"The 2015 vintage is a historical year for Brunello di Montalcino that nobody should miss. The wines show impressive precision of vivid fruit, fine tannins and freshness in acidity despite their ripeness and richness which makes them some of the most exciting in years. Winemakers in Montalcino were never better prepared to produce outstanding wines in a year like 2015 with their exactness in their vineyards and cellars from fine-tuned canopy management and crop thinning to optical sorting and soft fermentations. So many wine producers in Montalcino made excellent wines in 2015.
My son Jack and I have tasted 187 2015 Brunellos so far this year and the quality is terrific. We rated about half 95 points or more – classic quality. The wines will be officially available in the market beginning in January 2020. But we wanted to give you a preview of the best Brunellos from the vintage, with some already available on a pre-arrival basis from wine merchants.
»The words for the 2015 vintage are density, tannins and freshness« says Roberto Guerrini, whose family owns Eredi Fuligni. He made the wine of his lifetime in 2015. We rated it 100 points. »The wines are rich, yet they are fresh at the same time. It is a great year.«
As I wrote last month in a blog following a trip to Montalcino this summer, so many of the wines we tasted showed a beautiful depth of fruit and endless length. They are dense and rich wines with great structure of tannins yet they remain finely textured and comprehensive in the mouth. The seamless tannins seem to melt into the wine – a characteristic I have never seen in my 36 years visiting the area as a wine critic and journalist.
We admit that it is tempting to say that 2015 is Brunello di Montalcino's best vintage ever, and it may very well be! It certainly compares to other great years of the appellation including 1997, 2006, 2007, and 2010. Looking at the ratings, 2015 comes very close to the average of the great 2010 vintage with about half of the wines receiving ratings of 95 points or more. The big difference is that 2015 has more perfect rated wines than 2010 – 11 in total.
Another important thing to remember is the high quality of the 2016 vintage. The Brunellos will be available in January 2021, a year after 2015. We only tasted a dozen or so 2016s and they were fantastic quality. But we have our doubts about whether the vintage will be better than 2015. Regardless, we clearly have two excellent back-to-back vintages.
»The 2010 was an amazing vintage but then came 2015 and 2016!« says Carlo Ferrini, one of Italy's most respected consulting enologists who makes a small amount of his own Brunello from his pristine vineyards in southwest Montalcino called Giodo. »We will be debating which of the two years are better for years in the future.«
Ferrini said that he thought 2015 and 2016 were better than the highly rated duo of 2006 and 2007 as the wines are more balanced and precise with better freshness. They are what great Brunellos should be today and set a new benchmark for wines from the region. »We were looking for more fruit and concentration in years like 2006 and 2007 and now we search for more balance and harmony in our wines.« he adds.
The growing season in 2015 was impressive. The winter and spring had plenty of rain to make up for the intense sun and heat during the summer. There was some rain in September before the harvest to freshen the vineyards. And as noted before, good vineyard management compensated for the hot weather during the growing season, and sorting out dried grapes at harvest was extremely important for making exceptional wines. Most producers harvested at the end of September or early October, which is a sign that it was not too hot and grapes had a chance to ripen properly.
This excellent hang time when the grapes are allowed to evenly ripen on the vine certainly delivered wonderful wines. Nearly all the 2015 Brunello shows complex and beautiful aromas. It is not just ripe fruit when you stick your nose in the glass. The palates of the best show such fine-grained tannins. This wonderful harmony in the nose and palate makes the wines so approachable that you want to drink them now. However, these are Brunellos that will age beautifully for decades ahead making them historical in every sense of the word." James Suckling