Benvenuto Brunello 2023 has finally arrived!
After what seemed like an eternity waiting for Montalcino to release its 2019 Brunello, the time has finally come. Let’s face it, serious Brunello lovers likely don’t *need* more wine for their cellars. But after two weaker vintages in a row, wine lovers and collectors have been eager for the 2019s to be released in earnest.
That time has come. Last month, I attended Benvenuto Brunello in Manhattan as I always do. For reasons I won’t waste the space of these pages on, the tasting was an abject disaster. From venue, to organization, to food, to stemware, to pour size…..it was a tasting to forget. Since feedback was solicited by one of the organizers (who I know well) I offered my take and I’m assured next year will be improved.
Benvenuto Brunello 2023
Unlike previous years when Brunello, Brunello Riserva, IGT wines and Moscadello were available to taste, this years event offered Brunello 2019 and a smattering of Brunello Riserva 2018. We were able to arrange our own “flights” for tasting. As a result, I first curated 2019s and then my last flight was all 2018 Riserva. Let’s get to it.
2019 Brunello di Montalcino
I was seated at the tasting directly across from Bruce Sanderson and was this close to asking him what the deal was on the incredibly mediocre 2018 Argiano. But Bruce is a good guy and so I thought to stay polite. Still, the 2019 is far superior.
As with past events, since the pours are small and take place absent of food (and this year appropriate stemware) I am leaving only a score range.
2019 Argiano Brunello: Medium ruby. Bright aromas of cherry, spices and truffle are rather nice. Dark cherry fruit dominates on the palate where there’s hints of fresh tobacco too. Tightly wound and muscular. The pour here was so small as to barely craft a worth while review let alone score. Yet the persistence and quality here are evident. 92-95 points.
2019 Castello Banfi Estate Brunello: Deep ruby trending to crimson. Somewhat shy on the nose with floral and red berry notes mixing with soft sandalwood tones. Pretty on the palate with tobacco and baking spices framing the warm cherry fruit. Tannins are well integrated on the finish. Rather nice. 91-93 points.
2019 Castello Banfi Cru Vigneto Marrucheto: Deep ruby. Shy on the nose but reveals mainly black cherry fruit. Gorgeous mouthfeel. Ripe, generous and long cherry flavors; it’s peppered with toasted spices, vanilla, tobacco leaf and a long ripe sweet fruit finish. Very impressive. 96-98 points.
2019 Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura: Brilliant ruby color. Black cherry, tobacco leaf and baking spices are noticeable on the nose and palate. This is beefy, with tannins that are so well integrated. Classy and elegant. 95-97 points.
2019 Canilicchio di Sopra Brunello: Deep ruby. Cherry, mushroom and spice notes on the nose. Gorgeous in the mouth. High toned, luxury Sangiovese. Fresh, juicy, with sapid wild berries and black cherries galore. Minerality dots the tannins which are present but refined. This is great. 97-99 points.
2019 Armilla Brunello: Classic ruby color. Deep rich spice notes on the nose framed with red cherry aromas. Floral, with lily notes. Spicy cherry on the palate is juicy and fresh. There’s a mineral streak present that is very interesting. Maybe this is a little hot? 90-92 points.
2019 Collemattoni Brunello: Medium ruby. Red cherry and berry are backed by soft spice notes and truffle aromas. This is fresh and juicy on the palate with berry fruit, baking spices and savory herbs. This is so delicious. Should be a good value too. Right next to Talenti. 95-97 points.
2019 Capanna Brunello: Deep ruby with violet highlights. Fresh flowers, crushed cherry and soft chestnut notes on the nose. Really beautiful in the mount. Large scaled cherry flavors are juicy and lively. New leather, tobacco and spice are added in. This is very, very well done. 94-96 points.
2019 Casisano Brunello: Deep ruby. Fresh crushed cherry and fresh sweet herb on the nose. Black cherry fruit is spicy with a slight smokey nuance. Chewy, with large scaled tannins. Masculine and largely scaled. A bit clumsy. 91-93 points.
2019 Canalicchio di Sopra Vigna Montosoli: Clear medium ruby. Bright wild cherry, truffle and spices on the nose. Gorgeous in the mouth. Wonderful balance between acid and well integrated tannins. Savory, long finish as the flavors follow the nose. Montosoli is clearly deserving of the reputation it carves for itself. 96-98 points.
2019 Donatella Cinelli Estate Brunello: Dark ruby. Cherry with hints of dried herb on the nose. Elegant with cherry and spice notes. Softer than some of the other Brunello here but refined and approachable. 90-93 points.
2019 Donatella Cinelli Estate Brunello Prime Donne: Medium ruby. Black cherry, fresh flowers and spices on the nose. Really gorgeous in the mouth. Ripe sweet cherry punctuated by juicy tannins, cake spices and fresh herbs. Porcini too. I love this, the only downside will be the price. 94-96 points.
2019 Tenuta Fanti Estate Brunello: Medium ruby. Bright cherry and spice notes are rather attractive on the nose. Sweet cherry, red licorice and sweet/savory herbs are really nice in the mouth. An excellent value. This note is consistent with my impression at the estate in October. 92-94 points.
2019 Tenuta Fanti Brunello Vallochio: Medium ruby. Bright cherry, mint and spice notes on the attractive nose. And there it is. Wow! This is the reason I bought this wine at the estate in October. Intense cherry flavors punctuated by sweet tobacco and earthy notes. One of the best values in all of Brunello. 95-97 points.
2019 La Fiorita Brunello “Fiore No”: Bright medium ruby. Dusty flowers, minerality and ripe cherry on the nose. Gorgeous on the palate. Ripe cherry is juicy and fresh. Tannins are almost absent. Sooo drinkable. Perfumed red fruit on the finish is joined by sweet fennel. Really great. 95-97 points.
2019 La Gerla Brunello: Bright medium ruby. Floral nose with bright cherry aromas. Very nice in the mouth with bright dark cherry flavors by toasted spice and a hint of minerality. Balanced. Finish could be longer? 91-93 points.
2019 La Gerla Brunello Cru La Pieve: Deep ruby. Cru Brunello. Floral nose with meat notes to back up the black cherry. Bright cherry flavors in the mouth by sweet herbs and fennel. Elegant, with really well integrated tannins. This is very special and drinks well already. 95-97 points.
2019 Tenuta Il Poggione Brunello: Rather dark ruby. A little shy on the nose. Floral and black cherry notes are pretty. Medium to full body is muscular and tannic. Chewy. The flavors follow the nose and add a nice note of sweet earth and fresh fennel. But either this bottle was just opened or this is a massive wine. 94-96 points.
2019 Talenti Brunello Cru Piero: Medium ruby. Wonderfully aromatic with spice and earth notes backing the bright cherry tones. So pretty on the palate. Juicy and fresh with ripe cherry, fennel and sweet herb notes that are sapid and mouthwatering. Worthy of the name. 95-98 points.
2019 San Polo Estate Brunello: Medium ruby with amber highlights. Roses, cherry and toasted spices on the nose. Flavors follow the palate with moderate tannins. Very drinkable and enjoyable already. 90-92 points.
2019 San Polo Brunello Cru Podernovi: Medium ruby. Black cherry with mint and dusty notes. In the mouth, the wine is ripe and juicy. Large scaled and chewy; very muscular with a long dusty finish. Needs quite a bit of time. Not quite at the level of the amazing 2015. 92-94 points.
2019 La Serena Brunello: Deep ruby. Funky wild thing. Frankly, smells like manure. Reduced leaves and black fruits. Dried herbs and cherry notes on the palate. Medium body. Solid but nothing special. A very earthy, somewhat odd wine. 89-90 points.
2019 Salicutti Brunello Cru Piaggione: Medium ruby, clear. Floral tones with lilac and lily joining the red cherry fruits. Medium body in the mouth. All elegance; sweet ripe perfumed fruit. Very minimal tannic structure. Will probably drink well sooner. It may be young, but I’m a little disappointed here; especially in light of the wonderful 2016. 91-93 points.
2019 Val di Suga Estate Brunello: Medium ruby. Vanilla and black cherry dot the nose. Is there a hint of green herb? Medium body and relatively straightforward. Good value but past vintages of this wine offered a bit more I think. Sweet finish. 90-92 points.
2019 Val di Suga Brunello Vigna del Lago: Bright ruby. Sweet green herbs on the nose back the cherry fruit. Ripe, sweet black cherry on the palate is long and dimensional at the moment. But I’ve no worries here. More elegant and feminine than its cousin Spuntali. Again, seemingly devoid of tannin. I like it. 93-95 points.
2018 Val di Suga Brunello Vigna Spuntali: Medium ruby. Mint, tea and earth tones back the dark cherry fruit. Bright and fresh with sweet cherry flavors and a long finish. Excellent in the vintage. 93-95 points.
2019 La Fiorita Estate Brunello: Medium ruby. Floral with spice notes backing the cherry tones. Really pretty in the mouth with perfumed cherry notes that are elegant and long. Sweet fennel finish is dusty and juicy. Really nice. 93-95 points.
2019 Uccelliera Brunello: Dark ruby. Deep red fruit aromas with chestnut wood and baking spices. Pure, ripe cherry fruits are mouthwateringly delicious. Ripe, sweet fennel notes are backed by Christmas cake spices. This is really gorgeous. But at this point, I’m not surprised. 96-98 points.
2019 Voliero Brunello: Deep ruby with copper highlights. Violets and cherries covered in milk chocolate and soft wood notes aromas are pretty. Flavors follow, they are very elegant and soft. Uccelliera is better this time. But the value here could be compelling. More tannic than I would have thought. 91-93 points.
2019 Val di Suga Brunello Poggio Granchio: Medium ruby. Nice aromas of black cherry and spices. Menthol, black cherry and anise in the mouth. Large scaled tannins. Needs a bit of time. But the stuffing is there. 92-94 points.
2019 Carpineto Brunello: Medium ruby. Spices, floral and crushed berry notes are attractive. Approachable, fresh and juicy. Baking spices and herbs dot the ripe cherry flavors. This is very pretty and will likely be a nice value. Antonio is doing a wonderful job at this estate. 91-93 points.
2019 Ridolfi Brunello: Bright medium ruby. Spices and flowers on the nose are backed by cranberry fruit. Juicy and fresh, this is quite nice on the palate with black cherry, toasted spice and anise notes. More tannic on the finish than some wines tasted today. 91-93 points.
2019 La Fortuna Brunello: Deep ruby. Caramel and vanilla on the nose with nice red fruits. Nice, but a little odd. Unique. Sweet ripe fruit on the palate with cocoa and anise flavors. Roasted coffee too. I rather enjoy it. A unique Brunello that if nothing else, stands out in this field as such. I won’t be for everyone though. 92-94 points.
2019 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello Vigna La Casaccia: Medium ruby. Enticing mushroom, earth and cherry aromas on the nose. Fresh, bright cherry fruit flavors dominate. Sweet and long with fennel and toasted nuts. Long finish with well integrated tannins. This is pretty special. 94-96 points.
2018 Brunello Riserva
2018 Capanna Brunello Cru “Nicco”: Bright medium ruby. Christmas spice and cherry fruit on the nose. Medium body with spicy pepper, black cherry and flavors. Capanna is on a roll. This is a great cru. 93-95 points.
2018 Castello Banfi Brunello Riserva Poggio alle Mura: Deep ruby. Gorgeous nose! Anise, flowers, black cherry, mint, and earth. Miraculous. Powerful in the mouth. Tannins integrated but so sweet. Black cherry fruits, vanilla, powdered cocoa, pipe tobacco. This is an amazing effort in 2018. 95-97 points.
2018 Ruffino Greppone Mazzi Brunello Riserva: Deep ruby. Cherries and spices on the nose and palate are a bit restrained. This is ok but only that. I question why this was produced in the vintage? 87-89 points.
2018 La Gerla Brunello Riserva Gli Angeli: The Reserve of the Angels is not nearly as compelling as the name would have you think. Light ruby with absent aromas and bland flavors of berries and soft sandalwood notes. Nothing about this is special. 87-89 points.
2018 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Riserva: Dark ruby. Rich, ripe cherry on the nose with roasted nuts. Gorgeous sweet ripe fruit is juicy and lively. Dark cocoa with cherry, new leather and spices. This is great. 95-97 points.
2018 Caprili Brunello Riserva Ad Alberto: Deep ruby. Powdery cherry and spice on the nose. Tobacco too. The cherry fruit here is a bit masked by the tannin. Nice, but a bit monolithic and not sure if the fruit will survive the tannins. Try with major meat or decant for an hour plus. Good effort in 2018. 91-93 points.
I think there are a few takeaways from this tasting. First and foremost, the 2019 vintage strikes me as a chimera between a recent vintage and one quite long ago. Precisely, the wines have the structure and freshness of 2015 but the velvety, forward fruit nature of 1997. The latter vintage was panned as it aged for being flabby. But in 2019, not so. The wines are fresh, with acid and structure to age – but the fruit character is so pure and pristine that many show well now.
Of course, there are exceptions and you can easily note the stylistic nature of the wines that I feel need aging. Like other vintages, the wines are different and it depends why you’re buying them and how long you want to wait until you enjoy them.
Truffles…. I noticed truffle or mushroom character in a lot of these wines. Could that be a factor of the rejuvenating rains that came in early autumn? Regardless of the reason, I love that quality.
As expected, there are several new Crus debuting. What will the pricing look like? I’m hoping the newer Crus absorb the expected price increases and the Estate wines hold relatively firm. I don’t want to see Sancerre like increases in Brunello. Hopefully prices remain stable. But will quality also stay stable?
Lastly, there were only 70 wines present at this year’s event. A lot of producers simply didn’t attend given the early timeline from bottling. Even the attendance at the Montalcino event was significantly reduced. I hope the event gets pushed back to January – but some in the wine media don’t seem to prefer that. For me, it would make for a better event.
Hopefully the reviews above will yield some tools for you to stock your cellars. Let the hunt begin!