The 2016 Brunello di Montalcino ‘are dark yet radiant, expressive, nearly explosive at times, yet pure, poised and structured. These are wines that capture your imagination; and no matter how youthfully tense they are today, you simply can’t help but revisit a glass over and over again; because in many cases, the aromatics alone are intoxicating.I frankly cannot remember the last time I tasted young wines from Montalcino that possessed such symmetry from start to finish.’ Eric Guido, vinous.com, November 2020.
Having read such glowing endorsements for the 2016 Brunello di Montalcino I was looking forward to tasting the latest release from Talenti, an estate with a reputation for offering significant value that we have followed the last few years. Their 2015 was hugely impressive so I was curious to see what the 2016 had in store and to ascertain if these really were back-to-back great vintages…in short, they are. Judging by a number of other Brunello that I have tasted, there will be many that fall into the very good to great category, but few of those will offer the combination of value and potential longevity that the 2016 Talenti possesses.
Like the market, I don’t find great interest in Brunello each and every year, but in recent years I am finding more exciting wines that exhibit a finer sense of balance than ever before. 2010, 2013, 2015 and now 2016 have all been widely lauded, but some of the intervening years like 2012 have revealed a number of special wines. The key to a vintage like 2016 is the greater sense of homogenous quality on show across the region. In some years the hotter zones of Brunello can deliver wines lacking in poise, that seem to lose the vibrancy of Sangiovese and come across heavy and flat. Equally, alcohol levels can creep up and this can be very apparent in such years, destroying the sense of balance, particularly in vintages with lower acidity.
2016 is a vintage that had no dramatic temperature spikes, everything was even throughout the summer and night temperatures were sufficiently cool to preserve aromatics and acidity. In the run up to harvest, conditions continued in a similar way leading to a fine maturity of fruit. Midway through September there was some heavy rain, but many had harvested before this stage and others had the chance to wait it out and harvest later. It is worth stressing that the differences in microclimate across Brunello are relatively significant, as are the differences in approach taken by the grower. Harvest dates can therefore stretch from the first few days of September well into October. Talenti are situated in the southern section of Montalcino where sandy soils with rocky clay base dominate – they started harvesting on the 18th of September, concluding harvest in early October. Talenti’s vineyards are situated at altitudes stretching up from 220 to 400 metres in Sant’Angelo, which explains their later harvest dates.
The 2016 took a little time to open up in the glass, but there was no mistaking the freshness of the aromatics, scented red fruits, a little spice and a gentle tobacco leaf hint. After a little time in the decanter, the fruit really started to come through, far deeper than the first impression. What really sold me on this vintage was the texture. It is so beautifully layered, with detailed, fine-grained tannins creating a silky, glossy mouthfeel. There is nothing heady or imposing here, just a fine sense of poise. Long, pure and so refined, mineral, earthy nuances are expressed to finish. I found this hard to resist and it impressed even more the second day, which is a really good sign for its future evolution in the cellar. That said, you could drink this as soon as shipped, if you are prepared to open early or decant, or you could hold off and cellar until full maturity. I would guess this will be one of those wines where we find we have finished the case at an early stage and are left wishing we had one more…if I were to score, I would have given it a point or two more than Eric Guido, a new recruit to the vinous.com team, but I completely agree with his sentiments!
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All the best,