Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Every year, the Gambero Rosso organization awards the Tre Bicchieri (or, "three glasses,") to a select number of Italian wines from out of 45,000 sampled. Winners and runners-up are showcased during a world tour, which stopped off in New York early February.

Out of all the industry events I attend every year, the Tre Bicchieri seems to be one of the zaniest. Maybe it's the generally effusive nature of Italians themselves, but I think a lot has to do with the layout: wineries are organized by importer (not region, style, or even alphabetically,) so you're bopping from Franciacorta to Brunello to Amarone to Sicily and back again. Maybe it's also that there are a lot of friends and consumers allowed, so people are drinking more than spitting! Who knows. Just… zany.

As with many industry tastings, it's impossible to sample every single wine. IMPOSSIBLE! (For kicks, you can check out my madcap attempt to hit as many of the 250 wineries at the latest NY Wine Experience as I could.) At this year's Tre Bicchieri, there were 321 wines from 180 producers, so even if you were a speed demon and took only one measly minute to taste each wine, it would still take you almost five and a half hours to hit them all.

So I found a section of the room and just plowed in! ("3B" indicates Tre Bicchieri winners, others received slightly lower rankings.)

As luck would have it, I sampled the Red of the Year first. The 2007 Vietti Barolo Villero Riserva (3B) had great, elegant perfume, was "really delicious," with bright, spicy red cherries and brick dust. Silky tannins, good acidity, looooong length and a chewy finish. ~$300. The 2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione also had an elegant nose, and was tasty—very floral and very earthy—and integrated. ~$45.

As a bubbly fan, I beelined for the 2009 Il Mosnel Franciacorta Extra Brut EBB (3B). It was very yummy/dirty/funky on the nose, with yellow apple, straw, and a good mousse—warm and rich and oomphy. ~$40. I also was intrigued by the 2013 Adami Valdobbiadene Rive di Farra di Solingo Brut Col Credas (3B). Pear jumped from the nose, with light lemon, minerals, and a bright mousse. Very steely, clean and metallic, cuts like a knife. ~$22.

I also love Amarone (remember when I wondered if it was the Sexiest Wine Ever?) so sampled the 2010 Tenuta Sant'Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli (3B). It had tons of black fruit, was very tasty (though maybe not as velvety as I'd hoped,) with good fruit and cola notes. Still very young—I'm prepared to give it some time! ~$75.

The 2009 Morellino di Scansano Calestaia Reserva (3B) was intoxicating. Lots of floral and red fruit perfume, very tasty, bit of tea, spice, good fruit, flirty, well-structured yet approachable now. 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany. ~$42.

Another Tuscan group showed the 2010 Colle Massari Montecucco Sangiovese Lombrone Riserva (3B) with an attractive nose, delicious and complex fruit, spice, and yet easy-drinking. ~$45. I also enjoyed their "Super Tuscan" blend of Bordeaux-grapes and Sangiovese, the 2011 Colle Massari Bolgheri Rosso Superiore Grattamacco—very spicy, robust, lavender florals, tasty, earthy, good tannic structure. ~$75. And the 2009 Colle Massari Brunello di Montalcino Poggio di Sotto again had a great nose, with violet florals, caramel, herbs, chocolate... just lovely. I'll definitely be looking for more from this producer! ~$240.

Some Chiantis from Tuscany tasted next included the 2011 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico ColledilĂ  Gran Selezione (3B) with a most amazing nose! Very unusual: brick dust, crushed lavender, red plum, red currant. Lots of structure and intriguing on the palate, but the nose was the best. ~$55. And the 2011 Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva (3B) showed ripe red fruit on the nose, with red and black fruits (supported by 20% Merlot in the blend, no doubt,) with herbs and a pizza-spice-y finish. Tasty. ~$30.

At this point in my tasting, I met up with some friends: Mr. Some Damn Good Wine, Mr. Tolerant Taster, and Mr. NJ Wine and Beer (not every Wineau has a catchy name, but I guess the folks who do tend to gravitate to each other. [You can follow all these wacky Wineaux on the twitter, lose the "Mr."s and look them up!]) Our newly-formed Posse bounced around to some more tables, increasing the zany quotient by a factor of ten.

Hopscotching to Friuli Venezia Giulia, I tried the 2013 Ronco dei Tassi Collio Malvasia (3B)—abundant with minerals, pear, peach and straw, light and herby with a nice grip. ~$18. I really do enjoy Collio wines and was intrigued by the 2011 Ronco dei Tassi Fosarin, a white blend, which was very meaty and pungent, feel of warm hay, and viscous. ~$20. I went nutso over the 2008 Cantina Valpolicalla Negrar Amarone della Valpolicella Classico San Rocco Domini Veneti (3B). Graphite, smoky flintiness, violets! Herby perfume, intoxicating nose. Spicy, rich—THIS is sexy. Warm and ripe with subtle tannins, from a single vineyard. More, please! ~$40.

Back up to Lombardy and Franciacorta again, for the amazing 2007 Ferghettina Franciacorta Pas Dosé 33 Riserva (3B). Soapstone, lemon curd, honey and yellow apple on the nose, very crisp and clean, minerally, bit yeasty (72 months on the lees, so!) Very nice, very tasty. ~$48

Alas, when we made it to Tenuta Sette Ponti (the Winery of the Year,) they were out of their famous 2011 Oreno. Sad face. But the 2012 Tenuta Sette Ponti Saia Feudo Maccari (3B) was dense and spicy, with cocoa and earth, and supple tannins, (~$30) and the 2012 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo was earthy, herby and dense with tasty tart fruit. ~$25.

We all enjoyed the 2010 Velenosi Rosso Piceno Superiore Roggio del Filare (3B): macerated berry nose, cherry cola, robust and fruity, VERY structured, super tannic, but very, very tasty. ~$50.

Back to white, back to Collio for the 2013 Ronco Blanchis Collio (3B)—spicy!! A true multitude of spices. Warm, round melon and... spice galore. ~$20. Although familiar with Gavi wines, I hadn't yet tried the 2012 Villa Sparina Gavi del Comune di Gavi Monterotondo (3B) which had delicious melon, litchi, great round fruit, and good minerality. Yum. ~$50.

And far be it from me to leave any Franciacorta unturned, so I sipped on the 2004 Castello Bonomi Franciacorta Extra Brut Lucrezia Etichetta Nera (3B) which was quite perfumey, with florals and sugar cookie (~$150,) and the 2007 Castello Bonomi Franciacorta Extra Brut Lucrezia CruPerdu, with a very soapy nose, great ripe fruit, pear, yeasty, tasty. ~$135.

Mr. NJ Wine and Beer and I accidentally left the other two in the dust zooming to the other side of the room to find an old friend, the 2010 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (3B). With a grappa-ish, herby nose, and "sweet" fruit, it presented a little too baked for me, alas. Maybe next time! ~$42

I had to fly to a meeting with another Wineau, so bid the remainder of my Posse adieu (or, ciao,) and headed out into the cold with a little Italian zaniness in my step. While I felt like I may have missed some real gems in all the chaos, I was thrilled at the numerous wines I did discover. With the incredible range of wines coming out of all corners of Italy, there truly is something for everyone—so grab three glasses of your own, split a bottle with some friends, and dance the zany night away.


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