Montalcino: Home to Brunello

~ The hill town of Montalcino shined superbly in 2015 ~

Brunello 2015  has been a long time coming!  The anticipation for this vintage began almost as soon as the grapes started turning color on the vines.  After Winter provided much needed water reserves to the vineyards, a cool even Spring continued that trend.  These two facts turned out to be critical when the heat spiked during June.  My 2015 Harvest Report recalls the details.

I spoke to many winemakers and estate managers at the time and they could barely contain their excitement.  Andrea Cecchi told me, “Giovanni, definitely it is an excellent vintage.  It was very hot at times (like 2009 I interrupted?) no no no…. nothing like that.  And we had good rainfall in the winter and early spring that helped the vines avoid the water stress that can lead to limited ripening.  We are making a Coevo 2015 and the vintage overall is going to be like 2010, maybe better.”

Grape vines for Fanti's Brunello

~ Perfectly ripening Sangiovese Grosso on the Tenuta Fanti Estate ~

These expectations were only amplified after I attended the World Debut Brunello Gala in December.  Although many of the wines had only recently been bottled, the quality and intensity were obvious.  After attending Benvenuto Brunello in January, I wrote at the time, “believe the hype”.  After threatened tariffs lead to a frenzy of uncertainty regarding shipping and Covid-19 disrupted supply chains, the availability of 2015 Brunello may be somewhat spotty.  As a result,  wines may be slower to appear at market and some have not left Italy at all.

Brunello crush pad at Caprili

~ The new crush pad at Caprili stands at the ready ~

This may be a blessing in disguise because now as I taste through dozens of finished Brunello, you will have a detailed resource to guide your purchasing decisions.  Many of these wines are just now starting to appear on retailers shelves.

Brunello 2015 – I Vini

The Fanti estate covers about 300 hectares of which 52 are planted to vines.  Located in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, the family’s vineyards are rich in Galestro, a shale like soil deposit gentle enough to be snapped with your fingers.  This adds wonderful minerality to their Brunello and imparts a powdery characteristic that I love.

The 2015 Fanti Brunello is a wonderful wine and an exceptional value.  Deep violet in the glass, the wine exhibits pretty aromas of wild cherry, freshly cut flowers and baking spices.  On the palate, the wine is juicy, fresh and lively with the dusty mineral components featured quite prominently.  Crushed red fruits, fresh tobacco and cypress herbs are delicious.  The charm here is in the approachability of this Brunello.  Elisa Fanti told me they chose to bottle this early and as a result, it’s already more “together” at this young stage.  93 points and a very good value under $40.  Find this wine.

Fanti Brunello in glass

~ The Fanti Estate Brunello is a wonderful wine and is an excellent value ~

The Caprili estate spreads over an area of 58 hectares in the southwest territory of Montalcino on hillsides that slope toward the Orcia and Ombrone rivers. Founded in 1965 by Alfo Bartolommei, the estate recently celebrated its 55th Anniversary. Despite that relatively short existence, it’s a premium producer that boasts some of the best terroir in the zone.

The 2015 Caprili Brunello is a deep ruby color with violet reflections.  Upon opening, the nose is filled with crushed cherry, chestnut, spices and tobacco. Very complex.  On the palate, the rich cherry flavors are accented by minerality including iron and dust, tobacco and spices.  Long, long finish and this blossoms further with air as it opens.  I’ve had this wine on 4 different occasions now and it has impressed every time.  96 points.  Great value around $40.  Find this wine.

Caprili Wine bottle

~ The 2015 Caprili is another excellent value ~

The next wine made a remarkable impression on me.  Why do I say that?  Well, I suppose its because despite being an estate of consistent quality and one that I’d easily recommend, this 2015 Brunello surpassed expectations.  I was struck by the freshness and vibrancy of the wine and its intense aromatic profile.

Altesino Vineyards

~ The view towards Montalcino from Altesino. It’s possible to make out the Church Tower in the distance on the hill ~

The 2015 Altesino Brunello is excellent.  A deep ruby color extends to the rim with brilliant violet reflections.  Penetrating aromas of lavendar, violet, crushed stone and wild berry mark the nose of the wine.  It’s compelling to smell.  On the palate, this is full bodied and elegant with a juicy, racy frame of crushed cherry, newly turned earth, ground coffee and Christmas cake spices. The flavors are laser focused, precise and intense.  This is the best estate Brunello from Altesino since at least 2006.  96 points.  Find this wine.

Altesino Brunello in decanter

~ A tremendous effort from a venerable producer, the 2015 boasts impressive aromatics and a long, sweet, ripe fruit finish ~

Many of you ask me, what do I eat with all these Brunello?  The beauty of Brunello, and Sangiovese in general for that matter, is its versatility and natural place with food.  I happily serve Brunello with Fiorentina steak or any grilled meat; with pasta in a meat ragu, with mushroom risotto, with slow braised meats and even alone with hard cheese.  Eat, think, drink like a local. What grows together, goes together!

Pork short ribs over risotto

~ Two staples that marry great with Brunello are pork and rosemary. For this report, I tried several Brunello alongside this braise of boneless pork short ribs over Saffron Risotto. The Saffron was a gift from the Consorzio Brunello and was grown in Montalcino! ~

The next Brunello in this installment is an absolute superstar and one of the best values in this vintage.  If you like classic Sangiovese, with juicy, savory flavors and mouthwatering acidity, this is your wine!  Look at the array of colors in the picture below.

The 2015 Talenti Brunello is deep ruby at its core and progresses to violet, brick and that classic copper color at the rim. The aromas are fresh and replete with crushed cherry, wild flowers, cypress, tobacco and mineral.  The flavors echo the nose with persistence and a high toned freshness that carries the fruit and tertiary notes nimbly across your palate.  While this isn’t a blockbuster of fruit, it’s one of my favorite Brunello that I’ve tasted in this vintage.  97 points and a great value around $37.  What’s more?  If you’re a Tuscan Vines Newsletter Subscriber, you received advance notice of this review along with an Exclusive Promo Code regarding where to find this Brunello at a compelling price.   Find this wine.

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino

~ The 2015 Talenti is one of the greatest values in this vintage. A superb wine in every aspect; there’s plenty of it to go around and at under $40, it’s a steal ~

Another view from Altesino at dusk…..

Altesino at dusk

~ A brilliant Tuscan “tramonto” graces the Altesino Estate ~

I’ve written about it.  I’ve tweeted about it.  I’ve enjoyed wine with them. I’ve watched them work.  I’ve been awed by their palate.  Women are great wine makers and they are great wine tasters.  In that vein, it never comes as a surprise to me when I find out an enjoyable wine was made by a woman.  Donatella Cinelli Colombini has taken this to a new level.  Her entire team is female and they have never let me down.

Vine rows on the Donatella Cinelli Colombini Estate

~ Looking down the rows of ripening Sangiovese vines on the Donatella Cinelli Colombini Estate. Again, you can see Montalcino on the hill in the distance ~

The 2015 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello displays all the hallmarks I’ve come to expect from this estate. Ripe berry flavors are accented with fresh savory herbs across a medium to full bodied frame.  Dusty cocoa and cinnamon are attractive on the back end.  Juicy, lively and fresh.   If you shop around carefully this can be had for under $50. As it approaches $60, the value is less compelling to me.  92 points.  Find this wine.

Donatella Brunello in glass

~ This is put together very well and I suspect will blossom further with an additional 2-3 years of cellaring ~

Montalcino welcomed this tiny property to the landscape in 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.  The 2013 was a wonderful effort and the 2015 follows along behind it.

The 2015 Fattoria del Pino Brunello presents a classic array of colors imparted from large botte aging.  Savory herbs rise from the glass with fresh oregano, cypress and crushed berries.  On the palate, the fruit flavors are bright and fresh and the medium to full body is elegant and sapid.  This is remarkably well proportioned. It’s almost as if it doesn’t need further bottle aging.  It’s quite good now, but I’d be hesitant to lay it away very long.  92 points. Not yet released in full.   Find this wine.

Fattoria del Pino

~ Fattoria del Pino ages their Brunello in grande botte. Note the overall lighter color and the bright orange-iodine ring at the rim of the bowl ~

The Camigliano Estate was acquired by the current owners in 1957 who immediately set about creating a high quality Tuscan wine making estate. Today there are 220 acres under vine with about 125 of those dedicated to the production of Brunello. When the 2010 vintage was released I enjoyed that wine a lot but was subsequently let down by the 2011 and 2012.  The 2014 was forgettable and honestly, so is the 2015 relatively speaking.   I’m not sure what’s going on here.

The 2015 Camigliano Brunello is a nice, medium violet color that fades to iodine at the rim of the bowl.  I mean, my exasperation at this point should be noticeable if not obvious.  On the nose, the primary component is dried herb notes with dried green tobacco leaf.   In the mouth, there are flavors of dried herbs and dried red fruit.  There’s nothing fresh here and there’s no intensity or vibrancy.  I don’t see this as being in a “stage”;  I see it as under ripe and dramatically evolved given its age.  Neither of those things should be present in a 2015.              87 points.  Tasted twice with consistent notes.  (1 bottle blind)   Find this wine.

Wine in a glass and bottle

~ Camigliano missed the mark in 2015. This is too austere and focused on the dried trait part of the spectrum ~

A tale of two wines…

When I first tasted the Uccelliera at the Brunello Gala, I knew straight away this was going to be an amazing wine.  It reminded me so much of the 2010 that I wrote, “just buy it” on my tasting sheet.

The Uccelliera estate is in the capable hands of winemaker Andrea Cortonesi and his lovely wife.  Cortonesi farms 6 tiny hectares in the southern part of the Brunello zone near Castelnuovo dell’Abate.  In a good vintage, almost 30,000 bottles are produced.

The 2015 Uccelliera Brunello is an exquisite wine.  The color is a brilliant violet with laser like reflections throughout.  It’s not an inky monster which reminds us once again that color doesn’t indicate intensity or body.  Fragrant; frankly perfumed with crushed wild cherry, new leather, roses, fresh herbs and tobacco.  Evolving as you swirl.   The crushed berry flavors dominate the profile at the moment, but the structure and sapidity are expertly balanced.  Juicy, vibrant and mouthwatering, this is dynamite.  We decanted a little over an hour.  96 points with potential.  Find this wine.

Uccelliera Brunello 2015

~ An utterly captivating wine and everything you should expect from the wonderful 2015 vintage. Even with the beautiful violet color, you can still faintly glimpse the copper like rim at the edge of the bowl ~

As I sit here listening to a lamb ragu with rosemary and San Marzano tomato bubble on the stove, now seems as good a time as any to warn of a cautionary tale with some of these 2015s.

Grape Vines Brunello

~ Vines on the Piancornello Estate ~

The Piancornello Estate is located between Sant’Angelo in Colle and Castelnuovo dell’Abate and is nestled on a plateau with Mount Amiata brooding on the horizon.  The vineyards cover a surface area of around 20 hectares that are rich in rocks and stones.  Since 2016 the estate has been certified organic and produces three wines: Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino plus a small amount of IGT.

The 2015 Piancornello Brunello is a deep ruby red that almost approaches garnet.  There are violet reflections but in the photo below, it appears lighter than it is.   On the nose, the wine exhibits concentrated aromas of ripe cherry, menthol, cedar and Tuscan herbs.  On the palate, this is rich and ripe.  A full bodied, muscular wine with substantial tannins and ripe concentrated black cherry profile.  Accenting are hints of iron and cured black olive.  The tannins are intrusive at the moment and cut the flavors short.  This requires proper food (lamb ragu anyone?) but ideally, 7-10 years of cellaring.  My worry is that this is somewhat “hot” on the palate in terms of the alcohol.  Castelnuovo dell’Abate is in the southern portion of the Brunello zone and this is what can happen when Sangiovese gets to 15% in that area.  91 points.  Find this wine.

Piancornello Brunello wine in glass

~ The Piancornello is a brooding, dense Brunello that requires some cellaring.  But watch that abv!  ~

Tenuta il Poggione covers approximately 1,300 acres though only 336 are devoted to vines while the balance is attributed to olive groves, grains and livestock. The vineyards sit between 475 and 1,500 feet above sea level and are located just 6 miles from the center of Montalcino. The very capable Alessandro Bindocci has helmed this estate for many years and he remains at the top of his craft.

The 2015 Il Poggione Brunello is a bright ruby with violet highlights clear to the rim of the bowl.  After decanting the wine for 60 minutes, the aromas were already complex and expressive.  Crushed berry, sandalwood, tobacco, earth and mushroom aromas are notable.  The elevation makes a difference here; especially when contrasted against the Piancornello.  Freshness, juiciness and mouthwatering sapidty mark the palate.  Wild berry, toasted spices, dusty earth and tobacco are wonderfully presented.  Pure and precise. This is a big wine with lots of structure that is also built for the long haul. Decant well in advance as I did or put this away for 6-8 more years.  Best effort here since the 2010.  97 points.  Find this wine.

Il Poggione wine in the glass

~ A stellar effort is what you would expect from this winery in this vintage and they delivered handily ~

And there it is… Part 1 of my Annual Coverage is complete just as these wines begin showing up in earnest at retail.  As expected, samples continue to arrive so this report will likely feature 60-70 different wines when all is said and done.   Stay current and help me spread the word if you enjoy the content.

Salute!

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