A complete list of DOCGs?

As the world of Italian wine prepares to gather at Vinitaly, Vini Veri, and VinNatur later this week, the editors of VinoWire were thrilled to see an up-to-date posting of DOCGs by Alfonso Cevola, Italian Wine Director for Glazers, Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News, and author of On the Wine Trail in Italy and The Blend.

Click here for the Italian Agriculture Ministry’s most recently updated list (December 2008).

The following list appears in Alfonso Cevola’s post The Best Italian DOCG list?

Complete Listing of Italian DOCG Wines (as of March 2009): 44

Abruzzo (1)
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Colline Teramane”

Campania (3)
Fiano di Avellino
Greco di Tufo

Emilia Romagna (1)
Albana di Romagna

Friuli-Venezia Giulia (2)
Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit

Lazio (1)
Cesanese del Piglio

Lombardia (5)
Oltrepo Pavese
Sforzato della Valtellina
Valtellina Superiore
Moscato di Scanzo (new)

Marche (2)
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona

Piemonte (12)
Asti spumante – Moscato d’Asti
Barbera d’Asti
Barbera del Monferrato Superiore
Barolo (Chinato, as well, falls under this DOCG)
Brachetto D’Acqui o Acqui
Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore o Dogliani
Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore
Gavi o Cortese di Gavi

Sardegna (1)
Vermentino di Gallura

Sicilia (1)
Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Toscana (8)
Brunello di Montalcino
Chianti Classico
Elba Aleatico Passito (new)
Morellino di Scansano
Vernaccia di S.Gimignano
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Umbria (2)
Montefalco Sagrantino
Torgiano Rosso Riserva

Veneto (5)
Bardolino Superiore
Recioto di Gambellara
Recioto di Soave
Soave Superiore
Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Colli Asolani (new)

New from Sicilia: Three top-notch Nero d’Avola, beautiful Frappato, and a great new Chardonnay.

Left: Giusto Occhipinti, owner of COS and Occhipinti. VinoWire contributor Tom Hyland, author of Reflections on Wine, just returned from Sicily.

I have been in Sicily for the en premeur tastings for the last three days, combining winery visits with producer tastings. A few words on the best wines I have tasted…

To date, the only competition for “Best Sicilian Chardonnay” has been between the Planeta and Tasca d’Almerita bottlings, both oak-aged wines. Now comes the 2007 “Nakone” from the brand new estate of Tenuta di Fessina. This estate is located near Mount Etna and will be specializing in the gorgeous reds from this district, but this first release of Chardonnay is superb! From a vineyard at 600 meters elevation in western Sicily, this is aged only in stainless steel and displays lovely aromas of pear and quince. Medium-full with beautiful texture, precise acidity and light minerality, this is reminiscent of a Premier Cru Chablis. It’s hard to believe this is from Sicilly — what beautiful fruit and what excellent winemaking by Federico Curtaz!

There are many examples of ripe, fat, forward bottlings of Nero d’Avola and while they are flashy wines, too many taste alike. Three that I can single out for balance, richness and complexity are the 2006 Planeta “Santa Ceclila,” the best bottling of this wine in years, the 2005 Baglio di Pianetto “Cemboli,” which has pinpoint aciidty and remarkable restraint and finesse and the 2007 COS “Nero di Lupo,” which is so far removed from the super ripe style of Nero d’Avola that is to often seen these days (no doubt styled to win high scores in a few wine publications). This has extremely supple tannins and is about as varietally pure a Nero d’Avola as you will ever find.

Speaking of COS, owner Giusto Occhipinti hosted a vertical tasting of his regular Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the classic southern Sicilian red that is a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato. This is a charming wine with soft tannins and zippy cherry and raspberry fruit. But in the hands of Occhipinti, this wine becomes a completely different experience. We tasted a 1995 bottling that had deep strawberry color and wonderful dried cherry and srawberry fruit with beautiful acidity. You’d never guess a 14 year-old Cerasuolo could show much life, but this one did.

Occhipinti also showed a 100% Frappato from 2007 that offered lovely cherry and currant fruit with a hint of oregano. Medium-full, the tannins are extremely light and there is refreshing acidity. What a beautiful bottling and what a nice example of the simple pleasures of the best Sicilian wines!

—Tom Hyland

CMO Reforms: Eurobureaucrats, please block the growth of DOCs before we lose count!

By now, even children know that as of August 1, 2009, the CMO (Common Market Organisation) wine reforms will transform our DOCs, DOCGs, and IGTs into PDOs and PGIs (even though they will not change the names we are accustomed to using for our appellations).

For some useful links on Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and the status of CMO reforms, click here and here.

And everyone knows that the ability to issue new appellations (which have increased to an astronomical 470 in number) will pass from the Comitato Nazionale Vini (National Wine Committee) in Rome to Brussels.

In the meantime, we can expect that this passage of power will put an end to era that brought about an unhindered and counterproductive proliferation of appellations in Italy.

In the light of new regulation, although the current number of appellations should not be reduced (even though they could be regrouped), they should not be increased. Eurobureaucrats should adopt more rigorous and less “generous” criteria for the issuance of new appellations. And the Comitato Nazionale Vini and president Giuseppe Martelli should makes its evaluation of new appellation requests more selective and severe before sending them from Italy’s regional committees to Brussels.

What’s happening during these last days that separate us from the “fateful day” of August 1, 2009? We have been gripped by a “Last Days of Pompeii” attitude and instead of requesting modifications of existing appellation regulations before reforms take effect, requests for new appellations are being submitted with an urgency that would have seemed dubious even under the ancien régime.

Eurobureaucrats, save us before we drown in DOCs, DOCGs, and IGTs!

—Franco Ziliani

Charles Scicolone: 2004 “the best Brunello Banfi has ever produced”

VinoWire contributor emeritus Charles Scicolone filed the following note last week based on his tasting of Banfi 2004 Brunello di Montalcino at Vino 2009 in New York City in January 2009. Widely recognized as one of the leading U.S. authorities on Italian wine, Charles is the author of Charles Scicolone on Wine.

Brunello di Montalcino 2004 Banfi

The wine was earthy and minerally with fruit and tannin that will make it age well. There were hints of black fruit and violets. It had good body and structure. It seemed like classical Brunello to me, very traditional. The best Brunello that Banfi has ever produced.

—Charles Scicolone

Gambero Rosso and Slow Food officially sever ties

In a press release issued yesterday, Gambero Rosso and Slow Food have announced that the two publishers have severed ties and that Gambero Rosso will be the sole editor of the guide to the Wines of Italy:

    Gambero Rosso’s president Paolo Cuccia and Slow Food Italia’s president Roberto Burdese have consensually decided to end their partnership in the production of the guide Vini d’Italia [Wines of Italy]. Their collaboration lasted more than 20 years (22 editions were published, beginning with the first, released in November 1987).

    The guide will continue to be published by Gambero Rosso, who owns the masthead, while Slow Food will devote itself to new projects devoted to wine, including a new guide that will see the light of day in 2010 (in the fall of 2009, the new edition of the Guida al Vino Quotidiano [Guide to Wines for Every Day] will be released as planned).

Gambero Rosso and Slow Food “divorce” expected

According to corporate blogger Francesco Arrigoni (whose blog appears on the Italian national daily newspaper Corriere della Sera website), official news of historic Italian publishing partners Gambero Rosso and Slow Food’s divorce is expected soon. Gambero Rosso director Daniele Cernili and Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini first published the landmark Vini d’Italia (guide to the wines of Italy) in 1987. Rumors of a split have circulated since September 2008, when Gambero Rosso founder Stefano Bonilli was abruptly dismissed by Gambero Rosso. Bonilli’s departure followed acquisition of the publisher by an as-of-yet unnamed investor (Italian publishing mogul and owner of the Castellare winery in Chianti Paolo Panerai and the Italian wine group Zonin have both been rumored to be the new owner, although both have publicly denied the claim). Gambero Rosso’s recent financial woes and the acrimonious departure of one of its top bloggers Massimo Bernardi (once author of the popular corporate blog Kelablu) have also fueled speculation of internal troubles. Slow Food is expected to announce the launch of a new guide to Italian wines, to be published separately from its current guide to “daily” and “well-priced” Italian wines.

Franco Ziliani on 2004 Brunello: “not as good as expected”

In the wake of the annus horribilis 2008, there was great anticipation among wine lovers and observers at Benvenuto Brunello — the first official outing for the new vintage 2004. The event, held on February 20 and 21, was a memorable moment for a number of reasons. The vintage had been given the maximum rating of five stars and there was no hiding the desire to turn the page after last year’s controversy and let the wine and its excellence speak for Montalcino.

The tasting was exhausting: roughly 170 wines were sampled, including vintage and single-vineyard bottlings of Brunello. Too many wines to taste in the time allotted and tasting conditions were less than ideal: the new wines had not had sufficient time to age in bottle. Even in best case scenario, my impression was that this is a difficult vintage to assess. It still needs a great deal of time to express itself fully. In the worst case, it seemed an over-rated vintage, in which only a minority of producers were able to present wines that lived up to such high expectations.

On the eve of the event, the president of the Brunello di Montalcino producers association presented 2004 Brunello as “a wine defined by its great elegance.” But I found traces of such boldly wielded “elegance” only in a small minority of sampled wines. What is an “elegant” wine? In my opinion, it is a wine that combines components of complexity, refinement, and harmony. It is a wine that shows balance, ample expressiveness, and richness of nuance, and ultimately gives such pleasure that it can called important and “classy.”

In the case of Brunello di Montalcino (and Brunello is not just any wine), even when it is there, greatness cannot but be translated as unbridled youth in this phase of its evolution. Currently, the wine is angular and to some extent imbalanced, with excessive tannin. At this stage, greatness is expressed in an ability to show natural aptitude for improvement over time thanks to its potential for evolution. Save for a small minority of wines (I would say no more than 30-40 of 150), there were very few traces of elegance, complexity, and aging capacity and an ability to improve over time in the majority of wines sampled.

For the most part, these were simple wines. It would be a stretch to foresee long life or the possibility of improvement with time. In many cases, the wines lacked meatiness and structure and were too elementary, of a caliber more in line with Rosso di Montalcino than with Brunello. There was little evidence to back the notion that 2004 will be remembered as a great vintage — let alone a “five-star” vintage.

There were also genuine examples of how the 2004 vintage allowed many producers to create wines with remarkable complexity, multi-dimensional and multi-faceted wines, distinct wines with powerful tannic structure, wines endowed with potential for evolution, wines worthy of the fame of Brunello: Il Colle, Fuligni, Gianni Brunelli, Lisini, Sesta di Sopra, Uccelliera, Le Macioche, Col d’Orcia, Il Poggione, Pietroso, Mastrojanni, Capanna, San Giacomo, Sesti, Tenuta Le Potazzine, Caprili, and San Lorenzo. There were others tasted at collateral events, like Fonterenza, Pian dell’Orino, Salicutti, and Stella di Campalto. And 2004 Biondi Santi and Soldera, tasted privately. But even in a memorable vintage like 2004, with so many disappointing wines (the majority really), should we really be proudly yelling “great vintage”?

—Franco Ziliani