Every year, Stefano hosts some of Italy’s leading wine writers to taste through old vintages of Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino. Here are his vintage notes from the bottles he pulled from the Barbi cellar for the occasion.
1957 – A year characterized by a heavy freeze in May. The effect in Montalcino was minimal however because the vines had not fully developed. The result was a significant reduction in the quantity of grapes. But even with lower yields than normal, the classic growing season delivered an excellent year with a four-star rating.
1965 – This vintage followed the historic harvest of 1964, considered by all to be the best vintage of the post-war period. June was one of the hottest months on record but then the temperature stabilized and sunny but cool conditions continued through the end of October when the grapes were picked. September was well ventilated with a north wind and very clear skies. The temperate days and the very cold nights created the ideal conditions for colors with anthocyanins very similar to the 2015 vintage. My grandfather Giovanni Colombini considered this vintage to be one of the least interesting of the period following the war. But the subsequent evolution of the wines, with their high levels of acidity, produced excellent Brunello for long-term aging, even if the wines were less than perfect in the beginning. This vintage also received a four-star rating.
1977 – This year had a classic seasonal progression inline with other vintages from this relatively cold period. The spring was cool and rainy. Warm summer but without heat spikes. September was sunny. The grapes were harvested mid-October and the resulting wines were high in quality. Both [Sheldon] Wasserman and [Luigi] Veronelli held that our 1977 Brunello was the best of the year. This is another vintage with a four-star rating.
1982 – The summer was hot and dry, just like every summer in the 1980s. In this decade, temperatures varied widely with respect to the previous decades. This was a very hot and dry period in Montalcino. Fortunately, in August, there was abundant rainfall that helped to lower temperatures. It also helped to get the vegetative cycle back on track after the grapes had gone into hydric stress. This vintage is considered to be the best of the era. According to Wasserman and Veronelli, our 1982 was one of the five best wines of the harvest, ranked equally with the other top wines. The wines were “big fat, rich wines of concentration and extract,” he wrote. “What they lack in elegance they make for in power.” This is another vintage that received a four-star rating.
1995 – Torrential rains, storms, hail, and gusts of wind marked the summer of 1995 and August in particular. In the end, the summer was called “the summer that wasn’t.” But Sangiovese has an extraordinary ability to adapt to weather conditions: All it took was a warm and sunny September to ripen the grapes perfectly and to deliver a five-star vintage.
2008 – A cool, late spring slowed the onset of the vegetative cycle. Then the weather was cold and rainy until the end of July. The abundant reserves of water allowed the Sangiovese to take advantage of a hot and sunny July and August, thus creating perfect phenolic ripeness. The harvest came early: By the first week of October, the grapes had already been picked. The resulting wine was very high in quality and the vintage received a four-star rating.