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 next set of six that I tasted:
2016 Donnachiara Taurasi Montefalcione DOCG, Italy: Retail $45. 100% Aglianico. B.A.B. Under cork. Like many an Italian variety, I do not have a ton of experience with Aglianico. What I do know (or at least what I have been told) is that the variety is quite dark, tannic, and needs considerable bottle time before one should even think about pulling the cork. Thus, when I received this wine as part of the Gambero Rosso tasting, I was a bit hesitant to crack this puppy. As expected, inky dark with plenty of black and blue fruit in the glass, this is not a wine for the faint of heart. Mocha, spice, and earth also characterize this wine even before a drop passes by the lips. Once that happens? Sure, there is a ton of brooding fruit, but the tartness really steals the show. Rich, powerful, unctuous, expressive, this wine needs some food (or a Cohiba), preferably quite beefy and laden with fat. T-Bone? Sure. A ten-hour Bolognese? Getting there. 48 hour braised short ribs? Bingo. Excellent. 90 Points.
2016 Cottanera Etna Rosso Feudo Di Mezzo, Etna DOC, Italy: Retail $30. Under cork. 90% Nerello Mascalese, 10% Nerello Cappuccio. I am a huge fan of Nerello Mascalese, but I am pretty sure that I am a novice when it comes to Nerello Cappuccio–but seeing that it is only 10% (or less, the details are a bit sketchy on the inter webs) of the blend, I need not worry too much. Dark in the glass, black berry fruit, plum, cassis, spice. Yowza. The palate is also defined by the fruit, but it is a reserved, Old World style, dominated by the acidity and somewhat subtle tannins. This is quite tasty. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Feudo Antico Pecorino Tullum Biológico, Italy: Retail $25. DIAM 5 closure. 100% Pecorino. There is no doubt that I eat far more Pecorino cheese than I drink wine made from the Pecorino grape, but hey, that is probably true for most. The exception, perhaps, are those Italians that live along the southern portion of the eastern coast of the peninsula where the grape is (one of?) the main white varieties. Golden straw in the glass with lemon curd and minerality a go-go wafting over the rim. The palate is also quite mineral, but there is also a bit of fat here that masks the fruit ever-so-slightly. While this is certainly a lovely quaff, I am not sure I would stock my cellar with it. Very Good. 88 Points.
2017 Coppi Primitivo Gioia del Colle Senatore, Italia: Retail $30. 100% Primitivo. Heavy Bottle (which is slightly less than a “B.A.B.” but still heavier than it needs to be). DIAM3. closure I can say with only the slightest of hesitation that I have yet to have a Primitivo/Zinfandel from Italy that I have not thoroughly enjoyed. While the same is not true for wines from the U.S. Sure, I have tried far more California Zins, but still. This Gioia del Colle from Puglia is no exception. Great fruit (blackberry, plum), fantastic spice (black pepper, allspice, clove), an herbal aspect (oregano, hints of mint), and enough acidity to easily hold it all together (and the supple tannins on the finish suggest potential aging). Fantastic. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Poggio Le Volpi Roma Edizione Limitata, Italy: Retail $48. Syrah, Montepulciano, Cesanese. B.A.B. Unfortunately, however, Italian winemakers are incorporating more of these really heavy bottles, particularly for the upper-tier wines. That is a shame since it serves no purpose but increases the carbon footprint rather dramatically. As for the wine? You don’t see a ton of wines from the Roma D.O.C. (at least I don’t) which is comprised of many of the municipalities around the nation’s capital. It’s a fairly dark crimson in the glass with dark berry fruit aromas, anise, some spice (black pepper, Christmas spice) and a minty earthiness. The palate is rather lush with fruit, but there is also considerable tartness to provide balance. While I am really enjoying this wine, I would be much more enthusiastic had the bottle weight not caused my spine to come out of alignment. Excellent. 92 Points.
2017 Felline Zinfandel Primitivo di Manduria Sinfarosa, Italy: Retail $22. 100% Zinfandel/Primitivo. I really wish I had tasted this wine as a part of a blind tasting with a slew of California Zins as it would have fit right in. Part of the reason? Apparently, the vines in Italy were grafted to cuttings of Paul Draper’s Ridge Vineyard in California (which is why “Zinfandel” appears prominently on the label). If true, this wine certainly lives up to its heritage as this is undoubtedly a “New World” wine with big, luscious fruit, ample acidity, and supple tannins. Rich and voluptuous, this is not for one who is seeking Old World subtlety, this is both barrels, at once, in your face. But in a good way. A very good way. Excellent. 90 Points.