In the rarified world of trusted wine critics, there’s a new expert in town—and she’s just given her first 100-point score to a … Brunello di Montalcino (Le Chiuse 2016, to be specific). Audrey Frick—an alum of Colorado’s beloved Frasca Food and Wine restaurant as well as its sister, Tavernetta, where she oversaw an all-Italian wine list—has joined Jeb Dunnuck (himself a veteran of Robert Parker Wine Advocate and a leading global wine critic) as a contributing editor at jebdunnuck.com. Her beat, as you might have guessed, is Italy.
Brunello seems an apt launch, made as it is from Sangiovese, which Frick says “has the ability to mirror its sense of place with clarity and focus.” And the place in question is a pocket of Tuscany anchored by the impossibly picturesque hill town of Montalcino. It’s a region, according to Frick, “that has experienced measurable growth in a relatively short period of time,” and where “there is incredible diversity in terms of style and expression achieved at a remarkably high level.”
James Suckling, a longtime leading voice on Italian wines (and many others) at jamessuckling.com, explains the appeal—the exceptional quality—of that expression in recent vintages: “Brunello di Montalcino has experienced back-to-back great vintages with 2015 and 2016. The 2016s are structured and intense reds with very typical great Sangiovese character of vivacious acidity, firm and fine tannins and vivid fruit. By comparison, the 2015s are more generous and fruity with wonderful appeal for early drinking but will age extremely well.”
Kerin O’Keefe, the Wine Enthusiast’s Italian reviewer, found much to love, too, in her recent tastings of Brunello di Montalcino, as evidenced by even more 100-point scores. All three takes are worth the price of a subscription. Besides her 100-pointer, for instance, Frick awarded a 99 and seven 98s—all wines with very little daylight between them and these “perfect” ones.
Le Chiuse 2016 Brunello di Montalcino
“Le Chiuse is a small, 6-hectare estate that was split off from the Biondi-Santi estate in 1993, when it was inherited by Simonetta Valiani, the great-granddaughter of Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, who owns the property today. Le Chiuse is a certified organic estate.”
“The 2016 Brunello di Montalcino is lifted with aromatics of soft medicinal herbs, fresh soil, cherry fruit and dried flowers. The palate is fresh with black cherry fruit, tea leaf, orange peel and mineral-rich, stony earth. There is well-integrated structure, with crispness, fresh acidity and a beautifully long finish. This is one of my favorite wines of the vintage for its classic structure, high complexity and nuanced balance. Drink 2025–2042.” —Audrey Frick, jebdunnuck.com
It’s worth noting that Kerin O’Keefe, of Wine Enthusiast, also gave this wine a perfect-100 score.
Biondi-Santi 2012 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Tuscany
“This is the final Riserva to benefit from the late Franco Biondi-Santi’s masterful hand. It boasts enticing scents of rose, underbrush, red berry, new leather and crushed mint. The chiseled palate features succulent Morello cherry, pomegranate, orange zest, star anise and a hint of tobacco, all framed in taut, polished tannins. Firm acidity lends youthful tension and keeps it impeccably balanced. Drink 2024–2062.” —Kerin O’Keefe, Wine Enthusiast
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 2012 Vigna di Pianrosso Santa Caterina d’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Tuscany
“This gorgeous wine opens with alluring aromas of sweet pipe tobacco, underbrush, new leather, truffle, plum and eucalyptus. Smooth and full-bodied yet elegant, the savory, juicy palate delivers crushed Marasca cherry, raspberry preserve, licorice and menthol alongside polished, enveloping tannins. Fresh acidity provides impeccable balance while an orange zest note lifts the finish. Drink 2023–2032.” —Kerin O’Keefe, Wine Enthusiast
Conti Costanti 2012 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Tuscany
“Heady scents of chopped herbs, woodland berry, forest floor, new leather, dark spice and violet are just some of the aromas you’ll find in this fragrant wine. It’s savory and loaded with finesse, delivering juicy Marasca cherry, raspberry compote, licorice, orange zest and pipe tobacco alongside firm yet polished tannins and fresh acidity. A tangy mineral note graces the lingering finish. It’s still young and needs plenty of time to fully unwind and develop. Drink 2027–2042.” —Kerin O’Keefe, Wine Enthusiast
Giodo 2016 Brunello di Montalcino
“This is only the seventh vintage from this small producer and Giodo is now considered with the best. Seamless is a great way to describe this red wine with intense aromas of plums, cherries, walnut and sandalwood. Some lightly toasted oak, roses and lavender as well. Really aromatic. The palate is full and extremely polished with super-fine tannins that go on for minutes and spread across your palate. A great wine, following the perfect 100-point 2015. Better to start drinking this after 2023.” —James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Il Marroneto 2015 Madonna delle Grazie Brunello di Montalcino Tuscany
“Violet, iris, warm spice, new leather, earth and wild berry are just some of the aromas you’ll find on this tantalizingly fragrant, gorgeous red. Linear and elegant, the radiant palate shows youthful tension, boasting red cherry, pomegranate, star anise, baking spice and orange zest framed in tightly wound, polished tannins and bright acidity. Drink 2025–2040.” —Kerin O’Keefe, Wine Enthusiast
Livio Sassetti 2016 Brunello di Montalcino
“The Sassetti family has been making great Brunellos for decades and this may be their best ever. Blackberries, black walnuts and black cherries, as well as loads of chewy tannins. Some smoked wood, wood tannins and even black truffles. It’s full-bodied and powerful with loads going on. It just keeps growing on the palate. So much wet earth and black olive at the finish with porcini mushrooms, too. Needs time to soften. Crazy finish. Try after 2025.” —James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Valdicava 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Montosoli
“Vicenzo Abbruzzese, the owner of Valdicava, may be the greatest winemaker of Brunello at the moment. He just released this magnum-only single-vineyard Brunello from what is considered the best of the region, Montosoli. The aromas of black cherries, plums, walnuts, lavender and cedar are really beautiful. Full-bodied with firm, chewy tannins and beautiful polish to the power and intensity. Gorgeous, sweet and ripe fruit at the end with peach and citrus character to the plums. Sophisticated and glorious. Drink after 2025.” —James Suckling, jamessuckling.com
Biondi-Santi 2010 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Tuscany
“This gorgeous, fragrant wine opens with classic Sangiovese scents of violet, rose, perfumed red berry, new leather and a whiff of baking spice. The elegant, radiant palate delivers crushed Marasca cherry, ripe strawberry, cinnamon, black tea and a hint of pipe tobacco. Firm, ultrafine tannins and bright acidity offer an age-worthy structure and impeccable balance. It’s already stunning but will evolve for decades. Drink 2020–2050.” —Kerin O’Keefe, Wine Enthusiast