Brunello Vintage Report 2017
This report originally appeared in the Spring 2022 print issue of Quench Magazine.
It wasn’t so much the heat, but the drought, which is how most producers summed up the 2017 vintage for Brunello di Montalcino. And while the alcohol seems to awkwardly stand out in some wines, that is no different than in other warm vintages (and some “regular” vintages) including the relatively well regarded 2015. What seems evident is that wines from cooler sites – ie. higher elevations, the presence of cooling breezes, north and east exposures, and those surrounded by woodlands – fared better and were able to maintain freshness. What seems even more evident is that the great producers produce good wine regardless of the vintage – but their wines do reflect the particulars of the vintage, as they should.
Lorenzo Magnelli at Le Chiuse calls 2017 a “modern vintage.” He says it was warm, but not like 2011 or 2003. The issue with 2017 was the lack of rain which, according to Magnelli, “makes it harder to get over-ripe grapes, so you don’t get the jammy flavours and you actually have good acidity in the wines. The problem in this kind of vintage is the opulence, sometimes the wine can be too heavy – too large, but not deep.”
At Le Chiuse, they did their earliest harvest in their history – Sept 6th – 3 weeks earlier than usual to avoid “the opulence and preserve the freshness.” They also reduced maceration times from 24 days to 19 and the wine spent 30 months in old barrels versus the usual 36-38 months. The result was that the wine was bottled 6 months earlier than usual which, according to Magnelli, “helped the wine preserve a good integrity” and freshness and elegance, two of Le Chiuse’s hallmarks. Le Chiuse also benefits from a north facing exposure, relatively high elevation (300m+) and clay soils which retain moisture better – all mitigating factors given the warm and dry conditions of the 2017 vintage.
Laura Gray, estate manager at il Palazzone since 2003, indicated that “our oldest vineyard, La Vecchia, fared extremely well in spite of the 2017 heat and drought thanks to its very developed root system. Fruit from our cru vineyard, Le Due Porte, high in elevation (540m), northwest facing with ‘fresh’ soils and great ventilation and thermal excursion, surrounded by woodlands, was crucial to our interpretation of 2017” in which il Palazzone only produced their annata.
Producers also had to be strict with their selection to avoid astringency and bitter tannins. As Gray says, “we had smaller grapes and fewer grapes than usual and we did a lot of pre-pick selection in the fields to get rid of heat-damaged grapes and, as always, our vibrating sorting table proved invaluable. We brought forward our harvest date, picking intermittently from 13th-20th September. This was the first time in our history that we ever brought in Le Due Porte before 1st October. Our total 2017 production is approximately 30% less than our 2016 production.”
In addition to the 2017 annata, the 2016 Riservas were tasted at the latest edition of Benvenuto Brunello in Montalcino, held in November 2021. The 2016 vintage is much heralded (the 2016 Brunello vintage report appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Quench, which can be viewed online at www.quench.me) and there are so many outstanding Riservas on offer.
Perhaps the lesson learned from Benvenuto Brunello 2021 is that the best of the 2017 Brunelli are elegant and pleasurable and likely early drinking – ideal for restaurants, for those who do not want to or are not able to cellar their wines and for those to have wines to drink while waiting for the 2016 Riservas to age, evolve and develop into the stunning wines so many of them already are and will continue to be for the next 15-20 years and more.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO ANNATA & VIGNA
Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘La Casaccia’, 2017
The aromas on this wine are captivating with floral, spice, black cherry, mint and earth. Incredibly complex with penetrating flavours that mirror and compliment the aromas, silky, grippy tannins, electric texture, mineral, juicy, focused, balanced and long.
Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
An abundance of perfumed tart red fruit, savoury herbs, spice and flinty notes with a firm, youthful backbone and elegant, precise tannins surrounded by morello cherries and wild berries, energetic and bright, concentrated and expressive, finishing long and mouth-watering. Delicious!
Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
The elegance, vibrancy and balance in Le Chiuse’s wines are striking and make then incredibly pleasurable to drink when young, but allow them to age gracefully. Spice, berries, forest floor, earthy notes and silky tannins combine for a firm, yet inviting wine with a lingering, mineral finish.
Lisini Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Ugolaia’, 2016
A pretty wines that while possessing an abundance of youthful, fresh fruit, stays elegant and restrained with well-integrated acidity, refined tannins, electric minerality, savoury spice, tight core and impeccable balance. Enjoy its evolution over the next 10-15 years.
Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Vigna Nastagio’, 2016
Created as a result of a collaboration with the University of Florence, the Nastagio is youthful and approachable with aromas and flavours of red and black berries, plum, tobacco, fresh herbs and spice, firm, velvety tannins, nicely integrated with bright acidity and an underlying structure that should allow this to develop nicely for years to come.
Padelletti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
It takes a bit of time for this wine to express itself, but once it starts to open up, the perfume is alluring with dusty herbs, dried cherries and leather. Lively and graceful on the palate with bright red berries, spice and balsamic notes, refined tannins and a mineral, mouth-watering freshness.
Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
Concentrated and elegant with silky, but precise tannins, bright red fruit, dried herbs, floral perfumes, generous mid-palate and mineral and spice on the finish.
Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Filo di Seta’, 2017
Powerful, finessed, concentrated and rich, but with a tight core. Aromas and flavours of cocao, black berries, dark cherries, savoury herbs and a ferrous quality, verging on effusive, but kept fresh and vibrant with mouth-watering acidity and a long, mineral lifted finish.
Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
Dark, floral and spicy aromas lead to flavours of dark berries and herbs, slightly fleshy texture with firm, silky tannins, and a saliva inducing salinity on the long, bright finish.
Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Campo del Drago’, 2017
Rich and savoury with black fruit, liquorice, forest floor, mocha and spice, full, fruit-coated tannins with a firm, structured core, and a youthful liveliness to keep it fresh. A bigger style, but balanced and well-integrated.
Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
From the first sniff, this wine drew me in with its perfume of red berries, spice and citrus peel. The palate was just as engaging with its elegance, purity of fruit, silky tannins, salinity and energy. A vibrant wine that finishes with an enticing bitterness that kept drawing me back for another taste.
Talenti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Piero’, 2017
Dark and concentrated with crushed blackberries, mint, chocolate and savory herbs, big velvety tannins, concentrated and firm, with black fruit, dark chocolate and mineral notes on the finish.
Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Montosoli’, 2017
Bright and lively aromatics with lovely floral notes, crushed berries and spice, elegant and alluring with fine tannins, tart red fruit, mouth-watering citrus, and a finish that seems to go on and on. A wine that will keep you coming back for more.
Sesta di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
Textural with a generous amount of fruit, sour cherries, spice, mint and citrus zest, the tannins are refined, yet grippy, finishing dry with enough bright acidity to keep every-thing balanced and the alcohol in check.
Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
This is a pretty and charming wine with an elegance that is not easy to find from the vintage. Floral, red fruit and spice aromas bring you in and the palate holds you with its soft delicate fruit, spice, mineral notes, and juicy acidity, refined tannins and bright, lifted finish.
Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
Pretty, wild red fruit with spice and dried herbs on the nose, soft, smooth, juicy, fruit coated tannins, liquorice notes, with a savoury finish. Drinking quite pleasantly now.
Sesti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
Rather delicate and sleek with ripe red cherry and strawberries, citrus and dried herbs, well integrated tannins, good focus and a nice mouth-feel, with a sweet/tart character on the finish. Should drink well over the next 2-5 years.
Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
Quite soft with red berry and floral aromas, pepper, spice and wild herbs, palate-coating with firm, grippy tannins, bright acidity and a nice combination of lifted fruit and savoury herbs on the finish.
San Polino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Helichrysum’, 2017
A lovely perfume of red berries, plum and Tuscan herbs emanates from the glass, followed by red and dark berries, savoury spice, velvety tannins and texture with a sweet, savoury and lightly earthy finish.
San Polo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Vignavecchia’, 2017
Dark and concentrated aromas of black cherries, plum, red currants, orange citrus and smoky earth, rather closed in the core and the tannins are a little hard with the oak standing out, but the wine has a nice mix of wild berries, fresh mineral and savoury notes and a fleshiness that needs a little time for it to settle and come together. A year or two in the cellar should make a significant improvement in the balance and integration of this wine.
Cava d’Onice Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Colombaio’, 2017
Nicely structured with dried flowers, mineral and spice aromas and flavours, firm texture, dark cherry flavours, grippy tannins and bright freshness on the nicely persistent finish.
La Magia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Ciliegio’, 2017
A big, bold Brunello with an abundance of spice, vanilla, tobacco and ripe berries on the nose, big fleshy, fruit-coated tannins that firmly embrace the palate, mouth-coating, slightly drying, but then stays fresh with mineral, spice and tart fruit on the finish. A hefty style, but done rather well.
Ciacca Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Pianrosso’, 2017
Lively, fresh and focused with juicy but
not over-ripe red cherry, raspberry and red currants, citrus, floral notes, spice, well-integrated tannins, wet stone minerality and a soft, slightly hot, but fresh finish.
Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, 2017
This definitely shows the heat of the vintage with loads of red and black sun-warmed, verging on, but not-crossing-the-line-to-jam-my fruit, dried floral notes, concentrated and full, with big, grippy tannins, enough acidity to maintain a level of freshness with a bit of an in-your-face attitude on the finish.
Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Fiore del Vento’, 2017
A well-knit wine with spice, bright cherry, and fresh flowers on the nose, bold, well-integrated tannins, mineral-tinged crushed red berries, savoury herbs and more spice on the inviting, juicy and long finish.
La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘La Pieve 6170’, 2017
Loads of ripe cherry, blackberry, currants and plum fruit, savoury herbs, a balsamic note, liquorice and spice with a rich texture, slightly drying tannins, structured with a salinity that keeps the wine focused and youthful.
Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ‘Vigneto Poggio Doria’, 2017
The aromas of this wine are upfront with ripe cherry, plum and tart currants, spice and vanilla, the palate is somewhat awkward on the entry and the tannins are a tad rough, but there is ample fruit, mineral and fresh
herbs that just need a little time for the gangly to gain some grace.
Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
Wow, wow, wow! From a vintage that produced so many exceptional wines, this is a standout. Beautifully intense and fragrant with layers of alluring floral, currants, savoury herbs and fresh earth, a tight core with a purity of fruit, wet stone minerality and spice, precise, penetrating and focused from start to its lasting finish. This is built to last and will continue to develop more layers, complexity and depth with time. Stunning!
Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva ‘Diecianni’, 2012
Waiting 10 years to release the winery’s Riserva allows for a true distinction from the annata according to Lorenzo Magnelli. The wine is elegant, layered and structured, still so youthful with firm velvety tannins, a tight core, cherry, balsamic and liquorice notes, vibrant acidity and a concentrated, layered, graceful finish. A beauty now, this still has another decade plus of pleasure to give.
Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva ‘Vigna Paganelli’, 2016
Complex and bold with dark fruit, liquorice, a mélange of herbs, and spicy aromas, complimented by a rich texture showing vibrant young fruit, zippy acidity and earthy lifted finish that keeps the wine fresh and its bigness in check and makes this immensely enjoyable now, but without question will develop more layers and complexity with several years of cellaring.
Padelletti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
The aromas are elegant and perfumed, but this is a hefty, structured wine with dense fruit, a tight core and grippy tannins. But wait, the bright acidity and salinity lifts the wine, cuts through the initial perceived heaviness and reveals a purity of fruit and mint and more of the elegance present on the nose. A blockbuster that needs some time to develop into the stunner it will most certainly evolve into.
Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
Lovely aromas of tart red fruit, spice and citrus zest, this is dark and closed on the palate, but all the components are there – fruit, spice, structure, bright acidity, firm, refined tannins and a mouth-watering salinity that slowly, ever so slowly reveal themselves the longer the wine stays in the glass. Resist the temptation to try and coax the character of this wine now – as intriguing as it does start to show – and stash what you can as this will be a brilliant showstopper with at least another 5 years in the cellar.
Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
Don’t let the delicacy and finesse of this wine lead you to overlook its underlying tight core. The crushed fruit is bright and vibrant, the herbs are fresh, the tannins are silky and the finish is vivacious and lifted. Incredibly enjoyable now, but has the components to age well for a decade and more.
San Polino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
Aromas and flavours of dark cherries, forest growth and citrus, rich fruit, dry earthy tannins, elegant and rich, finishing lively and bright. An appealing and alluring, well-constructed wine.
Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
I always love tasting the Uccelliera wines when they are young as their vibrancy, richness and depth are so well integrated and pleasurable on release, even though they have the structure and components to age well. This balances savoury spice, mineral freshness and rich fruit with firm, velvety tannins and a saliva inducing finish. Energetically delicious.
Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
A pretty, elegant and refined wine with lovely aromas of dried flowers, wild berries and mint, bright red fruit, a refreshing tartness, tobacco
and spice with polished tannins, silky texture and long, sleek finish.
La Magia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
Bold, dark and concentrated with loads of bright, crushed black cherry, plum, spice, liquorice, fresh herbs and flinty notes, fleshy, velvety tannins, dense and rich, but with ample lifted acidity to keep it fresh and keep the oak influence in check. Big and lush, but well integrated. Needs a little time to settle into itself.
Capanna di Cencioni Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
Alluring aromas of crushed red fruit, fresh herbs and wet earth, full-flavoured and mouth-filling, the tannins are firm, but accessible, and the spice and mineral saltiness keeps the wine inviting and persistent. Needs a few years in the cellar to open up and really become welcoming.
Argiano Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva, 2016
Robust and dense, it takes some time for the layers and complexity of this wine to start to reveal themselves. The aromas are more enticing with dark cherries, tobacco and Tuscan herbs. The tannins are structured,but velvety and the depth of flavour only starts to sneak out from behind the upfront fruit with a little coaxing. But when it does, it shows depth, energy and a long miner-al-tinged length.
Sesti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva ‘Phenomena’, 2016
This is a stunning beauty with aromas of citrus peel, spice and sour cherry, deep and complex with firm, fruit coated, precise tannins, lively acidity and a persistent, lifted finish.
Talenti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva ‘Pian de Conte’, 2016
Bright aromas of tart red fruit, spice, mint and vanilla notes, more structured on the palate with dark fruit, herbs and citrus, well-defined tannins, complex and layered. The wine carries its components well, although it comes across as a little hot on the finish.