Last month I had the pleasure of attending a unique event; an advance debut of the long awaited 2015 Brunello vintage. Premiering that night, along with a host of winemakers, were approximately 40-50 Brunello.
The evening began with a short, walk around tasting followed by dinner tailored to Brunello by Chef Andrea Aprea. What follows are brief impressions from the tasting as well as more comprehensive impressions of the wines we drank with the dinner.
Most, if not all, of the wines were bottled as recently as July or August. As a result, they displayed the young unbridled combination of fruit and structure one would expect. However, one thing was evident, they are gorgeous Brunello that live up to their advance billing. But what’s new with 2015? For one thing, it’s a vintage that will see the bottling of dozens of Cru wines. This will be true for wines that have previously been released but will surely be expanded across many estates. Pricing is another issue. The specter of tariffs notwithstanding, the wines are likely to see moderate price increases though availability should not be an issue.
Impressions of 2015 Brunello
Given the chaos of the venue and the small size of many pours, I am not providing very detailed notes nor am I providing a range of scores. What follows are my general impressions. Where a wine stood out exceptionally in the crowded field, I have denoted as such with an asterisk. Not all wines pictured below were tasted.
Argiano Vigna del Suolo – This is the first release of this wine as a Brunello. Suolo existed as a Super Tuscan until 2012 and was not produced in 2013 0r 2014. This single vineyard is stellar. It’s absolutely huge with perfectly ripened crushed cherry flavors that are pure and juicy. Foward, lovely and elegant. It’s all about the fruit here.
Argiano Estate – A lovely muscular wine from a trusted estate. This relies more on power than the elegant Suolo and finishes with a grilled meat and iron note.
Caprili * – It’s been years since I first interviewed Giacomo Bartolommei and since then I’ve kept in close contact with this winery. Year in and year out, Giacomo is creating quality wines that should not be missed. This 2015 is sweetly perfumed with flowers and fruit. Mineral, iron, tobacco and pepper add complexity to the ripe juicy fruit. Really impressive.
Carpineto – Lots of cherry and tobacco leaf on the nose and palate. Perfumed aromas with juicy ripe fruit. A bit leaner than some of the others however I tasted this about 15 minutes after it was opened and did not get the chance to go back to it.
Col d’Orcia – This is so elegant with such finely integrate tannins. Graceful, pure and ripe with lovely purity to the fruit. I especially enjoy it but those wanting the more muscular side of Brunello should look to other alternatives.
Fattoria del Barbi Vigna Fiore – Massive. Loads of tobacco that turns to smoke and ash. Huge fruit with commensurate tannins. This is a beast that should be buried in your cellar. I would recommend touching this until 2025.
Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura – Huge. Wonderfully ripe fruit on the palate with leather, cured olive and tobacco. Mineral too. The structure and acids are massive but very well balanced. This is another Brunello I wouldn’t consider opening until 2025.
Baricci – This deep ruby red is tightly wound but develops hints of vanilla, tobacco and fennel as it evolves. Floral and elegant with a juicy finish. From the Montosoli Hill.
Poggio Antico Altero * – Wow! Ripe, fresh, juicy and long with impeccable balance. Just an absolutely classic wine. Ripe crushed fruit is joined by a seamless harmony of accents like pipe tobacco and earth. Finishes with a hint of vanilla. Yum!
Poggio Antico Estate * – This is also great even in the company of its brother. Incredible balance of acids, tannins and fruit. Fresh, juicy, lively and displays a large framed core of fruit and minerals.
Ridolfi Donna Rebecca – This Brunello is medium bodied with classy, elegant lines that leans more on the herbal side of Sangiovese. Spicy, with hints of vanilla and black pepper. Rather unique in this tasting.
San Polo Podernovi * – Wow! I mean, wow! Huge aromas and flavors of crushed cherry, licorice, vanilla, tobacco, flinty mineral. Long, smooth, lively, fresh and balanced. It is amazing how complete this is. A new wine from this estate. I’ve no idea what it will cost but that will be the only variable for me in putting some in my cellar.
Uccelliera * – My tasting note says “OMG”. Perfumed nose. Rope, huge and fresh cherry fruit are lively. Deep flavors echo on with pipe tobacco and new leather. Just gorgeous… Wow!
Terzuoli Bruno * – This is a new wine from Sasso di Sole named after winemaker Roberto Terzuoli’s Father. Another wow impression! Huge, ripe fruit and complexity on the palate with fennel, spices, vanilla and sandalwood. So long with standout complexity.
Sasso di Sole – Not as vibrant as the Bruno. Leans toward the more elegant side with ripe long flavors that add vanilla and spice. Finishes with a note of iron/mineral. Needs time. The 2014 was so attractive that I have no worries about this wine.
Talenti * – Ricardo Talenti has been on his game over the past few vintages beginning with his 2012 Riserva and he’s continuing that streak. This is gorgeous. Ripe fruit, fresh spices, cracked pepper with fruit, acids and tannins in perfect balance. Long and juicy.
Mate – This is very special and stands out for its elegance. Think, Fred Astaire in top hats… Lovely core of berry fruit is tinged with spice, tobacco and clove. Soft sandalwood notes too, but this is all about the elegance of the overall package. Should be a good value too.
Voliero * – OMG! This is great wine. The mouthfeel here is utterly spectacular. Powerful, juicy long cherry fruit with spices and toast. Incredible length and balance. Fresh and vibrant. Pure.
Tenuta Fanti * – Wow! This is long, lovely, ripe, concentrated, fresh and balanced. Yes! Elisa told me this has already been in bottle for almost 2 years and it shows how “together” it is at this stage.
Tenuta Fanti Vallocchio * – This is spectacular but much larger framed. Big, tannic and masculine with smoke and ash. Ripe and concentrated this is absolutely enormous. Needs cellar time but from past experience, a can’t miss and a must have.
Fossacolle – Great! Not as backward as I expected given past experience with this property. However, it is chewy with lots of chestnut, earth and grippy tannins. Ripe, dusty and mineral driven fruit. I love this.
La Fiorita – Tasted the La Fiorita wines with owner Natalie Oliveros during the tasting and then again at dinner. The estate wine is attractive and rather forward. Juicy fruit flavors are seductive with vanilla and powdery tannins. Likely to be a good value.
La Fiorita “No” * – I asked Natalie what is the deal with the name? She revealed an interesting and funny story. As the wines were maturing she knew there were some special lots she wanted to segregate to create a new and special wine. I thought “No” was for Natalie Oliveros – but that wasn’t the case. As they were working people kept tossing out ideas for the name. Make it a Riserva? No… Name it for your son? No…. For the vineyard? No…. Eventually, it was “No” that stuck.
This is really special. Another Wow! Ripe, long, juicy, spicy and fresh – this has amazing structure and texture. Caressing. Delicious, pure fruit that compels another sip. New wine in 2015.
La Gerla – This is straightforward and tight. Ripe, concentrated fruit is sweet and long. Lots of berry with fresh notes of clove and sandalwood. Needs time to come together.
La Magia – Also rather tight. A linear frame that is structured and closed but shows lots of finesse. Laser like focus right now should expand on the palate with cellaring. Needs a good 5-10 years.
Il Poggione * – Another huge Brunello. Lots of complexity here already with earth, tobacco and mushroom character. Ripe, concentrated fruit is juicy and structured. More classic in style with lots of freshness and sapidity. Wow!
Wines with Dinner
After the tasting I was fortunate to dine with Stefano Bambagioni of Fossacolle, Francesco Buffi of Baricci and Raffaella Federzoni of Barbi. It was interesting to see which wines they were curious to taste. As the dinner wore on, a few of us got up to retrieve different wines to taste and I made my way to chat with Natalie Oliveros, Giacomo Bartolommei, Roberto Terzuoli and others. I put questions to them that my Twitter followers had asked and live Tweeted the replies. Favorite wines? Favorite vintages? Comparing 2015 vs. 2016 and 2015 vs. 2010. See my Twitter feed for details. www.twitter.com/JohnMFodera or Tweet me @JohnMFodera.
An interesting wine came over to the table…..
Pian delle Querci – One of the winemakers (I won’t say which) commented, “let’s see how this one is. It drinks well tonight, and then probably never again.” Ouch! It is from a property that makes several labels of Brunello but the fruit is all the same. You can tell a lot by looking at the advanced color of the wine already. That said, right then and there, it was delicious. Not nearly as tannic as others. In fact, I’d say it was ready to drink. Ripe, juicy, fresh and with a sweet medium finish. Good with the food.
The meal consisted of an ethereal primi of warmed soup/cream broth with an egg yolk, truffle essence and truffles. I’d eat it every day if I could.
A pasta with a boar ragu followed the above. I was too busy tasting and talking to take a picture! Filet mignon wrapped in prosciutto finished off the meal. We went back to taste the Baricci and the San Polo Podernovi again. Giacomo brought over the Caprili and I went a snagged the Collemattoni.
Collemattoni – This is fast becoming a favorite property of mine. And it’s off the radar/undervalued. Loads of bright berry on a soft wooden frame of sandalwood with spices, tobacco and sage. A wonderful mouthfeel, this is classy and elegant. Good structure and balance. Paired remarkably well with the pasta ragu.
Some other offerings with dinner to illustrate the colors of some of these wines.
Francesco from Baricci was posed a question to compare 2010, 2015 and 2016. He replied with a musical analogy. “2015 is kind of like adult oriented rock or pop music. 2010 is Classic Rock! 2015, more like Queen. 2010 more like Led Zeppelin. While 2016, is more artsy. More like Pink Floyd!”
This was an outstanding event and offered a great preview of the vintage. Later this month, I’ll be back at it when I cover Benvenuto Brunello in New York; the first official release of the new finished wines. Stay tuned for live Tweets from that event and subsequent coverage of this benchmark vintage.