Montalcino, 2017 vintage

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

2017 Growing season: Very hot, and dry. Very low yields, 35-40% lower than normal, with the driest areas hardest hit. Vines on clay soil did well, and the fact that nights were cooler than in the 2003 heatwave vintage meant the wines are potentially ‘better than expected’ according to consultant Mauro Monicchi. He warns however that levels of malic acid were low, plus because the tannins are at once both easy to extract but also potentially tough any over-extraction will have negative consequences [ageing in large oak vats better that in smaller barrels]. Also, a lack of juice coupled with high sugars meant yeast would stress and would need nutrients.

The Allegrini family who own the San Polo winery said 2017 was marked by ‘extreme’ weather. Winter was mild and very dry, as was spring. Bud burst was about two weeks earlier than normal. Summer produced high temperatures but little rainfall. Rain did arrive at the end of August and early September (In Vino Habitat’, San Polo Harvest Diary 2017 p.5).

2017 Wine style: Better than the 2003 heatwave vintage, because the tannins appear more complex. This may simply be the nature of the respective vintages, or that in 2003 Montalcino had a higher proportion of greenhorn growers still on a learning curve and working with younger vines. One winery admitted its lowest alcohol wines from 2017 were at 14.9 potential. The high levels of alcohol caused yeast stress due to lack of fermentable nitrogen. Bernardino Sani of Tenuta di Argiano (Visit 2020) told me he felt the heat in this vintage ‘risked obliterating the subtle differentiations between individual terroirs.