Fine Wine Safari Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Vintage Series: Part 4 – Valdicava…

The 2015 vintage is a historical year for Brunello di Montalcino that nobody should miss. The wines show impressive precision of vivid fruit, fine tannins and freshness in acidity despite their ripeness and richness which makes them some of the most exciting releases since 2010.

Winemakers in Montalcino were never better prepared to produce outstanding wines in a year like 2015 with their exactness in their vineyards and cellars from fine-tuned canopy management and crop thinning to optical sorting and soft fermentations. So many wine producers in Montalcino made excellent wines in 2015.

Tasting in very jovial circumstances with the Valdicava team.

A small handful of the wines I tasted are a little bit closed at this early stage, and these will benefit from more cellar ageing. However, the majority of the samples tasted showed softly textured, generous and accessible characteristics that make them beautiful to drink straight out of the gate or with very little aging required. Bottles from the versatile 2015 vintage can go into your cellar for safekeeping or onto your dinner table for near- to medium-term consumption. The choice is yours, and that’s one of the top selling points of 2015 Brunello reds.

The Riserva version of the Valdicava Brunello.

Valdicava – The Valdicava estate dates back to 1953 when Bramante Abbruzzese was offered the opportunity to return to the property in Montalcino where his ancestors were sharecroppers centuries before. From that time, Abbruzzese started the family vision to cultivate Sangiovese Grosso and to eventually bottle under the family name. In 1967 Bramante founded the Consorzio di Brunello. The Valdicava property lies on a high plane close to Montalcino. Wines from this area have as their signature characteristics a great balance between body and perfume.

Valdicava is the actual name of the valley in which the greatest single-vineyard wines of Brunello are produced. In the middle of this valley sits the grand Madonna del Piano vineyard along with the Valdicava estate. In 1987, the grandson of Bramante, Vincenzo Abbruzzese began to work in the vineyards and the cellar and has since transformed Valdicava into one of the most collectible and sought-after Brunello di Montalcinos in existence today. All Valdicava grapes are organically grown and no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used in the vineyards.

Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Valdicava 2015, 14 Abv.

Rich opulent expressive nose with plenty of ripe exotic aromatics of sweet cherry, kirsch cherry liquor, crème de cassis and sweet cherry rock candy. Palate is ripe, creamy and supple with unusually sweet fleshy fine grained tannins, massive depth of fruit, electric freshness and incredible elegance, balance and harmony. Very impressive already with clear age ability potential but also unusually for Valdicava, a beautiful approachability right now.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fine Wine Safari Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Vintage Series: Part 3 – Sesti…

The 2015 vintage is a historical year for Brunello di Montalcino that nobody should miss. The wines show impressive precision of vivid fruit, fine tannins and freshness in acidity despite their ripeness and richness which makes them some of the most exciting releases since 2010.

Winemakers in Montalcino were never better prepared to produce outstanding wines in a year like 2015 with their exactness in their vineyards and cellars from fine-tuned canopy management and crop thinning to optical sorting and soft fermentations. So many wine producers in Montalcino made excellent wines in 2015.

A small handful of the wines I tasted are a little bit closed at this early stage, and these will benefit from more cellar ageing. However, the majority of the samples tasted showed softly textured, generous and accessible characteristics that make them beautiful to drink straight out of the gate or with very little aging required. Bottles from the versatile 2015 vintage can go into your cellar for safekeeping or onto your dinner table for near- to medium-term consumption. The choice is yours, and that’s one of the top selling points of 2015 Brunello reds.

Sesti – Without doubt one of the leading producers in Brunello di Montalcino: an estate of 9 hectares under vine which is run by astrologer Giuseppe Sesti and his daughter Elisa. In the vineyard, everything is kept as natural as possible with zero use of herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertiliser and even outside sourced yeasts. The study of astronomy and lunar cycles has also influenced Giuseppe’s approach in the winery – he follows the phases of the moon when it comes to winemaking techniques; only racking wines during a waning of the moon. Ageing of the wines takes place in larger Slavonian oak casks because, according to Sesti, if he is happy with the fruit, the tannins and the overall growing season, then there is no need to mask the wine, but rather preserve the inherent qualities that Sangiovese Grosso draws from these meticulously farmed vineyards.

Castello di Argiano, Sesti’s medieval castle.

Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2015, 14 Abv.

On the nose this attractive 2015 Brunello shows wonderfully elegant, fragrant notes of wild strawberries, fresh roses and violets that mix with exotic notes of cinnamon, baking cloves and black chocolate spices. Full and generous in the mouth, there is plenty of juicy cherry and red currant fruit intensity that melts in to a complex mélange of liquorice, sweet tobacco, cola and black plum confit. Focused and persistent, this wine has all the building blocks to improve over 8 to 10 years as it mellows in bottle after 39 months ageing in big barrels.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fine Wine Safari Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Vintage Series: Part 2 – Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta…

The 2015 vintage is a historical year for Brunello di Montalcino that nobody should miss. The wines show impressive precision of vivid fruit, fine tannins and freshness in acidity despite their ripeness and richness which makes them some of the most exciting releases since 2010.

Winemakers in Montalcino were never better prepared to produce outstanding wines in a year like 2015 with their exactness in their vineyards and cellars from fine-tuned canopy management and crop thinning to optical sorting and soft fermentations. So many wine producers in Montalcino made excellent wines in 2015.

Tasting with Gaia Gaja in London.

A small handful of the wines I tasted are a little bit closed at this early stage, and these will benefit from more cellar ageing. However, the majority of the samples tasted showed softly textured, generous and accessible characteristics that make them beautiful to drink straight out of the gate or with very little aging required. Bottles from the versatile 2015 vintage can go into your cellar for safekeeping or onto your dinner table for near- to medium-term consumption. The choice is yours, and that’s one of the top selling points of 2015 Brunello reds.

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta – One of Angelo Gaja’s two Tuscan properties, on the site of an old church, Santa Restituta, that dates back to the 4th century. As is the family’s style, theirs is a fusion of modern and traditional winemaking. They also own land on the Buonconvento Northern side of Montalcino and some prestigious lands in the South, a stone’s throw from Sesti. The Northern sites normally go into the Brunello di Montalcino 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 impeccably crafted and full of character, polished finesse and age ability.

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2015, 14 Abv.

The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino normale is a riper and more expressive creation, quite darkly fruited but ultimately much less introverted than the bigger Brunello Crus of Rennina and Sugarille. Packed full of dark wild cherries, black plums, sweet cherry tobacco, cherry cola, liquorice, botanical spices and menthol nuances all wrapped around a substantial frame of sweet polished tannins. Ideally this wine needs another few years in bottle, but it is always difficult to resist this wine’s inviting sense of opulence, poise and harmony on release. Another fantastic release for the Gaja fine wine empire.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

An Exercise in Opulence and Hedonism – Tasting the New Release Ornellaia 2017…

Hot on the heels of the Sassicaia 2017 release comes the opulent, extroverted Ornellaia expression. From a warm dry vintage, conditions certainly played to the Ornellaia style of richness and opulence.

The vineyards extend 115 hectares and are broken down into 70 different plots, all with slightly different characteristics. There are two main areas, one around the Ornellaia winery itself and another around Bellaria to the north and north-west of Bolgheri, where the land slopes gently down towards the sea some 5 km away. All vineyards within the Bolgheri DO are dedicated to the production of the Ornellaia range with the very best plots being blended into Ornellaia and also the highly respected second wine, Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia.

Ornellaia 2017, DO Bolgheri Superiore, 15 Abv.

Facinating to see how individual and unique the expression of Ornellaia is vintage after vintage. This warm sunshine vintage boasts a ripe, plush opulent nose jam packed full of cherry confit, black plum preserve and blueberry pie laced with a dusting of vanilla pod and brûléed oak spice. Such a dense, dark core with hedonistic notes of mocha and chocolates filled with blueberry reduction, creme de cassis and buttered brown toast. A bold, extroverted, flamboyant expression of Ornellaia that will appeal to those who enjoy riper, more exotic vintages. Drink from release and for 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Note: Tasted after bottling, this wine was rated 94+/100. A subsequent tasting in April 2020 resulted in an upgraded score of 95+/100 GSMW.

Tasting the Suave and Sophisticated Sassicaia 2017 – A Triumph of Terroir and Winemaking Over Vintage Conditions…

It’s become a bit of a tradition to launch the new vintages of the Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia estate in London. This year’s launch took on even greater significance being the highly anticipated successor vintage to the universally praised 100 point Sassicaia 2016. So no pressure then!

These special vineyards that go into the making of Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia cover only around 97 hectares of the total 2.500 hectare DOCG Sassicaia Bolgheri estate. Far from an easy vintage, 2017 has the structure and character to emphasise how incredibly special Tenuta San Guido’s terroir is and also how skilled their winemaking team have become.

Tasting with Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta in London at the Sassicaia launch.

Despite the sustained higher temperatures throughout the growing season and summer together with very little rainfall, the Sassicaia 2017 has retained a remarkable purity, elegance and precision in bottle.

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2018, IGT Toscana, 14 Abv.

A fabulous entry level expression that is the only wine in the Sassicaia range that incorporates some indigenous Sangiovese. This year the blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon with 30% Sangiovese. The nose shows a wonderful, forward, overt fragrance with alluring notes of violets, crushed red cherries, black currant pastille, and salty black damson plums with just the gentlest dusting of vanilla pod spice and bruleed coffee beans. The palate is deliciously mouth watering and fresh, displaying vibrant crunchy acids, intense cranberry, tart red cherry and an all round electric brightness. The palate is medium weight but seamlessly smooth and silky and carries on the tradition of Le Difese’s accessibility twinned with generosity. This is the consummate allrounder that will accompany fine cuisine or suffice as a leisurely evening glass of red on the sofa. Drinking from release, you can expect this wine to show well for 5 to 8 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2018, IGT Toscana, 13.5 Abv.

A wine first created in 2000, this IGT blend has always stuck to a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 40% Merlot. Initially a little bit reticent on the nose, reminds one that this wine is a serous creation in its own right. Often said to show at its peak after around 10 years, there are many examples that drink well after 15 or 20 years such is its pedigree. The aromatics show less overt fruit intensity but a greater array of dark, broody black berry, sweet dusty tobacco and mineral graphite notes. On the palate there is superb attention to detail, impressive focus and a seamless, elegant finesse. The acids are well integrated and the fruit opulence plush but classically balanced. Light on its feet, this sleek, silky Guidalberto caresses the mouth gently and finishes with beautifully textured elegance and powder fine tannin grip. A very harmonious creation with plenty of star quality. Drink now and over the next 8 to 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2017, DOCG Bolgheri Sassicaia, 14 Abv. 

Bottle in January 2020, this 2017 blend is made up of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and also 15% Cabernet Franc from vines of which 60% to 70% are 20 years or older on the same site up the mountain near the Castello where the original plantings where made in 1942. Using around 33% new French oak again, the 2017 vintage yielded around 200,000 bottles or around -15% less than the 2016 vintage. On the nose, the aromatics speak of a warmer, riper vintage with pronounced notes of black currants, spiced black plums and black orchard fruits. The palate is plush and opulent with all the telltale Sassicaia finesse and elegance coming to the fore. If anything, the tannins are sweeter, softer and flesher than the more masculine 2016 expression. Suave and sophisticated, this 2017 imposes its own character from the start and leads with plenty of dried rosemary and thyme herb complexity, silky cassis intensity and a soft, winter fruit compote finish with a dusting of botanical herbs. But textural harmony, seamless balance and fruit purity remain at the core of this wine’s essence. Another stunning wine delivered. Drink this from release and comfortably over the next 15 to 20 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia is distributed to the UK trade by Armit Wines.

Release price for the 2017 is circa +35% up on the 2016 at around £850-£875 IB per 6.

Fattoria Le Pupille Releases Their Impressive New Saffredi 2017 Super Tuscan in London… 

The original Sangiovese based wines of Le Pupille were made under the Morellino di Scansano appellation. So when Elisabetta Geppetti proceeded with her vision to add an international dimension to the estate’s wines, the Maremma’s first quality Super Tuscan was born.

The Cabernet Sauvignon based blend Saffredi was first released in 1989 with the 1987 vintage, made in consultation with Giacomo Tachis, one of the founding fathers of Italy’s Super Tuscan wine style. The Tachis era ended in 1996 and subsequent consultants involved with Saffredi have included Riccardo Cotarella, ex-Chateau Latour winemaker, Christian Le Sommer and currently, Luca del Toma.

As various consulting winemakers have taken the reigns and made their mark, so the Saffredi blend has slowly evolved, starting off initially as a pure Cabernet Sauvignon wine until 1990, after which Merlot, Syrah and Alicante have all played differing supporting roles. Today, the modern expression of Saffredi relies on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all harmoniously blended to produce one of the most highly sought after reds in Tuscany.

Tasting at the London launch with Elisabetta Geppetti’s daughter, Clara Gentili.

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2017, IGT Toscana, 14.5 Abv.

The 2017 marks the 30th vintage of this now iconic wine and is made up of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. Impressive quality delivered in a warm, challenging vintage. The aromatics are super perfumed, exotic and seductive with layers of cherry sherbet, crushed limestone, tart cassis and sour Victoria plums. The fine grained tannins are sweet and rounded supported by delicious freshness and vibrant acid brightness. Certainly no shortage of intense strawberry and black berry fruits, cherry spice, pomegranate, cola and subtle hints of graphite minerality and wood spice on the finish. A triumph of quality for the vintage and every bit as good as the lauded 2016!

(Fine Wine Safari: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A Decade of Seeking Maremma Perfection – Tasting the Immaculate 10th Vintage of Val di Toro…

I recently tasted the delicious Val di Toro X Vendemmia 2015 red from Anna Maria Cruciata and Hugh Maxwell, owners of the dynamic Val di Toro estate in the Maremma that lies between Grosseto and Scansano. Wow, I thought, has it really been ten years since I first tasted their maiden release red? A decade of growth and a decade of fine tuning has now resulted in one of their greatest red creations to date.

The 2015 vintage was an incredible year in the Maremma and also a year Hugh and Anna decided to put their organically grown Sangiovese grapes into large new Slavonian oak botte where it was aged for 24 months before being bottled. The results have been captured immaculately in bottle and represent the pinnacle of the Val di Toro journey to quality.

 

Val di Toro 2015 X Vendemmia Maremma Toscana Sangiovese, 14.5 Abv.

Always a dense, concentrated red wine, Val di Toro has never lacked intensity or depth. But what the 2015 reveals is definitely a vinous revelation and a notable step up in quality. The aromatics portray a picture of beauty, seductive perfume, sweet red cherry, sandalwood, resinous sappy oak spice, vanilla pod, aniseed root and a bold lashing of caramelised red cranberries. The palate is regal and broad, incredibly fine grained and suave with a fine balance and ambitious textural harmony. Who knew Sangiovese tannins could be so sweet and sensual? Still very youthful, there are no edges to speak of and elegance and finesse are the words that inspire a palate built around intensity, sublime balance and succulent length. In many ways, the addition of the botte ageing has added an almost “Brunello’esque” gravitas to the wine and an intriguing extra level of complexity and allure. This is surely a wine that will age and improve for a good 10 to 15 years but also a vinous delicacy that is so delicious to drink in its vibrant halo of youth.

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