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 $20 wines that are easy to seek out and find.
This year’s venue in San Francisco was a nice change from the usual echoing hall at Fort Mason, and along with the change in location, it seemed like Gambero Rosso, or their California publicists did a much better job of getting the word out. I don’t think I’ve ever see the public part of the tasting so crowded.
I didn’t get as much time at the tasting as I would have liked, but I did get through a number of wines. I was particularly impressed by the 2007 and 2008 Barolos and Brunellos as well as a lot of the 2010 and 2011 whites from all over the country.
There seemed to be a lot more Sardinian wines this year (at least to my foggy memory) and quite a few of these Carignane or Carignane-based blends were excellent, not to mention excellent values.
And as usual there were a few completely mindblowing wines, including the first wine here, a stunning sparkling rosé from Ca’ del Bosco.
Without further ado, here are my favorites from this year’s tasting.
PINK WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2004 Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Rosé Extra Brut Cuvée Annamaria Clementi Riserva, Lombardia $120
In the mouth gorgeously savory flavors of butter crackers merge with the bright berry burst of rosehips, sour cherries and the high and sweet aromatics of exotic flowers. Electric acidity and perfect balance. Stunningly wrought, this is one of the better sparkling rosés I’ve had in my mouth in a long time. Wow. click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2007 Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino, Toscana $150
Light garnet; floral sweet cherry, sandalwood. Sweet cherry, stony, leather, floral. Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of stunningly sweet cherry and floral aromas backed up by sandalwood incense. In the mouth the wine is nothing short of extraordinary, with an aromatically sweet cherry cloud of flavor that somehow emerges from a stony, leathery matrix that rumbles a bass note to the cherry’s melody. Floral notes emerge as the wine heads to a minutes long finish. Impeccably balanced and ethereal, not to mention delicious. A triumph of a wine. click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2008 Vajra Barolo Cerretta Luigi Baudana, Piemonte $90
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of smoky earth and flower petals. In the mouth the wine has a continued smokiness, but with deep earth, violets, and leather flavors wrapped in dusty drying tannins. A remarkable expression of floral and tar aromas help this wine be quite compelling aromatically, while fantastic acidity keeps it juicy and bright. Gorgeous and distinctive. click to buy.
2008 Speri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano, Veneto
Inky purple in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis. In the mouth deep powdery tannins hang at the edges of the mouth like windblown snowdrift. Rich and supple flavors of cherry, wet earth and leather swirl with a dark complexity. Massive but great. Massively great. click to buy.
2008 Germano Ettore Ceretto Barolo, Piemonte $50
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rose petals and forest floor. In the mouth, leathery tannins wrap around a core of sweet cherry and raspberry fruit that have the lifted floral tones that make Barolo so attractive. Notes of forest floor and licorice linger in the finish. A big, brash wine, but with great acidity that makes it incredibly drinkable now, and no doubt for decades to come. Delicious. click to buy.
2009 Antinori Tignanello, Toscana $75
Medium purple in the glass, this wine has a smoky, meaty nose of black cherry fruit aromas. In the mouth flavors of black cherry and ripe cherry intertwine with stone and earth on a bed of velvety tannins. Gorgeously textured with fantastic acidity, this is a wine you want to hold in your mouth for some time before swallowing. click to buy.
2007 Canalicchio di Sopra – Pacenti e Ripaccioli Brunello di Montalcino, Toscana $70
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of fresh cherries, sandalwood and earth. In the mouth incredible acidity makes flavors of cherry and sandalwood almost citrus bright in their mouthwatering rush across the palate. Powdery tannins give the wine structure and richness, while notes of red apple skin linger in the long finish. Outstanding. click to buy.
2009 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno, Toscana $60
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of earthy black cherry and cassis. In the mouth the wine is smooth as hell, with a deep stony character pervading the rich cherry and leather flavors that swirl with a bright complexity. Fantastic acidity makes the wine juicy and mouthwatering through the long finish. Stunning. click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2007 Vignalta Colli Euganei Rosso Gemola, Veneto $30
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed green herbs, black cherry and wet chalkboard. In the mouth dark cassis flavors are wrapped in a blanked of fine grained tannins. Black cherry, cocoa powder, and cedar all make an appearance as the wine moves across the palate. The texture and tannins of this wine give it a muscular character. Wonderful balance and great acidity. click to buy.
2009 Fontodi Flaccianello, Toscana $110
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of stony, dark cherry aromas. In the mouth earthy flavors of leather and forest floor seem to filter the darker cherry fruit tinged with new oak. Good acidity, nice finish. click to buy.
2009 Cantina Tollo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cagiòlo Riserva, Abruzzo $24
Inky purple in the glass, this wine has a grapey nose of cassis and wet earth aromas. In the mouth, sweet cassis and wet dirt flavors are extremely juicy thanks to fantastic acidity. The tannins are velvety and linger through the long finish.
2010 Russo Etna Rosso Feudo, Sicilia $50
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of stony mulberry and raspberry aromas. In the mouth, light tannins gently grasp flavors of mulberry and huckleberry that are juicy thanks to excellent acidity. An incredible deep stoniness pervades this wine, and morphs to forest floor aromas in the long finish. Outstanding. click to buy.
2008 Schiavenza Barolo Prapò, Piemonte $55
Light to medium ruby in the glass with a few purple highlights, this wine smells of violets, graphite and wet dirt. In the mouth tacky tannins grip the palate as flavors of earth, raspberry and strawberry seem strained through wet leaves. Grace notes of dried flowers linger with an aromatic sweetness in the finish. Great acidity and balance. click to buy.
2010 Piaggia – Mauro Vannucci Poggio dei Colli, Toscana $45
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, sweet cherry, cedar and cassis flavors have an earthy weight to them as they bed down in the velvet folds of tannin. Long finish.
2007 Sella & Mosca Alghero Rosso Marchese di Villamarina, Sardegna $70
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of stony graphite, cassis, and a hint of farmyard funk. In the mouth leathery tannins wrap around a core of cherry, stone, graphite and again that farmyard funkiness of manure that adds character. Good acidity, and an overall delicious wine. click to buy.
2006 Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Mazzano, Veneto $150
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of leather, cherry and kirsch. In the mouth rich dark earthy flavors seem to emerge from the thick tannins which wrap around flavors of cherry and a nice wet cement character. Rich and broad shouldered. A powerful wine. click to buy.
2009 Tolaini Valdisanti, Toscana $39
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of graphite, earth, and leather. In the mouth black cherry, graphite, and a deep stony quality swirl about, daubed with well integrated new oak. The tannins are quite velvety, the acidity excellent, and the finish long and satisfying. click to buy.
2009 Tenuta San Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia, Toscana $170
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth, black cherry, and new oak. In the mouth flavors of wet dirt wrap around a core of cherry and black cherry fruit. The young tannins are leathery but supple and linger through the long finish. Perhaps too much oak influence, but a striking wine nonetheless. click to buy.
2008 Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Nocio dei Boscarelli, Toscana $80 click to buy.
2010 Carpineta Fontalpino Do ut Des, Toscana $40 click to buy.
2009 Chiarlo Michele Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza La Court, Piemonte $42 click to buy.
2006 Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva, Piemonte $150. click to buy.
2009 Negri Nino Sforzato di Valtellina Sfursat 5 Stelle, Lombardia $70. click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2009 Barrie Rosso, Sardegna. $??
2009 Castello di Bolgheri Bolgheri Superiore, Toscana $60. click to buy.
2010 Firriato Ribeca, Sicilia $25. click to buy.
2009 Isole e Olena Cepparello, Toscana $80click to buy.
2008 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici, Campania $50 click to buy.
2010 Mesa Buio Rosso, Sardegna $30 click to buy.
2010 Montessu “Montessu”, Sardegna $25 click to buy.
2009 Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva, Toscana $25. click to buy.
2009 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia, Toscana $160. click to buy.
2009 Terrazze dell’Etna Etna Rosso Cirneco, Sicilia $40.
2010 Terrazze dell’Etna Cratere, Sicilia $33.
2009 Tolaini Picconero, Toscana $120. click to buy.
2009 Vigne Surrau, Sardegna $23. click to buy.
2008 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico reserva, Toscana $26. click to buy.
RED WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2009 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Coltus Boni, Toscana
2006 Pian Delle vigne Barolo, Toscana
2008 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato, Piemonte $109
2006 Sella Lessona Omaggio a Quintino Sella, Piemonte $70
2006 Serego Alghieri Vaio Amaron , Veneto
2009 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto, Toscana $500
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2008 Fonterutoli Mix 36, Toscana $70
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2010 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé, Sicilia $45
Med orange gold: dried apricots honey, b: honey, wet stones apricots, peach, great acidity. Medium orange-gold in color, this wine smells of spicy dried apricots and honey. In the mouth the wine bursts with mouthwatering flavors of wet stones, apricots, and peaches. The acidity is remarkably high, making the wines significant sugar levels seem inconsequential amidst the mouthwatering desire to take another sip. Stunning. click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2011 Collavini Collio Bianco Broy, Friuli $30
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers and a hint of green melon. In the mouth fantastic acidity brings an electric brightness to flavors of white flowers, lychee, melon and candle wax. A hint of tannic grip gives the wine a texture that is quite compelling. Outstanding length and balance, and a beautiful floral finish. click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2006 Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvée Pas Operé, Lombardia $75
Light gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of crisp buttery biscuits and stony notes of apple and pear. In the mouth the wine has a soft mousse and flavors of green apple and pear tinged with the toasty, leesy notes of yeast. Excellent acidity, bright, balanced and delicious. click to buy.
2010 Provenza Lugana Fabio Contato, Lombardia $35
Pale blonde in color, this wine has a wonderful floral and melon smell with hints of orange zest. In the mouth the wine is exceedingly floral with gorgeous flavors of wintersweet blossoms, clover honey, orange zest and a deep wet-stone minerality that is quite compelling. Fantastic acidity and lovely texture. click to buy.
2010 Feudi di San Gregorio Campanaro, Campania $38
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and crushed rocks. In the mouth flavors of crushed stones, white flower and pink grapefruit have a zingy electric brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Fantastic balance and great minerality. A blend of Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. click to buy.
2010 Graci Etna Bianco Quota 600, Sicilia $45
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of wonderfully floral lemon zest and wet stones. In the mouth flavors of lemon zest, wet stones and white flowers are bright thanks to the racy acidity. The wine lingers long in the finish. Gulpable and delicious. click to buy.
2006 Ferrari Trento Extra Brut Perlé Nero, Trentino $45.
2002 Ferrari Giulio Ferrari, Trentino $120. click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2010 Castelfeder Alto Adige Pinot Bianco Tecum, Alto Adige $100 click to buy.
2010 Germano Ettore Langhe Bianco Hérzu, Piemonte $30. click to buy.
2010 Lis Neris Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio Gris, Friuli $30click to buy.
2010 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Vecchie Vigne, Marche $15. click to buy.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2011 Mottura Poggio della Costa, Lazio
2010 Pietracupa Cupo, Campania
2010 Planeta Chardonnay, Sicilia
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Rapitalà Conte Hugues Bernard de La Gatinais Chardonnay Grand Cru, Sicilia
2004 Villa Crespia – Fratelli Muratori Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero Francesco Iacono Riserva, Lombardia