Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

A scene from Verona… or the opening of “The Prisoner”

Forthwith, we continue my highlights from the 2017 incarnation of VinItaly, held in Verona earlier this year, and to which I was lucky enough to have been invited as a media guest.

[ For background on VinItaly, details on the first batch of wines that grabbed my vinous attention at the event, and the format for these highlight reels, see Part 1. ]

We have many a wine to highlight in this second installment, so… a rush, and a push, and the land will be ours… let’s charge right into things. First, the bubbles:

Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)2016 Ca’ d’Or Lessini Durello Blanc de Blancs Selezione Vintage, $NA

Lessini Durello is an odd bird of a wine; it’s growing, for sure (from 3 to 26 producers in the last two decades, now pumping out about one million bottles per year), but its primary calling card, aside from the bubbles, is still acidity. And I mean, acidity. As in, face-ripping, blood-of-the-Alien-zenomorph kind of acidity.

What I liked about the Ca’ d’Or Selezione is that it offered aspects beyond the face-peeling and gum recession: tropical and exotic fruit notes, limes, white flowers, and pineapple hints that were more subtle than overt. This is Durello tweaked up a notch or two, with an emphasis on balancing all of that ample acidity with purity of fruit….

Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

Revi Dosage Zero Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige $NA

Paolo Malfer founded Revi in 1982, with a focus on showcasing the lofty end of the bubbles available in Trento DOC. And Trento DOC needs it, because for the most part the region’s marketing seems to be summarizable as “we’re not Prosecco… and we’re not Champagne…”). Anyway, this blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir is classy, zesty, and laser-focused.


Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

2007 Fratelli Lunelli Ferrari Perle Bianco Riserva, Trentino-Alto Adige $NA

Ferrari’s foray into the Riserva category is downright stunning. All Chardonnay, all hand-harvested, and all selected from estate mountainside vineyards. Think brioche, iodine, quince, citrus, white pepper, white flowers, and enough panache to cause you to nearly obsess over getting another glass of it.


Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)2012 Cantina della Volta “Trentasei” Lambrusco Di Modena Spumante D.O.C. Brut Classic Method, $NA

So… it’s not every day that one encounters such a serious take on Lambrusco di Sorbara. Unless you’re winemaker Christian Bellei, that is, who had the wild idea of testing whether or not that grape could produce legit classico method bubbles. The Trentasei shows that question to be answered with a solid affirmative; instead of the candied red fruit treatment, here we have roses, cherries, and wild strawberries, with an acidic backbone that isn’t at all messing around. This is as near to refined elegance as Lambrusco gets.


Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

2016 Tiare Malvasia Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia $NA

Ah, this little gem… it’s just sooooo hard not to like this. Tiare has a knack for whites (I could have easily picked out their Sauvignon or Friulano as highlights), and I love their take on a grape that doesn’t get much media love from N. Italy, but probably should. Round, full of melon notes, and a bit low-key, this gains momentum and interest as it goes. There’s a linear backbone helping to prop it up, and sprinkles of wet stones, like baubles decorating a place setting.


Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)2013 Bastianich Vespa Rosso Colli Orientali del Friuli, Friuli-Venezia Giulia $30

What does it take to make the best Vespa Rosso incarnation that I’ve yet tasted? Apparently, it takes a blend of Merlot, Refosco, and Schioppettino (the latter a new edition to the label). This is lovely Rosso, with pepper spiciness, hints of minerals and black olives, and a sexy mouthfeel that finishes with power and a slight tannic bite (hey, a little bite is sexy now and then, right?).

Annnnnnd… from here on out, we get into downright exceptional levels of Italian winegrowing/winemaking prowess:


2013 Benanti Serra della Contessa Etna, Sicily $50

I made a special effort to seek out this producer on day four, when the VinItaly crowds had abated a bit. They are on Etna, as in “on” the Sicilian volcano. The name changed in the `90s, when the family was sure that the wine was good enough that they felt okay putting their name on the label. Their reference point for fine wine was northern Europe – France, et al, – and they claim that they were losing money chasing their dream, until the 2nd generation adjusted their winemaking processes, and their older wines started to show their potential (more on that below). In the case of their primary red, 100-year-old, pre-phylloxera vines at 500 meters elevation are used, and it’s a field blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio (about 15%). The result is floral, bright, pure, enticing, expressive, textural fantastic-ness. It’s a red that needs a lot of time, but will show elegance and gorgeousness (to wit: I tasted back to the 2003, which was still excellent, and very much alive).


Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

2013 Benanti Pietra Marina Etna Bianco Superiore, Sicily $50

This wine alone was worth the red eye flight to Verona; it’s a testament to why Carricante ought to be considered Sicily’s premiere fine wine grape. Pietra Marina (“marine stone”) is fermented with four local yeasts, spends two years on the fine lees, and another twenty months in bottle before release. It comes from ocean-facing vines that are about 800 meters above sea level. And it feels like a child of the ocean: minerals, saline, and flint notes abound. It’s nearly as bright as a sparkling wine in color, and offers a whole range of citrus aromas and flavors. There’s a hint of almond and flowers, incredible texture and structure, and a sense that the whole package is tight as a drum right now, requiring a couple of years before it blossoms. Just… ridiculous levels of good.

Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

Francesca Vaira gives the lay of the G.D. Vajra land at VinItaly 2017

2015 G.D. Vajra Langhe Riesling, Piedmont $30

Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)G.D. Vajra is probably best known for its take on Piedmont’s most famous red wine grapes, but I just about fell in love with this slate-and-flowers-filled Riesling of theirs. The style is quite dry, and limes are the primary fruit expression; it exhibits a linear focus that would make the Rheingau a little green with envy.

2013 G.D. Vajra Luigi Baudana Cerretta, Barolo $70

It’s tough to get your head around some of the G.D. reds without knowing their past works, because at this stage they’re pretty much all raw potential. Such is the case with the `13 Ceretta, though it betrays a little bit of where it will be heading. Think leather, meat, violets, dark cherry fruit, spice, and the kind of structure that demands roast beef.

Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

2004 & 2003 Rocca Bernarda Picolit Colli Orientali del Friuli DOCG, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, $50

What the f*ckity f*cking f*ck f*ck?!??? These… were… FABULOUS.

So… Rocca Bernarda more or less resurrected Picolit, which is a pain in the ass to grow and tends not to develop full bunches. In this case, they late-harvest and dry the grapes on racks in a tower, with open windows. Their steep, terraced vineyard has, from what they can discern, the oldest Picolit in the country (60-70 years), with the rest of Italy getting its Picolit clonal selections from their stock. The soils are sandy, dating back about 40 million years.

The 2004 is stunning; sultanas, dried apricot, figs, flowers, and some caramel to round it all out. It’s fresh, piquant, unique, gorgeous, and presumably the top of its game. At least, one would think that until tasting the 2003, which is even better. That vintage adds a more ebullient nose, a bit more balance between the power and freshness, and ads notes of rum, spice, and astringent orange peel onto a finish that I think I am still tasting many weeks later. I just about lost my sh*t over it.

What’s even more exciting is where this wine could go in future vintages. According to agronomist Giulio Senni, they recently learned some ancient Picolit cultivation methods from an old farmer in the area (who Senni described as “not a very hospitable man”), and are incorporating those into the recipe for newer vintages. With his help, an ancient Picolit clone was located nearby, dating back about 120 years. Couple the above with RB’s resources (they are the oldest and largest private agricultural company in Italy, with properties 1000 years old), and geeks like me have very good reason to be excited about where this nectar could be heading.


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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

VinItaly is… well… totally folle.

Held in Verona, Italy, bringing together hundreds of soon-to-be-inebriated members of the wine biz/trade/press/you-name-it, and functioning as a focal point for all (and I do mean all) of the wine regions of Italy, there is no other world wine event that combines quite the same blend of creativity, craftsmanship, and chaos.

Throngs of the soon-to-be-drunken at VinItaly 2017

That VinItaly has been held for decades and still isn’t quite what the Germans would consider as appropriately organized is less a statement about the event itself (which is, all in all, quite well-run), and much more an aspect of the reality that no one (and I say this as someone of Italian descent) is going to be able to successfully corral that many Italians in one place at the same time.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

Cleaning up (apart from the shaving) for VinItaly 2017 in Verona

VinItaly, for all of its madcap madness, is actually an overwhelming surfeit of vinous pleasure for lovers of Italian wine. Weaving in an out of the complex of crowded, airplane-hangar-sized event spaces (organized by Italian wine regions), on the second day of the event I actually found myself wondering if I was going to be able to make it the full four days.  And I’m an extrovert.

But once everything was over, I found myself loving VinItaly. Not despite the madness, but because of it; because that unpredictable chaos is baked into the DNA of Italy, and, to some extent, its wines. So it’s fitting that some of my most memorable tasting episodes took place entirely by chance while I was there on a media invite earlier this year.

Because VinItaly is so, well, folle, I’m going to break up the highlights into two separate posts. As always with 1WD feature material, the focus is on the stuff that I fond most interesting; the wines that really blew my dress up for whatever reasons. There are a few too many highlights for me to give them the badge treatments, which I hope and trust that you’ll forgive. Not all of these wines are available stateside, and I’m hoping that some focus here can help rectify that.

So pour yourself a glass of something obscure from the Italian hinterlands, and let’s delve headfirst into the chaos…

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)
2008 G. Milazzo Federico II Rex Sicilie Spumante Brut Millesimato, Sicily $NA

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)This Sicilian family-run outfit has been doing their thing for about 150 years, and is now helmed by Giuseppina Milazzo and husband Saverio Lo Leggio. Their upper-end Brut spends six years on the lees, and the result is focused, floral, toasty, citric, and brioche-filled elegance.

2004 G. Milazzo Terre della Baronia Duca Montalbo IGT, Sicily $NA

GM has their game down on still wines, as well, as evidenced by this blend of Nero d’Avola, Nerello Cappuccio, and Perricone, from 60-year-old vines. It’s balsamic after its extended oak and bottle aging regimen, with cigar notes and lush flavors of spicy plums. Named after the royalty who founded the winery’s home town, this is more modern and sexy than royal, but it oozes authenticity.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

2013 Le Salette Ca’ Carnocchio Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto $45

This fifth-generation producer in the Veneto deals primarily in single-vineyard releases. The Ca’ Carnocchio (80% Corvina) is textbook Veronese red: deep red plummy fruits, lots of enticing spices, excellent, food-worthy vibrancy, and just a hint of balsamic and fruit skins. Y-U-M-M-Y…

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

You know it’s VInItaly when the bars are overrun late night in Verona

2014 Rosa del Golfo Portulano Negroamaro Salento IGT, Puglia $NA

A single-vineyard Negroamaro from 50-year-old bush vines, this will have you jonesing for grilled steak in big, bordering-on-obsessive ways. Cloves, plums, tobacco, vanilla, freshness, and the gumption to demand your attention and not feel at all guilty about it.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

2013 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, Tuscany $20

Waaaaiiiit a minute… what kind of over-achieving craziness is this??? This one is like the late-round draft pick that eventually made the hall of fame. I fond myself amazed that the price tag on this beauty wasn’t 2-3 times higher. Herbs, orange rind, spices, chewy cherry fruits… this is textural, fresh, excellent, and pretty much blew the pants off a lot of other more expensive CCRs in a blind tasting we held at the Chianti stand.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)2016 Monchiero Carbone Cecu d’la Biunda, Roero Arneis DOCG, $25

Do you need more Roero Arneis in your life? If they’re like this RA, and then hellz yeah, you do. Arneis has a relatively long history, even by Italian historical standards; the grape is referenced in documents dating back 600 years, and the sandy soils of the RA region owe their grape-worthiness to an ancient inland sea. Carbone’s Cecu d’la Biunda is a selection from two vineyards, with the whole probably being more than the sum of its parts. There are more melons than flowers here, and it’s broad for Arneis, but the elegant Arneis salty, mineral streak is there in full force in the long finish.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

Luca Ferrari shows off his wares at VinItaly

2016 Luca Ferraris Vigne del Parroco Ruché, Monferrato $NA

You might recall Luca Ferraris, the Turin-loving, tireless champion of the underdog grape Ruché, from my feature on the faces of the region last year. I caught up with Luca to taste a barrel sample of his Vigne del Parroco project, a single vineyard varietal bottling of Ruché that is an homage to the pastor who almost single-handedly ushered in the age of modern Ruché winemaking after World War II (more on that in an upcoming piece of mine over at MyNameIsBarbera.com). This is meant to show the grape in its more serious form, and it succeeds splendidly; there’s jam, tobacco, roses, and a supple, focused, tight palate that lets Ruché’s power and grit show off without dominating the bright cherry fruitiness.

2008 Bisceglia Gudarra Aglianico del Vulture Riserva, Basilicata $30

One doesn’t often use the words “Aglianico” and “gorgeous” in the same sentence, but this Aglianico is, in fact, kind of gorgeous. Yeah, it’s spicy and plummy and all of that Aglianico stuff, but the texture of this wine is so damned refined and sexy… round, structured, big, and beautiful.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

2013 Sandro de Bruno Colline di Roncà Soave Superiore, $NA

A Soave aged in tonneau? Hey, why the hell not, this is VinItaly. As you might expect from that, this is creamy for Soave, and it has heady honey notes and a mouthfeel that is round and, for Soave, quite serious. There’s a nice interplay of saline, minerals, toast, and lemon peel here that, while not accompanying the longest of finishes, is simply too stimulating not to remember fondly.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

2009 Garbole Hurlo Veronese Rosso, Veneto $NA

Garbole is the project of Filippo and Ettore Finetto, who are, uhmm, not humble about their wines, which have been conceived from the ground up to be rare, exclusive, and expensive. To wit: they describe Hurlo as “a liberating scream of joy and well-being,” and “the protagonist of an unspeakable exploration that exceeds all known boundaries; a stimulus and challenge of human capabilities.” Alrighty, then. With Hurlo, they take the Amarone production methods and apply them to different Veneto grape varieties, resulting in a long, big, almost port-like red that is full of enough dried fruits, spices, and vanilla aspects to make you want to dislike it, but it’s far too impeccably made for you to not experience at least some wonder at its inky, delicious darkness.

Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

Next week, VinItaly 2017 part deux, in which we highlight some of the best Italian wines that I’ve ever (!) encountered…


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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!