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)

Fine Wine Safari Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Vintage Series: Part 1 – Salicutti Sorgente 2015…

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 in years.

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, abundant 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.

Podere Salicutti – It’s been in the works for a few years now, but the ownership switch at Salicutti is now complete. Previous proprietor and founder Francesco Leanza has left his beautiful farmhouse in Montalcino and has now taken up residence in the nearby city of Siena. The new German owners Felix and Sabine Eichbauer have taken over, and their names are now listed on the back labels of the bottles.

In terms of winemaking, nothing has changed, and indeed these two vintages were completed under Francesco’s watch. His style represents purity and a non-interventionist’s approach. His simple, hands-off winemaking always works best in the great vintages and the 2015 is an absolutely terrific creation. In fact, the new releases are some of the best wines we have ever tasted from Salicutti, one of our favourite estates in the appellation. A new gravity flow winery was built and completed in June 2019 and as no 2014 Brunello di Montalcino was produced, this is the first Brunello to be released to the market since their stellar 2013.

Podere Salicutti Brunello di Montalcino Sorgente 2015, 14 Abv.

The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino displays an authentic, classically pure personality that is characterized by dark cherry fruits, botanical spices, sweet leather, cherry cola and grilled herbs. The wine has a fabulously intricate level of beguiling complexity that you often see with the best organic fruit and winemaking. This Brunello wine is classically solid in frame but also generous and precise showing a wonderfully balanced acidity and a zesty, energetic intensity. Always age worthy, this Cuvee is sure to be one of the most sought after wines of the vintage yet again.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting the Casanova di Neri Flagship Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto 2012 with Giacomo Neri…

The most famous vineyard sites produce the most famous wines and Montalcino is certainly no different. Casanova di Neri was founded by Giovanni Neri in 1971 and since his passing in 1991, his son Giacomo Neri has run the farm overseeing all vineyard and cellar activities personally where they produce six different wines.

 

The Cerretalto vineyard cuvee is however an exceptional flagship expression in the Casanova di Neri range producing extraordinary Brunello’s with a real concentration of fruit and minerality but are only bottled in the most expressive vintages. Of the total 8 hectares of the vineyard, only 4 hectares of vines lying on the red iron soils are used for this special cuvee.

The first Cerretalto vintage was 1981, followed by 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and now finally 2012… a wine always released after 6 years aging in the cellar of which 28-30 months are in 300 and 500 litre French oak barrels and the remaining 30 months in bottle.

 

Tasting with Giacomo Neri, the current owner.

Casanova di Neri Cerretalto Brunello di Montalcino 2012, 15 Abv.

One of the most famous ferrous iron rich soil sites of Montalcino located east of the town continuously produces incredibly profound, potent wines with a very classical cool personality in the context of Brunello di Montalcino. The aromatics possess a wonderfully lifted perfumed fragrance laden with intense notes of dried rose petals, exotic baking spices, graphite, sun raisined cherries, Arabian prunes, iron filings, bresaola, liquorice and tar. On the palate, the flavours are bold and powerful with an incredible cherry fruit intensity layered with nuances of aniseed root, gravelly minerality and creamy sweet tannins that embrace the palate and then gently tail off slowly to leave a lasting imprint of sublime complexity, textural depth and superb elegance. This wine is a revelation and once again, top terroir trumps vintage conditions. Drink from 2020 to 2035+

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

An Attractive Brunello di Montalcino Made Using Biodynamic Principles – Tasting Piombaia 2013…

It is always a pleasure to visit Montalcino, especially when the region is riding high in popularity. This trip, I was fortunate to visit Francesco Cantini, the winemaker at Piombaia winery.

Created out of the union of the Rossi and Cantini families, the estate has always been run in a sympathetic way but it was only in 2009, after decades of ‘Lutte raisonnees’ that the winery turned to organic and biodynamic principles.

Francesco Cantini discussing biodynamics

The terrain of Piombaia Estate covers an area of about 210 hectares at an altitude of between 400 and 600 metres, with the 12 hectares of vineyard plantings divided into 12 separate 1 hectare plots, ensuring the best quality grapes can be managed and harvested separately.

From a cooler, more classical vintage, the weather was perfect until August with just a little refreshing rain in June and July, before the weather became noticeably cooler. Harvesting started on the 10th October and the natural yeast +-10 day non-temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation commenced with an additional 28 days skin maceration post fermentation before ageing 3 years in 70% Slovenian oak, 25% large French oak and 5% in large tonneau.

Rossi.Cantini Soc. Agricola Piombaia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2013, 13.5 Abv.

The nose is precise and intense with attractive aromatics of cherry blossom, red cherry skins, red apple and sour red plums. The oak is beautifully integrated lending the most subtle earthy, savoury, foresty wood spice notes and is almost imperceptible on the palate which is dominated by bruised sour plums, chalky pithy red cherry and vibrant fresh acids. So delicious, cool, harmonious and elegant, with a really classical mineral graphite slant and a piquant, saline, crisp energetic finish. An impressive and slightly alternative expression of Brunello. Drink now or cellar for 10+ years.

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

Prepping For “Montalcino March” with Some Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2011…

Burgundy En-primeur has taken ownership of months January and February, Bordeaux April and May. So the gap in between had to be filled by Montalcino March. This region’s new releases now command more interest with drinkers than almost any other Italian releases including Bolgheri, Barolo and Barbaresco. Their quality, wine style and importantly, release prices, have struck a cord so loud and true that demand continues to grow year on year and demand is now outstripping supply. 


With our own Brunello EP tastings in London just days away, I thought I would start getting into the mood properly with a sexy bottle of last years Gaja Brunello di Montalcino 2011 release. Here’s my Wine Safari verdict…


Tasting Note: The Brunello di Montalcino 2011 is made from a blend of fruit from different vineyard parcels in the north west of Montalcino. The sites have more cooler northerly exposures than those of the Cru vineyards Rennina and Sugarille located further south around the winery, where warmer south and south easterly exposures dominate. The aromatics are dark, broody and spicy with a melange of dried herbs, tobacco, oregano and thyme and an overtone of aniseed root, raisined cherries, blood oranges and vermouth spices. You can taste the slightly cooler, spicier taughtness of the northerly sites which are crisper, fresher and more linear and angular on the palate. There are no over ripe fruit notes despite the 15 Abv, with the crisp fresh acids keeping the palate taught and slightly fours-square. The mid palate fruit is beautifully seductive and silky, spreading out across the palate to leave a long, pithy, graphite laden black cherry and aniseed finish. There is more frame, more angles, more spice than riper southern Montalcino wines. This wine is unashamedly youthful and minerally grippy but also vibrantly fresh. It does not possess the depth and power of the epic 2010, nor the sweet opulent generosity of the 2012, but it’s a thoroughly pleasing wine to swirl and savour. Start drinking in 3 to 5 years time.

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