Posts tagged ‘matteo vezzola’
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!
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!