Earlier this month I attended the Portfolio Tasting for Massanois Imports.  The event was held in a private room at the Pluckemin Inn in scenic Bedminster, New Jersey and provided a perfect opportunity to sample some of the wine from Massanois’ extensive Italian portfolio.  
There were no winery principles present, so wines were tasted not by producer, but in the order arranged by the importer. My notes follow that pattern and are, as always for an event such as this, given as general impressions with score ranges. 
Overall, there were some very impressive wines here and many of them have not yet been released, so read carefully!
I Vini di Massanois

2011 Giordano Lombardo Vigne San Martino Gavi di Gavi – Bright and steely with nice clean flavors and a crisp finish.  Very delicate and would be best as an aperitif.   85-87 points.

~ Biodynamic Single Vineyard Gavi di Gavi ~
2012 Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico San Michele  Clear golden color with a slight stinky petrol note that I found enjoyable. Crisp, with lively lemon and pineapple flavors to match the nose. This is very nice.  86-88 points

~ Single Vineyard Soave Classico ~
2012 Sportoletti Assisi GrechettoPerhaps an estate known for their racy red wines, I was a little disappointed when they were not available to taste.  However, this white is intriguing for it’s lemon and white stone fruit aromas and flavors. Assisi is very steep and very hilly. I can imagine the efforts to harvest these grapes. Bright and focused on the palate, this is very nice. 87-89 points.

~ 100% Grechetto from the Assisi DOC ~

2012 Pertimali Rosato di Toscana –  Can you say, Rose of Brunello?  Of course you can.  This is what happens when winemakers love to drink Rose.  This is free run juice from the estate’s Sangiovese Grosso and should be arriving to the market shortly.  Vibrant nose of strawberry, watermelon and flowers.  Nicely balanced, dry and refreshing on the palate. Hint of mineral.  Really delcious.  Might be a bit more than many would want to pay for a Rose, but I loved it. 89-91 points. 

~ First Press Juice from Sangiovese Grosso ~
2011 Nals Magreid Suditrol Pinot Noir – sigh. I just don’t get Italian Pinot. I don’t know why the Italians continue to make it. This very light in color with a pretty strawberry aroma. On the palate it’s light bodied, simple, and quaffable. There’s nothing to be excited about here. As I say, I just don’t get Italian Pinot.  82-84 points.
~ Pinot Noir from Alto Adige ~
2012 Ca’ Rugate Valpolicella “Rio Albo” –  This medium bodied red is violet colored with a spicy, peppery nose of red cherry fruit.  Flavors follow on the palate with a slightly bitter finish.  This is nice, in a classic Valpolicella style, but I much preferred this estates Soave.  84-86 points.
~ Ca’ Rugate Rio Albo Valpolicella ~
2011 Pico Maccario Barbera d’Asti Lavignone –  I’m typically not a fan of Barbera from Asti because I often find them too acidic for my tastes; their cousins from Alba more to my liking.  However, this medium bodied red, from a producer I was not familiar with, was very nice.  Lots of spicy cherry on the nose and palate with hints of earth and herbs. Pretty. 87-89 points. 
2011 Lucchetti Lacrima di Morro d’Alba – This one, will confuse the hell out of the most seasoned Italian wine drinker.  Lucchetti is the producer.  Lacrima is the grape.  Morro d’Alba is the town, which is located, wait for it…in Le Marche!  As you may know, Lacrima means “Tear” in Italian.  This ancient grape, which is not found in Italy outside of the commune of Morro d’Alba, gets it’s name from the shape of the fruit, which is elongated and tapered at one end, to resemble a tear drop.  This wine is as delicious as it is unique.  Lovely aromas of pine, earth, dark berries and flowers combine nicely.  The palate is filled with crushed berries, piney notes, and some earth accents. Should be afforadable too.  88-90 points.

 ~ Left: Barbera d’Asti      Right: Unique Lacrima di Morro d’Alba

2010 La Querciolina Montecucco Rosso –  This DOC begins just across the river from the southern border of the Brunello zone.  While theoretically part of the northern tip of Maremma,  this is actually an obscure DOC called “Montecucco”.  Montecucco Rosso must be made from 100% Sangiovese.  La Querciolina is owned by Livio Sassetti, of Pertimali.  In this case, the wine is fashioned from 100% Sangiovese Grosso.  While delicious, don’t think Brunello here.  I found this wine to be similar to a Morellino Riserva.  The bright ruby color is intense and aromas and flavors of cherries, sweet pipe tobacco and spicy earth are abundant.  This is really nice and a new discovery for me.  Great value as this will be affordable.  88-90 points.
2011 Graci Etna Rosso – This is Etna DOC Rosso and made entirely from the indigenous Nerello Mascalese grape. Graci is a bit of a “freak” to use the term the Rep. chose to describe him with.  I get it. Long macerations, cement vats, native yeast, etc…  This deep red is filled with smoke, cherry, ash, and earth.  It’s funky.  On the palate, it’s nothing short of delicious.  Lots of tobacco, mineral, ash, and ripe berry fruit.  More weight to the palate than I expected here. Just as good in quality as Tenute Terre Nere – maybe better at this price point.  89-91 points. 


~ La Querciolina Montecucco Rosso   –   Graci Etna Rosso ~

2011 Soluve Chianti Classico –  This is a new wine.  A brand new estate created/owned by Viticcio.  Over the past few years, there have been many established vineyards in Chianti Classico that have freed up to sell their grapes.  This is due largely in part to the giant producer Antinori,  who used to label their “Villa” line as a Chianti Classico.  That designation has been dropped, vineyard leases have expired, and the resulting “glut” of Sangiovese on the market has left a void.  Estates are taking advantage.  Donna Laura, the Chianti Classico estate owned by Tolaini has recently leased some vineyards, and Viticcio has done the same in entering into long term leases for the new Soluve wine.   This is dark violet in the glass with purple and red reflections.  Aromas of dried herbs, berries and new leather are prominent and the flavors follow through on the palate. This is delicious Chianti Classico and all one could expect from the genre.  Should be less than $20 upon release.  88-90 points. 
2009 Viticcio Chianti Classico Riserva –  I have some of the 2007 version of this wine sitting in the cellar, so I was eager to try this.  Good news all around for this estate.  As of 2009, they have hired consultant Franco Bernanbei (Felsina, Fontodi, Monte Antico, among others) which is sure to ramp up the quality further here.  This wine is 97% Sangiovese and 3% Merlot and boasts huge aromas of violets, flowers, berries and leather.  On the palate, the flavors are intense and add a meaty component.  Structured and balanced, I think this is better than the 2007.  Already the Bernabei influence? This is excellent wine.  91-93 points.  Typically about $25 retail.
~ Two delicious wines from the Viticcio stable ~

2009 Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano –  100% Organic.  This was a new wine to me and of course is Prugnolo Gentile aged in a combination of large botte (70%) and french barrique (30%).   The resulting wine is balanced and delicious.  Salcheto is deep brick ruby in the glass. A little more advanced in color than I would have expected.  Leather, tobacco, earth and spices on the nose and palate, with these secondary notes framing the berry fruit.  This is very nice Vino Nobile and I really like the aromas, though I’m not sure the value will be there vis a vis the wines of Avignonesi and Poliziano.  89-91 points.
2008 Fanti Brunello di Montalcino – Cool new label!  Has the winemaker changed here?  I remember Fanti’s Brunello being almost black.  This wine is a dark ruby/brick red and looks very different stylistically.  Is it just a harbinger of the “lesser” vintage?  I’ll answer these questions later when Fanti is part of my comprehensive 2008 Brunello report that is coming.  For now, this had pretty, delicate aromas of crushed berry, spice, and earthy mushroom.  On the palate, the wine displays nice concentration for the vintage. Classy red fruits accented with indian spices, leather and warm earth.  defintely different than I recall and in a more restrained style.  Should be released soon.  90-92 points.

~ The New Look Fanti at Left.    Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at Right ~

2008 Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino – Wow!  Great nose here.  Loads of smokey cherries, tobacco, berries, cherries and earth.  Lovely to smell.  On the palate, there’s a classy core of ripe crushed berries, very primary. Framed by spice and sweet pipe tobacco.  This is outstanding Brunello and better than many 2007’s I’ve had. Producer over vintage.  Like Fanti, I’ll be reporting on this again as part of my 2008 Brunello report. Not yet released.  94-96 points.
2006 Bressan Schioppettino – I hate to say it, but I will.  OMG!   If Graci is a freak, then Bressan is an uber freak! Releasing wines only when he thinks they are ready, this 2006 is the current vintage and soon to be released.  Everything here is organic. Natural, native yeasts.  Gigantic oak casks.  Schioppettino derives it’s name from the verb scoppiare – “to explode”.  The Schioppettino grape releases a large amount of gas during fermentation.  If said fermentation takes place in vessels with a lid, they will “blow”.  Therefore, we have open topped oak and cement casks.  This wine changed and evolved dramatically during the 2+ hour time span I was at the tasting. I kept going back to it. The grapes are dried before they’re pressed.  Deep red color.  The nose vascillates from barnyard, to earth, leather, crushed cherries, cloves, white pepper and back.  The wine is full bodied, with grippy, chewey tannins.  The flavors are ripe and well presented.  Not what I’d say polished, but surely not rustic.  Full bodied crushed red fruit is accented by spice, leather, coffee, and exotic spices. I can say with confidence that this will not be everyones cup of tea.  However, this was one of the highlights of the tasting for me.  I will be putting this wine in my cellar.  93-96 points. 
~ Bressan Schioppettino & Pertimali Brunello.  Two Standouts in this Tasting ~

2009 Podere Aldo Conterno Langhe Rosso –  This is a blend of 80% Freisa and equal parts Cabernet and Merlot. Dark purple, soft and generous.  Despite the addition of the Cabernet and Merlot, the wine is very accessibile with little tannic structure. Ripe berry fruit is balanced well with slight spices, flowers, violets and menthol. Fermented in stainless steel, the wine is then barrique aged for 6 months prior to release. Pretty wine.  87-89 points. 
2009 Podere Lorenzo Alutto Barbaresco Rabaja – For decades, Lorenzo followed behind his father toiling in the vineyards and cellars for Lorenzo’s Dad was Cellar Master of Produttori del Barbaresco.  He learned well.  This is Lorenzo’s own wine and it’s from arguably the best vineyard in Barbaresco. The wine is deep brick red with intense aromas of berries, spices, anise and meat. On the palate the wine has such wonderfully ripe cherry fruit with gorgeous structure, but turns chewy.  Increased perfume on the nose when I went back to the wine hours later.  This is absolutely delicious Rabaja.  A standout.  91-94 points. 

~ Lorenzo Alutto Barbaresco Rabaja  –  Langhe Rosso from Aldo Conterno ~

2009 Mauro Molino Barolo – I’ve read a lot that 2009 will be a “Barbaresco” vintage – meaning that area fared better than the neighboring Barolo.  I certainly don’t have enough data points yet, but I’m beginning to think this idea has merit. This Barolo is very nice – but it lacks the intensity or power that you want from the region.  Flowers, anise, and spice on the nose of this dark violet wine. It’s more modern in style, more forward.  A medium to full bodied core of fruit adds licorice to the cherry flavors.  Very good for an entry level Barolo. 89-91 points.
2008 Bruna Grimaldi Barolo Camilla –  From Grinzane Cavour.  Lighter brick red in color.  Old school winemaking here. Floral perfume, cherries, anise and meat on the nose. Elegant power. Cured meaty palate with crushed cherry, dried herbs and anise. Traditional with large tonneaux for aging and fermentation.  90-92 points.
Two very different Barolo

2008 Podere Aldo Conterno Barolo –  Arguably, this was the most muscular, most powerful Barolo of the three.  It was also the most shut down.  I went back to this wine as well – hours later it still had not fleshed out at all.  I imagine that’s not surprising. Faint nose of cherries and earth. Monolithic ripe fruit on the palate.  This is one for the cellar. A few months back, I had this wine with Aldo’s son, Franco Conterno.  It was more expressive then:  “The nose offers abundant aromas of flowers, black cherry and spice. In the mouth, the wine is very precise, elegant and flavorful with ripe black fruits, a touch of licorice and a floral essence. It’s elegant and masculine at the same time and is so well balanced that it can seemingly age effortlessly for a decade or more. Conterno’s best value of all the Barolo produced.  93 points.”
2011 Bere Toscana Rosso – Sangiovese with Cabernet and Merlot.  Simple wine but very pleasant.  Berries, spice and tobacco on the nose and palate with a bit of funk.  This is made by Viticcio as well – perfect as an every day house wine. About $13 retail.  87-89 points

~ Bere & Barolo ~
2009 I Greppi Greppicante – This is Viticcio’s Bolgheri Estate.  Coincidentally, I had enjoyed this wine for dinner just a few days before this tasting and was surprised to see it here.  This Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend was just as enticing at this tasting as it was with dinner.  Black fruits, sage, tobacco and herbs on the nose and palate – the finish is long and ripe where the tannins assert themselves a bit.  For the value here – this is a total bargain.  91-93 points.  Can be purchased now for about $23. 
2010 Tenuta Degli Dei “Le Redini” –  This delicious red hails from the heart of Chianti, Panzano, and the name of the estate translates loosely as  “Farm of the Gods”.   A blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Alicante this seductive red is crafted under the watchful eyes of Carlo Ferrini and Gioia Cresti.   Vibrant nose of spices, licorice, fennel and black fruits are followed on the palate by velvety berries, anise, fresh sage and spices which lead to a long, ripe, juicy finish.  “Redini” means Reins, and is a nod to the family horse breeding farm that is part of the estate.   This is a project to watch.  90-92 points.

~ Le Redini & Greppicante ~

Thanks to the gang at Massanois for organizing this excellent event.  Look forward to the New York event come fall.

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