The Current Vintages of Italian Fine Wine: Brunello 18, Barolo 19 and Barbaresco 20.

Brunello di Montalcino 2018 Vintage Report

After an exceptionally tough 2017, the climatic differences that came with the 2018 vintage, commonly referred to as “fresh,” were received with great enthusiasm by producers in the Montalcino zone. Following showers midway into the winter months and some snowfall in February, springtime temperatures were relatively low, and an abundance of rainfall favoured the much-needed replenishing of depleted water reserves. The favourable conditions led to regularity in the budding and flowering stages, and the moderate summer climate that followed was without excessive heat. Though September brought rainfall during critical stages of the harvest, many producers managed to overcome the challenges that arose.

At Mastrojanni, in the south of Montalcino, ideal ripening conditions prevailed with sunny days, wind, and optimal temperature differences following initial rainfall. However, an increase in rainfall in other areas of Montalcino caused many problems to develop with rot – in sharp contrast with the previous year when issues were associated with a severe lack of water. Le Potazzine saw a high-quality harvest and were able to avoid those difficulties experienced by growers at lower altitudes as favourable winds dried off their grapes. Canalicchio di Sopra, who rarely saw summer temperatures exceed 30°C, also allure to the benefits that the Tramontana and Grecale winds provided by guaranteeing the health of their grapes and maintaining acidity. Preferring to brand the 2018s as “transparent”, they explain that the climate had a lower impact on the wine, allowing the grapes and terroir to fully express themselves. Altesino, despite initially having been mildly affected by some mould and rottenness, slowed their harvest down in some cases to make the most of the favourable ripening conditions that occurred at the end of September. This resulted in an idyllic grape profile during their October harvest, with particular mention of the high quality of the yield from their Montosoli Cru. Gianni Brunelli and other local producers emphasize the crucial role of vineyard management in reducing the impact of a wet vintage. This entailed strategically defoliating vines in the early stages of fruit development, which improves skin strength and keeps the grapes dry.

Generally speaking, the Brunello 2018 harvest was challenging and timing was key to achieving balance and quality whilst avoiding the risk of rot and mould. Producers are seemingly very happy with the way this vintage has turned out, emphasising the great structure, quality and elegance that it has produced.


Barolo 2019 Vintage Report

After the 2018 Barolo leaning towards a more fruit-forward, early drinking yet appealing style, we are looking at a fantastically classic Barolo 2019. In contrast to the 2018 growing season which was fairly complicated, the 2019 vintage had a far more regular development with a long winter and late spring. Rain and colder temperatures lasted until March and an abundance of rainfall in April halted growth. These conditions, along with May’s mild and irregular temperatures, caused progress to follow a more conventional pattern, resulting in a delay of two weeks compared to recent years. The summer also exhibited greater regularity, with consistently warm temperatures in the absence of an excess in precipitation. July recorded the highest temperatures, while the rest of the summer experienced a more moderate climate with occasional and irregular rainfall. There was only limited damage caused by the strong storm and heavy hailfall in early September, and the quality of the grapes harvested in the latter half of October was dubbed ‘classic’. The 2019’s have an excellent balance, structure and ageing potential and worthy of note too is the high accumulation of anthocyanins, so the wines have an outstanding colour.

Ciabot Berton highlighted the optimal temperature differences between day and night, mitigating the summer heat. They narrowly avoided the worst of the storm, as it only brushed the higher areas of Rocchettevino. Their wines are very well-structured, with an intense colour and appealing freshness. Poderi Luigi Einaudi noted a slight drop in quantity compared to 2018, whilst placing emphasis on the high quality of the vintage. Rocche Costamagna draw attention to the above-average quality of grapes, and their wines possess a distinctive character. The Barolo 2019 is definitely one not to miss.


Barbaresco 2020 Vintage Report

After a series of hot and dry years, the 2020 vintage in the Langhe region follows the trend that started the year prior. Producers in the Barbaresco area are optimistic about another vintage steeped in a more conventional, classic style that harks back to the region’s traditional and historical patterns. Winter presented no issues with mild temperatures, and spring remained relatively dry until the onset of May, which brought with it a series of rainy days. Spring precipitation, combined with moderate summer temperatures, effectively mitigated water stress concerns and at harvest, the quality of the Nebbiolo was excellent.

Castello di Verduno are branding it “an everyday classic Barbaresco”, particularly noting its length and wonderful balance. Enrico Dellapiana at Rizzi is also extremely satisfied with the 2020 Barbaresco. He notes that the grapes came into the cellar with an ‘incredible quality’ and displayed all the characteristics of a top Barbaresco. He underlines that the wines are fragranced and fruitful on the nose, with great elegance and are simply a pleasure to drink.



Jack Bielak, 2023