It’s finally here!  After years of whispering accolades the 2015 Brunello di Montalcino have finally been released.  Last month, I attended the Consorzio’s official debut tasting of the vintage in New York City. As I’ve written just recently, believe the hype.  It’s a good time to be a Brunello lover and finding an excellent bottle of wine from 2015 will not be difficult.

While some wines will begin trickling ashore this month, the majority of Brunello won’t arrive in US retail shops until later this Spring.  That said, there are some pre-arrival offerings floating around. I’m normally not a proponent of buying Brunello pre-arrival, but if there is a specific wine you are set on acquiring, I would do so.  With my impressions from Benvenuto below, you can utilize them toward potential buying decisions.

Gotham Hall

~ Gotham Hall in lower Manhattan is the reliable venue for hosting Benvenuto ~

As usual, in a tasting this large and this crowded, it is difficult to write any sort of accurate tasting note. This is compounded by the small pours and young nature of many of the wines.  General impressions follow along with a wide score range.  I was able to get into the tasting an hour before the general admission and so was able to spend some time chatting with a few winemakers.  One aspect of this tasting that was different from years past was the absence of older vintage wines.  Normally there are several.  However, with limited exception, this tasting was devoted to 2015 Brunello and 2018 Rosso.

2015 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello:   As you can see from the photo below, the Banfi folks had the wine decanted for about 30 minutes before the doors opened.  Look at that color!  This wine was massive. Fruit, tannins and acidity all balanced well with incredible purity to the fruit.  Not overly complex right now, but you could still coax smoke and tobacco aromas and taste sweet fennel mixed with the core of fruit.  It needs 8 years at least but has so much potential.  95-99 points.

Bottle of Brunello and a decanter

~ One of the more massive Brunello on the day – the Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura is gigantic and will be a wine for decades ~

2015 Castello Banfi Estate Brunello: The color is more toward deep ruby as this sees a greater percentage of larger barrel aging.  I was hoping this wine would show a little better than it did because in great vintages it can be a nice value.  It is well made and straight foward at the moment. It just lacked a bit of wow factor. 92-94 points.

Castello Banfi wines

~ Solid wines but neither wowed me at this event. The Rosso di Montalcino is virtually 100% on premise now. ~

2018 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Rosso:  This is a really nice mid-weight Rosso with a core of raspberry and cherry flavors backed by vanilla and spice. Hint of brush/tobacco on the back end.  Finishes a little “hot”.  87-89 points.

Marilisa Allegrini

~ Mio amico Cesare along with Marilisa Allegrini ~

At the Brunello Gala Dinner a few months ago I fell in love with the San Polo Podernovi – a new Brunello first produced in 2015.  When I saw Marilisa Allegrini standing by herself, I made a beeline for the table. The wine is a Cru produced from a single vineyard.  The fruit is severely selected so it isn’t the entire vineyard going into the wine.  Prior to 2015, the fruit went into the estate Brunello.  Podernovi will not be produced in each vintage.  It will appear only as vintage dictates.

2015 San Polo Brunello Podernovi: This is a deep crimson to garnet color and is wonderfully aromatic. Flowers, cypress, tobacco and fruit flow from the glass.  I have to say, it was actually more impressive in November, but that’s being quite picky.  Huge ripe fruit, lots of silky tannins, the only downside is the price which likely be somewhere between $130-$150.  It’s pretty special though.  96-100 points.

~ I attended the afternoon Guided Seminar hosted by the Consorzio and Podernovi was presented there as well ~

The next early stop was at my friend Rada’s table and this too came with a bonus as Andrea Machetti was present as well!  I encourage you to read the Interview I did with him a few years ago.  Still pertinent and very interesting. Maurizio Castelli is the consulting winemaker.

2017 Rosso di Montalcino:  The best Rosso I tasted that day hands down.  Juicy, ripe and with a freshness that was impressive given the scorching heat of 2017.  I normally recommend Mastrojanni to people looking for a Rosso and this will be easy to do with this one.  89-91 points.

2015 Brunello:  Deep ruby in the glass this has all the hallmarks of a fine, elegant Brunello. The most feminine of the three produced by Mastrojanni this is juicy and floral with an elegant mouthfeel. Will easily last a decade but will become accessible earlier than some.  92-94 points.

2015 Brunello Vigna Loreto: Of the three, this Brunello settles in the middle in terms of masculinity which is the hallmark of Schiena d’Asino (not poured).  This is awesome wine.  Concentrated and powerful with loads of silky fruit, spice, flowers, tobacco. Lots going on.  One of the best wines of the day.  95-99 points.

~ The Mastrojanni lineup was one of the most impressive on the day from top to bottom ~

The next stop was to taste wines I almost always enjoy; the duo from Fattoria dei Barbi.  While both wines are generally made in a more traditional style, the Vigna del Fiore leans a little more modern and masculine.

2015 Barbi Brunello Estate:  Vinified in larger barrels, this displays the aristocratic color of Brunello, deep ruby with a classic copper rim. Wonderful core of fruit here with sandalwood, spices and chestnut. Comes with the additional benefit of being easy to find.  93-95 points.

2015 Barbi Vigna del Fiore Brunello:  Made only in the finest vintages from a 5 hectare plot of which only 1/3 of the grapes are used.  Vinified in medium and small oak barrels this wine is massive.  Maybe second only to the Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura in heft. Smoke, cherry, espresso, cypress and fennel are intense. This is hugely scaled and needs plenty of time to come together and soften. Chewy now. 95-99 points.

~ Two reliable wines and the Vigna del Fiore is rather a beast ~

~ The Bell Tower in Montalcino ~

The first winery to bottle a “Cru” designation and the first in Montalcino to use barrique….

2015 Altesino Montosoli Brunello is in a decidedly awkward stage right now. Very shy on the nose leads to little more on the palate.  The tannins are so massive and chewy that they seem stemmy but that really isn’t the case. They are simply overpowering the fruit.  I’m not sure about this one. It’s generally more suave than this. Still, it’s hard to imagine that Altesino missed the mark here.  Judgement reserved.

~ Gorgeous color and the stuffing appears to be there but it’s a big investment since it’s surely to be about $125 ~

Ever since tasting their 2006 Riserva at Benvenuto 7 years ago, I have been enamored with this estate. Typically a powerful Brunello crafted in a more traditional style, the 2015 is no exception to this general rule.

2015 Capanna Brunello:  Broad shouldered and masculine, this ripe Brunello boasts cherry, toast and fig cake aromas that carry to the palate.  Hulking, but well balanced this comes off as smooth. Adds some tertiary earth notes on the finish. Good tipicity. Good value.  92-94 points.

~ Ahh, this is one I missed. When I took this picture I had no time to taste as I was running late to the seminar. When I got back, only the 2015 Brunello remained ~

An icon within the appellation, Alessandro Bindocci has been crafting the wines at Il Poggione for decades. Classically styled and possessing the rare combination of power and grace, his wines always reflect that style.

2018 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino: Another really fresh Rosso with aromas and flavors of cherry, cypress, mulch and menthol.  Fresh, lively and juicy it is very well done.  89-91 points.

2015 Il Poggione Brunello:  Classic.  Elegant. Powerful.  Il Poggione never ruins good fruit.  Is there anything more you can say about a winery?  This is tight but it’s easy to see the pedigree here. Lively, concentrated, ripe and powerful the juicy fruit is punctuated by minerals, tobacco and dust.  I love this wine. 95-98 points.

~ Il Poggione is always a winner ~

Like I mentioned in my coverage of the Brunello Gala, I asked owner Natalie Oliveros what the deal was with the name of her new Brunello “No”?  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 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.

No matter (Yes, pun intended) the wine is excellent.  Ripe, long, juicy and fresh this has amazing persistence and concentration.  The tannins are caressing.  It’ll be interesting to see where this lands price wise.  Only 3,200 bottles produced.  95-99 points.

~ Beautiful color on this Brunello and a noticeable departure for La Fiorita. Maurizio Castelli is now at the helm here ~

I think Tenuta Fanti is on a major role right now which is made all the more attractive by the fact that the family is wonderful and the prices are very reasonable.

2018 Tenuta Fanti Rosso: This is bright ruby in the glass. Very lively on the nose and palate with fresh berries, soft vanilla, sandalwood and sweet tobacco. Really very well done.  87-89 points.

2015 Tenuta Fanti Brunello Vallocchio:  Deep red to garnet. A blend of fruit selected from 4 vineyard plots that span 2 1/2 hectares.  Although tannic, the fruit here is so pure.  Ripe berry and cherry, spices, tobacco are fresh and lively with long persistence.  This is becoming one of my favorite Brunello.  95-99 points.

~ The Estate Brunello was gone by the time I got around to this table. That is the Rosso in the glass ~

La Gerla is stripped down Brunello.  That is the best way that I can describe their wines. No flash. Nothing luxurious here. For years I’ve held the impression that the wines seemed overly austere, even “dirty” to me and this event did nothing change my mind.

2015 La Gerla Brunello:  The wine is a medium ruby color with aromas of fallen leaves, old barrels, wet chestnut and fresh strawberry.  On the palate the austerity of the wine comes through. The tannins are fairly pronounced and the fruit seems somehow masked by the secondary notes.  It’s just not for me.  90-92 points.

La Gerla Brunello Bottles

~ True to their style and not one I prefer ~

One thing I noticed this year is that there were many “new” producers at the event.  The reason for the quotes is because they may not be new wineries, just newly imported or newly featured at the event.  I got the sense the Consorzio was trying to broaden exposure to some of these new faces.  The next wine is one of them.

There’s a quote on the estate’s website that says their Brunello is “rude, but gentle”.   I think that’s perfectly apt.  The estate is owned by the Di Donato family and the winemaker is Evelise Di Donato who presented the wines at the event.  In short, they were fairly good, but not outstanding.  2013 was her first vintage!  The property is close to Fuligni and only Brunello and Rosso are produced.  They are looking for an importer.

2015 Poggio Lucina Brunello:  Nice ruby to brick color is a bit advanced already.  The fruit is there and there’s also some anise present but overall I find this to be too oaky and “hot” with alcohol.  Perhaps some time will mellow this out and we’ll find the “gentle” nature of this Brunello but for now, all I’m getting is the “rude”.  88-90 points.

~ New wines from Montalcino ~

Winemaker Antonio Zaccheo is crafting some lovely wines at Carpineto.  His offerings for this tasting were excellent.   Zaccheo crafted one of the better 2014 Brunello and his style runs between elegance and power.

2017 Carpineto Rosso:  This is very pretty.  Floral, persistent fruit aromas and spice on the nose.  Flavors echo on the palate.  Juicy and fresh despite the heat. Carpineto’s vineyards are high up so that likely helped.  This wine is better than many 2014 Brunello.  89-91 points.

2015 Carpineto Brunello:  Another winner.  Lots of perfume on the nose with fruit, tobacco and sandalwood. Slightly reserved on the palate, but that doesn’t worry me at this stage.  The fruit is there in spades.  Needs 8 years.  92-94 points.  Good value!

~ Two very pretty wines from Antonio Zaccheo of Carpineto ~

Some basic impressions from the seminar….

~ There was some interesting tidbits in the seminar and this graph did a good job of explaining the land area and how it is allowed to be planted to the various appellations ~

The afternoon seminar consisted of 10 wines.  Some of them were new to me and many were repeats of what I tasted during the walk around. Only the different wines are captured below.  Very, very brief impressions.

~ The afternoon Brunello tasting flight ~

2015 Celestino Pecci Brunello:  Had never heard of this producer and was not impressed.  This was overly ripe in flavor and hot with alcohol. I never went back to it.  86-89 points.

2015 I Cipressi Brunello:  Good flavors, nice freshness. I like this bottling better than their “Zebra” label which sees more new oak.  Nice finish of fennel.  91-94 points.

2015 Ridolfi Brunello:  This estate impressed me with their 2014 last year and they’ve done it again.  Really nice package here. Fresh but muscular.  Pure, juicy fruit.  It’s pretty one dimensional now but it’s delicious.  94-97 points.

2015 Val di Suga “Spunatli” Brunello:  Just amazing. This is one of the best Brunello Cru in Montalcino.  Fresh, ripe and juicy with dusty tannins laced with mineral. Tobacco and fennel too.  This is a benchmark wine from this Cru.  97-100 points.

~ Count Francesco Cinzano discussing his Riserva 2013 Poggio al Vento ~

Finally, we had something with a bit of age on it…. And I mean a bit.

2013 Col d’Orcia Brunello Riserva Poggio al Vento:  Austere is the word of choice.  This is classically styled and way too young.  Even the 2012, reviewed here was more approachable.  Crimson red with chestnut, spice, sandalwood and berry character on the nose and palate but all seems rather muted at the moment.  Needs at least a decade.  92-96 points.

Last Takeaways

I have to say, there really isn’t much to add at this point.  I  was surprised at the bitter tannins in some of the wines and the high levels of alcohol that some bottles exhibited.  However, all in all, you will have to work hard to find a bad bottle of 2015 Brunello.  Stick to the time honored houses and you’ll have no issues.  Only price will factor into the equation at that point.  As I mentioned, there are many new Cru wines this year.  All will likely be over $100 so if you see for less, it’s worth looking into.  I find the Crus are often better than the Riserva.

Enjoy, happy hunting and stay tuned for our in depth Annual Coverage of 2015 Brunello beginning this Fall.

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