Wine humor: an Italian wine walks into Wine Spectator’s top 100 list…

VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani is the author of Vino al Vino, Italy’s top wine blog, where the following editorial appeared yesterday in Italian (translation by VinoWire).

franco zilianiTimes are tough and we all need something to laugh about now and then.

So just sit back and relax because I have a wine joke I’d like to tell you.

The subject is the same one from years past. And it always makes us laugh or at least chuckle since it’s guaranteed to be humorous (just like Berlusconi and his antics). I’m referring to The Wine Spectator’sTop 100: a list of the supposed (I don’t know what else to call them) best, most relevant, and most important wines of the year. The list, as the editors of The Wine Spectator tell it, is based “on quality, value, availability, and excitement.”

The list is supposed to be a classification of wines “not to be missed,” according to the magazine’s editors. It just went online but you have to be a subscriber to view it (and, for the record, I subscribe to the online edition of the magazine, for the occasional laugh)

I’m not here to tell you the wine chosen by The Wine Spectator as the best wine of the year. After all, who really cares? I would, however, like to entertain you with the showing of Team Italy, made up of 19 wines, which, according to the editors, represent the best of our enological output.

Before addressing the list, I’d like you to consider some numbers: of the 19 wines selected, one is Friulian (produced by a winery whose enologist is one of the magazine’s favorites), one is Tyrolean, two are Piedmontese (two bottlings of 2005 Barolo), and no less than 15 are Tuscan, with three bottlings of 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, two Chianti Classico, and nine historic Super Tuscans (of these, two could be labeled as Chianti Classico, Flaccianello della Pieve and Fontalloro), and nine “new” Syrah-based blends or wines made from Sangiovese blended with French grape varieties.

Here they are, for your reading pleasure and genuine entertainment, the top Italian wines according to The Wine Spectator:

5 Chianti Classico 2006 Castello di Brolio
7 Barolo Marcenasco 2005 Ratti
8 Flaccianello della Pieve 2006 Fontodi
10 Toscana Tre 2007 Brancaia
11 Brunello di Montalcino 2004 Poggio il Castellare
13 Fontalloro 2006 Fattoria di Felsina
15 Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2004 Marchesi Frescobaldi
16 Brunello di Montalcino 2004 Uccelliera
27 Giorgio Primo 2007 La Massa
30 Crognolo 2007 Sette Ponti
35 Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 Viticcio
37 Torrione 2007 Petrolo
46 Bolgheri Greppicante 2007 I Greppi
49 Syrah Cortona Il Bosco 2006 Tenimenti D’Alessandro
61 Toscana Monte Antico 2006
70 Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2008 Cantina San Michele Appiano
79 Collio Pinot Grigio 2008 Livio Felluga
80 Non Confunditur Toscana 2007 Argiano
81 Barolo Carobric 2005 Enrico Scavino

The editors assure us that this year, in the light of the economic crisis, they have tried to focus on economically priced wines. What can we say about this list? It surely represents the umpteenth “masterpiece” of a magazine taken seriously only by those who don’t understand anything about wine — a magazine enjoyed solely by xenophiles and provincials who believe that these wines must be trendy and glamorous since “the Americans” say so.

For politeness’s sake, let’s just say that James “Giacomino” Suckling still loves his friends (since he has included no fewer than two wineries located in the province of Arezzo where he resides, Torrione and Sette Ponti, the latter a very good friend of his). Nor are the magazine’s historic friends missing: Marchesi Frescobaldi appears with its 2004 Brunello Castelgiocondo, a wine that neither I nor others find exactly irresistible, and Baron Ricasoli, with his 2006 Chianti Classico, which received 96 points out of 100, with 6,170 cases made, sold at $54 a bottle in America, occupying the fifth place in the gladiatory of the best Italian wines have to offer.

At the same rate, the editors bestow well-deserved praise on the 2004 Brunello by Uccelliera and they pay homage to the ability of Felsina and Fontodi (and their enologist Franco Bernabei) to produce well-made wines that regularly appeal to the magazine’s tastes (one of Italy’s best-kept secrets).

The fact that Renato (Pietro) Ratti’s Barolo Marcenasco (a good wine, nonetheless) is the top Barolo (at seventh place), accompanied solely by Enrico Scavino’s Barolo Carobric, is self-explanatory and gives us another reason not to take seriously the umpteenth example of The Wine Spectator’s lampoonery.

Let’s just let Suckling and his cronies continue to believe that the nobility of Italian wine is owed to these wines (whether it’s a Greppicante, a Greppicaia, or a international-style Chianti Classico made in the Ferrini fashion). Now that we’ve had our laugh over a little wine humor, we can search for truth, emotion, and pleasure in plenty of other Italian wines.

—Franco Ziliani

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13 thoughts on “Wine humor: an Italian wine walks into Wine Spectator’s top 100 list…

  1. Pingback: An Italian wine walks into a bar… « Do Bianchi

  2. Wow, Franco, this is hard on the poor Giacomino.
    But now, what would really interested me is yout list of say, the 20 best wines from Italy. After all, why not ask a native? By the way, why do American and British magazines about wine only employ American or British journalists? The original ideas of a native are often more interesting, and surely a good translation can be supplied.

  3. It simply doesn’t say these are the “best” wines from any country, let alone Italy. The ranking is based on several critieria, one of which is availability. What’s the point of awarding the top place to a wine produced in a 200-case quantity? Nobody can find it and nobody cares. This is a list of wines that can be found nearly world-wide. In this case, their scale is their relevance.

  4. How wonderful that someone has let America in on the cronyism and poor palate that underlies Suckling’s reviews of Italian wine. As an American who makes a Chianti Classico that gets raves from the top Italian reviewers and almost all American reviewers, I quit asking WS and JS to review our wines when I saw once too often the highest praise he can bestow on an Italian wine — “it tastes like a good Bordeaux.”

  5. Franco is right to point out the vagaries of this list. Why only 2 wines from PIemonte and so many from Tuscany? And where are the wines from Campania, Abruzzo, Puglia, Sicily or other regions?

    I’m guessing that Suckling doesn’t think these regions are sexy enough (or good enough) for his list. It’s just not very representative, is it?

  6. Agree. Suckling is missing the boat by not including more 2005 Barolos. These wines should dominate the list and don’t because he has cronies that supply him wine and he doesn’t want that gravy train to dry up.

  7. Pingback: Gourmets of Wine

  8. Here are my comments from a German perspective;

    There is a distinct disconnect between the Top 100 Wine Enthusiast lists and what the two leading German wine guides – Gault Millau and Eichelmann – say. This should not come as a surprise. Different markets are assessed. What counts for the German wine guides is what is produced and consumed in Germany. What counts for the Wine Enthusiast is what comes to the American market and is consumed in the US. And there is a huge difference between the two.
    Take Ernst Loosen’s Dr. L. A hugely popular German wine in the US, which made it to the Top 100 Wine Spectator list this year, one of two German wines. The Loosen wine is very well regarded in the US, but unheard of in Germany. When you go to the web site of the Dr. Loosen Estate in Germany, you will not find it. A wine, produced only for the export market. A Top 100 wine in the US, an unknown wine in Germany. In general, Dr. Ernst Loosen is a rising star in the US, hugely popular, while in Germany the Estate has just been downgraded in the Gault Millau Guide.

  9. Bottom line is that if you want something special you will have to go out for yourself. As for Italy, the famous regions produce the most boring overprized ‘wine’ you can imagine very few exceptions there. The status of those wine is based on (to) old stories.

  10. For the Piemonte lovers, here’s a list of unforgettable wines I have tasted last year of producers worth seeking out:

    Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda 1970: with Franco Massolino at Casa di Saracca in Monforte d’Alba. Thanks Franco! No more words required…

    Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda 1985: lives up to all you expect from a top Barolo of a top producer in a top year!

    Massolino Barolo Margheria 2001: one of my favourite crus in the region.

    Cavallotto Barolo riserva Bricco Boschis vigna San Giuseppe 1999: a mouth full, but if you can still get some bottles, don’t hesitate! Sometimes, the Cavallotto’s bring it all with this cru!

    Bruno Giacosa Barolo riserva Rocche dell Falletto 1999: this is why Bruno is legendary among the real connoisseurs.

    Poderi Marcarini Barolo Brunate 1971: Oh Lord, what a heavenly night at Alessio’s winebar under the Castle of Serralunga! A few weeks later I went back for a second bottle! They are an Island in La Morra with macerations on the skin of up to 45 days! Yes, the wines of Marcarini need some time to develop, but when most others are fading, they will bring the thunder.

    From the barrel in 2008: Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino 2001 and 2002. Also Barolo Cascina Francia 2004 and 2005.

    Most consistent producers for me: Massolino and Giacomo Conterno. They also happen to have my favourite barbera’s. The Gisep from Massolino and Cascina Francia from Conterno.

    Best Dolcetto lately: the unique Boschi di Berri from Marcarini! Original, European rootstocks! No second dolcetto like this one. Big fan also of Bruno Chionetti’s dolcetto’s at Il Colombo.

    And if you go to Tuscany, treat yourself to the wines of Fossacolle. Small is beautiful!

    Yours,

    Bart

  11. Pingback: NEWSFETCH - March 29, 2010 - | Wine Industry Insight

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