The Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting was held in Chicago yesterday and by numerous accounts - a classic location, an excellent turnout and a wide array of Italy's finest wines - the event was a smashing success!
This was the second year for this event in Chicago - it is also held in New York City and San Francisco - and it was once again held in the beautiful Grand Hall of Union Station, notable for its classic Greek columns as well as the site of one of the classic scenes from the movie The Untouchables. Last year, the event was held on a Friday and attendance was good, but moving it to a Tuesday made a lot of difference this year, as by my estimate, there was at least a 30% increase in attendance.
It was nice to see my fellow Chicagoans support this tasting, which is truly one of a kind. Gambero Rosso has become famous for its Tre Bicchieri ("three glasses") rating for the top wines each year in Italy (this year, only 402 wines out of more than 20,000 tasted received the award) and the results truly represent the spectacular variety that is the world of Italian wines.
If you wanted to only focus on the most famous reds, you could do that and sample Amarone from producers such as Allegrini, Masi, Tenuta Sant'Antonio and Zenato among others or you could taste Barolo from Mirafiore (Fontanafredda), Ettore Germano or Michele Chiarlo as well as Brunello di Montalcino from notable producers such as Banfi and Greppone Mazzi - and let's not forget Sassicaia!
Armando Castagnedi of Tenuta Sant'Antonio with Kristin Milles (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
But of course, there is a lot more to Italian wine than full-bodied reds; to balance things out there were many splendid sparkling wines from esteemed producers such as Ca' del Bosco, Guido Berlucchi, Ferrari and Villa Sandi (this last, one of the top houses of Prosecco). These wines showed wonderfully, but for me, the real surprise was the 2005 Brut from Sergio Mottura, a 100% Chardonnay from Lazio. Though Mottura has become quite well-known for his still wines made from Grechetto, I found this sparker to be even better; it is extremely elegant and round with excellent varietal character. Let's fact it, how often do you get to try a sparkling wine from Lazio?
As for white wines, the 2009 Cantina Tramin Gewurztraminer "Nussbaumer" was a standout - one smell of this wine instantly tells you this is a classic of its type - while the 2008 Livon Braide Alte is another outstanding achievement from this first-rate producer from Friuli. The 2009 Planeta Cometa, a 100% Fiano was one of the standout whites here, as was the 2009 Pietracalda from Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania.
I did find a few surprises with the reds, none more so than the 2006 Le Piane "Boca", a blend of Nebbiolo and Vespolina from a small area in northern Piemonte. This is medium-full with beautiful dried cherry fruit and young, but sleek tannins and a finish with very good acidity and notes of light dried herbs. This is a nice alternative to Barolo and it certainly can be consumed earlier. There are only a handful of producers that craft this charming red and this is one of the most stylish examples I've tasted.
I also loved the 2006 "Ceretta" Barolo from Ettore Germano, a subdued Barolo with silky tannins made in a classic traditional style as well as the remarkable 2007 Nino Negri "5 Stelle" Sfursat", a Nebbiolo with plenty of stuffing as well as an extremely long, persistent finish along with the varietally pure 2004 Mastroberardino Taurasi "Radici" Riserva, one of Campania's finest reds.
Sergio Germano, Ettore Germano Winery (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Finally, for lovers of Tuscan reds, there was an embarrassment of riches, ranging from the 2007 Flaccianello from Fontodi to the 2007 Fontalloro from Felsina to the underrated 2007 Tenuta di Valgiano from vineyards in the Lucca area. You could even taste two wines from Tua Rita: the 2008 "Perlato del Bosco" Rosso and the 2008 Rediagaffi, one of Italy's most powerful examples of 100% Merlot. This was indeed a rare treat to be able to taste the last two wines!
So given the overall success of this tasting, I am looking forward to next year's event in Chicago. It will be difficult to top this year's tasting, but I'm sure the organizing team at Gambero Rosso, lead by Tiina Eriksson, Marco Sabellico and Eleonora Guerini will be up to the task.