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)

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)

Gaja Highlights Their New Tuscan Releases at a High Profile Masterclass in London…

In 2019, as Angelo Gaja reaches 78 years old, he has for the first time all his children, Gaia, Roxanna and Giovanni all working together representing the family’s multiple estates. So it was perhaps extra fitting that today Angelo Gaja was awarded the prestigious Institute of Masters of Wines’s Winemakers’ Winemaker Award at Prowein in Dusseldorf.

However, for this tasting in London, Gaia and Giovanni started by profiling the family’s most recent Gaja winery acquisition in 1996, running through the full range of Ca’Marcanda wines produced in Bolgheri, coastal Tuscany, home of legendary neighbours Guado al Tasso, Ornellaia and Sassicaia.

Ca’Marcanda is also the Gaja winery that has seen the most marked increase in quality over the past 5 years as new plantings age and the family slowly learns the true potential of the estate’s terroir that includes 27 different soil types.

Tasting with Gaia Gaja and Giovanni Gaja at the Lanesborough in London.

75 hectares were bought in Bolgheri in 1996 with another 50 hectares subsequently acquired near Bibbona, outside the DOC Bolgheri appellation, for fruit that goes into the Vistamare white and Sangiovese grapes for some of their non-DOC reds.

Ca’Marcanda Vistamare 2018, 14 Abv.

A blend of Vermentino and Viognier, the wine shows vibrant pithy aromatics loaded with white citrus, salty maritime notes, green apple, ripe pear, sweet blossom and chalky, stony notes. Despite the vintage’s rain, there is a fine stony green apple fruit concentration, rasping white citrus and a delicious fleshy texture.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Giovanni, Gaia and UK agent, Patrick McGrath MW from Hatch Mansfield.

Ca’Marcanda Promis 2017, 13.5 Abv.

55% Merlot, 35% Syrah and 10% Sangiovese blend. An incredibly hot, dry year but not in the mould of 2003. The year started dry and hot so conditions were far more anticipated. Over ripeness has been avoided yielding a fine opulent example with plushness, sweet black berry fruited nose from tiny berries that embraces the subtle chocolatey mocha, nutty, oak notes and chalky, dusty mineral tannin on the finish. Very mineral and powerful, perfectly representing the small, thick skinned grapes vinified in this vintage.

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

Ca’Marcanda Magari 2017, 14 Abv.

A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. The aromatics immediately show ample complex lifted perfume notes with layers of violets, lavender, coastal garrigue and sweet dark black bramble berries. Silky soft elegant texture, there is impressive freshness and generosity framed by chalky mineral graphite tannins, sweet blueberry and black cherry fruit concentration and a delicate concentrated cassis confit length. A wonderfully composed and orchestrated red blend with a lot of class.

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

Ca’Marcanda Camarcanda 2016, 14 Abv.

A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Cabernet Franc. The flagship Red comes from the “almost perfect” 2016 vintage where Gaia said everything was in perfect balance and harmony. Already very open and “friendly”, the Carmacanda shows dense dark black currant depth, sweet cassis, graphite spice and a very restrained, fresh, crunchy concentrated finish with real verve and nerve, tension and generosity. The 17 degree C diurnal temperature shift between day and night during vintage really shows its imprint through bright, linear, vibrant glassy acids framing the pure, precise black fruits. Sublime precision and pinpoint elegance with substantial power and drive. This wine has class and quality written all over it. Possibly the finest Camarcanda flagship expression produced to date.

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

Gaja Winery owns wine estates in Barbaresco (Piedmont), Pieve Santa Restituta winery in Montalcino (Tuscany) and Ca’ Marcanda winery in Castagneto Carducci (Tuscany). In 2017, the Gaja family undertook a joint venture with the Graci family. Together they purchased vineyard acreage on the southern slope of Sicily’s Mount Etna, where you can find Nerello Mascalese and Carricante varieties. Plans for the new Gaja winery are currently awaiting planning permission in Sicily.

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)

Marchesi Mazzei Launches Its New Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2015 In Arty Style…

It has long been apparent the excellent quality that Tuscan producers managed to harness with the 2013 vintage for wines from Chianti, Bolgheri and the Maremma. Indeed, it was one of the very few European premium wine regions that reached very high quality levels in 2013. While 2014 saw its challenges for Tuscany, 2015 returned with a bang to allow producers to make some astonishingly pretty wines. 

I recently had the opportunity to taste the impressive new Gran Selezione 2015 Chianti Classico from Marchesi Mazzei’s Fonterutoli estate in Tuscany. The success of this new vintage was put into context being tasted alongside the 2008, 2010 and the superb 2013 and paired with excellent food from the acclaimed Petersham Nurseries, a restaurant business owned by Giovanni Mazzei’s wife Lara Boglione’s family.

To complete the perfect setting, the wines were poured at the Petersham Nurseries‘ temporary Pop-Up Restaurant at the 2018 Frieze Art Fair in London... a suitably flamboyant venue for these delicious wines.

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2008, 13.5 Abv.

Layered and opulent, the bouquet is starting to show subtle tertiary notes after 10 years age. Plenty of earthy stewed cherries, herbal spice, black plum, tannery leather, liquorice and aniseed root. Palate is plush and comfortably mellow, showing plenty of piquant sappy spice, cedar and pithy, stewed black berry fruits. Drinking well now, quite traditional in style, maturing nicely. 

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010, 14 Abv.

Lovely smokey aromatics of incense, graphite, sweet grilled herbs, polished mahogany, tannery leather and earthy black plummy fruits. Pithy and piquant, there are subtle coffee bean notes, wood spice and creamy brûléed back berry nuances. Evolving nicely, drinking well now, but still plenty of life ahead. 

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

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, 13.5 Abv.

Youthful and vibrant, the 2013 displays beautiful perfume of cherry blossom, violets, dried flowers, black cherry and smokey charcoal embers. Palate is super polished, vibrant and elegant with deliciously fresh acids, soft creamy tannins and a glitteringly pretty, elegant, vibrant textural finish. 

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

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015, 14 Abv.

An altogether more opulent, dense, powerfully ripe expression from a very fine vintage in Tuscany. The aromatics are youthful and intense with lashings of black cherry confit, black plum, kirsch liqueur and salty cassis. The palate follows with a ripe, fleshy, intensely focused palate with high class tannin management, beautifully sweet mid palate fruit weight and a long, vibrant, concentrated finish that fans it’s tail with caramelised red cherry, black currant and sun raisined cranberry nuances. Fabulously delicious and eminently drinkable already.

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

Available to trade in the UK from importer Maison Marques et Domaines. 

Querciabella 2015 Raising The Quality Bar For Premium Chianti Classico…

South African winemaker Manfred Ing continues to make waves in Chianti’shire as he continually pushes the level of quality upwards across the entire range. But of course it’s the Chianti Classico red that is the main Estate wine and therefore the offering that receives the most close and critical assessment from wine reviewers and commentators with the release of each new vintage.

A 100% Sangiovese cuvee, the grapes used have been biodynamic since 2000 and organic since 1988. Averaged yields are approaching 35 hl/ha and the oak use is 100% French, 5% new with the remainder normally consisting of 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.

Agricola Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015, Tuscany, 14 Abv. 

Wonderfully bright ruby hue, this is a power packed, super distinguished juicy effort from a fantastic vintage in Gaiole, Tuscany. The aromatics are packed with sun raisined cranberries, aniseed root, sweet wood spice, wet tobacco, black cherry and dusty earthy clay notes. The palate ups the ante with an ultra generous texture, wonderful ripe red cherry fruit concentration, suave sweet tannins and an incredibly focused, creamy mineral laden finish. True class, impeccable proportions and fantastic balance. Drink from release or cellar for 8-10+ years.

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

The 2015 is an exceptional wine from an exceptional Tuscan vintage and probably the best new release Chianti Classico I can remember tasting from this winery. The signals are all looking good for the 2016s as well, so I look forward with great interest to see what young talent Manfred Ing can conjure up.

One of the Great Names of Chianti Producing Some Very Impressive Wines – Tasting with Francesco Ricasoli…

Having just returned from Tuscany and Campania, it was lovely to have Francesco Ricasoli pop in and show me his new vintages. The Ricasoli family has been linked with winemaking since 1141, with the original “blending recipe” for making wines in the Chianti region invented by Baron Bettino Ricasoli or the Iron Baron.

From the estate’s 5 main soil types, grapes are harvested for 230 micro-vinifications, with my favourite often being the Colledilà. Together with their own vineyard yeasts which they have just had isolated and cultured, Ricasoli is making some very expressive wines from around Gaiole.

Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colledilà 2015, Tuscany, 14 Abv.

After the excellent 2013 from Baron Ricasoli, the Colledilà 2015 ups the intensity somewhat being even more exciting and impressive. The fruit from this 7.5 hectare vineyard plot was not bottled into Colledilà in 2012 or 2014. On the nose, the 2015 shows a wonderful exotic perfume of cranberry cordial, red crystallised maraschino cherries, lavender, parma violets and a delicate pink musk fragrance. Thoroughly seductive and alluring. The palate expresses a brisk steely linearity and precision, revealing the true characteristics of the vineyard’s marl limestone soils, bringing extra brightness, fresh acidity and an intense minerality. The texture is ultra sleek and harmonious, pin point and taut with delicious red cherry and black currant fruit nuances, aniseed root, fennel seeds and a pronounced piquant graphite spice on the finish. Superbly balanced and focused in the mouth, this wine shows class with power, intensity and purity. Already drinking so beautifully, a few more years in bottle will bring added tertiary complexity and allow this pure Sangiovese to unwind a little.

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