~ Sunrise over the vineyards of Argiano ~   (image courtesy of Argiano)

With the up and down nature of the 2012 vintage in Montalcino, producers were pleased if not also relieved to deal with a 2013 vintage that has been called a ​​​​​​​“return to classicism”.  What does this mean?  Well, it’s not to imply that the vintage was weak or the fruit didn’t ripen. Neither of that is the case. However, overall it was slightly cooler; moderate is more like it, and the grapes ripened slowly and evenly.

Generally, the 2013 Brunello as a whole are a bit austere, especially compared to the recent warmer years of 2011 and 2012.  They will reward 3-5 more years of aging and I anticipate they’ll easily bring wonderful drinking and personalities into their 10th birthdays.  Of course, these are generalizations but I’m pretty comfortable making both of those statements.

Over the past few months, I’ve been tasting dozens of Brunello in preparation for this report.  Given the youthful nature of the wines over the summer, we took care to decant them for at least an hour and serve them with hearty food.  Grilled beef, risotto, short ribs and pasta with ragu and mushrooms graced the table.  As the tastings progress throughout the Autumn and Winter, we’ll see if the theme continues, but as I sit here writing this I can say that this group of Brunello, with their representative acidity and slightly austere nature, are great matches for food.

~ Giacomo Neri – ever the custodian. Inspecting his vines earlier this spring ~

We’re starting with a wine that is as lovely as ever.  If there’s a knock, it’s that the price has increased almost 40% over the past few vintages, perhaps more depending upon where you’re located.   Still, the 2013 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino is a medium crimson to ruby color with a faint copper ring. This Brunello displays lovely berry, floral and tobacco notes on the nose with soft sandalwood tones emerging with additional aeration.  Full bodied on the palate with juicy wild berry notes and crushed, roasted hazelnut.  Well integrated tannins and balanced acidity mark this well crafted red. Notes of chestnut and vanilla spice linger on the finish.  Good persistence and always reliable.  93 points. About $45.  Find this wine.

~ Simple grilled strip steaks allowed this wine to shine. Accompanied by Tuscan white beans and grilled, thick sliced zucchini from my orto, it was a wonderful match ~

The Pieve Santa Restituta estate was acquired by the Gaja family in 1994. The “white,” rocky soils of this area, in the southwest subzone of the Brunello di Montalcino appellation, were abandoned long ago by the sharecropper mezzadri farmers. But while other crops struggled in the rugged, nutrient-poor terrain, it has proven ideal for the cultivation of grapes destined to become fine wine.  It was shortly after the founding of Gaja’s Brunello estate that the Mates founded their wine estate and became Gaja’s neighbor.  Ferenc Mate tells of a story where an unknown man drove down his dusty driveway with a gift of Barbaresco welcoming them to the neighborhood.  The man was Angelo Gaja.

~ The Pieve (Church) on Gaja’s property from which the estate gets its name ~

Perhaps known as a maverick or modern producer that prefers to push limits with the production of his wines,  Gaja has struck a more moderate tone with his Brunello.  Originally the estate only produced two single vineyard wines; Sugarille and Rennina.  However, from the 2005 vintage, an estate Brunello has been added which blends fruit from all 4 of Gaja’s vineyards on the property.    The estate Brunello is vinified in stainless steel tanks and then aged for 12 months in 2nd and 3rd passage barrique and 12 months in large 36 year old botte.

The 2013 Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino is deep ruby in the glass.  Bright berry, vanilla and rain dampened earth tones comprise the interesting array of aromas.  Fairly tannic but this evolves and is also sapid and mouthwatering.  Ripe, wild cherry and red licorice tones are bountiful and add menthol notes that are persistent.  Generously full bodied, perhaps more masculine than elegant and I suspect, a good candidate for the cellar.  Made for an exciting pairing with tomatoes from the garden, burrata and grilled pheasant over white beans.  However, not the best value in the genre. 92 points.  About $75.  Find this wine.

~ Burrata really brings out the fruit in almost any wine but I find it tames the tannins in Brunello rather well ~

The Siro Pacenti estate was purchased in 1970 by Siro Pacenti who set about planting vineyards in what has since become the Brunello di Montalcino zone.  His Pelagrilli estate sits within sight of Montalcino and was expanded in the late 1990’s.   In 2004, new barrel aging cellars were completed.  For this report, we’re looking at his single vineyard bottling that bears the name of the estate; Pelagrilli.

~ The Siro Pacenti estate in late fall, after Vendemmia ~

The 2013 Siro Pacenti Pelagrilli Brunello di Montalcino is a bright, medium ruby color. Focused aromas of bright red berries, fresh flowers, vanilla spice and eucalyptus are penetrating.  Absolutely lovely on the palate!  Sweet, ripe and vibrant with a laser beam of sapid, juicy wild cherry is delicious. Pure. Hints of black olive and terracotta make this intriguing. There’s a tiny bit of heat here – this is 14.5% but it feels higher. Overall, its not enough to detract. I love this and it’s the best Pelagrilli I’ve ever tasted.  94 points.  Nice value.  About $40.  Find this wine.

~ At under $40 this is one of the better values from Montalcino ~

“Who knows how much attention our own roots need to become wings.”  

It’s the essence of Giovanna Neri, an energetic happy woman who, along with her beautiful daughter Diletta, run the Col di Lamo estate.  Perhaps a triple entendre, the quote easily refers to vines that produce grapes, Giovanna’s raising of her daughter, and even the creation of the winery itself.   Today the 8 hectare estate is planted to 5 hectares of grapes spread among three distinct vineyard parcels near Torreniere. However, just last month Giovanna planted a fourth vineyard set to increase production within 3 years.

~ Diletta is intimately involved with all aspects of the winemaking process; truly earning “wings” from the tutelage of her mother ~

The 2013 Col di Lamo Brunello di Montalcino is a head turner but also a bit of a head scratcher.  Medium ruby in the glass, the wine is actually full bodied and large scaled.  Don’t let the color fool you.  Giovanna’s wines are always and full bodied and this 2013 is no exception.  What I find different in this vintage is that it seems much more focused on oak and also the toast on the barrels.  On the nose, there is plenty of ripe cherry character and hints of pipe tobacco.  A grilled characteristic is also noticeable which seems less from grilled meat and more from oak char.  Flavors echo the nose and this is also very tannic.  This is easily a cellar selection but I’m not sure what will become of it. Seems a bit heavy handed.  89 points.  About $50.  Find this wine.

~ Col di Lamo is a pretty ruby color with violet streaking ~

The next wine we’ll discuss is one that was new to me when I first tasted it during my coverage of the 2010 vintage.  It captivated me right away for its unique ability to marry elegance with power and although it’s a very small family run farm, it’s importation by Vias makes it fairly easy to locate here on the east coast.

4 small hectares is all it takes for the Marchetti’s to make great wine.  The Fossacolle estate lies in the village of Tavernelle just south of Montalcino.  Owner and patriarch Sergio Marchetti has familial roots that date to the 18th century,  but Fossacolle is a mere baby in relation to Brunello; their first bottled vintage was the 1997.  Tavernelle is generally a bit warmer than other areas within the DOCG and Fossacolle’s wines display this with their masculine, ripe nature.

~ Fossacolle’s vineyards just before harvest ~

The 2013 Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino is impressive.  In the glass, the wine is a pretty, classic, medium ruby color with some violet reflections.  On the nose there is lots of cherry, menthol, spice and chestnut character that is unique. Flavors of olive, wild berries, tobacco leaf and meat persist on the palate lending a meaty, masculine character to this Brunello.  Hints of roasted coffee and spicy bourbon notes appear on the slightly hot finish.  Good value here as this wine should be under $40.  91 points.  Find this wine.

~ Perhaps a bit tinged with spicy alcohol notes on the finish. Maybe will settle as it ages? ~

Collemattoni takes its name from an ancient farmhouse that is the centerpiece of the property and dates to the year 1672.   Since at least 1798, the estate has been in the hands of the Bucci family when Giuseppe, who was “head of a large family” purchased the estate.  Generations have come and gone and today the estate is run by Marcello Bucci with the helpful counsel of his parents.

The Buccis farm just over 11 hectares of vineyards; a small operation, that are scattered throughout the Brunello production zone.   During 2012, the wine production and cellar areas were completely renovated and now the entire process is gravity fed.  Additionally, the estate received organic certification from the 2012 vintage and generates approximately 80% of its own electricity from solar panels.

~ Looking west from the estate of Collemattoni ~

The 2013 Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino favors elegance and favors it admirably.  A classic looking deep ruby color is attractive.  Somewhat surprisingly, this was expressive right out of the bottle and didn’t change much over the course of dinner.  Classic aromas of crushed cherry, baking spices, Tuscan herbs and road dust are attractive and complex.  This Brunello is fresh and lively on the palate with crushed cherry, tobacco leaf, blood and mineral character.  Juicy, mouthwatering and long.  Really well done.   92 points.  Good value around $44.  Find this wine.

~ This is balanced and attractive and should age very well ~

Next up we’re visiting a wonderful property whose 4th generation winemaker is carrying on the quality of his familial predecessors.

~ The historical library cellars at Caprili ~

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 50th Anniversary.  Despite that relatively short existence, it’s a premium producer that boasts some of the best terroir in the zone.

The 2013 Caprili Brunello di Montalcino is classically styled and classic.  Medium ruby in color, this has lots of violet reflections that create a lovely prism effect.  Fresh and vibrant on the nose with crushed berry, tobacco leaf, hints of soft earth and porcini notes.  Ripe and round on the palate with a full bodied core of wild cherry fruit that is mouthwatering and sapid. Herbs, and earth/funk add some complexity but in my experience, the more earthy nuances that this estate displays will become more pronounced with age.  Meaty and chewy.  Needs 5 years to develop. 92+ points.  About $40 and a good value.  Find this wine.

~ I angled this shot to try and capture the violet prism effect this wine seemed to display ~

As a quick aside, after reminiscing over the image below, if you’ve never spent a night in Montalcino at the Poggio Alle Mura Castle on the Castello Banfi estate, I highly recommend it.  As one who spends a lot of time in and around Montalcino, this estate is centrally located, picturesque and magical at night.  The rooms are impeccably appointed and there are several dining options as well as a Spa and Pool.  If you can, do go.

~ Sunset over Poggio Alle Mura Castle ~

The 2013 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino is always a reliable, consistent Brunello.  I’ve actually had this wine a number of times since Benvenuto Brunello and the most recent tasting was in August in Basel Switzerland.  Every time the wine has impressed and has performed consistently.  A trait to be appreciated.

The 2013 is a deep ruby to crimson color almost throughout.  Perfumed aromas of crushed cherry are persistent and pronounced.  Toasted spice, new leather and fennel notes are discernible as the wine opens.  On the palate, the wine is round and well balanced with crushed berry, toasted spices and soft sandalwood notes.  Classically styled, with palate cleansing acidity and medium weight tannins, this is approachable now but I think can improve with short term cellaring.  The riper more expressive 2012s can be enjoyed while the 2013s gel.  91 points.  About $50.  Find this wine.

~ The Castello Banfi paired well with a variety of foods: Bolognese, Pork Chop Milanese, Burrata, Cured Meats. ~

The final entry in this first installment is a wine that consistently impresses.  Crafted by the all lady team at Donatella Cinelli Colombini, the Prime Donne wine is the estate’s pinnacle.  I recall that the warmer weather in 2012 hindered this wine a bit.  I found the estate wine more to my liking.  In the current vintage, the classical nature of this wonderful Brunello shines through.

~ The crew at Donatella Cinelli Colombini ~

The 2013 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne is classic as classic gets.  Deep, ruby to almost garnet in color, there is the faintest of copper hints at the rim of the bowl.  Expressive nose of crushed cherry, fresh flowers, new leather and mulch is complex and attractive.  Juicy, ripe, full bodied palate of crushed red fruits dominates from fore to aft.  Hints of chestnut, toasted fennel seed and iron add complexity to a balanced mouthfeel that lingers for minutes.  Superb.  A perfect pairing?  Lamb osso bucco over risotto Milanese made this ethereal.  95 points, though not cheap.  About $85.  Find this wine.

~ Very dark Brunello. I was surprised at how open and expressive this was. Will it stay this way or shut down? ~

And finally, to close out Part 1, we dive into a “Second” wine.  Well, not really a second wine but a second estate of renowned artisan Andrea Cortonesi from Uccelliera.

~ Andrea Cortonesi ~

Cortonesi acquired the Voliero estate to produce a Brunello in a different style than his Uccelliera.  Voliero is located in the northern portion of the zone at a slightly higher altitude than Uccelliera and Cortonesi uses this to extract wonderfully high toned floral notes in this wine.

The 2013 Voliero Brunello di Montalcino is a medium ruby at most, with faint violet highlights; a color that you would expect from a higher appellation wine.  On the nose, the wine exhibits dusty, cherry and tobacco leaf aromas with floral notes emerging later on.  Lots of dust and mineral tones on the palate with angular/linear fruit. Very precise.  Juicy and fresh with sweet fruit on the finish before some of the tannins kick in.  Plumps up quite a bit with air so give this a bit longer in the decanter – 60 minutes at least.  90 points. Not quite the value it used to be as the price is creeping up a bit.  About $43.  Find this wine.

~ This is a very pretty wine and really displays that high-toned freshness that only Sangiovese can show ~

What does our Brunello 2013 coverage hold in store?  This year we’re once again releasing the coverage in Parts to allow for more relaxed reading.  We’re also planning to give Newsletter Subscribers additional coverage on the vintage that will not be posted to the website, so if you haven’t already done so, sign up!  It’s free!

Stay tuned for more as we continue to cover and profile this interesting vintage.


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