Montalcino, 2015 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.

The Consorzio del Brunello rated 2015 as a five star vintage describing it as being of ‘altissimo e raro livello qualitativa’ or extremely high and unprecedented quality.

2015 ***** (five)

2015 Growing season‘The 2015 vintage was distinguished by a cold, wet winter and a cool, rainy spring that established water reserves in the vineyards. There was double the foliage present in 2014 due to the warm autumn and wet 2014. The vines kept their green leaves for much longer than usual, allowing them to store good reserves of “sostanze [nutrients],’ (Laura Gray, 2019).

‘Hot growing season. Rains in May and July helped alleviate some of the heat stress. Harvest in September was dry and warm,’ (James Suckling, 28 Aug 2019). 

‘July had the highest temperatures ever recorded in Tuscany. Sometimes extreme temperatures, but well-distributed rain throughout the growing season meant little or no drought stress. Natural sugar-acid balance. Good yields, high quality,’ says Richard Baudains (2017)

‘An extremely hot and dry July (even hotter than the scorching 2003) meant that the grapes changed colour ten days earlier than usual and fruit was smaller than normal (good for the skin:flesh ratio). The heat was mitigated by showers at the end of the month and in early August (48 mm), and a marked thermal excursion permitted a long slow ripening, incredibly positive for the development of aromatics and tannins. A final blast of heat in August was great for the skins, again beneficial for aromatics and dry extract. After a rainy start [rain on 10th September], the grapes enjoyed a wonderful September with ideal conditions for healthy development and perfect un-rushed ripening. Constant bunch-drying wind from the east and [marked] day/night temperature differences (15°C/34°C) continued to sustain aromatic development,’ (Laura Gray, 2019).

Speaking in 2017 Giacomo Neri told me 2015 was a good year, the Sangiovese grapes having thick skins. Heat stress during mid-summer brought the risk of green tannins later on. Consultant Mauro Monicchi told me that the hot winds in summer 2015 (hot August) brought the risk of a rise in the pH of the juice (lessening its acid strength), shrivelled berries and high levels of alcohol, above 15% in some cases.

2015 Winemaking: Acidification was necessary in some cases.

2015 Wine style: Giacomo Neri of Casanova di Neri describes 2015 as a good vintage across the Montalcino zones, potentially perfumed, powerful wines with rich fruit, and balancing acidity (Interview at his Casanova di Neri winery on Friday 03rd November 2017). 

Paolo Ciacci of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona told me at the winery in 2018 he felt 2015 would be like 2008, meaning a vintage that might not be easy to understand

‘Beautiful depth of fruit, endless length. Dense, rich, structured, masses of tannins yet finely textured and comprehensive in the mouth. The tannins seem to melt into the wine. I have never seen this before in a young vintage of Brunello and few other Sangiovese-based wines. There’s also a transparency and brightness to the best of 2015. [Compared to 2016 the] 2015 has more depth, length and structure. It’s more classic in style,’ says James Suckling (28 Aug 2019).

‘One of the defining characteristics of 2015 Brunello is a beautiful acidity that is often lacking in hotter years. 2015 followed sodden 2014, featured a hot growing season punctuated with “useful” rain after an early veraison, no extended periods of drought all summer and marked day/night thermal excursion from August onwards. Complexity of aroma, elegance and fine tannins are part and parcel of this lovely year. Montalcino 2015 really was one of the vintages of a lifetime, a year of unparalleled excellence,’ says Laura Gray of the Il Palazzone winery.

Andrea Costanti told me he felt 2016 had higher acidity and was more elegant compared to 2015.

2015 Industry structure: The Consorzio had 252 producers of which 209 were bottlers.

2015 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,964 hectares for Brunello and 468 hectares for Rosso producing 80,182hl of Brunello and 27,553hl of Rosso respectively.

Bibliography

Giacomo Neri, interview at his Casanova di Neri winery on Friday 03rd November 2017

James Suckling, ‘Travel Log#9: First Impressions of 2015 Brunello, 28 August 2019 (jamessuckling.com, retrieved 1st Sept 2019).

Laura Gray (of Il Palazzone), 2015 vintage report, published 2019.