Without question, 2015 stands as one of the greatest vintages for Brunello di Montalcino in the last 20 years. However, that doesn’t mean that success was uniform across the board. As I’ve written in the first two parts of my Annual Coverage, there are some land mines to navigate. And when it comes to bang for your buck, value also needs to be considered. There are differences even in great vintages and I highlight them for you. Let’s get Part 3 started.
Brunello 2015 – I Vini
Owned by the Cencioni family since 1957, Capanna sits just north of Montalcino near the Montosoli hill. The first vintage was 1960 and at that time Giuseppe became one of the founding members of the Consorzio. Today, the estate is comprised of 24 hectares in total. Twenty are devoted to Sangiovese while the balance is Merlot (1 hectare) and Moscato. Paolo Vagaggini is the consulting winemaker.
The 2015 Capanna Brunello is a wonderful wine. Deep violet in the glass with pretty reflections, this is a high toned floral gem on the nose. Deep aromas of crushed berry, new leather lilacs and lavender are simply pure and amazing. On the palate, the wine is racy and delicious. Finely integrated tannins are coated in lovely ripened cherry fruit. Mouthwatering flavors of sweet tobacco, warmed clay and Tuscan brush notes are gorgeous. Fresh and juicy throughout. Aged in various size Slavonian oak barrels. 96 points. Find this wine.
Since 1976 the Schwarz family have farmed their small 15 hectare estate that lies on a sloping hillside within view of the famed Sant’Antimo Abbey. At 450 meters above sea level, the La Magia wines retain a fresh elegance. Fabian Schwarz runs the estate operations and tends to the vineyards; many of which are 40+ years old.
The 2015 La Magia Brunello is a medium violet color that fades beautifully to the classic copper color at the rim of the bowl. Pleasing aromas of crushed cherry, sandalwood, cypress and fennel are notable. On the palate, the wine is fresh and lively. Medium to full bodied, this Brunello relies more on elegance than power. Fennel, crushed red fruits, dust and savory herbs add ample complexity. With bruschetta and spatch-cocked grilled chicken with garlic and rosemary this was wonderful. 93 points. Find this wine.
The next entry is a stalwart classic.
The Il Palazzone Estate is a small endeauvor consisting of three vineyards that are scattered throughout the zone. The one pictured above is the estate vineyard, located closest to Montalcino. The other two vineyards are located near Castelnuovo dell’Abate but the three vary in age and exposition. Additionally, soils, trace minerals and varying elevations contribute to the complexity of Il Palazzone’s Brunello, a fact that often highlights the potential effects of any discussion surrounding sub-zoning.
The 2015 Il Palazzone Brunello is stunning for its purity, grace and intensity. It reminds me of the scene in the movie Major League 2 when Baker was so excited catching “Wild Thing” he just says: “The hell with the signals, bring it here”. That’s sort of how I feel about Il Palazzone. The hell with tasting notes, just drink it! It’s so damn delicious. But, I digress…
Brilliant aromas and flavors of crushed cherry, new leather, cigar leaf, toasted spices, chestnut and roses echo in the glass and seemingly bounce back and forth off the walls. The precision and purity in the mouth are brilliant. Clean, juicy, fresh, vibrant and full bodied yet elegant. Grace and power. Simply a vintage to benchmark the estate by. 98 points. Find this wine.
Castello di Bossi is an excellent producer of Chianti Classico located in Castelnuovo Berardenga. Like many generational winemaking families, the Bacci’s also own estates in other corners of Tuscany. Their Brunello estate, Renieri, is located in the southern portion of the zone near to Mount Amiata. At over 400 meters above sea level, the 30 hectares devoted to grapes are split among Sangiovese Grosso and other French varietals. Renieri’s Brunello is aged in a combination of barrique (2 years) and larger oak barrels.
The 2015 Renieri Brunello is another wonderful wine. That said, before I get into my review, let’s talk about the purple elephant in the room. A lot of my readers were keen for me to review this wine in light of the 100 point score it received from other wine writers. Do I agree with that score? No, I do not. At least not at this point in time. However, that’s not to be critical of this Brunello in any way.
The Renieri is a massive, meaty wine. It’s a deep ruby color with violet reflections throughout. On the nose, the wine is fairly shy, even with some time to air. Crushed berry, grilled meat, toasted tobacco leaf and soft wood notes are notable. On the palate, this is a full bodied, hard core Brunello. Black cherry, meat, roasted coffee and spice notes are prevalent. Right now, they are mingled with and hiding behind a massive wall of tannin. Balanced acidity keeps this fresh, but this really needs some cellaring. Easily the best Brunello I’ve ever tasted from this property. 95 points. Find this wine. (which may be a bit harder given Suckling’s score.)
In 1980, Silverio Marchetti purchased 4 hectares of land near Tavernelle. At the time, only a dilapidated farm house graced the property. Immediately, Silverio began planting vineyards and since he was close to retirement, decided to begin making wine. Initially, he sold the wine off in bulk. Eventually he registered his property within the Brunello zone in 1995. Sadly, before his first Brunello was released. Silverio passed away in 1997. Today, the estate is managed by his wife, his daughters and his grand children.
Armilla is an ancient Roman word used to describe a golden bracelet, a sort of medal presented to Roman soldiers who distinguished themselves in battle. Today, it represents a promise of passion from the family to the man who built the property.
The 2015 Armilla Brunello is a deep ruby color in the glass with violet reflections and copper rim highlights. The aromas from the glass portend the high toned, pure palate that is forthcoming. Crushed berries, fresh floral tones, soft toasted spices and fresh tobacco leaf are really wonderful. In the mouth the wine is bursting with juicy freshness. Talk about “saltimbocca” – this wine literally feels as though it’s jumping in the mouth. Pure berry, caressing tannins, fresh acidity, tobacco, spice and fresh herbs are just lovely. It’s not the largest framed Brunello you’ll come across but this is elegant and balanced. 96 points. Find this wine.
The background for the wonderful Fattoria dei Barbi estate appeared in Part 2 of this year’s coverage when I reviewed the Vigna del Fiore Cru. Today, we’re checking in on the Estate Blue Label Brunello. Again, Barbi is one of the largest producers in the entire zone. Again I’ll repeat. That doesn’t matter. Quality is quality regardless and Barbi continually gets it done.
The 2015 Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello is a beautiful wine. Deep violet in the glass, the wine is replete with aromas of freshly cut flowers, dried baking spices, crushed berry and leather notes. On the palate, the flavors echo the nose with juicy, savory fruit that is sapid and driven by sage, tobacco and cypress. Wonderful complexity and balance in this Brunello and it’s an outstanding value given that it’s in the $45 range. 95 points. Find this wine.
Next up is the Estate Brunello from Corte Pavone. Welcoming visitors with a seemingly endless cypress lined drive, the Corte Pavone Estate sprawls for a modest 19 hectares within sight of Montalcino. Swiss proprietor Hayo Loacker has identified 7 dynamic and distinctive vineyard plots on his estate from which they have begun crafting 3 Cru Brunello. The project is very similar to that of Val di Suga though each year Loacker will make a selection from the various vineyards. One Cru appears below and the remaining two will be featured in later Parts of my coverage.
The 2015 Corte Pavone Brunello is a beautiful wine. It boasts a deep garnet color that is almost impenetrable. Without being decanted, the wine is aromatically expressive. Notes of black cherry, fresh leaf tobacco and cured meat are very nice. On the palate, this walks a fine line between meaty and elegant. Cured meat, black olive and crushed red fruits dance over a nimble palate that is fresh and juicy. 92 points. Find this wine.
This next wine struck me as rather funny until I went back and looked up a few more data points I have on it. Generally, I find Carpineto’s Brunello to be a bit more accessible. But not in 2015.
The Carpineto estate has been revitalized by proprietor Antonio Zaccheo and you would do very well to revisit both his Brunello and his Single Vineyard Vino Nobile wines. Carpineto’s vineyards in Montalcino are some of the highest in the appellation and sit approximately 1,400 feet above sea level. The farm consists of preserved stone buildings, olive groves and over 25 acres of north-west facing vineyards which are all surrounded and protected by forest that shelters the vines from some of the harsher winds that come up from the Maremma.
In writing my notes on this Brunello, I was surprised at how closed and reserved it was. Then I looked at my note from Benvenuto Brunello. The 2015 Carpineto Brunello is a pretty violet color that is shy on the nose but exhibits pretty notes of toasted spices, red fruits and tobacco. On the palate, this is elegant with a juicy core of fruit but quite a bit of tannin at the moment. Really needs some time to flesh out. The note linked above says 8 years in the cellar. I may try again in 5 but not before. 92 points. Find this wine.
The next wine is the first of 3 Cru Brunello submitted for this year’s coverage. Proprietor Hayo Loacker, inspired by the vineyard classifications of Burgundy, began 10 years ago to closely observe the terroir and the growth processes of the vines at Corte Pavone in order to produce individual crus of Brunello di Montalcino. After elaborate measurements with highly sensitive infrared sensors, dynamic micro-parcelling was carried out throughout the entire estate in various growth zones. From these, single vineyard plots of Brunello were defined and bio-dynamic wines conceived.
The 2015 Corte Pavone Brunello “Campo Marzio” is a deep crimson red color with a classic fade to iodine at the rim of the bowl. On the nose, the aromas are already fairly complex. Grilled meat, crushed cherry, chestnut, tobacco and leather are plentiful. On the palate this is a massive wine. The full bodied core of fruit is plentiful but met with a wall of large scaled tannins. Beef, warmed clay, mushroom and leather round out this powerful Brunello. We decanted 2 hours but it really needs cellaring to shed some of the heft. I would not touch this wine again until 2025 at the earliest but I think its evolution will be positive. 95 points. Find this wine.
Next up is the artsy Col di Lamo from Giovanna Neri. Giovanna farms the 8 hectare estate which is planted with 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, (2017 harvest)
The 2015 Col di Lamo Brunello is deep garnet in the glass. Aromas of wild flowers, crushed black cherry, turned earth and pipe tobacco are very well defined. On the palate, this elegant Sangiovese is replete with flavors of crushed wild cherry; mouthwatering fruit that drips with sapidity. Ground coffee, toasted spice and wet earth complete the package. This is very well made and very interesting. 93 points. Find this wine.