Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Gambero Rosso tasting: Central and Southern Italy

Gambero Rosso tasting: Central and Southern Italy

The Gambero Rosso wine juggernaut finally reached Australian shores today, with the 'Top Italian Wine Roadshow' stopping off in Sydney town for the first ever.

As a result, I spent the afternoon perusing the wines of a range of Italian wine producers that were quite unknown to me, with a significant portion of the wineries on show having no representation within Australia. It was quite refreshing to approach a producer with little preconceptions about quality or reputation actually, even though the odd tacky label gave some of it away...

By the same token, the lack of information about where producers were from made comparisons bloody hard work. Stands were setup alphabetically, which makes sense in the scheme of things but still didn't help for lesser known makers.

Yes, that is a cruise ship back there
A high point of the afternoon was the masterclasses, which involved some shit-hot wines indeed (and they were free. Which means they were very well attended). I spent an hour or so at the Central/Southern Italian masterclass, covering a wide gamut of styles and flavours.

If the tasting gave up anything, it was the reminder that even maligned grapes like Trebbiano can be magical in the right hands. Cheap too.

Now, I have no idea of prices, nor availability for any of these wines (sadly). The newly released 2014 Gambero Rosso might have such info but I totally forgot to buy one...

I've put any background information available in italics. Notes are as written (hurriedly) during the tasting and naming came straight from the tasting booklet.

Valle Reale Trebbiano d'Abruzzo Lupe Reali 2012 (Abruzzo)
100% Trebbiano. Organic. 

Rather floral for a Treb. Chalky and phenolic palate - excellent grip and intensity. Lovely salty tang to finish - really pithy and fresh. Ripe but minerally. Gives away some of its ripeness with a pear fleshiness before finishing with grip and superb length. What length! Excellent refreshment and expression. Delicious. 18/20, 93/100

San Salvatore Pian di Stio 2012 (Campania)
100% Fiano. Biodynamic.

A burst of flesh but it is also a slightly blocky wine - it's a bit foreboding with bitterness. Would be a lovely wine with salty seafood. By itself this doesn't quite satisfy - a bit firm. Just a bit brutal. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Cantine Rallo Bianco Maggiore 2012 (Sicily)
Awarded a 'Best value' award in the 2014 Gambero Rosso. 100% Grillo. Sells for just 7 euros! 

Fun and open nose - pretty and a little honeysuckle. At first this seems a bit broad and cheap tasting, but the finish is dry and classy, flecked with a passionfruit fruit line. Pretty damn good for 7 euros! 17/20, 90/100

Baglio di Pianetto Ficiligno 2012 (Sicily)
Sourced from a 'warm part of Sicily'. A mix of Viognier and Inzolia. 

Pretty nose - well handled nectarine fruit. All aromatics, the palate is juicy and bouncy, without quite the penetration. The finish is pretty and lively and there is this lovely fruit juiciness. A simple wine, but also charming. 17.5/20, 91/00

Tenute Sella + Mosca Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Monteoro 2012 (Sardinia)
100% Vermentino. Old vines. 

Really quite nutty and a little musky. God you could smash this! Intensity is off the charts - chewy and intense. Hardly elegant but powerful with a compact salty finish. Wonderful. Not noble but beautiful. A big, flashing ad for Vermentino. 18.1/20, 93/100

Vigne Surrau Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala 2012 (Sardinia) 

Not quite the wonder of the first wine - a bit flatter and cheaper tasting. Pleasant though - charismatic pear flavours. 16.9/20, 89/100

Tenuta Ulisse Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Nativae 2012 (Abruzzo)
Organic. Wild ferment. Montepulciano. 

Really quite pretty!  Lovely juiciness - direct. It's a young wine but a well made one, light but not awkward with a pretty raspberry fragrance and fruit. This is bloody delicious. Not complex, but delicious light-mid weight red. 17.8/20, 92/100

Villa Medoro Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane Adrano 2010 (Abruzzo)

Ink and oak. Masculine, new leather. Robust and sweetly oaked finish. Feels modern and creamy. Lacks the love of the last wine, though it will get there. Furry and undergrowth and warm and modern. Not the love, this feels a little nondescript. 16.8/20, 89/100

Castorani Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva 2009 (Abruzzo)

Burnt coffee oak on the nose. Lots of oak but has the extract and balls to carry it up a notch. Great, sticky tannins. A slight overripe edge but still a big, brown sugar richness too. A chocolate wine! 17.8/20, 92/100

Cantina Tollo Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Cagiolo Riserva 2009 (Abruzzo)

Ah this is better! Coffee oak and ground nuts but has an extra level of grace. Sweeter and more bacon fat, yet also a little more finesse. Not the blocky tannins but excellent ageless finish. Clever. 17.9/20, 92/100

Di Majo Norante Molise Aglianico Biorganic 2011 (Molise)

Leather. Bark and cloves. Surprisingly light touch considering the black meaty tannins. Marvellous black spice and Christmas cake. Maybe slightly overripe but has an elegance to! Perhaps little simple? Hits some amazing black fruit notes though. Marvellous! A finish that goes on for hours! Idiosyncratic but hugely intriguing charismatic style. 18.5/20, 94/100

Torrevento Castel del Monte Rosso V.Pedale Riserva 2010 (Puglia)
100% Nero di Troia. 

Such concentration! Black like coal. Mushroomy and wild too. Feels a bit straight-laced on the palate. Too linear? Clever though. I could warm to this. 17.5/20, 91/100+

Leone De Castris Salice Salentino 50 Vendemmia Riserva 2010 (Puglia)
Nero Amaro. 

Slippery and black. So much juicy blackness. Comes through in a big black licorice rush but just pulls up a teensy but lacking through the finish. Glycerol rich and juicy, but a concocted wine in many ways. 17/20, 90/100

Cantine Due Palme Salice Salentino Rosso Selvarossa Riserva 2010 (Puglia)

Smoky, toasty oak an bitumen dried back fruit. Lovely juicy blackness. Expensive oak. Creamy edges. A little too creamy and modern? Pretty sexy though.. I liked it. Small doses though. 17.7/20, 92/100

Vigne + Vini Primitivo di Manduria Papale Linea Oro 2011 (Puglia)

Slathed in oak. Coconut oak. A cream sandwich. Silky palate. Hedonist liquid chocolate palate. But it's a falsity - it's oak juice. So close, yet so far - too much sweet oak. Add on a few points if you like wine richer and don't mind a little OTT sweetness. 16.5/20, 88/100

Tenute Rubino Punta Aquila 2011 (Puglia)

Juicy and simple, looks black and licoricey but a little short and has some feral meatiness. Lesser in this lineup. A very cheap wine methinks. 16/20, 87/100

IGreco Masino 2011 (Calabria)
Nero d'Avola. 

Black and alcoholic. Representative but feels quite commercial and simple. Black fruit but also has a skinny finish. A cheapie methinks.

Cusumano Sagana 2011 (Sicily)
Nero d'Avola. 

Has a smoky nose - really juicy and open. Very modern. Big tannins and big alcohol. Very international. Has a place but hard to drink. Inky blackness and big flavours. But I couldn't finish a glass. 16.8/20, 89/100

Firriato Santagostino Rosso Baglio Soria 2011 (Sicily)
70% Nero, 30% Syrah. 

Slighlty reductive and über commercial. Lacks much love but certainly packs a black fruitiness. Simple beast. 15.5/20, 85/100

Settesoli Cartagho Mandarossa 2009 (Sicily)

Lovely. Has some beautiful smoky pepperiness and 'garrique'. Has a wildness and extra comolexity of sticky black fruit. Lovely black tannins too. Sense of mastery here. Lamb roast friendly! Quite new world even. Delicious wine though. 17.7/20, 92/100


  1. Interesting to see some reviews on this. It was a fun event to attend (although I went to the "Wine Lovers Tasting") and as you noted it is interesting to taste some wines with no preconceptions or expectations. Given I don't know the wines well though a much better list of what wines were on tasting would have been helpful (even the signs on the stalls were oftern incorrect).

    That Cantine Rallo Bianco Maggiore 2012 is great value then - I didn't know it was 7 euro and had received some good value award, however it was one of my favourite wines of the night (regardless of price) and don't really remember a white still wine I preferred.

    Also really liked the Settesoli Cartagho Mondarossa 2009 quite a lot - interesting call on it being "new world" as it probably struck me a bit the same way (given I normally drink Aus wine I was particularly noticing the riper fruit, more oaky wines - thought this may have had comparatively more oak).

    Although your descriptors of the Tenuta Ulisse Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Nativae 2012 were a lot better than mine I was not such a fan of that one - I think my only notes mentioned that I thought it tasted like "lolly water" but was nice enough (although one person was randomly telling me they liked the wine - I am always surprised when random friendly speak to me at these events (not that I mind)).

  2. Allow me to thank you for all these wonderful suggestions, all off them are worthy of trying.


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