Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Vancouver Tasting 2014

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2014 is the second year the famous Italian Gambero Rosso magazine has held a “three glasses” tasting in Vancouver, a tasting where all the wines poured must have been awarded the highest rating of 3 glasses from the magazine. This year, Vancouver was the only Canadian stop.

There were quite a few excellent wines at this year’s tasting, but unfortunately most of the producers are unrepresented in B.C. Tuscany and Piedmont were stars, mainly because they were the most heavily represented at the show. That said, there were also a number of gems from across Italy, exacerbating my wish it was easier to get a broader selection of the country’s wines on the west coast as we are quite limited when compared to the eastern seaboard markets.

Overall, the event was excellent and served to educate attendees in the industry and give them a chance to chat with winery principals that rarely, if ever, come to Vancouver.

My Picks

Tuscany

Felsina is one of the top producers in Chianti and have been making great wine for decades. I have had bottles of the Rancia and straight riserva from the 80’s and 90’s and they are stunning wines. Even though the price has crept up quite a bit in recent years, these are still fantastic quality for the price and superbly ageworthy. The 2010’s were structured for long aging while the 2011 basic Chianti was ready to go. $45 for the basic (very good+), $65 for Rancia (Excellent) and $95 for Fontalloro (Excellent). Available at various private stores, including Kits Wine.

Pogio di Sotto is one of the top Brunello producers, period. Even in the tough 2008 vintage, the wine is beautifully made, with a silky texture, an iron-like aroma and fine but structured tannin. Less ready than the 2007 was last year, this is a good candidate for mid-term aging. Excellent. $150 for the 2007 vintage at Marquis.

I am not always a fan of Sette Ponti as the wines are made in a modern style I tend not to prefer. However, the 2011 Orma was extremely well made merlot dominant bordeaux blend from vineyards bordering on Sassicaia and Ornellaia, but for half the price. It has dusty tannin, powerful fruit and is quite a complete wine. Very Good+ to Excellent. Imported by Trialto/Liquid Art.

Piedmont

Made by G.D. Varja, the Baudana is a single vineyard Barolo that is beautifully elegant and perfumed. The vineyard was purchased and revived by Varja who respected the site so much they gave the bottle its own label. 2009 vintage. Excellent. $95 at BCLDB.

More masculine in style than the Baudana, this 2009 Bricco delle Viole needs time. Excellent. $95 at BCLDB.

The riserva “Villero” is Vietti’s rarest Barolo, released only in ideal years (which often means every 5+ years) in very small quantities (3506 bottles for the 2006 vintage). It is supremely expensive and not available for most mortals. Excellent+. Vietti is imported by International Cellars.

Marchesi di Barolo was one of the original producers of Barolo. The 2009 single vineyard Sarmassa was delicious, rounded and forward enough to enjoy with less aging than is typical. Excellent.

Bel Colle from Verduno is new to me and as far as I know are unrepresented in this market. These wines are quite elegant and forward, with the Barbaresco in particular drinking very well right now. Not quite at the level of the best producers, but offering a unique house style a delicious fruit. Very Good+ for all three wines.

Other Regions

Lambrusco bottled on its lees from Cantina dells Volta.Very dry, delicious and atypical. More linear than is the norm. I thought it was wonderful. Very Good+. Unrepresented.

I have been quite impressed with a number of Trebbianos from the Lugana Superior DOC. Ottella’s Molceo is a lightly macerated, wonderful, rich version of this wine. Very Good+ to Excellent. As far as I know unrepresented.

This 2009 Amarone classico from Brigaldara is beautifully balanced and quite elegant even at 17% ABV. Very Good+ to Excellent.

The wines of Alto Adige rarely appear on British Columbia wine store shelves, largely due to pricing and obscurity for most consumers. This is a shame as the wines are delicious and unique, with some cool indigenous varieties such as Schiava and Lagrein. Erste + Neue makes this delicious wine (called the mouthful Leuchtenburg Kaltereresse) from the grape Vernatsch for light, easy drinking. It’s also a serious wine that is completely suited for many types of food or drinking on its own. I was quite impressed. Excellent. Unrepresented.

I’ve rarely had exciting Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, most likely because quality versions of these wines are very hard to find here in British Columbia. The Gamberro Rosso tasting introduced me to two excellent producers that I’d love to see in the Province. Adrano’s 2010 Colline Teramane was structured and fresh. Excellent. My understanding is that this will be imported into the Province soon.

Torre Dei Beati really excited me as their top wine “Cocciapaza” had tremendous quality fruit and was a wonderful take on Montepulciano. Vines planted in 1972 in clay-limestone soils. Fermented in stainless steel. Excellent and Highly Recommended. Unrepresented in BC.

Masseria Pepe from Manduria in Puglia makes this Primitivo from a unique vineyard planted on sand dunes. The vines are over 100 years old. The wine is very powerful and almost port-like, but still has freshness. I found it delicious despite its size. Very Good+.

Cantina Tollo from Abruzzo has started experimenting with Trebbiano to make a spontaneously fermented white. The experiment has turned out delicious results. Very Good+.

Sette Ponti’s Sicilian project Feudo Maccari produces unique Nero d’Avola. The reason? Its vineyards are planted right next to the coast on limestone soils. The maritime climate tempers the tendency of Nero d’Avola to jammyness and the limestone produces quite a structured wine with interesting savory elements. I was quite impressed. Very Good+ to Excellent (for the 2011). $45 (for the 2009) at Kits Wine.

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