Sunday, December 14, 2008

Report from ... Italian Wine Tasting - November 03, 2008

For lovers of Italian wine the first Monday in November is a sacred day. It's the annual Italian Trade Commission’s tasting of Italian wine, lots and lots of Italian wine. Upon entering Roy Thomson Hall you get your tasting glass and a 252-page booklet listing the wines available to try. Sure the wines are listed on every second page, but that’s still 126-pages worth of wine, and with an average of five wines per page you can see that's a lot of tasting to do.

My recent trip to Italy (Piedmont: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4) allowed me to skip some of the Piedmontese wines, having been immersed in this style for four days. Today I tried to focus on one of my favorite wine style, Valpolicella, namely Ripasso ... but one gets too easily sidetracked at the show and soon you taste whatever is being poured your way. Below is a listing of my favorites (of the wines I was able to try) and some observations on the day.

The show was subtitled: Innovators by Tradition, which of course is the Italian way of wine. Over the years they have been the inventors of some of the most beloved and collected wines: Ripasso (repassing or refermenting wine using the skins of a fuller bodied wine: Amarone); Moscato d’Asti (grapy, fruity, fizzante, low alcohol, light bodied white wine with some sweetness); Barolo, Brunello, Amarone and countless other original wines.

Observation 1 … I love Asti, it's light and fruity with a whole bunch of grapiness and it’s just a pleasure to drink. I must have tried close to a dozen, and each one I tried had the exact same note as the previous one (see above) ... though I did notice that the lower the alcohol the higher the price.

Observation 2 … This is a traveling wine show that hits five cities in ten days ... sometimes certain wines, or certain wineries, were only showing up in certain cities -typically, some of the wines I had highlighted were only available in Calgary or Vancouver - bummer.

Observation 3 … So many wines, so little time. With only a few hours to cover over 500 wines one had to specialize - therefore my focus became Veneto (Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone specifically) and various wines of Puglia (namely Primitivo, Zinfandel’s Italian cousin).

Best of Ripasso …

Gerardo Cesari Valpolicella DOC Mara Superiore Ripasso 2006 ($16.80 – general list) -good value with its smooth black fruit and low-to-know tannins.

Premium Wine Selection Valpolicella DOC Ripasso Le Arche 2006 ($17.95 - vintages December 6) - smooth with its plum, blackberry, vanilla and a touch of cola … tasty.

Best of Amarone …

Marchesi Fumanelli Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2004 ($64 – Vintages in 2009) – grapes dried for three-plus months, three years in French barrique, big 15% alcohol, sweet entry to the mouth, nice cherry, plum and chocolate - silky smooth palate with just the nearest hint of tannins on the finish. Favorite of the show.

Roncolato Antonio Amarone Valpolicella DOC Carnero 2005 ($49.95 - private order) -single vineyard grapes taken from highest elevation on property, 40-day fermentation, only 10-to-15,000 bottles produced annually (depending on the vintage) … blackberry, black cherry, chocolate, plum, absolutely delicious - tied for favorite.

The Masi 3 … Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC:
Costasera 2005 ($37.45 – general list) – beautiful dark fruit with good tannin structure.
Riserva di Costasera 2003 ($59.95 – consignment) - which adds up big dose of chocolate to the above.
Serego Alighiere Vaio Amarone 2003 ($77.95 – Vintages, December 6) - single vineyard wine that piles on the plums and rough tannins, age 5 before even thinking of drinking .

Premium Wine Selection Valpolicella DOC Amarone Le Arche 2005 ($44.95 - Vintages January 03, 2009) - sweet red fruit, cinnamon on mid-palate, good dry black fruit and tannins on the finish.

Zonin Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 2005 ($49.95 – Vintages, December 2008) - this one's fruit driven and very consumable right now.

Best of Primitivo …

Feudi di San Marzone Primitivo di Manduria DOC Sessantanni 2005 ($32.95 – consignment) - outstanding Zin-knock off made from 60 year old vines - rich dark fruit, plums, chocolate, juicy long supple finish loading with cherries.

Casa Girelli Puglia IGT Canaletto Primitivo di Puglia 2005 ($12.95 - general list) - great value an everyday drinkers for Zin-lovers … plum, chocolate with a touch of herbs, spices and a vanilla note.

Best of Other Wines … not on the agenda but still impressive:

Banfi Sant’Antimo DOC Excelsus ($83.95 – 60% Cabernet Sauvignon / 40% Merlot) -plum, licorice and new leather that's just loaded with spices.

Barbi Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2006 ($18.95 – 100% Sangiovese) - very supple with plenty of red fruit and herbs.

Rocca di Frassinello Maremma Toscana IGT Le Sughere ($56.00 – Vintages – 50% Sangiovese / 25% Cabernet Sauvignon / 25% Merlot) - smooth and fruity, red fruit with a dominant herb quality ... big tannins and good acidity back this one up.

Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria DOC Ben Rye 2007 (100% Zibibbo) – aka Muscat of Alexandria, this wine is made in an Amarone-style, but with white grapes … beautiful dried apricot, peach and an apple finish - nice touch of sweetness ends this one off nicely.

Masottina Colli di Conegliano DOC “Montesco” Rossa ($47.00 – consignment – 47% Cabernet Sauvignon / 30% Merlot / 13% Cabernet Franc / 10% Marzemino) - red and black fruit with spiced mocha undertones.

Michele Satta Bolgheri e Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC 2007 ($32.00 – consignment – 30% Cabernet Sauvignon / 30% Sangiovese / 20% Merlot / 10% Syrah / 10% Teroldego) - fresh fruity and juicy with plums on the finish.

Pinino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2003 ($65.95 – Vintages - 100% Sangiovese) -nice spice quality with hints of dried black fruit.

Planeta Sicilia IGT Segreta Bianco 2007 ($15.95 – consignment – 50% Grecanico Dorato / 30% Chardonnay / 10% Fiano / 10% Other) - sweet fruit with a pineapple finish.

San Felice Toscana IGT Vigorello 2003 ($60.00 - 45% Sangiovese / 40% Cabernet Sauvignon / 15% Merlot) – herbs and spice with a touch of black fruit and licorice.

Tenimenti Angelini Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG Trerose 2005 ($23.95 – Vintages – 90% Prugnolo Gentile / 5% Canaiolo / 5% Cabernet Sauvignon) – plumy, chocolaty and smooth.

Tenuta di Toscana Lucente 2006 Toscana IGT ($34.95 – Vintages – 50% Merlot / 15% Cabernet Sauvignon / 35% Sangiovese) - nice nose, spiced blackberry mid, herbed finish.

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