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VinItaly 2002 - Part I

by Nerval

This is a report from Vinitaly 2002, the Italian wine Expo. Part I features 260 notes on the wines of Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli, Alto Adige and the Veneto. Parts II and III feature 390 notes on Abruzzo, Marche, Umbria, Campania, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily and Tuscany

Part I - Piedmont; Emilia-Romagna; Friuli; Alto Adige; Veneto
Part II - Marche; Abruzzo; Umbria; Campania; Puglia; Sardinia; Sicily
Part III - Tuscany

PIEMONTE

Marcarini

Dolcetto d'Alba Fontanazza 2001
Bottled two days prior. Good violet colour, nose of tar mainly, bitter flowers, not very open on the nose but pleasant, sweet-spicy in mouth, not very long, a solid Dolcetto.

Barolo La Serra 1998
Rather open nose with warm spicy notes, lots of flowery character but masculine in style. Tannic, concentrated and virile in mouth, almost pungent, good length, well-structured.

Barolo Brunate 1998
Lighter in colour but still on the dark side for a Barolo medium trasnparent ruby. More airy and spicy on the nose, more ethereal than the La Serra which was exactly the opposite of what Mr. Marchetti told us about the cru character. Also in mouth it shows quite obviously less filled with fruit than the above, some bricky tannins on the finish, with a lightness and elegance to the juicy whole.

Moscato d'Asti 2001
Pleasant, light and cool grapey nose, flowers, orange, soft, not aggressive nor pungent, not much citrusy character. Good acidity, much on the soft side, round, a bit foody and bready in mouth. Nothing very interesting in the Moscato section.

Vietti

Roero Arneis 2001
Dark golden. Rather foody nose with notes of lemon peel, lacks some definition, on the soft side with sweetness of fruit, all very Italian in register. Good in mouth, soft, quite long, banana and ripe apple flavours lacking a bit of definition again. Full, citrusy finish. Lacks a bit of personality but more than drinkable. Luca Currado, who was our host at this stand, was very proud of this wine (which BTW his family reinvented i the 1960s), he stressed that he aims at "a full-blown wine, combining structure and elegance, not power". This he certainly achieves.

Dolcetto Trevigne 2000
From Bussia, Novello and Castiglione. Botte sample. Colour is dark, a nose of chinine and dried spices. Rather hardish in mouth, powerfully tannic for a Dolcetto, slightly unfriendly yet.

Dolcetto Sant'Anna 2000
2,500 bottles made. Colour also very dark. Strange old-viney nose with pronounced orange spiciness, rubber or petrol also, more empyreumatique, juicier and richer if still with the same hardish structure not entirely filled with fruit. Lacks some fruit sweetness, very dry and a bit austere or almost bitter in fact. Marginally less interesting than the above.

Barbera d'Alba Scarrone 2000
One year of barrique. 10,000 bottles made. Colour lightening a bit at rim. Bready nose with balsamic hints, some oak showing in a softness to the fruit, soft, balsamic oak. A trace of anonymousness to the whole.

Barbera d'Alba Scarrone Vigna Vecchia 2000
One year of barrique. 3,900 bottles made. A warm Italian purple colour, minor rim. A bit more oak spice on the nose, a bit meaty also, some milky notes also as of American oak. Good mouthfeel, thick and soupy but lacks much definition. Nothing terribly exciting.

Barbera d'Asti Trevigne 2000
8-10 months in barriques, a blend of Bussia, Barolo and Castiglione vineyards. 26,000 bottles made. Cleaner on the nose, juicier, fruitier, a bit lighter in profile, not as dark-extracted, leaning towards Dolcetto with its fresh strawberry notes. But also shares a thick opaque core with the above wines. Great juiciness and length in mouth, very good impression with a fresh fruitiness of strawberry and red currants. Clearly superior in expression to the two above.

Barbera d'Asti La Crena 1999
The vines here are around 70 years old. Aged for 16-18 months of barrique. 6,700 bottles made. Very dark in the glass. Very oaky nose, could be anything, mildly crisp but sweet-marmaladey on the nose, very tannic mouthfeeel, has a sweet perfume as of apples? A bit too tannic and bitter-stemmy on the palate to be drunk with pleasure today, difficult ot assess and again with a mild anonymousness about it.

Barolo 1998
From Castiglione, 27,000 bottles made. A true Barolo colour, especially at rim. Nose is rather warm, some stale stawaberry with medicinal overtones but interesting and fruity. Some chinine again on the palate, cinnamon, quite focused and with some personality, good structure, juicy, though finishes with genuine Barolo tannins. Well-made. Juicy and quite likeable.

Barolo Rocche 1998
4,400 bottles made. Colour as above, minor rusty shades. Again starts with that mildly volatile medicinal note, coloured chalk, yet milkier and softer in style than the blended Barolo, sweeter and more concentrated strawberry with a degree of sweetness. Stale character? Less obvious than the above, not really more interesting if not for the quite clearly higher intensity on the palate. High acidity. Good length.

Barolo Brunate 1998
3,850 bottles made. From 50-year-old vines. A bit darker in colour than the two above. Different, much sweeter nose, almondy biscuits and strawberry jam, softer in mouth also, sweeter, rounder, better length though also a notch up in structure and thickness of tannins. Combines structure with sweetness of fruit.

Barolo Lazzarito 1998
3,200 bottles. Dense ruby core to a pale Nebbiolo colour. Spices, cinnamon and cedar, a bit medicinal-bitterish, sweeter on the palate with more fruit filling, rounder, fruit-syrupy and almost medicinal-extracted. Has an elegance and sweetness to the fruit. This is an example of early harmony. Very convincing.

Barolo Riserva Villero 1997
A bit darker in colour also with a bit of rim. Colour a bit Great balsamic nose, soft, cool and juicy fruit. Much more concentrated character to the fruit shifted from strawberry to currants aromatically, not so cherry-like, still light on its feet although has a degree of herbal-spicy bitterness. Good freshness although very powerfully tannic mouth. Resembles the G. Mascarello Ca' d'Morissio Riserva, the most amazing young Barolo I've tasted, thanks to this combination. But perhaps lacks superior harmony to be really outstanding. The we taste another Barbera:

Hastae Barbera d'Asti Quorum 2000
A joint-venture between the houses of Berta, Prunotto, Coppo, Vietti, Braida and Chiarlo with Cottarella consulting. Extracted colour. Very meaty and extracted on the nose, grilled sausages and baked bread, doesn't appear very drinkable. Lots of brett but showing some fruit, mildly spicy, chocolate and mint, back by an almost fecal stink here as far as the nose is concerned. Has some degree of interest. Needs decanting imperatively. Juicy, light in mouth, great length, finely focused structure always present in the background. Needs a bit more focus on the nose aromatically to be outstanding. Has some sweetness of fruit and good length. Surprisingly convincing.

Back to Vietti with a Moscato d'Asti 2001
Candy-sweet with a volatile petrolly note, not very long, a bit too sweet and vague to be interesting. Slightly pedestrian if pleasant.

Braida

Langhe Il Fiore di Serra dei Fiori 2001
70% Chardonnay, 20% Riesling, 10% between Rossese Bianco, Lisairetta and Nascetta. Soft, yeasty on the nose, as if chalky also, has a dry extract thickness despite an Italian sweetness of fruit.

Langhe Chardonnay Asso di Fiori 2000
Aged in oak. Much Cervaro in style with first notes of stale butter and lots of strcuture showing. Fat, has some elegance, oily, soft, quite drinkable, not bad if not too original in style. Unaggressive and reasonably elegant.

Grignolino d'Asti 2001
Light pink fading at rim. Slightly sitnky strawberry character, flowery and slightly lemoy. Pleasant if generally vague in mouth, lacks some character.

Barbera del Monferrato Frizzante La Monella 2001
Bottled two weeks prior. Rather dark in colour. Some petrol and tar on the nose, well-defined strawberry aromas, fresh and interesting. Outstanding juiciness in mouth, some bitterish character to the fruit. Well-made. This is distinctive and interesting.

Barbera d'Asti Montebruna 2001
Barrel sample (aged six months in large botti). Wonderful concentrated juicy purple. More almonds to a sweeter, more feminine nose, very Barbera-like, with almondy bitterness matched by strawberry freshness, wild strawberry notes, pleasant, very clean in mouth, though almost smokey-bitterish in concentration. Not as fresh and fruity-immediate as the above. This is a bit more structured.

Monferrato Rosso Il Bacialé 2000
80% Barbera, 20% Pinot Noir, 6 months of 50% barrique. Transparent, well-defined purple-ruby colour. Sweet, slightly pâtisserie on the nose with bitter meaty notes, especially pork, very sweet, follows on with wild strawberry, raspberry, juicier, lighter I think than the Montebruna, yet great purity of fruit despite the minor bitterish residue. This has personality. Bitterness of very fresh griotte cherry. Big wine.

Barbera d'Asti Bricco dell'Uccellone 1999
A year of barrique of which one third new, from old vines (over 30 years). Dark purple, a bit of barrique oak but deep aroma of well-focused cherries, very creamy and sweet aromatically without being too easy-oaky, slightly bitterish spices.

Barbera d'Asti Bricco della Bigotta 1999
18 months of barrique, vines here are slightly younger than in the Uccellone. Again a rather compact purple colour. Paradoxically this is showing less obviously oaky, with a spicy and meaty character of serious Barberas from this great vintage. This is altogether more serious, juicy yet very dense and thick, less airy than the above, slightly bitterish on the finish. A bit of bluntness from the oak? Likely to improve. Another highly interesting wine from Braida.

Moscato d'Asti Vigna Senza Nome 2001
5% alc. A bit more animal-chickeny than expected on the nose, not very defined, with some smoke, grapes and citrus of the usual varietal character, some candy sweetness as well. A bit vague, too much residual sugar perhaps.

Brachetto d'Acqui 2001
Colour is a medium pink lightening to red hues. Strawberries, fresh butter, raw chicken meat on the nose, quickly followed by wild strabwerries and candy sweetness. Rather lean and disappearing in mouth, lacks a bit of acids, all in all quite vague but very drinkable.

Paolo Conterno

Dolcetto d'Alba 2001
Barrel sample. A bit of tar, dense and solid minerality, austere expression, thick and serious in style, extracted, mildly soupy, with the balsamic and macerated fruit signature of the house. A bit less definition than in previous vintages but clearly tasted too young. A bit hot from the alcohol content I think. A monster Dolcetto.

Barbera d'Alba 1999
This sees 5% barrique. Slightly lighter hue to the same purple colour. Macerated fruit on the nose again, a bit funky nose, with a glassy minerality again. Great texture in mouth, fine length and intensity, finishes slightly weaker? Good acidity, lacks ultimate cut in the aromatics, but greatly intense and very charming thanks to the balsamic sweetness. A dialectic wine.

Barbera d'Alba 2000
Barrel sample. Darker than others wines here, if still transparent. More walnuts and almonds on the nose here, has a freshness of fruit with acidity showing on the nose as well. Juicy, crisp, softer in structure than the 1999. Some sausagey notes as well, this is less convincing but might improve in bottle.

Langhe Nebbiolo Bric Ginestra 1999
From a newly opened bottle, this is showing fabulous immediacy and fruitiness, great perfume of which only Nebbiolo is capable. In fact this is very Nebbiolo in style but clearly made in a more approachable whole than even the Dolcetto here. A note of pâtisserie, finishes with kiss of acidity. Has a bit of tannins and structure, great juiciness and length on the palate; as happily impressive as last year when this producer was my greatest discovery. Great class. By a shade superior to the Barbera. Really very fine.

Barolo Ginestra 1998
This vintage only aged one year in barrel. Beautiful saturated purpe colour, so is the nose, balsamic, very fruity, fantastic purity of expression here, if slightly marred by the vanilla softness from the oak and the almondy extraction. A bit of cigarette smoke as well. Closes up in the glass losing much of its perfume. Great acidity and length, the tannins perhaps less aggressive, if still a bit in the tar character. But not metallic as many young Barolos, this has a strange, almost tea-like essence again, as in previous vintages. Great.

Barolo Riserva Ginestra 1997
Great colour lightening up at rim. Finesse to the perfume, if less defined and intensively balsamic than the normale, by a degree sharper aromatically; clearly still dormant. A bit foody as of fried calamari in mouth, but a good wine, if less balsamic, less thick than remembered. Shows quite some density in mouth and some tannins on the very long finish. Again, as always, greatly defined and pure fruit character. Has a great future.

Az. Vit. Le Baccanti, F. Cazzulo & C. Caluso, Torino

Erbaluce di Caluso DOC 2000 'S'
Barrel sample? Very fresh, lemony-leafy, very Italian in style, in mouth this is showing light and fresh, very pleasant to drink. Long, bitterish, dry-textured finish a bit disjointed from the rest perhaps, midly woody (though this sees stainless steel only). 5,000 bottles made against 3,000 of the normale version (which I didn't taste). 7€.

Caluso Passito DOC 1998
From grapes dried in the cellar from mid-September to the month of February, then aged in barrique, usually new. Later also sees a proportion of glass demijohns. This is smelling of white chocolate and cocoa dust, dried apricot, rather dense and solid in character, though by no means aggressive. Dense and chocolatey, also lots of dried fruit character in mouth. Very good indeed. 2,000 bottles made in this vintage. 30€.

Andrea Oberto

Dolcetto d'Alba 2001
From tank. Lots of almondy extraction and petrol on the typical nose, intense, quite defined, not much body in mouth, disappearing rather quickly but surely pleasant. Good perfume here.

Dolcetto d'Alba San Francesco 2001
Also aged in steel only. This is very stinky on the nose, better in mouth showing confident structure, quite a bit of tannins and acid on the finish. Rather long and well-structured, lacks a bit of aromatic charm to score really high. Good juiciness, some tar character. Good wine.

Dolcetto d'Alba Vantrino-Albarella 2001
Barrel sample – this sees some wood. Colour is very dark. Nose is fine and elegant, dry in character, showing a bit of wood, not too defined nor open, but showing good Dolcetto perfume. As serious as usually. Very good in mouth, balsamic, integrated, elegant, finishing a bit vegetal as of unripe acids on the finish? An idiosyncratic Dolcetto again firmly in the top league.

Barbera d'Alba 2001
From barrel, 40% barrique and some botte. Great juiciness, another balsamic-elegant nose, simple but supremely vinified, with what the French call charpente. Very good length and finely dosed acidity on the finish. Not much wood apparent.

Barbera d'Alba Giada 2000
This is aged in 100% barriques for 18 months. Barrel sample. Very dark. Showing a bit more oak on the nose, droied and jammy elements of currants, blackberries and some raspberry as well. Juicy, some fresh paint, long, good structure. The most important thing here remains the elegance and a beautiful, because so delicate, acidity on the finish. Safely outstanding. Impressive and should improve with age.

Nebbiolo d'Alba 2001
Tank sample, aged in steel so far, Mr Oberto says it might subsequently be transferred to some wood. Also quite dark for Nebbiolo. Dry walnutty nose with varietal typicity. Very spicy. Good perfume. In mouth has some character, finishes tannic, not much definition but well-made and pleasant to drink.

Barolo 1998
This sees the malolactic fermentation in wood, with maceration for Barolo not exceeding 10 days, says Mr Oberto (and only 5-6 for Nebbiolo d'Alba). 25 months of ageing in 30% new barriques and 70% older barrels. Mr Oberto has only bought some botte barrels this year but is still unsure whether to use them. Good, sweet if still quite spicy perfume, lots of cigarette smoke character, very intense, again very long, finishing slightly bitter. Another masterly vinified wine with impressive consistency in mouth, with a typical character of Nebbiolo but much softened. This is on the opposite pole to a traditional Nebbiolo and its structure designed for ageing, but extremely confident winemaking within the style. Very precise, rather austere if not downright savvy in its expression. Quite impressive as I don't remember liking the 1997 Barolos here so much.

Barolo Albarella 1998
Aged in 50% new oak. Some bacony oak showing at first, followed by Nebbiolo-typical spiciness, then very good substance on the palate, with the structure rounded off by the oak but never to the extent of masking the aromatic character of Nebbiolo. A wine of compromise but one that I, as a lover of old-style Barolo, I find convincing and rewarding.

Barolo Rocche 1998
This is more meaty than the Albarella, concentrated and petrolly on the nose, a bit more volatile, spicy yet still sweet-balsamic in perfume. Slightly higher acidity to the above, a bit more austere and masculine, with hints of dried fruits. As good as the Albarella, if surely not as open nor not as pure. Another very classy red.

Chiara Boschis (E. Pira)

Dolcetto d'Alba 2001
Barrel sample, aged in used barriques. Has typicity in a rather smelly tar smell, nice purple colour, lacks a bit of definition, better on the nose than palate. Also not very long, pleasant but not very substantial.

Barbera d'Alba 2000
Barrel sample, aged in second-year oak. Very dark. Sweet syrupy cherry smell, has a mineral touch of dry sand or dust soil; better in mouth, this is juicy and long while staying soft within the house style, finishing with good acidity. Rather linear in structure, this is more balanced than previous vintages and very convincing.

Barolo Cannubi 1998
Aged in new oak. Lighter in hue than the above wines, very consistent colour. Very eympreumatique, with petrol and tar covering the fruit now, spicy-volatile in the good sense. Shows some petrolly oak in mouth coupled with syrupy-sweet fruit; the length is good, a well-made wine in a soft mould, though not lacking substance. But of course not too exciting as a style, and even within it has some weaknesses. But very good for sure. I like this as much, if not more, than the 1997 here.

La Spinetta

Langhe Sauvignon 2000
Probably tasted from barrel (the stand was becoming rather chaotic at this stage and there was no way to ask Mr. Rivetti about anything). Shows industrial yeast and an amount of sulphury bitiness covering the vegetal typicity. Reaching harmony, medium length, slightly bitter vegetal impressions on the finish. Nothing special here.

Piemonte DOC Lidia 2000
100% Chardonnay tasted from barrel. Light golden colour. Buttery oak, still with that pungent sulphury smell, totally anonymous, pleasant and reasonably well-made but questionable interest.

Barbera d'Asti Ca' di Pian 2001
Barrel sample of a Castagnole Lanze vineyard wine. Not to dark but nicely nuanced colour. Light style of Barbera, fruity-strawberrish, with a vegetal touch to the nose. Also a bit milky on the palate, juicy and airy with strawberry flavours consistent with the nose. Minor structure showing on the finish. Not bad.

Barbera d'Alba Gallina 2000
Barrel sample? Aged 8 months in new oak, from very old vines. Very dark extracted colour. Indeed rather old-viney on the nose with petrolly density, rather ungiving and very muted. A bit bitter, finishes paint-like with substantial tannins. Weighty and needs much time in the bottle. Not evidently better than the above, and difficult to assess today.

Barbera d'Asti Superiore 2000
Barrel sample. As dark in hue as the above, slightly lighter on the nose but still very muted, masculine, has good juiciness but a bit blunt from the oak at this stage. Seems a bit vague and neutral really.

Monferrato Pin 2000
From barrel, 40% Nebbiolo, 40% Barbera, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Very dark in the glass, showing a lot of oak on the nose at this stage, with a quite elegant whiff of Italianate sweet perfume, reasonably airy in style. But evanescent in mouth, soaked in oak, bitterish and soupy, cooked-vegetabley. More serious in structure than previous vintages, for sure, but lacking the aromatic charm of this bottling. Really overdone, as if the fruit had evaporated being subjected to so much pressure in the cellar.

Barbaresco Starderi 1999
From barrel. Not too dark but still a saturated purple – all colours very clean and hygienic here. Again rather volatile (not in the sense of VA) nose of fresh paint and varnish, but more elegant than expected and less weighty, a bit airier than the Barbera-inclusive wines, not as overdone, showing some amount of finesse, if not a lot. Strongly structured with a vegetal note coming back on the finish, as if Cabernet. Good juiciness thanks to the fresh acidity giving life to the really mighty tannins. Still problematic but seems likely to improve with age.

Barbaresco Gallina 1999
Colour similar to the above and perhaps a bit warmer. More milky barrique on the nose which manages to stay elegant, rounder and more integrated than the Starderi, a shade more likeable despite the technological edge. Again vaguely bitter in mouth, all these wines are in various extents painful to drink due to the extract and amount of extractory/barriquey compounds. But this is showing much better in mouth, as structured as the above but with gentler and rounder fruit filling, good texture, long fruity finish. This is almost excellent if you can bear the style. Within it it surely hits all the right notes.

Barbaresco Valeirano 1999
From barrel. Back to the lighter hues. More spicy on the nose with hints of orange and mulled wine; a bit of bacony oak here. The fruit expression in all of Rivetti's wines seems seriously muted by the oak, at least in this tasting. Also very dense and long as the Barolo below, lots of substance and tannins, could even be said to show some elegance but the Nebbiolo character becomes very problematic. Bitter finish.

Barolo Campè 2000
From barrel, the first vintage of this cru from Grinzane. Slightly more austere and darker in colour. More bacony oak style here, more anonymous-international with a vague Syrah impression, very soupy on the palate, lots of bacony oak and ripe griotte cherry. This could be anything, no Nebbiolo character at all. Not sure whether it will settle with more time in oak. Very powerful structure but the fruit is totally muted. Has great intensity and density but lacks definition.

Moscato d'Asti Passito 1998
Barrel sample (not clear whether aged in oak or steel). Soft, apricotty-red-currantey nose, later becoming quite peachy in a marmaladey or rather pâte de fruits way. A bit syrupy but not aggressive, finishing with a bitterish touch. The palate shows more varietally predictable orange character. Good density but lacks some cut perhaps. We also tasted a new Tuscan wine from Rivetti's estate Fattoria Fichino near Casciana Terme. The wine's name is Alti di Pisa and the DOC apepars to be Sezzana, though I've never heard of it. The 2000 vintage of this 100% Sangiovese shows rather dark on the glass, with petrol and vegetality on the nose, juicy mouthfeel with lots of bacony oak, but the improvement over the rather unpalatable 1999 is marked. Still a rather technological wine finishing sulphury and hard.

Paolo Scavino

Langhe Sorriso 2000
Chardonnay and Sauvignon, the former aged in second-year oak. Again a bit sulphury, rather vegetal, sligtly yeasty, soft and approachable but nothing too distinctive. Quite intense in mouth, cucumber and ripe apple, more marked by Chardonnay in an aromatic breadth. Mid-way between pedestrian and individual in a way. As an aside I tasted a bottle of this wine back in Warsaw (November 2002), here's the TN: No vintage indication on the label, this is lot LBT1. Rather animal-sulphury at first, with some greenish softness underneath. More Sauvignon- than Chardonnay-like at this stage. Has a touch of sweetness on the palate and attractive, even aristocratic grapefruit or orange rind flavours on the finish; however to marked by the yeast. Apple and gooseberry, some celery, quite foody and thick, Needs food or decanting. Smoke, wet stones, some tart citrus emerging. Opening up slowly. A creamy edge but not much distinction, if some depth and length. Back to Vinitaly tastings:

Dolcetto d'Alba 2001
A tank sample of a Rocce di Castiglione and Bric dël Fiasc fruit. Rather dark. Typical nose with notes of tar, not much finesse or definition, juicy, good sweetness of fruit in mouth. Well-made, a wine totally kept under control at winemaking and it shows. Perhaps a bit too lean? Very correct but not emotional.

Barbera d'Alba 1999
Aged in barriques and 350-liter barrels, 50% new in each case. Quite dark and serious colour. Sadly a bit too volatile on the nose despite the good concentration of currant and blackberry jam, a bit too smooth and oaky in mouth finishing with petrolly bitterness. Fading a bit on the palate. Another mildly anonymous wine from Scavino, I thought.

Langhe Corale 1999
60% Nebbiolo, 30% new-oak Barbera, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Pleasant nose with some interest, all in all rather predictable in the jammy concentration of fruit, ripe griotte cherry and cherry spread, reasonably juicy but the oak amount seems really too high in this tasting. Paint-like yet too soft at mid-palate. Lacks a bit of definition and finesse and fails to convince. Another vintage of this tasted in Warsaw, November 2002:

Langhe Corale 1998
A source (but not anyone at Scavino's) says this is 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Barbera. Very consistent dark purple, textbook modern colour. Warm berries on a very oaky nose, whiff of vanilla ice-cream and coconut creaminess, then a bit more serious, hints of Cabernet greenness plus gorgeous notes of blackberry gelée and blueberry spread, kirsch, bready notes of 200% barrique or at least cold soaking; very confiturey while staying reasonably cool and fresh. Huge extraction, will need a lot of time. Green-structured again from the Cabernet in mouth, alcohol well noticeable though perhaps not obtrusive. Medium length, rather soupy and extracted-showing, menthol and eucaplytus, just on the verge of bitterness. Too shut down to enjoy now. After 24 hours it is less overwhelming in extract (though still Bardolino) but now rather neutral aromatically and the whole seems to lack a raison d'être.

Barolo 1998
The complete Barolo production (across the five bottlings) of Scavino is 40,000 bottles but can decrease even to 3,000 in vintages like 1991 and 1992. This is rather dark if showing some Nebbiolo character in the colour. Tobacco and dried fruit on the mildly reductive nose, very juicy on the fully-blown fruit-dominated palate, quite pure, showing considerably less oak than the above two, with very good balance between fruit and structure. Long, attractive, perfectly vinified. Nice acidity on the finish. Not cheap at 30€ but better than many at this price.

Barolo Carobric 1998
Aged for two years in 50% new oak. A bit lighter in hue to the above. Vegetal nose with soft milky overtones as of American oak, more attractive to my friend Krzysztof yet I found the mix of petrolly extract and medicinal cherry syrup not entirely transparent.

Barolo Bric dël Fiasc 1998
Slightly rusting at rim. More balsamic nose of macerated fruit and terroir-typical black peppercorns, acidity showing on the nose already despite the overall softness; also crisp and lively on the palate, with mainly strawberry fruit plus blackberry and raspberry in a harmonious mix. Gives an impression of lightness up to the finish which is surely masculine and austere. Will age well. As usually the best cru from Scavino, combining well-tuned but powerful structure with the balsamic density of fruit of the best Barolos (and it is where Paolo Conterno, the epitome of that balance, came to mind).

Barolo Cannubi 1998
This, unlike the other Barolos above, came from a freshly opened bottle. Clean colour as above (also with that slightly browning shade at rim). More gravelly minerality on the nose, then mixed spices and airy red fruit, lighter in register than the Fiasc and in this case not-so-terroir-typical bitterness as well. But clearly has filling, if the structure is a shade lower-key. Attractive on its own terms.

Barolo Riserva Rocche dell'Annunziata 1996
Only produced in 1990 before (in 1993 and 1995 there has been a non-riserva Rocche bottling), from 60-year-old vines, this saw the same barrique regime of the other crus here, with only four extra months of botte at the end; the additional ageing time was thus mostly spent in bottle. Rather dark colour not different from the above. This is spicy and paint-like in an empyreumatique way, more elegant and nuanced than the normales, and perhaps beginning to show more quintessential Nebbiolo character; very structured in mouth with acidity more forward than the quite tea-like tannins today, which is promising. There is good strawberry and dried cherry fruit but perhaps not enough to withstand the structure; also this seems to lack precisely the balsamic richness which was so attractive about the 1998 Fiasc. A big wine but less convincing than either the Fiasc or even the simple but complete blended Barolo. Yet I wouldn't at all mind retasting this in 2010.

Albino Rocca

Langhe Chardonnay Da Berto 2001
Only aged in steel. Very yeasty and animal style, stinky but with some depth; austere and authentic fruit for a Chardonnay. Quite charged and concentrated; tasty and convincing.

Langhe La Rocca 2001
Barrel sample of 100% Cortese aged in 1/3 new oak. Medium golden. A bit pungent at first from the oak, very ripe; relatively elegant if again very charged and tense. Soft mouthfeel, juicy tropical fruit notes, better acidity than the Chardonnay. Worthwile for sure.

Dolcetto d'Alba Vignalunga 2001
Tank sample, only aged in steel. Very dark colour. Hugely extracted on the nose as well, reminiscent of fresh paint and ink, if still rather raw. Massive dry extract here which is masking the Dolcetto typicity to some extent; tannic finish. Lacks a bit of freshness and definition to my tastes. Drink in 2006.

Barbera d'Alba Gèpin 2000
Bottled three weeks prior, aged in 1/3 new oak. As dark as the above. More barrique on the nose here, soft cherry and juicy spiciness, some orange and mulled wine notes; then on the palate more bready and sour cherry-like. By a margin more precise than the Dolcetto and a very good example of (ultra-)modern Barbera. Tannic and tight, it should age well. This boasts a 14.8% alc and 36 g of dry extract.

Barbaresco Brich Ronchi 1999
Aged for 18 months in barrique (90% new), bottled September 2001. A shade lighter in hue than the Barbera but still austere and serious. Unsurprisingly even more extracted than the Barbera, showing rather spicy on the nose with hints of cinnamon and cedar; dry wood adds to an austere but not very varietal impression. Then after some time in the glass bits of lily-like floweriness; but on the palate this is very tight and ungiving and exploding on the finish with tannins of rarely-seen density. A monster of winemaking which is difficult to assess today but somehow fails to show any signs of early harmony. Not enough fruit?

Barbaresco Loreto 1999
A bit lighter than the Ronchi. Warmer nose with a mix of spices and herbs, also showing a bit purer with an inviting macerated fruit note; perhaps a bit less extracted and extreme than the above. More Nebbiolo expression here perhaps despite the mouth-drying extract on the palate; again that recurrent note of dry wood. Surely not charming today and not much defined either, but by a margin more convincing. I keep getting conflicting price reports about these wines – someone says the crus are less than 30€ in Italy but somehow I quite can't believe it – anyone has fresh info?

Fiorenzo Nada

Barbaresco Rombone 1999
Dark and concentrated colour. Lots of bitter herbs, camphora, menthol; convincing in mouth, pure Nebbiolo fruit, good griotte flavours, although powerfully structured: biting tannins and impressive length. Good acidity. A fine Barbaresco for the long term.

Matteo Correggia

Roero Arneis 2001
Nose of lemon peel and balm, flowery notes, with just a hint of pungent meaty yeastiness left despite the recent bottling. Deep and delicate; soft on the palate, mildly bitter but soft lemony finish. The epitome of Arneis and my favourite interpretation of this grape.

Langhe Sauvignon 2000
50% barrique, 50% steel tanks. Starts a bit stinky, then clears up with liqueury and elegant citron givré notes consistent with the Correggia style; soft and appley-lemony on the palate which is a rare example of precision. Very good ripeness. When the minor yeastiness blows off with a few months of bottle age this will be a winner.

Barbera d'Alba 2001
From tank, only aged in steel if not for a minor amount of old barrique (3-5 months). Very dark purple. This is very Barbera-perfumed, whiffs of meaty stink and some mixes spices as if from the oak; generous aronia fruit, pure yet dense, lightly bitterish on the finish with good length. All one could ask for in a simple food wine.

Roero 2001
A 100% Nebbiolo aged as the Barbera above. A bit lighter in colour than the above. Some button mushrooms notes underpinned by crisp and volatile scents; lots of spices (the usual cinnamon and cedar plus some anise thrown in). Classic Nebbiolo finish of tannins and spices. Another gloriously delineated wine.

Barbera d'Alba Marun 2000
A barrel sample of this vineyard selection, aged 15-18 months of 70% new and 30% second-hand barrique. Very dark. This is showing mostly oak on the nose, although in a nobler fashion than most, reminiscent of soft black cherry yoghurt or milkshake. Juicy in mouth, not fat, quite fruity, with the structure rather in the background despite a firm tannic grip. This seems a bit vaguer and less precise than the no-oak wines. But really excellent even on its own terms.

Nebbiolo d'Alba Val dei Preti 2000
Ageing as the Marun, with 15 months of oaking for this vintage. Rather dark for Nebbiolo. Fruity, perfumed, spicy, with a not of cherry and strawberry syrup backed by chalk-like dusty minerality. Substantially less oak showing than in the Marun, puzzlingly. Juicier and crisper than the above if still vague compared to the simple Roero.

Roero Roche D'Ampsej 1999
Mrs. Correggia says Roero is due to become a DOCG soon, meaning longer ageing periods will be required, hence she plans to de-classify some wines to the Nebbiolo d'Alba category. But not this one which was aged for 18 months in 100% new oak. This is lightening noticeably at the rim. Smells of barrique and powerful if airy spices, denser but more elegant than the two preceding wines, and with more immediate recognisable Nebbiolo character (bitter cherries). Despite the softness from the oak this seems purer on the palate. Bacony touches. Very convincing.

Anthos VdT 2000
A 100% Brachetto vinified as a still red. No vintage on the label, look for the lot number to the right. Colour is a rusty ruby. Interesting nose of mixed Indian spices. Great aronia and strawberry juiciness in mouth with a wild rose touch. Essentially dry although has a syrupy-caster sugar touch to it. Imagine a dry Moscato Rosa from Alto Adige and add Correggia class and elegance. Very good.

Elio Altare

Langhe Larigi 2000
Very dark. Concentrated griotte on the nose, some stems and over-extraction on the palate, too much vanilla oak.

Dolcetto d'Alba 2001
Violet hues. Bitter herbs and spices on the nose; pleasant in mouth, foody and varietal Dolcetto in mouth but nothing great really.

Barbera d'Alba 2001
Also quite violet in colour. Some eggs, boiled custard, bitter extraction, milky oak. Not great definition although skillfully executed.

Giacomo Borgogno

Dolcetto d'Alba 2001
Colour quite tight. Nose is showing on the fruity side, not as tarry or stinky as some other examples, but seems a bit muted. Sweet with notes of chinato perhaps. Great length and intensity, lots of noblesse. Not as aromatically refined as remembered but great texture to it.

Barbera d'Alba 2001
More violet hue here. More delicate on the nose, soft and flowery, this shares an impressive length and richness of texture with the Dolcetto above, softer in mouth surprisingly, smoother and more feminine in register. Has also a dryness or solidity of structure on the finish, boding well for the future, but all in all quite approachable and wonderfully harmonious. Great Barbera and an evidence that the grape doesn't need barrique to become exciting.

Barolo 1997
Not too dark. Nose with hints of chalk or brick dust, opening up on spices, slightly dominated by the structure in mouth today, as if hollow or lacking some fruit, not showing as rich-fruity as expected. Puzzling in this showing and I need to retaste this.

Barolo Classico 1997
This is from a mix of vineyards located only in the Barolo commune (hence the occasional name of 'Barolo di Barolo'). Slightly lighter in colour with orange shades. Softer and more balsamic on the nose which shows even more markedly its generous terroir fruit; more refined than the 1997, a weighty wine but the caressing nature of the fruit is such the structure stays very much in the background. May be also a bit muted in aromas, evasive character. Not as sharply acidic as the normale and perhaps not as well-defined due to that. Richer yet more one-dimensional, paradoxically. Very good for sure.

Barolo Storico 1997
This is a special bottling form the old family cru of Liste (see my earlier post on the visit to Borgogno for details), bottled ten days prior. Dark in colour but clearly browning slowly at rim. More finesse here of dried fruit and fresh fruit marmalade. Much more textured and balsamic than either of the above Barolos, long but not excessively so. Seems really rather soft and approachable today but might close up soon. Not on the level of the 1996 perhaps.

Nervi

Amore VdT 1999
50% Nebbiolo, 25% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, aged shortly in a mixture of botte and barrique and then in bottle. Colour is quite dark. This is showing a bit vegetal on the nose, the cooler climate of Gattinara showing in the aormatics with quite some sève and an earthy touch, also in the fruit profile dominated by strawberries. Slightly animal touches perhaps, raw meat. Uncomplicated but pleasant in an austere style.

Coste della Sesia 2000
50% Nebbiolo, 50% Croatina, Bonarda and Vespolina, aged in botte for 8 months. On the dark side. This is going further in the vegetal direction, sweaty in style but denser and more intense in mouth than the above; higher acidity, tannins are backward. Tasty but nothing too special, although note this was tasted much too warm (closing time).

Gattinara 1997
100% Spanna. Great medium colour lightening at rim. Starts paint-like on the nose, with burnt tyres and austere strawberry fruit of good concentration, with the vegetal-stemmy character still present. Lead pencil, rose hips, mixed spices, sweet cherry confiture, very good Nebbiolo character. Essentially sweet-fruity. Has an almost narcotic vividness and floweriness of Nebbiolo spice on the palate. Seems a bit short today. Not as interesting as the 1996, also a stale touch to the strawberry fruit (grey mould?). But juicy and quite convincing really.

Gattinara Vigneto Molsino 1996
Aged four and half years in botte, 100% Spanna. More balsamic, greatly elegant nose with some medicinal touches as of blackcurrant cough pills. Later a minor cooked-petrolly touch to it. The balsamic texture of fruit and great purity are the hallmarks of this wine. Not perfect, later emerging with some vegetal-lettucey scents, not terribly long, an austere style not easy to appreciate after all those overripe modern Barolos. Very fine, if a shade less thrilling than when tasted last year still in my naïf phase.

Gattinara Vigneto Molsino 1997
Even more balsamic, minor cooked-vegetabley notes as of cauliflower. Smoother for sure, odd style, not too charming today, really a wine for aficionados. Soy-saucey concentration on the finish.

Sergio Gattinara

Gattinara 1998
Browning at rim. Great nose of pure sweet cherry and cherry gelée; mild balsamico notes which only add to the complexity. Very long. Quite structured. Very good indeed.

Gattinara Alice 1998
Very cooked nose of boiled or steamed vegetables (broccoli came to mind), not too pleasant, abit volatile. Juicy, paint-like, less interesting. Too barriquey though very long. So-so.

G. D. Vajra

Langhe Riesling 2000
Vegetal and pungent, still showing minor amounts of yeast, driven by lemony freshness and airiness. A bit chewy on the palate, mid-way between noble Mosel and warm-climate Aussie styles, finshing with a decisive acidic uplift. Varietal and characterful.

Dolcetto d'Alba 2001
Barrel sample. A pungent-spicy Dolcetto with tar and baked bread, masterfully balanced in mouth with great, and very delicate, acidity. Close to oustanding.

Dolcetto d'Alba Coste & Fossati 2001
Barrel sample. Very dark purple. This is more defined and rich, with a spicy edge to the whole, yet with softer pâtisserie notes appearing as if from some oak. Impressively long in mouth. I've been going so mad about Vajra's Barberas that I have overlooked the fact his Dolcetto might well be the finest in the Langhe.

Langhe Nebbiolo 2001
Barrel sample. Medium ruby in the glass. Spicy and airy Nebbiolo nose, light and pure on the palate, transparent, letting the grape and terroir speak for themselves.

Langhe Freisa Kyé 2000
Barrel sample. This sees a mixture of steel and tonneaux. Very dark purple. Very perfumed with faded flowers, rose hip marmalade, tar and some bacon, roasted coffee? Fabulous length on the palate, quite structured but with about-perfect balance. Amazing wine. Revelatory of what Freisa can achieve.

Barolo Bricco delle Viole 1998
Moderately dark colour for Nebbiolo. Very flowery and perfumed, inviting, airy, but not excessively soft; another impression of pure, unadulterated fruit. Spicy and acidic on the palate, this is so balanced it does not seem overtly structured, but then Vajra's Barolo never is IME. Some might find it lightweight for a Barolo (especially those used to oaked Nebbiolo d'Alba) but again I like the transparency and honesty here.

Moscato d'Asti 2001
Fresh and grapey, noticeably sweet but balanced, a joy to drink. This would be better with desserts than as aperitif.

EMILIA-ROMAGNA

Umberto Cesari

Malise IGT 2000
50% Pignoletto, 50% Chardonnay, only aged in steel. Medium colour. Rather aggressive animal and damp-cellary character on the nose, with toilettey notes and some honey hints. Pleasant palate with ripe fruit and honey, a bit hollow perhaps but served too cold.

Chardonnay Laurento IGT 2000
Fermented in oak. Stinky oaky nose oozing wood fat, slightly aggressive, really pedestrian in style but drinkable. Soft, well-made, a decent drink for aficionados of the style.

Sangiovese di Romagna Riserva 1999
Again a wine I find attractive (after the good 1998), if showing a bit too warm and vinegary, lacking a bit of balance perhaps, but has some depth and fruit despite the volatility. Pleasant, rather light-weight and soft dark cherry flavours, clean and moderately long. Slightly blunt and simplistic but has some appeal.

Liano IGT 1999
70% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet. Dark in the glass. Slightly too warm soupy nose, showing more oak than the Sangiovese, again rather pedestrian but providing simple pleasure. Decent structure and length. Difficult to criticise as it has everything apart from sophistication. A New World wine from the heart of Italy.

Sangiovese di Romagna Tauleto 1998
A new wine from Cesari with a fancy bottle. Quite warm and powerfully oaked nose which takes the cellar technique at a previously unheard-of level at Cesari; sweet, slightly pâtisserie-infused with notes of vanilla, a bit artificial? Black pepper, macerated cherries, kirsch, mainly showing its ageing characteristics and with the fruit currently subdued (will it ever emerge?). Too soft, not terribly interesting, again showing that pedestrian stigmate of the Cesari range; not a rip-off at 25€ but hard to see why this should be more exciting (today?) than the Sangiovese Riserva or even the Liano.

Tre Monti
A nice surprise here with clean, well-made, interesting soft wines. Nice family service as well.

Perlante Vino Bianco Frizzante 2001
Bottled, as all whites here, two weeks prior. Mainly almonds and bread on the nose here, with hints of walnuts; pleasantly soft and biscuity, with some cow's milk; rather typical of Central Italian whites but with some appeal. Almondy on the palate, a pleasant summer terrace wine, if not very fizzy really.

Trebbiano di Romagna Vigna del Rio 2001
Soft, slightly toiletty-stinky, without the soft appeal of the former and very Trebbiano-like if not necessarily very attractive. Tasty if round and very much immediate in its appeal. This also struck me as so clearly more elegant and subtle already at entry level than all the Cesari offerings. Very clean and tasty as all the Tre Monti wines. Slightly herbal and vegetal in mouth but good fruit.

Albana di Romagna Vigna della Rocca 2001
Slightly drier on the nose, perhaps a bit more refined than the Trebbiano, a bit lettucey, hollow but again clean and attractive. The label describes this wine as having a 'spontaneously appealing character' and I could not describe it better. Smooth and soft in mouth, very drinkable indeed. I like the cleanness and unpretentiousness here.

Colli d'Imola Ciardo 2001
Colli d'Imola is a new DOC, established in 1997, under which Tre Monti will now be bottling all of their former IGTs. 50% aged in oak. Denser golden colour. Good soft and sweet nose, creamy but showing no oak; pleasant and quite long in mouth, a bit liqueury in character, but terribly profound, sharing the immediate pleasurability of the Albana. Very good. Another attractive wine from Tre Monti.

Colli d'Imola Salcerella 2001
More golden. Vegetal and more crunchy on the nose here, pleasant, still very smmoth; another variation on the same theme, with the intensity and density perhaps a bit lower than above, and a slightly greener profile. Also a bit shorter and seems less successful as a blend.

Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore 2001
Rather light in colour. Typical nose with some cool minerality and vanilla-strawberry overtones, minor tar, very soft overall. Has the softness and immediacy of the whites here but seems less attractive in the style. Really lacks grip. Acids rather low, too soft, lacking character.

Colli d'Imola Boldo 2000
Violet hues from the Cabernet here. A bit more serious than above, smoke and tar, strawberry, denser and a bit more austere in character, with an obvious extra structure from Cabernet. Slightly medicinal with a bitter syrup edge, good note in mouth, better length.

Sangiovese di Romagna Riserva 1999
4 months in old barriques. Slightly darker than the Boldo. Again volatile smokey touches to the fruit, all these reds from Tre Monti could use a tad more definition. Juicy and enjoyable in mouth, sharper structure; less convincing also in the smokey notes on the palate which again lacks focus.

Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore Thea 1999
From 30-year-old vines. Medium purple colour. Some bacon from the oak, a bit volatile but juicy and attractive nose, again lacks a bit of character. Good mouthfeel, already above-average length, lots of cherry flavours, this is very well-made and has personality. Clean, showing just a bit of bacon residue from the oak but fruity and long, with good concentration. A fine red from Romagna.

Albana di Romagna Passito 2000
From slightly overripe but not botrytised grapes, dried in boxes until Christmas, fermented in oak, aged sur lie for 2.5 months. Dark apricot to medium amber. Very soupy and soft nose with biscuit and pâtisserie, minor lemon bitterness on the palate, smooth and enjoyable, not showing botrytis character which I found obtrusive in the Cesari Albana. Long, soft, well-made, with vanilla and almond flavours, has elegance, refined notes of honey and flowers. Pleasant and very well-made, lacks grip as all Albanas, but superlative in its type.

FRIULI

Radikon

Collio Ribolla Gialla 1999
Macerated on the skins for 10 days, aged in large botti with minor amounts of barrique, bottled unfined and unfiltered. Stunning dark amber colour. Slightly stinky and meaty whiffs at first, then clearing up, but retains the sweaty, cat-peeish scent of organic white wines. Seems a bit vague on the palate IMO, although others (Tom Pedersen and Jean Fisch) have reported enthusiastically and I am ready to believe them.

Collio Ribolla Gialla 1998
Verging on raspberry ruby in colour. Stinkier and more barnyardy than the above, with some toiletty notes; here again I could not help an impression of hollowness on the palate; or to put it otherwise the powerful and rather aggressive structure from the wood ageing seems to overshadow the fruit to some extent. A dialectic white not without some interest, but to my tastes lacks some finesse and balance.

Collio Oslavje 1999
A blend of white grapes. Dark amber-orange again, browning at rim. This is even coarser with a strong oxidative tendency akin to classic white Rioja, denser substance on the palate, domainted by a waxy texture and flavour. Even more intellectual in style than the Ribolla.

Collio Oslavje 1999
Same wine as above but an experimental bottling with no sulphur at all. Only marginally different, this seems to have a touch more finesse although the mouth-drying woody character is also more pronounced. Softer on the palate? Finishes powerfully tannic.

Collio Oslavje 1998
Colour as above. Barnyard and public toilet on the nose, showing a bit more fruity softness and filling on the palate than either of the 1999s, still a bit chewy but sweeter in the fruit character and nicer to drink. Given my limited exposure to this style of wine in Italy I remain unsure whether the edgy structure will ever integrate, but I stand corrected here more than anywhere else.

Collio Merlot 1994
13.5% alc. Macerated on the skins for 40 days, aged 4 years in large botti. Lightish ruby colour. Finesse of dried currants and porcini, not unlike an aged Brunello; aggressive fresh paint volatility and lead pencil dryness on the palate. Soft and a bit blunt due to a generally rather low acidity, but showing quite a bit of finesse and clearly more easily approachable than any of the whites. I thought it pure and harmonious while my friend Krzysztof who tasted it with me saw signs of drying out.

La Viarte
Visiting after hours I was greeted cordially by the winemaker Giulio Ceschin and his mother. Mr. Ceschin explains their ideal is to make easy-drinking but 'important' wines (the adjective importante is one of the most widely used winemaking terms in Italy). The estate is located in the Coli Orientali; all vines were planted between 1973 (foundation of the estate) and 1983. Yields are quite low at 35-40 q/ha.

COF (=Colli Orientali del Friuli) Ribolla Gialla 2001
Animal notes covering a softness of fruit on the nose, cool and juicy, if a bit weak on the palate.

COF Tocai Friulano 2001
This starts even more organic and smelly than the Ribolla – all the whites here were clearly tasted too soon after bottling – but tasty and dense on the palate, better texture in a vegetal context. A bit more convincing.

COF Pinot Grigio 2001
Continuing on an ascending density line, with more dried herbs than fresh vegetable character if compared to the Tocai. Juicy on the palate, good fruit filling.

COF Pinot Bianco 2001
This, as all of the above, only aged in steel. This is more ashy-mineral and goes back to the slightly unclean winemaking aromas of the Tocai; better in mouth, with a typical note of boiled rice and chopped herbs.

COF Sauvignon 2001
Another hygienic light golden hue. Lettucey-varietal but more structured, the serious low-yielding character showing in a vegetabley bitterness on the finish. Typical and pleasant, if a bit too aggressive at this stage.

COF Lïende 2000
This is the acclaimed estate blend of Tocai, Ribolla, Riesling, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco, aged in 5% barrique and bottled late. Appears a bit vague aromatically, with the nose dominated by green Sauvignon and Tocai scents but the palate clearly pointing to Pinot Bianco by its softness and liqueury character. Finishes bitter and a bit austere; as unexpressive as other whites here in this tasting but likely to improve substantially with more bottle time. The substance is there.

COF Chardonnay 2000
Aged in oak which is not too obtrusive on the nose; a balanced wine which shows fat on the palate but not enormously concentrated. A certain aromatic vagueness is the only flaw.

COF Merlot 1999
Aged in old barriques. A meaty-animal and crisp- or tart-fruity example of Merlot, showing good balance and a hint of thickness from a minor amount of passito grapes used (15-20 days of drying for 50% of the grapes). This and the other reds see around 15-20 days of skin contact here.

COF Schioppettino 1999
100% lightly passito grapes. Slightly darker in colour; fruitier and more concentrated in perfume than the Merlot, herbal-stemmy overtones with minor dirty touches. Austere acidity despite some macerated fruit-like balsamic thickness on finish. Better definition than the preceding wines.

COF Refosco 1999
Dark in hue. Smelly-barnyardy but the fruit seems fresher and more natural-tasting than above; same macerated fruit character, acidity well-present. Juicy and crisp, very Friulan in style and not especially modern or upfront. Structure mildly overpowering the fruit perhaps.

COF Tazzelenghe 1998
This sees mainly new oak whereas other reds see a balance of new, second- and third-year barrels which in turn are mixed between barriques and a minor amount of tonneaux. This is much more austere and animal, reminescent of some Old World Carmenère-based wines; concentrated and uncompromisingly vegetal, peppery, with hints of roasted coffee and old wood. Has more personality than other reds here.

Siúm VdT 1999
A sweet passito wine blended from Picolit and Verduzzo, 13.5% alc, 5,300 halves released. Medium amber-brown in the glass. Some botrytis showing on the dense, mildly varnishy nose. Lean on the palate and lacking some acidity; flavours of dried apricot but generally a but vague. Not terribly convincing but again the tasting circumstances might have affected its showing.

Borgo del Tiglio
Just a few wines tasted after hours at a distributor's stand, from opened bottles:

Collio Malvasia 1999
Dark colour. Quite buttery on the nose, sulphury-ashy; fat and dense fruit, quite a lot of oak. Nothing too special.

Collio Chardonnay 1999
Also quite oaked, especially on the nose; sweetish and slightly flabby.

Collio Chardonnay 2000
Apple and celery, cucumber, less defined and pleasant.

Collio Rosso 1997
Barrel sample. Medium dark. Rather stinky on the nose, with notes of paint and varnish, showing good amounts of fresh raspberry and strawberry. Quite good.

Venica & Venica

Collio Sauvignon Ronco delle Mele 2001
Very stinky Sauvignon style, yeasty, but very nice in mouth with apple and banana flavours and good definition.

ALTO ADIGE

Hoftsätter

Alto Adige Pinot Bianco 2001
2-3% of barrique. Soft and round, still a bit yeasty-sulphury when tasted but pleasant and highly drinkable. Then after a while a bit liqueury and fatter than before, boding well for its development in bottle. A well-made Pinot.

Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2001
Riper than the Pinot Bianco with the herbal character of the grape coming to the fore, a bit too-leafy perhaps and lacking real fruit substance?

Alto Adige Riesling 2001
This is marginally more precise in the glass, although it shares a sulphury residue with the other whites here. Surely tasting them later than a couple of weeks after bottling would help. Perhaps a bit too soft for a Riesling. The finish is very smooth and round.

Alto Adige Vigna Barthenau San Michele 2001
A complex blend of 70% Pinot Bianco, 20% Chardonnay, both lightly oaked, and 10% between Sauvignon and Riesling which are 100% barrique but not all new. Very dense on the nose with hints of bitter yeastiness, but has complexity and texture; oily-dense from the fruit, not oaky; full-blown and intense. This is for aficionados of thick-textured whites but a very good effort.

Alto Adige Müller-Thurgau 2001
Juicy and herbal, with some lemon peel; quite long for a MT, a nice surprise.

Alto Adige Gewürztraminer 2001
This shows quite bready on the nose and palate, with hints of roasted pumpkin seeds, dense and oily but elegant for a Gewürz; perhaps lacking a bit of perfume. In mouth there are flavours of boiled rice and minor rose petals, reasonably intense but again could use a bit more richness.

Alto Adige Gewürztraminer Kolbenhof 2001
No oak but a late harvest version. Denser than the above, almost soupy in mouth, very fat but with a degree of freshness and the filigree definition gives it interest. In some vintages I find this very clearly the most interestnig dry Gewürz in the world; this vintage seems very good today.

Alto Adige Pinot Nero Mazzon 2001
Fermented in steel, aged briefly in 4500-liter barrels. A juicy-meaty Pinot with good typicity. Tasty though again a bit too soft.

Alto Adige Pinot Nero Riserva 1998
Aged in 1/3 oak of which 80% barrique for 2 years. Rather light colour. This seems strangely unripe and vegetal, with lettuce juice and stalks; at the same time showing quite warm and vinous. Then seems to show more density and meaty texture and overall quite pleasant although nothing great IMO. Surely more substance than the above but lacks definition.

Alto Adige Pinot Nero Vigna Sant'Urbano 1998
From 24- to 40-year-old vines, aged in 2500-liter barrels? (Not sure I understood details correctly here). This is a bit more bacony and meaty, with some bright mixed spices. Elegant but rather bitter in mouth; quite meaty-dense and fat, although the fruit withholds that. A slightly meaty style of Pinot which is not my favourite but surely quite good. A bit pricey though at 30€.

Alto Adige Lagrein 2000
More finesse to the nose here, precise flavours of cherry, currant and blueberry. On the palate again rather meaty and blunt. Pleasant and characterful.

Alto Adige Lagrein Steinraffler 1998
More spicy, airy and light than the above, plus more focused both on nose and palate; some bitter chocolate and lead pencil flavours. Lighter and more elegant, less sheer weight but more aromatic impact.

Alto Adige Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
Not terribly dark for a Cabernet. Some bell-pepper, good concentration, smooth, a bit too soft especially on the nose. Juicier than the Lagreins and Pinots, more spiced up and direct. Good blueberry and blackberry fruit here.

Alto Adige Cabernet Sauvignon Riserva 1999
From much lower yields, aged in barrique. Visibly darker in colour. Also more concentrated on the nose with bacon and (wild boar?) sausage, clean, more edgy and more interesting. Textured, although perhaps a bit too stretched on the palate. All these wines seem to lack extra aromatic precision.

Alto Adige Merlot 1999
Medium colour. Nice and tasty, with some petrolly notes appearing on the nose, good concentration but a bit too much oak. Too soft and vague on the palate but good anyway. Has some finesse.

VENETO

Tommaso Bussola

Valpolicella Classico BG 2001
From Corvina. Corvinone, Rondinella, plus bits of Cabernet, Merlot and Negrara. This was still in tank and did not finish the malolactic at the time of tasting. Quite dark. Typical, rather almondy and ripasso-thick on the nose (but served a bit too warm), biscuity, bitter-cherryish. Simple but has purity. Acidity on the high side and might seems aggressive to some – surely better with food. Promising; I would be curious to see how it develops in cask.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore TB 1998
100% ripasso, 40% new oak for 24 months. Slightly fading at rim. Better aromatic definition here, still rather almondy and in this case obviously oaky; has softness and roundness of fruit while staying essentially sharply delineated. Glyceric in mouth and indeed rather overtly marked by the ripasso, I thought; acidity noticeably lower than the above, though the length is good. Too much oak for me but a big wine which would be a good Amarone at many producers'.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore TB 1999
From barrel. Same ageing as above but less Corvina in this vintage. Very dark colour without the rim of the 1998. Much sweeter perfume reminiscent of red fruit liqueur or ratafia, very sweet, almost syrupy perhaps and even more Amarone-like than the 1998; yet has a juiciness to the texture which Amarone almost never achieves. Glyceric in mouth, good length; this would need higher acids to gain superior delineation and acidity and to be truer to Valpolicella as I understand it. This is a Recioto-like Valpolicella if that makes any sense. But objectively (or rather abstractly) seen, i.e. without regard to the labelling, a seriously fine wine.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico BG 1998
Same grapes as above, from grapes dried until January and aged two and a half years in old botti of which some are chestnut and cherry wood (though Bussola says he is decreasing their percentage). Slightly rusty rim. Liqueury on the nose, showing fresher than either of the TB Valpolicellas, with better definition and juiciness; dried cherries and some blackberry notes as well. Later lots of sweet pâtisserie scents and some VA; elegant, technically a bit too sweet for me but with food or bottle age this might become less obtrusive. Good acidity, long if paint-like on the finish. A high-class wine. This seems the least blunt and oak-dominated, of course, of the Bussola Amarones; given the price difference this would surely be the one I prefer.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico TB 1998
Aged in 70% tonneaux, 30% barrique which are always new. 8,000 bottles made. Super-dark in the glass. This starts rather bacony and chalky on the nose, slightly medicinal but becoming sweeter and syrupy with time in the glass. Oaky yet quite refined on the nose, with more complexity and elegance than the above. Seems drier in mouth than the BG today (this has around 8 g/l of residual sugar), if still soft and plump-fruity.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico TB Vigneto Alto 1997
Aged in new oak, 5,000 bottles made. Already lightening a bit at rim if still very dark. Even more finesse to the nose here, better definition and precision of fruit flavours; some walnutty notes appear. Vanilla, mixed spices, orange or lemon peel adding freshness and a bitter note. Great nose here, but on the palate this shares a slightly blunt, white-washed texture with all the Bussola wines. Juicier and leaner in texture than the straight TB (because of the extra year of bottle age?), more approachable, slightly higher acidity also.There seems not to be a substantial improvement between these two bottlings although this might eventually emerge as more elegant. In any case both Amarones are more intellectual than expected after the style of the TB Valpolicellas.

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2000
Only aged in steel. 14% alc., residual sugar is at 120-150 g/l. Nose of vanilla and whipped cream, cherry ice-cream, quite airy despite an aggressive volatile paint-like note. Bitter herbs, almonds, medium sweetness, finished dry. Not very concentrated.

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico TB 1998
The grapes for this are pressed in March in a special teflon press. Only aged in new barriques for 30 months. Extremely dark. Very well-fused oak thanks to the voluminous and expansive fruit; still there's a note of vanilla coupled with the recurrent balsamico biting notes as above. Mildly bacony as well perhaps. Great finesse on the nose despite the sheer weight. Dried cherries, amarena jam, very juicy on the palate, finishing rather tannic. Lacks a bit of definition and especially richness at mid-palate; more extracted than concentrated really. But if tasted under better circumstances it would probably deserve more praise. Questionable QPR however at 55€ for a 0.5 bottle.

Tenuta Sant'Antonio

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Monti Garbi 1999
70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 10% Molinara, aged in botti of which 70% Slavonian and 30% Allier. Very dark in the glass. Rather juicy and elegant fruity nose, no signs of ripasso; slightly bitter cherry on the palate, not very concentrated, finishing a bit more serious and tannic. Unproblematic and good.

Valpolicella Superiore La Bandina 1998
Grapes and ageing as above but with one month appassimento, aged in 350-liter barrels for two years. 3,000 bottles released. More defined on the nose here, though a bit soupy, mild notes of vanilla and raw meat but otherwise as simple in register as the above; marasca and amarena cherries coming to the fore. Dry and masculine on the palate, slight burnt-smokey finish. Good.

Capitello IGT 1999
A 100% Cabernet Sauvignon passito wine, vinified dry. More meaty, less fresh and defined than the two above, soupy and bell-peppery but less inviting in terms of texture; seems aromatically and structurally vague (though not weak).

Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli 1997
Grapes as above, aged in botti for 3 years. Medium purple. Very inky in colour and aroma, concentrated if not very intense. Juicy and quite long. Dry spicy finish. A good wine but not on the level of the Valpolicellas here.

Bertani

Soave Classico Superiore 2000
Garganega with a bit of Chardonnay. Herbal and lettucey, lacks some elegance, mouthfilling and round but not much definition; the greeness dominates the whole. Not much interest here.

Soave Classico Superiore Sereole 1999
95% Garganega and 5% Chardonnay, fermented and aged in 50% new and 50% second-year barrique, with 13.5% alc. Rather dense and warm on the nose with rubbery-petrolly scents; lacks a bit of definition, the fruit-vegetabley style seems a bit cooked, especially on the finish.

Lugana 2001
A bit denser in character than the above, with notes of apple and pear, some green herbs but overall cleaner and more interesting. Again mildly cooked in style while finishing with good lemony freshness. Good simple wine.

Bardolino Classico Superiore 2000
Medium purple colour. Rather soft but quite concentrated sour and sweet cherry on the nose, slightly bitterish, seems watery and lacks some character but quite decent in its profile. Gains more aroma with time in the glass.

Valpolicella Valpantena Secco 1999
This sees ripasso. Saturated purple colour. Much more meaty and concentrated, pepper and cinnamon backed by a milky note, some cedar perhaps. Also quite watery, not utterly convincing due to the anonymous character of the whole although nothing too offensive – a decent everyday drinking wine.

Catullo IGT 1999
Cabernet Sauvignon and Corvina. Dark. Nose is slightly vegetal but not overtly so, with good marasca cherry intensity; again a bit dull on the palate especially when served on the warm side. Finishes with orangey acids. Still nothing terribly interesting.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Villa Novare Ognissanti 1998
From Bertani's Classico outpost called Villa Novare. Same consistent hygienic colour as above. Sweeter oaky scents here, also more noticeably bitter cherry character. Clearly more concentrated than the above wines though still not immediately convincing. Good acidity but a bit too bitter and austere on the palate; all these wines really need food. This is drinking OK but would need more character and filling.

Villa Novare Albion IGT 1999
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark in the glass, concentrated cherry perfume on the nose; warm in style, less vegetal than many, with some macerated fruit character. Sweetish in mouth, quite a lot of fruit showing here, if still in a rather soft and vague context. Finishes very bitter. I liked this much more in previous vintages.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1995
Slightly fading colour. Very milky and barnyard-toiletty on the nose, almost soapy, soft. Has some charm if one insists, mostly showing in a dark grape character and a mouthfilling texture. But lacks a touch of intensity and cut despite the noteworthy length and elegance. Bitterish cherry finish reminiscent of Dolcetto. Far from impressive but good enough.

Recioto della Valpolicella Valpantena Spumante 1997
From grapes dried until February after the vintage, fermented in bottle and aged 6 months sur lie. 13% alc., residual sugar unknown. Dark purple in the glass, with a vigorous mousse. Funny nose of Ribena concentrate, currant and blueberry jam, the whole being quite sharp and delineated. Quite surprising in being rather soft and feminine on the palate, nothing to do with sparkling Shirazes and the like. Finishes bitter as the Amarone above. Positively weird but by no means uninteresting.

Maculan

Pino & Toi IGT 2001
Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Tocai. Starts slightly stinky, with notes of hazelnut and hazelnut leaf, grapefruit, and sulphury residue. Candy-like in mouth due to the residual sugar, very light-bodied, surely a pleasant summer drink.

Breganze di Breganze DOC 2001
85% Tocai, 15% Pinot Bianco. This shows smoother and more herbal, less sweet and without the citrusy edge of the above, also a bit sulphury-stinky but more approachable. A bit neutral in mouth, however. Less interesting mouthfeel than the above.

Breganze Chardonnay Ferrata 2000
Medium golden colour. Very herbal-green and sulphury on the nose; suffering from its young age or recent bottling as all whites here. A bit dusty, buttery on the palate with mildly obtrusive oak while staying rather green. Not very pleasant to drink. Technically OK but stylistically unconvincing.

Breganze Cabernet 2000
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, aged in steel only. Austere dark purple. A whiff of macération carbonique stink at first, then fleshy strawberry, smoke and tar; pleasantly scented though could use a bit more definition. Juicy and drinkable, not greatly concentrated and not pretending to be either. Clean and well-made.

Brentino Merlot-Cabernet IGT 2000
A 55%-45% blend aged in barriques for 12 months. Colour is very similar to the above. This shows a bit of sweet, almost liqueury red fruit on the nose, then quite bacony-oaky on the palate; good length and fruit filling, structure rather backward.

Fratta IGT 1999
67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 18 months of new barrique. Very dark. Dominated by bacony oak at this stage, some macerated cherries and kirsch character as well; has some elegance but not much refinement today. Winemaking aromas mainly at this stage. Also rather tight and muted (this was tasted from a freshly opened bottle which is not always the case at these fairs), quite structured, with a kiss of acidity on the finish. Aromatically this shows simple but precise. Medium length, blurred a bit on the finish I thought. Over-hyped for what it is IMO.

Fratta IGT 2000
Tank sample, this was the final blend waiting for bottling. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and 46% Merlot in this vintage. Purple-black. Sweeter on the nose than the 1999, with a vanilla note followed by macerated cherries and cherry confiture, more inviting than the previous vintage IMO. Sweet fruit on the palate, shows younger because of a recurrent fresh paint character; at the same time the structure seems a bit more pronounced than the above and it should emerge as the more ageworthy of the two, mostly because of the noticeably denser fruit. Promising but not great to drink today.

Breganze Crosara 2000
A barrel sample of 100% Merlot, a new wine for Maculan. Even darker and more extracted than the 2000 Fratta. Totally shut down on the nose if not for a tiny hint of bacon and airy spices; massive fresh paint-like oak on the palate, hugely extracted, perhaps too much so. Very little can be said about this wine today. Substantial tannins and backward fruit. Will it ever integrate?

Dindarello IGT 2001
A Moscato Fior d'Arancio (the orange mutation of the grape) aged in steel only. Colour is light yellow. Muted nose only giving hints of sulphur and stemmy fruit, not very muscatey in character which is unusual for this bottling. Juicy orange, vanilla on the unconvincing finish. Just too vague aromatically. Medium-sweet in style where one would like more concentration.

Breganze Torcolato 1999
Colour light golden-green. This shows a mild note of varnishy botrytis and assertive pâtisserie sweetness on the palate; not bad at all, although seems a bit hollow on the finish and watery at mid-palate. But an improvement compared to the 1998. Some dried fruit (apricot) and vinsanto-like richness but only faintly suggested.

Acininobili IGT 1998
We insisted on trying this and were brought two glasses from the back room where a lone bottle was kept under the counter. Not too dark in hue. Starts with some varnishy-bready botrytis, then great finesse added to the familiar vanilla and marzipan notes. Fabulous elegance and whispery softness on the palate, again the interest is not so much about anything aromatically original – the elements are the usual ones, botrytis, dried fruits, vanilla and almonds (pasta reale is what comes closest as a descriptor if anyone knows this Sicilian speciality) – but about the truly exhilarating silkiness of texture. Nothing aggressive or edgy about this; yet the finish has just enough acidity to keep it interesting and the precision of the dried fruit character on the finish is very good. Harmonious if still very young and tight, perhaps just mildly hardish and abrupt on the finish and lacking some length? Very impressive anyway and I'm sad to see it is out of purchasing range.

Le Ragose

Valpolicella Classico 2001
From Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone, relatively little Molinara which Mr Galli says gives too large grapes for appassimento and contributes no colour to the wine. Very light ruby in colour. Candy-like on the nose with good notes of strawberry and Dolcetto-like tar. Juicy and decently acidic on the palate. Hardish-stemmy and bitter on the finish. Decent basic Valpolicella.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore 1999
From a late-ripening vineyard and treated with ripasso, aged 2.5 years in old barrels. This has some Oseletta and Negrara added to the above grapes. Nice purple hue. Fresh on nose and palate, with a milky character to the whole. Not much substance, I thought.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Le Sassine 1998
From old vines. Very dark. Another crisp nose with more spicy complexity, all in an airy register of juicy griotte backed by some vegetal undertones. Not too long on the palate, clean, traditional and not flashy at all, perhaps to a fault.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998
This sees appassimento until January; Mr Galli says he is skeptical about overtly long drying and even plans to reduce the period that he uses (most houses say they dry until February / Mach). Barrel sample, aged for 4 years in botte; less than 1 g/l of r.s. Very dark purple. Slightly pungent and volatile on the nose, but showing good elegance to the concentrated yet juicy character. Very dry on the palate, with superior length, showing much austere and noble traditional Amarone character. This is very good.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Marta Galli 1996
Aged for almost five years in French barriques of which one third new. Still quite dark and saturated colour. This is a bit more soupy on the nose, showing bits of oak but also dried currant and red fruit finesse; more fruit filling on the palate while staying noticeably acidic despite the ripeness. Still a bit on the austere side but smoothed by the barriques and softened by the extra age. Bitter cherry finish. Has personality for sure. Very convincing.

Garda Cabernet 1997
Includes 5% Cabernet Franc, aged in 1/3 new oak as above. Very dark hue. Quite a bit of vegetal Cabernet character on the nose, bell-pepper, concentrated fruit, strawberry marmalade or pâte de fruits. Asked about the estate style Mr Galli shows us a map of the family vineyards; he stresses that moderation in viticulture and winemaking is a crucial attitude. Somehow I saw a connection between this and the pronounced acidic structure of this Cabernet. Pleasantly currantey, most people would miss some fruit sweetness but that's the house style. No compromise.

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 1998
Very dark purple. Soupy and almondy-stemmy on the nose, tobacco and fruit soup, this smells rather like a dry wine. Some fresh paint, grape flesh, still showing quite austere but also surprisingly elegant. This is almost Amarone in style and again drier than most people would like it to be. In fact it could be criticised for being on the verge of true Recioto character (but then what IS Recioto character?). Finishes bone-dry despite an overall impression of cherry softness. Almost vegetabley in profile but very convincing by its concentration. Textured and dense, this is a Recioto for aficionados.

Tedeschi

La Fabriseria IGT 2000
Barrel sample. This saw two years of barrique. Dark in the glass. Quite bacony-oaky on the nose, spicy and mildly volatile, with a beaten egg note. But dry and crisp on the palate. Needs time, will probably not equal the great 1999.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2000
From tank, this is the final blend. Dense purple. Shows more herbal and vegetal than the above, with a strange boiled note akin to cauliflower. Not much Amarone character in the aromatics. But interesting, quite concentrated and tense. More of a big red wine than Amarone in style but then again where to set the benchmark? Mild softness from the ripasso on the finish which saves the day perhaps. I wouldn't drink this before spring 2003.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Monte Olmi 1999
Barrel sample. Aged one year in barrique and one in botti. These three were to be bottled two weeks after the fair. Very concentrated colour. This is softer, smoother and oakier than the above with a vanilla milk character; much more backward than the above and hence less convincing today, although probably not as problematic stylistically. Then evolves into a quite soupy, fat and extracted Amarone on the palate, but there's good juicy character which makes at reasonably approachable. Also drier on the finish than the normale. Not a monster of definition or concentration but quite good. Surely well-balanced for a new-oak Amarone. Riccardo Tedeschi says 1999 will be similar to 1998 in style for Amarone – meaning wines which are a bit fruitier and earlier-maturing than the 1997s.

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Monte Fontana 1999
Already bottled. Coming from three different vineyard sites, one each for the three grape varieties. Massively concentrated and deep colour. Juicy despite the pungent bacony extraction notes; raw stems, decomposing fruit, black grapes, mixed spices; then perhaps a bit weaker on the palate because of the excessive smoothness covering the structure. Could be described as 'foody' due to the ripasso chewiness, but perhaps showing a bit vague today.

Vin de La Fabriseria de San Rocco Bianco Passito VdT 1999
From 95% Garganega and 5% Saorin, 15% alc, aged in 4-year-old barrique. Colour is yellow-golden. Rather fresh on the nose with still quite some yeastiness to it, could be mistaken for a dry Soave or Trebbiano. Soft and very vague on the palate, this is suprisingly characterless for Tedeschi and a cut below the rest of the range. Neither concentrated nor particularly luscious.

Zenato

Lugana Santa Cristina 2001
100% Trebbiano from Massoni cru, aged in steel. 100,00 bottles made, Quite precise and elegant on the nose, uncomplicated but juicy and enjoyable. Has a lettucey softness of Trebbiano and a watery vagueness on the palate but really rather decent. Dense and quite fat in mouth.

Lugana Riserva Sergio Zenato 2000
100% Trebbiano, fermented and shortly aged in 100% new oak. 23,200 bottles made. Oaky nose with vegetal overtones, seemingly a bit vague; gives an impression of wateriness on the palate despite an intense melon note on the finish. Not aggresively oaked and quite elegant but lacks a bit of character.

Merlot delle Venezie IGT 1999
50% new and 50% second-hand oak here. Dark. Oak and concentrated stemmy Merlot fruit on the nose. A bit anonymous though, if good on the palate. Bitterish structure showing up on the finish. Not bad.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore 1999
Lighter than the Merlot but still quite saturated. Wood and spices on the nose, some cooked fruit perhaps, but vague and neutral on the palate I guess. Pleaant fruit but nothing more; decent everyday drinking.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripassa 1999
Noticeably darker. Surely denser and more syrupy on the nose, although totally dry in style; a curious note of roasted oatmeal. Dry on the palate but perhaps a bit too soft, though that's nothing surprising with ripasso. Consistent with the house style.

Santa Cristina Cabernet Sauvignon IGT 1999
50% of new and second-hand oak for 15 months; includes 15% of Cabernet Franc. Great purple-violet Cabernet colour. Concentrated nose, warm and bready but not without elegance, with bell-peppery notes but overall quite ripe. Some roasted coffee, dry wood, leather and horse sweat appearing with time in the glass. But again this shares a mid-palate weakness or vagueness with the other Zenato wines IMO. Very good quality, kept alive by good acidity and aromatic focus, so why on Earth I don't like it? Perhaps the style is of a kind that never really appeals to me.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1998
Austere but a bit lighter in hue than the Cabernet above. This is better on the nose, more expressively perfumed with sharper notes of old barrel and currant stalks; a mildly stinky toiletty note as well. Almondy on the palate, not greatly concentrated, perhaps a bit split in its evolution in that the fruit softness gives way to a dry and grainy structure from mid-palate on. Probably not industrial Amarone as my colleague Krzysztof said, but it would need more attention to detail despite the more convincing, concentrated and focused dried cherry and currant finish.

Alberto VdT 1998
Late-harvest Cabernet and Merlot blended with passito Corvina. Very dark. Much more oak on the nose here; soft and vanilla-buttery on the palate, very modern in profile but really quite interesting, if a shade less of a discovery than the previous (and first) vintage. Juicy and all in all quite cool, this seems to have benefited from extra attention which I missed in the straight Amarone. A touch of bell-pepper and cinnamon; lemony-fresh; then greatly focused and recognisable spicy overtones on the finish. Smooth, easy to drink despite the sheer weight. Really quite delicious.

Amarone Valpolicella Classico Riserva Sergio Zenato 1997
Grapes dried in boxes until February/March (Alberto Zenato points that while the cellars are ventilated, there is no temperature control; whatever botrytis appears is eliminated), aged between two and a half and three years in a mixture of different woods, including a minor proportion of barrique but mostly botte. 10,000 bottles made in this vintage; 5,000 will be released from the 1998. Dark but not excessively concentrated colour. Juicy and dense on the nose with hints of very ripe cherry, airy mixed spices (garam masala coming to mind). Very clearly a level superior to the rest of the range here, finally all the necessary elements are gathered at the right amount of intensity and made into a harmonious whole. The nose has freshness combined with confiture-like thickness. With time in the glass musk and mulled orange appear. Elegant and rich, glyceric, long, still in the feminine Zenato style but very convincing and difficult to criticise.

Part II - Abruzzo; Marche; Umbria; Campania; Puglia
Part III - Tuscany



  Wojciech Bonkowski prefers to write under the pen name "Nerval". He got the wine bug around 1998, after drinking a bottle of cheap 1995 Médoc. He has now co-written the first Polish wine guide, to be published later this year. He has travelled extensively throughout Europe, spending the last year in London to gain first-hand experience of the wine trade and taste thousands of wines for his book. His special interests include Italy, Portugal, Sherry, Champagne, sweet wines and Eastern Europe.


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