A Brunello di Montalcino Vintage of Freshness and Finesse – Tasting the 2018 Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta New Releases…

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta is one of Angelo Gaja’s two Tuscan properties, on the site of an old church, Santa Restituta, which dates back to the 4th century. As is the family’s style, theirs is a fusion of modern and traditional winemaking. Gaja also owns land on the Buonconvento Northern side of Montalcino and some prestigious lands in the South, a stone’s throw from Sesti in Argiano. The Northern sites normally all go into the Brunello di Montalcino ‘normale’ with Sugarille and Rennina, located around the winery on the Southern side of the town, being bottled individually as Crus. These three Brunellos from one of the finest names in Italian wine are always impeccably crafted and full of character and finesse.

In 2019, Gaja bought a five-hectare vineyard in the southwestern area of Montalcino at a higher altitude of 400 meters above sea level in the area of Bolsignano, followed in 2020 by an additional five-hectare plot of land acquired near the so-called Passo del Lume Spento at 630 meters in elevation in an attempt to mitigate potential global warming problems in the future. Drinkers and critics alike look forward to seeing how these new parcels will be incorporated into the wine range and what changes they may make to the current wine style and quality.

For now, we get to enjoy the new releases from the 2018 vintage, which considering it was a warm and dry year in Montalcino, has produced wines noted for their freshness, bright fruits and textural finesse. The 2018 Gaja Brunello is made up from a selection of grapes from the Rennina and Sugarille vineyards that are blended with those from Torrenieri, in the northeastern area of Montalcino. While the soil in Rennina and Sugarille is clay-calcareous with high amounts of galestro (the rocky, schistous clay soil), the ground in Torrenieri is a mixture of clay, silt, and sand. The grapes from the different vineyards were then fermented and macerated separately for around three weeks. After 24 months of ageing in oak, the wines were blended and then aged for another six months in concrete vats before bottling.

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2018 DOP, 14.5% Abv.

The 2018 vintage is certainly noted for its freshness, finesse and linearity and among the best producers, there was a small but tantalising array of top-class wines produced. This characterful Gaja Brunello di Montalcino displays an impressive aromatic complexity, textural elegance and savoury depth of fruit on the palate. On the nose the wine reveals expressive notes of crushed blueberries, savoury cured meats, freshly cut bresaola, chargrilled charcuterie, grilled herbs and roasted chestnuts over pithy red cherry, sun raisined cranberry and red liquorice nuances. The palate is initially taut, broody and slightly introspective but once given air starts to open up, fanning its peacock tail of flavours. The elegance and freshness on the palate eventually give way to more assertive characteristics of sweet black cherries, rosemary and thyme herbal hints, ripe black orchard stone fruits, an alluring salinity and gentle hints of balsamic and vanilla pod spice on the finish. This is an altogether cooler, more herbal, mineral expression that will undoubtedly enjoy an eager following among Brunello lovers and collectors. Drink now or cellar for another 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

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