Brunello Sign

~ Fields of wheat on the Castello Banfi Estate ~

The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino vintage is clearly one of the best in the last two decades.  Although it is never easy to make great wine, when Mother Nature smiles on your endeavours, the task at hand is made less difficult.  In 2015,  it was almost serene.  This is reinforced by the amazing wines we are seeing in bottle.  My first three installments of this vintage coverage included many exceptional wines.  This article continues the trend.

Brunello 2015 – I Vini

I’ve written about Baricci many times on these pages, including my most recent visit to their estate.  I have loved many of their wines, but in 2015, Baricci crushed it; both literally and figuratively!

For decades, Patriarch Nello Baricci ran the family estate and crafted gorgeous Brunello from the Montosoli Hill. Upon his death, his two grandsons assumed full responsibility for the winemaking.  The estate is in excellent hands.

The 2015 Baricci Brunello is deep violet in the glass with the textbook iodine color around the rim.  Without decanting, the aromas from this wine flowed from the glass with abundance. Crushed cherry, lavender, fresh flowers and toasted spices are absolutely pristine.  On the palate, this is ultra fresh and so juicy.  Full bodied, but with well integrated tannins, this is so lively. Loads of crushed wild cherry, fennel, toasted spices and vibrant, dusty earth notes are just amazing. I mean, wow!  It’s showing better now than it did at the Brunello Gala back in December.  98 points. Find this wine.

Baricci Brunello in glass

~ Baricci absolutely crushed the 2015 vintage both literally and figuratively ~

Over the past several vintages, Voliero – the estate owned by Andrea Cortonesi of Uccelliera – is making some outstanding wine.  And that is not simply reserved for his Brunello.  This review of the 2016 Rosso di Montalcino further illustrates his prowess.  I wish I had bought more of that wine.  Regarding his 2015 Brunello, I bought plenty!

The 2015 Voliero Brunello is a weighty, meaty effort but that doesn’t prevent it from expressing its high toned personality. Sourced from high altitude vineyards in the northern part of the Brunello zone, Voliero often benefits from cool evening temperatures. As a result, the aromatics so important to Sangiovese are replete in this wine.

In the glass, the wine’s color runs the full spectrum from violet, to purple and even displays a copper rim.  After being open for about an hour, the wine displays aromas of crushed wild berry, fresh tobacco, red flowers, turned earth and chestnut. It is simply gorgeous.  On the palate, that core of wild berry is juicy, sapid and mouth watering. Hints of licorice, coffee and cigar tobacco add complexity to this young wine. I was impressed with this at the Gala (linked above) and this didn’t disappoint.  Decant now or let it sit 3 years before trying.  95 points and I think it will go higher.   Find this wine.

Voliero Brunello in glass

~ I have no worries about the Voliero, but it needs a little cellaring ~

In 1989, the Cencioni family planted vines on their Solaria Estate.  Although the property had been in the family since the 1950s there was never any premium wine production until Patrizia Cencioni took control and helmed the property to what it is today.

Solaria Grape Vines for Brunello

~ The vineyards on the Solaria estate are in the South East part of the Brunello zone ~

The Solaria property is almost 50 hectares, though land devoted to wine production is only a small 8 hectares. The vineyards sit at 300 meters above sea level and are sheltered by the rise of Montalcino to the north and Mount Amiata to the south.  Cencioni ages her Brunello in a combination of Slavonian Botte and French barrique.  As a result, the wine exhibits almost a hybrid style.

The 2015 Solaria Brunello is a beautiful violet color throughout.  We did not decant the wine though in retrospect, that may have helped. This is reticent on the nose with aromas of crushed berry, sandalwood and faint floral tones.  On the palate, this is juicy and fresh with wonderful acidity and elegance. Berry, chestnut, tobacco and fennel flavors are enticing and feminine.  This needs time.  Give it a long decant now or a 5-7 year slumber in the cellar.  90 points.  Find this wine.

Solaria Brunello in bottle

~ The Solaria needs time in the cellar. It was significantly better at the 2-3 hour mark than immediately upon opening ~

From the first time I tasted Roberto Terzuoli’s wines at Benvenuto Brunello years ago I was impressed.  Indeed, he was seeking an importer at the time and for my own selfish interests I endeavored to assist. Today, he has limited importation but offers his wines Direct from Estate at compelling prices.

The 2015 Sasso di Sole Brunello is a brilliant, shimmering violet in color.  Vinified in stainless steel, the wine is the matured in Slavonian Botte of mixed sized.  On the nose, the aromas are compelling and complex.  Cherry, sage, roasted chestnut, pipe tobacco and turned earth are lovely.  On the palate, the wine is more restrained than the nose suggests.  Flavors of crushed sour cherry and rosemary are tinged with a long underpinning of tobacco.  Sapid, juicy and mouthwatering, this offers yet a glimpse now of what this will become.  Decant for 90 minutes or cellar 3-5 years before you try one.  92 points.  Find this wine.

Sassi di Sole Brunello in glass

~ The Estate Bottling of the Sasso di Sole is elegant and juicy. It needs 3-5 years to develop further ~

My experience with Castello Banfi’s Poggio alle Mura is one of brooding monsters angry when they’re opened too soon.  As a result, I generally leave them untouched for the better part of a decade. If you’re like me, that’s often tough to do and one of the reasons these data points are so useful.  As you can see from the “temporary” vintage date on this bottle, it was provided to me very early on.  Consequently, I suspect my approach to this wine will remain unchanged.

The 2015 Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura Brunello is a deep crimson color at the core with a ruby ring at the edge of the bowl.  Forthright aromas of ground espresso, maraschino cherry, toasted baking spices and tobacco are very enticing. On the palate, this full bodied and muscular but doesn’t seem as backward as normal.  Ripe, viscous, juicy cherries are abundant and back by powdery minerality. Pipe tobacco, cigar box and fennel lead to a long, ripe juicy finish. Hint of pepper. A lovely Cru effort that can really be a value if you shop around. Lovely Cru effort. 95 points.  Find this wine.

Castello Banfi Brunello

~ Perhaps a slightly atypical Poggio alle Mura. This was more approachable than I expected ~

Like many in 2015, Sasso di Sole pioneered the inaugural vintage of an outstanding Cru Brunello.  Winemaker Roberto Terzuoli cultivates 10 hectares of Sangiovese Grosso in Torrenieri.  Three generations of Terzuoli’s farm their estate and their philosophy is simple: “The only way to make good wine is to first respect the land.”

Terzuoli Brunello

~ Tre Generazioni : Bruno, Roberto and his son ~

The 2015 Sasso di Sole Brunello “Bruno” is a monumental effort.   This Cru derives from a special selection of Sangiovese grapes from the estate’s oldest vineyard plots.  After vinification in stainless steel, the wine is aged large Slavonian botte.  Deep violet in color, the wines aromas exude class and masculinity.  Aromas of crushed black plum, wild berry, fennel, tobacco and turned earth are penetrating.  This is gorgeous to smell.

On the palate, the wine is brawny and muscular.  Rich flavors of dark cherry, leather, grilled meat and leather notes are compelling.  I simply wrote “wow” in my tasting note because the freshness, persistence and clarity of this wine makes you take note.  This is a Cru worth seeking out.  4,200 bottles produced and available directly from the winery.  95 points.  Find this wine.

Sasso di Sole Brunello Bruno

~ The 2015 is the first vintage ever for this wine. 2016 will be made and I am really looking forward to that ~

The next featured wine touts some of the most amazing pedigree a vineyard owner can hope for.  Handed down from generation-to-generation, Le Chiuse’s current owner is Simonetta Valiani the great granddaughter of Ferruccio Biondi-Santi.

Simonetta inherited the estate in 1993 and decided to start producing wine under the Le Chiuse name.  Until then, the vineyards were rented to her uncle, Franco Biondi-Santi, and the fruit was being used for Biondi-Santi’s Riserva bottling.  Today the estate’s vines are approaching 70 years of age and are planted to BS 11 rootstock chosen by Tancredi Biondi Santi himself.

The 2015 Le Chiuse Brunello is a gorgeous red produced in a classic, but modern style.  Think, Biondi Santi but so much more accessible. That’s not to say it isn’t age worthy because it clearly is.  The balance here is precise and the wine enthralling.   Deep violet in color, the aromas open with crushed berry, forest floor, new leather and faint floral notes.  On the palate, this is juicy and fresh with sapid saline notes driving minerality.  Crushed cherry, fennel and sweet tobacco dance around well integrated tannins.  I love this.  97 points.  Find this wine.

Brunello Le Chiuse

~ The 2015 Le Chiuse is a masterful wine that will develop for a decade in the cellar ~

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. 4 small hectares is all it takes for the Marchetti’s to make great wine.

Brunello Fossacolle

~ Fruit hanging before harvest at Fossacolle ~

The 2015 Fossacolle Brunello has done a 180 since I tasted it at the Gala and its approchability surprised me.   Perhaps the fact that it had only recently been bottled played a role in that.  However, at this point, this Brunello has reverted to the form I’m accustomed to seeing from this estate.

Deep violet in the glass, the nose is rather forward with crushed cherry, dark tobacco leaf and faint wood aromas.  On the palate, this is a masculine, beast of a wine.  Bold, ripe flavors of black cherry are dominant with little other ancillary character at the moment.  The monolithic nature doesn’t concern me because of the pedigree here.  However, if you are tempted to try this now, give it a long multi-hour decant.  Better to let it age for a decade.  Develops some smoke and meat character with extended air but the wall of tannin is very present and chewy.  93 points.  Find this wine.

Brunello Fossacolle

~ The 2015 Fossacolle Brunello is a beast ~

Next up is one of the newest Brunello wineries in Montalcino….

Brunello Cart

~ The Le Macioche Estate is owned and run by the Cotarella family ~

The Le Macioche estate takes its name from the Sienese word “macioca” – a reference to the root of the strawberry plant which permeates the woods surrounding the estate vineyards.  Although in existence since the early 1980’s, the estate was recently purchased by the Cotarella family and is primarily run by the three daughters of Riccardo and Renzo.  The property spans 6 hectares but only 4 are planted with vines.

The 2015 Le Macioche Brunello is a beautiful violet color to the core.   Upon opening, it was very tight on the nose.  After an extended decant – about 2 hours – this really began to sing.  Perfumed aromas of flowers, cherry and lavender were very attractive.  On the palate, this is juicy, fresh and lively with sweet, ripe berry fruit, notes of forest, sandalwood and light spice notes.  Maybe not the best value, but it is really delicious.  About 12,000 bottles produced.  94 points.  Find this wine.

Brunello Le Macioche

~ The 2015 is a wonderful wine from the Cotarella family and needs a long decant or some cellar time to show its beauty ~

“Alessandro Mori and his Brunello blend to the point that the man and his wine don’t seem to have a sharp boundary. Maybe theirs is an empathy, a way of living and sharing the moments of life, a coexistence in which alternate moments of love, moments of confrontation, and moments of comfort tug at each other….until you get to say that one would not be the same without the other.”

I just love that quote.  I’ve referenced it before but it never ceases to make me wonder and remember how intricately related a winemaker is with his wines.  Passion transcends all and knows no bounds.  And Alessandro does have a quiet, driven passion.

Il Marroneto Corks

~ Il Marroneto tasting lineup relics ~

The Il Marroneto Estate sits in the northern part of the Brunello zone not far from the walls of Montalcino.  At elevations of 350 to 400 meters above sea level, Il Marroneto’s vineyards are some of the highest in the DOCG.   As of 1979, there was just over 2/3 of an acre of under vine.  This was expanded by 2 more acres in 1984.

The 2015 Il Marroneto Brunello is a classically styled wine.  The color is a medium violet color that fades slightly to that iodine rim at the edge of the bowl.  The depth of the color may be worrisome to those expecting a darker color from what is a full bodied, substantial wine.  However, do not be fooled.

After being decanted for an hour, the wine starts to display its aromas.  Red flowers, crushed berry, hints of suede and warm chestnut mark the enticing nose.  On the palate, the wine is shy at first.  It needs the decanting time.  Cherry, soft tobacco, worn leather and bright fennel notes combine elegantly on the palate.  This is “soft” but full bodied.  It’s stately.  Vinified in stainless steel, the wine is aged for 39 months in large Slavonian barrels and then bottle aged until it can be released.  I believe this wine will benefit with medium to long range cellaring. Price is starting to creep up, but shop around.  94 points.  Find this wine.

Il Marroneto Brunello

~ This is a classic wine in every sense. A lovely Brunello that is elegant and regal ~

With that, I close Part 4.    I think one of the main takeaways from this installment is that many of the wines displayed the need for a lengthy decant.  I’m not sure at this point if that’s just a coincidence of the wines in this Part, or if it represents the 2015s in general.  It may be the latter as many of these wines were approachable early on despite their significant structure.  We shall see.

Stay tuned for Parts 5 and 6.  There are lots of “heavy hitters” to report on including:  Il Palazzone Le Due Porte, Lisini, Valdicava, Fanti Vallochio, Poggio di Sotto, Corte Pavone Crus, Mate, Ferrero and many more!

Salute!

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