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Under The Tuscan Sun

Castelnuovo dell'Abate, Montalcino's southern heartland

In whatever region one funds oneself tasting wine these days, it seems that one encounters either hot or cool vintages and, more and more, I find myself drawn to the latter.

When Robert Parker started out all those years ago, under-ripeness was one of the main problems one encountered in one's wine from the classic regions. Bordeaux was thought of as a marginal climate for wine production. "Pick later", was Parker's message and it was duly heeded and acted upon.

These days, what with climate change and such vineyard techniques as canopy management (i.e. such as trimming leaves to expose fruit to the ripening influence of the sun), attaining ripeness is child's play. Yet hot, sunny vintages are still held up as being the ideal. I am not convinced. 

It may be that some readers assume I am trying to create something shiny from a matt situation when I talk up the cooler vintages, especially when some wine writers are still excited by cloudless harvests in which the fruit is gathered in an ostensibly perfect state of readiness. 

And I am not the only one to harbour such beliefs. The wine trade is riddled with folk who profess a preference for drinking 2014 claret over some superficially more illustrious vintages. 

So now we come to 2013 Brunello di Montalcino. This certainly falls into the cool camp. And it is all the better for that. The best wines - wines such as those I have selected for our offering after three days of tasting in the region - offer refinement and refreshment, along with scented Sangiovese fruit. They define their origins rather well, too, and will age with enormous grace. 


THE PRODUCERS AND THEIR WINES

2016 Rosso di Montalcino, Sesti
£192 in bond a dozen  Drink 2018-23 
- magnums available at £273 in bond per 6
Dark and pure and a touch smoky aromas of black plum. This is quite a savoury thing to smell, fresh, of black cherry. Dark and cool, then fresh and minerally structured, this. Long and there's quite a bit of peppery spice. Cool and quite snappy wine and this is a long thing, showing a finish of crushed rocks. Rather fabulous, I think. 

2013 Brunello di Montalcino, Sesti
£273 in bond per 6  Drink 2021-32
- magnums available at £591 in bond per 6
That typical, slightly varnish (linseed?) Sesti nose with lots of cake spice and red and black cherry fruit. There are other scents: of sandy, dry soils and dried rose buds. Palate is rich and offers sweetly spiced fruits. There's great, direct sustain and some lovely, quite incisive, fresh tannin. Touch nutty and very, very long. Very, very long wine, complex with superb potential. Superb finish. Elegant and lovely.
"Hedonistic and yet elegant." Walter Speller on jancisrobinson.com

2014 Rosso di Montalcino, Salicutti
£126 in bond per 6  Drink 2018-25
N.B. No Brunello was produced in 2014, so this contains all the best fruit.
Just medium depth of colour. Nose is of lovely, elegant red fruit: wild fruits, nicely crisp and very cool. Palate is snappy and red fruited with very fine integrated tannin that becomes a little more upright to a fresh, slightly incisive death. Long and snappy-fresh wine of juicy through-put. Just a lovely thing. 
"...offers a beautiful sense of linearity and brightness..." Monica Larner on robertparker.com

2013 Brunello di Montalcino Piaggone, Salicutti
£282 in bond per 6  2020-35
N.B. Vines here are 60 years old. The soil in this lieu-dit is very stony and the vines produce a great many millerandes i.e. miniscule, mal-formed berries that bring a concentration of colour and structure. 
A dark nose that comes with a whiff of dark chocolate to the very beautiful dark and lightly smoky fruit. I spotted cherries and plums. The palate is instantly rich and brings instant tang. Then the spice arrives of marry with the utterly ravishing black fruit. Very spicy at the core. And the tannins are super-fine, spiced and architectural. Just medium acidity. Ooh, this is lovely.
" Another knockout Brunello from owner Francesco Leanza, who has transformed Salicutti into one of the world's benchmark Sangiovese estates." Ian d'Agata on vinous.com

2016 Rosso di Montalcino, La Rasina
£78 in bond per 6  Drink 2019-22
Dense and deep in the glass: a dark ruby-purple. Aromas are rich and dark with a hint of violet. Ripe and pure and fresh black cherry fruits. There's a suspicion of liquorice here, too, plus lots of nuts and a wisp of nori. This goes in the mouth plush and rich, carrying pure black cherry fruit. There's a rich clack of snappy tannins and a crunchy core of realkly lively acidity. Very long wine to a fabulous finish. A little salinity to the structure at the death. Very northern; very lovely. 

2013 Brunello di Montalcino, La Rasina
£180 in bond per 6  Drink 2021-28
- magnums available at £420 in bond per 6
Lovely colour: a pinky-ruby, medium deep. Lovely, rich and very pure, dark and lightly saline aromas of plum and cherry. There's a hint of smoke if you look for it. Hint of menthol and a creamy, blueberry note. Initial impression in the mouth is plush and dark and pure. The wine's structure is elegant, albeit rich and there's a pastille-like, dark fruit flavour through the rear end. Fresh and snappy fruit with fresh and slightly rocky tannins. Very long wine and the finish is big and structured and quite burly. A lively wine and a very good one. 
"A wealth of ripe fruit with spice, tobacco, cedar and plum aromas that follow through to a full body, chewy and dense tannins and a ripe and delicious finish. 96/100." James Suckling

2016 Rosso di Montalcino, Pietroso 
£84 in bond per 6  Drink 2019-22
- magnums available at £195 in bond per 6
A rich, dark and quite creamy nose that includes a note of chestnut, as well as wisps of mint, cake and salt to the red and darker fruit. This offers a quite dark and fluid entry, quickly picking up very fine and integrated tannins. This has a distinct saline quality. This is forward and nutty, the fruit continuing in that red and darker theme. Quite a savoury thing, this. Nicely long, with very nice sustained, easy grip. This becomes a touch rocky. Super finish. Rather a lovely thing.

2013 Brunello di Montalcino, Pietroso 
£192 in bond per 6  Drink 2020-28
- magnums available at £432 in bond per 6
A medium, tomato-ruby colour. Aromas are of smoked nut and red domestic fruits. Touches of spice and mint add complexity to this really quite cool set of aromas. This is minty in the mouth, too. It offers sustained grip with its fine and friendly tannins. A nutty, even shape. Ends with a scrunch of freshness. Tacky grip here. Not an overtly fruity wine but juicy with its acidity. A stunner. Value pick here. 
"A beautiful wine...94/100." Ian d'Agata on vinous.com

2016 Rosso di Montalcino, Romitorio
£78 in bond per 6  Drink 2019-22
Very smoky dark and spicy nose of piquant cherry fruit, along with a note of pot pourri. Entry is plush and very cool. Then it becomes floral, nutty and fresh, with flavours of red and darker spiced fruits. There is some very fine, integrated, cool tannins. Cool wine altogether, in fact, showing nice spiced sustain. Elegant and lovely rosso. 

2013 Brunello di Montalcino, Romitorio
£189 in bond per 6  Drink 2020-29
Very nice nose of smoky, bonfire inflected, crisp cherry and plum fruit. There's a touch of liquorice about it too. Very good fruit purity in its scent. Palate is very cool with dark, pure fruit. Very fine and cool tannins. This is a very elegant wine, long, fresh and delicious. A touch rooty; a bit floral. There's a persistent core of freshness. 
"This tells me that the wine has plenty of wiggle room for a successful aging future." Monica Larner on robertparker.com

2013 Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta, Romitorio
£303 in bond per 6  Drink 2021-31
N.B. This is from a single, northern vineyard.
There's a touch of northern nori about the fresh aromas. Hints of dark roses and something umami. Fruit is red and black. This is  a more complex wine than the above. It is cool with cool, grippily upright structure. Tacky-fine tannins add to a grip that becomes steadily more upright, more incisive. A fresh wine of excellent energy. Very long and super-cool. Fabulous. 
"...this wine is suddenly generous, opulent and exuberant all at once." Monica Larner on robertparker.com

2014 Rosso di Montalcino, Poggio di Sotto
£252 in bond per 6  Drink 2020-29
A red fruit nose including a touch of pot pourri in its nice, lifted, floral character. There's a touchy of smoky bacon about this. Entry is cool and plush. A long wine of crushed-rock structure and that smoky thing repeats on the palate. This is tacky with rich grip. Needs time. It offers a busy, structured finish, full and energetic. Classy and very serious example.
"Super-elegant, fine and lively with fine tannins. Stunning balance and length." Walter Speller on jancisrobinson.com

2013 Brunello di Montalcino, Poggio di Sotto
£744 in bond per 6  Drink 2022-2035
This is touch reduced at present, but perceptible beneath are beautiful crisp and crunchy red fruits. Aromas are a touch creamy and include a scent of dark cake: gingerbread. Black plums are here, rich and lovely, as well as an earthy, saline note. In the mouth, one is greeted by a cool, satin-dark entry. There's lots here. A rich and elegant wine filled with fresh, rocky, mineral structure. Sustained, steady grip and fruits red and black. Tannin is very fine indeed. A very long wine and a subtly purposeful one. Super death. Just fabulous. Another of my wines of the trip.
"This is a naked and pure Brunello that glows bright with confidence and pride. 97/100." Monica Larner on robertparker.com

2012 Chianti Classico Vigneto San Marcellino Gran Selezione, Rocca di Montegrossi
£165 in bond per 6  Drink 2018-2028
Very smoky-dark liquorice-inflected nose that includes a pinch of iodine. Snappy freshness about the nose. This goes in the mouth rich and quite plush, quickly becoming very fresh and structured. There's a hint of the pastille here, but the rich, tacky and upright tannins add gravitas. This is a very long and assertive Chianti and I love it.
"...shows the intensity of the year in its radiant, super-ripe fruit." Antonio Galloni

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