Category Archives: The Italian Report

We travel to Italy at least once a year to keep up on all important wine and food developments in Italy. We love Italian culture and are very happy to share with you.

Single Vineyard Stand-Out by Selvapiana – 95 points!

Buy 2009 Selvapiana Bucerchiale Riserva, Chianti RufinaI know I’m on to something good when a wine stands out among nearly 45,000 wines at a monstrous wine fair. That’s what happened at VinItaly this year when I tasted at the booth of the Chianti Rufina producer, Selvapiana, with Frederico Masseti, the managing director of the estate. The single vineyard Bucerchiale Riserva got my immediate attention. Everything about the wine wowed me, but then, every wine Mr. Masseti showed that day was a winner – including the 1968 Chianti Riserva. This 45 year old Chianti produced from 100% Sangiovese grown on schist, limestone and clay at high altitude was unbelievably vigorous for its age. It was light in color, but still had beautiful aromas of dried berries and spice, with a memorable finish. It was a real homage to the Bucerchiale vineyard that allows the grapes to ripen slowly and completely giving the resulting wine complexity and nuance rarely accomplished in this sub-zone. Recent vintages of Bucerchiale have been extraordinary primarily due to the privileged vineyard site, but also because most of the vines are now approaching 50 years in age. Old vines, limestone, clay, schist and high altitude come together in a way that sets the Bucerchiale apart – it truly stands out in a crowd! Believe me, it will stand out for you too.

2009 Selvapiana Bucerchiale Chianti Rufina Riserva
…Red plum, redcurrant, tobacco, forest floor and potpourri spices on the sexy, very complex nose. …multilayered flavors of blueberry, tobacco leaf and loam. …lingering ripe red cherry and spice flavors…. 95 points, S. Tanzer’s Int’l Wine Cellar | GPS: 95

Elegance on Etna: My Smoothest Passopisciaro, 94WA

Andrea Franchetti, Passopisciaro's proprietor.

Andrea Franchetti, Passopisciaro’s proprietor.

The subtlety and silkiness that Andrea Franchetti’s genius gets from the slopes of Sicily’s rugged volcano take take me straight to the Cote de Nuits and Piemonte (at half the cost). Berries and flowers in the nose, bright flavor, sleek body and electric nerve. Yet the grape is local nerello mascalese, not pinot or nebbiolo and nothing like the Bordeaux varieties he brought to Tuscany so famously. Funny thing, this is not what Andrea intended in 2000. He thought Etna would make very big reds he said in a great interview I saw in Vinography. Instead the old mountain taught him (can’t argue with a Sicilian lava flow, I’ve seen it). The nerello vines are 70, 80 years old, and vineyards follow contradas, lines laid out in the flows long ago. So Franchetti cleaned up the vines, picked late and treated the wine gently. The nerello paid back his respect with gorgeous single-vineyard “Contrada” wines and this beautiful blend. Franchetti also gave Etna a superb chardonnay. Together, they thrill Italian wine lovers like me every year. To make sure you get in on the adventure and the elegance, join us and climb the volcano. It’s breathtaking.

Buy 2010 Passopisciaro Passopisciaro Rosso, Etna
Passopisciaro Lineup:

2010 Passopisciaro Passopisciaro Rosso
…scents of black truffles, incense, smoked game, creosote, spring flowers and black fruits. Full-bodied with mouth-staining tannin as well as mouth-saturating extract and richness… 94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate

  • 2009 Passopisciaro Guardiola (Chardonnay) Pale straw. Pungent apple, buttercup and mineral aromas along with a hint of resin on the complex nose. Juicy, concentrated flavors of thyme, lime, banana, honey and stone coat the palate….
    90 points, S. Tanzer’s Int’l Wine Cellar
  • 2010 Passopisciaro Guardiola (Chardonnay) …impresses for a rich, textured fabric of peaches, apricots and flowers. Clean mineral notes emerge over time, adding focus and drive. A long, multi-dimensional finish rounds things out nicely….
    92 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
  • 2009 Passopisciaro Contrada Chiappemacine …similar to the straight Passopisciaro. It possesses attractive density and expressive fruit, all supported by firm yet well-balanced tannins. A bright, articulate finish adds proportion and balance….
    93 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
  • 2010 Passopisciaro Contrada Chiappemacine …reveals a more immediate expression of fruit. Dark red berries, tobacco and mint flesh out on the radiant mid-palate. …an energetic style because of the vintage… impeccably refined and harmonious….
    94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
  • 2009 Passopisciaro Contrada Sciaranuova ….Bright red fruit, flowers, anise and minerals wrap around the palate in this wiry, energetic Nerello Mascalese. This shows substantial vibrancy and cut, along with intense mineral notes…
    94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
  • 2010 Passopisciaro Contrada Sciaranuova A totally striking wine… a deep, intriguing bouquet redolent of orange peel, tar, licorice and exotic spices. Dark berries, minerals and rose petals add further complexity on the generous, silky finish….
    94+ points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
  • 2009 Passopisciaro Contrada Porcaria …exquisite wine layered with dark, sensual fruit. …muscular yet weightless… The wine takes shape beautifully in the glass as it gains notable intensity all the way through to the palate staining finish….
    94 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate

95 Point Reds From Villa Matilde

Legend has it that Bacchus, the Roman God of wine, descended from heaven one day, and looking tired and scruffy in his human form, he was offered sustenance by Falernus, an old farmer in the area. As a gift of thanks for the kindness, Bacchus turned the farmer’s fields into beautiful vineyards. The area became known as Falernum (now Falerno), and produced the preferred wines of Roman Emperors.

By the late 1800s, phylloxera had virtually destroyed the vineyards in this area of Campania, and the area remained fallow until the 1960s when Villa Matilde founder Francesco Paolo Avallone set out to bring the area’s original vines back to life. It took 10 years of work by a team of plant biologists at Naples University to find the best surviving vines and graft them onto new rootstock. Today, twenty original clones of Aglianico, Piedirosso and Falanghina, are trademarked as Villa Matilde. The estate’s soil and microclimate are truly privileged. The combination of ancient, mineral-rich volcanic ash hillsides facing the Mediterranean Sun provides ideal amounts of nutrients and sunlight with perfect diurnal temperature ranges. Villa Matilde produces extraordinary wines, with the reds showing rich plummy fruit with silky textures and earthy nuances from the volcanic soil. This area is wine grape heaven – as only Bacchus could have provided!

 

 
2007 Villa Matilde
Falerno del Massico Rosso

…stunning value. It bursts onto the palate with masses of dark fruit, smoke, incense and tar. A bold, exotic red, the Falerno del Massico impresses for its sheer harmony and a warm, radiant personality….

 
2007 Villa Matilde Cecubo

…drop-dead gorgeous. An extraordinary, expressive bouquet leads to smoke, tar, game and incense nuances as the wine emerges from the glass. … increasingly elegant over time… a stunning wine…

 

 
2007 Villa Matilde Taurasi

…caresses the palate with freshly cut roses, spices, red berries, mint and licorice. Bright aromas and flavors dazzle the palate while the wilder, more varietal side of Aglianico is less apparent….

 

Top 2007 Brunello Blowout Sale

Brunello As It Was Meant To Be

If you love Brunello di Montalcino as much as I do, but are gun-shy of spending outrageous sums on wines that fail to live up to expectation – lean in, and listen closely: Today’s offer is a trifecta of old school Brunello perfection at unbelievable prices, all from the exceptional 2007 vintage. The three Brunello producers listed below are quality-focused traditionalists that remain true to the vision Clemente Santi, the founder of Brunello, set forth back in the 1860s. Namely, that Brunello should be a wine with an unmistakable sense of place and terroir that tastes nothing like other wines. Its character comes from the earth, not the person who made it. You will want a mixed case of 4 bottles each.

Costanti – Renowned for elegance, drinkability, and floral, spicy bouquets, Costanti keeps yields very low and ages in large botti. Demand always outstrips supply.

Fuligni – Their vineyards are in the “heart of the zone” where Brunello was born. Produced only in the best vintages (none in 2002 for example) and made using traditional methods: steel vat fermentation followed by aging in Slavonian casks. Fuligni Brunello is known for their vibrant aromas, supple tannins, succulent cherry flavors and minerality.

Lisini – Lisini makes quintessential Brunello that has attained cult status with extraordinary demand here in the U.S. Some of the vines hail from the mid-nineteenth century! Fermentation is done in glass-lined cement tanks with aging in large Slavonian botti. Extraordinary Brunello.

 

 
2007 Lisini
Brunello di Montalcino

..very beautiful… Sweet dark cherries, flowers, mint and licorice take shape as the wine opens up… finessed, seamless finish laced with sweet hints of tobacco and wild flowers rounds things out in style….

 
2007 Fuligni
Brunello di Montalcino

…Sweet red berries, flowers, mint, spices and anise are woven together beautifully in this large-scaled, generous wine. The wine gains volume and depth in the glass as the flavors built to a huge crescendo….

 

 
2007 Conti Costanti
Brunello di Montalcino

…Sweet floral notes lead to hints of tobacco, wild herbs and spices on the refined finish. Layers of fruit flesh out beautifully in a radiant, expressive wine that captures the essence of the vintage….

 

Game Changer: Soligo Prosecco

Every once in a while I taste a wine that is a game-changer, and recently I had such an experience. Normally, I’m not a huge Prosecco fan as I find them either too sweet, or a bit lacking in any real flavor interest. But, that has changed – big time! The Cantina Soligo Prosecco Brut NV is in a whole different league from what I’m used to tasting. To give you an idea of how impressive this wine is, I tasted with Bob, and after his first sip, he looks at me and says, “This is almost too good!” Wines of this quality in this price range just don’t come along often. It presents a mélange of aromas and flavors ranging from zesty citrus and peach to lychee and strawberry. There is a slightly saline quality intensifying the overall flavor profile, and the fizz has a creamy quality making the wine dance on the palate with a delicacy that is pure pleasure. A glass goes down so easily, you want to drink it by the bottle – and maybe a second one! This will make a perfect springtime aperitif or to drink with sushi, shellfish or nearly any light fare. I can’t say enough about this delightful surprise. It’s a wine to purchase by the case!

 

Soligo Brut Prosecco di Conegliano

Delicate, elegant, refined, pure. Impressive prosecco unlike 99 percent of what most have tasted as prosecco. Bisol was a favorite… this is both more refined and a better value!

WA’s Highest Rated Falanghina, Under $20

Not only is I Pentri’s 2010 Falanghina Flora Robert Parker’s highest rated wine of its kind – ever, it’s also under $20. The Falanghina grape may not be familiar to many of you, but it is Campania’s signature white grape, thriving in the volcanic ash soils found just outside of Naples. When yields are controlled, and the winemaking is precise, as it is at I Pentri, Falanghina can produce a world class white wine. Intoxicatingly aromatic, it expresses flavors of stone fruits such as white peach and apricot, with floral and nutty notes of honeysuckle and almond. Serve it to your guests blind, and ask them to describe the flavors. You’ll get as many different answers as there are tasters! Wines of this rarity and charm are scarce, especially at this ridiculous price!

 

2010 I Pentri Castelvenere
Falanghina Flora

…emerges from the glass with an exotic, totally beguiling white. Apricots, white truffles, flowers, honey and mint are all woven together beautifully… exceptional, polished wine. …breathtaking juice….

Barbaresco Bargains at Eye-Popping 95-96+ Point Scores

Produced in only the best vintages, the single-vineyard Barbarescos of Produttori del Barbaresco are must have wines for lovers of refined, classically styled Barbaresco. And, they are always unbelievably good values; here’s why: Produttori del Barbaresco is a cooperative of quality-minded producers with just a single wine-making facility. The money derived from the sale of their grapes to the cooperative is plowed back into vineyard management, state-of-the-art equipment, organic farming methods and the like. The cooperative, directed by the highly respected enologist, Aldo Vacca, puts all its resources into producing the best single-vineyard Barbaresco possible – but, only in the very best vintages, and with only the best grapes from each producer making the cut. The results are impressive, critics rave and savvy buyers snap up the small production soon after release. There are nine single-vineyard labels in the Produttori portfolio, each distinctive and representative of its individual terroir. The best vineyards in Barbaresco are represented in the Produttori collection, and I have selected five I believe make an excellent tasting overview of Barbaresco. You simply cannot buy better Barbaresco at this price. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that they would be good values at one and a half times what I’m offering. Grab a few bottles of each.

 

 
2008 Produttori del Barbaresco
Montefico Riserva

…hits the palate with a blast of fruit intermingled with copious acidity and pure structure. …depth in its fruit …plenty of freshness and vibrancy. The Montefico is dazzling…

 
2008 Produttori del Barbaresco
Montestefano Riserva

…exquisite and harmonious from start to finish. …the fruit is intensely perfumed, rich and totally seductive. …boasts striking aromatics, seemingly endless layers of fruit and power to burn….

 

 
2008 Produttori del Barbaresco
Ovello Riserva

…Firm, steely tannins support a core of expressive fruit …Sweet floral notes reappear on the vivid, utterly breathtaking finish, adding lift, precision and vibrancy. This is a stunning wine…

 

 
2008 Produttori del Barbaresco
Asili Riserva

…marvelous… With time in the glass, the wine’s inner perfume gradually emerges… nerves of steel and a huge, never-ending finish. It is by far the most imposing and structured Asili I have ever tasted…

 

2008 Produttori del Barbaresco
Rabajà Riserva

…utterly magnificent …wine of exquisite grace and beauty. All the elements are in place. I could describe the aromas and flavors, but that would be doing this majestic Barbaresco a huge disservice….

 

Italy’s Greatest Wine Value of 2013

This wine knocked me out of my seat at Verona’s wine fair, VinItaly, in April. When the proprietors mentioned this Riserva had been awarded Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) by the Italian wine publication Gambero Rosso, I understood why. These fellas are mighty proud. Chosen as one of 399 wines to be elevated to Three Glasses from a range of 20,000 Italian wines! Sure, you’ll see the big names Gaja, Giacosa and Conterno on the list. Of course the wines from Puglia (Italy’s heel) don’t fetch the prices of a famous Barolo or Barbaresco. Negroamaro, not Nebbiolo, is the grape here giving a lush, rich flavored medium bodied red that is most rewarding. Rarely does such a compelling Italian value come along. You’re gonna want that by the case.

 

2009 Cantele
Salice Salentino Riserva

It’s been years since I’ve tasted such a rewarding wine as this. …rich and rewarding. This is an unparalleled wine value for those looking for a ripe, lush style that only southern Italy can do.

Clerico Scores Big! 94, 95, 96!

Our visit here just over a month ago confirmed once again he is on top of his game. Domenico Clerico’s estate includes some of the most prestigious vineyards in the Monforte d’Alba region, including Pajana, Ginestra and Mosconi (Percristina) most of their vines planted between 1950 and 1970. Because the Clerico Barolo vineyards are home to very old vines, his 2008s are darkly colored, with good grip and structure in a classic sense and have just arrived. We are crazy about the Ciabot Mentin.

 

 
 
2008 Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin

…scents of redcurrant, mocha, dried flowers and earth. Wonderfully deep, layered and sweet; lush but with good limestone lift. This floods the palate with flavor and lingers with exceptional purity and persistence.

 
2008 Clerico Barolo Pajana

…fresh aromas and flavors of redcurrant, dried flowers, tobacco, graphite and earth. …energy in the mouth, showing superb focus and finesse. Finishes very long and penetrating, with firm but elegant tannins.

 

 
2007 Clerico Barolo Aeroplan Servaj

Deep red. Classic Barolo nose offers plum, redcurrant, mocha, camphor and loamy underbrush. Dense, layered and large-scaled; wonderfully sweet and full. …velvety and very expressive…

 

Marengo’s Brilliant Brunate

Brunate, with its muscular and dense concentration balances on a fine line of precision unequalled in Barolo. Mario Marengo has just over 3 acres and makes 5,000 bottles per vintage. Let’s say that Marengo is intimate with Brunate. Marco Marengo has dedicated himself to fulfilling the potential of his Brunate plot since his father Mario’s passing a decade back. 2008 is classic expression for great Barolo sites like Brunate. With cool temps, the nebbiolo grape reveals layers of dark and rich fruit, with intense notes of spice and mint in its youth while seeming almost weightless with depth only found in the greatest nebbiolo.

 

2008 Marengo Barolo Brunate

…impressive. Layers of dark fruit, menthol, pine, spices and mint flow effortlessly from this impeccably graceful, polished Barolo…. Layers of fruit build to an explosive finish that saturates every corner of the palate….

Frescobaldi – Seven Centuries of Winemaking!

What’s your family been up to for the last 700 years? A hundred years before the Europeans arrived on the American continents, Berto de’ Frescobaldi planted vines on his family estate. Fast forward to the 1960s: Vittorio Frecobaldi’s vineyard specialization and expansion, including a modern winery, gave the family’s wine biz a leap into the future. In the ’90s, 1990s, that is, the Frescobaldi and Mondavi families joined together on collaborative super-Tuscan wine, Luce. While in Miami I had the opportunity to taste their 2009 Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina at the grand opening of the Frescobaldi restaurant in South Beach, and WOW! Concentration, ripeness, sophistication, and the all important balance. A super rendition of deep and delicious Chianti from the excellent ’09 vintage. Rich and full. You’re gonna want that.

 

2009 Frescobaldi Castello di 
Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva

…WOW! Concentration, ripeness, sophistication, and the all important balance. A super rendition of deep and delicious Chianti from the excellent ’09 vintage. Rich and full. You’re gonna want that.

Unknown Grapes You Should Get To Know

All of us are guilty of continually drinking wines that are familiar. You know the ones: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the ever-present Pinot Grigio. Today, I want to recommend that you break out of your habits and try a few wines made from grapes that you probably have never heard of, let alone tasted, but will thrill you.

Refosco: This red grape grown in northeast Italy (Friuli), Slovenia and Croatia produces a darkly colored wine with flavors of plum, black cherry, juniper and it often has a pine-scented aroma. It ripens late and is resistant to autumn rains and rot, so it ripens completely even in difficult climates. It will appeal to those of you who prefer big, masculine reds, but this is not a massive varietal. It produces wines of elegance and harmony. Try the one from Moschioni in our Italian section.

Falanghina: This white variety was a favorite of the Romans. It is enjoying a revival thanks to a few dedicated producers who revived it from near extinction. Grown in the Campania area of Italy, it produces medium-bodied wines with flavors of apricot, almond, honeysuckle and citrus. Two producers making different styles of Falanghina are I Pentri and Villa Matilde, both are in stock; the Villa Matilde will appeal to lovers of California Chardonnay. The I Pentri is crisper and a bit drier.

Pecorino: Spelled exactly like the cheese of the same name, this Italian white is a wine you’re going to want to drink all summer long. It comes from the Marche region on the Adriatic coast, and is a more sophisticated version of Trebbiano. Crisp, lip-smacking flavors of white peach and lemon drop supported by the perfect amount of acidity – no wood! Bob and I found one from Tenuta di Tavignano at VinItaly, and we have a bunch of it arriving very soon. Call me to discuss – it will be your summertime go-to white.

Monster Scores for Conterno – Now in Stock

Barolo is great when it comes from the Barolo legend Giacomo Conterno’s son, Aldo. Back in the ’20s, Giacomo’s dad started the Riserva phenom, and then later, Giacomo started single vineyards. He left his estate under the care of his two sons, Giovanni and Aldo. Giovanni still heads up his father’s brand while Aldo, after a stint in California that inspired his independent spirit, left home to purchase the ethereal Bussia vineyard in Monforte d’Alba. Some say the brothers split because Aldo wished to produce “mod” Barolo, using small barriques that wine fashionistas love, but that’s hooey as Aldo refuses to use them, sticking instead with the proven, larger Slovenian casks that are used for up to 20 years. These are old school beauties with extraordinarily balanced fruit and respect of the old ways. Approachable now, yes, but Aldo’s wines are built to develop with time, gaining all those earthy-truffle notes, rose petal whispers, and pleasant whiffs of tar, making them borderline divine.

 

 
2008 Aldo Conterno Barolo

Beautiful raspberry, cherry and black currant flavors are backed by firm, dusty tannins in this harmonious, fresh red. Floral and tobacco notes add dimension as this cruises to a long, lingering finish….

 
2008 Aldo Conterno
Barolo Cicala

There’s fine depth to this red, like a grand cru red Burgundy, with a silky texture framing black cherry, black currant and tar flavors. Solidly built, this features a deceptively charming exterior…

 

 
2008 Aldo Conterno
Barolo Colonnello

This is round and supple, with a fleshy profile enveloping pure cherry, raspberry and spice flavors. Ripe and harmonious, with no shortage of structure. A mineral element emerges on the tight finish….

 

 
2008 Aldo Conterno
Barolo Romirasco

This is suave and silky, with refined tannins providing a tapestry for the cherry, tar and spice flavors. Turns leaner and more sinewy by the finish, picking up a mineral component. The flavors linger….

 

 
2005 Aldo Conterno
Barolo Riserva Granbussia

Lots of cherry and plum aromas. Tannins are dense offering a very elegant length. There is purity and ripeness without a jammy impact so this wine offers a classic style of Nebbiolo.

 

 

Selvapiana Single Vineyard Stand-Out – 95 Points

I know I’m on to something good when a wine stands out among nearly 45,000 wines at a monstrous wine fair. That’s just what happened last week at VinItaly when I tasted at the booth of the Chianti Rufina producer, Selvapiana, with Frederico Masseti, the managing director of the estate. The single vineyard Bucerchiale Riserva got my immediate attention. Everything about the wine wowed me, but then, every wine Mr. Masseti showed that day was a winner – including the 1968 Chianti Riserva. This 45 year old Chianti produced from 100% Sangiovese grown on schist, limestone and clay at high altitude was unbelievably vigorous for its age. It was light in color, but still had beautiful aromas of dried berries and spice, with a memorable finish. It was a real homage to the Bucerchiale vineyard that allows the grapes to ripen slowly and completely giving the resulting wine complexity and nuance rarely accomplished in this sub-zone. Recent vintages of Bucerchiale have been extraordinary primarily due to the privileged vineyard site, but also because most of the vines are now approaching 50 years in age. Old vines, limestone, clay, schist and high altitude come together in a way that sets the Bucerchiale apart – it truly stands out in a crowd! Believe me, it will stand out for you too.

 

2009 Selvapiana Bucerchiale
Chianti Rufina Riserva

…Red plum, redcurrant, tobacco, forest floor and potpourri spices on the sexy, very complex nose. …insidious intensity to the multilayered flavors of blueberry, tobacco leaf and loam. Wonderfully silky and sweet…