Vintage 2015; the anatomy of a five star Brunello growing season

by Laura Gray on December 19, 2019

I often exaggerate but in Montalcino 2015 really was one of the vintages of a lifetime, a year of unparalleled excellence, in short “una vendemmia da sogno”. The Consorzio del Brunello describe it as a vintage of “altissimo e raro livello qualitativa” extremely high and unprecedented quality. Nobody was surprised to see it awarded five stars in February 2016.

The vintage was distinguished by a cold, wet winter and a cool, rainy spring that established water reserves in the vineyards. We pruned in February and had budbreak on 7th April 2015

We had double the foliage present in 2014 due to the warm autumn and wet 2014. The vines kept their green leaves for much longer than usual, allowing them to store good reserves of “sostanze.”

An extremely hot and dry July (even hotter than the scorching 2003) meant that the grapes changed color ten days earlier than usual and fruit was smaller than normal (good for the skin:flesh ratio). The heat was mitigated by showers at the end of the month and in early August (48 mm), and a marked thermal excursion permitted a long slow ripening which was incredibly positive for the development of aromatics and tannins. A final blast of heat in August was great for the skins, again positive for aromatics and dry extract. After a rainy start, the grapes enjoyed a wonderful September with ideal conditions for healthy development and perfect un-rushed ripening. Constant bunch-drying wind from the east and day/night temperature differences (15°C/34°C) continued to be beneficial to aromatic development.

At our lower altitude vineyards we had earlier ripening and higher sugar levels. We picked the Castelnuovo vineyards on 17th and 18th September. The Due Porte vineyards were slower to mature and maintained wonderful acidity. We picked here a full ten days later on 27th and 28th September.

One of the defining characteristics of 2015 Brunello is the beautiful acidity which is often lacking in hotter years. This was caused by the intersection of many variables; following on from sodden 2014, a hot growing season punctuated with “useful” rain after an early veraison, no extended periods of drought all summer and marked day/night thermal excursion from August onwards. Complexity of aroma, elegance and fine tannins are part and parcel of this lovely year.

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