Simona Bizzarri wins AIS Master di Sangiovese competition

Where is Vin Ruspo produced? Which is the smallest and the biggest subzone in Chianti? Over the last three decades, in which vintages was Brunello di Montalcino Riserva not produced?

These are just some of the head-scratchers posed to the 13 participants in the Italian Sommelier Association Master del Sangiovese competition held yesterday, November 25, 2008, in Dozza (Emilia-Romagna).

The title went to Ms. Simona Bizzarri of Arezzo (Tuscany), pictured left. The event included blind tasting, pairing, and written questions.

Opinion: The best that Enotria has to offer? Relfections on the Wine Spectator Top 100

The following is an excerpt of Franco Ziliani’s post dated November 25, 2008. Click here to read the entire post in Italian.

As I reflect on the Wine Speculator’s Top 100 classification… I beg your pardon, I meant to write, Wine Spectator! As I reflect on the magazine’s selections, I realize there’s not much to add to what I’ve written in the past. Only the ingenuous (and ingenuous is a generous euphemism) can take the classification seriously. And anyone who does take it seriously is sure to utter those illustrious words of wisdom: “If you’re not in the Wine Spectator Top 100, it means that your wine isn’t worth a hill of beans and, therefore, I, as an Italian, hope to be in it.”

For years, we’ve known that the classification is not a serious endeavor and lacks the authority with which it is peddled to consumers. Nonetheless, it’s worth a few moments of our time to try to understand its meaning.

The following is a list of Italian wines that made it into the Wine Spectator Top 100 (position, score, cost, winery, and wine):

06 94/100 $62 Pio Cesare Barolo 2004
14 95/100 $65 Aldo & Riccardo Seghesio Barolo Vigneto La Villa 2004
15 96/100 $110 Sette Ponti Toscana Oreno 2006
22 95/100 $63 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Grandi Annate Riserva 2004
31 93/100 $28 La Massa Toscana 2006
45 94/100 $80 Jermann Venezia-Giulia Vintage Tunina 2006
50 91/100 $28 Firriato Nero d’Avola-Syrah Sicilia Santagostino Baglio Soria 2006
51 90/100 $17 Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2006
59 90/100 $18 Terredora Falanghina Irpinia 2007
70 90/100 $19 Attems Pinot Grigio Collio 2007
75 90/100 $19 Suavia Soave Classico 2007
76 90/100 $25 Marchesi Frescobaldi Chianti Rufina Castello di Nipozzano Riserva 2005
81 91/100 $32 Querciabella Chianti Classico 2006
84 91/100 $39 Stefano Farina Barolo 2004
96 93/100 $60 Cabreo Toscana Il Borgo 2006

What do we find in this representation of Made-in-Italy wines? The usual Tuscan domination, with 7 wines, topped off by 3 Piedmontese wines (3 bottlings of 2004 Barolo), 2 Friulian wines, 1 Veneto, a Sicilian, and an Irpinian (Campania).

The best wine of the lot, the 6th place winner in the classification, is a 2004 Barolo. But it’s not one of the wines that received Italian wine editor James Suckling’s highest scores over the course of the year, like the 98 he gave to Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto, the 97 he gave to Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello, or the 96 he gavie to Corino Vecchie Vigne, Ceretto’s Bricco Rocche, or Pio Cesare’s Ornato. The 6th place winner is a Barolo that landed a 94 like 9 other Barolos.

Despite the splendid, classic 2004 vintage, no Barolo can even dream of being considered a top Barolo — one of those must-have, outstanding, benchmark Barolos. Wine Spectator gave the vintage less-than thrilling scores of 89-93 (as compared with the 100/100 awarded to the 2000 vintage).

Yet, despite its lack of true character, Pio Cesare’s 2004 “classic” Barolo, which in my opinion is surely better than the more celebrated and more costly Ornato, has obtained a hyperbolic classification, clearly superior to its actual merits.

And even though I am happy that it is a Barolo that spearheads Italy’s representation in the classification (albeit with an overvalued wine), I also cannot help but note the extravagance of 84th position: Fratelli Seghesio’s Barolo La Villa 2004, by a winemaker relatively unknown in Italy, Stefano Farina, whose commercial and administrative offices are located — according to its website — in Albavilla in the province of Como, even though the company “can boast of cellars and vineyards in the most prestigious winemaking regions of Italy, Piedmont and Tuscany.”

It’s a commercial winery and yet its Barolo, which snagged the 49th position in the 2005 Top 100, leaves the crème de la crème of Barolo production in the dust.

Who do we find among the “best Italian wines” in the opinion of the Wine Spectator? We find “cult wines” (as a simpleton would say): the obligatory Oreno (a “very original” mixture of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese) blended by the “mustachioed enologist” Carlo Ferrini for Tenuta Setteponti, a winery owned by businessman Antonio Moretti, a close friend of Wine Spectator editor and owner Marvin Shanken. This winery, founded only ten years ago, quickly entered into James Suckling’s heart. In 2001, it was ranked 10th and by 2003 it was 5th.

Shouldn’t there be a Pinot Grigio in the Top 100? It is, after all, the most popular white wine in the U.S. (and not a Chardonnay or rather anything but Chardonnay)? Sure thing! A Collio Pinot Grigio but not just any Pinot Grigio: a Pinot Grigio labeled Attems, a wine that orbits in the solar system of a well-known Tuscan dynasty, Marchesi Frescobaldi, a winemaking group notoriously close to Giacomino Suckling. They are so friendly, in fact, that he gave their 2003 Brunello 94 points, despite the mediocre vintage.

With all the Pinot Grigio on the marketing the United States, is it possible that Giacomino had to select the one produced by an estate that was purchased by the owners of Tenuta Luce in Montalcino in 2000?

Is it possible that once again this year, just as in 2007 and 2005 (with the respective 2004 and 2002 vintages, yes, 2002!), Frecobaldi’s Nipozzano Riserva (this time with the 2005 vintage) makes it into the Wine Spectator Top 100?

Nearly 50% of 2003 Banfi Brunello declassified according to L’Espresso

In a report published yesterday in the Italian news weekly L’Espresso, nearly 50% of Banfi’s 2003 Brunello has been declassified by Italian authorities after testing showed it did not meet appellation requirements. “Almost all of the big [wineries] involved in the [Brunello] investigation have been forced to request declassification in order to return to the shelves of supermarkets and wine stores, albeit with less prestigious lables,” writes Emiliano Fittipaldi. “Nearly 50% of Banfi’s 2003 Brunello was downgraded to IGT Toscana Rosso, and a sizable amount of its 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages has met the same fate.”

Guest opinion: Montalcino mayor Maurizio Buffi defends administration’s handling of the Brunello controversy

In a related story, on Friday, November 14, members of the Brunello producers association voted for a second time — and this time “unanimously” — not to allow grapes other than Sangiovese in the production of Brunello di Montalcino. A handful of association members chose not to vote.

In an interview published on November 17 by Il Cittadino, journalist Roberto Cappelli asked Montalcino mayor Maurizio Buffi if the “Brunello affair” should or could have been handled differently. (The mayor and the Brunello Consortium have been widely criticized for not having addressed the controversy publicly.) The “Brunello affair,” said the mayor, was due to a “media drinking binge” and not to inaction by him or the Consortium. The following is an excerpt of the interview (translation by VinoWire):

    If you ask me how I reacted, I will tell you that after an initial moment of profound indignation and great concern — since the business economy of our territory is based on Brunello — the reaction was discussed, agreed up, and implemented in cooperation [with the Consortium and its members].

    I’d like to recognize, or rather, I’d like to thank all of the politic forces present in the Muncipal Council, who, without anyone trying to take advantage of the situation, worked to find a resolution and together implemented the strategies decided upon.

    In regard to the Township of Montalcino, as you can imagine, much of the administration’s business and communication is extremely confidential and, at the present, cannot be revealed. Having said that, I believe that the administration’s role could not have been and could not be anything else but that of arbitrator.

    Our consistent two-fold goal was that of avoiding any rift within the Consortium and to allow the body to make any type of decision independently. Producers and associated companies strongly urged us to protect both public perception and the economy of the sector, which includes 250 companies and 2,500-3,000 employees (half of our township’s population). I’d like to underline that during these difficult months, our contact and communication with the Consortium’s highest officials was constant, extremely serious, and responsible.

Gianni Brunelli, esteemed Siena restaurateur and winemaker, dead at 61

Above: Brunelli’s celebrated Osteria Le Logge in Siena (photo courtesy Slow Travel).

The world of Italian wine mourns the loss of beloved Siena restaurateur and winemaker Gianni Brunelli, who died unexpectedly of natural causes on Saturday, November 15, at 61 years of age. A steadfast defender of traditional winemaking and a producer of acclaimed Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, Brunelli was also one of Siena’s most celebrated restaurateurs: his Osteria Le Logge is widely considered one of the best destinations for classic Tuscan cuisine and is a favorite of Italian and American wine writers, wine enthusiasts, and Montalcino winemakers. A beloved figure of the Tuscan wine community, Brunelli was known for his classic Tuscan wit and his colorful reflections on the artisanal food and wine traditions of Siena and Montalcino. His small estate in Podernovo, “Le Chiuse di Sotto,” received high marks from wine critics on both sides of the Atlantic. “A larger than life” winemaker, as one blogger put it, Brunelli was remembered fondly yesterday in blog posts by VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani (in Italian) and by English-language Italian wine blogs Avvinare and Mondosapore.

Recently tasted: Tom Hyland on Campania

VinoWire contributor Tom Hyland shares his recent Campania tasting notes. To subscribe to Tom’s newsletter and to receive his complete tasting notes, send him an email at thwinewriter@comcast.net.

CAMPANIA

MASTROBERARDINO • ATRIPALDA
This winery needs no introduction – this is the most historic winery of Campania and continues to produce beautifully crafted white and red wines from indigenous varieties such as Greco, Fiano and Aglianico.

2007 FIANO DI AVELLINO “RADICI”
Bright yellow with aromas of geranium, pear and lilac. Medium-full with very good concentration. Very good fruit persistence and a well balanced finish with lively acidity. This will improve with some time. Best in 3-5 years. ****

2007 GRECO DI TUFO “NOVA SERRA”
Straw-light yellow with lovely aromas of pear, chamomile and lemon peel. Medium-full with very good concentration. Beautiful texture on the mid-palate and a long finish with excellent fruit persistence and lively acidity and a distinct note of minerality. Best in 3-5 years. ****

2004 TAURASI “RADICI”
This is the winery’s most famous wine; the word Radici means “roots” in Italian and refers to the producer’s dedication to the history and tradition of the grapes of this region. 100% Aglianico. Bright ruby red with aromas of bitter chocolate, spiced cherry and herbal tea. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Lengthy finish with excellent fruit persistence, lively acidity, youthful, but refined tannins and a note of pepper in the finish. Another first-rate bottling of this wine! This should have no problem aging well for 15-20 years and it will probably drink well for a few years after that. *****

Imported by Winebow, Montvale, NJ

VILLA DIAMANTE • MONTEFREDANE

2006 FIANO DI AVELLINO “VIGNA DELLA CONGREGAZIONE”
Medium yellow with intense aromas of chamomile tea, lemon oil, banana peel and orange blossom. Aged entirely in stainless steel. Full-bodied with outstanding concentration. Lengthy finish with excellent fruit persistence, lively acidity and notes of saffron and minerality in the finish. I have tasted the 2005 and now 2006 versions of this wine from this new producer and it is for me the finest bottling of Fiano di Avellino I have ever had. Owner and winemaker Antoine Gaita, a native of Belgium, deserves congratulations for this truly outstanding wine! Best in 5-7 years. *****

2004 AGLIANICO (IGT Irpinia Rosso)
Deep bright ruby red with aromas of bitter chocolate, black cherry and nutmeg. Medium-full with very good concentration. Rich finish with lively acidity and polished tannins. Best in 5-7 years. ****

TERREDORA • MONTEFUSCO

2007 FALANGHINA (Irpinia DOC)
Bright light yellow with aromas of lemon rind, apple peel and magnolias. Medium-bodied with fresh, tasty lemony fruit backed by lively acidity. Clean finish with a note of lemon oil. Enjoy over the next 1-2 years – best fresh. ***

2007 GRECO DI TUFO “LOGGIA DELLA SERRA”
Brilliant, deep yellow with golden tints. Lovely aromas of lemon peel, quince and lillies. Medium-full with very good concentration. Lengthy finish with very good fruit persistence, lively acidity and a light touch of minerality. Nicely styled, this should improve with a bit of time. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ****

2007 FIANO DI AVELLINO “TERRE DI DORA”
Brilliant, deep yellow with golden tints. Lovely aromas of Meyer lemon, magnolia and kiwi. Medium-full with very good concentration. Lengthy finish with very good fruit persistence, vibrant acidity and distinct minerality Very good ripeness and lovely texture. Nicely styled, this should improve with a bit of time. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years – ideal with clams or crab. *****

Imported by Vias Wines, New York, NY

LUIGI MAFFINI • CASTELLABATE

2007 KRATOS
100% Fiano. Deep yellow with aromas of lemon rind, magnolia and a hint of saffron. Medium-full with very good concentration. Nice intensity on the palate and a lengthy finish with excellent fruit persistence and lively acidity. Best in 3-5 years. ****

2006 PIETRAINCATENATA
100% Fiano fermented in new barriques for six months. Deep yellow with a hint of gold. Beautiful aromas of mango, honey, almond and vanilla. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Wonderful complexity. Rich finish with lively acidity. Best in 3-5 years. **** I also tried the 2004 Pietraincatenata with Luigi and was impressed by its spice and intensity. Now-2 or 3 years. *****

2005 CENITO (Cilento DOC)
100% Aglianico. Deep purple with aromas of ripe black cherry, cacao and a hint of tobacco. Medium-full with very good concentration. Youthful tannins that are balanced and good acidity. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. ****

Imported by Panebianco, New York, NY

FEUDI DI SAN GREGORIO • SORBO SERPICO
This is one of Campania’s most visible wineries and one that really changed the face of Campanian winemaking. Recently the winery began production on classical method sparkling wines from local indigenous varieties, Aglianico, Greco and Falanghina. Named DUBL, these are made in conjunction with the noted Champagne producer Jacques Selosses and are very impressive. Overall, this winery had one of the most impressive collections of wine I tasted this year at VinItaly.

2005 DUBL FALANGHINA (Vino Spumante)
Light yellow with aromas of golden apple, pear, lemon peel and biscuit. Medium-full with very good concentration. Lively acidity and very good fruit persistence along with a persistent stream of bubbles. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ***

2005 DUBL AGLIANICO
Bright garnet-strawberry color with a steady stream of bubbles. Aromas of cherry and a hint of pepper. Medium-full with very good concentration. Nice richness and fruit character. Very good fruit persistence and lively acidity. Beautifully styled. Best in 3-5 years. ****

2004 DUBL GRECO
Light yellow with exotic aromas of lemon peel and hyacinth. Medium-bodied with very good concentration. Rich finish with good acidity and a light earthiness. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ***

2007 FALANGHINA “SERROCIELO” (DOC Sannio Falanghina)
This is a new wine for Feudi, a single vineyard Falanghina – the name means “where the sky closes.” Deep yellow with aromas of lemon and white peach. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Rich mid-palate and lovely texture with a long finish with vibrant acidity. This will improve with time – best in 3-5 years. Very impressive! ****

2007 FIANO DI AVELLINO “PIETRACALDA” (DOCG)
Another of Feudi’s most celebrated bottlings, this is Fiano that has been harvested later than normal, but is finished dry. Light yellow with aromas of apricot, white peach and a note of honey. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Layers of flavor on the palate and lovely texture. Big finish with lively acidity and notes of minerality. This is a remarkable example of Fiano di Avellino that is far removed from the winery’s regular bottling in terms of style. This is enjoyable now, but will only improve; it should offer beautiful drinking pleasure for 7-10 years! *****

2007 GRECO DI TUFO “CUTIZZI” (DOCG)
This wine is produced from Greco grapes from the beautiful Cutizzi vineyard in the commune of Santa Paolina. Straw-light yellow with aromas of lemon oil and chamomile. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Generous mid-palate, loads of fresh fruit and lively acidity. Light minerality in the lengthy finish. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. ****

2006 CAMPANARO (IGT Campania Bianco)
A blend of Greco and Fiano grapes. Deep yellow with a touch of gold. Aromas of green tea, chamomile and Macintosh apple. Medium-full with very good concentration. Nice texture on the mid-palate and a lengthy finish with lively acidity and very good fruit persistence. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. ****

2006 ROS’AURA DEL FEUDI (IGT Beneventano Rosato)
100% Aglianico. Deep strawberry color with aromas of strawberry, pear and a light hint of chocolate. Medium-bodied with fresh, tasty cherry fruit. Good fruit persistence and lively acidity. Nicely made – I think that the finest rosés in Italy are made from the Aglianico grape. Enjoy over the next 1-2 years. ***

2005 RUBRATO (IGT Campania Aglianico)
100% Aglianico; as this has not been aged for three years, it cannot be labeled as a Taurasi, thus it is a Campania Aglianico. Beautiful bright ruby red with aromas of black cherry, dark chocolate and caramel. Medium-full with very good concentration. Vibrant acidity, refined tannins and very subtle oak. Nicely styled and well made. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. ****

2000 TAURASI “PIANO DI MONTEVERGINE” (DOCG)
Deep ruby red with aromas of bitter black cherry, raspberry and vanilla. Medium-full to full-bodied with excellent concentration. Layers of flavor with tightly packed fruit and an explosive finish with young tannins, excellent fruit persistence and good acidity. This is a beautiful, rich expression of Taurasi with a great future ahead of it! Best in 12-15 years. *****

2005 SERPICO (IGT Irpinia Aglianico)
100% Aglianico. Bright purple with fruit that just jumps out of the glass – aromas of black cherry, black chocolate and vanilla. Medium-full with very good concentration. Great fruit persistence and young tannins. This needs time, as it is a bit astringent on the finish now, but this will round out and drink beautifully for 7-10 years – perhaps a bit longer. ****

Imported by Palm Bay Imports, Port Washington, NY

MARISA CUOMO – CANTINE GRAN FUROR • FURORE
If only for the work done by this estate, I would rate it at a special Italian winery, but it is the quality of the wines made here that make this one of the country’s finest as well as most distinctive. Marisa Cuomo and her husband Andrea Ferraioli, who serves as winemaker, (see cover photo) have been producing first-rate white, rosé and red wines from their estate in the stunningly gorgeous town of Furore in the Amalfi Coast since 1980. As with most Campanian wine estates, the focus is on indigenous varieties; here the couple works with such rarely seen ones as Biancolella, Fenile and Ginestra as well as the more recognized Aglianico, Piedirosso and Falanghina. These are intensely flavored wines with vibrant acidity and are as good a collection of coastal Campanian wines as there are today. A special thank you to Marisa and Andrea for their continuing work with these remarkable wines!

2007 RAVELLO BIANCO
The couple also purchases grapes from vineyards in the nearby town of Ravello. A blend of 60% Falanghina and 40% Biancolella. Light yellow with aromas of lemon peel, white flowers and pear. Medium-full with very good concentration. Lively acidity and a nicely structured finish with a touch of minerality. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ****

2007 FURORE BIANCO
A blend of 60% Falanghina and 40% Biancolella. Bright yellow with aromas of white peach, lemon oil and white flowers. Medium-full with very good concentration. Excellent fruit persistence and a lengthy finish with lively acidity. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ****

2007 FURORE BIANCO “FIORDUVA”
A blend of 30% Fenile, 30% Ginestra and 40% Ripoli. Deep yellow with exotic aromas of white peach, lemon oil, magnolias, fennel and a note of almond. Medium-full to full-bodied with excellent concentration. Great fruit persistence and a lengthy finish with vibrant acidity and distinct minerality. This is the most celebrated wine from the estate and is one of Italy’s most distinctive whites. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. *****

2007 COSTA D’AMALFI ROSATO
A blend of 60% Aglianico and 40% Piedirosso. Deep garnet/cherry color with aromas of dried herbs and cherry. Medium-full with very good concentration. Dry finish with a distinct earthiness. Enjoy over the next 1-2 years. ***

2007 FURORE ROSSO
A blend of 50% Piedirosso and 50% Aglianico. Deep garnet with aromas of black cherry, licorice and a hint of tobacco. Medium-bodied with good concentration. Earthy finish with tart acidity and soft tannins. Bright, fresh fruit- quite tasty. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. ***

2005 FURORE ROSSO RISERVA
A blend of 50% Piedirosso and 50% Aglianico aged for 12 months in barriques. Deep ruby red with aromas of black cherry, tar, licorice and vanilla. Medium-full with very good to excellent concentration. Nicely structured finish with lively acidity, finely tuned tannins and very good fruit persistence. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. ****

2005 RAVELLO ROSSO RISERVA
A blend of 70% Piedirosso and 30% Aglianico aged in barriques. Aromas of black raspberry, black cherry and violets. Medium-full with excellent concentration. Nicely structured finish with vibrant acidity, polished tannins and notable black spice notes. Delicious fruit and subtle oak. Beautifully styled. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years. *****

Imported by Panebianco, New York, NY

Ezio Rivella: Brunello vote “a disaster”

In an interview published this week by the Italian Sommelier Association (conducted by VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani), enologist Ezio Rivella (left), former director of winemaking for Banfi, has called the results of the recent Brunello vote “a disaster” (on Monday, Oct. 27, Brunello producers voted overwhelmingly not to change appellation regulations and not to allow blending of international grape varieties). The following is an excerpt from the interview. For the entire interview (in Italian), click here.

I believe that there is nothing left to do but cry for Brunello and its future! A disaster has taken place in Montalcino because in these uncertain times, producers did not have the wisdom to envision simple regulations for production. An “elastic appellation” is the only kind that works and all [of Italy’s] appellations should adopt such regulations, whether they are important ones or not, because experience has shown that an elastic appellation is the only one that can combine virtuoso, competitive winemaking and improvement in production quality. Brunello di Montalcino (and Rosso di Montalcino, the spill-over production) should contain at least 85-90% Sangiovese grapes, complemented by other red grapes grown in Montalcino.