On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Vino Nobile Virtually - ZOOM Tasting

23 Jul 2021

(March 2021) ... Oh how I missed my February trip to Italy this year to taste Chianti, Brunello, Vernacchia and Vino Nobile - but Nobile decided to bring the fun to me (and a choice few others) for a sit-down virtual tasting that brought together writers and producers to discuss and taste the virtues of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano … virtually.

Sales of Vino NobileThe Vino Nobile gets its name honestly, it dates back to the 8th century and was considered the wine for a nobility. Fast forward to 1965 and the Consorzio for Nobile was founded - and with the speed of a well-aged wine, 24 years (in 1989) Vino Nobile gained the first DOCG status in Italy. Today, 6 million bottles of Vino Nobile are produced per year, of which 78% are exported: Germany leads the way with 43% followed by the US (22%), Switzerland (14.5%), and Canada somewhere in the 3.5% range.

The rules of Nobile are fairly simple - the DOCG wines are a minimum of 2 years before release, while the Reserves (Riserva) need an extra year. The current vintages for these two wines are 2018 (DOCG) and 2017 (Riserva).

The regional vineyards sit between 250 and 600m above sea level and the rules of their makeup is based on a 70/30 approach ... 70% Sangiovese with the other 30% being made up of the allowable varieties, mainly: Colorino, Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot ... and there are a handful of others allowed as well.

“Vino Nobile di Montepulciano” is the full name of the wine, but because there is sometimes confusion with consumers about the term Montepulciano, which is itself a grape variety (Montepulciano) from a completely different region (Abruzzo) - the word "Toscana” will begin appearing on the label as of 2020 and the wines will be dropping their origin (Montepulciano) in favor of the more recognizable Toscana moniker along with “Nobile” or “Vino Nobile”.

Today we tasted eight wines with five from 2017 and three from 2016; 2016 has been described to me as “perfect”, while 2017, after a long explanation, is best described as "challenging".

Bottles of Vino Nobile

The Wines ... 
(ratings are out of five stars, and appear after the tasting note)

Cantina del Giusta 2017 San Claudio II
The acidity here is pretty big and it puckers the palate. Aromas are floral with a hit of alcohol heat ... The blend is 10% Canaiolo, 5% Mammolo aged in older oak and spent 8 months in bottle prior to release. There's some nice spice along with  raspberry, strawberry and sour cherry notes, plus the acidity keeps it surprisingly fresh, yet there is still quite a bit of bite back on the finish from that acid punch.  (*** ½+)

Fattoria del Cerro 2017 Silineo
This 100% Sangiovese Nobile is very leathery, smokey and earthy - from the start it seems to lack fruit aside from a little boysenberry, herbal and even some evergreen notes, followed by a touch of resin – I found that it was hard to enjoy. As it opens, there's a big savoury note and it's dusty on the tongue. Bottom line: if you like your Nobile savoury over fruity this is your wine.  (***)

Il Molinaccio 2017 La Spinosa
Another 100% Sangiovese that shows menthol, savoury and leathery notes on the nose - the mouthfeel is silky, but with more woodsy notes than fruit ... This one is raised in smaller oak casts so it shows off the oak quite a bit, more than those wines aged in botte.  (***)

SalchetoSalcheto 2017 Vino Nobile do Montepulciano
These bottled grapes come from the 15-hectare Salcheto vineyard grown during the “hot dry” 2017 vintage - aged 18 months in a mix of large and small barrels and comes together in bottle another 6 months before release. First thing you'll notice is the wonderful acidity derived from the Sangiovese grape, then sour cherry and cranberry aromas give way to herbal, spices and dark fruit on the palate ... by the last swallow we're into smoked red fruits and that persistent acidity just helps clean everything up ... Great food pairing wine.  (****) ... See the video review here

Tenuta Valdipiatta 2017 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
A Nobile that hit 14% alcohol using 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo, 75% in large barrels (25% new). The nose is very seductive with blackberry, cassis, olive and even some dried leaves ... The palate has a vanilla and mocha mix with notes of smoky and woodsy undertones on the back palate - this definitely could sit a few years to develop further and potentially pull out more of the fruit hidden behind the oak and tannins.  (*** ½)

Podere Casanova 2016 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Casanova Nobile
From the wonderful 2016 vintage, and it shows; deep dark black fruit - both of the cherry and berry variety with coffee and smoky notes backing it up. The palate has a rich-smokiness of black fruit with licorice, graphite, tobacco and even some cocoa. There's a real freshness on the mid-palate and complexity to the finish, it's fleshy and has great structure; the tannins, while aggressive, are not assertive as to overtake the wine. This definitely needs a few years to mellow.  (****+)

Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano 2016 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
A light and delicate version of Nobile from a very good vintage. Lovely raspberry notes with delicate savoury backing ... It's bright and fresh and very fruit forward; notes of blood orange and mocha / coffee ... This is a wine that really grows on you the more you sip on it. With its freshness of fruit: big notes of raspberry, strawberry, cherry and even some balsamic ... Perfect for food pairings.  (****)

Carpineto Nobile RiservaCarpineto 2016 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
There really is such an elegance to Carpeneto wines that I, as a consumer, very much appreciate, but as a writer and taster I also appreciate their complexity and structure: dark berries and dusty spices with graphite, mocha and coffee bean notes. Good tannins and spice on the finish with some bittersweet chocolate all balanced with good acidity and even a touch of smoke on the finish.  (****+)


Gambero Rosso - Tre Bicchieri 2021 Web Show (Part 1)

16 Jul 2021

(March 2021) ... This “web show” had been in the works for a number of months before it finally came about. Dates were offered up as potential, but due to conditions and other factors that I'm sure have to do with getting wine into the country, the delay stretched on ... Finally, Gambero Rosso was able to have their show and we (as journalists) were privileged to enjoy these wines.

Who is Gambero Rosso???

Gambero Rosso is an Italian food and wine magazine and publishing group founded in 1986. The name translates to “red prawn” which is the name of the tavern in Pinocchio (where the fox and the cat dined). They have produced 24 editions of “The Italian Wine Bible” including the new 2021 edition.

The web show was broken down into two parts, held over two days (March 26th and March 30th) - each day eight wines were highlighted from throughout Italy - and each was specially selected by Gambero Rosso because of its high quality in showcasing Italian wine excellence.

Below are my selections/notes from the day one tasting:
(rating are out of 5 stars and appear at the end of the tasting note)

Casale del Giglio 2020 Anthium Bellone (Lazio)Anthium Glass of Wine
I had tasted Giglio’s Cesanese previously, and was so impressed I created a video review of it, so the winery was not new to me. What is new is this Bellone grape, which, as it turns out, is on the rise in popularity in Italian restaurants, although it is in limited plantings at the moment. The first vintage of this wine was in 2014. The grapes are harvested at the end of September, it is then macerated on skins (for aromas) and then gently pressed - finally it is wild fermented (partially in wood). The results are a wine with a nose that hints at peach, pineapple, mineral and vanilla; the palate is very fruity with notes of tropical, citrus and even some salty minerality finishing with notes of white peach. It's a lovely wine with texture, structure and beautiful minerality.  (****)
Video Review of This Wine

Poggio Le Volpi 2017 Roma Rosso Ed. Limitada (Lazio)
"Manlio Merge laid the first stone of the winery in 1920, when he began to produce and sell bulk wine.” - Gambero Rosso
A blend of Montepulciano, Syrah and Cesanese is grown in volcanic soils and spends one year in barrique. The nose is full of gentle spice and blackberry while the palate has a softness and juiciness to it: cherry and blackberry with a savoury / herbal character and meaty texture (almost chewy). It has a lovely balanced Zinfandel-like character that has a juiciness even while the tannins manage to keep it all in check.  (****)

Three-in-OneCoppi 2017 Don Antonio Primitive (Puglia)
"The family business [was] established in 1976 by [the] Father, Antonio, who took over a winery founded in 1882.” - Gambero Rosso
This 100% Primitivo has lots of smoky dark cherry notes along with spice ... but it’s surprisingly fresh and light, considering it's 14.5% alcohol level, probably, and due in part to the great acidity, keeping this wine in balance (which is quite the trick). Fruit forward but backed with character, structure and deliciousness.  (****+)

Speri 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Sant'Urbano (Veneto)
"The family were among the first to link their wines to their vineyard of origin ... Owners of one of the most beautiful vineyards on Mont Sant’ Urbano for over eighty years." - Gambero Rosso
70% of the wine is made up of Corvina Veronese and Corvinone with both Rondinella (25%) and Molinara (5%) - aged in 500L Allier oak casks (French) with 24 months and in 20 to 40 heciliter barrels for 18 months ... It’s not usual to call an Amarone "delicate” but this one maintains that with notes of licorice and spice, plus an incredible balance, even at 15% alcohol, which is hardly even noticeable - instead it's the dark fruit and acidity that takes center stage ... After 5 hours open it turns floral with lively cherry, and some smoky notes along with cigar box and chocolate: smooth entry, big tannins on the finish with an explosion of fruit / oak and spice mix.  (**** ½)

Late Arrival ...
There were two wines that were late arrivals due to being “blocked at customs”. One wine for each tasting this is a wine was from part one that arrived late. The Aftermath

Dal Cero - Renita Corte Giacobbe 2018 Soave Runcata
"The areas of Ronca and Terrossa, on the slopes of the Calvarina, Crocetta and Duello volcanoes, represent a new frontier for Soave." - Gambero Rosso
This Soave is made from the winery’s oldest vines (80 plus years) and are grown at high altitude, helping them to retain good acidity. Not your typical (read: chuggable) Soave, this one shows complexity like beeswax and floral on the nose with honey, lemon, floral and minerality on the palate.  (*** ½)



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