Friday, 30 October 2015

Poggio al Gello in Gambero Rosso

Gambero Rosso's annual publication of Italian wines is regarded as the authoritative guide to the country's wines covering all regions. For over 25 years, a selection of the best cellars are reviewed and their wines rated and, more important, commented on. Ratings are, famously, one to three glasses with the coveted Tre Bicchieri keenly fought over. Piedmont regularly comes out top in the Tre Bicchieri round-up with Tuscany close behind.

From our list of suppliers, many are too small to be on the radar of the Gambero Rosso team although Fabrizio Battaglino has been a regular for the last few years. It is very surprising that Nada Giuseppe hasn't made it in yet but Cantina Rizzi's entry is well-deserved as is that of Giovanni Manzone. I would not be surprised if others find their way in soon.

In Tuscany, we currently only work with two estates, one from just outside Volterra, a terribly unfashionable area for wine-growing although Alberto Antonini clearly thinks it has great potential. The other estate is Poggio al Gello in Montecucco.

Today I received an excited email from Alda and Giorgio: they have made it into Gambero Rosso with Due Bicchieri for both the Rosso and Riserva - the Rosso made it to the finals, no mean feat for such a young estate with an output of a mere 20,000 bottles!

The range comprises four wines, one only just released so we have not yet tasted it and one already sold out so we have just the Rosso 2010 and Riserva 2011 wines in stock for now. Anyone who enjoys Brunello di Montalcino but doesn't like the price tag would be well advised to take a look at these excellent Sangiovese wines.

Our congratulations go to Alda and Giorgio, of course. And to our readers, we suggest you check out the wines if you have not already done so - Fantastico!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

More from Barbaresco - Cantina Rizzi

In a year when I have posted very little, I am now doing my impersonation of a fleet of buses - here is post number two!

It boils down to excitement over a new estate for the list: Cantina Rizzi in Treiso is one of the top estates in Barbaresco, one which, if googled, might actually reveal some professional critiques. Much of this is down to the sheer size of the estate which, at around 90 acres, must surely be one of the largest in Barbaresco but quality obviously plays a major part too.

I read about them when a friend handed me a copy of Kerin O'Keefe's Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wines (well worth reading if you like Nebbiolo) which includes chapters on each of the communes in both denominations and profiles a small number of recommended estates from each. In Treiso, it was pleasing to see Nada Giuseppe included (especially given its relatively small size) but I was intrigued by the write up of Rizzi so I had to go along to take a closer look.

What I found was a brother-sister team of great charm and a selection of wines to match. Inevitably the highlights were the Barbaresco wines, especially those from the fabulous 2011 vintage (of which Nervo and Pajore were among the very best of all Barbaresco wines I have encountered) but I was also rather struck by a late harvested Moscato.

First, a 2013 Nebbiolo revealed excellent potential and showed great improvement over the few minutes it was in my glass. Fresh and fragrant, it had spent one year in Slovenian oak after its fermentation in stainless steel. Quite tight still and tannic but only bottled three months earlier.

The first Barbaresco was the 2011 Rizzi which was very expressive, still quite chewy with its potential already evident. Good weight, not too tannic with spicy fruit.

More elegant and with finer aromatics, perhaps because of the sandier soils, is the 2011 Barbaresco Nervo which offers lovely sweet fruits and floral characters with long tannins which keep the wine going on and on. A lovely wine in the making.

The 2011 Barbaresco Pajore (pronounced Pie-ore-ay) comes from one of the denomination's very best vineyard sites with more marl in the soil near the village of Barbaresco and it shows. Spicier, more structured, more balsamic in its flavours with quite close tannins. In time this will be a majestic Barbaresco, worthy of its crown.

2010s were all very good but, frankly, the class of the 2011 vintage really shone through, even with the 2010 Barbaresco Riserva Boito, from a vineyard adjacent to Rizzi which was certainly very fine with great length. I will look forward to tasting this in the 2011 vintage!

Needless to say, with my sweet tooth, I loved 'Frimaio', a Vendemio Tardivo from 2009 from pure Moscato. Forget your preconceptions and step into the glass!

Grasso Fratelli make it big

Forgive the pun in the title but the Grasso brothers have had a couple of top ratings this year which I want to share, not least because I have just ordered some for the UK market (inevitably).

Last time I visited them, I was impressed, as always, by the Barbarescos but there was a new one, a 2008 Riserva, which really hit the spot. So it was no surprise to learn it had been awarded the Decanter Regional Trophy for Red Piedmont wines over £15 in the DWWA 2015:

'A wonderful example of its type with a broad, spicy nose of ripe red fruit, spice, wild strawberry jam, cassis and liquorice. Fine in body with a plush but elegant palate bursting with juicy, ripe fruit and a long, velvety, warm finish.'

An impressive wine! I have tried it three times now and have found it more pleasurable each time as the tannins soften and the fruit develops - slowly - its secondary characters. One to hide at the back of the cellar.

For more immediate enjoyment, the brothers' 2014 Dolcetto is a winner. Lots of really good fruit here, this is a wine to enjoy over the next two or three years:

'A basket full of summer berries and grapes with mint, blackcurrant and anise characters. Round and fresh and juicy with positive herbal notes, harmonious tannins and acidity and a long finish.' 90+/100 (Decanter, September 2015)

One more, although not in Decanter (yet): lastr year I bought some of the brothers' interesting three-grape blend, an unusual diversion for them, called Trej This is a play on words: short for Treiso where the estate is located; also tre is Italian for three, the number of varieties which are Nebbiolo (60%), Dolcetto and Barbara (20% each). It is a lovely rounded wine, fabulous value, drinking exceptionally well now. Anyone who wants to know what Piedmont is all about should look no further than this!