Welcome to Benvenuto and 2013 Brunello di Montalcino

The timing of the annual Benvenuto Brunello tasting is as dependable as the changing of the seasons. Each year, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino brings producers together for a tour through Chicago and New York to show the new vintage and their new wines. It has become the most reliable event for retailers and the press to get their first taste of Brunello in bottle, as well as a sneak peak of what’s ahead by sampling the current Rosso di Montalcino that’s presented. This year was particularly exciting, as the producers showed off the highly-anticipated 2013 vintage, as we have all been waiting with bated breath.

Why?

The 2013 vintage represents the first opportunity, in the last two years, to add classically-styled Brunello to our cellars. The warm vintage 2011s were rich, racy and ripe, but far from what the average Brunello lover is looking for, and 2012 fell flat, with stunning aromatics but little thrust or depth on the palate. What’s more, the majority of producers did not produce any 2014 Brunello (a tremendously wet and disastrous vintage), and 2015 is being referred to as another hot vintage. What this means to the buyer of Brunello di Montalcino is that, with the exception of paying top dollar in the secondary market for the highly-acclaimed 2010s, 2013 is our best bet to secure wine that will age, and we will easily enjoy over a decade or more.

Then came the mixed messages

Samuele Cecchini of Fattoria Barbi, a vintage standout.

I find it odd in today’s world of social media and the sharing of information that so many mixed messages would exist around a vintage that has been aged and bottled for over a year now, but that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Much of this is the result of the world’s leading critics wanting to wait for the release of their own reports to spread their opinions on a vintage (you can’t blame them for this, as it is their livelihood). Yet what has been said, from a report from James Suckling, is that the vintage is variable–and he’s right to a certain degree. But it’s important to understand why.

The initial fears came as word was spread that there was rain during harvest. However, the reality is that most producers picked their fruit prior to these rains–which led to the fear that producers didn’t obtain ideal ripeness. This is absolutely not true, as I can attest to, having now tasted the wines for myself. And then there is the fact that the Consorzio only rated the vintage four stars–all I can say to that is that the Consorzio rated the 2012 vintage with five stars (which never lived up to the initial hype).

Why is there variability in 2013 Brunello?

Jeff Porter going into detail on the 2013 Brunello vintage

One of the best aspects of Benvenuto Brunello is not only being able to taste the wines, but also to be able to talk to the producers and attend the focus tastings that are held before and during the event. At this year’s focus tasting, we tasted and talked with Jeff Porter, the Beverage Operations Director at Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, and an all-around cool guy with an amazing depth of knowledge regarding Italian wine. He also happened to be in Montalcino during the 2013 vintage. In his opinion, the variability of 2013 lies in the conditions throughout the season and the willingness or ability of producers to put in the necessary work to yield an ideal harvest.

What were the 2013 vintage conditions in Montalcino?

The 2013 vintage was the result of a cool and wet spring that led to uneven temperatures through the beginning of the summer. From cool conditions, to warm and back to cool again, with rain scattered throughout, 2013 was like a vintage from the ‘60s or ‘70s. What it didn’t have, which helped to maintain its classic character, was heat spikes. As the summer ended, temperatures regulated and so did the precipitation, leading to ideal conditions through September. The threat of rain in October (which scared many consumers) was avoided by most producers, as they picked early (a benefit of today’s weather tracking technology). Some producers tried to wait out the rains, and they paid the price.

The problem with this vintage, considered cool, rainy, and like a throwback to another era, is that many producers didn’t understand how to cope with the conditions. In a region like Montalcino, which is driven more by tourist dollars and could be considered the equivalent to a Napa Valley destination in Italy, the producers simply weren’t ready for a year like 2013–a season of constant change.

The good news: 2013 is a Classic vintage

Many of the top critics have hinted at 2013 being the next big vintage for Brunello di Montalcino. Often you need to read between the lines in their reports on Rosso di Montalcino, scour through their message boards, or stalk their social media, but in the end the message becomes clear. It also became very clear to me while tasting at Benvenuto–and other Brunello events this past week.

The producers who put in the work succeeded in creating a selection of beautiful wines. In recent vintages, talk of location was very important, as the north and higher elevations did better through the warmer years, yet in 2013 this was not the case, as the vintage conditions remained relatively the same throughout.

You can expect medium-bodied wines with amazing finesse, vibrant acidity, a core of stimulating minerality and the structure to age. In some cases, producers did pick too late, losing the necessary acidity or resulting in overripe fruit, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is the exception–not the rule. I believe that lovers of old-styled, classic vintages will find a lot to like in 2013. It’s not the knockout, bury-them-for-20-years that the 2010s were, but I find them to be an extremely enjoyable mix of the intensity of 2006, with the mineral-acid core of 2008, which is a pretty amazing combination.

Brunello lovers rejoice, because we finally have a vintage to love again.

On to the tasting notes

Tasting notes were developed through a combination of tasting at Benvenuto Brunello, as well as seated tastings both with and without producers in attendance. Many wines were tasted more than once in different settings and from different bottles.

Voliero Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark with violet floral tones, black cherry, dusty spices, leather and hints of savory herbs. On the palate, I found silky textures balanced by zesty acids with texturally-rich cherry and strawberry, sweet spices and minerals which all combined to form a beautifully balanced expression. It finished long with saturating dark berry fruits, spice, and fine tannin, yet it was energized by lingering acidity. I’ve liked this wine in the past, but in 2013 it has reached a whole new level. (96 points) Available at Morrell

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta 2013 – The nose was intense with a seductive and earthy mix of tart cherry, saline-minerals, dusty soil and mountainous herbs. On the palate, I found silky-soft textures, yet with zesty acidity providing balance, as dark red berry, spice, leather and mineral tones saturated the senses. The finish was incredibly long, resonating on a core of minerals with hints of fine tannin and persistent red berry fruits lingering long on the senses. (96 points) Available at Morrell

Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The 2013 Brunello was rich, savory and quite dark on the nose, displaying black fruit and cherry with minerals and herbs filling in the details. With time in the glass, it developed into crushed cherry and raspberry with hints of bell pepper. On the palate, I found a soft, refined and silky expression, as its textures caressed the senses with dark red fruits, chalky extract, soft tannins and inner floral tones. The long, dark fruit finish seemed to go on and on with hints of savory herbs and minerals. I was fortunate enough to taste this twice and both times it was stunning. Simply gorgeous. (95 points) Available at Morrell

Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The bouquet opened with a display of earth, undergrowth and animal musk, as notes of sweet and sour cherry, crushed flowers and fall leaves developed over time. On the palate, I found a soft expression, as silky textures were contrasted by saline minerality, before notes of sweet spice and ripe strawberry joined the mix. The finish was long and balanced, displaying fine tannin, tart cherry and a twang of savory herbs. This is an excellent vintage for Il Palazzone. (95 points)

Capanna Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was wonderfully fresh yet intense, showing crushed strawberry and raspberry with dusty dry soil tones, fall leaves and hints of spice. On the palate, I found velvety textures which were perfectly balanced by a wave of fresh acidity, as dark red fruits and spice nearly enveloped the wine’s fine tannic structure–nearly. The long finish showcased classic tannin with notes of dried cherry, plum, sweet spice and earth tones. (95 points)

Mocali Brunello di Montalcino Vigna delle Raunate 2013 – The nose was dark, rich and spicy with dried orange, black tea, and crushed black cherry. On the palate, I found cool-toned, lifted textures with bright strawberry, dried florals and leather. This was juicy to the core through vibrant acidity, as hints of fine tannin slowly set in. The finish was long with palate-satuarting red berry fruits and spice. (94 points) Available at Morrell

Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark-fruited yet lifted with hints of sweet dusty spice, minerals, strawberry, plum and dried flowers. On the palate, I found soft, fleshy textures with dark strawberry, hints of mint and fine tannin, yet almost creamy with balanced acidity. The finish was medium-long with wild berry, inner florals and hints of bitter cherry. (94 points) Available at Morrell

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was gorgeous and spirited with its sweet, spicy personality, as dusty ripe cherry and wild herbs wafted up from the glass, and earth tones evolved over time. On the palate, I found a silky, textural experience with lifting minerality, savory herbs and zesty acidity adding depth to its ripe cherry fruit. The finish was long and classically structured, showing a lot of promise for the future. (94 points)

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark, showing licorice and lavender up front, with notes of undergrowth, moist earth, dusty spices and black cherry evolving with time in the glass. On the palate, I found velvety textures balanced by zesty acidity with purple inner-floral tones, ripe strawberry, minerals and spice. It finished long on fine saturating tannin, dried strawberry, and lively acidity that provided grip. This was a beautifully balanced and enjoyable Brunello. (94 points) Available at Morrell

Tiezzi Enzo Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Soccorso 2013 – The nose was dark with dried strawberries, blackberry, brown spices, crushed stone minerality and undergrowth. On the palate, I found angular dense textures yet still enveloping the acid-and-tannin mix, as tart cherry and wildberry fruits combined with zesty citrus-infused acidity. The finish was long with cheek-puckering red berry fruit, leather tones and fine-grained tannin. This has a long way to go in the cellar before showing it’s best, but is enjoyable today on its potential alone. (94 points) Available at Morrell

Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – One of the standouts of my recent tastings, Fattoria dei Barbi hit a perfect balance of earth, spice and minerality in 2013 that starts in the bouquet and follows through to the finish. The nose showed dusty spiced strawberry and tart cherry backed by minerals and hints of animal musk. On the palate, I found a soft yet zesty expression, showcasing ripe strawberry fruit with inner floral tones and a savory saline characteristic. The finish was long with floral-laced tart red berries and hints of fine tannin. This is already enjoyable today, yet it has a bright future ahead of it. (94 points)

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was layered, dark and floral with crushed black cherry, plum, rich brown spices, wild herbs, hints of animal musk and undergrowth. On the palate, I found unbelievably silky textures with a dense mix of sour cherry, balsamic spice and saline-minerality, which created a sweet-and-sour mix, as fine tannin mounted with each sip. The finish was long with saturating tart red fruits, minerals and grippy young tannins. (93 pointsAvailable at Morrell

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was remarkably fresh and refined, displaying pure strawberry and cherry fruit, with dusty sweet floral tones and minerals. On the palate, I found youthfully-lean textures with zesty acidity giving life to notes of tart cherry, spice and earth tones. It finished long and structured with lasting dried berry fruit and hints of leather. (93 points) Available at Morrell

Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was wonderfully layered and deep, morphing between crushed cherry, strawberry and blueberry before gaining lift through minerality and floral undergrowth with hints of leather. On the palate, I found a soft expression which was quickly contrasted by a wave of zesty acidity, as wild berry and orange-citrus-tinged spices saturated the senses. The finish was long with a mix of fresh fruits before light tannin took control and saturated the senses. Talk about a wine that’s easy to like, and it would probably have scored a bit higher in my book if it wasn’t already so drinkable. (93 points)

Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was deep and layered with sweet herbs, undergrowth, crushed strawberry, minerals, undergrowth and dusty spices. On the palate, I found soft, silk textures with fleshy cherry, spice and zesty minerality. It was juicy, spicy and fresh with fine tannins setting in through the finish, as zesty bright acidity gave life to dried strawberry and mineral tones. (93 points) Available at Morrell

Mocali Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark, showing masses of crushed stone minerality, undergrowth, and black earth upfront, as notes of crushed strawberry and spice developed over time. On the palate, I found soft textures offset by wild berries, spice, inner florals, and hints of animal musk translated from the bouquet. The finish was long with chewy tannins, dried strawberry and hints of spice. (93 points)

Tiezzi Enzo Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino 2013 – The nose really pulled me in, showing underbrush with crushed strawberry, cherries, brown spices, and dried flowers. On the palate, I found soft, fleshy textures with violet-inflected inner florals, darker-toned strawberry fruits and leather. The acidity was balanced and lively, adding energy and verve. It finished zesty and fresh on tart berries and hints of spice. (92 points)

Scopetone Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark and intense with masses of crushed strawberry, blackberry, dusty sweet spice and leather. On the palate, I found cool-toned silky textures with pure cherry and red berry fruits. Juicy acidity added vibrancy, as the wine finished medium-long with tart berry and hints of spice. Where the Scopetone lacks in depth, it makes up for in sheer drinkability. (92 points)

Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was pretty, showing dried floral tones with spiced black cherry. On the palate, I found a zesty expression with black cherry, sweet spices, and minerals. The finish was medium-long with an acid twang, dried black cherry and a hint of bitter herbs. (92 points)

Fanti Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was airy and fresh with sweet cherry and dusty floral tones. On the palate, I found a soft textural experience, as ripe berry and sweet spice combined with brisk acidity to create a very forward and “easy-to-like” expression. The finish was medium-long and energetic, with ripe berry and spice tones lasting throughout. I can’t imagine this wine maturing over the course of decades, but I’m not sure that matters with how enjoyable it is already. (92 points) Available at Morrell

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino La Casa 2013 – At first, La Casa was withdrawn, yet it came to life with time in the glass, showing dusty red berry fruits and dried flowers. On the palate, I found an angular expression with brisk acidity adding much needed energy, as spiced red berry and minerals flooded the senses, then proceeded to reveal saturating tannin with notions of minerality and crushed stone on the finish. I have to wonder just how this wine will evolve, as my impression leaves me thinking that the fruit may not outlive the structure. (92 points)

Bertani Domains Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was rich and very dark, as blackberry and notes of sweetened cream wafted up from the glass. With time in the glass, savory spices, undergrowth and leather emerged. On the palate, I found silky, dense, caressing textures with dark red fruits, savory herbs and saline-minerality. The finish was long, showing the first signs of youthful tannin, as notes of dried cherry and minerals lingered on and on. Being told that it’s a wine that’s made in a traditional manner, I was confused by its richness and textures–yet the proff of it’s quality is easily recognizable. (92 points)

La Magia Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was remarkably pretty and understated, showing cranberry, perfumed floral tones and a sweet dusting of spice. It was wonderfully textural and dense on the palate, yet balanced through brisk acidity with a mix of rosy cherry, inner florals, dusty spices and hints of cedar. The finish was long with sour cherry and cheek-puckering dry tannin. (92 points)

Poggio il Castellare Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was withdrawn at first, needing time in the glass to evolve and display pure red berry fruits, dusty earth and dried floral tones. On the palate, I found soft, velvety textures with dark red fruits, a cut of balancing acidity and saline minerals. The finish was youthfully dry with tart red berries, hints of leather and lasting minerality. (91 points)

La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was layered and deep with earth and underbrush up front, giving way to ripe black cherry, strawberry, and evolving to include crushed stone and moist soil. On the palate, silky textures gave way to tart cherry and sweet spice, yet it lacked follow-through. The finish was medium-long and energetic through late-arriving acidity. (91 points)

Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose showed crushed cherry, spice, dried flowers, and minerals, yet it was a bit dried out. On the palate, I found soft textures with cherry, licorice and inner florals, in an airy and fresh expression. The finish was long with spicy cherry saturating deep, along with a coating of fine tannin. (92 points)

La Colombina Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark with notes of crushed blackberry, dusty spice, lavender and cedar. On the palate, I found soft, silky textures with ripe cherry, sweet spice, licorice and sweet fine tannin. It was driven and intense yet balanced with lively acidity. The finish was long and spicy, with fine tannin gripping the senses. This is already enjoyable and growing on me as I taste it. (92 points)

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was pretty with a mix of red berries, spice and violet floral tones. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by bright strawberry, spice, brisk acidity and slightly chewy tannins. The finish was long, resonating with dried cherries, lingering acids and earth tones. (91 points)

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark, showing black cherry, floral undergrowth, rich spices and moist earth. On the palate, I found silky textures with dark red berry fruit and inner floral tones, as the experience turned more angular, with tannin mounting with each sip. The finish was medium in length with dark florals and black cherry. It’s far from a bad wine, yet much of its appeal is only surface-deep. (90 points)

Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose showed cherry with earthy minerals and animal musk. On the palate, I found a vibrant expression, as a mix of cherry and strawberry combined with notes of underbrush. The finish was shorter than I’d hoped, with hints of leather, spice and drying tannin. (90 points)

Col di Lamo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was withdrawn at first, requiring quite a bit of coaxing before a bouquet of bright cherry and dusty florals emerged. On the palate, I found a soft-plush expression with fleshy sweet cherry and hints of spice. The finish was energetic and medium-long, displaying a mix of zesty acidity together with saline-minerality. (89 points)

Poggio Nardone Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose was dark and quite ripe, showing crushed black cherry, strawberry, sweet herbs, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found a juicy expression with ripe blackberry, strawberry and sweet spices. Fine tannin settled in through the finish along with hints of undergrowth and violet florals. This lack a bit of depth, leaning more on ripeness of fruit. (89 points)

Capanne Ricci Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose showed bright cherry and spice with hints of tobacco and dried flowers. On the palate, I found silky textures with persistent red berry fruit and sweet spice, yet it lacked the thrust of the best wines. The finish was medium in length, as a bump of acidity added a lively tang to the finale. (88 points)

Casicano Tommasi Family Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose showed floral undergrowth with black cherry, marine-inspired minerality and savory herbs. On the palate, I found a silky expression with plum and sweet spice, yet it lacked depth and the necessary acidity to add energy and tension. The finish was medium-long with light tannin and hints of dried red fruits. (88 points)

Piancornello e Podere del Visciolo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – The nose showed dusty spices up front with ripe red fruits and sweet spice. On the palate, I found a soft expression with flesh cherry and spice, but little else. The finish was saturating to the senses, as a mix of dry tannin and red and blue fruits held firm. (87 points)

Credits and Resources

Article, tasting notes and photos by: Eric Guido

The official website of: Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino

View the 2013 Brunello Selection at: Morrell Wine

Thank you to Jeff Porter of the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group

Thank you to Skurnik and Vinifera for arranging tastings outside of Benvenuto