Posts tagged ‘livio felluga’
Franco Massolino produced one of the year’s best wines with his 2010 “Parussi” Barolo (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Note: Early March may seem like a strange time to write about the best wines from last year, but health problems forced me to delay this post for more than a month. I’m at home recovering from heart surgery, so it’s been some time since I had enough energy to write. Hopefully, this will be worth the wait to the readers….
As usual, there were any number of first-rate wines released this year in Italy. I’m calling this list a collection of my favorite wines from Italy in 2014. Maybe they are the best, but the term best often implies a “serious” wine, one with lofty goals (as well as a lofty price tag). I love so many wines, moderately priced, expensive, white, red, sparkling – you get the idea.
Without further ado, let’s get right to this:
Two sparkling wines from italy really stood out for me in 2014. One was the 2008 Enrico Serafino Alta Langa “Brut Zero”, with the other being the 2006 Berlucchi “Palazzo Lana” Extra Brut Riserva. Both of these cuvées are very flavorful and quite dry with the former being extremely elegant and sleek- what a marvelous food wine, especially with seafood.
The latter is a powerful wine, a mouthful. There is a nice touch of yeastiness along with rich, spicy Pinot Noir fruit and a finish with outstanding persistence. The Palazzo Lana line has been an impressive addition to Berlucchi’s portfolio since its introduction a few years ago. This particular bottling is the finest I have tasted and in my mind, joins the ranks of the very best cuvées from Franciacorta. (Note: these two wines are currently not imported in the US market.)
My loyal readers know how much I love Italian white wines. I’ll write about them and defend them for as long as I’m able; to me, the success of these wines, from several different regions throughout the country, is one of the most important stories of the past twenty years in the wine industry.
Let’s start with two whites from Friuli. The first is the 2013 Gradis’ciutta Ribolla Gialla, a dry, sleek wine from proprietor Robert Princic, whose estate is situated in San Floriano in the Collio district, not far from the border with Slovenia. Princic, a quiet, charming man, has turned this estate into one of the most consistent in this celebrated white wine territory and his Ribolla Gialla is quite rich with inviting aromas of fresh apples, quince and a hint of gum. Medium-bodied with very good acidity (a trademark of the excellent 2013 vintage) and a hint of white spice in the finish, this is a delightful wine to pair with lighter shellfish or even a humble chicken salad- enjoy it over the next 2-3 years. (Imported by Wine Emporium, Brooklyn, NY, suggested retail of $22 – a notable value!)
The second white from Friuli that truly impressed me from last year is the 2013 Livio Felluga Friulano. This celebrated estate in Cormons has been producing impressive whites and reds from Friuli since the 1950s with the overall quality today being as good as ever. Friulano is the signature grape of Friuli (as you might imagine, given the name) and takes on its identity, as to its origins as well as the producer’s style; Friulano is truly a bit of a chameleon grape. This version from Livio Felluga offers excellent depth of fruit with beautiful aromas of elderflowers, guava and even a hint of saffron – you don’t even need to taste this wine to know its class! Medium-full, this has excellent acidity and varietal focus with unparalleled balance- some of this is the notable 2013 vintage, some of it derives from the source of the grapes and a bit of it comes from the pristine winemaking done by the Felluga family. Really a gorgeous wine – enjoy on its own or with rich seafood (halibut, tilapia), risotto or roast pork over the next 3-5 years. (Imported by Mionetto, USA – SRP $25 – a superb value!)
A few other whites:
The 2013 Jankara Vermentino di Gallura is a delicious, mouthwatering white that offers the vibrant acidity one expects from this variety as well as ample weight on the mid-palate and excellent persistence in the finish. This small estate, owned by the gracious and delightful couple Renato and Angela Spanu, has been producing notable examples of Vermentino di Gallura (this is the DOCG area for this variety in Sardinia); this 2013 is their finest version to date, with beautiful varietal character of quince, Meyer lemon and yellow flower aromas and marvelous complexity. At a suggested retail of $24 a bottle, this is worth every penny. Pair this with most seafood; it is especially good with crab, mussels and scallops. (Imported by Empson, USA.)
The 2013 Donnachiara Greco di Tufo is a sublime example of how good – and how distinct – this variety can be, when produced from the best sources. Greco di Tufo – named for the Greek colonists who first planted this variety in Campania more than two millennia ago, is a dry white that impresses you not with its intensity, but rather, with its sleek, delicate earthy style. Unoaked, as is the case with most versions of Greco di Tufo, this has textbook pear and lemon peel aromas, excellent ripeness and lively acidity. This has marvelous complexity, as the finish offers both a distinct note of minerality as well as a hint of salinity, making this an ideal partner for the local small clams known as vongole. You should be able to find this for $20 or even a few dollars less at US retail, making this an excellent value!
I previously wrote about a few whites from last year that were exceptional. One is the 2013 La Vis Müller Thurgau “Vigna delle Forche” from Trentino (read post here). Think about it- when’s the last time you read great press about a Müller-Thurgau (when’s the last time you even tasted one)? It’s generally a humble grape, one without much complexity, but here is an example that just shines and has very good acidity and complexity. A marvelous aromatic white.
Another white that stood out in 2014 was the Andrea Felici Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Riserva “Il Cantico della Figura (I wrote about this wine in the same post as the La Vis above). There are so many exceptional examples of Verdicchio from Marche that offer both superb varietal purity as well as excellent aging potential. It’s always been a mystery to me that Verdicchio is not more recognized in the United States and around the world. This particular wine from Felici was – to put it simply – the best white wine I tried from Italy in 2014!
I love Dolcetto, but it never seems to get the attention it deserves. That’s easy to understand, given that is a red from Piemonte, where Barolo and Barbaresco – powerful, long-lived wines – are produced. Meanwhile Dolcetto has a more understated profile, emphasizing inviting black raspberry and cranberry fruit flavors and aromas with a zesty quality to it. The accepted belief is that Dolcetto is a wine to be consumed in its youth, yet some versions have a tannic backbone and actually drink better with a few years of age.
The 2012 Marcarini Dolcetto d’Alba “Boschi di Berri” could certainly be exhibit number one when arguing that Dolcetto can improve with age. The grapes are sourced from a vineyard in La Morra that were planted in the 1800s! These are pre-phylloxera vines, planted on their own rootstocks – believe me, this is a rare sight in Piemonte today.
This is an excellent wine, one with complex aromas of wild strawberry and sour cherry with hints of anise, basil and red rose petals. Medium-full, this is elegantly styled with silky, graceful tannins, subdued wood notes (the wine spent four to six months in large oak casks), good acidity and impressive persistence. This is enjoyable now, but will be much better in 3-5 years; a lovely wine with beautiful varietal purity and a wonderful sense of place. This is a Dolcetto that will make you rethink this variety! (Imported by Empson, USA.)
Carignano is a variety that should be better known, given the appealing flavors and array of wine styles it can yield. The grape is planted primarily in Sardinia with the best versions originating from the Sulcis zone in the southwestern reaches of the island. Cantina Mesa, a privately held company, produces some of the finest examples of Carignano del Sulcis; their 2013 “Buio” (buio is a word in local dialect meaning “dark”) was one of my favorite reds from Italy last year. I love this wine not because it’s the most powerful version of Carginano del Sulcis (the winery’s excellent Buio Buio along with the Cantina Santadi “Terre Brune” are more robust offerings), but because this is the most charming example of this wine type I’ve had to date. Displaying a scarlet/crimson color, this has tasty cranberry and red plum fruit aromas and flavors on the palate with very good acidity, moderate tannins and lovely elegance and freshness. Aged only in steel tanks, this is an ideal introduction to Carignano del Sulcis, especially as it can be paired with a wide array of foods. Are you a vegetarian looking for a red to pair with eggplant? Are you at a seafood restaurant and prefer a red with seared tuna? This is the wine that works perfectly with both. (Imported by Montcalm, New York City – various distributors across the country.)
2009 was not a shining year for Brunello di Montalcino. Yes, some very nice wines were made by the best producers (a truism we should remember more often), but even these examples did not offer the complexities of their efforts from excellent years such as 2006 and 2007. One wine that stood out for me from the vintage was the 2009 Maté Brunello di Montalcino “Campo Alto,” a powerful Brunello (emblematic of the vintage) that has a rich mid-palate, excellent persistence, good acidity and very good harmony (this is 15% alcohol, but you wouldn’t guess that by tasting it). Husband and wife Ferenc and Candace Maté have been improving each year with their Brunello; this is their best effort to date (note: I have not tried their 2010 yet, a wine to be released soon that promises to be something special).
2010 Barolo – 2010 was a remarkable vintage for the Barolo zone, as the wines expressed classic varietal character, beautifully tuned acidity, excellent depth of fruit as well as persistence, along with impressive balance and a sense of place. I’ve tasted more than 100 of the 2010 Barolos and wrote about them in a post (read here) earlier this year.
I won’t mention every wine I think belongs on the list, as there are so many. So here are a few that are well worth the search, as they are classic Barolos that will cellar for another 20-35 years:
Vietti “Rocche di Castiglione” / Vietti “Ravera”/ Vietti “Lazzarito”
Massolino “Parussi” / Massolino “Parafada”
Elio Grasso “Gavarini Chiniera”
Paolo Scavino “Bricco Ambrogio” / Paolo Scavino “Bric del Fiasc”
Renato Ratti “Rocche dell’Annunziata” / Renato Ratti “Conca”
Luigi Einaudi “Terlo Costa Grimaldi”
Francesco Rinaldi “Cannubi”
Elvio Cogno “Ravera”
Mario Marengo “Bricco delle Viole”
and for value in 2010 Barolo (see earlier post):
Giovanni Viberti “Al Buon Padre”
Fontanafredda “Comune di Serralunga d’Alba”
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A few thoughts today about some very tasty Italian wines I’ve enjoyed recently. Some of these are quite famous, a few not so famous, but they’re all extremely well made wines that offer a great deal of pleasure, both on their own and at the dinner table.
2012 Livio Felluga Sauvignon - I’m guessing that almost everyone who is an Italian wine lover has enjoyed a wine from the Livio Felluga estate at some point. Certainly the Pinot Grigio is one of the most famous examples in Italy and it’s also on my list as one of the most delicious. But the entire lineup is a brilliant array of vibrant whites and edgy reds that are evidence of the excellence of this estate, located in the Colli Orientali district of the Friuli region in far northeastern Italy.
Particularly memorable is the Sauvignon. This is the same Sauvignon Blanc grape that is grown throughout the world; however in Italy, it is known simply as Sauvignon. The examples from Friuli and Alto Adige, another cool climate northern Italian region, offer very good acidity as well as strong aromas and flavors; the 2012 offering from Livio Felluga displays attractive aromas of Bosc pear, freshly cut hay, spearmint and chervil. These aromas are textbook for this variety and it’s nice to find such complexity in the nose and on the palate. However, lest you think this is an intense wine, think again, as this is a harmonious wine with beautiful balance, excellent persistence, precise acidity and ideal varietal character. This is a delicious Sauvignon and while that term is often used for Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco or other lighter Italian whites, it’s not often applied to Sauvignon. But here it is and it’s very enjoyable on its own, although the subtle herbal characteristics of this wine deem it an appropriate partner for sautéed scallops or shrimp with lemon or ginger, while grouper or tilapia would also be ideal with this excellent white. Enjoy it tonight or over the next 3-5 years. (Suggested US retail of $26)
2013 Attems Pinot Grigio - I don’t drink much Pinot Grigio, as I find too many examples to be too simple for my tastes. This doesn’t mean they’re bad wines, it’s just that the wines are made as crowd pleasers, aimed at offending no one instead of trying to please with specific characteristics. One Pinot Grigio I did taste recently that offered a little more complexity- as well as richness on the palate – is the 2013 Attems Pinot Grigio. This wine is also from Friuli and it’s from the splendid 2013 vintage, one that was cool and ideal for whites with expressive aromatics and wines with admirable structure, given their beautiful acidity levels. This has aromas of yellow apples and lilacs, is medium-bodied and is quite dry. This is a must with food – pair it with risotto with seafood or chicken with vegetables. (SPR -$19)
2013 Cantina di Soave “Rocca Sveva” Soave Classico – I don’t have as much space as I’d like to discuss my love of Soave, a wine that’s remarkably misunderstood in this country. It’s too often thought of as a summer white, a term I dislike, as it equates to saying the wine is a simple quaffer with little to offer. Yes, there are some examples of Soave that are a bit one-dimensional, but price will often give you a clue to the identity of those wines.
The Soave district in the Veneto region – about a 30-minute drive from the lovely town of Verona – is actually home to at least three extinct volcanoes, so yes, the soils in much of this district are volcanic, which means the best examples of Soave Classico have a distinct minerality to them as well as excellent complexity. This isn’t to say that these are weighty, “ultra serious” wines, as they are very appealing in their youth; it’s just that the best examples of Soave are multi-dimensional wines that can age for anywhere from five to fifteen to even twenty years in a few instances.
All of this is a preface to let you know how much I enjoyed the 2013 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico from Cantina di Soave. This is a large cooperative, located just behind the famous castello in the town of Soave. You can bring in demi-johns and fill them up with the basic Soave for a very inexpensive price or you can enjoy their finest selection of Soave under the Rocca Sveva label. This 2013 is a beautiful wine with enticing aromas of honeydew melon, honey and magnolia – just textbook. Medium-full with a rich mid-palate and a lengthy finish, this is especially nice this year, as it’s from the excellent 2013 vintage, which as mentioned above, was outstanding for white wines. In fact, this is the finest version of this wine I have tasted! This is so delicious on its own, but even better with vegetable risotto, sole or roast chicken. (SRP $15 – a great value. I can’t say I’ve had even one or two other $15 whites that are this good!)
By the way, the three white wines I mentioned above are fermented and aged in stainless steel – no oak on these! I prefer this approach more often than not (although there are numerous oak-aged whites I think are first-rate). It all depends on the wine, but my point here is that there are so many brilliant whites wines that never see oak.
Mionetto Prosecco “Valdobbiadene Superiore” DOCG - Finally, a note on a very charming sparkling wine. Everyone knows about Prosecco, especially given its proliferation on the shelves of not only wine stores, but also supermarkets. It seems as there are dozens of $12 Proseccos everywhere and while these are pleasant, if undistinguished wines, spend a few dollars more – as little as $15 – and you can find a Prosecco that will interest you and your friends. In other words, these are Proseccos you wouldn’t dream of mixing with peach juice!
For just under $20 you can find an excellent Prosecco that’s one of the most elegant and flavorful I’ve tasted in a while. That’s the Mionetto Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, labeled as Extra Dry. In order to identify the finest examples of Prosecco, the regulations were changed a few years ago to let consumers know that the true home of Prosecco are the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene; this is important to know as the term Prosecco by itself has become somewhat generic as inexpensive sparkling wines from Friuli can be called Prosecco. Pleasant wines, perhaps, but not wines with much complexity.
Mionetto has been one of the leading producers of true Prosecco for some time now and their products are quite good and very representative of the heart of the real Prosecco zone. They’ve recently introduced their line of luxury cuvées of specialty Prosecco. This DOCG is well made with appealing lemon peel, chamomile and peony aromas, an off-dry finish (though dry enough for food) and an elegant finish. This is very refreshing and enjoyable on its own- I’ve enjoyed it with take-out Chinese food as well as seafood salad and I’m sure it would also be fine with lighter white meats. I can’t imagine a fan of Prosecco not loving this and wanting to find a few bottles for themselves.
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.
Harvest is on going throughout Italy. I asked a few producers to give me their thoughts on the 2011 growing season and harvest. Here are their comments.
Piero Mastroberardino – Director – Mastroberardino, Atripalda, Campania
Winter was long and cold with less rain than normal. The vegetative resumption was delayed due to the cold winter. In the first stages of blooming, we had a lot of rain that enriched the acquiferous layers of the earth. In May, June and the first part of July, we had a good climatic state, with rains of little intensity that were spread out, bringing back the vegetative state to normal again.
The third week of July with the coolest temperatures and a little rain, predisposed the vines to the water stress of August. In August, especially in the second and third week, we enjoyed very good thermal inversion between the days and nights. The rains of the final days contributed notably to a lowering of overall temperatures.
The actual climatic conditions along with the important thermal inversions and the good vegetative/productive conditions of the vines, have led us to a harvest of excellent quality.
Antonio Capaldo – Owner/Director – Feudi di San Gregorio, Sorbo Serpico, Campania
The harvest is overall very good in quality but with a strong reduction in quantity (30-40%) which is bringing a lot of pressure on us all.
Falanghina started a few days ago and is very beautiful.
Fiano and Greco appear on a similar condition but it is still too soon to say as it is starting raining after an incredible heat. For Aglianico it is definitely too soon but overall indication on lower quantity/higher quality appear to work here as well.
We are about 10 days in advance compared to average.
Alessandro Locatelli – owner/winemaker – Rocche Costamagna, La Morra, Piedmont
Another great harvest in Piedmont !
This was a very particular season that started 2 weeks early; the harvest also arrived 2 weeks before normal.
Great quality, perfect ripening, but very low production: 20% less.
We are happy and next week we will start the Nebbiolo harvest.
Andrea Felluga – winemaker – Livio Felluga, Brazzano di Cormons, Friuli
The harvest is going well. We have had sufficient flowering and a very balanced season… extremely hot at the end of August that came together well for a well-timed picking of the grapes. In the hottest days, we picked only in the morning, so as not to scorch the grapes. The whites and Merlot are now finished. We have also to pick the Cabernet, Refosco, Pignolo and Picolit, obviously. We are in a most delicate enological phase for the white wines: at the end of alcoholic fermentation, management of the lees and malolactic, but I am very optimistic for the quality of the wines.
Maddalena Paqua di Bisceglie – proprietor – Musella, San Martino, Veneto
I’m particularly happy this year to give you some notes about the Harvest 2011. A great vintage!
First of all, I have to say I was lucky to be helped and encouraged by the weather in our first year of Biodynamic and this is important…my enthusiasm for what could be considered a dream of a life is now even more intense after the first and incredibly evident results!
The weather in 2011 was not regular, considering a very advanced hot Spring and the cool July and beginning of August. These inverted conditions created a particular course of maturation. We had an advanced development of blooms, leaves and grapes, we arrived in June with at least a couple or even three of weeks of advance. In that period the weather changed and we suffered three long weeks of intense rains.
Around the third week of August it was extraordinarly hot week (40 C°!!) that gave a kick to the maturations and in only a few days we had the unusual condition to have almost all varieties ready to be picked!
Honestly we saved the quality with some water in form of irrigation we could gave during this week. It was more than a month we had not any rain and the vines started to take the water from the grapes and to stop the maturation! So, giving small quantity of water we interrupted this process.
Around the end of August in a weekend we had an amazing quantity of rain (60 mm), the entire Valpolicella area had an important relief and the grapes started to mature again everywhere here.
We never harvested Corvina before the first week of September and this year we did it in August…amazing and new for us, but that’s a part of the beauty of my job: it is never the same and could be very surprising, teaching us something new every year.
The first vinifications were perfect and even if we were worried for the first Biodynamic experience, we are very happy with it and even quite surprised how we already can taste more crunchy fruit in it.
The colors are very rich, the acidity not particularly high, but we will manage it with the malolactics. The general conditions gave us not a big quantity, but for sure a very important quality!
It’s early of course, but it appears that 2009 may be judged a great year for Italian wines throughout the country. I’ve written earlier posts about the white wines and now that I’ve tasted a few dozen reds from this vintage, I’m beginning to think that you really can’t go wrong with just about any 2009 Italian wine type.
The Italian whites from 2009 are first-rate, offering the depth of fruit of the 2007s with the structure and acidity of the 2008s. I’ve tasted several dozen of these wines, predominantly from the regions of Friuli and Campania and many of the top examples show the potential to drink well for 3-5 years. Among the top 2009 whites I’ve tasted so far are the following:
- Edi Keber Biano (Collio)
- Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon (Collio)
- Livio Felluga Sauvignon (Colli Orientali)
- Isidoro Polencic Ribolla Gialla (Collio)
- La Tunella “Biancosesto” (Colli Orientali)
- Zuani “Vigne” (Collio)
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Cutizzi”
- Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
- San Paolo Greco di Tufo “Montefusco”
- Marisa Cuomo “Fiorduva”
- Coffele Soave Classico “Ca’Visco”
- Guado al Tasso Vermentino (Bolgheri)
- Lunae Bosoni Vermentino Lunae “Etichetta Nera” (Liguria)
- Malvira Roero Arneis “Trinita”(Piemonte)
- Planeta Fiano “Cometa” (Sicilia)
Of course, many of the top whites, especially the blended whites and selezioni from Friuli, Campania and Alto Adige are yet to be released, so the list should dramatically expand.
As for the reds, a few 2009s have been released, ranging from Dolcetto and Barbera in Piemonte to Valpolicella from Veneto and Chiantis of all types and Morellino di Scansano in Toscana. I love the purity of fruit, concentration and acidity of these wines. It was a warm year, especially in Piemonte, so there is an explosion of fruit in these wines. Yet as there were several cool spells during the growing season, there is beautifully defined acidity, as the grapes experienced a long hang time. Among my favorites so far are these:
- Cascina Roccalini Dolcetto d’Alba
- Cascina Roccalini Barbera d’Alba (arriving in the US market in a few months)
- Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba
- Fontanabianca Langhe Nebbiolo
- Motta Morellino di Scansano
Of course, most Italian reds from 2009 have not been released and in some instances, such as Barbaresco, Barolo, Amarone, Taurasi and Brunello di Montalcino, we will not see them in the market for at least another 1-5 years. But based on what I’ve tasted so far, Italian wine lovers should be in for several years of finds from the 2009 vintage – white and red.
Without further ado, here is a partial list of my choices as the best Italian whites wines of the year. A full list (along with the best reds of the year and a list of the best producers) can be found in the next issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. For subscription information, click here.
2008 CANTINA TRAMIN STOAN
This cooperative is one of Alto Adige’s finest producers, with excellent quality from the most simple whites to the most full-bodied bottlings. Stoan, named for the local stony soil, is a marvelous blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon (Blanc) and Gewurztraminer that displays gorgeous aromatics, rich concentration and vibrant acidity along with great structure and backbone. This was my favorite white wine of the year (from anywhere, not just Italy) and it is a perfect partner for a variety of foods, especially cracked crab.
2008 LIVIO FELLUGA TERRE ALTE
It begins to sound like a broken record, but each year this blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon from this esteemed Friulian producer is among the finest Italian whites. The 2008 is not as full-bodied as in some vintages (2007, e.g.), but it more than makes up for that with its gorgeous perfumes of chamomile, pear, almond and rose petals. This should offer drinking enjoyment for 7-10 years and perhaps longer.
2009 EDI KEBER COLLIO BIANCO
This blend of Friulano, Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla has in just a few short years, become one of the benchmark whites of Friuli. This is not as powerful as the Felluga wine above, but it offers as much complexity and varietal character. The vibrant acidity gives this wine backbone and structure – enjoy over the next 5-7 years, especially with shellfish.
2009 ZUANI COLLIO BIANCO “VIGNE”
Here is another gorgeous Collio blend, this comprising 25% each of Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon. The aromas jump out of the glass and the wine is all about pleasure and finesse. Try this over the next 3-5 years with a wide ranges of dishes, from risotto to shellfish.
2008 BASTIANICH VESPA BIANCO
This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit has been a favorite for years, not only for its complexity, but also its longevity, as ten-year old bottlings shine. The 2008 is not as rich as some vintages, but it is still quite lush and features gorgeous aromatics and vibrant acidity, which should preserve the wonderful freshness of this wine for many years.
2009 COLLI DI LAPIO FIANO DI AVELLINO
There’s really no mystery as to why this wine is among the finest in Campania every year; it’s a simple matter of excellent terroir combined with careful farming and winemaking. Medium-full, this has a big finish with lively acidity and a big streak of minerality. Look for this 2009 to drink well for at least 3-5 years, perhaps longer.
2009 MARISA CUOMO FIORDUVA
This Amalfi Coast white has become legendary over the past decade. A blend of the local varieties Ripoli, Fenile and Ginestra, this is a more powerful white than the typical offering from Campania. Fermented and aged in small oak barrels, the wine has pronounced aromatics of fruit (grapefruit, mango) and herb (fennel, chamomile) and a generous mid-palate with a beautifully structured finish. This should drink welll for 5-7 years and is big enough for veal or poultry, though I love it with lobster or swordfish.
Located in the far northeastern reaches of Italy, Friuli is one of the country’s most distinctive wine regions. Though some intriguing reds and a few remarkable dessert wines are made here, it is the singular white wines that give this region its strongest viticultural identity.
There are nine different DOC districts in Friuli; the most famous are two that border with Slovenia: Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. These zones are dominated by hillside plantings that limit yields; combine that with cool breezes from the nearby Adriatic Sea and the Giulian Alps and you have a recipe for wines of beautiful structure thanks to the long, cool growing seasons.
White wines are the stars of these zones, produced from a mixture of indigenous varieties such as Friulano and Ribolla Gialla and others such as Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. These white wines – most of them without any oak aging – represent the soul of the vintners in these two zones. Robert Princic, owner of the Gradis’ciutta estate in Collio, produces a brilliant Sauvignon typical of this area with its bright pear and spearmint fruit, light herbal notes, vibrant acidity and impressive structure. For Princic, Sauvignon from Collio, “is always elegant, at times discreet. at times intense, never coarse.” While he understands that there are many styles of Sauvignon from around the world, he finds that some of these wines are a bit aggressive, unlike the bottlings from Collio. “One should discover the pleasure that is the strength of Sauvignon from Collio.”
Here is a brief list of some of the finest producers of Sauvignon in the Collio and Colli Orientali districts:
- Russiz Superiore
- Villa Russiz
- Venica & Venica
- Ronchi di Manzano
The local variety Friulano is another that deeply reflects the character of this region and its’ winemakers. Fermented dry and usually aged only in stainless steel (a few producers do experiment with older oak barrels), Friulano offers a variety of aromas, depending on the local terroir; in fact, I have yet to find a variety that displays as wide an aromatic profile as this. One example will feature pear and chamomile aromas while another offers notes of mandarin orange, kiwi and grapefruit. When you have as many pleasing aromatics as you do with Friulano, why cover it up with oak?
One other advantage Friulano has is its ability to age. Even the basic examples are often fine three years after the harvest with most drinking well from five to seven years from the vintage date with a few lasting as long as 10-15 years. At the I Clivi estate, owner Ferdinando Zanusso is now selling his 1999 and 1996 bottlings of Friulano; the wines have beautiful color and excellent freshness; these two wines, if properly stored, should drink well for another 5-7 years.
Here is a brief list of some of the best producers of Friulano from the Collio and Colli Orientali districts:
- I Clivi
- Livio Felluga
- Russiz Superiore
- Villa Russiz
- La Castellada
- Le Vigne di Zamo
- Isidoro Polencic
Many vintners in these two zones also produce a high-end white – sometimes referred to as a Super Friulian – blended from several varieties. Arguably the most famous is Terre Alte from Livio Felluga, a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon. Quite rich on the palate with aromatics of chamomile, pear, grapfruit and hawthorn, this is one of Italy’s finest wines and one of its longest-lived whites; bottlings from the late 1980s and most of the 1990s are drinking beautifully now.
Other producers also make a similar white. Livon is well known for its Braide Alte bottling, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Picolit and Moscato Giallo, the last two varieties used for increasing the aromatic profile. This wine spends more time in oak than the Felluga Terre Alte, so the flavor profiles vary, yet it too enjoys a long life; I tasted the 1996 at VinItaly this past April and was impressed by its power and balance.
Here is a brief list of the most famous blended whites from Collio and Colli Orientali:
- Bastianich “Vespa”
- Livio Felluga “Terre Alte”
- Livon “Braide Alte”
- Russiz Superiore “Col Disore”
- La Tunella “Biancosesto”
- Gradis’ciutta “Bratinis”
- Marco Felluga “Molamatta”
These blended whites – as well as the monovarietal whites – are striking examples of the quality of the whites wines from Friuli in particular and Italy in general. Here’s hoping that these wines are given more widespread visibility so the world can experience the glories of the Collio and Colli Orientali districts!