Brunello di Montalcino 2017: 3.5
Extreme heat and drought conditions made even ripening a challenge. Overall, freshness is preserved, although dry tannins do poke through. Most wines will show their best over the next five to eight years.
When I visited Montalcino in late August of 2017, the heat was stifling and the landscape parched.
Banfi’s sizeable artificial lake used for emergency irrigation was almost depleted. Harvest was already underway for Merlot and there were whispers that some estates had started picking Sangiovese as well.
One winemaker described the fermenting vats as jam.
Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for the best Brunello di Montalcino 2017 wines
2017: The ‘desert’ vintage
‘From June until the end of August, there were almost 20 days above 35°C,’ says Francesco Ripaccioli at Canalicchio di Sopra.
More than the torrid heat, however, it is drought that characterises the 2017 vintage. ‘It didn’t rain for three months,’ recalls Katia Nussbaum at San Polino. ‘It was like a desert.’ Moreover, the scarcity of water wasn’t just limited to the summer months – lower-than-average rainfall was recorded from the start of the year.
Though arid conditions and soaring temperatures meant that mildew wasn’t an issue in 2017, water stress certainly was. More than ever, it was crucial to keep enough leaves on the vines to shade the grapes.
Fabian Schwartz at La Magia avoided thinning bunches so as not to over-concentrate the berries, and Bernardino Sani identified several changes Tenuta di Argiano has made since 2013 such as soil revitalisation, organic viticulture and less dense plantings. ‘This helped a lot in reducing the impact of drought on the grapes.’ Still, the estate produced 30% less than average.
Francesca Bindocci pointed to ‘the intelligent use of emergency irrigation,’ as Il Poggione is fortunate enough to have a few artificial lakes on its property.
Producers let out a collective sigh of relief when it finally rained at the beginning of September. There was another downpour mid-month. Significantly, precipitation was accompanied by a drop in temperatures, particularly at night, which served to slow down ripening. ‘This allowed us to arrive at harvest with good ripeness of grapes, polyphenols and seeds,’ shares Sara Rossi at Padelletti.