Sunday, June 5, 2011

Vinitaly 2011, Part 6

Finally, we reach the last of the posts about our three days at the Veronafiere for Vinitaly 2011. After one last lunch at the Pad 8 cafeteria, we were off for another epic Saturday afternoon. The journey began with a walk over to Pad 11, someplace I had not ventured in prior trips, but according to my file was housing a great booth somewhere. We found that booth, shared by a handful of great wineries and started down the line.

Up first was Passopisciaro, one of the leading producers of wines on Mt. Etna. We began with their 2008 Passopisciaro, a blend of lots from all of their vineyards. It was a great introduction to the Nerello Mascalese grape, but only a hint of what was to come. We then sampled four different single-vineyard Nerello Mascaleses, from four vineyards of varying altitudes ranging from 450 to 900 meters, and all had elements that distinguished them from the others. The 2009 Rampante exhibited a minerality that reminded me of an Hermitage, while the 2009 Sciarranuova was lighter with a floral nose that reminded me of a Burgundy. The 2009 Porciara was the least distinctive in my opinion but still very good, and was followed by the 2009 Chiappemagine, which was the most like a Nebbiolo. After all of these great Nerellos, we were then treated to something completely different, the 2008 Franchetti, a Cabernet Franc from the same Etna slopes. I don't really know how to describe this wine, other than to say it was amazing that this grape could produce such a wine in a climate that produced the Nerello Mascaleses as well. Overall, I was blown away by the quality of all of the wines at Passopisciaro, and definitely have put the winery on my watch list so that I can start to buy what I can.

Our next stop really wasn't a stop at all, as we just changed the region of wines we were trying without even moving or having a new host. Passopisciaro's owner Andrea Franchetti also has an outstanding Tuscan estate Tenuta di Trinoro, so we moved on to those wines. We began with the entry-level wine, the 2008 Le Cupole, before then getting to taste the 2008 Tenuta di Trinoro. This wine is a blend of mainly Merlot and Cab Franc, but also has a bit of Cab Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Even as a truly international wine from Tuscany, it is a stunner, not overly "international" in style, but maintaining some Tuscan character. It was a truly eye-opening wine, and one of my candidates for wine of the week.

Amazingly after these two great wineries, we still had one more top producer to visit just steps away, Isole e Olena. We were able to taste their full lineup, beginning with the 2008 Chianti Classico. Up next was the 2007 Cepparello, and it was truly outstanding. Among all of the 100% Sangioveses we tasted during the week from this great vintage, I think the '07 Cepparello may have been my favorite, as it exhibited an elegance I didn't get from the others. We then tried the 2008 Cepparello before moving to the 2006 Syrah and the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Finally through our stop at Pad 11, we crossed back to the grab-bag of Pad 6, stopping first at Lungarotti, an Umbria producer we have started to follow. It was a bit crowded and warm at their booth, so we only tasted three wines, the 2010 Torre di Giano (white), followed by the 2007 Rubesco and the 2005 Rubesco Riserva.

We then ended up back with some other Tuscan gems, beginning with Tenuta San Guido. Here we had the 2009 Le Difese, which looks to be another solid vintage for a wine we've come to admire as a QPR winner, followed by the 2009 Guidalberto. While at San Guido, we also tasted a pair of wines from another estate the owners have, Salviano. From there we were offered the 2008 Solideo (Cab/Syrah) and the 2009 Tureo (Sangiovese/Syrah).

Our next stop was at Petrolo, where we got to taste both the 2008 Torrione (Sangiovese) and the 2008 Galatrona (Merlot). While the Galatrona gets much of the critical acclaim, they offered to show us how well the Torrione also ages by pouring the 1998 Torrione as well. I was amazed at how well this relatively inexpensive wine has held up, as it was still drinking quite well.

Continuing the Tuscan theme, we went to Le Macchiole, one of Bolgheri's top estates. Once again, we were treated great, warmly welcomed and offered some of the finest wines in the region. We first had the 2009 Bolgheri Rosso, then followed it with the 2007 Paleo (Cab Franc) and the 2007 Messorio, which was probably my top Merlot of the week.

Our final stop before moving on to points south was at D'Alessandro, one of Tuscany's foremost producers of Syrah. Here we had the 2008 Cortona Syrah, the 2007 Il Migliaro, and the 2007 Il Bosco, a past favorite. Again, we weren't quite done though, as we were then offered the 2001 Il Bosco as well to see how the wine has aged (quite well).

At this point I made the call that we needed to move along to something new, so we headed over to Pad B where the Campania producers were set up. Our first stop was Galardi, where we tasted the 2009 Terra di Lavoro. This is once again a great Aglianico, continuing an amazing run for this winery. We were fortunate to meet proprietors Arturo and Dora Celentano, who were, like so many others we met, passionate and welcoming in discussing their wine. Even tasting just one wine, this was a great visit.

Next was another stop with just one wine, but once again what a wine, and what a great estate owner. This was Montevetrano, where Silvia Imparato spoke with us while we tried the 2009 Montevetrano. It is another great wine, and it was even better to discuss it with the woman who has done so much to put this region on the map. I hope that someday soon we can go visit her and the Celentanos, who were both excellent hosts and make extraordinary wine.

Our next destination was De Conciliis, recommended to me by a friend here in Atlanta. We began with the 2009 Donnaluna before a small vertical of their flagship Aglianico Naima. In order, we had the 2006 Naima, 2005 Naima, and 2004 Naima, which were all very good, before finishing with the 2006 Zero.

We then circled back to Molettieri, as they were busy when we passed before going to De Conciliis. We soon discovered why, as we were treated to a great tasting, even though the family member who was there spoke almost no English (yet we managed to communicate well enough with him). We began with three vintages of their "entry" wine, the 2008 Irpinia, 2007 Irpinia, and 2006 Irpinia. We then had the 2006 Irpinia Campi Taurasini before moving up to the Taurasis. Here we had the 2006 Taurasi, the 2005 Taurasi, the 2005 Taurasi Riserva, and finally the 2004 Taurasi Riserva. Amazingly, I think there might have been more we could have tried but after this many wines and this much time we decided to move on as time was running short.

The end was quickly approaching, but I had one last destination in mind - Sicily. As we entered Pad 1, home of the Sicilian wines, we immediately noted the air conditioning was on full force. It had gotten quite hot that day, and somehow no one was staying cooler than the Sicilians, which Dad quickly noted. As I looked for our first stop Benanti, Mom and Dad both needed a bathroom break so left me to begin tasting. They were gone for quite a while, which left me to dive into a lineup far more diverse than I expected. Tasting completely out of order, I began with the 2004 Majora, a blend of Nero d'Avola, Syrah, Tannat, and Petit Verdot. That was followed by the 2005 Rovitello (Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio), the 2006 Serra della Contesa (also Mascalese and Capuccio) and then the 2006 Nerello Mascalese, my favorite of the bunch. Finally, I tried the 2005 Il Drappo (Nero d'Avola) and the 2004 Lamoremio (Nero, Nerello Mascalese, and Cab). It was quite an interesting tasting with some very good wines, but I almost wonder if Benanti could simplify things a bit.

Mom and Dad rejoined and tried some of the Benanti wines, and we had just a bit of time left. I had one last stop I really wanted to make and finally located the booth of Terre Nere, the winery that turned me on to Etna a year or so ago. Similar to Passopisciaro, we tasted the entry-level blend, the 2010 Etna Rosso, before moving to the single vineyard bottlings. Here we had the 2009 Caldera Sottana, the 2009 Fendo di Mezzo, the 2009 Santo Spirito, the 2009 Guardiola, and finally the 2009 Don Peppino Pre-phylloxera. All of these Nerello Mascaleses were excellent as well, though I even have to admit the Passopisciaros were a shade better. I'm not complaining at all, as I thought the Terre Nere wines were excellent, and left a final overall impression of the great strides being made in Sicily. In fact, I have read since returning that many other experts also felt that a big story of Vinitaly 2011 was the arrival of Sicily (and specifically Nerello Mascalese) as a star on the scene.

As we walked out of Pad 1 and right through the exits, it was amazing to think what we had done over the prior three days. Vinitaly 2011 had been an unquestioned success, as we had gotten the opportunity to taste so many of Italy's (and the world's) great wines. We had met so many great people, and that is part of what amazed me most - many of these producers have no reason to spend time and be so welcoming to people like us who are not in the business, but they are. And even though I will always try to judge a wine by what is in the bottle, it is easier to like a wine when the producer is so great. And that is what makes Vinitaly so amazing - it's not just tasting wines, but getting a chance to meet those who put everything into making these wines, and hearing their stories, their beliefs. I can't wait until 2012.