It always surprises me how much interesting Italian wine come to Australia. Loads of it. The only problem is that much of the best doesn’t leave the ‘on-premise’ (restaurants and bars) market, which means that unless you buy a bottle off a list, you don’t get to see them as they’re just not easily available retail. Further, most importers don’t send samples and have infrequent, poorly publicised trade tastings.
As a result, the only way to taste good Italian vino is to go to Italy. Or at least that’s my excuse.
Otherwise, it means that when events like the annual Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tastings come to town you’ve got to jump – just to get that missing vino fix.
This following lineup then was from a masterclass showcasing some of the Tre Bicchieri (3 glasses – Gambero Rosso is an Italian wine magazine and this category is reserved for the top wines) winners.
What I like about such a compilation is that they’re not compiled by Australians. Rather, this is a lineup selected by Italian palates, largely for Italian palates, which makes them even more important as a guide of international trends.
Only problem with this tasting was that I couldn’t hang around and taste more wines. Short week = trying to fit five days worth of work into four…
Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Brut Prior 2015
Bortolomiol make a gajillion bottles of Prosecco these days, yet their reputation is still intact, helped along by premium wines like this. Bright green straw, this has a wonderful open flesh to it, but backed by crisp acidity. Clean and pure Prosecco in a classic, light form with a sense of finesse here and delicacy. It’s not profound, but it’s exactly what you’d expect from a premium Valdobbiadene bottling. 17.5/20, 91/100.
Ferghettina Franciacorta Extra Brut 2009
Franciacorta is so hot right now. So. Hot. Prices are going through the roof, even though production is still meagre (in Italian terms). Expect to see much more in the future. This Ferghettina spends a very solid 6 years on lees and it shows, with a noticeable, potent autolysis character. It’s full, but piercing acidity – really pointy acid – is a counterpoint to lees derived funk. Nice wine this, even if there is just a little disconnect between acid and lees. 17.8/20, 92/100
Cavit Trento Brut Altemasi Graal Ris 2008
Cavit is a cooperative of 11 producers. producing 70 million bottles. 70 million! That’s, erm, a bit of wine. This is the flagship sparkling for Cavit and the 70/30 Chardonnay/Pinot blend spends 5 years on lees. Chunky and slightly cheesy nose, I can’t help but feel this on the decline, the chewy, toasty palate looking broader every minute and then falls away into sharp acidity. It’s a big mouthful of a wine, and clearly complex, but a little more freshness is needed for real glory. 16.5/20, 88/100.
Le Marchesine Franciacorta Brut Rose 2010
Now this is intriguing! 60% Pinot Nero (Noir), this is so vinous and lively. A sense it was made by humans, not machines (unlike the wine above). Very light salmon pink, it smells of creamed raspberries, and smells closer to a table wine than bubbles – indeed the fizz feels like an afterthought. Champagne it’s not, the grapefruit acidity firm and pointy, but also lifted up by a hint of wildness too. I like this. 18/20, 93/100.
Leonilda Pieropan Soave Classico La Rocca 2013
Pieropan are one of the icons of Soave, though everyone seems to shit on this region (unfairly) due to its domination by ordinary cooperatives. Ugh. Anyway, this comes from a vineyard facing south-west, the grapes picked ripe at the end of October. Barrel fermented, it’s a big and phenolic style with grunt and mid palate fire. There’s a real marzipan character here which is attractive – distinctive, unusual and welcome. That warmth is a distraction though, and I can’t help but feel this would be even better with a bit more freshness, the flavours coming across as a bit cooked. Worth a revisit. 17/20, 90/100.
Zorzettig Friuili FCO Pinot Bianco Myo 2014
This is anything but the weak and boring Pinot Bianco sometimes seen in northern Italy. Hooray. A rather ripe and intense, honey and white peach nose that is more like a warm Alsace Pinot Blanc than anything else. I love the layers of white fruit here, even if the acidity is just a little tangy. Another year and this should be delicious! Long, phenolic and firm, the more you look the longer it looks. 17.8/20, 92/100+.
Livon Friuili Braide Alte 2013
Here is a prime example of different tastes. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Picolit and Moscato Giallo this is closer to a Californian Viognier than anything else. Which is obviously weird. Thick and drenched in milky oak, there’s a beautiful hint of apricot from the Moscato (Muscat), but the oak interacts with the sweetness of the Moscato Giallo here to make this quote grandiose, oily and heavy, (though it still has acidity unlike Californian Viognier). Hard to see much else beyond that richness, the other flavours lost just a fraction in the rush. 16.5/20, 88/100.
Jermann Friuili Vintage Tunina 2013
Another interesting Friuilian mix of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Ribolla Giala, Malvasia and Picolit. except while the Livon is overpowering, this is delicious. I love the nose – a little passionfruit on the nose (hello Sauv Blanc) and then celery and white pepper. Intriguing. The palate is spicy too, in a way not often seen in whites without skin contact (and I realise that spicy is an indistinct sensation, but this is almost chilli-like) with driving acidity and excellent length. Easy to discount a wine like this, but it is genuinely intriguing, the acid strident, the flavour cascade seriously attractive. Very good! 18/20, 93/100.
Velenosi Marche Offida Pecorino Villa Angela 2015
Picolino. Broad and advanced, this is forward and cheesy, the texture thick and mouthfilling. Textural, but lacks the vitality to be interesting, the finish flat and broad. Hard to see the appeal here. Different strokes/different folks? 15.5/20, 85/100
Poggio al Tesoro Bolgheri Superiore Sondraia 2012
Hello Bolgheri Cabernet! This is about as obvious as you can get – no options game trickery with this red. It smells of Hedgerow, capsicum, leaf, mint and just a little blackberry. Cabernet! But shaded fruit too. No surprises that this tastes minty, wildly tannic and severe, the acid high, the structure just brutal. This is an attack of a wine, but built for the very long haul. Are those tannins ripe enough I wonder? If this does come through, it could be great. Maybe. Gee it’s aggressive though. Scorewise I’m lost – need to acknowledge the power. 17/20, 90/100+
Tenuta Sette Ponti Podere Orma ‘Orma’ 2012
While this is also from Bolgheri it couldn’t be anymore different. A blend of 50% Merlot with less Cab Sauv and Franc, it looks more like a traditional Bolgheri red in the Sassicaia mode than the Sondraia. Much tastier because of it. Nowhere near as aggressive, the style here is much more contemporary but with a little of the meaty, Italianate edge and tannin shape. Long and grippy, the tannins here are life affirming and it feels genuinely fresh. I came back to this several times, and it looked more winning every sip. Like. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Cantine San Marzano Primitivo do Manduria Talo 2013
Odd. Really odd wine. new oak sticking it’s finger in here with caramel notes over a surprisingly sweet and juicy palate that packs a very liberal dose of fresh juice residual sugar. What is this frankenwine? Blackberry juice meets oak in an odd, off dry mashup that even finishes sweet. Like oaky Ribena. 15/20, 83/100.
Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella 2011
Modern and quite polished Amarone. It’s generous but feels just a little light on. Where are the tannins and drive? It’s like Amarone lite, except for the late fillip of alcohol and caramel oak. Maybe it will build in bottle, but for the moment it’s light on and a bit disappointing. 16.8/20, 89/100.
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Strange they put the Pieropan ‘La Rocca’ ’13 up for the tasting, when it was actually the ‘Calvarino’ that got Tre Bicchieri this year?
That’s got 30% Trebbiano di Soave in the blend, and uses cement tanks rather than wood; so you’d probably have found that freshness too.
Tends to oscillate between the two, which one gets the gong.