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The Best Of Italian Wine: A Report From Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2005

Since it debuted in 1986 as an eight page newspaper insert, the Gambero Rosso guide to Italian wines has had somewhat of a religious following. Within a few years of that first insert, it grew into the authoritative guide to Italian wines, and its trademark "uno, due, and tre bicchieri" (one, two, and three glasses) rating system for wines became Italy's (and the world's) gold standard for evaluating gambero.book.jpg everything from Barolo to Zibibbo. The guide is now printed in English and German as well as Italian, and weighs in at a hefty 912 pages and reviews about 14,000 wines produced in Italy each year.

When I found out that Gambero Rosso, in conjunction with Slow Food USA was holding a tasting of over 100 of their "Tre Bicchieri" award winners for 2005, I started salivating. Regular readers here know that I enjoy Italian wines immensely, and the chance to try about half of what were deemed to be the country's top 264 wines was a chance not to be missed.

It must be said, before I go any further, that "top 264 wines" is a very subjective judgment. Gambero Rosso, like any ratings system and publication, needs to be taken with more than a few grains of salt. Think about the politics and happenstance that go into determining which wines get reviewed in Wine Spectator or The Wine Advocate, and assume that something similar must go on with the Gambero Rosso. There are always going to be wines, great wines, that don't make it into the guide, and there will always be wines which don't rate highly according to the guide, but which you and I would adore.

Accordingly, while I went to the tasting on Wednesday of this week with high expectations, I expected a mixed bag.

Looking at my ratings below, I think that's pretty much what I got, though I am perhaps surprised at how few absolute stunners there were (really only one or two wines that stopped me in my tracks), and even more, how many of these wines I really didn't care for. Tre Bicchieri or no, some of them were just not good wines. Additionally, I was struck by how high the prices are climbing for some of these wines (no doubt because of their ratings) and marveled at some of the disparities. As I was recording my notes, I couldn't help notice a $35 Chianti that I was rating higher than the $130 Super Tuscan right next to it. While some of these wines are clearly worth the money, there are not many values to be had in the group, especially among the red wines.

Finally, I must say, it's a real shame that this event isn't publicised better by Slow Food or Gambero Rosso, neither of which seem to be interested in or skilled at marketing an event like this to the larger public. It is rare to get an opportunity to experience so many Italian wines from so many areas of Italy in one place, and I would think that this event could do wonders for sales of the guide as well as for the membership ranks of Slow Food USA if managed correctly.

I tasted through all 130 or so wines that were present, from about 104 producers. Note that the prices listed below are given by the folks pouring the wine, and are sometimes estimates that aren't very accurate.



2002 Tormaresca "Masseria Maime" Negro Amaro, Salento. Score: 9.5. Cost: $28.
2001 Castello di Volpaia "Coltassala" Chianti Classico Riserva. I really don't like Chianti as a rule but this one was fantastic. Score: 9.5. Cost: $35.
2000 Fontanafredda "Vinga La Rosa" Barolo Fontanafredda. Score: 9.5. Cost: $90.
2000 Masciarelli "Villa Gemma" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Score: 9.5. Cost: $48.
2001 Arnaldo Caprai Val di Maggio "25 Anni" Montefalco Sagrantino. Wow. Score: 9.5. Cost: $110.
2000 Dino Illuminati "Colline Teramane Pielune" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva. Score: 9.5. Cost: $60.

2001 Masciarelli "Marina Cvetic S. Martino Rosso" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $22.
2001 Tenuta di Ghizzano "Veneroso." Sangiovese / Cabernet blend. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $30.
2001 Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia "Masseto." Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $200-250.
1999 Castello Banfi "Poggio alle Mura" Brunello Di Montalcino. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $75.
2000 Damilano "Cannubi" Barolo. Very floral. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $55.
2000 Roccolo Grassi Amarone della Valpolicella. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.
2001 Montevertine "Montevertine" Sangiovese. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $28.
2002 Tenute Rubino "Torretesta." Made from Susumanello red varietal, native to Puglia. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $50.
2001 Felsina "Fontalloro" Sangiovese. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $45.
1998 Vigna Rionda-Massolino "Vigna Rionda" Barolo Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $85.
1997 Tenuta Col d'Orcia "Poggio al Vento" Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $120.

2003 Pecchenino "Siri d'Jermu" Doceltto di Dogliani. Score: 9. Cost: $25.
2001 Castello di Monsanto "Nemo." Score: 9. Cost: $37.
2000 Sergio Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2001 Castellare di Castellina "Vigna il Poggiale" Chianti Classico Riserva. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2001 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico. One of the best Chiantis I've had in some time. Score: 9. Cost: $39.
2000 Bruno Giacosa "Falletto" Barolo. Score: 9. Cost: $$150.
2001 Marchesi Antinori "Solaia" Score: 9. Cost: $130.
2001 Tenuta Guado al Tasso - Antinori Bolgheri Rosso Superiore. Score: 9. Cost: $80.
2001 Casanova di Neri "Sant'Antimo Pietradonice." 75% Cabernet, 25% Sangiovese. Tannic monster. Score: 9. Cost: $??.
2001 Tenuta Dell'Ornellaia "Ornellaia" Bolgheri Superiore. Score: 9. Cost: $135.
2001 Marchesi De Frascobaldi "Mormoreto." Score: 9. Cost: $65.
2002 Cantina Rotaliana "Rotaliano Clesurae" Teroldego. Teroldego is an obscure red varietal. Score: 9. Cost: $30.
2001 Pelissero "Vanotu" Barolo. Score: 9. Cost: $65.
2002 Firrito "Harmonium." Score: 9. Cost: $45.
2000 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. Score: 9. Cost: $60.
2001 Montevertine "Le Pergole Torte" Sangiovese. Score: 9. Cost: $59.
2003 Feudi di San Gregorio "Cutuzzi Greco di Tufo" Greco. Greco is an odd red varietal. Score: 9. Cost: not sold in USA.
2002 Feudi di San Gregorio "Patrimonio" Merlot. Score: 9. Cost: $120.
2001 La Massa "Giorgio Primo" Chianti Classico. Score: 9. Cost: $75.
2002 Foradori "Granato" Teroldelgo. Teroldelgo is an obscure red varietal. Score: 9. Cost: $9.
2000 Tenuta Col d'Orcia "Olmaia" Cabernet. Score: 9. Cost: $80.
2001 Donnafugata "Contessa Entellina Milleunanotte" Nero d'Avola, Sicily. Score: 9. Cost: $39.
2001 Cascina Val del Prete Roero. Score: 9. Cost: $55.
2001 Tenimenti Luigi D'Allesandro "Il Bosco" Cortono. 100% Syrah, and the first Syrah I've had from Italy that actually tastes like the varietal. Score: 9. Cost: $50.

2002 Castello della Regine Merlot, Umbria IGT. Best Italian Merlot I've ever had. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $60.
2001 Malvira "Trinita" Roero Superiore. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $40.
2001 Viviani "Campo Morar" Valpolicella Classico Superiore. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $22.
2001 Braida "Bricco Dell'Uccellone" Barbera d'Asti. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $60.
2001 Tenuta di Capezzana Chiaie della Furba. 60% Cab, 30% merlot, 10% Syrah. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $38.
2000 Franco M. Martinetti "Marasco" Barolo. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $90.
1999 Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno "Vigna Elena" Barolo. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $65.
2001 Nada Barbaresco. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $50.
20001 Fontanabianca "Sori Burdin" Barbaresco. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2002 Sandro Fay "Ronco del Picchio" Sforzato di Valtellina. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $50.
2000 Marziano ed Enrico Abbona Barolo Pressenda. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $38.
2002 Le Pupille, Saffredi. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Alicante blend. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $90.
2002 Palari. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $55.
2003 Cusumano "Sagana," Nero d'Avola, Sicily. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $60.
2001 Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $24.

2001 Girolamo Dorigo COF Montsclapade. Cab / Merlot blend. Score: 8.5. Cost: $90.
2001 Conti Sertoli Salis "Canua" Sforzato Di Valtellina. Score: 8.5. Cost: $35.
2001 Querciabella Comartina. 60% Sangiovese, 35% Cabernet, 5% mix of Merlot and Syrah. Score: 8.5. Cost: $70.
2000 Elio Grasso "Gavarini Vigna Chiniera" Barolo. Old style production. Score: 8.5. Cost: $55.
2001 Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino. Very tannic. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2000 Bruno Giacosa "Santo Stefano" Barbaresco. Score: 8.5. Cost: $150.
2002 Tasca d'Almerita "Contea di Sclafani" Cabernet Sauvignon. Heavily tannic. Score: 8.5. Cost: $35.
2002 Volpe Pasini "Focus" Merlot, Zuc di Volpe. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2001 San Vincenti Chianti Classico Riserva. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2003 Cusumano "Noa," Sicily. Nero d'Avola, Cabernet, Merlot. Score: 8.5. Cost: $63.
1999 Farnetella "Poggio Granoni." 70% Sangiovese, 10% each of Cab, Syrah, and Merlot. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
2000 Sella & Mosca "Alghro Marchese di Villamarina" Cabernet, Sardinia. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.
1997 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. Score: 8.5. Cost: $80.
1999 Casanova di Neri "Tenuta Nuova" Brunello di Montalcino. Burnt aspect that was odd. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.

1999 Produttori del Barbaresco "Vigneti in Montestefano" Barolo Riserva. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.
2001 Castellucio Massicone. 5% Cab, 50% Sangiovese. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.
1999 Tenute Silvio Nardi "Manachiara" Brunello Di Montalcino. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.
2001 San Patrignano Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Riserva. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $??.

2001 Michele Chiarlo "Nizza La Court" Barbera d'Asti. Score: 8. Cost: $??.
2000 Fratelli Speri Vign. Monte Sant'Urbano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. Score: 8. Cost: $60.
2001 Ruffino "Riserva Ducale Oro" Chianti Classico. Score: 8. Cost: $35.
1999 Greppone Mazzi Brunello di Montalcino. Score: 8. Cost: $60.
1999 Tenuta S. Antonio "Campo dei Gigli" Amarone della Valpolicella. A little green. Score: 8. Cost: $45.
2000 Castello di Ama "L'Apparita" Merlot. Score: 8. Cost: $120.
2000 Argiolas "Turriga" Score: 8. Cost: $??.
2002 Montevetrano. Score: 8. Cost: $??.
2001 Vignalta "gemola" Colli Eugani Rosso. Score: 8. Cost: $24.
2001 Cantina Muri Greies Lagrein, Alto Adige Abtei Riserva. Score: 8. Cost: $??.
2001 Poliziano "Asinone" Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Score: 8. Cost: $35.
2000 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici. Score: 8. Cost: $36.

2001 Tenuta Di Valgiano "Colline Lucchesi." Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $55.
2000 Tenuta Carretta "Vigneto in Cannubi" Barolo. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $55.
2001 San Patrignano "Montepirolo" Cabernet (Bordeaux blend), Colli di Rimini. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $??.
2002 Planeta Syrah. Score: 7.5/8. Cost: $45.

2001 Tenuta San Leonardo "San Leonardo." Score: 7. Cost: $??.
2001 Villa Vignamaggio "Vignamaggio." Score: 7. Cost: $??.

1993 Avignonesi Vin Santo. 18 bottles allocated for the entire USA. Good luck. Score: 10. Cost: $200.
2003 Coffele "Ca' Visco" Soave Classico. Holy cow! Score: 9.5/10. Cost: $18.

1997 Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta "Cuvee Annamaria Clementi". Chardonnay, Pino Blanc, Pinot Noir. Aged 80 months in bottle. Score: 9.5. Cost: $85.
2002 Castella della Sala - Antinori "Cervaro della Sala." Score: 9.5. Cost: $35.
2002 Roberto Anselmi Capitel Croce. Score: 9.5. Cost: $14.
2003 Abbazia di Novacella "Praepositus" (A.A. Valle Isarco Kerner). Riesling, Trentino, and more. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $30.
2002 Lis Neris "Tal Luc" (dessert wine). Verdicchio and Riesling, air dried like Amarone. Score: 9/9.5. Cost: $??.

2002 Ca' del Bosco TdF Chardonnay. Score: 9. Cost: $60.
2001 Cantine Terlano "Vorberg" Pino Bianco. Score: 9. Cost: $17.
2003 Collavini "Broy" Collio Bianco. Score: 9. 40% Chardonnay, 40% Tocai Friulano, 20% Sav Blanc. Cost: $20.
2003 Planeta "Cometa" Fiano. Fiana is an obscure white varietal. Score: 9. Cost: $50.
2001 Castel Ringberg & Katelaz Elena Walch "Beyond The Clouds" Alto Adige. Score: 9. Cost: $90.

2003 Tenuta J. Hofstatter "Kolbenhof" Gewurztraniner, Alto Adige. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $39.
2000 Benanti "Pietramarino" Etna Bianca Superiore. Tastes of the ocean. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.
2001 Umani Ronchi "Plenio Riserva" Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico. Aged 2 years, 30% in French oak barrels. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $25.
2000 Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta "Dosage Zero" (sparkling). Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $60.
2001 Bucci "Villa Bucci Riserva" Verdicchio De Cestelli di Jesi Classico. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $.

2003 Cantina Produttori Valle Isarco "Aristos" Veltliner, Alto Adige. Score: 8.5. Cost: $29.
1999 Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvee "Pas Opere" (sparkling). Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $60.
2002 Leonildo Pieropan "La Rocca" Soave Cl. Score: 8. Cost: $??.

Comments (14)

Roberto wrote:
03.18.05 at 6:22 PM

Alder, if you can get Foradori Granato for $9 tell me where so I can sell my car(s) and load up! $50-ish is more like it (and, like many Italian varietals, Teroldego is only "obscure" if you are not in Mezzo-Lombardo where it is the only grape that matters). Keep up the good work...Roberto

Antonio wrote:
03.18.05 at 6:30 PM

thanks for the review. unfortunately, i had to miss this year's event. i really appreciate your ratings and palette. also, i have a problem spitting out excellent wines, so there is no way i could have tasted as many as you did. a quick recommendation: 2003 elena walch lagrein from alto adige -- excellent and around $16 a bottle...

Alder wrote:
03.18.05 at 10:11 PM

Thanks Antonio. Gotta learn to spit! It's tragic in a way, but also a lot of fun to be able to try everything.

Roberto: Oops. Make that $60. The SCORE was 9. heh heh. I'd remortgage my house to buy it at that price. I wish I WAS in Mezzo-Lombardo right now....

Fiorenzo wrote:
03.20.05 at 8:19 AM

Not to mention that Miss Foradori is a stunning brunette.
Humm, should i post anonymously this last comment? Oh, well.

Anyway, great post Alder, i've just found your blog and i love it.

Vittoria wrote:
03.20.05 at 12:54 PM

You unfortunately missed what was perhaps the most interesting and one of the best wines of the tasting: Torretesta Rubano from the Salento. It is made from an almost extinct grape called Susumaniello. Another great wine and value that you missed was the Mureis Grein Lagrein which retails for about $25. Probably one of the least expensive 3 glass wines around.

Alberto wrote:
03.21.05 at 1:54 AM

Alder, thanks for the honest and informative report. All I heard about this came from the Gambero Rosso site, and you can immagine how honest that would be ;-). I'm pleased to see some of my favorites on the top of your list. Just a correction: the Cervaro della Sala (fourth in the reds list) is a white wine made from Chardonnay and Grechetto grapes. Ciao!

Alder wrote:
03.21.05 at 8:12 AM


Thanks for the correction and the comment. I knew I was going to do that for at least one wine. It's now located where it should be!

Alder wrote:
03.21.05 at 9:00 AM


Thanks for the additional recommendations! There were very few wines I ended up missing, too bad it seems some of them were good.

Geoff Smith wrote:
03.21.05 at 11:26 AM

Wow. I had a totally different take on the tasting. I thought the wines were great!



Terry Hughes wrote:
10.20.05 at 1:42 PM

Alder, I do envy you. What a fantastic event.

Since I am devoting a fair amount of my free time to the world of Italian wine flavors (hence Mondosapore), I find it interesting to see in your report that not too many of the "top" wines knocked your socks off, and that there seemed to be little correlation between price and quality. This is exactly the issue that is churning many people up in Italy, and there is a significant backlash against list-o-mania at present, and a lot of bah-humbugging. As to those exorbitantly priced and pseudo-Californian supertuscans, let's just say that their market has not been Italy, really, but the US of A. Enough said, and implied.

As an antidote to those inflated and absurd lists, I made my own "awards" lately--all to wines that retail for $20 and under, and nearly all from Southern Italy, where quality is swiftly rising and costs remain reasonable.

One more thing: I tasted the Foradori Teroldego a couple of months ago here in NYC, and I have to say that the grape could become my new best (red-wine) friend. Too bad it's so pricey for an old wretch of a schoolteacher like me. (The mortgage comment is well-taken!)

It's nice that you were able to give us some context on this foolish list business. And the reality check, too.


john wrote:
02.16.06 at 5:00 PM

could someone direct me to a distributor for Firrito "Harmonium" in Honolulu, Hawai'i? any info would be much appreciated. tx john

Jessica wrote:
12.04.06 at 11:57 AM

Could you tell me a U.S. distrubtor for Castello delle Regine Merlot or Sangiovese?

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