Italian wine reviews (tasted through February 2017)

Check out my latest reviews (282 wines): Brunello di Montalcino, Alto Adige, Soave and more

blind tasting Kerin O'Keefe

Italian wine reviews (tasted through January 2017)

Check out my latest reviews (425 wines): Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti, Chianti Rufina, Carmignano and more

Top 20 of the Month

Il Marroneto 2012 Madonna delle Grazie Brunello di Montalcino 99 Points Cellar Selection

Conti Costanti 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 98 Points Cellar Selection

Altesino 2012 Montosoli Brunello di Montalcino 97 Points Cellar Selection

Baricci 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 96 Points Cellar Selection

Biondi Santi 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 96 Points Cellar Selection

Le Potazzine 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 96 Points Cellar Selection

Le Chiuse 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 96 Points Cellar Selection

Abbadia Ardenga 2012 Vigna Piaggia Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points Editors’ Choice

Fuligni 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points Cellar Selection

Ridolfi 2012 Mercatale Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points Cellar Selection

Il Marroneto 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points Cellar Selection

L’Aietta 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points Cellar Selection

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points Cellar Selection

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 2012 Vigna di Pianrosso Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points Cellar Selection

Armilla 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 95 Points

Michele Satta 2012 Cavaliere Sangiovese Toscana IGT 94 Points

Altesino 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 94 Points

Gracciano della Seta 2013 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 94 Points Cellar Selection

Gianni Brunelli 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 94 Points

Lisini 2012 Brunello di Montalcino 94 Points

2012 Brunello: a return to finesse and age-worthy structure

If you love wines with elegance, fragrance and longevity, then you’ll love the just-released 2012 Brunellos. And even though I’m one of the biggest critics of the Consorzio’s Brunello vintage classifications (I find most vintages have been overrated), when it comes to 2012’s five-star rating, I completely I agree.

Defying the intense heat of the growing season, many 2012s have the vibrancy usually found in cooler vintages. They boast juicy red berry fruit, noble tannins and impeccable balance that will allow them to age well for years. Out of the 140 Brunello 2012s I tasted so far, I rated 88 wines 90 points or more, with 20 of these getting 94 points or higher. I was pleasantly surprised to see a return to finesse, enticing aromas and generally lower alcohol levels when compared to other recent releases.

The 2012s even have more consistent quality across the denomination than the highly acclaimed 2010s. The latter were a mixed bag divided between majestic wines boasting structure and finesse, and subpar wines marred by low acidity, cooked fruit and alcohol of 15% abv or more.

Quality is more uniform in 2012, but in terms of weather, 2012 was an undeniably difficult year. Unstable conditions included a cold, wet winter and an extremely hot, dry summer marked by late rains. But the extended heat wave was gentler on the grapes than the turbulent temperature changes of other past vintages.

Read more here: 2012 Brunello: a return to finesse and age-worthy structure

Here you find the full reviews: 2012 Brunello di Montalcino reviews by Kerin O’Keefe

Make it a Double in Montalcino: 2011 Brunello and 2010 Riserva

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage facing the just-released 2011 Brunello vintage – awarded four out five stars by the Consorzio – is that it comes on the heels of the widely acclaimed 2010. And while the 2011s won’t be remembered as an historic vintage, overall they have an immediate, juicy allure that exceeded my expectations from what was a difficult, at times torrid vintage. The best also show some staying power, and more than a few showed unexpected complexity.

The best 2010 Riservas are displaying impeccable balance, restraint and complexity. And while many have cellaring potential, they are still more immediate than Riservas from cooler vintages. The good news is this also means you also won’t have to wait decades before you can enjoy them, as is the case with quintessential Riservas. I also gave a rare 100 points to Biondi Santi’s drop-dead gorgeous Riserva, which shows real aging potential to boot.

Read the article: 2011 Brunello and 2010 Riserva

Check out my 2011 Brunello reviews

Check out my 2010 Brunello reviews

Italy’s Most Collectible Wines

Thanks to a string of outstanding vintages over the last two decades, Italy’s most celebrated wine regions are on a roll.

Even though years like 1964, 1971 and 1978 are legendary in Piedmont, and 1955, 1970 and 1975 evoke similar feelings in Tuscany, stellar vintages used to be few and far between. But toward the late 1990s, things began to change. Better vineyard management — better clones, lower yields and gentler/fewer chemical treatments — coupled with drier, warmer growing seasons throughout the peninsula have regularly produced wines that can age gracefully for decades.

Producers point out that until the mid-1990s, they used to have two, occasionally three, outstanding vintages every decade. The other years were mediocre, if not downright dismal. Now, it’s the opposite. Each of the last few decades have boasted seven or eight very good to outstanding vintages.

Here’s a summary of Italy’s most collectible wines, and some of the greatest vintages of the past two decades.

Read the article: Italy’s Most Collectible Wines

Brunello 2010. Some fantastic wines alongside under performers

After the wild success of the 2010 vintage in Barolo and Barbaresco, Bolgheri and Chianti Classico, all eyes are on Montalcino. Although the Brunello 2010s will officially debut at the annual press tastings in late February – along with the 2009 Riservas, I was fortunate to preview almost 200 of the new release in early January at the Brunello Consorzio’s headquarters in Montalcino.

So are they living up to the hype? Yes and no.

Read the article: Brunello 2010. Some fantastic wines alongside under performers

Check out my Brunello di Montalcino 2010 reviews

Making sense of Montalcino

Forget recent debates over new oak, excessively low yields and native grapes versus international varieties. Today, the hottest topic in Italy is the creation of subzones.

© Paolo Tenti | harvest at Tenuta Greppo

Nowhere does it stir up more passion than in Montalcino, home to the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita).

Read the article: Making sense of Montalcino

2009 Brunello di Montalcino: Enjoy Soon

My tasting of the 2009 vintage revealed that it was another challenging year in Montalcino, and the main problem was the weather. Scorching summer temperatures and a lack of rain dominated crucial phases of the growing season. As a result, most wines are prematurely evolved, and while this makes the best wines enjoyable now, many ’09s deliver sensations of cooked fruit, evident alcohol, low acidity and fleeting tannins. Others have more acidity, but dried-up fruit and aggressive, astringent tannins. And there are many styles in between, ranging from soft and sexy to lean and mean. The one trait that distinguishes almost all the 2009s is a lack of ageworthy structure—unusual for wines that are famous for racy acidity and bracing tannins that need years to tame.

Read the article: 2009 Brunello di Montalcino: Enjoy Soon

Gianfranco Soldera – Case Basse (by Paolo Tenti)

Paolo Tenti catches up with the Brunello di Montalcino producer who lost most of six vintages when his cellar was vandalized.

© Paolo Tenti | Gianfranco Soldera

Gianfranco Soldera established his Case Basse estate in 1972, leaving behind a successful career as an insurance broker. He’d looked for years for a Barolo estate, but as owners of good vineyards were not willing to sell, he searched elsewhere and found the perfect estate in Montalcino. Although the land was abandoned, with no vineyards, he had a strong feeling it would be perfect and his intuition proved right.

Soldera’s Brunello di Montalcino, almost always designated as riserva after five or six years’ aging, is among the most sought-after and expensive wines in the denomination.

Read the article: Gianfranco Soldera

Addio Franco Biondi Santi

The Italian wine world lost an icon when Brunello legend Franco Biondi Santi, dubbed “The Gentleman of Brunello,” died over the weekend. He was 91 years old.

© Paolo Tenti | Franco Biondi Santi

Franco—whose grandfather, Ferruccio Biondi Santi, invented Brunello in the late 1800s—learned the winemaking craft from his father, Tancredi, one of Italy’s most celebrated enologists. When Franco inherited the family’s Greppo estate in 1970, he remained true to his father’s traditions while also improving quality, starting with a lengthy collaboration with the University of Florence that allowed him to isolate the best Sangiovese clones on the estate.

Franco was an avid defender of traditional Brunello, and refused to rely on any winemaking techniques that could potentially change the quintessential characteristics of his wines.

Read the article: Addio Franco Biondi Santi