2016 Brunello di Montalcino vintage report
 

The 2016 vintage will be a milestone for Brunello di Montalcino, says our Italy Wine Buyer, Davy Żyw.

This is a hero vintage. Hailed by critics and winemakers as the greatest vintage in recent memory, 2016 will become a keystone year for Brunello di Montalcino. Following the successful, ripe and generally uniform ’15s, the ’16s give us more to look for (and to look forward to) with detail, energy and grip. In this twin release, the ’16s and ’15 Riservas demonstrate the quality and versatility of Sangiovese through two very different expressions; it’s rare for two back-to-back vintages to both be quite this good.

It’s difficult not to get excited when winemakers explain the characteristics of ’16 Brunello – the vintage has produced wines that are classical, complex and elegant. While not as immediate as other five-star vintages of recent years, ’16 clearly demonstrates Montalcino’s ability to produce wines of world-class complexity, purity and longevity.

The growing cycle in ’16 was relatively even. Average temperatures during flowering led to excellent vegetative growth. A steady summer prevailed, the all-important night and day temperature fluctuations helping the grapes achieve outstanding maturity and phenolic ripeness. At harvest, the grapes were characterised by complex aromatics, ripe extract and glossy tannins paired with brilliant natural acidity. After some five years in the cantina, these characteristics manifest themselves in the wines with finesse, energy and purity – and considerable Tuscan charm.

We have a distinctive selection of wines in our ’16 offer, showcasing the diversity of Montalcino’s terroirs and winemaking philosophies. Highlights include the stoic intensity of Castelnuovo del Abate’s infamous Poggio di Sotto; the Burgundian purity of Scopetone, from the region’s most prized vineyard; and the new releases from La Màgia, combining magical terroir expression and agile winemaking under the creative control of Fabian Schwarz.

Normally, the wine trade and media would descend upon Montalcino in February, to taste and discuss the new vintages. Covid has made travel difficult; this year, that had to be done virtually. I was lucky enough to visit in October, just before the second lockdown. Tasting extensively from barrels at La Màgia, it was evident that this is an exciting, bold and genuinely terroir-focused vintage. Although the wines have not been as widely tasted as normal, those that have been reviewed are making headlines. There is a universal expectation that the releases this year will become legendary for the region.

There is a turning of the tide in southern Tuscany: the old guard and next generation alike are questioning techniques and realising the potential of their terroir. This vintage will be a milestone and career-defining for many producers, even those as historic as our friends at Lisini. Never has the peak in realising potential in a region climaxed in such a timely fashion with the best vintage in living memory. Brunello di Montalcino 2016 is a heroic year that we’ll be talking about – and drinking – for decades to come.