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With the wine world discussing the pros and cons of Brunello's 2008 vintage, the biggest surprise of this year's Benvenuto Brunello has been the five star rating awarded to the 2012 vintage, which will make its entrance on the wine stage in 2017. 

Did anybody really expect a full five stars (the top vote) after such an incredibly difficult year? I'm no wine maker or tasting expert, but as the owner of a Tuscan vegetable garden I truly suffered my way through 2012's incredibly dry winter, spring and summer - in the company of my desperate looking greens and tomatoes. Luckily, vines react very differently to water shortage than your average vegetable or fruit, but still - five stars seem a lot. 

Journalists' tasting of the 2008 vintage at the cloister inside Montalcino's museum during Benvenuto Brunello 2013
Ready for tasting
2008 Brunello di Montalcino at Benvenuto Brunello 2013

Our olive grove's extensive root system may be a better comparison to a vineyard's capacity to deal with a drought than my amateur vegetable garden. Mature vines and olive trees can easily deal with prolonged water shortage, but fruit production will be reduced so as to guarantee survival (in the case of the 2012 Brunello, harvest is 14% lower than that of the 2011 vintage). In our case the olive trees were able to withstand last year's heat and lack of water, but some varietals sported tiny and shrivelled olives when we started picking, whilst others weren't affected and produced beautiful mature fruits (olive groves are always made up of more than one variety of olive trees). 

According to Montalcino's vintners association, Sangiovese may be a grape variety especially fit to deal with the ongoing climate change and meteorological hardship. The Brunello disciplinary prohibits vineyard irrigation and the 2012 vintage seems to confirm that this rule doesn't need to be changed; at least as long as Montalcino's wines remain loyal to quality and not quantity.  

However, can we really know what the 2012 vintage will be like in four years time? In case of my tomatoes and olive oil the evaluation is much easier. The tomatoes literally never made it to August (I thoroughly follow the Brunello disciplinary in my gardening approach), whereas our olives were picked in October, immediately pressed and are being consumed all through this year in the form of extra virgin olive oil. I don't need any chemical analysis or expert tasting to understand that the drought has taken its toll. Using our beloved EVOO several times a day makes it plain that the oil has a bitter and astringent quality to it, that is much more pronounced than in any other year (I adore the sharp and spicy taste of Tuscan olive oil, but this is a different matter).  

Our olive oil will have been entirely digested by next October, just in time for the rating of the new harvest, which makes things quite straight-forward. But can you already judge the potential of a wine like Brunello di Montalcino after a mere few months, when it's only at the very beginning of its life cycle? You can, according to Montalcino's vintners association, which every January has wine samples of the previous harvest chemically analysed and tasted by a panel of wine pros. The verdict of the vintage rating is then communicated to the wine world during Benvenuto Brunello. Nevertheless, there's no other way to knowing whether the 2012 Brunello vintage will actually measure up to the five stars it has been awarded... than by patiently waiting for four more years.  

In good company:  Brunello vintage tiles bringing together Cruciani C with
Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli

Whatever your opinion in regard to precocious vintage awards, the Brunello consortium definitely got it right when choosing the brand to design the tile, which symbolizes the 2012 vintage in front of Montalcino's old town hall. The  Cruciani C macrame bracelets have taken the world by storm. Made in Italy, the bracelets stand for a great example of artisan skills combined with innovation and 21st century marketing. Adored by the young, Cruciani C will definitely help in taking Brunello to the next generation. 

An approach, which already worked with my six-year-old daughter, who insisted on wearing the bracelet to school this morning. Which comes as a relieve to me. Should my kids turn into binge drinking Tuscan teenagers one day - I at least already know where to look for the culprit.  

Cruciani C's bracelet for Benvenuto Brunello's
inauguration of the 2012 vintage tile 

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