Every year in the early winter, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino presents a tasting of Brunello called Benvenuto Brunello USA. I typically attend the one held in NYC.
This year because of the pandemic the event was cancelled. The Consorzio instead organized Zoom events and In March of 2021 there was a tasting of over 60 Brunellos from the 2016 vintage and a few reverses from the 2015. A second Zoom event was held in April with 12 wines. Both events were held at restaurant Il Gattopardo in NYC.
This year the events are called Finally Brunello! I will attend another Brunello tasting with the Wine Media Guild again at Il Gattopardo later in May.
The production area for Brunello is the commune territory of Montalcino. The grape variety is Sangiovese 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. All Brunello is DOCG.
In my experience Brunello needs to age at least 10 years before (even in a not so great a year) I would even think of drinking it. Brunello improves greatly with age. If you want to drink something “approachable” and ready to drink young, then drink a Rosso di Montalcino because that was why they were produced.
2015 was a exceptional vintage in Brunello and was awarded 5 stars, the highest rating from the Consorzio. But many wine writers, like Kerin O’Keefe, believe 2016 was a better vintage.
Editor Kerin O’Keefe reviews all Italian wines for the Wine Enthusiast and is the author of Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines. I know Kerin for a number of years and have great respect for her knowledge of Italian wine.
The following is summarized from her article, Brunello 2016 Report: Finesse, Longevity and the Elephant in the Room.
Kerin feels that even though the 2015 got very high marks, 2016 is far superior. They are even better than the highly acclaimed 2010’s and in line with the classic vintages like 2004 and 2001. She says, “For the most part, 2016 is a Brunello lover’s dream, full of vibrant structured wines with elegance, energy and longevity.” Kerin points out that “It is difficult to generalize vintages in Montalcino.”
However …”2016 was a great year throughout the denomination. She tasted over 200 wines and found about 10% listed the alcohol at 15% to 15.5% and in actuality it may have been higher. This is to me a low percentage and what she referred to as “the elephant in the room.” She also gave Il Marroneto Madonna della Grazie, my favorite Brunello, 100 points and gave two other wines 100 points.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Collemattoni made from 100% Sangiovese. The winery is located on a hill on the south side of the municipality of Montalcino. The less then 2 hectare Collemattoni vineyard is at Sant’Angero at 420 meters. There are 4,500 plants per hectare. The soil is sandy clay with fossils and marl. Removal of grape stalks takes place followed by a soft pressing and then fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration on the skins for 20/25 days with exacting technique made with delestage once a week and pumping over decreasing along the process. Aging is for a minimum of 30 months is Slavonian oak barrels of 32HL. Afterward the wine is in bottle for four months before release. This is an elegant wine with hints of black fruit, black cherry, a touch of cedar and a note of spice.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 La Fiorita location Castelnuovo dell’Abate, made from 100% Sangiovese from Poggio al Sole south exposure with tufo, clay soil at 220 meters, Plan Bossolini southeast exposure with galestro at 360 meters and Giardinello south exposure with sandy clay soil at 250 meters 7 hectares in all. There are 7,000 plants per hectare and the training system is spurred cordon. They follow organic agriculture practices. Harvest September 28th (PS), October 6th (PB) and October 14th (G). Fermentation is in Slavonian oak casks with pumping over and delestage for 20 days with selected yeast. The wine ages in French oak barrels of 26 and 37 HL for 24 months, in steel for 4 months and 18 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of cherry, leather, raspberry, with a hint of licorice and a note of tobacco. This may be the best Brunello they have made.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 La Mannella Cortonesi made from 100% Sangiovese from vineyards north and south-east of Montalcino. The soil is clay and sandstone. The training system is spurred cordon. The wine is aged for about 36 months in 30 HL Slavonian oak barrels and 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has intense aromas of red fruit with hints of blackberry, leather, cedar and a touch of bitter almond. It has a along lingering finish.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Il Poggione near Sant’Angelo in Colle. The altitude of the vineyards is 492 to 1,475 ft. and it is mixed soil with a lot of rocks. The vines are estate grown and are at least 20 years old. Alcoholic fermentation takes place with the submerged cap technique for 15 to 20 days. The wine spends 3 years in 50 HL French oak barrels and in bottle for 12 months before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting. It is classic traditional Brunello and will last for at least 20 more years. At $85 it was the most expensive but in my opinion worth the money.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Progetto “PRIME DONNE” Donatella Cinelli Colombini located in Casato facing Montalcino made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The 20-year-old vines are at 225 meters with a south-southeast exposure. The soil is Pliocene (sedimentary rock) and clay. Vinification is for 15 days with pumping over and delestages. Aging is in 5 to 7 Hl barrels, French oak for the first year and the remaineder of the time in 15 to 40 Hl barrels. The winery is organic certified (2018). The wine has hints of red berries, cherry, herbs, cedar and a touch of violets. Only women are involved in the production of this wine. This Brunello always shows very well and is a pleasure to drink
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Fattoria dei Barbi 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 when I was 40 years of age. It might have been the 1971 vintage. The current vintage can be drunk over the next 15 to 50 years.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Il Palazzone made from Sangiovese Grosso from 3 different vineyards in very different areas of Montalcino. They are located on the northwest slopes of Montalcino, less than 1km from the town center. The training system is balanced single spur cordon. Harvest by hand is usually the first week of October. There is a long maceration with frequent pumpovers. Fermentation is in 50HL wood cask. Traditional basket press is used. The wine is aged in large Slavonian casks. The wine has hints if ripe cherry, dark berries with balsamic notes and an undertone of violets. It has a very long finish. It is one of my favorites.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Collosorbo, South of Castelnuovo Del Abate. The soil is a medium texture. The harvest is by hand and then there is a sorting of the grapes, also by hand. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled and there is a testing of the wine twice a day before racking. The wine is aged for 36 months in medium and large French and Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for at least 6 months before release.
Brunello di Montlacino Ridolfi 2015-Northeast of Montalcino This was the producer with the smallest production – only 4,900 bottles. The soil is clay and sand with many large stones and the altitude if the vineyard is 300 meters. The training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in truncated-conical oak vats and in temperature controlled steel vats. Maceration time depends on the vintage and can last up to 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels observing the Montalcino tradition. The wine has very nice fruit with tart wild berry aromas and flavors, a hint of black cherry and a touch of spice.
Brunello di Montalcino 2016 Talenti-In the south by Sant’Angelo in Colle. The soil is clay and very stony. Temperature controlled fermentation for 20 days in steel tanks with daily pumpover. The wine is aged for 30 months in 60% Slavonia oak barrels and 40% Allier Tonneaux. The wine has red berry aromas and flavors with hints of bright cherry, raspberry, spice and a touch of tobacco.