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Wine Review: Three 2013 Alsatian Pinot Blancs… Or Should I Say One and a Half?

Disclaimer: this review is of samples that I received from the producers’ US PR agency. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wines are my own.

AOC AlsaceWhen I got an email asking whether I would review samples of three Pinot Blancs from France’s Alsace region, I wholeheartedly accepted because I generally very much like Alsatian Rieslings and Gewürztraminers, but I was not familiar with their Pinot Blancs so it sounded like a great opportunity to make myself an idea. Plus, Pinot Blanc is not a grape that you often see in varietal (as in, 100% Pinot Blanc) wines: it is more often used as a blending partner of other grapes, including in the context of the blend of certain French or Italian Classic Method sparkling wines together with Chardonnay or Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

So, let’s get to it and let me tell you how I liked them.

About the Grape(s)

Well, before we even start talking about Pinot Blanc, let me just reiterate something that I mentioned on my previous post about the Alsace AOC appellation.

Although the rules of the Alsace AOC appellation require that, if a variety is indicated on the label, the wine must be entirely made out of grapes from that variety (which is all good), this is actually not true for Pinot Blanc wines. More specifically, Alsace AOC rules permit that a wine labeled “Pinot Blanc be either a blend of, or even made entirely out of, any of the following varietiesPinot BlancAuxerrois (which is a separate variety that is often confused with Pinot Blanc), Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (vinified white, as in the Champagne region). In other words, under Alsace AOC rules, a wine that is made out of 100% Pinot Gris grapes may legally be labeled and sold as “Pinot Blanc”(!)

Now, this kind of bothers me: I mean, how would you like it if you went out to buy a Toyota and they sold you a Nissan that is however branded as a Toyota? Nothing wrong in my book with either a Toyota or a Nissan, but one should be able to get what they went out to buy, right?

Anyway, two out of the three wines that I reviewed were exactly in the situation described above (for details, see below in the individual descriptions). One of the wines was a truly varietal Pinot Blanc, the second wine was a blend of Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc, and the third one was a blend of Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. So, the first wine was 100% Pinot Blanc, while the Pinot Blanc component in the blends of the second and third wines combined was just 50%, hence the title of this post.

For information and cool facts about all the varieties that were used for making those three wines, please refer to my previous post about the Alsace AOC appellation or click on any of the grape variety links above which will redirect you to the relevant entry in our Grape Variety Archive.

About the Appellation and the Alsace Region

For an overview of the Alsace AOC appellation and the Alsace wine region, its terroir and main grape varieties, please refer to my previous post.

About the Reviewed Wines and Their Producers

Here below are my reviews of the three wines that I tasted, as well as some high-level information about their producers. It is interesting to note how the second and the third wines were similar in style, while the first one had a style of its own.

As always, 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!

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

My Overall Opinion: In a nutshell, to me there was a clear winner among the three 2013 Pinot Blancs that I tasted in this mini-horizontal tasting exercise, and that was the Meyer-Fonné Vieilles Vignes Pinot Blanc. It was the wine that delivered the most complete package among the three, with a nice nose and a very pleasant, interesting mouth, and it was the most balanced of the three, with its smoothness being effectively countered by intense minerality and tastiness. Then Domaines Schlumberger’s “Les Princes Abbés snatched second place, with a wine whose pleasant mouthfeel was penalized by its timid and narrow nose. Albert Mann’s Pinot Blanc came in last, as the wine’s good nose alone was not enough to save a mouth that lacked those levels of acidity and tastiness that would be desirable to effectively counterbalance its smoothness and make it interesting.

Below you can find my detailed reviews of the three wines and decide for yourselves.

1. Third PlaceAlbert Mann, Pinot Blanc Alsace AOC, 2013 ($18) 

Albert Mann, Pinot Blanc Alsace AOC (Image courtesy of Snooth.com - click on image to go to website)

Albert Mann, Pinot Blanc Alsace AOC (Image courtesy of Snooth.com – click on image to go to website)

Albert Mann is an Alsatian winery that manages a 21 HA/52 acre estate which hosts five Alsace Grand Cru wines (i.e., Schlossberg, Furstentum, Hengst, Steinbrugler and Pfersigberg – for more information about the Alsace Grand Cru AOC, please refer to our previous post about Alsace). The winery applies organic and biodynamic methods to grape growing.

The wine that I reviewed was made out of 100% Pinot Blanc grapes grown according to biodynamic agriculture methods at Albert Mann’s Kientzheim and Wettolsheim vineyards on marl limestone soils. The average age of the grapevines is 25 years. The must was fermented in stainless steel vats. The wine was 12.5% ABV.

The Bottom Line: A good nose with aromas of peach, Mirabelle plum, yellow flowers and mineral notes (flint). In the mouth it feels off-dry and very smooth but in my view with not enough acidity to effectively balance its smoothness and make it interesting. The flavors are coherent with the aromatic profile and reminiscent of peach and Mirabelle plum, with slight mineral hints. Overall: a good nose but a mouthfeel that is not on par with its bouquet. Fairly Good Fairly Good – $

Our Detailed Review: In the glass, it poured straw yellow and moderately viscous. The nose was moderately intense, moderately complex and fine, with aromas of peach, Mirabelle plum, yellow flowers and mineral notes (flint). In the mouth, it was off-dry, with medium ABV, smooth; scarcely acidic and moderately tasty. The wine was medium-bodied and slightly off-balance, with intense and fine flavors of peach and Mirabelle plum, along with slight mineral hints. The finish was medium and the wine’s evolutionary state was mature, meaning drink now.

2. The Runner UpDomaines Schlumberger, Pinot Blanc “Les Princes Abbés” Alsace AOC, 2013 ($17)

Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Blanc  "Les Princes Abbés" Alsace AOC (Image courtesy of Domaines Schlumberger)

Domaines Schlumberger, Pinot Blanc “Les Princes Abbés” Alsace AOC (Image courtesy of Domaines Schlumberger)

Domaines Schlumberger manages an over 121 HA/300 acre estate in Guebwiller and is the largest Grand Cru producer in Alsace.

The wine that I reviewed was a blend of 70% Auxerrois and 30% Pinot Blanc which was left to mature on its lees for seven months following fermentation. The wine was 13.5% ABV.

The Bottom Line: It starts with a very timid nose, with a rather faint and narrow aromatic profile of apple and citrus. When you taste it, however, it switches gears and offers a pleasant mouthfeel with decent acidity and good sapidity that make it refreshing as well as nice, citrusy flavors intertwined with interesting mineral and saline notes. Overall: good minus, saved by its mouth. Good- Good / $

Our Detailed Review: In the glass, it poured straw yellow with golden reflections and viscous. The nose was scarcely intense, scarcely complex and fair, with aromas of apple and citrus. In the mouth, it was dry, with medium ABV, smooth; moderately acidic and tasty. The wine was medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine flavors of citrus, along with mineral and saline notes. The finish was medium and the wine’s evolutionary state was mature, meaning drink now.

3. The WinnerMeyer-Fonné, Pinot Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” Alsace AOC, 2013 ($19)

The Meyer-Fonné estate was founded way back, in 1732. The winery does not use synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides to treat its grapevines.

Meyer-Fonné, Pinot Blanc "Vieilles Vignes" Alsace AOC (Image courtesy of Meyer-Fonné)

Meyer-Fonné, Pinot Blanc “Vieilles Vignes” Alsace AOC (Image courtesy of Meyer-Fonné)

The wine that I reviewed was a blend of 65% Auxerrois, 20% Pinot Blanc and 15% Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The grapes were grown in a 6-acre vineyard on 40 to 50 year old vines and were hand-picked at harvest time. After pneumatic pressing of the grapes, the must fermented in stainless steel vats and oak barrels for a period of one to three months using natural yeast, after which it matured on its lees until bottling. The wine was 12.5% ABV.

The Bottom Line:  A rather restrained but nice nose with aromas of citrus, yellow peach, lemon blossoms, almond and a mineral note (graphite?) In the mouth it is definitely pleasant: bone dry, smooth and very tasty, with flavors of citrus and yellow peach along with noticeable mineral and iodine notes, which make the wine almost saline. Overall: very pleasant and perfect for Spring and Summer parties or relaxing evenings out on the patio. Good to Very Good Good to Very Good – $

Our Detailed Review: In the glass, it poured golden yellow and moderately viscous. The nose was moderately intensemoderately complex and fine, with aromas of citrus, yellow peach, lemon blossoms, almond and a mineral note (graphite?) In the mouth, it was dry, with medium ABV, smooth; moderately acidic and tasty. The wine was medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine flavors of citrus and yellow peach along with noticeable mineral and iodine notes, making the wine almost saline. The finish was medium and the wine’s evolutionary state was mature, meaning drink now.

An Overview of France's Alsace AOC Appellation

AOC AlsaceSince I have recently received three samples of Pinot Blanc wines from Alsace which I am going to review on one of the next posts, today I am going to provide a brief overview of northeastern France’s Alsace AOC appellation in anticipation of my reviews of those three wines.

Geography and Soils of Alsace

Alsace is a region in France’s northeast, bordering with Germany and stretching some 105 miles/170 KM from north to south, encased between the Vosges Mountains to the west and the west bank of the Rhine River to the east. The region is divided into two departments: the “Bas-Rhin” to the north (near the region’s capital, Strasbourg) and the “Haut-Rhin” to the south.

Alsace AOC Map

Alsace AOC Map – Courtesy of Wine and Vine Search (click on map to go to website)

Throughout Alsace there is a significant diversity in terms of soils, with clay, limestone, marl, granite, gneiss, schist, and even volcanic soils all coexisting in the region. This results in marked differences in the grapes that are grown in the area, depending also on the type of soil the grapevines benefit from.

Generally speaking, the Alsace vineyards are located at an altitude between 650 ft/200 mt and 1,300 ft/400 mt above sea level on the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, for maximum sun exposure.

Alsace Vineyards - Courtesy of Vins d'Alsace (click on image to go to website)

Alsace Vineyards – Courtesy of Vins d’Alsace (click on image to go to website)

Alsatian Appellations

Generally speaking, there are three AOC’s in Alsace:

  • Alsace AOC: created in 1962, it is the largest of the three, making up for about 71.5% of total production (more on this below);
  • Alsace Grand Cru AOC: created in 1975, it accounts for a mere 4% of total production, but it identifies the 51 estates that are considered those with the ideal terroir for the only four grape varieties that are authorized under the Alsace Grand Cru AOC rules: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat d’Alsace; and
  • Crémant d’Alsace AOC: created in 1976, it represents 24.5% of total production and is reserved to sparkling wines made according to the Classic Method.

Having said that, for the purposes of this post, we will focus only on the Alsace AOC appellation.

Flûte (or Rhine) Bottles (courtesy of Chandler Resources)

Flûte (or Rhine) Bottles (courtesy of Chandler Resources)

The vast majority of the Alsace AOC wines are still white wines (92% of the total) and all Alsace AOC wines must be bottled using the typical “Rhine bottle” (AKA “flûte”).

There are eight main grape varieties that are authorized under the Alsace AOC rules: Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois (which in Alsace is confusingly considered interchangeable with Pinot Blanc, although it is a separate variety – see below), Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Muscat d’Alsace and Pinot Noir (the only permitted black-berried variety).

Although, according to most sources, the rules of the Alsace AOC appellation require that, if a variety is indicated on the label, the wine must be entirely made out of grapes from that variety, this is actually not always true: at least, it is certainly not true for Pinot Blanc wines. More specifically, Alsace AOC rules permit that a wine labeled “Pinot Blanc” be either a blend of, or even made entirely out of, any of the following varieties: Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois (which, as mentioned above, is a different variety that is often confused with Pinot Blanc), Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir (vinified white, as in the Champagne region). In other words, under Alsace AOC rules, a wine that is made out of 100% Pinot Gris grapes may legally be labeled and sold as “Pinot Blanc”(!)

Talk about avoiding confusion among consumers…

For completeness, under the rules of both the Alsace AOC and the Alsace Grand Cru AOC appellations, grapes of any of four permitted varieties that are harvested very late in the season and that have developed “noble rot” (Botrytis cinerea) may be labeled as Vendages Tardives or Sélection de Grains Nobles, two particularly sought after sweet raisin wines.

Specifically, the main requirements to make Vendages Tardives or Sélection de Grains Nobles wines are as follows:

  • Grapes must be any of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling or Muscat d’Alsace
  • Each wine must be made entirely out of one of the four permitted varieties
  • The grapes must be hand-picked
  • The grapes must be late harvested and must have developed “noble rot
  • The grapes must have very high sugar levels (at least 235 to 257 gr/lt for Vendages Tardives or 276 to 306 gr/lt for Sélection de Grains Nobles, in each case depending on the variety)
  • The grapes must have very high total alcohol levels (at least 14% to 15.3% ABV for Vendages Tardives or 16.4% to 18.2% for Sélection de Grains Nobles, in each case depending on the variety)

The Main Grape Varieties in Alsace

Total vineyard extension in Alsace in 2014 was 15,545 HA. The three most planted varieties are Riesling (21.8% of the total), Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois (21.3%) and Gewürztraminer (19.8%), followed by Pinot Gris (15.4%). Note how even for statistical purposes Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois are mistakenly considered together despite their being two different varieties.

Total annual production in Alsace of AOC wines is about 150 million bottles, accounting for 18% of the total production in France of still white AOC wines. Of those, about 36 million bottles (or 26% of the total) are exported.

For the purposes of our forthcoming reviews of the three Alsatian Pinot Blancs, we will focus here on the following four varieties: Auxerrois, Pinot BlancPinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

1. Auxerrois

Auxerrois is a white-berried grape variety from France’s Alsace-Lorraine region. The earliest documented reference to this variety occurred in 1816 in France’s Moselle region.

DNA analysis showed that Auxerrois is one of the several natural crosses between Pinot and Gouais Blanc, which therefore makes it a sister variety of Chardonnay and explains why it is known as “Pinot Auxerrois” in Alsace.

Auxerrois wines tend to be fairly neutral and low in acidity. In Alsace it is generally blended with Pinot Blanc: it is interesting to note that, somewhat surprisingly, Alsace AOC rules permit that a wine labeled “Pinot Blanc” be actually prevalently made out of Auxerrois grapes or even exclusively (as in, 100% Auxerrois)!

In France there were 2,330 HA of total Auxerrois plantings in 2008, mostly in Alsace and the French Moselle, while Germany had 285 HA, mostly in the Baden and Pfalz regions.

2. Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc, AKA Pinot Bianco, is not a separate grape variety: DNA analysis proved that it is a clone of the Pinot grape variety (for more information, see the “Pinot” entry in our Grape Variety Archive) and specifically a color mutation of Pinot Noir. Pinot Blanc is a white-berried grape. Until the end of the XIX century, Pinot Blanc used to be often confused with Chardonnay, until French ampelographer Victor Pulliat in 1868 distinguished the two different grapes.

Pinot Blanc wines tend to be moderately structured and have moderate acidity. It may be used in the blend of Classic Method sparkling wines (this practice is fairly frequent in Italy, where several producers use Pinot Bianco in lieu of Pinot Meunier in the blend of their Classic Method sparklers).

France had 1,292 HA of Pinot Blanc plantings in 2009, most of which in the Alsace region, where Pinot Blanc can be used for making both still wines (oftentimes blended with other varieties) and Crémant d’Alsace sparkling wines. Some Pinot Blanc is also grown in the French Moselle region.

Italy had a total of 5,126 HA of Pinot Bianco vineyards in 2000, most of which in the north east (e.g., in the Alto Adige and Friuli regions) and in Lombardia (where it is mostly used as a blending partner of Pinot Nero and Chardonnay in certain Franciacorta Classic Method sparkling wines).

Germany’s Pinot Blanc (locally known as Weissburgunder) plantings in 2008 were 3,731 HA, most of which in the Baden region, while Austria had 1,995 HA in 2010.

In the USA, most Pinot Blanc vineyards occur in California (particularly in Santa Barbara, Sonomona and Monterey), although total plantings were a mere 217 HA in 2010.

3. Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris, AKA Pinot Grigio, is  not a separate grape variety: DNA analysis proved that it is a clone of the Pinot grape variety (for more information, see the “Pinot” entry) and specifically a color mutation of Pinot Noir whose origins can be traced back to the XVIII century in both Germany, where it was first mentioned in writing in 1711 in the Baden-Württemberg region under the name Rülander, and France, where it was mentioned in a 1712 document in the region of Orléans under the name Auvernat Gris. The first references to the current Pinot Gris name date back to 1783-1784 in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or region.

Pinot Grigio is said to have been cultivated in northern Italy (especially in Piemonte) since the early XIX century.

Pinot Grigio is a grey-berried grape which may be much darker in color than most white-berried grapes and generally has high sugar levels and moderate acidity.

In France total Pinot Gris plantings in 2009 were 2,617 HA, mostly in Alsace.

In Italy, for some reason, Pinot Grigio came into fashion in the late Ninenties/early two thousands, which is confirmed by the staggering size of Pinot Grigio plantings in Italy which, at 6,668 HA in 2000, are almost three times as much as France’s. This trend was fueled by booming exports especially to the UK and the US of mostly inexpensive and lackluster wines made out of an overproduction of this grape variety. This phenomenon somewhat tarnished the reputation of Pinot Grigio, which was often associated with a cheap, mass-production type of wine, until in the last few years it started falling out of favor. Fortunately, quality Italian Pinot Grigio is still made, particularly in the regions of FriuliAlto Adige and Veneto.

In 2008, Germany had 4,481 HA of Pinot Gris (locally known as Grauburgunder), mostly concentrated in the Baden, Rheinhessen and Pfalz regions, while Hungary had 1,522 HAof plantings under the local name Szürkebarát, mostly in the north of the country.

Following in Italy’s footsteps, even California knew a Pinot Grigio boom, which led to total plantings of 5,223 HA in 2010. Pinot Gris is also considered Oregon‘s signature white wine with 1,107 HA of vineyards in 2008.

4. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a black-berried clone of the Pinot grape variety (for more information, see the “Pinot” entry in our Grape Variety Archive).

Before being given its current name, Pinot Noir was known by three main synonymsMorillonNoirien and Auvernat.

The earliest documented mention of Pinot Noir dates back to 1283 in the Île-de-France region in northern France under the name “Moreillon“. The name “Noirien” was used around that same time to indicate Pinot Noir in Burgundy and particularly in the Côte d’Or. The name “Auvernas” was instead used somewhat later, in the XIV century in the Loiret district. The first documented use of the current name Pinot took place in France in 1375.

Pinot Noir vines like temperate climates and do particularly well in calcareous-clay soils. The early ripening characteristics of Pinot Noir make it suitable to cooler climate regions, the only ones to permit a long enough growing season to produce interesting wines. Pinot Noirs tend to have relatively soft tannins and to be fruity and easy to like, with some of the best quality Burgundy examples requiring several years of cellaring to fully assemble and perform at their best.

Some of the world’s best examples of quality Pinot Nors can be found in France’s Burgundy region, where terroir differences can often be noticeable in Burgundy wines. Outside Burgundy, quality Pinot Noirs can also be found in France’s Jura region. In 2009 total Pinot Noir plantings in France were 29,576 HA, most of which (10,691 HA) in the Champagne region where it is one of the key components in the traditional Champagne blend, vis-à-vis just 6,579 HA in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or.

Northern Italy also makes quality Pinot Noirs, especially in the Alto Adige region and in Lombardia’s Oltrepò Pavese. Total plantings in 2000 were 3,314 HA.

In Germany, Pinot Noir (locally known as Spätburgunder) enjoys huge popularity, which reflects in its 11,800 HA of plantings in 2008, most of which in the regions of Baden, Rheinhessen and Württemberg.

With 4,401 HA in 2009, Switzerland also has substantial Pinot Noir plantings (under the name Blauburgunder).

In the USA, Pinot Nor is big in California, thanks also to the notoriety that the “Sideways effect” brought to the grape, which in 2010 had a total of 15,091 HA of vineyards, especially in Sonoma and MontereyOregon also had 4.533 HA of plantings in 2008, mainly in the Willamette Valley.

Both Australia and New Zealand have sizable Pinot Noir plantings, with respectively 4,490 HA in 2008 (particularly in the Yarra Valley in the state of Victoria and in Tasmania) and 5,000 HA in 2011 (especially in the Marlborough area).

(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)

(Main sources about Alsace AOC: Vins d’Alsace; VinsAlsace.com)

#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

Variety Show: Spotlight on Glera (AKA Prosecco)

StefanoToday’s grape in the limelight of our Variety Show is Glera, formerly known as Prosecco.

1. From Prosecco To Glera: What’s In a Name?

Up until recently, Prosecco was the name for three things: the wine, its main grape variety and the homonymous village near the town of Trieste (in the Italian region of Friuli) that probably gave the wine and the grape their name. Relatively easy so far.

Then in 2009, with Prosecco’s popularity and sales soaring (in 2011 the overall production of Prosecco was about 265 million bottles, 55% of which were exported), the consortium of Prosecco producers obtained an official change in the name of the grape variety, from Prosecco to Glera, so that Prosecco would only be the name of the wine (and not of the grape variety too) and could therefore be reserved for its designation of origin, thus preventing other producers from other Italian regions or other countries from calling their sparkling wines Prosecco.

2. Glera’s DNA Profiling

The main grape variety that is used in the production of the wine Prosecco was called Prosecco Tondo (now Glera) which DNA profiling has shown to be identical to a rare variety that is indigenous to the Istria region of Croatia named Teran Bijeli. This evidence supports the theory of an Istrian origin for the Prosecco/Glera grape variety. Glera is a partly-aromatic white-berried grape variety.

Other grapes that may be used in the production of the wine Prosecco and that used to be considered clonal variations of Prosecco Tondo, but DNA analysis has proved to be distinct varieties, are Prosecco Lungo and Prosecco Nostrano (the latter, by the way, has been proven to be identical to Malvasia Bianca Lunga).

(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)

3. The Three Prosecco Appellations

Prosecco wine is made in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene (or simply Prosecco di Valdobbiadene) DOCG in the Veneto region, near the town of Treviso;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani DOCG in the Veneto region, near and including the town of Asolo;
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which covers a vast territory stretching between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The regulations of the two DOCG appellations require that their Prosecco wines be made for 85% or more from Glera grapes, to which up to 15% of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera or Glera Lunga white-berried grapes may be blended. The regulations of the DOC appellation are similar but permit that a few additional grape varieties be blended to the Glera base grapes, as follows: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir.

4. Prosecco As a (Generally) Charmat-Martinotti Method Sparkler

Prosecco is one of the main examples of a sparkling wine made according to the so-called Charmat-Martinotti Method production process, although there are a few producers who also make some very good Classic Method Prosecco’s (including Valdo‘s excellent Numero 10 – check out our post with a full review). Compared to the Classic Method, the Charmat-Martinotti Method is a quicker and cheaper production process for sparkling wine, which is known to maximize primary (or varietal) aromas although it generally sacrifices the wine structure and the finest perlage. For more detailed information, please refer to our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method.

5. Recommended Prosecco Producers

Recommended producers of outstanding Prosecco wines include, among others of course:

Adami, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “Rive di Farra di Soligo Col Credas” DOCG ($21)

Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG ($30) – Click for a full review

Montelvini, Prosecco di Asolo Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry “Venegazzù” DOCG NV ($15) – Click for a full review

Nino Franco, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut “Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano” DOCG ($28)

Valdo, Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico “Numero 10” DOC (€18) – Click for a full review

 

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 – $$

Wine Review: St. Michael-Eppan, AA Sauvignon "Sanct Valentin" DOC 2013

St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon "Sanct Valentin" DOC Image courtesy of St. Michael-Eppan

St. Michael-Eppan, AA Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” DOC
Image courtesy of St. Michael-Eppan

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, there is just no other wine that comes to mind than St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” DOC 2013 ($34) 😉 So, that is the wine that we are going to review today.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! 😉

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Sauvignon Sanct Valentin was very good: it had an expressive bouquet with tertiary aromas well under control (thanks to its being aged mostly in stainless steel) and a great, coherent mouthfeel, where its high ABV and gentle smoothness were perfectly balanced by its intense sapidity and zippy acidity.

Rating: Very Good and Recommended Very Good – $$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape Variety and the Appellation

Sauvignon Blanc is a white-berried grape variety originating from France.

Recent DNA analysis has identified a parent-offspring relationship between Savagnin (an old white-berried variety that is common in the Jura region of France) and Sauvignon Blanc and, there being much earlier documents mentioning Savagnin than Sauvignon Blanc, the former is believed to be the parent of the latter.

DNA results also support the thesis that, contrary to common belief, Sauvignon Blanc did not originate from the Bordeaux area, but rather from the Loire Valley in France, where documental evidence dates back to 1534 (compared to 1710 in Bordeaux).

However, it is interesting to note that, when Sauvignon Blanc was grown in the Bordeaux area, it spontaneously crossed with Cabernet Franc to create Cabernet Sauvignon.

In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in the 1970s and soon became the most widely grown variety in the country, especially in the Marlborough region.

(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 Producer and the Estate

St. Michael-Eppan is a cooperative winery that was founded in 1907 by 41 grapevine growers in the Eppan (AKA, Appiano) area, in the north-east Italian region of Alto Adige, and has by now expanded to encompass 340 farmers.

Out of the more than 1,000 HA of vineyards in the Eppan area, St. Michael-Eppan manages 380 HA where both white-berried varieties (Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner and Gewurztraminer) and black-berried varieties (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Lagrein and Schiava) are grown.

The composition of the soils where St. Michael-Eppan’s vineyards are located is a mix of glacial moraine debris, limestone gravel and alluvial soils.

The Sankt Valentin vineyard, which sources the grapes for St. Michael-Eppan’s premium “Sanct Valentin” line, measures 18 HA and is located at 1,800-2,035 ft (550-620 mt) above sea level on limestone gravel soils in the Eppan Berg area.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is St. Michael-Eppan, Alto Adige Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin” DOC 2013. As discussed, “Sanct Valentin” is the flagship line in St Michael-Eppan’s wine offering. The Sauvignon Sanct Valentin is available in the US where it retails at about $34.

The Sauvignon Sanct Valentin 2013 is a whopping 14.5% ABV and is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes harvested from 10 to 28 year-old vines at an elevation of about 1,970 ft (600 mt) above sea level in proximity to the town of Eppan/Appiano (in the Bolzano district). 90% of the wine is fermented in stainless steel vats and then aged for about 6 months on its lees, with the remaining 10% being fermented and aged in wood casks.

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 straw yellow and viscous.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with pleasant aromas of nettle, lime, grapefruit, herbaceous notes, boxwood, a touch of butter and mineral hints.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV, smoothacidic and tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of grapefruit, lime and mineral notes. Its finish was long and its evolutionary state was ready (i.e., wonderful to enjoy now, but it might become even better and more complex if it rests two or three more years in your cellar).

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I know… long time no talk, but sometimes life gets in the way and distracts us from life’s pleasures.

Anyhoo… hopefully we will soon go back to more regular posting, recipes and wine reviews, so don’t lose faith! 😉

Apologies to our many blogging friends for not being as present and engaged as usual in reading and participating in your wonderful blogs – hopefully that will also go back to normal soon.

Finally, we wish you all the best for a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year! Eat well, drink good wine, celebrate with your loved ones and… may your dreams come true! 🙂

Stefano & Francesca