Brunello di Montalcino 2019: what the critics are saying

Following on the heels of 2017 and 2018, the 2019 vintage seems like a blessing for Montalcino – a year to rival 2016. As the Brunello di Montalcinos from the year are released, we provide a round-up of what the top critics are saying about the vintage – as well as their top-scoring wines
Brunello di Montalcino 2019: what the critics are saying

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The 2019 vintage in Montalcino has been hotly anticipated – following on from two trickier years, 2017 and 2018 (although we found the latter to offer some very elegant wines), it’s a year that seemed set to receive critical acclaim to match the lauded 2016

A wet winter replenished water reserves, with a damp spring and warm, dry summer. There were no serious extremes in the conditions, with rain showers arriving in September allowing for a harvest of juicy berries, with little disease pressure, from the middle of the month, finishing in early October. It delivered both quality and quantity, and from what we’ve tasted the wines are extremely impressive – combining power and elegance, offering approachable yet clearly age-worthy styles with effortless balance. 

Montalcino vineyards at sunset. Tuscany region. iStock
Montalcino was blessed with both quality and quantity in 2019

Vinous – Antonio Galloni 

For Antonio Galloni, one of the defining features of the 2019 vintage is its consistency: “The entire region excelled, from southwest to east and northeast to west. Frankly stated, finding a 2019 that doesn’t show remarkable balance, vivid fruit and freshness is a difficult task,” he writes.  

The stress-free growing season produced wines of “utter harmony”, “a blending of power and elegance in a way seldom seen”. He explains that many producers describe the wines as “crunchy”, something he feels is apt, and compares the wines to the 2016s, but with more energy and the aforementioned crunchy tannins. “This is a vintage of radiance and appeal,” he says of 2019, a vintage with wines that are aromatically expressive, offer sense of place and typicity – often earning descriptors such as “classic, racy, cool-toned, crunchy and sleek”, as well as being built for the cellar (maturing over the next 10-15 years or more). It is, he writes, “the vintage we’ve all been waiting for”. 

He emphasises that it isn’t just the 2019s that are so enticing, but that the “high-energy and fruit-forward” 2021 Rossos that make for “an embarrassment of riches” with the current releases. The 2021 Rossos offer “charming, wildly aromatic, drink-me-now personalities” – and are, he says “an excellent choice for collectors”, he suggests, providing “open drinking windows and gobs of pleasure” while the 2019s mature in the cellar. 

Antonio Galloni’s top 2019s: Canalicchio di Sopra Vigna La Casaccia, Il Marroneto Madonna delle Grazie, Le Potazzine, Pian dell’Orino Bassolino di Sopra, Valdicava Vigna Montosoli, Mastrojanni Vigna Schiena d’Asino, Canalicchio di Sopra Vigna Montosoli, Baricci, Le Ragnaie Casanovina Montosoli, Argiano Vigna del Suolo, Altesino Vigna Montosoli 

Explore Antonio Galloni’s full report, notes and scores on Vinous (subscribers only)  

Sassetti vineyard 16:9
Looking across the Sassetti Livio Pertimali vineyards

Wine Advocate – Monica Larner 

“Now is the time to take a closer look at this storied Tuscan appellation,” advises Monica Larner – who is clearly excited by the quality of the 2019 vintage in Montalcino.  

For Larner, 2019 offers “good balance between acidity, concentration and tannins” – with the latter more elegant than those of the 2018s. The wines are concentrated and weighty, yet balanced and elegant, and therefore remind her of 2007 or 2015. As other critics note, the wines are likely to be approachable in youth yet have the acidity and structure to age. The season was “uniformly easy” in both the vineyard and winery, and she highlights the large number of wines scoring between 97 and 99 points. 

While both Kerin O’Keefe and Antonio Galloni feel 2019 has the edge on 2016, Larner believes that “2016 remains superior in my view in terms of elegance and longevity”, although 2019 “ranks close”. For her, one of the reasons the vintage feels so significant is that it marks the beginning of what she perceives as a “new wave” for Montalcino, with a group of producers pushing quality forward, inspired by Burgundy and Barolo to make wines with “vibrant flavors, light and energy”. 

Monica Larner’s top 2019s: Le Ragnaie V. V., Il Marroneto Madonna delle Grazie, Poggio di Sotto, Giodo, Salicutti Teatro, La Ragnaie Passo del Lume Spento, Canalicchio di Sopra Vigna Montosoli, Castello Romitorio Filo di Seta, Casanova di Neri Giovanni Neri, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Pianrosso, Pieve Santa Restituta Sugarille 

Explore Monica Larner’s full report, notes and scores on the Wine Advocate (subscribers only) 

Kerin O’Keefe 

You may not be familiar with the name Kerin O’Keefe, but she is one of the leading Italian wine critics. She was the Italian Editor for Wine Enthusiast for almost a decade, before she set up her own platform, however she is perhaps best known for her most recent book, Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine, and also wrote a book on Brunello di Montalcino in 2012. 

For O’Keefe, the 2019 vintage is clearly an excellent year for Montalcino. “I’ve never tasted so many drop-dead-gorgeous young Brunellos from a single vintage,” she writes. It “has definitely lived up to its lofty reputation” and “the 2019s are overall even better than the 2016s”, she says. The wines combine “intensity, exuberance and great fruit as well as balance”, with many estates making their best wines ever. The growing season was “ideal”, and most 2019s offer “vital energy and refined tannins that allow the wines to showcase their [terroir]”. 

Of course, while “it’s hard to find any defects with the 2019s”, there are of course some “more densely concentrated wines with generous alcohol levels”. Most, however, are “incredibly fragrant”, “full-bodied”, with “great energy” and “taut but refined tannins”, with the best combining body and finesse. She anticipates the wines ageing beautifully over the next 20 or so years. 

Kerin O’Keefe’s top 2019s: Conti Constanti, L’Aietta, Le Chiuse, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Pianrosso, Gianni Brunelli, Canalicchio di Sopra, Gorelli, La Gerla, Lisini, Mastrojanni Vigna Loreto, Podere Le Ripi Cielo d’Ulisse, Salicutti Sorgente, Talenti Piero, Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 

Explore Kerin O’Keefe’s full report, notes and scores on her site (subscribers only) 

Il Marroneto - vineyard shot
Il Marroneto's Madonna delle Grazie was, unsurprisingly, one of the critics' favourites in 2019 – Walter Speller 

The comparison between 2016 and 2019 continues in Walter Speller’s report and he highlights how divided producers are on which is better. All agree, however, that 2019 provided a growing season without extremes – something “which has become the definition of a great year”. 

He draws comparisons between 2004 (which offered quantity and quality), as well as 2015. “I’m not entirely convinced 2019 has the same pedigree as 2016,” Speller writes. While there are some outstanding wines, he feels there are wines with stubborn tannins – and he doesn’t find it as consistent as other critics, but rather confirms that the best producers make fantastic wines year in, year out. He emphasises, as well, that quality is determined by producer rather than location in the region.  

Walter Speller’s top 2019s: Il Marroneto Madonna delle Grazie, Canalicchio di Sopra Montosoli, Conti Constanti, Le Chiuse, Canalicchio di Sopra, Pieve Santa Restituta Sugarille, Le Ragnaie Casanovina Montosoli, Capanna, San Polino Helichrysum, Le Ragnaie V. V., Sesti, Fuligni 

Explore Walter Speller’s full report, notes and scores on (subscribers only)  

James Suckling 

James Suckling remarks that, as a growing season, 2019 was “a throwback to the late 1990s”, echoing other critics in saying that producers found it an easy year with no major challenges in the vineyard and winery. “I loved them,” he writes of the wines, enjoying a “crunchy and pure fruit character” in many. His two 100-point wines (Casanova di Neri Giovanni Neri and Valdicava Vigna Montosoli) have “incredible clarity of fruit and fine tannins as well as a transparency that takes them to their unique soils and locations on the hillsides surrounding Montalcino”. 

Suckling also highlights how there is decreasing emphasis on new barriques, with old oak and larger casks increasingly favoured by producers in the region, as well as a growing number of single-site wines. 

While he notes that producers compare the year to 2010, 2015 and 2016 (or some combination of those years), for him they are closest to 2004, 1997 or 1998 – having a “neoclassical character” thanks to their “agility and harmony”, and recommends giving them three to five years in bottle “to come into their own”. Whichever year you compare it to, however, Suckling is clear that “2019 is definitely a vintage to buy”. 

James Suckling’s top 2019s: Casanova di Neri Giovanni Neri, Valdicava Vigna Montosoli, Giodo, Siro Pacenti Vecchie Vigne, Argiano Vigna del Suolo, Cerbaia, Fuligni, Tenuta Luce 

Explore James Suckling’s full report, notes and scores on his site (subscribers only) 

Jeb Dunnuck – Audrey Frick

The latest report to be released on Montalcino is courtesy of Audrey Frick, Jeb Dunnuck’s Italian correspondent. She reports that 2019 wines are “exceptional and offer consistent greatness across the region”. She compares the wines to those of 2015 for their depth and concentration, 2016 for the vibrancy and tension, and 2010, saying that they offer “outstanding freshness, incredible balance of richness, and a great deal of complexity”.

No matter your tastes, there is, she says “something for everyone regardless of style”. The easy growing season, with no major heat spikes or challenges, has resulted in a vintage that is defined by its “completeness” and advises “collectors are going to want to snatch up top bottles from across the region”. She highlights Poggio di Sotto and Il Marroneto Madonna delle Grazie in particular, identifying them as two, contrasting wines that “highlight the incredible potential of this vintage”.

Audrey Frick’s top 2019s: Il Marroneto Madonna delle Grazie, Canalicchio di Sopra Vigna La Casaccia, Casanova di Neri Giovanni Neri, Gianni Brunelli, Giodo, Le Chiuse, Le Ragnaie V. V., Pieve Santa Restituta Rennina, Poggio di Sotto, Val di Suga Poggio al Granchio

Explore Audrey Frick's full report, notes and scores on the Jeb Dunnuck site (subscribers only)

Browse all current listings of 2019 Brunello di Montalcino or read more Editorial 


Sophie Thorpe
Sophie Thorpe
Sophie Thorpe joined FINE+RARE in 2020. An MW student, she’s been short-listed for the Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer Award twice, featured on and won the 2021 Guild of Food Writers Drinks Writing Award.