Tasting the Exceptional 2015 Vintage of Brunello

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino presented Benvenuto Brunello USA 2020, its annual trade tasting in NYC. This year it showcased the 2015 vintage which has been awarded 5 stars, the highest rating from the Consorzio. The tasting featured Brunello di Montalcino wines from 40 producers. I always enjoy going to this event and having the opportunity to taste the wines and talk with the producers. I tasted 14 wines, all from the 2015 vintage.

The production area is the commune territory of Montalcino. The grape variety is Sangiovese, known as Brunello in the town and territory of Montalcino in Tuscany.

The wine must be aged 2 years in oak casks and 4 months in bottle or 6 for the Riserva. Bottling must take place in the production zone. The wine is available for sale from the 1st of January of the 5th year following the harvest (6th year for the Riserva). Brunello di Montalcino can only be sold in Bordeaux- type bottles.

In my experience Brunello needs to age at least 10 to15 years before (even in a not so great year) I would even think of drinking it. Brunello improves greatly with age. If you want a wine that is “approachable” and ready to drink young, then look for a Rosso di Montalcino because that was why they were produced.

The Wines

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Caparzo – the grapes come from three different vineyards located in different parts of the estate. There is a manual harvest. During the first two days after fermentation special attention is paid to the seeds, which are eliminated if they are not ripe enough. Primary fermentation is for 7 days at a controlled temperature and is followed by delestages and pump overs. The wine is kept in contact with the skins for 10 to 15 days. Malolactic fermentation is spontaneous, takes place at a controlled temperature and is immediately after racking. The wine is aged in wood for at least 2 years and at least 4 months in bottle. This is a complex wine with hints of wild berries.

Brunello Di Montalcino 2015 DOCG Uccelliera. Production area Castelnovo dell’Abate, southeast of Montalcino, vineyard extension is 15.5 acres at 820 ft. The soil is rich in minerals, medium textured sand and clay with some gravel. The grapes are selected, de-stemmed and crushed. The must is kept for 4 to 5 days at low temperatures. Later the temperature is raised and alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally for 15 days in stainless steel. At the same time, the must macerates on the skins for about 7 days. After drawing off, the wine is kept in steel, malolactic occurs and the wine is placed in Slovenian and French oak barrels for 36 months, then aged in bottle for another 18 months, before release. This wine was a little more international in style.

Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 Col D’Orcia. Made from a particular clone of Sangiovese selected by Col d’Orcia. The vineyard is at 300 meters in the hills overlooking the Orcia River with a south/southwest exposure, the soil is from the Eocene period in origin, loose, with little clay and rich in limestone. Fermentation is on the skins form18 to 20 days at a controlled temperature in 150 hl wide and shallow stainless steel tanks, designed in order to extract tannins and color efficiently but delicately. Aging is for 4 years: 3 years in 25, 50 and 75 hl Slavonic and Allier oak casks, followed by at least 12 months of refinement in bottle. Since 2013 Col D’Orcia is the largest wine-producing farm in Tuscany.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 Franco Pacenti”  made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The vineyards are at 300 meters and the exposure is north-east. The soil is medium clay with a low density of vines per hectare, divided into six plots with an average age of 25 years and the training system is spurred cordon. There is a strictly traditional vinification with prolonged maceration on the skins and long refinement in medium to large oak barrels. The wine has hints of cherries and mushrooms with a touch of spice and herbs.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2015 DOCG La Fiorita made from 100% Sangiovese from the 3.1 hectare Pian Bossolino vineyards at 350 meters. The exposure is south east, training system is spurred cordon and there are 7,000 plants per hectare and the soil is galestro. Harvest is at the beginning of October. Fermentation is Slavonian oak casks for 10 days with selected yeasts. During maceration, pumping over and delestage takes place. Type and capacity of aging casks: 12 months in new and second passage French oak; 12 months is Slavonian oak of 80Hl. Aging time: 24 months in wood, 6 months in steel and 30 months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with hints of red fruit, spice, balsam and a touch of tobacco and chocolate.

Brunello Di Montalcino 2015 DOCG Banfi 100% Sangiovese grown on hillside vineyards at 220 meters in stony, calcareous and well structured soil. There is a meticulous grape selection (yield not exceeding 6 metric tons/ha) is followed by vinification in temperature–controlled Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks, with skin contact for 10 to 20 days. The wine ages for two years in various sizes oak barrels, 305-liter barriques, 60 and 120 hl barrels; the wine is then aged in bottle for an additional 8 to 12 months. The wine is released 5 years after the harvest.

Bill Whiting of Banfi

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva “Poggio All’Oro” 2015 Banfi  100% Sangiovese, estate selection. The Poggio all’Oro vineyard is on the southern slopes of the Montalcino hillside at 250 mt. The wine is produced only in excellent vintages based on a meticulous selection of the harvested grapes. Temperature controlled vinification is in Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. Aged in barriques for 30 months, and at least 12 to 18 months in bottle. The wine is kept for a total of 6 years before release. This is a wine with notes of violet and hints of plum, jam and a touch of coffee.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 215 100% Sangiovese Mastrojanni. It is aged 3 years in Allier oak barrels of various sizes – 15, 33 and 54 hectoliters and then for 6/8 months in bottle. The wine has aromas and flavors of ripe black and red berries with a hint of spice and tobacco. The Iily Group now owns the winery.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 La Fortuna The average age of the vines is 20 to 30 years. Harvest takes place between September 20th to 30th. Type of fermentation is thermoconditioned and unleavened and lasts for 8 days. The wine remains on the skins for 25 days. Aging is for 40 months in 25HL Slavonian oak barrels. The wine remains in the bottle for 9 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, violet, plum and a touch of liquorice and a note of graphite. This is a traditional Brunello.

Brunello Di Montalcino 2015 DOC Silvio Nardi 100% Sangiovese Grosso from the Manachiara and Casale Estates. Soil composition is jasper and shale. Grapes come from various vineyards in the municipality of Montalcino with northwest/and south/east exposure at 350 meters. The yield is limited and only the top 70% of the hand-harvested grapes are used in this wine. The grapes were carefully hand picked and sorted. The wine is aged for 12 months in French Allier barriques and 12 months in large Slavonian oak botte. It remains in bottle for 6 months before release. This wine needs many more years in the bottle. There were aromas and flavors of red berries and a hint of leather.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Celestino Pecci The vineyard exposure is south/southwest and the vineyards are at 350 meters. The soil is of a mixed consistency with a slight tendency towards clay. The training system is spurred cordon and the harvest is by hand. The wine is aged in 10 and 35 HL wooden barrels for 36/40 months and 6 months in bottle before release.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Altesino. Traditional fermentation. The wine is aged for 4 years with a minimum of two years in barrel and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of wild berries, chocolate and tobacco with a touch of violets and vanilla.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Villa Poggio Salvi the exposure is South-West, the soil is Galestro (marl) and the vines are at 350 to 500 meters. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand the first week of October. There is a pre-maceration for 8 days at a controlled temperature in steel tanks with caps pushed down with automatic hydraulic system. The wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels of 30-60 to 100 liters for 30 months. The wine then remains in bottle for 4 months before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of red fruit, lavender and a touch of spice. This wine will age for 30 years or more.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Fattoria dei Barbi 100%  The soil is marl, alberese limestone and the vines are 15 to 20 years old and at 300 to 500 meters. The exposure is South and the training system is Cortina semplice and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest took place from September 28 to October 7th. Before fermentation the grapes were subjected to a cold fermentation maceration which consists in cooling the grapes at a temperature of 16C in an environment protected by COC. Alcoholic fermentation lasts 16/17 days at a controlled temperature. After racking and malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged in small to medium size oak barrels 2.5 to 15HL for the first months. It then spends two years in larger oak barrels and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of plum, blueberry with a touch of rhubarb and a note of spice.

I have a long history with this wine and drank it for the first time 40 years age. It might have been the 1971 vintage. The current vintage can be drunk over the next 15 to 50 years will last for 50 years.

Because of the regular and steady maturation of the grapes during the growing season, the 2015 vintage produced grapes with a perfect balance between sugar and acidity.

Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s and the world’s greatest wines. Brunello di Montalcino was among the eight Italian wine producing zones to be designated DOC in 1966 and in 1980 it became the first Italian wine to receive the DOCG. I have to agree that 2015 is an exceptional vintage.


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