#OperaWine 2015: The Event and My Wine Tasting Notes for Italy's Northwest

On March 21 I had the opportunity to attend OperaWine 2015, an exclusive wine tasting event that serves as the preamble to the Vinitaly event in Verona, Italy. OperaWine is jointly organized by Wine Spectator and Vinitaly and it aims at showcasing 100 of the greatest Italian wine producers selected by Wine Spectator, thus recognizing excellence in Italian wine.

OperaWine 2015 - Palazzo della Gran Guardia

OperaWine 2015 – Palazzo della Gran Guardia

The event is reserved to media and trade and is much more compact than Vinitaly. OperaWine took place in the beautiful context of Verona’s Palazzo della Gran Guardia and the organization was excellent: registration was straight forward and the booths of the 100 selected producers were laid out in a logical order.

One thing the organizers deserve particular praise for is their decision to encourage selected producers to bring to the event (where appropriate depending on the wine they were showcasing) not the latest released vintage but an older one which would showcase the wine at or near peak conditions. This resulted in some pretty spectacular tastings, as you will see from my tasting notes below and the following posts in my OperaWine series.

Since no event is perfect and even the best organized ones could have a few aspects that could be improved, here are a few minor suggestions I have for the organizers for next year’s edition:

1. It would be real nice if the booklet that gets handed out on registration for taking tasting notes had the names of the showcased producers and wines pre-printed at the top of its pages, one wine per page: this would considerably cut down on time to take notes

2. I found that two and a half hours for a 100 producer event is not much: even a mere half hour more would make a significant difference – please extend it to at least three whole hours

3. It would be nice if there could be a few cheese, fruit and cracker tables here and there, pretty much as in all professional wine tasting events.

OperaWine 2015 - The Layout

OperaWine 2015 – The Layout

Having said that, let’s move on to my tasting notes from the event. I have organized my notes by region, in geographical order from north to south and within each region starting from my top rated wine down. This first installment of my OperaWine series will focus on the north-western part of Italy:

1. Valle d’Aosta

Les Crêtes, VDA Chardonnay “Cuvée Bois” 2012 ($50/€35): this mountain Chardonnay never disappoints those who appreciate an oaky style that is not over the top. This one has an elegant nose of apple, toast, roast hazelnut, butter and vanilla, as well as a silky smooth and tasty mouthfeel with good structure and nicely matching flavors of apple, butter and roast hazelnut. Long finish. Very Good  Very Good

Les Crêtes, VDA Chardonnay Cuvée Bois 2012

Les Crêtes, VDA Chardonnay Cuvée Bois 2012

Maison Anselmet, VDA Chardonnay “Élevé en Fût de Chêne” 2012 ($N/A/€30): another good mountain Chardonnay, although this time just a little too oaky for my taste. Nose of fresh toast, roast hazelnut, honey and pineapple followed by a structured mouthfeel of noticeable sapidity where the oaky notes tend to prevail. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

2. Piemonte

Bruno Giacosa, Barolo “Le Rocche del Falletto” Riserva 2004 ($190/€190): an elegant nose of cherry, wild strawberries, licorice, rosemary, soil and dried roses is the prelude to an inviting, full-bodied sip which is silky smooth and has completely integrated the wine’s alcohol and its fully tamed tannins. Flavors of ripe cherry, wild strawberries, licorice, vanilla and aromatic herbs. Long finish. Spectacular Spectacular

Bruno Giacosa, Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva 2004

Bruno Giacosa, Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva 2004

Massolino, Barolo “Vigna Rionda” Riserva 2000 ($120/€65): a captivating nose of violet, rose, vanilla, tobacco, licorice, soil, cherry and raspberry complements a deliciously smooth mouthfeel with substantial but well integrated alcohol and gentle tannins as well as intriguing flavors of cherry, raspberry, licorice, herbs and soil. Long finish. Spectacular Spectacular 

Massolino, Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva 2000

Massolino, Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva 2000

Ceretto, Barolo “Bricco Rocche” 2006 ($150/€145): a great nose of black cherry, blackberry, soil, roots, forest floor and ground coffee coupled with a structured and smooth mouthfeel with well integrated alcohol and slightly astringent tannins underpinning flavors of black cherry, blackberry, roots and mineral notes. Long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

Ceretto, Barolo Bricco Rocche 2006

Ceretto, Barolo Bricco Rocche 2006

Paolo Scavino, Barolo “Bricco Ambrogio” 2011 ($57/€55): the youngest of the showcased Barolo’s was a surprisingly very good performer already. An enticing nose of dried roses, cherry, raspberry, herbs, rhubarb and cocoa introduces a structured sip which is already coherent with nice acidity, muscular but well controlled tannins and pleasant flavors of ripe cherries, raspberries, chocolate and coffee. Very Good  Very Good

Poderi Aldo Conterno, Barolo Bussia “Romirasco” 2006 ($170/€ 120): a pleasing nose of violet, rose, cherry, ripe strawberries, tobacco and cocoa, as well as a full-bodied sip with slightly astringent tannins and flavors of cherry, dark chocolate and coffee. Long finish. Still needs time to fully evolve. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Cavallotto, Barolo “Bricco Boschis” Riserva 2006 ($60/€49): an elegant nose of dried rose, cherry, licorice, tobacco, soil and forest floor complements a structured and smooth mouthfeel with flavors of cherry, cocoa, coffee and tobacco, and a high alcohol note, just a little too evident. Good Good

Sandrone, Barolo Cannubi “Boschis” 2003 ($120/€85): pretty faint nose of tart cherry, wild berries, licorice and structured, smooth mouthfeel with moderate acidity and supple tannins along with cherry and licorice flavors. Good Good

3. Lombardia

Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta “Cuvée Annamaria Clementi” 2004 ($90/€75): as always this Italian Classic Method sparkling wine sits right there, at the pinnacle of the Italian Classic Method production. It was disgorged in 2012 after spending a whopping 84 months maturing on its lees. The nose is almost aphrodisiac, with a kaleidoscope of intense aromas reminiscent of freshly baked sugar cookies (like old-fashioned Italian canestrelli), ripe golden apple, yellow peach, honey, fresh toast, almonds, face powder and mineral notes. The mouthfeel is just as seductive, with still plenty of fresh acidity and lively sapidity balanced out by its creamy smoothness and intense flavors that impressively replicate its aromatic palette. Spectacular Spectacular 

Ca' del Bosco, Franciacorta Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2004

Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2004

Mamete Prevostini, Sforzato di Valtellina “Albareda” 2011 ($60/€35): a totally wow nose for this raisin mountain Nebbiolo, with an intense bouquet of cherry jam, laurel, aromatic herbs, wet soil and cocoa opens the door to a delicious sip, where the imposing structure and high alcohol are perfectly kept under control, with no hard edges: the mouthfeel is smooth with already silky tannins and enticing flavors of ultra ripe cherries, aromatic herbs and dark chocolate. Outstanding Outstanding

Mamete Prevostini, Sforzato di Valtellina Albareda 2011

Mamete Prevostini, Sforzato di Valtellina Albareda 2011

Nino Negri, Sforzato di Valtellina “5 Stelle Sfursat” 2010 ($75/€50): a wonderful nose of aromatic herbs, spirited cherries, chocolate, vanilla and face powder. The sip is just as exciting with flavors of ripe cherries, black pepper, aromatic herbs and dark chocolate supported by plenty of structure that is however delivered in an elegant fashion, with a smooth mouthfeel, perfectly integrated alcohol and already supple tannins. The 5 Stelle never disappoints. Outstanding Outstanding

5. Liguria

Cantine Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni Vermentino “Etichetta Nera” 2013 ($30/€15): a great, intense nose of mint, aromatic herbs, lime, nectarine and sage introduces a pleasant sip where the wine’s acidity and mineral notes are nicely balanced by its smoothness. Very Good  Very Good

Cantine Lunae Bosoni, CDL Vermentino Etichetta Nera 2013

Cantine Lunae Bosoni, CDL Vermentino Etichetta Nera 2013

Terre Bianche, Rossese di Dolceacqua “Bricco Arcagna” 2010 ($35/€20): this varietal Rossese (a black-berried variety indigenous to Liguria) introduces itself with an intense and pleasing nose of wild strawberries and red currant, red flowers, licorice, herbs and soil followed by a youthful, round and medium-bodied sip dominated by wild berries. Perfect red to grace a Spring night. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Follow FsT on:

0 thoughts on “#OperaWine 2015: The Event and My Wine Tasting Notes for Italy's Northwest

  1. Pingback: #OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Central Italy | Clicks & Corks

  2. Pingback: #OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Central Italy | Flora's Table

  3. Dina

    This must have been a very special event and just to your liking, Stefano. 🙂 I’m definitely not a wine expert, but this looks like serious business and good fun, so many spectacular wines in on seething! Mouthwatering photos as well, cheers! 🙂
    Big hug from the Four of us in Bonn and Cley,

    1. Stefano Post author

      Hi Dina! So nice to hear from you! 🙂 Yes, yes: the event was definitely to my liking – it was quite a collection of outstanding wines, I tell you! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the photos too: they were all taken with the iPhone 6 camera – I have to say that I have been quite impressed by the quality of the images that the iPhone camera can produce. Plenty good for casual snapshots and it saves the bulk of lugging around a compact digital camera.
      A big hug to the four of you!

  4. Pingback: #OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Italy’s Northeast | Clicks & Corks

  5. Pingback: #OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Italy’s Northeast | Flora's Table

  6. Heather @ Sweet Precision

    This really sounds like a fun wine tasting event Stefano! I can’t imagine having to decide from 100 producers in only 2.5 hours! The setup looks quite elegant and well organized, I’m glad you were able to find so many wines that you ranked highly 🙂

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Heather! Yes, it was a spectacular event at a great location. A little more time would have helped, yes 🙂 The vast majority of the wines was spectacular! 🙂

  7. Just Add Attitude

    Hello Stefano, tasting wines at their peak sounds like a most excellent idea. Great to hear the event was so well organised and the Plazzzo looks lovely. I have never been to Verona, I imagine it’s a magical place. 😉

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, B: yes, most of the wines were just perfectly ready to enjoy. And the location/setup were good too. You should make it to Verona one day that you don’t feel like going to Paris 😉 it is a beautiful town with lots of history, great wine and good food! 🙂

  8. Gather and Graze

    What a fabulous event to be able to attend Stefano! I’m surprised though… is it quite a rarity that suppliers will allow you to try their wines at their peak? Surely it could only boost their sales to do so!?

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Margot: it really was a great event. The thing with wine fairs is that more often than not they are aimed at presenting the latest vintage of the exhibitors’ wines to the press and the trade, so generally you don’t get to taste older vintages. It is not always like this: I recall a great event about Ports in which several importers had much older vintages beside the latest releases, but I would say that was an exception. Hope it makes sense. 🙂

  9. Maria Dernikos

    As you know I am no wine expert but I do love reading your descriptions in the hope that one day I will be tasting the same wine as you have written about. Just by going on your description above I would have to choose Sforzato di Valtellina “Albareda” 2011. I also would like to ask you about a post you wrote a while back about corks, and that natural cork was being replaced. I believe it was discussed that the wine producers did not know what the long term effect on the wine these new corks would have. Is any producer still using natural cork? and which would you prefer to see?

    1. Stefano Post author

      Hi Maria, and thank you so much for your insightful comment. I’m pretty sure that you would love the Albareda as much as I did – it is a pretty spectacular wine. Thank you for your question regarding closures: you are totally right and you remembered well. I wrote about an interview of Chateau Margaux’s winemaker who had said they had been experimenting with closures other than cork and they totally bashed silicon but saw potential in screwcaps, but could not speak for their long term effects yet.
      As to the status of the market, I will try to summarize it here. In the Old World cork is still king, at least for red wines, particularly the high end ones. This is because there are unknown effects in the performance of alternative closures during long-term aging and because there is still some extent of stigma attached to screwcaps and silicon closures just look cheap. In the white wine world, however, screwcaps have become much more common and, apart from top of the line whites that still use cork, are getting a larger and larger market share. In the New World alternative closures are even more common except for really high end wines – this is particularly true for Australia where I think screwcaps now dominate the market.
      As for me, I have come to totally accept screwcaps in white wines while I still have some way to go before I can let go of cork in premium red wines… It is probably just a question of time, dear Maria… 😉
      Thank you so much for your kind comment

      1. Maria Dernikos

        I really wasn’t expecting such a wonderful and interesting reply! Thank you so much for taking the time. I have taken in everything you say and I am very interested about your views on cork being king. Maybe I am getting a little old but I prefer to see cork, but as you say lets see what happens in time, I will be really interested to see if in say 10/20 years the tide turns again and cork does make a difference to the wine.

        1. Stefano Post author

          Of course, Maria: you brought up a very interesting subject and I felt I owed you an articulate answer 🙂
          In my view, premium red wines meant to age for decades will still use cork closures for a while, while premium white wines, which generally require shorter aging time, have started converting to screwcaps. Lower end wines in my view will soon have mostly alternative closure systems. Among those, screwcaps seem to be those that are most promising.
          We’ll see what happens! 🙂

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Michelle: yes, pouring reds with just the right aging for the variety was a very smart and successful decision. There was some really great stuff there 🙂

    1. Stefano Post author

      Yes, Sabine: it really was a spectacular, very well conceived event. A great idea to showcase great quality Italian wines in peak condition. Thanks for your kind comment 🙂

  10. talkavino

    Damn, that looks like one wonderful event! I believe I get invitations for that, but I’m not in the Italy when necessary 🙁 I love that part, Stefano: “encourage selected producers to bring to the event … not the latest released vintage but an older one which would showcase the wine at or near peak conditions” – sounds totally like my kind of event… Thanks for sharing!

    1. Stefano Post author

      Yes, my friend: you would have loved it: plenty of awesome wines most of which were just perfectly aged. It was a phenomenal event that you would have enjoyed immensely. Maybe next year?… Thanks as always for your kind comment 🙂

  11. Stefano Post author

    Reblogged this on Clicks & Corks and commented:

    Check out on Flora’s Table the first post of my series about the outstanding OperaWine 2015 wine event in Verona, Italy, inclusive of my tasting notes. This post focuses on Italy’s NorthWest.
    Enjoy! 🙂