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Italy's Best Wines: The Tre Bicchieri Winners for 2006

Thanks go to Jack and Joanne over at Fork and Bottle for alerting me to the recent announcement of the 2006 winners of the coveted Tre Bicchieri awards for Italian wine. For those who may not be familiar, these awards, handed out by the Gambero Rosso guide, are widely accepted as THE authority on Italian wine. Though I have tasted my way through more than a few Tre Bicchieri wines and found some of them not to my taste, there's no denying the high quality of these wines as a whole, and for those interested in Italian wine, they are worth paying attention to in detail.

The announcement has been published in The Italian Wine Hub, a web site I've never heard of, but that shouldn't stop us from checking them out. Enjoy.

Comments (4)

Jack wrote:
11.14.05 at 7:27 AM

If you visit the Gambero Rosso Italian site, they're promoting the 2006 Guide - with 246 Three Glasses (Tre Bicchieri), but the English language part of the site features the 2005 Guide (which had 264 Three Glasses).

I am practically shocked to see that the 2006 guide has fewer Three Glasses. Since they began publishing the guide (the 1998 edition), the quantity of wines to receive the top rating has always increased each year. (The guide uses a 0-3 rating scale and the wines are panel judged.)

Incidentally, the 2005 Guide was the biggest ever with 2057 producers and 14,691 wines rated. (1999 had 1536 and 10,120, for example). It's easily the most comprehensive yearly book on Italian wines, and you can find most, but not all Italian wines available in the US in it (well, if you have the correct year of the guide).

Having read this guide from the start, I have come to understand that a 3 Glass for a Barolo has more importance/accuracy/signifance than a 3 Glass for a Syrah or Zinfandel (Primativo).

Craig Camp wrote:
12.07.05 at 4:47 PM

I am not sure why you would be surprised that there are fewer 3 Bicchieri wines in 2006 than 2004. Most of the rapid increase of 3 Bicchieri wines over the years can be attributed to the increases of wines reviewed and the general expansion and improvement of their regional judging systems to all regions.

Another reason I think that the number of top awards has dropped is that the judging is getting tougher and it is not so easy to impress judges with a lot of new oak, color and extract. There is a subtle shift back to respecting terroir in the new guide.

I also do not agree with your comment about the relevance of 3 Bicchieri of different regions. The whole point of the rating is that wines of each region are judged on their own, not against wines of other areas. A 3 Bicchieri for Primitivo is exactly and only that - the Gambero Rosso's choice for a top Primitivo. It is not a comparison with Barolo.

Jack wrote:
12.07.05 at 10:04 PM


Hey, I'm not trying to be argumentitive here. Here's where I'm coming from...

I'm surprised., Craig, because EVERY year it has increased until this one. Yes, the number of wines has increased that are reviewed AND in the publication - but what has that to do with 3 Glasses being awarded? How many producers of 3 Glass wines weren't listed in the previous year(s)?

Further, I can name two examples, the 1998 Accademia dei Racemi Primivito di Manduria Sinfarosa (Zinfandel) and also 1997 Villa Pillo Syrah. Both 3 Glasses. Both from a varietal not the first ones you think of when you think of Italy. I've had quite a few bottles of both. Not 3 Glasses. And I've been to the 3 Glass tastings, too. And I've drunk quite a few other 3 Glassers. The Zin was a great value. The Villa Pillo was good upon purchase but has already faded to yuk. I'd be happy to give them 2. But...wow, that's just not right. (And perhaps they wouldn't have given these wines 3 glasses nowadays...I don't know.)
I still think it's a great guide, and the best source for information Italian Wines.

Craig Camp wrote:
12.08.05 at 10:34 AM

I think the point of the Gambero Rosso system is that they have a local panel decide what, in their opinion, are the finest wines of that region. It is logical to argue that primitivo at its finest does not equal nebbiolo at its finest, but that is not what their rating is about. What they are saying is a Tre Bicchieri primitivo is a supreme example of the best that primitivo can deliver. I believe it is their goal to emphasize the diversity of Italian wine and not to get stuck at Piemonte and Toscana.

There had to come a time when the shear number of Tre Bicchieri awards did not increase. I think this time as come as the guide can no longer dramatically increase the total number of wines reviewed. Also, this comes at a time when there are some problematic vintages out there and general reversal of the appreciation of the international style of winemaking by Italian judges. I also wonder if the two primitivos you mention would receive Tre Bicchieri in todays judging climate. These wines were rated at the height of the Gambero Rosso's love affair with new oak and hyper-extraction.

I agree with you that Vini d'Italia is the best source available in English on Italian wine. There are other equals in Italian, like the Veronelli guide.

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