~ Montalcino soars with its 2010 vintage ~

In their own unique way,  2008 and 2009 were both challenging vintages for producers of Brunello di Montalcino. One a little too cool and wet, one a little too hot and dry.  However, even as I spoke with winemakers in Montalcino last summer, it was obvious that 2010 was the Goldilocks vintage; and they could barely contain their excitement.   The rain was perfect, the temperatures perfect, the winds perfect, the season long and ideal.  It showed in the barrel samples I tasted then and it’s showing in the bottled wines now.  

This January,  TuscanVines attended the first Benvenuto Brunello tasting in the world showcasing the newly released vintage to the market.  It was an electric event that began with the moderated seminar I attended and then continued with an extensive trade tasting.  Many of the winemakers were enthusiastic and clearly excited to present these wines.  

The wines below were tasted without food.  As such, my reviews will be general impressions of style and quality only.  Although the tasting was crowded,  it was not as hectic as anticipated and I was able to linger with owners and winemakers a bit more than last year.  That said, not every wine I tasted was able to be photographed.
Benvenuto Brunello!
~  The tasting lineup at the early morning seminar ~


A large producer located in the southwest quadrant of the zone, Argiano produces almost 100,000 bottles a year of Brunello.  Known most recently for their Super Tuscan Solengo, it seems like their efforts have trailed off slightly in the years following the 2003 Brunello scandal.  This wine however,  heralds a return to excellence for this honored estate.  
The 2010 is intense with lots of  crushed red fruits along with savory, meaty aspects on both the nose and palate.  Rich and ripe with lots of caressing tannins, this will likely be an excellent value once released.  92-95 points.  


No one I spoke to at this tasting had any idea what or who Armilla was.  That alone compelled me to visit the table and speak to the representative.  Armilla is a new venture by the Bartolommei family, of Caprili fame.  The estate is located in Tavernelle, near the center of the zone.   The oldest vines were planted here in 1982 and the first wine sold in bulk from 1990.   

The 2010 is a medium ruby with forward aromas of spices, cherries and flowers.  It’s juicy and round and not as tannic as many of the other 2010s tasted that day.  Definitely more accessible.  This is very nice and should be an excellent value when released at about $40.  89-91 points. 

Castello Banfi

Having tasted their Poggio Alle Mura at the morning seminar,  I decided to skip that here and taste the estate Brunello.  When I went back toward the end of the day, the table was out of wine!  Castello Banfi continues to be a dominant force in Brunello and in the US market.  They reliably produce excellent quality Brunello with consistent results. 

The 2010 Brunello is a deep garnet.  Aromas of flowers, spices and cherry are prevalent.  This is juicy, fresh and full bodied on the palate with lots of refined silky tannins.  Well balanced and very impressive.  92-95 points.  

~ The path to Poggio Alle Mura Castle ~


Barbi has been one of my favorite producers for a long time.  I loved their 2001s but they’ve been long gone from the cellar.  Lately they seem to have stumbled a bit with recent vintages,  but with the 2010 they are back on their game.   Located in the western part of the zone, Barbi has sizable production for its estate wine; almost 180,000 bottles.  

2013 Rosso di Montalcino:  This is a nice, soft appealing wine with spicy red fruits and easy going tannins. It’s not up to the level of the 2012 vintage, but it’s solid.  86-88 points .

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  This is a deep garnet red with large scale about it all.  The aromas are fruit driven but include spices and flowers.  Huge tannins back the huge core of wild cherry fruit. This is substantial and needs time and patience to evolve.  Lovely stuff in the making.  92-94 points

2010 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Fiore:  This is not a Riserva, but a single vineyard bottling.  This is everything the estate Brunello is and a bit more.  Juicier, meatier, more purity.  It’s got a long life ahead of it with the fruit, tannin and acids in balance, but very, very noticeable at this point.  Cellar it.  93-96 points. 
~ Failure to launch ~


After visiting with Capanna last year, their 2006 Riserva went immediately into my cellar.  I don’t expect anything less from this wonderful estate’s 2010.   Located very close to the Montalcino Centro, Capanna averages about 30,000-35,000 bottles total production of Brunello. 
2012 Rosso di Montalcino:  Capanna is almost a year behind in the release of their Rosso compared to most wineries.  Patience is worth it.  This is another stunning effort in this vintage.  Flowers, spices, leather and fruit on the nose and palate with good concentration and length. 90-92 points. 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  Medium ruby with lively aromas of flowers, spices and fruit. Juicy and fresh on the palate. Not (yet?) to the level of the 2006s but I’m betting it’ll get there.  91-93 points.

~ The 2010 is not officially labeled yet ~

Col d’Orcia

One of the larger producers of Brunello,  for a time in the late 1990’s it seemed this estate had gone off track in terms of style and quality.  New investments and a seemingly fresh philosophy have changed that and Col d’Orcia has been on a roll lately.  Their current releases keep it going. 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:   Medium ruby and classically styled on both the nose and palate.  Restrained, with crushed cherry and tobacco notes.  Good long finish that isn’t overly tannic.  Impressive.  92-94 points. 

2007 Poggio al Vento Brunello:  This is a single vineyard Riserva that is firing on all cylinders right now. Boisterous on the nose and palate with flowers, nuts. red fruit galore, licorice and fennel… it’s all there and it’s all fresh and vibrant.  Stunning wine.  96-98 points.  

2001 Poggio al Vento Brunello:  Nicely mature here.  Tannins fully resolved leaving behind a medium to full bodied core of cherry fruit, dried herbs and minerals on both the nose and palate.  Not nearly what the 2007 is, but still very nice.  91-93 points.

~ The lineup presented by Col dol’Orcia ~

Il Marroneto

The subject of several recent articles here on TuscanVines,  Il Marroneto continues to impress.  Located close to the center of the zone, just north of Montalcino Centro, Marroneto produces slightly more than 30,000 bottles of Brunello per year.   Alessandro Mori was there to present the wines and was pleasant to converse with – even though we both used broken Italish. 

~ Alessandro laughing and pointing to the word “Madonna” on the label when I told him that was my wife’s maiden name and how much she enjoyed that wine ~
2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  Deep ruby.  This is more approachable than I would have imagined though clearly it’s not light weight in any way.  Lots of perfume, fruit and spices on the nose and palate with lots of tannins and acids to frame and keep it fresh.  This will have a long life.  92-96 points. 

2010 Brunello Madonna della Grazie:  This is a single vineyard wine but not technically a Riserva.  Deep ruby, with garnet streaks.  Wonderful aromatics for such a young wine with crushed fruit, flowers, grilled meat.  Massive on the palate with great concentration and persistence.  Very deft hand here balanced full body with elegance in a way not easy to accomplish.  A stunner and a 20 year wine.  95-99 points. 

Il Palazzone

The team at Il Palazzone are at the top of their game and have been for some time.  Every time I taste one of their wines I am not let down. Fruit selection and green harvesting are severe; facts easily identified by the decrease in production during more difficult vintages.  2010 saw a marked increase in production over the previous 3 years.  Located in the center of the zone, a stones throw from the Fortezza,  Il Palazzone’s Due Porte location is ideal. The US representative for the winery presented 4 vintages.

~ Vineyards at Il Palazzone ~

2008 Brunello di Montalcino:  First tasted in my comprehensive report on the 2008s,  this has always been one of my favorites from the vintage.  It’s floral, balanced and elegant with a wonderful core of ripe fruit and acidity.  Ready now but will hold for 7-10 years easily. Very enjoyable.  91-93 points. 
2009 Brunello:  Showing a richer nose and palate, the 2009 is riper and more approachable showing more development than the next two wines. Arguably the weakest wine in the bunch,  but that is hardly derogatory. 90-92 points. 
2007 Brunello:  Now we’re talking!  This is maturing wonderfully and I spent some time with this in my glass. Lovely ruby color with lots of aromatics from pipe tobacco, dried anise, flowers, sage and wild cherry.  Flavors follow the nose with precision and accuracy.  Amazing effort and a long drinking window.  92-95 points.  
2010 Brunello:  How do you know 2010 is great?  Because they’re approachable now and they’ve got all the stuffing to evolve and age for decades.  This is stunning.  Pure, vibrant, with loads of fruit and freshness. Restrained exuberance just waiting to have its turn on stage.  I look forward to watching this one grow up. An absolutely monumental effort.  96-99 points

~ Montalcino:  Heading into the ZTL near the Fortezza ~

Il Poggione

Located in the southern portion of the Brunello zone, Il Poggione is one of the largest producers of Brunello and like Castello Banfi and Col d’Orcia proves consistently that large producers can make excellent wine.  Alessandro Bindocci was on hand to present the wines.   

2009 Brunello di Montalcino:  This behaved very similar to the way it showed for my report on 2009 Brunello.  If anything, it improved slightly given that the aromatics were more open and had added a slight floral component. Bindocci mentioned that production was down over 10% in 2009 and the selection seems to have helped this wine.  90-92 points.  

2013 Rosso di Montalcino:   This is a worthy successor to 2012, but I like the prior vintage more.  This is meaty, earthy, savory and surprisingly tannic. A solid effort that should develop nicely.  88-90 points.  

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  Wonderful ruby color.  Earthy, leathery, savory herbs on the nose with abundant cherry.  Flavors follow and are gorgeous on the palate with a juicy, long finish and wonderfully integrated silky tannins.  Great effort.  94-96 points.  

~ The Il Poggione Lineup ~

La Fiorita

I first familiarized myself with the wines of La Fiorita at last year’s Benvenuto Brunello so I was pleased to see them represented yet again by owner Natalie Oliveros. A fairly small producer located in the southeast area of the zone,  La Fiorita sources fruit from two owned vineyards: Pian Bassolino and Poggio Sole.  Natalie mentioned that a third vineyard will soon come into production.  Average production now is between 15,000-20,000 bottles. La Fiorita is picky about releasing their wines.  Like last year when they did not present a 2009, they did not pour a 2010 this year. 

2008 Brunello di Montalcino:   This is floral, spicy and rich on the nose and palate.  Somewhat atypical for the vintage which shows more restrained fruit character.  This is also more tannic than many 2008s  I’ve had.  A muscular effort.  89-91 points 

2009 Brunello di Montalcino:  This is meaty and spicy on the nose and palate with lots of juicy ripe fruit.  Very forward and rich.  All the worries of the vintage seem to be manifested in this wine.  Winemaker Roberto Cipresso likes to push the envelope, and he did here.  87-89 points  

2007 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva:  Deeper ruby color.  Crushed cherry, flowers and spice on the nose and palate. Very fresh with good concentration and lots of ripe fruit and tannins on the finish. Wonderful.  91-93 points 

~ Owner Natalie Oliveros of La Fiorita ~

Le Ragnaie

Represented by the friendly and disarming owner-winermaker Riccardo Campinoti, Le Ragnaie is a small, very traditional producer crafting pretty wines.  Campinoti ferments his wine in open topped concrete vessels and ages them in large Slavonian cask.  The resulting wines are fresh, clean and pure. 

2012 Rosso di Montalcino:   I’ve tasted probably close to forty different Rosso di Montalcino – maybe more – from 2012 and I’ve not found one yet that isn’t outstanding.  This is another stunner with everything in place.  Bright fruit, complexity, tannin.  Delicious.  90-92 points. 

2009 Brunello di Montalcino:  This is deep ruby and retains some of the more traditional color one would expect.  A fresher 2009, this is one of the better efforts I’ve tasted from the vintage.  Fresh, ripe and well balanced.  91-93 points 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino “Fornace”:  This wine has only been made in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and is not a Riserva. Small production.  This is delicious with approachable fruit already but a monstrous wall of tannin.  Classically styled.  Hard to judge, but I could see this being an upper tier wine of the vintage.  94+ points?  

~ Vineyards of Le Ragnaie ~


Located in the southern central part of the zone,  Lisini is a mid-size producer that has always been a favorite of mine. Using traditional methods, Lisini produces classically styled Sangiovese that speaks to their Tuscan roots admirably.  

2008 Brunello di Montalcino:  The first comment on my tasting sheet is “Wow”!  This may be the best 2008 I have tasted to date.  The nose is loaded with flowers and crushed wild fruit. So floral. On the palate the fruit is abundant, juicy and very fresh with tobacco and spice.  I love this.  91-93 points. 

2008 Brunello di Montalcino Ugolaia:  The rep said this was a Riserva even though it wasn’t labeled as such and that’s counter to my recollection.  So be it.  I was disappointed in this wine.  It was good – but I noted very little difference between this and the 2008 normale. The former was much more expressive and bright. This seems a bit tired and dried out and given the price, it’s an easy pass.  87-89 points. 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  A little shy on the nose, but you can sense the flowers, tobacco and dusty road lurking.  They appear, but ever so faintly.  This deep ruby wine has wonderful flavors of mineral, fruit and earth. It’s absolutely delicious and will be a must for my cellar.  93-95 points.
~ The Lisini Lineup ~


They were only pouring one wine, but despite that, I could barely get near this table because of the way the booths were arranged. Alas, no photo….  

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  I love Pertimali for the distinctive “animale” character in his wines.  They remind me of La Serena in that regard and this already has that characteristic.  This deep ruby shows grilled meat, smoked meat, fruit and alcohol on the nose and palate.  It’s meaty and savory on the palate with a long, ripe finish.  Really wonderful and one for the cellar.  It’s tight now.  92-94 points. 

~ Oval casks aging 2004 Brunello in the Pertimali Cellars ~ 

Sasso di Sole

Sasso di Sole is located far in the upper reaches of the Brunello zone; all the way in the north east corner near the Natural Park of the Orcia Valley.  Winemaker Roberto Terzuoli oversees the family operation and his 8 hectares of neatly manicured vineyards.  I first chatted with Roberto at last years Benvenuto Brunello and was very impressed with him and his wines.  Unfortunately, they are not currently imported to the United States, but my EU readers should pay close attention here.  

~ This view from Sasso di Sole was too gorgeous not to post.  Grazie Roberto! ~
2012 Rosso di Montalcino:  Blah blah blah….  those paying attention are probably sick of hearing me praise 2012 Rosso di Montalcinos, but as I said above – I can’t find a bad one.  This one, is outstanding. So light on it’s feet – this medium bodied wine is full of ripe cherries, leather and spice. What’s not to like?  89-91 points. 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  Restrained on the nose, with spices and powdery cake notes.  On the palate, this is excellent stuff.  Wild fruit, with bramble, leather and spice on the palate.  This is tannic and well structured with a juicy, long finish.  Please, someone import this wine!  92-94 points. 

2007 Brunello di Montalcino:  Hmm, something is amiss here.  I don’t think there’s an issue, but this is very backward and tannic at the moment.  Good core of fruit with an espresso character that’s attractive, but needs cellar time to shed the tannins.  90-92 points.
~ Roberto holding his 2010 Brunello ~


Like many other mid-size producers, Talenti is located in the southern part of the zone and produces about 40,000 bottles of Brunello depending upon the vintage.  Riccardo Talenti’s 2004 Brunello was one of the most impressive wines from that vintage I’ve had;  so I was excited to taste the 2010.

2013 Rosso di Montalcino: Riccardo and I began discussing how much I love his 2012 Rosso di Montalcino and that morphed into a discussion of how 2013 differs from 2012.  Riccardo said that 2013 was a cooler, leaner year than 2012 and the resulting wines tend to be a bit more austere.  It was an interesting observation.   The current Rosso is not up to the level of the 2012.  There’s a nice core of spicy fruit that has some floral aromas to match the flavors.  Good, but like a dialed down version of the 2012.  86-88 points. 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  Medium ruby color to this Sangiovese.  Not quite expressive on the nose right now.  Seems leaner on the palate than many other wines but is juicy and fresh with cherries and spice.  Give it time, but I’m not sure this is one of the best wines of the vintage.  89-91 points. 

~ The 2010, as you can see, has not even been labeled yet.  The wine is so young, I have a sense given Talenti’s quality that this Brunello is disjointed at the moment ~


Uccelliera is a tiny estate, all of 6 hectares and sits in the southeast corner of the Brunello zone near Castelnuovo dell’Abate,  a region known for producing bolder wines due to the generally lower elevation and slightly warmer temperatures. Despite the tiny size, production is increasing and in the better vintages almost 30,000 bottles are produced.  The very knowledgeable Rep. from Skurnik presented the wines.  

2013 Rosso di Montalcino:  This is one of the better 2013 Rosso’s I’ve tried so far.  It’s easily up to the level of the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino.  Crushed flowers and berries are accented with vanilla spice.  Flavors follow the nose with nice persistence. 88-90 points. 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  My tasting sheet starts with the following, “Phenomenal”.  The nose offers bountiful aromas of fresh flowers, crushed wild fruit, grilled meat and spices.  Flavors follow with precision and persistence. It’s delicious. Just absolutely dripping with appeal.  95-98 points. 

Winemaker Andrea Cortonesi ages his Brunello for 24 months minimum in a combination of Slavonian botte and French barrique.  

~ Andrea Cortonesi has it all going on ~

Val di Suga

Tenimenti Angelini is now a conglomerate comprised of 5 different estates.  The Val di Suga estate is their Brunello property located in the northern part of the Brunello zone, about 15 minutes ride from the center of town.  Andrea Lonardi and the Rep from Palm Bay were on hand to present the wines. 

As most of the wines selected by Andrea Lonardi were 2009 Brunello that he was using to illustrate, as he called it, his “Terroir Project”,  I was able to spend a longer time chatting with him toward the end of the day.  

2009 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Lago:  The Vineyard by the Lake – this is situated in the northern part of the zone.  This vineyard is primarily clay and sports the lowest elevation of the three vineyards presented from 2009.  Densely planted, almost 10,000 plants per hectare, Andrea said the clay can handle more vines than other soils.   This wine is ripe and juicy with muscular powerful red fruits on the nose and palate that are framed by earth, spice and tobacco leaf.  10,000 bottles produced.  91-94 points.  

2009 Brunello di Montalcino Poggio al Granchio:  Literally, The Crab Hill, which is situated in the south eastern part of the zone.  This vineyard faces southeast and is mostly galestro with small amounts of limestone that was formed by the sea.  3,000 plants per hectare.  This is delicious, and the smallest production of the three.  Lots of elegant fruit here on the nose and palate with dried herbs, sweet pipe tobacco and a lovely mineral tinged finish.  Just under 10,000 bottles produced.  91-94 points. 

2009 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Spuntali:  Located in the south west portion of the zone, this vineyard is mostly sand and the plants are planted to a density of 7,500 plants per hectare.  This spends one full year in new barrique.  Very nice aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, tobacco, cake spices and grilled meat.  The richest tasting one of the three and the largest production at almost 12,000 bottles.  91-94 points. 
2010 Brunello di Montalcino:   This wine has major production at almost 125,000 bottles.  Once again, great wine has to be small production?  No!  This has loads of everything at the moment: Fruit, acids, and tannins.  It’s a huge wine that is aged in Slavonian Oak and French barrique for a combination of 36 months.  It’s delicious but very primary and needs serious cellar time.  92-95 points. 

~ Andrea Lonardi, right, was a pleasure and generous with his time ~

La Poderina

Located in the south east area of the zone,  La Poderina is part of the Saiagricola group along with other notable estates and since 2007, Riccardo Cotarella is the winemaker.  25 acres of the estate are devoted to production of Brunello;  55,000 bottles in total.

2013 Rosso di Montalcino:  Fresh and fruity with vibrant notes of raspberry, vanilla and spice.  Really very nice with good persistence.  Good value too and plenty to go around at 40,000 bottles. 

2010 Brunello di Montalcino:  This seems to be a departure from earlier vintages which to me seemed more modern and richer in style.  This is elegant, with lots of tart cherry, pipe tobacco and anise on the nose and palate.  It’s tannins are well integrated already.  90-93 points. 

2009 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Poggio Abate:  A Riserva from 2009 is not something you’re going to run across much.  I’m wondering why they made this wine. Maybe it’ll mature into something, but for what I’m certain it costs,  it’s a risky investment.  This is medium ruby in color at best and is very austere and very tannic to the point of dominating the fruit.  I’m not sure there’s enough fruit to outlive the tannins.  Difficult to judge.  88-90 points.  
~ The Abbey at Sant’Antimo dominates the Castelnuovo dell’Abate area ~

Closing Remarks

The 2010 Brunello vintage has been hyped for a long time.  Based on this tasting, the hype is clearly justified.  The wines possess the best traits of all vintages that ultimately become classic; i.e. the ripeness of a vintage like 1997 and 2007,  but with all the structure and complexity that comes with a year like 2004 and 2006. They’ll be wines that drink well now with some decanting, but many of them will clearly reach their 20th birthday and do it with ease and complexity.  

Many people I spoke to were concerned about pricing.  However, from the few early releases I’ve already seen at retail,  prices seem to be in line with normal expectations.  In fact, if the prices for 2010s don’t rise,  it will be mean values to be had on 2008s and 2009s once they begin languishing on the shelves.  This is especially true of the 2009s which are the wine equivalent to the tee shirts pre-made for the Super Bowl loser.  That’s not to say the 2009s are bad wines; simply that anyone who follows Brunello will not pay an equal price for a 2009 with the 2010 sitting on the shelf next to it.  

Finally, the 2013 Rossos.  Many of these were delicious and it seemed as though 50% fell short of their 2012 counterpart and 50% equaled the earlier vintage.  Either way,  there are ample Rossos on the market to assist in keeping corkscrews away from age worthy Brunello.  

It’s a great time to love wines from Montalcino! 

Cin Cin!

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