The international wine press is in agreement in including 2015 among the “memorable” years for Brunello di Montalcino. Let us discover together the motives for this opinion by considering the specific characteristics of production, as commented on by a number of experts.
Is 2015 “the vintage of the century”, as some international wine writers have suggested? Some people have no doubt but, irrespective of individual points of view, we are undoubtedly talking about an outstanding year.
The 2015 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino, which has been on the market since early January, already began to be talked about several months ago in various parts of the world. In the United States in particular, critics’ judgments were so enthusiastic as to arouse unprecedented expectations. These opinions were confirmed in Montalcino itself. The 2015 vintage was in fact given its maximum rating by the Brunello Consortium’s Tasting Panel: “5 stars”, which equates to “exceptional”.
This Panel, made up of 20 wine technicians who work in Montalcino, has always been very wary of stating that a vintage is really excellent. Since 1945, “5 stars” have only been given to the 1945, 1955, 1961, 1964, 1970, 1975, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1995, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2012 vintages. To these have now been added 2015 and also 2016. These evaluations certify that production is of ever-increasing quality, with vintages that are being jealously put away in wine lovers’ cellars.
In the Panel’s tasting notes, one finds the motives for the 2015 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino being awarded its highest rating.
Intense aromas of ripe fruit; an excellent rapport between tannic structure and acidity; great persistence of the aromatic sensations both on the nose and palate: the almost 50 samples tasted by the Panel revealed the profile of a wine with positive yet gentle tannins, remarkable balance and notable freshness, sustained by classic notes of ripe red fruits. The around ten and a half million bottles of this Brunello from a very favorable year will be able to stand up to considerable aging, giving great results even in the long term. 2015 will in fact be remembered for a winter with very little rain, followed by a spring whose temperatures were substantially in line with the average, and with limited rainfall. These climatic conditions allowed the vines to remain well-balanced and the resulting wine to express its potential to the full. Indeed, even immediately after the harvest, the grapes were characterized by remarkably elegant tannins and notably complex aromas.
The evaluations and ratings of Italian and international wine writers give a highly positive picture of the 2015 vintage.
Now that the 2015 vintage has been launched onto the market, it is interesting to compare the opinions of some authoritative experts, and in particular to verify – based on their comments – whether this is really a year that is destined to be included in the history books. Someone who is convinced that it will is James Suckling, one of the most influential critics in the world of wine and a writer with a profound knowledge of the Brunello region. “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. My son Jack and I have tasted 187 2015 Brunellos so far this year and the quality is terrific”.
He is echoed by Monica Larner (of “Robert Parker The Wine Advocate”): “Fruit has never been more beautiful than it was in the picture-perfect 2015 vintage. What impresses most about 2015 is the consistently high quality delivered across the board. As a whole, the wines are homogenous and uniform in terms of their intensity, depth and generosity. House styles may differ from producer to producer, but these wines are united by the energy, exuberance and radiance that come naturally to a beautifully warm and sunny vintage like 2015”.
A little more cautious in his enthusiasm is Walter Speller, the correspondent in Italy for the prestigious English site of Jancis Robinson: “I am never one to immediately write up my assessment after a comprehensive tasting of any new vintage because I like to take my time to reflect…. ‘Seductive’ is a word that sums up many of the 2015 Brunellos… 2015 is what the market has been waiting for and I expect it will be a commercial success”.
Daniele Cernilli, director and editor of “The Essential Guide to Italian Wine“, expresses an opinion that tends to underline the variety of the individual wines being presented: “The 2015 vintage, thanks to the natural conditions and the experience of the various producers, reveals diversity and distinctive characteristics. However, it is obvious that there isn’t going to be a homogeneous style among more than 250 producers. What stands out is that the good producers are becoming increasingly good and are increasingly numerous, whereas others plod along, trapped in a rigid way of conducting their vineyards and winery, one that is too anchored to a tradition that belongs to the past, when weather conditions were different from those of today”.
2015 Casisano Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G.: an excellent example of the vintage’s distinctive characteristics.
During the “Benvenuto Brunello” preview tastings the Tommasi family presented its “very own” 2015 Casisano Brunello di Montalcino D.O.C.G.: the 2015 is in fact the first to be completely supervised – from the vine to the bottle – by enologists Giancarlo Tommasi and Emiliano Falsini.  This new wine, made entirely from Sangiovese Grosso grapes, comes from the nine hectares of the Casisano estate that are devoted exclusively to the production of Brunello. During the tastings, the Casisano Brunello 2015 immediately stood out thanks to its characteristics and personality. Its elegant, fresh yet complex nose opens up with the fruity and spicy notes that are typical of Sangiovese.  The harmony on the palate is very attractive, with a rich structure that is accompanied by velvety tannins and great persistence. It is no accident that this new wine immediately obtained some significant scores: 94/100 from, 91/100 from Wine Advocate and 17+ from
This was an excellent debut, therefore, especially in view of the wine’s future development. In fact, the 2016 vintage is already offering important indications of its quality. James Suckling declared: “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”.
Monica Larner, on the other hand, was firmer in her judgment: “However, barrel tastings suggest that the upcoming 2016 vintage is distinguished by more acidic freshness. The 2016 vintage is likely superior to 2015 in terms of longevity and cellar aging”.
Kerin O’Keefe of Wine Enthusiast agreed with this opinion, describing the 2016 as “great” and saying that it “promises to be a truly outstanding year in Montalcino thanks to near perfect growing conditions for Sangiovese. Barrel tastings show 2016 has the potential for fragrant, structured and focused wines that boast finesse and serious longevity”.
It therefore remains to be seen what outstanding ratings there will be for the 2016 vintage, which many are already claiming will be superior to its predecessor.