Today was speciale, magnifico e troppo buono. I had been planning on attending the Salone del Gusto festival all week and last night Manuela tells me that Giorgio has asked her and I to accompany him to the awards ceremony for Tre Bicchieri in Torino. Phwoarrr!
Tre Bicchieri is part of the Slow Food festival (a global organisation promoting healthy living and eating) and gives out awards (maximum of two per producer) to wines that are outstanding in all of Italy. There were 331 wine awards and two of them went to La Spinetta, the winery I’ve been working for the last few months. One award was for the 2006 Monferrato Rosso Pin and the other for the 2005 Barbaresco Starderi. La Spinetta have a really strong export component with their brand, especially in the United States where their modern styles appeal to a large number of palates. It has helped them reign in the status of a winery that ranks second to Gaja in terms of the Tre Bicchieri awards.
After the awards ceremony, there is always a tasting that takes place on alternate levels of all the wines involved in the Tre Bicchieri program. Considering time constraints and the fact we also had to work, Manuela and I determined we would have to swap shifts between manning the La Spinetta table and assisting with the tasting. Manuela, the dear, took the first stint behind the table, leaving me ample time to wind my way around the circular structure, glass in hand, trying Elio Grasso, Bruno Giacosa, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, and so many more Nebbiolo wines. Piemonte was first on the list, you see. Well it was for me anyway. Call me lazy, but this event was so ideal in my view because instead of going around to visit all these wineries, I could taste the best wines of what they offer right here.
I also ventured downstairs and tried a range of Tuscan wines, as well as other reds to the likes of Amarone della Valpolicella and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, before having to return to give Manuela a break.
At the start of the day Manuela and I had joked that I should pretend to be some famous Aussie journalist as we wove our way around the room. Thinking it was a ridiculous idea but persisting with the joke nevertheless, I said, ‘How about Jane Faulkner?’ It turns out I couldn’t pretend because she was there! I recognised her immediately when she first stumbled across the La Spinetta table as she had been a judge at the 2007 Rutherglen Wine Show that I stewarded at. I got such a shock at seeing her, especially after our comments from the morning, so before I knew it, ‘Jane Faulkner!’ in full Aussie fervour and excitement had blurted out of my mouth in her direction at the table.
She looked up at me with such a shocked face and muttered, ‘Oh no’.
I laughed, ‘Hey, you’re a celebrity!’
After introducing myself we had a quick chat and she commented that she would be hosting a tasting of Australian & New Zealand wines the following night with my friend Geoff Chilcott from Marchesi di Gresy. Such a small world! She asked me to join them, but I was unable to attend as I had been invited to winemaker Andrea Rivetti’s house for a special dinner with the family.
As the day progressed, I ran into the crew from Vietti as they veered towards our table. My friend who used to work at Shadowfax, Eddie McDougall, worked the vintage there this year and I had seen his photos so knew who Luca Currado was from that. Luca is the winemaker and was so lovely. It was clear why Eddie did not pick up any Italian when that whole crew spoke extremely good English.
Tre Bicchieri Highlights:
2006 Brancaia Il Blu – Toscana. Peppery start, mid-weighted, lacking finish but has decent flavours to make up for that.
2005 Cepparello by Isole e Olena in Toscana. Closed nosed but with slight hint of sweetened fruits. Very savoury and tight on the palate but nicely balanced acidity.
2005 Flaccianello delle Pieve by Tenuta Fontodi – Toscana. Closed nose, lacking fruit weight on palate, thin tannins.
2005 Colline Luchesi Tenuta di Valgiano – Toscana. Great smooth texture, fine length, flavour a little lacking.
2005 Sammarco by Castello dei Rampolla in Toscana. Sour cherries and fine tannins.
2005 Tignanello by Marchesi Antinori in Toscana. Nose like a good parmesan cheese, salty characters but great texture and very intriguing.
2006 Terodego Armilo by Bolognani. High alcohol, hot fruit, lacking length.
2003 Amarone della Valpolicella by Marion. Smoky bacon-like nose, textured and flavoured palate, lacking substantial structure to hold out much longer. Hot finish.
2004 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico by Allegrini. Nose a little more vegetal and capiscum-like flavours. Funnily enough that vegetal character is translated well onto the palate, mouth-coating flavours, well-weighted.
2004 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano by Fratelli Speri. Has a stinkier nose, still quite vegetal and herbaceous, well-developed flavours and a firm finish. Balanced really, really well.
2006 Colli Piacentini Cabernet Sauvignon Luna Selvatica by La Tosa. Soft cheese nose, soft tannins, lack of flavour overall and mid-length palate.
1998 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo by Emidio Pepe. Smells just like the feet of a man gone camping and stinky gorgonzola, gritty tannins, firm finish and good palate weight.
2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Marina Cvetic by Masciarelli. Not as strong of a stinky cheese nose but still there and will probably develop into something much more appealing (?) with time. At least it has good weight and textural aspects.
2006 Montevetrano. Herbaceous but clean, tight and firm palate. Still a bit too young.
2006 Terra di Lavoro by Galardi. Like a Cabernet Sauvignon, similar vegetal characters, firm tannins with a long, persistent finish.
2004 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Asili Riserva. Lightly coloured, stinky cheesy nose, cooked cherry, strong powerful palate, delicate balance between the fruit with great acidity and firmness of tannins.
2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto, Neive. Highly appealing nose, savoury on the palate, tight, quite acidic but evenly balanced with the flavour and weight.
2004 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Gaiun. Nose like a Pinot Noir, sweeter fruits, newer world style, heavier fruit on palate but still with tight acidity and sourness on finish. Mid-weighted, needs more time in the bottle.
2004 Fratelli Cigliuti Barbaresco Vigne Erte. Savoury, delicious and has superb length.
2006 Barbera d’Asti Bricco della Bigotta by Braida. Quite a nice Barbera, a little lacing in flavour but plenty of acidity, maybe needs more time to open up…I got in early.
2004 Silvio Grasso Barolo Bricco Luciani. Firm tannins, chalky actually, perfumed nose a pleasant surprise, a little ordinary though overall.
2004 Barolo Enrivo VI by Montalletto – Cordero di Montezemolo. Weak flavours but good length and fine texture, so promising.
2004 Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra Vigna Casa Mate’. Perfumed elegant nose, clean, vibrant acidity and really nice length. A delight!
2004 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito. Good concentration of fruit and drives through for a persistent finish. What a star.
2004 Aldo Conterno Barolo Romirasco. Nose like thistle, flavour quite thin, tart finish, acid acid acid.
2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Poor colour for a 2001, parmesan-cheese like nose (Brett.?), savoury and smoother tannins, salty-like sensation.
2004 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia. Musty and old nose but quite intriguing, savoury on palate but smooth, good length and totally delicious. I love how these wines continually surprise me.
2004 Giacomo Brezza e Figli Barolo Sarmassa. Still young, needs more time in bottle, tannins mouth-puckeringly harsh.
2007 Ca’ Viola Dolcetto d’Alba Barturot. Wish I’d tried more Dolcetto’s in my time here to really understand the variety better.
2004 Giancarlo Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne. Cheesy nose (what’s with all the cheese today people?!), firm tannins give a lovely mouthfeel they do not overpower.
2005 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Costa Russi. The Barbaresco-savoury nose but not sour on palate, fine tannins and elegant.
2004 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Sperss. The Barolo-firmer tannins, good fine length and acidity. Prefer the Barbaresco…