Posts tagged ‘pieropan’

Best Italian Sparkling and Dessert Wines of the Year

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

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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 thomas2022@comcast.net.

January 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm 4 comments

Surprising Italian Whites that age

We’re quite familiar with the aging potential of the finest Italian red wines. Any discussion about Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone, Barolo, Barbaresco and Taurasi inevitably deals with how long these wines will age; 15-25 years is not uncommon, especially for the best products from superior vintages, while a few of these wines drink well some 35-40 years after the vintage date.

While these wines are quite special, the truth is that there are many relatively common Italian reds that age well, be they Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Chianti Classico or Lagrein, to name only a few. Here the aging potential is more in the 5-10 year range, though I’ve tasted a few special bottlings of Chianti Classico at 25 years of age that were in fine shape.

So red wines from Italy do age well, but what about the whites? Well, except for a few examples, there is little talk of this subject, as it seems that many writers and fans of Italian white wines put them in the “appealingly fresh” category, for consumption over 2-5 years after their vintage date. There certainly are a lot of Italian whites such as this (as there are with many whites from France, California, New Zealand, et al), but there are some examples that age much longer than five years and many of them are not very famous.

Baglio di Pianetto winery and vineyards (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I was reminded of this during my most recent visit to Sicily, where I stayed at Baglio di Pianetto, a lovely estate not far from Palermo in the northwestern reaches of the island. Like many Sicilian wine farms, red wines such as Nero d’Avola, Syrah and Merlot are specialties, but here the whites are also quite notable. One of the finest and most intriguing from this estate is a bottling known as Ficiligno (named for a local stone found in some of the estate vineyards), a blend of Insolia and Viognier. This is an aromatic white that is aged solely in steel tanks to preserve its appealing perfumes of honeydew melon, lilacs and quince. It has a nice richness, while maintaining a lightness on the palate and a refreshing finish.

The first thing I thought about this wine (after how delightful and delicious it was) was that this a wine to be enjoyed with food over the next 2-3 years. Then my dining companion, Alberto Burrato, the CEO of the winery, opened up the 2003 bottling and my mind was opened to new possibilities for this wine. The color was what I expected for a seven year old white (deep yellow), but the wine still had a good freshness and was very enjoyable with our meal. This was especially impressive, as 2003 was a torridly hot year that resulted in wines with less than normal acidity.

It just so happened that I also had an older bottle of white wine from Baglio di Pianetto at my apartment in Chicago. This was the 2004 Viognier (labeled as Piana di Ginolfo). Now Viognier is not that common in Sicily and the version this producer makes is very appealing with honeysuckle, pear and pineapple aromas, is medium-bodied and has a lovely texture. Having tasted a few vintages of each wine, I’d say from the same year that the Ginolfo Viognier has a bit more aging potential than the Ficiligno.

However, I thought I may have waited too long, as this style of Viognier rewards consumption within a few years of the vintage. So when I opened the wine a few weeks ago, some six-plus years after it was made, I wondered it if would still show some life, especially as I hadn’t stored this wine in my cool cellar, but instead took it from a cardboard box in my living room.

I needn’t have worried, as the wine was in wonderful shape! First I was pleasantly surprised by the light yellow color – the wine looked as though it were two years old, not six. My notes for this wine list dried pear, banana peel and dried yellow flowers for the aromatics with a generous mid-palate and a nicely balanced finish with good acidity and a hint of almond. The wine was still in very good shape and was a delight with my meal that night (Oriental cuisine). The 2009 version of this wine (now labeled simply as Ginolfo) has just been released; having just tasted the wine (from an outstanding growing season) and now after my experience with the 2004, I’d guess this wine has at least seven years of life ahead of it and perhaps along as a decade. Who would think an Italian Viognier could drink so well for so long?

Leonildo Pieropan (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

There are dozens, if not hundreds of examples of other everyday Italian white wines that age beautifully. Take the Soaves from Pieropan, for example. Leonildo Pieropan produces two special bottlings of Soave Classico each year – La Rocca and Calvarino – that are truly special and are meant to be enjoyed later than sooner. I recall with great pleasure a bottle of 1989 Calvarino I tried with Leonildo and his wife at their winery in the town of Soave in 2005. Here was a sixteen-year old Soave in superb shape, one with excellent freshness as well as a distinct streak of minerality; it was one of the most memorable whites wines I have ever tasted.

But while the two cru bottlings from Pieropan tend to age well, even the simple Soave Classico from this producer offers excellent character far beyond the 2-3 years you might expect. A few weeks ago, I tasted the 2005 normale Soave Classico and was impressed with the youthfulness of this wine as well as its complexity. Not bad for a wine that costs $16 a bottle (I think even less when it was released)!

Of course, there are some marvelous white wines from Campania, Alto Adige and especially Friuli that have the stuffing and structure to age for 10-15 years. Many of these wines (such as Terre Alte from Livio Felluga and Braide Alte from Livon) are quite famous and given their notoriety, their prices are justifiably precious. But how nice to find whites wines from several corners of Italy that sell for less than $20 and offer pleasure for five to seven years.

Cellaring a wine isn’t always about tannins; acidity and overall balance have a lot to do with a wine being able to drink well for many years. So keep an eye out for Italian white wines the next time you think about ordering a slightly older bottling – it just may be perfect for your meal!

April 7, 2011 at 10:59 pm 6 comments

Tre Bicchieri Winners

Just announced are the 2011 Tre Bicchieri winners, the top rated Italian wines of the past year, as judged by the editors and tasters of Gambero Rosso, that country’s most famous wine publication. Here is the link

As always, lists such as this will be debated and my list will be different in some cases than that of Gambero Rosso (and so will just about every Italian wine lover’s). But it’s certainly an excellent list and one that highlights every region in Italy, so good for them!

Rather than bring up wines that I thought should have made the list, I want to focus briefly on a few wines I am most excited to see receive the award (an honor that carries a great deal of weight in Italy as well as some influence in America). To start with, I am excited that my friend Davide Rosso has finally been awarded a Tre Bicchieri: this is for the Giovanni Rosso 2006 Barolo Ceretta. This is good news for three reasons: first, Rosso has been crafting some beautiful Barolos from Serralunga vineyards for several years now, so this award may finally give him some overdue attention. Secondly, Gambero Rosso is in total agreement on this wine with me – I rated this wine as one of the top 10 Barolos from 2006 that I have tasted to date (out of 125) – so I guess great minds think alike! Third, taste this wine and see if you don’t agree with me that this is an sublime Barolo that is floral with appealing fruit and elegant tannins. 2006 was an old-fashioned vintage with deep concentration and big tannins, so the wines will age for quite some time, but this wine is going to be more drinkable over the short term than most of its competitors. By the way, this is a traditionally aged Barolo in botti grandi – it is a gorgeous traditional Barolo. Complimenti, Davide!

Davide Rosso, Az. Agr. Giovanni Rosso (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Gambero Rosso also agrees with me on several other 2006 Barolos, most notably the Ceretto Bricco Rocche, Vietti Rocche and the Renato Ratti Rocche (note: the Rocche vineyard of Ratti is located in La Morra, while the Rocche of the other two wineries is in Castiglione Falletto.) These are superb wines with impressive concentration and structure; expect them to be at their best in 20-plus years. It is also nice to see Gambero give their highest award to the 2006 Ascheri Barolo Sorano Coste e Bricco; this is an elegant, polished Barolo that is only produced in the finest vintages and one I’ve loved for some time now. I didn’t have the 2006 rendering of this wine rated as high as previous vintages (such as 2004), but no mind, I have it rated as excellent and it’s nice to see Matteo Ascheri receive this honor.

Briefly, I think GR missed the boat on a few bottlings of 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, but I am pleased to see that they did honor the Canalicchio di Sopra and Caprili, two excellent estates that make their wine in a traditional style. I’m also pleased to see the 2004 Lisini Brunello di Montalcino Ugolaia get the award; this winery just keeps improving year after year.

Other wines I’m delighted to note received a Tre Bicchieri:

  • Pieropan Soave Classico Calvarino 2008
  • Inama Soave Classico Foscarino 2008
  • Agostino Vicentini Soave Superiore Il Casale 2009
  • Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2006
  • Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggio 2006
  • Panizzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano Riserva 2007
  • Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino Pietracalda 2009
  • Villa Diamante Fiano di Avellino Villa di Congregazione 2008
  • Mastroberardino Taurasi 2006 and Taurasi Riserva 2004

Of course, there are many other wines that I’d like to salute, but can’t list, given space limitations. But let me note one final wine, one you wouldn’t think would get the same honor as a wine such as Sassicaia or Ornellaia. The wine is the 2009 Cantine Lunae Bosoni Vermentino Nera, a rosé from this exemplary estate in Liguria. What’s that you say, a rosé from Liguria being rated as one of the year’s best Italian wines? Well it’s true and in my mind, it deserves the award. I tasted this wine at VinItaly this past April and loved the wine and reported about it in a previous post.

Including a Ligurian rosé is an excellent decision by Gambero Rosso and proof of the tremendous variety  and outstanding quality of Italian wine being produced throughout the country today. Who says Italy only makes great red wines?

October 18, 2010 at 9:22 am 3 comments

The Decade’s Best Producers – Part Three

 

Alois Lageder (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

Here is part three of my list of the Top Italian Wine Producers from the first decade of the millennium:

ALTO ADIGE

Alois Lageder

One of the most thoughtful and considerate men I have ever met, Alois Lageder has been producing wines of wonderful varietal purity and clarity for the past two decades. His “Benefizium” Pinot Grigio is one of the two or three finest examples of this variety in Italy, while his “Cor Romigberg” is a stunning cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon. This past decade, Lageder increased his efforts with organically produced wines. Individuals such as Alois Lageder are rare – his wines reflect his thoughtful nature.

Elena Walch

Elena Walch and her husband Werner continue to dazzle with their lineup of wines, especially with the “Kastelaz” Gewurztraminer, the “Castel Ringberg” Sauvignon and the superb blended white, “Beyond the Clouds.” Consistent excellence is what this estate is all about!

Cantina Tramin

Winemaker Willi Sturz quietly continues his brilliant work at this great cooperative winery. The “Nussbaumer” Gewurztraminer is one of Italy’s best white wines, while the blended white “Stoan” is another exceptional offering. Also highly recommended are the “Urban” Lagrein and the “Montan” Sauvignon. These wines represent the heart and soul of Alto Adige.

VENETO

Masi

Under the leadership of Sandro Boscaini, this estate continues to be one of the leaders of Amarone. The regular bottling known as “Costasera” is beautifully balanced, while the cru bottlings, “Campolongo di Torbe” and “Mazzano” are more powerful, yet still quite refined. 

Anselmi

It’s a bit of a broken record, but Roerto Anselmi continues to dazzle with his Garganega-based whites, especially the simple “San Vicenzo” and the “Capitel Foscarino.” Then there is the gorgeous dessert offering “I Capitelli.” A benchmark producer, to be sure.

Roberto Anselmi and his daughter Lisa (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

Stefano Accordini

Modern style Amarone, but with nicely integrated oak, unlike some of his competitors. The “Acinatico” bottling is first-rate and ages beautifully, while the “Il Fornetto” made in the finest vintages, is a classic. Also look for his superb Recioto della Valpolicella.

Pieropan

How nice to know that Leonildo Pieropan still makes one of the classic bottlings of Soave Classico and prices it for everyday consumption! His top bottlings of Soave, “La Rocca” and “Calvarino” are exotic, deeply concentrated and ageworthy.

Ca’ La Bionda

Pietro and Alessandro Castellani produce traditionally styled, elegant, sumptuous bottlings of Amarone that are a sheer pleasure to consume. The “Ravazzol” bottling is outstanding, while the regular bottling of Amarone is excellent. Also worth seeking out are his bottlings of Valpolicella (no Ripasso here).

Ca’ Rugate

Under the winemaking talent of Michele Tessari, Ca’ Rugate has become one of the leading producers of Soave. There’s so much here to love, from the stainless steel-aged “San Michele” (a wonderful value) to the oak-aged “Monte Alto” to the lush; lightly sweet “La Perlara”, one of the finest bottlings of Recioto di Soave, this is a model for other Soave producers. Lately, reds have become a major part of this estates as well including a delicious Valpolicella and a delightful Amarone.

UMBRIA

Antonelli

Beautiful, traditionally made bottlings of Sagrantino di Montefalco, a rich, complex red wine that is one of Italy’s finest and unfortuntely, most underrated. The Montefalco Rosso is also worth seeking out, as is the velvety Passito.

Scacciadiavoli

Always a very good producer, this has become an excellent one, thanks in part to the winemaking talent of Stefano Chioccoli. Round, ripe and flavorful, these are modern offerings, but maintain the character of the Sagrantino grape. The Passito is delicious!


January 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm 2 comments


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