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Gambero Rosso 2016: Tre Bicchieri Tasting

March 21, 2016 12 comments

Gamber Rosso 30 yearsNow, 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:

Gambero Rosso 2016 Tasting Crowd

Gambero Rosso 2016 Tasting Crowd 1Before I will inundate you with the details on the wines I tasted, I want to offer you some of my main takeaways from the Tre Bicchieri 2016 tasting.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Abruzzo:
2012 Villa Medoro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colloie Teramene Adrano – +++1/2, delicious

Alto Adige:
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

Basilicata:
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

Liguria:
2013 Poggio dei Gorgleri Rivera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Albium – +++1/2, Gunflint nose, clean palate

Lombardy:
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

Marche:
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%)

Piedmont:
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

Puglia:
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

Sardinia:
2013 Vigne Surrau Sincaru Cannonau di Sardegna – +++, excellent
2014 Vigne Surrau Sciala Vermentino di Gallura DOCG Superiore – +++

Tuscany:
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

Valle d’Aosta:
2013 Rosset Terroir Valle d’Aosta Syrah – ++++1/2, wow, perfect, spicy nose, clean, wow! 100% Syrah

Veneto:
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 – +++

 

Gambero Rosso 2016: Master Class – Special Awards

March 9, 2016 6 comments

I recently wrote about discovering the new Italian wine region at the seminar at Gambero Rosso 2016 event (Custoza DOC). Following that was another new event for me – Vini d’Italia 2016 Special Awards Master Class.

More than 50,000 wines are tasted by the Gambero Rosso experts for each annual edition of the publication, which comprise more than 20,000 labels from 2,400+ wineries. In 2016, which was the 29th edition of the Gambero Rosso guide, there were 421 winners of the prestigious Tre Bicchieri status. In parallel, while the work is done to assess the wines for the Tre Bicchieri status, the wines are also considered for the Special Awards which are give in the 9 special categories – take a look at the picture below, this was our printout for taking the notes:

Vini d'Italia Special Awards

If you would look at my notes below, you would see that my opinion didn’t always match the designation of the wine – which is only important as an illustration to the point I always make when talking to the people who are afraid not to like the wine where someone else (an expert) said that the wine outstanding. Each palate is different, and your good wine is what you like, not someone else…

The presentation was led by charismatic Marco Sabellico,  Senior Editor of Gambero Rosso, and Eleonora Guerini, Curator of the guide “The Wines of Italy” by Gambero Rosso:

Marco Sabellico Senior Editor Gambero Rosso, Eleonora Guerini, Curator of the guide "The Wines of Italy" by Gambero Rosso

Here are my notes:

Category: Sparkler of the year
2006 Ca Del Bosco Franciacorta Dosage Zéro Noir Vintage Collection Riserva 
C: Gold
N: yeast, bread, concentrated
P: great complexity, yeasty, refreshing, crisp acidity
V: 8, excellent sparkling wine

Category: Best value for money
2014 Terre Stregate Falanghina del Sannio Svelato Campania ($10)
C: light golden
N: beautiful concentrated nose, sweet, concentrated, musk aroma
P: clean, good acidity, lots of musk undertones, spicy pear
V: 7, a bit too much on the palate

Category: White of the year
2014 Schiopetto Collio Friulano
C: light golden
N: light fruit notes, fresh, touch of minerality
P: nice, restrained, white stone fruit, good acidity, good balance
V: 8-, nice aging potential

Category: Award for sustainable viticulture
2013 Manincor A.A. Terlano Sauvignon Tannenberg Trentino-Alto Adige
C: straw pale
N: vanilla, butter, petrol
P: delicious play of fruit, restrained, tropical fruit, vanilla, playful, great acidity
V: 8, my favorite white wine of the tasting

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Category: Red of the year
2012 Pietradolce Etna Rosso Vigna Barbagalli Sicily (15% ABV)
C: red brick
N: volcanic, smoke, red fruit
P: nice tannins, fresh red fruit, a bit astringent, long finish
V: 8, needs time

Category: Grower of the year
2012 Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Asili 
C: dark Ruby
N: fresh fruit! Strawberries, raspberries, violet, wow
P: excellent balance, fresh tannins, good red fruit, but really tannic finish
V: 8, will improve

Category: Up-and-coming winery
2012 Guado al Melo Bolghery Rosso Superiore Atis (Cabernet Sauvignon 60%, Cabernet Franc 20%, Merlot 20%)
C: dark Ruby, almost black
N: “Rutherford dust”, black currants, eucalyptus
P: powerful tannins, firm structure, fruit is layered under, very powerful wine overall
V: 8-, definitely needs time

Category: Winery of the year
2011 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
C: dark Ruby, almost black
N: dried fruit, roasted meat
P: nice concentration, powerful tannins, tar, tobacco, alcohol burn on back end
V: 7+, needs more balance…

La Crotta di Vegneron Valle d’Aosta Chambave Moscato Passito Prieuré

Category: Sweet of the year
2013 La Crotta di Vegneron Valle d’Aosta Chambave Moscato Passito Prieuré
C: golden
N: beautiful, clean, candied apricots, candied orange
P: perfect balance, clean fruit. Yes, it is sweet, but it has perfect acidic backbone, and it doesn’t overpower the palate.
V: 9, outstanding. Yes, I’m a sucker for the good sweet wines, you can call me that.

As you can tell, the dessert wine was my favorite wine of the tasting – well, you can read anything you want into that…

In the next post, I will be talking about Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting itself, so until the next time – cheers!

To be continued…

Gambero Rosso 2016: Discovering Italian Wine Regions – Custoza DOC

February 21, 2016 9 comments

Few weeks ago, I attended Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri event in New York. For those unfamiliar, Gambero Rosso is a leading Italian wine guide, where the wines are rated with the symbol of a glass (bicchiere in Italian). The wine can get a rating of one, two or three glasses, and those three glasses (Tre Bicchieri) rated wines considered to be some of the best wines the Italy has to offer. Every year, Gambero Rosso conducts a series of tastings worldwide, to celebrate these best Italian wines, and the tastings are called Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri events.

Custoza DOC tasting

While I had been attending Tre Bicchieri events for the past 4 years, this year was the first time I also attended seminars conducted right before the general tasting. The first seminar was dedicated to the white wines of a small, and I would bet, largely unknown to the majority of the wine drinkers, region in Veneto, called Custoza.

Custoza is located at the south border of the Veneto region, on the shore of the Lake Garda. Excellent terroir to grow wine grapes, and white grapes in particular. Region has mild winters, which definitely helps not to worry about the frost. Another important characteristic of Custoza is mixed soil – clay, sandstone, limestone, which leads to a diversity in the wines. Overall, there are about 700 wine growers in Custoza, 70 wineries, and total wine production is roughly 12 million bottles per year (1 million cases). The region is fast growing on Italian market and represents great value for the money. A number of indigenous grape varieties are use in wine making in Custoza – Garganega, Fernanda/Bianca Fernanda (Cortese clone), Trebbiano di Soave, Trebbianello (known as Tokai Friulano in other regions), Riesling Italico (a.k.a. Welch Riesling), Incrocio Manzoni (cross created in 20th century).

Seminar presenters also made a statement about Custoza wines having a great aging potential – I would like to get back to that after presenting you with the tasting notes. We tasted total of 8 wines in this seminar:

2015 Tinazzi Custoza Cà dei Rocchi (Garganega 40%, Trebbiano di Soave 40%, Bianca Fernanda 20%)
C: pale straw
N: amazing, fresh sweet fruit, candies, through the roof aromatics. Green notes appear after a while.
P: crisp, clean, great acidity, fresh, will work great with seafood
V: 8-, food wine

2015 Gorgo Custoza San Michelin (Garganega, Cortese and Riesling Italico)
C: light gold
N: restrained, candied lemon, herbs, fresh caramel, opened into concentrated sweet baking spices. Smell is an enigma, keep changing. Yes, tropical fruit.
P: clean and crisp, but leaves sweet aftertaste. More concentrated than the previous wine, medium to full body, finish switched to more acidity
V: 7+/8-

2014 Cavalchina Custoza Superiore Amedeo (Garganega 40%, Fernanda 30% (Cortese clone), Trebbianello 15% (Tocai clone), Trebbiano Toscano
15%)
C: light golden
N: hint of smoke, gunflint
P: excellent, clean, green apple, fresh, perfect balance, acidity on the finish. Leaves me desire to take another sip
V: 8

2013 Albino Piona Custoza DOC (Garganega 30%, Trebbiano 35%, Friulano 20%, Trebbianello, Pinot Blanc and Riesling Italico)
C: light golden
N: medicinal, iodine, a nose almost suitable for a scotch
P: lots of fighting components, interesting. It is drinkable, but not together
V: 7-

2013 Menegotti Custoza Superiore Elianto (Cortese, Garganega, Trebbiano)
C: light golden
N: strange, vegetative
P: vegetative/sweet all over the place
V: 7

2013 Monte Del Frà Custoza Superiore Cà del Magro (40% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano Toscano, 5% Tocai Friulano, 10% Cortese, 10% Chardonnay-Riesling Italico-Malvasia and 15% Incrocio Manzoni)
C: golden, nice viscosity
N: minerality, hint of gunflint, white fruit sweetness, restrained
P: delicious. Ripe apples, white stone fruit, minerality, excellent balance
V: 8-

Custoza DOC Old Wines

Take a look at the color difference with younger wines

2010 Monte Del Frà Custoza Superiore Cà del Magro (40% Garganega, 20% Trebbiano Toscano, 5% Tocai Friulano, 10% Cortese, 10% Chardonnay-Riesling Italico-Malvasia and 15% Incrocio Manzoni)
C: concentrated gold
N: minerality, volcanic soils, smoke, interesting
P: interesting complexity, still a touch of oxidation, vanilla, sea salt
V: 7+. This is a drinkable wine, and it will stay like that for a while.

2007 Cavalchina Custoza Superiore Amedeo (Garganega 40%, Fernanda 30% (Cortese clone), Trebbianello 15% (Tocai clone), Trebbiano Toscano
15%)
C: concentrated gold
N: slightly oxidative nose, similar to Jura whites
P: vanilla, steely notes
V: 7. May be good with cheese, but not enjoyable on its own

I very much enjoyed young Custoza wines – many were vibrant and delicious. When it comes to the two older wines, I wouldn’t say I was fun (I’m sure you can see it in my notes). Yes, I like tertiary aromas of older wines, but I still want the wine to have harmony and balance – and this was not the case here.

Very interesting learning experience in any case, plus a new grape (Incrocio Manzoni), or even two if I will count Fernanda as a separate clone/grape. So, have you ever had Custoza wines? What do you think of them?

In the next post, I will be talking about Gambero Rosso Special Awards master class, so until the next time – cheers!

To be continued…

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