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 Tenuta Monteti Monteti Toscana IGT, Italy: Retail $50. 55% Petit Verdot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. While I do not drink a ton of Super Tuscans, when I do, they tend to be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Merlot, in varying percentages. Majority Petit Verdot? Um, no, not so much. While this near inky dark wine, with rich, ripe black fruit aromas is not my style, it certainly is compelling. Rich, unctuous, and brooding on the palate which confirmed what I picked up on the nose–this is a big, bold, brambly wine, not for the faint of heart. Again, not my preferred style, but this is delicious. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Piaggia (Vannucci) Carmignano Riserva Piaggia, Italy: Retail $45. Under cork. B.A.B. 70% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot. I guess this is a “classic” Super Tuscan blend as it incorporates several Bordeaux varieties and the traditional Tuscan variety, Sangiovese. Simply put? This is delicious. Rich ruby color with oodles of red and black fruit oozing over the rim, with splashes of clove, black pepper, and cinnamon. The palate is immediately approachable with rich fruit, a balancing tartness, just a pinch of spice, and a lengthy finish. The tannins are mostly integrated, particularly after a time open. As I said, delicious. And lovely. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2016 Caiarossa Aria di Caiarossa Toscana IGT, Italy: Retail $36. 42% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Sangiovese, 1% Alicante Bouschet. Gambero Rosso 3. Quite the kitchen sink of a Super Tuscan, but it does not have the “normal” Super Tuscan feel. It is fruity (blackberry, plum) but not overly so. It is rich, but certainly in balance. It is not, however, big, nor over-the-top in a “Look At Me” kind of way. No, this is more reserved than fruit bomb or muscular powerhouse. And I like it. This wine is great on its own, but it screams “food.” A delightful quaff. Excellent. 92 Points.
2015 Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino, Italia: Retail $50. 100% Sangiovese. Under cork. In order to receive my degree from Penn, I had to write a dissertation. At first, I wanted it to be the greatest dissertation of all time. Period. Then, after many months, I wanted it to be really good. Add another year? I wanted it to be “good.” Finally, with my funds depleted, my wife exasperated, my ego bruised, I settled on wanting it to be “good enough” (to pass). It was. As a result of the process, I was resigned to the fact that I was an “OK (but not great) writer.” Fast-forward a decade or so and there are enough people out there who think my writing is “good enough” to send me gems such as this Brunello so that I might type a few words. While my experience with the region is not vast, I know enough to say that this wine, particularly after some time open, is stellar. Loaded with rose petals, black cherry, tea leaves, and mocha (among many other sensations) on the nose, this wine had no choice but to excite on the palate, and holy mother of god, did it. Rich, but not unctuous, tart, but not bracing, fruity, but no fruit bomb, this wine has all that one searches in an Italian red. And at six years out? It has spent less time in the bottle than it took to write my dissertation and get it approved. Bravissimo. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2016 Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Monte Sant’Urbano, Italy: Retail $70. 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Corvinone. B.A.B. All cards on the table: I do not drink a ton of Amarone. Thus, when I get a sample of the famed Northern Italian red, I am both excited to learn as well as intimidated by a style that, at best, is a bit foreign to me. I won’t describe the process that makes this wine unique; google it. But this is pretty darned tasty. Quite dark in the glass with heavy doses of black fruit (blackberry, cassis, plum) alongside spice (clove, black pepper), and floral aspects (lavender, violet, rose). On the palate, frankly, I was expecting a bit heavier of a wine, but this was a pleasant surprise. While not quite “light on its feet” it did certainly highlight not the heft but the finesse with plenty of the aforementioned fruit, ample layers of depth, and a rather high level of panache (or whatever the Italian equivalent is). My fears subsided, I was wowed by this wine. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2016 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli, Italy: Retail $75. 70% Corvina/Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, 5% Oseleta. Really. Really. Big. Ass. Bottle. (B.A.B.) I rarely make a comment (other than the previous) about the weight of the bottle, but this bottle is just absurd. It has to weigh close to five pounds, empty. Absolutely ridiculous. I did not waste my time checking to see if this winery claims about “sustainability” since the bottle proves that they do not give the slightest crap about the environment. Yeesh. I’m so ticked off, in fact, that I’m really close to not even bothering to evaluate it. But here goes: Rich stewed dark fruit on the nose with chocolate, clove, and just a host of wonderful aromas. Yowza. The palate is rich and layered with plenty of acidity and significant, although silky, tannins. This is a fantastic wine, but I vow to never buy it (and I hope you don’t either) because of this utterly ridiculous bottle. Rating: Stupid B.A.B.