Tag Archives: Rossese di Dolceacqua

#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

In Homage to Christopher Columbus: An Overview of the Best Wines from Liguria, Italy

On October 12, 1492, precisely 520 years ago, Italian world-known explorer and sailor Christopher Columbus and his expedition set foot in the Americas (on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas) in Columbus’s first voyage to the New World.

Since Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy (which, coincidentally, is also where I was born, “just” a few centuries later!) I think it makes sense that I honor the memory of that event by providing our readers a quick overview of the best wines from the Italian region of Liguria (of which Genoa is the capital).

Liguria is a narrow strip of mostly mountainous land in the Northwest of Italy facing the Ligurian Sea. Because of its geography and its relatively small size (about 2,100 sqm/5,420 km, which makes it the third smallest region in Italy), agriculture in general and viticulture in particular have traditionally been challenging for its residents – so much so that in the coastal areas of Liguria vines are grown on artificial terracing, a typical method of cultivation. Nowadays, Ligurian wine grape acreage is about 3,645 acres (1,475 HA), approximately 50% of which are part of the eight DOC appellations of Liguria, and total production of wine stands at about 2.64 million gallons (100,000 HL).

On average, quality of Ligurian wines has not been outstanding. However, over the last decade or so there has been a serious effort on the part of select producers to invest the required energy and resources to produce top quality wines and, as a result, there are now a limited number of commendable wine makers who attained excellence in at least one of their wines. Let’s take a quick look at a sample of just a few of the top wines that are part of these “best of the crop” wineries (incidentally, all of the wines in our overview earned the prestigious “5 bunches of grapes” top rating in the 2,000 Wines Guide made by the Italian Sommelier Association).

Two of the best grapes that have traditionally been grown in Liguria to make white wine are Pigato and Vermentino, the former being cultivated exclusively in Liguria and the latter being the most planted white-berried grape in such region. Vermentino originated in the Middle East, was brought to Spain and from there made its way to Italy where, among other places, it was widely planted in Liguria and Sardinia.

A producer of excellent Pigato wine is Bio Vio, whose top wine is the Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato “Bon in da Bon” DOC. This is a dry white varietal wine made of 100% Pigato grapes, with good acidity and pleasant scents of peach, sage, mint and minerals.

One outstanding Vermentino is the Colli di Luni Vermentino “Boboli” DOC from wine maker Giacomelli. The Boboli is a dry white wine made of 95% Vermentino and 5% Malvasia di Candia grapes, with delicate aromas of citrus, grapefruit, algae, honey and pine resin, as well as good acidity.

In the best Ligurian tradition, both the Pigato and the Vermentino are wonderful pairings for fish/seafood dishes, typical cheese focaccia or trofie or trenette pasta with pesto, potato and string beans. Also, both wines that we just recommended have a very good price/quality ratio.

Probably, the best Ligurian black-berried grape is Rossese, whose origins date back to at least the XV century, but other than that remain fairly obscure.

A very good Rossese that is certainly worth a try should you come across a bottle, is the Rossese di Dolceacqua Superiore “Poggio Pini” DOC from producer Tenuta Anfosso. This is a dry varietal red wine made of 100% Rossese grapes with fairly noticeable tannins and nice scents of rose, blackberry, strawberry jam, pepper and cinnamon. It pairs well with meats, such as lamb chops or goat dishes, and for a quality wine it is surprisingly quite affordable.

Finally, in the Ligurian appellation Cinque Terre DOC one can find one of the least known and most delicious sweet white raisin wines in Italy, the Sciacchetrà (this is pronounced something like “Shackaytra”).

One of the best Sciacchetrà you can have the delight to enjoy is the Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà Riserva DOC of the Capellini winery. This sweet, golden raisin wine is made out of 80% Bosco, 10% Vermentino and 10% Albarola white-berried grapes and gives out pleasant scents of honey, dried apricot, citrus, rosemary and dates. It can be enjoyed by itself, as a meditation wine, or coupled with a traditional Ligurian dessert, such as pandolce (the Ligurian take of panettone) or canestrelli (a kind of flower-shaped cookies). Given the very limited yield of this wine, its price is pretty steep, but if you can afford it, you will not regret paying it once you have a sip of Sciacchetrà in your mouth!

As usual, any remarks or experiences you want to share with all of us on the wines of Liguria are very welcome: just leave a comment below!