The Brunello di Montalcino Consorzio is usually pretty generous in evaluating the quality of each year’s vintage, so when it gave 2014 only three stars (out of five), you can be pretty sure that year was a real stinker. And indeed it was: Cool, wet weather in the spring delayed bud break and continued essentially all summer long. Low temperatures and too much rain encouraged leaf growth but not grape development, and also provided the perfect environment for all the molds and vine diseases that growers fear. Warmer-than-usual days at the end of September/beginning of October helped improve the situation somewhat, but months of damage couldn’t be undone in a few weeks.
Despite all that, I was very pleased with the samples of Rosso di Montalcino 2014 from a handful of excellent producers that I was recently able to taste, thanks to the good offices of the Consorzio. The 10 wines I tasted came from some of my favorite estates, proving once again that the best winemakers can often do well in the toughest circumstances. It’s highly likely that every one of these rossi benefited from the inclusion of vineyards that in better years would have gone into Brunello – but that doesn’t detract from the winemaking skills needed to spin this straw into gold.
Here, in alphabetical order and rated on a five-point scale, are the wines:
Altesino Rosso di Montalcino: A bright cherry aroma precedes a good black cherry palate, with excellent acidity and soft tannins. Quite nice. 3.5-4
Canalicchio di Sopra Rosso di Montalcino: Dark cherry with woodsy overtones in the nose, similar components in the mouth. Slightly bigger than the Altesino. Very good. 4
Capanna Rosso di Montalcino: Aromas similar to the Canalicchio, palate like the Altesino. Pleasurable. 3.5-4
Col d’Orcia Rosso di Montalcino: Intense wild cherry and sottobosco nose. In the mouth, fine fruit, some elegance, fine balance. Very nice. 4.25
Donatella Colombini Cinelli Rosso di Montalcino: Doesn’t have all the wild, foresty notes of the Col d’Orcia, but even more elegant. 4.25
Fuligni Rosso di Montalcino Ginestreto: Strong black cherry and underbrush aroma. Excellent fruit, good acidity, soft tannins, nice balance, with a long, juicy finish. 4
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Rosso di Montalcino: Scents of cherry and old wood. In the mouth, pleasing cherry sweetness, fine acid/tannin balance. Round and full. Quite pleasing. 4
Lisini Rosso di Montalcino: Bright cherry aroma. Palate very similar to Ciacci Piccolomini. Enjoyable. 4
Le Potazzine Rosso di Montalcino: Very much in the same style as the preceding two wines. Medium-bodied, fresh and lively. Very nice. 3.5-4
Talenti Rosso di Montalcino: Those lovely Sangiovese cherry scents again. Palate follows through. Very long finish. A very enjoyable Rosso. 4
As you can judge from my comments, these wines all showed classic Montalcino characteristics, no small accomplishment for the growing season, and an indication of how much the zone is capable of when the conditions are right. My usual caveats about tasting notes still hold: These comments were valid for one tasting one morning, and I might react differently to the same wines in different circumstances. That said, I do think that any of these wines will be very pleasant drinking over the next three or four years, and will accompany any but the most exalted dinners.