Montalcino, 2013 vintage

Comments apply to all wines coming from the town of Montalcino, not just Brunello. However the star ratings from one to five given below are those given by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino specifically for Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.

2013 **** (four)

2013 Growing season | 2013 was a problematic, heterogeneous but seemingly successful vintage, not least in terms of production, 10% up on the previous, parched 2012 vintage. The early part of the growing season was warm, but was followed by cold weather, causing later than usual budburst and flowering. This meant 2013 would, unusually in a post climate change world, see grape ripening pushed into early October. Cool, wet weather in spring and into early summer created disease pressure (eg. downy mildew on Sangiovese) although the rain was welcome after the hot, dry 2012 season. Summer and late summer were relatively grey and cool (cool August), with heavy bursts of rain from late summer into autumn and the harvest period, alternating with with warm, dry days with useful breezes and cool nights. This affected later-ripening (cooler, or higher-yielding) vineyards most of all, necessitating leaf plucking around the bunches to stave off grey rot. Wines from warmer, freer-draining, hill sites in the south of Montalcino appear to have produced the best wines. The smaller estates were well placed to react to the weather conditions (eg. leaf plucking, picking selectively) than were the larger estates. In some cases larger estates had to prioritise saving grapes from their best plots by picking them in late September, accepting that grapes from lesser plots would have to wait into October to be picked, and thus be even more compromised (by rot, dilution, and not-quite-ripeness) and therefore would have to make Rosso rather than Brunello di Montalcino.

2013 Wine style | The better wines in 2013 have delicate, crisp, clean, ripe fruit with real elegance, plus more complex tannins and better balanced acidity compared to 2012. Other Brunellos can show a strong backbone of acidity, toughish tannins and dusty, herbaceous fruit flavours, and dilution. Paolo Ciacci of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona told me at the winery in 2018 he felt the 2013 vintage was like 2008, being ‘a potentially elegant vintage whose wines are perhaps hard to understand at first.’ The wines ‘look to be complex, nuanced, will likely prove very perfumed and ageworthy,’ (Ian D’Agata 2016 Decanter Italy).

In my report for the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards blind tasting competition (for which I was Tuscany Chair) I wrote ‘Rosso di Montalcino offers relatively value for money compared to its increasingly pricey alter ego Brunello. The best 2013 Rossos are bright, and full of soft red fruit.’ In my report for the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards blind tasting competition (for which I was Tuscany Chair) I wrote ‘Brunello di Montalcino’s 2013 vintage is getting rave reviews across the board and the best wines are very good, but they will need time to settle down. And given it rained during the 2013 harvest, and not every grape was perfect despite what you may have read elsewhere, it is perhaps no surprise our blind tasting (Decanter World Wine Awards 2018) showed less than 40% of wines scored Silver or above, whilst 60% were only worth a Bronze medal or less. Let’s wait for them to settle down in bottle before rushing to judgment.’

The oenologist Paolo Vagaggini said ‘2013 is an old style vintage, with the characteristic maturation times of the temperate Mediterranean climate, where Sangiovese best expresses itself. The grapes reached maturity later than the past years, thus privileging the perfumes, the elegance of the tannins and the typical acidity of the harvests of the 1980s.’

In the The Wine Enthusiast (‘The 2013 Brunello vintage showcases stunning, radiant wines,’ on 14 Feb 2018) Kerin O’Keefe described 2013 as a ‘classic vintage’ whose best wines ‘boast remarkable aging potential not seen in years. A blast from the past [2013] was a cool year, with abundant rainfall in spring and the first part of the summer. The 2013 growing season proved incredibly long and slow. Cooler temperatures prevailed in September and the first half of October, and the grapes benefitted from ample sunshine and breezy conditions. It produced fragrant, medium-bodied wines. The best are impeccably balanced, with vibrant acidity, firm but noble tannins [and] alcohol levels also ring of the past, as many wines declare 13.5% and 14% abv. That’s a stark contrast to 14.5% and 15% levels that have become increasingly common since the start of the 2000s.’  

2013 | The vineyard area comprised 1,973 hectares for Brunello and 474 hectares for Rosso producing 79,968hl of Brunello and 24,242hl of Rosso respectively.

Bibliography

Ian D’Agata, 2016, Decanter Italy Supplement 2016, p98, ‘Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Rufina & Chianti Classico’.

Kerin O’Keefe, 2012, Brunello di Montalcino (University of California Press, 2012).

Stephen Brook, ‘Brunello 2013 vintage: A sneak preview,’ Decanter.com 20 Nov 2017.