Best Italian Wine Awards 2014


Here is a list of the Best Italian Wine Awards for 2014 selected by a panel composed of Luca Gaedini. Andrea Grignaffini, Daniele Cernilli and Tim Atkin among others. There are no surprises and of the 50 about 20 would have made my top list.

The Top 50
1 Dal Forno Romano – Valpolicella Superiore Monte Lodoletta 2008 – Veneto
2 Tenuta Sette Ponti – Oreno 2011 – Tuscany
3 Marisa Cuomo – Costa d’Amalfi Furore Fiorduva 2012 – Campania
4 Luciano Sandrone – Barolo Cannubi Boschis Luciano Sandrone 2010 – Piedmont
5 Argiolas – Turriga 2010 – Sardinia
6 Tenuta San Guido – Sassicaia 2011 – Tuscany
Casanova 7 of Blacks – Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto 2008 – Tuscany
8 Valentini – Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2010 – Abruzzo
9 Duemani – Duemani, 2011 – Tuscany
10 Giuseppe Mascarello e Figlio – Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno 2009 – Piedmont
11 Hut – Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2006 – Tuscany
12 Vietti – Barolo Lazzarito 2010 – Piedmont
13 Sottimano – Currà Barbaresco 2010 – Piedmont
14 Podere Poggio Ladders – of nursery, 2011 – Tuscany
15 Malvirà – Renesio Roero Riserva 2009 – Piedmont
16 Gorelli The Potazzine – Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2006 – Tuscany IMG_6026
17 Palari – Faro 2009 – Sicily
18 Tua Rita – Redigaffi, 2011 – Tuscany
19 Marco De Bartoli – Vecchio Samperi Ventennale know – Sicily
20 Ettore Germano – Riesling Hérzu 2012 – Piedmont
21 Tenuta Nozzole – The Pareto 2010 – Tuscany
22 Pio Cesare – Barolo Ornato 2010 – Piedmont
23 Le Piane – Boca 2010 – Piedmont
24 Conterno Fantino – Barolo Sori Ginestra 2010 – Piedmont
25 Fratelli Alessandria – Barolo Monvigliero 2010 – Piedmont
26 Ornellaia – masseto, 2011 – Tuscany
27 Nino Negri – Sfursat 5 Star 2010 – Lombardia
28 Mastroberardino – Taurasi Riserva White Label 2008 – Campania
29 Ca ‘D’Gal – Moscato d’Asti Vigna Vecchia 2008 – Piedmont
30 Torraccia of Piantavigna – Ghemme 2007 – Piedmont
31 Polvanera – Primitivo of Gioia del Colle Vineyard Montevella 17, 2011 – Puglia
32 Palladino – Barolo Parafada 2010 – Piedmont
33 Fratelli Barale – Barolo Bussia 2009 – Piedmont
34 Macchiole – Paleo Rosso – 2010 – Tuscany
35 Grattamacco – Grattamacco Bolgheri Rosso Superiore, 2011 – Tuscany
36 Ca ‘del Bosco – Franciacorta Brut Reserve Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2005 – Lombardi
37 Pollina – The Pollina, 2011 – Marche
38 Domenico Clerico – Barolo Ciabot Mentin 2010 – Piedmont
39 Bussia Soprana – Barolo Vigna Colonello 2009 – Piedmont
40 Elvio Cogno – Barolo Bricco Pernice 2009 – Piedmont
41 Nervi – Gattinara Molsino 2006 – Piedmont
42 Ar.Pe.Pe – Grumello Good Counsel Riserva 2005 – Lombardia
43 Castle Mold – Lupicaia 2009 – Tuscany
44 Cortaccia – Brenntal Gewurztraminer, 2011 – Alto Adige
Tramin 45 – Terminum Gewurztraminer 2012 – Alto Adige
46 Prunotto – Barolo Bussia 2010 – Piedmont
47 Castle Verduno – Monvigliero Barolo Riserva 2006 – Piedmont
48 Podere il Carnasciale – The Caberlot2010 – Tuscany
49 Biondi Santi – Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2008 – Tuscany
Villa Bucci 50 – Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva Villa Bucci 2009 – Marche



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Now for Something Completely Different: DUBLIN

Every time we mentioned that we were going to Dublin, our friends would respond the same way: “Why Dublin?” The answer was simple, we wanted to go someplace we had never been before and Dublin sounded perfect.


The Famous Penny Bridge across the Liffey River

The hotel was stayed in was the Fritzwilliam and it was right in the center of town. I would highly recommend it because of the service and the pleasant rooms with a view of the park across the street or the garden in the back.

When we arrived we went for breakfast at Bewley’s on Grafton Street. I skipped the Irish breakfast which typically includes eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, tomatoes, potatoes and other sides and had a delicious scone with butter and coffee. The bread in Ireland is wonderful as is the coffee, tea, butter and baked goods.  In the afternoon we took a tour of Dublin and found out that all of the sites we wanted to see were in walking distance from our hotel.

The main shopping street in Dublin is Grafton Street. it is closed to traffic as are many of the adjoining streets, so it is very pleasant to walk around. There are many street musicians and other performers which gives the street a kind of carnival atmosphere IMG_6066

For dinner the first night we went to The Hot Stove Restaurant, 38 Parnell Square Dublin 1 where we had a very nice dinner and a bottle of Côtes du Rhône AOC “Rhone Paraodox” 2012 Made from 100% Grenache. Luc Baudet. The vines are located on the right bank of the Rhône. The soil is a combination of sand and smooth pebbles typical of the Villafranchian era. The wine is fermented in concrete vats. It has nice fruit aromas and flavors with hints of raspberries and spice and a long finish.

Chicken Liver Pate

Chicken Liver Pate

With the wine we enjoyed a chicken liver pate, stuffed quail and wild boar.

The next afternoon we went for lunch at a restaurant called the Winding Stair which is upstairs from a bookstore. It was on the other side of the river and we crossed over the famous Penny Bridge.IMG_6072

I ordered a half-pint of beer, The Porterhouse Oyster Stout, which the label said was brewed with oysters. I enjoyed it. IMG_6079

We also went to Ely Winebar, 22 Ely Place Dublin 2. We had a cheese and cold cut platter to start and hamburgers that were better than many that we have had in NYC. Great fries, too!IMG_6078

We drank a bottle of Cote Rotie “Cote Rozier” 2007 from Christopher Bonneford. Made from 100% Syrah. The soil is schist/mica and 1 hector is on loose granite and gneiss. The vines are 30 to 35 years old. Harvest takes place as late as possible and the whole crop is destemmed. Fermentation lasts for 25 days in stainless steel vats with remontage and pigeage. 90% of the wine is aged in French oak barrels (10% new) for 24 months. The wine is not filtered but there is a light egg white fining. This is a big, full-bodied wine that can age. It has hints of blackberries, licorice and smoke with a very long finish.IMG_6088

For lunch the next day, we went to a pub called the Duke on Duke Street. We had hot carved pork sandwiches and we just had to have a pint of Guinness.

On FB I noticed that Marina, an Italian friend who lives in Milan, was going to be in Dublin at the same time. We made a date to meet for dinner. We went to Fallon and Byrne, 11-17 Exchange St. Dublin 2. They have a large noisy crowded winebar in the basement, a supermarket on the first floor and a nice restaurant on the second floor. Michele and Marina ordered fish and I ordered steak and chips. The chips, better known as French fries were excellent.IMG_6095

We drank a bottle of Les Mauguerets Lacomtrie St Nicholas de Bourgueil from Pascal Lorieux made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Harvest is in the beginning of October. Destemming takes place and then total maceration for 5/6 weeks with daily pumping over in stainless steel tanks. The wine went very nicely with the steak.


Duck Mousse

Another night we went to Fade Street Social, 4/7 Fade Street Dublin 2. This was a large, busy restaurant with a great many choices on the menu, plus specials, plus 3 chalkboards. The chalkboards list different cuts of meat at different prices depending on the cut and the size. When one was ordered a waiter would climb up and cross it off the board. We had duck mousse, salad with bacon and 2 kinds of eggs, a pork chop and a cut of beef called the Butchers secret.IMG_6090

We drank a bottle of Gigondas “Cuvèe Boisee” 2010 from Domaine Mavette made from 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah 5% Mouvèdre and 5% Cinsault. The soil is clay and limestone and the exposure is south/southwest. The age of the vines is 5 to 60 years. Harvest is manual, and there is a sorting of the grapes. Traditional temperature controlled fermentation takes place with maceration for 20 to 30 days. All of the wine is aged in barrels for 18 to 20 months. The wine went very well with all of the meat.

Lamb Kindey's

Lamb Kidneys

The last night went to Peploe’s at St. Stephens Green Dublin 2, a few blocks from the hotel. This is a very pleasant restaurant with excellent wine service and good food. I had lamb kidneys in mustard sauce and roasted chicken with black truffles.IMG_6083

With the food I ordered a bottle of Minervois AOC 2010 Estate Rouviole in the Minervois La Livinière. Made from 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. The soil is clay, limestone and sandstone. The vineyard has a southern exposure and is at 100/200 meters. Average age of the vines is 40 years. Two manual harvests take place at the end of September. There is de-stemming and traditional fermentation, which lasts for three weeks, in stainless steel tanks. The Syrah in aged in French, American and Eastern European oak barrels. The Grenache is aged in second passage oak barrels and in stainless steel to retain its finess and expression of red fruit. The wines are then blended. This wine was drinking very well and was a perfect combination with the kidneys and the chicken.

NOTE – If you get to Dublin, do not miss seeing Trinity College which includes the Book of Kells and the long room in the Library. The Dublin Castle tour is great for a history of Dublin and Ireland. The Wild Wicklow Tour of the countryside was the best bus tour I have ever taken!

Very Important Note: At Dublin airport after you clear Irish security, passengers going to the U.S. go to a separate part of the terminal where they pas through U.S. customs, so when you arrive in the US you just walk right out of the terminal! It made arriving back home so easy!




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Italian Police Confiscate Counterfeit “Fake” Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino

Red wine at Carrefour

The counterfeit wine was confiscated by Italian police before it reached the market. Photograph: Gary Calton

Producers of Tuscany’s Brunello di Montalcino have been toasting their good fortune after Italian police foiled a plot to flood the market with nearly half a million counterfeit bottles of the prized red wine.

A wine expert, who had obtained fake Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino labels and falsified certification in the region’s wine database, was selling lower-quality local wine as bulk supplies of the coveted red to unwitting local producers, police officers in Siena said.

“It’s the biggest fraud ever carried out in the agricultural and food sector,” the force’s chief, Luca Albertario, added. Had the scam succeeded, it would have resulted in fake Brunello di Montalcino wines “ending up on the tables of half the restaurants in the world”, he added. The 160,000 litres of falsified wine would have sold for up to €5m (£4m).

Detectives tipped off last year by a suspicious winemaker discovered the conman had targeted up to 10 wineries between 2011 and 2013. He is also accused of attempting to steal €350,000 from the bank account of one of his victims.

Some 220,000 bottles of poor-quality wine, which had been stored in barrels to age like the real Brunello, were confiscated this week before they could go on the market.

The oenologist, who has been banned from living in Montalcino, is the only person under investigation, though police believe he had been helped by collaborators in the wine production and sales sectors.

The Brunello di Montalcino consortium of winemakers and authorities in Tuscany plan to sue for damages.

According to the Italian farmers association, Coldiretti, 70% of Brunello wine is exported, mainly to the US, then by Asia and Central America.

The scandal is the second to hit the Italian wine sector this year. In May, police foiled a multimillion-euro scam in which table wine was being falsely labelled as from a winery belonging to the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli’s estate.

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The Wines of Tenuta Villanova

This is the last article about my visit to Friuli as judge for the 2014 Pinot Grigio Challenge and subsequent visit to some of the winemakers. After the Challenge ended, I went to the Lis Neris Winery and tasted wines from Lis Neris and Ronco del Gelso, which I have already written about, and Tenuta Villanova.

Alberto Grossi

Alberto Grossi

Representing Tenuta Villanova the day that I visited was Alberto Grossi, the managing director of the winery and nephew of the owner, Giuseppina Grossi-Bennati. Translating for him was Nadia La Milia who did a wonderful job because she understood the wine terms and made everything very clear. Alberto said that they had 100 hectares registered to DOC Isonzo wines and 27 hectares to DOC Collio. The hilltops where the Collio vineyards are located are marked by clay and limestone marl rich in minerals and organic substances. The Isonzo vineyards are located on the alluvial plain of the Isonzo River and are composed of sandstone (calcified sand) and gravel. With these two different DOC zones he feels that they can produce the best typical wines from the area

The winesIMG_5805

Friulano “Ronco Cucco” Collio DOC 2012 100% Friulano The soil is sandstone – marl and the exposure is northeast southwest. Training system is guyot and the vineyard is at 80 meters. After a gentle pressing of the grapes, the must is cryo-settled, then fermented at controlled temperature. The wine rests on the lees with frequent bàttonage. If you ask for white wine in Friuli, this is what you will get. As a recent article in the New York Times stated, this is “the house wine of Friuli.” It is a dry complex wine, with a hint of wildflowers, citrus fruit and a nice touch of bitter almond on the finish. This wine had hints of ripe apple, a touch of banana and a touch of vanilla.IMG_5807

Chardonnay Ronco Cucco DOC Collio 2008 100% Chardonnay. The soil is sandstone marl and the exposure is north south. The vineyard is at 90 meters and the training system is guyot 2.40 X 1.00m. After gentle pressing of the grapes, the must is cryo-settled, then fermented in 225 liter oak barrels. The wine rests on the lees until the following May, with frequent bàttonage to keep the lees in suspension. This wine has hints of ripe apple, a touch of banana and vanilla.IMG_5803

Malvasia Friuli Isonzo DOC 2012 100% Malvasia Istriana. The soil is medium textured alluvial, the exposure is northwest southeast, the elevation is 51 meters and the training system is guyot 2.40 X1.00 m. The grapes are hand picked; cold maceration takes place in the press before the grapes are gently pressed. The must is cryo –settled, then fermentation at a controlled temperature. The wine rests several months on the lees.IMG_5802

Malvasia “Uva Nostra” 2011 100% made from Malvasia from the Saccolina vineyard. The harvest is by hand and takes place at the end of September. There is a soft pressing of the grapes followed by a cold settling of the must and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. Malvasia from the right producer can age and I was very impressed by the aromas and flavors of this wine. It has hints of lime and ripe fruit with a long almond like finish.


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Filed under Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Tenuta Villanova

2014 Vintage in Friuli

When I visited Lis Neris winery in early June I asked the owner Alvaro Pecorari about the 2014 vintage in Friuli. He said we would have to wait and see what the weather conditions would be during the summer before he could give me am answer. A few days ago I received the answer to my question from him in an e-mail. This is what he said about the vintage.



We have to go back 18 years before we find another summer that was so cold and rainy. We have been experiencing weather more like areas further north than Friuli. In the last months we have been involved in vineyard operations generally associated with Burgundy and Champagne, like leaf thinning to let air and sun better reach the grape bunches and well as several pruning’s of the new vegetation, to maintain a more mature leaf pattern.

An older canopy training system does not force the vine to get even more water which it does not need. We worked really hard in the vineyard, both in terms of labor and means. However, the frequency of rain encouraged the main vine diseases and reduced the exposure of the vines to the sun. The resulting wines will have more acidity that is why there is no hurry to start the vintage. Those producers who decide to wait to harvest their grapes will benefit from every ray of sun,that will give taste and flavors to the grapes, which could increase the value of this difficult vintage.




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We spent my birthday weekend in the Hamptons at the home of our friends, Ernie and Louise De Salvo. Louise is an excellent cook and Ernie and I have the same taste in wine. IMG_5970

We started with lunch on Saturday with zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies in a batter and deep-fried. This is one of my favorite foods and I have it whenever I am in Rome. With this we had a wine from a producer I did not know but it was a perfect combination with the flowers because it is a wine with a depth of flavor,hints of citrus fruit and good acidity.IMG_5956

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo “Fonte Canale” 2011 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from old vines from Tiberio. The vineyard is at 300 meters, there are 2,500 vines /hectare and the training system is the tendone (vines form a canopy to protect the grapes from the sun). Harvest takes place the last week of September. Cold maceration on the skins lasts for 6 hours. Vinification takes place in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation does not occur. The wine remains in the bottle for a short period before release.IMG_5985

Champagne Premier Brut NV Louis Roederer is made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier from 50 different crus. It is aged for 3 years in the cellar and 6 more months after dègorgement.IMG_5988

One of the dishes that Louise makes, which I love, is a cold melon soup with ginger. This was an interesting combination that worked well because the wine had nice fruity aromas and flavors and a hint of creaminess.IMG_5964

Barbera d’Alba 2001 Giacomo Conterno made from 100% Barbera d’Alba. The vineyard is in Serralunga d’Alba, the soil is calcareous limestone and the exposure is west/southwest. Vinification lasts for 2/3 weeks in wooden vats with regular breaking of the cap. The wine is then aged in large oak barrels for two years. Note–With the 2012 vintage, the Barbera with have Francia on the label as opposed to Cascina Francia, but the wine will remain the same.IMG_5963

When there are many different flavors in the foods Barbera is always a good choice because it is a red wine with good acidity. This one worked very well with the 3 cheeses, salumi, prosciutto, mortadella and best of all the flavorful roasted peppers made by Louise. The better Barberas can age for 20 years and this one was showing no signs of age.IMG_5969

Taurasi Riserva 1995 100% Aglianico Mastroberadino The soil is poor in organic substances but with a high content of clay, limestone, minerals and microelements. The vineyards are on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude, the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard is much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest is from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine spends one year in Slovenian oak barrels and two years in bottle, the wine can be laid down for 10 to 15 years. The riserva stays in medium sized 40 to 50HL oak casks for 2 years and 2 years in bottle. It can live in the bottle for 25-40 years. This is the way I believe the 1995 was produced. The wine was showing no signs of age. This is a full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice, smoke and a touch of leather. IMG_5974

I was in the mood for Taurasi for my birthday. My favorite pasta is Pasta Matriciana and I had to have for my birthday along with the Taurasi.IMG_5978

Hermitage 1999 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave. It is made from 100% Syrah from 50 year old vines from some of the best plots in Hermitage with different soils. The wine is aged in 228 oak barrels for 18 months, 10 to 20% new and the rest 1 to 5 years old.IMG_5989

Ernie makes the best lamb on the grill. He takes pieces of lamb and thick slices of bacon and skewers them. A big wine like the Hermitage was perfect with its depth of flavor and hints of black and red fruit.IMG_5995

For dessert Louise made fig ice cream. I like it so much that the next morning for breakfast before we went home I had the fig ice cream Sicilian style — sandwiched on a warm brioche.




Filed under Barbera, Champagne, Chave, Hermitage, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Louis Roederer Brut, Mastroberardino, Taurasi, Tiberio Winery

Metodo Classico Lambrusco and Negroamaro

This week I tasted two sparkling wines made with what the Italians call metodo classico, the Champagne method. One was a Lambrusco, a wine I am very familiar with but this was the first time I tasted one made in this way. The other was made with Negroamaro, a familiar grape variety, but not as a sparking wine and certainly not by the Metodo Classico.IMG_6018

Lambrusco di Modena Spumante Brute Metodo Classico DOC 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara- Cantina Della Volta (Emilia Romagna). This red wine is obtained by a selection of the best Sorbara grapes entirely gathered in small cases (max. 37 lbs.) by manual harvesting. The grapes are carefully handled in order to prevent them from being crushed during transportation to the winery. The clarification of the must is followed by fermentation at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. After resting for at least 6 months the wine receives selected yeasts prior of being bottled. The bottles are then stored horizontally in piles for the re-fermentation process in a constant ambient temperature of 53°F. The last steps are the remuage, disgorgement and the addition of liqueur d ’expedition. This is a dark red wine with wild strawberry aromas and flavors and hints of other red fruits and berries.IMG_6029

 Salento IGT Spumante Brut Rose “Noitre” Metodo Classico 100% Negroamaro from Salice Salentino-Futura 14 (Puglia). The vineyard is at 40 meters and the soil is clayish and sandy. The training system is spurred cordon. There are 5,000 vines/ha and the vines are 12 years old. Harvest is the last week of August. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel and there is a partial malolactic fermentation. The wine rests in the bottle for 30 months before release. It is a very light salmon color with  red fruit aromas and flavors and hints of raspberries. Part owner of Futura 14, the company that makes the wine, is Bruno Vespa, a well-known Italian TV personality.




Filed under Cantina della Volta, Futura 14, Italian Sparkling Wine, Method Classico, Sparkling wine, Spumante