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Wine Lady: the 3 ladies of Italian wine in the USA

Wine Lady: a title for Monica Larner, Karin O’Keefe, and Alison Napjus, tasters of Italian wines for Robert Parker-Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator



By Donatella Cinelli Colombini

If the American wine market is not entirely dominated by women, but we are nearly there. Let me introduce you to 3 different Wine Lady, the women who taste Italian wines for the main USA wine magazines. They are great experts, young, intelligent, open and hard workers as they work without rest.  Monica Larner, Kerin O’Keefe, Alison Napjus are the ones who give the ratings to the Italian wines for the most influential magazines on the American market Robert Parker-Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and  Wine Spectator. Their ratings open the doors to Canadian monopolies and get wines into the wine lists of the most exclusive restaurants; they also help wineries in starting rapports with new importers. In other words they help in launching towards success.

Let’s get to know these three wine women better




Monica Larner is from California but lives in Rome. She comes from a family where wine and cinema cohabit and it was during filming of the TV series “World War II” that she arrived in Italy in 1983. Her life continued between the family winery in the Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara (California) and journalism that she studied in the universities of Boston and New York. In her professional life there are some experiences with daily newspapers such as La Repubblica and The Herald Tribune, the AIS sommelier course, many books on Italy and an immense photo archive of about 50.000 images. Read more…

Brunello 2012, five stars, a dream of a wine

Great vintage for Brunello and for Casato Prime Donne where the vineyards give their best when the weather is really hot



The Casato Prime Donne winery belonged to Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s ancestors already at the end of the 16th century when they were paying taxes for the cultivation of the land. It was used as a hunting lodge and for honeymoons, and for 4 centuries it has never been sold but has been passed down from one generation to another.

Since 1998 it is the first Italian winery to be staffed only by women: the cellar staff, the sales staff and the reception staff all are girls. The Casato Prime Donne wines are exported into 34 nations around the world and receive excellent ratings from wine critics all over the world.



This Brunello comes from 16 hectares of vineyard – pruning, cleaning, tying green harvest and harvest – all done by a team of 8 expert grape growers. Casato Prime Donne is on the northern slope of Montalcino, the cooler area that has had the most benefits from the  surrounding the winery where only Sangiovese is grown. The vines are reared, pruned tied harvested all manually by a team of 8 expert grape growers. Casato Prime Donne is on the northern slope of Montalcino the cooler area that has had most benefits thanks to the global warming and particularly in the hot dry vintages such as 2012, is where absolute excellence is created. In the Brunello territory the 2012 vintage is considered a top year with 5 stars. 

Type: dry red.

Production area: Tuscany, Montalcino, Casato Prime Donne Read more…

The “after Parker” in Australia, and among wine critics

There are those who celebrate wine after Parker with great joy, and then there are those who continue being influenced by the great Robert, but today all ratings are worth less than before

By Donatella Cinelli Colombini



After Parker the  “The Drinks Business” portal, always very attentive to what is happening in the wine and beer worlds , published an interview given to Master of Wine Chris Hancock (Robert Oatley Vineyards in  New South Wales in Australia) . He is known as Mr Chardonnay because he spread this variety down under at the beginning of ht 1980’s. This article stimulates some thought.

The sentence that hit me was << We have just about lost all of the jammy, alcoholic, heavy, dead skin Shirazes that are Parker pleasing palate killers, which is an hallelujah moment. Instead, we’re moving towards lighter, brighter more interesting wines from quality producers>>

Robert Oatley Vineyards

Robert Oatley Vineyards

So in Australia too there is a change in direction, and after affirming itself with big monumental wines characterized by exaggerated amounts of pulp, wood and alcohol, and in so giving the impression that these out to be chewed rather than drunk, they are  now looking for an identity through a careful attention to the vines. Read more…

Rosso di Montalcino 2015: will it be a repetition of the 2010 vintage?

Rosso di Montalcino 2015

Rosso di Montalcino 2015

Well deserved 5 stars for this 2015 harvest. The Rosso di Montalcino from Casato Prime Donne fills us with enthusiasm.

Everybody is asking if the 2015 vintage will be a repetition of the 2010. You will be the first to give your opinion to this Rosso di Montalcino, while waiting for the Brunello that is still resting in the barrels.

In 2015 the ripening of the Sangiovese grapes was slow and perfect thanks to the position of the vineyards being on the cooler side of the Montalcino hill. The clusters reached the day of picking sound with a great balance inn  acidity, alcohol and polyphenolic ripening. Fantastic!

The 2015 harvest was a musical one: splendid grapes, sunny weather and in the fields 18 pickers among which many young adults with earphones as if they were joggers. Maybe it was the music that gave them the right charge and rhythm because they were

Vendemmia 2016 - Casato Prime Donne, Montalcino

Vendemmia 2016 – Casato Prime Donne, Montalcino

very rapid, with these red crates moving quickly. The cellar master Barbara Magnani had to ask them often to slow down so as to give the women time to chose the grapes carefully on the sorting tables before sending them into the fermentation vats. A happy harvest, that even when the wine was in the cellar, continued to prove favourable with slower and longer fermentations than usual. The vinification started softly and proceeded for 10 days, very regularly, while, in other vintages the transformation of sugar into alcohol, took place in half the time. Fantastic!


TYPE: dry red.

PRODUCTION AREA: Toscana, Montalcino, Casato Prime Donne.

VINTAGE CHARACTERISTICS: Very rainy winter with a rapid beginning of the vegetative cycle of the vineyards thanks to the humidity in the soil. A torrid month of July slowed the process. Veraison at the end of July. Cool August with a slow and regular ripening of the grapes.

GRAPE TYPE : 100% Sangiovese .

GRAPE HARVEST: From September 18th – 25th. The grapes were handpicked with a careful selection in the vineyard The grapes arrived very quickly into the cellar: from the moment they were picked to the arrival into the fermentation tank no more than 30 minutes passed.

Rosso di Montalcino 2015

Rosso di Montalcino 2015

VINIFICATION: in truncated-cone shaped stainless steel vats with cooling jackets and plunger , that allows the skins to be submerged as was done long ago, without the use of pumps. For the first time the Casato Prime Donne winery experimented with a naked cement truncated-cone shaped vat , just for this Rosso di Montalcino.

BARREL AGEING: 6-12 in 5 an 7 hectoliter oak tonneaux.

QUANTITY PRODUCED: 28,000 bottles.

COLOUR: very intense and brilliant ruby red.

AROMA: the fragrant notes connected to the grapes recall ripe small red berries and spices that come from the barrel oak.

TASTE: fine, full, soft, pleasantly harmonious in its equilibrium between tannic structure and richness in fruit. Pleasantly long lasting

MATCHING DISHES: very versatile, well matched with tasty first courses that are not very fatty, such as soups, meat, and cheeses.

WAY OF SERVING: serve at room temperature (16-18°C), use tulip shaped crystal wine goblets.

HOME STORAGE: the red wines from Montalcino are all long lasting, but one cannot hope that the Rosso di Montalcino lasts decades like the Brunello. Keep the bottles lying down in a cool (16°C) and dark place and drink within 4 years from the harvest.


Dom Pérignon

Is it right for a wine to have a different testimonial than the producer or wine maker?  Christoph Waltz the actor binds his name to Dom Pérignon P2

By Donatella Cinelli Colombini, Fattoria del Colle, Orcia DOC, Cenerentola

Champagne Dom Pèrignon

Champagne Dom Pèrignon

Generally wine producers associate their face to the wine, in other words they become the first testimonials of the wines they produce.

In some cases the symbiosis man-wine is so perfect such as for the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild with her extraordinary charm like a theatre actress and because she is the descendant of one of the richest and most powerful families in the world. She was the reflection of Château Mouton and of it wines with auteur labels.


I might mention other perfect connections: Angelo Gaja and his Barbaresco both express the same enthusiastic and innovative energy, Franco Biondi Santi and his Brunello with the same auteur elegance and a similar respect for traditions ….. with the passing of time the symbiosis between producer and wine has diminished. Maybe it is because today there are the wine makers and the agronomists, the sales managers and marketing staff who dilute the personality of the creator. In other words men like Bepi Quintarelli who was reflected in his Amarone and in his hand written labels, are more and more rare.

It is not surprising then that a famous Champagne producer has chosen as a testimonial someone other than the wine makers, just like in fashion and for perfumes. The winery I am talking about is Dom Pérignon owned by the luxury colossus, the LVMH group that owns 70 brands among the most prestigious and exclusive in 5 different categories: wines and spirits, clothing and accessories, cosmetics and perfumes, watches and jewels, exclusive stores (Duty Free and Department stores). In this shiny portfolio stand also Moet & Chandon and Dom Pérignon.

So let’s take a better at the Dom Pérignon testimonial. The choice did not fall on a

Christoph Waltz- Testimonial Dom Pèrignon

Christoph Waltz- Testimonial Dom Pèrignon

handsome model and this is already a good thing. He is an Austrian actor called Christoph Waltz , he is sixty, has received two Oscar as best supporting, handsome, elegant, fashionable very self assured. The campaign is called << Meet the ultimate Dom Pérignon P2 Plénitude Deuxiéme>>. Not only photos, but also a 30 second video showing Waltz with eyes shut tasting the  Champagne expressing, with his face the sensations created by the   P2 while the notes of  Beethoven’s  the Choral” (the piece used as European anthem) underlines the intensity of the moment.

The clothes must also be noticed. The actor is wearing a black tuxedo and an embroidered shirt. Elegant and transgressive and, evidently trendy. Photos and video are rigorously in black and white, playing with Waltz’s enthusiastic expressions.

It seems an advert, not very convincing, even though perfectly similar to fashion and make up publicity.

Richard Geoffrey- Wine maker Dom Pèrignon

Richard Geoffrey- Wine maker Dom Pèrignon

Dom Pérignon P2 Plénitude Deuxiéme is a very particular Champagne created by the chef de Cave Richard Geoffrey. It sits at length on the yeast where it evolves towards extraordinary quality levels. After about eight years it is possible to carry out the degorgement with great results. However it is after 12-16 years that the Champagne reaches its second and sublime moment, here P2 reaches perfect harmony. Obviously it is possible to wait some more, up until twenty years with the yeasts but there is no fixed rule and the magical moments for the disgorging must be decided case by case. The 1998 vintage, that is already on sale costs about 330€ per bottle and is a real cult object for Champagne lovers. After these explanations the ecstatic expression by Cristoph Waltz during the tasting of Dom Pérignon P2 seam more understandable even though I feel that they are a bit “theatrical” and not very convincing. I would have preferred a video with Richard Geoffrey who is however less handsome, less famous, and maybe less able to influence the rich and party-loving P2clients

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