Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2012

Iron C. and Franco Massolino with his incredible 2005 Barolo Vigna Rionda
For the fourth year in a row I attend and document Tre Bicchieri - my favorite Italian wine tasting of the year in the Bay Area. Twenty-five years after its first appearance, the Gambero Rosso "Italian Wines" publication now reviews 2,350 producers and 20,000 wines across all of Italy. In 2012, 375 wines took the prestigious Tre Bicchieri ("three glasses") award, slightly fewer than last year's 402. This season I got a good look at a number of 2007 Barolos, but overall the representation from Piedmonte seemed thinner at the SF tasting (not in the Guide). It is almost as if many top producers didn't bother to show up. The warm, approachable and pleasurable across the board, 2007 vintage was in stark contrast to the austere and what they call "classical" 2006. I think both 2007 and 2005 are quite good and enjoyable now or soon, while the 2006 requires more cellaring, but over the long term (10 years+) the best wines from 2006 will probably outshine those from 2007. But it was neither the 2006 nor 2007 that stole my heart in San Francisco. The 2005 Massolino "Vigna Rionda" Barolo Riserva stood out above all as the "wine of the tasting" - delicious and structured, perfectly balanced and consistent year over year. Given Franco's reputation, this wine is something worth considering for your cellar, if you can afford to shell out upwards of $100/bottle and be patient a few years. There were several respectable 2008 Barbaresco (Ca'del Baio "Valgrande", Pelissero "Vanotu") that provided an early look at the 2008 vintage - which appears to have yielded solid wines with good combination of fruit, sweetness, and tannic/acidic backbone. (Perhaps similar in quality to the 2008 in Burgundy and Bordeaux.) I think all the usual suspects were solid and expressed the vintages. Pellisero Barbaresco Vanotu 08 (dense, deep, tannic, needs time), Ca'del Baio Babaresco Valgrande '08 (very sweet and fruity right now), Cantina del Pina Barbaresco Ovello '07 (warm and fruity, spicy), Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche '06 (classic, jerky, stern, acid, inky graphite) and '07 (sweeter, delish), Borgnogno Barolo Liste '06 (young and very tannic, nice fruit), Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi '07 (structured, rich, sweet plums and black cherries, hints of jerky) - all pretty good, but not earth-shattering - I would bargain-hunt. Of those, I probably enjoyed Marchesi di Barolo the most, followed by Pellisero.

Also, 2006 Brunellos were in full swing, a very good vintage in Montalcino (Tuscany), with Biondi-Santi and Canalicchio di Sopra showing elegance and spice. While Biondi Santi was more expressive and pure, it is hard to argue with the class and relative value of Canalicchio di Sopra (at about a third of the price of Biondi-Santi), a wine that I am stocking up on in my own cellar.

The stalwart super-tuscans 2008 Sassicaia, 2008 Tignanello, 2008 Flaccianello, and Petrolo Galatrona 2009 were excellent, delicious and very ageworthy. Of them, Flaccianello (100% Sangiovese) seemed the most tannic and needing the longest to mellow out. Felsina's top-of-the-line answer to Flaccianello was Fontalloro, a similarly dense and powerful Sangiovese, with many years ahead of it. I was particularly impressed with the 100% Merlot-based Galatrona, which showed even better than in the prior two vintages, finding the magical spot between richness, balance, and black-olive-"flavored" complexity. 2007 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici (red from Campania) showed depth, interesting slightly smoky character and haunting intrigue of the Aglianico grape. Among the whites, a 2010 Vermentino from Cantine Lunae Bosoni (Colli di Luni Et. Nera) from Liguria was the most memorable, with viscous texture, and lees-like rich, honeyed flavor, and a balance of acidity and sweetness. And of course in the sparkling category, Giulio Ferrari "Riserva del Fondatore" 2001 vintage stood above all, as it did last year. This was also the first time I enjoyed a delicious Franciacorta from La Montina (2005 vintage).

Biondi-Santi is the apogee of Brunello, and the 2006 did not disappoint - velvety, bright, spicy, leathery, tannic and juicy.

Fontodi Flaccianello is the legendary ageworthy Sangiovese-based super-tuscan

Fontalloro is Felsina's answer to Flaccianello

Enrico from Wine Warehouse is pouring the Fontalloro

The contrast between the reserved 2006 and the fruity 2007 vintages in Barolo is stark!

Sebastiano Rosa - the winemaker at Bolgheri Sassicaia - holding a bottle of Italy's most famous and greatest super-tuscan. In 2008, this 85% Cabernet Sauvignon / 15% Cab Franc Bordeaux blend showed great density of fruit and a solid tannic background. It came across as reserved, classy and less overtly opulent than the more affordably priced and very sexy, dark-coffee-accented and quite tannic '08 Tignanello.

2008 Tignanello  - 80% Sangiovese, 5% Cab Sauv, 15% Cab Franc.
Frankly, in my opinion, the best (relative) value Super Tuscan of the show.  

Year in and year out, Ferrari is at the top of Italian sparkling wine-making

Canalicchio di Sopra is one of the star Brunellos in 2006

Excellent Fanciacorta - La Montina

Perennial Tre Bicchieri winner and the poster boy of Italian Merlot - Galatrona.
In 2009 - smooth and rich, but not over the top, and alluringly black-olive-like.

Mastroberardino - maybe the best red from Campania

I got to hang out (again) with Eleonora Guerini, Sr. Editor of Gambero Rosso. She is such a sweetheart! And she is not shy about stating her opinion. "What I care about is the quality of the wine. For all the hype - bio, organic, trends, this and that - we respect that, but I taste what's in the bottle! People think too much and not drink enough!", emphasized Eleonora, with a wickedly sexy smile, and a cool tattoo. "I have more tattoos!", she winked. Oh, and personally she prefers 2005 Barolos over the 2007's.


tom hyland said…

Beautiful photos and nice notes. Good of you to mention the Cantine Lunae Bosoni Vermentino which is a gorgeous wine and definitely belongs in a tasting of the big boys such as Sassicaia, Tignanello and Massolino Vigna Rionda.

See my post on the Chicago event:

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