Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Italian Wine Masters Tasting 2/8/11

Tasting Extravaganza continues this week with another huge trade event- the Italian Masters tasting, featuring the top Brunello, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile, and Valdobbiadene Prosecco producers with the upcoming spring releases. This was certainly palate overload, and all I can say, is THANK GOD for Prosecco. All those big red wines became pretty painful after the first fifty or so....

I worked the room alphabetically, so I'll present you with my notes as such. The room was filled with hundreds of gorgeous Italian men impeccably dressed in their best suits, and magnificant shoes, pouring the best Brunellos from a great vintage. I was in girl-heaven! Banfi was the start of the day, with an underwhelming Rosso di Montalcino 09 which didn't really have much acidity or freshness. Muddled would be the best way to describe it. The Brunello was "ok", balanced and correct, but definitely not worth buying. Poggio alle Mura '06 had more grip and bigger acidity, and the Very good Poggio all'Oro Riserva '04 had a fat middle with spicy wood.

Much more expressive were the wines from Barbi, which had one of the best 09 Rossos of the tasting- simply beautiful and loaded with fresh strawberry fruit. The ageworthy Brunello 06 had great complexity and chalky tannins with a load of fruit to back it up. Excellent, and a pleasant surprise for me. Their 05 Riserva however, didn't deliver the goods, as it was slightly subdued.

Camigliano was a raging disappointment with notes of seaweed and a maturity that did NOT at all work for the wine. The normally stellar Castelgiocondo from Frescobaldi was much more approachable than I would have expected at this point in its development. It made me wonder if this wine would become backwards at a later date perhaps. The '05 Riserva was sweet with black cherry and front-loaded tannins, and good but not stellar, as one would expect in '05.

Luce was the most tannic and backward wine of the tasting, with a nose of candied toffee and a very linear palate with massive, hard tannins. This will need time, and if the nose is any indication, it should be stellar. The '08 Rosso from Col D'Orcia was a very complete wine, showing even BETTER than the '06 Castelgiocondo Brunello at the tasting. Go figure, right? Money doesn't always buy happiness.... The Brunello '06 was incredibly tannic, and difficult to judge. Patience will be required here.

The beautifully perfumed, raspberry tinged Fuligni was one of the wines of the day for me. Elegant, yet structured, with layers of complexity and a firm spine. Excellent and worth a look. Il Poggione was an estate of ups and downs. Their 09 Rosso was a disappointment, with muddled seaweedy flavors, and a ton of tannin to boot. However, the FABULOUS '06 Brunello more than made up for the shortcomings of the Rosso. It had a beautiful balance of wood, tannin, and fruit with a rich, chewy texture. The Vigna Paganelli Riserva '05 from the estate was VERY classy with linear tannins, and an almost Bordeaux-esque fineness to the wine. Gorgeous.

One of my perennial favorites, Pertimali had the opposite issue of Il Poggione. The Rosso was stellar- elegant and rich, and perfectly ready to drink, while the Brunello had notes of resin, and a nutty, sweet, round character that was "good" but not exciting in any way. The same sadly went for their 04 Riserva- it failed to impress.

A wine I have historically loved has always been Pian delle Vigne from Antinori. They do such at amazing job with the legendary Renzo Cotarella at the healm. It had balanced acid and tannin with vanilla, with an almost Burgundian elegance with a silky, long palate. Excellent again and worth buying. My favorite estate of the day for its unusual nose was Pinnino. So many herbs and spices, it was like stepping into a Moroccan market. I was salivating! Equally complex was the delicious palate, with elegance and finessed tannins. Worth a look if you can find it.

Collosorbo was a definite candidate for top Rosso of the day. Its '09 was fabulous- rich, chewy, loads of both black and red fruits, drinking mature, but with enough tannins for a medium term cellaring as well. A must buy. Their Brunello? A definite pass with a medicinal menthol quality to it that made it very unappealing. Col di Sole may have had the Riserva of the day, which may have had the best balance of any red at the tasting. Get your hands on some.

Silvio Nardi has never blown me away with their Rosso, and '09 is no exception- it is very tight, with chalky tannins and dried cranberry fruit. Not at all a generous wine. Their Brunello '06 and the Manachiara both had WAY too much toast to their barrels, and all one could smell or taste was liquid smoke, making them somewhat unattractive (unless you're having BBQ, then have at it!) Last, but not least was the Ucceliera, which was as tight as a drum, though hinting at some lovely fruit hidden beneath the wall of tannins in both Rosso and Brunello. Worth re-visiting in a year to see what's what.....

For Chianti Classico, the results were scattered, and very hard to come down after all those big young Brunellos. The top wines were- Castello di Ama's '06, Fontodi's Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2007, with structured, earthy, rich, chewy vanillin cherry fruit. And the highlight of the tasting for me? The Castello di Monastero 2007 Chianti Classico. Not because it is some blockbuster with the stuffing to age forever. But because it's the kind of wine I could open a bottle of every night after work and just sit down and DRINK IT. Simply delicious. Silky, rich, long, easy and smooth, with just enough palate-cleansing fresness to keep you thirsting for more. Gotta love the Italians!

Ciao Baby!

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