Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tre Bicchieri Highlights

Photo ©Tom Hyland

The Tre Bicchieri tasting was held in Chicago yesterday following similar tastings held last week in San Francisco and New York City. This is a very unique event, as it focuses on many of the wines that were awarded the Tre Bicchieri (three glasses) rating from Gambero Rosso, Italy's wine bible. For more than two decades, Gambero Rosso has published an annual guide rating several thousand Italian wines; for their 2012 guide, some 20,000 wines were tasted from a total of 2350 producers, with the final tally being that a mere 375 wines earned Tre Bicchieri status, the highest rating for the guide.

How good was this event? What can you say about a walk-around tasting in which both Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino and Sassicaia are poured? Not only that, but Sassicaia winemaker Sebastiano Rosa was there to pour his wine. This tasting is quite simply, an embarrassment of riches. And I love it!

There were great wines in all sorts of categories, be it sparkling, white or red. One of the real highlights was the 2005 Ferghettina Extra Brut, a Franciacorta that was named as the Sparkling Wine of the Year by Gambero Rosso. One taste of this wine was evidence of why this wine has been so honored. Very rich on the palate with outstanding persistence, this wine goes beyond simple varietal fruit to capture honey and caramel flavors. The wine is simply tantalizing!

Other excellent sparklers included the La Montina Extra Brut 2005, a rich, fruit-driven Franciacorta with beautiful acidity and distinct minerality; the Giulio Ferrari 2001, a powerhouse of a sparkling wine from this great producer in Trento - here is a wine that should drink well for another 7-10 years; the Ricci Curbastro Extra Brut 2007, rich on the palate and slightly austere and finally the lovely Merotto Conegliano Valdobbiadene "Brut Rive di Col San Martino, " a Prosecco with typically charming aromas as well as fine structure and excellent persistence and freshness.

Giuseppe Mottura, Az. Sergio Mottura (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

There were several whites that I thought were excellent, especially the Sergio Mottura Grechetto "Poggio della Costa" 2010. Giuseppe Mottura brings out the varietal purity of the Grechetto variety like few others and he also makes a deeply concentrated wine, aged only in steel, that is as delicious as it is flavorful. This is the "new" style of Italian white wine - clean, fruit-driven and impeccably balanced with lively acidity. This is a real treasure!

I also thoroughly enjoyed the Cantina Produttori San Paolo Pinot Bianco Riserva 2010. While Pinot Bianco, the most widely planted variety in Alto Adige can be rather ordinary, the wine takes on special characteristics when produced like this example. Made from vines that have an average age of 50 years, this has ripe red apple and quince aromas, a generous-mid palate and a long finish with beautiful structure. 

Andrea Cecchi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

As for red wines, there were several dozen that were first-rate. Let's start with the Famiglia Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, an elegant Chianti Classico that tastes like the Tuscan wines many of us grew up with; in other words, a traditional wine with modest wood, delicate cherry fruit and tart acidity- and a lovely food wine.

There were several accomplished bottlings of Barolo here, including the 2007 Ettore Germano "Ceretta", medium-full with elegant tannins and forward, spicy fruit; the amazing 2004 Vietti Villero Riserva and the perfectly balanced Massolino Vigna Rionda Riserva 2005. Many observers will tell you that 2005 was a lesser vintage, but here is evidence that it was not, especially when a vintner such as Franco Massolino makes the wine. The Vigna Rionda Riserva has been an exceptional wine for several vintages now; medium-full with textbook cherry, orange peel, tar and cedar aromas, the 2005 offers lovely harmony of every component. It's a classically styled Barolo and one that will be in great shape for 15-20 years.

Finally a salute to Cleto Chiarli, arguably the finest producer of Lambrusco. You might be surprised to find Lambrusco at a tasting such as this, but you've probably never had examples this stylish. Two examples were poured: the 2010 Vecchia Modena Premium, with beautiful garnet color, delicious raspberry and cherry fruit and a round, slightly sparkling finish. The "Enrico Cialdini" bottling from Chiarli is darker in color and a touch ripe and richer on the palate, but it is just as charming as the other version. 

Thanks to the team from Gambero Rosso for their organization and hard work- special thanks to Tiina Eriksson and Eleonora Guerini for their help. This tasting continues to improve each year. I can't wait until the 2013 event!


  1. I am so happy to see you love Cleto Chiarli's Lambrusco as much as I do!

  2. Who would have thought a Lambrusco would taste this good? I'm always pleasantly surprised by Italian wines!