Tis the season for Brunello di Montalcino - An en primeur tasting
Over the past few months I had begun hearing whispers from fringe sources like James Suckling that the 2019 vintage from Brunello di Montalcino was something special. But it was on a soggy Tuesday morning in London that I went to find out for myself. With 90 wines on offer and a time slot of 2 hours, as I sat down at one of the tables set up in a manner that even the strictest social distancer would approve, I knew there was work to do.
The 2019 season has been seen by many of the growers in the region as a very easy year. There was plenty of rain in the Spring that allowed the vines and water table to set themselves up nicely for the hot summer. During that summer there was good heat with few heatwaves and replenishing rain fell periodically.
Brunello di Montalcino is a protected red wine that comes from the vineyards around Montalcino in the south of Tuscany. Made entirely out of Sangiovese grapes, it is distinct from its nearby rival of Chianti Classico, which allows for some blending of other grape varieties to occur. The recent trend in Montalcino has been to use less new oak in the winemaking, which is really letting the characteristics of the Sangiovese grape do its thing and this was thoroughly on display at the tasting as the overarching theme was racy acidity with prominent fruit characteristics.
This was the first en primeur tasting and for those interested it was a pretty serious affair. We were sent the list of wines beforehand and had to select those that we wanted to taste. Under near exam conditions we were then served our wines six at a time as we methodically worked through the tasting with some furiously writing notes on each wine and others less so. I must say by the end, the young wines had done a number on the old enamel and my ability to taste was rather diminished.
What was most fascinating was to see the 2019s up against the riserva 2018s, which were also being released. There was a distinct vintage variation that was clear in the fruit quality and with the 18s being aged for an extra year, there was a needed reliance on the extra barrel age.
At present, the 2019s remain too young to be properly enjoyed and should be given at least another couple of years bottle age before the acid starts to settle down. So either grab some now for those that are patient, or keep an eye out down the line.