Category Archives: Red Wines

#OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Central Italy

With some delay, here is part 3 in my series about my tasting experience at the OperaWine 2015 event in Verona last month. On this post we will focus on my tasting notes for the wines from Central Italy. As you will see, lots of winners here.

For my general notes about the event and my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northwestern region, please refer to the first post in this series. For my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northeastern region, go to the second post in this series.

1. Emilia Romagna

Ermete Medici, Gran Concerto Rosso Brut 2011Ermete Medici, “Gran Concerto” Rosso Brut 2011 ($N/A/€12): an extremely interesting Classic Method sparkling Lambrusco Salamino which matured for 30 months on its lees and was disgorged in 2014. The nose is immediately catchy with aromas of wild strawberries, raspberries, violets and fresh toast. The mouthfeel is refreshing and pleasant, smooth with good acidity and sapidity, just slightly astringent tannins and flavors of wild red berries (strawberries and raspberries), yeasty notes and mineral hints. A great choice to surprise your guests at a Spring or Summer party out on the patio. Very Good Very Good

 

Drei Donà, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore “Pruno” Riserva 2010 ($35/€23): a very good single vineyard Sangiovese with an intense nose of black cherry, black currant, violet, licorice and a mineral note preluding to a medium-bodied, smooth mouthfeel with already supple tannins and flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, coffee and licorice. Very enjoyable. Very Good Very Good

2. Toscana

Le Macchiole, Messorio 2004 ($190/€150): an excellent varietal Merlot which shows in my view the potential of this too often undeservedly bashed variety. A great nose reminiscent of violets, black cherry, blackberry, wet soil, Mediterranean brush, aromatic herbs, cocoa and graphite notes precedes a luscious, full-bodied mouthfeel with high ABV, intense sapidity and firm, just slightly astringent tannins together with flavors that precisely follow the aromatic profile. Long finish. Spectacular, perfectly ready now but fit for cellaring for another few years  Spectacular

Le Macchiole, Messorio 2004

Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2005 ($150/€160): wow. Perfectly aged, with ten years of maturation behind it, the Ornellaia 2005 performs and enchants like a Berliner Philharmoniker symphony: captivating aromas of wild berries, licorice, herbs, Mediterranean brush, pinecone and sweet tobacco on the nose leave way to a structured, spellbinding sip whose perfectly contained power and silky smoothness are masterfully counterbalanced by gentle and refined tannins and juicy sapidity supporting delicious flavors of wild black berries, aromatic herbs and licorice lingering in your mouth in a very long finish. Spectacular  Spectacular

Tenuta dell'Ornella, Ornellaia 2005

Felsina, Fontalloro 2011 ($46/€38): a young but already very enjoyable varietal Sangiovese with a delicious nose of plum, black cherry, aromatic herbs, soil, potpourri and a balsamic note. In the mouth it is a big, full-bodied red, with substantial but already fine tannins, good acidity and all-around smoothness accompanying flavors that nicely match the wine’s aromas. It will perform even better after a few years of judicious cellaring. Very Good Very Good

Felsina, Fontalloro 2011

Testamatta, Colore 2005 ($550/€600): I am a bit puzzled by this wine, I have to admit. I mean, by all means it is a good, even very good red blend (it has Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Colorino in pretty much equal parts) but… 600 euros for a 0.75 lt bottle? Seriously? I don’t know, as much as I like it I could think of several different combinations of absolutely outstanding reds (plural) that I could invest those 600 euros into instead of coming back with just one bottle in my hands… But then again, who am I to judge their pricing policies. Anyway, the nose was very pleasant with aromas of black cherry, plum, licorice, tobacco and aromatic herbs and the mouthfeel was equally enticing, full-bodied, big, gently tannic and smooth, with nice correlation between flavors and aromas. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Testamatta, Colore 2005

Carpineto, Cabernet Sauvignon “Farnito” 1997 ($30/€19): This varietal Cab that the producer made available for tasting with the benefit of 18 years of aging and maturing was a real treat. Its intense nose was appealing with aromas of black cherry, plum, green peppers and a minty note. Its mouth lent itself to some interesting considerations, particularly in terms of how age-worthy this wine is: despite 18 years in the barrel first and in bottle later, the wine was still incredibly freshly acidic and still had muscular tannins, all of which suggests that the wine will continue to benefit from additional cellaring: my sense is that in five more years it will be even better than it is today. The wine was moderately smooth and tasty, with flavors that closely followed its aromatic profile and a medium finish. Great value for money. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Carpineto, Cabernet Sauvignon Farnito 1997

3. Marche

Umani Ronchi, Cumaro 2007 ($40/€20): a very good varietal Montepulciano with an appealing nose of red berries, tart cherries, aromatic herbs, leather, cocoa and licorice followed by a full-bodied sip that is smooth and gently tannic and provides flavors of raspberries, wild strawberries, dark chocolate and aromatic herbs. Very Good and appropriately aged Very Good

Umani Ronchi, Cumaro 2007

4. Umbria

Lungarotti, Rubesco Torgiano “Vigna Monticchio” Riserva 2005 ($45/€28): a delicious single vineyard Sangiovese/Canaiolo blend with a great nose of cherry, red flowers, sweet tobacco, chocolate, aromatic herbs, mushrooms and a mineral note of graphite. Its mouthfeel is perfectly round and smooth, with silky tannins and flavors of cherries and chocolate. Perfectly aged to its full maturity. Outstanding Outstanding

Tabarrini, Sagrantino di Montefalco “Colle Grimaldesco” 2009 ($50/€32): Tabarrini is a producer who has succeeded in showing the different terroir of their vineyards in their single vineyard wines. This one has a captivating, intense nose of black cherry, licorice, dried roses, aromatic herbs and a mineral note. In the mouth it is big, full-bodied, with high alcohol and muscular but gentle tannins; it is smooth and tasty, with flavors of spirited black cherries, licorice and rosemary notes. Very Good Very Good

Caprai, Sagrantino di Montefalco “25 Anni” 2010 ($80/€55): in my view 2010 is still way too young a vintage to adequately showcase the qualities of this great Sagrantino and unfortunately it ends up penalizing its performance a bit. The nose was pretty closed and shy, with notes of ripe plums, violets and quinine as well as a toasty note; in the mouth it is big, with abundant structure and alcohol but still a bit edgy, with muscular and astringent tannins and flavors matching its aromatic profile. It needs more time resting and maturing in the cellar, until it develops into the great, coherent wine that we all know and have repeatedly enjoyed. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

5. Lazio

Falesco, Montiano 2007 ($40/€30): Falesco is one of the producers who have been at the forefront of Lazio’s wine renaissance, thanks also to the ability of owner-winemaker Renzo Cotarella, one of the best in Italy. Their Montiano is an outstanding varietal Merlot with an intense, elegant nose of roses, black cherry, black currant, aromatic herbs, licorice, cocoa and black pepper. In the mouth it is structured and silky smooth, with supple tannins and matching flavors of black cherry, black currant and licorice that linger in your mouth in the wine‘s long finish. In my view, 2007 is at or near its top now. Outstanding and very good value Outstanding

Masciarelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo "Villa Gemma" Riserva 20046. Abruzzo

Masciarelli, Montepupulciano d’Abruzzo “Villa Gemma” Riserva 2004 ($77/€55): a nice nose reminiscent of forest floor, mushrooms, potpourri, black cherry, black currant, tobacco, licorice and a barnyard note goes hand in hand with a great, structured and smooth sip with gentle albeit slightly astringent tannins and flavors of black cherry, licorice, dark chocolate and aromatic herbs. Long finish. Outstanding and perfectly agedOutstanding

#OperaWine 2015: My Wine Tasting Notes for Italy’s Northeast

Here is part 2 in my series about my tasting experience at the OperaWine 2015 event in Verona last month. On this post we will focus on my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northeastern region.

For my general notes about the event and my tasting notes for the wines from Italy’s northwestern region, please refer to the first post in this series.

1. Trentino Alto Adige

Ferrari, Trento “Perlé” Brut 2006 ($34/€30): an outstanding Classic Method Blanc de Blancs from the Trento DOC appellation expressing the delicate aromatic complexity that it developed in the five years that it spent maturing on its lees: fresh toast, roasted hazelnut, apple, white peach, honey and white blossoms. Then a creamy smooth sip that is perfectly supported by fresh acidity and tasty sapidity with matching flavors of apple, toast, roasted hazelnut and mineral notes. Outstanding Outstanding

Ferrari, Trento Perlé Brut 2006

Ferrari, Trento Perlé Brut 2006

Elena Walch, AA “Beyond the Clouds” 2012 ($52/€34): I have said it many times, this producer from Tramin, in the Alto Adige region, is one of my absolute favorites. This time around, I was particularly excited because at the event I got to meet in person the owner herself, Elena Walch. She was there with one of her daughters, Karoline, who is in charge of the foreign markets. But let’s talk about the Beyond the Clouds 2012: this Chardonnay blend really takes you to cloud 9 and beyond. A captivating nose of ripe pear, golden delicious apple, pineapple, white flowers and fresh toast is the prelude to a sip that combines fresh acidity and distinct sapidity with a smooth body of medium structure and flavors of apple, butter, fresh toast and a tingly mineral note. Outstanding Outstanding

Elena and Karoline Walch with their Beyond the Clouds 2012

Elena and Karoline Walch with their Beyond the Clouds 2012

Hofstätter, AA Gewürztraminer “Kolbenhof” 2012 ($44/€21): a wow nose with a broad aromatic palette of passion fruit, lychee, pink grapefruit, face powder, wisteria, white rose and aromatic herbs (sage?) precedes a full-bodied mouthfeel dominated by zippy acidity and marked sapidity, which perfectly counterbalances the wine’s imposing ABV (14.5%!), making it very pleasant to drink and nicely balanced. Long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

Hofstätter, AA Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof 2012

Hofstätter, AA Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof 2012

Foradori, “Granato” 2010 ($60/€45): a very good Teroldego from 60 to 80 year old vines with a flowery and fruity nose of cassis, black cherry, roses, violets and licorice that introduces a silky smooth sip with gentle tannins and flavors of blackberries and aromatic herbs. Very Good Very Good

Cantina Terlano, AA Terlano Pinot Bianco “Vorberg” Riserva 2011 ($30/€19): a pleasant nose of herbs, citrus, tangerine and briny notes nicely complements a balanced mouthfeel that is smooth with moderate acidity but marked sapidity and delivers fruity flavors of citrus and tangerine. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

2. Friuli Venezia Giulia

Jermann, “Vintage Tunina” 2012 ($60/€36): as always, Jermann’s fabulous blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Picolit, Malvasia Istriana and Ribolla Gialla does not disappoint. A wonderfully intense and complex nose of Granny Smith apple, citrus, kumquat, lemon tree blossoms, mineral hints and slight toasty, smoky notes opens the door to a structured and smooth mouthfeel with tasty sapidity and flavors of apple, citrus, toast as well as mineral and briny notes. As an interesting aside, since the 2011 vintage Jermann have converted to the use of screwcaps for their top of the line wine: even in Old World Italy, times are a-changin’… Spectacular  Spectacular

Jermann, Vintage Tunina 2012

Jermann, Vintage Tunina 2012

Russiz Superiore, Collio Bianco “Col Disôre” 2011 ($N/A/€25): this blend of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Friulano and Ribolla Gialla offers an enticing nose of gooseberry, Mirabelle plum, candied citrus, aromatic herbs, vanilla and sugar candy, which is a pleasing introduction to a smooth and tasty full-bodied sip with citrusy and herbal flavors, ending in a long, mineral note. Very Good Very Good

Livio Felluga, Rosazzo “Terre Alte” 2011 ($70/€40): this Friulano/Pinot Bianco/Sauvignon Blanc blend offers a slightly faint nose of apple, pear, apricot, white flowers and face powder as well as a structured mouthfeel with noticeable mineral notes and flavors that match the wine’s aromatic profile. Good Good

3. Veneto

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Costasera” Riserva 2009 ($60/€50): an excellent Amarone with a wonderfully complex nose of black cherry, blackberry, roots, sage, aromatic herbs, cocoa, quinine, wet soil and forest floor that complements a luscious, full-bodied sip with matching flavors. The wine’s acidity and noticeable but supple tannins are counterbalanced by its smoothness and perfectly well integrated alcohol. Long finish. Spectacular Spectacular

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera Riserva 2009

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera Riserva 2009

Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Capitel Monte Olmi” 2004 ($80/€50): an outstanding Amarone with a great nose of cherry, mushrooms, roots, dried roses, herbs, leather, vanilla and soil that combines with a powerful and tasty sip. The substantial alcohol and supple tannins are perfectly integrated into the wine’s structure and delicious flavors of raspberry, strawberry, ripe cherry, chocolate and vanilla. Long finish. Outstanding Outstanding

Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi 2004

Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi 2004

Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006 ($60/€55): a big and bold Amarone with a complex nose of aromatic herbs (thyme?), roots, wet soil, iron, violets, cocoa, tobacco and black currant which is the prelude to a powerful sip exhibiting plenty of structure and high alcohol in the context of a smooth wine with muscular but non-aggressive tannins and flavors of spirited berries, tobacco, dark chocolate, herbs and a mineral note. Long. Very Good Very Good

Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006

Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2006

Tommasi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2002 ($50/€40): a very good Amarone with a nose of tart cherry, violets, cocoa, tobacco, herbs and vanilla as well as a full-bodied, super smooth mouthfeel where the substantial ABV is perfectly well integrated and balanced by the wine’s tasty sapidity. Flavors of tart cherry, licorice, chocolate and a mineral note of graphite. Long finish. Very Good Very Good

Tommasi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2002

Tommasi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2002

Pieropan, Soave Classico “La Rocca” 2012 ($32/€33): a distinctly mineral nose of citrus, nectarine, slate, herbs and briny notes precedes an equally mineral, smooth mouthfeel with flavors of nectarines, citrus and mineral notes. Very Good Very Good

Suavia, Soave Classico “Monte Carbonare” 2012 ($23/€15): a captivating nose of peach, medlar, citrus, lemon zest, gooseberry and mineral notes as well as a freshly acidic and tasty mouthfeel with flavors that closely match the wine’s aromatic profile. Very Good Very Good

Cesari, “Jèma” 2010 ($35/€18): an unusual (and therefore interesting!) varietal Corvina with a nose of red currant, forest floor, moss, soil, coffee and a slight barnyard note serves as an introduction to a smooth and tasty mouthfeel with flavors of red currant, tart cherry, licorice and herbs. Good Good

Nino Franco, Brut “Grave di Stecca” 2008 ($45/€20): a nice, Spring-y Prosecco with a fairly immediate, fruity nose of citrus, peach and white flowers complementing a freshly acidic mouthfeel with fruity flavors reminiscent of pear intertwined with a zippy mineral note. Just one minor observation: perhaps I would have brought a younger vintage? Good Good

#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

Wine Review: Domaine Chante Cigale, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, 2009

Domaine Chante Cigale, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOCOur previous post provided a general overview of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the territory, the appellation and the main winemaking practices, so if you missed that you may want to go back and take a look at that before reading this post, which instead revolves around my review of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine that I really like: Domaine Chante Cigale, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, 2009 ($35).

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Chante Cigale CDP 2009 that I had was a very good to outstanding wine: I was impressed both by its broad and intense bouquet of aromas (tart cherry, black currant, wild berries, violet,  cocoa, wet soil, leather, sweet tobacco, rosemary, vanilla, licorice, black pepper, forest floor and a barnyard note) and by its delicious mouthfeel, which combined fruity and spicy flavors with a smooth, balanced sip. All in all, an extremely pleasant and ready to drink wine which delivers good bang for the buck.

Rating: Very Good and Recommended Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Appellation and the Grapes

For plenty of information about the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation and the “GSM” grape blend, please refer to our previous post about Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Regarding Cinsaut, a grape that is part of the Chante Cigale blend beside the GSM trio, this is a black-berried grape variety originating from southern France, probably from the Languedoc-Roussillon area. Its earliest documented mention dates back to 1600 under its old synonym “Marroquin“; later on (1829) it was referred to as “Sinsâou” and finally by 1888 it took its current name of Cinsaut.

Cinsaut has also been known and cultivated in Italy since the XVII century (both in Sicily under the name “Grecaù” and in Puglia under the name “Ottavianello“) and in Spain under the name “Sinsó“.

Notably, Cinsaut was also used in South Africa to breed the Pinotage variety (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, the latter erroneously referred to as “Hermitage” in South Africa).

Cinsaut finds optimal conditions in southern Frances’s warm and dry soils, where it produces red wines that are generally smooth, fruity and aromatic and it often serves as a blending partner. Cinsaut also makes pleasantly fresh and perfumed rosé wines.

In 2009, total plantings of Cinsaut in France were 20,800 HA, mainly in the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Côte d’Azur districts, as well as in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where it may serve as a minority blending partner in the local red.

The country with the second largest Cinsaut plantings after France is South Africa, with 2,241 HA in 2008.

In Italy, total plantings in 2000 were a mere 288 HA, mostly in the Puglia region (particularly in the Ostuni DOC territory) under the synonym Ottavianello.

Cinsaut is also cultivated in Morocco and Lebanon, as well as in California that in 2008 had just 47 HA.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about this and more grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Producer and the Estate

The history of Domaine Chante Cigale starts in 1874, when the then owner Mr Hyppolite Jourdan named his 28 HA estate “Clos Chante Cigale” (meaning, “vineyard of the singing cricket”). The name of the estate was then changed to the current “Domaine Chante Cigale” in 1936, when its wines earned the AOC appellation.

Currently, the wine is made from a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsaut grapes that grow in 33 HA of vineyards on a soil that is a mix of limestone, sand and pebbles. Grapevine density ranges from 2,500 to 4,500 vines/HA and the average age of the vines is 45 years. Total production is 120,000 bottles per year.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is Domaine Chante Cigale, Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, 2009.

The wine was a whopping 15% ABV and the proportions of the blend were 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvédre and 5% Cinsaut (for more information about those grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive). In the U.S. it retails for about $35.

The grapes underwent a 5-day prefermentative cold maceration phase at 50F/10C, followed by a 28 to 35 day fermentation and maceration phase with punch-downs and pump-overs. The wine then aged for 15 to 18 months 70% in concrete vats and 30% in new oak barrels.

As always, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher. For your own structured wine tastings, consider downloading our FsT Wine Tasting Chart!

In the glass, the wine was ruby red and viscous.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, presenting an impressive kaleidoscope of aromas: tart cherry, black currant, wild berries, violet,  cocoa, wet soil, leather, sweet tobacco, rosemary, vanilla, licorice, black pepper, forest floor and a barnyard note.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, had high ABV, and was smooth; it was still moderately acidic, moderately tannic and tasty. It was full bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of tart cherry, wild berries, dark chocolate, licorice, rosemary and a peppery note. It had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was ready approaching maturity, meaning great to be enjoyed now but suitable to be kept in the cellar for not more than a couple more years.

An Overview of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation and Its Wines

As a prelude to our next post in which we will temporarily leave Italy and review a French Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, in this post we will provide a brief overview of the southern French wine region that goes by the same name, including its history, terroir, permitted grape varieties and winemaking practices.

In General

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an area encompassing 3,200 HA of vineyards that is located in the southern part of the Rhône Valley, in France, between the towns of Orange (to the north) and Avignon (to the south).

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation Map

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation Map – Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Thirteen different grape varieties were originally authorized in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards (now they have been increased to 18), with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (the so-called “GSM“) being the dominating varieties, as well as the traditional core grapes in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend (see below for more information about these grape varieties). Other permitted varieties include Cinsaut, Clairette, Roussanne, Muscardin and Picpoul.

Total production in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation is approximately 14 million bottles per year. Although the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC regulations permit the production of both red and white wines, reds largely dominate (on average, 94% red versus 6% white). About 60% of all Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine is exported, with Switzerland, Belgium and Germany being the main importing countries.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape History

In 1309, distressed by factionalism in Rome, pope Clement V decided to move the papal capital from Rome to southern France and, as a result, the popes took temporary residence in Avignon, France. The so-called “Avignon papacy” period ended in 1377, when pope Gregory XI moved the papal capital back to Rome.

During the Avignon papacy, under pope John XXII, the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape became the summer residence of the popes. Pope John XXII granted the local wine the rank of “Vin du Pape” (meaning, “pope’s wine”), thus opening Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines the doors to the European nobility’s courts.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape: The Village and the Vineyards - Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Chateauneuf-du-Pape: The Village and the Vineyards – Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape later became one of the first French AOC wines, in 1936.

In 1937, the estate owners in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation territory created the famous bottle that is still used nowadays for their wines, with the embossed logo symbolizing a papal tiara placed above the keys of St. Peter with the inscription: “Châteauneuf-du-Pape contrôlé” written in Gothic letters around this emblem.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Terroir

Soil in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape area can be very diverse: generally speaking, the western part is mostly limestone, while sand and clay soil with large stones occur on the plateaus; mixed sand, limestone and red and grey clay dominate in the northern part, while shallow sand and clay soil on a well-drained layer of gravel is typical of the south. The large pebbles that are typical of the area contribute to the quality of the vines and grapes by storing heat during the day and holding water.

The Harvest at Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The Harvest at Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The Main Châteauneuf-du-Pape Permitted Varieties – The “GSM”

1. Grenache (or “Garnacha” or “Cannonau“)

Garnacha is an old variety that has undergone several color mutations (there are a black-berried variety, a grey-berried one and a white-berried one) and whose origins are uncertain: it may be Spanish (most probably from the Aragón region) or it may be Italian (from the island of Sardinia, where it is locally known as “Cannonau“).

The earliest documented mention of Garnacha in Spain dates back to 1513, when it was referred to as “Aragones“, while its first mention under the name “Garnacha” occurred in 1678.

On the other hand, in Italy’s Sardinia island, the earliest mention of Garnacha, under the old local name “Canonat“, was in 1549.

If historical data make both hypotheses plausible in terms of where the variety originated, DNA data seem to indicate a Spanish origin.

Garnacha is also known in France under the local name “Grenache“.

Garnacha Tinta (Garnacha’s black-berried color mutation) is one of the world’s most planted varieties. It is prevalently used in the context of blends, notably in the one typical of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, which is generally referred to as “GSM“, standing for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

In France, where it is known under the name “Grenache Noir“, it is the second most planted variety after Merlot, with a total of 94,240 HA of vineyards in 2009, almost exclusively in southern France and particularly in the southern Rhône district, where it is the prevailing blending partner in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. These tend to be deep-colored, high in ABV and often tannic, with herby and spicy notes.

2. Syrah (or “Shiraz“)

Syrah is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the northern Rhône region of France, where it was first mentioned in a document dating back to 1781 under the name “Sira de l’Hermitage“.

DNA analysis proved that Syrah is a natural cross between Mondeuse Blanche (a Savoie variety) and Dureza (an Ardeche variety) that probably took place in the Rhône-Alps region.

Syrah has historically been mostly grown in the Rhône Valley in France and in Australia under the name Shiraz, although recently its planting has become more widespread as a result of an increasing popularity of its wines.

3. Mourvèdre (or “Monastrell“)

Monastrell is a black-berried grape variety that originates from the Valencia region, in eastern Spain. The name derives from Latin and is a diminutive of the word “monastery”, suggesting that the variety was first cultivated by monks. The earliest documented use of the name Monastrell dates back to 1381 in the Catalunya region of Spain.

Monastrell later made it into France (probably in the XVI century) from the Spanish port-town of Sagunto near Valencia, which in Catalan was known as Morvedre, so in France the grape took the name of Mourvèdre.

Monastrell wines are typically high in alcohol and tannins and may have intense aromas of blackberry. Monastrell/Mourvèdre is widely grown in Spain and in France, and it is also cultivated in the USA (especially in California), Australia and South Africa, where it is sometimes known under the name of “Mataro“, which was the name of a Spanish town on the Mediterranean.

(Information on the grape varieties taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about these and more grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Aging Cellar - Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Aging Cellar – Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Winemaking

Traditionally, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine has been fermented in concrete tanks. Since the 1980’s, however, many winemakers have switched to stainless steel vats, as they are more hygienic, are easier to clean and allow a more precise temperature control. Recently there has been a trend to go back to fermenting the grapes in newer, coated versions of the traditional concrete tanks, which have made them more efficient and acceptable by today’s winemaking quality standards.

Since Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are blends, winemakers can choose between two different fermentation techniques. One is known as co-fermentation and calls for mixing all the varieties in the blend within the same tank and fermenting them all together. The other technique instead calls for separate fermentation of the different grape varieties (so as to keep their main characteristics intact) with the resulting wines being later assembled in the final blend.

Alcoholic fermentation of red Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines usually lasts between one and four weeks and is generally followed by malolactic fermentation. The wines are then aged in stainless steel, epoxy or concrete vats and/or in oak barrels for 10 to 18 months. During this period, racking may take place one or more times.

(Main sources: Châteauneuf-du-Pape; Rhône Wines. For more in-depth information about Châteauneuf-du-Pape, refer to this excellent article on the Wine Cellar Insider)

Wine Review: A Special Tasting – Gaja, Barbaresco DOC 1967

Gaja, Barbaresco DOC 1967The wine we are going to review today was certainly quite a treat: last month, my good friend Anatoli (who pens the Talk-A-Vino wine blog) and other friends came over for dinner and I decided time was right to open a bottle that had been sitting around for a while: Gaja, Barbaresco DOC 1967.

This post tells the story of that experience. For a different take on it (plus other wines we had that night), check out Anatoli’s post on his blog.

But let’s get to it.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Gaja’s 1967 Barbaresco was a spectacular treat to taste after 48 years of aging: a true testament to the longevity and age-worthiness of a wonderful, albeit difficult, grape variety such as Nebbiolo. Even after so many years spent in the bottle, the wine was still an outstanding performer and still retained much of its fruity aromas and flavors and enough acidity to keep it alive and kicking. It was wonderfully evolved, with a complex aromatic profile (ripe cherry, dried roses, sweet tobacco, cigar box, cocoa, soil, forest floor and mineral hints), great flavors and sapidity and a long, lingering finish: an amazing experience.

Rating: Outstanding  Outstanding – $$$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

Nebbiolo is without a doubt Piemonte’s most world-famous black-berried grape variety. Researchers have recently been able to trace back the origins of (or at least the first documented reference to) Nebbiolo to 1266, at which time the grape was called Nibiol. This makes Nebbiolo one of the oldest grape varieties in Piemonte. While Nebbiolo is definitely an Italian indigenous variety, doubts still remain as to whether it originated from Piemonte or Valtellina (a mountainous district in the neighboring region of Lombardia, where Nebbiolo is still grown nowadays and locally known as Chiavennasca – pronounced “key-a-vennasca“).

The name Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word “nebbia” (fog) – some say because of the fog that in late Fall generally enshrines Piemonte’s hills where Nebbiolo is grown. Nowadays, three main different Nebbiolo clones have been identified: (i) Nebbiolo Lampia; (ii) Nebbiolo Michet; and (iii) Nebbiolo Rosé. Interestingly enough, however, DNA profiling has shown that, while Lampia and Michet have identical DNA profiles, Rosé does not share the same profile, which has recently led to consider Nebbiolo Rosé a different grape variety altogether rather than a clone of Nebbiolo.

Nebbiolo is a late-ripening, very finicky variety in terms of the terroir it requires to produce quality wine, which means that Nebbiolo successfully grows only in very few places on the face of the earth – Piemonte and Valtellina sure being two of them, along with certain of California’s AVA’s.

Nebbiolo grapes generally have robust tannins and high acidity, which make it a variety that is very suitable for long-term aging.

In Italy, Nebbiolo’s best expressions occur in the northern regions of Piemonte and Lombardia.

More specifically, in Piemonte these include outstanding varietal wines such as those produced in the well-known Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG appellations (which encompass different territories adjacent to the town of Cuneo) as well as non-varietal wines in the lesser known but also solid appellations Gattinara DOCG, (which requires for its wines 90% or more Nebbiolo grapes), Ghemme DOCG (which requires for its wines 85% or more Nebbiolo grapes) and Boca DOC (which requires for its wines 70% to 90% Nebbiolo grapes), which all encompass different areas adjacent to the town of Novara, where Nebbiolo is locally known as “Spanna“.

In Lombardia, outstanding varietal Nebbiolo wines can be found in the Valtellina Superiore DOCG and Sforzato della Valtellina DOCG appellations in Lombardia’s mountainous Valtellina district (where Nebbiolo is locally known as “Chiavennasca“).

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 – for more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Appellation

Piemonte’s Barbaresco appellation was created as a DOC in 1966 (just one year before the vintage of the Gaja bottle that we are reviewing) and was promoted to DOCG status in 1980.

The Barbaresco appellation is reserved to red wines made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes grown in the territory adjacent to the towns of Barbaresco, Neive, Treiso and the village of San Rocco Senodelvio, all in the Cuneo district.

The Barbaresco DOCG regulations require that Barbaresco base wines be aged for at least 26 months, at least 9 months of which in wooden barrels, whilst Barbaresco Riserva wines be aged for at least 50 months, at least 9 months of which in wooden barrels.

About the Producer and the Estate

Gaja is one of the heavyweights in the high-end segment of Italian wine, so much so that Angelo Gaja (the man that has been running this powerhouse winery since 1961) has been described by the LA Times as “the undisputed King of Barbaresco“.

He is best known for certain of Gaja’s signature labels, most of which revolve around the Nebbiolo variety, from the 100% Nebbiolo “Barbaresco DOCG” (such as the one that we are reviewing) to certain experimental Nebbiolo-Barbera blends that Angelo Gaja created under the looser rules of the “Langhe Nebbiolo DOC” appelation, which for its wines only requires the use of 85% or more of Nebbiolo grapes (unlike the Barbaresco DOCG appellation which requires 100%). These blends include the single-vineyard “Langhe Nebbiolo Sorì Tildin DOC” (95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera), “Langhe Nebbiolo Sorì San Lorenzo DOC” (95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera), “Langhe Nebbiolo Costa Russi DOC” (95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera), and “Langhe Nebbiolo Sperss DOC” (94% Nebbiolo, 6% Barbera). Retail prices for Gaja reds range from about $150 to $400 and more.

The Gaja lineup also comprises a few white wines made from international varieties, such as coveted “Langhe Chardonnay Gaia & Rey DOC” (100% Chardonnay) and “Langhe Sauvignon Alteni di Brassica DOC” (100% Sauvignon Blanc).

The Gaja estate was founded in 1859 by Angelo Gaja’s great-grandfather Giovanni Gaja and has stayed within the Gaja family ever since. Nowadays, it encompasses 92 HA of vineyards in the areas adjacent to the town of Barbaresco in Piemonte’s Cuneo district. Total annual production is about 350,000 bottles.

Our Detailed Review

Those bottles of the wine that we are going to review, Gaja, Barbaresco DOC 1967, that are still available in the US retail for about $300.

Gaja’s 1967 Barbaresco was 13.2% ABV and was made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes.

As usual, for my reviews I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher. For your own structured wine tastings, consider downloading our FsT Wine Tasting Chart!

In the glass, the wine was rusty red and viscous.

On the nose, it was intense, complex and fine with aromas of ripe cherry, dried roses, sweet tobacco, cigar box, cocoa, soil, forest floor and mineral hints.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was moderately acidic, tannic, tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine flavors of spirited tart cherry, rhubarb, and hints of blood orange. It had a long finish and its evolutionary state was mature.

Full Report On Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2015 – Part III (Southern Italy and Islands)

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2015

In this third and last chapter of my report on Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event, you will find my tasting notes for those producers from southern Italy and the two main islands (Sardinia and Sicily) that I enjoyed the most among those that I tasted at the event. It goes without saying that the list below is far from being complete and that there were many more very good wines at the event that are not listed on this post.

For more information about the Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event and my tasting notes for northern Italian producers, please refer to the first chapter of my report, while for my tasting notes for central Italian producers, please refer to the second chapter of my report.

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

1. CAMPANIA

Alois, Trebulanum 2011 ($N/A): an interesting, varietal Casavecchia red wine (a black-berried grape indigenous to Campania) with aromas of ripe cherry, Mediterranean brush, aromatic herbs and coffee, along with a smooth, tasty mouthfeel with supple tannins and flavors revolving around cherry and licorice. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good

Nanni Copè, Sabbie di Sopra il Bosco 2012 (~$55): this is one of my favorite producers and red wines from Campania, a 90% Pallagrello Nero blend – one of Campania’s indigenous varieties. Vintage 2012 confirms the great quality of this wine, with a pleasant bouquet of Mediterranean brush, vanilla, tart cherry, herbs and tobacco and a luscious mouthfeel with flavors of red fruit, cocoa and minerals, along with gentle tannins and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Pietracupa, Fiano di Avellino 2013 (~$25): a good Fiano, with nice aromas of citrus, tangerine, peach and aromatic herbs (thyme?) complemented by a smooth and tasty mouthfeel with moderate acidity and mineral notes. Good to Very Good and good value for money Good to Very Good – $$

2. BASILICATA

Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture “Il Repertorio” 2012 (~$20): a varietal Aglianico with an appealing although slightly muted bouquet of black cherry, cocoa, soil and mineral notes, coupled with a powerful mouthfeel of black cherry, licorice, coffee and rhubarb and muscular tannins. Certainly it is no match for its top of the line, delicious “sibling” known as “Il Sigillo”, but for a $20 Aglianico this delivers lots of bang for the buck. Good and very good value for money Good – $

3. CALABRIA

Librandi, Magno Megonio 2012 (~$22): a 100% Magliocco (a black-berried variety originating from Calabria) red wine from one of Calabria’s best producers, with aromas of cherry jam, Mediterranean brush, soil, barnyard notes and mineral hints, coupled with a pleasant mouthfeel of cherry, licorice and cocoa, good structure and noticeable but gentle tannins. Good and good value for money Good – $$

4. SARDEGNA

Cantina di Santadi, Carignano del Sulcis Superiore “Terre Brune” 2010 (~$57): Italy’s beautiful Sardinia island produces some outstanding wines, and yet most of them almost go unnoticed to the general public, especially outside of Italy. The Terre Brune is a perfect example: it is an elegant wine with a great bouquet of cherry, herbs, Mediterranean brush, juniper and balsamic notes, complementing a lusciously smooth mouthfeel echoing its aromatic palette. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Tenute Sella & Mosca, Alghero Rosso “Marchese di Villamarina” 2009 (~$55): all hail this Sardinian varietal rendition of ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon, offering a bouquet revolving around Mediterranean brush aromas, black cherry, blackcurrant, rose, licorice and cocoa, complementing a smoothly coherent mouthfeel, where its full body does not diminish the wine’s composed elegance and long finish. Spectacular and good value for money Spectacular – $$$

5. SICILIA

Cusumano, Sagana 2012 (~$36): this varietal Nero d’Avola has enticing aromas of black cherry and plum jam, licorice, rose and Mediterranean brush, coupled with a smooth mouthfeel where the substantial ABV is well integrated and balanced with its gentle tannins and refreshing acidity. Very Good Very Good – $$

Cusumano, Moscato dello Zucco 2010 (~$40 – 500 ml bottle): an excellent 100% Moscato Bianco sweet wine, with an appealing bouquet of dried apricot, acacia honey, sage, aromatic herbs and candied tangerine, together with a perfectly balanced mouthfeel where the wine’s acidity and tastiness are just the right counterpoint to its luscious sweetness. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Donnafugata, Passito di Pantelleria “Ben Ryé” 2012 (~$35 – 375 ml bottle): as regular readers may know by now, this is one of my absolute favorite sweet raisin wines and it never disappoints. The newly released 2012 vintage of this varietal Moscato d’Alessandria (AKA Zibibbo) wine is outstanding and captivating as always, with a sensuous bouquet of ripe apricot, honey, sugar candy and raisins, accompanied by a dreamlike matching mouthfeel of interminable length where acidity and sapidity masterfully contrast the addictive sweetness of this memorable wine. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Graci, Etna Rosso “Contrada Arcuria” 2012 ($N/A): along with a handful of other Sicilian quality producers, Graci is a testament to today’s renaissance of Sicilian wines and varieties, especially those indigenous grapes that grow on the volcanic soils of Mount Etna. The “Contrada Arcuria” is one such example: it is a varietal Nerello Mascalese (a Sicilian black-berried grape) from the Etna region that delivers a wow bouquet of red wild berries, licorice, aromatic herbs, Mediterranean brush and leather notes, coupled with a refined mouthfeel matching the wine’s aromatic profile. I would cellar it for a couple of years to fully tame its tannins and let it become entirely coherent. Very Good Very Good

Planeta, Nerello Mascalese “Eruzione 1614” 2012 (~$32): another noteworthy varietal Nerello Mascalese wine with intriguing aromas of sage, herbs, black cherry, cocoa, licorice and mineral notes, as well as a bold mouthfeel with a robust structure, high ABV and noticeable but refined tannins. It will benefit from a couple of years of cellaring before enjoying it. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

Tasca d’Almerita, Contea di Sclafani “Rosso del Conte” 2010 (~$60): a Bordeaux-style red blend based on Nero d’Avola with an appealing bouquet of blackberry, ripe black cherry, Mediterranean brush, dark chocolate and tobacco, along with an enticing mouthfeel of ripe cherry, cola and cocoa, silky tannins, noticeable sapidity and a long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Full Report On Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2015 – Part II (Central Italy)

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2015

In this second chapter of my report on Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event, you will find my tasting notes for those central Italian producers (loosely interpreted, as I am adding Liguria among them…) that I enjoyed the most among those that I tasted at the event. It goes without saying that the list below is far from being complete and that there were many more very good wines at the event that are not listed on this post.

For more information about the Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC event and my tasting notes for northern Italian producers, please refer to the first chapter of my report that was published in the immediately preceding post.

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

1. LIGURIA

Cantine Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni Vermentino “Etichetta Nera” 2013 (~$30): a white wine from Liguria with a pleasant bouquet of tangerine, peach, Mediterranean brush and mineral notes complementing a smooth, matching mouthfeel. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$

Poggio dei Gorleri, Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato “Cycnus” 2013 (~$25): a very good varietal Pigato white wine (which DNA analysis has shown to be the same variety as Vermentino – check out our Grape Variety Archive for more information) with fine aromas of tangerine, freshly mowed grass, rosemary, marjoram and other aromatic herbs, as well as a freshly acidic, mineral mouthfeel revolving around citrus, graphite and other mineral notes. Very Good and a very good value for money Very Good – $$

2. TOSCANA

Castellare di Castellina, I Sodi di San Niccolò 2010 (~$60): an expressive 85/15 Sangiovese/Malvasia Nera red wine with an exciting bouquet of black cherry, violet, Mediterranean brush, forest floor, aromatic herbs and black pepper, and a structured, smooth and tasty mouthfeel reminiscent of black cherry, licorice, coffee, aromatic herbs and mineral notes. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$

Castello del Terriccio, Lupicaia 2010 (~$110): a top of the line Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot with slightly subdued aromas of red berries, rose, rosemary, Mediterranean brush, rhubarb and licorice, along with a full-bodied mouthfeel whose smoothness is well balanced by its sapidity, while its slightly astringent tannins show that the wine still needs time to evolve in bottle for a few years. Long finish. Very Good – with the potential to be Outstanding when fully mature Very Good – $$$$$

Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino, Do Ut Des 2011 (~$40): a pleasant Bordeaux-style “baby Supertuscan” with a bouquet of black cherry, licorice, black pepper, juniper and cocoa, complementing a full-bodied, super tasty mouthfeel trailing its aromatic palette and presenting subtly gentle tannins. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

I Luoghi, Bolgheri Superiore “Campo al Fico” 2010 ($N/A): a typical Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend made in Bolgheri with aromas of wild berries, wet soil, cocoa, underbrush, black pepper and balsamic notes, along with a structured mouthfeel characterized by smoothness and supple tannins. Very Good Very Good

La Lecciaia, Brunello di Montalcino “Vigna Manapetra” 2009 ($N/A): a good Brunello with pleasant aromas of cherry, red fruit candy, herbs, cocoa and tobacco, along with a mouthfeel revealing high ABV and noticeable but well integrated tannins. Very Good Very Good

Mastrojanni, Brunello di Montalcino “Vigna Loreto” 2009 (~$65): a delightfully complex Brunello with aromas of cherry, wild red berries, licorice, dark chocolate, underbrush and mineral notes, along with a structured mouthfeel revealing red fruit, coffee, dark chocolate and rhubarb and underscoring the wine’s smoothness, supple tannins and long finish. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$$

Podere Il Carnasciale, Caberlot 2010 (~$275 – magnum format): year after year, this tiny, high-quality producer never ceases to impress me. Under the gentle and knowledgeable hands of the owner, Bettina Rogosky (a true lady, if you ask me), the mere 2.4 HA of Caberlot vineyards that are currently in production yield 3,000 bottles of Il Caberlot (their grand vin, that is made in magnum format only) and 6,000 bottles of Il Carnasciale (their second vin). Caberlot is a very rare, almost extinct variety (yes, Caberlot is in fact a grape variety that is believed to be a natural crossing between Cabernet Franc and Merlot – see our Grape Variety Archive for more information) that is only cultivated at Podere Il Carnasciale. Back to our tasting of Il Caberlot 2010: it was fabulous, with an intense bouquet of red berries, ash, burnt wood, incense, tobacco and a round, smooth mouthfeel with well integrated tannins and good acidity to ensure a long aging potential which will make this excellent wine mature and evolve even more. Spectacular Spectacular – $$$$$

Podere Orma, Orma 2011 (~$55): a Bordeaux-style blend with 50% Merlot and the rest equally divided between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, presenting a bouquet of cherry, red berries, soil, Mediterranean brush and black pepper, along with a matching, full-bodied mouthfeel, reminiscent of cherry, licorice and coffee where noticeable but well integrated tannins effectively counterbalance the wine’s robust ABV and silky smoothness. Very Good Very Good – $$$

Tenuta Sette Ponti, Crognolo 2012 (~$23): this 90% Sangiovese blend is a consistently solid performer. It had nice aromas of cherry, red berries, black pepper and herbs, complemented by an already pleasant mouthfeel with good acidity and noticeable tannins. It needs to rest for a few years in the bottle to become fully coherent and perform at its best. Good to Very Good and very good value for money for those who can wait Good to Very Good – $$

3. MARCHE

La Monacesca, Verdicchio di Matelica “Mirum” Riserva 2012 (~$30): a solid 100% Verdicchio with elegant, if just a bit subdued, aromas of citrus, passion fruit, Mediterranean brush, aromatic herbs, almond and mineral notes, along with a silky smooth, acidic and definitely mineral mouthfeel where the wine’s high ABV is totally integrated into its structure. Very Good Very Good – $$

Le Caniette, Piceno “Morellone” 2008 (~$26): an interesting Montepulciano/Sangiovese blend from the Marche region, with aromas of tart cherry, licorice, aromatic herbs and ground coffee complementing a powerful mouthfeel trailing the wine’s aromas and underscoring a dark chocolate note, showing plenty of structure and already well integrated tannins. Good to Very Good and good value for money Good to Very Good – $$

4. UMBRIA

Marchesi Antinori, Cervaro della Sala 2012 (~$45): as always, the Cervaro della Sala (a 90/10 Chardonnay/Grechetto blend) is delightful, with mesmerizing aromas of rosemary, Mediterranean brush, laurel, aromatic herbs, nettle, lime and hazelnut, complementing a mouthfeel where smoothness and acidity are in a perfect balance and linger in a long, dreamlike finish. Spectacular Spectacular – $$$

Tabarrini, Sagrantino di Montefalco “Campo alla Cerqua” 2010 (~$55): as always, a great Sagrantino from an excellent producer like Tabarrini, with a wonderful bouquet of plum, tart cherry, licorice, Mediterranean brush, wet soil, cocoa and incense, along with a powerful, muscular mouthfeel where the wine’s high ABV and quite astringent tannins underscore its young age and make it advisable to cellar it for a few years before enjoying it. Very Good Very Good – $$$

5. ABRUZZO

Tenuta Ulisse, Pecorino “Unico” 2014 (~$13): a very good 100% Pecorino (a white-berried variety originating from the Marche region) white wine with exciting aromas of grapefruit, tropical fruit, pineapple, nettle and mint, along with a vibrantly acidic mouthfeel reminiscent of grapefruit, nettle, mint and aromatic herbs. Outstanding and an insanely good value Outstanding – $

Tiberio, Pecorino 2013 (~$23): a quality Pecorino white wine with aromas of medlar, tangerine and face powder that go hand in hand with a very interesting mouthfeel of medlar, citrus and mineral notes on a pleasantly acidic and tasty structure. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

Valle Reale, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Vigna di Capestrano” 2012 (~$28): a solid Trebbiano, with aromas of lemon tree blossoms, citrus, pineapple, incense and aromatic herbs complementing a citrusy mouthfeel with zippy acidity. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$

6. LAZIO

Falesco, Montiano 2012 (~$39): a wonderful 100% Merlot from Lazio with lush aromas of plum, black cherry jam, blackberry, violet and licorice, along with a deliciously smooth mouthfeel of black cherry jam, cocoa, coffee and licorice, with silky tannins and a distinct sapidity. Outstanding and good value for money Outstanding – $$

Full Report On Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri NYC 2015 – Part I (Northern Italy)

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2015

A couple of weeks ago was that time of the year yet again, when I got to participate (along with my good friend Anatoli, AKA Talk-A-Vino) in one of the most eagerly anticipated Italian wine events in New York City reserved to media and trade: Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri 2015 NYC. As you may know, only those Italian wineries that are awarded the coveted “Tre Bicchieri” (i.e., three glasses) top ranking in the Gambero Rosso wine guide are invited to participate in the event.

This year 180 wineries were represented at the Tre Bicchieri event, just the same as last year, presenting some of their best wines to media and trade.

The organization of the event was okay, except the totally unintuitive (at least to me) order of the tasting tables and the lack of an index of the participating wineries that would group them by region. I realize that it is useful to group them by importer (the way the index is currently structured), but there should also be an index by region, so that if one looks for a specific winery and does not know who their importer is, does not get to flip through the entire booklet to find out which table they are at. I seriously hope the organizers will consider improving the event booklet to fix this annoyance.

In order to keep post size manageable, I have broken down my report into three chapters: Northern Italy, Central Italy and Southern Italy (including the islands). In this post you will find my tasting notes for my selection of the northern Italian producers.

As always for this kind of events, I am going to list below those wines that impressed me most among the many great ones that I got to taste, grouped by region. It goes without saying that the list below is far from being complete and that there were many more very good wines at the event that are not listed on this post.

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

1. TRENTINO

Ferrari, Trento Brut “Giulio Ferrari” Riserva del Fondatore 2004 (~$110): a wonderful Italian Classic Method vintage sparkler from the renown Trento DOC appellation. This top of the Ferrari line sparkling wine is a Blanc de Blancs made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and aged on the lees for 10 years(!) Even beside its rich golden hues and superfine perlage, this wine proves to be a true sensory pleasure that first entices you with a fabulous bouquet of fresh pastry, sugar candy, confetti (in the Italian sense of the traditional sugar-coated almond candy that newly weds offer their guests), vanilla, tangerine and white flowers, and then captivates you with its fresh acidity and tasty sapidity that wonderfully counterbalance its silky smoothness and creamy structure. Spectacular Spectacular – $$$$$

2. ALTO ADIGE

Cantina Tramin, Alto Adige Gewürztraminer “Nussbaumer” 2013 (~$32): it lures you in right at the onset with a wow bouquet of tropical fruit, passion fruit, tangerine, citrus, wisteria, face powder and briny notes complementing an equally exquisite mouthfeel that precisely replicates the wine’s aromatic profile and delivers vibrant acidity and sapidity masterfully counterbalanced by a creamy smoothness. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Elena Walch, Alto Adige Merlot “Kastelaz” Riserva 2011 (~$55): I love Elena Walch and her wines, although I have been trying hard to taste her Kermesse for years now only unsuccessfully. My quest goes on… I liked the Merlot Kastelaz that I tasted: it had nice aromas of blackberry, herbs and potpourri as well as a pleasant, round mouthfeel with flavors of blackberries, coffee and cocoa and silky tannins. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$$

Erste+Neue, Alto Adige “Anthos” Bianco Passito 2010 ($N/A): this delicious, golden sweet white wine is a blend of 50% Moscato Giallo and equal parts of Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. Its aromas range from honey to freshly baked pastry to candied peach, ripe pineapple and orange blossoms, while its mouthfeel offers a brisk acidity and distinct sapidity to offset the wine’s sweetness. Very Good Very Good

Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva 2011 (~$30): an excellent Lagrein with a nice bouquet of blueberry, blackberry jam, red flowers, dark chocolate and wet soil coupled with a full-bodied but smooth mouthfeel trailing its aromatic palette and ending in a slightly peppery note. Very Good and good value for money Very Good – $$

St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” 2013 (~$34): a pleasant Northern Italian Sauvignon Blanc with an expressive bouquet of nettle, lime, grapefruit, herbaceous notes, boxwood, a touch of butter and mineral hints, as well as a great, coherent mouthfeel, where its high ABV and gentle smoothness are perfectly balanced by its intense sapidity and zippy acidity. You can read our full review of this wine on a previous post. Very Good Very Good – $$

3. FRIULI

Jermann, W… Dreams… 2012 (~$55): a classic, wonderful Jermann-style Chardonnay, with a bouquet of toasted almond, citrus, peach, freshly toast bread and a slight smokey note, along with a structured mouthfeel where the alcohol is well balanced by the wine’s sapidity. Very Good Very Good – $$$

Lis Neris, Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio “Gris” 2012 (~$40): a wonderful Pinot Grigio that reconciles you with a variety that unfortunately is at the core of so many bland, unexciting wines. This one immediately piques your interest with appealing aromas of tangerine, orange blossoms, citrus, aromatic herbs, gunpowder and minerals, and then totally wins you over with a delicious mouthfeel delivering a burst of minerality and juxtaposing a refreshing acidity with a silky smoothness. Outstanding Outstanding – $$

Volpe Pasini, Colli Orientali del Friuli Sauvignon “Zuc di Volpe” 2013 (~$25): a great Sauvignon Blanc with aromas of boxwood, citrus, sage, lavender, aromatic herbs and mineral notes, complementing a refreshing mouthfeel that matches its aromatic profile and delights with vibrant acidity and sapidity. Outstanding and great value for money Outstanding – $$

4. PIEMONTE

Bel Colle, Barolo Monvigliero 2009 (~$65): a very promising Barolo, which is still in its youth, with fine aromas of cherry, coconut, vanilla and roses along with a full-bodied mouthfeel with quite astringent tannins that will require a few years of cellaring to smooth out. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$$$

Braida, Barbera d’Asti “Bricco dell’Uccellone” 2012 (~$65): an excellent quality Barbera, with a bouquet of black cherry, blackberry, licorice, cocoa and ground coffee, along with a full-bodied structure and robust ABV that is well balanced by well integrated tannins and sapidity. Long finish. Very Good Very Good – $$$$

Damilano, Barolo Brunate 2010 (~$65): a solid Barolo that was a little muted on the nose, with aromas of cherry, rose, forest floor, quinine and mineral notes, complementing a structured mouthfeel with flavors of cherry, extra dark chocolate, black pepper, aromatic herbs and quinine, along with muscular tannins that will need time to mellow and fully integrate, plus a long finish ending in a slightly bitter note. Still very young. Very Good, provided it is given adequate cellaring time Very Good – $$$$

Elvio Cogno, Barolo “Bricco Pernice” 2009 (~$65): for me one of the “wow” Barolo’s in the show, with a wonderful bouquet of cherry, cranberry, tobacco, potpourri and forest floor and an already very balanced mouthfeel evoking flavors of cherry, licorice, coffee, dark chocolate and notes of black pepper in a smooth, structured sip where the alcohol is well balanced by good acidity and soft tannins. Outstanding Outstanding – $$$$

Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Barolo Cannubi 2010 (~$60): pleasing, intense aromas of cherry, herbs and mineral notes, along with matching mouth flavors and slightly astringent tannins – still very young but definitely promising, needs time to mature. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $$$

5. LOMBARDIA

Bellavista, Franciacorta Brut Cuvée Alma NV ($N/A): a very good Classic Method sparkling wine with fine bubbles and aromas of lime, lemon zest, croissant, petit four and white blossoms plus a citrusy mouthfeel characterized by zippy acidity and sapidity. Very Good Very Good

Contadi Castaldi, Franciacorta Zero 2010 ($N/A): another solid Classic Method sparkler with a fine perlage and a bouquet of freshly baked pastry, citrus, sugar candy, canestrelli (a typical Italian daisy flower-shaped cookie dusted with confectionery sugar) and mineral notes complementing a matching mouthfeel that is vibrant with lively acidity. Very Good Very Good

6. VENETO

Begali, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Vigneto Monte Ca’ Bianca” 2009 (~$50): a solid Amarone with a broad bouquet of cranberry, cherry, red fruit candy, rose, aromatic herbs, tobacco and incense, complementing a full-bodied mouthfeel trailing the wine’s aromas and showcasing muscular tannins, for which a few years of judicious cellaring would be advisable. Very Good Very Good – $$$

Masi, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Costasera” Riserva 2009 (~$40): the Costasera never lets down and the 2009 vintage reinforces the concept, delivering a great Amarone with aromas of tart cherry, underbrush, quinine, barnyard and balsamic notes, along with a powerful and yet well controlled and smooth mouthfeel reminiscent of tart cherry, coffee, cocoa and mineral notes, as well as a long finish. Cellar it and forget it for a few years for best results. Outstanding and good value for money Outstanding – $$

Saint Emilion Chronicles #7, Part II: A Wine Tasting of Chateau Figeac 1988

Chateau Figeac 1988

Following our previous post about the history, estate, terroir and winemaking process at Chateau Figeac in Bordeaux’s Saint Emilion region, let’s now focus on my review of a bottle of their Grand Vin that I had an opportunity to taste: Chateau Figeac, Saint Emilion Grand Cru AOC, 1988 ($200).

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Chateau Figeac 1988 that I had was an outstanding, elegant wine: after 26 years of aging, it still performed flawlessly, offering a broad aromatic palette that unsurprisingly underscored tertiary aromas, but still presented fruity, secondary aromas to complement them. It still had enough acidity to keep it alive (although I would not wait much longer to drink it) and noticeable but gentle tannins, along with great smoothness – attaining a nice balance. It had pleasant and vivid mouth flavors of fruit and spices and a long finish. Outstanding!

Rating: Outstanding and Recommended Outstanding – $$$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grapes, the Producer and the Estate

For plenty of information about Chateau Figeac, its history, estate, terroir and winemaking process, please refer to our previous post about it.

As to the grapes, Chateau Figeac’s quite unique Bordeaux blend is made up of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot. For detailed information about each of those grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive or simply click on the hyperlinks of each of the three grape varieties above.

FRANCE, Saint Emilion
 – The stunning tasting room at Chateau Figeac (Premier Grand Cru Classé B)

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is Chateau Figeac, Saint Emilion Grand Cru AOC, 1988.

As mentioned in our previous post, Chateau Figeac is a Premier Grand Cru Classé “B” wine according to the 1955 classification of the wines of Saint Emilion (for more information about it, see our previous post providing a general overview of the Saint Emilion wine region and its wine classification system).

You can find very detailed information about how this wine is made in our previous post about Chateau Figeac.

The wine was 12.5% ABV and the proportions of the blend were 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot (for more information about those grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive). In the U.S. available 1988 bottles retail for about $200, while in France they retailed for about €160. I decanted it for an hour before enjoying it.

As always, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher. For your own structured wine tastings, consider downloading our FsT Wine Tasting Chart!

In the glass, the wine was garnet red and moderately viscous.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, presenting a kaleidoscope of aromas: cherry, raspberry, tobacco, underbrush, wet soil, dried leaves, potpourri, herbs (sage, rosemary), cocoa, vanilla and black pepper.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, had medium ABV, and was smooth; it was still moderately acidic, tannic and tasty. It was medium bodied and wonderfully balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of cherry, dark chocolate, tobacco and rhubarb. It had a long finish and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning to be enjoyed now as it will decline if left to age much longer.