2012 Brunello Report from James Suckling

2012 Brunello di Montalcino Riservas are Worth the Time


*This Brunello report was updated on April 20, 2018, with the addition of around 20 more wines that we tasted from the region this spring.

The 2012 vintage may be one of the first vintages in a long time for Brunello di Montalcino when the riserva designation really counted. At least that’s my impression after tasting about 70 2012 Brunello di Montalcino Riservas earlier this year.

The designation is supposed to specially classify Brunellos that deserve an extra year of aging before being released on the market; however, many times it seems to be about the same quality as the normal bottlings with a few exceptions. Happily, this doesn’t seem to be the case for a large number of riservas in 2012 that I tasted. And I recommend buying the top-rated ones.

“We really focused on the quality this year with our riserva,” admits Paolo Bianchini, one of the owners of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona. “With the extra aging in wood as well as bottle, the wines had more time to come to perfection.”

What strikes me the most about many of the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino Riservas is that they have a fresher, slightly less ripe character than the normal bottlings. This makes them slightly more attractive than the more flamboyant and riper style of so many of the 2012s, which came from a hot, dry and sunny vintage overall.

“The extra refinement in the aging certainly added to the overall excellence of the wines,” adds Guido Andretta of Vitanza.

I also spoke to some wine producers who underlined how their understanding of dealing with hot and dry years helped them make more balanced wines in 2012. “We really came into our own with the riserva in 2012,” says Jens Schmidt of Rasina. “It was a fantastic vintage.”

Overall, out of the 66 riservas reviewed this year, 16 of them were rated more than 95 points on our JamesSuckling.com 100-point scale. They’re all really exciting and satisfying to taste. So, try some yourself and see what I mean. — CEO/Editor James Suckling


2012 Brunello Tasting Report from James Suckling



"Fans of Brunello di Montalcino are in for a treat with the 2012 vintage. I tasted about 100 wines in October in a blind tasting in Tuscany and was impressed with their beautiful aromas, vibrant fruit, lively acidity, and ultra-fine tannins. These sangioveses are much more precise and finer than the bolder and riper 2011s. They have more in common with the legendary 2010 vintage and are most like the 2004s, a harmonious and gorgeous year for Brunellos.

Just to show how much better the 2012 vintage is, I rated 26 bottles 95 points or more compared to only eight 2011s. I've still got another 100 bottles of the 2012s to taste in January when I return to Tuscany.  "I am really, really happy with the quality," said one of Italy's leading consulting enologist Carolo Ferrini, who also makes his own tiny and excellent quality Brunello, Giodo. "The wines are superior to 2011."

It is interesting to note that 2012 was just as hot of a growing season as it was in 2011. The summer had continuous heat spikes, well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Maybe Brunello producers better understood this time how to handle their grapes, as the 2012s didn't have the cooked fruit and high alcohol characteristics that plagued many 2011s. "We picked almost a week earlier than normal, and this helped maintain the aromas and freshness in the wine from the good acidity," added Ferrini.

Indeed, that's what I love about the 2012 Brunellos I've tasted so far. They show beautiful perfumes of ripe fruit and hints of earth with a mandarin and orange highlight. The palates are rich and dense, with an underlying crispness and linear thread from start to finish."