Let the harvest begin – Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Harvest time has arrived in Montalcino. Over the next two weeks all the sangiovese will be de-stemmed, softly crushed and start its journey to eventually becoming wonderful Brunello di Montalcino

Here are some pictures from Donatella’s vendemmia.
Vendemmia 2014 Sangiovese Fatoria del Colle Chianti

Gently does it

21 settembre 2014 Casato Prime Donne Monatclino

The grapes are quickly transferred to the press after picking

Vendemmia 2014 le donne sul trattore al Casato Prime Donne



Vendemmia 2014 Montalcino Casato Prime Donne Donatella Cinelli Colombini

La donna herself, Donatella Cinelli Colombini


The influences of Terroir on vintage outcomes – Montalcino

This article was recently published by Doctor Wine. I think it is very relevant. When a vintage is rated it is rated on the basis of the climatic effects on a total area. However in areas such as the hill top town of Montalcino the terroir has great influence on the outcomes. That is why in great vintages you may find wines that are not great and in poor vintages you may find wines that are very good

Some thoughts on Brunello 2009
by Riccardo Viscardi 19-09-2014

Completing Doctor Wine’s ‘Essential Guide’ took a lot of effort but it was also very gratifying. I can now take advantage of some of the tasting we did for the guide to look at the area I love the most: Montalcino.

The sights and sounds of Italy Part 1

Last year, writing about 2008, I criticized the various doomsayers, especially foreign ones, who were too negative and fretful in their evaluations of vintage 2008. Some of the Brunello Riserva 2008 that have come out have confirmed that it was an interesting year, especially for a few ‘enclaves’ in the area. Vintage 2009 is another story because it was a truly difficult year and it is important to take certain factors into consideration. I totally agree with the opinion of Andrea Gabbrielli, who knows Montalcino well, that ‘’you cannot judge a territory by the weather’’, this also because when things get tough the best producers, the best vineyards and, above all, how they were managed made a big difference in the final product. This does not mean the weather is not important, on the contrary. Weather makes the difference between a great year and a minor one, the important thing is not to generalize. Another consideration is that Montalcino is a very complex area with a wide variety of soils, microclimates and water resources in the various zones and subzones (if which there at least eight) and this creates substantial differences which in poor years are amplified. In Montalcino, 2009 was complex due to two particular and unfavorable situations that came together. At the end of May there was too much rain which delayed the growth of the vines. Then a heatwave struck in July, August and September with average temperatures 2°C above the norm for the past decade. During this time the difference in day and nighttime temperatures were below normal. Making matters worse was that there was no rain during the hot months which stunted growth and caused many grapes to dry out. Furthermore, the best soils are those that drain well and so they did not retain the early rainfall. Obviously, the hottest and dries area suffered the most, especially in those vineyards where some producers continued to follow a local tradition and prune their leaves leaving the grape bunches exposed to the sun and scalding heat. The best bet was to leave the bunches as covered as possible and to work the soil in such a way as to retain any humidity. Some zones have a deep clay substrata that holds the moisture better and those vines with deeper roots, the older ones, probably suffered less if they benefitted from having sufficient covering by the leaves. (It is illegal to irrigate in Montalcino, an interesting question but not one for this article). Due to the delays these conditions caused, the harvest period came late yet some producers decided to harvest early due to the poor condition of their grapes and the results were dismal. Many others waited too long and got caught by the rains of late September, which were not much compared to the heavy rain that came in October and caused even more problems, although not for everyone. Nevertheless, there were produces who made the right choices and came out with wines that were a tribute to their intelligence, agricultural skill and economic sacrifice (with little Brunello made). Another determining factor was the possibility for some to make a careful selection of grapes, discarding the ones that had dried out due to the heat and those that had mold due to too much rain during harvest. Sorting tables were a big help in doing as were the automatic sorting machines.

Given that it was such a complex year, it was strange that nine million bottles of Brunello 2009 DOCG were produced, more than in good years like 2006 or 2007 and from the same number of vines. Is this Italian fluke? How was it possible?
I had expected a significant drop in production, also because those who made some excellent Brunello 2009 had a significant drop in yield. And then there were those like Pieve di S. Restituta, who did not even produce a Brunello because they did not think it could be good enough.
A friend finally explained it to me. In simple terms it was this: Brunello is a wine that demands the best price through the big distributors and so bottlers and others pay very well for Brunello even in poorer years, when it is easier to buy the wine to then re-sell it under another name with a DOCG label. Thus in difficult years a lot of wine, which nevertheless respects DOCG regulations, reaches the market through this channel and allows the winemakers to balance their budgets. I, personally, believe that this harms Brunello’s image also for consumers who may not buy it often but are large in number, especially over the long term. But that’s the way the world turns: one wants everything and right away without thinking of the consequences.
In the end, what we have are very few Brunello 2009 that are truly exceptional, while the number of good ones is on the rise despite the difficulties faced, an indication that a growing number of producers have clear ideas on how to deal with adversities both in the vineyard and in the winery. Unfortunately, there was also a lot of mediocre wine. It is amazing how three of the best Brunello 2009 came from the same area, a cru I consider to be the best in Montalcino: eastern Cerbaie. Here, three producers, two of whom are very famous and the other a rising star, gave us not only some excellent wines but also wines from that a cru that adequately demonstrated the difference the altitude of a vineyard can make. As for their names, you will have to wait for the guide.

Montalcino – The Sagra – Events of Tuscany

The Sagra del Tordo – Montalcino

Montalcino relives the Middle Ages with the Sagra in August and on the last weekend in October every year.
A celebration with a procession of the fourteenth century, banquets and food and wine stalls culminating in a spectacular competition between the finest archers of the four districts (quartiere) of the city.
The four quartiere are Borghetto, Pianello, Ruga and Travaglio.
The Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the thrush) celebrates the culmination of the migratory season of birds particularly the thrush which were caught for food by hunters and falconers.
It begins on Saturday morning with the dance “Trescone” costumes typical of the Tuscan countryside in the 19th century. The dance is in the historic centre of Montalcino.
Dancing in the square on Saturday
Two of the dancers
Following the dance a draw takes place for the selection of archers to compete in the ultimate competion. Each district submits three names but only two are drawn to compete. So in fact the best archer may not even get selected.
The draw.
Anxiously waiting the draw result.
On Saturday afternoon the archers selected participate in the “provaccia” or a practice session with the winning team being given no. 1 shooting range in the final and able to nominate the final shoot distance. Borghetto narrowly won that right.
Saturday evening is cena (dinner) in each quartiere
Here is the dinner in Pianello. Very proud and emotional with strong and ofter vocal support for the archers and the quartiere.
Next day, again after wonderful processions and pagentry, the event culminates in an amazing archery competition. The shooting range is built in the shadow of the rampants of the fortress.
The two archers in each team are subject to time constraints and must shoot in a limited amount of time once the signal is given. The target is a wood target depicting a wild boar.
The fans rush to their victorious archers with the losing archers gracefully leaving the arena.
 The winning quartiere celebrates throughout the night. Only their flags are allowed to be flown in the town.
 So what a wonderful event. The archery competition is just breathtaking.
Below are some additional scenes from the Sagra.
A young Ruga supporter with dad
The decorative costumes at the Sagra
The Pianello archers with their team captain/coach in the centre. When I asked how much they practice the comment was “they are born into it…they start as children”

Montalcino Restaurant – Boccon di Vino

If you want a genuine family restaurant, steeped in tradition with wonderful Tuscan food then Boccon di Vino just outside the town of Montalcino is it.
The views are the best I have seen from a restaurant overlooking the beautiful Tuscan Valley of Val D’Orcia
The menu is typical Tuscan with favourites including Pinci and Cinghiale
We went there on a balmy Friday night in July
The setting is just fabulous for the romantic couple or the larger groups
It has a fabulous wine list with classic Brunello from current and early vintages. Here is the page with the father of Brunello, Biondi Santi
We selected a San Polo 2007 which was expertly opened and served
And of course not forgetting the food which was very good. We especially appreciated the aged pecorino with the Brunello
So ciao from Montalcino and Toscana
Carolyna e Alan