When it comes to Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2000, Suckling and I agree.

Ringing, brilliant ruby red in color, with excellent intensity and just a light and subtle hint of garnet. Compact, warm, elegant nose, lively and juicy, very open and deep, with juicy and fruity notes of raspberry and currant, speckles of licorice, brush, tar, brandied prunes, wilted rose petal, hints of tobacco, leather and spice. These aromas come together to shape a clean, fine, and vivid sweetness.

Magnificence in the mouth from the first sip! Warm, velvety tannins that caress the palate with their sweetness. Juicy, lively fruit, with impressive depth and excellent articulation, multi-dimensional, rich, flavorful, scanned by a perfectly balanced acidity. The flavors dance to the rhythm of the wine’s elegance, backbone, and the flawless equilibrium of all its components. All together, the flavors give this wine a classically delightful immediacy, making it easy to understand (not a sign of simplicity but rather of complexity and greatness, conveyed and delivered to anyone who approaches this reserve Barbaresco). This wine does not challenge you. It makes feel comfortable as it invites you to interact with it and tells you its moving stories.

With some consternation, I realize that I find my notes to be in perfect alignment with Suckling’s: “Decadent. Starts with wonderfully fresh aromas of sliced plum, cedar, tobacco and meat, then evolves into floral and strawberry aromas. Full-bodied, with ultrafine, silky tannins and gloriously fresh, bright fruit. The refined finish goes on and on. One of the greatest wines ever from Bruno Giacosa. Best after 2008. 1,165 cases made. 98/100.” When it comes to outstanding wines like this (a true masterpiece), it can happen that you find yourself agreeing with those who have diametrically opposed views on wine. Damn, what a Giacosa!

— Franco Ziliani

To read Franco’s entire post on the night this wine was opened and tasted, click here (in Italian).

Italy legislature weighs zero tolerance ban on alcohol for drivers

According to proposed legislation, Italians would no longer be allowed to consume any alcohol before operating a car. Even one glass of wine would take a driver over the legal limit.

    Under a bipartisan bill being discussed by the Chamber of Deputies transport committee, the legal blood-alcohol limit would be lowered to 0.2%, or 0.2 grammes of alcohol per litre of blood.

    ”If you drink you don’t drive and if you drive you don’t drink: that must be the rationale of the bill to prevent repeated murders by drunk-drivers,” said committee chairman Mario Valducci.

    The current legal level for driving in Italy is 0.5%, the same as in France, Germany and Spain and already lower than the United Kingdom’s 0.8%.

    Sanctions for drunk-drivers would become harsher under the bill, with an initial six-month driving licence confiscation that could be made permanent in the event of repeat offences. Valducci said the possibility of applying the 0.2% blood-alcohol limit only to certain age groups was also under examination.

    Source: Ansa.it

Across Italy, pundits and bloggers are calling the proposed legislation “neo-prohibitionism” and some claim that the impact on restaurants and wine tourism will be devastating. Proponents of the legislation note that “random roadside alcohol checks” will not be as frequent as in France, for example, where 10 million motorists are stopped at check points each year. In Italian, only 1 million would be stopped annually at check points if the legislation is approved.

Giacomo Tachis proposes abolition of Italian appellation system

Legendary Italian winemaker Giacomo Tachis made waves in the Italian eno-blogosphere this week when he suggested that the Italian wine appellation system should be overhauled or even abandoned.

“It’s time to open our minds because the appellations are balderdash,” said the creator of some of Italy’s most famous cult wines, using a more colorful word in an interview granted to WineNews.it. The appellations in the Italian system, observed the “babbo del Sassicaia” or father of Sassicia, were “invented by someone who does not understand wine… I, myself, contributed to the expansion [of the appellation system] when I understood less about wine.”

When asked whether or not the Italians should borrow from the French system, Tachis responded “dryly”: “we have nothing to learn from the French… We were the ones who brought Cabernet Sauvignon to France. So, what can we learn from them? We need to use our brains more and be more realistic than the French.”

Opinion: Ziliani responds to Matthews and Wine Spectator

The following translation is an excerpt of Franco Ziliani’s response to Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews, posted December 8, 2008.

How can one respond to the simpatico executive editor? They can make all the clarifications they want. They can reassure us that all the tastings are rigorously carried out “blind”; that no editor, not even “Giacomino” would dream of favoring “friends” or punishing “enemies”; that they have 2.6 million readers (and I don’t doubt those readers’ intelligence but I do wonder about their capacity for critical thought). Their readership does not doubt that the editors of the Wine Spectator are impassioned experts who aim to inform and educate. But the scores and the rankings are what they are. They are clear and evident and they negate the very suppositions being defended here.

One the one hand, Suckling gives a ridiculous and shameful 78/100 to a fantastic Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2001 by Case Basse, noting that it “Smells like day-old tea, with stewed tangerine. Full-bodied, with lots of fruit and a chewy texture, but turns hard and uninviting. Volatile. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. JS.” And a 68/100 to the same wine from the 2000 vintage: “Turpentine remover, with a wet wool undertone. Has lots of ripe fruit underneath. This is better on the palate, with ripe plum flavors, round tannins and a funky finish. Not right. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. JS.”

On the other, he gives 97/100 to Marchesi Frescobaldi’s Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo Ripe al Convento Riserva 2001: “Aromas of blackberry, licorice and tar. Full-bodied, with silky tannins, great mouthfeel and a caressing finish that’s long and exciting. Builds and builds on the palate. Very close to the legendary 1997. Best after 2010. 2,200 cases made. JS.” And 94/100 to Brunello di Montalcino Luce della Vite 2003 made by the same company: “Big and powerful for the vintage. Full-bodied, with loads of ripe fruit that turns to black pepper and sultana, with smoky oak and dark chocolate. Very long and opulent. On the edge of being too much, but it’s impressive. A debut Brunello from this estate and one of the best of the vintage. Best after 2011. 850 cases made. JS.”

There are two possibilities here: either Suckling does not understand much about wine (as many have suspected) or Suckling does not provide useful information to his readers. Objectively, he is serving as publicist for companies that would be hard not to define as his “friends” and wineries for whom he is ever at the ready to cater to their commercial interests.

I kindly ask Thomas Matthews: did Wine Spectator and Marvin Shanken Communications ever wonder if their coverage of Italy and its wines — overseen by James Suckling for too long — could end up being more harmful than profitable?

Kindest regards, Franco Ziliani

Opinion: Matthews and Wine Spectator respond to Ziliani

The following comment was submitted to VinoWire over the weekend by Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews, who was responding to an editorial (“The best that Enotria has to offer? Relfections on the Wine Spectator Top 100”) by VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani. VinoWire will publish a translation of Franco’s response tomorrow.

I would like to add three comments to Franco Ziliani’s post about Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of 2008.

1. The wines selected are not the “best” of the year, as measured strictly by score; they are chosen because of their combination of quality, value, availability and excitement. For this reason, many excellent wines (including some of Ziliani’s favorites) are excluded.

2. All wines reviewed by Wine Spectator are evaluated in blind tastings (unless explicitly noted otherwise). Neither James Suckling nor any other editor can favor “friends” or punish “enemies.” Ziliani may disagree with our judgments, but he has no grounds to criticize our ethics.

3. Wine Spectator has been publishing for 32 years; according to independent research, we have 2.6 million readers. Are all these people stupid? Or do they recognize that our editors are passionate about wine, fair and experienced, and aim to educate wine consumers about wines, wine producers and the life of wine? Wine Spectator is working to broaden the world of wine. We welcome honest debate, and urge wine drinkers to sample widely, consider all sources of information, and judge for yourselves.

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator