Italy’s Best Wines?: Highlights from the 2012 Tre Bicchieri Tasting

One of the pitfalls involved in blogging-as-therapy, as opposed to blogging-as-profession manifests as the paradox of too much content. If I made my living at wine blogging I’d need to post several times per day, and I’m sure I’d be looking for good content in between my sofa cushions. But since I blog, at best, once a day, and not even seven days a week anymore, I have way more to write about than I have time to write it. Too many wines I’ve drunk, too many places I’ve been, and too many events attended. All of which is a long winded explanation for why I’m writing now about the Tre Bicchieri tasting of Italy’s best wines that took place back in February.

When given the opportunity — usually the occasion of someone asking me “what’s your favorite wine” — I often tell people, with some degree of pride, that my tastes in wine are quite broad. I like wine from everywhere, and love wine from a ton of places, and lust after wines from many places. I don’t believe I have a specific bias towards one region or another, and get great enjoyment out of drinking wine from all over. However, each year, my confidence in my catholic tastes is shaken a little as I emerge from the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting.

For those unfamiliar with the Gambero Rosso, it is essentially an organization focused on the promotion and evaluation of Italian food and wine. Each year the organization publishes a guide by the same name. The Gambero Rosso is the Italian Wine bible, and one of most thorough and high-quality guide to any wine region that exists in the world. All such guides are imperfect and fallible, but as guides go, this one is pretty damn good. The guide covers a dizzying 14,000+ wines each year from the incredibly diverse regions of Italy.

Each year the Gambero Rosso guide awards one, two, or three “Bicchieri” (“glasses”) to wines of exceptional character and quality. From tens of thousands, there are usually a couple of hundred Tre Bicchieri wines, and every Spring, Gambero Rosso brings many of them to San Francisco for the media, trade, and public to taste.

While I don’t love all the wines at this tasting, I am constantly amazed by the quality and individuality of the wines on offer. I leave the tasting every year pining for many of these wines, and wishing I had the means to add (the most expensive) of them to my collection. Invariably, though, there are always some fantastic $18 wines that are easy to seek out and find.

This year I was particularly surprised to see so many Lugana wines at the tasting (many more than in previous years, I believe). Lugana is what folks in Lombardy and the Veneto call the grape Trebbiano. There still exists some minor quibbling (thanks to a DNA study by the university of Milan) about whether the grape that everyone calls Lugana really is Trebbiano, but if it isn’t it certainly is related. Regardless, it can make some damn fine wine, and after “discovering” it several years ago at another Tre Bicchieri tasting, I was pleased to see many versions at this year’s tasting, most of which were fantastic. It’s also generally not that expensive, so if you’re looking for a new inexpensive white, go find some Lugana!

Without further ado, here’s what I thought of the wines this year.


2001 Montenidoli “Sono di Montenidoli” Red Wine, Toscana
Medium cloudy ruby in the glass, this wine smells of a wonderful combination of flowers, leather, and the savory notes of black olive. In the mouth the wine offers a deep wet dirt complexition with flavors of cherry, sandalwood, and prunes. Fantastically layered, beautifully balanced with excellent acidity, very fine grained tannins, and a finish that lasts minutes, this is a stunning wine. Wow. If only it were available in the U.S.

2009 Palari Faro Palari Etna Rosso, Sicilia $90
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet red berries and wet dirt. In the mouth flavors of wet leaves, stony red cherry, and tangy redcurrant are wrapped in taut tannins and supported with a stony minerality. Fantastic acidity makes the fruit explosive on the palate and utterly mouthwatering. Floral notes emerge with redcurrant brightness on the finish.Yowza. click to buy.


2008 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Sagrantino Collepiano, Umbria $60
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a deep cherry quality of aroma and flavor. Fine grained tannins wrap around this archetypally cherry body of the wine, with hints of new oak. Excellent acidity, and a remarkable purity of fruit that lingers through a long finish. click to buy.

2008 Barone Ricasoli Casalferro, Toscana $60
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of berries and bright cherry fruit. In the mouth a core of pure cherry fruit is dusted lightly with powdery tannins. Fantastic acidity makes this wine much too easy to drink. Notes of incense on the finish. Lovely. click to buy.

2008 Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Valgrande, Piemonte $27
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has an incredible nose of floral and wet wood aromas with hints of red berries poking through. In the mouth flavors of wet wood, leather, flowers and red berries swirl in a resonant complex series of rapids over blocky, rocky, brawny tannins. A minerality underlies everything that is accentuated by fantastic acidity. Flowers and berries linger in the incredibly long finish. Wow. click to buy.

2008 Castello di Fonterutoli Siepi, Toscana $110
Medium to dark garent in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and old leather with a top note of beautiful flowers. In the mouth those cherry and leather flavors continue, wrapped in tacky, tannins that have a muscular quality to them. Good acidity lingers in a long finish with notes of leather and cherry. Excellent. click to buy.

2009 Fattoria Petrolo Galatrona, Toscana $110
Medium garnet in the glass this wine smells of black cherry and cassis. In the mouth bright juicy cherry and licorice flavors are draped in a blanket of powdery tannins. Flavors of wet dirt emerge in a long finish. Fantastic acidity makes the fruit extremely juicy and bright, and the overall package mouthwatering. Awesome. click to buy.

2009 Firriato Etna Rosso Cavanera Rovo delle Coturnie, Sicilia $30
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of brown sugar, floral aromas, redcurrant and cherry. In the mouth suede tannins wrap around tart sour cherry flavors that are phenomenally bright and juicy thanks to gorgeous acidity. The finish is long and earthy. Yum!! click to buy.

2007 Fontanafredda Barolo Fontanafredda V. La Rosa, Piemonte $98
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of floral, leather, and red berry aromas. In the mout flavors of leather, and juicy cherry are wrapped in thick tannins that need time to relax a bit in the bottle. Thanks to fantastic acidity the fruit is wonderfully bright and juicy. While definitely appealing now, this wine will reward extended cellaring. click to buy.

2004 Montenidoli “Sono di Montenidole” Red Wine, Toscana $n/a
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of floral and sandalwood aromas overlaid on bright fruit. In the mouth bright cherry and leather flavors are clad in supple, fine grained tannins and enlivened by lovely acidity. Great length, and utterly delicious.

2007 Palari Faro Palari, Sicilia $60
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells floral, with notes of leather and a hint of barnyard. In the mouth flavors of faintly sweet cherry, redcurrant, and nutmeg vibrate with phenomenal acidity and faint tannins add complexity. The finish is long and impressive. Yum! click to buy.

2005 Vigna Rionda – Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Ris., Piemonte $125
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of mulberry and floral aromas. In the mouth mulberry fruit mixes with leather, earth, and everpresent dried flower petals that have a violet complexition. Gorgeously smooth suede-like tannins and awesome acidity. Fantastic. click to buy.

2008 Fattoria di Felsina Maestro Raro, Toscana $50 click to buy.
2007 Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cerequio, Piemonte $75 click to buy.


2008 Fattoria Colle Allodole Montefalco Rosso Ris., Umbria $50
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and floral notes with hints of leather. In the mouth flavors of black cherry, back tea, and leather are wrapped in leathery tannins. Deep earthy notes rumble below the fruit, and linger in a very long finish. Good acidity.

2009 Tormaresca Torcicoda, Puglia $20
I didn’t make a tasting note for this wine, but it is certainly one of the best Primitivos I’ve ever had. click to buy.

2007 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Cl., Veneto $75
2007 Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Case Vecie, Veneto $60
2009 Ca’ Rugate Studio, Veneto $n/a
2009 Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala, Umbria $49
2008 Frecciarossa OP Pinot Nero Giorgio Odero, Lombardia $??
2007 La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Spelt, Abruzzo $22
2008 Marchesi Antinori Tignanello , Toscana $100
2007 Musella Amarone della Valpolicella Ris., Veneto $75
2008 Pelissero Barbaresco Vanotu, Piemonte $85
2008 Piaggia Carmignano Ris., Toscana
2008 Podere Orma Orma, Toscana $70
2007 Tasca d’Almerita Contea di Sclafani Rosso del Conte, Sicilia $77
2004 Tenuta vitanza Brunello di montalcino, Toscana $40
2008 Tolaini Valdisanti, Toscana $35

2008 Angelo Negro & Figli Roero Sudisfà Ris., Piemonte $35
2009 Braida Barbera d’Asti Bricco dell’Uccellone, Piemonte $??
2006 Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino, Toscana $75
2007 Cottanera Etna rosso, Sicilia $58
2005 Ferrari Trento Extra Brut Perlé Nero, Trentino $32
2007 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Sarmassa, Piemonte $105
2006 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Cl. Vaio Armaron Serègo Alighieri, Veneto $75
2009 Monte del Frà Custoza Sup. Ca’ del Magro, Veneto $23
2008 Nino Negri Valtellina Sup. Vign. Fracia, Lombardia $50
2008 Podere Sapaio Bolgheri Sup. Sapaio, Toscana $70
2008 San Patrignano Sangiovese di Romagna Sup. Avi Ris., Emilia Romagna $20
2009 Santi Valpolicella Cl. Sup. Ripasso Solane , Veneto $15
2007 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli , Veneto $50
2008 Villa Medoro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Adrano, Abruzzo $22
2008 Villa Mongalli Montefalco Sagrantino Col Cimino, Umbria $??

2007 Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Ovello, Piemonte $55
2007 Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolò, Toscana $75
2009 Cusumano Sàgana , Sicilia $45
2010 Decugnano dei Barbi Orvieto Cl. Sup. Il Bianco, Umbria $24
2009 Di Majo Norante Molise Aglianico Contado Ris., Molise $18
2006 La Togata Brunello di Montalcino, Toscana $??
2009 Librandi Gravello, Calabria $20
2009 Mamete Prevostini Valtellina Sforzato Albareda, Lombardia $??
2007 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici, Campania $??
2007 Podere Castorani Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Amorino, Abruzzo $??
2008 Serafini & Vidotto Montello e Colli Asolani Il Rosso dell’Abazia, Veneto $75
2008 Tolaini Picconero, Toscana $130
2008 Velenosi Rosso Piceno Sup. Roggio del Filare, Marche $50


2009 Livon Braide Alte, Friuli Venezia Giulia $50
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, wet stones, and honey. In the mouth the wine is brightly mineral, with gorgeous flavors of melon, honeysuckle, and gardenia, and a faint sweetness that would suggest that the wine is slightly off dry. The floral and mineral notes linger in a long finish which reminds the mouth of what a fantastic texture the wine has, silky and sensuous. Impeccably balanced and appealing. Wow. click to buy.


2010 Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo Cutizzi , Campania $30
Palest gold in color with a hint of green, this wine smells of liquified rocks and white flowers. In the mouth the wine can’t be described as anything other than zingy, with fantastic lemon zest, liquid stones, and floral notes that linger through a long finish. Wonderfully balanced, this is Greco di Tufo in its finest form. And while I don’t usually mention value in my reviews, it’s hard to escape that at $20, this wine is one of the world’s greatest values. click to buy.

2006 Gioacchino Garofoli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cl. Sel. Gioacchino Garofoli Ris., Marche $35
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright chamomile and lemon zest aromas. In the mouth flavors of lemon curd are bright and juicy thanks to phenomenal acidity. The wine also takes on a savory salty note that has a kelp quality that is quite appealing. All this takes place on a bedrock of wet stone that is quite appealing. Gulpable.

2009 Ottella Lugana Sup. Molceo, Veneto $??
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of grapefruit and apples. In the mouth the wine has a waxy complexion, with flavors of green apple, lemon zest, and wet stones, all of which has a vaguely saline quality. Wonderfully textured with a nice weight on the palate, the wine lingers for a long time in a beautiful lemon zest infused finish.

2009 Provenza Lugana Sup. Sel. Fabio Contato, Lombardia $36
Bright pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of juicy apples. In the mouth, flavors of wet stones, candle wax, lemon, and grapefruit zest all have a bouncy electricity to them thanks to excellent acidity. The grapefruit skin quality lingers in the finish. Lovely and silky across the palate, this wine is a joy to drink. click to buy.

2010 Ronco dei Tassi Collio Bianco Fosarin, Friuli Venezia Giulia $25
Pale gold, near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of melon, flowers, and wet stones. In the mouth the wine immediately tastes of wet rocks, layered with white flowers, gooseberries, and fresh green herbs. Awesome acidity and balance. Exotic and compelling. A blend of Friulano, Malvasia, and Pinot Blanc. click to buy.

2008 Zenato Lugana Sergio Zenato, Veneto $20
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright apples and a hint of butterscotch. In the mouth the wine offers lemon curd, floral, and wet stone flavors that take on a bit of that butterscotch note along with a saline quality that brings late disgorged Champagne to mind. Fantastic acidity, bright, and delicious. click to buy.


2008 Belisario Verdicchio di Matelica Cambrugiano Ris., Marche $30
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of a nice combination of piney and lemon notes. In the mouth candle wax and green apple tartness merge with lemony notes. Excellent acidity and length. click to buy.

2009 Suavia Soave Cl. Monte Carbonare, Veneto $33
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright lemon and wet stones. In the mouth bright lemony flavors take on a slightly saline note, with a hint of melon and apple. Deliclous. Good acidity and length. click to buy.

2010 Cantina Produttori San Michele Appiano A. A. Sauvignon St. Valentin, Alto Adige $45
2010 Cantina Nals Margreid A. A. Pinot Bianco Sirmian, Alto Adige $35
2008 Cantina Terlano A. A. Terlano Nova Domus Ris., Alto Adige $50
2009 Cavalchina Custoza Sup. Amedeo, Veneto $20
2010 Edi Keber Collio Bianco, Friuli Venezia Giulia $23
2010 Elena Walch A. A. Gewürztraminer Kastelaz, Alto Adige $35
2001 Ferrari Riserva del fondatore, Trentino $99
2007 Guido Berlucchi & C. Francacorta Brut Cellarius, Lombardia $35
2009 Lis Neris Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio Gris, Friuli Venezia Giulia $n/a
2009 Montenidoli Vernaccia di S. Gimignano Fiore, Toscana $24
2009 Montenidoli Vernaccia di S. Gimignano Tradizionale, Toscana $24
2010 Pietracupa Greco di Tufo, Campania $25
2010 Sergio Mottura Grechetto Poggio della Costa, Lazio $19
2009 Vie di Romans Friuli Isonzo Bianco Flors di Uis, Friuli Venezia Giulia $40

2009 Leonildo Pieropan Soave Cl. Calvarino, Veneto $35
2010 Volpe Pasini COF Pinot Bianco Zuc di Volpe, Friuli Venezia Giulia $30
2010 Volpe Pasini COF Sauvignon Zuc di Volpe, Friuli Venezia Giulia $30
2010 Zuani Collio Bianco Zuani Vigne, Friuli Venezia Giulia $24

2010 Cantine Lunae Bosoni Colli di Luni Vermentino Et. Nera, Liguria $18
2010 Capichera Vermentino di Gallura Vigna’ngena, Sardegna $32
2010 Marisa Cuomo Costa d’Amalfi Furore Bianco , Campania $26
2010 Poggio dei Gorleri Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Cycnus, Liguria $23
2010 Tenute Sella & Mosca Vermentino di Gallura Sup. Monteoro, Sardegna Na
2009 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cl. Sup. Vecchie Vigne, Marche $25

2005 La Montina Franciacorta Extra Brut Vintage Ris., Lombardia $69