Brunello 2017 was faced with an almost insurmountable task. No matter how good the weather, no matter how skilled the winemaker, no matter how precise the selections, Brunello 2017 followed the great 2015 and 2016 vintages. If the weather had been perfect, it would have been a tall bar to surpass. But the weather was far from perfect.
Vintage 2017 was marred by just about every excessive weather characteristic possible. A warm March lead to premature bud break and winemakers fear of frost was realized when temperatures plummeted in April. Damage was widespread and by May, most producers knew they would be down 25-40% in terms of yield. Summer arrived early and temperatures spiked dramatically; routinely exceeding 100 degrees for weeks at a time. The drought was also persistent.
So was the vintage a washout? Hardly. Over the past decade as the Summers have gotten drier and hotter, winemakers and vineyard workers have become adept at matching nature’s challenges. A rainy year is far worse than the trials 2017 brought. However, the character of the vintage is present in the wines.
Brunello di Montalcino 2017
Between Benvenuto Brunello last year, my recent Rustic Tuscany Tour and the wines submitted for this report, I have tasted dozens of 2017 Brunello. As you might expect, the style of the wines vary but overall the character of the vintage shines through. Generally speaking, the 2017s are fruity and forward with pleasing cherry and berry flavors. They lack the structure of better vintages and are ready to be enjoyed right now. Some are overdone; and you will see that as this report unfolds.
Brunello is life at Baricci and life is provided by the land. It’s that simple and that philosophy translates to the production of the family’s wines. 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.
Today, the Baricci farm is a mere 5 hectares and lies on the northern slopes of Montalcino. It’s universally recognized to be some of the best terroir in appellation for growing Brunello.
2017 Baricci Brunello: Classic medium ruby color clear through to the rim. Beautiful berry, vanilla and soft spices on the nose. Wonderfully classic Sangiovese flavors on the palate. Juicy, ripe crushed cherry and wild berry sit center stage. Tobacco and rosemary also blend in. Lively, with nary a trace of over ripeness from the vintage. The 15% ABV is seamlessly integrated. Balanced so well, it drinks amazing now but should cellar effortlessly for the next 5-7 years. Approachable, with a long, juicy fennel tinged finish. A lovely effort. 95 points. Find this wine & Support Tuscan Vines.
In June of last year, Il Palazzone was sold to Peter and Kirsten Kerns. Although they have taken some steps to make changes to the winery, the current run of vintages coming to market were produced prior to their tenure.
2017 Il Palazzone Brunello: Medium ruby color with a classic iodine ring at the rim. You can almost see right through the wine. This is immediately aromatic from the bottle. Aromas of wild berry, fresh flowers and sandalwood are attractive. Light to medium bodied on the palate with elegant, juicy berry fruit. This is more forward than it’s sibling 2016. Rosemary, dusty minerality and fresh tobacco leaf are interesting. Long, fresh finish. This is ready now and well balanced. 89 points. Available Direct.
Riccardo Campinoti enjoys some of the highest vineyards in the Brunello zone. Like many producers, his vineyards are spread throughout different areas across the Brunello denomination. In this sense, Le Ragnaie’s Brunello embodies the terroir of the full zone with each vintage. The Campinoti’s farm organically and produce wines from vineyards that are almost 40 years of age.
2017 Le Ragnaie Brunello: Super elegant. Very light tannins make this very approchable. Graceful. Sandalwood, raspberry, cherry and new leather on the nose and palate. This is completely ready to drink. 92 points. Find this wine & Support Tuscan Vines.
Pietroso is a 5 hectare estate on the balcony of Montalcino Centro. The farm is a mere 500 meters from the center of town. Owned and run by Gianni Pignattai, the family crafts Rosso and Brunello from their 5 hectares. There is also 1 hectare of olive trees.
2017 Pietroso Brunello: This is a classic medium ruby in the glass; grande botte color with amber highlights. V ery attractive aromas of ripe cherry, wild berry, fresh fennel, eucalyptus and sandalwood are really great and complex. Juicy ripe cherry dominates the palate with hints of char, cake spices and gentle earth tones. The key here is the juicy, sapid, mouthwatering nature of this wine. It’s just delicious. Drink now and over the next 5 years. 95 points. Find this wine.
Poggio Landi is the Brunello estate of the Vagliagli based Dievole. The estate stretches over 75 hectares which are scattered throughout the zone. The patchwork begins near the historic center of Montalcino and dots the denomination through the southern part of the zone. This provides Poggio Landi with a varied terroir as soil, altitudes and exposure vary across their vineyards. As a result, they can generally manage the effects of weather extremes rather well.
2017 Poggio Landi Brunello: This is a bright ruby. Shy at first on the nose but with aeration, pretty cherry, sandalwood and cured meats poke through. Fairly monolithic on the palate with warm cherry compote and sour cherries. Drying tannins clamp down early on the finish which is warm with bourbon like notes. I loved the 2016 from Poggio Landi but for this wine, the vintage won. 87 points. Find this wine.
Castello Banfi is up to some exciting things. Last year, they debuted their new single vineyard Brunello Marruccheto. This year, on my recent Rustic Tuscany Tour, we learned of some potential future wines in the works.
2017 Castello Banfi Estate Brunello: The estate wine is a gorgeous deep ruby color which fades to the slightest of burnt sienna at the rim of the bowl. Generous aromas of crushed raspberry, sandalwood, soft vanilla notes and hints of nuts are attractive. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with crushed cherry, toasted nut and iron notes behind medium weight tannins. Remains fresh and balanced on the finish. A solid effort in a difficult year. 90 points. Find this wine & Support Tuscan Vines.
The next wine surprised me a little bit. When I tasted it originally at Benvenuto Brunello, it did not impress. But this is exactly the hazards inherent of situational tasting and minute pours without food. It’s also an illustration as to why my business model for tasting is superior and unique.
CampoGiovanni is San Felice’s Brunello Estate. The property covers 65 hectares on the south-western side of the municipality of Montalcino. The estate is divided into different zones, comprising three different soil types. The vineyards are exposed to the south west, though relatively flat in exposition. 23 hectares are used for Brunello.
2017 CampoGiovanni Brunello: Medium garnet in the glass. Black plums, toasted oak, tobacco and spices on both the nose and palate are very assertive. This is very fruit forward and almost monolithically fruit driven. Modern take, Napa-esque. Still, it isn’t displaying the out of balance “hot” notes that it showed at Benvenuto. If you like this style, ok. But this is maybe not the best value. 90 points. Find this wine.
We had the following wines with dinners or lunches on my recent Rustic Tuscany Tour. Of course, the food was always equal to the task for the wines and perfectly matched.
Approximately 10 miles south of Montalcino, near the tiny hamlet of Sant’ Angelo in Colle, lies the pristine estate of Tenuta Il Poggione. Since 1964, the estate has been under the direction of the Franceschi family and the watchful winemaking eye of Alessandro Bindocci.
Tenuta Il Poggione covers a total of 530 hectares of which a total of 140 hectares are planted with vineyards. It is one of the largest estates in Montalcino. Il Poggione’s vineyards benefit from a wide range in elevation. The lowest lying vineyards are 500 feet above sea level while the highest rises just short of 1,500. As a result, Bindocci enjoys great flexibility in ripening and harvesting that few producers possess. They will be a stop on next October’s Rustic Tuscany Tour!
2017 Il Poggione Brunello: Medium ruby. Brilliantly fresh on the nose with crushed cherry, baking spices and leaf tobacco. On the palate, this is smooth and ready to drink. Fresh cherry, fresh herbs and sandalwood are pretty. Earthy notes get picked up by the fried porcini and pinci with porcini. Consumed less than a kilometer from where it was grown. It can’t get any fresher. From Enoteca di Piazza with my Coupon Code, this is a steal. In the US, it’s often a bit pricey. 92 points. Find this wine.
Since 1992, the team at Mastrojanni has consisted of two dynamic men each at the top of their respective fields; Andrea Machetti and Maurizio Castelli. Andrea possesses an almost symbiotic relationship with the estate that extends from the barrel aging cellar to the individual vines. Whether it’s replacing barrels, planing them, pruning the plants or nurturing the grapes to optimal ripeness, his sense of precision is almost uncanny. Soft spoken, he goes about his ways with quiet confidence.
Maurizio is described as “the doctor”. Although he firmly believes in letting the site and each vintage determine how the wine speaks, Maurizio is a non-interventionist at his core, he remains prepared during the winemaking process to ensure that no “colds” or “infections” damage the wine along its journey. The pair are formidable.
2017 Mastrojanni Brunello: Deep garnet in the glass. This is a perfumed Brunello; ripe cherry, hazelnut and sweet tobacco are potent on the nose. In the mouth, this is gorgeous. Viscous, ripe and fresh with cherry, iron, tobacco and licorice notes – it stays elegant across the palate. Paired incredibly well with the Fiorentina; seemingly becoming even more elegant with the meat. 94 points. Find this wine.
Casanova di Neri is just fifty years old. It’s amazing that in such a short period of time, Giacomo Neri has created one of the best wineries in Montalcino.
Crafting premium Sangiovese was always a dream of Neri’s. As a result, when a small parcel of land North East of Montalcino became available in 1971, Neri seized the moment. Many laughed at the newcomer. The plot he bought was too cool they snorted and would therefore be unable to attain complete ripeness. Realizing and accepting this, Giacomo reckoned that drastically lowering his yields would lead to excellent quality. Over the years, climate change ironically has benefited the location. The vineyard in question that was too cool for ripening? Cerretalto!
2017 Casanova di Neri Brunello: This is a deep ruby to garnet in the glass. From the nose, you can sense the ripeness of the wine and the vintage. Cherry, licorice and whiffs of alcohol linger in the bowl. It’s fresher on the palate with sapid herb notes to the wild cherry, roasted coffee bean and mineral profile. The bottle we enjoyed with lunch at Boccon di Vino showed much better than the bottle tasted blind at Avignonesi (without food). Drink sooner rather than later but this is more of a ripe bruiser than an elegant red. And it’s not getting any cheaper…. 90 points. Find this wine.
That will put a wrap on Part 1. If you take away one thing from this initial installment, its that Brunello 2017 do not need to be aged and frankly, I’m not sure aging will benefit them. The wines in this report, especially the ones consumed in Italy, were accessible, mostly elegant and wonderfully paired with local cuisine. That should surprise no one reading this; yet it bears mentioning.
Throughout the Autumn and Winter, there will be additional parts in this series, as always. So stay tuned.