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 Colledilà 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.


Monday, February 2, 2015

2012 BORDEAUX: A "Run-DMC" Vintage

Last year I wrote that the 2011 Bordeaux offerings provided some gems if you were willing to take the time to unearth them. Well, Wineaux, prepare yourselves for some serious mining in regard to the 2012s.

Many high-end, famous critics (who get to attend the En Primeur tastings in Bordeaux) seem to agree that 2012 had quality issues much like 2011, and neither vintage was helped by the fact that 2009 and 2010 were stunning vintages all around. In 2012, ripening of the Cabernet Sauvignon was problematic, and Sauternes lost most of its crop to bad weather just before harvest. The dry whites fared well and the Merlot-based reds were salvageable, but 2012 will not be a vintage to remember, or to save.

However, this means something generally not a rule in Bordeaux: the 2012s will be far more accessible early on than those from the opulent vintages.

On a very snowy winter's day, I attended the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux tasting, which showcases 95 respected producers from all over Bordeaux. Generally I was not overly impressed with the offerings, although I managed to find one or two Châteaux from the different regions whose wine stood out amongst its peers. (Something to bear in mind: given the unpredictability of the vintage, many of these wines that are showing too tart or one-dimensional may almost certainly evolve in the bottle, and relatively soon, so while some show obvious potential now, others may yet surprise us.)

Ranged from acidic and bright Sauv Blanc-driven wines,
to rounder, richer offerings buoyed by more Sèmillon in the blend.

2012 Ch. de Chantegrive Blanc: Amazing nose, ripe pear and peach, quince, SweeTarts. Very "sweetly tart" in the mouth, excellently balanced acid, but the word for sure is TART. Liked it though. TOP White. ~$22

2012 Ch. Bouscaut Blanc: 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon; really get the Semillon on the nose, and in the body. Rich and viscous, nice spice on the finish, warm and luxe, very well-balanced. ~$35

2012 Ch. Carbonnieux Blanc: Subtle nose of florals, grass and herbs. Florals, tart lime zest, tasty, but doesn't stand out. ~$45

2012 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc: Elegant tart tropical fruit nose, very vegetative and green, but grippy. ~$100

2012 Ch. de Fieuzal Blanc: Light tropical fruit, nice depth of flavor—yellow apple and minerals. Pretty tasty, but simple. ~$65

2012 Ch. Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc: FAVE White: Taffy and melon nose. Nice spice and herbs in mouth to balance flavors. Rich and round. Oomphy. ~$55

2012 Ch. Latour-Martillac: 70% SB, 30% Sem, rich and round, very early and grassy, straw, tart citrus on finish. Nice. ~$35

2012 Ch. Malartic-Lagravière: Clean, steely lime. One note. Bit watery. ~$60

You will see the St.-Éms were very categorized by tart red fruits,
in some cases, so tart as to be off-putting.

2012 Ch. Beau-Séjour Bécot: Spices on the nose! Macerated berries, very spicy in the mouth, nice integration, can drink now, though firm tannins are present. FAVE St.-Em. ~$52

2012 Ch. Canon-la-Gaffelière: florals, red fruits, herby, tart. ~$65

2012 Clos Fourtet: Dark berries, very tart, a little disjointed at present but very good potential. ~$75

2012 Ch. La Gaffelière: Very interesting nose, spicy, bright red fruits, some jam, pomegranate. Very tart. ~$53

2012 Ch. Troplong-Mondot: Very perfumey nose of rose petals, but also quite tart. ~$85

In Pomerol, the tartness of the red fruits was tempered a bit
by earthiness and similar flavors.

2012 Ch. Beauregard: Earth, spice box, black fruits. Tasty, complex, smoked meat on the finish. FAVE Pom. ~$43

2012 Ch. Le Bon Pasteur: Smoke, dark fruits, a bit of tart red fruit on the finish. ~$NA [60-70]

2012 Ch. Clinet: Woodsy, very tart but bright red fruit. ~$75

Many wines from the large Médoc appellation seemed to have
a good "multi-faceted-ness" and are outrageously EXCELLENT values. 

2012 Ch. Chasse-Spleen [Moulis-en-Médoc]: Lovely, complex nose. Luxe fruit, Asian spice, soy sauce umami, bit tight now but very good potential. TOP Méd. ~$30

2012 Ch. Poujeaux [Moulis-en-Médoc]: Very spice box-y! Cedar, red berries, tasty, bright red and purple fruit. TOP Méd. ~$28

2012 Ch. Cantemerle [Haut-Médoc]: Earthy, dusty, spicy cedar nose. Very bright and light, bit of licorice, rose florals. Hm! ~$30

2012 Ch. Citran [Haut-Médoc]: Love the nose! Ripe and round, red and purple. Very purple fruit, blueberries. This one's different and very interesting. TOP Méd. ~$20

2012 Ch. La Tour de By [Médoc]: Light, bit of spice. Somewhat thin, but pleasant. Very fruity and earthy elements. ~$22

Mostly positive things to say about Margaux,
also well-rounded, also great values for the appellation.

Manager Dominique Befve
showing off his delicious
Ch. Lascombes.
2012 Ch. Brane-Cantenac: Very earthy, cigar box, nice red fruits, round expression. Yum! TOP Marg. ~$50

2012 Ch. Cantenac Brown: Mesquite, cranberry, grippy tannins, but good blend of fruit and structure. ~$45

2012 Ch. Giscours: Warm, spicy, nice red fruit, not terribly impressive, though. ~$48

2012 Ch. Kirwan: Stunning nose, lush red fruit and perfume. Tangy red fruit, nice spice, cranberry, mocha. FAVE Marg. ~$40

2012 Ch. Lascombes: Very purple nose, very nice, violets. Very very tasty, very very purple! Cocoa powder, iodine. TOP Marg.  ~$65

More earthy, vegitative notes found here.

2012 Ch. Gloria: Nice, interesting umami nose. Not that much fruit expression—chalky tannins kind of rob it of fruit. ~$36

2012 Ch. Léoville-Barton: Herbs and floral nose, nice fruit. Lots of green pepper in mouth. Solid, but not my style. ~$70

2012 Ch. Talbot: Really merde-y nose, but purfumey too! ("Perfume-y merde," that's a new one.) Violets, very compact, complex, yummy. FAVE ST-Ju. ~$50

Pauillac, like Margaux, seemed to hold a lot of potential.

2012 Ch. Haut-Bages Libéral: Love the nose, overripe blackberries, funky cheese thing. Very tasty, velvety, dense and dark, nice spice. TOP Pau. ~$40

2012 Ch. Lynch-Bages: Very herby, very cedar, mortadella, but woah—TOO young!! Very black tea tannic. (I was tasting with my friend, the Some Damn Good Wine guy, who said, "Uh…hold.") ~$100

2012 Ch. Pichon Baron: Not overpowering, but a complex nose: blueberry jam, whiff o' wood smoke. Elegant, fresh herbs, good red fruit, rose petals. FAVE Pau. ~$105

2012 Ch. Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande: Quite earty, cocoa, florals, red tangy fruit on finish. ~$100

(With the storm outside a-ragin', I wrapped up my tasting by beelining to the dessert wines. Alas, that meant I missed the three St.-Estèphe offerings, not to mention so many wonderful Châteaux from the regions I did sample. Oh well, no time to cry over missed wine!)

Sauterns and Barsac ranged from too light to too cloying,
but still had some personalities shining through.

2012 Ch. Coutet: Strong note of tangerine peel, very pleasant, but one-note. ~$70

2012 Ch. Doisy Daëne: Ripe melon, ripe pear. Really pear-y, actually. Very pleasant; nice finish and not too cloying. TOP Saut. ~$40

2012 Clos Haut-Peyraguey: Honey, apricot, honeysuckle. Very tasty, round and rich, but not enough acidity to balance = too syrupy. ~$55

2012 Ch. La Tour Blanche: Light florals, lemon verbena, good acid, lemon curd on the finish. Yum. Good balance. Very nice. FAVE Saut. ~$55

So there you have it, Wineaux. You major Bordeaux-lovers may just have to write off 2012—alas, the early reports on 2013 are also spotty—but while we wait for the "next big vintage," talk to your merchants and somms, and I bet you can find a decent bottle or two to enjoy in the meantime. To look on the bright side, unearthing the good 2012s will give you accessible Bordeaux at a relatively affordable price… it's still one of the world's best wine regions for a reason.