Last month I published Part 1 of my Annual Brunello coverage and in the introduction to that article I talked about the early hype of the vintage. Now as I put pen to paper for this and subsequent installments, you will notice the appearance of many new Cru and single vineyard Brunello.
Over the past few months, I’ve discussed two issues with Brunello producers on my Zoom calls; sub-delineation of the zone and the increasing emergence of single vineyard wines. Without question, producers favor the latter over the former. As a result, in optimal vintages established Crus and new wines will continue to emerge. Stay tuned to these reports for data points on some of these new wines.
Brunello 2015 – I Vini
I’m starting this installment with an absolute classic.
The 2015 Uccelliera Brunello has impressed me every single time I’ve tasted it. And I’ll admit, it was one of the wines I had been waiting for. It’s a deep ruby in color but sports that iodine colored ring at the rim of the bowl. Huge aromas of crushed cherry, fresh flowers, new leather and pipe tobacco. Just amazing. Flavors carry through from the nose and are ripe, concentrated, persistent, juicy and fresh. An amazing wine that will last a decade or more in the cellar. 98 points. Find this wine.
Col d’Orcia is located on the southern slope of Montalcino and is an integral part of the Val d’Orcia. Extending for over 540 hectares, the position of the vineyards is extremely favorable as it faces directly south. Under the watchful eye of Mount Amiata which protects them from floods or hail, Col d’Orcia benefits from coastal breezes off the Mediterranean which is only 30 kilometers away.
The 2015 Col d’Orcia Brunello is a very pretty wine in this vintage. I recently wrote about the wonderful 2008 and this wine reminds me a lot of that. Deep ruby in the glass with violet reflections, the aromas are all about freshness. Roses, lavendar, wild cherry and cypress are perfumed. I love how floral this is. On the palate, the wine is concentrated with juicy flavors of crushed cherry, tobacco leaf, anise and espresso. Persistent and long. Tasted from a 375ml so this may be slightly more advanced than a larger format bottle. 94 points. Shop around. This can be under $45 and that’s a great value. Find this wine.
As I wrote in Part 1 of this years coverage, I was not a big fan of the Estate Brunello from Camigliano. However, their new single vineyard wine is quite a different story.
The 2015 Camigliano Paesaggio Inatteso Brunello is a wonderful wine. Coming from a single vineyard of only 2 hectares the wine is produced in only the finest vintages. Bright violet in color, the wine exudes fresh crushed cherry, floral and toast aromas. On the palate, this is vibrant and juicy. Crushed wild berries, flowers, minerals and mocha are just lovely. Finishes elegantly and sapidly. Mouthwatering. 93 points. Find this wine.
Castello Tricerchi extends over 400 hectares on the northern slopes of Montalcino. However, only 13 hectares are dedicated to the cultivation of Sangiovese Grosso. The Castle of the family, which was completed in 1441, dominates the property and is now the home and headquarters of the Tricerchis’ direct ancestors, the Squarcia family. It’s also the namesake of the wine in this report.
The 2015 Castello Tricerchi Brunello 1441 is a special selection from two vineyards closest to the castle. The 25 year old vineyards are producing some wonderful, powerful grapes. Aging takes place in medium size Slavonian cask for 36 months before a year of bottle aging.
Deep garnet in the glass the wine is impenetrable. Cured meats, roasted coffee, black cherry and anise mark the nose. On the palate, the wine is masculine and powerful. This is a meaty Brunello with dark cherry, chestnut, pipe tobacco and leather flavors. Long, tannic and “grippy” on the finish, this needs cellaring to come into its own. This will be interesting to follow. 93 points. Find this wine.
The next wine I opened during my recent Zoom call with Enrico Viglierchio, the General Manager of Castello Banfi. During the call I sipped on it without food. It was very pleasant. By the time the call had ended – a good 90 minutes after it had been opened – the wine had plumped up significantly and really began to sing. I corked it and we finished it that night with dinner. Considering the production levels for this wine, the quality is impressive.
The 2015 Castello Banfi Brunello is a deep ruby in the glass with violet reflections. Fresh aromas of crushed flowers, red plums and cherries, sandalwood and toasted spice notes are pleasing. On the palate, the crushed red cherry notes are round and juicy with a good medium to full body. Round and ripe, with moderate tannins this was delicious with dinner and became more voluptuous with air. Not the boldest or most structured Brunello, but definitely one to enjoy over the next 5-10 years. 93 points. Find this wine.
Just south of Montalcino, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, lie the 60 vineyard acres of La Poderina, now owned by the Saiagricola group. Riccardo Cotarella is the consulting winemaker. Therefore, it may fit that La Poderina’s belief is that “innovation serves tradition” and in that vein the wines are aged in barrique as well as large cask. As a result, the Brunello tends to take on a more modern “flair” stylistically.
As a result, I generally find La Poderina’s Brunello to be more approachable, forward and fruit driven. The 2015 La Poderina Brunello is somewhat of an outlier. Deep crimson in the glass, the wine allows the taster to discern fresh herbs, crushed red fruit and new mulch. On the palate, the wine is largely scaled and tight. Even as it warmed over the course of dinner, the wine did not unclench its fists. Ripe fruit is encompassed by iron, minerals and a wall of tannins. I believe this will reward patience. Try in 5-8 years. 93 points. Find this wine.
Acquired in 1983 by Val di Suga, the Spuntali Vineyard sits on the western slopes of Montalcino at 300 feet elevation. A moderate size, the vineyard is 15 hectares and has optimal southwest exposure. In walking the vineyard in the past, I was struck by the consistency of the soil. At first blush, it’s what you’d imagine when you conjure an image of normal brown dirt. However, when I bent over to grab some, the surface layer is powdery and seems to crumble to the touch. Below, it’s denser, poorer. It’s a unique texture that I’ve not encountered before and results from a concentration of clay and limestone.
The 2015 Val di Suga Brunello Spuntali is a virtual masterpiece. It no longer needs an introduction. Deep ruby with violet reflections throughout its as gorgeous as it is delicious. Freshness, elegance and power converge here unlike many Brunello you can find. Aromas of roasted chestnut, crushed wild berry, hints of menthol, leather and turned earth are remarkable. Even the dirt smells fresh! Large scaled on the palate but nimble, fresh, sapid and juicy. The core of fruit is so primary as to almost be monolithic but it’s not. There’s tobacco, herbs and salume lurking beneath. If I could only buy one Brunello every vintage, this may very well be the one. 98 points. Find this wine.
Fattoria dei Barbi is one of Montalcino’s largest wineries yet like others similar in size, the quality of the wines are not impacted. Barbi has been around for over 6 centuries and is helmed by Stefano Cinelli Colombini. The estate sprawls for over 300 hectares from which 200,000 bottles of Brunello are produced in most vintages. The wine cellars in Montalcino hold Brunello as old as 1892. Barbi ages its Brunello in small and medium sized barrels for the first few months of the wine’s life and then it is transferred to larger oak barrels. In this part of my coverage we’re focusing on their Cru single vineyard wine.
The 2015 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello Vigna dei Fiore is a deep garnet color that is impenetrable. This too is rather backward at the moment despite being decanted and enjoyed with Veal chop Valdostana. Crushed cherry, grilled meat, and crimini mushrooms are the focus of the nose and although the flavors follow the aromas, they are tightly wound. Acids, fruit, tannins are all in wonderful balance so this hints at a great evolution. Right now the tobacco, fennel and fruit notes need fatty food to become approachable. A relative value compared to many other Cru Brunello. 95 points. Find this wine.
The story of Prime Donne is a remarkable one on many levels. Yet even though this wine routinely garners high praise, it’s still labeled as a “project”. It matters not. This is the real deal and although the value isn’t what it once was, the quality is as wonderful as ever.
The 2015 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Prime Donne is a deep violet color in the glass that absolutely explodes with fresh herbs, fresh flowers and spices. It’s at once delicate and elegant but this is a full bodied wine with plenty of muscle. Black cherry penetrates the palate with fennel, grilled sausage and new leather. Long, juicy and fresh, the flavors seem to linger forever on the palate. This is delicious right now but you can sense that it has lots more to give. Decant 90 minutes to try now or better yet, cellar for at least 5 years. 95 points. Find this wine.
Salicutti is an interesting story. The name comes from a stream that marks the boundary of the estate’s southern border. Founded in 1990 by Francesco Leanza, the estate was recently purchased by Eichbauers, long time customers of Leanza who own a Michelin starred restaurant in Munich. The estate is comprised of three vineyards: Piaggione, Teatro and Sorgente. Traditionally Brunello came from the first two vineyards while Sorgente was used for Rosso di Montalcino. Beginning with the 2015 vintage, the Eichbauers have decided to bottle 3 separate Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino will be discontinued after the 2018 vintage. The small estate comprises only 11 hectares.
The 2015 Salicutti Brunello Piaggione is remarkable. This is one of the most elegant Brunello I have ever tasted. I used the term Burgundian and in that regard, it reminded me of the Stella di Campalto. That’s a good thing. In the glass, the wine portrays almost every color you can imagine: crimson, ruby, violet, copper, burnt siena. The nose is tighter than tight. Initially, it smelled like nothing. Like water. But on the palate this wine is singing a symphony. A cascading waterfall of nimble, juicy crushed red cherry pours forth and is joined by pipe tobacco, trace minerals, leather, flowers and fennel. I can only imagine what will become of this as it ages and the aromas are more generous. Paired so well with the pesto marinated flat iron steak that you see. The Piaggione is vinified in stainless steel and then aged in used barrels of 10, 20 and 40 hectoliters for 36 months before a final year in bottle prior to release. 97 points. Find this wine.
With that, I’ll conclude Part 2 of this year’s coverage. There were some heavy hitters in this installment with two wines scoring 98 and one scoring 97. I have dozens more 2015 Brunello to taste through and many are still coming in so these reports will continue throughout the Autumn. In addition, we have a few more Brunello producers slated to appear on my Zoom calls in the coming weeks. Mario and Athena from Terralsole will join us in October. Stay tuned for special offers from them in advance of the call. Also, Emilia Nardi will be joining in the near future.