Gambero Rosso: A couple of months ago, Ken and I attended a fabulous Italian wine tasting event at the Beverly Hills Hotel. We were introduced to some stellar wines from Chianti Classico via a series of tasting classes. Chianti is made from the finicky Sangiovese grape varietal, which has been responsible for some pretty rough jug wine in the past, but the winemakers of the region are now showcasing wines with finesse and complexity to compare with some of the world’s most sought after wines. We tasted our way through several flights of Chianti Classico Gran Selecione, which is a step higher in quality (and price) than Riserva.
The wines varied from the slightly austere, classic expressions of 100% Sangiovese to more approachable blends mellowing the wines out with hints of syrah and/or merlot. High acidity, a backbone of tannin, plus a secret garden of fruit and earth, bloom in the palate when the balance is just right.
The best known Italian wines can be quite expensive but travel a little outside the better-known regions and astoundingly delicious red and white wines can be found at a fraction of the price of a Barolo or Brunello di Montalcino. Ken and I were eventually overwhelmed by the quantity of unfamiliar varietals and regions. We loved practically every wine we tasted (many of which were being produced by cooperatives looking for distribution in the American market). We discovered we might need a little help and a little focus in the huge arena of Italian wines. We found it thanks to Gambero Rosso.
Since 1988, Gambero Rosso has been publishing the definitive guide to Italian wines, Vini d’Italia. Over 45,000 wines are tasted blind annually and given a rating, with the most exceptional wines earning the coveted Tre-Bicchieri (three glasses) award. Ken and I were fortunate enough to be invited to attend a tasting and masterclass at the Santa Monica Airport Hangar, hosted by Gambero Rosso.
In our masterclass guided tasting, we were introduced to nine of the 2017 award winners as determined by Gambero Rosso. I made a few notes so that you might say hello to these beautiful strangers and start to get acquainted.
My Tasting Notes: Gambero Rosso 2017 Award Winners
Sparkler Of The Year: Ruggeri & C.
Valdobbiadene Extra Dry, Guistino B. 2015 – Flowery nose, vivid bubbles, light, elegant and fresh with hints of pear. It’s a little light and sweet for my palate.
Winery of The Year: Bellavista
We were treated to Franciacorta Pas Operé, 2009 – I detected a little biscuit on the nose and was delighted by the creamy bubbles, mineral dryness and red delicious complexity of this yummy sparkler. A definite favorite.
Grower of The Year: BioVio
Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato Bon in Da Bon 1915 – Briny, austere, with distinct notes of grapefruit pith… is your mouth watering?
Award For Sustainable Viticulture: Roccafiore
Todi Grechetto Sup. Fiorfiore, 2014 – Made from a thick-skinned, late ripening grape which almost disappeared due to phylloxera. I love this wine, from its rich color reminiscent of a yellow diamond to its earthy nose and tantalizing flavors of almond and dried apple. This white has heft.
White of the Year: Tenuta di Tavignano
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Cl. Sup. Misco, 2015 – Bright acidity and youthful effervescence combine with notes of orange peel and salinity in a well-balanced white screaming for food.
Best Value for Money: Tiberio
Pecorino, 2015 – Packs a wallop of bright melon reminiscent of a superior New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, for a fraction of the price. My new go-to wines for Summer are Italian whites!
Up and Coming Winery: Istine
Chianti Cl. LeVigne Ris. 2013 – Superb example of a classic wine with harmonious acidity and tannins, it is like drinking a pale ruby red elixir of salt and violets.
Red of The Year: Chiaromonte
Gioia del Colle Primitivo Muro Sant’Angelo Contrada Barbatto Cl. 2013 – Quite a mouthful to pronounce, and an explosion of exquisite on the palate. Old vines over rocky soils incubated this powerful wine. This deep ruby wine billows with black fruit jam, tar and green pepper. It is so full and round it almost tastes raisinated, like a fine Amarone. The alcohol is barely noticeable in the symphony, so I was shocked to discover that its guns are blazing at 16%!
Sweet of The Year: Lis Neris
Tal Lùc Cuvèe Speciale – Deep amber color, notes of dried fig, drunken raisin cake, marmalade and tropical fruit on a vibrant finish had our panel of experts in rapture. With 200 grams of residual sugar, this wine is a dessert in itself.
There is a beautiful old world of Italian wines out there waiting to be discovered. Whites often provide the greatest bargains, but if you know where to look, you can find affordable delights and worthy splurges everywhere in Italy. Gambero Rosso’s Vini d’Italia, 2017 tells you where to look. HELEN
Ken and I received complimentary tickets to attend the Gambero Rosso: Italian Wine Masterclass.