An Introduction to Brunello di Montalcino 2012 | “A rock star vintage”

March 3rd 2017

Over the next few weeks we will be offering the wonderfully expressive new set of 2012 Brunello di Montalcino releases.

As one of the pivotal areas for quality Tuscan winemaking we visit Montalcino extensively each year. At the end of our visit last September we were left genuinely enthused by the high quality of the 2012 harvest. Essentially this is a year that bears the hallmarks of a classic vintage and should vie with the magnificent 2010s and 2006s. Whether it possesses the same level of consistency across the board as these two notable years, only time will tell, but what we can say is that the growers that we focus on have excelled. We are extremely excited about the value and quality that their wines promise.

James Suckling, normally the first out of the blocks with his appraisal of any new Brunello release, calls it a ‘a rock star vintage’. The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino who govern production have declared it a 5 star vintage (the same as 2010).

Galloni has just published his associate Ian d’Agata’s notes and scores. He comments: “The 2012 Brunellos are characterized by impeccable balance, vibrant acidity and fine-grained tannins… they are blessed with precise aromas and flavors of mainly red fruits, blood orange and minerals, and will prove very ageworthy.”

Here follows a summary of the 2012 vintage, a list of our growers, a summary of recent vintages, and a brief introduction to the rules governing the production of Brunello.

Sesti-2012-intro-1

The 2012 Growing Season

To fully understand 2012 it is worth backtracking to the 2011 vintage which presented many challenges to the winemakers of Montalcino. After a cool early summer a well-documented 38 degree heat spike in mid-August 2011 cooked any exposed fruit on the vine. As many growers had cut back canopies that shelter the grapes fearing unripeness from the earlier cooler conditions, the fruit faced the scorching heat unprotected. As a result of this stress the 2011s are highly uneven.

The season that led up to the harvest of 2012 was even and settled, much to everyone’s relief. The water tables, depleted by the heat extremes of 2011, were largely replenished by a cold February that brought significant snow. This proved essential in regenerating and reinvigorating the vines when it melted. Spring brought a little frost but nothing that would cause noticeable damage. The vines were healthy and rot free.

In June however, temperatures rose significantly and a hot dry spell lasting 3 months followed. The replenished water tables were essential to the welfare of the vine throughout this period. But by the time August arrived the same fears experienced in 2011 concerning heat stress came to the fore again. The vines were at breaking point again until help arrived in the form of several days of continuous rain in early August, which set the ripening process back on track. Importantly many of the growers, perhaps learning lessons from the previous year, had retained the canopies surrounding the grapes providing them with enough shade throughout the hot summer.

September was to be crucial for the success of 2012. Although the whole month leading up to the harvest was warm, the nights were cool and this diurnal variation gave a long, slow ripening season. Importantly it preserved the abundant acidity in the grapes and kept the alcohol levels on an even keel.

Whilst yields in 2012 were relatively low, the grapes were picked in perfect condition, at full ripeness and with wonderful freshness, slightly earlier than usual.

To summarise, this is a truly delicious Sangiovese vintage that no Tuscan lover’s cellar should be without.

Producers

We will be offering the following growers who represent the finest the region has to offer:

  • Sesti
  • Salicutti
  • Costanti
  • Poggio di Sotto (limited)
  • Salvioni (limited)
  • Il Colle (June release)

An appraisal of previous vintages

2012: A warm year with more even conditions culminating in rich, racy Brunellos. The potential to achieve greatness is certainly there. One of the smallest vintages in the last 50 years.

2011: A vintage remembered for its extreme heat. The best are rich, powerful and concentrated. Many will drink early, some lesser examples appear overcooked. Stick to the best names.

2010: A benchmark vintage for Montalcino. Very even and classic with wines of great structure and longevity.

2009: A difficult uneven vintage across Montalcino. Some shining successes but generally few and far between. Considerable inconsistency.

2008: Irregular quality wines bar the producers to the south who excelled. Devastating hail in August but a fine September and October saved the vintage. A vintage to know your growers.

2007: An excellent year. Many of the wines are soft, silky and expressive. A joy to taste.

Brunello production rules

  • Brunello was awarded the highest classification, DOCG, in 1980.
  • Only 100% Sangiovese grapes from the Montalcino township can be used.
  • All Brunello must be aged for two years in wood, Slavonian wood for the traditional growers and French barriques for those seeking a modern interpretation. After this, a minimum ageing period in bottle for 4 months, 6 for Riserva.
  • Brunellos can be released onto the market in the January 5 years after the harvest, 6 for Riserva.