Montalcino is on a roll with the release of the 2016 vintage. As I documented in Part 1 of my 2016 Brunello Coverage, it’s been almost 15 years since the Commune has seen two successive vintages of such wonderful success. Although the 2016s are fully released, many shops still have 2015s available. Take advantage. These two vintages will provide wonderful drinking for a decade and beyond. With the next two vintages to be released being a significant step down in quality, the time to buy is now. As a reminder, most, if not all of these wines will be available from Enoteca di Piazza in Montalcino and with my Coupon Code, you will save 10%. No limits, no minimums, no exceptions.
Let’s get to it.
I Vini di Brunello
The Fanti estate covers about 300 hectares of which 52 are planted to vines. Located in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, the family’s vineyards are rich in Galestro, a shale like soil deposit gentle enough to be snapped with your fingers. This adds wonderful minerality to their Brunello and imparts a powdery characteristic that I love. While I adored the 2015 version of the following wine, I am not as excited for the 2016.
The 2016 Tenuta Fanti Brunello is a medium violet in the glass. Essential aromas of cherry and raspberry give way to sandalwood and soft spices. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with well integrated tannins that turn powdery on the finish. Bright, juicy cherry flavors are accented with toasted spice and soft tobacco notes. A solid wine with no especially exciting features. However, a good value at the price point. 90 points. About $39. Find this wine.
The Madonna Nera farm lies near the ancient Abbey of Sant’Antimo. The small farm extends over just 6 hectares, only two of which are devoted to Brunello production. The manicured vineyards are surrounded by roses, lavender and myrtle and the impact of these ornamentals is felt in the wine.
The 2016 Madonna Nera Brunello is a medium violet in color throughout. The aromas rise effortlessly from the glass and include bright crushed berry, fresh flowers, Tuscan herbs and hints of fennel. On the palate this is super fresh and vibrant. Wild crushed cherry is juicy and mouthwatering while complexity is added by fresh crushed herbs and sweet pipe tobacco. So lively. Really wonderful. 95 points. Find this wine.
Tenute Silvio Nardi’s three estates, Casale del Bosco, Manachiara and Bibbiano, are comprised of 36 individual vineyard plots that are situated to the east and west of the town of Montalcino, at elevations ranging from 800 to 1,300 feet. Some of the vines located on the Manachiara estate are among the oldest in the region, now approaching 50 years of age. Nardi is a classic producer of “old school” Brunello. Since the early 1990s the estate has been run by Silvio’s daughter Emilia who has quietly become one of the DOCGs most respected women. The wines have improved greatly during Emilia’s tenure and the future seems bright for Nardi.
The 2016 Tenuta Silvio Nardi Brunello is a deep, vibrant ruby color. Bright cherry fruit is prevalent on the nose which evolves to dried herb and dried tobacco leaves. Very masculine in the mouth with full bodied cherry, loads of tannins and accents of mineral and iron. Really brawny and “grippy”. This needs 5 years in the cellar at least or along decant with some bold, flavorful food. Think osso bucco, short ribs ora thick Fiorentina. A Brunello for winter whose best days lie far ahead. 93 points. Find this wine.
While the Castello Banfi Estate Brunello is always reliable, it rarely rises to the heights or complexities of its sibling; Poggio alle Mura. Generally, Poggio alle Mura is a wine I like to cellar. It’s often very tight and even austere in its youth but it clearly cellars to a wonderful expression of Brunello.
The 2016 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura is a brilliant deep ruby color. Deep cherry aromas combine with spice, flowers, worn leather and dusty earth. On the palate, ripe and concentrated black cherry flavors are full bodied and mouthwatering. The focused energy continues with bright acidity, cigar tobacco, fennel and espresso bean. Really attractive. Long finish. Approachable now with air but should be dynamite in a decade. 97 points. Find this wine.
La Magia was founded in 1976 by the Schwarz family who farm their 15 hectares that lie on sloping hillsides 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. Since 2008, La Magia is certified organic and the estate is also fully sustainable using solar panels to generate electricity sufficient for its needs.
The 2016 La Magia Estate Brunello is a brilliant, deep ruby color. The aromas are effusive straight from the bottle. I used about a 60 minute “slow O”, no decant. Vibrant crushed berry, roses, spices and tobacco mark the exuberant nose. Lovely long legs on the glass. Full bodied on the palate with silky tannins. Juicy, mouthwatering cherry fruit is sapid with red licorice, cigar leaf tobacco and dusty minerality. A little bit of grip on the back side should subside with 1-2 years in the cellar. Along with Ciliegio these are the best wines I’ve ever tasted from La Magia. Bravo! 95 points. Find this wine.
Riccardo Campinoti enjoys some of the highest vineyards in the Brunello zone. Like many producers, Il Palazzone comes to mind, 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.
The 2016 Le Ragnaie Brunello is a clear light to medium ruby. It’s a textbook color of a big barrel only wine. Don’t mistake the light color for light body. Lots of bright berry and floral notes mark the nose. With air the Brunello adds sandalwood and toasted chestnuts. Bright and cheery on the palate with juicy crushed red fruits and hints of tobacco. Toasted nuts and spices kick in on the finish which is fruit forward but unsurprisingly shortened by the tannins. Still, this is delicious and a wonderful estate Brunello in the classic style. 94 points. Find this wine.
In 1998, after a contentious familial split, Donatella Cinelli Colombini left her family’s estate to start her own endeavor. As part of the agreement, she emerged with the Casato Estate in Montalcino. Along with the vineyards, cellars and farmhouses needing renovation, Donatella received a quantity of Brunello di Montalcino and required a cellar master to oversee its barrel aging.
She called the Oenology school in Siena asking for a recommended student to hire. She was told that none were available and that these needed to be arranged years in advance. However, they mentioned that they had several female cellar masters available since no important winery in Italy wanted to employ them. The Prime Donne project was born!
The 2016 Brunello Prime Donne is always great. The flavors and aromas are frankly, exuberant. Loads of fruit, really ripe & forward but structured too. Lots of tobacco, flowers and spices on the nose with black cherry and berry on the palate. Ironically, masculine and built to age. Hints of chocolate too on the finish. Tannins clamp down on the finish shortening the experience for now but man is this good. 96 points. But it’s getting pricey. Find this wine.
Since 1100, the Castelgiocondo fortress has remained an ancient stronghold guarding the road from the sea to Siena. Owned by the Frescobaldi family, the estate is one of the original Brunello producers since the early 1800’s. One of the largest producers of Brunello in terms of land area, the Castelgiocondo estate vineyards sit between 300-400 meters above sea level.
The 2016 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino is a dark plum color throughout with a classic iodine rim at the edge of the bowl. The estate sits in the southern part of the Montalcino area and the riper, southern style is reflected in the wine. After being open for 30 minutes or so, the boisterous nose of plums, berries, mocha leather and spice is complex. Balanced well. On the palate, the huge fruit comes through but stays fresh. Concentrated, with juicy acidity and a solid wall of tannin. Decant now or give 5 years. Rather masculine in style but great with larger framed meals. 95 points. Price varies widely on this one so shop around. Find this wine.
I have to admit, I have almost universally loved the wines I have tasted from this next producer. They are brooding, masculine Brunello that are not for the faint of heart. The 2010 was a benchmark, but the 2015 was no second fiddle. From 4 small hectares, the Marchetti family farm Fossacolle. A relative new comer in Brunello, the family’s first vintage release was 1997.
The 2016 Fossacolle Brunello is a deep, medium ruby. Gorgeous legs. Loads of crushed berry, flowers, spice and chestnut on the nose. Really elegant on the palate which is somewhat counter to the Fossacolle style of large scaled wines. But they nailed this vintage. Juicy and fresh on the palate with loads of sweet, ripe berry fruit, mouthwatering sour cherry, cigar tobacco, sweet fennel and leather. Grippy tannins give structure but don’t obscure the finish. Love this Brunello. The team at Fossacolle pivoted slightly on their style by understanding the nature of the vintage. Bravo! 97 points. Find this wine.
The Corte Pavone Estate sprawls for a modest 19 hectares within sight of Montalcino. Proprietor Hayo Loacker, who hails from South Tyrol in northern Italy, has identified 7 dynamic and distinctive vineyard plots on his estate from which they craft three exciting Biodynamic 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. All 3 Cru’s including the Estate Brunello will be featured in this year’s coverage.
The 2016 Corte Pavone Brunello “Campo Marzio” is a beautiful deep violet color. Immediately you are struck by the floral nature of the wine. Roses, iris, lily all seem present and perfumed. It’s almost as if the crushed cherry aromas lurk in the background. Complex on the palate with black plum and cherry interwoven with dark chocolate, fresh fennel and roasted hazelnut. Cured meats appear on the finish. Masculine and tannic, but all in balance. This will likely evolve very well over the next decade. This is the most masculine of the Cru wines and comes from the oldest vineyard which was a former “War Field” the Romans used to prepare for battle. 94 points.
That wraps up Part 2 of Brunello 2016, but there is much more coming. As I taste, snippets will be available via Twitter and my Newsletter in advance of appearing on the website. So follow along or subscribe if you want the information first.