~ The caves, niches and nooks underneath the villa at Argiano are extensive and impressive ~

It was June 2019 and I was piloting my Audi A3 down a dusty “road” in search of Cantina Baricci.  It was fairly hot and humid and it hadn’t rained in several days.  The cars in front of me were kicking up so much dust that I was relieved when I found the turn off for Baricci.  I still remember the discussion that day with Francesco Buffi, winemaker and owner of Baricci.  He was concerned.  With an almost dismissive wave of his hand, Francesco seemed to be chastising the recent weather of the past few vintages.

“Giovanni, it seems to be something different every year. Too hot, too dry, too wet, too cold, too much rain, no rain….. I feel a sense of angst almost. I feel uneasy, as if we may never have a “normal” vintage again. This year we had the coldest, wettest May ever in Tuscany. Ever! And now with this heat and humidity; the air lacks freshness. This is the weather of late July, not early summer.”  (little did he know then of last year’s May)

It was a sentiment that I’d hear repeated time and again from numerous winemakers. 2019 did not begin as a slam dunk.  In fact, some of the pictures in the early part of my Harvest Report article were downright frightening.  But as the growing season progressed, the weather moderated dramatically and although for some the damage was done, overall – producers were very excited.


~ Baricci’s vineyards with Montalcino rising on the hill in the background ~

So where did we end up?  Well, during the Rustic Tuscany Tour last Fall,  we were able to sample several 2019s from bottle and even barrel.  The excitement across the faces of many winemakers was unmistakable. They were thrilled!  And they made no effort to hide it.  Yes, it’s easy to find an excellent Brunello from 2019.  But the vintage was not universally successful.  It was not a slam dunk and it shows in the some of the wines.  So let’s get to it!


~ Lunch at Tenuta Fanti – Elisa pouring what was to become Brunello Vallochio 2019 ~

Assaggio di Brunello – 2019

Tenuta Fanti lies alongside the SP 55 immediately across from the famed Abbey of Sant’Antimo.  It’s vineyards, grounds and reception area are gorgeous and they are only enhanced by the view of the Abbey.  I am wary in such a setting; for things “always taste better in Italy” but that is simply not the case with Vallocchio.

The 2019 Tenuta Fanti Brunello Vallocchio is a Cru; a selection of the best parcels from three distinct vineyards.  It’s a deep ruby in the glass with a faint fade to burnt sienna at the rim of the bowl. Immediately the aromatics soar from the glass.  Freshly cut flowers, crushed wild berry, baking spices, and fresh cigar tobacco leaf are potent and wonderful.  On the palate, the wine is fresh and juicy – almost succulent with loads of ripe berry that are mouthwatering.  Crisp, lively notes of powdered mineral, baking spices and tobacco leaf add complexity.  Tannins, acid and fruit are in wonderful balance.  I’ve enjoyed this wine 1/2 times or more already.  It was great in Tuscany.  It was great at Benvenuto Brunello and it was great in my home.  97 points.  Find this wine & save 10% with my Coupon Code “FODERA” at Enoteca di Piazza.


~ Vallocchio is simply a must purchase ~

Collemattoni is the next door neighbor of Talenti.  In fact, they are so close, only a wooden fence and a very friendly dog separate the two properties.  As a result, it’s no surprise that the wines share similar characteristics of terroir.  And that, is a good thing.

The 2019 Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino is a deep ruby with a classic looking copper rim at the edge of the bowl.  It’s fresh as daisies on the nose.  Red flowers, fresh herbs and ripe, wild cherry aromas are interesting.  Flavors echo the nose and are lithe, juicy and concentrated.  The tannins are full of powdery mineral notes and intricately interwoven.  This is just gorgeous and you have no sense at all of the 15% abv.  95 points.  Find this wine & save 10% with my Coupon Code “FODERA” at Enoteca di Piazza.


~ Collemattoni made an amazingly fresh, well balanced Brunello in 2019 ~

Casanova di Neri is routinely one of my favorite producers.  I’ve known Giacomo Neri for a long time and we visited his cantina a few years back.   The estate lies on the northern side of the Montalcino hill, but is generally at lower altitudes.  Neri’s vineyards are spread throughout the zone, but the fruit for the “Etichetta Bianca” Brunello comes from the vineyards nearest the farm.

The 2019 Casanova di Neri Brunello is dark garnet through and through.  On the nose, the concentration is impressive. This is meaty and bold.  Black cherry and plum aromas sit center stage and are joined by chestnut, vanilla and toasted spices.  On the palate, this is rich, ripe and concentrated.   This is a Brunello for meat lovers. And dare I say, the American palate.  The acidity is a bit low and the fruit flavors struggle to show freshness alongside the slightly overripe profile.  This is 15% just like the Collemattoni and Fanti.  But the style could not be any more different.

While this showing won’t stop me from enjoying my remaining bottles, I do have to wonder about the value.  91 points. Find this wine & save 10% with my Coupon Code “FODERA” at Enoteca di Piazza or Find this wine


~ Neri’s white label Brunello borders on overdone ~

During the Rustic Tuscany Tour 2023, we paid a visit to the gorgeous property of La Magia.   Winemaker Fabian Schwarz has an oasis high atop the Tuscan hills overlooking the Abbey of Sant’Antimo.  Even on the warm Autumn day, the winds atop the ridge were fresh and constant.

La Magia was founded in 1976 by the Schwarz family and the estate consists of 15 hectares that are certified organic since 2008.  Many of the vines are 40+ years old.


~ Olive groves and vineyards on the La Magia Estate. In the valley below is Castelnuovo dell’Abate ~


~ Winemaker Fabian Schwarz leading the Rustic Tuscany Group ~

The 2019 La Magia Brunello is a deep ruby in the glass.  Freshness is the key here on both nose and palate.  Cut roses, crushed cherry, fresh tobacco leaf and toasted spices mark the very intriguing nose.  On the palate, the wine is juicy and mouthwatering.  Ripe, sapid flavors of crushed berry, wild cherry, mocha, chestnut and stones are delicious and well balanced.  The tannins are powdery and seamlessly integrated. Lively.  This will age very well but it’s hard not to drink it now.  95 points.  Find this wine.

~ A very pretty Brunello from Fabian Schwarz ~

The Lisini farm covers 154 hectares near Sant’Angelo in Colle in the southern part of Montalcino. Originally focused on grains and exceptional extra virgin olive oil production, once the popularity of Brunello di Montalcino began to take hold, the focus of the Lisini family became premium wine production. Today, the estate is dominated by the Sienese tower that serves as the winery and business offices and which dates to the early 1300s. The heart of the estate is 20 hectares of vineyards devoted to Sangiovese Grosso.

The 2019 Lisini Brunello is a dark colored ruby almost trending to garnet.  This Brunello is a bit more masculine than some.  It’s got dark cherry, toasted tobacco and Christmas Cake spice notes on the nose. In the mouth, there’s a seamless melange of flavors.  Cherry, coffee grind, cured meat and fennel are prominent.  This is full bodied and although it’s a big wine, it’s nimble and fresh. There is nothing overdone here.  Lisini ages well.  Recently we opened a 2010 Magnum that was very young.  You can easily enjoy this over the next decade.  94 points.  Find this wine & save 10% with my Coupon Code “FODERA” at Enoteca di Piazza.

~ More masculine, more meaty than some – but this still retains amazing freshness ~

Fattoi is a very small farm.  Although the overall farm spans 70 hectares, only 9 are devoted to Sangiovese and they provide grapes for Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino.  I raved about the 2018 Fattoi with good reason and the 2019 is a worthy successor.  Still, in comparison, based on my initial tasting, it falls a bit short of its sibling.

The 2019 Fattoi Brunello is a bright red cherry color.  On the nose, the wine is slightly restrained until a few hours of air have passed.  Berry, new leather and spice notes are notable.  On the palate, this is rather ripe – so much so that I question the alcohol level.  Black cherry, cherry reduction, toasted spice and sweet ripe fennel mark the finish.  It is very close to overripe.  This was the initial impression.  After about 4 hours, and one bottle of Ciacci later,  the wine changed quite a bit.  The jury may still be out, but my gut tells me this won’t hit the heights of 2018. Yet, still an amazing value.  92 points.   Find this wine & save 10% with my Coupon Code “FODERA” at Enoteca di Piazza.

~ The 2019 is darker than the 2018 and it tastes that way ~

Brother and Sister proprietors Paolo and Lucia Bianchini c0-own the Ciacci Piccolomini estate.  Paolo’s son Alex helms the majority of the winemaking responsibilities.   The Pianrosso vineyard extends over 12 hectares and provides the fruit for this Brunello and the Brunello Riserva. Ciacci considers this their most representative wine.  I have to agree – it is a far step up from the Brunello with no such distinction.

The 2019 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello Pianrosso is a medium ruby with a slight fade to amber at the rim of the glass.  On the nose, the taster is greeted with ripe cherry, toasted spices and sweet, ripe fennel.   It hints at what the palate confirms.  In the mouth, this pushes the envelope between gorgeous and slightly overdone.  It’s not as full throttle as the Casanova, but it’s sitting on a knife edge. Ripe cherry sits center stage backed by dried tobacco, sweet herbs, vanilla and dusty spices.  As this aired, it also smoothed out and with food, the trend toward overripe wasn’t as noticeable.  This truly is very good, but it’s no bargain.  93 points.  Find this wine & save 10% with my Coupon Code “FODERA” at Enoteca di PIazza.


~ Uccelliera was carved out of the Ciacci Estate. The properties border each other yet it’s interesting to see how different they are ~

In 1978 proprietor Fabio Pellegrini was inspired by his passion for wine to convert his family farm to vineyards.  Today the Cerbaia estate is nestled on the ridge of the Montosoli hill and spans 12 tiny hectares.  However, only 4.5 are devoted to vines.  In 2014, Fabio’s daughter left her corporate finance job to devote herself to winemaking on the family farm.

~ Winemaker Elena Pellegrini ~

Cerbaia produces about 20,000 bottles of wine annually from vineyards that are approximately 28 years old.  Vinification takes place in stainless steel and aging is 36 months in Slavonian oak cask and 6 months in bottle prior to release.

The 2019 Cerbaia Brunello is a deep ruby to garnet in the glass.  It’s very shy on the nose and palate initially so decanting is recommended. After 60-90 minutes this sang beautifully.  Dark cherries, crushed flowers, tobacco and grilled meat on the nose are appealing.   On the palate, the wine is massive.  It’s one of the largest 19s I’ve tasted.  Bold flavors of crushed red cherry, turned earth, cured meat – this is masculine and meaty.  But it’s also fresh, lively and nimble.  It’s a little denser than many of the wines from Montosoli but I’m not disappointed.  93 points.  Find this wine & save 10% with my Coupon Code “FODERA” at Enoteca di Piazza.   It’s a steal at $46.


~ A power house of a Brunello ~

No one captures the spirit and essence that is Montsoli like Baricci.   For over 60 years the Buffi family have tended their tiny farm on the northern slope of Montalcino.  5 hectares is all it takes to make magic and the team, led by brothers Francesco and Federico are adept magicians.

The 2019 Baricci Brunello is a clear, medium ruby.  It was very shy on the nose at initial opening so we set it aside and came back to it an hour later.  That made a big difference.  Fresh flowers, crushed wild berry, hints of tobacco and dusty earth are compelling.  On the palate, this is fresh, lively and incredibly mouth watering.  Flavors of wild berry and cranberry are “snappy” and juicy.  Fresh, savory herbs like basil and tobacco leaf are interesting and the finish is dotted with sweet fennel.  Tannins are integrated well like many 2019s and so this is approachable now. But it will develop nicely with 5-7 years of bottle age.  The only downside here is the price which is just over $90. But luckily for my readers, it’s only $66 before my discount at Enoteca di Piazza.  95 points.

~ A classic Brunello from Montosoli ~

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 2019 Capanna Brunello “Nicco” is a deep violet color in the glass.  Fragrant, with flowers, sandalwood, vanilla and pipe tobacco in harmony.  On the palate, this is rich in fruit but retains its freshness.  Crushed berry flavors are sapid and mouthwatering but this spans an elegant frame.  Vanilla, and savory herbs dot the finish.  This is brighter than its 2017 sibling and equally as compelling. 94 points.   Not yet released.

~ The Nicco is a new Cru from Capanna since the 2017 vintage ~

So what are the takeaways from Part 1?

What’s interesting to me was how these wines behaved over the span of a few hours and with a meal.  During the Benvenuto Brunello tasting (over 6 months ago now) the wines showed excellent balance and approachability.  That is still the case – but make no mistake, the structure is there.  These are not soft or flabby wines.  But they were all enjoyable now.  At no point did I think,  “this is just massive or angry and needs cellaring.”  Once balanced, always balanced.

Secondly, the more wines you taste, the easier it is to realize that the vintage was not a slam dunk. There were a few odd wines that I tasted at Benvenuto and there are some wines in this Report that pushed the limits on (over) ripeness and alcohol levels.  Waiting as little as 2-3 days too long could have negatively impacted the freshness in the wine.  It was hot.  (Refer back to Francesco’s comments in the opening of this piece)   This is something you’ll want to monitor for your preferences as future parts of this coverage publish.  I sense this is especially true vineyards that lie at lower altitudes and in the southern part of the zone.

I have lots more 2019s to taste and will likely get more samples in over the next two months.  Heading into Rustic Tuscany 2024 we should have an excellent picture of this vintage.  Stay tuned!


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