A while back, I was asked if I wanted to participate in a “unique opportunity” to taste “over 50 of Italy’s finest wines” on Zoom over the course of a few days.
I said “sure” thinking I would be swamped with several cases of wine, but I would be partaking for the sake of the greater good, naturally. When I got the notice from UPS that a singular package was on its way, weighing in at just over a kilogram, I thought they were sending some accompanying materials (tech sheets, promotional materials, and such).
That was the wine. All of it.
This is what showed up:
In the U.S., a shot of liquor is, technically, 1.48 ounces or 44ml. Two of these bottles come out to 40ml.
Not even a full shot.
Yeah, I know.
Well, I have been making my way through the box of 60ml bottles and I am feeling rather proud of myself for sticking with these ridiculously small bottles. On a recent trip to New York, I was tempted to throw a dozen of them in a little baggie and try to convince the fine people at the TSA that they were “medicine” (which is not far from the truth), but my wife convinced me that it was a rather bad idea.
So here are another six wines, twelve bottles in total, of these stupid, tiny vials. To be honest, I would have chucked them a long time ago had the wines not proven to be so good….
2016 Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino, Italy: Retail $75. 100% Sangiovese. Two Tiny 20ml bottles. Perhaps one of the more widely available Brunellos (at least in the U.S.), this wine has a medium garnet color in the glass with dark and red fruit, sure, but also some orange zest, cedar, sandalwood, and perhaps leather. Whoa. The palate is immediately approachable with an impressive balance between the subtle fruit, the zingy acidity, and the nearly integrated, silky tannins. Whoa. Not sure this needs much more time, but it is not going anywhere for a while, I would guess. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2016 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino, Italy: Retail $120. 100% Sangiovese. Two Tiny 20ml bottles. Even before I even so much as sniffed this wine, I knew that this was one of those Brunellos that scores quite well with the critics. No pressure. Moderate crimson in the glass with a classic Brunello nose of (close to stewed) red and black fruit, anise, clove, black pepper, and a subtle meatiness. The palate is harmonious and inviting from first contact with the tongue with subtle yet intense and layered fruit. Whoa. The tartness takes over on the mid-palate, leading to a complex, lengthy, and tannic (although soft) finish. Still just a baby but Yowza. Extraordinary. 97 Points.
2017 Giovanni Sordo Barolo, Italy: Retail $40. 100% Nebbiolo. Two Tiny 20ml bottles. Like many, I would have to consider Barolo my favorite appellation in Italy, mostly due to its similarities to Burgundy (I know that might be considered sacrilege to many, but I am going to stick with it). Medium color with an enticing nose of rich red fruit (fresh and ripe) with hints of anise and even espresso (I was going to say “coffee” but come on). The palate is reserved with minimal fruit initially but followed by intense acidity and some pretty sharp tannins. I know that this wine (given the proper bottle size, not these too-small-to-even-be-served-by-the-airlines catastrophes) will improve with time but really? It is pretty compelling right now–just give me a steak. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Kellerei Nals-Margreid Pinot Grigio Punggl, Italy: Retail $25. Two Tiny 20ml bottles. I have stated countless times in this space that I am no fan of the “typical Italian Pinot Grigio” which I consider thin, vapid, and listless. But. I do not consider Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige “typical” in any way. Case. In. Point. A bit of color in the glass, closer to “golden” than “straw” I would say with one of the more interesting noses I have sniffed in a while: toasted almond, ripe but subtle peach, exotic fruit, beeswax, whoa. The palate delivers on the promise of the nose with just hints of fruit, plenty of tartness, and a nuttiness that screams for food. Had I tasted this blind? I highly doubt I would have come up with “Pinot Grigio from Italy.” Like in a million years (OK, maybe sooner than that, but…). Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Azienda Agricola Lorenzon Friuli Isonzo Friulano i Feudi di Romans, Italy: Retail $20. Two Tiny 20ml bottles. Pale straw in the glass with hints of lemongrass, white pepper, hazelnut, and maybe marzipan. While the nose was rather shy, the palate is equally expressive with great fruit initially, several stages of depth, and a lasting finish. I do not drink a ton of Friulano (and likely neither do you), but we should, particularly when it is this good. Excellent. 91 Points.
2016 Monte del Frá Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Lena di Mezzo, Italy: Retail $60. Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella. Two Tiny 20ml bottles. I don’t drink a ton of Amarone since I see it as a bit of a commitment; the wine requires attention and packs a pretty powerful punch. Nonetheless, when I do crack open a bottle of one of these iconic wines, I am almost always pleased. As I am here. Fairly dark in the glass with the classic Amarone nose of stewed red and black fruit (dark cherry, plum, blackberry) along with considerable spice, anise, forest floor. Yeah, a lot going on here. The palate is rich and luscious, almost sweet, with plenty of weight, and incredible depth. Yeah, whoa. While there would be no way I could drink Amarone every night, I need to make a concerted effort to taste and drink more. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2019 Ronco Blanchis Collio Friulano, Italy: Retail $16. 100% Friulano. Two Teeny Bottles. A lovely straw color in the glass with plenty of tropical notes: pineapple, guava, lime on the nose along with Granny Smith apple and quince (actually, I have no idea what that smells like but I have always wanted to include it in a tasting note). The palate is quite bright and fruity with oodles of acidity and loads of flavor. Holy cow, is there a lot going on here. This is a pretty intense wine from the jump and while it is clearly outside of my comfort zone, I really seem to like it. A. Lot. Excellent. 91 Points.