Vintages in Montalcino 1970-1999: Comments apply to all wines coming from the town of Montalcino, not just Brunello. However the star ratings from one to five below are those given by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino specifically for Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.
1999 **** (four)
1999 Growing season: Adequate spring rain. Regular summer heat and dryness. Good autumn in terms of weather and harvest conditions. Concentrated, structured wines.
‘A very cold winter period but with lower than average rainfall. Spring had a lower than average rainfall with high temperatures particularly in May and June. The high temperatures favoured the initial development of the vines and anticipated the flowering which occurred during the last ten days of May. The summer (July and August) was not particularly hot, even though rainfall is anyway quite scarce. September was very good and enabled the grapes to be picked in excellent conditions. The harvest was well in advance: some estates started already at the beginning of the second third of September [about 14 days ahead] and by the second half of the month all the grapes had practically reached maturity,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1999 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,344 hectares for Brunello and 127 hectares for Rosso producing 68,751hl of Brunello and 4,899hl of Rosso respectively.
1999 Wine style: Giuseppe Sesti told me (on 15th January 2005) he felt 1999 was a much better vintage than 1997. ‘Excellent vintage,’ (Kerin O’Keefe, 2012, p276).
1998 **** (four)
1998 Growing season: ‘Winter period with normal rainfall; spring started fairly cold and the vegetation was somewhat slowed down. May brought a definite rise in temperature and a speeding up of the vegetation. Flowering and fruit took place in June in relatively low temperatures which prolonged the completion period. From the end of June temperatures rose considerably and the rainfall stopped. July and August were very hot and very dry; the drought stopped towards mid-September with a few rainfalls. The grapes ripened very fast, enabling the start of the harvest by mid-September; a few rainfalls at the beginning of October caused minor problems,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1998 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,249 hectares for Brunello and 82ha of Rosso (consorzio members only). In 1998 65,527hl of Brunello were produced plus 4,485hl of Rosso.
1998 Wine style | ‘The wines that were made were strong and well structured as well as round and elegant,” (Consorzio di Brunello). 1998 was billed as inferior to 1997, but it produced better wines overall, with more flesh and with more of a centre.
1997 ***** (five)
1997 Growing season: ‘A low amount of rainfall in the winter except for February. Budburst and flowering took place at the usual time. On April 17 a spring freeze brought the temperature down to -4ºC. Some vineyards were affected. Good rainfall in April, May and June. No drought during the summer. Several rainfall periods in August. September and October practically without any rain and with temperatures (particularly in September) well above the norm: the ripening of the grapes was perfect and very precocious. Harvest started around 20th September, unprecedendedly early harvest,’ (Consorzio di Brunello). ‘The best Montalcino vintage since 1990,’ (Gambero Rosso: 2003, p.518).
1997 Wine style: ‘Extremely well structured wines, with great potency and body; one of the great years of the century,’ says the Consorzio di Brunello. Many 1997 Brunellos have failed to deliver in my experience, lacking width, texture, focus and ageability.
1997 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,245 hectares for Brunello and 68ha of Rosso (consorzio members only) producing 59,758hl of Brunello and 2,490hl of Rosso respectively.
1996 *** (three)
1996 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,206 hectares for Brunello (consorzio members only) producing 58,749hl of wine.
1996 Growing season: Cool spring. Late frosts. Cool weather and showers in July and August but with enough sun to get the grapes ripe (like 1995).
‘A rather rainy winter, a fairly hot spring with a few showers concentrated in brief periods, vegetation within the norm at the beginning, but in advance by the end of June owing to the rather high temperatures. June and July very hot and dry. In August the ripening of the grapes was slowed down by rainfalls and relatively low temperatures, unusual for this period. September was marked by a few disturbing rainfalls until towards the end when there were moments of better weather enabling the grapes to dry and the harvest to take place around the usual time neither early nor late. Due to the rainfall a selection had to be made in some cases to discard mouldy grapes,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1996 Wine style ‘Wines with a good body and well supported, with a good level of concentration and polyphenolic structure,’ (Consorzio di Brunello). Average quality. Cool nights helped aromas it seems. ‘A vintage generally considered modest,’ (Gambero Rosso: 2003, p.515).
1995 ***** (five)
1995 Growing season: Adequate spring rain. August relatively cool. Later than usual harvest but under good conditions.
1995 Wine style: ‘Outstanding vintage,’ (Kerin O’Keefe, 2012, p276).
1995 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,192 hectares for Brunello producing 55,174hl of wine.
1994 **** (four)
1994 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,159 hectares for Brunello producing 51,974hl of wine.
1993 **** (four)
1993 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,117 hectares for Brunello (consorzio members only). Good vintage. 52,510hl of Brunello produced.
1993 Growing season: ‘Generally good with a normal rainy spring, a dry hot summer. A few rainfalls during the month of September did not affect the characteristics of the grapes,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1993 Wine style: ‘Well structured wines, at the same time very harmonious and with great potential,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1992 ** (two)
1992 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,108 hectares for Brunello (consorzio members only) producing 53,976hl of wine.
1992 Growing season: ‘A general imbalance with a not particularly rainy spring and relatively high temperatures. During the harvest period repeated rainfalls had a negative effect on the product,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1992 Wine style: ‘Production of Brunello owing to considerable selection, wines ready to be drunk at once,’ (Consorzio di Brunello). Weak generally, and the worst harvest since 1984, even allowing for 15% of wine from another vintage to be blended in.
1991 **** (four)
1991 Growing season: A cold spring and a hot summer produced small berries. Autumn rain helped swell them. “A good start, an early budding and flowering of the fruits, a hot and dry summer. Some rainfalls in September/October inhibited slightly the harvest period,” (Consorzio di Brunello).
1991 Wine style: “Harmonious and balanced quality wines,” (Consorzio di Brunello).
1991 Production: The vineyard area comprised 1,060 hectares for Brunello (consorzio members only) producing 42,047hl of wine.
1990 ***** (five)
1990 Growing season: ‘Excellent throughout the vegetation period of the vines, with good spring rainfalls, high but not excessive temperatures in the summer and a few rainfalls [end of July, early August] which prevented any stress. Excellent harvest period without rains,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1990 Production: The vineyard area comprised 937 hectares for Brunello producing 42,460hl of wine.
1990 Wine style: ‘Very harmonious [tannins, fruit] and balanced wines with high quality levels,” (Consorzio di Brunello). The 1990 vintage produced powerful, ripe Brunello and was hailed at the time as something of a ‘vintage of the century’. The wines were released in 1995.
1990 Production ‘According to official Consorzio figures, in 1990 there were 3,460 acres of vineyards designated for the production of both Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino,’ (Jo Cooke, 28 Oct 2008).
The vineyard area comprised 937 hectares for Brunello (consorzio members only of which there were 130 and of those around 80 bottled their own wine). 42,460hl of Brunello produced.
1989 ** (two)
1989 production: The vineyard area comprised 910 hectares for Brunello producing 41,178hl of wine (consorzio members only).
1989 Growing season: ‘Rainy year both during the late spring and the summer, with mostly low temperatures. The weather was anomalous both during September and during the harvest, with bad effects on the ripening of the grapes,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1989 Wine style: Light, fresh, aromatic wines. ‘A limited production of Brunello and a greater quantity of Rosso after considerable selections,” (Consorzio di Brunello).
1988 ***** (five)
1988 Growing season: ‘An extremely well balanced rainfall distribution , with a rainy spring and good temperatures. During the summer high temperatures but not excessively high, and excellent weather during pre-harvest and harvest time,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1988 Wine style: 1988 produced rich, structured and underrated wines, even if they were not perhaps as powerful (rich-tasting) as 1985. “High quality wine, due to its great concentration and balance,” (Consorzio di Brunello).
1988 Production: The vineyard area comprised 875 hectares for Brunello producing 39,165hl of wine.
1987 *** (three)
1987 Production: The vineyard area comprised 790 hectares for Brunello producing 41,604hl of wine (Consorzio members only).
1987 Growing season: ‘Generally dry throughout the summer, with temperatures above normal. The harvest time was interrupted by rainfalls which prevented a perfect ripening of the grapes,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1987 Wine style: ‘Poor quality wines due to a lack of general balance,’ (Consorzio di Brunello). Lean, delicate wines.
1986 *** (three)
1986 Production: The vineyard area comprised 787 hectares for Brunello producing 39,660hl of wine.
1986 Growing season: ‘Both the spring season and the beginning of the summer were somewhat rainy and cool. The summer was good as was the harvest time. On the whole the weather proved slightly unbalanced,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1986 Wine style: ‘The result was generally good, wines both fine and balanced,’ (Consorzio di Brunello). The 1986 wines were medium quality, firm, above average, underrated at the time. There was frequent rain in spring, a late spring frost lowered yields, but there followed a very good period from August to the end of harvest.
1985 **** (five)
1985 Growing season: Hot, dry summer. Brief showers in July and August.
1985 Production: The vineyard area comprised 810 hectares for Brunello producing 34,120hl of wine.
1985 Growing season: After a balanced beginning and a normal development of the flowering phase and the budding of the fruit, an extremely dry summer ensued. The months of September and October were also dry and hot,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1985 Wine style: 1985 was a great vintage, but there was also some over-ripeness. ‘Very high quality, due to remarkable concentration, wines with a long aging capacity,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1984 * (one)
1984 Growing season: ‘The spring-summer period was within the norm, so that by the end of August the grapes were in good condition. From the 6th of September it started raining continuously and intensely. The grapes were progressively attacked by rot, could not reach maturity because of the lack of sunshine and the relatively low temperatures. The harvest took place with great difficulty and ended very late,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1984 Production: ‘Very little Brunello was produced owing to uneven quality,’ (Consorzio di Brunello).
1984 Wine style: ‘Uneven quality, the wines on the whole were quite high in acidity and with little body,’ (Consorzio di Brunello). Light, weak wines.
1983 **** (four)
1983 Growing season: The Consorzio di Brunello describes the 1983 vintage in Montalcino thus: ‘Rainy spring with seasonal temperatures within the average. Hot summer without any noteworthy adverse events. Some rain in September which did not however particularly influence the quality. The harvest took place in excellent conditions.’
1983 Wine style: The Consorzio di Brunello describes the 1983 wines as being ‘excellent [with] good concentration and typicity.’ Round, lush, forward wines.
1982 **** (four)
1982 Growing season: The Consorzio di Brunello describes the 1982 vintage in Montalcino thus: ‘Spring with alternating rains and sunshine, and temperatures rising and falling. During the summer there were no excessive levels of temperature resulting in a good balance. The pre-harvest and harvest phases proved excellent and enabled the grapes to be picked under the sun.’ Hot year.
1982 Wine style: ‘Concentrated wines with a good tannin balance,’ says the Consorzio di Brunello.
1981 *** (three)
1981 wine style: Elegant, if perhaps somewhat ephemeral wines.
1980 **** (four)
1980 Wine style: Firm wines, better than expected.
1980 Production: In 1980 the vineyard area was back to the same size it was in 1930.
1979 **** (four)
1979 Wine style: ‘Magnificent, abundant,’ (Anderson, 1982, p263). Refined, perfumed wines with ripe, smooth tannins.
1978 **** (four)
Growing season: ‘Some estates had a great year, others only a fair harvest, often reduced by humidity or hail, abundant,’ (Anderson, 1980, p263). Potentially rich if inconsistent.
1977 **** (four)
Growing season | ‘Magnificent, average quantity,’ (Anderson, 1982, p263).
1976 * (one)
1975 ***** (five)
Growing season: ‘Magnificent, abundant,’ (Anderson, 1982, p263).
1974 ** (two)
1973 *** (three)
1972 * (one)
1971 *** (three)
1971 Growing season | Early spring, hot summer, frequent rain though too, cool autmun with little rain.
1970 ***** (five): ‘Magnificent, abundant,’ (Anderson, 1982, p263). Vineyard area 56ha.
Burton Anderson, Vino – The Wines and Winemakers of Italy (London, 1982).
Ian D’Agata, 2016, Decanter Italy Supplement 2016, p98, ‘Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Rufina & Chianti Classico’.
James Suckling, ‘Travel Log: First Impressions of 2015 Brunello, 28 August 2019 (jamessuckling.com, retrieved 1st Sept 2019).
Kerin O’Keefe, 2007, ‘Brunello di Montalcino 1967-1997’, World of Fine Wine 17 (2007), p34-35.
Kerin O’Keefe, 2012, Brunello di Montalcino (University of California Press, 2012).
Richard Baudains, 2017, ‘Brunello 2012’, Decanter, August 2017, p42-47.
Walter Speller, 2013, ‘Brunello di Montalcino 2008’, jancisrobinson.com, 11 January 2013.