Benvenuto Brunello 2018, Montalcino Centro, Part I

After a few weeks of travel through New York City, Connecticut, Paris and the eastern side of France, I’ve finally made it to my beloved Italia. A quick night in Turin, then another in Asti, and now here, in Montalcino for the past three days, attending the new release of the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino, 2012 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, and the very fine 2016 Rosso di Montalcino wines.

I’m not a fan of labels/tags, of generalizations – a lot gets lost. But, people like generalizations, or other tools of convenience, like points/scores, for example. Well, I don’t use points, as you already know, and I tend to shy away from generalizations as I prefer stories over blurbs, and facts over opinions. So, where does that leave me? It leaves me in love with the 2013 vintage for Brunello wines, and very much in love with the Rosso wines from 2016 vintage, too. Given the many, and in some cases extreme, challenges of 2012 vintage, I’m less in love with the Riserva wines of 2012, though several have really stood out, as expected; most will be drinking well in their youth, I think.

Cool, rainy days, but the crowds still arrived, the show still went on

The event is held inside the Museo Civico e Diocesano, a large stone building (aren’t they all in Montalcino center?) that’s able to fit the nearly 200 producers, and guests, better than I’d imagined, though at times, it can be quite crowded. But, with some patience, the experience is good overall, as long as one expects to wait at nearly every producer’s stand for a minute or two.

The early visitors on Saturday beat the crowds, and the rain (that lasted for two days). But for the event, the village/town remained quiet, and, mostly, empty; a good time to visit?

There are two main tasting areas, each a rather large square room, each housing approximately 80+ producers, plus room for the crowds, support staff, etc. In general, I’d say it works very well, with the added bonus that the wines (mostly) held a good service temperature, and therefore had a lot to say.


OK, that’s probably enough about the setting/location, on to the tasting notes; I hope you find them useful.

  • 2016 La Fortuna Rosso di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) This comes across as ripe/ripe-ish, with the barrique/wood occluding the freshness and purity of the fruit. Not to my liking, and not on par with the majority of (very good) Rosso wines from this vintage. Drink now, if you like the style. * 2012 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Darker ruby. Initial aromas of vanillas, some toasted herbs. With a few minutes of swirling, only modest soil and bright fruit aromas. This is more modern than traditional, for sure; ripe fruit/flavor lovers will love this wine, me, not so much. 3 years in Slavonian botti grandi, followed by 1 yr. in first and second passage barrique. Now thru 2029. 
  • 2013 E. Fuligni (Cottimelli) Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Easily one of the standouts in the vintage, this classically-styled effort offers a pale brick red color; it’s luminous and clear. Aromas, even if not fully developed yet, run the range from loam/hay to cherry skin, dust, and soil. Medium-bodied, very fresh, and artfully structured, this is a wine that could be enjoyed now (with food!), but, for my palate, should be cellared for another 6-10 years for an even better showing; there’s good weight/fruit now, but this should fill out more with time, rendering this wonderfully complete. My actual note written at the event is much shorter than this, it pretty much just says WOW!, buy a case or two! Tasted three separate days/times, consistently excellent. An lovely marriage of grape/place, and vintage, with the type of structure that will please most/all collectors. No need for fancy descriptors, breathless enthusiasm, etc., this one speaks for itself, and represents the elegance and purity that Sangiovese and this region are capable of offering. 14,5% abv. (seemed more like 13,5%, fwiw), drink 2022-2042. highly recommended 
  • 2016 Gianni Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Darker brick red>ruby. The nose reveals some grass, loam, citrus, and soil. The palate is huge, but balanced with excellent freshness, and acidity. This is more akin to a fine Brunello than a (most) Rosso wine. The finish is already quite long. If picking nits, some might say this could use even more acidity, considering the weight and depth of fruit, but I found it to be sufficient, and would easily purchase this for my own cellar. 14,5% abv (resolved), drink this now thru 2027. highly recommended 
  • 2013 Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) This is an exciting wine. The nose opens with stones, citrus, hay, and fresh cherries. The medium-bodied palate is complete, with plenty of detail and nuance. There’s already a lot of breadth here, with the depth (still developing, obviously) only a step behind. Collectors can feel confident getting behind this classic beauty. 13,5% abv., drink 2022-2041+ highly recommended 
  • 2012 Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino Riserva(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Noticeably darker than the 2013 Brunello, this Riserva, from a much warmer vintage, opens with red and purple flowers, ripe strawberry, pie crust, dried herbs and a touch of citrus; red apple/skin notes emerge after a few minutes in the glass. This is one of the better Riserva wines I’ve tasted so far, and one I’d gladly have in my own cellar. While the finish comes across as short(er), I think that might be due in large part to having tasted the very classic/long 2013 Brunello just before it. 13,5% abv., drink now thru 2030. recommended, with upside potential duly noted. 
  • 2013 Il Greppone Mazzi (Ruffino) Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Traditionally styled, medium body with an international texture, but traditional stuffing. Aged 3 years in 30hl-60hl Slavonian oak casks after its malolactic fermentation is complete. After, it’s moved to stainless for a few months, and finally ~ 6 months of bottle rest prior to release. Known as a value brand/wine, this delivers a good amount of classicism in this vintage. Easily recommended, though probably better to leave it rest a year or three. 2013 Il Bosco di Grazia Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) A new producer for me, and I can see why, it’s a tiny production of ~ 3,000 bottles. After the initial fermentation in stainless steel, the wine is allowed to macerate for an additional 30 days. After, the wine is raised in large Slavonian casks for ~ 2 1/2 years, then some bottle refinement. Traditionally styled, with good purity showing through even if it’s a bit timid today. Nonetheless, give this a few more years of rest, some prior aeration, and enjoy with a proper meal. Good>very good. 2021-2036+ recommended 2015 Il Marroneto Rosso di Montalcino Ignaccio(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Whereas many/most are showing their 2016 Rosso di Montalcino wines, today Marroneto is pouring the 2015. The nose is an equal blend of a tradition>modern style. This continues on the med>full body that reveals a touch of EtOH, and a fair amount of extract through the middle. Not something I would normally gravitate toward, but there’s some compelling flavor, and the aromas really open up after a few minutes of brisk swirling. 14,0% abv., thru 2024. For the style, recommended
  • 2013 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Again, a pretty, pale brick red color, this time giving way to a compelling nose that shows a light touch of oak, a pinch of vanillin, and some very pretty floral and soil notes. The med>full body is more structured than the nose might suggest; there’s a cheeky sexiness about it, too, that has me saying “who cares if it leans modern, it’s really quite delicious”. 14,0% abv., drink 2020-2035. For the style, it’s highly recommended, and a testament to what’s possible in this very fine vintage. 
  • 2013 Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Though not at all for my palate, for what it is, it succeeds. The darkest, clearly most modern of the three wines tasted today, the sweet nose manages a fair balance of place/grape and ripe, sultry fruits. At times, chewy and thick, so not something I would buy, but many others would like this wine quite a bit. 14,5% abv., drink now thru 2030. 
  • 2013 Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) I’ve tasted this three times now, once in NYC, and twice here in Montalcino, at Benvenuto Brunello. I happened upon a bottle early today that was ‘second day juice’, i.e. not freshly opened. What great luck, as the wine was revealing the potential that I saw inside when I first tasted a few weeks ago. The acids are in great harmony with the layered red fruits, the texture is elegant, and the wine’s clearly full of nuances that beg for yet more bottle rest. Collectors take note, you want this in your stash. After the (more open) sample today, I simply wrote “wow wine”. Very long already, and it’s only going to get better from here. Drink 2021-2042. highly recommended 
  • 2016 Il Paradiso (Manfredi) Rosso di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Intriguing, fascinating and compelling. Brick red>garnet, clear and bright. Aromas of tobacco, citrus, apple skin, sweet cherries, with wow-type concentration all packaged in a medium-bodied, traditional frame. BIG but small, my notes say. A moving wine, and one of the finest Rosso di Montalicino wines I’ve ever tasted at release, or otherwise. highly recommended+ 
  • 2013 Il Paradiso (Manfredi) Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Exceptional. Singular. There’s nothing else at the event (135 producers) that smells or tastes like this. And I mean that in the best way possible. Cinnamon, brown spices, road dust, cherry skin, black truffle, more. The medium-bodied palate is, at first, a bit deceptive, but within just a few moments, the true scale of this wine – such depth and breadth – reveals itself, and the genius of Il Maestro is obvious. So much power, married to so much elegance; long, gentle. Long. Surely these wines are destined for cult status, even if many, including the winemaker, wouldn’t wish it. WOW. Now thru 2045+.
    highly recommended 
  • 2015 Fattoria del Pino Rosso di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Very good. A new producer for me, iirc, and easily one of the finest natural wines/wines I’ve tasted this year. Whereas I’m generally left wanting more from the 2015 Rosso wines, this is an exception to that generalization. A great exception; it rivals many of the Brunello wines. Whereas the size of many of the 2015 Rosso wines seemed exaggerated (due to the vintage’s warmth/ripeness), and, mostly, flabby and uninteresting, this is quite different: the size is there – this is huge for a rosso – but so is the freshness and complexity that I always desire. Loamy, with hay and citrus – even notes of lime zest – followed by freshly cut apple, soil, and minerals packed into a concise yet explosive nose. The palate is red-fruited, med>medium-bodied, with big: fruit, tannins/acids that will benefit from another year or two in the bottle, though this isn’t required. That said, this shows the structure to age, positively, for another 10+ years. The long finish is just beautiful. I will be buying this for my own cellar. highly recommended 
  • 2013 Fattoria del Pino Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Classic pale>brick red color; bright and clear. The first aromas are that of soil, so I already like it; with air some red fruits and floral begin to emerge, but this is tight today. Pretty, but tight, and very traditional, as most natural wines are. Depth and complexity will no doubt be developing as there’s very good underlying material here, it’ll just need another 2-3 years in the cellar before those qualities more fully (being to) emerge. 14,5% abv. drink 2021-2035. recommended+ 
  • 2016 Il Poggiolo (Cosimi) Rosso di Montalcino Sassello(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Darker garnet>ruby. Initial aromas of vanilla and toast, hard to find a sense of place or variety. Fermented in stainless, then raised in barrique. Not something I gravitate toward, though others would like it just fine. Now thru 2022. 
  • 2012 La Fornace Brunello di Montalcino Riserva(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Darker brick red> ruby color, this shows the warmth of the vintage, and also shows a good deal of structure, too. The EtOH is already fully integrated, the depth and breadth of flavors is already on point, and can be enjoyed now or over the following 15-20 years. Impressive balance, and good>vg acidity. highly recommended 
  • 2013 Il Poggiolo (Cosimi) Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Garnet>Ruby, clear. Typical aromas showing a little tight today, with samplings of soil and red fruits in the distance. Fermented in stainless, then raised in grandi botti (40hl) for two years. Tannins and acids need at least 2 years to better integrate. 13,5% abv., drink 2021-2033. 
  • 2013 La Fornace Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Darker, almost cloudy brick red, yet clear throughout. A robust nose of limestone, herb, ripe, fresh strawberry – both on the nose, and palate. Medium>full body, generous, yet with enough acidity to keep it fresh and enjoyable. Good>vg length, this was better than first expected (based solely on color). Clearly there’s room to grow from here, and that growth should be quite positive. Easily recommended 
  • 2013 La Fornace Brunello di Montalcino Origini(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Whereas the Brunello just before it was good, this is clearly very good. Again, a darker color, brick red>ruby, with ripe red fruits on the nose, and a good dose of soil, dried herbs and stones; a touch of unresolved EtOh took only a few minutes to disappear. Following this, some red and purple flowers emerged, creating an additional, pretty dimension. The palate is classic, much more traditional that first thought, i.e. expected. This has a robust build, but has the structure and length to make it pretty exciting. 14,5% abv., drink now thru 2038+. highly recommended 
  • 2016 Fattoria La Gerla Rosso di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Very good. Beautiful nose, fresh and precise. Vinified in botti grandi for 4-6 months. The nose, as I say, is impressive, and that level of quality follows through to the medium-bodied, traditional palate. Good tension, freshness, but only moderate length at this stage in its life. Ever so slightly bitter now, give this a year, or better, two, of rest for a more rewarding showing. 13,5% abv., great value; buy with confidence. Now thru 2027. recommended+ 
    • 2013 Fattoria La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Quite good. Tawny brick red, clear. Nose opens with sweet cherry, soil, pomegranate, red apple, Tuscan dust/herbs. The entry shows some warmth, yet it’s elegant in a chewy/dense-ish kind of way. There’s good acidity throughout to keep this lively through the middle and finish. Good>vg length. 13,5% abv., great value; buy with confidence. Now thru 2034. recommended+ 
    • 2012 Fattoria La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino Riserva gli AngeliBenvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Quite good. Tawny brick red, clear. Plenty of fruit and flavors, with enough balance to keep it fresh and enjoyable. There’s already quite a bit of depth to the flavors; breadth is likely not far behind. It’s ready now, with the structure to go a decade very easily. Good>Very good length. Now thru 2030. Not my preferred style,
      but I’d gladly make an exception in this case. recommended 
    • 2013 Fattoria La Lecciaia (Pacini) Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Quite a large production, iirc, > 60,000 bottles. I mention that because it seems to have lost/not had the freshness and individuality of many of the newly released Brunello wines here today. Perhaps I’ll taste it again in two months at VinItaly; perhaps not. Darker color, typical if not very interesting aromas and flavors. Maybe it needs time. Maybe. 
    • 2016 Fattoria La Lecciaia (Pacini) Rosso di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Darker garnet>ruby. Struggles a bit with freshness and personality. Maybe I’m catching it in a bad moment, but if not… 
    • 2016 La Magia Rosso di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Good. Comes across as very traditional, with a pale brick red color. The nose, at first (and mostly at this stage) is about soil, about place; I like it. Acids dominate the fruits at this tender junction, but it bodes well for the future. Medium-bodied, red-fruited, and no doubt an excellent partner to food. A new producer for me, and a very good first impression it was. 14,0% abv., drink 2020-2030.Terrific value. recommended+ 
    • 2013 La Magia Brunello di Montalcino(Benvenuto Brunello, 2018, Montalcino) Quite good, though it really needs time in my opinion. Medium-bodied, red-fruited, with an excellent sense of place and grape. Traditionally styled, with high acids/tannins just now. Give this 2, 4, 10 or 20 years, you’ll be paid handsomely (and proportionately) for your patience. 14,0% abv. Great value. recommended+ 
    • 2013 La Magia Brunello di Montalcino CiliegioBrunello, 2018, Montalcino) Terrific. Slightly darker than the Brunello and Rosso wines just before it, this reveals something of a sappy nature about it, but it’s restrained, and structured, too, which, for my palate, makes it even more interesting. Some might say “roasted in a good way”, and I guess I’d agree. Good freshness, energy and personality here, with the finish gently haunting in the best of way. 14,5% abv., drink 2019 thru 2039. highly recommended

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