Tasted: Dante Rivetti Vertical

1988 — First year of production for this Bricco Riserva. A striking wine that has retained its splendid body for 21 years. Intense ruby color without signs of decay or orange tint. The nose is dense, sweet, and juicy with notes of raspberry, currant, cocoa, chestnut honey, pomegranate, dried mushrooms, face powder, and amaretto, followed by decisive mineral notes and freshness. In the mouth, the wine was alive, fresh, and well structured, ample and meaty, consistent, with vibrant, clean earthy notes, solid tannic structure and a long finish.

1989 — A more important and more celebrated vintage than the 1988, with splendid vivid color, articulated tertiary aromas that vary from prunes preserved in brandy to wilted rose to spices. Pronounced minerality with graphite notes, and even greater presence and vitality than the 1988. In the mouth this wine rewards you with energetic, incisive tannins, still a little timid, but with solid structure. The tannin still bites and lays the foundation for living, juicy matter, very fresh and with a long finish. This wine clearly still has room to evolve.

1990 — Surprising intensity and vibrancy in the bright ruby color, articulated fresh and vibrant aromas of mint raspberry, brush, and graphite. In the mouth, this wine is big and rewards you with its earthy substance. The tannins are well defined and work in perfect balance with a sweetness, and a warm, velvety softness. An extremely delicious and enjoyable wine.

1995 (for this vintage, the classico was tasted, not the riserva) — The color was not as bright as the previous vintages and the nose, despite showing some sweetness, was not as rich with nuance and complexity. It was, however, remarkably fresh. In the mouth, the wine was pure, stony, incisive, balanced and delicious but lacking muscle and a little too linear.

1996 — The color alone was amazing, shining ruby red with vibrant reflections. The intriguing nose explodes with complexity, richness, and definition, dense, warm, profound, engaging and with a lot of grip and smooth notes of raspberry and prune, dried flowers, violets, brush, licorice, spices, hints of minerality, leather, and game intertwined. The wine was even better in the mouth, dense and thick, with juicy consistent fruit. The tannins were well represented but not aggressive, with pronounced earthiness, energy, articulation, and dynamism, and a vibrant finish with calibrated acidity and notes of earth and cocoa.

1997 — Very intense color, warm and expansive nose, very juicy, with notes of leather and spice. Juiciness dominates in the mouth, with ripe, fleshy fruit that spreads out over the palate, with substance and heat, but brought to life with a flavorful, mineral note that gives the wine dynamism, backbone, and strength.

1998 — Intense ruby red with an autumnal, captivating nose. Notes of tobacco, rhubarb, spices, currant, wilted rose, and raspberry, hints of cocoa and earth intertwined in an elegant balanced frame. The mouth is sweet at first, with earthy well-constructed tannin, fluffy but still rich with pulp and crunchy, great balance and delicious. Ready to drink now but still very young.

1999 — Yet another example of the greatness of this vintage and it potential to develop splendidly over time. Vibrant, bright ruby red in color with a “mysterious” compact nose, still not revealing itself but playing with wild notes of brush and graphite, with hints of prune, cloves, mint, and spices that intertwine and enhance one another. In the mouth, the wine is surprising for its strength, wholeness, and richness. Very dense with great breadth and volume, overflowing energy that has yet to be tamed and will give long life to this wine.

2000 — This is another hot vintage and it shows its limits (although with a few exceptions) and is not as good as the 1999 and 2001. Very dense bright ruby red color full of light. Intense, compact, warm nose, with pure juicy fruit but lacking nuance. In the mouth, the wine is juicy, ample, enjoyable and matched by significant tannic structure. But backbone, flavor, and intensity belong to the better vintages and while this wine is ful of lingering flavor, it lack that “magic” that makes other vintages great and more dynamic.

2001 — This wine is very young, “to buy and lay down in your cellar,” as the Brits say. Bright ruby red color full of reflections. The nose is not yet expressive, still compact, dominated by stony minerality but it gives you the impression that the raw material is significant and dense. This is confirmed in the mouth, where the wine shows overpowering structure in its body and its solid tannins, with barely containable character, full of energy, and with calibrated acidity and remarkable incisiveness and freshness.

— Franco Ziliani

Antinori Pian delle Vigne 2003 released

In a press release issued minutes ago, Marchesi Antinori has announced that its 2003 Pian delle Vigne Brunello will be available on the market as of Tuesday: “Brunello di Montalcino Pian delle Vigne 2003: available as of July 1, 2008. After proving to be in accordance with appellation regulations for the Appellation of Controlled Origin (DOCG) Brunello di Montalcino, Marchesi Antinori’s 2003 Pian delle Vigne will be available for sale beginning next week.”

When the editors of VinoWire contacted Antinori’s office, the winery’s spokesperson told us that “Pian delle Vigne was never impounded” by Italian authorities. “It was voluntarily taken off the market by Marchesi Antinori because of the turmoil in progress.”

“The seizure was cautionary — or rather pending verification — because no irregularities were found,” said the spokesperson.

Antinori’s claims would seem to contradict reports published in April, 2008 by the Corriere Fiorentino and L’Espresso: both publications reported that Antinori’s Pian delle Vigne 2003 had been impounded because of suspected irregularities.

Eataly owner Oscar Farinetti acquires historic Barolo producer Fontanafredda

According to a report published last week at FocusWine.it (the online “portal” of the trade publication Corriere Vinicolo), “the high-end super market group Eataly” has become the “major share holder” in the historic Fontanafredda winery, one of the oldest producers of Barolo and one of the appellations largest.

On June 12, wrote journalist Luciano Scarzello, an agreement was reached between the Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena (one of Italy’s major banks) and the supermarket group. While Monte dei Paschi retains 36% of shares, Eataly’s founder, owner, and president now owns 32%, with the remaining 32% owned by his advisor and partner Luca Baffigo Filangieri.

Earlier this year, Farinetti became the major share holder in another historic but much smaller producer of Barolo, Borgogno.

In 2007, Fontanafreda “reported gross earings of 34 million euro, with 80 hectares under vine in the province of Alba. It produces 6.4 million bottles of wine every year, of which 60% are sold in Italy.”

Guest Opinion: a wine professional from Bordeaux on the question of deregulation

The editors of VinoWire recently received the letter below from a reader. We encourage readers to submit opinions for publication. Please send us an email at editors@vinowire.com.

My name is Frédéric Fleuri and I run a marketing firm that represents Vin à Bordeaux. In France, debates similar to yours [in Italy] are emerging. In the face of this crisis, certain experts have advocated deregulation in order to be more competitive with the costs of New World wines. In my opinion, such a move would be a catastrophic error: in terms of cost, French and Italian wines will always be the losers and today the wines of the New World include those made in India and China…

It’s important to consider that standardized wines, sold under top brand names, allow us to attract new consumers and wine lovers — this is a positive. As they discover the world of wine and their process of acculturation begins, wine enthusiasts will look more closely for nuance and authenticity. This is where we rise to the occasion and serve them with best wines.

Frédéric Fleuri
Agence Fleuri

“Those who adulterate are criminals”: Italian magazine publishes controversial interview with hard-line Separtist minister of agriculture, Luca Zaia

“Those who adulterate [wines] are criminals. And they should be treated just like drug dealers,” said hard-line Separatist party member Luca Zaia, Italy’s Minster of Agriculture (pictured left with French Minister of Agriculture Michel Barnier) in a controversial interview published last week in Italy’s popular magazine L’Espresso. Zaia is a leading member of Italy’s Leghista or Separatist party which advocates a federal (as opposed to parliamentary) reorganization of Italy’s government, with more autonomy for Italy’s individual regions. Italy’s Lega Nord per l’Indipendenza della Padania (or North League for the Independence of Padania) is a federation of northern and central Italian political parties who share hard-line attitudes toward immigration and corruption in Italy’s south. Zaia was named Minister of Agriculture by Silvio Berlusconi, who began in third term as Italian prime minister in April 2008.

The editors of VinoWire have translated an excerpt from the interview below.

Has the threat of a U.S. ban on Brunello been averted?

“We have obtained an extension of a few weeks. The deadline is June 23. The Americans want transparency. They want to buy what the bottles’ labels promise. The Brunello DOCG [appellation regulations] call for 100% Sangiovese. The Americans ask that the wine respect the regulations. They don’t want to pay for Brunello that contains Merlot and Syrah. I spoke with [American Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer and I will meet with [American] Ambassador [to Italy, Ronald] Spogli. Rome-Washington diplomacy is in the works and we won’t take a break” until our work is done.

The president of the [Brunello producers] Consortium resigned following the Brunello scandal.

“I immediately relieved the [Brunello producers] Consortium of its monitoring duties and I replaced it with a Guarantee Committee [created] with a governmental decree. The situation was grave. Adulteration of commercial products is a serious charge. As soon as we [the newly formed Berlsuconi cabinet] arrived, we began to take care of a patient who was gravely ill. We patched the patient up and stabilized his condition. Now we are performing open-heart surgery. We cannot allow any mistakes with our scalpels. The world is watching us.

You said a ban would be disastrous. Why?

“Brunello is [Italy’s] most prestigious wine. Our aricultural market sends more than 1-billion-Euros-worth of products each year to the United States. Currently, we have a trade surplus [with the U.S.]. If they block Brunello — a international symbol of made in Italy quality — we run the risk that a chain reaction will affect other products. [Italy] should have moved on this [issue] earlier. The old government did not send the information requested abroad in a timely manner.”

Should appellation regulations be changed?

“The producers will decide. We certainly will not complicate the decisions of hardworking people. The rules for making wine are not the Gospel. Even the [Italian] Constitution is flexible and can be modernized. I am on the market’s side: few consumers know the appellation regulations but if they prefer a wine that is rounder and softer, then we owe their palates their due satisfaction. In my view, the era of hard wines is over. Tastes change. Just think of cocktail craze: yesterday, young people ordered gin and tonics; today caipirinhas are in fashion.”

As deadline for Brunello certification arrives, TTB publishes revised circular but Italy’s response remains unclear.

The U.S. Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade (TTB) deadline for certification of Brunello di Montalcino is today, Monday, June 23. At issue is whether or not the wines have been made with 100% Sangiovese grapes (as required by appellation regulation). The U.S. government requirement comes in the wake of news that the Italian government impounded more than 1 million bottles of 2003 Brunello believed to have been adulterated by the addition of grapes other than Sangiovese. Although at least one Italian newswire has reported that Italian officials and their counterparts are currently meeting to hammer out specifics, the Italian government’s response to the crisis remains unclear.

On Friday, June 20, the TTB issued a revised circular, superseding the circular published on Monday, June 17. Although the wording of the revised circular is slightly different, the U.S. government’s requirements have remained unchanged. Importers will be required to present “a declaration from the Government of Italy stating that the product’s vintage date and brand name meet the requirements of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and that the product is acceptable for sale as such in Italy.”

Importers and Brunello producers have yet to be informed by the Italian ministry of agriculture as to who will provide such declarations. In the meantime, the hands of importers and producers — even those who have obtained laboratory analyses and certification that their wines are 100% Sangiovese) — remain tied.

Confusing matters even more, the U.S. government has issued no statement regarding wine already in U.S. On Tuesday, VinoWire editor Jeremy Parzen spoke to the Italian wine buyer at a major wine retailer in California. The buyer told him that although he believes that the Brunello on the shelves of his store is now “illegal,” he will continue to sell it and does not fear any legal repercussion. “The American government,” he said, “will never come after the retailer. There are just too many wine stores in the U.S. for them to come after me.”

TTB publishes guidelines for Brunello importers

The U.S. Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has published guidelines for U.S. importers of Brunello.

To view, click here.

According to the circular, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will require a statement “attesting that the Brunello di Montalcino meets the requirements of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and is acceptable for sale as such in Italy. This statement must be in English or, if in Italian, accompanied by an English translation.”

The circular also states the following:

    Until further notice, if TTB finds Brunello di Montalcino wine in the U.S. marketplace which was released from CBP custody on or after June 23, 2008, and the importer does not have the corresponding required statement, TTB will consider it a willful violation and may take appropriate action which could include suspension or revocation of the importer’s basic permit.