Goodies from North East Italy
Roughly biennially, prominent Australian wine distributor Negociants run what is known as the ‘Working with Wine’ Fellowship – a trade education program that allows 100 wine industry professionals to taste some very fine booze (and learn more about them) at a series of wine seminars.
For this years program there were two seminars run, one focusing on the wines of North East Italy and the second focused (largely) on viticulture (organics/biodynamics, clones, planting density, terroir etc). As one of the lucky 100, I dutifully attended both of them, tasted a decent wine or two and learnt some things along the way.
In this post then I’m going to cover the Italian goodies tasted at the first seminar and then follow up with another post focusing on the interesting tipples from the viti seminar.
The hosts for the first seminar then included ‘Mr Italian Wine’ Nicolas Belfrage MW (who looked a tad frail actually), David LeMire MW and Federica Pecorari (from exciting Friulian producer Lis Neris). Alessandro Vallecchi (from Allegrini) and Christof Tiefenbrunner (Tiefenbrunner) were also invited, but sadly grounded by that pesky Icelandic volcano.
The wines below were all tasted in a sit down, talk about it, masterclass style. Prices are approximate RRP. Wines had generally not been decanted. All were tasted with label in sight (though I’ve taken the names off the tasting sheet) and in a sit down, talk about it, masterclass style.
Flight 1: Friulian whites
Bags of interest here. Complex, textural, adventurous wines. Fun.
Lis Neris Sauvignon 2008 (Friuli, Italy) $42.95
Stainless ferment. 8 months on lees. 14.5% alc.
Herbal aromatics, sitting in the grassy end of the Sauv spectrum. Peppery even. Palate is dry and minerally, if chunky and quite full. Acid still surprisingly prominent with leesy overtones. Textural and full of zing, this is interesting Sauvignon Blanc! 17.9/92
Lis Neris Pinot Gris 2008 (Friuli, Italy) $42.95
Federica calls this the ‘traditional line’. 10 year old vines. Stainless ferment at 20-22C. Maturation on lees for 8 months with twice weekly battonage. 14% alc.
Quite a rich nose with honeyed pear characters. Tight and very dry palate with peach, apricot and honey. Lovely richness to match the acid. Pretty + textural wine. 17.5/91
Lis Neris ‘Gris’ Pinot Gris 2007 (Friuli, Italy) $58.95
Gris = crickets. 100 Pinot Grigio. 25yo vines. Barrel ferment in 500 litre puncheons. 11 months in oak. 14.5% alc.
Quite obvious oak and honeyed, apricot and cream nose. Palate is quite oily with a flor like funk to it. Creaminess and palate weight to burn. Oxidative notes and a milky finish. Wacky aldehyde character too. Lots of fun but just a fraction OTT. Would like to have a retaste of this. 17.5/91
Lis Neris Fiore di Campo 2008 (Friuli, Italy) $46.95
85% Tocai Friulano, 10% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Riesling. Stainless ferment. 8 months on lees.
Quite neutral and lightly floral, with a honey overtone. More action on the sour and backward palate, but still digging for flavour. Clean finish. Nice enough but a bit tight and lean for love at the moment. 16.5/88+
Lis Neris Confini 2007 (Friuli, Italy) $85.95
40% Gewürztraminer, 40% Pinot Grigio, 20% Riesling. Rich style with extended hang time, except for the Riesling which was picked at normal ripeness. Riesling in stainless, the rest spent 11 months in puncheons. 15% alc!
Wow. Honeyed, spicy, gewurtz dominant nose. Textural, viscous and spicy palate of such impressive weight. Love the texture here – big and still perfumed. Warm finish a slight distraction. Still, this is such and impressive, layered white. May even be underrating this. 18.5/94
Flight 2: Alto Adige
Very neutral wines these Tiefenbrunners. I was just looking for a little more intensity frankly. Can’t discount the purity though. All the 09’s tasted like they were just bottled and need time to be enjoyable.
Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2009 (Alto Adige, Italy) $24.95
Stainless ferment. 4 months on lees. 13% alc. 2.8g/l RS. 5.7g/l TA.
Light green colour. Slight goats cheese-ish lees influence with lightly honeyed melon fruit. Neutral, fresh and drawn palate has prominent acid but little else. Tinny through the finish. A bit underwhelming, if refreshing. Should improve with an extra 6 months bottle age. 16/87+
Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2009 (Alto Adige, Italy) $24.95
Stainless ferment. 4 months on lees. 13% alc. 6g/l TA.
Extremely neutral nose, barest hints of green fruit with some banana ferment esters still evident. Dry, chalky and overwhelmingly neutral palate, with hints of passionfruit and banana. More attractive than the Grigio, with very prominent acid balanced out with a little more texture. Very fresh, tight and pure. 17/90+
Tiefenbrunner Chardonnay 2009 (Alto Adige, Italy) $24.95
Stainless ferment. 4 months on lees. 13% alc.
A hint of Gardenia on the nose, but almost nothing else, save for some banana esters. Palate is almost painfully neutral and only lifted by some lees creaminess. Seems a bit fatter through the finish than the previous two wines and otherwise rather lacking in shape. Should improve, but little love here at present. 15.5/85+
Tiefenbrunner ‘Feldmarschall’ Muller Thurgau 2008 (Alto Adige, Italy) $53.95
Stainless ferment. 6 months on lees. 13% alc.
Welcome back wine. Gardenia, socks and a Gris like honey buzz on the nose, with a Gewurtz like spice edge. Viscous, juicy, spicy musky palate with heaps of acidity. Long finish too. Builds through the tail. Quirky and good! 17.8/92+
Tiefenbrunner ‘Feldmarschall’ Muller Thurgau 1996 (Alto Adige, Italy) $Museum
Stainless ferment. 6 months on lees. 12.5% alc.
Straw yellow in colour and very light for its age. More socks on the nose, this smells ‘grey’ if that makes sense. Orange rind. More than a hint of decay in there too. Big, mothball laden palate still retains acid but the socks character is a bit overwhelming. Reminded me of an old Vouvray. Interesting, if a bit weird. 16/87
Flight 3: Veneto whites
Spoilt here. The cream of Soave and so very very impressive.
Masi Levarie Soave Classico 2008 (Soave, Italy) $19.95
Some skin contact. 12% alc.
Chubby, sweet and candied nose of barley sugar, grass and little else. Palate is sweet at first but cleans up as it travels. No disguising the hardness on the finish though. Underripe grapes covered up with excessive residual sugar. No. 14/80
Cantine Pra Soave Classico Superiore 2009 (Soave, Italy) $30.95
100% Garganega. 300,000 bottles per annum! 13% alc
The original and still the best. Oyster shells, honey and rice. Underplayed palate has green, zingy fruit. Nicely layered and acid driven, with stone and green apple. Clean, long and all about simple fruit + salty texture. 17/90
Cantine Pra Soave Classico Superiore ‘Monte Grande’ 2008 (Soave, Italy) $51.95
From a 35yr old single vineyard. Includes 20% Trebbiano. Picked later. Barrel fermented and oak aged in large oak. 13.5% alc.
Obvious oak fatness and vanilla. Oak sitting on top of all the fruit. Lovely fresh honey and oats palate is just decimated by vanilla oak. Finish has firmish acidity and then oak tannins. This reminded me of an overoaked white Bordeaux and far removed from the simple joy of the Classico above. Would be a much more impressive wine without all that oak. May well improve with bottle age. 16.5/88+
Cantine Pra Soave Classico Superiore ‘Staforte’ (Soave, Italy) $57.95
Bunch selection. 100% Garganega. All in stainless steel with mechanical battonage and extended lees contact. 13.5% alc.
Much better. This is where it’s at. Seafood, mango and crab meat (weird I know). Richer nose with creamy lees character. Dry, long and green palate has green mango fruit, lime and cream. Layered, long and distinguished palate, but so backward right now. Love the intent and the structure here, it just needs some time. 18/93+
Cantine Pra Recioto di Soave Classico ‘Delle Fontane’ 2005 (Soave, Italy) $66.95 375ml
100% Garganega. Late picked and bunch selected. Dried horizontally for 3-4 months. Extremely long ferment (years). 13.5% alc. 150g/l RS.
Caramelised, toffeed nose, Sauternes like but without the botrytis. Toffeed biscuits. Surprisingly fresh with biscotti, creme caramel and burnt sugar. Thick and rich, but still with lots of freshness. Lovely clean finish. too. Yum! 18.6/94
Flight 4: Mixed Red
Mixed in quality too. Never been a massive fan of plain Valpolicella, which probably shows in the scores below. Pra wines again showing strongly (great producer that).
Tiefenbrunner Lagrein ‘Castel Turmhof’ 2008 (Alto Adige, Italy) $37.95
Bright purple in colour. Pretty nose of black jubes and sweet vanillan oak squatting over the top. Palate is young and raw, sweet and oaky, finishing noticeable bitter. Very modern, youthful and rather bland, this had limited varietal character and could be easily confused for an average Aussie Merlot. Not a bad wine, but I was expecting more. 16/86
Agricola Allegrini Valpolicella DOC 2008 (Valpolicella, Italy) $30.95
13% alc. Screwcap!
Light ruby colour. Sweet cherry, raspberry nose. Mid weight, think and green palate (overcropped?). Light tannins and a wedge of acid. Simple, light and cheap tasting. 14.5/82
Cantine Pra Valpolicella DOC ‘Ca Morinda’ 2008 (Valpolicella, Italy) $31.95
2001 plantings. Brief appasimento. 15 days maceration. Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella blend. 13% alc.
Similar ruby colour to the Allegrini but much spicier, black pepper and dill (?) nose. Meaty and peppery palate shows red cherry fruit and no shortage of spice (or acidity). Interesting wine, if just a bit raw. Rubbery finish. Pizza wine (in a good way). 17/90
Cantine Pra Valpolicella Superiore ‘Ca Morinda’ 2006 (Valpolicella, Italy) $58.95
6 weeks appassimento. MLF in oak botti. Matured 1 year in oak botti and tonneaux. 14% alc.
Lovely cherry aromatics with much more sweetness than the wine above. Creamed red berries with unintegrated oak. Palate is again raw, dry yet also with the coffee and raisin overtones thanks to the oak/dried fruit combination. Nice drying tannins if just a smidgen short through the finish. Nice wine. Liked this. Would like it even more with further bottle age. 17.5/91+
Agricola Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre IGT 2006 (Verona, Italy) $53.95
Ageing in barrique. 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese. 13.5% alc
Roasted red meat and sweet oak on the (volatile) nose. Sweet red fruit, oak and dry tannins on the palate. Nice tannins actually. Roasted cherries too. Good, if just a smidgen international (and dried out) for high marks. Will definitely improve. 16.8/89+
Flight 5: Amarone
The only thing conspiring against these wines was bottle age. They all need decades. And cheese.
Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2006 (Valpolicella, Italy) $99.95
10g/l RS. 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Molinara. A little Botrytis. (Excellent fact sheet on this wine here). 14.75% alc
Quite elemental and withdrawn on the nose. Very very young. Roasted fig nose, dry but long and firmly tannic palate. Slightly caramelised palate but doesn’t carry the weight through the finish (too tight for that). Coffeed end. Mid weight and almost fruit driven for an Amarone. I’d gladly stick some of these in the cellar (but wouldn’t drink it now). 17.5/91++
Cantine Pra Amarone DOC 2006 (Valpolicella, Italy) $149.95
3 months appassimento. 7.4g/l TA. 7g/l RS. 16.5% alc. 3 years in oak.
Quite voluptuous, rich fruitcake nose. Very luscious and inviting. Big palate has coffee, cake and very firm tannins, with real black fruit richness. Hearty alcoholic finish. Burnt but vibrant. Serious wine and easily the longest of all the Amarone. Excellent stuff, right up there. 18.5/94
Agricola Allegrini Amarone 2005 (Valpolicella, Italy) $174.95
No Molinara. 5% Oseleta. 15.4% alc.
Quite fragrant, if burnt and volatile/stinky and hammy. Cooked figs. Dry style that at present is a bit dull and chocolatey, pulling up just a bit short. Extractive. Powerful and certainly in the mode, but just not quite top shelf (yet). 16.8/89++
Agricola Allegrini Amarone 2000 (Valpolicella, Italy) $Museum
No Botrytis. Indigenous yeasts. 16.5% alc.
Very sweet nose. Redcurrants. Quite genuine and almost subtle after the 2005. Lovely tannins. Much more integration here. Black fruit palate. Nice and complete already. Enjoyed this. 17.9/92
Agricola Allegrini Recioto Classico DOC ‘Giovanni Allegrini’ 2005 (Valpolicella, Italy) $116.95 500ml
14g/l RS. 14% alc.
Unique. Quite and oxidative nose, though a fresh palate. Enormously sweet and more like a fortified, with a suggestion of flor or maybe a very traditional dry port. Spicy. Burnt seeds (?). Amazing palate – really sweet – but it works here the heat and the richness. Much like a good port. Sweetly caramel and vanillan edges. Unusual, but in a wonderful way. 18.3/93