This was my fourth consecutive year covering this event and the wines continue to meet and often exceed expectations. Recent vintages have been excellent, but that aside, the quality of Italian wines in general has never been higher. As a member of the press, I was able enter the tasting 60 minutes prior to the general public, so I did my best to taste and take advantage of the peace before the crowds assembled.
Like last year, I attempted to focus on wines that I felt would be of greatest interest to the majority of readers and also to linger a little longer with each of the wines and winery representatives. Many of the wines included below were tasted twice.
With events of this nature, the wines were tasted without food and the pours were often very small. As such, my impressions are somewhat limited and only a range of scores is provided. Unless otherwise noted, all wines below received the Tre Bicchieri award.
|~ Vineyards in Maremma for Grattamacco ~
A blend of 65% Cabernet, 25% Merlot and 10% Sangiovese, Grattamacco is also a perennial Tre Bicchieri winner. French barrique aged for 18-21 months in a combination of new, first, and second passage barrels. This is behaving very much like a Cabernet right now. Deep purple color. Loads of black plum, cedar and spice on the nose and palate with loads of tannins that are very well integrated. Definitely one for the cellar. 92-95 points.
|~ I Vini ~
Podere Boscarelli “Il Nocio”
This is 100% Sangiovese and very elegant for the vintage, with complex aromas of red cherry, mushroom and cedar. It’s aged in Slavonian oak botte for almost 2 years prior to release. Flavors follow the nose with good freshness and intensity. Really delicious, but still at the top end price for Vino Nobile. 92-94 points.
Represented by the engaging Alessandro Lunardi, the general manager, this was another estate that I wanted to hit before the crowds began assembling. It’s really not amazing that this wine consistently garners Tre Bicchieri – what’s amazing is that it’s seemingly becoming routine. Yet I can’t quarrel with the distinction at all because the wine is stellar.
2013 Le Serre Nuove
I’m putting this one first because while Ornellaia is typically excellent, this wine’s quality surprised me a little. This is the second wine of the estate but the grape sources are the same as for Ornellaia. The blend for the 2013 was 36% Cabernet, 32% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 12% Petit Verdot. Classy and elegant, this dark plum flavored wine has plenty of tannic structure and oak, but the fruit is there in spades to back this up. Cedar, mineral and meat aromas and flavors round out this fresh wine. Aged 18 months, 6 of which are in bottle prior to release, the wine is aged in 25% new and 75% used French barrique. This was outstanding. A poor mans Ornellaia? 92-94 points. Due Bicchieri. About $55.
2012 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Ornellaia
Equally as impressive was the estate’s flagship wine. Always at least 50% Cabernet, this vintage is 56% Cabernet, 27% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. Muscular, with a large frame of oak, tannins, and acids – this wine is already incredibly balanced and the tannins well integrated. Aromas and flavors of black fruits, cedar, menthol, licorice and spices are dominant. The only downside is the price which is approaching $250. 94-97 points.
2012 Podere Sapaio, Sapaio
The 2012 is 70% Cabernet, 10% Cabernet Franc and 20% Petit Verdot. The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks and then barrique aged for 18 months before a full year in bottle prior to release. Sapaio is deep purple in the glass with long viscous legs. The Petit Verdot gives this lots of heft, but the floral notes from the Franc are noticeable. Black fruit on the palate is ripe and round with balanced acidity, minerality, and cedar rounding out the profile. Definitely an estate to watch and a great value from this area of Tuscany where wines are typically over $150. 94-96 points. Price varies widely from $35-$50. Go long on the lower end.
|~ Sapaio has been Tre Bicchieri for 7 years in a row ~
Fattoria Petrolo (sort of) & Le Macchiole
I always say that great wines tell a story and sometimes they cause the story. Sometimes more, the story is hysterical. There was Seinfeld episode where Kramer was describing the events he encountered on a bus while he was rushing a woman’s severed pinky toe to the hospital. There was a thug on the bus that Kramer knocked out, but the driver had a heart attack so “I tossed him aside and now I’m driving the bus……..”
I walk up to the Petrolo table and all I see is a bottle of Galatrona sitting on the table unopened. The gentlemen at the next table was pouring Paleo and I asked him if he was also pouring for Petrolo. No, they never showed up. Just then, I stub my toe on a case of Galatrona sitting under the table going to waste. So I grabbed the nearest corkscrew, reached under the table and “Pop”…..now I’m driving the bus! I’m pouring Galatrona by the glassfull for everyone, including me. 2 or 3 glasses later…..
2012 Petrolo Galatrona
How you arrange for a tasting like this and fail to show up is beyond me. It’s just a damn shame I couldn’t boot the remaining 6 bottles, because I know they were just going to get thrown away. Galatrona is amazing. It’s among my favorites and although it’s expensive, it’s a value compared to wines like Redigaffi, Masseto, and L’Apparita. Blackish purple. Black fruit, licorice, cedar and mint on the nose and palate. Just velvety with a touch of bitter chocolate on the finish. Stunning as always. 95-98 points. About $90.
2012 Le Macchiole Paleo
Never before have I wanted to be on the Paleo diet! This could make me a convert. I wrote a great feature here on Cinzia Merli and her estate. That was several vintages ago and the wines have gotten better. Ultra dark purple color – The floral tones from the Cabernet Franc are just amazing. Crushed black plum fruit joins lavender, roses and sage on the nose. The core of fruit is massive and perfectly ripe. Flavors follow the nose with a touch of espresso bean on the finish. Unique and superlative. Not yet released completely. About $60-$75
|~ That is some of my Galatrona in the glass at left. Note the temporary vintage sticker on the Paleo bottle ~
2012 San Pio
|~ The Mastrojanni Lineup was very impressive ~
|~ The 2012 Petra is 70% Cabernet and 30% Merlot and spends 18 months in French barrique, 30% of which are new. The wine is then bottle aged for a minimum of 18 months prior to release ~
Represented by the gentlemanly Andrea Cecchi and the fine folks at Terlato, this lineup of wines never fails to impress, showcasing two wonderful Tre Bicchieri wines.
2013 Cecchi Chianti Classico
Medium ruby, bright and forward. A mid-weight textbook Chianti Classico from Castellina in Chianti that is everything you’d want from the type. Floral tones, berries, dried herbs on both the nose and palate lead to a refreshing finish. Great value. 89-91 points. Due Bicchieri.
2012 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva
I’ve written about the amazing 2010 version of this wine and the 2012 is no less impressive. This is one of the best values in Chianti Classico Riserva. Period. Loaded with bright red berry fruit, this has fresh sage and tobacco on the nose and palate and a mouthwatering refreshing sensation that compels another sip. Balanced and full bodied, this will evolve so well over a decade. 92-95 points.
2011 Cecchi Coevo
I was able to review this before it had even been released to the market. It was stunning then; I think it’s pretty much in the same place so I’ll stand by my earlier review: No Compromises.
The 2011 is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 20% Petit Verdot, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet. The former and latter varieties come from Cecchi’s estate in Castellina and the middle varieties from their estate in Maremma.
|~ The Cecchi lineup. That is the 2012 Villa Cerna in the glass ~
I tweeted during the event that Piaggia just may be the best kept secret at Gambero Rosso. This is somewhat of a surprise to me since they’ve had wines at the event for the last 4 years and even more impressive that it’s often a different wine. Yet proprietor Silvia Vannucci was alone each time I went past her table.
2013 Carmignano Il Sasso
If you’ve been a reader of Tuscan Vines you know I think “Il Sasso” is among the best values in all of Tuscany. I routinely rate it at 90+ points and it’s about $20-$25. I recently purchased the wine for $18 and reviewed it completely in October of 2015. My review is on point. Go long. Due Bicchieri.
2012 Piaggia Carmignano Riserva
My oh my! This is special stuff. Deep ruby, to almost purple in the glass with a faint fade at the rim. Aromas of flowers, berries and plums, coffee, lavender, mint – this is so expressive and polished. Flavors mimic the nose and are long and elegant. Juicy, ripe acidity keeps it all fresh. Emiliano Falsini is a genius! Another great value around $30-$35. 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet, 10% Merlot.
|~ The single vineyard “Il Sasso” and the Piaggia Riserva in the glass ~
Winemaker Fabio Angius was on hand to pour his lovely wines. I remember a few years back, he expressed some frustration that his wines were falling short of Tre Bicchieri. That was relieved 3 years ago and now he’s a fixture at the event. Pala is a name you should know. They’re the best winery on Sardinia. Extra Tip: While 2014 was a total washout of a vintage “In Italy” – Fabio shared with me that for Sardinia, it was one of the best vintages in modern times. Take advantage!
|~ Winemaker Fabio Angius, with his “favorite” wine Essentija ~
This tasting reinforced what we’ve been hearing for a long time and that is that Italian wines, from throughout Italy, have never been of higher quality. Even just in the last 4 years covering this event, I’ve seen wines produced from all corners and all grapes of the country that can easily stand proudly on the international stage. That is great for me and consumers alike. Furthermore, with Italy now the largest producer of wine in the world, finding many of these wines is no easier than its been.
Salute! Stay tuned for more!