Brunello di Montalcino: 50 years of DOC
It isn’t easy to choose what to highlight in a zone of well-known fame and talent, and with 127 wineries presenting their 2010 reserve wines and their 2011 Brunello labels. The tasting was particularly important because this edition, number 24, falls on the fiftieth anniversary of the recognition of the protected territorial denomination (the DOC) of Brunello di Montalcino. Over all, the vintage years proved to be valid. The tastings took place, as they have for some years, in the splendid Cloister Museo di Montalcino. The wines in the tasting are: Brunello di Montalcino 2011, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Rosso di Montalcino 2014 and 2013, Moscadello di Montalcino and various Sant’Antimo labels. We’ll tell you about those that struck us the most.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2011
This little winery belonging to Silverio Marchetti grew, step by step, after its founding in 1980. In 1997, he finally produced his first Brunello. Today his wife, daughters and grandchildren carry on his work. Two hectares of vineyard, planted in the Tavernelle zone in 1982, turn out a harmonious Brunello with a clean, wonderful note of red berries intertwined with hints of sweet tobacco. Tight tannins are balanced by soft, pulpy fruit. A promising discovery.
Armilla | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Tavernelle, 6 | tel. 0577 816012 | www.armillawine.com
We need wines like Barbi’s 2011 Brunello in a zone that is so frenetically concerned about international markets. An old style wine, in the best sense of the term, it plays with scents of dried flowers, roots, incense and a touch of plum that reminds us of the hot vintage year. The palate is significant: ripe but not placid, it is sustained by a vigorous tannin structure to a finish that is more austere than dry.
Fattoria dei Barbi | Montalcino (SI) | loc.Pordernovi, 170 | tel. 0577 841111 | www.fattoriadeibarbi.it
After receiving rave review from wine writers – Brunello fans have always unanimously appreciated Patrizio Cencioni’s wines – the Cencioni family has no intention of resting on its laurels. In the Brunello 2011, notes of ripe cherry, tobacco and licorice are elements in a complex and refined mosaic resting on an assertive tannic structure. A wine of great depth and length that should age for a long time in the cellar.
Capanna | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Capanna, 33 | tel. 0577 848298 | www.capannamontalcino.com
The Brunello made by Filippo Fanti and his daughter Elisa, who has been full time at the winery since 2007, represents an archetype of the sangiovese grown in the southeastern part of the Montalcino zone, the Castelnuovo dell’Abate area. It has ripe aromas of cherry and plum with hints of sweet spices and tobacco. In the mouth, a dense tannic texture and solid, correct acidity is balanced by the enveloping softness of alcohol that caresses the palate.
Tenuta Fanti | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Podere Palazzo, 14 | tel. 0577 835795 | www.tenutafanti.it
International critics have finally recognized the magic that often accompanies the Brunello of Il Marroneto, “the hidden treasure of the northern slope of Montalcino,” as described by revered wine writer, Luigi Veronelli. The Madonna delle Grazie cru is by now considered the star of the denomination, but in the tastings of 2011, in this phase we preferred the base wine: cherry, bergamot, spices, an edgy tannic charge, but with savory sweetness dictating the rhythm from the first to the last drop.
Il Marroneto | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Madonna delle Grazie, 307 | tel. 0577 849382 | www.ilmarroneto.com
This is exactly the type of 2011 Brunello that we hoped to find: sunny and juicy but also multi-faceted and vital, a sangiovese that above all reveals the interpretative know-how of Simonetta Valiani, Niccolò and Lorenzo Magnelli. A triumph of red fruit, a saline backdrop, hints of berries and resin, a touch of black olive, it joins an evident Mediterranean temperament with a rigorous, solid and sustained backbone. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t reveal, at least for now, the depth of the super version.
Le Chiuse | Montalcino (SI) | loc.Pullera, 228 | tel. 055 597052 | www.aziendaagricolalechiuse.it
Joyous, slender, empathetic, the 2011 version reflects both the special feeling between Brunello and Le Potazzine, and the hot and dry vintage year, more and more common in Montalcino recently. Behind reductive impact on the nose, generous fruit and the clarity of the balsamic and medicinal herb shading are evident, even more in the foreground on the first sip. They enliven the palate and escort it towards a slightly hurried finish, marked by a moderate yet slightly unbalanced tannic structure.
Le Potazzine | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Le Prata, 262 | tel. 0577 846168 | www.lepotazzine.it
Le Ragnaie | Brunello di Montalcino V.V.
Another masterful release from Le Ragnaie, along with a range of Brunello 2011 bottles. Among them, the complex and elegant V.V. shines by definition. The term Burgundy-like fits it perfectly, both for its aromatic tones (wild strawberry, oriental spices, woodsy essences), and for the long lines and penetrating flavors of the taste profile. A controversial vintage year is evident in the brusque tannin and a heated finish, but overall, the wine is decidedly a success.
Le Ragnaie | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Le Ragnaie | tel. 0577 848639 | www.leragnaie.com
Mastrojanni | Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto
Mastrojanni has gotten us accustomed once more to a standard that is simply impressive. The long-established winery today belongs to the Illy family and is headed by Andrea Machetti. They’ve done it again with Vigna Loreto 2011, a Brunello with a classic, airy nature and stony, thermal tones deepening luxuriant fruity aromas. If you must look for a fault, it could be the slightly less dense flavor, but the wine’s easy drinkability is unquestionable.
Mastrojanni | Montalcino (SI) | Castelnuovo dell'Abate | tel. 0577 835681 | www.mastrojanni.com
Canalicchio – Franco Pacenti
In a steamy vintage year like 2011, we expected to find among the best wines a sizeable number of Brunello labels from the northern slope of Montalcino. Not at all. Among the exceptions, is this one from Franco Pacenti – Canalicchio. Stylistically it is very recognizable for its unusual dialogue between youthful fruity tones (pomegranate and mandarin) and autumnal sensations of truffles and forest floor. Some tannic edginess doesn’t obstruct its pulpy and flavorful progression.
Canalicchio | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Canalicchio di Sopra, 6 | tel. 0577 84 92 77 | www.canalicchiofrancopacenti.it
“A Brunello di Montalcino in a southern key” sounds like a good definition of the Brunello labels from Claudio Monaci. His vineyards are planted on the red soil of the southernmost part of the Montalcino municipality, between Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Sant’Angelo, with an exposure towards Orcia and Monte Amiata. The wines have generous fragrances of plum jam and medicinal herbs, austere tannins and, above all, a striking savory vein.
Corte dei Venti | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Piancornello, 35 | tel. 0577 1698208 | www.lacortedeiventi.it
Agostina Pieri, with the help of her sons, Jacopo and Francesco Monaci, chose to produce Brunello in a modern style right from the start. In the most recent releases, however, the wines grew in harmony and finesse, with a more careful use of new oak. The 2011 Brunello, from the vineyards in Piancornello, stands out for the natural freshness of its nose (cherry, violets, tobacco) and for the amazing dynamism of flavor sensations.
Pieri Agostina | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Piancornello Sant'Angelo Scalo | www.pieriagostina.it
Since 1995, when Gianni Pignattai inherited the family winery, production has been limited only to Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino. Coming from three vineyards with different altitudes and microclimates, and from grapes worked in a straightforward manner, Brunello Pietroso offers a faithful expression of the territory. The 2011 is full of personality, with its complex aromas of cherry, licorice and damp soil on the nose and its impressive structure, good acidity and refined tannins on the palate.
Pietroso | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Pietroso, 257 | tel. 0577 848573 | www.pietroso.it
Poggio Antico | Brunello di Montalcino Altero
Faithful to its origin in vineyards growing on stony, calcareous soil at an average altitude of 450 meters, and to its history, the Brunello Altero made by the Gloder family expresses the most refined and elegant character of the Montalcino territory. On a base of ripe cherry, complex hints of sweet spices and tobacco emerge, along with the sweetness of tannins and underlying, measured acidity. This is a harmonious modern Brunello.
Poggio Antico | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Poggio Antico | tel. 0577 848044 | www.poggioantico.com
Poggio di Sotto
A reading of the vintage year in full Poggio di Sotto style is evident from the first tastes of the 2011 Brunello. Raspberry jelly, dried violets, ginseng, medicinal herbs: praiseworthy nuances are amplified by an ethereal touch that faithfully reappears in the intense and at the same time rigorous palate. Sweet fruit, tonic, refreshing, with only large-grain tannin to slow it down on the finish. It is a version worth keeping an eye on.
Colle Massari | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Poggio di Sotto | tel. 0573 2171003 | www.collemassari.it
Sanlorenzo | Brunello di Montalcino Bramante 2011
Bramante 2011 gives us another reason to love the Brunello made by Luciano Ciolfi. Its character is deeply Montalcino-esque, with the austere and Mediterranean accents of the southwestern area where it originates. Blueberries and sour cherries, Mediterranean brush and burned wood, its calling-card olfactory profile leads into a caressing palate at the start and a more demanding one on the finish. It seems, as usual, one of the wines that is lagging in its evolution, but also one of the most promising.
Sanlorenzo | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Podere Sanlorenzo, 280 | tel. 0577 832965 |sanlorenzomontalcino.it
Vasco Sassetti | Brunello di Montalcino 2011
In Castelnuovo dell’Abate, the Sassetti family has grown sangiovese vineyards since the beginning of the 20th century, but with Vasco Sassetti, the winery took a marked and irreversible turn towards top quality wines sold by the bottle. With the 2011 vintage, the fruity aromas take on a tone of cherry marmalade, and the alcohol, less discreet than usual, emphasizes the softness of the phase. Fortunately, a welcome savory note arrives to balance the long finish.
Sanlorenzo | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Podere Sanlorenzo, 280 | tel. 0577 832965 | sanlorenzomontalcino.it
The Castello di Argiano lies in the most southwestern part of the Montalcino municipality, where roe deer and wild boars are more common than human beings. The Sesti family has gotten us used to excellent reviews of its wine. After a somewhat open beginning, where medicinal herbs from the Mediterranean brush fill the nose, the Brunello 2011 gains great vitality. Juicy fullness, docile tannins and sapidity are the leitmotiv of the tasting.
Sesti | Montalcino (Si) | Castello di Argiano | tel. 0577 843921 | www.sestiwine.com
It’s certainly not an emerging winery, but Riccardo Talenti seems to have moved into a new dimension with Brunello 2011. This is a magnificent wine, without doubt one of the most enthralling and satisfying in this round. Fruit is light, generous and complex, but almost whispered in its stately aromatic pace. It changes gear on the palate into a sweet and saline, continuous, elegant mouthful- The tannin is severe, but drying only for a moment, there’s so much juice and energy. The finish opens out into mint and mulberry.
Talenti | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Pian di Conte | tel. 0577 844064 | www.talentimontalcino.it
Andrea Cortonesi’s wines are always controversial. Either you love them and accept their stylistic license, or their decisive, assertive character leaves you perplexed. The vineyards next to the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo reflect the minimal altitude and the great heat of the subzone. On the nose, aromas of tobacco, plum and cocoa have a southern accent. The wine has impressive structure, with tannins that are still rough but dense and progressive.
Uccelliera | Montalcino (SI) | Podere Uccelliera, 45 | tel. 0577 835729 |www.uccelliera-montalcino.it
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO RISERVA 2010
Le Chiuse di Sotto - Gianni Brunelli
The Brunello di Montalcino from Chiuse di Sotto, like many others, is the product of a blend of grapes. Maria Laura Vacca, just as her husband and founder of the winery, Gianni Brunelli, did, found the secret of harmony by blending the sangiovese from Podernovone (350 meters above sea level, facing Monte Amiata) with that from Chiuse (facing Val d’Orcia). The 2010 hides its studied power under an aromatic fruity and floral layer.
Le Chiuse di Sotto | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Podernovone, 157 | tel. 0577 849337 | www.giannibrunelli.it
Canalicchio di Sopra
Among many Brunello Riserva bottles that don’t seem to go beyond the search for more maturity and power, the one from Canalicchio di Sopra is regularly notable for its original character. The 2010 is no exception: humus, forest floor, sour cherry juice, it maintains both charm and depth thanks to a compact and vigorous palate. It is probably worth the trouble to wait for it for another five years. Its potential for a long life is a sure thing.
Canalicchio di Sopra | Montalcino (SI) | Podere Canalicchio di Sopra | tel.0577 848316 | www.canalicchiodisopra.com
The winery belonging to the Bartolommei family is one of the few in Montalcino that always shines with its Brunello Riserva. A new example appears with the 2010. It starts off slightly reduced and yeasty. Then the motor switches on: just-gathered currants and blackberries, incense, wax, plowed soil aromas. The palate also is typical of Montalcino to the core: juicy, flavorful, reactive, it only needs time to soften and harmonize the dense tannin.
Caprili | Montalcino (SI) | Podere Caprili, 268 | tel. 0577 84 85 66 | www.caprili.it
If this isn’t the best Riserva 2010 tasted at Benvenuto Brunello, it misses by very little. It is certainly the interpretation that best embodies the concept of ‘natural expressiveness’, something that too often is missing from this typology: a wine that’s free to unleash its energy, without losing in precision and balance. Iodine, earth, roots, and a vital nose that illuminates its double soul, rigorous biting and tasting tannin, joyfully juicy, citrusy fruit, almost salty.
Fattoi | Montalcino (SI) | Podere Capanna | tel. 0577 848613 | www.fattoi.it
Il Poggione | Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Paganelli Ris. 2010
We are happy to find a great classic of the southern slope of Montalcino, Vigna Paganelli Reiserva 2010 from Il Poggione, in such fine form. A vintage year that was cool overall conferred fruity integrity and a certain aromatic amplitude, with balsamic, spicy, and medicinal herb scents. The usual tannic density is present, but the texture is pulpy and tight, not drying, and allows the savory tonic tone to last for the entire mouthful.
Il Poggione | Montalcino (SI) | S. Angelo in Colle | tel. 0577 844029 | www.tenutailpoggione.it
A few years ago, the Zannoni family celebrated the hundredth anniversary of the purchase of Podere La Fortuna, northeast of the Montalcino center. Over the years, they added vineyards in Castelnuovo dell’Abate and reached the present-day 18 hectares. A deep knowledge of their own territory allows the Zannoni to offer a few bottles of Brunello di Montalcino Riserva in the best years. On the nose it reveals a contrast between fruity clarity and spicy sweetness, while on the palate, fresh acidity and mouth-filling tannins contribute to shaping its character.
La Fortuna | Montalcino (SI) | loc. La Fortuna, 83 | tel. 0577 848308 | www.tenutalafortuna.it
Lisini | Brunello di Montalcino Ugolaia 2010
Today the grandchildren of that extraordinary Montalcino personality Elina Lisini, manage this historic winery, located in the southern part of the municipality. The family has the good fortune to own, among the over 20 hectares of sangiovese vineyard, some of the oldest vines in the DOC, dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. Vigna Ugolaia is one. The 2010 offers all the warmth of its origin, with opulent fruity aromas refreshed by notes of tobacco, mint and damp soil. On the palate, extraordinary tactile fullness is balanced by tannins and acidity.
Lisini | Montalcino (SI) | Sant'Angelo in Colle | tel. 0577 844040 | www.lisini.com/
Podere Le Ripi | Brunello di Montalcino Lupi e Sirene Ris.
Francesco Illy, the heir to a dynasty of coffee entrepreneurs, has owned this magnificent estate near Monte Amiata since 1998. From the beginning, he interpreted his work courageously, planting vineyards at stunning densities and cultivating them according to natural and biodynamic principals. After 48 months of aging in large oak casks, the resulting wine is simply extraordinary. In a nose of great personality, the fruity character marries darker aromas of licorice and medicinal herbs. The mouth joins freshness and density, finishing savory and long.
Podere Le Ripi | Montalcino (SI) | tel. 0577 835641 | www.podereleripi.it
Tenuta di Sesta
The light, progressive style of the Brunello Riserva 2010 from Tenuta di Sesta won us over immediately. The nose is decidedly spring-like, with petals, berries both red and black, almost like a white wine, and with earthy and balsamic notes adding complexity. Freshness and a sense of proportions are also respected on the palate, sustained by vertical character and by saline energy, more than by volume.
Tenuta di Sesta | Montalcino (SI) | loc. Sesta | tel. 0577 835612 | www.tenutadisesta.it
Solaria | Brunello di Montalcino 123 Ris.
The winery was founded in the 1950s thanks to Giuseppe Cencioni, but the aim of producing quality wines came in 1989 with his granddaughter, Patrizia. The wines produced come from ten hectares of vineyard on a plateau about 300 meters above sea level in the southeast zone of Montalcino. The wine has a modern, but not too modern style, with an eye always to tradition as well. In the 2010 Riserva, notes of red fruit and licorice, enriched by sensations of leather on the nose. The mouth is deep and juicy, with a stern tannic texture that offers a long aristocratic finish.
Solaria | Montalcino (SI) | Podere Capanna, 102 | tel. 0577 849426 | www.solariacencioni.com
Uncork without concern
A good vintage year – uncork without concern. This could be the motto to frame the 2011 Montalcino harvest, presented officially to the press and trade operators on the occasion of Benvenuto Brunello – Edition 2016. It was a difficult year, which started off with the first part of the summer luminous and normal, without excesses. But in mid-August there was a long stretch of humid heat, high temperatures, little thermal excursion and frequent scirocco winds. The year’s climate is perceptible in a large series of wines that are aromatically open, with a Mediterranean feel, mainly focused on ripe fruit, spices, underbrush. After a delicious and welcoming flavor impact, more evident limits are noticeable on the development of the palate, marked by sensations of drying, even dehydration. These factors are due to a tannic weave that is often grainy, and to generous flashes of alcohol.
But what is lacking in harmony and depth is well-compensated for, in the best wines, by the appealingly sunny timbre and a compact, flavorful structure that works well with a wide range of pairings. It is a vintage year that the wine shop owners, restaurants and wine bar managers will like, a Brunello ideal for drinking by the glass, and probably worth enjoying in its youthful phase, or little more.
Great Expectations, some disappointments
The first look at the Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 is disappointing. Expectations were legitimately high, considering the brilliant performances of many of the regular versions of the year, described enthusiastically in the 2016 edition of Vini d’Italia. It may seem a contradiction, but it’s not. The stylistic limitations come forward in an evident way, more than the elements of the vintage year. For too long, in fact, the Riserva has been interpreted (and not only in Montalcino) as an ‘important wine’, but basically in a quantitative key. Therefore, more mature fruit, more power, more extractive, the contribution of the oak casks used in aging not always camouflaged. Wines that are drier, more than austere, lacking energy and drinkability, don’t add much to the respective base wines, physiological exceptions aside. Moreover, it is right and normal to take into account the prestige and cost of these wines, constantly increasing for at least five years and definitively exploding after the warm welcome given to the 2010 vintage, especially by Anglo-Saxon wine critics. Brunello is a globally famous brand. The cost of land, of grapes and bulk wines explain it better than any logical reconstruction can. This is also why we expect a further leap in quality in terms of interpretative sensibility for the more ambitious types, which would be, at least in theory, also those with the deepest roots in tradition.
By Paolo De Cristofaro and Gianni Fabrizio