Posts tagged ‘sabino loffredo’

The Best Italian Wines of 2013 – A different view

Orlando Pecchenino

Orlando Pecchenino, Dogliani, with a bottle of his 2010 Bricco Botti, one of 2013’s best Italian wines (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

January always means starting fresh as well as remembering what came before. So it’s time for my annual look at the best Italian wines of 2013, but instead of offering a complete list (that will be printed in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, available to paid subscribers), I’m going to take a different approach and focus on just a few wine zones that were home to some pretty special wines, offerings that don’t get a lot of attention.

Dogliani – I adore Dolcetto and I’m on a constant crusade to tell wine lovers about this lovely wine; I know why it doesn’t sell as well as it should, but it doesn’t help that the major wine publications ignore this wine. In the small village of Dogliani, a bit south of the Barolo zone, a small band of dedicated producers specialize in the Dolceto grape and craft marvelous versions, wines that have more richness and age worthiness than examples of Dolcetto d’Alba or Diano d’Alba. That said, I visited several producers in Dogliani this past September and tasted four examples of Dogliani that were outstanding: the 2010 Pecchenino “Bricco Botti”a wine that has tremendous complexity and character; the 2012 Chionetti “San Luigi”, a wine of great varietal purity and focus and one of the most delicious red wines I tasted in all of Italy this past year; the 2009 Anna Maria Abbona “San Bernardo”  from 65-year old vines that offers abundant floral aromas backed by tremendous persistence and finally the 2004 San Fereolo Dogliani Superiore from proprietor Nicoletta Bocca. Here is a current release – yes, a nine year-old (now almost ten) Dolcetto of superb breeding that will drink well for another 5-7 years. Wines such as this one and the others I mentioned are evidence that Dolcetto can be a first-rate wine; it’s a shame that more wine publications ignore this lovely grape.


Verdicchio (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi – Speaking of grapes that are largely ignored, Verdicchio is at or near the top of this list. Here is a grape grown in Marche that has uncommon complexity and can age –  given the proper care at any particular cellar in the best vintages – for 7-10 years and even longer in some cases (I tried a 1991 Verdicchio from the excellent cooperative producer Colonnara a few months ago that was superb and still quite fresh). So why don’t you hear about this wine more often? Simply put, the major wine publications focus on red wines, especially in Italy, so Verdicchio is priority number 35 (or is it  number 36?) for their editors.

The best new releases of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi I tasted were the 2012 Umani-Ronchi “Casal di Serra”, the 2010 “Vecchie Vigne” (old vines) version from this vineyard and the marvelous 2009 Umani-Ronchi “Plenio”, a Verdicchio of outstanding complexity with ideal balance.

Also, the 2009 Villa Bucci “Riserva”  is one of the finest versions of this wine I have ever tasted; given the fame and outstanding track record of this producer, that’s saying something. With its heavenly orange blossom and hyacinth perfumes as well as pronounced minerality, this is a brilliant wine, easily one of the finest of the year. Look for this to be at its best in 5-7 years, although I may be a bit conservative in my estimate.

At Santa Barbara, the 2011 Stefano Antonucci “Riserva” is a heavyweight Verdicchio, a barrique-aged version that is lush and tasty with tremendous complexity; while I often prefer Verdicchio not aged in small barrels, here is an example that is perfectly balanced. A different approach can be found in the 2009 Stefano Antonucci “Tardivo ma non Tardivo” (loosely translated as “late but not too late” in reference to the late harvesting of the grapes); this is aged solely in steel. This is as singular a Verdicchio as I have ever tasted, given its exotic aromas of grapefruit, green tea and a note of honey, while the minerality and structure remind me of a Premier Cru or Grand Cru Chablis. Un vino bianco, ma che un vino!

Sabino Loffredo

Sabino Loffredo, Pietracupa (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Campania white wines - This is such a vibrant region these days for all of its wines, not just Taurasi, its most famous red, but also other distinctive wines such as Palagrello Nero and Casavecchia. Then there are the whites – wines of great varietal distinctiveness, minerality and structure. 2012 was a first-rate vintage for Campanian whites, as the wines have beautiful focus, lively acidity, excellent ripeness, lovely aromatics (thanks to a long growing season) and distinct minerality. I’ve loved these wines for years and it’s been such a pleasure to see the results from two superb vintages, such as 2010 and 2012.

There were so many gorgeous 2012 Campanian whites; I can’t list them all, so here are just a few of the best: Pietracupa Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino from the brilliant producer Sabino Loffredo; Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo “Cutizzi”Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino “Radici”Donnachiara Greco “Ostinato” and Villa Raiano Greco di Tufo “Contrada Marotta”. A wonderful collection of whites, drinkable now and over the next 5-7 years. 

Chianti Classico - Every year, more and more of these wines taste the same to me. There are exceptions of course, those wines from producers that still craft offerings that reflect a sense of place, rather than just producing bottles aimed at a large audience. The two best I tried in 2012 were both Riserva wines from the very underrated 2008 vintage. The first was the Felsina “Rancia”, a wine of great strength with very good acidity and notable structure. The second was the Bibbiano “Vigna Capannino”, also a beautifully structured wine that represented to me what a top Chianti Classico Riserva should be, a wine with richness of fruit, not just a higher percentage of oak; of course there is admirable Sangiovese character, but there is also very good acidity, meaning this is a wine that will age gracefully, with peak in 10-12 years. The Felsina is a more powerful wine, while the Bibbiano is more delicate, but both are first-rate versions of what this wine type should represent.


Looking south from Appiano at vineyards in Alto Adige (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Alto Adige whites – Alto Adige, being a cool climate region, is of course known for its white wines, but I wonder how often wine lovers think about how special these wines truly are. The regular bottlings are quite nice, with very good acidity and balance; the wines are also quite clean, beautifully made with excellent varietal character. Then there are dozens – no make that hundreds – of vibrant Alto Adige whites that have excellent depth of fruit, distinct minerality and gorgeous complexity. A few of the best from include the 2012 Cantina Tramin “Stoan”, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Bianco that is as complex and as satisfying as any Italian white (or a white from just about anywhere); the 2012 Gewurztraminer “Nussbaumer” also from Cantina Tramin (this is one of Italy’s top 50 producers, in my opinion), a wine of heavenly grapefruit, lychee, yellow rose and honeysuckle aromas backed by excellent concentration and subtle spice; the 2012 St. Michael-Eppan Sauvignon “Sanct Valentin”, with great varietal character – what a lovely wine for vegetable risotto or most seafood; the 2010 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco “Vorberg” Riserva, one of Italy’s most distinctive white wines, and finally, the 2012 Girlan Gewurztraminer “Flora”, a version of this wine that is not as explosive as the Tramin “Nussbaumer”, but one that is just as attractive and varietally pure.


Estate vineyards of Ferrari near the town of Trento (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Trento Metodo Classico – You could be forgiven if  you weren’t very familiar with classically-produced sparkling wines from Trentino. After all, Prosecco is much-more famous as an Italian bubbly and the great wines of Franciacorta in Lombardia generally receive more attention. Still, the cool area near the town of Trento is ideal for beautifully structured sparkling wines, especially when made by the firms of Ferrari and Maso Martis.

There has been so much written about Ferrari- what marvelous sparkling wines they produce! The finest I tasted this year were the 2006 Perlé Nero, a 100% Blanc de Noirs with excellent concentration and beautiful complexity and then for a rare treat, the 1994 Giulio Ferrari “Riserve del Fondatore”; this latter wine was a special, extremely limited wine that was disgorged in 2011, meaning it spent 17 years on its yeasts – an unheard of length of time for almost any sparkling wine. Words can’t do this cuvée justice – this is simply an ethereal sparkling wine, one of tremendous length, with exotic flavors of orange, truffle and even a hint of cream – just amazing!

It may be difficult to compete – if that’s the proper term – with Ferrari, but the husband and wife team of Roberta and Antonio Stelzer do their best. Try their wines and you’ll see what I mean, as these sparklers are so beautifully balanced and such a joy to consume. Everything here is excellent, particularly the full-bodied 2007 Brut Riserva Millesimato and the stunning 2003 Madame Martis, with its appealing honey, cream and apple tart aromas and oustanding persistence.

January 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm 2 comments

Campania Whites – 2010 and 2011 (Part Two)

Antoine Gaita, Villa Diamante (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Per leggere quest’articolo in italiano, clicca qui.

Last week in Part One of this series on Campania whites (read here), I wrote about the wines of DonnachiaraFeudi di San Gregorio and Mastroberardino. In this post, I will deal with three artisan estates in Irpinia I visited during my recent trip.

At Villa Diamante in Montefredane, Belgian native Antoine Gaita began producing one wine in the mid-1990s at his tiny estate named for his American born wife Diamante. This wine has become legendary in Campania, a single vineyard Fiano di Avellino named Vigna della Congregazione, named as it was once property of the church. Gaita today produces only about 6000 bottles of this superb Fiano, which is aged in steel tanks and sees no oak.

I love the ripe fruit and texture of Fiano; this wine displays these qualities in great style. But it’s the richness and lushness of this wine that really impresses; this is about as full-bodied a Fiano as I’ve ever tasted. Yet, this is not an exercise in intensity, but rather a wine that combines impressive concentration with wonderful texture and a powerful finish of great length. This is why I get so excited about Campanian whites and about Italian whites in general; the sheer individuality of this wine is something to get marvel at. It’s a wine that many famous wine publications don’t even deal with; I can only guess they haven’t tasted it, as they’re too busy trying the latest red from Tuscany or Piemonte. I have to think that if they did try it, they’d praise the wine to the high heavens.

I was able to taste several vintages with Gaita and his wife; the 2010 shows a great deal of potential, but it’s a baby. The 2009 is a five-star (outstanding) wine for me, as it’s got that intensity along with amazing complexity. I describe the aromas as multi-dimensional with notes of apricot, quince, honey and pear, while there is a generous mid-palate and a lengthy finish with excellent persistence. Gaita told me we were going to try the various versions of this wine, “the Sauvignon Blanc, then the Chardonnay and then the Riesling,” and he was spot on with his descriptions, as different vintages did seem to offer those characteristics. It’s this chameleon-like nature of this wine that makes this one of Italy’s – and the world’s – greatest white wines. One final note; for the 2009, I scribbled down 7-10 years for peak consumption, but I’m thinking now, I may be a bit conservative in that estimation.

Raffaele Troisi, Vadiaperti (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Also in Montefredane, less than a mile away, Raffaele Troisi makes lovely Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo at his Vadiaperti estate, which was established in 1984 (Montefrdane, by the way, is in the Fiano di Avellino zone; Troisi also works with vineyards in Prata and Montefusco in the Greco di Tufo zone).

Troisi, make no mistake, is a farmer at heart, just like thousands of other producers throughout Campania and all of Italy, for that fact. He takes great pride in his work in the fields and follows that up with his approach in the cellar. He was kind enough to arrange a tasting of eleven white wines for my guest and I on the day we visited with him; this was much more than we expected, but we loved every minute of our meeting, as Troisi told us about his various wines – new releases and older offerings – with great conviction.

Along with Greco and Fiano, Troisi is also working with the Coda di Volpe grape. Best known as the primary variety in Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, the ultra popular white wine for tourists that crowd the open air trattorie of Napoli, Coda di Volpe is not generally regarded as a “serious” variety. Yet in the hands of a precise vintner such as Troisi, Coda di Volpe can yield quite a complex wine; his 2011 offering lemon, stone fruit and almond perfumes, impressive concentration and a light minerality in the richly detailed finish. This is a wine to be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years, but instead of the lightest seafood, this is a wine that can stand up to fattier fish and even lighter poultry, it’s also marvelous as a starter white for many meals.

His versions of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino are so admirable for their varietal purity as well as their subtle manner; these are not powerhouse wines, but ones of notable restraint. Their natural acidity is a dominant feature here, meaning you immediately want to try another glass. Troisi makes two special bottlings that are among the region’s finest; the first, a Fiano labeled as “Aiperti” that has beautifully appealing honey, mango, pear and magnolia aromas and a seductive finish with a subtle hint of almonds. The second wine is a Greco di Tufo labeled as “Tornanate” that has inviting lemon peel, lime and chamomile perfumes backed by excellent concentration and lively acidity as well as distinct minerality. Here is a wine that is pure Greco in its flavors and presentation and teases you with its promise of greatness some five to seven years down the road. While I always think of Fiano as the bigger of the two wines, it’s Greco that tends to reveal more of itself with time, a rather nice quality of this variety.

Troisi also treated us to some older bottles of Fiano di Avellino and if I had any doubts about the potential of this wine to age (which I really didn’t), they were wiped away with these wines. The 2004 has dried pear, herbal tea and sassafrass aromas, admirable ripeness and excellent persistence. It’s still a young wine, very delicious and I don’t expect it to be at peak for another three to five years.

Then there was the 1994 Fiano di Avellino, a wine that showed the promise of this great area. Deep yellow in color (though not as deep as one might expect for an 18-year old white), this combined dried pear and honey aromas with notes of caramel and dried yellow flowers. Medium-full, this was actually a fresher wine than the 2004, though a touch lighter on the palate. The finish has subtle notes of honey; overall the wine displays lovely finesse and elegance – what a light touch Troisi displays in his winemaking. Here’s a wine that I think will peak in another two or three years, meaning that you’ll have a 20 year old Fiano di Avellino at peak condition!

Of course, any white that ages this long has to be expensive, correct? Well this isn’t white Burgundy, so you don’t have to take out a loan; as the current 2011 vintage retails for about $25 on American retail shelves, one can only imagine what this 1994 costs when it was released back in 1996. Again, here’s a wine that the Parkers and Sucklings of the world too often ignore- perhaps it’s because they don’t understand it or think their readers don’t care about it – believe me, there are enough of us that do. It’s a great wine, so thank you Raffaele for such a lovely tasting!

Sabino Loffredo, Pietracupa (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

My final visit was an all-too brief meeting with Sabino Loffredo, the proprietor of Pietracupa, also situated in Montefrdane. Loffredo comes to America each February for the Tre Bicchieri tasting of Gambero Rosso (he’s been honored with this award many times, deservedly so), but as he doesn’t have an importer in Chicago, I always miss out on meeting him during his time in America.

I almost missed him again in Campania, as he wasn’t in the winery the day I was in Montefredane and I was scheduled to leave the area the following day. He was kind enough to meet me for a few minutes on my travel day so he could introduce himself and his wines. While our conversation was brief, I was able to taste both his 2010 Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo and am I ever glad I had the opportunity!

His Fiano is a brilliant light yellow with intriguing aromas of Bosc pear, sassafrass and cinnamon (!); I can’t say I’ve really found a set of aromas such as this in any other Fiano. Meanwhile, the Greco di Tufo displayed perfumes of mango, melon, mint and acacia flowers – here is a wine that has great focus! Certainly the allure of these Pietracupa whites are their uniqueness, which comes from the soils in which the grapes are grown. These are true terroir-driven wines and while that term is rather casually tossed about these days, these wines are first-rate evidence of how climate and soil affect a wine. Both wines are outstanding in my opinion and will be at peak in five to seven years.

Sabino told me that he always wants to meet with someone such as myself at his estate so he can explain his wines and his territory. Based on these highly individualistic offerings, I know that I’ll get a great understanding into what makes a brilliant Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino when I sit down with Sabino during my next trip to Campania. I know it won’t be too many more months from now and frankly, I can’t wait!

June 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm 2 comments

tom hyland

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