I received a tip-off from the owner of one of the most acute palates I know that Iacopo Mori was coming to London with previews of his 2019 Brunellos and I ought to meet him and taste his wines.
This is what happened.
First, the meeting was initially cancelled at the 11th hour because the office of the UK importers, Armit, where we were due to meet, was struck by a bout of Covid. I hoped for an alternative, which came in the form of a hastily organised tasting at The River Café. This, of course, was no hardship as Christophe and his team are wine trade pals, so we settled into a speedy pre-lunch-service, 3-bottle tasting with Iacopo, and it was worth every second. These are the wines we tasted – the Rosso is sold out, and the two 2019 Brunellos are yet to be released En Primeur.
The production here is tiny, with Iacopo hitting the 3300 bottle mark, the Brunello averaging around 27000 bottles, and Madonna delle Grazie usually 7500 – 8000 bottles, but in 2019, 9000 bottles were made.
2020 Rosso di Montalcino, Iacopo, Il Marroneto, Tuscany, Italy (SOLD OUT)
The first vintage of this wine was in 2019, and it comes from a 1-hectare plot on the north side of Montalcino. Iacopo selects three or four barrels to assemble this wine, and it is made in the same manner as the estate Brunello – large, inert oak barrels and lots of press wine, which seems to be the trick here! They clean fastidiously at this property, while the winemaking is undoubtedly old-fashioned, in the sense that they employ no gizmos nor favour barriques (thank goodness). Everything is vinified in 40-50hl Allier botti and the cuvaison is a reasonably rapid 13-15 days. No stems or adjustments are used whatsoever. They perform relatively aggressive pumpovers to extract as much from the skins as possible, and when the juice becomes, in Iacopo’s words, “dense, dark and soupy”, they have extracted everything they need from the skins. Fairly hot and relatively fast is the motto here and after this they press the skins and add the press wine back into the mix. All three wines have spectacular acidity, and the tannins appear to play second fiddle. This makes the wines amazingly forward and less astringent than many others at this same age. A couple of rackings relieve the wine of its sediment, and it is ready to go. I am gutted that this 2020 vintage is sold out because it was a joy to taste. There is incredible purity and resonance here, with expressive, juicy fruit cloaking a marvellously rigid spine. Crunchy and fresh on the finish, it is already drinkable on account of its boldness, and there is glorious volume and freshness in equal measure. What I most respect about this wine is that it is amazingly mineral-soaked, but there is not one iota of austerity. Funnily enough, I detected a hint of roasted chestnuts, akin to a wintry brazier, on this wine and the next, and one of our group asked where the name Il Marroneto came from. It was all too obvious, although I was too busy typing notes to stop and think. Il Marroneto was an ancient chestnut drying operation back in the 13th century, and it seems that this historic perfume still clings to the wine when you uncork it! It dissipates in the glass with air, like a message carved into the sand when the tide comes in, but the memory of this perfume is stunningly evocative. 18/20
2019 Brunello di Montalcino, Il Marroneto, Tuscany, Italy (to be sold En Primeur in March or April. The pricing has yet to be decided upon)
The estate Brunello comes from a 5-hectare vineyard, and this time, the flavour is more closed and intense than the Rosso, with a similar chestnut halo when it is first poured. The colour is paler and more classical than expected, and the feel is more Pinot-shaped than modern Brunello-shaped, which is encouraging. So many of today’s wines are black, oaky, and vinonymous, so it is such a joy to taste a Sangiovese with perfectly weighted red and black cherry fruit. Mouth-watering amaro notes tease the palate, and a spectacular finish increases the drama. This is, by all definitions, the archetypal Sangiovese and not a modern, pumped-up version of this grape that is so prolific these days. The fruit is gentle, the rigid spine of minerality is present, and the ancient feel coupled with beautiful fruit ripeness is tremendous. Fascinating, uncompromising, and a perfect blend of history and brightness, this is a perfectly clean wine with sensational elegance and respect for the genus and its terroir. It is so rare to find wines like this today. This is a genuine work of art and it is one of the most beautiful Sangioveses (and Brunellos) I have tasted. 19+/20
2019 Brunello di Montalcino, Madonna delle Grazie, Il Marroneto, Tuscany, Italy
Madonna delle Grazie is a 2-hectare plot with the famous little church nestled in the vineyard. This is a bunch selection, and this time, they don’t pump over as aggressively as they do to extract flavour in as short a period as possible as they do with the other wines. This time, everything is more elegant and restrained, and the result is that it requires a longer cuvaison and more extended barrel ageing, too. Every inch a ‘Grand Cru’, the intensity of the fruit is incredible, and the complexity and breadth of the waves of flavour is nothing short of astounding. Again, the old-fashioned reference points are here – microscopic detail, earth, leather, wild herbs, flora and fauna, super-long and impossibly regal. There is a massive potential here, too. This is, categorically, the finest young Brunello I have ever tasted. The UK allocation for the estate Brunello is 1800 bottles, and 900 of this cosmic wine will also be available, but they are sure to sprint out of the door, so register your interest with Armit and get in quick. 20+/20
2018 Brunello di Montalcino, Madonna delle Grazie, Il Marroneto, Tuscany, Italy (£1800 per case In Bond, or £363.21 per bottle including VAT, www.armitwines.co.uk).
If you want to secure some stock before the 2019s are released, this stunning 2018 is in the UK, and it is also in stock. Like the spectacular 2019, this is a slice of sheer heaven with otherworldly tenderness enveloping a core of dazzling minerality. Pure, red-fruited, pale in colour and yet mighty and regal, this is the stunning antidote to the heavy, overtly muscular wines that suffocate the market. It is another incredible MdG. I cannot think of a finer wine to welcome in the New Year. 19.5/20