Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille 2018


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“The 2018 Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille keeps me coming back to the glass again and again to take in its spicy yet also wonderfully lifted bouquet, as shavings of cedar and pine evolve to reveal mentholated herbs, flinty stone and dried black cherries. This is deeply textural, soothing with its combination of ripe red fruits and juicy acidity, as sweet spices and mint nuances resonate toward the close. The Sugarille doesn’t miss a beat, tapering off with impeccable balance and regal structure, while allowing remnants of ripe wild berries and plum to linger on and on. The Gaja family has really outdone themselves in this idiosyncratic vintage. Drinking window: 2025-2035. 95 points

Gaja’s Pieve Santa Restituta is located in the west-central region of Tavernelle, close to well-known neighbors Soldera and Caprili. It’s here, in 1994, that Gaja planted stakes in Montalcino. Through their two estate wines, the Rennina and Sugarille, Gaja proved that their magic touch expands beyond just Nebbiolo. In 2017, the family decided to skip the vintage, believing the quality wasn’t high enough to warrant anything beyond the base Brunello, which isn’t exported. However, in 2018, both wines are back on track, with Giovanni Gaja explaining, “It was a challenging vintage, but we are happy about Rennina and Sugarille.” Both wines found a lovely balance within the context of the year. Gaja explained, “It was a fresh vintage due to the cold spring weather and the abundance of water in late July, which slowed down the ripening of the grapes.” Rain in mid-September was also challenging, leading to an earlier harvest. However, these are two beautifully sculpted wines from this idiosyncratic vintage. Looking to the future, it should be no surprise that Gaja is working hard to ensure they can deal with climate change. The “New Normal” of hot and excessively dry vintages in Montalcino has inspired a change in the management of their current vineyards by increasing organic matter in the soils, delaying pruning, planting rows north to south and careful canopy management. In addition, the family is investing in some of the region’s highest elevations. In 2017 Gaja purchased five hectares in the southwestern area of Bolsignano at 400 meters, and in 2020 added another five hectares closer to the town of Montalcino at 630 meters, making it the highest-elevation Brunello vineyard to date in the region. Giovanni Gaja stated that when discussing climate change and the future, “…having vineyards in four different areas at various altitudes in Montalcino can be a valuable advantage.””

Eric Guido, Vinous (12/22)