France’s historically great and storied regions are Bordeaux and Burgundy, Spain’s Rioja and Ribera, and Italy’s are Piedmont and Tuscany. And in Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino holds a special place all its own beyond Chianti and even the most expensive SuperTuscans. A properly aged Brunello leaves the primary flavor contours of Sangiovese behind, the cherry, strawberry, licorice and spice, and evolves into an elegant knit of autumnal leaf, earth, orange peel and mocha. In a blind tasting you might mistake a Brunello for a classified growth Bordeaux or Gran Reserva Rioja. Brunellos are made from a Sangiovese clone distinct from the grapes that go into Chianti. It is thicker skinned and thus higher in tannin and acidity, which makes it ideal for aging. According to DOCG rules, a Brunello must be kept for two years in oak and four months in the bottle but the best producers, like those we are featuring here, far exceed those requirements.
The Frescobaldi family has been making wine in Tuscany for a mere 700 years. Today Frescobaldi is run by Vittorio Frescobaldi with his brothers Leonardo and Ferdinando. Fuligni was founded in 1923 by Viscount Fuligni and is currently run by Roberto Fuligni. The noble Costanti family has been prominent since the Renaissance and has been making wine in Tuscany since the 18th century. The new guy on the block is Francesco Monaci, owner of Agostina Peiri and from a family of winemakers, but who has been making Brunello since the early 90s.
2015 was an exceptional vintage. These Brunello’s can be drunk now and with decanting will be beautiful wines, with freshness as well as complexity. But, a strategy might be to order three of a particular release, one to drink now, one to drink in five years and one to drink on your silver anniversary. And keep notes.
Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 2015
Sale Price: $89.97
James Suckling, 100pts. – “The purity of fruit on the nose is perfection with cherries, crushed raspberries, mineral, pumice and citrus fruit. Dust, too. Full body. Powerful, chewy tannins. So long and muscular, yet polished and formed. Most structured Brunello I have ever had from here. A wine for decades.”
Wine Enthusiast, 98pts. - “Rose, violet, camphor, wild berry and aromatic herb aromas are front and center in this gorgeous red. It’s juicy, enveloping and delicious, doling out succulent black cherry, raspberry compote, licorice and baking spice alongside velvety tannins. Thanks to the estate’s vineyards north of Montalcino, it has freshness and mid-term staying power.”
Agostina Pieri Brunello di Montalcino 2015
Regular: $ 54.99
Sale Price: $48.97
Vinous, 93pts. – “The 2015 Brunello di Montalcino is dark and woodsy, opening with a note of wild herbs, moist earth, and leather, as the bouquet slowly blossoms to show crushed strawberries with subtle spices, which pull me closer to the glass. It’s silky on the palate, flooding the senses with black and red fruits, with a mix of sweet and savory spice, as herbal tones develop amidst saline minerals and dark inner florals. The finish is long, resonating on dark fruits and balsamic spice, offset by brisk acids and hints of citrus. I pick up little in the way of structural heft here; in fact, the 2015 Agostina Pieri is already drinking beautifully and somehow balances its 15.5% abv perfectly.”
Conti Costanti Brunello di Montalcino 2015
Sale Price: $93.97
Decanter, 98pts. - “After sitting out the 2014 vintage, Andrea Costanti calls 2015 a beautiful year and one of the best in the history of Brunello. He deemed it exceptional enough to craft a Riserva (to be released in 2021) yet his classic Brunello hasn't suffered for it. In fact, it's one of the greatest successes of the vintage. Gorgeous, seductive aromas are already expressive but still youthful. Cherry and plum are enveloped by exotic spice and a faint smokiness. The palate is plush and velvety with layers of powdery tannins that build, and tangy acid that cleanses the palate. Hedonistic but brilliantly balanced, it is hard to resist now but the best is definitely yet to come.”
Wine Enthusiast, 98pts. – “Fragrant and all about finesse, this gorgeous wine opens with enticing aromas of blue flower, forest floor, wild berry and a whiff of eucalyptus. It’s linear and elegant, delivering succulent red cherry, pomegranate, star anise and tobacco alongside polished tannins. Fresh acidity keeps it impeccably balanced.”
Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2015
Sale Price: $65.97
James Suckling, 97pts. – “This is a pure and beautiful Brunello with super fine and abundant tannins that are comprehensive and expansive. Builds on the palate. Full body. Round and firm with beautiful fruit and length. Lively and vivid. From organically grown grapes. Needs a year or two to soften, but already gorgeous.”
Past Cellar Selections:
Shafer Vineyards – Relentless, One Point Five and Chardonnay
Paul Jaboulet – Majestic Wines from the Northern Rhone
Alion and Pintia – The Other Vega Sicilias
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey – Magic in Burgundy
Don Melchor 2015 – 98pts!
Domaine Lapierre - The Original Natural Winemaker
Muga ‘Selección Especial’ 2015 – Classic Rioja
Domaine A. et P. de Villaine – Budget DRC?
Three Oderros: for the Picnic Table, the Dinner Table and the Cellar
Castilla Ygay 2010 – at 98 pts a ‘First Growth’ Rioja
Chateau Troplong Mondot St. Emilion 2017 – 98pts!
More Great Brunello from 2015 – 99pts Casanova di Neri
Ramirez Gran Reserva Rioja 2010 – Budget Addition to the Cellar
Burgundy with age from Jean Chauvenet
Cornas and Côtes-du-Rhone from Franck Balthazar
Quintessa 2016 – 98pt Bordeaux Blend from Napa