Posts tagged ‘bellavista’
Camilla Lunelli, Ferrari (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
My most recent trip to Italy was a wild ride – six regions in 18 days, most of it during the beginning of harvest in several wine zones. From Campania in the south to Marche and then Umbria in the middle and then Piemonte, Alto Adige, Trentino and Veneto in the north, I enjoyed numerous excellent meals and dozens of first-rate wines, so let’s get right to them.
In case you aren’t that familiar, there are some excellent, even outstanding sparkling wines made in northern Italy. Of course, Franciacorta has been one of the reference points for Italian sparkling wine the past four decades and the wines as a whole have improved dramatically over the past five to ten years. I didn’t get to visit this area during this trip, but I did enjoy the Bellavista Satèn Gran Cuvée a 100% Chardonnay that is one of the finest of this type (Satèn is under less pressure than other examples of Franciacorta; the name refers to “satin” or “silky” for its ultra smooth finish) I have ever tasted. Quite rich with delicious fresh pear and green apple flavors, this is rich with marvelous complexity and a great example of finesse in a sparkling wine.
Another area that has come on in recent years for its sparkling wines is the Alta Langa district of Piemonte; as the name suggests, the vineyards are planted at high (alta) elevations to ensure good acidity and structure. While this is a category that is small (less than 20 producers) and while the consistency is not quite where it should be, there have been some excellent examples, none more so than the Enrico Serafino “Zero” 2006. A blend of 85% Pinot Nero and 15% Chardonnay, this is a metodo classico product (as with Franciacorta) that is ultra smooth and irresistibly delicious. The Zero designation refers to the dosage, so this is quite dry, yet it is not austere, as the acidity is nicely balanced without being exceedingly high. The wine spent more than five years on its yeasts, rendering a product of marvelous complexity; there is a light yeastiness in the aromas and the perlage is very persistent. This is a beautifully balanced wine, one that is just a pleasure to drink with a large variety of foods, from lighter seafoods to veal or poultry.
Roberta and Antonio Stelzer, Maso Martis (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
If there is an area that challenges (and perhaps surpasses) Franciacorta for the quality of its metodo classico wines, it is Trento DOC, situated in and around the town of Trento in Trentino-Alto Adige. Generally speaking, this is a cooler area than Franciacorta, so the wines as a rule have excellent acidity and notable structure.
One of the very best producers here is Maso Martis; the proprietors are Roberta and Antonio Stelzer, a truly lovely and gracious couple. These are wines of great precision, ones where structure means almost everything to the wine; there is plenty of fruit, but ripeness does not come as the cost of overall balance. Every wine I tasted here during my visit was excellent; if I have to select one it would be the Brut Riserva Millesimato 2007. A blend of 70% Pinot Nero and 30% Chardonnay, the wine spent between 52-60 months on the lees and was aged in 2nd and 3rd passage barriques. Offering very good to excellent concentration, with expressive aromas of dried pear, yeast and dried yellow flowers, this is a rich, very dry sparkling wine with excellent persistence and beautiful purity. It is an absolute must for food, be it raw fish or roast pork. This will improve with some time; my estimate is that will show its best in 5-7 years. (A big thank you to my friend Aurora Endrici, a local publicist and journalist, for introducing me to this couple and their remarkable wines.)
Of course, the most famous producer of Trento DOC is the great firm of Ferrari, owned by the Lunelli family. I was able to meet with the three siblings who are most responsible for the current production: Camilla along with her brothers, Alessandro and Matteo, who also serves as winemaker. There has been so much written about this house and the quality of its wines; there is little I can add, except that this family is remarkably generous with their time, as they are very interested in one’s opinion. They also take their responsibility as ambassadors for their wines and those of Trento DOC very seriously; this is a company that is run with great professionalism.
It’s a difficult challenge to select only one wine from Ferrari as my favorite (but I’m up to the task!). I tried eight different cuvées, ranging from the delicious 2007 Perlé Rosé to the 2001 Riserva Giulio Ferrari, a wine that is truly exceptional in its breeding, complexity and finesse. However, my choice (at least for this trip) is the Perlé Nero 2006, a 100% Pinot Nero that was aged for six years on the yeasts. If the Riserva Giulio Ferrari is the most sublime of all the Ferrari wines, the Perlé Nero is the most powerful. Deep yellow with a very fine perlage, this displays explosive aromas of coffee, dried lemon peel and hyacinth (very distinctive!) and is full-bodied with excellent depth of fruit. There is vibrant acidity, outstanding persistence and notable complexity. This is a bambino, as they say in Italy, as the wine is in its infancy; this will will improve for quite some time, at least seven to ten years. This is so wonderful by itself, but it is an absolute brilliant match for roast veal or lamb. (I noted that this is the cuvée from Ferrari that most resembles Champagne in its power and yeastiness, yet I don’t want to give the impression that the other wines from the producer are not of the quality of Champagne, as they certainly are; they are merely a more subdued, fruit-driven style that has elevated this house to the top of the sparkling wine pyramid in Italy).
My final thought on this Perlé Nero 2006 is simply this; it is among the four or five best Italian sparkling wines I have tasted in the last five years.
My next post will feature many of the finest whites wines – most of them being from the outstanding 2012 vintage – I tasted during my trip in September.
Mattia Vezzola, enologist, Bellavista (Photo by Tom Hyland)
For every wine district in Italy, there are one or two estates that are looked upon as ambassadors for their particular territory. When it comes to Franciacorta in Lombardia, home to the country’s finest sparkling wines, Bellavista is regarded as a benchmark producer.
What’s remarkable about this estate founded in 1977 by Vittorio Moretti is the combination of exceedingly high quality and relatively large production; this is one of the top two Franciacorta estate in terms of bottles produced (and probably number one if you only count actual Franciacorta DOCG wine). And it’s not just a few wines either as there are several outstanding cuvées made at Bellavista.
The winery is also fortunate to have excellent vineyards to work with – some 470 acres within Franciacorta – and a winemaker, Mattia Vezzola, who knows how to achieve the finest results with the grapes from these sites. Vezzola has identified 107 crus among these vineyards and works with the wines from these specific sites, blending for many characteristics to achieve his final cuvée. His philosophy has always been one of elegance, and indeed the sparkling wines of Bellavista are generally not as austere as many from this area, but instead are rounder with an emphasis on bright fruit flavors.
The best known Bellavista cuvée is the NV Brut with the familiar dark green oval label. Generally 80% Chardonnay with the remaining 20% divided among Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco, this is medium-bodied, displaying wonderful freshness with pear, lemon and apple aromas and a lengthy, round finish with impressive persistence. This cuvée is a great introduction to the house style of Bellavista.
Then there are the various wines that make up the Gran Cuvée line; these are among the most refined of all bottlings from Franciacorta. The Rosé is quite rich with a deep color and very good ripeness – the 2006 is among the most complex of the Gran Cuvées I’ve had from Bellavista; it’s also one of the most powerful.
The Gran Cuvée Saten, 100% Chardonnay, is sourced from some of the finest hillside vineyards in the Erbusco area and it’s given barrel aging, which definitely adds some texture and smokiness to the wine. Yet the wood does not dominate, as the delicate nature of the pear and citrus fruit emerge beautifully. Vezzola describes this as his most “feminine” wine, one that is truly elegant and graceful. This wine incidentally is non-vintage, where the other Gran Cuvée offerings are vintage dated. I asked Vezzola why that was; his response was that as this was a “feminine” wine and as one does not ask a woman her age, he opted not to label the wine as vintage dated!
The Gran Cuvée Brut – 2005 is the current release – is a blend of 72% Chardonnay and 28% Pinot Nero; one-third of the wine is fermented in wood barrels and then matured for seven months in wood. This is a wine of intensity in the aromas – lemon peel, quince and biscuit notes are joined by a light toastiness – yet a great deal of finesse in the finish. The bubbles are exceptionally fine and there is impressive concentration; enjoy this over the next 2-3 years.
The Gran Cuvée Pas Operé is the “masculine” counterpart to the more feminine Satén. A blend of 62% Chardonnay and 38% Pinot Noir from 20 plus year-old vines, most of this wine is barrel-fermented; total aging before release is six years at the cellars. This wine also receives no dosage, meaning it is quite dry; the outstanding balance being just one of its highlights. The aromas are striking – pippin apple, lime and yeast – while there is very impressive richness on the palate and a lengthy finish with excellent persistence. This is a lovely example of the best of Bellavista’s philosophy – one of great complexity and richness while having the balance of a tightrope walker. This is such a delicately styled wine, yet there is enough concentration and structure to have this wine (2005) drink well over the next 10-12 years. Truly splendid!
In rare years, Vezzola will produce the Riserva Vittorio Moretti, named for the owner. A blend of equal parts of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, this is the ultimate in Franciacorta. Produced only six times to date: 1984, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2001 and 2002, the 2004 will be the seventh version of this wine. Generally released seven years after the vintage, there is a beautiful mousse with persistent, very fine bubbles and gorgeous aromas of lemon rind, dried pear, quince and a distinct yeastiness. Medium-full with an elegant entry on the palate and outstanding persistence, this has a lengthy, beautifully textured finish with the structure and concentration to drink well for 15-20 years. The 2002 I tasted a few years ago remains the finest single bottle of Franciacorta I have ever tasted! I told Vezzola that although I did not want to compare this to a Champagne (most winemakers in Franciacorta don’t like the comparison with Champagne, as they want their wines to stand on their own), it reminded me of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. I must say, Mattia seemed quite pleased!
Finally, like most producers in Franciacorta, Bellavista also makes still wines under the Curtefranca designation. The best I’ve tried so far is the 2008 Convento dell’Annunciata, a 100% barrel-fermented Chardonnay from limestone soils that displays exotic green tea, pineapple, thyme and mint aromas and a robust finish with sour lemon acidity. This is quite expressive and very tasty and would make a fine partner for richly flavored seafood or poultry.
There are dozens of other excellent producers in Franciacorta that make some truly outstanding wines, but to date, I have discovered no firm that produces as many great wines as does Bellavista. Raise your glasses in a toast to continued success for Vittorio Moretti, Mattia Vezzola and the wines of Bellavista!
Here is part two of my lists of the Best Italian Wines of 2011. My last post dealt with white wines and my next few will be about the red wines (I’ll need more than one post for that). This post will focus on the finest sparkling and dessert wines from last year.
Please note that this is a partial list – there are other wines that made the list (see end of post for more information).
2005 Bellavista Gran Cuvée “Pas Opere” (DOCG Franciacorta)- Bellavista is one of the largest houses in Franciacorta and has been among the very best for more than three decades. Their line of Gran Cuvée wines are selections of the best grapes from older vineyards, most of them planted more than 25 years ago. The Pas Operé is a blend of 62% Chardonnay and 38% Pinot Nero, the majority of which is fermented in oak barrels. The wine spends some six years on its own yeasts before release and the finished product is amazingly powerful, yet graceful and elegant, displaying aromas of lime, yeast and red apple with a pale mousse and persistent stream of fine bubbles. The finish is quite long and round with hints of citrus fruits. Drink now or over the next 5-7 years. Suggested retail price: $80
2007 Le Marchesine Franciacorta Rosé (DOCG Franciacorta) - Quality is extremely high at this medium-sized Franciacorta estate, managed by the Biatta family. Their Secolo Nuovo (“new century”) lines represent their finest; this past year however, I was very impressed with their 2005 Rosé Brut Millesimato. A blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Nero, this wine spent three years on its yeasts before bottling. The color is deep copper/light strawberry with aromas of cherry and currant. Quite rich on the palate, this has excellent persistence and very high acidity – the style of this wine is quite austere. This will drink beautifully for the next 3-5 years and perhaps longer. This is among the three of four best examples of Franciacorta Rosé I have had enjoyed! (Not imported in the United States at the present time.)
2003 Ca’del Bosco “Cuvée Annamaria Clementi” (DOCG Franciacorta) - This wine, named for the mother of Ca’ del Bosco owner Maurizio Zanella, is one of the benchmarks of Franciacorta. This is a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Bianco and 20% Pinot Nero; the grapes were sourced from 16 different vineyards, with an average age of 39 years. One of the secrets to complexity in a Franciacorta (or any great sparkling wine) is the length of time the wine spends on its own yeasts; for many of the best cuvées in Franciacorta, that time is as long as 50-60 months. However for this wine, that period was 78 months, a full six and one-half years! Full-bodied, with aromas of dried pear, peach and yellow flowers, this has explosive fruit and a long, well-structured finish. This should drink well for another 5-7 years, at least. $75
2001 Ferrari “Riserva del Fondatore Giulio Ferrari” (DOC Trento) - Those who point to the Trento zone as being the home of Italy’s finest bubblies use this wine as evidence. Ferrari has been one of the quintessential sparkling producers – using the metodo classico (classical method) – since the first decade of the 20th century. The Giulio Ferrari bottling is 100% Chardonnay, with the grapes coming from vineyards some 1650 to 2000 feet above sea level. The wine spends 10 years(!) on its own yeasts (specially cultivated from Ferrari’s own cultures); the result is sublime. The aromas are intense, offering notes of honey, dried pear, caramel and vanilla and the wine has a generous mid-palate and a long, beautifully structured finish with vibrant acidity. The bubbles are very small and there is outstanding persistence. I would expect this wine to drink well for at least ten years. Amazing complexity and class! $90
2006 Brigaldara Recioto della Valpolicella (DOC)- While Amarone is quite popular around the world today, Recioto is not. This is more than a bit ironic, as Amarone is a fairly recent innovation, first made in the 1950s, while Recioto is the wine that has been made in cellars in the Valpolicella zone for over a thousand years. Both wines are produced according to the appassimento method, in which the grapes are dried on mats or in plastic boxes for several months. Amarone is of course, fermented dry, while Recioto finishes fermentation with some residual sugar, so given the difficulty in selling dessert wines these days, it is not a surprise that Recioto is not that much in demand. However, a great example, such as the current release from Brigaldara, should convert many wine lovers. Deep purple with tantalizing aromas of black raspberry and black plum, the wine is quite rich with only moderate sweetness, as there is good balancing acidity. This is a great example of how elegant Recioto della Valpolicella can be. Absolutely delicious now, this will drink well over the next 5-7 years. $30 per 375 ml bottle
2009 Coffele Recioto di Soave “Le Sponde” (DOCG) - Recioto di Soave is a remarkable dessert wine, produced from Garganega grapes that are dried naturally on mats – or hung on hooks – in special temperature and humidity controlled rooms. Coffele produces one of the finest examples; with an amber golden color and lovely aromas of apricot, golden raisins, honey and pear, this is a wine with heavenly perfumes; it is also a delight to taste with its lush fruit and a light nuttiness in the finish. Medium sweet, this has very good acidity to balance the wine so it is not overly sweet. Enjoy this over the next 5-7 years. $25 per 375 ml
2007 Pieropan Recioto di Soave “Le Colombare”(DOCG) – Leonildo Pieropan has been considered one of the benchmark producers of Soave Classico for more than thirty years. His cru bottlings are superb examples of how complex and ageworthy Soave can be, while his Recioto di Soave is among the finest each year. There are excellent examples of Recioto di Soave in many styles; while some are quite lush and sweet, the Pieropan bottling is subdued with only a trace of sweetness. Light amber gold, the sensual aromas are of apricot, lemon oil, mango and almond while the finish is quite long with lively acidity. Offering beautiful complexity and balance, this wine oozes class and breeding! Enjoy over the next 7-10 years. $50 per 500 ml
This is a partial list of the best Italian sparkling and dessert 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may not realize it, but sparkling wine is produced throughout Italy, from many different varieties. From Campania to Piemonte, from varieties such as Falanghina and Aspirinio to even Nebbiolo, there is a wide variety of bubblies that can be found in various locales in the country. But for world-class quality, there is no question as to which Italian sparkling wine is the finest – the answer is Franciacorta.
What makes Franciacorta so special is the fact that this is a sparkling wine made in the classic method – as in Champagne – where the secondary fermentation is made in the bottle and not in a tank, as with sparklers made according to the Charmat process. Franciacorta can be produced from three varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Pinot Bianco and is it made in many different versions, be it a traditional Brut or a Rosé (minimum 25% Pinot Nero for a Rosé, though most bottlings have a much higher percentage of this variety) to Satén (literally “satin”), a wine produced solely from white grapes. If a Franciacorta bears a vintage on the label, it is known as a Millesimato. Franciacorta was awarded DOC status in 1967 and the DOCG designation in 1995.
The Franciacorta production zone is in the province of Lombardia in northern Italy with vineyards located south of Lago d’Iseo. The plantings are on low-lying hills and are primarily in modern planting systems such as cordon spur or Guyot, the ancient overhead system of pergola, though still present in small numbers, is disappearing.
Franciacorta, by the way, refers to three things: it is the name of the growing area, the name of the production process and the name of the wine. There are only ten such wines in all of Europe and only three of them are sparkling wines made by refermentation in the bottle: Cava from Spain, Champagne and Franciacorta.
As for the production method, there are strict regulations, as the minimum aging on the yeasts in the bottle is 18 months (most special bottlings are aged for a much longer time) and as stated before, secondary fermentation must take place in the bottle. The long aging on the yeasts certainly increases complexity and adds a note of minerality that is found in most examples.
Here is a short list of the finest producers of Franciacorta:
Ca’ del Bosco
As with most sparkling wines, the products are best enjoyed within 2-3 years of disgorgement. Some of the finest bottlings, made from vines with as much as 40 years of age as well as those aged longer on their yeasts, can be enjoyed for 5-7 years after disgorgement and perhaps even as long as a decade. Even the most straightforward examples of Franciacorta have lovely natural acidity and some examples are extremely high in acidity, with the result being wines that edge toward being a bit austere in the mouth.
Given the production methods as well as the overall quality of these wines, there is the inevitable comparison with Champagne. Yet many producers shy away from this assessment. At a recent seminar I moderated in Chicago, Andrea Biatta of Le Marchesine stated, “We are not trying to make Champagne, we are making Franciacorta.” When I asked him about the comparison of the two sparkling wine types, he seemed as he wanted no part in making such an evaluation.
I can understand that, but when I taste a product such as the Le Marchesine Rosé Millesimato, the Pas Dosé (no dosage) from Bellavista, the Cuvée Annamaria Clementi from Ca’ del Bosco or the 2008 Zerodosaggio from Andrea Arici, I can’t help but think of Champagne, both in terms of quality and style.
However you view this, you can’t help but admire the work these producers have done in making Franciacorta one of the world’s great sparkling wines in a period of less than half a century.
On a separate note, I reached a bit of a milestone recently, as there were more than 5000 hits for this blog in October, making this the first time that has happened. I want to thank everyone that stopped by to take a look and read what I wrote – it is greatly appreciated!
Now I’d like to ask all of you for a comment now and then, as I’m interested to read what people think. It doesn’t have to be anything profound, as a simple, “nice post” or “enjoyed it” will suffice. You’ll make a middle-aged wine writer happy and you know what? You’ll feel better about yourself after leaving a brief comment. Try it and you’ll see what I mean!
Stanko Radikon (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Here is a partial list of my selections as the best Italian producers of the year. I’m only including a few in this post, given space limitations, so I have balanced the list according to several factors, including region as well as the notoriety of the wines produced (famous versus famous):
RADIKON • Friuli
Stanko Radikon makes wines with a fierce independent streak and it shows in his whites and reds, such as the marvelous 2005 Ribolla Gialla with its orange color and baked pear flavors and his 1997 Merlot (yes, that’s the current release!), a wine that spent two and one-half months on the skins and was then aged in 5 year old barrels. The wines are singular!
CA RUGATE • Veneto
Ca’ Rugate has been one of the leading producers of Soave Classico for several years now; the fruit from their beautifully managed organic estate is superb. The simple “Monte Fiorentine” bottling is always one of the best values of its type (generally priced about $16 or $17), while the “Monte Alto” bottling takes a different direction, as it is aged in barrique. Also, once again their Recioto di Soave “La Perlara” is among the very finest of this marvelous dessert wine.
Lately winemaker Michele Tessari has been crafting some gorgeous reds as well from the Valpolicella district. For those who think Amarone has to sacrifice fruit aromas at the sake of spice, you need to taste the current 2007 Ca’ Rugate Amarone, a bright, fruit-driven wine with elegant tannins and subtle spice. Tessari also makes a lovely regular Valpolicella (labeled Rio Albo) that is fresh, fruity and delicious! (It’s becoming more and more difficult to find a well-made Valpolicella these days that isn’t in the ripasso style, so look for this bottling.)
CASCINA ROCCALINI • Piemonte
I’ve written several posts about this new producer in Barbaresco; owner Paolo Veglio used to sell his grapes to Dante Scaglione, when he was winemaker at Bruno Giacosa – now the grapes are used for Paolo’s own wines. Amazing 2008 Barbera d’Alba and gorgeous 2008 Dolcetto d’Alba. I’ve tasted the 2009s and they are equally as good – in fact they may even be better! The 2008 Barbaresco, to be released next year, is subllime with lively acidity, rich persistence and a beautiful sense of terroir. The common theme here is minimal influence by the winemaker and no barrique aging – either aging in steel or in botti grandi. These are wines of great structure that communicate a sense of place.
ANTONIO CAGGIANO • Campania
Nino Caggiano continues to produce vibrant wines from Avellino, including Fiano, Greco and of course, his beloved Taurasi. Credit to him for making such a reasonably priced Aglianico in “Tauri”, a nice introduction to this grape and place. His signature “Vigna Macchia dei Goti” Taurasi is always excellent and he made a particularly first-rate bottling from the 2006 vintage, a less than stellar year. Medium-full with excellent persistence, the wine has rich, ripe black cherry and chocoalte flavors with subtle oak and beautifully balanced tannins.
BELLAVISTA • Lombardia
One of the great houses of Franciacorta, Bellavista really delivered the goods this past year. Every example of Franciacorta here is excellent, especially the Gran Cuvée bottlings. The Gran Cuvée Saten, made from 100% Chardonnay, is vibrant, bright, delicious and beautifully structured. The Pas Opere, a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Nero, takes things up a notch; this has remarkable persistence and richness on the palate.
Most impressive is the “Vittorio Moretti” bottling; named for the winery owner, this is made only in the finest vintages. I tasted the 2002 bottling (only the sixth time this wine had been produced, the first was in 1984) and was in a word, stunned at the quality of this wine. Made from equal part of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero sourced from the finest estate cru, the wine has a brilliant look in the glass with very fine bubbles and a persistent perlage. My original notes refer to the amazing aromas of yeast, lemon rind, dried pear and quince; the finish is extremely long with lively acidity. From start to finish, this offers excellent complexity.
I tried this with winemaker Matteo Vezzola at VinItaly this past April and told him that while I think Franciacorta should stand on its own, I couldn’t help but compare this to Taittinger Blanc de Blancs; he was quite pleased with my assessment! While I am not in the practice of writing that one wine is the “best” of anything, this bottling stands out as one of the most complete and complex offerings of Franciacorta I have ever tried!
Looking back on the first six months of the year, I am reminded of the wonderful Italian wines I’ve tasted in 2010. Perusing the lists of these bottlings, I’m once again reminded of the amazing variety of Italian wines – be they white, red, sparking, rosé or sweet. These wines are from the breadth and width of the country, from Piemonte to Sicily and they run the gamut of price ranges. Most of them, of course, are from indigenous varieties, which combined with their excellence, also give them a singularity.
This is nothing new, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the identity of Italian wines as well the the quality. I’ve made 4 trips to Italy this year and a total of 45 trips in all (maybe I should just move there?), so I’ve been able to gain remarkable insight into the Italian wine industry. At its best and most honest, it’s about making wines that represent one’s land and one’s heritage. Yes, some Italian wines of today are international in style, but most of the finest wines of today are based upon terroir and communicate a sense of place. Personal preference is one thing, but there’s no disputing heart, passion and honesty.
I’ve just published the Summer issue of my Guide to Italian Wines and it’s evidence to what I mean about Italian wines. In this 46-page issue, I have conentrated on several wine types and regions including:
- 2009 Whites from Friuli
- 2009 Whites from Campania (an excellent vintage in both regions- these wines have fine backbone along with impressive concentration)
- 2005 Brunello di Montalcino – an overlooked vintage, especially after 2004, but one that offers elegance and very good typicity.
- The beautiful sparkling wines of Franciacorta – especially those from Bellavista – what a remarkable lineup of wines!
- The sumptuous 2007 reds from Bolgheri – these are not produced from indigenous varieties, but are often gorgeous wines; 2007 represents some of the finest reds from Bolgheri to date.
These are the highlights of this issue. I’ve been writing my Guide to Italian Wines for eight years now and this was one of the most notable collection of wines I’ve reviewed during that time.
The Guide is available on a subscription basis of $30 per year (four issues), but if you would like to purchase this Summer issue only, the price is a mere $10. I don’t think you’ll spend your $10 more wisely when it comes to learning about Italian wines.
To find out how to purchase, email me at email@example.com
A stunning Franciacorta, some gorgeous 2009 whites and that Vermentino Nero:
Back from another VinItaly and bursting with dozens of beautiful wines I’d like to talk about – and I didn’t even get to taste any wines from Abruzzo, Alto Adige or Sicily. Here are thoughts on a few:
Beautiful 2009 whites
VinItaly has the advantage of being the first major fair of the year where producers sample their newest wines for the press and the public; in the case of the white wines that meant the 2009s for most bottlings. However, this also meant wines that had only been bottled for a week or two, so it’s a bit difficult to reach a final decision on these wines, as they’re not quite all together yet. However, the 2009 whites as a whole showed beautifully, especially from Avellino in Campania and from Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. Among the finest 2009 white wines I tasted were the Alberto Longo Falanghina “Le Fossette” from Puglia; Monte de Grazia Bianco, a blend of local indigenous grapes from the Amalfi Coast including Peppela, Ginestra and Tenera; the Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino “Radici”; the I Clivi Verduzzo Friulano, a dry version of this grape that is normally vinified dry (I Clivi is doing wonderful things with several grapes from their vineyards in Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli – this winery will not be a well-kept secret for long) and the Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon from Collio.
This last estate is managed by Robert Princic, who at 34 years of age has become one of the most important vintners in Collio, a great white wine area. This Sauvignon is a brilliant wine, offering aromas of spearmint, bosc pear and ginger with excellent concentration, a lengthy finish and vibrant acidity. Look for this wine to be at its best in 5-7 years.
Stunning 2008 whites
There are always some exceptional Italian whites that are released a bit later than the normal wines; given the complexity and structure of these wines, they are ideal when they are initially offered some 18 months after the harvest. The finest at this fair included Bastianich “Vespa”, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit from Friuli; the exceptional Grattamacco Vermentino from Bolgheri and the stunning Marisa Cuomo “Fior’duva”. an Amalfi Coast offering made from Ginestra, Ripole and Fenile. This is as lush and as concentrated a version of this wine I have enjoyed and it should once again be in the running for one of the best Italian white wines of the year.
There are just too many wines to try at the fair, so it’s difficult to focus on one category. I didn’t try as many Amarones as I would have liked, but the two best for me were the 2006 Tedeschi “Monte Olmi”, full of ripe cherry fruit and peppery notes and the 2004 “Il Fornetto” from Stefano Accordini. This last wine is a true riserva, produced in only the finest years. This is a robust, full-bodied wine with impeccable balance and is a great Amarone from one of the area’s most dependably consistent producers – one that should be better known.
Yes, you read that right – there is a Vermentino Nero grape that is planted in tiny numbers in Liguria and Tuscany’s western coast. The bottling I tasted is from Cantine Lunae of Liguria, also the home of brillliant examples of Vermentino Bianco.
This is a rosato, as the Vermentino Nero grape does not have the structure to produce a red wine, as the winery’s export manager, Michele Gianazza, explained to me (hope you’re not disappointed, Jeremy). Che un rosato! This has a deep cherry color, aromas of bing cherry, chrysanthemum and mint and finishes very dry. What a pleasure to try this rarity!
A Stunning Dessert Wine from Soave
Ca’Rugate in Soave makes one of the very best examples of Recioto di Soave, the famed DOCG dessert wine of the area. Now comes the 2001 Corte Durlo, an amazing wine, a 100% Garganega made from dried grapes that have been aged in small barrels that have been sealed for seven years. My notes for this wine go on and on; aromas of creme caramel and dried sherry with notes of honey and mandarin orange in the finsh; I think this should drink well for 12-15 years and it could go on for 20 years! This is basically a Vin Santo; however, it is not legal to label the wine this way in Soave, so it is technically a Veneto Bianco Passito. Regardless, this can compare with the finest examples of any dessert wine produced today in Italy.
Matteo Vezzola, Winemaker, Bellavista (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A Brilliant Franciacorta
If I had to name one wine that was my favorite at this year’s best fair, it was the 2002 Bellavista “Vittorio Moretti”. I tasted through the lineup of Gran Cuvée bottlings from this producer and then was asked if I wanted to taste one more wine. When I was told what it was, I had honestly never heard of it; I’m sure I’m not alone as this is only the sixth time this wine has been made in the winery’s 33 year existence. Named for Bellavista’s owner, the wine is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero that was partially barrel fermented. The lip of the bottle has two levels, meaning that the normal crown cap used to seal the bottle ater the first fermentation cannot be implicated here; rather a cork is used and the wine is manually disgorged.
The wine itself is full-bodied, with sublime aromas of yeast, biscuit, quince and dried pear. I told winemaker Matteo Vezzola that while I didn’t mean to compare Franciacorta with Champagne, as they are two different products, that this wine reminded me of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Matteo smiled and said that my comparison was fine with him!
A brilliant wine from a brilliant producer – bravo Matteo!