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Brunello 2013 vintage: A sneak preview

Stephen Brook got a preview of the Brunello di Montalcino 2013 vintage at an event hosted by specialist merchant Vinexus in London. Read his report below, and Decanter Premium members can see his ratings from the tasting.

Brunello 2013 at a glance:

  • A cooler year producing more elegant wines

  • Homogenous conditions across the region

  • Moderate alcohol levels 

This Brunello di Montalcino 2013 preview tasting, two months before the official release date, proved a pleasant surprise. Those looking for big, rich, tannic wines will be disappointed, but those who prefer more restrained and elegant styles will find much to enjoy.

After a great vintage in 2010 and very good, if less consistent, wines in 2011 and 2012, it was easy to be dismayed by reports that 2013 was a cooler year and, moreover, experienced rain during harvest.

But preliminary reports, based solely on climatic conditions, rarely tell the whole story.

Article continues below the wines

Brunello 2013 wines to look out for from this tasting:

Only Decanter Premium members can access full tasting notes and see scores.

The bigger picture for Brunello 2013

There is the crucial matter of vinification, especially with a variety such as Sangiovese, which can easily show astringency if too extracted. Once vinified, the wines will spend two years in oak.

The fashion for barrique ageing has subsided, and most wines are aged in larger casks or in older 500 litre barrels, so excessive wood influence is rarely an issue these days.

On paper this was not an auspicious vintage. The spring was cool and wet, and growers had to be vigilant against disease. The summer was uneven, with some cool periods in August and no heat spikes. A good September helped conclude the ripening period, and the bunches remained healthy.

Rain was certainly a problem in October but by then most grapes had been picked. There were fears that some producers may have picked too early, but there is little to confirm this in the glass, with very few wines showing herbaceous or weedy characters.

A frequent difficulty in the Montalcino zone is that it is geologically and climatically varied. North of Montalcino the elevation is high and the microclimate cooler, while in the far south, at lower elevations, bunches can be exposed to extreme heat in very hot years such as 2003 and 2017, resulting in cooked fruit and a lack of freshness.

Blessed, then, are those with access to fruit in more than one zone, as they can blend judiciously to produce balanced wines. Yet in 2013 this was not really an issue as the climate was homogeneous across the region.

Alcohol levels are moderate and medium-bodied wines are the norm, with the best showing delectable finesse and balance. Moreover, there is no reason to think they won’t age well.

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