Best Italian Red Wines of the Year – Part One
Pietro Ratti, Proprietor, Renato Ratti, Annunziata, La Morra (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Continuing with my lists of the Best Italian Wines of 2011, here is the initial post of red wines, focusing on Piemonte and Veneto. In the next two posts, I will write about last year’s top reds from Toscana, Campania, Puglia, Sicilia and several other regions. Please note that this is a partial list – there are other wines that made the list (see end of post for more information).
2007 Renato Ratti Barolo “Conca”
2007 Renato Ratti Barolo “Rocche”
The Renato Ratti winery is one of the most revered in all of Barolo, a benchmark estate named for one of the 20th century’s most influential vintners in this area. Renato’s son Pietro now manages the estate, continuing production of some of the finest Barolos from anywhere in the zone. From the excellent 2007 vintage, there are two single vineyard versions of Barolo that were among the best of the year: the Conca and the Rocche. Both are from sites in La Morra, not far from the winery; both are deep in color with excellent depth of fruit and impressive richness on the palate. The Conca, displaying aromas of black plum, tar and licorice is a bit more forward than the Rocche, which is more classically oriented. Both wines are quite elegant with very good acidity and are structured for 20-25 years of cellaring, with the Rocche probably outliving the Conca by a few more years. The wines at Renato Ratti have been routinely outstanding over the past half-decade – bravo, Pietro! $80
2007 Paolo Manzone Barolo “Meriame” - Serralunga d’Alba is home to perhaps the most classically structured examples of Barolo, wines that are structured for the long haul. There are so many outstanding wines from this commune every year; this was one of my absolute favorites from 2007. Produced from grapes sourced from a 60-year old vineyard, the wine offers beautiful aromas of bing cherry, orange zest and cedar and has balanced tannins and subtle wood notes along with excellent persistence in the finish. An excellent example of Serralunga terroir, this should peak in 15-20 years. $70
2007 Pio Cesare Barolo “Ornato” - Here is another outstanding example of Serralunga terroir. Pio Cesare, one of Barolo’s most historic producers, sources the grapes for this wine from this beautiful sloping vineyard in Serralunga and ages the wines in a combination of barriques and mid-size casks. Deeply colored with an impressive mid-palate as well as excellent persistence in the finish, this is a powerful Barolo that stands the test of time. This will offer much greater complexity in another 5-7 years and should drink well for 25-30 years from now. The finest Ornato since 2001. $100
2007 Massolino Barolo “Parussi” - For many years, Massolino has been one of the reference points for Barolo from the Serralunga commune. For 2007, the Massolino family produced their first single vineyard Barolo from outside Serralunga, this being the Parussi bottling from the cru in Castiglione Falletto. Beautiful young garnet with aromas of candied orange zest, caraway and cedar, this has a lengthy, well-defined mid palate and a beautifully structured finish with youthful tannins and balanced acidity. There is also a subtle spiciness to this wine and as usual with a Massolino Barolo, the wood influence is minimal. Beautiful complexity and first-rare winemaking in this Barolo, a lovely representation of Castiglione Falletto terrior. This should be at its best in 20 years and will be in fine shape for a few years after that. $85
2007 Fratelli Alessandria Barolo “Monvigliero” - Here is a lovely Barolo from the tiny commune of Verduno, situated at the far nothern reaches of the Barolo zone. This vineyard, at an elevation of almost 1200 feet has south and southwest-facing vines that are 30 years old, resulting in a wine of impressive richness. Aged in a combination of tonneaux and mid-size Slavnonian oak casks, this is an elegantly-styled Barolo that combines richness with finesse. This is a lovely wine that is a beautiful expression of terroir; it should be at its best in 15-20 years and will probably drink well after that. $65
2008 Cascina delle Rose Barbaresco “Rio Sordo”
2008 Cascina delle Rose Barbaresco “Tre Stelle”
This tiny producer in the town of Barbaresco makes some of the very finest examples of Barbaresco. The winery is situated amidst the vines of Rio Sordo; owners Italo Sobrino and Giovanna Rizzolio own a small portion of this great site. Production here is traditional, as aging is done solely in large oak casks (grandi botti), which lends not only a strong sense of the vineyard’s terroir, but also a great deal of finesse. The aromas are lovely – red cherry, orange peel sandalwood and cedar – and there is excellent persistence and a long, graceful finish. These wines will be at their best in 12-15 years. (note” Tre Stelle” is actually a new cru located within Rio Sordo. This is the only winery to use this designation for their wine.) $50
2008 Barbaresco Pertinace “Vigneto Nervo” - While most producers of Barbaresco and Barolo are private firms, Pertinace is a cooperative producer, where the various growers are also members. This is generally the finest Barbaresco from this company, with grapes coming from a cru in Treiso. Displaying currant and orange peel aromas with a hint of fig, this is an elegant, beautifully complex Barbaresco that is an excellent representation of local terroir. This wine will be at its best in 12-15 years and is a great example of what this underrated producer is all about. $45
2008 Ceretto Barbaresco “Bricco Asili” - Here is the flagship Barbaresco from one of the zone’s most celebrated producers. This cru, planted in 1969, delivers grapes of tremendous concentration and character; naturally yields are quite low. 2008 was a true Piemontese vintage, meaning that the wines from this year are more classically structured for cellaring, more so than a warmer year such as 2007 or 2000. Aged in small oak barrels (larger than barriques) the wine has aromas of bing cherry, dried rose petals and vanilla; the concentration is quite impressive and the finish is very long with polished tannins. This is a sublime wine, meant to be enjoyed down the road – it’s impressive now, but wait another 5 or 7 years and if you have the patience, try it at peak in 15-20 years. A great Barbaresco! (and only 500 cases produced.) $75
2006 Begali Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Monte Ca’Bianca”- Here is a real gem of a producer, one that delivers the highest quality with all of its wines. Their regular Amarone is quite complex and very nicely balanced; this cru bottling takes things up a notch or two, especially in terms of concentration. Black raspberry, black plum, clove and tar aromas grace this wine and the mid-palate is rich and nicely developed while there is excellent persistence and graceful tannins. Wonderful complexity with this wine- this is approachable now, but will be at its best in 12-15 years. $75
2005 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva - Zenato has been producing superb versions of Amarone for some time now, but without the press you’d expect. Perhaps this 2005 Riserva – from a very good, but not great year, will change that. Deep ruby red with inviting aromas of tar, stewed cherries, damson plum and tobacco, this is a marvelously complex Amarone with layers of fruit on the palate and a long, elegant finish. This is delicious now and will only improve for the next 12-15 years. Very classy and stylish! $100
2004 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico “Mazzano” - Masi, one of the leading producers of Amarone, produces several versions of this iconic red wine, ranging from a regular bottling and a riserva bottling (both of which offer excellent complexity and beautiful balance) to cru bottlings from older vineyards in the Classico zone. The Mazzano bottling from a spectacularly situated, terraced vineyard, some 1300 feet above the valley floor in Negrar, is a powerful Amarone with a strong note of bitter chocolate to go along with aromas of red cherry, tar and violets. There is outstanding persistence with very good acidity and firm tannins. This should be at its best in 15-20 years, though it may drink well for another decade after that. (Note: if you cannot find the 2004 Mazzano, look for the 2001, which is an outstanding wine and will age for another 20 years.) $140
This is a partial list of the best Italian red wines of the year. The complete list will be in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, which will be sent to paid subscribers. If you are interested in subscribing to my publication – currently in its 11th year – email me at email@example.com.
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