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Rassegna Stampa

23 • 11 • 2022
James Suckling

We have been wrapping up our tastings of 2018 Brunellos this week in the Hong Kong office, and they’re shaping up to be more balanced and drinkable compared with the chewy and tannic 2017s while not as structured or powerful as the great 2015s and 2016s. But there are some exceptions that will be discussed in our coming 2018 Brunello report.

Our two highest-scoring Brunellos this week are Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona’s Pianrosso 2018 and Altesino’s Montosoli 2018. The northern hill of Montosoli has excelled in 2018. Altesino’s Montosoli 2018 is on par with the great 2015 and 2016 vintages, and it displays fantastic aromatic complexity of fresh and dried fruit and savory iodine character, with finely knit tannins. On the opposite, southeastern slope of Montalcino, fruit from the Pianrosso vineyard produced a 2018 Brunello vintage full of depth and intensity. Alex Bianchini of Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona told us in a Zoom interview that 2018 “is a surprise vintage because it plays in elegance and finesse.”


13 • 10 • 2021
James Suckling
Tuscany's Eredi Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2016 (left) and Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso Santa Caterina d'Oro Riserva 2016 (right) were the highest rated bottles in the past week's tastings, at 99 points each.

This report covering our nearly 600 tastings over the past week contains a number of firsts for the year. The most obvious are the number of ratings for 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Riservas, the new releases from Napa Valley of the highly talked about 2019 vintage, and lots of Australia ratings, including many from Margaret River and Eden Valley.

We already know that the 2016 vintage was a great one for Brunello, following the superb 2015. It produced wines that are more structured and tannic than the great and complete Brunellos of 2015. They are wines built for long aging, but they are already joyous to taste now. The Brunello Riservas are usually selections of the best wines or parcels of vineyards from a winery, and they will be released on the market in January, a year after the normal bottlings.

The two top wines of the past week’s tastings were 2016 Brunello Riservas: Eredi Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2016 and Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso Santa Caterina d’Oro Riserva 2016. These two wines are ethereal in their presence, with sleek and intense tannins and diverse and complex character. They evolve wonderfully in the glass as you taste them and show incredible depth and focus. Other top wines included San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucére Riserva 2016Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino Millecento Riserva 2016 and La Magia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2016

This is your last chance to buy great Brunellos from 2016 with their January release, which we recommend if you love sangiovese from Italy’s most popular premium wine appellation. And be warned, the 2017 Brunellos are going to be nothing like the 2016s, at least in most cases. 2017 was a hot and dry grape-growing season, and it produced a much smaller crop with smaller berries and high sugars. The wines lack the balance of a great Brunello, with many showing a big and tannic structure. They will need a few years to lose some of their rough character but will never deliver the complexity and balance of the 2015s or the focus and structure of the 2016s.

29 • 01 • 2021
James Suckling

In 2020 we tasted and rated nearly 18,000 wines at, and published our Top 100 reports (in general and by region) as well as a Top 100 Value Wines of 2020 report. These reports used various factors to determine the wines selected and their ranking, only one of which is their score. Here we also publish the wines tasted over 2020, based purely on their scores of 99 or 100 points.

There are 133 wines in this list, 52 of which scored 100 points, and 81 of which scored 99. James and the team use a formula whenever they rate a wine, based on color, aromas, body structure and overall impression. But when evaluating wines of this quality, subjectivity is also a big factor. James recently explained how his 40 years of experience can also impact his ratings, especially when you discover a truly great wine that you want to share. The video below shows James explaining this in one of our recent videos from the LG Signature interview series.

This list of wines shows what a remarkable year it was for Germany. With 46 of the wines listed here, they have more than double the number of 99- and 100-point wines of the next-placed country, Italy, which has 21. That’s primarily due to the superlative performance from riesling producers in the 2019 vintage, which Contributing Editor Stuart Pigott said was probably the best ever vintage for Germany in his September report. It also means there are roughly the same number of red wines and non-red wines in this list.

Australia also significantly over-performed compared to past years, racking up 20 99- and 100-point wines having never broken double figures before. Meanwhile popular regions such as France and the United States had fewer 99- and 100-point wines than usual. But much of this data must be taken in the context of what we tasted. For instance, the vast majority of our French tastings this year were for the en primeur wines from the 2019 vintage, and we have not included barrel scores in this report. And this year we didn’t travel to Europe of course, so nearly all the wines were tasted in Hong Kong meaning we rated slightly fewer wines from Italy and France compared to last year. We also retasted some older wines that performed well and are included here.

Take a look at all our top-rated wines of 2020 below. Subscribers can access the scores and tasting notes by clicking a wine name.

The wines are listed by score and then in alphabetical order.

100 points

01 • 11 • 2019
James Suckling

My son Jack, Senior Editor Nick Stock and I are going to remember 2019 for a long time. It was the year that we discovered more than 50 perfect wines among the 25,000 we rated. In fact, we can’t remember a year quite like it; it was truly phenomenal for great wines. It seems that just about every major wine region released great wines onto the market, the majority being from the 2015 and 2016 vintages. These duo vintages will long be remembered much like 1989 and 1990 for Bordeaux. However, 2017 and 2018 should not be forgotten — both produced some exceptional wines, particularly whites.

Many regions shone in quality in our tastings this year. Most notable were Argentina, Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Tuscany, Piedmont, Rioja, Port, Champagne and Chile. That’s why many wines from these regions are included in our list of the Top 100 Wines of 2019. We have 41 100-point wines in the list and another 35 with 99 points. The rest of the wines scored 98 points. All the wines were produced in quantities of 300 cases or more.

While the emphasis is on quality, special preference was given to more affordably priced wines. For example, the Top 10 on the list are all priced at less than $80 a bottle. Most of the 100 cost less than $150 a bottle, although a few crept in at the bottom of the list that can cost up to $900 a bottle. It’s a shame that so many of the best-quality wines in the world are incredibly expensive now, but this list includes lots of exceptions to the rule, mainly from Argentina, Australia, and Chile.

Indeed, our list includes what may be one of the greatest wine values on earth, the 98-point El Enemigo Chardonnay Mendoza 2017. It retails for around $25 a bottle! And three of the wines in the Top 10 will only set you back $45-50 a bottle: Muga Rioja Prado Enea Gran Reserva 2011, Marchesi Antinori Umbria Cervaro Della Sala 2017 and Schäfer-Fröhlich Riesling Nahe Felseneck GG 2018.

Quality-price ratio was a key consideration in selecting our Wine of the Year, and this is why we decided on Brunello di Montalcino, the great wine-producing region of Italy’s Tuscany. We tasted close to 200 2015 Brunellos in September and dozens scored 95 points or more. We gave 11 perfect 100-point ratings. The wines will be available in the market in January 2020. Most of the best wines will retail between $50 and $120 a bottle.


Selecting only one from so many stunning 2015 Brunellos was a tough ask, but in the end we named the Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino Vecchie Vigne 2015 our Wine of the Year 2019. It is a perfect example of what makes 2015 Brunello so compelling to buy and drink. The Siro Pacenti really has a “wow” factor to it, and there’s an energy and excitement to tasting it.

Honestly, it’s a wine that’s just too fantastic not to drink now. We tasted it at least five times over the summer and we liked it more and more. Like all the best 2015 Brunellos, the Pacenti Brunello 2015 shows super intensity of cool and dark fruits as well as stones and flowers and opens to a full and plush body of expansive yet utterly refined tannins that coat your palate in a caressing way. It shows glorious transparency and communication. It’s one of the best young Brunellos I have tasted in my four-decade career and I have been tasting Brunellos professionally since 1983.

Owner Giancarlo Pacenti says his 2015 Brunello is “the wine of his career.” And we have to agree. Check out a short video on what he says about the vintage. There’s also a fun video of the contenders for the Wine of the Year 2019 we posted before publishing this story.

In total, we included a dozen 2015 Brunellos in our list of the Top 100 Wines of 2019 because of the unprecedented high quality of the wines. Eleven in the list received ratings of 100 points. Check out our report on 2015 Brunellos from September.

The region with the most representation in the list, however, was Bordeaux, with 15 wines included. The high number of chateaux in our list reflects the outstanding quality of the 2016 vintage which followed the superb 2015 vintage — our wine of the year in 2018 was the 2015 Château Canon.

This year, we rated eight wines 100 points in the 2016 Bordeaux tasting report, published earlier this year. As I wrote in that article, the wines have a classicism that reminds me of the great wines of the 1980s, but they have much more precision and clarity due to advances in viticulture and winemaking since then. Moreover, they seem much less manipulated than some Bordeaux from the first decade of this century, when some producers were making more market-driven wines.

The best value out of our top-rated 2016 Bordeaux made it into the top 10 of 2019: Château Larcis-Ducasse. We placed it at No. 7. The St.-Emilion wine sells for less than $100 a bottle and shows beautiful balance and finesse with a complexity in the nose and palate as well as subtle structure. It is an archetypal 2016 Bordeaux. We rated it 99 points.


The top 10 wines in our list show the diversity of greatness in the wine world today, with entries from Italy, Spain, Germany, France, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina. The top 20 cover much of the same as well as the United States and Australia.

This year, we traveled tens of thousands of miles (Nick traveled the most as he lives in Melbourne) and spent months in tastings, wineries and vineyards. It was tiring but it was great as well. It was really special for me to share some great tastings and visits with my son Jack, who is an accomplished and trusted taster in his own right. We love our jobs and we love great wine. We continue to look for wines that excite us and rate them accordingly. They are wines that have wonderful complexity and personality as well as drinkability and class.

Do we need to taste 25,000 wines in a year? No. But we end up doing so as we keep on traveling and tasting. The exploration never stops, even for a wine writer with 40 years of experience. There is just so much outstanding wine in the world right now. It is a Golden Age for winemaking. We pray it continues despite the current adversities in the world, in particular climate change — a topic we continue to try and cover in detail. However, 2019 was indeed a great year for great wines.

I hope you enjoy our list of the Top 100 Wines of 2019. I hope it inspires you to find a few of the wines and try them. I can’t wait to drink a few of them again!



Lots of ripe and rich fruit with a decadent undertone of meat and spice that turns to pure fruit and licorice. Medium to full body, refined tannins and a fresh and bright finish. All about harmony. Better after 2021.

15 • 10 • 2019
James Suckling

The 2015 vintage is a historical year for Brunello di Montalcino that nobody should miss. The wines show impressive precision of vivid fruit, fine tannins and freshness in acidity despite their ripeness and richness which makes them some of the most exciting in years.

The 2018 vintage is going to deliver some superlative Super Tuscans, while 2015 is one of the best years ever for Brunello di Montalcino and 2016 another hit for Barolo. These were our overall impressions from the inaugural En Primeur Firenze event, held on September 12, 2019, in Palazzo Capponi, Florence.

Since 2016, has published annual reviews of the top Italian wines from barrel. However, this year’s tasting was the first of its kind to bring together a select number of Italian producers and vintners and Bordeaux negociants to sample and discuss the country’s most exciting unreleased labels. No doubt the arrival of three fabulous vintages to coincide with the debut occasion made En Primeur Firenze 2019 all the more historic.

“The quality of all the wines present is superb,” said Mathieu Chadronnier, head of CVBG. CVBG is one of the largest wine merchants in Bordeaux and sells wines from all over the world as well as from top chateaux through the region’s global distribution network.

Bordeaux negociants such as Chadronnier are selling more and more non-Bordeaux wines through the La Place de Bordeaux marketplace — from Chateauneuf and Burgundy to wines from California, Chile, Argentina and now Italy. They release new vintages of most of the top wines from outside Bordeaux in early September.

“This is a fantastic event,” said Pierre Antoine Casteja of Joanne, who attended the event and whose company is Bordeaux’s leading negociant. He noted how the wines of Italy (VIK from Chile was also on hand) are increasingly popular among international customers of the Bordeaux wine trade.

The 2018 vintage in Tuscany appears to have produced balanced and refined wines along the lines of 2005 or 2008. We tasted close to 100 Tuscan wines from the vintage and we were impressed by their freshness, fine tannins and clean and transparent fruit.

The 2018 vintage had a hot and sunny (but not extreme) growing season until September when intermittent rains arrived. Producers who picked at the right time were rewarded handsomely. Overly cautious producers who harvested early risked bringing in grapes that weren’t fully ripe, while others who waited too long had to contend with some dilution in the grape musts.

“We are really happy with the overall quality of our 2008s, which show a harmony and refinement compared to past vintages,” said Axel Heinz, the dynamic winemaker of Masseto and Ornellaia.

The 2015 Brunellos poured during the event were real standouts with superb structure and depth of fruit and tension. This is clearly one of the best years ever for the region and has all the makings of a modern classic. Check out our extensive report from two weeks ago.

“The 2015 is the best vintage of my career,” says Giancarlo Pacenti of Siro Pacenti. His Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino Vecchie Vigne 2015 is one of the greatest wines of the vintage – 100 points. His, as with all 2015 Brunellos, will start to be released on the market next year.

The 2016 Barolos at the tasting were almost as impressive as the 2015 Brunellos and underlined the superb quality of 2016 following the great 2015 in Piedmont. The wines don’t have the opulence and density of the 2015 nebbiolos from the region, but they have excellent structure and length, highlighting how the 2016 growing season was slightly cooler than the 2015. The 2016 Barolos are clearly reds for aging. They will begin to be released in January 2020.

“Our 2016 Barolos are wines for the cellar,” said Barbara Sandrone of the high-flying winery of Sandrone. The structure and intensity of her reds from the 2016 vintage were impressive.

En Primeur Firenze 2019 concluded with a garden lunch in Palazzo Frescobaldi, just a one-minute walk from the magnificent Renaissance structure of Palazzo Capponi. The 200 attendees brightened the event with an electric energy, basking in the beauty of Florence and the outstanding quality of wines tasted. The event followed the Magnum Party at Villa di Maiano the previous evening (check out the video). 

We are looking forward to next year’s events in Florence with trade and maybe even fans and followers of 

– James Suckling, CEO & editor, and Jack Suckling, contributing editor




Lots of ripe and rich fruit with a decadent undertone of meat and spice that turns to pure fruit and licorice. Medium to full body, refined tannins and a fresh and bright finish. All about harmony. Better after 2021.



Extremely perfumed and decadent with dried flowers and spices and fresh mushrooms. Cherries,too. Full body. Solid core of fruit, yet ever so fine tannins. Goes on for minutes. Such beautifully crafted tannins. Drink after 2021.

04 • 10 • 2019
James Suckling

The 2015 vintage is a historical year for Brunello di Montalcino that nobody should miss. The wines show impressive precision of vivid fruit, fine tannins and freshness in acidity despite their ripeness and richness which makes them some of the most exciting in years.

Winemakers in Montalcino were never better prepared to produce outstanding wines in a year like 2015 with their exactness in their vineyards and cellars from fine-tuned canopy management and crop thinning to optical sorting and soft fermentations. So many wine producers in Montalcino made excellent wines in 2015.

My son Jack and I have tasted 187 2015 Brunellos so far this year and the quality is terrific. We rated about half 95 points or more – classic quality. The wines will be officially available in the market beginning in January 2020. But we wanted to give you a preview of the best Brunellos from the vintage, with some already available on a pre-arrival basis from wine merchants.

“The words for the 2015 vintage are density, tannins and freshness,” says Roberto Guerrini, whose family owns Eredi Fuligni. He made the wine of his lifetime in 2015. We rated it 100 points. “The wines are rich, yet they are fresh at the same time. It is a great year.”

‘Depth of fruit and endless length’

As I wrote last month in a blog following a trip to Montalcino this summer, so many of the wines we tasted showed a beautiful depth of fruit and endless length. They are dense and rich wines with great structure of tannins yet they remain finely textured and comprehensive in the mouth. The seamless tannins seem to melt into the wine – a characteristic I have never seen in my 36 years visiting the area as a wine critic and journalist.

We admit that it is tempting to say that 2015 is Brunello di Montalcino’s best vintage ever, and it may very well be! It certainly compares to other great years of the appellation including 1997, 2006, 2007, and 2010. Looking at the ratings, 2015 comes very close to the average of the great 2010 vintage with about half of the wines receiving ratings of 95 points or more. The big difference is that 2015 has more perfect rated wines than 2010 – 11 in total.

Another important thing to remember is the high quality of the 2016 vintage. The Brunellos will be available in January 2021, a year after 2015. We only tasted a dozen or so 2016s and they were fantastic quality. But we have our doubts about whether the vintage will be better than 2015. Regardless, we clearly have two excellent back-to-back vintages.

“The 2010 was an amazing vintage but then came 2015 and 2016!” says Carlo Ferrini, one of Italy’s most respected consulting enologists who makes a small amount of his own Brunello from his pristine vineyards in southwest Montalcino called Giodo. “We will be debating which of the two years are better for years in the future.”

‘Balance and harmony’

Ferrini said that he thought 2015 and 2016 were better than the highly rated duo of 2006 and 2007 as the wines are more balanced and precise with better freshness. They are what great Brunellos should be today and set a new benchmark for wines from the region. “We were looking for more fruit and concentration in years like 2006 and 2007 and now we search for more balance and harmony in our wines,” he adds.

The growing season in 2015 was impressive. The winter and spring had plenty of rain to make up for the intense sun and heat during the summer. There was some rain in September before the harvest to freshen the vineyards. And as noted before, good vineyard management compensated for the hot weather during the growing season, and sorting out dried grapes at harvest was extremely important for making exceptional wines. Most producers harvested at the end of September or early October, which is a sign that it was not too hot and grapes had a chance to ripen properly.

“We had great hang time,” says Bernardino Sani, general manager at Argiano, which released a new single-vineyard Brunello in 2015 called Suolo. “We had a balanced summer despite the heat. We slowed maturity. We harvested the first week of October.”

This excellent hang time when the grapes are allowed to evenly ripen on the vine certainly delivered wonderful wines. Nearly all the 2015 Brunello shows complex and beautiful aromas. It is not just ripe fruit when you stick your nose in the glass. The palates of the best show such fine-grained tannins. This wonderful harmony in the nose and palate makes the wines so approachable that you want to drink them now.

However, these are Brunellos that will age beautifully for decades ahead making them historical in every sense of the word.

– James Suckling, CEO and editor, with reporting from Jack Suckling



Lots of ripe and rich fruit with a decadent undertone of meat and spice that turns to pure fruit and licorice. Medium to full body, refined tannins and a fresh and bright finish. All about harmony. Better after 2021.



Extremely perfumed and decadent with dried flowers and spices and fresh mushrooms. Cherries,too. Full body. Solid core of fruit, yet ever so fine tannins. Goes on for minutes. Such beautifully crafted tannins. Drink after 2021.


01 • 12 • 2018
James Suckling


If you are reading this you probably aren’t surprised that our Italian Wine of the Year 2018 is the Antinori Solaia 2015. Some of you might find it predictable, even boring. But I believe that when something is amazing quality and is a historical game-changing-icon wine from Italy, it deserves the honor.

Think for a moment what Italy would be without Solaia. It is a wine that revolutionized the world of Italian wine forever when it was created in 1978. Of course, it was launched seven years after its sibling Super Tuscan red, Tignanello. However, I argue that it became the icon for modern winemaking in Tuscany and a symbol for the new spirit of wine in Italy.

Over the years, I have heard the patriarch of the Antinori clan, Piero Antinori, say that he made Solaia to show the world that Italy could make world-class wines that could compete with the best in the world from Bordeaux to Barossa to Napa Valley. He certainly succeeded. Solaia is compared to the best in the world. It’s even now sold in the Bordeaux market, which is the equivalent of Dow or Nasdaq for wine, and home to many of the greatest wines of the world including such first growths as Mouton and Lafite.

The 2015 Solaia is the best Solaia ever. Not so much for his sheer power or structure, but for its harmony and character that shows an incredible depth and strength. It’s a wine that makes your mind race with subtle thoughts and passion for its great quality. It is emotionally charged with all of its provenance and pedigree. This is why I rated it 100 points and why we choose it as our Italian Wine of the Year 2018.

Solaia’s sublime quality highlights how Tuscany shined so, so brightly in the 2015 vintage, which is why five of the Top 10 Italian Wines of the Year came from Italy’s premier wine region from that year. We also chose an amazing Barbaresco from a challenging year, a legendary red from Campania, and a magnificent old-vine white from Collio. I personally want to taste (or I should say, drink!) them all again.

“The 2015 Solaia is the best Solaia ever. It’s a wine that makes your mind race with subtle thoughts and passion for its great quality.”

Our no. 2 wine, Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore 2015, may be a wine that many of you have never heard of or considered. This will stop you in your tracks. The Bordeaux blend from the Tuscan Coast of Bolgheri is fabulous quality and shows impressive generosity as well as refinement. It’s vineyards, located on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean toward Corsica, are in a unique location and the 2015 highlights the vineyards’ proximity to the sea and the subtle loam soils with stone. It also sells for about $80 a bottle.

Le Macchiole Bolgheri Scrio 2015 is made in a winery about a 10-minute drive from Argentiera and no. 3 on our list. A relatively small production, sassy syrah. It too shows a special character from its maritime home with a sea-salt, rosemary character to the normal spice and fruit flavors one expects from the grape. It’s a perfect wine.

Podere Poggio Scalette Alta Valle della Greve Il Carbonaione at no. 4 at is a longtime favorite of ours from Chianti Classico and the 2015 shows the richness and intensity of the vintage but an underlying power and structure. It’s made from a special clone of sangiovese from the area and the Fiore family have a wonderful lineage for modern winemaking, with the patriarch of the clan, Vitorrio, being one of the gurus in the 1980s and 1990s.

Oreno at no. 5 continues to improve with just about every vintage since its inception in 1999. The 2016 from Tenuta Sette Ponti is the best ever with beautiful precision and balance. Everything is in the right place. The Bordeaux blend has moved away from over extraction and high levels of new wood into a new world of harmony, subtlety and complexity.

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Vigneto Bellavista Gran Selezione 2015 follows at no. 6 and represents one of the benchmark wines of Tuscany’s famous subregion. The single vineyard red shows great power and depth with incredible flavors. It’s just a baby now, requiring at least a half of decade of bottle age.

I first started drinking the no. 7 wine in the 1990s and was always in love with its precision and depth for wine from Campania. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon, aglianico and merlot. The Montevetrano Colli di Salerno 2016 is one of its best ever with an ever persistent depth of fruit and power on the palate and its unique flavors of loamy soils from the area.

I had to include a wine from one of the masters of Italy, the late Bruno Giacosa. His Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2014, our no. 8 wine, shows his family’s true winemaking prowess when the quality is so incredibly outstanding despite the difficulties of the vintage. Their step vineyard of Asili always delivers the best quality.

At no. 9, Castello di Bossi Chianti Classico Berardo Riserva 2015 is another homage to a great vintage for the region of Chianti Classico. The reserve red is amazing value and top class for a retail price of about $40.

Finally, the no. 10 wine is an amazing white and a nod to all the wonderful whites being produced in Italy at the moment. Schiopetto Friulano Collio M 2017 is produced from vines planted in the early 1950s and shows both incredible density at freshness at the same time.

I tried to put together a Top 100 list that represents my unbridled enthusiasm and love for the wines of Italy after 35 years visiting and tasting wines in the country. Tuscany and Piedmont still dominate the super-premium wine scene for me, but the rest of Italy is on a roll, particularly Southern Italy. And whites in general are more and more exciting from Friuli to Sicily. The wines below are ranked primarily by rating but then other reasons such as WoW factor and a statement about a type or area (Italian whites or Campania) were also important for the order.

My team and I, including my son Jack, tasted more than 5,400 Italian wines in a single calendar year, and we loved just about every minute of it. We can’t wait to taste even more Italian wines in 2019. — James Suckling, Editor & CEO


NO. 59 - Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso Santa Caterina d'Oro Riserva 2012 

Score 97/100

Some glossy oak warmth across the ripe red cherry and raspberry aromas on the nose. With walnuts, blonde tobacco, sweet brown spices and earthy nuances too. The palate has a level of power and energy that really sets it apart. Shows a very succulent and vibrant core of red fruits and light earthy notes through the finish. Great balance here. Try from 2022.

11 • 09 • 2018
James Suckling


This year, completed its largest tasting ever of Tuscan wines with almost 2,000 samples reviewed, making it the biggest report on the region in James’ nearly 37 years as a professional wine critic. Most of the wines were reviewed over the summer at our new, upgraded tasting room in Tuscany. With so many classic wines released from the superb vintages of 2015 and 2016, as well 2013 and 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, we felt a need to provide the world’s most comprehensive coverage of the region and its wine production.

“The 2015 vintage is the greatest vintage of my career,” says Carlo Ferrini, the veteran consulting enologist who has made some of the most exciting wines in the region over the last three decades. “The weather was near perfect the entire growing season, yet it was our knowledge of viticulture and winemaking that really enabled us to capitalize on this.”

“The best wines of 2015 have an incredible richness yet maintain freshness and fantastic energy and intensity,” adds Renzo Cotarella, the general manager of the vast wine holdings of the Antinori family.

Indeed, that’s how we found his 2015 Solaia when we tasted it earlier this year and awarded the wine a perfect 100 points. It is the greatest Antinori wine ever. The purity and focus on offer perfectly complement the polished and intense tannins as well as the ripe and characterful fruit. We found the same energy and precision in our other perfect Tuscan wine this year: Le Macchiole Bolgheri Scrio 2015, a lavish yet succulent pure syrah.

We found so many superb wines during this year’s tastings in Tuscany. We scored nine wines 99 points: Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore 2015, Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Vigneto Bellavista Gran Selezione 2015, Duemani Syrah Costa Toscana Suisassi 2016, Fattoria Le Pupille Maremma Toscana Saffredi 2016, Masseto Toscana 2015, Ornellaia Toscana Bianco 2016, Podere Poggio Scalette Alta Valle della Greve Il Carbonaione 2015, Sette Ponti Toscana Oreno 2016 and Tua Rita Toscana Redigaffi 2016

The wines above not only highlight how great 2015 and 2016 are as vintages for the region but also the diversity of these great wines. Producers made fantastic wines in almost every winegrowing district — from traditional appellations such as Chianti Classico and of course Brunello di Montalcino to Toscana IGT or even Costa Toscana IGT or Valdarno di Sopra. And don’t forget that many of the whites are also rockin’ quality!

It’s interesting to think back to a recent pair of great vintages such as 2007 and 2006 in Tuscany and begin to compare them with 2015 and 2016. In general, we think the wines from 2015 and 2016 that we tasted so far seem more precise and better made than those from the last great duo years.

Perhaps winemakers are looking more to bring out the uniqueness of where their wines come from than seek the slightly manipulated, fruit-forward styles that were favored in the past? I don’t think most ever went as far as Napa Valley or Spain for blockbuster fruit bombs, but there was definitely a trend a decade ago for those wines in Tuscany. Today’s releases are much more about drinkability and balance.

“We understand how to deal with hot years in the vineyard and even more so in the winery,” says Luca d’Attoma, the well-known Tuscan consulting enologist who also makes his own wine Duemani. “We can take it to the limits now!”

Adds Franco Bernabei, another veteran winemaker in the region who consults at various wineries: “I hate jammy wines. You can’t work against your vineyards. You have to follow your vineyards. You can’t change the style of your wines to suit yourself as a winemaker. You want a sense of the vineyard in the wine. This is so important.”

Do remember though that 2015 and 2016 are different vintages and did not make identical wines. The 2015 grape growing season was clearly hotter with less difference between the heat of the day and the coolness of the night. So, the wines tend to be very fruity, sometimes even exotic. In 2016, there was greater diurnal temperature variation, and this suggests why the acidities are a little higher in the wines and the characters slightly less opulent. But don’t get us wrong, there’s a subtleness to the top 2015s that make them irresistible.

We highly recommend buying 2015 and 2016 Tuscan wines, particularly after the relatively meager 2014s. These are wines to marvel at in their frankness and true character. They reflect a maturity in the vineyard and winemaking that translates into real Tuscan wines. Another compelling reason to buy both years is that we already know 2017 will not be at the same level of quality as 2015 and 2016. The growing season was too parched and quantities are down between 20 percent and 40 percent — although the quality seems surprisingly good considering a recent tasting of about 80 barrel samples.

Brunello lovers must also get ready for what should be two fabulous years: 2015 and 2016. “I am almost speechless when I try to talk about these two vintages,” says Roberto Guerrini, the wizard winemaker of the small estate of Fuligni

But until those wines are released in 2020 and 2021 respectively, Italian wine lovers can be content in the knowledge that the 2013s and 2012s are good buys. We particularly like a number of the 2012 riservas. Admittedly, expectations for the wet and unexciting 2014s are not high, although won’t taste them until January.

Anyone who loves Brunello should now also focus on what is happening in Chianti Classico. There were some literally jaw-dropping moments such as when we tasted the single-vineyard selections from Castello di Ama. The three wines were all awe-inspiring and the furthest cry imaginable from the red-fruited, rather mundane stereotypes of lesser Chiantis.

Most of all though, they were distinctive in their own way. San Lorenzo beguiled with its punctuated savoriness, La Casuccia carefully revealed its complexity and feathery finesse while Bellavista so far surpassed all in its unrivalled power and mastery of tannins and texture. In our note for the last, rated 99 points, we penned an ambitious question: “Will this prove to be the greatest Chianti Classico ever made?” Now it’s up to the reader to decide.  

The number of winemakers focusing on expressing the terroir of the great villages and vineyards of the top and historic subregion of Chianti is certainly on the rise. And the conditions and situation in 2015 and 2016 could hardly have been more conducive to making some of the best wines ever for Chianti Classico.

“These two vintages of Chianti Classico are the greatest ever for us not only due to nature but because our vineyards are older and our know-how in winemaking more attuned,” says Giovanni Manetti, the respected owner of Chianti Classico’s Fontodi who was recently elected president of the Chianti Classico growers association.

“For the 2015 harvest, though we had a sorting table, we just watched the grapes go by,” he adds. “Everything was beautiful. It was perfection. In 2016, things were the same but cooler. I prefer the 2016.”

My only wish is for the relatively new Gran Selezione designation to be better thought out for the region. Some of our highest ratings did go to wines carrying what is supposed to be Chianti Classico’s top category of quality, but not requiring wines to come from single vineyards or even be pure sangiovese is surely a mistake, at least as far as we’re concerned. 

Moreover, a number of the Gran Selezione we tasted were slightly overoaked, suggesting wineries are often feeling the need to adhere to this stylistic preference instead of allowing a true reflection of uniqueness and quality to flourish. Many winemakers themselves in the region have spoken negatively to us about Gran Selezione despite the designation being an attempt to raise the image of the best wines of Chianti Classico. This is a shame and we hope that some carefully reasoned improvements are in the pipeline. 

On a more positive note, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano seems to be finally making some headway in quality. This is primarily being led by the winery Avignonesi, which is bottling some fantastic single-vineyard reds. Other producers making headway include Boscarelli, Poggio Stella and, of course, Fattoria del Cerro. Don’t miss them.

We continue to be enthusiastic about the white wine revolution happening in Tuscany and urge you to take a look at some. You probably already know some of the most exciting such as Ornellaia Bianco (not to be confused with Poggio alle Gazze, the more affordable but less spectacular label), which vies with the great white of Bordeaux’s Haut-Brion. Boggina B from Petrolo in the Valdarno, a pure trebbiano barrel fermented under the keen eye of the owner of Burgundy’s Lucien Le Moine, is also now consistently brilliant.

Or you may have had the chance to taste the soulful whites from the islands of Gorgona and Giglio — Frescobaldi Gorgona and Testamatta Bianco, respectively. Naturally, not all the whites in Tuscany attain such stellar heights, and many are still the product of overripe grapes from overly hot areas. But there are many others seriously worth considering among this year’s releases.

We are concerned with the continued increase in prices for the region and think it is becoming harder and harder to find exciting Tuscan wines for less than $20 a bottle. Few, other than the bigger names such as Ruffino, Antinori and Frescobaldi have continued to produce a reliable array of mainstay quality wines for reasonable prices. 

Given that parts of Southern Italy such as Campania and Basilicata have really upped their game, as our tastings this summer confirmed (stay tuned!), Tuscany needs to be careful lest they lose future market share as consumers and trade alike look for better value.

That said, Tuscany is Tuscany. It remains the strongest beacon for the great wines of Italy around the world, and as a symbol for outstanding quality wines, it is only going to get stronger with the 2015 and 2016 vintages. Buy some and see for yourself.  — James Suckling, CEO/Editor and Jack Suckling, Executive Editor


Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso Santa Caterina d'Oro Riserva 2012





Some glossy oak warmth across the ripe red cherry and raspberry aromas on the nose. With walnuts, blonde tobacco, sweet brown spices and earthy nuances too. The palate has a level of power and energy that really sets it apart. Shows a very succulent and vibrant core of red fruits and light earthy notes through the finish. Great balance here. Try from 2022.

04 • 04 • 2018
James Suckling

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 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


Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso Santa Caterina d'Oro Riserva 2012

97/100 - Some glossy oak warmth across the ripe red cherry and raspberry aromas on the nose. With walnuts, blonde tobacco, sweet brown spices and earthy nuances too. The palate has a level of power and energy that really sets it apart. Shows a very succulent and vibrant core of red fruits and light earthy notes through the finish. Great balance here. Try from 2022.

25 • 01 • 2018
James Suckling

I was ready for the 2013 vintage to deliver something altogether better and more typical than the rich and ripe 2011 and 2012 Brunello di Montalcinos. But it didn’t happen. I tasted about 130 Brunellos in a blind tasting a few months back in Tuscany, and although the top 2013s (all those scoring 95 points or more) were more linear and refined than the 2012s, many of the 2013s showed similar opulent fruit and round tannins, suggesting that they were made from slightly overripe fruit.

“It’s hard to say what happened,” said Giacomo Neri of the famous estate of Casanova di Neri. “Perhaps some people decided to harvest too late, but we find our Brunellos show cool fruit and bright acidity with structured tannins.”

Indeed, his top Brunello, the Tenuta Nuova, and about 30 others (all 95 points or more) showed the great Brunello character I look for: They’re the kind of wines focused on sleek, integrated tannins and acidity and fresh, terroir-driven flavors and fruit. Even more than that, they have a certain quality that I like to describe as palate energy. The top 2013s are reminiscent of outstanding 2006s, which can also possess similarly clear, vivid fruit coupled with depth.

“The 2013s are much better than the 2012s,” said Vincenzo Abbruzzese of Valdicava. “They have so much more character, structure and depth.”

The vintage certainly had the potential to make more typical and structured Brunellos as it was less hot and dry than 2011 and 2012. The top soils such as Montosoli or high vineyards in the south appear to have made the best wines. And top names fine-tuned viticulture practices and harvesting dates to get the most out of the grapes and produce great wines.

In recent memory, 2010 is still the best vintage followed by 2013, 2012 and 2011. Of course, 2014 is going to be a tough year for Montalcino due to a wet and late growing season, as so many know, so I suggest buying what Brunello is already out on the market. The 2013s begin to arrive on retail shelves in January 2018.

I look forward to tasting more 2013 Brunellos when I am in Italy in January.



Aromas of light coffee, plum and cherry follow through to a full body with a wealth of dried fruit and hints of figs. Drink or hold.


A wealth of coffee and spice aromas with ripe fruit. Full body and round tannins. Delicious and rich. Flavorful finish. Opulent style. Drink or hold.



13 • 07 • 2017
James Suckling
It’s tradition that spends the 4th of July holiday in Tuscany and throws, what we like to call, a Magnum Party. Winemakers from all over Italy come to hangout and drink great wines, and this year was no exception. More than 260 vintners, each with a magnum of their own, came to Osteria dell’Acquolina, a beautiful restaurant in Tuscany near James’ house with a wide-open backyard perfect for grilling. 
But unlike in previous years, we had something a little extra to celebrate this time. Last month in Hong Kong, the Italian government honored James at the Central Plaza with a knighthood as a Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia. The award was bestowed to him for the decades he spent promoting Italy and its wines across the world (especially Asia). This party was the first time he truly was able to celebrate with all of the people who make Italian wine what it is today. As he already wrote, the knighthood wouldn’t have been possible without all the top producers of Italy making so many great wines over the last decade.
Guests started with bubbles by Bellavista and Frescobaldi (Leonia Brut) before making their way to the grand table where we kept the magnums. A massive barbecue of local beef and sausages and music by Surahn Sidhu, who flew all the way from Australia, kept the party going well until 1 a.m. Surahn is currently with the rock band FlightFacilities and was formerly a guitarist with Empire of the Sun. By about 2 a.m., we had finished the magnums and moved on to a few bottles of 2006 Taittinger Comte de Champagne. What a night.
Attendees included Agricola San Felice, Allegrini, Altesino e Caparzo, Amantis, Antinori, Arceno, Argiano, Banfi, Barberani, Barolo Bosco, Bellaria, Bellavista, Bersano, Bibi Graetz, Bosco Agostino, Buon Tempo, Ca’ Romè di Romano Marengo, Ca’ Rugate, Camigliano, Canalicchio di Sopra, Capanna, Caparzo, Capezzana, Casa Emma, Casaloste, Casanova di Neri, Casanuova delle Cerbaie, Casisano, Castello del Terriccio, Castello di Gabbiano, Castello di Meleto, Castello di Monsanto, Castello di Querceto, Castelvecchio, Castiglion del Bosco, Cava d’Onice, Ceretto, Chioccioli, Chioccioli Altadonna, Ciacci, Collavini, Colle Bereto, Collemassari, Collemattoni, Coppo, Cortonesi, Cresti, Cristiano Veglio, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Donnafugata, Duemani, Elio Grasso, Empson, Fattoria Le Pupille, Felsina, Folonari, Fontodi, Fossa Mala, Frescobaldi, Fuligni, Gagliole, I Balzini, Il Borro, Il Caberlot, Il Pollenza, Jermann, Kellerei, La Massa, La Valentina, Le Pupille, Lis Neris, Luca D’Attoma, Lungarotti, Maculan, Manzone, Marchesi di Barolo, Mastrojanni, Mate, Mauro Molino, Mazzei, Michele Chiarlo, Michele Satta, Mocine, Montegrossi, Montezemolo, Nals Margreid, Nardi, Nino Franco, Nittardi, Orma, Ornellaia, Paolo Calì, Paradiso di Frassina, Parusso, Petrolo, Pio Cesare, Podere Gianni Gagliardo, Podere Poggio Scaletta, Podere San Cristoforo, Prà, Querciabella, Renieri, Renzo Marinai, Ricasoli, Rocca delle Macie, Ruffino, San Fabiano Calcinaia, San Polino, Sassetti, Schiopetto, Sesta di Sopra, Sette Ponti, Siro Pacenti, Tassi, Tenuta di Sesta, Tenuta Sette Ponti, Tenute del Cerro, Terra al Sole, Toalini, Tommasi, Tua Rita, Uccelliera, Valdicava, Valter, Vecche Terre di Montefili, Vie de Romans, Vignamaggio, Vignavecchia, Villa Trasqua, Vinosia, Viticcio, Volpaia, WineAuction, Zonin
02 • 05 • 2017
James Suckling

2012 is not a vintage to miss for fans of Brunello di Montalcino. James has now tasted nearly 170 wines from the 2012 vintage (first report, second report) and it’s clear that these wines “have [a lot] in common with the legendary 2010 vintage and are most like the 2004s, a harmonious and gorgeous year for Brunellos.” As he wrote in November, these are wines with “beautiful aromas, vibrant fruit, lively acidity, and ultra-fine tannins. These sangioveses are much more precise and finer than the bolder and riper 2011s.”

Here are his top 25 for the vintage. And the best part? Every wine on this list sells for under $100.  James made the ranking according to lowest price and highest rating in hopes of focusing on the best values in the vintage.


1Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino 2012

2San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucere 2012

3Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Pianrosso 2012

4Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli 2012

5Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2012

6Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino 2012

7La Magia Brunello di Montalcino 2012

8Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2012

9La Rasina Brunello di Montalcino 2012

10Lazzeretti Brunello di Montalcino 2012

11Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino 2012

12Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 2012

13Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2012

14Renieri Brunello di Montalcino 2012

15Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino Pelagrilli 2012

16Bellaria Brunello di Montalcino Assunto 2012

17Cordella Brunello di Montalcino 2012

18Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino 2012

19Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 2012

20Celestino Pecci Brunello di Montalcino 2012

21Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino 2012

22Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2012

23Sesta di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino 2012

24San Polino Brunello di Montalcino Helichrysum 2012

25Eredi Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 2012

14 • 03 • 2017
James Suckling

We had a feeling that Great Wines of Italy USA could break records—and we were right. A record 163 wineries poured across four cities (Miami, New York City, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco) and, as it would happen, a record number of consumers and trade registered (nearly 3,500!).

The series kicked off last Sunday on the rooftop of the East hotel in Miami, where producers gathered for a glass of Bellavista sparkling and a few brief words from James. The tasting started the following Monday at the Moore Building in Miami’s posh design district, though you would have thought it was the Friday of a three-day weekend judging by the crowd. Barely 45 minutes after doors opened, the two-story venue was packed (more than 700)—and stayed that way for the next four hours. The crowd was one of the most diverse we’ve seen at a event. People of all ages and backgrounds came out in full force and from first-time drinkers to seasoned collectors, the energy level in the room was palpable.


Not to be outdone was our New York crowd, who we welcomed two days later at Chelsea’s IAC, a beautiful venue with floor to ceiling glass walls. And like Miami, the room was packed shortly after doors opened. Crowds numbering 700 strong made a beeline for the Brunellos and Barolos, which were bundled together in a different section of the room near the booth for Sea Shepherd, which supports and invited to all four cities. Shout out to Andrew Zachy from Zachy’s Wine & Liquor for doing a top-notch job setting up the wines.


The next day the team flew to the west coast for our third city: Beverly Hills. The ballroom at the Montage Hotel, located near the city’s famous Rodeo Drive, saw the same diverse, excited consumers and trade that we saw in Miami and New York. Countless winemakers and producers poured for this wide-ranging group, whose questions ranged from oak treatment to basic geography. Truly there was something for everybody in all four cities. As the night went on, the crowd (700 strong!) got younger, and by the end of the tasting, wineries were out of pours.

That night the team hopped on a giant tour bus and drove north to sunny San Francisco, where we arrived on Saturday around 6 a.m. After a short breakfast, we pulled into the Presidio Golden Gate Club and started setting up for the final leg of our tour. Though the previous three cities saw good numbers lining up before doors opened, San Francisco had a line that wrapped around the building. It was sign of the crowd to come, as nearly 800 people flowed through the three rooms filled with Italy’s best wines. With glittering views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay, the event was a fitting end to a series that will go down as one of the most exciting in history.

Participating wineries include Poderi Aldo Conterno, Allegrini, Altesino, Amantis, Tenute Ambrogio & Giovanni Folonari, Andretta, Vitanza, Tenuta di Arceno, Argiano, Castello Banfi, Barberani, Bellaria, Bellavista, Bersano, Bibi Graetz, Boscarelli, Bosco Agostino, Brancaia, Bruno Giacosa ,Ca’ del Bosco, Ca’ Romé di Romano Marengo, Ca´Rugate, Cafaggio,, Caiarossa, Camigliano, Cantalici, Caparzo, Capezzana, Caprili, Casale del Giglio, Casanova di Neri, Cascina Bruni, Castelli del Grevepesa, Castello di Bossi, Castello di Gabbiano, Castello di Meleto, Castello di Monsanto, Castello Romitorio, Castiglion del Bosco, Ceralti, Tenute del Cerro – La Poderina, Chioccioli Altadonna, Ciacci Piccolomini D’Aragona, Collazzi, Colle Bereto, Collemassari, Grattamacco, Collosorbo, Conti Zecca, Cordero di Montezemolo, Cusumano, Di Giovanna, Donnachiara, Donnafugata, Elio Grasso, Eredi Fuligni, Fabrizio Dionisio, Falesco, Fantinel, Fattoria di Magliano, Fattoria Le Pupille, Feudo Maccari, Tenuta di Fiorano, Fontanafredda, Fonzone, Fossa Mala, Franz Haas, Frescobaldi, Tenuta Friggiali, Pietranera, Gagliole, Gianni Gagliardo, Giovanni Manzone, Giovanni Sordo, Il Borro, Il Bosco di Grazia, Il Molino di Grace, Il Pollenza, Jermann, La Lecciaia, La Magia, La Massa, La Rasina, La Valentina, Lamole di Lamole, Le Filigare, Lis Neris, Livio Sassetti, Loredan Gasparini, Luce della Vite, Marchesi Antinori, Marchesi di Barolo, Masi, Máté, Mauro Molino, Mazzei, Monte Antico, Monteverro, Nals Margreid, Negretti, Orma, Ornellaia, Paolo Conterno, Parusso, Petra, Petrolo, Piazzano, Pieropan, Pietro Carciogna, Pio Cesare, Pitars, Podernuovo a Palazzone, Poggio al Tesoro, Poggio Antico, Poggio Argentiera, Poggio la Noce, Prà, Principe Corsini, Prunotto, Querciabella, Renato Ratti, Renieri, Roberto Voerzio, Rocche dei Manzoni, Ronco Blanchis, San Fabiano Calcinaia, San Felice, San Filippo, San Polino, Schiopetto, Tenuta di Sesta, Tenuta Sette Ponti, Silvio Nardi, Siro Pacenti, Tassi, Tenimenti d’Alessandro, Tolaini, Tommasi, Tony Sasa, Tormaresca, Tornatore, Cantina Tramin, Tua Rita, Uccelliera, Umani Ronchi, Valdicava, Vecchie Terre di Montefili, Vie di Romans, Vignamaggio, Villa Trasqua, Vinosia, Vitalonga, Vite Colte, Viticcio, Zisola, Zonin – Castello di Abola.


30 • 11 • 2016
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. “Of course, the 2012s are not the same quality as the 2010s, but they are very, very beautiful wines,” added Vincenzo Abbruzzese, the owner of Valdicava. “The really great vintage is still to come, 2013 or 2015.” —James Suckling, CEO/Editor

10 • 11 • 2016
James Suckling

I tasted more than 3,000 Italian wines this year. No easy task for sure, but it helps that the country continues to produce some of the most evocative wines in the world. This year’s list is a reflection of superb Italian wines that not only offer unique and inspiring drinking experiences but also many offer great value relative to their prices. This is more apparent near the end of the list, where you’ll find exciting wines from places such as Campania and Friuli that are bargains. There’s a number of Amarones on the list as well. All of these wines — whatever they cost — represent a unique character that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in the world.


For our Italian Wine of the Year, I couldn’t help but pick the Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia Riserva 2008. It’s a wine that pushes the limits of a perfect score, combining incredible pedigree with a kind of character that moves you each time you take a sip. The wine is made from ancient vines that are almost a century old and is a selection of the best grapes from their best single vineyards in Bussia (70% Romirasco, 15% Cicala and 15% Colonnello). It’s fermented and aged in a single large cask and then carefully bottled to make about 3,000 bottles. It’s this dedication to historical vineyards and classical winemaking that makes this unique Barolo so terrific. I only wish more bottles were produced, so that all of you could try it. But for Italy, this wine will be a benchmark for years to come.

The No. 2 wine of my list is a testament to the modern renaissance in winemaking in Italy, particularly Tuscany. The Renieri Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 is a truly great wine from a truly great vintage in Montalcino, made in an ultra-fine and precise style. No. 3, the Gaja Barbaresco Sorì San Lorenzo 2013, is an emotional wine for me, as it represents a perfect nebbiolo and also the return of the Gaja family to using the Barbaresco appellation. No. 4 and No. 5 are two perfect Brunellos from unique single vineyards on the slopes of Montalcino: respectively, San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucére Riserva 2010 and Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso Santa Caterina d’Oro Riserva 2010.


I picked another wine from Tuscany for the No. 6 spot: Orma Toscana 2013. The Bordeaux blend is an incredible wine with all the intensity and power of a top red from Bolgheri, home to the likes of Sassicaia and Masseto. How much does it cost? About $60 a bottle! At No. 7, Duemani Cabernet Franc Costa della Toscana 2013, a pure cabernet franc (biodynamically grown grapes) from the Tuscan coast attests to deft viticulture and winemaking. Rounding out the top 10 were a series of benchmark Brunellos from Valdicava, Eredi Fuligni and Casanova di Neri.


This wasn’t an easy list to make. I tried to pick wines with a global market, even if only a few bottles are available in various markets like the No. 1 Aldo Conterno Barolo Granbussia Riserva 2008. After all, readers of span the globe—from the United States to Europe to Hong Kong. I want people to try these wines, for retail stores to stock them, and for restaurants to serve them.


I encountered so many great wines full of heart and soul. That’s the thing about Italian wines. It’s hard not to feel and sense the great history and culture that’s distilled into these bottles. Whether red or white, they are as utterly satisfying to drink and pair with a bowl of freshly cooked pasta as they are with fried rice and kimchi. Italian wines are pure wines, and in their deep drinkability, they are all the more special.

20 • 10 • 2015
James Suckling

It should come as no surprise that this year's report on my Top 100 Italian wines from my tastings of close to 3,000 bottles focuses primarily on 2010 Brunello di Montalcino. Anyone who reads these pages - and just about anywhere else on wine - knows the 2010 was the greatest vintage ever for the famous red of Tuscany. And it's why I chose the Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino 2010 as my Italian Wine of Year. It is the epitome of this unique vintage and shows unrivalled aromatic complexity, richness, structure, and freshness for a Brunello 2010. It's a perfect wine.However, I only included Brunello 2010s that I rated 96 points or more in my list of my Top 100 Italian Wines in 2015. That still accounted for 32 of the 100. And there are plenty of other super exciting wines from perfect Bordeaux blends from the coast of Tuscany such as the 2012 Fattoria Le Pupille Toscana Saffredi (No.2 and 100 points) to a vibrant yet subtle 2011 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva (No.8 and 99 points).

The second largest group of wines in my Top 100 is Barolo. Almost all are 2011s. The vintage is excellent producing fruit-forward, friendly wines that have a brightness and tannin backbone that is so appealing. They remind me of the superb 1998s, which are drinking beautifully now. Don't miss the Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino 2008 (99 points) that was recently released. It is a magical wine with so much depth and intensity. I also included two very late releases - both 2005s - that are fun to taste and absolutely delicious now - Roberto Voerzio Fossati Case Nere Riserva 10 (97 points) and Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 10 Anni (96 points).A dozen super Tuscans are the next largest group of wines in the list. Almost all of them have been in past Top 100s for Italian wines including Masseto 2012 (99 points) and Solaia 2012 (97 points). The Mazzei Toscana Siepi 2012 (98 points) is the best ever of this merlot and sangiovese blend.There are plenty of cool wines from the south on the list from Etna to Terre Siciliane Il Frappato (one of my favorite summertime reds) as well as a stunning single vineyard Taurasi from Quintodecimo - 2010 Vigna Quintodecimo Riserva (97 points).I tried to include some of my favorite whites this year. My top one was the Livio Felluga Rosazzo 100, a new blend of friulano, pinot bianco, sauvignon blanc and malvasia istriana. Only 400 magnums were made. It's stunning (98 points). The Cantina Terlano Alto Adige Terlaner I Grande Cuvée 2012 is almost at the same level of quality (97 points) and a fantastic blend of pinot bianco with chardonnay and sauvignon. This is only the second release of this great white.I didn't want people to miss on how Italy is now making some outrageously good quality sparkling wines. So I included three sparklers. They are all from Franciacorta: Bellavista Vittorio Moretti Riserva Extra Brut 2008 (95 points), Ca' del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clementi Riserva 2006 (96 points) and Bellavista Rosé 2010 (95 points).

I hope you enjoy my list of my Top 100 Italian Wines in 2015. The list is, of course, very personal and I couldn't include all the outstanding wines tasted this year. In any case, I would love to drink every wine I selected for the list this year. So rest assured they are really great bottles.

Photos from top to bottom:Montevetrano Colli di Salerno 2013; Wines from Foradori; Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 10 Anni 2005 and Cantina Terlano Alto Adige Terlaner I Grande Cuvée 2012.

1. Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino 2010

2. Fattoria Le Pupille Toscana Saffredi 2012

3. Luce della Vite Brunello di Montalcino 2010

4. Duemani Cabernet Franc Costa della Toscana 2012

5. Tua Rita Toscana Redigaffi 2013

6. Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Pianrosso 2010

7. Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino 2010

8. Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2011

9. Marchesi de' Frescobaldi Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2010

10. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino 2008

11. Masseto Toscana 2012

12. San Polino Brunello di Montalcino Helichrysum 2010

13. Roberto Voerzio Barolo Rocche dell' Annunziata 2011

14. Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino Ragnaie V.V. 2010

15. Elio Altare Barolo Unoperuno 2011

16. Giodo Brunello di Montalcino 2010

17. Livio Felluga Rosazzo 100 2013

18. Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova 2010

19. Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Vigneto La Casuccia Gran Selezione 2011

20. Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino 2010

21. Petrolo Toscana Galatrona 2013

22. San Polino Brunello di Montalcino 2010

23. Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino Zodiac Monkey Limited Edition 2010

24. Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2011

25. Roberto Voerzio Barbera d'Alba Barbera d'Alba Pozzoannunziata 2011

26. Eredi Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 2010

27. Mazzei Toscana Siepi 2012

28. Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2010

29. Renato Corino Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata 2011

30. Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino 2010

31. La Spinetta Barolo Campè 2011

32. Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino 2010

33. Castello di Ama Toscana L'Apparita 2011

34. Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino Manachiara 2010

35. Le Macchiole Bolgheri Paleo 2012

36. Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino Filo di Seta 2010

37. Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore L'Alberello 2012

38. San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino Le Lucere 2010

39. Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato 2011

40. Villa I Cipressi Brunello di Montalcino Zebras 2010

41. Cordella Brunello di Montalcino 2010

42. Ornellaia Toscana Bianco 2013

43. Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino 2010

44. Ca' Romé di Romano Marengo Barolo Cerretta 2011

45. Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Poggio alle Mura 2010

46. Roberto Voerzio Barolo Fossati Case Nere Riserva 10 Anni 2005

47. Assunto Brunello di Montalcino 2010

48. Cantina Terlano Alto Adige Terllaner I Grande Cuvée 2012

49. Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino 2010

50. Riecine Toscana 2011

51. San Filippo Brunello di Montalcino 2010

52. Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore 2012

53. Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino 2010

54. Marchesi Antinori Toscana Solaia 2012

55. Baccinetti Brunello di Montalcino Saporoia 2010

56. Elio Altare Barolo Ceretta 2011

57. La Serena Brunello di Montalcino 2010

58. Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli 2010

59. Paolo Conterno Barolo Riva del Bric 2011

60. Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto 2010

61. Citille di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Poggio Ronconi 2010

62. Castello di Ama Chianti Classico San Lorenzo Gran Selezione 2011

63. Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2011

64. Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 10 Anni 2005

65. Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille 2010

66. Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2011

67. Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falleto 2011

68. Vietti Barolo Brunate 2011

69. Giacomo Grimaldi Barolo Sotto Castello di Novello 2011

70. Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella Monte Lodoletta 2010

71. Castello dei Rampolla Toscana d'Alceo 2011

72. Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio Gran Selezione 2012

73. Pio Cesare Barbaresco Il Bricco 2011

74. Ceretto Barolo Brunate 2011

75. Marchesi Antinori Bolgheri Superiore Guado al Tasso 2012

76. Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 2011

77. Andrea Oberto Barolo Brunate 2011

78. Roberto Voerzio Barolo Brunate 2011

79. Quintodecimo Taurasi Vigna Quintodecimo Riserva 2010

80. Marchesi Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2012

81. Foradori Manzoni Bianco Vigneti delle Dolomiti Fontanasanta 2013

82. Montevetrano Colli di Salerno 2013

83. Sette Ponti Toscana Oreno 2013

84. Jermann Venezia-Giulia Where Dreams Have No End 2013

85. Bellavista Franciacorta Vittorio Moretti Riserva Extra Brut 2008

86. Occhipinti Terre Siciliane Il Frappato 2013

87. Girolamo Russo Etna Rosso San Lorenzo 2013

88. Bibi Graetz Toscana Colore 2010

89. Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Annamaria Clementi Riserva 2006

90. Castello di Querceto Colli della Toscana Centrale Romatic 2009

91. Vie di Romans Chardonnay Friuli Isonzo 2013

92. Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso Guardiola 2013

93. Bellavista Franciacorta Rosé 2010

94. Le Macchiole Bolgheri Messorio 2012

95. Sette Ponti Toscana Crognolo 2013

96. Foradori Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti Granato 2011

97. Graci Etna Arcurìa 2013

98. Argiolas Isola dei Nuraghi Turriga 2011

99. Elena Walch Alto Adige Beyond the Clouds 2013

100. Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri-Sassicaia Sassicaia 2012