All great sequels do two things: they maintain the high quality of the original, and they stand on their own as something unique, and perhaps something better. For wine enthusiasts, the release of the 2016 Brunello di Montalcino wines may just prove them to be the perfect sequel to the legendary 2015 vintages. For the second year in a row, relatively mild and stable weather conditions favored an excellent growing season and relaxed harvest in the fall. While a bit more tannic and less fruit-forward than the 2015 wines, these 2016 delights show all the signs of a higher aging potential, which could yield even more complexity and depth than that of their precursors.
Spring Showers and Dry Summers Make for Structured, Long-Lived Wines
Winter, Tuscany, 2016: the skies were clear above the rocky slopes of Montalcino’s hillside vineyards. Precipitation remained minimal, with relatively mild temperatures falling no lower than 21.2 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius). Vintners had little frost injury to fear.
In spring, the vines flourished in cool, rainy weather—perfect conditions for both flowering and fruiting. Precipitation was generous, but not overly so, and the rainfall promoted growth without risking coulure or disease.
In summer the skies cleared once again, with only a few scattered showers during an otherwise hot, dry season—a trend that continued well into the beginning of fall. These conditions encouraged the powerful, even dramatic, structure and exceptional tannins of the 2016 Brunello di Montalcino vintage that will ultimately allow these wines to outlast the slightly more youthful 2015 vintage. Montalcino’s Sangiovese crops, which ripen later than other varieties in the region, benefited from a brief rainy interlude in September followed by beautifully mild weather leading up to the harvest in October.
Pair these perfect weather conditions with the region’s stellar terroir—sun-kissed limestone and clay hills protected from storms and other extremes by the Monte Amiata mountain range to the south—and it’s no wonder that vintners and connoisseurs alike are singing 2016’s praises.
Top-Rated 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Wines
One exciting aspect of a year as favorable as 2016 is that lesser-known vintners can shine alongside their better-known competitors. Some local vintners attribute this not just to the luck of the year but also to the evolution of winemaking techniques. According to Carlo Ferrini, whose 2015 and 2016 wines were both awarded perfect scores by James Suckling, “We make wines much better now and we cultivate the vineyards better . . . The wine culture is so much more now than just 10 years ago.”
Suckling awarded 100 points to three 2016 Brunello di Montalcino wines; several received 99 or 98 points as well:
|Podere Giodo Brunello di Montalcino 2016||100||“Seamless is a great way to describe this red wine with intense aromas of plums, cherries, walnut and sandalwood. Some lightly toasted oak, roses and lavender as well . . .”|
|Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino 2016||100||“Blackberries, black walnuts and black cherries, as well as loads of chewy tannins . . . It’s full-bodied and powerful with loads going on. It just keeps growing on the palate.”|
|Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Montosoli 2016||100||“Full-bodied with firm, chewy tannins and beautiful polish to the power and intensity. Gorgeous, sweet and ripe fruit at the end with peach and citrus character to the plums.”|
|Casanova Di Neri Brunello Di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 2016||99||“Aromas of blackberries, cherries, violets and bark with mahogany. It’s full-bodied and chewy with intense tannins that are layered and focused . . .”|
|Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino 2016||99||“The complexity and beauty to this is really something with cherry, walnut, tobacco and cigar-box character. Sweet cherries. It’s full-bodied and deep with super intensity and power . . .”|
|Ciacci Piccolomini D’aragona Brunello Di Montalcino Pianrosso 2016||98||“Lots going on here with black plums, ripe cherries, cedar, smoke and cocoa on the nose. Ash, chocolate, crushed walnuts and some praline . . . Drink after 2025.”|
|Luce Della Vite Brunello Di Montalcino 2016||98||“Ripe, decadent aromas of blackberries, black truffles and black cherries with hints of violets . . . Full-bodied with a solid core of beautiful, pure fruit and creamy, round and fine tannins.”|
|Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello Di Montalcino Sugarille 2016||98||“Black cherries, cedar, dried flowers and red cherries on the nose . . . gorgeous, intense fruit and chewy yet integrated tannins. Very, very impressive red here.”|
|Roberto Cipresso Brunello Di Montalcino 2016||98||“Very impressive richness and structure with super soft, velvety tannins and gorgeous dark fruit, as well as mushroom, cedar and black tea . . .”|
|San Filippo Brunello Di Montalcino Le Lucere 2016||98||” . . . Cherry, tile, walnut and light chocolate aromas. Some mahogany. Very complex . . .”|
|San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Helichrysum 2016||98||“This is really complex on the nose with black cherries, mushrooms, dried flowers and cedar. Some crushed stone and dry earth or tile . . . It’s focused and serene. Better than 2015.”|
|Valdicava Brunello Di Montalcino 2016||98||“Attractive aromas of balsamic, tea, dark berry, walnut and coffee bean . . . Racy and polished. Beautiful length to this wine.”|
Boasting both high ratings and long aging potential, any of these wines would be ideal to lay down in an Italian wine collection as a birth wine or for another future purpose.
What is the Aging Potential of the 2016 Vintage?
Stronger acidity and riper tannins are expected to give the 2016 Brunello di Montalcino wines a longevity advantage over the 2015 vintage. While some will be ready to drink as early as 2021, most will benefit from a longer wait, with an aging potential of up to ten years or more in many cases.
A little patience is likely to be rewarded with deeper, more complex flavors than these wines can offer in their youth. Keep in mind that the vinification process also played a part in these wines’ aromas and flavors that will further develop over time. Many Brunello di Montalcino vintners still adhere to the tradition of aging wine in large, old oak casks to preserve the flavors inherent in the wine itself. However, in recent years, a number of winemakers have adopted more modern techniques, and instead use small, new French oak casks for a stronger structure and added vanilla notes. Others combine the two methods for a subtler effect.
Collecting and Enjoying Brunello di Montalcino Wines
Just because you might need to wait a few years to enjoy these wines at their peak doesn’t mean you have to delay gratification entirely. If you happen to own or plan to purchase some of the 2015 vintage as well, you can sate your curiosity by opening these first (since more of them drink better young) and saving the 2016s for a later date.
Once you are ready to open one of your 2016 Brunellos, any of the following food pairings are likely to make for an excellent complement to your wine of choice:
- Rich, Tuscan-style red meat or game such as spiced lamb, wild boar, or venison
- Flavorful tomato-based dishes, such as tomato soup or pasta with sauce
- Creamy risottos with succulent sausage or liver
- Classic cheeses like provolone, parmesan, or pecorino
When investing in 2016 Brunello di Montalcino wines, consider seeking out a few ex-chateau options (which are most easily found online). While they may cost a little more, it’s well worth the extra cost to ensure these wines arrive in perfect condition—there are few things more disappointing than defective wine. For a more cost-effective approach, you may also want to consider buying wine by the case. In addition to offering a slight cost advantage over buying individually, cases are far easier to keep organized—especially if your collection is already extensive.
And, of course, once you do make your choice, store these wines in a professional storage facility to keep them in peak condition. They will be looked after with the utmost care until you are ready to retrieve them—whether that’s a year from now, or a decade (or more).
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.