Critics and winemakers alike have put the 2015 vintage on a par with the great 2010, sharing similar levels of opulence and voluptuousness on the palate.
The 2015 vintage has produced some incredibly juicy yet vibrant wines. Wines with amazing voluptuousness backed with great acidity, fatness and freshness. This style, like 2010 is a real crowd-pleaser, but with trends in the region backing away from over ripeness and high level extraction, the 2015s are arguably more elegant, with much more tension and finer tannins than the monolithic 2010s.
The 2010 and 2015 both had hot summers but importantly enough rain to keep the vines maturing right through to harvest. Notable diurnal variation in temperatures between night and day helped keep acidity levels high over the long ripening season, retaining freshness in the wines. The harvest took place in sunny, sanitary conditions with the grapes reaching perfect levels of ripeness.
Having tasted a few 2015s in Montalcino in the summer, and a few more this week, the wines have a staggering richness, fleshiness, almost a creaminess that is rare to find in pure Sangiovese. At the same time the fruit does not feel at all over-ripe, still retaining fresh fruit clarity alongside tannins that are fully resolved, yet providing a piquant bite and structure to the wines. The best examples are outstanding, retaining a wonderful tension and depth of flavour, whilst being incredibly seductive, even at this early stage of their lives.
Couple the quality of the vintage with a new generation of young vignerons who are focusing more and more on the terroir variations, a dedicated qualitative approach in the vineyard and winery, and certainly better precision with picking dates and you have a range of pristine, stable wines that are built to mature elegantly over the next fifteen to twenty years.
Highlights from our travels include four very different styles of Brunello, all not to be missed on release over the coming months.
Canalicchio di Sopra
Canalicchio di Sopra is run by third generation Francesco Ripaccioli. A visit to his vineyards and winery provides a fascinating insight into the precision at work at every level of this estate. Francesco is today producing easily some of the best wines in Montalcino. The vineyards are based in the cooler North East side of Montalcino which has the highest diurnal variation between day and night, helping the region perform particularly well in a warm vintage. It has certainly helped retain an impressive level of tension in the 2015 wines.
The straight Brunello di Montalcino is a blend of their two vineyard sites in Montosoli and Canalicchio. The Canalicchio is dominated by brown clay with a high mineral content producing wines with rounded silky tannins with the clay adding structure. The Montosoli vineyards have a more vertical profile and the soil is made up of galet stones (similar to that of Chianti Classico regions). This drier soils allow for the roots to go deeper adding a salinity and sapidity to the blend.
Francesco is increasingly interested in letting the individual terroirs speak for themselves. The 2013 Riserva was composed only of grapes from Montosoli, whilst the 2012 Riserva was a pure Canalicchio.
The 2015 vintage sees the inaugural release of his first labelled single vineyard wine the Vigna Casacchia from Canalicchio producing just 4000 bottles. The wine scored 100 points in James Suckling’s latest report stating “the intensity of fruit is staggering… there’s a breadth of flavour to the palate that will take your breath away”.
Francesco Ripaccioli from Canalicchio di Sopra in the Montosoli vineyards
Casanova di Neri
Casanova di Neri’s philosophy is to produce Brunello that drinks well in its youth, whilst remaining concentrated, unfined and unfiltered. They are committed to stopping any of the bitterness that Sangiovese can produce dominating the palate and every part of their work in the vineyard and winery is aimed at reducing this. For Casanova di Neri the reputation of Sangiovese continues to be tainted due to poor handling of its tannins, producing unnecessary harshness on the palate which can be completely avoided if treated more carefully.
For Gianlorenzo Neri, ripe tannins provide a unique texture on the palate. Above all they want ripe, sweet tannins. To do this they de-stem all the wines, hand sort the fruit followed by an additional optical sorter, only letting the perfectly ripe berries reach the tank.
They use old French oak barriques and larger 500 litre tonneau barrels to age their wine, but steer away from any new oak. They want their wines to be enjoyed young so they don’t want the wines to taste of oak opting for barrels anywhere between 4 – 14 years of age. Like Canalicchio di Sopra, Casanova di Neri are advocates of single vineyard expressions in Brunello producing Tenuta Nuova – a single south facing vineyard with very stony / rocky terrain produces distinct rosemary, eucalyptus flavours on the palate and a real persistence on the finish. The Cerretalto which comes from more graphite soil on a very steep hillside with huge diurnal shifts between day and night providing a wine with amazing breadth, incredibly plush tannins whilst retaining a vibrant acidity.
The wines from Casanova di Neri are opulent, rich and have a beautiful seductive texture. These are not to be missed in 2015 and you can be less patient with their drinking window too. The Tenuta Nuova scored 99 points in James Suckling's latest report and is described as a wine “with an endless mouthfeel of caressing tannins”.
Frederico Staderini from Poggio di Sotto talking about the climate effects on their Brunello vineyards
Poggio di Sotto
There are few names in Brunello Di Montalcino that rank higher than Poggio Di Sotto. The estate’s incredibly elegant texture, its obsession with quality and its signature style of gentle extraction, light colour and long ageing in specially designed oval Slavonian barrels, has garnered a loyal fan base producing consistently awe-inspiring wines every year.
F+R were amongst the first people to taste the 2015 vintage outside of the winery and it is an utterly beguiling wine. The clarity and precision of the fruit is exquisite. The wine has a plethora of aromatics lavender, rose garden, wild flowers it is an incredibly expressive vintage for Poggio di Sotto without losing their elegant house style.
Another wine that comes highly recommended is the Giodo Brunello di Montacino from Italian wine making legend Carlo Ferrini. This tiny site in a secluded spot on the Montalcino mountainside with a fantastic exposition facing Mount Amiata produces a wine of incredible intensity and power. This wine is made in minuscule quantities, producing 2000 - 8000 bottles depending on the vintage.
The 2015 vintage has just been awarded 100 points from James Suckling describing it as a wine that is “showing extraordinary purity of sangiovese character.”
Watch out for all these releases over the next coming weeks.