Sleepy Montalcino…. It may not be so sleepy anymore. In fact, with 2018 being the release of the 2013 Brunello and the 2012 Riservas, publications across the board included many of these Brunello in their “Top 100” lists. As I’ve noted in the first two installments of this year’s series, this cooler return to Classicism didn’t work out uniformly well across the zone. There have been several amazing wines to be sure, but there have also been clunkers and let downs. Coverage like this is critical in helping you make informed purchases.
Having just released the article covering Castello Banfi’s 40th Birthday, it’s not unnoticed that the wine starting off this report is on their 41st vintage. Altesino is about as quintessential as you can get with Brunello. Their Montosoli is often among the best Brunello crafted when it is produced and as pioneers, they were the first producer to use barrique in producing Brunello. A scandalous notion when it was introduced, now almost all producers use some form of combination when it comes to barrels.
The 2013 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino turns heads. It’s a classic color; a medium ruby at best that fades to a clear iodine ring. I knew what was coming from my wife….more on that later.
From the glass, the aromas rise majestically. Crushed berries, fresh flowers, tobacco, this is frankly, perfumed. On the palate, the wine is pure, fresh, vibrant and juicy. The flavors, despite the color, are full bodied and concentrated. The tannins are not absent mind you, so 2-4 years in the cellar will improve this wine. Flavors echo the aromas with juicy persistence. My wife absolutely loved it. She said, “that wine is excellent…..but I hate the color!” She likes to look at wines you can’t see through. C’est la vie. 95 points. About $45-$50. Find this wine.
Carved out in 1969, from what was nothing but fodder and farmland north of Montalcino, serious winemaking only began at Val di Suga in 1977 with the release of a Riserva Brunello. In 1994, the gruppo Angelini purchased the estate and immediately set about investing in the property and elevating the quality of the wines. They have succeeded admirably. Today the estate produces 4 separate Brunello; one estate bottling and three single vineyard wines that are some of the most sought after in the world. I’m happy to say that all 4 will be featured in our coverage this year and today, we’re beginning with the estate wine.
Produced from grapes selected from all three of the single vineyards, the 2013 Val di Suga Brunello represents the entirety of the estate’s terroir. Fermented in stainless steel, the wine displays a deft combination of freshness, intensity and structure. It is aged for 3 years in 50 hectoliter Slavonian barrels and an additional 12 months in bottle before release.
Dark ruby in color and also with the fading iodine rim, the Val di Suga looks classic. The aromas on the wine, while very pleasant, seem oddly advanced. Dried cherries, dried flowers, dried spices are nice but somewhat unsuspected. On the palate, the wine is fresher with notes of cherry, tobacco, cola and herbs. The tannins are slightly drying and obscure the finish somewhat. I’m not sure what to think here. My gut tells me to sit on this for 3-5 years, but I wonder about that dry aromatic profile. 90 points. About $55. Beginning with the 2013 vintage, Val di Suga has a new importer. Find this wine.
The Poggio Alle Mura vineyard lies just outside the walls of Castello Banfi and is planted with optimal Sangiovese clones for the soil, exposure and altitude; the fruit of Banfi’s extensive clonal research project. The vineyard is really coming into its own. Are the best days ahead? Perhaps. But it will be hard to imagine given the quality of the 2013.
The 2013 Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura Brunello is spectacular. Deep ruby to violet in color, the look here is nearly impenetrable. Lots of crushed berry, sandalwood, pipe tobacco and herbs on the nose beg the taster to sip. Classy, refined and polished, this Sangiovese has layers of crushed red fruit, toasted walnut, pipe tobacco and vanilla flavors that go on and on. Masculine structure, with lots of juicy acidity and tannins that beg aging, this is a 15 year wine at a minimum. This vineyard gets better and better. 95 points. About $65, but shop around, price varies widely. Find this wine.
I’ve enjoyed the Podere Brizio wines over the last two reports and they have also been fairly nice values. However, the 2013 wine was a bit of a let down. I’m not sure if it is just the style of the vintage and how that relates to Podere Brizio’s terroir or if this wine is simply tight as nails, but this Brunello is very austere.
The 2013 Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino is a deep violet color that is very pretty. Reticent aromas of crushed cherry, sandalwood and earth tones are fresh yet elusive. On the palate, there isn’t much going on and it didn’t develop all that much with an hour’s air time. Ripe cherry notes are linear and compact without much roundness or depth. The spice notes are soft and pleasing but there is little to no complexity at the moment. Slightly bitter/stemmy tannins hint at a less than optimal extraction. This one is a pass for me in 2013. 88 points. About $45-$50. Find this wine.
The New Kid in Town; in more ways than one. For 2013, we welcome Fattoria del Pino to our report. In fact, Montalcino has only welcomed this tiny property to the landscape since 2000 when owner Jessica Pellegrini acquired 5 hectares of vineyards to the west of Montosoli hill. Today, she manages the estate along with her son who has been involved with production since he was 6! Marco Mocali is the consulting enologist.
After 1 year aging in steel, the wine is transferred to 50 hecto-liter Slavonian barrels where it ages a further 48 months before being bottled. At that point, the wine rests 6 months before release. Average annual production is approximately 13,000 bottles combined between Brunello, Rosso, and an IGT.
The 2013 Fattoria del Pino Brunello is very impressive. You can see the impact of the large botte aging in the color of the wine. From the violet core, the color changes appreciably to a wide sunburst ring at the rim of the bowl. This is very aromatic with fresh flowers, cake spice, crushed cherry and sweet pipe tobacco framing a wonderful picture.
On the palate, the wine is ripe, balanced, juicy and fresh. The medium to full bodied core of ripe cherry fruit is delicious and accented with minerally, powdery tannins. I love the dusty mouthfeel of this wine. Chestnut, hazelnut and tobacco add extra dimensions that set this apart. Wonderful effort. Welcome to Montalcino! 93 points. About $50. Find this wine.
Despite the fact that Val di Suga has bounced around a bit from owner to owner, the team in charge of the estate still produces amazing variations of Brunello. Acquired from the original owners by Tenimenti Angelini in 1994, the estate is now part of the Gruppo Bertani.
The theory behind the Val di Suga project is “3 slopes, 3 vineyards, 3 different expressions” of Brunello. The first of the three to be featured in this year’s report is the Poggio al Granchio.
Purchased in 1999, the name “Poggio al Granchio” comes from the small pond at the center of the estate, under an imposing holm oak, which is home to some lively freshwater crabs. The characteristic trademark of Granchio is a flinty, minerally texture to the wine which is imparted from the heavy concentration of galestro in this vineyard.
The 2013 Val di Suga Brunello Poggio al Granchio is a wonderful Sangiovese. Highly aromatic with bright wild cherry aromas, flinty minerals and tobacco these scents deepen as the wine airs. On the palate, the texture of the wine from fruit to tannin is laden with dusty mineral that I absolutely adore. Loads of crushed, fresh, juicy wild cherry flavors are bounded by spices, tobacco and a mineral note. Expansive and although elegant, the tannins male their presence felt on the back end of your palate. Decant for 2 hours or cellar for 10. This is stellar and unique. 95 points. About $75. Find this wine.
They may be small, they may be run as a tight knit family operation, but the push toward quality wine and the drive to be elite is stronger than ever at Podere Scopetone. Founded in 1978 by Federico Abbarchi, the estate was acquired in 2009 by the husband and wife team of Loredana Tanganelli and Antonio Brandi who are partnered with Federico’s widow. In 2o15 a new barrel aging cellar was completed and the estate is undergoing a conversion to organic farming. The cherry on top is that renowned consultant Maurizio Castelli is shepherding the enology. Scopetone is in good hands.
The 2012 Podere Scopetone impressed me far greater than the current 2013 version. That shouldn’t really be surprising because I find overall that I prefer 2012 to 2013. That being said, the consistency here is impressive. Look at my note for the 2012. I’ve bolded noteworthy comments.
Classic, medium ruby color that fades ever so slightly to an iodine like rim. In short, it’s the classic appearance of a Maurizio Castelli (Il Palazzone, Mastrojanni) wine. On the nose, the wine showcases aromas of menthol, soft sandalwood, and sweet berry tones. After being decanted for 30 minutes, the nose opened further, but needed some coaxing. On the palate, dried herbs, juicy, ripe mouthwatering cherry flavors dominate. A slightly tart aspect lends interest and sapidity.
I’m just amazed when this happens. One year later, here’s my review of the 2013. The 2013 Podere Scopetone Brunello is a clear, light to medium ruby wine. You can see right through it. Aromas of red berries, chestnut, hints of smoke and fresh mushroom are at first difficult to coax but become more expressive with air. This is austere. The somewhat tart cherry palate displays dried herb character too. Lots of mouthwatering sapidity gives it freshness. Good effort but not outstanding. 89 points. About $40-$45. Find this wine.
The next entrant in this article is also the next Cru from Val di Suga. The Spuntali vineyard has been producing amazing Brunello for decades. The 2006 was an eye opening wine so I believe the current vintage will eventually rise to the same heights.
Acquired in 1983 by Val di Suga, the Spuntali Vineyard sits on the western slopes of Montalcino at 300 feet elevation. A moderate size, the vineyard is 15 hectares and has optimal southwest exposure. In walking the vineyard in the past, I was struck by the consistency of the soil. At first blush, it’s what you’d imagine when you conjure an image of normal brown dirt. However, when I bent over to grab some, the surface layer is powdery and seems to crumble to the touch. Below, it’s denser, poorer. It’s a unique texture that I’ve not encountered before and results from a concentration of clay and limestone.
The 2013 Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino Spuntali is delicious now and should improve with time. On the nose, the wine already displays a richness of ripe fruit with crushed berry, cherry liquor and roasted spices. On the palate, the ripe berry flavors are punctuated by toasted chestnut and a wonderful dusty, powdery aspect that can best be described as dirt but not dirty. Powerful tannins make remind me that this will be better at 8-10 years of age, but the balance is evident and I’m confident this will reward patience. I’m sure some will find its way to my cellar. 95 points. About $75.
Just south of Montalcino, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, lie the 60 acres of vineyards of La Poderina, now owned by the Saiagricola group. Riccardo Cotarella is the consulting winemaker. Therefore, it may fit that La Poderina’s belief is that “innovation serves tradition” and in that vein the wines are aged in barrique as well as large cask. As a result, the Brunello tends to take on a more modern “flair” stylistically.
After a relatively luke warm review of the 2012 La Poderina, the current vintage is a step up for this writer. Perhaps the style of Riccardo Cotarella is best married to cooler vintages? I don’t know. However, this wine doesn’t display the overripe notes I recall in the 2012. The 2013 La Poderina Brunello di Montalcino is a brilliant medium violet color clear to the rim of the bowl.
On the nose, the taster is greeted by fresh aromas of ripe cherry with rosemary and sandalwood. The palate is balanced and attractive but is a bit “cat and mouse” or coy at the moment. Are you playing it cool? You show me just enough to keep me intrigued, but you’re not divulging your whole hand. That’s ok. The structure is here and so is the balance. The red fruits on the palate are perfumed and marked by dried leaf tobacco and and menthol. Give this some short (3-4 years) cellar time and I think it will begin to blossom. 91 points. About $45. Find this wine.
Finally…. the all female team of Donatella Cinelli Colombini impresses again……
The Casato Prime Donne Estate lies on the Montalcino hill about 225 metres above sea level and is surrounded by 16 hectares of Sangiovese vineyards for the production of Brunello. The ground floor of the old stone building houses the aging cellars. This is where their Brunello ages; first in smaller barrique and then in larger and larger barrels until the wine reaches the largest 40-hectolitre barrels. It’s a unique process that imparts complex aromas to the finished wines.
The 2013 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino is very well done. It’s a shimmering violet in the glass and needs no coaxing to reveal aromas of chestnut, worn leather, crushed berry and fennel. Lovely to smell. Elegant, high-toned and juicy on the palate, this Brunello shares flavors of crushed cherry, fresh mushroom and fresh herbs that are lively and nimble throughout. Some dried herbs mark the finish. The nose of the wine is gorgeous but I suspect the palate will benefit from a year or two of cellaring. An impressive effort but the pricing scares me. 92 points. About $60. Find this wine.
This brings Part 3 to a close but rest assured, Part 4 is in the works! Some of the producers to be featured are Casa Raia, Altesino, Donatella Cinelli, Terralsole, Argiano and more…. Stay tuned!