A couple of months ago, I received three cases of wine for the online Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri wine tasting. Every year, Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine, tastes thousands of Italian wines and less than 1% of the wines tasted receive the top rating of Tre Bicchieri (three glasses). In normal times, the tastings are conducted in person at several sites across the country (and it appears that they will resume this September).
For me, tasting 36 wines in three hours is more than a bit challenging, so instead, I tasted the wines one at a time, usually at dinner, in order to better evaluate each bottle. Here are the first six that I tasted:
2019 BiancaVigna Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Brut Rive Di Soligo, Italia: Retail $23. 100% Glera. I received this wine as part of the Gambera Rosso “tour” for a handful of journalists (why they included me?) instead of the “normal” tour at several stops across the country. This wine is a DOCG Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Rive Soligo. There is a lot to unpack there. First, this is not your run of the mill Prosecco–this is the really good stuff. Really, really good. The two aforementioned towns produce, by far, the best wines from the region and within that appellation, there are 43 Rives (essentially vineyard designates) that are yet another level above (there is yet another level–Cartizze, essentially the best Rive). This wine is quite dry, with green apple, white flower, under-ripe peach, and a touch of wet rock. Yum. The palate is slightly more austere than I expected with the acidity driving the bus. Sure, there is fruit, but it is balanced by the acidity and considerable depth. If you have a pre-conceived notion of Prosecco, this will shatter that. On the first sip. Excellent. 92 Points.
2019 Borgoluce Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Brut Rive di Collalto, Italy: Retail $24. 100% Glera. From one of the 43 designated Rive in the Valdobbiadene Conegliano DOCG. This wine comes from the Rive di Collalto which has some slopes as steep as 70% and contains a mere 3 grams per liter of sugar, underscoring the relatively recent move of higher end Prosecco towards a drier style. Quite light in the glass with just a hint of color but plenty of tropical and tree fruit aromas on the nose. As expected, it is quite dry on the palate, but the bushels of fresh fruit make it seem sweeter than it actually is. A lovely sparkle and plenty of acidity nicely balance out this harmonious wine. This is the kind of wine that can instantly change a detractor’s mind about Prosecco. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 I Campi Soave Classico Campo Vulcano, Veneto, Italy: Retail $24. 85% Garganega, 15% Trebbiano di Soave. DIAM 3 closure. This was one of the wines I tasted during the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting for members of the U.S. media. Apparently, I qualify. I do not have a ton of experience in Soave, but this wine convinced me I need more. A lot more. Golden straw in the glass with floral and tree fruit notes (ripe peach/pear). The palate is rich, a tad round, and loaded with fruit. While there is certainly some Soave out there that might be, well, questionable, I have yet to have a Soave Classico that I did not want to drink to empty. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Edi Keber Collio Bianco, Italy: Retail $35. 70% Friulano, 15% Malvasia Istriana, 15% Ribolla Gialla. This winery is somewhat fascinating. It is only a few kilometers from the Slovenian border (and also has a winery in that country) and only makes this wine, a traditional blend from three local varieties. Well, when one has a singular focus, the results tend to be favorable. And this wine is “quite” favorable. Quite aromatic with several versions of white flower, exotic fruit, and a nice dose of minerality. The palate is layered, nuanced, and marvelous; spicy exotic fruit, bracing yet balancing acidity, and countless flavors. Whoa. The finish, however, is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this rather remarkable wine as the fruit and spice flavors it imparts lasts for minutes. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Tenuta Stella Collio Friulano, Italy: Retail $25. Natural cork. I do not drink a ton of Friulano and while I believe that statement to be patently true, this is the second bottle of the variety that I have tasted in basically the same number of minutes. Fairly dark in the glass–golden for sure, maybe even a light amber, with nutty, honeyed, even slightly oxidized notes with the fruit at a definite minimum. Quite surprising, particularly for a 2019. I thought it might be flawed. But once I tasted it? Yowza. Certainly sherried but there are hints of candied fruit, honey, glycerin, and all sorts of yumminess. Given all of this, I suspected that this might be an orange wine, a wine aged in amphorae, or just a funky little oddity. But I could not find any information to confirm or debunk the above assertions. On its own? Yeah, pretty darned tasty. Rich, unctuous, layered. Not a style for everyone, but I really like it–it reminds me of an aged, dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire. Close to a Whoa. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Tenuta Luisa Friuli Isonzo Friulano, Italy: Retail $20. DIAM 10 closure. B.A.B. Over the past half-dozen years or so, I have been exposed to a wealth of Italian white wines and, frankly, I am enthralled. Such is the case here with this Friulano from Collio, in the northern part of Italy, within shouting distance of the Alps. Yowza. While Friulano would not be on my list of “daily drinkers” it is not there due to its relative obscurity in the U.S., not its ability to be a top-tier variety. A brilliant light-yellow in the glass, oozing both a distinct nuttiness and a lovely fresh-picked floral aspect. Add some wet, freshly cut stone and just a breath of fresh tree fruit and even the biggest skeptic of Italian white wines is raring to dive in. The palate is equally, if not more, inviting with an initial heavy dose of tartness, followed by a subtle wave of fruit, and then that minerality. In spades. As I have said on a number of occasions, I was not raised to be a lover of Italian white wines, but holy cow, this is good. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.