The world of Italian wine embraces Roberto Voerzio

In the world of Barolo, Langa, and the entire world of Italian wine, Roberto Voerzio remains an undisputed shining star and one of its most free-spirited and authentic figures.

Today, that world warmly embraces Roberto and his son Davide and stands by them in solidarity.

Terrible grief has struck — perhaps the cruelest of all — in the home of this great vigneron of La Morra.

After a long illness, his wife Pinuccia died on Sunday. His friend and life-long companion, his tireless supporter in a thousand adventures, a splendid, smiling person who will always be remembered happily in the hearts of those who had the good fortune to know her.

May the earth rest lightly on you and may you rest in peace, Pinuccia.

A memorial service will be held today at 4 p.m. in La Morra.

—Franco Ziliani

Suckling to join Gambero Rosso editorial staff

According to a statement published today on the Gambero Rosso website and signed by Paolo Cuccia, president of Gambero Rosso holding, ex-Wine Spectator editor for Europe and Italian wine specialist James Suckling will soon be joining the Gambero Rosso editorial staff as “collaborator.”

The statement, viewable only to site-registrants, was reposted today by the popular Italian wine blog Intravino.

The news comes in the wake of the Gambero Rosso’s announcement Friday that long-time editor and co-founder of the Guide to the Wines of Italy Daniele Cernilli will be stepping down from his position, his name appearing on the 2011 guide for the last time.

Cernilli leaves Gambero Rosso publishing group

Above: Soon-to-be former editor of the Gambero Rosso Guide to the Wines of Italy, Daniele Cernilli, one of the “50 most powerful” names in the wine industry, according to Decanter, pictured with his wife Marina Thompson, owner of Thompson Wine Marketing (photo via Christian Callec).

According to a report published Friday by, Daniele Cernilli has parted ways with the Gambero Rosso publishing group, whose flagship Guide to the Wines of Italy was co-founded by him in 1987.

The report of the powerful however controversial editor confirms widespread rumors that began to circulate in the blogosphere mid-December 2010.

Cernilli’s tenure as editor of the now historic guide coincided with the emergence and subsequent popularity of “modern-style” wines and international grape varieties. Although in recent years, the editors of the guide have taken steps to give more coverage traditional-style wines made with indigenous Italian grape varieties, observers of the Italian wine industry generally agree that Cernilli’s tastes and editorial philosophy played a significant role in the rise of the “international style” as a dominant force in Italian winemaking today.

In 2009, Decanter named Cernilli in its list of the 50 most powerful persons in the wine industry. According to the report by, the masthead of the Guide to the Wines of Italy will list Cernilli as its direttore (editor-in-chief) for both the 2010 and 2011.

Cernilli was highly criticized in 2008 when the founder of the Gambero Rosso trademark and publishing group, Stefano Bonilli, was ousted by an as-of-yet unnamed investor who took control of the brand that year and installed Cernilli at the helm of Italy’s most powerful wine guide.

The relationship between Cernilli, the Gambero Rosso brand, and a public relations firm owned by Cerilli’s wife Marina Thompson, Thompson Wine Marketing, has also been criticized by VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani who has written extensively about the apparent conflict of interest created by the “marriage” of a critical guide and PR firm. (Ziliani’s observations were translated in part here at VinoWire.)

Tuscan en primeur tastings 2011: Submission to Organisers (editorial)

Dear Organisers of the 2011 en primeur tastings of Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino,

We thank you for the invitation to participate in the tastings, from February 15 to 19, of the new releases of your wines.

It is always a pleasure, for those of us who do not live in Tuscany, to return there from all parts of the world, and for those of us who do live there to attend these by now classic tastings.

We look forward to several tiring but rewarding days of tasting, days to which we undertake to devote our full commitment and professionalism. However, the number of samples to be tasted are many (even though, most regrettably, a growing number of important producers decline to submit their wines), and the time available for tasting is much reduced compared with previous years.

In Florence, for example, during the second day of the Chianti Classico tasting, it will no longer be possible to taste the samples seated, with sommelier service, but we will be obliged to tour round the producers’ tables.

In Montalcino, indeed, we are asked to sacrifice a substantial section of the time available to attend an interesting meeting on “150 years of Italy, 150 years of Brunello”, in which “many protagonists of the production of wine in Italy and in Montalcino” will be participating.

We are thus constrained to make a choice between tasting (which after all is the principal motive for our presence in Montalcino) and the presentation. The same dilemma presents itself on Saturday 19th, when at 11:00 we will have to interrupt our tasting (in which we will have been engaged only since 9:30) to attend the Teatro degli Astrusi for “an indepth examination of the 2010 vintage”.

What can be done about this? It will obviously be difficult (though not impossible), now that the programmes have been printed, to make changes, such as delaying the Montalcino presentations until later in the afternoon, or, in Florence, or to allow us to continue tasting seated at tables during the second day of the Chianti Classico Collection.
We the undersigned, however, without wishing to create problems, would like to hope that you will succeed in finding some solution.

Juancho Asenjo, Nicolas Belfrage, Riccardo Farchioni, Roberto Giuliani, Carlo Macchi, Gian Luca Mazzella, Kyle Phillips, Eckhard Supp, Stefano Tesi, Franco Ziliani.

Montalcino producers expected to approve change to Rosso regulations

Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino producers are expected to approve proposed changes to the Rosso di Montalcino DOC, allowing for the use of up to 15% of red grape varieties other than Sangiovese.

If the new verbiage is approved, producers will be able to produce Rosso di Montalcino using a “minimum of 85% and up to 100% Sangiovese grapes. In the production of the above-mentioned wine, red grape varieties suitable for cultivation in the Region of Tuscany can play a role up to a maximum of 15%.”

Shaking it up: 2 bottlings of Prosecco Colfòndo

The following tasting notes were posted today by VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani on his blog devoted to Italian sparkling wine, Le Mille Bolle. The wines were tasted in November 2010.

The first wine proudly reported “Asolo DOCG” on its label, a designation that we often forget to mention we talk about Prosecco DOCG and we lazily limit ourselves to Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. It’s produced by a winery called Bele Casel, which also makes “canonical” Prosecco. But Luca Ferraro, a young wine blogger who’s not afraid of controversial wine blogging, has been bringing a new and youthful energy to his family’s winery. It was Luca who organized the first official and much blogged-about tasting of Prosecco Colfòndo producers, wineries that make traditional- and ancestral-style lees-aged, bottle-fermented Prosecco, in November 2010.

This wine was made from a selection of old vineyards in the township of Maser (just east of Asolo), not far from the winery’s facilities in Caerano San Marco in the province of Treviso. The same growing sites provide the fruit for the company’s vintage-dated Prosecco. The quality of the grapes is what gives the wine its structure and intense flavor, according to the winemaker, who uses cultured (as opposed to native) yeasts for this wine (a fact that may trouble purist lovers of Prosecco).

The was served to me by Luca only after he vigorously shook the bottle. While the other producers stored their bottles upright and still before removing the crown cap, Luca served his cloudy because “the yeasts are part of the wine” and their presence and active nature is a key element in the tasting experience. Every bottle, he said, will tend to be slightly different.

There’s not much to say about the visual impact of the wine: the colfondisti, as they call themselves, like their wines cloudy! The nose was dense, warm, and ripe, with intriguing citrus and orange flower notes, with the expected hints of bread crust and yeast. As the wine evolved in the glass, apricot and peach began to emerge in a variegated medley of aromas that did not fail to impress. In the mouth, the wine was smooth and bight, full-bodied, rich, warm, seductive, with a surprisingly “fat” texture, true substance, insistent and flavorful on the palate.

The next wine was produced at the San Rocco winery by Riccardo Zanotto, founder of Selezione Zanotto, a small retailer of artisanal wines, charcuterie, and cheeses. When he’s not aging salamis, Riccardo makes wines from 100% Glera (Prosecco) grown in hills with glacial moraine and calcareous subsoils.

No addition of yeast here. This wine was much “clearer” than the previous one tasted, with straw-yellow and greenish tones, lively and bright. The nose was entirely different: incisive, nervy, fresh, with taut elegance and delightful notes of grapefruit and citrus that dominated a certain floral quality.

The wine’s stony backbone and energy commanded the taster’s attention, as did its depth, a fantastic snapshot of the appellation and style (bottled at the end of March in the same year). The clean flavors of this wine are a testament to the meticulous attention to detail and the vision of a winemaker ever mindful of the wine’s drinkability.

VinoWire editors Franco Ziliani and Jeremy Parzen will be attending a second gathering of Colfòndo producers later this month. Stay tuned.