Category Archives: Italy

2005 Mamete Prevostini Sforzato di Valtellina Albareda

I was very excited about trying out a Mamete Prevostini wine with a handful of years of bottle maturation under its belt. This evening with my wife and a couple of friends, fillet of pork, risotto, a red wine sauce (using Montiano from Falesco as a base…viva Italia) and a salad of leaf spinach and tomato turned out to be a great combo with the wine. And as regards the wine itself? Of course I was not disappointed!

After all, Mr. Prevostini is a top-notch producer who is still to fail my expectations. The winery is located in the valley of Valtellina not far from Lago di Como in Lombardy bordering on Switzerland. Most of Prevostini’s wines are tasted in a previous post on this blog. I have had the opportunity to try out the wines the last couple of years at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona held annually in March/April. Apart from the 2005 Albareda, I will touch upon another couple of their wines who really impressed me this year at Vinitaly, both of which in my opinion are better than the Albareda. Nevertheless, the Albareda is without any doubt the producer’s most famous and respected wine. It practically subscribes to Tre Bicchieri in the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia guide.

Doubtlessly, it is a unique wine. As described in the previous blog post, the red wines are exclusively made from Nebbiolo, which inevitably will result in comparisons with Barolo and Barbaresco. Further, Sforzato is a wine made with the appassimento technique; the grapes have been picked and put in small wooden boxes for drying, until the end of January in the case of the Albareda. It is subsequently macerated for 20 days before being put on oak maturation for 18 months and in bottle for another 10 months. Needless to say, a comparison with Amarone della Valpolicella is unavoidable. In my opinion, the Sforzato comes out at the end of the tunnel as the winner. Even more so in the case of the 2005. The 2005 Sforzato di Valtellina Albareda is certainly superior to the 2009 I had this spring. The 2009 had typical Amarone notes of dried fruit, raisins and chocolate, whereas in the case of the 2005, these notes have faded. Now, its shows spices such as pomerans and orange. It smells of cranberry, roses and almond with a very pleasant tone of cream toffee. The wines is coherent, round and full-bodied without being over the top. 15 % ABV. It reeks of red berries and has pleasantly integrated oak. 91p.

I opened the bottle and waited two hours before pouring it. It did not dare air it in a decanter because – given the lack of tasting notes and statistics published for this wine – I was not  sure about its longevity and did not want to stress the wine. However, this could most likely endure another 10 years of bottle maturation. I am not sure whether they have older vintages that actually can be tasted, but I will certainly ask Federico Scaramellini, who moderates the Mamete Prevostini tastings at Vinitaly, whether he has the possibility to pour some mature wines in 2013. Let’s hope for the best. I’d be very excited to see what their wines are like with some bottle maturation.

At Vinitaly 2012, one of the two Mamete Prevostini wines that impressed me the most was the 2009 Sommarovina Valtellina Superiore, which was beautiful; raspberries, tobacco, minerals, fresh herbs and asphalt/tar. Round, balanced and with already well-integrated tannins. In my Mamete Prevostini tasting of 2011, this was my favorite wine. 91p.

And it still would have been in 2012 if it wasn’t for the majestic 2009 San Lorenzo Valtellina Superiore. Going through my personal tasting notes, I don’t think they have ever been close to producing a wine like this (of the wines I have tasted). This is a wine of Burgundian magnitude, and in a blind tasting, I would certainly have guessed this was a Pinot Noir…so fragile, so elegant, so sophisticated, yet with such a grip, structure and stature. It just comes to show how similar Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir are in many senses, these two notoriously difficult-to-cultivate grapes. This smells of cured meat, with gamey and earthy notes…very Pinot-like. However, this is balanced by a very fresh tone of strawberry. Incredible nose. On the palate, it shows tobacco and red berries. Medium-bodied, complex and intense. Well-balanced with perfectly mature and integrated tannins. I wonder what this will be like in, say, five years. I sure look forward to tasting this again. 94p.


2005 Schiavenza Barolo Prapò

This is the second time around I try out a Schiavenza Barolo. Schiavenza is – at least in Sweden – not a particularly known producer. Hence, my expectations are moderate. But man is this a good producer! 

The Prapò is a vineyard located in the village of Serralunga d’Alba, which generally is known for making powerful and tannic wines. However, this 2005 is not an austere wine, which probably has to do with the vintage; 2005 is regarded as an early-maturing year. Still, this one is better after an hour of airing. Nevertheless, it will not benefit from another two or three hours of decanting. The 2005 Prapò has been stored on large Slavonian bottis for three years, so there is really no evident sensation of oak in the wine. I tasted the 2004 Prapò Riserva some time ago, which is highly recommended. Carlo Merolli sells Schiavenza for competitive prices. Schiavenza appears to be a coming winery: they have presented a wine earning tre bicchieri in Vini d’Italia for three consecutive years in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

So how about the 2005 Prapò? I had the wine with tagliatelli accompanied by salsiccia and roasted vegetables such as squash, mushrooms and peppers along with a homemade tomato sauce comprising garlic, white wine, tomatoes and basil, and this wine was pleasant even without the food. However, the Barolo stood up well against the salsiccia. Nice combination. This is really a textbook Nebbiolo; tar, licorice, tobacco, roses and earth on the nose. There are lots of things going on here. Terrific smell! It is medium-bodied with pleasant tannins. Nice length and attack with a red-berry feeling. Very silky for being a Barolo. 90p.


Firriato

When visiting Sicily for vacation the other week, I took the opportunity to taste some local wine. The very majority of the wine produced on Sicily appears to be bulk, but there are quality producers. Particularly on the western part of the island, you must be picky.

Me and my family rented a beachfront house outside the city of Marsala on the south-western tip of Sicily. In this westernmost part of Sicily there are one or two handfuls of top producers, whereas at the eastern part of the island, particularly around Etna, quality is allegedly higher, at least according to Vini d’Italia and Parker. When blindly picking a wine off the shelf at the local supermercato, it frankly wasn’t very good, not even at €18. I visited Donnafugata, which is top-notch and was located just about 7 kilometers from our house, and Firriato in the small town of Paceco just outside Trapani.

Firriato started out as a wine producer as late as in 1985 with the attempt to produce high-quality wine from indigenous grapes. It has to be said that this is not your small,charming and romantic wine producer but an industrial plant which pumps out 4,5 million bottles of wine each years. The facilities are spick and span and with industrial robots participating in the production. So don’t expect to meet up with your average small-scale Burgundian grape farmer when visiting the premises.

Nevertheless, Firriato makes some good wine, there is no doubt about that. They also get consistently good reviews in Vini d’Italia, and even the Mighty Parker is not unimpressed.

Unfortunately, at Firriato, tastings could only be offered to parties of 10 people or more, meaning that I had to buy all the wines I wanted to taste, which certainly made for a severe restriction on the wines I could review. Nevertheless, I bought some of the medium-priced wines such as Santagostino, Quater and the Cavanera Bianco. Of these wines, I would particularly recommend the red Quarter and the white Santagostino.

Further, I bought a couple of bottles of the top-end bottlings as well. These include the Ribeca, the Harmonium, the Camelot and the Etna Rosso Cavanera. Of these four top-end wines, the Cavanera may be the best. I did not take any tasting notes when trying it out, but I fortunately have a couple of bottles left, so I may return to it later. One of the very reasons I chose to visit Firriato is that they are one of few (the only?) west-Sicily growers that also has vineyards at Etna and consequently makes Etna wines.

The 2009 Harmonium (€19) being a monovarietal Nero d’Avola is deep, deep red, almost inky with a nose of black-berries and plums. Slightly hollow in its centre part. Full bodied. Big and powerful with a slight bitterness at the end. 14.5 % ABV. In my opinion, this could have traded some power against balance to perform better. This is a tad too powerful to me. Gets the Three Glass award in Vini d’Italia more often than not. 85p.

The 2009 Camelot (€22) is a classic Bordeaux blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Black currant, autumn leaves, fleshy, animalic with a slight sensation of fresh herbs. Great and classic Bordeaux nose, in particular after having spent some time out in the air. 14.5 % ABV. Nice length, decent balance and good power, albeit not top-heavy. Medium to full bodied. 87p.

Finally, the 2008 Ribeca (€19) is the finest of the bunch. Exclusively from the indigenous Perricone grape, which you certainly don’t have everyday outside of Sicily.  Blackberries, spices, cured meat. Lots of character. Intense yet balanced and with a nice length and smooth finish. It lacks the slightly bitter finish which is present in both the Harmonium and the Camelot. Not completely different from a souther Rhône wine. Well-built with a good structure. 89p.


1999 Brezza Barolo

Me and my wife visited Piemonte in 2008, traveling through the Langhe area. In the village of Barolo, the picturesque Brezza winery is located hosting a terrific restaurant as well as producing a high-quality range of wines.


The Brezzas have vineyards in a number of different areas in the Langhe, but the majority are located in Barolo in the crus of Cannubi, Sarmassa, Bricco Sarmassa and Castellero. I bought a bunch a bottles when visiting the winery, and their prices are highly competitive. To my knowledge, the Brezza wines have not been on sale in Sweden.

The 1999 Brezza Barolo Cannubi is magnificent. I wish I had another couple of cases of mature Barolo, ’cause this is just amazing stuff. It only set me back for about €28. Tobacco, asphalt and black cherries on the nose. It is slightly floral with sensations of roses and undergrowth and has a very deep and expressive scent. Terracotta-coloured as can be expected from thirteen-year old Nebbiolo grapes.

It still displays a good grip and could certainly be stored for another five years without losing its structure. The tannins are perfectly balanced and it tastes of tobacco, dark fruit and cinnamon. Very dense with a medium body and a long finish. Intense and complex. 93p.


Giro d’Italia

Twelve Italians wines tasted from twelve different regions. To me, Italy is number 2 when it comes to quality wines. However, when doing these kinds of Italian-theme tastings, it is also rather obvious that the reputation of Italian wine rests almost solely on the regions of Piemonte, Tuscany and – to some extent – Venetia. You can find all kinds of wine full of character and personality all over Italy. But make no mistake: many of them are rustic and if not clumsy, than at least non-elegant. But boy are the good wines good. I have been visiting Vinitaly the last couple of years, which only confirms this. You start out by trying the aglianicos, verdicchios, gaglioppos, montepulcianos, but a couple of hours into the fair, you revert to the Big Two: Piemonte and Tuscany. But you truly must admire the Italians for sticking with native grapes to such a high extent. After all, how boring the world of wine would be if we only had the Cabs, Merlots, Syrahs and Chardonnays.

The first pair out contains some bubblies; one from Trentino and the other from Lombardy, both regions located in the north of Italy. Both are made using the method champenoise. The first one is 250 SEK and the other is 215 SEK. That’s a problem. Call me conservative, but if I am going to pay 250 SEK for a bottle of sparkling, it better be Champagne, dammit! The 2006 Riserva del Fondatore Mach from Istituto Agrario Provinciale San Michele all’Adige is alright. Green apples, citrus and minerals. A bit too frizzy. Nice attack but a tad short. 80p.

The second wine is a blanc de blanc from Castelveder, 2003 Franciacorta Brut Millesimato. Almonds, marzipan, minerals and slightly floral on the nose. Nuts, grape fruit and almond paste on the palate. Not bad at all. Talking about Champagne; this certainly matches the quality of a Champagne in the same price segment. Nice work. 85p.

Unfortunately, Tuscany is represented by a grumpy Sangiovese. This is where you start longing for an Aussie Shiraz chockfull of sugar, fruit and alcohol. 2006 Montevertine from the producer by the same name is highly esteemed. It doesn’t matter. Cherries, tobacco and chocolate. Pleasant smell. I’m not sure what to say about the taste. “Nice acidity”. 395 SEK on magnum. 80p.

Fattoria San Francesco from Calabria produces 2005 Ronco dei Quattroventi Ciró Riserva. Made from Gaglioppo. Now that’s a grape you don’t drink every day! Lots of oak, vanilla, plums and dark fruit. Full bodied, nice attack, noticeable tannins. A trace of bitterness burdens it at the end. Not bad, though. 135 SEK. 82p.

The third pair out contains the real draw-cards of the tasting. At first sight two assumingly disparate wines, the first being from Sicily and the second from Piemonte. The Sicilian wine is from the Etna DOC: 2001 Etna Rosso from Calabretta. Now, this is not your typical warm-grown, jammy Sicilian brew. At an altitude of 750m and volcanic soil, this is obviously a unique micro climate. An extended ripening period lasting until the end of October gives mature and nuanced grapes. The vines are 70-80 years old and the wines are matured in botti for 6-7 years. You would think from these parameters that this is a top-notch Barolo operation. Raspberries, strawberries, tobacco and floral notes. Elegant. Well-integrated tannins, this must have been austere when young…after all, it’s eleven years of age. Nice grip. From 100% Nerello Mascalese. Not your everyday grape. Fantastic. 135 SEK for a ten year old wine of this caliber is just generous. 89p.

The second wine of the third pairing is certainly the best wine altogether: the 2004 Barolo Prapó Riserva from Schiavenza. The Sciavenza property is know for making austere and long-lived wines. Wines that simply need patience to unfold. From the village of Serralunga d’Alba known for making powerful and tannic wines, this has been fostered on large Slavonian bottis for three years, thus giving it a comparatively lesser sensation of oak than would a more “modernly” raised Barolo. A fantastic nose of mineral, roses, tar, leather and pencil shavings. This is a 2004, but still it’s a baby. After seven years! It will certainly develop over the next ten years and probably live well for another twenty years. It is very intense with an amazing attack, great length, nice balance and, as mentioned, a certain austerity. Needless to say, I ordered a case from the Danish distributor for 315 SEK/bottle. Very nice price! 92p.

The fourth batch comprises a Basilicata wine and one from Marche. I’ve tried some Basilicata reds before – they are usual made from Aglianico – and I have a problem with their rustic character. 2004 Vigna Caselle Riserva Aglianico del Vulturefrom d’Angelo is no exception; this is a powerful and harsh mother. Parker gives this 92 points and numerous reviewers in the Cellartracker community rates it 90+. Maybe they are right or drunk and I am just wrong, but I’d give this 82p tops. And then I’m being generous. It is promising on the nose with sensations of licorice, tar dark fruit and salubrin (only in Sweden…). It suggests a big body underneath all that overcoat. Surprisingly, it flashes a bag of bones…and it’s really skinny, short and slightly flat. Not at all as busty as promised.

Marche is mostly known from Verdicchio whites, but the 2008 Barricadiero from Vini Aurora is 95% Montepulciano and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Slightly smoky with cherries and an earthy/molten leaves sensation. Powerful with good acidity and mature tannins. A generous, uncomplicated and nice wine. 84p.

The biggest surprise of the tasting was the Puglian 2007 Morella Old Vines Primitivo. You rarely drink a Primitivo of this caliber. From vines 75 years old, the wine is very elegant and balanced yet powerful. At 15.5% ABV, it shows no signs of the “too-much-of-everything” problems which so often occurs at this ABV. Blackberries, figs, cherries with a slight hint of vanilla. Full-bodied with great depth and roundness. 250 SEK. 90p.

2004 Marta Galli Amarone della Valpolicella from Le Ragose is traditional Amarone. Dried fruit, raisins, figs and chocolate on the nose. Full-bodied with some residual sugar. Chocolate and coffee on the palate with good acidity.86p.

Finally, two sweet wines are tasted. 1987 Vernaccia di Oristano Riserva from Sardegna is the first. Botrytis, apricots, nuts and dried fruit on the nose. This is very sherry-like with hints of mushroom. I have problems with these oxidized wines. 75p.

The last wine is the 2007 Arroco Albana di Romagna Passito from Emilia -Romagna. Not very different from a Sauternes. Botrytis, apricots and honey. Soft, sweet but maybe a little bit too low on acidity. Still, very good. 85p.

All wines can be ordered from carlomerolli.dk, who has very competitive prices. Further, for Swedish customers, he has a promotion where the prices set in DKK can be paid in SEK, 1 DKK = 1 SEK, which effectively gives you a 20% discount. Highly recommended.


Aldo Conterno

Vinitaly. Day #1, Thursday April, 7, 2011 at 16:12. In the same booth, Poderi Aldo Conterno from Monforte d’Alba is back to back with Renato Ratti from La Morra. It’s like dying and going to Barolo heaven. Did I mention Elio Grasso in the neighboring booth? Or Paolo Scavino a cork’s throw away? There’s no shortage of premium wine here, I tell you. 

Barolo is arguably the finest wine-producing area in Italy and thus also one of the best districts in the world. There are so many high-end Piemontese wine producers at Vinitaly you really have to make a tough selection to able to try a handful or two of them. Of course, the Nebbiolo grape reigns here, but there are also nice wines made from Barbera and the oft-overlooked Dolcetto.

Aldo Conterno is one of the best producers in Monforte d’Alba. Located in Bussia, Conterno holds 25 hectares.

First out is the amazing 2008 Conca Tre Pile Barbera d’Alba. 100% Barbera with notes of butter, oak and black cherries. The taste is long and full of minerals and tobacco. This one is oaky in the best sense. Very drinkable.

Next up is the 2008 Il Favot Langhe Nebbiolo. 100% Nebbiolo. This has seen an additional 6 months of oak as compared to the CTP which has been stored in oak for 12 months. Still, there is no barrique sensation in the Il Favot. Sloe, asphalt and tar. Slightly chewy and tannic with a long finish. Could use some calming down in bottle.

Then comes the 2007 Barolo matured on Slavonian oak barrels for 26-28 months. Roses, asphalt and minerals on the nose. Sweet, surprisingly soft taste of cherries and tobacco. A truly amazing wine. Long, round and silky texture. Extremely pleasant. Buy it if you get the chance. The 2005 is 579 SEK at Systembolaget.

Finally, the 2007 Cicala Barolo is tasted. This is one of the finest wines of Monforte and perhaps the whole Barolo appellation. But man is it young. Hazelnuts, tar and tobacco. Jeeeesus, this one is austere. If the Il Favot was slightly chewy, you could use a knife and fork to consume the Cicala. Or perhaps a hammer and a mortise chisel. I have my tounge slip over the inside of my teeth to make sure they’re still there. This power house of a brew will most likely stand up for at least another 20 years. I will certainly buy a couple of bottles when it shows up at Systembolaget. Nevertheless, this is still a tannic monster. There is no other way to put it. This year, the 2006s are out and this will not hit the market until next year.

I think it will be fantastic in time.


Mamete Prevostini

Vinitaly. Day #2, Friday April, 8, 2011 at 12:06. The sun is beating down on Verona. Mamete Prevostini has been placed on the 2nd floor of the Palexpo hall and the air condition is finished singing. Stressed-up Italian wine journalists are aimlessly moving around the hall and the air is thicker than polenta pudding. If the jacket is kept on, it sure will have to stay there the rest of the day. The sweat stains on shirts in my surroundings are the size of South Italian Mortadellas.

Mamete Prevostini is located in the valley of Valtellina not far from Lago di Como in Lombardy bordering on Switzerland. 160,000 bottles are produced from 18 hectares of vineyards. The area is fairly difficult to cultivate with steep slopes and terraces. It is not that unlike Mosel, but these are certainly more mountainous environments. Adjacent plots will most likely have different character.

The reds are exclusively made from Nebbiolo. A comparison with the more famous wine region of Piemonte is thus unavoidable, and in particular with the Piemontese majesties Barolo and Barbaresco. A common generalization holds that Barolo is the more austere and tannic of the two, while Barbaresco has a lighter body with less structure but in return offers a more approachable wine, and the Nebbiolo based wines of Prevostini are closer to the Barbarescos.

We sampled all their wines but the Passito. Every one of them will be discussed in the following apart from said Passito and their single white and rosé wine. However, we start with a glass of white followed by a glass of rosé. These are nice wines and primarily used by us to kick some sense into our taste buds. The draw card of Prevostini is certainly the reds.

First up is the 2009 Botonero IGT Rosso matured 6 months in steel tank. This is a young and fresh wine with good acidity that should be drunk chilled due to its freshness. Notes of red berries, in particular strawberries. Possibly, the producer would not agree, but this very much resembles a Pinot noir (in a good sense). A nice wine to be drunk in the summer, at least if you are located in Sweden like me. Prevostini proceeds by pouring a 2009 Santa Rita Rosso di Valtellina (DOC) stored another couple of months in inox.  This is of course similar to the Botonero but has a slightly bigger body. This should also be consumed chilled to be at its best. These wines will most certainly match well with lighter fish courses. They are both macerated for 5 days, which explains their light bodies.

The third wine is the 2008 Grumello Valtellina Superiore (DOCG). Maceration is now 8 days followed by a year in oak and 8 months in the bottle. One can sense different notes on this wine, even though it has a very pleasant smell of strawberries. There is a slight note of violets and tobacco. This is a medium-bodied wine with nice acidity.

These characteristics are further intensified with the fourth and fifth wines: 2008 Sassella Valtellina Superiore (DOCG) and 2008 Inferno Valtellina Superiore (DOCG), respectively. In the latter, time of maceration has been increased to 12 days. The process is otherwise the same as the Grumello. On the nose, darker fruits, tar and tobacco are present. On the palette, there are fresh herbs, minerals and licorice. These are simply more complex than the Grumello even though the differences should not be exaggerated given that the Grumello too is a DOCG. Up until now, the Inferno is probably the only wine that I would have placed in Piemonte in a blind tasting. Of course, the differences are in themselves not surprising; the terroir in Valtellina is different, and the Nebbiolo clone used is probably also a different one.

The sixth wine presented is in my opinion the finest of the tasting: 2007 Sommarovina (DOCG Sassella). On the skins for 15 days, a year on oak and 10 months in bottle. This is more austere, tannic and different in texture from the previous wines. Balanced with well-integrated tannins. Tobacco, licorice, minerals and fresh herbs. This is a terrific wine that should score over 90 points.

Thereafter, a 2006 Riserva Valtellina Superiore (DOCG) is served. Maceration lasts for 18 days followed by oak maturation for 24 months and settlement in bottle for another year. After all, this is a Riserva. Very smooth, elegant and balanced. The roughness of the Sommarovina is rounded off. There are stills notes of licorice and tobacco and now also dried fruits. I could definitely stand drinking this at least once a week…

Wine no. 8 is the only wine in the tasting which is a slight disappointment, perhaps because of the expectations that are continuously raised during the tasting. 2008 Corte di Cama Sforzato di Valtellina (DOCG) is a wine made with the appassimento technique, that is the grapes have been picked and put in small wooden boxes for drying until beginning of December. This is a wine difficult to pinpoint. Shiraz from South Africa? Cabernet Sauvignon from California? Grenache from the South of France. This is by no means a bad wine, but not as full of character as the previously tasted. Perhaps the time of drying the grapes is too short which results in a “half” Sforzato.

Finally, a 2008 Albareda Sforzato di Valtellina (DOCG) is poured and this is something else. The grapes are put to dry until the end of January before 20 days of maceration, oak maturation for 18 months and bottle maturing for 10 months. This is really good. A comparison with Amarone della Valpolicella is of course natural. Notes of dried fruit, raisins and chocolate are present in the Albareda as in your typical Amarone. Personally, I would generally regard the Albareda as a more balanced wine. I do not now the level of residual sugar, but this is certainly a Nebbiolo and notes of flowers and tar are present. Very interesting wine.

There is a clear line of progression in the wines of Prevostini, from the inox-maturated via oak to the appassimento wines. It is impressing to have so much character in a range of wine that is comparatively wide.

I’d love to see these wines in Sweden.


Vinitaly

On Wednesday, THE wine exhibition of Italy – Vinitaly – with 4,000 exhibitors commences.

Located in Verona in northern Italy and sporting the finest producers in the country, this is certainly the place to be this week. Further, Stockholm offers 5 C and rain while Verona is a different animal with 23 C and sunshine. And I’m not even going to mention the local produce.

At Vinitaly, both small artisanal producers and big-time enterprises are represented. Most of the producers are there, even those producing a mere 10,000 bottles each year, or those flogging their bottellas for €100 or more. One would expect that the top-notch producers would be reluctant to serve their high-end wines, but that is not the case. In fact, most of them want you to try out their whole range. If you don’t spit, you’ll be drunk by lunchtime.

I have done some extensive pre-studies, and these are some of the producers I intend to visit at the exhibition; from Piemonte: Elio Altare, Domenico Clerico and Aldo Conterno; from Tuscany: Le Macchiole, Casanova di Neri and Querciabella; from Valle d’Aosta: Les Cretes; from Umbria: Milziade Antano, and the list goes on. My biggest problem is really how to fit all high-end producers into my scheme.

Moreover, my good friends at Club Amarone has booked tastings in the Verona area at Nicolis who makes a great “standard” Amarone and an allegedly fabulous vineyard-designated Amarone: the Ambrosan. They have also arranged a tasting at Fattoria Garbole who only produces about 15,000 bottles and received Three Glasses for their 2006 Amarone in this year’s edition of Vini d’Italia. Finally, we will meet with their longtime collaborator Roccolo Grassi who really doesn’t need any further presentation in this context but whom, for the record, received Three Glasses this year for their 2007 Valpolicella Superiore.

It is not likely that I will have the time to blog from the exhibition, but on the right-hand column of the blog, I have included Twitter. I will keep you posted!


Red & White Northern Italian Dynamite

Angelo Gaja from the region of Piemonte in the northern part of Italy is arguably the country’s most well-known producer of wine. Located in Barbaresco, Mr. Gaja is considered a modernist, and is known i.a. for reintroducing French grape varieties in Piemonte, which was quite controversial at the time. For instance, in 1978, the Darmagi vineyard in Barbaresco, which was premium Nebbiolo land, was replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon (this practice would without doubt still be controversial).

With the 1996 vintage, Gaja chose to declassify most of his wines, leaving only one Barbaresco and one Barolo. Under the Italian DOCG, both the Barbaresco and the Barolo classification stipulates that the respective wine is all-Nebbiolo. Now, these two labels are very strong trademarks, which naturally implies high prices. Gaja meant that the Nebbiolo grape in many cases would benefit from a blend with its less-respected cousin Barbera. As an example, both the Costa Russi and the Sorì Tildìn is 95% Nebbiolo and 5% Barbera, while the Sperss is 94% Nebbiolo and 6% Barbera. Thus, he cannot use the Barbaresco/Barolo label for these wines.

Needless to say, an intentional declassification indicates good self-confidence and conviction of the inherent quality of the grapes and – ultimately – the final product: the wines.

Gaja bottles a relatively large range of wines for being a top-quality producer, and his wines certainly don’t come for free; at the Systembolaget, the Costa Russi 2004 and the Sorì Tildìn 2004 are both 2495 SEK.

However, the 2005 Dagromis Barolo is a lot more inexpensive, even though itDagromis still will make at least a small hole in your wallet. The Dagromis Barolo blends fruit from the Gromis vineyard in La Morra with another Gaja-owned vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba and is just amazing. On the palate it shows tar, roses, chocolate, cherries. Complex, concentrated, balanced. It is very slender and subtle but still highly characteristic. I had this one with game and baked root vegetables, and it was just brilliant. 93p.

This is good value for your money and there are still bottles left at SB. Buy a couple of them and put them in your wardrobe for another five years. Or what the hell: drink them now. It is already awfully enjoyable. You’ll get five bottles of top-quality wine for the price of one ugly-fitting Brothers suit.

Borgo del Tiglio located in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, close to the border of Slovenia and about 50 km from the Adriatic Sea, is a totally different operation. Not very well-known outside of Italy, this producer makes fabulous white wines which must be among the finest in the country. I had the benefit to try out their complete range at VinItaly 2010 and will certainly visit the producer again at VinItaly 2011. Needless to say, I will taste whatever they put in front of me. Just about everything they do is at least “good” or better.

A private import of their wines via the SB is highly recommended: they are that good. Fortunately, I got to buy a couple of cases via my pals at Club Amarone.

Studio di BiancoThe regular 2008 Collio Friulano is good, albeit still a bit too oaky. It needs to rest for a couple of years. This is 100% Tocai Friulano, an indigenous grape also known as Sauvignon Vert. The 2008 Collio Malvasia from the grape with the same name is just amazing. The best one we tasted. I have no tasting notes but will get back to you as soon as I open a bottle of it at home, Luckily, I have three bottles in the fridge.

The 2008 Collio Studio di Bianco is a blend of Tocai Friulano, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. To an outsider, this blend appears unorthodox, but man does it work! Tropical fruits, butter and vanilla. The oak is very well balanced as far as I’m concerned. It is very rich on the palate and delivers loads of fruit while still upholding the acidity. I had this with beet roots and chèvre, but it was just as good for pre-dinner sipping. At approximately 300 SEK, this is a find. In the best of all worlds, this producer would be globally renowned for producing knockout whites. 92p.


Roda

Rioja…if any wine would be described as straightforward, uncomplicated, direct and downright nice, it would be a wine from this particular part of Spain. Notorious for oaking their wines to pieces, making them resemble vanilla cakes rather than quality brews.

However, during the last ten years or so in Rioja things have been starting to turn around. Balanced and lightly-oaked wines are now common. Roda located in Rioja Alta makes much sought-after wines, where the following wine is the simplest. A good thing about the Spanish wine classification is that it differentiates wines on the basis of maturation time. Crianza wines are matured for at least two years, with at least twelve months spent in cask, Reservas are matured for at least three years (at least one year in cask) and Gran Reservas are matured for at least five years (two in cask, three in bottle). Many producers mature the wines for longer periods than the minimum dictated by the classification. Good for the customer but bad cash management practice.

Roda Reserva 2006 shows vanilla tones, chocolate, leather and plum. A bit of a spicy taste. The oak is well-integrated and there is a slight bitterness to balance the sweetness of the vanilla. Full-bodied with very smooth tannins. If I were to recommend a wine to someone who’d never drunk a high-quality wine, this would certainly come to mind. As I wrote initially, this is very straightforward and decent. Anybody could appreciate the Roda, which may not sound like praise, but it certainly is. The only objection I have is that you are full up with it after a couple of glasses. It’s not like, say, a Pomerol which gets better and better with every glass until all of a sudden the bottle sadly is empty. 97% Tempranillo and 3% Graciano. 90p.

I have difficulties getting to grips with Chianti. So often they are grumpy, tart, tannic and thin. I am no going to argue that the 2008 Querciabella Chianti Classico is different. It’s not that bad though, but it nevertheless shows all of the features described in the above although not excessively. 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet sauvignon. Cherries, raspberry, chocolate and coffee. Rather tannic and a bit thin. I aired this for an hour. Maybe it would’ve improved with further cellaring. I’ll save my second bottle a couple of years. I’m just not very excited about it. 85p.