Gambero Rosso 2016: Tre Bicchieri Tasting
Now, let’s talk about most intense part of the Gambero Rosso 2016 event – Tre Bicchieri grand tasting. Both Custoza DOC and Special Awards Master Class seminars were nice and relaxing – you are sitting down, you have at least an hour to evaluate 9 wines – this is “an oenophile at ease” experience. The grand tasting though is more of an “oenophile in hell”, or if this is too strong of an expression, think of it as marathon which you have to run on the tippy-toes – yep, that level of comfort.
Let me repeat the Gambero Rosso numbers – about 50,000 wines are evaluated by the Gambero Rosso staff in a year, comprise 20,000 different labels from more than 2,400 wineries. 421 wines received the coveted Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award in 2016. 193 wineries were present at Tre Bicchieri 2016 tasting in New York, which would roughly translate into about 400 wines – not all of those wines are Tre Bicchieri winners, wineries are allowed to present the wines which got two glasses awards.
This was the fourth year in the row as I attended Gambero Rosso in New York, so at this point I knew the drill – which means that there will be no rant in this post. Nothing changed – there was still a limit of one glass per attendee for the whole tasting, the wineries were still organized by the distributors and not by the regions – but again, I was ready for that before I walked into the room. I had an opportunity to look at the show guide before tasting started, so I had my targets set and thus from the moment I walked into the tasting room, I went directly to the tables I wanted to visit first (where the wines would potentially run out). This was the right strategy and it worked quite well (as you will see in the list down below).
This was also the first time in 4 years my dear friend Stefano was unable to join me at the Gambero Rosso in New York – which also changed the dynamics for me. Usually when we are together, Stefano perseveres until the very last moment, still tasting wines and taking notes. Left to my own devices, I cut it short when I felt tired. By the way, the pictures below will give you an idea how the tasting room looks like in a middle of event – I always like to take a few shots which I call “Hail Mary” – just put the camera up and take a picture of whatever it will point to. I think it will give you an idea for the event:
- Out of all the wines I tasted (90+), 4 wines were my absolute favorite:
- Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia – stunning wine – young (2012), but perfectly drinkable, with the balance nothing short of amazing. Down below I will have pictures of the labels – note that starting with 2012 vintage, Ornellaia wines now will have artistic labels on portion of their bottles – 1 bottle in every 6 pack will have an artistic label.
- Eugenio Collavini Collio Bianco Broy – my favorite white wine of the tasting – beautiful clarity, impeccable balance and a bonus story
- Tenuta Viglione Gioia del Colle Primitivo Marpione Riserva – yes, I know that Primitivo is technically a Zinfandel, but I never yet tasted Primitivo which would be reminiscent of a good Zinfandel, like Turley, for instance. This wine was – fresh fruit, ripe raspberries and blackberries, playful – just an excellent wine all together.
- Rosset Terroir Valle d’Aosta Syrah – might be easily my favorite red wine in the tasting – if anything very comparable with Ornellaia in its ability to deliver pleasure. Amazing clarity of spicy fruit, just a pure vibrant note of black pepper – only a few times ever I experienced such pure expression of Syrah. Absolutely delightful.
- Very interesting how things changed in Italian wines. I tasted a number of Barolo, 4-6 years old – they were all very approachable, with good fruit and reasonable tannins – quite a departure even from the few years back. On another hand, most of the Super Tuscans were tannic bombs, with the happy exception of Ornellaia and Le Macchiole. I definitely welcome the Barolo change (will be interesting to see how those wines will age), but I think super Tuscan producers should dial down the use of the new oak – as they are, these wines need quite a bit of time to age.
- Italy is the #1 wine producer in the world (by volume) so it is not surprising that in addition to the ingenious grapes, such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Montepulciano, Italians also mastered all the main international varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Grenache ( better known as Connonau), Zinfandel (yes, in the form of their native Primitivo) and now even Syrah. 3-4 years ago, I would never associate Italy with the world-class Syrah. But then was Syrah from Cartona, which is delicious, and this year’s discovery, Rosset Terroir Syrah from Valle d’Aosta, left me literally speechless in its purity of expression – and I loved it as much as I did the Ornellaia. So yes, Syrah is also squarely on the master list for Italy. Notable exception – Pinot Noir (should be called Pinot Nero in Italy), the finicky grape the world is in love with, which I yet to find to my liking coming from Italy. This will probably happen at some point, and if it does, I’m curious where and how.
Okay, now it is time to share the notes on my favorite wines. I visited about 45 tables, tasted about 90 wines. Below are the favorites – as typical for the trade tastings with lots of wines to evaluate, I use the “plus” system, where “+++” means “excellent wine”. The list below only includes “+++” or higher; I couldn’t contain my excitement and rated “++++1/2” both Ornellaia and Rosset Syrah, this is as high as I ever went. For what it worth, below are my brief tasting notes, all the wines are sorted by respective regions:
2012 Villa Medoro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colloie Teramene Adrano – +++1/2, delicious
2013 Abbazia di Novacela A.A. Valle Isarco Riesling Praepositus – ++++, clean, balanced
2014 Abbazia di Novacela A.A. Valle Isarco Kerner Praepositus – ++++, delicious!
2011 Elena Walch A.A. Lagrein Castel Ringberg Riserva – +++1/2, excellent, concentrated
2012 Cantina Terlano A.A. Terlano Nova Dominus Riserva – ++++, delicious! 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Sauvignon
2010 Re Manfredi Terre Degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Serpara – +++1/2, perfect, nice minerality
Friuli Venezia Giulia:
2013 Jermann Vintage Tunina – +++1/2, great complexity
2013 Jermann W…. Dreams…. – ++++, butter, vanilla, beautiful minerality
2014 Jermann Pinot Grigio – +++
2014 Eugenio Collavini Collio Bianco Broy – ++++, clean, beautiful, 50% Friulano, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon, SRP $35, comes from the small small plot behind the house
2013 Livon Braide Alte – +++1/2, Chardonnay, Picolit, Moscato Gialo
2013 Poggio dei Gorgleri Rivera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Albium – +++1/2, Gunflint nose, clean palate
2009 Ferghettina Franciacorta Extra Brut – +++, beautiful nose, a bit too sweet on the palate
2011 Nino Negri Valtellina Sfursat 5 Stelle – +++1/2, dried fruit, delicate, delicious. 2012 and 2014 were bad years, and no 5 Stelle wine will be produced
2008 Bellavista Franciacorta Extra Brut Vittorio Moretti Riserva – ++++, delicious, classic
2013 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Superiore Vecchie Vigne – +++
2011 Umani Ronchi Canero Cùmaro Riesrva DOCG – +++1/2, delicious (Montepulciano 100%)
2011 Umani Ronchi Pelago Marche Rosso IGT – +++1/2, excellent (Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Montepulciano 40%, Merlot 10%)
2010 Abbona Barolo Cerviano – +++1/2, lavender, clean, wow!
2011 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi – ++++, beautiful
2012 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superoiore Nizza La Court – ++++, outstanding
2011 Malvira Roero Mombeltramo Riserva – +++, nice, clean
2011 Tenuta Viglione Gioia del Colle Primitivo Marpione Riserva – +++1/2, wow, excellent, Zinfandel-comparable
2012 Tenuta Viglione Gioia del Colle Pri-mit-ivo – +++, excellent fruit and balance
2013 Vigne Surrau Sincaru Cannonau di Sardegna – +++, excellent
2014 Vigne Surrau Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore – +++
2012 Poggio al Tesoro Dedicato a Walter Toscana IGT – +++, 100% Cabernet Franc
2012 Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia Bolgheri Superiore – ++++, excellent, Bordeaux blend (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
2012 Fabrizio Dionisio Cortona Syrah Il Castagno – +++1/2, beautiful nose, restrained, 100% Syrah
2012 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia – ++++1/2, wow! polished, ready
2013 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Rosso Le Serre Nuove – ++++
2013 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Poggio alle Gazze – ++++, outstanding
2010 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino – +++1/2
2011 Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino – +++, beautiful
2013 Le Chiuse Rosso di Montalcino – +++, clean, simple
2012 Villa le Corti Chianti Classico Don Tommaso Gran Selezione – +++, excellent, soft
2012 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno – +++1/2, gripping tannins, wow
2013 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo – +++
2012 PETRA Petra Rosso – +++1/2, good balance, Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot blend
2012 Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso – ++++, outstanding, 100% Cabernet Franc
2013 Rosset Terroir Valle d’Aosta Syrah – ++++1/2, wow, perfect, spicy nose, clean, wow! 100% Syrah
2011 Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo di Gigle – +++, closed on the nose, well present tannins, but balanced
2011 Viticoltori Speri Amarone della valpolicella Classico Vign Sant’Urbano – +++, good, round
2009 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Campolongo di Torbe – ++++, delicious!!! (yeah – single vineyard at about $150 retail)
2014 Valdobbiadene Brut Rive di Col San Martino Cuvée del Fondatore Graziano Merotto – +++1/2, nice complexity
2012 Vignalta Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio Passito Alpianae – +++