans les bois persists as a tug of positable mythic that underlies who and what we are. Cherrywood paddles cutting whirlpools through ambient lakes.  Portage ambling over trails cut out of the forest lined with networking tree root systems and glacially deposited rocks. This base traversing of the landscape, in and out of a canoe, plodding a direct and simple course from points A to B.

Paddling Home

Living on nuts and berries” once sustained us, we gatherers, fishermen, hunters and farmers. Canoe trip cooking marked an enlightened beginning for many Canadian chefs, a list not the least of which includes me. It was simpler back then. Tripper’s stew, Mac and Cheese, Boil in the Foil. I don’t miss and reminisce on those anti-culinary days. The paradox of modern campfire cooking merges the taste of maple, pine and birch smoke with gastronomical possibilities that leave beef jerky and tuna surprise in the dust. The demotic canoe trip maxim might state “show me a good casserole and I’ll show you a casserole.”

Pancake Breakfast

The key to canoe trip cooking, especially in the heat of the summer, is to keep perishable food cold for as long as possible. Freeze everything that can be frozen the night before departure, transfer to the food barrel and don’t open until dinner. Remove only last in, first out items and re-seal the barrel. The following morning the milk, eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese will all be good to go, straight from the “fridge.”

Green Beans, Feta, Golden Beets and Kale Shoots

Recent years have seen preparations that included Glazed Baby Back Ribs, Smashed Potatoes, Fried Rice, Deep Dish Pizza, Tortellini in Brodo, Grilled Flank Steak and Mushroom Risotto. Night one in July 2012 ventures into some new territory. Vietnamese Phở Bò Tái Nạm, Pan-Fried Halibut, Salad of Green Beans, Golden Beets, Greek Feta and Kale Shoots.

Soup’s On

Pho Bo Tai Nam

Ingredients:

1 package of flat rice noodles
2 lbs. centre cut beef tenderloin
2 litres frozen chicken stock
cheesecloth spice bag filled with cassia (cinnamon bark), fennel seed, whole cayenne chile, coriander seed, star anise, Szechuan peppercorn and clove. tied up with butcher’s string
fresh bean sprouts or baby greenhouse pea shoots
Thai basil (can substitute regular green, Genovese or purple basil)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Method:

Bring water to a rolling boil for 15 minutes and add rice noodles. Cook for three minutes, strain out the water and coat liberally in canola oil.

Grill Beef Tenderloin over campfire coals until charred and rare. Remove and rest for 20 minutes.

Take out frozen chicken stock from the food barrel, transfer to a stock pot and add one litre water. Drop in a sachet of spices. Bring to a rolling boil over extreme campfire heat and continue to boil for 15 minutes.

Slice beef very thin.

Serve bowls of broth with rice noodles, sliced beef, bean sprouts and Thai basil.

Slicing the Beef

Braised beef, fully cooked and frozen ahead, effectively works protein into night two of a canoe trip. Rump roast, stew beef and short rib can all be reshaped into stew. BBQ sauce glazed boneless short rib acts as esculent partner to rice, beans and pasta. In this case, good-bye baked beans and hello Garam Masala-spiced green lentils. The beef would star in a Khao San Road inspired Khao Soi but tonight it rides along with grilled Veal Knuckers, gluten-free corn pasta, olives, baby carrots and Padano Parmesan.

BBQ Flanken

Beef Short Ribs

Ingredients:

3 lbs. beef short rib, cut “flanken” style”
2 shallots, peeled and sliced in half
4 garlic cloves, sliced in half
2 cups dry red wine
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup BBQ sauce

Method:

The day before the trip, season flanken butchered short rib with salt and pepper.

Braise for two hours in a 375 degree oven covered in red wine, shallot and garlic.

Remove from the jus, cool, discard the bones, then deep freeze wrapped in foil and double-bagged.

Glaze with BBQ sauce and grill over hot coals, two minutes each on all four sides. Slice and serve.

Courtesy of PlatyPreserve

Boxed wines have been the go to beverage to pair with my uptempo, combative and sanguinary campfire cooking. On my next venture into a Canadian nature preserve I plan to bring better wine. On the reliable and heady advice of AM, hereto referred to as my “wine conscience,” this contraption will house a bottle or two of something more than drinkable. I’m not suggesting a classified growth Bordeaux or Barolo here. I’m thinking dry as the desert Italian reds will find their way inside the preservation system.

Argiano NC Non Confunditur 2009 (72397, $24.95) achieves crunge by amalgamating Cabernet Sauvignon (chocolate and berries), Merlot (basil, lead), Syrah (black as night) and Sangiovese (animale grosso) in a Super-Tuscan, spezzatura package. Could paddle without a care to the world and sip this all day while searching for “that confounded bridge.” He sure is a good friend.  90

Mazzei Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2009 (977629, $25.95) confounds as a juxtaposition of the exquisite and the atavistic. A prince of raspberry purée, “I think I love you.” Yet oak and osseous variation turn the Mazzei into a Black Beret, a strong-willed and big-boned, alpha male animal.  Walk with the Moose.  88

Good to go!