Sunday, November 12, 2017

Aglianico del Vulture Returns to Collisioni

Article, Photos and Tasting Notes: Eric Guido

When heading back to Collisioni this year, the number one question on my mind was if I would have a chance to conduct a focused tasting of Aglianico del Vulture. To the average consumer, this may not seem like the tasting that I would be looking forward to the most as I packed my bags for a stay in Barolo, but it was. Why? Because in my opinion, this is a region and a variety that is on the rise in Italy. One that deserves its day in the sun, but through the sins (or let’s just call it lazy winemaking and overproduction) of the past, it had its momentum slowed over the last ten years.

Aglianico del Vulture is a DOC in Basilicata, a region of Southern Italy which borders Campania, and it is one of the few regions that has a coast on two sides of the boot. It is also well known for Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano, that gives its name to Aglianico del Vulture.

First and foremost because of the variety, Aglianico, which is renowned for its use in creating Taurasi in Campania. Add to that the diverse volcanic soils throughout its five delimited growing zones, Maschito, Ripacandida, Barile, Ginestra, and Rionero. The climate of each of these is moderated by influences from two seas, a large range of altitudes and degrees of elevation–it all adds up to having the ingredients to make a great wine.

I recall my early inquiries into Italian wine, and the writers of the time commenting on the potential of the Vulture–unfortunately, that potential was never realized. In some cases this was due to the lack of a champion, a producer that consumers and collectors could relate to, who would show them what was possible beyond the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, the region had its big names, such as Paternoster and their consistently high-scoring Don Anselmo. However, there was no face or name behind the brand that was out in the world and speaking to collectors. This may seem petty compared to the quality of what is in the bottle, but without a face behind the brand, it was just another Italian wine that most consumers didn’t understand.

Today, the producers in Aglianico del Vulture are determined to change that. Much of this is the result of the new generation that is taking on more responsibility in the wineries, or taking over completely. The simple fact that these producers have put so much energy into a large showing of wines and personally attending Collisioni is a huge point in their corner. They have attended the event with ears and minds open to change, taking in all of the criticism and compliments that our board of wine writers, somms and professionals were eager to give.

We spent the better part of a day tasting Aglianico and talking through the wines, and I can say with certainty that the bar has been raised yet again. Last year I found a mixed bag of some excellent, others inspired (but not quite there yet), and a few downright poor examples of Aglianico del Vulture–but this year, there was a marked change.

First there is a new emphasis on place, which I’d like to see displayed more on each label, instead of the fantasy names that many producers choose to use. When you hear that a wine is made from grapes sourced from a vineyard in the crater of a volcano, it adds a story and urges you to search for the terroir in the glass. To think that a producer would choose not to market this information is beyond my comprehension–this is the kind of information that we wine lovers thrive on.

Next is the cleaning up of the wineries, and a smaller dependence on old, old… old barrels that needed to be retired many years ago. There’s no question that most tasters preferred large, neutral barrels, but when that barrel is leaking and dirty–you end up with a dirty wine. Last year, I found a number of wines that suffered from this. This year, only one wine showed signs of old barrels.

Lastly, it’s the goal to establish Aglianico del Vulture as a competitor against Barolo, Brunello and Taurasi as one of Italy’s great wines of longevity. The truth is that the timing couldn’t be better, as we watch the prices of Barolo and Brunello soar–and Taurasi seems comfortable to rest on past laurels. If Aglianico del Vulture can refine and elevate its reputation in time–it may just end up as the new “Barolo of The South”.

In the end, the producers of Aglianico del Vulture wanted to know about how they can begin to be profitable in the face of all of this change, and that will be the most difficult part. We were all asked to give them a dollar range that we each believed their wines could be worth, assuming they continued to move in the right direction. In nearly every case, these wines are currently undervalued. But first, Aglianico del Vulture needs to prove to consumers they they are worth the tariff.

The day will come (possibly sooner than you think) that these wines will sell for twice, if not three times their current cost. My advice is to stock up now, because this is not only a region on the rise, it’s an organization of producers who are determined to prove themselves to the world.

All of my tasting notes are below, both good and bad. As for my recommendations for those looking to take advantage of this region on the rise, look to Cantina del Notaio La Firma, Donato D’Angelo and Laluce to lead the way. It’s an exciting time to be following Aglianico del Vulture.

On to the tasting notes:

2012 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma – The nose was dark and layered, showing black cherry, plum, sweet violet tones, clove, dried orange, and dusty black earth. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by notes of plums and spice, lifting minerality and fine saturating tannin. The finish was firm and drying yet extremely long on violet-inflected black fruit. This is a wine to bury in the cellar. (93 points)

2008 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Le Drude – The nose showed crushed black fruits, savory spices, dried flowers, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures with stunning, vibrant acidity, dark red and black fruits, wild herbs, and savory spices. Tannin mounted throughout the experience, yet it’s already quite enjoyable, showing mature earth and charred meat tones. The finish was long, showing savory herbs, dried meats and spice. (93 points)

2012 Donato d’Angelo Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed incredible depth with mineral-laced cherry, violet floral tones, dried orange peel and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by fine tannin and balancing acidity, as dark red fruits began to saturate the senses and hints of spice and inner violet notes formed. It finished long on tart cherry and fine tannin, yet it maintained freshness and lift. In five to ten years, this should be just entering a long and lovely drinking window. (93 points)

2011 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was beautiful yet dark, showing spiced cherry, plum, dried orange, and crushed violets. On the palate, I found tart black fruits, inner floral and herbal tones, with energizing acidity matched by fine tannin. It finished intensely structured on dark fruits, undergrowth and hints of ash. This needs time, but I’m already loving it. (92 points)

2012 Azienda Agricola Michele Laluce Aglianico del Vulture Zimberno – The nose was dark and earthy, showing mineral-tinged black fruits, volcanic ash, spicy herbs, and undergrowth. On the palate, I found soft textures counterbalancing tart black fruits and savory herbs. The ash and minerals from the bouquet seemed to translate perfectly onto the palate, adding a saline quality to the experience. It finished long with clenching tannin and tart black fruits. (92 points)

2005 Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture Vigna della Corona – The nose showed mature notes of undergrowth, crushed cherry, plum, dried flowers and dark earth. On the palate, I found soft textures, plum and crushed cherry, savory minerality and sous bois. On the finish, I found unbelievably youthful tannin with bitter black fruits and spice. (91 points)

2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Nocte – The nose was dark and spicy with violet inflections, showing intense black cherry, cinnamon, anise, hints of undergrowth and ash. On the palate, I found soft textures with blackberry and plum fruit, savory spice, saturating fine tannin and balancing acidity. It finished structured yet with good energy and lingering spices. (91 points)

2012 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Carato Venusio – The nose showed depths of crushed black cherry, with notes of cedar, sweet herbs and minerals. On the palate, It displayed energizing acidity with silky textures, ripe cherry, sweet spices and herbs. Medium-tannin lingered on the palate, along with black cherry and undergrowth. (91 points)

2012 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi – The nose was lifted, showing violets, blackberry, tart plum and minerals. On the palate, I found lean textures with peppery black fruits and a combination of zesty acids and saturating tannin. It finished long and structured with concentrated tart black fruits coating the senses. (90 points)

2015 Paternoster Aglianico del Vulture Synthesi – The nose showed bright mineral-tinged black cherry, rich ginger spice, hints of violet florals and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found tart red fruits and lean tannin on a medium-to-light bodied frame. It finished tart, yet still quite fresh with lingering tannin and hints of blackberry fruit. This is a fresh style for Vulture, yet with a beautiful purity of fruit. (90 points)

2011 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose was intense with dark red and black fruits, both savory and sweet spices, and hints of minty herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures with a savory and almost-saline personality, showing tart cherry, plum and saturating minerality. Its firm tannin came on late, drying the fruit throughout the finish and leaving an impression of youthful austerity–bury some in the cellar for at least five to ten years. (90 points)

2012 Tenuta I Gelsi Aglianico del Vulture – The nose showed intense dark red fruits, anise, dried violets, moist ash and pepper. On the palate, I found silky textures on a medium-bodied frame offset by tart black and red berry fruits, spice and leather. It finished structured with saturating tannin, tart dark red fruits and black earth tones. (89 points)

2013 Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture Il Repertorio – The nose showed intense crushed raspberry with notes of clove, anise, and spice. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures with intense dark fruit, giving way to wild herbs and peppery spice. It finished medium in length with fine tannin and savory spices lingering on. (89 points)

2013 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Piano Regio – The nose was holding back, yet with coaxing, it revealed dark red fruit, violets, clove, wild herbs and crushed stone. On the palate, I found lean textures with tart red and black fruits, dark soil tones and spice. It finished long with saturating tannin violet inflections and lingering tart red berry fruit. (89 points)

2008 Colli Cerentino Aglianico del Vulture Masqito – The nose was dark and brooding, showing savory charred meats, black earth, cherry, herbs, and crushed stone minerality. On the palate, It was unexpectedly youthful and complex, displaying tart cherry, saline-minerality, and spice. The finish was long with saturating gruff tannin that dried the fruit despite the wine’s age, making me wonder if the fruit can hold up to them over time. (88 points)
2011 Cantine Strapellum Aglianico del Vulture Nibbio Grigio – The nose was fresh and floral with light blackberry, minerals and spice. On the palate, I found soft textures with a mix of red and black fruit, yet this lacked persistence, as fine tannin saturated the senses. It finished structured yet still fresh with medium length. (88 points)

2015 Cantina di Venosa Aglianico del Vulture Verbo – The nose was perfumed with spicy red florals and notes of crushed raspberry, orange peel, and crushed stone. On the palate, I found vibrant red fruit with juicy acidity and hints of spice. It finished with zesty red berries and a coating of fine tannin. This may be simple, but it’s undeniably enjoyable today. (87 points)

2013 Terra Dei Re Aglianico del Vulture Vultur – The nose showed crushed violets, black fruits, ash, fall leaves, and peppery herbs. On the palate, I found lean textures with herbal black fruits and saturating tannin. It finished on drying tannin and tart red fruits. (87 points)

2011 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Re Manfredi Vigneto Serpara – The nose was brooding and dark with notes of plum, undergrowth, ash, chalk dust, and sweet violets. On the palate, I found silky textures with concentrated ripe black fruits, peppery herbs and spice. Hints of pepper lingered along with earthy undergrowth and bitter herbs. I can’t help but feel like part of its profile is the result of old (unclean?) barrels. (86 points)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

1990 Barolo & Barbaresco Retrospective

The Prelude to The Modern Vintage

Six years ago, a group of friends and collectors–myself included–assembled a 1990 Barolo retrospective tasting. I honestly didn’t know what to expect at the time because, only six years ago, the average Barolo collector looked down on the 1990 vintage, disregarding it as a warm, ripe year that wouldn’t deliver wines that could mature well in the cellar–boy, were we wrong.

The results of our tasting were positive nearly across the board, with only one wine showing poor development and with a few of them verging on epic. When the time came for me to write up my review and to begin to market it to my community of readers, I was met by a number of negative responses. Some people even went as far as calling my opinions incorrect, completely convinced that these wines couldn’t possibly be as good as I said. With time though, opinions began to change as more and more collectors re-tasted the wines themselves and found something they didn’t expect–something they liked a lot.

My opinion was that 1990 wasn’t a poor vintage. It was a ripe vintage, of that there is no doubt, but the wines maintained a freshness and liveliness through balanced acidity, and a purity of ripe fruit that is hard to resist. I mused that they would continue to age beautifully for many years in the cellar.

That brings us to September 27th at the North End Grill

The 1990 vintage in Barolo and Barbaresco started with an unusually turbulent winter, as weather patterns fluctuated between unusually cold to unusually warm through April. Yet the bigger issue was the lack of precipitation. The region was graced with neither rain nor snow until April, and warm weather that lasted into May. The flowering and crop set was variable across the region, yet, in the end, most producers found the set to be generous. With June came the lasting heat, which remained through most of the summer and sped the maturation of fruit. However, with September the weather became much more seasonal, and although the harvest was early by 10-15 days, it was done under optimal conditions. The fear was that the fruit lacked the necessary time on the vine to develop depth and ripe tannin.

Some people immediately disregarded the vintage as ripe and not worthy of the cellar. The funny part is that by today’s standards, it would have been considered a much better year.

From the start, the 1990s drank beautifully and continued to drink well for a decade. Many people thought of it as a restaurant vintage, meaning that a sommelier could buy the wines and open them for their customers upon arrival. Vintages that we might say the same for in the recent past include 2011, 2009, 2007 and 2003. This isn’t the best company to keep in a Barolo collector’s opinion, but 1990 has something very different from these vintages–balance.

There are many theories about why wines age in a positive manner, and with Barolo most people associate it with tannin alone. However, in the time that I’ve been collecting wine, the theory that I’ve come to believe more than any other is that a wine matures on its balance. Fruit, acid and tannin in balance will allow a wine to go the long haul. In my opinion, if the conditions of the 1990 vintage were repeated today, then the wines would have been much better-received in their youth. I see it as a prelude to our modern vintages.

When tasting through the 1990s on our table, balance was the repeating theme in nearly all of them. The fruit was ripe on the nose and palate, only verging on tart in some cases, and they were all carried gracefully across the senses by vibrant acidity. The tannin lurked in the background, only showing itself early in a small number of wines. However, in most of them, their tannin could be perceived only on the tail end of the finish. When you consider that these are 27 year-old wines, then you would expect the tannins to be taking a back seat.

The 1990s we tasted are defined by their consistency and the wide drinking window that they’ve enjoyed. Six years ago, they were gorgeous–maybe coming across as a touch riper. Today they are just as beautiful, a bit more refined, and in no danger of decline.

If you can find 1990 Barolo or Barbaresco from your favorite producer that has been well stored, then my advice is to buy it and enjoy.

On to the tasting notes:

1st Flight: Paolo Scavino Barolo

Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 1990 – The ‘90 Bric del Fiasc provided a fantastic start to our tasting, being one of the first times that I’ve tasted this wine and found the development of more tertiary aromas and flavors. The nose was gorgeous, displaying crushed fall leaves, tar and undergrowth up front, as notes of black cherry, brown sugar and a hint of iodine developed in the glass. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by zesty acidity with mineral-drenched tart cherry fruit that saturated the senses. It finished long on dark red fruits, undergrowth and iron-borne minerality. (94 points)

Paolo Scavino Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 1990 – Upon serving, the ‘90 Rocche dell’Annunziata was much warmer (temperature-wise) than the Bric del Fiasc, which hurt its initial performance, but as the evening wore on, I was able to taste it again on its own with much better results. The nose was hauntingly dark and intense with baked cherries, exotic spice, marine-minerality and hints of sweet herbs. On the palate, I found medium-bodied textures yet still lighter than I expected, with dried black cherry and strawberry fruits. Hints of tobacco, sweet herbs and inner florals lingered on the palate long into the finish, with an earthy-mineral tinge. (91 points)

2nd Flight: Modern Leanings

Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Barolo Brunate 1990 – The bouquet was gorgeous with spicy ripe cherry, cigar box, hints of orange citrus, and menthol. It entered juicy on the palate, with pretty ripe cherry and sweet spice tones, yet falling off toward the mid-palate, and ultimately becoming muddled with an odd note of rotten fruit. It finished with medium-length and hints of fine tannin, but it appears that the Ceretto Brunate may have already seen its day in the sun. (90 points)

Elio Altare Barolo Vigneto Arborina 1990 – The nose was dark and intense, showing black earth, minerals, hauntingly dark floral tones, dried black cherry, cedar, and savory herbs. On the palate, I found unbelievable silky textures and medium-to-full bodied weight, with vibrant red berry fruits, spices, minerals and vibrant acidity that added great energy to the mix. It was so easy to like that you could easily find yourself drinking it instead of tasting. The finish was long with a display of dark red fruit, saturating sweet spice, tobacco and dried roses. (93 points)

Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis 1990 – The ‘90 Cannubi Boschis was at first dark and brooding in the glass, taking time to unfurl, yet once it did–what a beautiful display it was. Here I found a dark and meaty bouquet with minty herbs and bright cherry adding freshness. As it sat in the glass, notes of dusty spice and dried rose appeared, yet there remained a note of beef blood, which grounded this in the earth. It was silky on the palate, yet structured and still youthful, showing tart cherry, orange peel and tobacco. The finish was long and saturating to the senses, with lively tannin and dried red berry tones. (96 points)

3rd Flight: Serralunga and Monforte

Gaja Barolo Sperss 1990 – The ‘90 Sperss was remarkably fresh for both the vintage and what I expected from the wine. Here I found a gorgeous bouquet of dried violets offset by dark earth, leather, red licorice, dusty old spice box and crushed stone. On the palate, soft textures were complemented by an undercurrent of ripe dark red fruits, with hints of dried citrus, minerals and brisk-energizing acidity. It finished long and floral with lingering hints of undergrowth, spice and dried red berry fruit. (97 points)

Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1990 – The nose displayed an overwhelming mineral, metal and sawdust note, lacking in fruit but also not showing any aromas that I associate with cork. On the palate, it was one dimensional, showing dark red fruit but without any energy or drive. I’m sure this was an off bottle, but I’m not exactly sure of how it arrived at such an odd state. I declined scoring it as a result. (NA)

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia 1990 – This is further evidence that when an Aldo Conterno Barolo is on, that there is little else that can compare. The ‘90 Granbussia was Monforte-fruit personified. It was dark, viral, and brooding, with dried black cherry giving way to iron-like minerality, dusty florals and earth. On the palate, it was silky but with an underlying current of dark tannic structure and mineral earth tones, as black fruit saturated the senses. It was powerful and still tense, showing further potential for the cellar as it finished long on dried berries and tobacco. (94 points)

4th Flight: Barbaresco

Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina di Neive 1990 – The bouquet was gorgeous with sweet florals and exotic spices, followed by dried strawberry, tobacco and hints of floral undergrowth. On the palate, I found a silky expression made vibrant through juicy acidity with mineral coated dark red fruits, and spices. It finished long and floral with hints of sweet herbs, lasting minerality and mouthwatering acidity. It’s amazing how juicy and fresh this 27 year-old barbaresco is, as well as how Giacosa could create so many consistently beautiful wines across so many vineyards and vintages. (95 points)

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Pora 1990 – The Produttori Pora Riserva was so perfectly balanced and mature on this evening, showing a floral bouquet, yet rich with dried cherry, hints of olive, minerals and undergrowth. On the palate, I found saturating deep red berry fruit tones with zesty acidity providing freshness, and earth and tobacco adding depth. The finish was long and still lightly structured, and dried cherry and strawberry seemed to slowly melt from the senses. (94 points)

Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi 1990 -The Costa Russi was a model of purity and nebbiolo refinement on the nose, as notes of pine and mint rose up from the glass, joined by hints of tar, dried rose, strawberry, potpourri and minerals. On the palate, I found zesty textures with nearly imperceptible weight, as the wine seemed to hover on the senses with lively notes of tart red berry, spice, citrus and fresh herbs. It’s amazing how youthful this felt, yet also perfectly mature, as it finished on dried berries, hints of cedar and inner floral tones. (93 points)

Also tasted in April 2017

Vietti Barolo Rocche 1990 – The ’90 Vietti Rocche is showing beautifully tonight. The bouquet was gorgeous and intense, with black cherry, mint, tobacco, sweet spice, dried flowers, and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found silky textures with a kick of acidity adding bite, while crunchy tannin added grip. Tart black cherry, dried citrus, wild herbs, and intense minerality saturated the senses. It finished fresh with biting acids and tannin, but oh so good and drinking wonderfully. (95 points)

Article, Photos and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido

For more impressions on our evening, visit: Wine Without Numbers

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Queen to Piedmont's King; Time To Talk Barbaresco

I often talk about Barolo, and I am quick to add in a Barbaresco note or bottle to a tasting whenever I see fit. However, what you will hardly ever see in these pages is a tasting centered around Barbaresco. The reason for this, much like the reason why Barolo is more well-known than Barbaresco, is that as collectors get to know the region, there has always been a certain bias against Barbaresco, placing Barolo in their minds as the better wine. First, let’s put that idea out of our heads, because it simply isn’t true, but unfortunately it took me many years of tasting–and something of a paradigm shift–to realize it.

The change started over many years of tasting, as once in awhile we would throw a Barbaresco into a blind Barolo lineup. It didn’t take long to realize that these wines were finishing with top ranks. Keep in mind that I’m not just talking about Gaja and Bruno Giacosa. Produttori del Barbaresco and their portfolio of Riserva wines have long been the Barolo collectors’ secret love affair with Barbaresco, and they are perfect examples of how affordable a great Barbaresco can be and how well they can age.

What we’ve also seen in the last decade is an awakening of producers in the region. Some producers who had contributed their grapes to the Produttori parted ways to start their own labels and perfect a unique style, while others suddenly realized that the ground beneath their feet was worth showcasing, and they decided to clean up their cellars or take new oak out of the picture. Cigliuti, Paitin and Sottimano quickly come to mind as a new breed of winemaker that is changing what people think about the region.

Speaking of producers, it also pays to note that compared to Barolo, Barbaresco is more dominated by small family-run wineries (many of which contribute to the Produttori del Barbaresco), and these families produce only a small amount of wine. What this means for collectors is that we see much less Barbaresco in the market, giving Barolo yet another leg up and much more facetime with consumers.

There is one other important point, and that is how the wines mature. For the longest time, Barbaresco was thought of as a softer version of Barolo, and one that couldn’t age as well. While I will agree that the tannins in Barbaresco generally require less time to mature than the average Barolo, the fact is that they can age just as well. Much of this has to do with terroir, which shares many similarities with Barolo but also a few drastic differences. The soils in both regions are mainly calcareous marls, yet in general, the soils of Barbaresco are richer in nutrients, and in some locations, they contain deposits of sand. There’s also the moderating effect of the Tanaro river, which is one of the key elements thought to be responsible for the superior wines produced by Gaja, whose vineyards benefit directly from the river’s warming breezes by day and cooling breezes at night. Lastly, there’s the required aging regimen in wood, 18 months for Barolo versus 12 months for Barbaresco, yet you’ll find many of the region’s producers aging their top wines longer.

What it all comes down to is that Barbaresco is not just worth a Barolo lover’s attention, it should be required, and anyone who ignores these wines is simply doing themselves an injustice. Barbaresco provides all of the classic flavor and aromatic profiles that we love from Nebbiolo, often maturing a little earlier, but also lasting in the cellar for decades–and all of this at what is often a better price.

This brings us to our most recent tasting at RiverPark in New York City. The theme was simply Barbaresco, but the producers were the top names of the region. Produttori del Barbaresco, Gaja, Bruno Giacosa and Roagna all filled the table. As is usually the case with this group (a bunch of Barolo lovers who met and organized on Antonio Galloni’s Vinous forums), the big gun always come out. The best part is that it’s never about showboating or trying to one-up each other; with this group it’s simply about sharing great wine with good friends.

On to the Tasting Notes:

Our first flight was originally intended to be a showcase of older wines, but due to a corked bottle of ‘65 Cappellano, it turned out to be more of a Produttori del Barbaresco flight. What is there to say? This was the flight for the true lover of mature Nebbiolo. Both bottles were completely mature, and unfortunately the Ovello was a bit over the hill (possibly not a perfect bottle). With that said, I still enjoyed it. As for the ‘67 Pora, it showed all the hallmarks of perfect maturity and an unexpected richness and meatiness that made it the wine of the flight. I simply love mature Barbaresco.

1967 Produttori del Barbaresco Pora Riserva Speciale – At first, the nose was dark, damp and almost moldy, yet the ‘67 Pora came around quickly in the glass to reveal dried flowers, strawberry, hints of mint, forest floor and minerals. On the palate, it displayed a dark and meaty character with savory, almost salty minerality, dark red fruits and hints of smoke. It finished on dried berries and plum, with a touch of light tannin. (93 points)

1971 Produttori del Barbaresco Ovello – The ‘71 Ovello was completely resolved and on the decline, yet I still found something to like with its bouquet of dried roses, cinnamon, orange peel, and amaro. On the palate, I found light textures with hints of strawberry and a zing of acidity, which added much-needed liveliness. It finished short on dried fruit and flowers. (NA)

The Gaja Flight was a real treat. The best part about it was to see just how enjoyable the entry-level Gaja Barbaresco can perform and mature. No Gaja is ever cheap, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the most affordable wine showing this well with age. Both ‘82s were gorgeous, and you could sense the stamp of the producer between the two of them. However, in the end, the Costa Russi simply had a depth that the ‘82 normale couldn’t touch. That said, I’d take either wine any day of the week. Then there was the ‘85, which was so pure and wonderfully drinkable in its maturity that it stopped me in my tracks. Lastly, the ‘89, one of my top three wines of the night, was simply gorgeous. I strongly urge readers to pay attention to these wines when they show up in the market, because they represent great relative value.

1982 Gaja Barbaresco – Tasting this next to the ‘82 Costa Russi was a fantastic experience, as the vintage and Gaja style was evident between the two of them. Granted, once I moved on to the Costa Russi, it was hard to come back, but I absolutely adored this wine all the same. The nose was dark and rich with sweet herbs, moist soil and minerals. On the palate, I found silky textures lifted by vibrant acidity, as pure red fruits gave way to savory mineral tones. It finished on dried cherry, red florals and a bite of lively acidity. (92 points)

1982 Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi – The Costa Russi took everything I loved about the ‘82 Barbaresco tasted next it and took it up a notch. Here I found masses of depth in its dark, rich red fruits with sweet spices, undergrowth, and minerals. On the palate, I found silky, almost chewy textures contrasted by zesty acidity with notes of black cherry and dark chocolate, which slowly morphed into a savory expression of dried inner florals, minerals and earth. The finish was wonderfully long and vibrant with spicy sweetness and dried strawberry. (95 points)

1985 Gaja Barbaresco – What a beautiful and pure expression of Barbaresco! The ‘85 was in a perfect place on this night. The bouquet was a mix of crushed cherry and strawberry with hints of sweet tea leafs and herbs. With time, a savory mineral note came forward, adding even more depth. On the palate, I found a vibrant and fresh expression with zesty acidity adding verve to its dried cherry fruits. Inner florals and earth tones lingered through the finish, along with dried wild berries. (93 points)

1989 Gaja Barbaresco – Showing all of the hallmarks of this great vintage–dark, deep and still reticent–there’s still so much going on beneath the surface. The ‘89 Barbaresco displayed the most inviting bouquet of pine nettles, menthol, sweet herbs, spicy dark red fruits, and brown spice. On the palate, I found deep silky textures with dark red fruits, iron-born minerality, tea leafs, brisk acidity and lingering fine tannin. It finished firm and youthful with dark red fruits, sweet herbs, and hints of tobacco. I can imagine that another five years will put this in a perfect place for drinking. (96 points)

The Bruno Giacosa flight was, as always, highly anticipated and quite a revelation. I must note that I added my note for the 1970 Santo Stefano, which was not at this original tasting, but was tasted only days later with the same preparation as all of our other bottles. In this flight, I witnessed the feminine elegance of Santo Stefano first-hand. The ‘98 was a gorgeous wine and, in the end, the wine of the night for me. To be able to taste the ‘70 only days later and revel in the similarities of the two of them was also a great opportunity.

We also had the controversial ‘11 Asili, which I found to be a good wine, but far from what I’d expect from a Giacosa Barbaresco. Lastly, the 2000 Asili, a wine that I believe needs more time to truly show its virtues. In the end, this was a tremendous flight.

1970 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano – What a treat. The nose on the ’70 Santo Stefano was much richer and darker than you’d expect, with smoky sweet herbs, dried strawberry, exotic spice, orange peel, and crushed flowers. On the palate, I found lifted, feminine textures with brisk acidity enlivening mineral-infused dried cherry with wonderful inner sweetness. It was shorter than I hoped, but how can you hold that against this 47 year-old wine–it is simply stunning. (94 points)

1998 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva – Wow… simply wow. The ’98 Santo Stefano is pure beauty, grace and elegance on this night. Lifted and feminine with a complex mixture of dusty spice, dried flowers, minerals and a dark and savory hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was soft and caressing to the senses with a stunning mix of brisk acidity and saturating red berry fruit. Fine tannin lingered on the finish, but this wine is so enjoyable already, as the overall expression is fresh, lifted and spicy. (97 points)

2000 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was dark and rich with earth tones offset by brown spice, as crushed strawberry and rosy floral tones mingled. On the palate, I found velvety textures lifted by balanced acidity with notes of dried black cherry, ripe strawberry and crunchy minerals, yet it lacked the depth of the best vintages. The finish showed a light coating of fine tannin with remnants of dark fruit lingering. (94 points)

2011 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva – The nose was intense, yet seeming more new world than old, showing sweet spices and a toasty quality to its cherry and raspberry fruit. On the palate, I found textures of weighty velvet ushering in floral-tinged red fruits and hints of dried orange with tannins that were almost completely enveloped by its fruit. The finish was long, with dark fruits lingering along with a coating of fine tannin. Others at the same tasting enjoyed this more than I did, and in some cases they have more experience with the wines. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine the ‘11 maturing into a great Giacosa Red Label. (92 points)

The Roagna flight was most memorable for just how different yet equally enjoyable the ‘96 Paje was from the ‘96 Crichët Pajé (made from vines at the crest of the Pajé cru with extended time in barrel and late release). From the collector’s and wine lover’s standpoint, I couldn’t be happier about this, as the former costs a quarter of the price of Crichët Pajé. However, neither wine was better; instead they were simply completely different. Numerically, I scored them nearly the same, but in the end I had only a small preference for the Crichët Pajé, and mainly because it possessed more richness, while the straight Pajé was all about energy.

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé – This was an outstanding showing for the ‘96 Pajé, especially served next to the Crichët Pajé of the same year. The nose showed sweet herbs, savory earth tones, smoke, brown spices and crushed strawberry. On the palate, I found zesty, grippy, energizing textures with vibrant acidity giving way to pure red fruits, minerals and hints of orange peel. It finished long, with dried berries and hints of tannin, yet energetic and spicy. (94 points)

1996 Roagna Barbaresco Crichët Pajé – Much more approachable than I would have expected, the ‘96 Crichët Pajé showed a bouquet of dried roses, sweet crushed berries, moist soil, exotic spices, and dark wood tones. On the palate, I found silky textures offset by zesty acidity with tart red fruits, exotic spice and mineral tones. It finished long with saturating red fruits and youthful tannin, but much less than I would have expected. It was gorgeous, but served next to the ‘96 Pajé, it shows the aging regiment over the vibrant fruit. (95 points)

Article, Tasting Notes, and Photos by: Eric Guido

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Was It Worth All The Hype? 2013 Barolo

For the last two weeks NYC has been honored to host the who’s who of Piedmont for Antonio Galloni’s La Festa del Barolo, and with many of these producers came my first taste of 2013 Barolo from bottle. Let me just say that the hype is officially warranted.

Over the last two years we’ve been hearing hints about the possibility that 2013 could be the next great vintage. Producers would wax poetic over their expectations, and as friends returned from the region having tasted from barrel, each one would go on and on about the vintage.

The first clues we had to the potential of 2013 came from Antonio Galloni of Vinous, who is constantly on the ground in Piedmont and tasting across a wide range of both young and mature wines. I still think back to his 2012 Barolo article “Grace Under Pressure”, where he tipped his hat in saying “The 2013 Barolos I have tasted from cask are aromatically compelling, rich and structured; in other words super-classic. At their best, the 2013s come across as slightly richer versions of the 2010s.” The comparison to 2010 and the thought of an added level of richness set my imagination on fire.

However, there was another thing to consider, and that’s the escalation of Barolo prices and how important it is to get in as early as possible, especially when you consider the mad dash that collectors made for the 2010’s. All of this has cumulated into one of the most highly anticipated vintages that I have ever witnessed.

And so, as the list of Barolo producers who would be in town for La Festa grew, my message to everyone I knew was to please, please, please let me taste some 2013 Barolo--and my wish was granted.

Chiara Boschis, Elisa Scavino, Fabio Alessandria, and Giuseppe Vajra all took the time to taste and talk with me about the vintage, and what I found was nothing short of spectacular. The 2013 vintage was defined by wet and humid conditions in the spring, yet balanced out into a long and warm growing season, followed by the perfect yin and yang of warm days and cool nights in the fall. The result was a perfect crop for any producer who tended their vineyards with care. Giuseppe Vajra, of G.D. Vajra, told me that he “...feels like the 2013 vintage is closest to the 2008s,” which happens to be one of his all time favorites.

For me, I find the structure of 2010, the aromatics of 2012 and the vibrancy of 2008, but we can talk in these terms for days. In the end, these are some of the most enjoyable young Barolos I’ve ever tasted. They posses stunningly layered aromatics, which continue to open in the glass over time, coupled with beautifully refined tannin, depths of fruit and enveloping textures. Frankly, it was difficult to pick favorites in nearly every tasting. I also couldn’t help but notice how enjoyable the Barolos made from a blend of vineyards were as well. The Paolo Scavino Barolo and Carobric, the Chiara Boschis Via Nuova, and the Vajra Albe were all amazing wines that will be thrilling us for decades to come.

I’m happy to say that 2013 Barolo will be arriving on our shores very soon, and I will certainly be a buyer. Let the hunt begin.

On to The Tasting Notes:

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole - The nose showed incredible depth with exotic floral tones, saline minerals, a bit of marine flora, plum, dusty spice and rosy florals. On the palate, I found mineral-laden cherry, cranberry, inner floral tones, exotic spice, and exquisitely fine tannin. The finish was long, long, long with masses of inner floral tones and dried berries. This wine has a long life ahead of it, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going. (97 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione - The nose was gorgeous and lifted with bright rosy floral tones, brilliantly pure red fruits, dusty earth, soaring minerality, wet stone, and exotic spices. On the palate, I found feminine textures with tart red cherry, herbs, inner florals and gorgeous, balancing acidity. It finish long and fresh on sweet herbs, minerals and fresh cherries. This is classic Rocche. (97 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric dël Fiasc - The nose showed intense mineral-infused red berry, cherry, cranberry and hints of plum with a savory edge, then evolving into mint, licorice, undergrowth and hints of herbs. On the palate, silky yet massive textures gave way to a dark mix of both ripe black and tart red fruits, with notes of dark earth, minerals and a twang of bitter herbs. Tannins saturated the senses, yet they weren’t drying or tiring, as a coating a dark red fruits soothed the palate. This was a remarkably balanced Bric del Fiasc that is deceptive in its early appeal. (97 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Vigneto Cannubi - The nose showed masses of dark red fruits, crushed berries, wild herbs, pretty floral tones, and dusty spices, yet through the entire experience remained floral and finessed. On the palate, I found, dense, silky textures which coated the senses with notes of crushed berry and strawberry, before transitioning to inner florals and leather tones. It was much more lifted and refined than expected, with a long finish, displaying fresh red fruits and inner floral tones. (96 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Ravera - The nose is incredibly deep, rooted in minerals, earth and spice, with dark floral tones, black cherry, plum, blackberry and mint. With time it opened even more to to reveal ethereal florals and herbs. On the palate, I found elegant, velvety textures, with sweet tannins and brisk mineral-laced acidity, giving way to dark fruits, minerals, plum, dried citrus, and hints of lavender. The finish was incredibly long with saturating dark fruits, yet youthfully tannic and closed in on itself. (96 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric - The nose on the ‘13 Carobric was stunning. Here I found a layered, lifted and classic mix of crushed cherry, rosey florals, minerals and undergrowth, which turned savory over time, adding hints of dark spices and tobacco. On the palate, I found a vibrant yet silky expression with depths of red cherry playing a sweet-and-sour act on the senses, along with savory herbs and zesty acidity. It finished fresh yet structured on cherries and spice. (96 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Monvigliero - This is unmistakably Monvigliero. The nose displayed black olive, savory herbs, exotic florals, crushed strawberry, and Indian spice. On the palate, I found soft textures with pure red berry fruit, inner florals and a balanced mix of fine-grained tannins and brisk acidity. It was lifted, pure and classically structured throughout. The finish was long of dried cherry, strawberry and floral tones. (96 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito - Here I found a dark and brooding bouquet of black and red fruits, moist earth, minerals, fresh mint, and hints of exotic spices. On the palate, I found silky, enveloping textures laced with fine tannin, giving way to saturating dark red fruits, hints of spice and bitter herbs. The finish went on and on--and on--with minerals, mint and a bitter twang of herbs. This an amazing vintage for Lazzarito. (96 points)

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi - This is a chameleon of a wine, with a bouquet that showed medicinal herb, raspberry, at times almost dark syrupy, then turning to black cherry, balsamic tones, giving way to minerals, dusty exotic spices and earth. On the palate, I found silky textures (very textural and dark - almost imposing at times) and dark red fruits which coated the wine’s fine tannin and saturated the senses over time. It was imposing and intense on the long finish, as fine grain tannin coated the senses, yet it’s wonderfully balanced. This should have some future in store. (96 points)

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Via Nuova - The nose was remarkably pretty with dark red fruits, roses, minerals, and exotic spices. It was brooding and at times reticent, until a note of minerals and crushed stone joined the fray. On the palate, I found lean, dense textures with dark red berry fruit laced with minerals and a web of fine tannin that saturated the senses. It was amazingly long on saturating dark red fruits and tannin. So classic. (95 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Cannubi - The ‘13 Cannubi was a dark and imposing wine of massive depth. Here I found notes of black cherry, sweet herbs, dark chocolate, dusty spice, and crushed stone. On the palate, a massive wave of velvety textures flooded the senses, and red and black fruits gave way to fine tannin. It was quite monolithic yet not over the top, and it tempted me with what was yet to come. The finish displayed intense tart black and red fruits with lasting minerality, seeming to create a black hole on the palate. I can’t even imagine what this wine will reveal in the decades to come, but I’m sure it will be something very special. (95 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Bricco Ambrogio - This showed a stunning array of aromatics, as eucalyptus and mint opened up to become tart cherry, roses, minerals and hints of undergrowth. On the palate, I found weighty textures of sheer silk, yet lively and balanced, as notes of plum and black cherry gave way to savory tones of salinity and herbs. It finished long on black cherry, spices and fine-grain tannin. (95 points)

2013 Luigi Baudana Barolo Baudana - The nose was dark and rich with brown spices, crushed blackberry, a dusty mix of minerals and spice with a hint of animal musk. On the palate, I found remarkably soft, velvety textures with zesty black fruits, ripe plum and a bitter hint of herbal spice. It was at once youthfully tannic, yet fresh with a dark and imposing persona, finishing long with dark red fruits, saturating spice and a coating of fine tannin. (95 points)

2013 Luigi Baudana Barolo Cerretta - The nose was spicy, with sweet florals and minerals, tart cherry, wild berry, and brown spices. Over time it became more polished and dark fruited, yet never losing it’s mineral thrust. On the palate, it was dark yet lifted and fresh with notes of wild herbs, blackberry and gruff tannin. Drying over time with youthful tannin, the finish was long and structured, only hinting at fruit. The cerretta will require many years in the cellar to show its best. (94 points)

2013 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Mosconi - The nose was polished yet earthy, showing dark red fruits with dusty spices, crushed stone minerality, dark earth and floral tones. On the palate, I found pure, silky textures offset by vibrant acidity with tart red fruits, fine tannin and with a zesty acidity that created a bright expression with inner rosy florals. It finished long with tart berries and clenching young tannin. (94 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Brunate - The nose was dark and rich, showing mineral-laced floral tones, iron, hints of sweet dark spices, and balsamic tones. On the palate, I found savory, silky textures, with dark red berries, plum, and hints of balsamic. It finished incredibly long and brooding with penetrating notes of dark red berries and dried spices. (94 points)

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera - What an incredible bouquet on the 2013 Ravera. Here I found sweet dark florals, and brown spices in an exotic and hauntingly beautiful mix, than minerals, earth and undergrowth come forward. On the palate, I found soft textures with ripe dark red fruits, minerals and slow mounting tannin. It finished refined with saturating, brooding tannin and caking minerality. (94 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo - This displayed a remarkably layered and engaging bouquet for an entry-level offering. Here I found woodsy earth tones with hints of mint, opening to mineral-infused cherry and tobacco. On the palate, I found lifted textures with a fine web of crystalline tannin that gently caressed the senses, as notes of tart cherry were smoothed out by zesty acidity. It finished long and structured on tart cherry and herbs. This was a fantastic showing. (94 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo Acclivi - What an exotic and floral bouquet, showing wild herbs, strawberry and hints of rose. On the palate, I found soft textures offset by tart red berry, inner floral tones and dusty spices. It finished dry with a coating of fine tannin and masses of dry extract. (93 points)

2013 Vietti Barolo Castiglione - The nose opened with hints of cedar dust, dried cherries, and crushed fall leaves. On the palate, I found refined and silky textures, with pure red fruits, spice, intense minerals and savory depth. The finish was long with hauntingly dark floral tones and hints of bitter herbs. (93 points)

2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe - The bouquet displayed intense bright cherry, mint, pine, hints of cedar, roses and spice. On the palate, I found silky textures with a cherry and plum mix, lifted by wonderfully balanced acidity and a hint of youthful tannin. The finish was long with a coating of tart cherry, blackberry, medicinal herbs and hints of spice. (93 points)

2013 Comm. G.B. Burlotto Barolo - The nose was gorgeous, showing crushed raspberry, hints of herbs, and dusty spice. On the palate, I found soft textures, lifted by pure red fruits, inner floral tones and light tannin. It was remarkably pure, leading in a long finish with hints of tannin and inner floral tones. (92 points)

2013 Paolo Scavino Barolo Monvigliero - The nose displayed sweet herbs, undergrowth and cherry liquor. On the palate, silky textures were offset by a bitter twang of tart red fruits and herbs, as the Monvigliero maintained its freshness through zesty acidity. The finish was long with saturating dark red fruits, spice and mint. I enjoyed this quite a bit, yet it lacks the textural heft that brings balance throughout the rest of the lineup. (92 points)

Article, Tasting Notes and Photos by: Eric Guido

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Season of Change: 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.


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.

Bottle aging room at Biondi Santi
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 (a vintage that fell flat on its face).

So why is there variability in 2013 Brunello?

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 have been 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 in to yield an ideal harvest.

What were the vintage conditions?

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, were 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.

From Le Chiuse looking south to Montalcino
The problem with this vintage, that’s been 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. Any wines that have been tasted since, excluding those following my joining Vinous, have been added and noted as such at the end of the note.

Voliero Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is deeply alluring with violette floral tones, black cherry, dusty spices, leather and hints of savory herbs. On the palate, I’m finding silky textures balanced by zesty acids with texturally-rich cherry and strawberry, sweet spices and minerals which all combine to form a beautifully balanced expression.  It finishes long with saturating dark berry fruits, spice, and fine tannin, yet remains energized by lingering acidity.  I’ve liked this wine in the past, but in 2013 it reached a whole new level. (96 points)

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta is intense with a seductive and earthy mix of tart cherry, saline-minerals, dusty soil and mountainous herbs.  It’s silky-soft and textural, yet with zesty acidity providing balance, as dark red berry, spice, leather and mineral tones saturate the senses. The finish is 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)

Pian dell'Orino Brunello di Montalcino Vigneti del Versante 2013 - Here I’m finding an inviting display of ripe strawberry and cherry giving way to sweet minerals, savory herbal tones and hints of animal musk. On the palate, this boasts refined and silky textures, offset by an intense wave of spiced cherry, strawberry, saline minerals and sweet tannin. It’s youthfully linear yet perfectly focused and balanced with a sweet-and-sour play on the senses. Fine tannins firm up the finish, with lingering acidity allowing hints of dried red fruits, cedar and spice to shine through. This is a wine for the cellar, which I can’t wait to add to my own. (Retasted and updated 3/13/2018) (96 points)

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

Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is 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 develops to show crushed cherry and raspberry with hints of bell pepper. This is a refined and silky expression, as its textures caress the senses with dark red fruits, chalky extract, soft tannins and inner floral tones. The long, dark fruit finish seems 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)

Cerbaiola (Salvioni) Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is earthy and dark, with crushed stone minerality up front, giving way to woodland berries, strawberry, dark moist earth, and undergrowth. On the palate, I'm finding silky textures, with a twang of brisk acids, sweet-and-sour red fruits, spices, dried orange and minerals. It finishes fresh with lingering tannic heft, tart berries and mineral tones. This is a wine for the ages, earthy in the best possible way, while balanced by gorgeous fruit and regal structure. (Retasted and updated 10-18-2018) (95 points)

Capanna Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is 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)

Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is remarkably fresh and perfumed, displaying sweet, dried rosy florals, with animal-muskiness giving way to crushed bright cherry, stone dust and hints of cinnamon. This is silky yet lifted on the palate, showing amazing purity, as notes of floral-infused fresh cherry splash across the senses leaving a mix of brisk acidity and crunchy tannin. Pretty inner florals and spice mount throughout the finale, leading to a long and structured finish, yet still lively and fresh, showing earthy florals and lingering minerals. There was so much going on here, yet it’s also wonderfully refined. (Retasted and updated 1-29-2019) (94 points)

Mocali Brunello di Montalcino Vigna delle Raunate 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Raunate is 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)

Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is 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)

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The nose on the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is 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)

MastroJanni 2013 Brunello di Montalcino - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino lifts up with an intense woodsey display with dried flowers, dusty soil, tuscan spice and dried black cherry. On the palate, soft textures are offset by savory spices, with saline-minerals, ripe cherry, earthy sous-bois and balanced acidity, providing a pleasurable experience in contrast to the 2013s youthful tannins. The finish is long and spicy as zesty acids linger along with notes of mushroom and red berries. This is already so enjoyable on its energy and earth tones, yet there's so much more in store for the patient collector. (Retasted and updated 3/2/2018) (94 points)

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The nose on the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is 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)

Tiezzi Enzo Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Soccorso 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Soccorso is 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 wild berry 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

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

Caprili 2013 Brunello di Montalcino - The bouquet of the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is thrilling for a lover of traditional Brunello. Here I’m finding an earthy display, showing masses of crushed strawberry mixed with smoke, stone dust, dried florals, sweet sous-bois, and undergrowth. On the palate, soft textures are contrasted by brisk acidity as notes of ripe strawberry and cherry wash across the senses, followed by saline-minerality, spice and leathery notes. It’s fine tannins show through the long finish, along with salty, savory minerals and tart cherries. This is already beautiful but sure to improve over the next five to ten years. (Retasted and updated 3-29-2018) (93 points)

Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is layered, dark and floral with crushed black cherry, plum, rich brown spices, wild herbs, hints of animal musk and undergrowth.  This boasts unbelievably silky textures with a dense mix of sour cherry, balsamic spice and saline-minerality, which creates a sweet-and-sour mix, as fine tannin mounts with each sip. The finish is long with saturating tart red fruits, minerals and grippy young tannins. (93 points

Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is remarkably fresh and refined, displaying pure strawberry and cherry fruit, with dusty sweet floral tones and minerals. This has youthfully-lean textures with zesty acidity giving life to notes of tart cherry, spice and earth tones. It finishes long and structured with lasting dried berry fruit and hints of leather. (93 points)

Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino 2013 -  The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is wonderfully layered and deep, morphing between crushed cherry, strawberry and blueberry before gaining lift through mineral tones and floral undergrowth, along with hints of leather.  On the palate, this is a soft expression which is quickly contrasted by a wave of zesty acidity, as wild berry and orange-citrus-tinged spices saturate the senses. The finish is long with a mix of fresh fruits before light tannin takes control and saturates the senses. Wow, 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 - The2013 Brunello di Montalcino is deep and layered with sweet herbs, undergrowth, crushed strawberry, minerals, undergrowth and dusty spices.  Here I’m finding soft, silk textures with fleshy cherry, spices and zesty minerality.  This is juicy, spicy and fresh with fine tannins setting in through the finale, as zesty bright acidity gives life to dried strawberry and mineral tones. (93 points)

Mocali Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is dark, showing masses of crushed stone minerality, undergrowth, and black earth upfront, as notes of crushed strawberry and spice develop over time.  On the palate, this boasts soft textures offset by wild berries, spice, inner florals, and hints of animal musk that translate directly from the bouquet. The finish is long with chewy tannins, dried strawberry and hints of spice. (93 points)

San Filippo 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucere - It took a good hour for the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucere to open up. With time in the glass this shows a beautiful bouquet of ripe, dark red fruit with sweet tobacco, herbs, and brown spices. Its velvety textures usher in ripe black cherry and strawberry, yet with a balancing wave of tannin and acid adding vibrancy, while minerals and spice tones saturated the senses. The finish is long, as the 2013’s structure starts to show, as each passing sip builds on the layer of tannin before it. This is a big wine, yet it achieves remarkable balance. (Retasted and updated 10-18-2018) (93 points)

Valdicava 2013 Brunello di Montalcino - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows spicy cherry, with sweet, sweet florals, hints of crushed stone and cedar with a twang of alpine herbs. On the palate, this boasts soft textures offset by zesty acids and spice as tart red fruits amass, along with minerals and red inner florals. The finish is long, with young tannins settling on the senses, as red berries, spices and saline minerals slowly faded. (Retasted and updated 10-22-2019) (93 points

Tiezzi Enzo Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino 2013 - The nose really pulls you in, as the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino shows underbrush with crushed strawberry, cherries, brown spices, and dried flowers. This is wonderfully soft and soothing, with fleshy textures ushering in violet-inflected inner florals, darker-toned strawberry fruits and leather. Its acidity is balanced and lively, adding energy and verve, as the 2013 tapers off zesty and fresh lingering on tart berries and hints of spice. (92 points)

Scopetone Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is dark and intense with masses of crushed strawberry, blackberry, dusty sweet spice and leather.  This is cool-toned in style with silky textures giving way to a vivid mix of cherry and red berry fruits.  Juicy acidity adds vibrancy, as the 2013 finishes medium-long with tart currant and hints of spice.  What the 2013 Scopetone lacks in depth, it makes up for in sheer drinkability. (92 points)

Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is 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 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is airy and fresh with sweet cherry and dusty floral tones. This provides a soft textural experience, as ripe berries and sweet spice combine with brisk acidity to create a very forward and “easy-to-like” expression.  The finish is 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)

Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino La Casa 2013 - At first, the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino La Casa is withdrawn, yet it comes to life with time in the glass, showing dusty red berry fruits and dried flowers. On the palate, this is an angular expression with brisk acidity adding much needed energy, as spiced red berries and minerals flood the senses, then proceed to reveal saturating tannin with notions of salty minerals 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)

Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is rich and very dark, as blackberry and notes of sweetened cream wafted up from the glass. With time, savory spices, undergrowth and leather emerge.  This is silky and dense on the palate, with caressing textures, dark red fruits, savory herbs and saline-minerality. The finish is long, showing the first signs of youthful tannin, as notes of dried cherry and minerals linger 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 proof of it’s quality is easily recognizable. (92 points)

La Magia Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is remarkably pretty and understated, showing cranberry, perfumed floral tones and a sweet dusting of spice. It’s 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 is long and structured, resonating on sour cherry and cheek-puckering dry tannins. (92 points)

Poggio il Castellare Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is withdrawn at first, needing time in the glass to evolve and display pure red berry fruits, dusty earth and dried floral tones. Here I’m finding soft, velvety textures with dark red fruits, a cut of balancing acidity and saline minerality. The finish is youthfully dry with tart red berries, hints of leather and a lasting salty flourish. (91 points)

La Poderina 2013 Brunello di Montalcino - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is dark and rich, showing crushed black cherry, sweet herbs, smoky minerality, balsamic spices and a hint of fresh coffee bean. On the palate, I’m finding soft textures with tart red and black fruits, zesty acids, spice, leather, and inner floral tones. It finishes long and spicy, with saturating red fruits, resonating red florals and balsamic spice. (91 points)

La Fiorita Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The bouquet of the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is 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. It’s silky textures give way to tart cherry and sweet spice, yet it lacks follow-through. The finish is medium-long and energetic through late-arriving acidity. (91 points)

Podere Brizio Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows crushed cherry, spice, dried flowers, and minerals, yet it’s also a bit dried out. On the palate, this displays soft textures with cherry, licorice and inner florals, in an airy and fresh expression.  The finish is long with spicy cherry saturating deeply, along with a coating of fine tannin. (92 points)

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

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

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is dark, showing black cherry, floral undergrowth, rich spices and moist earth.  On the palate, silky textures with dark red berry fruit and inner floral tones flesh out, as the experience turns more angular, with tannin mounting with each sip. The finish is 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 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows deep wild berries with earthy minerals and animal musk. On the palate, I’m finding a vibrant expression, as a mix of cherry and strawberry combined with notes of underbrush.  The finish iss shorter than I’d hoped, with hints of leather, spice and drying tannin. (90 points)

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

Poggio Nardone Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino is dark and quite ripe, showing crushed black cherry, strawberry, sweet herbs, and undergrowth.  On the palate, this is a juicy expression with ripe blackberry, strawberry and sweet spices. Fine tannins settle in through the finale, 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 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows bright cherry and spice with hints of tobacco and dried flowers. Here I’m finding silky textures with persistent red berry fruit and sweet spice, yet it lacks the thrust of the best wines. The finish is medium in length, as a bump of acidity adds a lively tang to the finale. (88 points)

Casicano Tommasi Family Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows floral undergrowth with black cherry, marine-inspired minerality and savory herbs. This gives way to a silky expression on the palate with plum and sweet spice, yet it lacks depth and the necessary acidity to add energy and tension. The finish is medium-long with light tannin and hints of dried red fruits. (88 points)

Piancornello e Podere del Visciolo Brunello di Montalcino 2013 - The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino shows dusty spices up front with ripe red fruits and dusty florals.  This is a soft expression with flesh cherry and clove, but little else. The finish is saturating to the senses, as a mix of dry tannin and red and blue fruits hold firm. (87 points)