Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tre Bicchieri Highlights


The Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting hit Chicago yesterday and the result was a great success. This the fourth year for the tour to visit Chicago - San Francisco and New York City are the other cities on the US tour - and this year saw the largest attendance. It was extremely well received by most of the attendees I spoke with; in fact, I heard three of four of them tell their colleagues that they believe this has become the best wine event of the year in Chicago. When you consider how many wine tastings are held in Chicago every year and then consider that this is only the fourth time for this event, that's some lofty praise!


Massimo Piccin, Podere Sapaio


For those readers who are not familiar with this event, this is put together by the famous Italian wine publication, Gambero Rosso; each year, they organize numerous tastings by their panel members who sample 20,000 wines from some 2300 Italian producers. Wines that are recommended are listed and ranked according to a glass - or bicchiere (plural, bicchieri) rating. One glass is a very fine wine, while two glasses means a very highly recommended wine, while three glasses (tre bicchieri) is an outstanding wine, one that is a great example of its type. This year for the 2013 guide, a total of 399 wines were awarded this highest rating, meaning that for 2013, just less than 2% of the total number of wines tasted were awarded tre bicchieri, meaning this award is very difficult to attain and one that is highly treasured by the wineries. 

What I love about the wines that receive this award is the fact that there are many, many types, from sparkling to dry whites to lighter reds to be enjoyed over their first three to five years along with full-bodied reds made for a decade or two (or three of cellaring). Thus you have sparkling wines from Prosecco and Franciacorta, lovely whites from Alto Adige, Friuli, Marche and several other regions and reds ranging from Carignano del Sulcis from Sardinia to Italy's most famous reds such as Barolo, Brunello and Amarone. Not only is there something for everyone, but it is an excellent mirror for the Italian wine industry. I believe that consumers in America and just about everywhere outside of Italy need to learn that Italy is not just the home of what I call "trophy" reds, wines meant to compete with the world's finest. No, Italy is about lovely sparkling wines, vibrant whites wines as well as charming reds. This tasting gives you a great spectrum into what Italian wines are all about!


Marica Bonomo, Monte del Fra


A few highlights. For sparkling wines, there were several that I thoughts were standouts, including the 2011 Ruggeri Prosecco "Giustino B", the 2011 Merotto Prosecco "Cuvée del Fondatore" (two shining examples of how rich, complex and beautifully balanced Prosecco can be); also from Franciacorta, the first-rate 2006 Ferghettina Extra Brut, an extremely dry, beautifully balanced wine and the explosive 2004 Ca' del Bosco "Annamaria Clementi" Rosé, wine in that in my mind is one of the world's finest sparkling rosés.

For whites, I loved the 2010 Monte del Fra Custoza "Ca' del Magro", one of the best examples of this Veneto white. Also impressive were the 2011 Cantine Lunae Bosoni Vermentino "Etcihetta Nera", a wine of superb richness and texture with lively acidity that has been my favorite Vermentino from Italy for the past three or four vintages. Other excellent whites included the 2011 Cantina Nals Magreid Pinot Bianco "Sirmian" that displays beautiful varietal purity with subtle spice - what a lovely wine for so many meals - and the 2010 Ettore Germano "Herzu", a dry Riesling from Piemonte - yes, you read that right! - that you have to taste to believe! 


Sebastiano Rosa, Agricola Punica


Finally, just a few reds - there were so many great examples! Two beautiful versions of Carignan from Sardinia: the supple and delicious 2010 Cantina Mesa "Buio Buio" (gotta love that name) and the richly endowed and beautifully structured 2009 Agricola Punica "Barrua."

There were several examples of Amarone from the stellar 2008 vintage (this is one of the finest vintages for Amarone in the last ten years); the best included the perfectly balanced Allegrini and the elegant and traditionallly styled Speri "Vigneto Sant' Urbano." From Campania, the 2007 Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi "Montevergine" offers wonderful varietal purity, supple tannins and nicely integrated oak; this is a beautiful red meant for ten or more years of cellaring.

Finally, I always love discovering new wines I haven't tasted before. This year my favorite was the 2009 Terrazza dell'Etna Etna Rosso "Cimeco", a 100% Nerello Mascalese with lovely wild strawberry and dark cherry flavors, polished tannins, very good acidity and lovely finesse; this is a fine example of what the top producers in Etna are accomplishing these days.


One final note on the tasting. I overheard a restaurant owner who had come in from Milwaukee for this event telling Christine Volkmer, who handles public relations for this event, that "this is the best resource we have for Italian wines." I couldn't have said it better myself!

Thanks to Christine as well as Tiina Eriksson and Lorenzo Ruggeri and their team from Gambero Rosso for their organization of this event, in which more than 110 Italian producers gather to pour their finest wines. It's a huge tasting, but it comes off beautifully and I can tell you first hand in Chicago, that each year, more members of the trade show up and are dutifully impressed. I can't wait until the 2014 tasting!


Text and photos ©Tom Hyland

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