Tales of the 2016 told by Castiglion del Bosco
One of the highest-scoring vintages in recent decades, 2016 has been described as a milestone for Montalcino and its flagship wine, Brunello. Providing the first taste of 2016 Riserva in the UK, WLPR was honoured to accompany Castiglion del Bosco through an early preview of its monumental Riserva Millecento 2016 release (set for January 2022) at London’s Enoteca Turi, joined by a handful of the city’s leading trade figures and fine wine collectors.
Bespoke menu (left), Castiglion del Bosco’s Marketing Manager, Gemma Grieco talking guests through the line-up (middle), Enoteca Turi owner, Giovanni Turi pouring the wines (right)
The 2016 Riserva – some of the best from Brunello?
With big shoes to fill following the release of the highly-praised 2015, the 2016 marks the second great year in a row for Brunello di Montalcino, though very different from its predecessor. Whilst the 2015 growing season was hot and dry, 2016 was slightly cooler, with greater diurnal range during the ripening season. These climatic differences result in the 2015s being more generous in both texture and body, while the successive vintage is pure and elegant, with significant ageing potential.
Having been at the property since its acquisition by Massimo Ferragamo in 2004, Castiglion del Bosco’s winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi describes the 2016 as the estate’s “best ever” Brunello. The mild summer encouraged a long, slow ripening, while good conditions at harvest allowed the estate to “harvest each vineyard at the perfect moment” – resulting in “rich wines with outstanding elegance”.
Cecilia hails the 2016 vintage of Castiglion del Bosco’s Riserva Millecento (so-named due to the property’s original construction in 1100) as having “arrived at our intention”. She refers to creating a wine that reflects the magnificence of the estate’s past, while “representing what we want our future to be”. Finally, she adds that the 2016 relays the estate’s key message with absolute purity, as the growing season allowed her to finetune her senses, and “listen to the land” completely.
Campo del Drago 2017 (left), Riserva Millecento 2015 and 2016 (middle), and Riserva Millecento 2004 (right)
Bringing to life the best of Brunello
The Castiglion del Bosco team came to London on Thursday 14th November to tell the tales of the Riserva Millecento 2016 to an audience of 25 industry members and fine wine collectors. Bringing Tuscany to Chelsea, and the estate’s historic past to the present, all guests left with a short storybook, detailing key moments at Castiglion del Bosco that shape the estate’s future, and of course, its wines.
The chosen pouring order of wines, paired with a traditional Tuscan fare from Enoteca Turi’s Head Chef, Massimo Tagliaferri was also symbolic of the changing hands of time, and those traditions maintained – vintages 2004, 2010, 2015, and 2016 we served side-by-side, and tasters were invited to try from 2004 upwards, and back down again.
2004 was the first Riserva made under the current team, while the 2010 was the first to be released under the “Millecento” name. A direct comparison of the 2015 and 2016 – the latest Riserva released, and that which is yet to come – illustrates what Cecilia describes as “two different approaches to quality” in consecutive years.
Table designed by Isabelle Buckland (top left), Castiglion del Bosco’s CEO, Simone Pallesi greeting the guests (top right), guests enjoying their aperitivo, Zuppa di Cipolle (bottom left), and the complete Riserva line-up (bottom right)
Wines tasted: Brunello 2017, Campo del Drago Brunello 2017, Riserva Millecento 2016, Riserva Millecento 2015, Riserva Millecento 2010, and Riserva Millecento 2004 (from Massimo Ferragamo’s private cellar), and a Vin Santo 2014 to finish.
For more information on our organisation of tastings and events, please contact the WLPR team here.
The balancing act
Following our recent report on Bordeaux’s 2021 harvest, Wine Lister now turns to Tuscany to find out more about its 2021 vintage so far, with insight from 10 top producers across the region
Tuscany’s 2021 growing season has been characterised as a year of climatic extremities, including a mild and rainy winter, the onset of frost in spring, persistent drought in summer, and ending in ideal harvest conditions. In a show of resilience and adaptability, producers were able to reap the benefits of acute weather patterns – with the potential consequences of drought lessened by the groundwater reserves accumulated in winter, and dry conditions reducing disease pressure over the summer.
What can we expect from Tuscany’s 2021 vintage?
Multiple methods to fight frost
- Properties lit fires in the vineyards to circulate warm air and reduce the risk of frost. Owner of IPSUS, Giovanni Mazzei tells us that the technique successfully “increased the temperature up to 2˚C” across the IPSUS vineyards, protecting the vines from damage
- Several producers used organic treatments to improve vine health following the frost, including Argiano, whose Sales Manager, Riccardo Bogi tells us that “brown algae allowed the plants to stabilise and respond as quickly as possible to the loss of sprouts”
- Frost was particularly prevalent in low-lying coastal regions, with Ornellaia’s winemaker, Axel Heinz witnessing “damages limited to a few lower altitude vineyards, without significant impact on production”. Le Macchiole’s Commercial Director, Gianluca Putzolu tells us that the estate also implemented “organic spring fertilization” to combat frost that hit “some, but fortunately very few vineyards”
- Rainfall during winter accumulated important water reserves at both Argiano and Romitorio, encouraging a good state of hydration ahead of the growing season
- Some high-altitude properties also saw snowfall during winter that, when melted, “percolated the soil with water”, according to Romitorio’s owner, Filippo Chia
- Abundant rainfall in May allowed plants to survive the hot summer, with Riccardo confirming that this was “essential” for Argiano’s 2021 vintage, “since after that, there was no rain until the beginning of October”. Similarly, Fèlsina’s owner, Giovanni Poggiali tells us of some “rainy days in June”
Sun and heat exposure
- “The management of the canopy needed to be delicate and precise to avoid sunburns”, explains Avignonesi’s COO and Agronomist, Alessio Gorini, who also explained that the use of high-tech sorting equipment allowed them “to completely remove any berries withered or raisined by the sun”
- Organic treatments were adopted to protect the vines from sun exposure, such as the use of “kaolin” at Tenuta San Guido. General Director, Carlo Paoli explains this to be “a natural substance that we have been using for many years in hot vintages”, which helps to reduce the vines’ susceptibility to scorching
- A broad diurnal range across several high-altitude estates encouraged balance despite the hot summer, with Castiglion del Bosco’s winemaker, Cecilia Leoneschi noting that the difference of more than 10°C between day and night temperatures was a “real blessing”
Teamwork amongst Tuscan vines: IPSUS (left), Tenuta San Guido (middle), Ornellaia (right)
A remarkably healthy vintage
- Lack of rain throughout June and July minimised disease pressure; Filippo confirmed that “from a mould and disease standpoint, it was actually one of the healthiest vintages [Romitorio] has seen”, thanks to the “dry summer”. Giovanni echoes this sentiment for IPSUS, while Gianluca reiterates there were “no particular problems” at Le Macchiole, despite the risk of powdery mildew – a more common problem for the Bolgheri area
Striking when the time was right
- For many estates, harvest timing was essential, with Alessio and the Avignonesi team similarly conscious of “avoiding over-ripening on such concentrated grapes”
- Producers had to be particularly reactive to picking dates, explains Axel – whose 2021 harvest “required great skill” in planning, eventually leading to a “very compact harvest completed in one month, instead of the usual 40 days”. Owner of Tua Rita, Giovanni Frascolla similarly characterised 2021 as a “lightning harvest”
- “Powerful dark structure – we normally see this with low acid, but this has high acid” recounts Filippo from Romitorio’s latest tasting of the blend
- First impressions show “bright aromatics and, luckily high acidities to keep everything in balance”, at Ornellaia, with Axel describing a “rich and concentrated” wine, “with soft tannins”
- “Grapes matured in a homogeneous way and with a perfect balance of acidity and PH” explains Carlo at Tenuta San Guido
Working around the clock
Wine Lister catches up with nine top producers from Bordeaux’s Left Bank to find out more about their 2021 harvest, and to hear their early evaluation of the vintage
Bordeaux’s 2021 vintage required patience and commitment. Producers worked around the clock to protect their vines – some were threatened by frost, others by disease pressure over the cool and wet summer, but all brought their respective teams together, facing the hand that Mother Nature dealt them with the best experience and techniques the modern wine world has to offer.
What do we know about Bordeaux’s 2021 vintage so far?
- Several producers were protected from the April frost due to their proximity to rivers – just 600m from its banks of the Gironde, d’Issan vineyards escaped damage, according to owner, Emmanuel Cruse. Similarly, Vineyard Manager, Nicolas Dudebout tells us that Malescasse were “naturally shielded” by their privileged positioning near the Garonne
- Other properties were well-equipped to fight the frost proactively, with Smith Haut-Lafitte’s owner Florence Cathiard confirming that a combination of “Valerian decoction (Valeriana officinalis plant root used for its restorative properties), and candles” protected their vines
Organics against disease pressure
- The cool and wet start to summer left some producers vulnerable to disease pressure: Florence told us that Smith Haut-Lafitte reacted to the threat of mildew using “copper mixed with phytotherapy decoctions of horsetail, nettle, wicker, and comfrey”
- “We take the best of both worlds” at Larrivet Haut-Brion, describes Cellar Master, Charlotte Mignon. She explains that the team were “reactive to fighting mildew attacks”, using biocontrol to facilitate the sustainable use of “organic, biodynamic, and conventional solutions [as] necessary”
Late summer ripening
- Late summer sun in August and September created favourable conditions for Merlot, an early-ripening grape variety that is notoriously challenging in hotter temperatures. Cos d’Estournel’s Technical Director, Dominique Arangoïts, found their Merlot to be “remarkably enticing, fruity, and rich with a very noble expression”
- Slower ripening of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes encouraged good phenological maturity: During his last harvest at Lafon-Rochet, Basile Tesseron tells us that, following early pre-harvest berry tastings, the grapes fortunately progressed beautifully in the last few weeks, eventually becoming “more expressive, and well-balanced”
- After a trio of warmer vintages, Charlotte notes that the Cabernets at Larrivet Haut-Brion achieved “perfect ripeness”, thanks to a longer growing season, and sunshine in late-August right up until harvest in October, which gave grapes with “a very good state of health”
A snapshot of this year’s harvest: Lafon-Rochet (far left), Palmer (middle left), d’Issan (middle right), and Smith Haut-Lafitte (far right)
Lower alcohol content
- “Low levels of sugar have resulted in a lower alcohol content” in Cos d’Estournel’s Cabernet Sauvignon this year, with Dominique identifying “a magnificent intensity and freshness” and the characteristics of “the most elegant, sophisticated wines”
- “This harvest will be marked by an alcohol-acidity balance, completely different from previous years”, observes Haut-Brion’s Technical Director, Jean-Philippe Masclef. Their Cellar Master, Florence Forgas associates “moderate alcoholic degrees” as being “closer to much older vintages”
- A cooler vintage compared to the previous three resulted in “pure fruit, and a very interesting density” in Palmer’s 2021 grapes, according to Thomas Duroux
Good things to come
- “Merlots are softer than usual and the Cabernets more compact” according to Cantenac Brown’s winemaker José Sanfins, who hopes for an overall blend that is “dense and complete, with fine and elegant tannins”
- Favourable weather during harvest, including “morning temperatures of around 4˚C, preserving freshness across all grape varieties” at d’Issan
- Bordeaux’s whites also boast vibrancy in 2021, with Charlotte noting “freshness and tension” with “aromatic clarity” from Larrivet Haut-Brion’s Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes