Monday, March 1, 2010

Tre Bicchieri in Chicago

Text and photos ©Tom Hyland

Gambero Rosso wrapped up their annual Tre Bicchieri tastings last week with a glorious event in Chicago, the first such occurrence of its kind for my hometown. The organizers wisely selected the historic Union Station, just west of the Loop, and the old train station never looked so beautiful. Most vintners I spoke with that had participated in the two previous tastings in New York and San Francisco earlier in the week, offered their opinions that this was the best venue of the three.

This is an exciting tasting for the obvious reason that many of the best wines in Italy are available for tasting; Sassicaia, Bruno Giacosa Barolo and Barbaresco and Planeta Cometa are only a few examples of this. But going beyond the most famous offerings, this is an opportunity to sample wines that the magazine’s staff rated on an equal level (Tre Bicchieri) with those famous bottlings. These included wines made from Vermentino, Sylvaner and Grechetto for white and Corvina, Garganega and Pugnitello for red. Being able to taste a selection such as this is quite special and it gives one a sense of the variety of the Italian wine scene. The vintners of Italy have always prided themselves on the singularity of their products, so while a tasting of only Brunello, Barolo and Amarone would be thrilling, it wouldn’t give one a proper overview of contemporary Italian viticulture. Gambero Rosso is to be congratulated not only for organizing these tastings in the United States (and other countries), but also for including wines made from dozens of different varieties from every corner of the Italian peninsula.

Here is a brief list of a few of my favorites I tasted last Friday:


Sergio Mottura
2008 Poggio della Costa

I get few opportunites to taste wines from Lazio – honestly, how many of us do – so when I finally had the opportunity to meet Sergio Mottura and samples his latest releases, I was delighted. Mottura specializes in Grechetto; this particular wine is aged only in stainless steel and offers lovely fragrances of melon and dried pear and has a distinct juiciness to it. Mottura also poured the 2007 Latour a Civitella, another pure Grechetto, which was aged in oak. This had mango and white spice notes with very good acidity. I actually preferred this wine, as has Gambero Rosso in previous vintages.

Sergio Mottura

Abbazzia di Novacella
2008 Sylvaner Praepositus

This historic estate in Alto Adige never disappoints and often surprises – how often do we classify a Sylvaner as a first-rate wine? Yet this 2008 offering is just that, given its peach, pear and apricot aromas, excellent persistence and lively acidity.

Cantina Lunae Bosoni
2008 Vermentino Colli di Luni “Etichetta Nera”

Vermentino is one of those wines that few consumers know, yet everyone seems to love once they try it. This is a splendid rendition with acacia and yellow apple aromas bursting out of the glass. This is a serious Vermentino I think will be enjoyable for another five years – or perhaps even longer.

2008 Broy

This is one of the more famous “Super Whites” from Friuli and ir’s easy to see why, as this blend of Chardonnay, Friulano and Sauvignon is a seamless bottling that offers plenty of fruit (pear, apple) as well as spice (saffron, ginger). Rich with a lengthy finish, yet quite elegant and never overpowering – truly one of the more subtle botlings of its type.

2007 Braide Alte

While the Collvini Broy is low-key, this wine is more outgoing. A blend primarily of Chardonnay and Sauvignon (Blanc), this oak-aged white has great depth of fruit to back up the lovely aromas of spiced pear, chamomile and hyacinth. The well-structured finish is quite lengthy and the wine overall is quite sensual. This should age for at least a decade.

Elena Walch
2008 Gewurztraminer “Kastelaz”

No surprise here, as each year this wine captures the exotic fragrances of this variety as well as any other example in Italy. One whiff of the piercing lychee aromas and you’re captivated by this wine! Dry, full-bodied and quite complex, this is just a baby – check back on this in about five years.


Olim Bauda
2006 Barbera d’Asti Nizza

A producer that is hardly known in this country, although that might change with this wine. Deep ruby red with black plum and mocha aromas, this is rich, ripe and delicious! There are so many excellent offerings of Barbera from the strict Nizza appellation; this is prime evidence of how ideal this zone is for this variety.

2006 Coevo

For anyone who knows Cecchi merely for their humble Chianti Classico, I offer this wine as evidence of how good the wines are at this large estate in Castellina. A blend of Sangiovese from the Chianti Classico zone and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot from the Maremma (an intriguing concept), this has notes of red raspberry and black cherry fruit along with a touch of dill, elegant tannins and excellent persistence. A nicely balanced and stylish Super Tuscan.

Tenuta di Valgiano
2006 Tenuta di Valgiano

This Tuscan estate, located near Lucca, has been improving its reds for some time now and this 2006 bottling, a blend of Sangiovese, Syrah and Merlot is a beautifully textured wine with ideal ripness, elegantly styled tannins and ideal acidity. I am enjoying the 2006 reds from Tuscany immensely; this is one of my favorites to date.

2004 Sagrantino di Montefalco Chiusa di Pannone

This is the first bottling of this cru and Filippo Antonelli is off to a brilliant start with this wine. Always one of the area's most traditional producers, Antonelli has delivered a deeply concentrated effort with lovely perfumes and beautiful acidity; he has also managed to tame the aggressive tannins of Sagrantino. This Umbrian red is one of Italy's most underrated wines; perhaps this will bring the area's offerings greater attention.

Filippo Antonelli

2005 Barolo “Bricco delle Viole”

The 2005 Barolos are beautifully balanced wines and now that the wines have been in the bottle for some time, their fruit is emerging quite gracefully. Aldo Vajra always crafts his wines in an elegant style and this bottling is as graceful as you could hope for with Barolo. It also has pinpoint acidity, subtle spice and refined tannins – in short, a superb Barolo.

2004 Barolo Lazzarito La Delizia

This particular cru Barolo is always released later than the other crus from this estate, due to its higher level of tannins. 2004 was a great year in Barolo and this bottling has the power of that vintage combined with plenty of spice and fruit. Look for this to be at its best in 20 years or so.

Bruno Giacosa
2005 Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto

One of Piemonte’s giants, Bruno Giacosa seems incapable of producing anything less than a superb wine when it comes to Barolo and Barbaresco. Full-bodied, with aromas of currants and truffles, this grabs hold of you and never lets go. A rich mid-palate and a lengthy finish with outstanding concentration, this is a memorable 2005 Barolo.

Elvio Cogno
2004 Barolo Vigna Elena

This is a special Barolo from Cogno produced solely from the rosé clone that few producers bother with anymore. As the clone’s name might suggest, this is a perfumed offering with sensual notes of red roses and red cherrieS with a long, graceful finish, excellent concentration and lively acidity. If a wine is to age for decades, it must be in equilibrium when it is released; this is a textbook example of perfect balance.


Ca’ Rugate
2006 Recioto di Soave La Perlara

Let’s end with a sweet wine – e che un vino dolce! Made exclusively from Garganega grapes that were naturally dried for several months, this is lightly sweet with notes of honey, apricot and pear and finishes with cleansing acidity. Michele Tessari has always managed to make a rich Recioto di Soave that is always elegant without being too fat or lush. I am glad to see that Gambero Rosso finally decided to give their highest award to a Recioto di Soave.

All in all, this was a wonderful event that was well-attended. I do hope the organizers will return to Chicago as this event will only grow in popularity.

I want to thank everyone from Gambero Rosso who worked on this event for their efforts, especially Tiina Eriksson and Marco Sabellico, who were especially gracious.


  1. SF Tre Bicchieri is an annual must attend event for me. As you mentioned there is predictable representation from the Alpha cantine. The fact that there are always a good number of high quality wines present from many lesser known regions makes this event a true Italian viticulture lesson. Yes it's a red red world Felsina,Petrolo and Nino Negri, but in my opinion one of the top wines at the event was a gewurztraminer from Alto Adige. Cantina Tramins Nussbaumer 08'has mind blowing aromatics, mouth filling flavors and a clean satifying finish of excellent depth and length. Bravo Gambero Rosso.

  2. The only reason I didn't list the Nussbaumer Gewurztraminer in this post was that is wasn't poured at the Chicago tasting. Your thoughts on this wine are similar to mine- this is a great, great Gewurztraminer and is truly one of the best wines of Italy - white or red.

    I normally don't publish anonymous comments, but yours is very thoughtful. But next time, maybe you'll provide your name. Why so shy?

  3. I'm sorry you didn't get an opportunity to experience the 08' Nussbaumer Gewurztraminer in Chicago. Your city's cooler weather may have squelched the desire many purveyors had to showcase their white wines. I'm a happy lurker but since you called me out...

  4. Thanks for the comment! No need to feel sorry for me re: tasting the Nussbaumer as I've had it and loved it. But it is a shame others there may not get the opportunity.

    As for our cool weather, I don't think that had anything to do with it. There were some wines poured in NY that weren't poured in SF or Chicago. The number of wines was largest in NY and then a bit fewer in SF and a bit fewer still in Chicago. Certainly SF had better weather than SF- to me it just made sense that the most number of wines would be at the first tasting and the fewest at the final event.

  5. Tom, looks like we share some of the same favorites. (Too bad Giacosa didn't come to SF). See my review of the SF tasting here:

    Best regards,
    Iron Chevsky.

  6. Iron:

    Thanks for the comment and the link to your post. Nicely done!

    I love Franciacorta sparkling wines and it's a shame we don't get a chance to try more in America, but the prices do limit things.

    Great photos!