This month I was lucky to attend the Tre Bicchieri tasting.
Organized by Gambero Rosso, the authority on Italian wines, there were only three stops in the U.S. on their world tour: One in New York, one in Chicago, and one in San Francisco. How fortunate I felt to be living near San Francisco this year. It was well worth the drive up from Santa Cruz, to be surrounded for an afternoon by Italian wine producers pouring their top-rated Tre Bicchieri wine for the media and press.
At the event I met up with Jeni Moretti, who has been in the wine business for 20 years and who runs a tasting room in Lompoc, selling the Moretti label and other small Santa Rita Hills producers. It was our first in-person meeting after connecting online about 6 years ago. Don’t you just love that about the internet?
Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) is the highest rating given by Gambero Rosso, going to the most outstanding wines from all over Italy.
Covering everything from the big red wines, such as Barolo and Brunello, to obscure whites such as Greco Bianco and Fiano, to sparkling and sweet wines.
A Tre Bicchieri award is a big deal for a winery. Definitely a reason to break out a good bubbly, like a Franciacorta from Ca del Bosco, a winery in Lombardia that’s leading the new wave of top quality sparkling wines.
The Bible of Italian Wines
If you love Italian wines and want to be more informed about them, I recommend getting the Gambero Rosso Guide. It covers 2400 producers and 22000 wines. More than 60 experts conduct blind tastings in every region of Italy to cull the best for this guide. Here’s a link to the English version which will be out in March.
The wine of the year that Gambero Rosso selected for 2016 is a Sicilian red: Etna Dolce Vigna Barbagalli 2012. And continuing with a southern Italian theme, I’ll list a handful of interesting wines I tasted from the southern regions. I also tasted plenty from Tuscany, Piemonte, Lombardia and the Veneto but there isn’t room here to list them all.
Unusual (for me at least) were these wines from Calabria. The region’s small production of wine is unfamiliar to me so it was very interesting to taste these. The beautiful Rosé called Savu, is from 100% Gaglioppo grapes. Robust but also sweet with notes of strawberry and rose. The one in the middle, Cata, is also 100% Gaglioppo. I found it very unusual and yet almost what you’d expect from a dry southern Italian environment with notes of fig and licorice. The Red on the right is called Masino, and is 100% Nero di Calabria. It has a deep almost black color, balsamic notes and a dark berry taste, bold and earthy, and not as dry and tannic as the Tuscan reds that I’m used to.
I was happy to see this winery there that I visited long ago in Sicily and that I really admire. Their 2011 Tancredi Red earned a Tre Bicchieri. Charmingly the producers recommend drinking Tancredi “while reading a book or listening to music.” It’s made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola, and Tannat.
At the table for the Torrevento Winery I met Andrea Fabiano (featured in my video below) and I tasted their Primitivo. It has a spicy bouquet and a full body with a dark fruit taste, and would be great with aged cheeses and salumi.
From the Masca del Tacco Winery in Puglia I met Bernardo Brecci (featured in video below) and I tasted L’Uetta Fiano. Fiano grapes are known primarily the region of Campania (particularly around the town of Avellino.) In Puglia, Fiano grapes are grown in the Martina Franca region. This one had an aroma of pine needles and like other Fiano I’ve tried; the most nutty flavor (Pine nuts? Almonds?) you’ll ever taste in a white wine.
Here’s a video of two lovely guys from Puglia who represent the wineries Torrevento and Masca del Tacco. As soon as they heard that I’ll be in Puglia for 3 weeks this spring they took me on a descriptive verbal tour of the merits of their region. Even if you don’t speak Italian, you’ll get the gist. There’s no better way to experience the passion of Italians than to get them talking about the food and wine of the region from which they come.