As 2012 gets underway, it’s time to look back on the best Italian wines of 2011. Today’s post will focus on whites, while the next will be on sparkling and dessert wines with a third post highlighting red wines.
These posts will be partial lists of the best wines of the year:
2008 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Riserva “Vorberg” (DOC Alto Adige – Südtirol) Cooperative producers – wine firms that source grapes from growers that are members of the cooperative – are quite prevalent in the northeastern region of Alto Adige. Cantina Terlano, founded in 1893, is one of the very best. Pinot Bianco is the most widely planted white variety in Alto Adige, but few versions have as much complexity or style as this offering. Produced from grapes sourced from the eponymous vineyard more than 1500 feet above sea level, this wine received a short time in large casks that are a few years old. Medium-full, there are aromas of dried pear and tea leaf; the mid-palate is generous and there is excellent persistence. There is a distinct minerality in the finish along with notes of pink grapefruit. Overall, this is a wine that displays outstanding varietal purity, excellent balance and amazing complexity.
What a marvelous rendering of this variety, a wine that can be enjoyed tonight with a variety of foods, from grouper and sea bass to roast pork and veal. Or if you prefer, let this age and consume it in another 5-7 years, as the acidity and structure (signatures of the excellent 2008 vintage) guarantee a long life. Suggested retail price: $ 25 (and worth every penny!)
2008 Gini Soave Classico Superiore “Contrada Selvarenza Vecchie Vigne” (Soave Classico DOC)– Brothers Sandro and Claudio Gini have made their estate in Monteforte d’Alpone into one of the finest and most consistent in the Soave zone. Their Soave Classico normale is a textbook example of this wine every year and then you have this particular bottling, which shows just how complex and multi-dimensional Soave can be. Vecchie Vigne refers to old vines; in this instance, the grapes are sourced from 80-year old vines. Fermented in large casks and then aged in barriques, this is a Soave that has tremendous depth of fruit, while the oak adds texture and a bit of spice. The aromas are of Anjou pear and lilacs along with a pleasant note of heather (not that unlike a classic single malt scotch); the finish is extremely long and the wine has impeccable balance. From the marvelous 2008 vintage, my best guess is that this wine will be at its best in 10-12 years. I have had 10 and 15 -year old botlings of this particular wine and they have been in excellent shape. This is a great Soave! Suggested price: $35
2008 Primosic “Klin” (DOC Collio Bianco) – The Collio zone in the region of Friuli in the far northeastern reaches of Italy is a superb growing area for white varieties, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of outstanding white blends. The “Klin” from Primosic is the finest I tasted last year. A blend of Sauvignon (Blanc), Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Chardonnay, this wine was fermented and aged in small French oak barrels. While there are several blends from Collio that are aged only in steel tanks and are marvelous, the oak aging works beautifully with this wine, as this is reminiscent in many ways to a great white Burgundy. Just an amazing array of aromas, from pear and beeswax to lanolin and lavender; the finish is extremely long and there is outstanding concentration and vibrant acidity. Another remarkable wine from the 2008 vintage (notice a pattern here?), this should drink well for 10-12 years and perhaps longer. This is a wine – and a producer – that should be better known. $55
2010 Zuani “Vigne” (DOC Collio Bianco) – Here is another brilliant blended white from Collio, this one aged only in steel tanks (the winery makes a similar white that is aged in oak, named interestingly enough, Zuani “Zuani”). A melange of Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon in equal parts, the fruit is from vineyards that are between 15 and 30 years old. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this wine displays aromas of melon, peach, spearmint and dried yellow flowers with excellent persistence and a lovely brightness, thanks to very good acidity. The 2010 is a bit lighter than the 2009 and 2008 versions of this wine, but it is no less accomplished. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. $22 (an excellent value!)
2009 Livio Felluga “Terre Alte” (DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo)– Anyone familiar with the finest Italian white wines surely knows the Terre Alte bottling from Livio Felluga. Primarily sourced from vineyards in the Rosazzo zone, this is a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon that is aged for a brief time in oak. The 2009 is especially notable, given its deep concentration, lengthy finish and outstanding persistence. This wine has historically shown beautifully upon release and then little by little, displayed its complexities over the years. Look for this 2009 version to drink well for 12-15 years – at least! $75
This is a partial list of the best Italian white 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.