Monday, March 17, 2008

Gambero Rosso Tasting

I wasn't going to write about this because I don't have much of anything nice to say. But I've been persuaded to just do it anyway, to tell you what I thought.

First, though, I must remind you that I rarely, if ever, drink Italian wine. So it's not like I can place what I tasted amidst my many other tasting experiences and say something meaningful. And I've never even heard of most of the producers I tasted. That said, I know my palate well enough to be confident when I smell and taste wine, to be able to say whether or not I like it. And in the overwhelming majority of the cases at this tasting, Brooklynguy no like.

Also, the place was a total zoo. It's hard for me to imagine an environment that is less congruous with tasting wine. No room to stand at a table, clatter and racket that never stopped, all the senses distracted.

Here is what I did like:
2001 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva - in my tasting guide the only notes next to the wine say "Holy S%*}!" That's right, I still refuse to cuss on this blog even if I write cusswords in my wine notes. Anyway, this wine was light and delicate looking, but so very powerful. Nose of roses and road tar.

The other Barolos were too astringent to me, impossible to understand. Some one with experience tasting young Barolo and then again with age might have something to say about them, but I do not.

The only other reds that I really liked at the whole tasting were the 2004 Poliziano Nobile de Montepulciano Asinone and the 2003 Terre degli Svevi Aglianico del Vulture Serpara. The Montipulciani had a lovely nose of dark cherries and funky earth and seemed energetic in the mouth too, something thta I didn't find in these wines - to me they were heavy and dull, suffering under their own weight.

The whites were more to my liking, on the whole. I liked the 2006 Dario Raccaro Colio Tocai Friulano Vigna del Rolat. It had serious structure and nice flavors. I preferred the 2006 Eugenio Collavini Collio Bianco Broy and the same producer's 2006Sauvignon Blanc Fumat Doc Collio. I also liked the 2005 Cantina Terlano Sauvignon Quartz, a lively and energetic wine with good acidity and length, and pretty good balance for a wine of 14% alcohol.

The real surprise for me, though, was the sparkling wine. My favorite was the 1999 Cavalleri Franciacorta Collezione Esclusiva Brut, aged for 8 years on the lees. If you can't make rich and satisfying wine after 8 years on the lees, I don't know what to tell you. But this one had a really delicate floral nose that belied the richness. I would be very happy drinking this wine at home, no doubt. I have no idea about the retail price. I enjoyed the Ca' del Bosco sparklers too, but they were not anywhere near as profound. The 2003 Franciacorta Dosage Zero was lovely, and quite dry as you might expect, and the 2002 Franciacorta Saten was also very nice, both of them based on Chardonnay.

Here are some of the wines I tasted that I didn't like, so those of you who actually know something about Italian wine will get a sense of where I'm coming from:

2003 Lorenzo Begali Amarone della Valpolicella Cl. - unrelenting.
2003 Monfalletto Barolo Enrico VI - like eating dry dust.
2003 Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra V. Casa Maté - made me thirsty.
2005 Vistorta Friuli Grave Merlot Vistorta - should have a blank white lable with one word on it in black letters -"Red Wine." Fine, that's two words.
2000 Cav. G. B. Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Cl. - Are all Amarones like this, impossibly heavy and pruny, and impossible to imagine as an accompaniment to food?

You get the idea - this stuff didn't make me want to toss my Chinon and delve into the Italian bottles. I imagine that the wines at this tasting represent a "Parkerized" view of Italian wine. Please feel free to weigh in here - I don't know what I'm talking about.


Unknown said...

Don't throw out the baby with the bath water... I am not sure if that is an apt saying, but it came to mind.
I will second the oft repeated recommendation of Asimov, and suggest that you would enjoy the wines of Montevertine. The Pergole Torte is a treat, albeit one I can't enjoy often, but the Pian Del Ciampolo is easier on the wallet than most bourgogne and a great food wine. You can read about Montevertine's bona fides as a natural producer in Asimov's column, but the truth is in the glass.
J. Berardo

Brooklynguy said...

Couldn't agree with you any more. those are the only Italian wines in my cellar right now.

Vinotas said...

I stopped going to GR as it was always a complete zoo. Not to mention that many wines poured were not to my liking except for a select few (I think our palates are pretty similar, however).

And I can't stand most Amarone (note: not all).

Anonymous said...

"Are all Amarones like this, impossibly heavy and pruny, and impossible to imagine as an accompaniment to food?"

No. I was at a Masi sit-down lunch about a month ago, and their wines paired really well with food. But their style is more restrained; not pruney.

Do Bianchi said...

As an "Italian wine" guy and not such a fan of the Gambero Rosso, I really appreciated this post and its fresh perspective. The Gambero and its tasters favor overly alcoholic and overly extracted "might-as-well-be-made-in-Californa" wines. As bummed as it makes me that the tasting left a bad taste in your mouth (and in doing so, it did a disservice to Italian wine and what's so great about it), I'm glad that you wrote about the experience honestly. Please don't give up on Italian wine. Unfortunately, the Gambero Rosso lost sight of its original mission many many years ago.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

I think you know exactly what you're talking about!

I know people--nice people--who just have a taste for big-oaky-extracted-alcoholic-anonymous wines, and those people probably don't spend much time on this blog. That's OK. This is for the rest of us.

David McDuff said...

I do drink a pretty decent amount of Italian wine, but I'm still right in step with many of your thoughts. I'm having the same conflicted thoughts about whether or not to blog about the Marc De Grazia portfolio tasting I attended last week, as I was there as a guest but liked very few of the wines.

Don't give up on Italy, though. I'm a bit surprised by your reaction to Grasso's Barolo. While it's a touch modern in its fruit profile, I think it's really sound, un-messed-with and detailed wine. Of course, I may be a bit biased as that's a picture of his property (Gavarini rather than Ginestra) that I've just added to my profile. For your palate, I'd recommend the wines of Aldo Vajra, particularly his Dolcetto d'Alba bottlings and his Langhe Nebbiolo.

peter said...

I agree. The key is to find the people still unParkerized, making wine meant for aging. Young (<10-20 year) Barolo worth the name is normally pretty retarded and not so yummy. With time, though, it's Burgundian in its gorgeousness.

And all the valid criticism of GR notwithstanding, a tumultuous zoo is pretty authentically Italian; if they'd only had motocross racing on the TV with the volume cranked you could have been there.

Joe said...

Parkerized? With all due respect, I don't think he is a big fan of Barolos - he doesn't taste them any more, leaves that to his minions. These wines are made for ageing, so by definition they should not be drunk now - how do you think a 2003 Chateau Margaux would taste? Exactly. I totally agree with your comments re: the flavours, but it is really inappropriate to be opening 2003 Barolos - call me in 10 years at least. Regardless, I don't think you will ever find joy in Barolo, but you should check out some nicely aged Barbarescos - I do think they may be more to your liking. Cheers!

RougeAndBlanc said...

If I understand your taste, you may light Sicilian wine better. The reds there are not as heavy (or pruny) as those from the mainland. Also the volanic soil usually brings a chalky & sometimes salty characteristics to the finish products.

Brooklynguy said...

thanks for the comments, all. here's the thing: i absolutely believe that there are some Amarones out there that i would find beautiful. Barolo, there is no question in my mind, 100% positive that i would be a fan if i got into it. what i said about amarone i wouldn't bother saying about, for example, california cab because although there are some beautiful caqli cabs, i understand them enough as a group to know that it's not my thing, in general. i don't understand amarone or barolo as a group, not even a little bit. but if what i tasted is representative, i'm not a fan.

and i knew at the time that 03 is silly for barolo, but no one waits to assess wine until its mature. you cannot sell it that way. same with burgundy and everything else. some tastes can see into the future of a wine tasting it early.

i'm not giving up on anything (except maybe on the GR tasting itself). what i need is a guided tasting through the un-parkerized versions of these wines. i don't have the time or money to figure it out myself. i'm still tyrying to learn about burgundy and champagne without going broke.

Joe Manekin said...


Maybe because Italian food is still my favorite, but Italian wines are so good at table that you should explore more. Some good Italian red wines for you to try (most should be under $20):

COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Gulfi Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Bruno Rocca Nebbiolo d'Alba
Francesco Rinaldi Grignolino
Terredora di Paolo Aglianico
Felsina Chianti Classico
Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne
Pechenino Dolcetto di Dogliani
Le Salette 'I Progni' Valpolicella Ripasso
Librandi Ciro Duca San Felice Riserva

Also, it seems like you have a pretty good rotation of wine shops, why not have them recommend non-spoofed, non 3 bicchieri wines? De Vinos on Clinton St. is good for Italian wines as well.

Anonymous said...

I would pretty much echo what dobianchi said as far as Gambero Rosso and their tastes go. I get tired of seeing all the same wines get 3 glasses. I buy the guides these days mostly looking for new entries, not the same ravings for the same wines. Looks like you took on the heavyweights! Amarone has exploded in the past few years as far as total production and style and has always been a hit-or-miss or know-the-specific-producer wine. It is very difficult to make and lots of things can go wrong in the process. I think the white wines show much more of the diversity and uniqueness inherent in Italy today. Probably because so many are unoaked and you can taste the pure fruit expression. You've got to get them fresh though! The Cavalleri Brut you mentioned shows in the guides here at around, what close to 100$ in the States? Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

No no don't rule out Italy. Judging from the aromatics you seem to seek...and if you have any interest in Italy should start in Piedmont at the cheaper end of the spectrum.

Nebbiolo releases from Traditionalist Barolo and Barbaresco Cantinas are often a great deal.

-Produttori di Barbaresco (around $16)
-Bruno Giacosa

Dolcetto from
Francesco Rinaldi

Barbera D'Alba from
Bartolo Mascarello

Barbera D'Asti from

Barberba di Monferrato from
Tenuta Grillo - IGEA

Barbera del Piemonte from
Cascina degli Ulivi -Mounbe

After that you can move on through Montevertine to the high altitude Etna WInes of Salvo Foti in Sicily
- Biondi - Outis 2002 & 2004

and when your in Europe you can pick up the base bottling from
Frank Cornellissen - Magma Rosso

That lot should keep you going for a couple of weeks. Whites next


Brooklynguy said...

thanks for that list old skool. the reason i haven't asked for the Italy case at my local shops is because it's all i can do to learn about French wine. I still am so limited in Chablis, Jura, etc. that I cannot imagine breaking off into new territory yet. someday though.

hi michelle - i agree, the whites are more appealing to me so far. 40 Euro is more like $65, which is still quite a lot for that sparkling wine. it is 9 years old though, probably comparable in price to Champagne of that maturity. not sure if that's what i would choose to buy if i were to spend $65 on bubbly though. thanks for your comments.

thanks for all of the suggestions lowelife.

Unknown said...

Just back from Italy and, although I was not able to attend GR this year, would agree with you in general about the overblown reds that GR seems to go for every year.

When you get off the beaten path in the old country, you get a complete different take on the country's reds. The young wine makers are turning their backs on the pseudo-Cali wines because the local market has turned against them, and because they really don't go with with the food, especially the sumptuous, amazingly varied cuisines of the South.

OK, I'm beating my favorite drum. But your post was pretty damned perceptive.

Brooklynguy said...

thanks terence, and i can imagine exactly what you're saying re off the beaten trail. humble, light, food-friendly country wines are what people reach for on a daily basis. i know i do. thanks for your comments.