The new releases of Brunello di Montalcino, 2012, Part 1

On 10-11 April of this year, for a total of about 11 1/2  hours at VinItaly, I tasted several hundred wines from Montalcino zone (not all were Brunello/DOCG, some were Rosso, etc.). Following VinItaly, I then spent three weeks in Montalcino zone performing visits (usually 2 per day, but sometimes three) to cellars/vineyards, meeting one-on-one with growers/agronomists, etc.; I’ve also tasted on my own, with bottles that were either samples or bottles I purchased solely out of curiosity. I’ve tasted a lot of 2012 Brunello wines, easily the lion’s share. That said, I’m looking forward to tasting the rest of them, too; there’s more to learn.

Let me begin by saying I don’t subscribe to discussions that revolve around vintages. For example “the 20XX vintage was the best in a decade!”, or similar statements. In any vintage, it’s very important to understand that not everyone produced a good/or bad wine, even if the vintage was deemed “good, or bad” by the mainstream critics.

Critics like to dumb things down; a score is a perfect example. Another good example is to assign a point value to a vintage, and not just to a wine; some uses a system of stars * thru *****. Again, this is just dumbing things down for the sake of convenience, but really, it’s just for marketing’s sake.

If you prefer the dumbed-down version of things, you should stop reading now.

I prefer discussions based on facts, and generalizations are hardly facts. The fact is, that Montalcino zone is a very diverse area. Some like to break it down into thirds – with a north, central, and southern area. Others like to think in terms of east and west, and yet others like to think in terms of both of the aforementioned. However, if you really want to know what a vintage means (and the answer is that it can hardly be boiled down to one thing, uniformly across all producers), then pour a glass of wine from “x” vintage from producer A, and then pour a glass of “x” vintage from a producer B. Then taste. They might taste the same, they might not. If you’re tasting single-blind, and know what the grape/area is, but have not been told the vintage, you may very well struggle to say, with confidence, that they’re from the same vintage. The reason they aren’t likely to taste the same, is that they’re not the same: a vintage is not the same for all producers, and talking about (or chasing) ‘vintage’ and nothing else, is just plain ignorant. The reason, too many variables – micro-climates, differing philosophies, luck, bad luck, soil, pick date(s), age of vines, disease, insects, clonal selection, etc.

So, stop thinking about things in terms of “the vintage of X”, and start thinking about things in terms of individual producers. It’s your money, and time; I’m just trying to help you ‘guess’ less, or worse, follow/listen to a score.

If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if (every time that) you’ve followed all the advice/scores of the mainstream press/critics, and every time they’ve said to buy X vintage, you’ve been happy with every wine from X vintage. Simply put, no, you haven’t been happy with every wine, there’s just too much variability (in the real world, but not in the dumbed-down marketing world).

So stop using “vintage” data, today. Start taking the longer road, start exploring more, and stop consuming prepackaged “facts, data, scores, etc. (opinions, really)” that have been neatly put into a number, or paragraph (or three) that sums up an entire region. It’s hogwash. The other way might be convenient, but it’s also costly (convenience always comes with a price, always), and, perhaps most importantly, it’s also likely to yield so-so results.

Without getting into the weather details surrounding the vintage (because it would take several pages to describe it even fairly accurately given that there are 250 producers (scattered across a large geographical, very diverse area), consider some of my impressions contained in this first tasting report.

If you’ve read this far, but still prefer the dumbed-down version of things, then consider that the bulk of producers made decent, middle-of-the-road wines, a smaller number made some rather nice wines, the kind with moments of beauty and great satisfaction, and fewer still made wines that took your breath away. Kind of like in most modern vintages, from pretty much all the regions of the world, if you want to know the truth.

So, with all my punditry (i.e. ranting) out of the way, here’s part I of my Brunello di Montalcino (and some others from the general area) report. I hope there’s something here that can help you.

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quite a few rocks in Montalcino zone. In this photo, far in the south, they’re everywhere.
  • no recommendation (NR) not bad, just too soon to rate, and/or not interesting enough
  • recommended (R(+/-)  *(a really nice wine!, nothing average about it!)
  • highly recommended (HR(+/-)  *(an excellent wine!)
  • very highly recommended (VHR(+/-)  *(an EPIC wine!)
  • (The + or – sign many be attached to the rating). The (+) says it’s an excellent value within its peer group; the (-) says it’s a poor value relative to its peers.

2012 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino  (HR)  Tasted at the winery, from tank. This has been blended now, and is resting in steel tank. Great nose, very fresh, with perky red fruits and detailed purity. Each sip better than the one previous. Long finish, really nice structure. BUY. 15,5% abv. (resolved). Drink 2018-2030.  highly recommended

2012 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino  (R+)  {winery visit} Just what it should be at this point – excellent reflection of place and grape AND vintage. Nothing stylistic about this, just well-grown Sangiovese fruit that’s in a fairly precocious stage just now. It’s just a babe, you’ll need to hold this one for at least a year or two to allow for more integration. Given 2012s challenges, this is just what it should be, there’s nothing forced or contrived here, and it’s all quite good. Thru 2030recommended+

2012 La Serena Brunello di Montalcino (R+)  {Winery visit} From Coravin, I needed to let this blow off a touch of reduction. A few minutes later, bright aromas emerge, tending toward the darker red spectrum. A touch of fresh citrus, and even some apple skin hits the nose, I’m happy. I’ve got to give this some pretty vigorous swirling before it begins to show me much on the palate, but I really like what I see once it opens. An average amount of complexity at this stage, but the flavors are already running broad and deep – if you take your time with it. That said, if I had some, I would not touch any for 2-3 years – there’s (coiled) complexity here, and, to be sure, more flavor development to come. The quality at this address just gets better and better. HOLD. Thru 2031 recommended+

2012 Enzo Tiezzi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino  (HR)  {winery visit} Crazy value proposition here. This is fairly approachable already (though I would give it 5 hours in decanter, but that’s me), with attractive lines and classic flavors and aromas. If you’re into (really!) traditional BdM, and you’ve yet to try this, get a six-pack, now. As always, great structure, a sense of place and grape. Drink 2018-2030highly recommended

2012 Campogiovanni (San Felice) Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Clean, medium-bodied, good balance, but lacks complexity at this point; not sure it’s ever going to develop. Pure, red-fruited, tannins nearly fully integrated. Seems like one to enjoy in its youth; good freshness still, though there’s a nagging sense that this isn’t going to be there forever; best in the near/mid-term, I think. Drink now thru 2025. I wanted to like it more than I actually did. Double-decanted one hour before serving, non-blind.

2012 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie  (R)  A lot going on here. The nose is rather explosive, and equally complex, even at this early stage of development. The palate delivers what the nose suggests, plenty of rich, racy fruits that run the red and black spectrum. Others liked it more than I, but as there was a leathery, dusty and herbal character that seemed an undercurrent of sorts, I was able to find what I was after. That said, I think in 3-5 years, this could well be an even more enjoyable wine as some of the hidden nuances move closer to the center. I’d gladly have a glass, or two, again. Drink 2020-2035.  recommended

2012 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Very nice, needs lots of time. Hard to find any faults with this 100% Sangiovese wine, raised initially in stainless steel before moving to larger, traditional oak vessels for extended ageing; approximately 11 days on skins. The perfumes are crisp, vivid even, but this is, no matter how much I coax it in the glass, simply unwilling to yield all of its inner secrets. I have to think 4-5 years will be the minimum rest needed, even then it won’t have entered its preferred plateau. Open this now, as a PnP, and you’re missing out on a lot, I think. 2021-2039. Easily recommended

2012 La Palazzetta (Flavio Fanti) Brunello di Montalcino  (R+)  From Enomatic (today, but tasted three separate dates/times), near Montalcino, classic light>Medium ruby, clear. Expressive nose of red/blue/purple flowers, leather, dried cherry. Good>Very good complexity and length. Organically farmed, this defies any notion that that farming technique yields flavorless wines. Drink 2018 thru 2026. Excellent value, and easily recommended+

2012 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Rather closed today, with some loam, ripe raspberry and cherry at the base; medium acidity, firm tannins, not much of a finish today. After a few minutes, plum and espresso, dried strawberries. A touch of dust. Hard to get excited about this today, maybe in 5-7 years

2012 Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso (R)  Fruit forward, sappy, with pipe tobacco, soil and some red apple on the nose. Flavors are broad and deep already, this is probably going to prove hard to resist for many, but it’s clear that with a good cord of acids, this will continue to develop for many years. By the second hour, some cherry and polished leather on the nose and palate. Pretty, despite the vintage/genre. HOLD. Drink 2021-2033. recommended

2012 Tenuta Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  A bit of of a bumpy ride, this, with a blend of modern meets rusticity. Earthy, ripe cherry, firm tannins. Not sure it’s got the acidic build to go the distance, so wait a year and drink away. A decent weeknight bottle with avg(-) complexity, med(-) finish.

2012 Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Absent the freshness and energy I was wanting. Still, it’s a solid effort and about on par with most of the BdM in this less-than-ideal vintage. Perhaps some bottle rest will turn this around; I have to think there’s more to this, and if I’m a betting man, I’ll bet in 5-6 years this will be greatly improved. Good purity, balanced, just needs a jolt or two of energy. HOLDrecommended

2012 E. Fuligni (Cottimelli) Brunello di Montalcino  (R) (note: when I visited them, after first tasting the wine, there was none left to taste at the winery, it was all sold out already – kind of says something, I think) Saddled with some signs of the challenging vintage, this struggles with freshness today. That said, I came back later in the day when I had some more time to spend with it, and having lowered the temp a few degrees – it’s a solid wine, it’s not going to overwhelm with complexity, but it’s certainly balanced and pure. A fine effort that’s no doubt going to improve in the next 3-4 years. HOLD. Drink 2020-2029.  recommended

2012 San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucere  (R)  A wine for keeping. A wonderful current of energy running through this; fresh throughout. Well layered and also broad, the flavors and aromas, today, are split between soil and cherry/black cherry, with new leather and purple floral. Crisp acids, firm, sweet tannins, both assure a long life; plenty of fruit here to age for 15+ years. Will continue its path of development; 2022-2035. recommended

2012 Podere Salicutti Brunello di Montalcino Piaggione  (R+)  { #VinItaly, 2017 } Ruby core, clear. Dark, leathery scents behind a thin wall of reduction. A few minutes in the glass and cherries, sandalwood and soil emerge. The palate is medium>medium+, but with air, the acids seem to come to life and this takes a step back to a medium-body. Seems a bit clumsy today, though the perfumes are very bright, and the fruit, struggling for a voice (today), is cool and pure nonetheless. I’d give this a few years to sort itself out. Tasted all of the new releases today, impressive quality and purity. I’m a buyerrecommended+

2012 Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino Pelagrilli (R)  Ripe, ready and waiting for you; the kimono has come off of this modern, juicy wine. You can choose to give this an hour in decanter – or not, with food, or not – whatever you do, serve it between 60F-63F for a more complete effect. Now, and in the next 7-8 years. Not something I would gravitate to, but for fans of the style, it’s recommended

2012 Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino Vecchie Vigne  (NR)  Seems a wine for the critics and those that look for high scores – i.e. this is more, though not more soul, just more flavors, like chocolate, etc. Fans of the style will undoubtedly enjoy this burly, ripe, and chewy wine. Now and the next 8 years.

2012 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino  (R+)  A solid win for Altesino in this vintage. Shows good>vg balance, even if the acids are a bit lower than I’d prefer; should be an early-drinker, with plenty of clean, herbal, dusty, soil-driven character. A good sense of place, and as always from this house, a solid value. Maybe give it another year to come together some more, or 2-3 hours of air time in decanter if opening anytime soon. The last of the tasting glass suggested this has much more to offer if given air, so let it unfold, i.e. don’t PnP. Will likely be in its sweet-spot in 5-6 years. recommended+

2012 Fattoria dei Barbi (Colombini) Brunello di Montalcino  (R+)  Offers a pleasing combination of place/grape/vintage, with a structure that suggests another 2-3 years of rest are essential. Pomegranate, dusty cherries, leather, soil and a touch of citrus. Somewhat understated, this could very well end up being a wine that easily transcends today’s price-point. A solid table wine, with good acidity for the vintage. HOLD. recommended+

2012 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino  (HR)  These guys are absolutely killing it these days. The nose is chock-full of citrus, red apple, cherry, wood spice and cool soil tones. And as much as the nose may temp you, the palate is really demanding that you exercise a fair amount of patience for this traditionally-styled wine; 5-7 years of rest would be a start. I kept half of the (sample) bottle for the second day, and while it jumped up a step or two, it was still holding back. Highly enjoyable, and one of the better 12s tasted today. Med>Med+ body, red-fruited, bold, fine tannins, EtOH resolved. HOLD. Drink 2022-2037. Easily highly recommended

2012 Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Solid Brunello, clean and semi-rich. Today this is a bit subdued, lacking a touch of freshness and energy that otherwise might help to distinguish it. That said, it’s very early yet, and I have to believe in 3-4 years, this is vastly improved. Structured, good purity, tannins yet to be resolved. HOLDrecommended

2012 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Juicy and approachable, with good lift, freshness and balance. Will benefit from additional cellar rest, but if you are willing to trade potential, future complexity for immediate enjoyment, have at it, but I recommend 4 hours of time in decanter, or better, double decant the day before. A good success for Argiano; some citrus and fresh red floral helped to bring a cheery character. Drink 2018-2027.  recommended

2012 Agostina Pieri Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Deeply fruited, plenty of oak that needs time to integrate. Average freshness and length. Not terribly complex today, though from a purely flavors-based perspective, many will find this a nice drop. Give it a few years to better integrate and drop some baby fat. A fair value, with a good shot a some upside. Drink 2019-2029.  recommended

2012 La Rasina Brunello di Montalcino  (R+)  {winery visit} Quite good; developing. I allowed this ~ 20 minutes in the glass as it was semi-open at first; the extra time made a good difference. Medium+ body, red/dark red fruits, some savory leather, dusty gravel, ripe strawberry and cherry. Sapid, with med+ length, and developing complexity, this is a solid effort in the vintage; a really good value. Drink 2018-2029.  recommended+

2012 Talenti Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Distinctly rich, almost sappy at the core, this has already developed some powerful aromas of red/dark red fruits, soil and spice. The palate has good energy, and a good level of freshness. Likely to change, perhaps even improve with just 2-3 more years of rest. Good, with moments of very good; best in short/mid-termrecommended

2012 Tenuta le Potazzine Brunello di Montalcino  (HR)  Excellent. Very fresh, and, as usual for Gorelli, this is elegant and packed with plenty of complexity. One of the few 12s I’ve had from this region that shows solid structure, good weight, a sense of place, and perhaps most of all, freshness. Really good length, balance. That said, this will still require a few years before it’s ready to approach; at/beginning peak in 5-7 years, if I had to guess. Impressive; drink 2022-2032.  highly recommended

2012 La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  I think these wines do a little better in warmer vintages; kind of reminds me of the 2007 on release. A lot to admire here, even if the energy level is kind of average. Good sapidity, flavor/layer definition, pretty, ripe red/dark red fruit aromas, and an engaging, soft leather component that’s quite nice. Drink now or in the next 7-8 years, though sooner is likely better as it’s got a lot to offer already. recommended

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the last week of April, and the first two weeks of May in Montalcino are magical – and empty streets most days

2012 Val di Suga (Angelini) Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Traditionally vinified (20 days on skins, stainless steel, then older oak – 2nd/3rd passage, 300l), this presents a classic brick red color, clear and bright. Aromas are of dried red/dark red fruits, older leather, dust, cedar, soil. The palate is med+ body, with a linear constitution, avg acidity, and little flavor development at this point beyond the basics suggested by the nose. This needs time (another year will only help) and/or aeration in decanter. It’s good, it’s clean, and it’s a good partner to food, but it’s not an exciting wine, just an enjoyable one. Solid value. 14,0% abv., drink 2018-2024recommended

2012 Tenuta Greppo (Biondi-Santi) Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Lovely color, good freshness, and very pretty aromatics, even if the palate is still rather asleep just now. This very classic(al) wine needs time, as in 3-4 years at least, before it’s going to begin showing what’s inside. To open one now is somewhat futile; it’s pretty, but far from exciting at this point. As I’ve said in the past, it’s hard for me to recommend this wine as it’s so over-priced compared to others with just as good/better quality. Drink 2022-2035+

2012 Tenuta Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Darker brick-red, clear. Average aromas/complexity – they’re nice, but short of pretty. Med+ body, with avg acidity, resolved tannins. Very approachable already, there’s enough to like at the moment that I can’t think holding this any longer will bring about something better (i.e. trading freshness for the possibility of more complexity? nah). Despite the traditional vinification, there’s a roundness here that comes across as a style, and not something grown per se. A good value, but a wine that hardly ever excites me; I suppose I like it for what it is. Looking forward to the 2013

2012 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Darker brick-red color>ruby. Notes of balsamic, truffle, darker, almost roasted berries. Good acidity, but mostly muddled fruit in that it fell short of exciting; i.e. modest freshness. Not so sure I’d have been in Toscana (or even Sangiovese) if served double-blind. Good for what it is, but nothing too interesting today. Drink now with a few hours of air in decanter, or hold and hope for more complexity to develop. i suppose I like it for what it is. Drink 2018-2027NR

2012 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  I liked this more than I was expecting I would – good soil and minerality to offset the abundant red (fresh and dried) fruits. Avg+ acidity provides good lift to help with delineation, and add some length. Pretty, in its way, with more sapidity than anything else. Everything here suggests this will be even better/more complete with another 2-3 years in the cellar (though it’s not a crime to open one sooner, just give it 2-3 hours of air in decanter). Nice; good value, and good structure considering the vintage. Drink 2020-2031.  recommended

2012 Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Darker brick red>ruby, clear. Sappy red>dark red fruits, with balsamic, truffle, savory and a touch of mineral and purple floral to help brighten it up. Med>full body, with round, ripe tannins, a sweet middle palate, and some creaminess that many will no doubt greatly enjoy. For what it is, I think it succeeds quite well, though it’s not really in my own wheelhouse. Drink 2018-2029. Enough purity and structure that it’s recommended

2012 Citille di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Absent some freshness that could help to brighten this up, it’s nonetheless a good food wine, and a good value. Medium-bodied, red>dark red fruited, with classic aromas and flavors. No need to wait on these, thought a few years in the cellar won’t hurt, either. I like it because it’s not trying to be something it isn’t. Drink now thru 2024NR

2012 Cupano Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Darker brick-red, clear. Vivid aromas of sappy red/dark red berries, minerals, a touch of soil, oiled leather and balsamic. Medium>full-bodied, with supple lines, generous, layered fruits balanced by good acidity; I like the length here, even if it’s not overly complex. Good on its own, or with food. Sapid, clean, with enough structure for short/mid-term cellaringrecommended

2012 Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Balances some of the warmer, riper fruit aspects with good acidity and overall structure. Presents traditional aromas and flavors in a medium-bodied package offering good purity, and some crispness to the fruit. Some personality here, with a chance to improve a little in another year or so. It won’t wow you, but it’s certainly a good food wine. Nicerecommended

2012 Fanti (Tenuta San Filippo) Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Clean, lacks vibrancy, good weight, avg>modest complexity. A good value, easy to drink. Decent food wine, but don’t look to be wowed in any way. Nice mid-week, easy to understand selection. Drink now thru 2024NR

2012 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino  (R)  Nice scorched earth, soil, iron, ripe cherry, baked raspberry. With some swirling, fresh floral aromas, and even some faint citrus. Oiled leather, ripe red fruit, and a touch of soil on the medium-bodied palate. Solid table wine likely to drink best in its youth. Drink now thru 2024. Good, clean character with just enough lift. recommended

2012 Fattoria La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Simple red fruits, clean lines, modest complexity and vibrancy. Red-fruited, avg acidity, tannins nearly resolved. Drink now thru 2024NR

2012 Fattoria La Lecciaia (Pacini) Brunello di Montalcino  (NR)  Moderate>avg freshness, clean, avg flavor and aroma development at this point. Easy to drink, but likely better with a few hours of air in decanter, too. Red-fruited, gently framing tannins. Supple, avg finish. Drink now thru 2023NR

In the next installment, I will have notes/discuss some of the new release Rosso di Montalcino wines, plus some single-vineyard efforts, as well; a good number of exciting wines, actually.

(header photo: inside the cellars of Il Palazzone – great winegrowing here!)

 

 

 

 

 

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