Recently, the Sestis celebrated their 10th vintage of producing Brunello di Montalcino. We have been working with them since the 1997 vintage and have long loved them as well as their wines. So we were delighted to be invited to celebrate their 10 year anniversary with a vertical tasting of each vintage of Brunello that they have produced (1995 – 2005) with a weekend of incredible food and fanfare on the beautiful hills above Sant’Angelo in Colle.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and once we had unloaded our bags into our charming shabby chic rooms, we were greeted with a glass of their crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Like other domaines in Italy, the Sesti’s have accommodation for friends and customers. But unlike other producers, their estate is composed of a beautifully rustic hamlet of old stone outbuildings with stylish rooms and even a ruined castle (which they are trying to renovate). It is a story book location. When we visit, it always feels like a home away from home…and then some.
On Saturday, we prepared our palates for the vertical (notes are below). It was an impressive tasting that revealed true vintages characteristics and how surprisingly well most of these wines aged. We were also amazed at how deep the colours were across vintages – even the 1995 was still very profound. Though many of us had different favourites, combined together the top three vintages seemed to be: 2001, 2004 and 1995, the Sesti’s first vintage (a most pleasant surprise in a plethora of ways). Though drinking dates are indicated, some of these wines may last much longer – hence the +. Bravo Sestis!
Brunello 2005 – We tasted this wine twice and both bottles were slightly different. The first offered a meaty nose with a touch of eucalyptus, soft velvety tannins and crunchy red plum. The second bottle was more mineral, stony and silky smooth. Both were youthful on the palate requiring at least another 8-12 months in bottle before it will open up completely. But Guigi likes it now. As he says, “”˜I like my wines “˜al dente.'”Drink 2011 – 2022+
Brunello 2004 – An impressive bottle that is shows the richness of the 2004 vintage. This is more opulent than the 2001 that shows a bit more alcohol but also more depth. On the nose, it shows savoury notes of forest floor, spice and sweet fruit. The palate is full of layers that are waiting to unfold. Despite its concentration and richness, it remains elegant and poised. This too will require a little more time to hit its pinnacle. Our overall, 2nd favourite wine of the line-up. Drink 2012 – 2024+
Brunello 2003 – The Sesti’s worked hard to produce a very good 2003. Due to the dryness and immense heat of the vintage, they had to reflect enormously on their viticultural practices so that the vine remained balanced. All their contemplation and work paid off. More open on the nose than the 2005 or 2004, it offers ample savoury notes of soy reduction, roasted meat and dried cherry. The warmth of the vintage is more apparent but still in check. Due to their super selection, their yields were reduced by 50%. Drink now – 2018+
Brunello 2002 – This displayed a vibrant ruby colour, not dissimilar to the previous wines – a good sign for a challenging vintage. On the palate, it was considerably more evolved than the previous wines offering notes of celery seed, forest floor and sweet leather and dried fruit. This is wonderfully feminine which offers lots of grace and silkiness. One of the best 2002s that I’ve had from them. Finishes on a salty tang. Drink now – 2015+
Brunello 2001 – The overall favourite wine of the line-up that was a mecca of sheer balance and seamlessness. More pensive and less exuberant than the 2004, the 2001 opens up with an alluring nose of savoury aromas while on the palate it opens up with notes of dried fruit, white pepper and wild sage. The core is sweet yet uplifting. Its fine structure merges beautifully with its notable minerality. Drink now – 2022+
Brunello 2000 – A firmer style of Brunello that is aromatic with notes of forest floor, tomato confit and roasted meat. Lots of umami. The palate is masculine, powerful and broad – not nearly as ethereal as the 2001. More hippo than gazelle but still an impressive beast. Finishes long and study. Drink now – 2020+
Brunello 1999 – This was possibly the most disappointing wine of the line-up as 1999 is one of the most heralded vintages and our sales director, Julian Chamberlen, just had their 1999 Phenomema Riserva which he described as “˜out of this world’. The nose was perplexing as it smelled faintly oxidative and reductive at the same time. The palate though wonderfully concentrated was slightly hard, lacking in charm. A bit austere in style, reminiscent of Ralph Fiennes (apparently, however, it seems he is charming in real life). Nonetheless, it had more finesse than the 2000 and lots of power. It felt like it was probably more a phase than the actual wine. Maybe when the Sestis organise another vertical tasting, we will know! Drink 2011 – 2022+
Brunello 1998 – Gently aged with a slight tawny rim, the 1998 revealed pretty notes of dried flowers, black truffle and milk chocolate notes. On the palate, it is pretty, soft and suave with fined tuned layers and a tender core. There is a purity and a focus to it. In some ways, it is atypical of the Sesti’s style which is usually broader and richer, but it is a lovely, feminine and charming wine. Similar in style to the 2005. Drink now – 2018+
Brunello 1997 – Indicative of the vintage, the 2007 is a sex bomb which is perfumed on the nose and lavish on the palate with its velvety smooth tannins and exotic spice. Despite its curves, there is admirable backbone and a presence that commands respect – a bit like Cleopatra. Finishes with wild herbs and dried fruit. Drink now – 2021+
Brunello 1996 – The 1996 shows off a surprisingly deep ruby/garnet colour with notes of cinnamon, tar and dried cherries. Its core is sweet while structure is firm and solid, reminiscent of 1996 Bordeaux. Considering that this was not a grand vintage in Montalcino due to rain during harvest, this wine carries it’s own. Yet, it does not show as much personality as the other vintages. Nonetheless, it will not disappoint. Drink now – 2018
Brunello 1995 – A wild child of a wine which was overall our third favourite (and other people’s first). Aromatic with notes of eucalyptus and sweet dried fruit, it reminded me more of a Barossa Shiraz than a Montalcino Brunello. Amazingly youthful, on the palate it further opens up with chocolate, sweet leather and spice. Though, it is not as deep or rich as other wines (this was their first vintage afterall), it exudes so much personality that it is nearly impossible to not like. Unusual and compelling. Two bottles tasted for consistency.