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Benvenuto Brunello 2021

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Brunello di Montalcino 2016 is undoubtedly an exceptional vintage as good, if not better, than any vintage in the past twenty years, with the possible exception of 2010.

Such a bold statement was easy to make, the reason being I have reviewed many of these incredible wines.

To explain this in taste terms, these wines aromatics are "off the charts”: balanced, fine fresh tannins and racy acidity, juicy, pure expression of fruit and clear cut nuances, coupled with the undeniable fact that nearly all wineries made a wine way above their average scoring. This is how one should measure a great vintage, rather than how many 100 point wines are on a list.

Additional explanation to underpin this fabulous vintage is the fact that most wines expressed the terroir of their region. Terroir is not just the soil, but the complete growing cycle and how various elements play significant roles in the development of the end product. Topography, microclimate, rootstock, vine maturity, planting habits and so on, all adding up to encompass a sense of place.

Last year I wrote about the 2015 vintage which was generally very good, overall not a great vintage, in my opinion. One of the reasons I suggested was the weather was just too good, too perfect, which did not encourage Sangiovese to give its best. These vines perform better when struggling a little.

The Montalcino weather in 2016 was not plain “sailing,” although it could quite literally have been, considering the vast amount of rain that fell!

Very heavy rainfall in January and February, bud break and cooler than average temperatures in mid March, rain again in April and May, average rainfall but cool temperatures in June, which slowed the growth in the vineyards, then more rain fall from July. Temperatures picked up in daytime but dropped below seasonal norm at night, giving the fruit the opportunity for even growth and maturation. Less green harvest also played a part.

Heavy storms in the middle of September made harvesting a tale of two parts: the warmer parts of the appellation were picked prior to these storms, the cooler parts of the appellation were picked after the storms, some as late as the third week of October.

A good and varied harvest was experienced by all.

With the introduction of many new Crus in 2015, the same labels generally did not perform as well in 2016. To keep quality levels stable for these single vineyard Crus, the Consorzio allowed a reduction of yields per hectare. I am sitting on the fence with regard to this issue, because my concern would be a reduction in the quality level of the straight Brunello. Only time will tell and a comparison with Chianti Classico Gran Selezione will no doubt pose a similar question to be answered in the future.