HomeAbout UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us

THE GRAPEVINE

Wine Columns

Wine Reviews

WineReviewOnline.com on Twitter

Critics Challenge

San Diego Challenge

Sommelier Challenge

Winemaker Challenge



REVIEW ARCHIVES

Prior to the June 2, 2020 Issue

Printable Version

ITALY

Red:

Bolla, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC (Italy) 2011 ($45, Banfi Vintners): No winery in Italy has come farther faster than Bolla, once known mostly for the blandness of its wines. No more. Across the board Bolla has improved, and its 2011 Amarone is nothing less than sensational. It shows ripe cherry and raisin notes, with an intriguing earthiness and remarkable persistence in the finish. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Sep 27, 2016

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Sarmassa 2012 ($65, Frederick Wildman & Sons): Sarmassa is a well-regarded cru located in the village of Barolo itself, an area where the wines are allegedly more delicate, relatively speaking (this is Barolo, after all) compared to those from Serralunga d’Alba or Montforte d’Alba.  Marchesi di Barolo’s fine Sarmassa has a bit of Montforte-like structure to accompany its floral aspect.  Almost chewy with firm, fine tannins, it remains incredibly elegant, capturing the best of both worlds.  Its charms appeared sitting it the glass for a couple of hours over dinner, surprising me at how enjoyable it was to drink now.  With a seemingly endless finish and balance, it will reward a decade or so of cellaring.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 25, 2017

CaMaiol, Benaco Bresciano Rosso IGP (Italy) 'Giome' 2016 ($14): If you’re looking for something different in a red wine for summer, Giome from CaMaiol could be the ticket.  This eclectic blend of indigenous grapes – groppello, marzemino, barbera and sangiovese – produced a 2016 Giome that is light-bodied but delicious, showing red fruits, hints of savory herbs, anise and a thread of minerality that becomes more pronounced as the wine opens up with a bit of aeration.  
90 Robert Whitley Jul 31, 2018

Banfi, Bolgheri Rosso DOC (Italy) "Aska" 2013 ($22): Aska is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Now don't think of it as just a ready-to-drink version of some of the more famed and age-worthy wines of the region -- think of it as a serious bargain in a classic Bolgheri, where the heavy hitters can cost more than five times as much.  Deep blackberry, cassis, faint dried herbs, a little earthy funk and subtle spice notes are carried on vibrant acidity, with supple grip keeping it all together through a long, fully integrated finish.  At this price, with good domestic availability, you can expect it to appear soon on your favorite Italian restaurant wine list.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Zanatta, Cannonau di Sardegna (Italy) NV ($14, Angelini Selection): This Cannonau, the local Sardinian name for Grenache or Garnacha, is delightfully meaty and earthy more than fruity, though lovely sour cherry-like notes peek through in the finish. It’s really an ideal choice for the grilling season because the wine has intensity -- it’s even chewy -- without being heavy. And there’s uplifting freshness in the finish that keeps you coming back for more. This is a value-packed wine.
90 Michael Apstein Jun 4, 2013

Olianas, Cannonau di Sardegna DOC (Italy) 2016 ($20):  Fresh and fruity, showing a floral note as well, this wine is the Beaujolais of Sardinia.  Tannins are modest and soft, making it enjoyable when young and perfect for serving chilled on a warm summer day.  Red berries and violets come to mind.  Serve it with light appetizers, grilled chicken or light pasta dishes. 
87 Robert Whitley Dec 12, 2017

Melini, Chianti Classico (Italy) “Terrarossa” 2011 ($18, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): Ruby red, with a subtly floral fragrance, this Chianti is dry and savory, which makes it very much the classic wine to accompany tomato-based pasta dishes and pizza.  Because of its typical palate-clarifying acidity it’s also good with simple yet substantial dishes such as roast chicken.
91 Marguerite Thomas Apr 5, 2016

Banfi, Chianti Classico DOCG (Tuscany, Italy) Fonte Alla Selva 2013 ($24): This bottling is enjoying a run of top notch quality, with the 2013 coming on strong and age-worthy.  It's spot-on Chianti Classico, with tart cherry fruit, sage, underbrush and stony minerality aromas and flavors, and a firm acid structure that asks for a good decant in the near term.  This will age nicely over the next five years, and it's a great value for the price.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Castello D'Albola, Chianti Classico DOCG (Italy) 2011 ($19, Zonin USA): Thank goodness for Chianti Classico!  A great bottle from this region is like no other wine on earth, and certain foods show their absolute best when paired with a fine example.  This wine qualifies as such, showing cherry, wildflowers, sage and dusty spice on the nose and in the mouth, and it's bone dry and crisply acidic, as it should be.  Fresh Tuscan foods and outdoor dining in the sun are practically required pairings.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Gabbiano, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG (Italy) 2011 ($22, TWE Imports): Gabbiano ups their game with this always dependable wine, achieving classic character with black cherry, dried herbs and brown spice delivered through a brisk acid profile that requires food -- hearty pasta and meat sauce dishes will be elevated by this wine.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Banfi, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG (Italy) 2011 ($19, Banfi Vintners): It's always great to find a wine that is readily available at a great price that delivers this kind of quality.  One whiff puts you in the Tuscan hill country and invites you to stay with fresh dry cherry fruit, sage, fennel and faint dried herbs -- a wonderful accompaniment to classic central Italian  cooking.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Caposaldo, Chianti DOCG (Italy) 2014 ($11, Kobrand Wine And Spirits): Wow! A lovely Chianti with popping acidity allowing the cherry, blueberry, sage and leaf to really shine. A food friend for lots of situations, and great on its own.  Toss in the low price and wide availability and you've got a real find on your hands.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Russiz Superiore, Collio DOC (Italy) Cabernet Franc 2016 ($25, Dalla Terra Winery Direct): The reds that do best in the Collio, most renowned for its white wines, are the early ripening varieties such as Cabernet Franc.  Marco Falluga’s Cab Franc under his Russiz Superiore label is a good example of the potential for Cab Franc in the region.  This medium-bodied red shows aromas of cherry and blueberry along with an inviting note of white pepper that becomes more pronounced as the wine sits in the glass.  It will benefit from additional cellar time to soften the tannins and allow the underlying fruit to more fully emerge.   
88 Robert Whitley Oct 15, 2019

Bell'Agio, Emilia IGT (Italy) Rosso Dulce NV ($13, Banfi):   If sweet reds are your thing, the Bell'Agio Rosso Dolce may be the ticket for you. It's beautifully crafted, medium sweet and finishes clean. If sweet reds aren't your thing, you might give this delicious Lambruso a whirl anyway the next time you have barbecue baby back ribs with a sweet BBQ sauce. Or a dessert with chocolate. Or ripe red berries. You get the idea. A Platinum award-winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
91 Robert Whitley Jan 30, 2018

Albinea Canali, Emilia-Romagna (Italy) Sparkling Dry Lambrusco “Ottocentonero” NV ($13, Banfi Vintners): Fizzy red wine isn't for everyone, but Lambrusco, like sparkling Shiraz, has its admirers-and why not?  It is a fun and festive aperitif, as well as an appropriate accompaniment to certain foods.  In fact, one reason bubbly wine is so popular in Emilia Romagna is that it makes an appealing foil for the region's exceedingly rich and creamy cuisine. Made from native grape varieties (Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Grasparossa, and Lancellotta), Ottocentonero is the color of garnets, with a light pink foam.  Much Lambrusco is sweet, but this one is both refreshingly dry and pleasantly fruity. 88 Marguerite Thomas Apr 3, 2007

Cantina Mesa, IGT Isola dei Nuraghi (Italy) “Buio Buio” 2010 ($20, Montcalm Wine Importers): Made from the Carignano del Sulcis grape, the local name for Carignan grown in the Sulcis region of southwestern Sardinia, Buio Buio is a name to remember.  For a vigorous and robust red, it has surprising finesse.  It’s a cunning combination of ripe spiced fruit and savory, almost bitter, notes. Though it has a lush texture, there’s sufficient backbone -- tannins and acidity -- that makes it ideal with slow-cooked meats.
91 Michael Apstein Feb 3, 2015

Piccini , Italia (Italy) “Memoro” NV ($10, Aveníu): There’s a reason why you might be having trouble pinpointing where this wine is from.  In an era when wineries are focusing so much attention on appellation, Memōro takes the opposite road by assembling a roundup of different grapes from a host of different regions:  Merlot from the Veneto, Nero d’Avola from Sicily, and Montepulciano from Abruzzo, as well as passito Primitivo grapes from Puglia.  The result is a pleasant, light-bodied red at an extremely reasonable price.
87 Marguerite Thomas Mar 26, 2013

Locations, Italy (Italy) “I 7” NV ($25):  The Locations project begun by Dave Phinney some years back is focused on what’s possible when blending fine lots of fruit, sometimes from more than a single vintage, and offering it to the public at a great price.  The “I 7” refers to the country of origin, and the 7 refers to the seventh blend made.  Without knowing what’s inside, this strikes me as southern Italian, perhaps Nero d’Avila and Negroamaro, with lots of black fruit showing and tempered nicely by easy oak toast and brown spice.  It’s a savory pleasure that shows what can happen when a master blender gets to work.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.    
94 Rich Cook Jan 28, 2020

Cinzano, Italy () Rosso Vermouth NV ($8, Palm Bay International): The classic mixer for your Americano, Negroni, Manhattan, or funky Martini.  It is brightly herbaceous, slightly oxidative in character, and long on herbs in the finish -- it keeps going, and going, and going. A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Savanna Samson, Italy (Italy) Barbera “Sogno Tre” 2005 ($50, Domaine Select): Barbera is one of the most food-friendly of all red wines.  The lighter-bodied Barberas, in the $15 to $24 price range, are great with casual dinners such as pizza or pasta with red sauce.  But there are also more serious, fuller-bodied Barberas, such as Savanna Samson's Sogno Tre, which can easily accompany steak or pork dishes.  Savanna Samson happens to be an adult film star who's married to a New York wine shop proprietor  with lots of Italian connections.  The noted Brunello di Montalcino winemaker and wine consultant Roberto Cipresso is the guiding light behind Savanna Samson's wines.  The 2005 Sogno Tre, made from 45-year-old vines in Monferrato, Piedmont (the birthplace of Barbera), is a totally dry, not particularly fruity, very traditionally made Barbera--even though Cipresso and winemaker Fabrizio Iuli make the modern concession of aging the wine in used French barriques.  It has lots of depth, plenty of acidity, and a silky, understated texture, with tart red fruit flavors layered in with suggestions of ripe black fruit.  Unlike most Barberas, the 2005 Sogno Tre improves with some aeration, and it has amazing length on the palate for this variety.  I had planned to just taste this wine, but wound up finishing the entire bottle.  I guess that says more than all of my words!  'Sogno Tre' is the name Savanna Samson is using for her Italian selections; she previously released an old-vine red wine from Latium using the almost extinct Cesanese variety, and last year gave us a Falanghina from Campania.  This might be her best wine yet. 92 Ed McCarthy Feb 17, 2009

Locations, Italy (Italy) “I 4” NV ($19):  Dave Phinney continues to work magic with odd lots from multiple vintages with this blend of Negroamaro and Nero d'Avola from Puglia and a splash of Barbera from Piedmont.  It's his usual juicy mouthful, with that bright Barbera acidity perking everything up.  Black and red fruit, fall spice and a savory note are a pleasure through and through, with a blue note popping up in the finish.  Another great value from a great concept. 91 Rich Cook Oct 3, 2017

Attilio Ghisolfi, Langhe DOC (Italy) Nebbiolo 2015 ($35, Quintessential):  Ghisolfi’s Langhe Nebbiolo could use an additional four to five years in the cellar, but with the right dish (say veal osso bucco) it’s ready now.  Beautifully scented, showing notes of earth and black cherry and wood spice, the gorgeous nose leads to a palate that exhibits impressive black cherry fruit that is hiding behind a wall of tannin waiting to be liberated.  Only time can do that, or a savory meat dish.
93 Robert Whitley Dec 19, 2017

Falesco, Lazio (Italy) "Ferentano" 2004 ($25, Winebow): Lazio, the region surrounding Rome, is not known for great wine.  The Cotarella brothers, Riccardo and Renzo, two of the most famous names in Italian winemaking, changed that image in 1993 when then launched Montiano, a sleek and silky Merlot, from their estate.  (Riccardo, who consults for 60 or so Italian wineries, is that country's answer to France's Michel Rolland.  Renzo has worked with Antinori for 25 years and is now their managing director responsible for wine such as Tignanello and Solaia).  They have now changed the image of white wine from Lazio with Ferentano.  Made entirely from the Roscetto grape, an indigenous grape, and fermented in barriques, it is a harmonious combination of creaminess and a stony minerality.  A classy and seamless wine, you feel--but do not taste--the effect of barriques. It has intensity and length without being heavy because of the underpinning of acidity.  It is a sensational wine. 94 Michael Apstein Jan 30, 2007

Arnaldo-Caprai, Montefalco Rosso (Umbria, Italy) 2012 ($20, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Arnaldo-Caprai, one of the great names in the DOCG of Montefalco Sagrantino, also makes an easy to recommend Montefalco Rosso, a junior varsity version of that DOCG.  Whereas regulations for Montefalco Sagrantino require exclusive use of Sagrantino, winemakers are permitted to blend other grapes in Montefalco Rosso, which makes it a far more approachable wine.  A blend of Sangiovese (70%) and equal parts of Sagrantino and Merlot, Arnaldo-Caprai’s Montefalco Rosso is a masterful wine that combines firm minerality, dark fruitiness and an uplifting freshness.  Not a stand-alone aperitivo type of wine, it would be a good choice for a hearty pasta, a robust stew, or grilled beef.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 18, 2015

Arnaldo-Caprai, Montefalco Sagrantino (Umbria, Italy) “Collepiano” 2009 ($60, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Montefalco Sagrantino, similar to Barolo and Taurasi, can be an impenetrable wine when young because of substantial tannins. The tannins in this massive 2009 from Arnaldo-Caprai, perhaps the leading producer in the DOCG, are still very evident, even at six years of age, but they are not aggressive or astringent.  The wine conveys an engaging bitter cherry and tarry quality, especially in its extended finish.  This Montefalco Sagrantino is wonderfully dense and mineraly.  It opens dramatically after an hour, so if you’re planning to serve it now, open and decant it well in advance.  Otherwise, commit it to the cellar for another decade.
94 Michael Apstein Aug 18, 2015

Illuminati, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Riparosso” 2013 ($13, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): Talk about charming rusticity. This Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a cut above your basic “pizza wine,” imparting a lovely combination of cherry-like notes and lively acidity. Fresh and vigorous, it’s just what you need for an “everyday” wine for pasta bathed in a garlicky tomato sauce.
89 Michael Apstein Aug 18, 2015

Antonio & Elio Monti, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) "Pignotto" 2001 ($30, Winebow): Dark and dense, this unfined, unfiltered wine is made from 100% Montepulciano grapes grown in a vineyard 820 feet above sea level. The wine resonates with deep, earthy flavors reminiscent of black olives, black licorice, cocoa powder, dried fruits (especially blueberries), and it has an ample supply of fine, dusty tannins. It's a terrific partner for beef or lamb, and is surprisingly good with grilled salmon. 90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 21, 2006

Il Feuduccio di S. Maria d'Orni, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzi, Italy) 2001 ($21, Empson): I confess that, while I almost always enjoy Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, I tend not to think of it as a serious wine so much as a robust, gutsy partner for burgers and pizza. This wine surely fits that description, and yet it also shows striking depth of flavor and a profound, earthy complexity that commands one's complete attention. Seriously ripe and rich, but still pleasingly tart and defined in the finish, this is a remarkable rendition of the breed. 90 Michael Franz Mar 14, 2006

Cala De Poeti, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo DOC (Italy) 2015 ($30, Wine Insiders): The Adriatic Coast joins the party at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition with this beautiful Platinum Award winning wine.  It's a classic combination of rusticity and refinement all at once, with rich red and black berries joined by notes of leaf and crushed rock and a touch of pepper in both aroma and flavor profiles, and a bright finish that adds a kiss of lemon to refresh you.  A perfect foil for a grilled sirloin.
95 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Farnese, Puglia and Abruzzo (Italy) “Cinque Autoctoni” NV ($46, Empson): This surprising wine is made from five different grape varieties that were grown in one or the other of two regions in southern Italy, Abruzzo and Puglia.  As a consequence of its multi-regional composition, it does not bear a vintage date, though a lot number at the bottom of the back label seems to indicate that the fruit was all grown during the 2006 growing season.  What is certain is that the wine is big and bold and very tasty, and that it is comprised of 33% Montepulciano, 25% Sangiovese, 30% Primitivo, 7% Negroamaro and 5% Malvasia Nera.  Dark and dense and very deeply flavored, it shows lots of dark berry fruit with backnotes of dried cherries and a nice spicy edge.  There's some gutsy tannin in the finish, but the ripe, sweet fruit easily counterbalances it. 91 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2009

Medici Ermete, Reggiano Lambrusco DOC (Emilia Romagna, Italy) “Concerto” 2016 ($20, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):   Medici Ermete takes Lambrusco seriously, and it shows with the quality of their wines.  This one, named Concerto, is the first single vineyard Lambrusco produced.  It’s made entirely from Lambrusco Salamino grown on their Rampata estate.  Ermes Scardova, their export director for the U.S.A. and Canada, says their yields are roughly half of the legal maximum, which helps explain why the wine is so good.  Compared to their delightful, i Quercioli Lambrusco, Concerto is just more elegant, with finer bubbles and a more suave texture.  It’s “friendly” rather than sweet.  More darkly colored than you’d expect from a wine made from Lambrusco Salamino, Scardova explains that it receives more skin contact during fermentation.  If you’ve not had a Lambrusco recently, you must try this one.  It will open your eyes to the category.  Their Concerto has awarded “Tre Bicchieri” 8 times in a row from Gambero Rosso, Italy’s leading wine guide.  After tasting it, I see why.  It’s a great choice for Indian or other spicy food, BBQ, or ribs this summer.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 25, 2017

Medici Ermete, Reggiano Lambrusco DOC (Emilia Romagna, Italy) “i Quercioli” NV ($12, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):   Lambrusco is making a dramatic comeback, judging from restaurants in New York City and elsewhere.  Diligence and persistence by producers such as Medici Ermete has shown the world the joys of Lambrusco.  An equal blend of Lambrusco Marani and Lambrusco Salamino, i Quercioli is a faintly fizzy, dark, almost purple, red wine with a delicate sweetness and gripping acidity.  Lambrusco Marani lends acidity and color, while Salamino provides bouquet and fruitiness.  It’s a blend that works, producing a wine with fine bubbles, tannins and acidity that balances the sweetness perfectly.  Serve it cold with BBQ or spicy fare this summer.
88 Michael Apstein Jul 25, 2017

Cortonesi, Rosso di Montalcino (Italy) "La Mannella" 2015 ($30, Quintessential Wines):  While you are waiting for the more massive Brunellos from this vintage to mature, a “rosso” from this very good vintage makes a beautiful alternative.   Cortonesi’s ‘La Manella’ shows notes of dried black cherry and spice, with a moderate level of tannin and a long finish that comes to life with grilled meats of savory cheeses.  
90 Robert Whitley Sep 17, 2019

Tenuta La Palazza, Sangiovese di Romagna (Italy) "Drei Dona, Pruno" Riserva Superiore 2004 ($47, Vineyard Brands):

Though my experience is somewhat limited, this definitely is the most impressive Sangiovese di Romagna I've ever tried.  (It's also the most expensive.)  Firmly structured, with dark cherry-flavored fruit, and plenty of leathery, dusty spice in the finish, it also is quite tannic -- not unlike a good Brunello from Montalcino.  That comparison is a form of high praise, and this wine merits just that.

90 Paul Lukacs Sep 30, 2008

Gregorina, Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore (Emilia-Romagna, Italy) 2012 ($15, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): Sangiovese, Italy’s most widely planted red grape, is held in high esteem in Tuscany where it is the core for Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the only grape allowed for Brunello di Montalcino.  Somehow, its glow fades as it hits the Emilia Romagna border, which is a shame because it can produce great value wine there, as Gregorina demonstrates.  A great combination of earthy and dark cherry flavors gives it a ripe and savory tension.  The lively acidity inherent to Sangiovese keeps the palate refreshed and you coming back for more.  It is a knockout bargain.  For once, Superiore actually describes the wine.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 18, 2015

Drei Dona/Tenuta La Palazzo, Sangiovese di Romano (Italy) Superiore Riserva “Pruno” 2004 ($47, Vineyard Brands): As is often the case with European wines, the names can be a source of confusion.  Paul Lukacs, my colleague here at WRO, lists the producer as Tenuta La Palazzo.  The family's name is Drei Dona.  But let there be no confusion about the quality of the wine.  This powerful--but not overdone--pure Sangiovese-based wine shows that in the right hands that variety needs no help from Cabernet Sauvignon to deliver intensity and structure.  Fine tannins and hallmark acidity from Sangiovese support an alluring black cherry-like richness, add grip, and prevent this concentrated wine from being jammy.  Although enjoyable now, this succulent offering would benefit from another year or so to allow its flavors to unfold even more. 91 Michael Apstein Oct 2, 2008

Brancaia, Toscana IGT (Italy) “Ilatraia” 2011 ($70, E&J Gallo): This is Brancaia's take on a Bordeaux blend, and it succeeds on all counts, delivering a dry, food friendly style that would sit easily alongside its French counterparts.  Blackberry, dried herbs, brown spice, a touch of saddle and earth are well knit together and linger long.  Food is required -- roast beef with blue cheese butter comes to mind.  Contains 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Petit Verdot and 20% Cabernet Franc.  A Platinum Award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Sep 27, 2016

Barone Ricasoli, Toscana IGT (Tuscany, Italy) "Casalferro" 2008 ($62, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.):  One of the more interesting wines on the market, this is a single-vineyard, 100% Merlot that doesn't list the grape variety anywhere on the bottle.  Baron Francesco Ricasoli says, "We are not selling varietal wines.  We are selling terroir wines.  If people buy this because they want Merlot, they will be disappointed." That's most likely true:  The aromas of cherry with some herbaceousness might fit on Bordeaux's Right Bank, but the mouthfeel is unique, featuring the fine acidity of Chianti with the gentle tannins of Merlot.  The flavors are mostly of cherry, with some cherry tobacco notes, and that acidity allows you to drink it with foods you would never imagine opening Merlot with.  "This is Merlot, but it's speaking the language of Brolio," Ricasoli says.  It's a positive example of internationalization providing not a generic wine that could come from anywhere, but a great new type of wine that we hadn't previously imagined. 94 W. Blake Gray Oct 18, 2011

Ecco Domani, Tre Venezie (Italy) Merlot 2004 ($11, Ecco Domani USA): A commonly heard moan in wine circles is that it's hard to find a good Merlot (or Pinot Noir) for less than $15.00.  There are plenty of value Merlots, both import and domestic, available, but many lack character and varietal definition.  California's E & J Gallo has been importing Ecco Domani, a line of Italian wines that have been turning heads for quality and value.  The grapes for this IGT wine were sourced from the province of Trento, Grave del Friuli and Grave del Veneto, all within the Tre Venezie region of northern Italy.  An interesting winemaking technique that adds to the sumptuousness of this high-profile fruity Merlot is the varietal blend and the addition of small percentages of rack-dried (passito) grapes.  The blend: 92% Merlot (9% passito), 2% Teroldego passito, 2% Lagrein passito and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon passito.  The concentrated flavors and texture of passito gives this Merlot an intensity of flavor and a full body.  It's lush with black plum and cherry flavors, a hint of spice, supported by good texture and length and the 12.7% alcohol is a modest and welcome alternative to the growing number of high-octane New World reds. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Jan 16, 2007

Rocca Sveva, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso (Italy) 2010 ($22, MW Imports): The wine is deep and dark in color, intense in flavor, and long lasting on the taste buds, yet it also manages to be stunningly light and graceful in texture.  This sleight of hand is accomplished via the Ripasso technique in which skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone are added to newly fermented (or partially fermented) Valpolicella wine, which triggers a second fermentation.  Although it may remind you of a fine Zinfandel, this Ripasso comes in at only 13.5% alcohol.  It is made for food.  It’s both light enough for poultry, and substantial enough for pork and certain beef preparations as well as most pasta dishes -- I can’t think of a better partner for spaghetti and meatballs than Rocca Sveva Ripasso.
92 Marguerite Thomas Dec 2, 2014

TreRose, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Italy) Santa Caterina 2012 ($35, Palm Bay International): Vino Nobile when it’s good is the ultimate red wine for food, particularly roasted and grilled meats. TreRose has delivered this beauty from the 2012 vintage. Dry almost to the point of being austere, it is still somewhat closed, but underneath the outer veneer there is an inviting savory note with black cherry fruit purity, fresh acidity and exceptional length. It needs food, but it also needs time. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Piccini, Vino Rosso d'Italia (Italy) Memoro NV ($12):  This savory red draws its inspiration from four distinct regions in Italy -- Sicily (Nero d'Avola), Puglia (Primitivo), Abruzzo (Montepulciano) and the Veneto (Merlot). An eclectic blend to be sure, but inviting and delicious at the same time. Notes of licorice, blackberry and spice come with a ripe, juicy mouthfeel and soft tannins. This is a non-vintage effort, but its tasty and priced well.
88 Robert Whitley Aug 25, 2015

Rosé:

Menage a Trois, Italy (Italy) Sparkling Rosé NV ($15, Trinchero Family Estates):   The Trinchero family knows a thing or two about Rosé, including knowing how to spot a needle in a haystack of import possibilities.  Here’s a fresh take on fizz in a blend of Pinot Noir, Merlot and Raboso that is long on white peach and key lime aromas and flavors that get a lively mousse to ride on.  There’s a fruit brightness here that’s hard to achieve in a dry sparkler.  Well done!  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2020 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.      
92 Rich Cook May 26, 2020

Tasca d’Almerita, Sicily (Italy) Nerello Mascalese “Le Rose di Regaleali Terre Siciliane” 2015 ($13, Winebow): Cool, moist and juicy, with chaste fruit flavors and a sprightly splash of acidity on the finish, this pretty pink wine is versatile and adaptable to a variety of occasions. Reasonably priced and easy on the palate, sip this rosato solo or pour it at a party, serve it at a picnic or cook-out, toast the recent graduate or raise a glass of it to your mom. Le Rose di Regaliali is definitely a multi-purpose, multi-occasion wine. 90 Marguerite Thomas Apr 12, 2016

Confetti!, Trevenezie IGT (Italy) Rosé 2018 ($12):  Don’t be fooled by the name here -- this is serious, bone dry rosé that will please the most serious Provencal fans out there.  Crisp and bright, it shows lively citrus and strawberry fruit, mild pepper and light herb tones that make for a refreshing glass of Italian summertime.  Drink up!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
93 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2019

Cavit, Trevenezie IGT (Italy) Rosé 2018 ($10, Palm Bay International):  Full of fun, lifted by delicate effervescence and finished off with just a little kiss of sweetness, this is a delightful rosé for relaxed summer sipping.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge.  
90 Michael Franz Apr 9, 2019

Pasqua, Trevenezie IGT (Italy) “11 Minutes” Rosé 2018 ($20):  A delightful rosé from the Veneto that’s not your everyday combination of parts, but will make for a nice everyday drinker this summer.  A nose of flowers, strawberry and cherry leads you to a bright palate that delivers on the promise of the nose and adds citric acidity and a nutty note in the finish.  It won’t last eleven minutes if there’s a crowd.  Saluté!  Contains 50% Corvina, 25% Trebbiano di Lugana, 15% Syrah and 10% Carmenere.   
90 Rich Cook Jun 25, 2019

Mionetto, Veneto/Trentino (Italy) Rosé Extra Dry “Sergio” NV ($22, Mionetto USA): Mionetto, the stellar Prosecco producer, has expanded his portfolio outside of the traditional Prosecco zone to make this lovely Rosé sparkler.  Darker pink than many rosés, it has a softness--not exactly a sweetness--that makes it easy to drink as an aperitif. 88 Michael Apstein Oct 30, 2007

Attems, Venezia Giulia IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Ramato” 2015 ($18, Folio Fine Wine Partners): At first blush -- no pun intended -- you’d think this wine was a marketing genius, encompassing two very hot wine categories:  Pinot Grigio and Rosé.  But no, the pink -- actually copper hue -- of the wine comes from the light red color of the skins of the Pinot Grigio grape.  Indeed, you taste and feel the skin contact because there’s a subtle and welcome bitterness in the finish emanating from the tannins in the skin.  It’s a good foil for the crisp strawberry-like fruitiness.  This is a long and substantial wine, a perfect choice for grilled rare tuna.
92 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Sparkling:

Martini & Rossi, Asti DOCG (Italy) NV ($13):  This sweet bubbly from Asti is the perfect end to a holiday meal, aromatically inviting and not too sweet to overwhelm the taste buds.  Made from the Moscato Bianco grape, this wine shows lush aromas of pear and tropical fruit with a soft, elegant mousse and a clean, lingering finish.  Serve it with cakes or pies that are not sticky sweet, or with Italian cookies, particularly the wedding cookie. 90 Robert Whitley Dec 5, 2017

Cleto Chiarli, Emilia-Romagna (Italy) “Brut de Noir Rosé” NV ($16, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Here is an absolute refresher for hot Indian summer days -- pleasantly just the slightest bit off dry, with lively ripe strawberry and cherry fruit wrapped in lemon zest.  No pretense here -- just drink in the sunshine!   This sparkling wine contains 85% Lambrusco Grasparossa and 15% Pinot Nero.  
90 Rich Cook Sep 17, 2019

Cleto Chiarli, Emilia-Romagna (Italy) Brut de Noir Rosé NV ($16):  The cuvee is primarily Lambrusco Grasparossa with a touch of Pinot Nero and the results is a bright, refreshing sparkling rose from Central Italy’s most famous region for gastronomy.   Shows lovely notes of strawberry and cherry, finishes clean and dry, with a finish that begs you take another sip.   
89 Robert Whitley Sep 10, 2019

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta (Italy) “Novalia” Brut NV ($25, Vinifera Imports): This crisp, refreshing and dry sparkler based on Chardonnay from Italy’s Franciacorta region is a wonderful aperitif wine, but it will also be good with light fish dishes (oysters, steamed clams, spaghetti alle vongole). It hits the palate with a whoosh of fresh and fruity flavors that evolve into more of a nutty, mineral-tinged essence that invigorates and energizes the taste buds.  The persistent finish is another of Villa Crespia’s many virtues.
91 Marguerite Thomas Aug 16, 2016

Maschio, Italy () Rosé Sparkling Wine NV ($14): Something different in a Brut Rosé - It's made from Raboso (meaning "angry" in Venetian) Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir, and it shows aromas of fresh, clean spicy strawberry, with what I'll call a pleasantly angry pepper note that adds interest.  A nice general quaffer at a great price.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Bolla, Italy () Rosé Sparkling Wine NV ($13): This wine packs a lot of flavorful, foamy fun in to a $13 bottle.  There’s a decidedly red tone to the fruit quite aside from any suggestion from the wine’s appearance, and though there’s significant sweetness in the finish, there is also enough acidity to keep this refreshing.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 San Diego Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
90 Michael Franz Apr 11, 2017

Martini & Rossi, Italy (Italy) Sparkling Rosé NV ($13, Martini & Rossi Wine Company): A blend of Moscato Bianco, Malvasia, and Brachetto grapes sourced from vineyards in both Piedmont and the Veneto, this new release from the venerable Vermouth producer tastes off-dry but balanced and harmonious.  The peachy Muscat flavors come to the fore, but the other grapes provide depth, and the wine finishes on an attractively firm note.  Sporting only 9.5% alcohol, it should make for attractive aperitif sipping. 88 Paul Lukacs Jun 23, 2009

Valdo, Italy (Italy) Nerello Mascalese Brut Rosé NV ($14):  The Valdo winery, located in the town of Valdobbiadene, is well known for Prosecco, but sources grapes for this bone dry rosé from the Argiento province in Sicily.  The grape variety is Nerello Mascalese, and the vineyard is located nearly 1,000 feet above sea level.  That elevation allows the fruit to retain acidity, and the resulting wine tastes delightfully crisp and lively.  With red berry flavors enhanced by lemony citrus notes, this bubbly is long and lean on the palate.  A fine value, it tastes above all else refreshing.
88 Paul Lukacs Jul 24, 2012

Cleto Chiarli, Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC (Emilia Romagna, Italy) “Vecchia Modena, Premium” NV ($16, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Of the family of Lambrusco grape varieties, Lambrusco di Sorbara arguably produces the finest, most elegant wines, and Cleto Chiarli’s has got to be the benchmark.  Unlike most sparkling wines, Chiarli makes this wine with one fermentation in a pressurized tank, which captures and contains the carbon dioxide in the wine.  This process makes a frizzante, or semi-sparkling wine with less pressure and fewer bubbles.  It has a lovely pale rose color and lively bubbles.  Enticing and delicate aromas of berries and red currant with rose petal notes introduce flavors of strawberry, cherry and currants and an edge of fizzy bubbles.  It’s dry and crisp with a lingering finish, perfect as an aperitif, with grilled salmon or Parmigiano Reggiano.   The bottle and its label are a reproduction of an 1892 Chiarli Lambrusco that won an international award at the 1900 World Expo in Paris.   
93 Rebecca Murphy May 12, 2020

Cleto Chiarli, Lambrusco Gasparossa di Castelvetro DOC (Emilia Romagna, Italy) Vigneto Cialdini NV ($17, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Cleto Chiarli was a restaurateur in the 1880s in Modena, Italy.  The wine he had been making to serve with his food was so well received by his diners, he created a winery, Cantina Cleto Chiarli.  Chiarli is credited with bringing the Charmat method of sparkling wine making to the region.  His great-grandsons Mauro and Anselmo Chiari oversee the family wine business today.  The Lambrusco Gasparossa grape produces the most intense and concentrated of the Lambrusco wines.  While the DOC rules require a minimum of 85 percent of the grape in the wine, Chiarli makes the wine with 100 percent Lambrusco Gasparossa grapes.  This is an intense, concentrated wine with almost black, ruby-purple color and vivid magenta colored bubbles.  Aromas of black cherries, plums and blackberries mingle with floral notes.  In the mouth it is dry with rich concentrated black fruit and dried cherries layered with savory anise black pepper.  Prolific bubbles, crisp acidity and grainy tannins provide ample support for the robust fruit.  Enjoy it with a charcuterie selection that includes Prosciutto di Parma or a grilled lamb.     
93 Rebecca Murphy May 12, 2020

Cleto Chiarli, Lambrusco Gasparossa di Castelvetro DOC (Emilia Romagna, Italy) “Amabile” NV ($12, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  I eyed the label of this wine suspiciously.  Amabile means “amiable” or “likeable,” but to me it meant sweet.  That brought back unpleasant memories of the occasional bottles of sickly-sweet Lambrusco that had blown their corks, spilling wine onto the floor in the wine room of the Italian restaurant where I worked as a sommelier.  Those days are long gone, and today it is possible to find a wealth of high-quality wines made from an array of Lambrusco varieties ranging from bone dry to sweet.  In the case of this frizzante from Cleto Chiarli, Amabile means scrumptious and delicious.  Yes, it is a bit sweet, but the concentrated, savory black cherry, plum fruit is balanced with piquant acidity and sturdy tannins, and only eight percent alcohol.  Its color is a deep, rich, ruby purple with magenta bubbles.  Think of this wine as a perfect partner with foods that can be challenging for wine: smoky barbeque with sweet-savory sauces or spicy curries.  We served it with chicken roasted with garam masala, a very aromatic spice combo that includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves.  The recipe also included ginger, jalapeno and a yogurt sauce.  The wine easily stood up to the myriad flavors and became an intricate part of a delicious meal.   
90 Rebecca Murphy May 12, 2020

Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, Pignoletto Spumante DOC (Emilia-Romagna, Italy) “1502" 2018 ($20):  Cantine Leonardo da Vinci, a large Tuscan-based cooperative, makes this delightful sparkling wine from the Pignoletto grape, not one that is widely known outside of central Italy.  Its inherently high acidity makes it a good choice for bubbly because growers can let it ripen, allowing its exuberant floral and fruity character to shine, without it becoming sappy or flabby.  This one is charming and fruity, with just enough structure to make it a perfect patio aperitivo on a humid summer’s day.  
88 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

Bisol, Prosecco (Italy) “Jeio” Brut NV ($14, Wilson Daniels):  Prosecco has become so popular that its name has become synonymous with sparkling wine, replacing “Champagne” as that moniker.  For example, on a recent flight when I requested a sparkling wine, I was offered a “Prosecco,” which turned out to be a Cava.  Along with this popularity has come a plethora of insipid Prosecco as producers want to join the gravy train.  Within the enlarging sea of mediocre Prosecco, it is important to highlight those that are excellent and gave the category its reputation in the beginning.  Bisol is one of those.  Jeio, Bisol’s second selection of wines, is a blend of wines made from grapes grown across the overall Prosecco area.  It has unusual character for a so-called “second” wine, conveying a harmony of fruitiness and a touch of bitterness in the finish.  It’s a great bargain. 
90 Michael Apstein May 7, 2019

Bocelli, Prosecco (Italy) NV ($16, August Wine Group): Brides-to-be who love the immensely popular classical singer Andrea Bocelli will surely want to pour Bocelli Prosecco at their upcoming nuptials. Although the tenor has only recently become involved in winemaking himself, the Bocelli family has been producing vino for several generations in Italy. This soft, friendly fizz is their first foray into Prosecco. The “Extra Dry” notation on the label lets you know that melodies of sweetness blend into this overall harmonious sparkling wine. Even people who would rather listen to Vermin Twins than Verdi will still enjoy Bocelli bubbly.
88 Marguerite Thomas Apr 16, 2013

La Marca, Prosecco DOC (Italy) Extra Dry NV ($19, E&J Gallo):  The criticism of Extra Dry Prosecco in the past has been the sometimes cloying sweetness.  That isn’t the case with La Marca’s expression of an Extra Dry Prosecco.  Beautifully balanced, this is a bubbly with a soft mousse, inviting fruit aromas of peach and green apple, with an impressively long finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
94 Robert Whitley Jun 18, 2019

Cupcake, Prosecco DOC (Italy) Extra Dry NV ($16):  Cupcake Prosecco is an excellent example of the extra dry style, which, ironically, is actually slightly sweeter than the brut style.  This latest release from Cupcake is smooth and fresh on the palate, shows luscious notes of stone fruit and spice, and finishes crisp and clean.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
93 Robert Whitley Oct 1, 2019

Voveti, Prosecco DOC (Italy) NV ($18, Freixenet USA): The Voveti Prosecco offers up an impressive mouthful of fruit, more richness than is typical of prosecco, and a finish that endures. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
93 Robert Whitley Sep 27, 2016

La Marca, Prosecco DOC (Italy) NV ($18): La Marca has been delivering quality in Prosecco for a while now, and this iteration represents a step up.  It's a touch more dry, and it has bright pear and stony mineral aromas that translate well on the palate, with none of the beery finish that can be an issue with Glera.  Add in that it's available everywhere, and you've got a winner.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 San Diego Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
92 Rich Cook Apr 4, 2017

La Marca, Prosecco DOC (Italy) Extra Dry NV ($19):  Spot on off dry Prosecco, with bright peach and citrus flavors, and no beery aftertaste that can afflict the Glera grape if it's not handled properly.   An available everywhere excuse to celebrate any occasion -- like Tuesday.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
92 Rich Cook Mar 12, 2019

Martini, Prosecco DOC (Italy) 2016 ($24): The trend in Prosecco in recent years has been toward the drier brut style, but the extra dry vintage Prosecco from Martini is a stunner and exquisitely balanced despite the greater dosage level. This is a bubbly with bright fruit aromas of green apple and lime, a creamy texture, and a crisp finish.
92 Robert Whitley Aug 8, 2017

Zonin, Prosecco DOC (Italy) Cuvee 1821 NV ($15): A fresh, clean and lively glass of Italian fizz that avoids any beery character, focusing on lemon, lime and wet stone aromas and flavors, and finishing with a zesty pop of acidity that waters your mouth and keeps you returning to the glass.  Easy to find, easy to drink.  Go get it.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Cupcake Vineyards, Prosecco DOC (Italy) Extra Dry NV ($15, The Wine Group): If you’re after a glass of foamy fun rather than an object for prolonged cerebral contemplation, your ship has come in.  Floral aromatics let you know what’s coming on the palate, and sure enough, this offers a big blast of bubbly sweetness.  There’s enough acidity to draw you back for another sip.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 San Diego Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
90 Michael Franz Apr 4, 2017

Dom Bertiol, Prosecco DOC (Italy) NV ($14, Opici): The bubbles in this charming sparkler are more delicate than one finds in many Proseccos, and there is just the right amount of sweetness underlying the essentially dry wine.  Crisp and refreshing, it can be served as a welcoming aperitif or even as an accompaniment to certain foods: soups and rich cheesy dishes, for example. 90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 4, 2014

Martini, Prosecco DOC (Veneto, Italy) Extra Dry NV ($13, Martini & Rossi):  An Extra Dry Prosecco with some depth and brightness -- an unusual combination that I'd like to see more of.  This is a crowd pleasing bubbly if ever there was one, with very crisp acidity carrying apple, pear and a touch of spice in a festive fizzy format that's tailor made for your holiday gatherings, all at a price that will keep it flowing into the new year.  A little Pinot Noir and Chardonnay provide a welcome assist.  Nicely done! 90 Rich Cook Nov 14, 2017

La Marca, Prosecco DOC (Italy) NV ($17, E. & J. Gallo): Light and lacy in texture, with just the right amount of effervescence to delight and refresh the palate, this Prosecco is fresh and fruity, with a pleasantly sweet rather than acidic, edge.  Enjoy it for many different occasions: the perfect pour for sophisticated brunches, an invigorating aperitif, a charming accompaniment to seafood and other light fare, and certainly a lovely “toasting” wine for all celebrations.
89 Marguerite Thomas Sep 29, 2015

La Marca, Prosecco DOC (Italy) NV ($17, La Marca USA): Light and airy, this is an uncomplicated fizz that invites you to kick back and relax.  The aromas are delicately floral, the flavors faintly peachy, with the overall impression as buoyant, clean and graceful as a ballerina’s pirouette. 89 Marguerite Thomas Sep 9, 2014

Valdo, Prosecco DOC (Italy) Brut NV ($15, Esprit du Vin):  Prosecco makes a fine alternative to pricier Champagne and other more expensive sparklers when you're looking for fun and easy drinking, and there's an ocean of it out there, so it helps to know of a few above par wines worth spearing.  The Valdo "regular" is such a wine, with delicate melon and floral aromas that lead to a crisp palate of melon, citrus and stony minerality, with no beery finish that sometimes afflicts Glera.  Cheers!
88 Rich Cook Dec 12, 2017

Valdo, Prosecco DOC (Italy) Brut NV ($15):  This is a straightforward Prosecco that is clean and refreshing, showing notes of green apple with mouth-watering acidity and a dry finish. An excellent quaffer that will also pair nicely with oysters, steamed clams and mussels and even grilled fish.
88 Robert Whitley Nov 14, 2017

Minonetto, Prosecco DOC Treviso (Italy) NV ($16): Clear, direct and ebullient, this charmer from Mionetto beats out a good deal of the Prosecco competition.  It has that sweet-fruity edge that often characterizes sparklers in a similar price range but in this Mionetto that is tempered by enough by acidity to make it refreshing rather than stodgy.  With holidays right around the corner it’s not too early to stock up! 90 Marguerite Thomas Oct 27, 2015

Valdo, Prosecco Valdobbiadene DOCG (Italy) "Oro Puro" NV ($20):  Valdobbiadene is the sweet spot for Prosecco and produces by far the best wines, almost without exception. On the nose this Prosecco is exceptionally fruity with a strong note of pear, which follows on the palate where it is joined by the taste of ripe apple. Well balanced, with depth that is unusual in Prosecco, and an impressive finish. 91 Robert Whitley Nov 14, 2017

Valdo, Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (Veneto, Italy) “Oro Puro” NV ($20, Esprit du Vin):  One of the few DOCGs in the huge Prosecco area, and one that delivers consistently better juice that is worthy of the designation.  I like the fresh, stony vibe of this wine, where sweet lemon and floral aromas lead to a bright, dry palate of lemon and a touch of toast.  Clean and delightfully crisp, it will make a great aperitif, or a partner for lighter fare. 
91 Rich Cook Dec 12, 2017

Caposaldo, Prosseco DOC (Italy) Brut NV ($16, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  Prosecco is one of the fastest growing segments of the wine industry and it’s easy to understand why.  Quality, on the upswing over the past decade, is high and the price relatively low.  That and the fact that more producers have embraced the brut style and moved away from the sweetness levels that turned off many consumers in the past.  The Caposaldo shows notes of ripe apple with a fine mousse and a crisp, clean finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
94 Robert Whitley Jan 22, 2019

Bisol, Prosseco DOC (Italy) “Jeio” NV ($15, Wilson Daniels):  A beautifully fresh Prosecco, clean and bright throughout, with an emphasis on lemon, lime and peach.  One of the best I’ve tasted in the price range -- no surprise from this producer.  Serve as a vibrant aperitif, and enjoy both style and substance. 
91 Rich Cook Oct 23, 2018

Medici Ermete, Reggiano Lambrusco DOC (Emilia-Romagna, Italy) “Concerto" 2017 ($21, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  Lambrusco is often overlooked when fine Italian wines are discussed.  While there is a history of simple, inexpensive Lambrusco imported to the United States, the best Lambruscos bear little resemblance to their mundane brethren and are well worth seeking out.  The Ermete Medici estate produces delicious, classic Lambruscos. Their Concerto is a rare, single vineyard Lambrusco drawn from the low-yielding Tenuta La Rampata vineyard in Reggio Emilia.  The 2017 Concerto Lambrusco is a brilliant purplish-ruby in color and exhibits a lively fizziness when poured.  Ripe raspberry, strawberry and plum scents are enhanced by a floral violet aroma.  The flavors are pure and lively, with layers of strawberry, blackberry and raspberry fruits dancing across the palate with a juicy brightness that balances the barely off-dry finish.  Fine Lambrusco like the Concerto is the perfect companion for Prosciutto di Parma or other cured meats.  Try it and see.  You’ll be a fan for life.  
91 Wayne Belding Dec 10, 2019

Altemasi, Trento DOC (Italy) Riserva “Graal” 2006 ($60, Palm Bay International): If you're looking for a unique bottle of bubbles for your sparkling wine aficionado friends, this is a winner.  It's definitely not trying to masquerade as Champagne -- it's got its own charms and is proud to show them off.  Disgorged in 2014, it shows classic aged character and freshness all at once, with apple, honey, toffee, lemon creme, stone and just a touch of oxidized character that marks many famous fizzies.  Factor in a fine mousse and a delicate finish, and you've got a great ringer to toss blind to your crowd.  I tasted this twice with similar notes.  An exciting discovery!
94 Rich Cook Oct 13, 2015

Altemasi, Trento DOC (Italy) Brut NV ($24, Palm Bay International): All that bubbles in Italy is not Prosecco -- there's quite a bit of Metodo Classico (Champagne method) sparkling wine to be had, and much of it is very high caliber.  That's the case with this 100% Chardonnay brut from Altemasi, made in light and cleansing aperitif style with flavors of lemon, apple and stony minerality.  A creamy texture and a mineral driven finish make for a great evening opener at a nice price. 90 Rich Cook Oct 13, 2015

Moser, Trento DOC (Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy) “51,151" Brut NV ($23, Divino International Wine and Spirit):  The name of the wine, "51,151", refers to a cycling record that Francesco Moser set in Mexico City in 1984, according to their website.  This 100 percent Chardonnay base bubbly is, indeed, racy (pun intended), but the elegance imparted by that grape shows, making for a lovely balance.  Its clean and crisp character makes it an excellent aperitive, while its sturdy spine allows you to enjoy it with a meal, with grilled swordfish for example.   
90 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

Enza, Treviso (Italy) Prosecco NV ($15, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits): Quick--grab a couple of bottles of Enza for your holiday celebration! Reasonably priced, lightly bubbly, fruity and somewhat sweet, this Prosecco just shouts out “PARTY!” In its oh-so-Italian-looking stylish bottle, this is a wine that will complement many different things, from canapés to cookies.
88 Marguerite Thomas Dec 25, 2012

Enza, Treviso (Italy) Prosecco NV ($15, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits): Prosecco is everywhere these days. A good friend serves only Prosecco as his aperitif wine and I see it in wine shops and supermarkets. But like so many products, including wine, some stand out while others are simple and average. Enza Prosecco froths and foams and shows shy stone fruit aromas and flavors, but then it prickles on the tongue like a soft drink and it’s a bit tart in the finish. Enza Prosecco is simple and fruity, but the price is right and it finishes at 11% alcohol.
86 Gerald D. Boyd Dec 25, 2012

Bisol, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (Italy) “Crede” 2017 ($24, Wilson Daniels):  I don’t often think of Prosecco as having a reserved or austere side, but this bottling succeeds with floral and stone aromas that present on the palate in a very dry style that emphasizes stony minerality over delicate fruit.  An interesting note -- 10% Pinot Bianco and 5% Verdiso are in the mix, adding structure without adding weight.  Very nicely done. 
91 Rich Cook Oct 23, 2018

Mionetto, Veneto (Italy) “Il Ugo” NV ($12): Il Ugo is not quite wine and not quite a cocktail but it is altogether delicious, fun and very easy to drink.  Elderflower cordials and liqueurs being all the rage on the cocktail circuit these days I’ve been meaning to go buy myself a bottle of elderflower elixir but with Il Ugo I no longer have to bother; this delicate, lightly frizzante blend of crisp white wine is flavored with Elderflower blossom.  Serve this charming little tipple on the rocks or not, in a wine glass or flute, and enjoy it as an aperitif or accompaniment to a light meal (turkey or ham sandwiches?  Perfect!)  Ugo’s alcohol level is a modest 8%, but that goes up, of course, if you add a splash of gin to the glass -- and that’s not a bad thing to do if you’re in the right mood and the right setting).
90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 3, 2015

Nino Franco, Vino Spumante (Italy) Grave di Stecca Millesimato Brut 2010 ($36, Terlato Wines International): This wine is sourced from a single, limestone-rich site in which the vines are trained in cordon fashion and farmed sustainably.  The appellation authorities found it too atypical to permit it designation under the DOCG, so you’ll find reference neither to Valdobbiadene nor Prosecco on the label (despite the fact that it is sourced from a prime site and made entirely from Glera).  The authorities had a point, I suppose, as the wine is indeed highly atypical, but had I been in charge, I’d have decided in a millisecond to keep this associated with my appellation.  In any case, this is a late-released, thrillingly mineral-drive wine from stem to stern, though delicate fruit is also present in the aromas, flavors and finish.  Finished with just 7 grams per liter of sugar, this is close to as intricately complex as a Prosecco can be.  Call it what you will, but for me, this is one of the most enduringly interesting wines I’ve ever tasted from this region and grape.  And by the way, it can even hold up over time:  I also tasted the 2008, which showed only positive oxidative characters and was every bit as good as the 2010, based on different strengths.
93 Michael Franz Oct 1, 2013

Principe Corsini, Vino Spumante (Italy) Brut Rosé NV ($23):  It seems that everyone wants to get in on the rosé craze.  Here we have a top Tuscan producer, well-known for their stunning Chianti Classico, making a bubbly from Sangiovese.   It works.  This bright and fresh rosé bubbly delivers delicate hints of strawberries.   Its mouth-cleansing vigor makes it a refreshing accompaniment to diverse flavors of a mixed antipasto platter.   
90 Michael Apstein Dec 18, 2018

White:

Nals Margreid, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($12, The Country Vintner): Remarkably complex and classy for an affordable Pinot Grigio, this wine shows lovely fruit with real depth of flavor but no hint of heaviness. Fresh and flashy thanks to vibrant acidity, this shows no signs of tiring and will continue to provide excellent refreshment for months to come. 88 Michael Franz Feb 14, 2006

Cerulli Spinozzi, Colli Aprutini IGT (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino “Cortalto” 2016 ($15, Romano Brands):  Pecorino is, of course, a cheese.  But it turns out to also be a grape and a wine.  An attractive bite is what the cheese and the wine have in common. Cerulli Spinozzi, one of the top producers in Abruzzo, a region due east of Rome on the Adriatic, has consistently made a winsome Pecorino.  With a pleasant white pepper-like bite, their 2106 leads with a floral hint and finishes with an invigorating saline stoniness.  Lively and refreshing, it cuts through delicately fried foods and also holds its own against full-flavored pasta.  At $15 a bottle, it’s a steal.    
92 Michael Apstein Nov 19, 2019

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Lunae DOC (Liguria/Tuscany, Italy) Vermentino “Etichetta Nera” 2015 ($31, Montcalm Wine Imports): I raved about the 2014 vintage of this wine, Lunae Bosoni’s flagship white made entirely from Vermentino.  The 2015 is similarly stunning.  Possibly the richest Vermentino I’ve ever had, it still retains lightness and vivacity with an invigorating zippy finish.  The grapes for this wine come from their best vineyards, situated on hillsides, which allow excellent drainage and good sun exposure.  It’s an ideal choice for almost any seafood -- the wine’s elegance would complement simply done sole and its persistence would even stand up to bluefish.
95 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2016

Cantine Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria/Tuscany, Italy) Vermentino “Etichetta Grigia” 2016 ($25, Montcalm Wine Importers): I have extolled the virtues of Cantine Lunae Bosoni in the past, particularly their Vermentini.  There’s no reason to stop now: Their 2016 “Etichetta Grigia” (or Gray Label) Vermentino is an exciting wine.  (They also produce a more expensive one, Etichetta Nero, a.k.a. Black Label, though it’s hard to categorize the Grey Label as a so-called “entry-level” wine.)  This is a broad-shouldered Vermentino conveying a touch of spice and creaminess to accompany its saline-tinged backbone.  It has enough power to accompany a tomato-based fish stew, but still maintains grace and elegance.
94 Michael Apstein Aug 1, 2017

Medici Ermete, Colli Scandiano e Canossa DOC (Emilia Romagna, Italy) Malvasia Vino Frizzante Secco “Daphne” 2016 ($18, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): This is labeled Vino Frizzante Secco, which means slightly bubbly and dry.  But it’s not really dry.  It is aromatic, reminiscent of Moscato, but with more weight.  Great acidity keeps it fresh and lively, so it doesn’t come across as cloying despite the light sweetness.  The combination of fizziness, sweetness and refreshing acidity makes it a perfect choice as an aperitivo or with spicy Asian fare.
87 Michael Apstein Jul 25, 2017

Marco Felluga, Collio (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Mongris” 2014 ($17): This delightful wine makes a quiet entrance, subtly soft and silky for a moment before bursting into an explosion of concentrated pear, spice and fresh floral characteristics.  On the finish, it unwinds gradually with elegance and persistence.
92 Marguerite Thomas Oct 25, 2016

Venica, Collio (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2013 ($22, The Country Vintner): Has winter got you down?  Have your friends all deserted you for sunny, coastal climes?  Seems to me you’ve got two options: seek therapy or open a bottle of this delicious Pinot Grigio.  It’s the color of sunbeams and is so beautifully balanced with notes of pear and apple and hints of something delicate and floral. Rich and complex, almost fleshy, this is no ordinary Pinot Grigio.  It will surely brighten your day.
92 Marguerite Thomas Feb 10, 2015

Zuani, Collio (Italy) “Vigne” 2011 ($24, Martin Scott): You are with friends.  You sip, talk, nibble, sip again.  Suddenly your focus is drawn to the slow-motion reel of gustatory pleasure that’s expanding across your senses as this charming Italian white wine slips silkily down your throat.  A blend of the native Northern Italian Friuliano grape with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio, this irresistible elixir is infused with lush peach and refreshing apple flavors. 90 Marguerite Thomas Mar 12, 2013

Marco Felluga, Collio Bianco DOC (Italy) “Molamatta” 2015 ($26, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  A bright blend of Pinot Bianco, Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla that has a tempered edge thanks to six months on the lees and extended time in the bottle prior to release.  Pear and yellow apple are joined by a little tropical fruit on a creamy mouthfeel and finish with a good amount of push.  Seafood or mixed appetizers with work well here.  
90 Rich Cook Nov 19, 2019

Caposaldo, Delle Venezie IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2015 ($11, Kobrand Wine And Spirits): Pinot Grigio at its best delivers a crisp, easy drinking wine that works well as a cocktail as well as having enough acidity to keep pace with some appetizers.  All points covered here, with lemon, flowers, lime and a light spice touch on the nose, and crisp acidity converting those elements to flavors with a zesty feel and a long finish. Couple that with a great price and you've got a winner.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2016

Tenutae Lageder, Dolomites (Italy) Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio "Beta-Delta" 2009 ($20, Dalla Terra):  This proprietary 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio comes from a vineyard that is farmed according to biodynamic methods of viticulture. The “BD” designation stands for the Greek words Bios and Dinamikos, “an organic farming method that is based on the principles of anthroposophy.”  The blend highlights the good qualities of both varieties with a brilliant light gold color, attractive stoned fruit and dried flower aromas, bright fruit flavors like ripe nectarines, structure, 12.8% alcohol and good length through the finish. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 17, 2010

Terra Alpina by Alois Lageder, Dolomiti (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2018 ($16):  This delicate white from northern Italy is fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees, lending superb aromatics and a fine texture on the palate.  Showing notes of ripe apple and stone fruits, this wine has fine structure and exquisite balance.  Serve it with tapas, grilled seafood or simply serve as a crisp, refreshing aperitif.    
90 Robert Whitley Oct 29, 2019

Alois Lageder, Dolomiti (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2008 ($15, Dalla Terra): Lageder is one of the leading advocates of biodynamic grape growing, striving for Demeter certification for all his vineyards in northern Italy.  Most of the grapes for this juicy Pinot Bianco (a.k.a. Pinot Blanc) are from the Trentino area.  Stainless steel fermented with a short period of maturation on the fine lees, the wine shows bright floral-citrus aromas and flavors, supported by brisk acidity.  The nicely textured flavors feature citrus peel and green apples and the wine finishes, at a modest 12% alcohol, with bright fruit.  This is a great wine for any occasion but especially for summer meals. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 2, 2009

Alois Lageder, Dolomiti (Italy) Chardonnay/ Pinot Grigio “Beta Delta” 2007 ($23, Dalla Terra): Lageder is one of the leading advocates of biodynamic grape growing, striving for Demeter certification for all his vineyards in northern Italy.  This tasty blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio is made from certified grapes that are farmed according to biodynamic (Beta Delta) methods.  The nose is a little shy, shows citrus peel and subtle tropical fruit aromas.  The flavors are crisp and fruity and nicely modulated with no over-ripeness.  The finish, at 12.5% alcohol, is clean and lasting. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 16, 2009

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Italy) Brut "Gran Cuvée" 2002 ($57, Empson): The world includes only a handful of producers outside of Champagne that can rival the sparkling wines of Bellavista.  All of the wines are clean but full of character, and you should never pass up an opportunity to taste any of them, including the regular 'Cuvée Brut' or the 'Gran Cuvée Satèn.'  However, if you are (not unreasonably, given this price) inclined to buy only one wine to see what this outfit can do, this is the bottle.  Dry and hardly obvious in its fruit but nevertheless very flavorful, it features complex aromas and flavors with all sorts of little nuances that change from moment to moment as the wine warms and the effervescence calms in the glass.  I suspect that this would get even more interesting with another year or two under cork, but I can't imagine that I'll ever be able to keep my hands off of a bottle long enough to confirm that. 92 Michael Franz Dec 12, 2006

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Italy) "Gran Cuvée Pas Operé" 1999 ($63, Empson):

This very interesting wine shows interesting subtleties at every turn.  The color is deep straw and the aromas show notes of green apples, toasted bread, subtle dried herbs and flowers, and several other notes that presented themselves repeatedly during a long, reflective tasting but proved elusive for me in terms of descriptors.  The mousse is very delicate and finely wrought, and you'll find a new nuance of aroma or flavor every time you take a dip into this superb sparkler.

90 Michael Franz Dec 12, 2006

Torre Rosazza, Friuli Colli Orientali (Italy) Friulano 2017 ($20, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Sometimes vintages make virtually no difference.  I tasted and reviewed (and praised) the 2016 rendition of this wine in the spring.  The 2017 is now available, and it is every bit as exciting.  Just like the 2016, what proves most compelling about it is the plethora of spicy secondary flavors that complement the fruit and add both complexity and intrigue.  One thing to note:  the wine has plenty of taut acidity, so there is no need to worry if you have some of the 2016.  It’s drinking as beautifully as this one. 
92 Paul Lukacs Aug 7, 2018

Torre Rosazza, Friuli Colli Orientali DOC (Italy) Friulano 2016 ($20, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Unlike Pinot Grigio, the much more popular wine from Friuli in northeast Italy, Friulano almost never tastes boring and, consequently, rarely disappoints.  Why it is not more popular outside its homeland seems baffling.  One sip of this wine, however, may well convert you.  There are fruit flavors that echo citrus as well as apples and pears, but what proves most exciting are the spice-like secondary flavors.  They linger through an impressively long finish, and compel you to want another sip ... and then another and yet another. 92 Paul Lukacs Apr 24, 2018

Vie di Romans, Friuli Isonzo (Italy) Pinot Grigio "Dessimis" 2014 ($30, Vias Imports Ltd.):  Richer than most Italian Pinot Grigios, with seductive aromas of cream, lemon, and custard.  Though very inviting in the bouquet, it also displays exciting verve and energy on the palate. 
93 Paul Lukacs Apr 17, 2018

Alois Lageder, IGT Vignetti delle Dolomiti (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2013 ($16, Dalla Terra Winery Direct): Alois Lageder, one of the Alto Adige’s greatest producers, makes a host of stunning single vineyard wines.  They also make lower priced wines, like this one, from grapes grown in a broader area that still transmit the character of the variety and the region.  This is a solid Pinto Grigio that delivers a delicate fruitiness supported by an invigorating freshness.  It reminds us why Pinot Grigio has become such a popular varietal.  This one’s a great choice for a light pasta dish or just as a way to welcome guests.
88 Michael Apstein Dec 23, 2014

Riunite, Italy (Italy) Peach Moscato NV ($6, Banfi Vintners):   The nose on the blend of fruit and wine is full throttle ripe peach, which may put you off a bit if you’re expecting a wine experience.  Don’t stop there though, because a very pleasant wine experience is coming when you taste it.  It’s peachy, as advertised, but there’s lively acidity to balance the fruit and the expected Moscato sugar, and the finish is clean and fresh.  Yes, I went in for another sip and finished the glass -- so will you!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
91 Rich Cook Apr 9, 2019

Musaragno, Lison Pramaggiore (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($11, Siema): It is not easy to find Pinot Grigio in this price category that has any flavor or character, and it is harder still to find ones that offer those qualities while also retaining freshness beyond 15 or 16 months of age after the harvest. However, this bottling shows unusually expressive aromatics and flavor, with good depth and length but also an enduringly crisp finish. Restaurants looking for something at this price to tide them over until 2005s are available would be well advised to give this a taste. 86 Michael Franz Jan 24, 2006

Cupcake Vineyards, Moscato d’Asti DOCG (Italy) 2015 ($15): Cupcake’s 2015 Moscato d’Asti shows intense white flower on the nose, with stone fruits and melon on the palate and just enough sweetness to balance the acidity. Serve this wine with fruit tarts, cakes and cookies. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Robert Whitley Sep 27, 2016

Donnafugata, Passito di Pantelleria DOC (Italy) “Ben Ryè” 2015 ($35):  Baldo Palermo, a representative of Donnafugata, described the island of Pantelleria as, “A volcanic rock jutting from the sea,” where the major activity is “listening to the wind.”  Hence it’s appropriate that this wine is called Ben Ryè, which means son of the wind.  The vines are trained in low, bush-like fashion to resist the wind.  Made from Muscat of Alexandria (a.k.a. Zibibbo) grapes, which are dried in the sun, the wine belies the reputation of that Muscat sub-variety as being coarse.  The 2015 Ben Ryè, like its predecessors, is as clean and elegant as you could imagine.   The harvest typically extends over four to five weeks.  Donnafugata, one of Sicily’s best producers, makes the wine by adding grapes that have been dried since the beginning of the harvest to freshly picked ones before fermentation.  This method requires about 4 kilos of grapes to make a liter of wine.  The result is a wine redolent of figs and honey with vigorous mouth-cleansing acidity that prevents it from being cloying or tiring.  There’s a hint of apricot-like skin texture from tannins leached from the dried grapes. This is a splendid way to end a meal, and the half bottle (375 ml) in which it is sold will serve six easily.  Your guests will be very happy.  So will you. 93 Michael Apstein Jul 25, 2017

La Valentina, Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT (Italy) 2017 ($16):  Though this obscure Italian white-grape variety is fermented in stainless steel tanks, it offers a distinct note of nuts and spice along with aromas of peach and apple.  Fresh and clean on the palate, it finishes with a lingering spice note.  Outstanding for the price. 
90 Robert Whitley Jan 29, 2019

Beando, Provincia di Pavia IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2014 ($10, Alma Wines): How to choose among the veritable ocean of Pinot Grigio available today?  For me, the best examples are from Northern Italy, they're dry and crisp, they're long on fruit and zesty acidity, and they're reasonably priced. This bottle hits every marker, delivering fresh lemon, lime, stone minerality and a lively, palate cleansing lemon zest finish.  Al fresco dining seems a must here, with a cold pasta al limone as a foil.
88 Rich Cook Jul 14, 2015

Giovanna Madonia, Romagna Albana Secco DOCG (Italy) “Neblina” 2014 ($19): This category of wine grabbed headlines in 1987, more because of surprise than stature, when it was awarded Italy’s first DOCG for a white wine.  Known then as Albana di Romagna, there was a collective bewilderment since many other white wine DOCs seemed more appropriate for elevation to Italy’s highest level of classification.  Just having tasted two-dozen Romagna Albana Secco, I see the wisdom of the Italian wine authorities -- this is an appealing and unique category of white wine.  This one is what so many “orange” wines aspire to.  Pale yellow, it conveys real substance and texture, even a hint of tangerine skin, buttressed by bright and racy acidity.  Try it with a hefty seafood stew.
93 Michael Apstein Feb 28, 2017

Tormaresca, Salento (Italy) Fiano “Roycello” 2011 ($22, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates): It’s always satisfying to find a white wine that is made from a less-known grape such as Fiano. Roycello, which comes to us from the tip of the Italian boot in Puglia, is a mellifluous medium-bodied blonde wine with plenty of flavor and aroma, plus just enough tartness to make it a congenial wine for food.
90 Marguerite Thomas Apr 16, 2013

Inama, Soave Classico (Italy) 2014 ($14, Dalla Terra/ Inama USA): Crisp and refreshing, with autumnal fruit flavors and echoes of steel or minerals in the finish, this is a wine to sip in order to counteract summer heat and humidity.  Its firm acidic backbone gives it the structure that in turn provides satisfaction. 90 Paul Lukacs Jun 21, 2016

Pieropan, Soave Classico (Italy) 2005 ($19, Empson): An awful lot of Soave tastes dull and watery.  This wine, however, shines.  A blend of roughly 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave, it offers an enticing bouquet redolent of spring flowers, summer fruits, and nuts, followed by expressive flavors and a finish marked by an appealing bitter tinge.  A delicious warm weather choice! 90 Paul Lukacs May 8, 2007

Bolla, Soave Classico (Italy) 2012 ($9, Banfi): Bolla introduced a generation of Americans to the delights of the white wine from Italy’s Soave region in the 1960s and 70s.  But the company and brand was sold and the quality slipped.  In 2009, Bolla was acquired by a large Italian wine company, Gruppo Italiani Vini, and Banfi (the American company whose stunningly good Brunello di Montalcino was, in large measure, responsible for the explosion in popularity of that denomination).  Judging from the last three vintages, including the currently available 2012, Bolla Soave is back in top form and ready to charm another generation. The Classico designation means the grapes, exclusively Garganega, came from the heart of the denomination, which explains, in part, the wine’s appeal.  It’s bright and fresh, with an alluring roundness that allows you to enjoy it as a stand-alone aperitif.  But good density means it stands up to simply broiled or grilled fish.  At less than $10 a bottle, it’s an extraordinary value.  Stock up.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 23, 2013

Pieropan, Soave Classico DOC (Verona, Italy) 2014 ($20): This is what Soave should be -- rich and crisp, with melon, lemon and wet stone complexity and real finishing length.  This works with food or without.  Bravo!  I tasted this last October, and I'm adding a couple of points after an additional six months in the bottle. Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Lageder, Terra Alpina (Italy) Pinot Grigio "Riff" 2012 ($12, Dalla Terra): Unlike the usual chill-and-swill Pinot Grigio, Lageder’s inspires more mindful enjoyment.  Expressive without being ostentatious, delicately floral, with whispers of citrus and minerality, this wine is compact without being stingy.  Charming as an aperitif, it will transition to the lunch or dinner table to accompany subtly seasoned seafood, chicken and pasta dishes.
91 Marguerite Thomas Mar 4, 2014

La-Vis, Trentino (Italy) Pinot Grigio "Simboli" 2013 ($13, Opici): This is what Pinot Grigio should taste like -- but seldom does.  Not only is La Vis light and refreshing, it also delivers a pulsing thrum of fruitiness that satisfies the taste buds without overwhelming them and is followed by a perfectly balanced and clean flare of acidity.
91 Marguerite Thomas Feb 3, 2015

Maso Canali, Trentino (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($15, Maso Canali): Distributed widely by Gallo and superior in quality to almost every Pinot Grigio sold in North America regardless of price, this wine is a potential commercial powerhouse. Complete and convincing in every respect, it features lovely apple fruit with nice mineral accents and great texture with interplay between ripe roundness and driving acidity. Surprisingly persistent on the finish, this is a first class drink and a very versatile partner for light foods. 91 Michael Franz Feb 14, 2006

Bollini, Trentino (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($14, Kobrand): This is on the rich, ripe, musky and sweet side for Pinot Grigio, and thus it won't meet everyone's expectations. Yet, the converse of that is also true: this has a lot more substance and character and flavor impact than most Pinot Grigios, and the ripe, sweet notes do not detract from the wine's refreshment value as a result of the presence of firm acidity. Whereas most Pinot Grigio is, frankly, innocuous, this is a serious wine. 88 Michael Franz Jan 24, 2006

Albino Armani, Valdadige (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Corvara 1607” 2009 ($20, Underdog Wine Merchants):  Unlike much northern Italian Pinot Grigio, this wine is packed full of flavor.  Dry and very clean, it tastes of citrus and crisp apple fruit, with a grassy, almost hay-like undertone, and finishes very long.  Light-bodied, it should pair well with shellfish and simply prepared seafood dishes.
90 Paul Lukacs Dec 28, 2010

Chloe, Valdadige (Trentino – Alto Adige, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2014 ($15, The Wine Group): While one doesn’t look to Pinot Grigio for complex aroma and flavor, this offering from Chloe does have some bright pear and melon nuances.  With its steely texture and vibrant acidity it’s a wine to enjoy during the dog days of summer.
89 Marguerite Thomas Jun 14, 2016

Château Feuillet, Valle d’Aosta (Aosta, Italy) Petite Arvine 2017 ($30, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant):  Jan Novak, the wine director at Il Capriccio, a wonderful Italian restaurant in Waltham, just west of Boston, suggested this wine, which was unknown to me.  Since she has probably forgotten more about Italian wine than I know, I agreed immediately.  And was very glad.  It was not some innocuous white wine.  Rather, it conveyed depth, a saline-like mineral quality, all amplified by its bright finish.  It turns out that Petite Arvine, is a rare grape, planted mostly in the Valais part of Switzerland.  A smattering of vines found their way to Italy’s Aosta Valley.  Leave it to Kermit Lynch to find it and bring it to these shores. If you run across it, don’t hesitate.  
94 Michael Apstein Dec 17, 2019

Grosjean, Vallée d’Aoste (Italy) Petite Arvine “Vigne Rovettaz” 2015 ($23, Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchants):  Petite Arvine is an Alpine grape variety native to the Valais region of Switzerland.  Back in the 1970s, it was introduced to the Valée d’Aosta over the mountains in Italy.  Tasting this wine was my first experience with it in Italian garb, and I found it riveting.  The wine is crisp and, even at nearly three years of age, very fresh.  It has a floral bouquet, with fruit flavors on the palate that echo apples, citrus, and perhaps even quince.  Its finish seems stony, reflecting a streak of minerality that extends from sip to swallow.  Especially if you are looking for something different, seek it out. 
92 Paul Lukacs Aug 7, 2018

Tenuta Sant ‘Anna, Venezia (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2015 ($12, Montcalm): An outstanding Pinot Grigio, this is full-bodied and at the same time wonderfully fresh and zesty.  With fresh pear and even hints of pineapple in the aroma and on the palate, it is interesting enough to serve as an aperitif, but it is also a tasty wine with foods such as seafood pasta or risotto, and just about any dish that includes chicken breasts.
91 Marguerite Thomas Jul 18, 2017

Garofoli, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Italy) 'Podium' 2015 ($25, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Brian Larky, the genius behind Dalla Terra Winery Direct (an import company specializing in Italian wines), has a knack for finding hidden gems where most are least likely to look.  Verdicchio, a white wine from southern Italy that is often held in low esteem, can be very good when it has been cultivated properly and given a bit of TLC in the cellar.  Leave it to Larky to find a stunning Verdicchio.  The 2015 Podium is beautifully balanced, shows notes of citrus and honeysuckle, and has serious length in the mouth and persistence of flavor.
94 Robert Whitley Jul 24, 2018

Bucci, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Italy) 2004 ($21, Empson): You may not find it easy to plunk down $21 for a Verdicchio, but once you get this baby into your glass, I can promise that you1ll not suffer a second of buyer's remorse. It is uncommonly rich, with very deep and lasting flavors, yet is remains remarkably nimble and crisp through a very long finish. If there is a more substantial and serious Verdicchio available, I'm unaware of it, and yet this also delivers all the freshness and fun that I associate with this grape. 89 Michael Franz Feb 28, 2006

Tavignano, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Italy) 2004 ($11, Bacchus Importers): If you think you need to wait for 2005 renditions of Verdicchio to get the signature crackly crispness of this wine, think again. This bottling shows lovely fruit with expressive notes of citrus fruits and snappy green apples, along with interesting mineral accents. Fresh and crisp, this is a bottled case of spring fever. 88 Michael Franz Jan 17, 2006

Foradori, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT (Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy) Manzoni Bianco “Fontanasanta" 2017 ($38, Louis Dressner Selections):  Manzoni Bianco is one of Italy’s botanical “crosses," in this case a cross of Riesling and Chardonnay, made by Luigi Manzoni in the 1920s and 30s, according to Ian D’Agata (Native Wine Grapes of Italy, University of California Press, 2014).  Though this grape is difficult to grow, some producers, thankfully, persevere with it.  Foradori’s is simply captivating.  One whiff and the initial taste pulls you in because its spicy salinity is deliciously refreshing.  Not monotonous, it delivers floral aromas and a white pepper-like bite.  Though this wine will cut through most any food, it is not aggressive -- just enlivening.   
94 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

Terra Alpina by Alois Lageder, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2018 ($16):  Alois Lageder, who produces this wine, is one of the most respected winemakers in northern Italy and an icon in Alto Adige.  His signature is purity and freshness and this Pinot Grigio reflects Lageder’s passion on both counts.  With flinty minerality, a gentle beam of fresh citrus and exquisite balance, it’s an extraordinary wine for the price and a beautiful example of the potential of Pinot Grigio to excite and titillate.   
90 Robert Whitley Oct 15, 2019

Back to Top


Abruzzo:

Red:

Cerulli Spinozzi, Colli Aprutini IGP (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino “Cortalto” 2013 ($13, Banfi Vintners): It’s not just a cheese.  Pecorino (from “pecora,” the word for sheep in Italian) is also a grape native to Abruzzo and Marche, regions on the Eastern side of the Italian peninsula.  Enrico Cerulli Irelli, family proprietor of Cerulli Spinozzi, speculates that the grape got its name because sheep grazing on adjacent pastures would nibble at the vines.  Judging from this wine, it’s likely to become as popular as the cheese.  Dry and stony, it’s quite mineraly and has real depth.  The lack of wood aging allows its fresh and invigorating character to shine.  A refreshing lime-acid vibrancy adds to its appeal.  It’s a great choice for seafood.  Smart sheep.
91 Michael Apstein Jun 10, 2014

Cerulli Spinozzi, Colline Teramane DOCG (Abruzzo, Italy) “Torre Migliori” 2013 ($18, Romano Brands):  One of the great things about wines from Italy is how many distinctive ones, like this one, fly under the radar.  Abruzzo does not have the name recognition of Tuscany nor does the DOCG of Colline Teramane ring any bells, which explains why this wine’s price doesn’t come close to recognizing its quality. Teramane Colline is Aburzzo’s sole DOCG, and an area where the Montepulciano grape reaches its fullest expression.  Cerulli Spinozzi, one the leaders in the region, consistently makes a brilliant example.  The 2013, a mid-weight to robust wine, combines dark fruitiness with a hint of tar and those elusive, but captivating, not-just-fruit flavors.  The tannins are fine and unobtrusive, making perfect to drink now with hearty autumnal fare.  
93 Michael Apstein Dec 10, 2019

Farnese, Montelpuciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Cassale Vecchio” 2006 ($18, Empson): Is any Italian appellation offering better value these days than Montelpuciano d'Abruzzo?  Only a few years ago, the category was dominated by cheap jug wines.  Today, while the jugs haven't gone away, the excitement is all with overachieving wineries producing compelling, cork-finished wines that outperform their competitors.  Here is a case in point.  The wine is supple and rich, filled with jammy fruit, with subtle hints of herbs, licorice, and cocoa.  Fully ready to drink, it's a wine that savvy restaurateurs should rush out to buy.  Though young, it offers all sorts of excitement right now. 90 Paul Lukacs Mar 11, 2008

Farnese, Montelpulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2010 ($9, Empson USA):  What a value!  Juicy and mouth-filling, this young, unoaked red is full of plum and cherry fruit flavors with echoes of anise and spice to add intrigue.  Very well balanced, it offers sumptuous pleasure at a ridiculously low price.  I can’t imagine a better red wine for end of summer entertaining. 88 Paul Lukacs Aug 16, 2011

Farnese, Montelulciano d’Abruzzo (Italy) "Fantini" 2012 ($12): Straightforwardly delicious but also showing some complexity, this features exuberant fruit recalling dark berries and black plums.  Although the wine is abundantly endowed with fruit and flavor, there’s plenty of acidity to lend balance and keep this seeming fresh.  Pair with white meats or pasta dishes.
88 Michael Franz Mar 4, 2014

Casale Vecchio, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2007 ($19, Empson): The region of Abruzzo--especially its northern portion--is getting ever more serious about turning out high-end wines, and this bottling is a fine case in point.  Dark and dense and packed with flavor, it is a powerful wine that will really require a couple of years of ageing to fully unwind and show all of the complexities that are now showing only in nascent form.  Intense, concentrated notes of dark cherries and blackberries have impressive drive and duration on the palate, and the finish is structured with lots of acidity and tannin.  Hold this for a couple of years and pair with a grilled veal chop. 90 Michael Franz Feb 24, 2008

Il Feuduccio di S. Maria d’Orni, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Italy) 2001 ($28, Empson): This delicious current release from 2001 offers lovely primary fruit recalling dark berries and dried black cherries, but also some very interesting secondary notes from bottle ageing that include leather, wild mushrooms and damp earth.  Medium-bodied and beautifully balanced, this is earthy but not dirty, and fresh but not obvious, making it promisingly versatile for many foods and applications. 89 Michael Franz Dec 19, 2006

Barone Cornacchia, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2006 ($18, Domenico Valentino Selection): A robust red, this Montepulciano delivers spice and earthy flavors that give it an attractive rustic character.  Clean, with none of the 'horsey' elements that Montepulciano sometimes offers, it is not a before dinner sipping wine, but goes well now with sauces replete with tomatoes, olives or eggplant. 88 Michael Apstein Feb 24, 2009

Cantina Zaccagnini, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Tralcetto” 2011 ($15, Viva Vino Import): Buying Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo can be tricky because the range of quality is vast, from a rough and tumble wine to one with surprising class. Cantina Zaccagnini’s Tralcetto falls into the latter category.  Spicy and red fruity notes predominate in this nicely concentrated mid-weight red wine. Zaccagnini’s version provides lively acidity and vibrancy while avoiding an under ripe sour edge.  Overall this uncomplicated wine is an excellent value and an obvious choice for weekday pasta dishes.
88 Michael Apstein Dec 31, 2013

Illuminati, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Spiano” 2015 ($15, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Here is a wine that provides more enjoyment than the price suggests.  Wines, especially those made from the Montepulciano grape and especially from Abruzzo, the region east of Rome on the Adriatic coast, have little or no prestige, which keeps their prices depressed.  But a talented producer, such as Illuminati, transforms what could be a rough and tumble wine into one with charming rusticity, such as this one.  Not thin and anemic, Illuminati’s Spiano has good concentration, juicy fruit and that hint of rustic charm.  It’s a perfect choice for penne with a sausage-enriched tomato sauce. 88 Michael Apstein Nov 7, 2017

Talamonti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) "Moda" 2004 ($10): Talamonti has been able to tame the Montepulciano grape, which has a reputation for producing some coarse wines.  This thick and concentrated wine is remarkably polished with supple tannins.  It's amazing how the Italians extract so much flavor but manage to keep the alcohol at reasonable--in this case 13%--levels. 88 Michael Apstein Feb 6, 2007

Caldora, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2005 ($10, Vin Divino): Very nicely balanced and very broadly useful, this wine shows interesting fruit notes suggesting both fresh and dried cherries (of both the red and bing varieties).  Bright and fresh as befits an Italian wine but still generously ripe, it hits just the right balance point between structure and softness to permit stand-alone sipping or pleasing paring with a wide range of moderately robust foods. 87 Michael Franz Apr 17, 2007

Citra, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2007 ($6, Palm Bay Imports): You read the price correctly--a single digit small enough to allow a magnum (1.5 L) to still be priced under $10.  Most wines at this price are hard to recommend.  Not this one.  Abruzzo, the region recently devastated by earthquakes, is dominated by wine cooperatives making wines of highly variable quality, so you need to pick and choose wisely.  You can safely choose this one.  Simple, juicy fruit flavors, a touch of gamey elements are balanced by just the right amount of acidity.  With surprising intensity and mild tannins, it's an excellent everyday wine. 86 Michael Apstein Apr 7, 2009

La Valentina, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2005 ($13, Dalla Terra): Very pleasant if a little chunky, this wine satisfies with very nice dark cherry fruit in a medium-bodied mode.  The fruit is quite ripe but draws balance and definition from some gutsy tannins.  Great for burgers or simple pasta dishes. 84 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2008

Illuminati, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane (Abruzzo, Italy) “Pieluni” Riserva 2010 ($70, Montcalm Wine Imports): This wine dispels any notion that truly great wines are not made in Abruzzo from the Montepulciano grape.  Yes, the nomenclature is confusing: Montepulciano, the grape, has nothing to do with Montepulciano the village in Tuscany known for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which uses the Sangiovese grape.  Colline Teramane is Abruzzo’s sole DOCG, which is the highest classification for quality in Italy.  But working through the label and pulling the cork gives grand rewards in this case.  The wine, packaged in one of those over-sized bottles, is like the bottle itself -- oversized, but with extraordinary refinement.  It’s majestic, yet not overdone. Its grace is even more amazing considering its power.  The fine tannins and patina of oak imparts a luxurious texture.  You feel the effects of oak aging without tasting it.  The focus is on subtle earthy notes, herbs and other savory nuances rather than ripe fruit.  The hint of bitterness in the finish makes it an ideal choice for a hearty lamb dish.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 16, 2016

Cerulli Spinozzi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane (Abruzzo, Italy) “Torre Migliori” 2008 ($17, Banfi Vintners):  Cerulli Spinozzi’s Torre Migliori has all of the concentration that Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is known for, but with a complexity and elegance that is rarely seen in wines made from that grape.  It’s easy to see why Colline Teramane is Abruzzo’s sole DOCG.  The initial whiff of herbal notes predicts pleasure.  And pleasure follows.  It has power without being overwhelming.  Not just fruit, its savory aspects are beguiling.  Polished tannins impart structure but zero astringency, which allows you to enjoy it now.  It’s a great choice for hearty pasta or just a steak on the grill.  And it’s an exceptional value.
93 Michael Apstein Jun 10, 2014

Farnese, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane (Abruzzo, Italy) 2003 ($22, Empson): Perhaps reflecting the hot 2003 summer, this wine tastes lusher and riper than I expected, though it still displays a legitimately dusty, spicy central Italian character.  As such, it should appeal to a wide array of consumers--those whose palates know Montepulciano d'Abruzzo as well as those more accustomed to New World, fruit-driven reds.  Restaurateurs take note.  It's hard to imagine anyone not liking it. 90 Paul Lukacs May 1, 2007

Illuminati, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG (Abruzzo, Italy) “Zanna” 2011 ($38, Montcalm Wine Imports): The somewhat unwieldy name of Abruzzo’s sole DOCG and the reputation of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for producing only inexpensive wine might put some consumers off from ordering this one.  That would be a mistake.   The Colline Teramane area within Abruzzo is uniquely well suited for the Montepulciano grape because its exposure to the sea and the elevation of the vineyards act as cooling influences, which allows the grapes to maintain their acidity thus instilling liveliness to the wines.  Illuminati is one of the leading producers in the DOCG.  Mineraly and dense, but with surprising elegance, this is a great choice for hearty pasta dishes or grilled beef.  An attractive hint of bitterness in the finish reminds you it’s serious wine.
91 Michael Apstein Mar 28, 2017

Umani Ronchi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) “Centovie” 2015 ($41, Vineyard Brands):  This is Umani Ronchi’s first vintage of its Montepulciano from its newly acquired vineyards in Abruzzo.  Also 100% Montepulciano, at this stage in its first year of production, it resembles the winery’s Cúmaro, but is readier to drink.  It has soft tannins, and has been made with ripe grapes, seemingly a trademark of Umani Ronchi’s wines, especially its reds.     
93 Ed McCarthy Dec 3, 2019

La Valentina, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) "Spelt" Riserva 2015 ($21, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  More wine from this appellation is starting to show up here in the USA, and that’s a good thing -- there’s an earthy dimension to the best examples that is hard to find at the price points that it’s coming in at.  This wine delivers just such, with brooding damp earth joining fresh berry pie fruit in a package with moderate grip and a long, rich finish.  Splurge on a nice cut of beef with what you save on the wine budget here.  
91 Rich Cook May 14, 2019

Illuminati, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) “Riparosso” 2017 ($13, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Illuminati does it again with their Riparosso.  They habitually produce a wine that delivers far more than the price suggests.  It’s a bright and lively mid-weight wine that combines fruit and savory notes.  A lovely firmness and a hint of bitterness in the finish, not to mention the price, makes it perfect for a simple mid-week pasta and meat sauce, or pizza.  
90 Michael Apstein Nov 19, 2019

Illuminati, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (Abruzzo, Italy) “Riparosso” 2014 ($15, Montcalm Wine Imports): A steal, this wine is in the “buy it by the case” category. Always a good buy, the 2014 vintage is especially noteworthy because Illuminati made no riserva that year.  Grapes from their 45-year old vineyard that usually go into the riserva wound up in the Riparosso, imparting extra density, concentration and refinement. The remarkable thing about this wine is its balance of fruit and firmness and earthiness. Grander than the prices implies, it finishes with an attractive bitter note that makes it a wonderful choice with robust pasta dishes or a simply grilled veal chop.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2016

Illuminati, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) “Spiano” 2015 ($12, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Though I reviewed this wine a couple of years ago, it’s worth revisiting because it is still available at virtually the same price.  Still a bargain, it shows that non-prestigious wines are not necessarily a flash in the pan. Importantly, it reminds us that when you find a bargain, you can buy a few cases without fear that the wine will deteriorate.  This one from the Montepulciano grape, not one known for grandeur, continues to deliver dark fruity charm with an attractive hint of rusticity.  Bright acidity keeps it fresh. Pepperoni pizza, penne with sausage — I could on, but you get the idea.  
87 Michael Apstein Feb 18, 2020

Vino dei Fratelli, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) 2018 ($12, Quintessential Wines):  During these days of shelter-in-place and takeout only from your favorite restaurants, there is a heightened need for good pizza wines.  This Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Fratelli fits the bill nicely, showing pleasing ripe red-fruit aromas, mouth-watering acidity and moderate tannins.   
87 Robert Whitley May 5, 2020

Cerulli Spinozzi, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Colline Teramane DOCG (Abruzzo, Italy) “Torre Migliori” 2011 ($20, Cru Artisan):  The wines from Colline Teramane, Abruzzo’s only DOCG, fly under the radar for some inexplicable reason, which makes them a bargain for consumers.  Since they’re rarely seen on wine lists, even in the trendiest wine bars, it remains for savvy consumers to try them on their own, at home.  This small DOCG has several valleys that run east-west, allowing cooling weather from the Adriatic to drop the temperatures at night, which allows the grapes to hold their acidity, which in turn gives freshness to the wines.  The Cerulli Spinozzi family has been growing grapes for decades, but only started bottling their own wine about 15 years ago.  In a short time, they have become one of the leading producers of Colline Teramane.  Their 2011, still young, has all the trappings of a great wine, combining earthy tarriness with elegance. Powerful, without being jammy or over ripe, bright acidity keeps it fresh, and you coming back for another sip between bites of robust pasta.  They have managed to polish and refine the sometimes “wild” character of the Montepulciano grape without eviscerating it.  Having experience with how their wines age, I am confident that the 2011 will be even more complex and enjoyable in a few years--if you can keep your hands off it. 93 Michael Apstein Oct 11, 2016

Citra, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) "Caroso" Riserva 2010 ($25): This is an Italian goddess of a wine. Beautifully rich and deep, it's a nose full of elegant red fruit, with complementary notes of soft cedar spice, wildflowers and powder.   On the palate, it's lively in its translation of the aroma profile, with structured acidity and fine grained tannins that push the finish to an amazing length.  You can spend a lot more on Italian wine, but you'd have a hard time finding a better one.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 96 Rich Cook Jun 7, 2016

Umani Ronchi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 'Podere' 2017 ($13, Vineyard Brands):   Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is one of the great wonders of the wine world.  It's always delicious and always inexpensive, and Umani Ronchi is one of the top producers in this area east of Rome in southern Italy.  The 2017 Podere is richly layered with sweet dark fruits, supple tannins and impressive length in the finish.  You could hardly go wrong at this price.  A Platinum Award winner at the 37th San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
94 Robert Whitley Apr 9, 2019

Il Feuduccio, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2000 ($38, Empson): So you are wondering, '93 points for a Montepulciano d'Abruzo?  Is Franz on the take?'  The answer is no, and just to prove the point, let me say something nasty about another wine from this producer:  The 2003 'Fonte Venna' Montepulciano d'Abruzo is a total snore, and not worth the $19 being asked for it.  By contrast, this 2000 bottling is a vinous thrill ride and a bargain at $38, with intense, exotic notes of deeply ripe cherries, saddle leather, cocoa, spices and fresh flowers.  Medium-bodied but phenomenally intense in aroma and flavor, yet not overbearing but rather harmonious from start to finish, this is a remarkable wine that you'll be equally inclined to gulp or to study.  Stunning stuff! 93 Michael Franz Nov 21, 2006

Umani Ronchi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) “Jorio” 2015 ($19):  Here is a very serious rendition of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo that can dispel any doubts raised by the many rather unremarkable wines released from the southern sector of the region.  The aromas are a bit reticent, but this speaks right up once the wine hits the palate, hitting with big flavors recalling blackberries and black raspberries.  Although the fruit is highly expressive, the wine’s overall profile is as savory as it is sweet or fruity, which keeps it interesting sip after sip.  Medium-plus body and above average intensity call for using this at the table, and grilled, garlicky lamb would be a great choice.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge. 
93 Michael Franz Apr 16, 2019

Il Feuduccio di S. Maria d'Orni, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) "Margae" 1999 ($66, Empson): This bottle is full of surprises.  Montepulciano d'Abruzzo for $66 is an eyebrow-raiser for starters.  A current-release vintage of 1999 comes in a close second.  But the wine is stunning in its dimension and complexity, and is clearly worth the money if you've got the guts to take the plunge.  Ripe and rich and deeply flavorful, with all sorts of little leathery, mushroomy, mineral complexities on top of a terrific core of black cherry fruit, this is a perfectly mature, medium-bodied wonder.  It will sing with moderately robust fare like duck or veal. 92 Michael Franz Nov 7, 2006

La Valentina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) "Spelt" Riserva 2015 ($21, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Abruzzo produces some of the world’s most generous and fleshy red wines at prices anyone can afford and the Spelt Riserva is one of the most inviting.  Showing intense black-fruit flavors with smooth, polished tannins it’s a crowd-pleaser from the first sip to the last.  And you can drink in immediately, no cellaring required.  
91 Robert Whitley Apr 30, 2019

Lepore, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) Cerasuolo 2005 ($25, Salvia Bianca Imports): Montepulciano is both the name of a town in Tuscany and the main red grape in many of Italy's many wine regions.  This delightful light red is identified on the label as 'Rosé Italian Wine.'  No matter, this is what rosés should be and so often are not.  The color is a light plumy-red and the aroma is forward deep black cherry.  It's dry, with good texture, forward fruit and subtle tannins, definitely more along the lines of a rosato than a darker chiaretto. 90 Michael Franz Nov 14, 2006

San Lorenzo, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2007 ($11, Siema):  This is an excellent rendition of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo at a very attractive price.  It shows very deep color and broad, penetrating flavors, though those aren’t terribly difficult to achieve with this grape in this region.  What is really most impressive about the wine is that it also shows excellent balance and very appealing styling, with interesting interplay between earthy complexity and fresh fruitiness.  Immediately pleasing but also nuanced and interesting, this is a terrific red for all sorts of pasta and meat dishes, as it straddles the line between medium and full body. 90 Michael Franz Feb 9, 2010

Valenosi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Quattro Mani” 2006 ($10, Domaine Select): Run, don't walk, to buy this wine!  I can't remember a better $10 red.  While many inexpensive Montelpuciano d'Abruzzos taste fairly dull, this one offers almost opulent flavors--ripe red and black fruit to be sure, but also plenty of spice, coffee, sweet leather and more.  It's wonderfully nuanced, yet not at all wimpy, and ends with a very satisfying because ever evolving finish.  A beautiful cool weather choice, it's a steal at the price. 90 Michael Franz Jan 22, 2008

Valle Reale, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2006 ($17, Winebow):  Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can be a mixed bag--some are dreadful, coarse and tannic, while others, like this one, shine.  Valle Reale is a newcomer as far as Italian producers go, having been founded about a decade ago in 2000.  They are located in the mountainous part of this central Italian region on the Adriatic.  Leonardo Pizzolo, Valle Reale’s young energetic owner, refers to the area as the “oven of Abruzzo” because of the daytime heat.  But the temperatures fall dramatically because of their elevation allowing the grapes to maintain their acidity and the wines their vibrancy.   Valle Reale’s 2006 has a great combination of dark fruit and earth flavors with an uncommon--at least for Montepulciano--elegance.  Its robust nature and freshness makes it a good choice for hearty pasta dishes. 89 Michael Apstein Jan 25, 2011

Cataldi Madonna, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2007 ($20, Vias Imports): The general reputation of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has been depressed for years by large volumes of inexpensive juice made predominantly in the south of Abruzzo.  However, leading producers in the region--notably including Cataldi Madonna--have sought to demonstrate that this grape can produce complex, age-worthy wine by reducing yields and improving vinification procedures.  This bottling shows the ripe, generous black cherry fruit for which Montepulciano is valued, but also some fresh acidity and a nice spicy backnote.  Pair this with more robust pasta dishes or lighter meats. 88 Michael Franz Oct 6, 2009

La Fiera, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 2014 ($8, Winesellers Ltd.): Another budget friendly, easy drinker from Italy, a country that seems to have oceans of the stuff right now.  This one shows red fruit, leaf and saddle aromas, with good supple structure and medium palate weight bringing the aromas to life as flavors that linger pleasantly. 
88 Rich Cook Feb 16, 2016

La Valentina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Spelt” 2003 ($23, Dalla Terra): This is a muscular Montepulciano that combines black--almost wild--fruit flavors with earthy ones.  Big, yet balanced, its moderate tannins lend structure without being intrusive because they are ripe and polished.  Not a before dinner sipping wine, it cries out for a hearty pasta dish. 88 Michael Apstein Feb 10, 2009

La Valentina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 2015 ($14, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Soft, plush and round, the La Valentina Montepulciano shows ripe black fruits with a note of anise and smooth, supple tannins.  A perfect wine for the summer barbecue, at a great price.   
88 Robert Whitley Apr 30, 2019

Niro, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 2015 ($15):  Central Italy's Abruzzo region, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, is one of Italy's most beautiful. The pace of life is mellow, much like the wines. The dominant red wine, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo typically exhibits soft, ripe textures with succulent dark-fruit character. The price is just as mellow, which is an added bonus. The 2015 from Niro is a prime example, a supple, delicious red that can handle grilled meats and tangy tomato sauces with equal aplomb. 88 Robert Whitley Oct 24, 2017

Velenosi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Quattro Mani” 2006 ($10, Domaine Select): Producers in Abruzzo (especially in its more northerly area) have become increasingly serious about their wines in recent years, and reds such as this are taking the region to the top of Italy's value pyramid.  Like many bottlings of Montepulciano d' Abruzzo seen in the North American market, this is amply flavored and structured, but it stands apart from many competing bottlings on the strength of impressive purity and balance.  Dark cherry fruit notes are vivid and fresh, with some brightening influence from acidity and structure from ripe, fine-grained tannins. 88 Michael Franz Mar 18, 2008

Villa Bizzarri, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) “Girone dei Folli” 2004 ($12, Siema): This fine rendering of Montepulciano d' Abruzzo offers lots of ripe, chunky fruit recalling dark cherries and black plums.  Full-bodied and deeply flavored, it is more about power and immediacy than restraint or subtlety, but that only means that one should pair it with food accordingly.  Matched with Italian sausages or a burger or ribs, this will prove very pleasurable. 88 Michael Franz Mar 18, 2008

Fattoria La Valentina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) "Spelt" 2003 ($23, Dalla Terra Winery Direct): This old fashioned Italian red from the "other" side of Italy, along the Adriatic coast, is straightforward and fruit driven, but there are lovely underlying complexities, such as hints of anise and dried herbs, that give it a lift and make it an especially good match for roasted meats and dishes that feature mushrooms. 87 Robert Whitley Jan 13, 2009

La Fiera, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 2014 ($8, Winesellers Ltd.): This Montepulciano is textbook, offering ripe, juicy dark berry aromas and soft supple tannins. Though plump and simple, it is ultimately satisfying and a red you can put on the table every night without having to take a second mortgage. The price is no indicator of low quality, for most of the reds from Abruzzo are modest in price while long on flavor.
87 Robert Whitley Feb 16, 2016

Vino dei Fratelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 2007 ($9, Quintessential): Montepulciano is always among the easiest drinking reds produced in Italy, making it quite literally a fabulous pizza wine. Vino dei Fratelli's '07 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is a plump red that offers juicy dark fruits and soft tannins, with a pleasingly long finish. 85 Robert Whitley Jun 30, 2009

Vino Dei Fratelli, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 2006 ($7, Quintessential): Simple and rustic, this Montepulciano is truly a spaghetti wine, worthy of a place at the table with warm bread, a bowl of olives, marinated vegetables and bubbling pasta from the forno! Simple and fruity, it's meant to wash down a meal rather than challenge your vocabulary of wine descriptors. And it's priced to move by the case. 78 Robert Whitley Sep 9, 2008

Farnese, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Colline Teramane (Abruzzo, Italy) Riserva "Opis" 2001 ($33, Empson): I've been watching this increasingly renowned appellation closely over the past year, and this wine is certainly among its top renditions.  There's just a bit of bitterness in the finish of this wine that knocks it below the very best current releases, and even this is an insignificant flaw if you'll be drinking the wine with food (as indeed you should be with Italian reds in any case).  This note makes the wine a little more confined in optimal usage, but is easily neutralized with food bearing just a bit of dietary fat, and once that is added to the equation, all of its interesting qualities push right to the fore.  These include rich, highly expressive fruit notes recalling dark berries, black cherries and prunes that are accented with hints of leather, spices and tobacco leaves.  Fresh acidity keeps the wine focused, and fine-grained tannin lends firmness without drying the fine finish. 88 Michael Franz Nov 7, 2006

Aculina, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOP (Abruzzo, Italy) 2017 ($24, Penrose Hill):  Some great values coming out of this region, and more and more of them are making the trip west so that we can enjoy them.  Fresh ripe cherry fruit, bright fall spice and easy oak toast are fully integrated from start to finish with a blossoming push bringing you back to the glass again and again.  Nicely done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Jun 11, 2019

Rosé:

Villa Gemma Masciarelli, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (Italy) Rosé 2014 ($14): This complex and cherry pink rosé is a heftier style than your average rosé, but a welcome addition to the mix.  Made from 100 percent Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes and presents with an intense cherry pink color and a fragrant floral bouquet etched with rich pomegranate and fresh thyme.  A sublime accompaniment to a pizza al fresco.
95 Jessica Dupuy Apr 12, 2016

Illuminati, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) “Campirosa” 2014 ($13, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): Though its enticing cherry-red hue says rosé, this is not your standard innocuous one, but rather a rosé masquerading as a light red wine--and a delightful one at that.  Fresh and bright, with hints of wild strawberries, the barest hint of a tannic structure and whiff of bitterness in the finish remind you it was made from a light pressing of the Montepulciano grape.  Lively, vigorous and very fresh, it would be a great choice for sushi because, almost paradoxically, it can stand up to tuna without overwhelming more delicate fish.  And look at the price!
90 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Masciarelli, Rosato delle Colline Teramane IGT (Abruzzo, Italy) 2010 ($10, Masciarelli Wine Company):  Though I’m generally not a fan of rosés, this one, with its charming rusticity, is impossible to ignore.  Made from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grape, it delivers a subtle gusty or earthy quality that complements its bright strawberry-like fruitiness.  At ten bucks, it’s a steal. 88 Michael Apstein Jan 17, 2012

White:

Cataldi Madonna, Abruzzo (Italy) Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2007 ($15, Vias Imports): Abruzzo, a region on the Italy’s Adriatic coast across from Rome, is home to wines of highly variable quality.  Some are great, others abysmal.  The key is finding a high quality producer, such as Cataldi Madonna, one of the best in the region.  This bracing white wine delivers an alluring combination of stoniness and a lemony edge.  It’s a perfect choice for fish sautéed in garlic-infused olive oil. 88 Michael Apstein Aug 18, 2009

Castello di Semivicoli, Abruzzo DOC (Italy) Pecorino 2018 ($20):  Pecorino, in addition to being a cheese, is also a grape, which, in the right hands, makes a captivating wine.  Moreover, I predict Pecorino will become the go-to white wine for Italian fare because its lively edginess cuts through most any dish and refreshes the palate.  Its typical grapefruit-rind bite makes it an unlikely candidate to replace the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio, frequently ordered as, “I’ll-have-a-glass-of-white-wine.”  But it is precisely that character that makes it perfect with food.  Combine Pecorino with one of Abruzzo’s top producers, Masciarelli, who owns the Castello di Semivicoli estate, and you have this easy-to-recommend wine that over delivers for the price.  Stone-y and flinty, their 2018 delivers a pleasant bite (like the cheese) and a remarkably long finish.  It’s a refreshing and penetrating mid-weight wine that stands up to full-flavored dishes such as spaghetti cacio e pepe or grilled bluefish.  Now the rub.  It’s not imported into the U.S.  Let’s hope that changes, Masciarelli.  For now, U.S. consumers will need to search for other producers’ versions.   
92 Michael Apstein Feb 25, 2020

Tiberio, Colline Pescaresi IGP (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino 2016 ($21, The Sorting Table): Pecorino, the wine, not the cheese, is currently “hot,” which is surprising considering it was practically extinct as a grape variety as recently as two decades ago.  Now there are probably 60 producers on the bandwagon. Although I’ve not sampled them all, it’s hard to imagine finding one better than Tiberio’s.  (The grape likely gets its name from sheep herders who ate them while tending their flocks.)  Its semi-aromatic quality delivers a mixture of nutty and herbal aromas.  In the mouth, it has good density and a seductive slightly creamy texture.  Rich without being heavy, zippy acidity keeps it fresh and you coming back for more.  It’s a star!
93 Michael Apstein Jul 18, 2017

Cirelli La Collina Biologica, Colline Pescaresi IGT (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino 2018 ($21):  Pecorino, both the wine and the cheese, typically have an attractive bite to them.  This one, an organic wine from the organically-focused producer whose name is, literally, “the organic hill,” has a creamy texture that mutes the bite.  It is still there, but overall the wine’s less energetic, but more suave, showing that Pecorino can have a broader profile.   
90 Michael Apstein Sep 17, 2019

Cerulli Spinozzi, Pecorino Colli Aprutini IGT (Abruzzo, Italy) “Cortalto” 2014 ($15): Cortalto’s a wine to buy by the case.  The pleasing bite of Pecorino, the grape, could remind consumers of the cheese.  Cerulli Spinozzi, one of the top producers in Abruzzo, manages to combine the attractive bite with good concentration and uplifting acidity in this fresh and lively wine.  A zesty finishes amplifies the enjoyment.  It’s a great choice for linguine and clam sauce or even a rotisserie chicken.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Villa Medoro, Pecorino Terre di Chieti (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino 2017 ($18, Banville Wine Merchants):  The Pecorino grape is most known in southern Italy’s Abruzzo region, as well as in the Marche.  It is a white that provides a delicious tasting experience.  The 2017 vintage from Villa Medoro is a great success and shows the attractive style of the grape.  The Pecorino is an ancient grape variety that is grown in the hills around Teramo in Abruzzo.  The 2017 Villa Medoro Pecorino shows scents of wildflowers, pear, peach, orange peel, and subtle herbs.  On the palate, pure pear and peach fruit flavors are backed by floral, honey, herbal and creamy hints.  The layers of full and exotic flavors are underscored by a bracing, crisp acidity.  It’s a delicious white with a rich texture that will be a fine companion for poultry and richer seafood dishes.   
92 Wayne Belding Oct 8, 2019

Casal Thaulero, Pecorino Terre Di Chieti (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino “Borgo Thaulero” 2015 ($10, Acolade wines):  This is an utterly charming wine, especially given its very affordable price.  With an appealing, delicately floral fragrance, a flavor profile that leans more toward the tropical fruit spectrum, and an invigorating saline minerality this Pecorino has a lot going for it.  It’s a minimalist wine, notable for its uncluttered simplicity. 90 Marguerite Thomas Oct 11, 2016

Niro, Terre di Chieti (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino 2016 ($16, Palm Bay International):  Pecorino is a variety that was nearly extinct as recently as 15 years ago, but is now roaring back in the southern portion of the Marche and northern Abruzzo, both located on the Adriatic below Venice in Central Italy.  The variety can also make very fine sparkling wine, but this dry table rendition is terrific, with restrained citrus and white melon fruit that leads to an intriguing nutty, mineral finish.  Don’t let the word, “restrained” put you off:  The key to this wine’s success is that the subtlety of the fruit lets its other nuances hold their own. 
92 Michael Franz May 1, 2018

Farnese, Terre di Chieti (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino Casale Vecchio 2006 ($16, Empson): This thoroughly likeable white wine is made from 100% Pecorino--a grape that has nothing to do with cheese, but rather (if I read the back label correctly) small sheep. Well, okay. In any event, it has an engaging aroma (part floral, part pear) and a full, mouth-watering texture, with a nice crisp finish. 89 Marguerite Thomas Sep 11, 2007

Tenuta Giuliano, Terre Di Chieti DOC (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino 2012 ($15, Premier Wine Company): This wine might be tricky to locate, but it is worth the effort.  Bright banana, melon, wool and mint flood your nose with a spiced peach impression sitting in the background.  It's got nice viscosity and crisp acid -- very nicely balanced, with a warming character on the palate that feels fresh rather than hot. The finish is very long with richness and solid integration of flavors. Very interesting, and priced to buy in bulk.
91 Rich Cook Aug 26, 2014

Agriverde, Terre di Chieti IGP (Abruzzo, Italy) Pecorino “Riseis" 2018 ($11):  Pecorino, the grape and the wine made from it, is a name to remember.  Its home is in the middle of the east coast of Italy in the regions of Le Marche and Abruzzo.  As with all wine, there is a range of style of Pecorino from zippy and cutting to softer and creamier.  This one is definitely on the zippy and cutting side of the spectrum, with a hint of mouth-watering salinity in the finish, which makes it perfect for pasta with clams or mussels.  Add Pecorino to your list of racy whites to try.  
93 Michael Apstein Sep 17, 2019

Istituto San Michele, Terre di Chieti IGT (Abruzzo, Italy) Incrocio Manzoni “Castel San Michele” NV ($20, Trentino):  Mixed citrus, melon and pith aromas invite you to a crisp palate that delivers on the promise of the nose, driven by racy acidity that really requires food to allow the wine to shine its brightest.  I would go for a whitefish with a creamy sauce and a bit of garlic.  
91 Rich Cook Sep 3, 2019

Tiberio, Trebbiano D’Abruzzo DOC (Italy) 2016 ($18, The Sorting Table):  This wine is 100% Trebbiano D'Abruzzese, which is a grape often confused with Bombino Bianco, Passerina, and Trebbiano Toscano.  (Not to be confused with the generic “Trebbiano,” which according to Ian D’Agata doesn’t even really exist).  This wine is powerful with radiant citrus tones and a bracingly tart palate.  Crisp, fresh, and beautifully linear, this wine is finishes with a vervy mineral character. 
91 Jessica Dupuy Aug 21, 2018

Tiberio, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOP (Abruzzo, Italy) 2016 ($15): There are eight varieties of Trebbiano, according to Ian D’Agata, the world’s foremost authority on Italian grapes, which results in great confusion because they are certainly not all the same.  This wine is made from Trebbiano Abruzzese, not to be confused with the more pedestrian Trebbiano Toscana.   As a result, the wine is a showstopper, delivering, paradoxically, yellow peach-like flavors in an austere framework.  Fresh and long, it finishes with just a hint of bitterness.  Though not a heavy wine, it has great persistence.  Try it this summer with grilled swordfish and in caper butter sauce. And a bargain to boot!
93 Michael Apstein Jun 13, 2017

Farnese, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (Italy) 2007 ($10, Empson USA): Crisp and dry, with sufficient acidity for balance, and well-defined citrus fruit flavor, this wine offers tasty refreshment for a mere $10.  Trebbiano may not usually be thought of as a classy grape variety, but this wine does what chic Pinot Grigio so often fails to do - provide wine-drinking pleasure at a fair price.  If you're looking for a dry Italian white for summer entertaining, it would be an excellent choice. 87 Paul Lukacs Apr 28, 2009

Farnese, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (Abruzzo, Italy) 2005 ($7, e): That's right:  Seven Bucks.  And the wine is distinctive and tasty, with a faintly earthy aroma of wet straw lending interest to a base of white melon fruit.  Dry and lightly mineral, this would be a nice partner for light fish dishes, and is also quite pleasant to sip on its own.  Had I known about this wine in my days as an impoverished graduate student, I'd have done some real damage with it. 85 Michael Franz Nov 21, 2006

Back to Top


Alto Adige:

Red:

J. Hofstätter, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Nero Vignas Urbano Barthenau 2002 ($72, Domaine Select Merchants): For many years now, Hofstätter's Barthenau vineyard Pinot Noir has been considered not only Italy's finest, but a world-class Pinot Noir as well.  I tasted both the 2002 and 2004; the latter has beautiful Pinot aromas and excellent balance, and will be great, but is just too young right now.  The 2002 Barthenau is simply stunning, with gorgeous tart cherry aromas and concentrated flavors.  Sixty percent of the vineyard's production stays in Italy, with much of the rest going to the rest of Europe, leaving just a small amount for the U.S.  You can find it in high-end Italian restaurants.  It's worth the search! 96 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Nero Riserva "Praepositus" 2003 ($47, Vias Imports): Pinot Noir is a notoriously fickle grape variety that winemakers transform into ethereal red wine in only a few places in the world: Burgundy, parts of California and Oregon, and parts of New Zealand.  Imagine my surprise when I tasted this beautiful example from northern Italy.  It has what I consider the hallmark of wine made from Pinot Noir, richness without weight mixed with earthy, non-fruit flavors.  The 2003 vintage undoubtedly contributed to the ripeness, but it's so beautifully balanced, you'd never guess it weighs in at 14% alcohol. 91 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2007

Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2005 ($20, Banville & Jones): Some of the finest Pinot Blancs come from northern Italy, and this rendition is an excellent example.  Medium-bodied, it offers delicate, nuanced flavors reminiscent first of crisp apples and pears, second of stony minerals, and then finally a hint of honey.  Moreover, the wine is beautifully balanced and wonderfully long on the palate.  Delectable! 91 Paul Lukacs Mar 6, 2007

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Nero Krafuss Estate 2006 ($50, Dalla Terra):  Grapes for this light and delicate Pinot Noir come from the 1,650 feet Krafuss Vineyard in Alto Adige.  The wine underwent fermentation and extended maceration for 18 days in stainless steel tanks and then was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.  Even with the extended maceration, the color is a light-medium ruby-garnet with brown edges.  The nose displays forward black cherry and black tea aromas with hints of roasted nuts, while the flavors are medium cherry-berry fruit with boiled tea accents, 13.5% alcohol and a medium finish.  The Lageder Pinot Noir is a subtle and textured departure from the lusher more fruit-forward Pinots of California, Oregon and New Zealand. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 17, 2010

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Lagrein Lindenburg 2004 ($30, Dalla Terra):  Lagrein is a deeply-colored, often tannic, grape native to a small area of Alto Adige.  Used by many wineries as a blending component with Pinot Noir, for added color and structure, Lagrein can be a mouthful.  The Lageder version from the Lindenburg Vineyard shows his measured approach.  Tank fermented and aged in French oak barrels, the Lindenburg Pinot Noir has a lovely mulberry color, low intensity ripe berry and spice nose, textured berry flavors with mocha and earthy accents, good acidity, 13.2% alcohol and a long finish.  Lagrein would stand up nicely with California Petite Sirah and South African Pinotage. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 17, 2010

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2007 ($22, Banville & Jones): Cantina Terlan is an Alto Adige cooperative that specializes in white wines of impeccable balance and harmony.  This Pinot Bianco (or Pinot Blanc) is a case in point.  Its full fruit, spice, and mineral flavors are precisely focused, so the wine tastes both refreshing and riveting.  Incidentally, Terlan's whites age improbably well, and this wine may well become even more compelling with a few years of cellaring. 90 Paul Lukacs Feb 24, 2009

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Nero 2007 ($27, Vias Imports):  Very well made, this may well earn a higher score as it ages and develops, which it almost certainly will on account of superior balance.  The wine is very light and indeed transparent in color, with tart cherry aromas and flavors and a nice spicy edge, with good acidity.  Wood notes are very subtle, and the light tannins are very well balanced against the fruit.  The maceration was apparently quite judicious, used by the winemaking team to give the wine structure but not trying to wring more out of the fruit than the grapes had to offer. 89 Michael Franz Dec 1, 2009

Cantina Bolzano, Alto Adige (Italy) "Rosso" 2005 ($13, Summa Vitis): Alto Adige, the northernmost part of Italy, produces wonderful, light-bodied, lively reds such as this Rosso, a blend of two local grapes, Lagrein and Schiava. The '05 has fresh berry flavors, lots of acidity, and enough tannins to complement hearty pastas. 89 Ed McCarthy Jul 24, 2007

Krafuss, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Noir Krafuss 2003 ($35, Alois Lageder USA): The Krafuss Vineyard stands at an altitude of 1,650 feet, providing an ideal cool mesoclimate for growing elegant Pinot Noir. Tank fermentation, extended maceration and 12 months aging in French oak yielded a pinot with a medium prune-red color, deep cherry-berry and spice aroma and slightly restrained cherry-berry and spice flavors, refined tannins and good length. This modest stylized Pinot Noir calls out for  food. 89 Gerald D. Boyd May 29, 2007

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Lagrein Lindenburg 2003 ($27, Alois Lageder USA): Legrein, a red grape grown almost exclusively in Alto Adige, has an image problem outside Northern Italy, similar to that endured by South Africa's Pinotage.  More specifically, Legrein can be rustic and slightly bitter, often making it a better blending component than a stand-alone varietal.  This deeply colored Lagrein shows ripe plum and spice back notes with earthy accents.  The flavors are big with full tannins, traces of bitterness and hints of tar, dried fruits and floral notes.  The firm tannins and concentrated fruit give the wine a rustic dimension; however it does have length and plenty of fruit. 87 Gerald D. Boyd May 29, 2007

Tolloy, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Noir 2007 ($13, Prestige Wine Imports): This easy-to-like Pinot has a spicy/woody aroma, with lots of red fruit, along with a light red-berry color.  In the mouth it has bright red cherry fruit, with a touch of vanilla.  At just 12.5% alcohol (when's the last time you saw that number on a California Pinot Noir label?), the wine is light, fruity and a good partner for red-sauced pasta. 86 Tina Caputo Apr 14, 2009

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Pinot Noir "Rolhüt" 2017 ($18, HB Wine Merchants):  A delicate aroma profile of subtle cherry, strawberry, roses and soft spice lead to a bright palate with moderate weight and full-flavored expression of the nose elements, with a finish that intrigues and begs another sip.  An absolute steal at this price! 
91 Rich Cook Jul 3, 2018

St. Paul's, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Lagrein 2016 ($25): Once upon a time Lagrein was a bit of a mean wine, often showing biting acidity and hard, green tannins. The cool climate in the foothills of the Alps certainly was a factor, but lazy farming contributed to the frequent flaw of under ripe grapes. Viticulture has improved remarkably over the past few decades and modern techniques in the vineyard and the cellar have paved the way for Lagrein to deliver its true character consistently despite sometimes adverse conditions. The 2016 St. Paul's is dark and inky, with a spicy black pepper nose and succulent ripe blackberry and boysenberry flavors on the palate. The tannins are nicely integrated and the wine exhibits exquisite balance. Serve it with winter stews, or slightly chilled with grilled meats in warmer months. 91 Robert Whitley Jan 2, 2018

Girlan, Alto Adige/ Südtirol (Italy) Lagrein 2012 ($20, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): The name of the DOC -- either Alto Adige or Südtirol -- reflects the dual identity of this part of northern Italy, which abuts Austria.  But this is a singularly appealing wine.  Lagrein, not a well-known grape, should have more widespread popularity because it can produce a reasonably robust wine devoid of searing tannins and balanced by uplifting acidity.  Girlan’s 2012 is a fine example.  Thick and juicy, with more black fruit than red, smooth tannins and invigorating acidity makes it easy -- and a joy -- to drink now with hearty pasta dishes or even a steak.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Eisacktaler Kellerei, Sudtirol (Alto Adige, Italy) Lagrein 2008 ($19, Vinity Wine Company):  Lagrein is indigenous to the South Tyrol and this example, grown in the gravelly soils near Bolzano is a very good representative.  Deep purple-ruby hues lead to up-front scents of ripe cherry with subtle floral back notes.  It has good texture, slightly rustic plum-like fruit flavors, medium refined tannins, 13% alcohol and a satisfying finish.  Priced right, this juicy Italian red is just right with summer grills. 90 Gerald D. Boyd May 25, 2010

Muri-Gries, Südtirol (Alto Adige, Italy) Lagrein "Abtei Muri" 2012 ($43, Polaner Selections): Lagrein is a secret passion for lovers of rich but still pure and lively reds.  The best Lagrein bottlings somehow combine astonishing power with style and grace.  The Muri-Gries Lagrein Riserva is drawn from the best blocks of high elevation, old vine Lagrein vineyards.  This is a rich and complex red.  Lovely aromas of blackberry, black cherry and blackcurrant are enhanced by elements of violets, smoke, earth and herbs.  The flavors are pure and enticing, with layers of ripe black fruits given lift by a hint of raspberry and exotic herb and spice tones.  The wine has an intense, nearly creamy texture that reflects its old-vine heritage.  It can easily age for another 10 years.  The secret is out -- but don’t tell anyone until you get some Lagrein for yourself.
95 Wayne Belding Apr 5, 2016

Cantina Colterenzio, Sudtirol - Alto Adige Riserva DOC (Italy) Pinot Nero - Blauburgunder “St. Daniel” 2016 ($19, Haw River Wine Man):  The dual name of the Sudtirol - Alto Adige DOC wine region in northeastern Italy reflects its Austrian-Italian identity.  Cantina Colterenzio is a co-operative winery like many wine producers in the area.  It was created in 1960 by a group of 26 growers.  One of the founders of the group was Luis Raifer, whose early study trip to California inspired him with ideas about the untapped potential for this region to produce high quality wines.  He modeled his vision of lower yields with higher quality grapes by replanting one of his vineyards with non-traditional for the region Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.  Today there are 300 members of the co-op making wines from many different grape varieties.  This Pinot Noir was produced from 15- to 20-year-old vines grown at heights between 755 to 2130 feet.  Clearly a cool climate Pinot with delicate cherry, strawberry, raspberry fruit with wood spice, floral and vanilla notes.  It is tightly structured with nervy acidity and polished tannins.  It can easily balance the effect of an unctuous steak or handle the delicate task of serving as complement for grilled salmon.   
90 Rebecca Murphy Dec 17, 2019

Cantina Terlano, Südtirol / Alto Adige (Italy) Lagrein "Porphyr" Riserva 2014 ($45, Banville Wine Merchants):  Lagrein is a grape grown mostly in the Trentino / Alto Adige region of northern Italy.  Its best renditions are sought after by lovers of rich, but still pure and lively reds.  The best Lagrein bottlings, like this one, combine astonishing power with style and grace.  The Cantina Terlano is one of the world’s leading cooperative wineries.  Founded in 1893, they work with their member growers to produce the best fruit possible.  The 2014 Terlano Porphyr Lagrein Riserva is drawn from the best sites in the winery’s Lagrein vineyards.  This is a rich and complex red.  Lovely aromas of blackberry, black cherry and black currant are enhanced by elements of violets, vanilla, smoke, earth and herbs.  The flavors are pure and enticing, with layers of ripe black fruits given lift by a hint of raspberry and exotic herb and spice tones.  The wine has an intense, nearly creamy texture that reflects an old-vine heritage.  It can easily age for another 10 years.  
94 Wayne Belding Jul 9, 2019

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Pinot Nero “Praepositus” 2004 ($42, Vias Imports):

My recent trip to Alto Adige convinced me that Pinot Noir is a very successful variety in this region, clearly better than any other regions in Italy growing Pinot Noir.  The 2004 Abbazia Pino Nero Praepositus is very fine, quite full-bodied and rich, but not as over-the-top as so many overly fruity New World Pinots.  The wine exudes class and breed.

93 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Lagrein “Praepositus” 2003 ($40, Vias Imports): Lagrein is an indigenous, chunky-fruited, rather rustic variety which seldom grows outside of Alto Adige.  Even here, it thrives only in the relatively warm vineyards around Bolzano.  The 2003 Abbazia Lagrein Praepositus is dry and full-bodied, very dark ruby in color, with aromas of violets and black fruit  along with intense, tart blackberry flavors.  An enticing wine with its own unique flavors.  (The standard 2006 Abbazia Lagrein sells for $25). 92 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Rosé:

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Lagrein Rosato 2005 ($14, Dalla Terra Imports): Italian rosés are invariably characterful, with lots of flavor -- and always dry. Alois Lageder makes a fine Lagrein, one of Italy's most underrated dry red wines, and recently he has added a dry Lagrein rosé to his portfolio. His 2005 Rosato is very dry, with spicy aromas typical of this variety, and has lots of personality. Perfect for warm summer evening dinners, either with fish or poultry. 89 Ed McCarthy Jun 13, 2006

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Lagrein Rosé 2005 ($16, Banville & Jones): An impressive rosé, made from the intriguing Lagrein grape, this wine offers plenty of red berry flavors but never seems sappy - that being a problem with many rosés these days.  Instead, it tastes clean and bright, and is above all refreshing.  The 2006 should arrive on these shores shortly, but this 2005 still has plenty of life left. 89 Paul Lukacs Apr 10, 2007

Sparkling:

Casata Monfort, Trento (Trento-Alto Adige, Italy) Riserva 2011 ($50):  Consumers mistakenly believe that all bubbly coming from Italy is Prosecco.  Not so.  There’s fine sparkling wine from Franciacorta and this stunning one reminds us not to forget Trento.  A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the traditional grapes of Champagne, it has a fine bead of acidity that gives it a great spine. Not boisterous or tropical, it’s finesse-filled and persistent.  The Riserva designation means it was aged a minimum of 36 months before release and helps explain is suaveness and balance.  It doesn’t shout, but you hear it very clearly.  Ideal as a traditional stand-alone celebratory drink, its brightness refreshes the palate during a meal of grilled sea bass. 
93 Michael Apstein Jun 19, 2018

White:

Tiefenbrünner, Alto Adige (Italy) Müller Thurgau Feldmarschall 2006 ($38, Winebow): Müller Thurgau is a rather boring variety in its native Germany, but it makes an exciting wine in Tiefenbrünner's Feldmarschall Vineyard, perched up at 3,000 (!) feet in altitude, in southern Alto Adige--certainly one of the highest vineyards in the world.  Planted in 1972, with some re-planting in 1987, the Tiefenbrünner Feldmarschall is generally regarded to make the world's best Müller Thurgau wine.  The 2006 has tons of minerality, pronounced floral aromas, and really good acidity.  According to Christof Tiefenbrünnner, its acidity is the key.  Müller Thurgau wines made at lower elevations tend to be flabby and neutral in flavor.  The 2006 is available now, but it needs time.  A 2004 Feldmarschall that I tasted was even better.  Christof says that his wine is best at three to five years old.  Only 1500 bottles (but fully one-third of the total) come to the U.S. 96 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Cantina Valle Isarco, Alto Adige (Italy) Kerner "Aristos" 2018 ($16):  The idyllic, high Alpine Isarco Valley offers one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in Alto Adige, majestic mountains frame a vibrant green landscape dappled by chalet-style farmhouses, roaming cattle, castles, monasteries, chestnut groves and terraced vineyards enclosed within neat low stone walls.  The vineyards of the wine are managed completely by hand along the steep slopes located at about 3,100 feet.  The unique climate of this region balances hot summer days with very cool, fresh nights with light, gravelly soils rich in minerals that contribute to a unique vibrancy in the wine the 2018 Kerner is like silk-wrapped lightning in a bottle.  Smooth and finessed with high notes of citrus, yellow apple, and mountain flowers, this wine with its linear brightness bolstered by alluring complexity.   
95 Jessica Dupuy Oct 8, 2019

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio Porer 2018 ($17):  The Lageder family has been making wines in Alto Adige since 1823 and today is led by the sixth generation, Clemens and Helena Lageder where biodynamic farming is a central part of the wine.  The family owns more than 135 acres of biodynamic certified vineyards and more than half of their 80 contract growers throughout the region are also biodynamic.  For the Lageders, wine should not be grown in a monoculture, but rather in a region of agricultural biodiversity.   Lucky for them, Alto Adige supplies up to 50% of the national Italian apple market.  However, they have also forged a transhumance  partnership with the local cheesemaker, allowing the dairy cows to graze in their vineyards in the winter, while in the summer the cows return to the mountain plains.  The wines of Alois Lageder reflect the commitment to purity and authenticity the family puts forth in both the vineyard and the cellar.  The 2018 Porer Pinot Grigio is a perfect example of this.  A blend of three different aging processes from classic to skin contact and whole cluster maceration.  A beautiful expression of on often dismissed grape variety.  This wine offers notes of green melon, citrus peel, yellow apple, and a hint of bitter almond.  Though fresh and crisp, the structure of this wine has a bit of grip that brings an added depth.   
94 Jessica Dupuy Oct 8, 2019

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco Vorberg Riserva 2004 ($27, Banville & Jones): This multi-layered, rich but at the same time refined Pinot Bianco demonstrates that this grape, often dismissed as pedestrian, is in fact capable of yielding truly regal wines.  Cantina Terlan is one of Alto Adige's finest producers, and this single vineyard offering can more than hold its own with top white Burgundies that cost three or four times as much.  In addition, past vintages have shown the ability to age gracefully for decades.  Stupendous stuff. 94 Paul Lukacs Apr 10, 2007

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Gewurztraminer “Lunare” 2004 ($55, Banville & Jones): This is a stunning wine.  With some 70% of the blend aged in wood, it tastes rich and luscious, though shows scant evidence of oak flavor.  The bouquet, opulent and exotic, takes Gewurztraminer's sensuous rose and spice character to new heights, and the flavors then seem to explode on the palate.  Yet while certainly big and powerful, the wine remains balanced and focused, and so seems wonderfully graceful.  Barely off-dry, it has the stuffing to pair with rich, cream-sauced dishes, and surely will turn heads if served to even the most jaded connoisseur.  As I said, stunning. 94 Paul Lukacs Apr 10, 2007

Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2016 ($17, Banville Wine Merchants):  A fantastic value.  Crisp and very lively, with a racy edge coupled with a soothing finish, this Pinot Grigio does what woefully few northern Italian examples manage to do.  It tastes both compelling and complex. 
94 Paul Lukacs Apr 17, 2018

Elena Walch, Alto Adige (Italy) Gewurztraminer Vigna "Kastelaz" 2018 ($30):  Located in the charming town of Tramin, the alleged birthplace of Gewürztraminer, the Walch family have a history of winemaking that spans 150 years.  While Alto Adige was once considered a wine region focused more on producing large quantities of wine, Elena Walch was one of the pioneers of transitioning the focus to quality.  By reducing yields, changing trellising systems to VSP, and paying attention to suitable varieties for the region, she was one of the first to encourage a new identity for the region.  The Elena Walch Gewürztraminer is reputed for its alluring aromatics and surprisingly crisp, dry palate.  The 2018 Vigna Kastelaz Gewürztraminer is a true beauty, with notes of peaches, summer flowers, and faint ginger and a palate that is silken, yet crisp, a result of harvesting some grapes earlier in the growing season before harvesting the rest to retain natural acidity in the wine.   
94 Jessica Dupuy Oct 8, 2019

Kellerei / Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco Vorberg Riserva 2016 ($28):  With a history dating back to 1893, the historic cooperative Cantina Terlan manages 420 acres of vineyard among 143 growers throughout the region.  Terlano is a wine-growing village located halfway between South Tyrol’s main towns of Merano and Bolzano where the Adige river flows through a wide valley in a south-easterly direction.  The village and vineyards nestle against the red porphyry rock of Monte Tschöggl on the left side of the valley.  One of the region’s premier producers, Cantina Terlan excels with white varieties, with this Vorberg Riserva Pinot Bianco being an exceptional example.  Offering notes of golden pear, ripe peach and pie crust, this wine leads with a vibrant lift and deepens in structure with pleasing creaminess.  
94 Jessica Dupuy Oct 8, 2019

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio Giatl Riserva 2017 ($38, HB Wine Merchants):  Peter Zemmer’s single-vineyard Giatl is a very different style of Pinot Grigio from his regular (I hate that word to describe that wine, which is anything but regular) bottling.  The Giatl has power and a Burgundian-like weight and to it.  A hint of lanolin-like texture makes it all the more appealing.  This is weighty serious stuff.  Those looking for a glass of “Pinot Grigio” should look elsewhere.  Those who want to see what the grape can achieve should pull the cork.      
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Cantina Bolzano, Alto Adige (Italy) Kerner 2016 ($20):  Kerner is a grape variety rarely scene outside of northern Italy and that’s a bit of a mystery because Kerner makes very interesting, delicious white wine. Planted on the slopes of Mount Renon in the Isarco Valley, the Cantina Bolzano Kerner expresses stony minerality, luscious notes of peach, tangerine and honeysuckle, with bright acidity and impressive length. Clean and refreshing, serve with light appetizers or simply as an aperitif.
93 Robert Whitley Dec 19, 2017

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco "Vorberg" Riserva 2014 ($36, Banville Wine Merchants):  Apricots, peaches, and more form a veritable fruit salad of aromas and flavors, enhanced by floral notes and a mineral-rich finish.  A stunning wine! 93 Paul Lukacs May 9, 2017

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Sauvignon “Quartz” 2010 ($55, Banville & Jones):  I haven’t tasted this wine for several vintages, but tasting it once again provided a powerful reminder that it is one of the world’s premier renditions of Sauvignon Blanc.  Beware, though, that it isn’t a lean, little wine, but rather a broadly textured and amply weighted drink based on fruit notes recalling melons and stone fruits, with zesty citrus notes around the edges and a pronounced minerality in the finish.  Mature but far from played out, this will actually develop in a positive direction for another couple of years.  Bloody impressive. 93 Michael Franz Nov 27, 2012

Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco Vorberg Riserva 2011 ($33, Banville & Jones): Cantina Terlano is a reliable producer of exotic and appealing wines.  The Vorberg vineyard is a steeply sloping site rising from about one to three thousand feet in elevation.  It routinely yields wines of impressive power and depth, as evidenced by this one.  It offers a full package of varietal purity with aromas of peach, pear, pineapple and guava fruits backed by floral and spice hints. The multilayered fruit character results in a is seductively rich and creamy texture . This lovely white will change your mind about Pinot Bianco.  It has the capacity to cellar well for another ten years or more, getting richer and deeper in color and style as it ages.
93 Wayne Belding Mar 31, 2015

Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2016 ($19, Banville Wine Merchants):  Cantina Terlano is a reliable producer of rich and appealing wines.  Founded in 1893, it has access to some of the best vineyard sites in the Alto Adige.  Combined with meticulous care in the winery, the result is wines like this outstanding 2016 Pinot Bianco.  This might change your mind about this oft-overlooked variety.  The Terlan 2016 is resplendent with aromas of peach, pear, pineapple and guava fruits backed by floral and spice hints.  The rich fruit unfolds in a cascade of ripe flavors across the palate, ending with a clean and refreshing finish.   The texture is seductively rich and creamy. This lovely Pinot Bianco has the capacity to cellar well for another five years or more, getting richer and deeper in color and style as it ages.  It’s an extraordinarily versatile food companion as well. 
93 Wayne Belding Mar 6, 2018

Cantina Tramin, Alto Adige (Italy) Gewurztraminer Nussbaumer 2014 ($35, Winebow):  The glory of Gewürztraminer is clearly evidenced in this bottle.  From the steep vineyards of the Alto Adige overlooking Lake Garda, it reveals a depth and purity of flavor that is truly admirable.  The Nussbaumer site benefits from breezes off the lake that extend the growing season, allowing greater flavor development in the grapes.  Luscious aromas of fresh flowers, apricots, lychee and guava are underlain by nuances of exotic spice.  On the palate, it is equally pure and invigorating with the vibrant panoply of fruits playing out across the palate in a delicious cascade of honeyed, juicy ripeness.  The exotic fruit nuances linger nicely in the long, dry finish.  Serve it with your favorite stir-fry recipe.  It will add delicious enjoyment to the meal. 93 Wayne Belding Oct 24, 2017

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige (Italy) Kerner 2004 ($18, Vias Imports): The dramatically beautiful Abbazia di Novacella, a working monastery, is the northernmost winery in Italy, high up in the Dolomite Mountains. The winery specializes in white varietal wines, mainly Germanic, plus the few reds that can accommodate the climate. Of all of its white wines, the little-known Kerner is the most appealing to me. The 2004 Kerner is just super. It has crispness, great acidity, and delicious lemony, floral aromas and flavors. One of my favorite Italian white wines. 92 Ed McCarthy Apr 26, 2006

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco Haberle 2006 ($18, Dalla Terra Imports): Alois Lageder has led the way importing Alto Adige wines into the U.S., and his best-known wine might be his exceptional Pinot Bianco from the Haberlehof Vineyard, now shortened on the label to 'Haberle.'  This was the first Pinot Blanc wine that convinced  me that this variety can make exceptional wines in the right terroir.  The 2006 Haberle is dry, clean and crisp, with aromas and flavors of tart apple and white peach, which linger on the palate.  Lageder also makes a standard Pinot Bianco for $5 less, but the Haberle Vineyard has considerably more concentrated flavors and is worth the extra money. 92 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Chardonnay Pinot Grigio 'beta delta' 2008 ($25, Dalla Terra Winery Direct): Alois Lageder is certainly one of the most eclectic and innovative winemakers in all of Italy, a country renowned for its eclectic and innovative winemakers. Lageder is a convert to biodynamic farming in the mountainous Alto Adige region at the base of the Alps, in a part of Italy that belonged to Austria prior to World War I. His wines uniformly offer a striking balance of fruit, minerals and mouthwatering acidity, and the beta delta Chardonnay Pinot Grigio is an example of Lageder at his very best. This wine is clean and refreshing, with a refined mouthfeel and depth of flavor that goes well beyond its overall delicacy of palate weight. Aromas of citrus and exotic fruits are vivid and inviting, but it's the backbone and structure that speak of the rocky terroir and cool climate. Simply superb! 92 Robert Whitley Jan 5, 2010

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco Haberle 2013 ($23, Dalla Terra): Alois Legader is a consistent producer of exotic and appealing wines.  The Haberle cuvée is a drawn from steeply-sloping vineyards at high elevations.  It offers up Pinot Biancos of impressive power and depth, as evidenced by this one.  The 2013 Haberle shows lovely varietal purity with aromas of peach, pear and tropical fruits backed by floral and spice hints. The layered fruit character results in a  rich and creamy texture.  Although Pinot Bianco is often considered a second-echelon grape variety, it shows marvelous elegance and complexity when crafted by Lageder.  It has the capacity to cellar well for another five years or more, getting richer and deeper in color and style as it ages.
92 Wayne Belding May 17, 2016

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Chardonnay 2018 ($16):  Don’t tread here if you’re looking for a full tilt, fleshy Chardonnay.  This is a beauty that’s focused more on fresh acidity, stone fruit and stony minerality, with a mid weight mid palate and a crisp finish that keeps peach and easy lemon dancing into the distance.  A treat!  Oh, and the price… double treat!   
92 Rich Cook Dec 24, 2019

Kettmeir, Alto Adige (Sudtirol, Italy) Muller-Thurgau 2013 ($20, Italian Wines & Estates): This is a truly exceptional rendition of Müller-Thurgau.  It has greater depth, texture and complexity than any other M-T I have seen offered in the US.  It has an exotic nose of apple, pineapple, lemon and guava fruits backed by hints of honey, flowers and fresh herbs.  On the palate, the layers of pure citrus and tropical fruit are backed by hints of honey, cream, and herbs.  This lovely range of fruits, flowers and more is underlain by a rich texture and a finish that lingers and entices.  If you have not tried Müller-Thurgau, beware.  The 2013 Kettmeir will raise your expectations for life. 92 Wayne Belding Feb 3, 2015

Nals Margreid, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2016 ($20):  Twenty bucks is still in the range of an “affordable” wine if the quality is excellent, and though you might think $20 for Pinot Grigio is actually expensive, this is the bottle to show you how good this grape can be when carefully crafted in Alto Adige.  Fresh pear and stone fruit flavors are totally captivating, with smoky, musky accents lending impressive complexity. 
92 Michael Franz May 1, 2018

Nals Margreid, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco "Sirmian" 2016 ($20, Massanois Imports):  Nals Margreid is a cooperative winery in the Trentino – Alto Adige region.  It was formed in 1985 by the merger of two smaller cooperatives and now supports 140 growers in the region.  Nals Margreid is a consistent producer of exotic and appealing wines.  The Sirmian cuvée shows the character and style if fine Pinot Bianco.  It offers up impressive varietal purity with aromas of peach, pear and tropical fruits backed by floral and spice hints. The layered fruit character results in a rich and creamy texture. Although Pinot Bianco is often considered a second-echelon grape variety, this one shows marvelous elegance and complexity.  It has the capacity to cellar well for another five years or more, getting richer and deeper in color and style as it ages. 
92 Wayne Belding Sep 18, 2018

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2019 ($17, HB Wine Merchants):  There’s Pinot Grigio, and then there’s Pinot Grigio.  One taste of Peter Zemmer’s explains why the category is so popular.  Delicate hints of white flowers greet you when you pull the cork.  A refined and restrained fruitiness follows.  It startles you with its elegance, not its power.  Bracing acidity in the finish amplifies its charms.  Fine as a stand-alone aperitif, it would do well with delicate seafood, such as sautéed sea bass.    
92 Michael Apstein May 12, 2020

Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2010 ($18, Banville & Jones):  This is the sort of wine that you might not think even existed--so dissimilar (and superior) is it to almost everything else in its category.  Whereas the vast majority of Pinot Grigios are thin and watery and one-dimensional, this is light but still substantial, surprisingly deep in flavor, and strikingly layered and nuanced in character.  It remains quite refreshing for all of that, and if you turn to Pinot Grigio for refreshment you won’t be disappointed in this rendition--you’ll just get a lot more for your money than simple refreshment.  At $18, this is about 1/3 more expensive than most Pinot Grigios, but it is at least twice as good, so there’s value here in addition to the wine’s other virtues. 92 Michael Franz Sep 6, 2011

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio "Benefizium" 2004 ($17, Dalla Terra Imports): Dalla Terra's Brian Larky has assembled a very fine stable of Italian imports from northeastern Italy and Tuscany. Alois Lageder, arguably Alto Adige's finest winery, has been a long-time client of Larky. If Pinot Grigio normally elicits a big yawn from you, try Lageder's 2004 Benefizium, a single-vineyard wine. It is ripe and very flavorful, with focused, very concentrated peach and lime flavors, and has a lengthy finish. A great Pinot Grigio. Lageder's Pinot Bianco Haberlehof is also very good. 91 Ed McCarthy Jun 13, 2006

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio Benefizium Porer 2008 ($20, Dalla Terra):  Northern Italian Pinot Grigio is known mostly as a tank-fermented no-oak white wine with pleasant ginger-peachy aromatics and brisk acidity.  Lageder tank ferments the majority of his Pinot Grigio on the fine lees, then ages 80% of wine for six months in large Slavonian oak casks and the remaining 20% in French oak barrels.  The result is a textured wine with a brilliant light gold color, forward ripe peach aroma, dry, medium fruit flavors with traces of ginger, crisp acidity and a dry finish at 13% alcohol.  What sets this Pinot Grigio apart from other Northern Italy Grigios is its texture and complex flavors. 91 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 17, 2010

Andrian, Alto Adige (Italy) Gewürztraminer 2012 ($17, Banville & Jones): There’s not much doubt that Gewürztraminer’s most famous and hallowed place of origin is in Alsace, but I confess that I think this variety is really at its best in cool, high altitude sites in Italy’s Alto Adige region.  The variety is inherently low in acidity, and is often not well served by the Alsatian taste for big, sweet wines, as Gewürztraminer finished in this style is usually lacking in focus and structure and quite tiring to drink.  By contrast, the best growers in Alto Adige (such as Cantina Terlano / Andrian) manage to get the billowing floral aromatics that Gewürztraminer can provide while also retaining enough acidity to lift and freshen the wine.  Try this strong value wine with spicy crab preparations or spicy Indian fare.
91 Michael Franz Sep 10, 2013

Andrian, Alto Adige (Italy) Sauvignon Blanc “Floreado” 2011 ($22, Banville & Jones):  This is a very distinctive rendering of Sauvignon Blanc offering much less of the variety’s herbal, grassy scents and much more floral aromas, which presumably lie behind the proprietary name of the wine.  It also shows less citrus fruit and more of the ripe melon profile shown by New World examples, yet, by contrast from Sauvignons from, say, California, this shows notably better acidity and much more underlying minerality.  Suffice it to say that this is a highly individual expression, and also a captivatingly delicious one. 91 Michael Franz Oct 30, 2012

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Terlaner Classico 2011 ($20, Banville & Jones):  Few consumers would have any idea what sort of wine this will turn out to be when eyeing the label, and consequently I would guess that almost all who taste it for the first time do so on the recommendation of others or based on the lofty reputation of the producer.  In any case, this is a terrific insider’s wine, blended from 60% Pinot Bianco, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc.  Remarkably consistent from year to year, the 2011 shows beautifully right now, with a mélange of stone fruit and citrus notes rising from a medium-bodied core.  Pair this with shrimp dishes, shellfish pasta, sautéed or grilled freshwater fish, or delicate poultry preparations. 91 Michael Franz Nov 27, 2012

Kellerei Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Sauvignon Blanc “Quarz” 2009 ($51, Banville & Jones):  This wine is from Cantina Terlano’s “Selections” collection of top quality wines. The fruit is complex and layered with aromas of grapefruit, melon, ginger and a touch of tarragon.  In the mouth the grapefruit, melon flavors with an inkling of chalk and lime zest are quite intense and mouth filling with a creamy, round richness equalized by vivid acidity.  This is a very sophisticated and elegant Sauvignon Blanc that is still quite fresh and should continue to develop in the bottle. 91 Rebecca Murphy Nov 6, 2012

Kettmeir, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2015 ($22): The French call the same grape Pinot Blanc and they love to caress it with oak. The Italian version, at least as expressed by Kettmeir, is fresh, crisp and clean and shows exceptional fruit purity along the lines of green apples and lime. Bone dry yet with good richness, it is an excellent foil for roast chicken and fish. 91 Robert Whitley Sep 5, 2017

St. Pauls, Alto Adige (Italy) Sauvignon 2006 ($35, Tesori Wines): Sauvignon from Italy is a rare sighting in the U.S., except in a few high-end Italian restaurants. It's not that they aren't good, but generally importers focus on Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige and Friuli, the two areas most accomplished with Sauvignon. So this importer gets kudos for daring to market a Sauvignon from Alto Adige, which is a very good example of the style and quality that's possible in this part of the world. The nose is intensely floral and the palate is dominated by luscious, ripe stone fruits, buttressed by fresh acidity. An absolutely delicious Sauvignon and a tremendous example of what Italy can do with this grape variety. 91 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige (Italy) Kerner 2016 ($23):  Taut and linear, with echoes of slate and stone lurking beneath its crisp apple-scented fruit, this is a fine example of a relatively obscure grape variety from one of the finest wineries in Alto Adige, high in the Dolomites, just south of the Austrian border.   It tastes above all else refreshing, and while a good partner for light fish or poultry dishes, works very well as an aperitif before dinner. 
90 Paul Lukacs Sep 18, 2018

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Benefizium Porer” 2007 ($23, Dalla Terra): Except for the difficulty involved in pronouncing the name of this wine, this single vineyard Pinot Grigio from a great producer makes me wonder why anyone would buy a similarly priced mass-marketed one.  It has real depth and character, traits lacking in most Pinot Grigio.  A touch of barrel fermentation and oak aging adds complexity without dominating its pear-like flavor profile.  Bright acidity keeps it fresh and acts as a counterpoint to its fine texture.  A versatile wine, you could easily sip it as an aperitif and then take it to the table to accompany a meal.  It's worth learning how to say the name. 90 Michael Apstein May 19, 2009

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Chardonnay 2006 ($12, Alois Lageder USA): This tank-fermented value wine from Lageder dispels the notion that Chardonnay needs, demands oak.  Straight stainless steel fermentation with lees maturation of four months produced lovely citrus and green apple aromas and bright Granny Smith apple flavors, balanced by crisp mouth-watering acidity. This is a clearly defined Chardonnay with structure and length. 90 Gerald D. Boyd May 29, 2007

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio Benefizium Porer 2005 ($22, Alois Lageder USA): The tongue-twisting Benefizium Porer Vineyard in Magre yielded a perfumed richly textured wine.  Mainly tank fermented and matured on the lees, a small part was fermented and aged in French oak barrels.  It's the warm brioche with smoke and spice that is intriguing in this Pinot Grigio. The flavors are more ripe pear and spice.  It has great supple texture, brisk acidity and good length. 90 Gerald D. Boyd May 29, 2007

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio “Porer” 2011 ($25, Martin Scott Wines):  Want to know what real Pinot Grigio tastes like and why it has obtained its current popularity?  Try this one.  Lageder, an advocate of biodynamic winemaking, is one the top producers in the Alto Adige region.  This Pinot Grigio, from a single vineyard, Porer, has richness and a caressing creamy texture.  Hints of pears add to its appeal.  It works well both as an aperitif and with full-flavored fish dishes. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 6, 2012

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Gewurztraminer 2006 ($24, Banville & Jones): I used to think that Alsace in France was the only place capable of producing truly compelling wines from Gewurztraminer grapes.  Then I visited Alto Adige in northern Italy, where I found wines as good and sometimes even better than the Alsatians.  The top examples from Alto Adige display all of Gewurztraminer's sexy perfume, but at the same time taste delightfully clean and fresh - more so than most from Alsace.  They are true food wines, pairing well with all sorts of dishes (and not just ones filled with soy sauce).  Cantina Terlan's dry 2004 is an excellent example. 90 Paul Lukacs Apr 10, 2007

Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) “Terlaner Classico” 2005 ($20, Banville & Jones): This blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Riesling Italico (a synonym for Welschrielsing, and unrelated to the true Riesling of the Rhine), offers layered, nuanced aromas and flavors reminiscent of summer fruits, flowers, and stony minerals.  It's delicious, and wonderfully long on the palate.  Most impressive of all, though, is its balance and harmony.  An extremely impressive white wine. 90 Paul Lukacs Feb 13, 2007

Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige (Italy) “Terlaner Classico” 2007 ($23, Banville & Jones): From one of northern Italy’s most consistently impressive white wine producers, this proprietary blend of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay tastes simultaneously rich and refreshing--a rare but delectable combination.  A fine choice for warm weather sipping this time of year, it also shows the potential for aging, as past vintages have evolved gracefully over many years in the cellar. 90 Paul Lukacs Jun 30, 2009

Elena Walch, Alto Adige (Italy) “Beyond the Clouds” 2011 ($50, The Country Vintner): An outlier, “Beyond the Clouds” might be better called “Beyond the Region.”  Whereas most Alto Adige whites, no matter the varietal, exhibit an almost lacey delicacy, this wine is full-bodied and quite rich.  It’s made with a number of different grape varieties, but the blend is dominated by Chardonnay, and there is a hint of char from oak aging that gains intensity in the finish.  If you forget where it is from, however, you won’t be able to deny that it tastes darn good -- lush and sumptuous even if somewhat brawny.
90 Paul Lukacs Jul 15, 2014

Elena Walch, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2017 ($17):  A bright and lively white from Italy’s mountainous Alto Adige region, this wine suggests autumnal pear and apple flavors.  It is crisp and minerally, and makes a refreshing aperitif or an accompaniment to light dishes ranging from seafood to poultry to grilled cheese sandwiches.  
90 Marguerite Thomas Aug 27, 2019

Kaltern, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2011 ($13): An exciting northern Italian Pinot Grigio, packed full of citrus and herbal flavor, with excellent structure and length on the palate.  So many renditions of this popular varietal wine taste shallow and watery.  Not this one.  It’s light-bodied but extremely refreshing – just the thing with which to celebrate the arrival of spring. 90 Paul Lukacs Mar 5, 2013

Kellerei Kaltern, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2010 ($13, Siema):  Remarkably detailed and fresh in light of its vintage and asking price, this is an exemplar among current release Pinot Grigios from 2010.  The fruit remains fresh and enticing, with a faint sweetness that never seems sugary and that is very effectively counterbalanced by zesty acidity.  This enshadows almost everything comparable at this price level. 90 Michael Franz Feb 21, 2012

Nals Margreid, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2012 ($12, The Country Vintner): Light but still substantial and satisfying for a Pinot Grigio, this shows juicy fruit recalling golden apples and ripe pears, but finishes with a snap of citrus that keeps the whole package seeming quite refreshing.  An over-achiever for a Pinot Grigio at almost any price--but especially at this price.
90 Michael Franz Feb 18, 2014

St. Pauls, Alto Adige (Italy) Gewurztraminer St. Justina 2006 ($30, Tesori Wines): Well balanced and dry, this Gewurztraminer is that rare combination of delicacy and intensity. The nose is all about fragrant rose petals, honey and spice, yet on the palate the wine is dry as a bone, firm and expressive, with good, clean acidity on the finish and a strong hint of minerals. Extremely complex and satisfying. 90 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

St. Pauls, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2012 ($16, St. Pauls USA): This wine is certainly among the handful of best Pinot Grigios that I’ve tasted this year, and willingly or not, I’ve tasted at least 75 of them (predominantly for restaurant consulting purposes, which isn’t a lot of fun on Pinot Grigio night).  It offers much more aroma, substance, flavor and finish than the innocuous, standard-issue stuff one usually encounters, with excellent fruit recalling pears and subtle stone fruits, with fine acidity to counterbalance the wine’s generous mid-palate.  Very well done, and a welcome sheep amidst a vast herd of goats.
90 Michael Franz Sep 10, 2013

Tiefenbrunner, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2015 ($16, Winebow):  Crisp and fresh, with citrus fruit flavors, a somewhat floral bouquet, and subtle herbal notes in the finish. 90 Paul Lukacs May 9, 2017

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige (Italy) Sylvaner 2004 ($17, Vias Imports): The Sylvaner grape variety has a rather pedestrian reputation in Germany and Alsace, but give it the right combination of climate and soilin this case, poor mountain soil in a marginal climate for ripenessand Sylvaner shows its stuff. The 2004 Sylvaner, very crisp and very floral, is medium-bodied, with a touch of apple and honey flavors. 89 Ed McCarthy Apr 26, 2006

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige (Italy) Sylvaner 2009 ($25, Vias Imports):  A spicy, satisfying white, with refreshing acidity but enough heft to hold its own at the dinner table.  Made from grapes grown high in the Dolomites near the Austrian border, it serves as a reminder that under-appreciated grape varieties can yield distinctive-tasting so exciting wines. 89 Paul Lukacs Jul 26, 2011

Alois Lageder, Alto Adige (Italy) Müller Thurgau 2008 ($20, Dalla Terra):  Alois Lageder is one of Italy’s most innovative and environmentally conscious winemakers.  Lageder’s vineyards are mostly organic and biodynamic and his wines are fruit-forward but subtle with impeccable balance.  This 2008  Muller Thurgau, a German crossing of Riesling and Sylvaner, is a leaner Northern Italian version of the German wine.  The color is a brilliant light gold while the low intensity aromatics evoke scents of spring flowers and citrus.  The wine is dry with medium-weight delicate fruit and crisp acidity.  It finishes at 12.7% alcohol.  The fruit/acid balance of this wine makes it ideal as an aperitif or with simply prepared fish. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 17, 2010

Kellerei Cantina Terlan, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2011 ($19, Banville & Jones):  Kellerei Cantina Terlan, or Cantina Terlano, is a high-quality cooperative winery in the Alto Adige, a.k.a. Sud Tyrol, region of northeastern Italy.  As you can probably tell from the two names for winery and region, it is a multicultural area with Italian and German influences. The Pinot Gris grapes are grown at 1000 feet and benefit from a cool growing season to emphasize fresh fruit and crisp acidity.  Aromas and flavors of pear, apple and melon with stony mineral notes are brightened by citrusy acidity.  

89 Rebecca Murphy Nov 6, 2012

Malojer-Gummerhof, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2012 ($19, Weygandt-Metzler): Good Pinot Biancos from the Alto Adige offer a marvelous combination of fruit expression and satisfying texture that makes them outstanding companions for a wide range of foods.  The Malojer bottling has a lively nose of peach, pear and red apple fruits with floral and subtle citrus pith and herbal tones.  The flavors are crisp and refreshing with the fresh fruits underlain by a rich texture and followed by a lively, tart finish.  It’s a great match for calamari, soft shell crab or other rich shellfish or finfish.
89 Wayne Belding May 6, 2014

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2006 ($13, Vin DiVino): This Pinot Bianco is so fresh it's almost spritzy, which balances the tropical melon component nicely.  After a few minutes in the glass, spice and creaminess emerge.  It's worth searching for this great value. 89 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2007

San Pietro, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2011 ($13, De Grazia Imports): A bright, crisp, and supremely refreshing Pinot Grigio, with forward citrus fruit flavors undergirded by faintly herbal notes that gain power in the finish. Many if not most northern Italian Pinot Grigios taste disappointingly dull. Not this Alpine beauty.
89 Paul Lukacs Feb 12, 2013

Caldaro, Alto Adige (Italy) Müller Thurgau 2008 ($17, Siema): Müller Thurgau is the most widely-planted and successful of the cross varieties developed in the late 19th century.  Although some renditions are less than thrilling, this is largely due to the fact that the grape can do well in a very wide variety of locations--including substandard ones.  In a good setting, and in the hands of a serious vintner, it can produce lovely wines, as in this case.  Delicate floral and stone fruit aromas lead up to harmonious flavors and a soft, rounded mouthfeel that is the vinous equivalent of comfort food. 88 Michael Franz Sep 15, 2009

San Pietro, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2007 ($13, Bacchus Importers Ltd.): Alto Adige Pinot Grigios tend to taste slightly less tart and to sport a bit more ripe fruit flavor than those from the Delle Venezie, and this wine certainly fits that profile.  Enticingly aromatic, it's delectable on the palate, the only drawback being a slightly short finish. 87 Paul Lukacs May 19, 2009

Tolloy, Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2007 ($13, Prestige Wine Imports): Too many Pinot Grigio wines can be bland and boring, but this one is a delightful exception.  With crisp apple and peach aromas, it's crisp and zippy, with a fresh citrus tang and a nice mineral character. 87 Tina Caputo Apr 14, 2009

Tolloy, Alto Adige (Italy) Sauvignon Blanc 2007 ($13, Prestige Wine Imports): This Italian SB has subtle melon and peach aromas with herbaceous notes.  It's crisp and fresh on the palate, with lime/citrus flavors and a hint of bell pepper herbaceousness.  Simple and easy to drink. 86 Tina Caputo Apr 14, 2009

Kettmeir, Alto Adige - Suditrol (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2014 ($22, Santa Margherita USA): Two wines from this producer in two weeks, and I'm now officially a fan.  This Pinot Blanc is crisp and refreshing, with soft white flowers, lemon pith and melon aromas gently inviting you into the glass, where flavors translate nicely and finish with notes of zest and nut.  A fine summer sip that would pair well with prosciutto wrapped melon.
89 Rich Cook Aug 30, 2016

Kettmeir, Alto Adige - Suditrol DOC (Italy) Müller Thurgau 2014 ($22, Santa Margherita USA): My first experience with a dry expression of the variety, and it makes me wonder why all of the others that I've tried have shown off-dry or sweeter.  Aromas of ripe melon, white flowers, peach and stone minerality lead to a palate that's bone dry, brightly citric and refreshingly zesty on the end.  This really needs some food to show itself off to the full -- fried calamari would work.
91 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Kettmeir, Alto Adige - Sudtirol DOC (Italy) Muller Thurgau 2015 ($22, SM USA): I believe I gave the 2014 vintage the same score, so here's to consistency.  The 2015 is a lovely, crisp, dry version of the variety that features peachy fruit with lemon, lime, thistle, white pepper and stony mineral notes adding interest.  Great for poolside sipping with light appetizers or salads.
91 Rich Cook Aug 22, 2017

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige - Südtirol DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2018 ($15, HB Wine Merchants):  Pinot Grigio spans the spectrum from innocuous or insipid to charming and noteworthy.  Peter Zemmer’s is definitely in the latter group.  An immediately captivating floral sensation predicts enjoyment.  It has remarkable depth and persistence for a category that is all too often fleeting and bland.  This one has character and verve and explains why the variety became so popular initially.  A wisp of bitterness in the finish enhances its overall appeal.  Both refreshing and serious, it does double duty as a stand-alone aperitif or as an accompaniment to simply prepared seafood.  Buy it by the case for the rest of summer.  
92 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) "Nova Domus" Terlaner Riserva 2015 ($59, Banville & Jones):  Cantina Terlano is a fantastic producer of exotic and appealing wines.  The Nova Domus Riserva is their top wine, drawn from steeply-sloping vineyards that rise from the high elevations of the Alto Adige.  Nova Domus is a white wine of impressive power and depth, blended from Pinot Bianco (60%) Chardonnay (30%) and Sauvignon Blanc (10%).  It offers a full package of pure fruit with aromas of peach, pear, pineapple and guava backed by floral and spice hints.  Its concentration and multilayered fruit character results in a is seductively rich and creamy texture.  Partial fermentation and aging in large barrels adds nuance and complexity.  This lovely white shows the remarkable richness that Alto Adige Pinot Bianco can offer.  It has the capacity to cellar well for another ten years or more, getting richer and deeper in color and style as it ages. 
95 Wayne Belding May 14, 2019

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio Riserva "Giatl" 2016 ($38):  Pinot Grigio thrives in northern Italy’s Alto Adige region, where it takes on a personality not seen elsewhere in Italy except perhaps Friuli.  Zemmer’s Riserva is one of the best, showing richness, texture and precision that lifts it out of the realm of the ordinary.   Notes of white flower, citrus and stone fruit with a touch of spice supply the charm, and the lingering finish will invite another sip. 
94 Robert Whitley Jun 4, 2019

Strasserhof, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Kerner 2017 ($24):  Kerner has an unusual parentage, coming from the red Trollinger grape and Riesling.  It was first cultivated in 1969, the hope being that it would stand up to climates where Riesling is subject to rot.  This example has a nose that is very Riesling like, with clear sweet stone fruit, white flowers and lemon lime aromas.  On the palate a dry, biting surprise is delivered, with bold presentation of the fragrance profile as flavor, lingering very long and bright.  Delightful!  
94 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

Kellerei Bozen, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Weissburgunder 2018 ($19, Matchvino):  Italy’s Alto Adige is one of the best sites in the world for high quality Pinot Bianco.  Also known as Pinot Blanc and Weissburgunder, Pinot Bianco is often a pleasurable, easy-to-drink white wine.  It is a special treat, however, when it achieves this degree of depth and complexity.  The Kellerei Bozen Weissburgunder is a marvelous, multilayered, exotic, elegant and dry rendition of the grape.  The bouquet is rich with Meyer lemon, apple, pear, peach and guava fruit scents interwoven with floral and spice tones.  The layers of luscious peach, citrus and tropical fruit flavors unfold across the palate followed by subtleties of spice and a minerally-clean, dry finish.  If you want to experience Pinot Blanc at its exotic and enchanting best, give this one a try.    
92 Wayne Belding Jan 21, 2020

Kettmeir, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Muller Thurgau 2015 ($22): Muller Thurgau is one of Italy’s most underrated white wines. Planted in the Alto Adige region in what used to be Austria before World War I, this rich, juicy white thrives in the cool climate of the area. This vintage from Kettmeir exhibits aromas of peach and lemon, shows a nutty side, and finishes with a hint of pepper.
92 Robert Whitley Aug 15, 2017

Kettmeir, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2014 ($22):  This cool-climate pinot blanc from the foothills of the Alps combines firm backbone with lush richness, which is no small feat. Showing notes of melon, yellow citrus and spice, it's an aromatic summer white that certainly has enough character to stand up to rich sauces and smoky aromas from the grill.
92 Robert Whitley Aug 9, 2016

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Chardonnay 2019 ($17, HB Wine Merchants):  With rare exception, consumers don’t usually think of Italy for distinctive Chardonnay.  More wines like this one could change that perception.  Racy and refined, it’s paradoxically mouth-filling yet not heavy. It’s cutting and spicy profile is refreshing.  Undoubtedly, the decision to ferment and age the wine entirely in stainless steel allows its citrus-tinged fruitiness to shine.  It’s a steal, so buy it by the case for this summer’s drinking.    
92 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2017 ($18, HB Wine Merchants):  A step forward for this bottling, with pure lemon, lime and peach aromas and flavors, with a viscous midpalate and a crisp finish where the fruit blows forward convincingly and lingers long.  If more Pinot Grigio was made in this manner the naysayers would be easily converted. 
91 Rich Cook Jul 3, 2018

Kettmeir, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Muller Thurgau 2016 ($18, Santa Margherita USA):  The best wines from Alto Adige are crisp, bright, and white, marked by mineral-like accents, taut acidity, and refreshing citrus and tart apple flavors.  This one, made with the cultivated hybrid Müller Thurgau grape, fits that profile nicely.  It tastes vivid and vivacious. 
90 Paul Lukacs Dec 4, 2018

Kettmeir, Alto Adige DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2018 ($20, Santa Margherita USA):  With so many indifferent Pinot Grigio bottlings flooding the marketplace, it’s refreshing to find one that captures the sensory delights that made the variety popular in the first place.  Kettmeir is a small cooperative winery in the Alto Adige founded a century ago by Giuseppe Kettmeir.  Today, some sixty growers work in concert with the winery to produce classically-styled Alto Adige wines.  Kettmeir’s 2018 Pinot Grigio bottling offers a rare combination of power, depth and elegance.  It shows intense varietal character with aromas of pure peach, pear and citrus fruits backed by floral and spice hints.  The flavors are bright and lively with juicy fruit and floral tones plus a deliciously creamy texture.  Its combination of rich fruit and creamy texture lets it pair well with fresh salmon and a wide range of poultry recipes.  
90 Wayne Belding Nov 26, 2019

Cantine Terlano, Alto Adige Terlano Classico (Italy) "Nova Domus Riserva" 2013 ($58, Banville Wine Merchants): Cantina Terlano’s Nova Domus Riserva is a revelation.  Very few white wines offer the intensity, depth, texture and sheer hedonistic pleasure that this one does.  The vineyard sources for this outstanding blend (Pinot Bianco 60%, Chardonnay 30%, Sauvignon Blanc 10%) are steep, low-yielding sites from 800 to 2000 feet in elevation.  With meticulous care taken in the vineyard and winery, the result is a white of impressive power and depth.  The 2013 Nova Domus offers a full and exotic style, with aromas of peach, pear, pineapple and guava fruits backed by floral, sage and spice hints.  A cascade of rich fruits unfolds across the palate.  The seductively luscious and creamy texture gives the wine satisfying substance and great length. This profound white shows the potential of Alto Adige wines and particularly Pinot Biancos.  Delicious now, the Nova Domus Riserva has the capacity to cellar well for another decade.
96 Wayne Belding Apr 18, 2017

Kettmeir, Alto Adige/ Südtirol (Italy) Müller Thurgau 2013 ($23, Fine Italian Wines & Estates): Often dismissed as a pedestrian variety, Müller Thurgau can yield wines of real sophistication in the Alpine Italian region of Alto Adige, where the mountainous terrain and climate combine to give white wines an impressive impression of lightness on the palate.  This particular example tastes of crisp autumn fruit with a spicy edge, all introduced by a sweet, somewhat floral bouquet.  It’s simply delicious.
93 Paul Lukacs Mar 31, 2015

Girlan, Alto Adige/ Südtirol (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2014 ($20, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): This clean and fresh Pinot Blanc conveys a lovely delicacy, but has sufficient weight -- and a subtle creaminess -- to complement a light pasta course.  Its floral and lacey character also makes it a perfect choice as either a stand-alone aperitif.
89 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Kettmeir, Alto Adige-Sudtirol (Italy) Muller Thurgau 2014 ($22): This area of northern Italy, the Sudtirol, belonged to Austria prior to World War I. It has a long history of success with the aromatic whites that are native to Germany and Austria. Kettmeir's Muller Thurgau is a superb example of a white from this alpine climate, showing notes of spice and brioche, with hints of pear and citrus. A delicious and refreshing summer white that will transition easily to the robust cuisine of fall and winter.
91 Robert Whitley Aug 2, 2016

Kettmeir, Alto Adige-Sudtirol (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2015 ($22, SM USA): A refresher to toast the waning summertime.  Grilled peach, loquat, melon and citrus zest define this lively, dry white in both aroma and flavor, and they finish together in refreshing, lip smacking fashion.  There will be plenty of time for reds soon enough.
90 Rich Cook Sep 19, 2017

Kettmeir, Alto Adige-Südtirol (Italy) Muller Thurgau 2016 ($21, Santa Margherita USA):  This lovely Italian white wine charms immediately with its aromatic intensity.  Generous in the mouth, it offers notes of summery peaches and hints of baking spice. It is full on the palate and has a generous finish.  Müller-Thurgau can often seem somewhat pale and bland, but the best ones, such as this offering from Kettmeir, can be absolutely delicious.  Serve it as an aperitif or with light foods (broiled sole or trout for example). 
90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 5, 2019

Alois Lageder, Dolomiti (Alto Adige, Italy) Pinot Bianco 2009 ($16, Dalla Terra/ Alois Lageder USA):  Pinot Blanc (or Bianco in Italy) rarely gets the respect it (sometimes) deserves.  True, winemakers often treat it as a second-class varietal, resulting in wines that taste fine but unexciting.  Yet when grown and vinified with care, this grape can yield genuinely compelling wines.  This Bianco, for example, is multi-dimensional and beautifully balanced.  Filled with flavors reminiscent of apples and pears, it augments these with secondary notes echoing  smoky spice and freshly-mown hay.  Very long and evolved through the finish, it gives proof that Pinot Blanc can yield truly superlative wines--when, of course, it gets the attention too often reserved for other grapes and other wines. 91 Paul Lukacs Feb 15, 2011

Aristos, Sudtirol (Alto Adige, Italy) Veltliner 2008 ($25, Vinity Wine Company):  The Italians call the grape Veltliner Verde, the Austrians Grüner Veltliner, but either way, the popular white wine offers high-profile fruit with a pleasant spiciness.  This pricey Veltliner from Aristos has a light gold color, very low intensity aroma with floral and herbal notes.  The flavors are slightly candied, although the finish, at 14% alcohol, is dry.  87 Gerald D. Boyd May 25, 2010

Aristos, Sudtirol (Alto Adige, Italy) Kerner 2008 ($28, Vinity Wine Company):  The notes provided by Aristos claims this Kerner as “the noblest of white wines.”  A bold statement, especially when you put Kerner beside such noble white varieties as Riesling.  I found the wine to have a very pale straw color, mild aromatics of nectarines and spice, sweetish fruit flavors, good acidity and an odd astringency in the finish.  There is also a little heat in the finish from the 15% alcohol 87 Gerald D. Boyd May 25, 2010

Aristos, Sudtirol (Alto Adige, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2008 ($26, Vinity Wine Company):  This is a pricey straight-forward Northern Italy-style Pinot Grigio sporting a pale straw color, light-medium tropical fruit and citrus aromatics, good flavor and fruit, soft texture and 14.5% alcohol.  There’s plenty of sweet fruit in this wine, but a tad more acidity and a little less alcohol would give it the zing for which Italian Pinot Grigios are known. 85 Gerald D. Boyd May 25, 2010

Cantina Tramin, Südtirol/Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2012 ($14, Winebow): If you generally stifle a yawn when you hear the words “Pinot Grigio” I’m with you.  But trust me:  Tramin’s expression of the Italian grape is a whole other story. This Pinot Grigio has a full, plush body and a tangle of lovely flavors emphasizing fresh fruit and delicate floral elements.  What makes the whole thing work so deliciously is the backbone of acidity and minerality in this enticing wine.
90 Marguerite Thomas Nov 19, 2013

Peter Zemmer, Sudtirol-Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2014 ($16, HB Wine Merchants): A very crisp and bright Pinot Grigio, with aromas and flavors of pear, lychee, melon, granite, and citrus zest, delivered on racy acidity and leaving a full mix of flavors in the long finish.  A refreshing cocktail style with a slight touch of residual sugar that you'll appreciate on that odd warm winter's day that gives you a hankering for something white.
90 Rich Cook Dec 8, 2015

Cantina Terlano, Terlaner Classico Alto Adige (Alto Adige, Italy) 2013 ($25, Banville & Jones Wine Merchants): Terlano, the name of the co-op formed in 1860, is also the name of the town, which can lead to some confusion.  There’s nothing confusing about the wine, however.  This harmonious blend of Pinot Bianco (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and Sauvignon Blanc combines richness with vibrancy.   A versatile wine, it does double duty as an welcoming aperitif or to accompany grilled fish or a roast chicken.
89 Michael Apstein Nov 25, 2014

Alois Lageder, Trentino - Alto Adige (Italy) Pinot Bianco “Haberle” 2014 ($26, Dalla Terra):  Lageder’s regular Pinot Bianco is quite good and costs about $15, but this Haberle bottling is even better, with a slightly honeyed character enhancing the bright but rich fruit. 91 Paul Lukacs May 9, 2017

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Kerner 2006 ($19, Vias Imports): I love this wine!  I always order it when I see it on restaurant (mainly Italian) wine lists.  Kerner, a cross between Riesling and Trollinger, grows at about 2,000 feet at Abbazia di Novacella.  The grape was bred to withstand extreme climates.  The 2006 Abbazia Kerner is very aromatic and crisp, with a hint of Muscat, rich in extract, with lots of intense fruit and mineral flavors, and a long finish on the palate. 94 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Gewürztraminer 2006 ($24, Vias Imports): I have never been a fan of Gewürztraminer wines because I generally find most of them to have excessive richness and not enough acidity.  Abbazia di Novacella's Gewürztraminer is an exception.  Its 2006 has the characteristic aroma of roses, but has really good acidity, and its flavors are restrained.  A Gewürztraminer I can enjoy, giving hints of its spicy origins without going over-the-top. 92 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Kerner 2015 ($21): If you’ll be compelled to entertain a know-it-all gasbag over the holidays, you’ll want to get a bottle of this for deflation purposes.  Barely anybody has tasted Kerner, and fewer still know what it is, so if you need to take somebody down a peg, this is your ticket.  However, that’s hardly the sole reason to buy this wine, as it is downright delicious and very interesting on its own or with a wide range of foods.  Kerner is a cross between Trollinger and Riesling, valued by growers for its resistance to frost and winter kill -- and by drinkers for its remarkable combination of intense spiciness and minerality with tropical fruit flavors and underlying nuttiness.  This excellent producer was particularly successful with this variety in 2015, so you should consider buying this by the case…which is exactly what I did.
92 Michael Franz Nov 29, 2016

Abbazia Di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2015 ($20): As a category, Pinot Grigio often seems designed to be boringly neutral, or perhaps simply inoffensive, but this offering from mountainous Northern Italy is far from boring.  With aromas of white blossoms, the wine is medium-bodied, creamy, and displays notes of pear and gravelly minerality.  Showing the freshness one always hopes for from wines grown at high altitudes, this is a very elegant wine indeed.
92 Marguerite Thomas Aug 29, 2017

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Sylvaner 2006 ($18, Vias Imports): Sylvaner is often called 'the Pinot Noir of white varieties' because it's so difficult to grow well.  In its native Germany, Sylvaner usually yields rather pedestrian wines.  The 2006 Abbazia di Novacella Sylvaner is excellent.  It is dry, yet viscous, and packed with concentrated white fruits and mineral flavors. 92 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Gewurztraminer 2008 ($28, Vias Imports):  In my opinion this is just about as good as Gewurztraminer gets.  Whereas most examples are distractingly perfumed and lacking in acidity, this is restrained but expressive in terms of aroma, juicy and flavorful on the palate, and balanced and integrated in the finish.  Effectively a nearly dry wine thanks to its exceptional acidity, this can work very well at the table with a wide range of foods--not just the stereotypical choice of spicy Asian foods.  Come to think of it, this would be wicked good with a Thanksgiving turkey. 92 Michael Franz Nov 9, 2010

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2008 ($23, Vias Imports):  I hope that I won’t be thought to be damning this wine with faint praise by saying that this is the best Pinot Grigio I’ve tasted all year. Certainly those producers in Italy, Alsace, Oregon and elsewhere who are trying to do something special with this often underwhelming grape deserve full credit for their efforts.  This rendition is medium-bodied, with substantial palate weight and lovely flavors of ripe pears and baked apples that benefit from a refreshing acidic edge that lifts and structures the finish.  There’s also an appealing minerality that lends additional complexity, and all of these elements are quite symmetrically arrayed.  An excellent wine. 91 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2009

Weingut Köfererhof, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, italy) Sylvaner 2010 ($22, DeGrazia Imports):  I’m not sure whether the Silvaner grape variety (spelling it with an “i” is more common than spelling with a “y”) ever enjoyed much favor, but it sure has fallen out of favor with consumers these days.  The wines made with it too often seem earthy to the point of dirtiness, with an odd note reminiscent of stewed tomatoes.  Every once in a while, though, I run across a Silvaner that tastes absolutely riveting.  So with this example from Weingut  Köfererhof in the Alto Adige region of far northern Italy.  With crisp green apple fruit flavors, a firm core of acidity, and a slightly honeyed, mineral-laden finish, it is a sheer delight to drink.  So while I don’t recommend that you buy most Silvaners, I do urge you to try this particular one.  It’s delicious. 91 Paul Lukacs Jul 10, 2012

Abbazia di Novacella, Valle Isarco (Alto Adige, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2006 ($19, Vias Imports): If only all Pinot Grigios were as good as Abbazia di Novacella's!  Its 2006 is lively and crisp, with the acidity which is lacking in most commercially produced Pinot Grigios.  It is dry, medium-bodied, with fresh, tart pear flavors. 90 Ed McCarthy Jun 26, 2007

Luna Nuda, Vigneti delle Dolomite IGT (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2015 ($15):  This pinot grigio from the Alto Adige district in the north of Italy is bright and clean, with fresh aromas of lime flower and green apple and crisp acidity that cleanses the palate. Perfect for light pastas and tapas, or steamed shellfish.
88 Robert Whitley Oct 4, 2016

Alois Lageder, Vigneti delle Dolomiti (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2009 ($14, Dalla Terra):

 Lageder is probably best known for his white wines and this lovely Pinot Bianco might be clue as to why that is. It shows a floral, honeyed nose of baked apples and pears, juicy and refreshing acidity on the palate, and a clean, fresh finish; a perfect quaffer, but serious enough to tackle steamed shellfish, grilled fish and savory tapas.

91 Robert Whitley Jul 12, 2011

Back to Top


Basilicata:

Red:

Paternoster, Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata, Italy) “Rotondo” 2005 ($80, Quintessential):  This is the best Aglianico del Vulture ever to pass my lips, and that is saying something, as I love Aglianico and believe that it is every inch as great a grape as its more famous Italian siblings Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.  This rendition is very impressively concentrated and intense in aroma and flavor, which is a good thing, since it was also layered up with lots of fancy, smoky, toasty French oak.  The dark, dense fruit is nevertheless clearly up to the challenge posed by all of that wood influence, and the wine is already in balance and poised for a decade of further improvement. 93 Michael Franz Feb 23, 2010

Paternoster, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) Don Anselmo 2003 ($55):  The only Aglianico del Vulture which reaches the price of Barolo.  Paternoster makes several Aglianico del Vultures, but its Don Anselmo Vineyard bottling is the most traditionally made and its most impressive wine, even in the hot 2003 vintage.  Great power and concentration, with a very long finish.  An exciting wine. 93 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Musto Carmelitano, Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata, Italy) “Pian del Moro” 2012 ($30, Tenth Harvest): I have become a fan of the rustic, hearty red wines from this fairly obscure appellation in the arch of the foot in the Italian boot.  Grown in the rocky, lava rich soils of the extinct Vulture volcano, they have an intensity that Aglianicos from Campania often lack.  At the same time, though, they are earthier and hence less graceful.  This is an excellent example.  Taut and tannic, it offers well-integrated dark fruit and leathery flavors.  I suspect that the tannins will never really soften, so it is not a wine for folks who prefer their reds to be soft and supple.  But for wine lovers who want real guts in what they drink, this is delicious stuff.
92 Paul Lukacs Sep 19, 2017

Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) “La Firma” 2003 ($38, Michael Skurnik): The La Firma is Cantine del Notaio's most ambitious Aglianico (Its less concentrated brother, 'Il Repertorio,' sells for $12 less).  The 2003 La Firma exhibits aromas and flavors of blackberries and cherries, combined with a rich texture and rather high alcohol (14.5%).  A bit on the ripe, forward style, a reflection of the vintage. 91 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Cantine del Notaio, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) “La Firma” 2003 ($38, Michael Skurnik): The La Firma is Cantine del Notaio's most ambitious Aglianico (Its less concentrated brother, 'Il Repertorio,' sells for $12 less).  The 2003 La Firma exhibits aromas and flavors of blackberries and cherries, combined with a rich texture and rather high alcohol (14.5%).  A bit on the ripe, forward style, a reflection of the vintage. 91 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Re Manfredi, Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata, Italy) 2011 ($32, Frederick Wildman): This is a powerful red wine with rich fruit and a rustic style that reflects its origin.  Grown in volcanic soils on the slopes of Monte Vulture in southern Italy, the Aglianico grapes yield an aromatic and rich wine.  Blackberry and blackcurrant fruit aromas are enhanced by elements of herbs, roasted espresso, smoke, vanilla and spice.  It offers a mouthful of flavor, with the rich black fruits backed by coffee, mint, black pepper, smoke and baking spice tones.  This is a satisfying red wine that can pair will with your most flavorful recipes.
91 Wayne Belding Mar 3, 2015

Basilium, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) Riserva 2001 ($60, Salvia Bianca Imports): Aglianico, a robust red grape likely brought to southern Italy by the Greeks between the seventh and sixth centuries BC, is at home in Campania and Basilicata, the latter a small region between the toe and heel of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. This Aglianico, from the Vulture zone near the hillside town of Acerenza is made from old vines rooted in tufa soils.  It is aged for five years in large oak botte and finished at 14.7% alcohol.  The color is deep and inky, while the slightly closed nose shows ripe dark fruits with a leafy-vegetal back note and no alcohol or oak.  Thick and textural, the rustic flavors are full and fruity, with big tannins, concentrated berry notes and traces of tar.  This is a big wine deserving of a hearty meal based on braised, grilled or roasted meats. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Feb 17, 2009

Terra dei Re, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) “Vultui” 2004 ($20, Empson): The Terra dei Re winery was a real discovery for me.  It makes three excellent Aglianico del Vultures.  Its 'Divinus' might be more impressive and its 'Nocte,' harvested at night, is also very good, but I love the lean, dry, lively Vultui, with its great acidity balanced by its cherry fruit flavors.  Also, only 12.5% alcohol, quite unusual nowadays.  Its vineyards are 1200 to 2,000 feet high on the Vulture slopes.  Note the great price! 90 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Alovini, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) “Al Volo” 2001 ($28, Vinopoli Imports; Classic Wines): The Al Volo is Alovini's richest Aglianico; it has spent 12 months in barriques.  Tannins are soft, making it quite approachable now, although it should age well for several more years.  Good value. 89 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Eubea, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) “Ròinos” 2003 ($30, Bacchanal Wine Imports): Eugenia Sasso, daughter of Francesco Sasso of Cantine Sasso (one of the more prestigious Aglianico del Vulture producers), has not had it easy being accepted as one of Basilicata's only female winemakers.  Her three Aglianico wines are made in the dry, lean, tannic style, but the Ròinos is the richest of the three.  The 2003 Ròinos, in fact, although it has the ripe flavors characteristic of the vintage, is quite enjoyable to drink now. 89 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Giannattasio, Aglianico del Vulture (Italy) “Arca” 2004 ($32, Bacchanal Wine Imports): The 2004 Arca has firm tannins, is dry and medium-balanced, a pleasant change after the rich 2003s.  Rather modern style, less rustic than many of the other Aglianico del Vultures. 89 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Paternoster, Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata, Italy) “Synthesi” 2007 ($25, Quintessential):  Aglianico is a grape that can produce deep, brooding wines.  There’s a bit of that element here with gamy, slightly tarry--some might say, funky--undertones.  But the tannins, while present, are by no means aggressive, which makes it a good choice now for a late winter hearty stew or a grilled spring leg of lamb. 89 Michael Apstein Mar 15, 2011

Terra Dei Re, Aglianico del Vulture (Basilicata, Italy) “Vultur” 2004 ($20, Empson USA):

With its slightly smoky flavor and leather-scented undertones, this concentrated but not heavy red displays high quality coupled with a distinct character.  Balance and harmony distinguish any good wine, and this one certainly exhibits as much.  At the same time, it tastes individualistic, so in the sea of same-tasting wines on the market today, it seems special to sip.

89 Paul Lukacs Sep 18, 2007

D’Angelo, Aglianico del Vulture DOC (Basilicata, Italy) 2013 ($20, Cantiniere Imports & Distributing):  The volcanic soil of a region where the winters can be harsh and the summers extremely hot may not provide the most hospitable environment for you and me, but it certainly seems a good place for D’Angelo’s Aglianico grapes to grow.  The wines are dark ruby red and intensely flavored.  In youth the tannins can be off-putting, but give them a few years and they become more polished and refined, and with a little more time they’ll develop a velvety texture, with flavors that are rich and penetrating.  
93 Marguerite Thomas Dec 18, 2018

Pipoli, Aglianico del Vulture DOC (Basilicata, Italy) 2016 ($17, Empson USA):  Basilicata, the mountainous, largely isolated instep of the Italian boot, has been named Europe’s cultural capital for 2019.  Don’t expect too may tourists.  It’s difficult to get to Basilicata.  There are no airports or high speed train lines, just narrow roads that climb up and twist down mountains.  Despite centuries of conquests, the people here cherish their independence.  They also love their idiosyncratic red wine, made with Aglianico grapes grown on the side of a volcano, Mount Vulture.  Unlike Aglianico from Campania, it offers no pretense of elegance or sophistication.  Instead, it is hearty and rugged, a wine to pair with wintry stews and pastas, and definitely not a wine for the faint of heart or palate.  This example, at a very reasonable price, provides a delicious introduction if you don’t know it already. 
91 Paul Lukacs Dec 4, 2018

D’Angelo, Aglianico del Vulture Riserva (Italy) Vigna Caselle 1998 ($25, Bacchanal Imports; Opici Wine Company): Perhaps because of the extra aging, or simply because D'Angelo is such a fine producer, this Aglianico del Vulture was a standout in the group.  Donato D'Angelo has been carrying the Aglianico del Vulture banner practically single-handedly throughout the world's markets since the 1970s.  The 1998 Vigna Caselle Riserva has lively, spicy tannins, firm acidity, and delicious, dried cherry aromas and flavors, with a long, lingering finish.  A great wine, and a great value. 93 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Bisceglia, Aglianico del Vulture Riserva (Italy) 2001 ($40, Domaine Select Wine Estates): Mr. Bisceglia, who owns the local bottled water company and many other enterprises, is a prime mover in Basilicata's current upsurge.  His 2001 Riserva, aged for 30 months in barrique and bottle, is smooth and balanced, with complex flavors of dried fruits.  His Riserva is clearly Bisceglia's best wine. 90 Ed McCarthy May 1, 2007

Back to Top


Calabria:

Red:

Librandi, Ciró Superiore Riserva DOC (Calabria, Italy) “Duca San Felice” 2012 ($18, Winebow): One of this Italian beauty’s notable characteristics is its wonderfully lithe and silky texture held in check by a firm tannic grip.  A lovely red wine made from Gaglioppo  and featuring complex cherry, chocolate and spice flavors, with no oak to interfere with its freshness and purity, this is a vino made for food.  Try it with roast chicken, pork, meatballs, sausage, or charcuterie.
93 Marguerite Thomas Feb 28, 2017

Terra di Lavoro, IGT Roccamonfina (Campania, Italy) 2008 ($85, Winebow):  This producer turns out small amounts (2,500 cases/annually) of just one wine, Terra di Lavoro, from Aglianico and Piedrosso grown in estate vineyards in the mountains of northern Campania.  The 2008 is a monumental wine with great power combined with finesse and complexity.  Explosive flavors of dark minerality and black cherry nuances erupt from the glass.  An amazing purity and refinement is apparent in this still young wine.  Easy to appreciate now with its glossy tannins, it will undoubtedly evolve into a very special wine.  Some is going into my cellar. 96 Michael Apstein Sep 13, 2011

Librandi, Val di Neto IGT (Calabria, Italy) "Gravello" 2016 ($26, Winebow):  Gravello was introduced to the international market by Librandi some 20 years ago.  It is a fine example of marrying traditional wine styles with more modern influences.  It shows the beauty and purity of Calabria’s Gaglioppo grape -- thought to be a relative of Sangiovese.  The lovely red cherry fruit of the Gaglioppo is enhanced in this case by blending with Cabernet Sauvignon (40%)..  Aged in small oak barrels, the combination is a sensuous delight.  Lovely aromas of pure red cherry, blackberry and raspberry fruits are interwoven with nuances of lilac, herbs, coffee, vanilla and cinnamon spice.  The flavors are equally exciting, with red and black fruits underscored by a rich texture and delicate floral, herb, coffee, cedar, vanilla and spice tones.  While Super-Tuscan blends still get most of the notoriety, it is well worth the effort to seek out this Super-Calabrian bottle. 
93 Wayne Belding Sep 10, 2019

White:

iGreco, Calabria IGP (Italy) Greco “Filú" 2017 ($17, Vinifera Imports):  Greco is a name applied to grapes of Greek origin grown in southern Italy.  While its true heritage is somewhat uncertain, the variety known a Greco in Calabria makes a fine and characterful dry white.  The 2017 iGreco Filú demonstrates the character of this unusual variety.   Pure apple, lemon zest, peach and tropical fruit aromas are enhanced by scents of white flowers and delicate herbs.  The flavors are juicy, pure and bright with the lemon-lime citrusy tones of the grape bolstered by the intriguing floral and herbal elements.  It’s a delicious and versatile choice for a wide range of seafood recipes. 
90 Wayne Belding Jul 31, 2018

Statti, Calabria IGT (Calabria, Italy) Greco 2008 ($25, Vias Imports):  My prior experience with the Greco grape has been limited to wines from Campania, so this rendition from Calabria was an eye-opening first taste.  Naturally, one cannot extrapolate much from a sample size of one, but this is a wonderful wine with soft rich flavors and very interesting, complex aromas and a mineral-tinged finish.  I tasted it alongside five assorted wines during a food-pairing trial with a shrimp risotto dish (including some significantly more expensive bottlings), and it totally mopped the floor with them.  Substantial but still quite fresh, this will continue to be a marvelously interesting partner for many foods through the summer of 2010. 91 Michael Franz Mar 9, 2010

Librandi, Val di Neto IGT (Calabria, Italy) Mantonica “Efeso” 2014 ($25, Winebow): Round and textured, this is a most unusual and delicious white wine made from Mantonico.  With a little bit of waxiness and a lot of minerality it reminded me somewhat of the Rhône white wines that I love.  It has layers and layers of plush ripe fruit embraced by that chalky minerality and a touch of salinity.  Instead of obvious acidity on the finish, what you get is a long, concentrated, lip-smacking afterglow of flavor and texture.
94 Marguerite Thomas Feb 28, 2017

Back to Top


Campania:

Red:

Vesevo, Beneventano IGP (Campania, Italy) Aglianico 2009 ($16, Vin Divino): Though the 2010 vintage of this wine (which I have not yet tried) is available in some stores, plenty of others are still carrying the 2009.  It is delicious, as its tannins have softened with time in bottle, leaving a serious and forceful red that nonetheless tastes sumptuous.  Dark fruit flavors become enhanced by compelling secondary notes reminiscent of tobacco, leather, and dark chocolate.  This is serious stuff at a value price.
91 Paul Lukacs Apr 18, 2017

Feudo Ducale, Beneventano IGT (Campania, Italy) Aglianico 2017 ($23):   Aglianico is the money grape of Campania, where it produces long-lived red wines famous for their hard tannins.  It usually takes years for these wines to come around, but this very young Aglianico shows signs of early drinkability.  The tannins are firm but not unmanageable and they allow the pretty cherry notes to shine.  A hint of sweet tobacco provides additional complexity of aroma.  A steal at the price.  Drink now or hold.  A platinum award-winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
96 Robert Whitley May 29, 2018

Cantina del Taburno, Campania (Italy) Coda di Volpe “Amineo” 2007 ($16, Michael Skurnik Wines): This cooperative, whose winemaking is directed by Luigi Moio, a former winemaker at Feudi di San Gregorio, one of the leading wineries in Campania, clearly knows how to handle Coda di Volpe, a temperamental grape native to the region and subject to oxidation.  Fresh, without a trace of heaviness, this mid-weight white wine offers stone fruit-like flavors and nuances of spiced pears offset by a citric tang. 87 Michael Apstein Sep 23, 2008

Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania IGT (Italy) 'Patrimo' 2005 ($150, Palm Bay Imports):  Merlot from Campania?  I was skeptical because often when winemakers plant “international” varieties, such as Merlot, in traditional areas the wines are often over-extracted and overly oaky.  But Feudi di San Gregorio is an excellent producer so if anyone could do it, they could.  And they did.  It doesn’t qualify for one of Campania’s DOCs because Merlot is not recognized in the region.  But the grape has been around because this wine comes from 50-year old vineyards.  Not I’ll-have-a-glass-of-Merlot-before-dinner, this is serious stuff with good density without being overdone.  The oak is in the background allowing earthy flavors—and hints of graphite—to harmonize with the black fruit flavors.  Supple, but not soft, the glossy tannins allow immediate enjoyment, but the balance suggests it will develop nicely over the next several years.  I doubt many will wait. 92 Michael Apstein Aug 10, 2010

Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania IGT (Campania, Italy) Aglianico "Rubrato" 2006 ($16, Palm Bay International): This is a very tasty, broadly useful rendition of Aglianico, which is almost certainly the finest red variety of southern Italy.  Medium-bodied, the wine shows bright blackberry and black raspberry fruit that is amply supplied with fresh acidity.  The tannins are very fine in grain, and there are interesting nuances of carpaccio and leather in the wine’s aromas.  Pair with lighter pastas with tomato-based sauces or with white meats. 89 Michael Franz Oct 6, 2009

Terredora Di Paolo, Campania IGT (Campania, Italy) Aglianico 2008 ($18, Vias Imports):

This producer is a serious contender for my vote as winery of the year.  This relatively affordable rendering of Aglianico shows lots of fascinatingly rustic character, and is very promising at this point in its development, though still pretty rough-hewn at this stage and in need of a bit more time in bottle.  Dark berry fruit is firmly structured with tart acidity and lots of grippy tannin, so pair this with meat dishes or ages cheeses.

89 Michael Franz Nov 24, 2009

DonnaChiara, Campania IGT (Campania, Italy) Aglianico 2008 ($15, Michelangelo Selection):  Aglianico, with its tough tannins, is difficult to tame.  Yet DonnaChiara, a new producer--at least to the US--has done an admirable job with this one.   Ready to drink now, it still shows the power and intensity of the Aglianico grape.  With juicy black fruity notes predominating, it lacks the complexity of its more upscale stable mates (also reviewed this week), but still is an excellent choice to match with wintertime fare.  Did I forget to mention the bargain price?
87 Michael Apstein Jan 17, 2012

I Favati, Campi Taurasini (Irpinia, Campania, Italy) Aglianico “Cretarossa” 2010 ($23, Vanity Imports): A stunning example of the southern Italian grape variety, this Aglianico has seen only minimal oak, so tastes foremost of fruit and earth, without any sort of char or woody intrusion.  Though full-bodied and packed full of intriguing layered flavors, it never feels heavy and is not at all hot.  Delicious now, it also has the stuffing to age gracefully.  In sum, this is simply a fantastic wine and a must buy.
95 Paul Lukacs Oct 7, 2014

Mastroberardino, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) "Radici" 2005 ($21, Wilson Daniels): Fiano is Campania's best white grape and, not surprisingly, Fiano di Avellino is Campania's best white wine.  There is no better producer in Campania than Mastroberardino.  Put them together and you have great white wine.  Refined, as is the Mastroberardino style, rather than overt or heavy, it has a slightly flowery bouquet with a very appealing subtle richness and an exceptionally bright and uplifting finish. 91 Michael Apstein Mar 13, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, IGT Irpinia Aglianico (Campania, Italy) "Serpico" 2003 ($65, Palm Bay): Coming from three different vineyards of old vines, Feudi's Serpico is one of its super-Aglianico wines, with substantial barrique aging.  Feudi chooses to age it less than the minimum three years required for DOCG Aglianicos because it wants to empasize its enormous concentration of fruit.  A blockbuster of a wine, very rich and ripe, in the modern style. 92 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

DonnaChiara, Irpinia (Campania, Italy) 2008 ($20, Michelangelo Selection):  With this DOC Irpinia, DonnaChiara reminds us of the importance of place.  Irpinia and Aglianico is a good marriage because the locale imbues the wine with an intriguing tarry quality and earthiness that complements the black cherry notes.  Polished tannins add structure without a trace of harshness while lip-smacking acidity keeps it fresh.  A step up from their IGT Aglianico, this one unfolds over the course of a meal revealing spice and other non-fruity nuances. 92 Michael Apstein Jan 17, 2012

Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia (Campania, Italy) Aglianico “Rubrato” 2004 ($19, Palm Bay): Located to the northeast of Mt. Vesuvius, Irpinia is Campania's most important wine growing area.  Aglianico, a grape whose roots can be traced to ancient Greece, is the major red variety in the area.  Feudi di San Gregorio--established in 1986--is a relatively new winery for this ancient area.  But they joined the top ranks very quickly, in part because their consulting winemaker, Riccardo Cotarella, is one of Italy's most talented eonologists.  Their 2004 Rubrato, filled with an alluring earthy streak, is appealing now and a fine introduction to Aglianico, which can make broodingly backward wines.  Fresh, with good structure, it is remarkably suave and an excellent choice for tomato-based pasta sauces. 90 Michael Apstein Mar 27, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia (Campania, Italy) Aglianico “Rubrato” 2008 ($19, Palm Bay International):  I consistently like this red wine, and particularly this 2008 vintage.  It has the guts and inherent quality you expect from southern Italy’s great Aglianico grape, but it is more approachable than Taurasi or Aglianico del Vulture, the iconic Aglianico wines -- and more affordable.  The wine has aromas of fresh herbs, blackberry, and perfume.  In your mouth, it’s medium-plus bodied, dry, and concentrated in flavors of fresh, dark fruit (not at all baked or over-ripe) as well as mineral notes. Its tannin is fairly fine, but definitely operative in the wine’s considerable structure, along with a serious depth of acidity.  Approachable, yes -- I’m happy to drink it tonight.  But if you keep the bottle for a few years, you will probably find it even better than now.  Very food-friendly, with the structure for rich dishes and the freshness of flavor for medium-weight fare. Mary Ewing-Mulligan Nov 27, 2012

Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia Aglianico DOC (Campania, Italy) "Rubrato" 2015 ($17, Terlato Wines International):  Wines made from the Aglianico grape are often referred to as the Barolo of the South because of their firm tannins, high acidity, overall depth and need for bottle age to bring all the components together.  Feudi San Gregorio has managed to marry these elements in this Aglianico and make it a pleasure to drink now -- as long as you select the correct food and time of year.  Think roast lamb in the winter.  This wine delivers tarry nuances along with dark sour cherry notes and supported by firm, yet not aggressive, tannins.  An attractive hint of bitterness in the finish reinforces the idea that this wine is best enjoyed with food, not by itself.  I almost forgot, it’s a terrific bargain. 
94 Michael Apstein Nov 13, 2018

Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia Aglianico IGT (Campania, Italy) Rubrato 2010 ($18, Palm Bay International): Rubrato simply means ruby. Or, if you use the imagination, red wine meant to be consumed young. That's important with an Aglianico, the most important red grape of southern Italy. The best wines made from Aglianico can easily age 25-30 years, and many of them need a decade or more to shed their hard tannins. Rubrato is a young Aglianico you can drink with pleasure. This vintage from Feudi di San Gregorio shows bright strawberry and cherry fruit, with fresh acidity and firm tannin. 89 Robert Whitley Mar 12, 2013

Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia Aglianico IGT (Campania, Italy) 'Serpico' 2008 ($90, Palm Bay International): There are good wines. There are great wines. Then there are wines that demand their own special category, wines so profound they stun you at the first sip, wines with gravitas. Serpico '08 is one of those. It is the flagship wine of Feudi di San Gregorio, a winery founded in the tiny village of Sorbo Serpico in the Irpinia region of Campania in 1986. It is 100 percent aglianico from 70-year-old vines planted at elevations of more than 1000 feet in the sandstone, marl and volcanic ash soils of the region. The 2008 is beautifully structured; a well-proportioned wine that exhibits layered blackberry, wild cherry and plum aromas, with touches of vanilla spice and mocha. It also delivers scintillating acidity, smooth tannins and a thread of minerality. This is a monumental wine that will only improve if aged properly over the next 20 years. 100 Robert Whitley Mar 12, 2013

Mastroberardino, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) “Radici" 2006 ($60, Winebow):  Taurasi is often called the Barolo of the south.  Stylistically that’s true.  However, you rarely find a Barolo, or any wine for that matter, of this quality for the price.  Mastroberardino is the producer who practically single handedly showed how great the wines from Campania could be.  And Taurasi is their flagship.  Made entirely from Aglianico, the 2006 is a monumental achievement. Gorgeous floral aromas with a hint of tar waft from the glass.  It conveys a seamless mixture of black cherry-like fruit, tar and flowers that mysteriously reappear in the extraordinarily long finish.  It’s muscular, but not overdone like a body-builder.  The tannins are present--it is Taurasi--but they are polished and glossy, not astringent.  This is a wine for the cellar to be opened in a decade or so.  I’m pleased there’s some in mine. 97 Michael Apstein Nov 6, 2012

Feudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) “Piano di Montevergine” 2002 ($68, Palm Bay International):  Antonia Capaldo, Feudi di San Gregorio’s winemaker, notes that Taurasi, often described as the Barolo of the South, “needs time to express itself,” which explains why this 2002 is their current release.  This wine, their single vineyard Taurasi, spent two years in barrel followed by five years aging in bottle.   The 10-acre vineyard, from which they make only about 500 cases, sits at just over 2,100 feet above sea level.  The elevation moderates the temperatures and allows the grapes to retain acidity that translates into enlivening freshness, balancing the rich, almost tarry, elements in the wine.  There’s an explosion of flavors in the glass.  Yet the wine retains harmony and grace.  Many consumers avoid all Italian wines from the 2002 vintage because of the generally poor wines coming from Tuscany and Piedmont that year.  Don’t make that mistake with this one.  It’s a winner! 96 Michael Apstein Jul 20, 2010

Mastroberardino, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) "Radici" 2001 ($41, Wilson Daniels): The greatness of Aglianico -- the most important red grape of southern Italy -- is on display for all to see in this exceptional vintage of Mastroberardino's 'Radici' Taurasi. It begins with an inviting nose of black cherries and violets that draws you into this deep, brooding, powerful red. The fruit is a bit shy on the palate until the wine has been opened an aerated, releasing intense flavors of blackberry and plum from beneath a cloak of firm acidity. There is a black pepper/spice note on the back end, an earthy minerality and tight structure that will keep this vintage kicking for decades to come. And at  $41 it's a steal. 96 Robert Whitley Dec 5, 2006

DonnaChiara, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) 2007 ($28, Michelangelo Selection):  Taurasi, Campania’s only DOCG for red wine, gets my vote for Italy’s most under-rated area for making truly great wine.  The consumer benefits because the wines don’t yet command the prices of Barolo, Barbaresco or Brunello.  If Irpinia and Aglianico are a good marriage, Taurasi and Aglianico is a great one, representing a giant leap up and reinforcing the critical importance of where the grapes grow.  Often called the Barolo of the south, Taurasi in general, and DonnaChiara’s 2007 in particular, has the near magical combination of floral notes and deep tarry elements.  As with great young wines, it’s layered and tight at this stage and needs at least five or so years before pulling the cork.  But it’s so refined and full of intrigue now, I’m certain it will be worth the wait.  I know some is going into my cellar. 95 Michael Apstein Jan 17, 2012

Mastroberardino, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) "Radici" 2001 ($41, Wilson Daniels): The minute your nose hits the rim of the glass you know this wine has depth and complexity.  The first taste confirms it.  Taurasi, arguably southern Italy's most famous wine area, is often referred to as the Barolo of the south because of   combination of earthiness and fragrant fruitiness in the wines.  Here the Aglianco grape, especially in Mastroberardino's hands, is transformed into gloriously layered wine.  This big wine, filled with minerals, ripe cherry fruit and an earthy, almost tarry component, needs a few years to unfold and develop.  But I must admit, its balance and class makes in hard to resist now.  It reminds of what Louis Latour once told me, "Great wines taste good at every stage." 95 Michael Apstein Mar 13, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) 2010 ($40, Palm Bay International): There is no question in my mind that the wines from Taurasi, a small DOCG in Campania, rank with Italy’s, and the world’s, greatest wines.  The Aglianico grape thrives in the climate and volcanic -- it’s near Vesuvius -- soil of the region. Feudi di San Gregorio’s 2010 Taurasi is a splendid young example.  One taste should convince skeptics of the grandeur of this DOCG. Broad and long, it saturates the palate with dark earthiness and minerality wrapped in substantial, but aggressive, tannins.  There’s a wonderful firmness without a trace of hardness.  A hint of bitterness in the finish offsets the dark fruity elements.  Both powerful and stylish, it’s best left in the cellar for at least another five years.
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2015

Terredora Dipaolo, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) 2003 ($57, Vias Imports): I love mature, judiciously oaked renderings of the Aglianico grape from Campania, and yet this wine still surprised me with how nuanced and intricate it is while still offering loads of meaty, straightforward pleasure.  The core of dark cherry fruit is enveloped in all sorts of accents recalling smoked meat, spices, leather, roasted coffee and dried herbs.  It is now old enough to be showing secondary bottle bouquet, yet there’s still primary fruit in the mix, so it is likely to hold at this high level for another few years. 93 Michael Franz Oct 20, 2009

Nativ, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) 2010 ($45, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Firmly tannic with deep, dark flavors and woodsy notes, this is a rustic wine that nonetheless exudes class and sophistication.  Made primarily with Aglianico grapes, it is very much a food wine, as the tannins may well seem too astringent if sipped on its own.  But paired with braised meats or heady winter-weight stews, it will shine brightly. 91 Paul Lukacs Nov 21, 2017

Fiudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) 2003 ($43, Palm Bay): A very complex wine, this shows a marvelous range of aromas that include dark fruit notes with accents of tobacco leaves, woodsmoke, cocoa, coffee beans and wild mushrooms.  Medium- to full-bodied but not heavy or ponderous, it shows mineral notes in the finish and remarkable integration and balance. 90 Michael Franz Jul 31, 2007

Mastroberardino, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) “Radici” 2003 ($43, Wilson Daniels): A fine rendition of what is almost an iconic wine in Campania, the 2003 'Radici' manages to avoid the excesses that mar so many European wines from the famously scorching 2003 vintage.  It's fruit-forward, as reflects that harvest, but still manages to stay balanced and taste deliciously harmonious. 90 Paul Lukacs Apr 22, 2008

Mastroberardino, Taurasi (Campania, Italy) "Radici" 2003 ($45, Wilson Daniels): From the very hot summer of 2003, this release of the red Radici displays surprisingly firm acid, and remains tightly wound, indicating a long life ahead. This is a brooding wine that will benefit from decanting, revealing layered black fruits and hints of anise and spice. A lot of air also softens the dusty tannins. This is an Aglianico that is barely approachable as a sipper at this stage, but undergoes a remarkable transformation when served with grilled meats generously seasoned with herbs, garlic and olive oil -- such as my very own grilled veal chops! 90 Robert Whitley Mar 11, 2008

Terredora Di Paolo, Taurasi DOCG (Campania, Italy) Aglianico 2012 ($30, Vias Imports):  Just what Taurasi should be -- bold, dark and peppery, with a huge tannic structure that’s just now becoming approachable.  I would age this long term.  Just how how long is anybody’s guess, but I’d start with about ten more years.   
91 Rich Cook Aug 27, 2019

Mastroberardino, Taurasi Riserva (Campania, Italy) “Radici” 1999 ($62, Winebow):  I tasted this wine twice recently, once at a tasting and a couple of weeks later, with dinner.  I loved it at the tasting, but frankly a brief taste does not do justice to this gorgeous wine.  Its grandeur really emerges over an hour or two after sitting in a decanter.  (That’s the problem assessing wines at a tasting, but that’s a subject for a different time).  Mastroberardino is the king of Campania wines and Taurasi is his flagship, as well as the region’s most celebrated DOCG.  This is a positively brilliant example of Taurasi.  Fabulously aromatic, it’s both mineraly and floral, sensations that explore on the palate in waves.  It’s dense, dark and mineraly--you can practically feel the volcanic soil--yet not heavy or out of balance.  Despite its size and power, it’s fresh and encourages another glass.  The tannins are still present but proportioned.  I suspect it will continue to develop and improve for decades. 97 Michael Apstein Nov 20, 2012

Mastroberardino, Taurasi Riserva (Campania, Italy) “Radici” 2006 ($80): Though I’ve recommended this wine before, my enthusiasm for it just keeps increasing after tasting it a few more times.  Mastroberardino is perhaps the finest producer in Campania (full disclosure, I’ve not tasted wines from every producer located in that region around Naples, but I’ve also not found any yet that consistently stand up to those of Mastroberardino.)  Taurasi, often referred to as the Barolo of the south of Italy, is the most revered area in Campania.  So, it’s not surprising when you combine a great producer and a great area that you get a truly great wine.  Still youthful, but approachable, it is a heavenly wine at this youthful stage.  Aromatic and powerful, it has astonishing elegance for its size.  It is truly an iron fist in a velvet glove.  It would be an excellent choice for hearty dishes this winter -- just be sure to open and decant it for several hours before you serve it -- but it will be even more enjoyable with another decade of cellaring.  Though not an inexpensive wine, it is underpriced for its quality.  You can be sure as more consumers discover the wines of Campania, the prices will rise as they have in Barolo and Brunello.
97 Michael Apstein Dec 1, 2015

Mastroberardino, Taurasi Riserva (Campania, Italy) "Radici" 2006 ($70, Winebow): Mastroberardino is, without doubt, one of the top producers in Campania and, indeed, in all of Italy.  Their Taurasi is the benchmark for that appellation.  This 2006 Riserva, amazingly still available at retail -- an indication of how underappreciated these are -- is sensational.  The aromas of dark fruit, earth and herbs that come from the glass stop you in your tracks.  Mastroberardino has harnessed the Aglianico grape to produce a wine that’s simultaneously powerful and elegant.  Still a baby, with prominent, yet not aggressive tannins, its explosive flavors emerge slowly.  But there is no question that it’s a great wine.  Big, but not boisterous, this wine has a seemingly paradoxical floral component.  That, along with an early tarriness, explains why Taurasi is called the Barolo of the South -- without Barolo pricing.  I just bought a case of it, which I intend to leave in the cellar for another decade before opening.
96 Michael Apstein Nov 4, 2014

Mastroberardino, Taurasi Riserva (Campania, Italy) “Radichi” 2000 ($39, Wilson Daniels): Very refined, tart cherry and herbal aromas and flavors with great concentration of fruit, along with substantial acidity.  This is a wine made for the long haul.  At $39, it is actually a bargain when you compare it to Barolos and Barbarescos. 93 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Terredora, Taurasi Riserva (Campania, Italy) CampoRe 2001 ($45, Vias Imports): Taurasi Riservas get four years of aging at the winery and usually need another few years to be at their best.  Teredora's fine CampoRe has excellent concentration, is very dry, but with explosive fruit.  It should only get better in a few more years. 93 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi Riserva DOCG (Campania, Italy) 'Piano di Montevergine' 2007 ($69, Palm Bay International): This vintage of Piano di Montevergine is a Taurasi that demonstrates the profound complexity of aglianico grown in the unique soils of Campania. The vineyard site, at approximately 1200 feet of elevation, produces a massively structured red wine capable of aging two decades or more. The 2007 exhibits luscious aromas of blackberry, plum and tart cherry, with mouth-watering acidity, firm backbone, and hints of fennel and fresh herbs. This is a wine to be cellared and savored. 96 Robert Whitley Mar 12, 2013

Feudi di San Gregorio, Taurasi Riserva DOCG (Campania, Italy) Piano di Montevergine 2011 ($75, Terlato Wines International):  I hate to say that an almost $75 a bottle of wine is a bargain, but, if you have 75 bucks to spend on a wine, here it is.  Although Taurasi justifiably carries the DOCG accolade, it still lacks the prestige -- and price -- of the Tuscan or Piedmont DOCGs.  The Aglianico grape grown in Taurasi can, in the right hands, produce monumental wines, such as this one.  Tarry and mineral-y, with dark fruit profile, this full-bodied wine is still tightly wound, even at 6 years of age.  The tannins are apparent and firm, but not aggressive or angular.  This is a long and refined youthful wine that will reward another decade of cellaring.  If that’s not your plan, open and decant it several hours before serving and then watch it unfold in the glass. 95 Michael Apstein Nov 7, 2017

Mastroberardino, Vesuvio Rosso (Campania, Italy) "Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio" 2005 ($22, Wilson Daniels): Mastroberardino, more than anyone, has saved from extinction ancient indigenous grape varieties originally brought to Campania by the Greeks, such as Piedirosso, the grape for this wine.  Unlike Mastroberardino's Taurasi, which needs a few years to unfold, this red wine is more forward and approachable now.  Filled with flavors of bitter cherries and earthy, herbal nuances, the drying, but not astringent tannins, means it goes very well with food (think grilled meat or robust pasta) not as an aperitif. A long way from a New World 'fruit bomb' kind of wine, it delivers panoply of flavors at only 12.5% alcohol. 88 Michael Apstein Mar 13, 2007

Mastroberardino, Vesuvio Rosso DOC (Campania, Italy) "Lacryma Christi" 2004 ($22, Wilson Daniels): The white twin, or Lacryma Christi Bianco, is certainly more well known, but the rosso is probably the more interesting wine. It's made from the Piedirosso grape and delivers intriguing red and black fruit aromatics, hints of clove and black pepper and a slightly medicinal minerality that is typical of the region but off-putting to some. I happen to like it, and it yields very quickly to the earthy and fruity aromas that hog the show after a bit of aeration. Acidity is firm and bright, a sign this wine will have some kick for a few years to come. 88 Robert Whitley Dec 12, 2006

Rosé:

Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia (Campania, Italy) Rosato “Ros’Aura” 2009 ($14, Palm Bay International):  This is a serious and delicious rosé made entirely from the noble Aglianico grape variety, native to southern Italy.  It’s serious as in: dry, well-balanced, with crisp acidity, a bit of tannin and good concentration of fruit character.  It’s delicious as in: fruity, bright, fresh, refreshing.  Seriously drinkable and delicious. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Aug 3, 2010

Feudi di San Gregorio, Irpinia Rosato DOC (Campania, Italy) 2009 ($14, Palm Bay International):  This might be the perfect rosé, or at least for my taste.  It’s truly dry, and fairly full-bodied for a rosé, with crisp acidity (enhanced by a bit of CO2 prickle on your tongue) and flavors of strawberries and red cherries with a mineral note.  It’s entirely from southern Italy’s noble Aglianico grape variety, which makes powerful, ageworthy reds such as Taurasi and -- case in point -- delightful rosés.  This wine has enough character to complement spicy dishes such as pasta with an arrabiata sauce and yet is no way too heavy for a warm summer day.  It’s what I want to drink. 13 percent alcohol. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jul 6, 2010

Sparkling:

Grotta del Sole, Asprinio d’Aversa (Campania, Italy) Vigneti Alberata NV ($18, Belvino): Asprinio d’Aversa is a tiny DOC in Campania for sparkling wine made from the Asprinio grape, recently recognized as being identical to Greco, as in Greco di Tufo, one of Campania’s stellar varieties. Light and crisp, Grotta del Sole’s version has a delicate and alluring lemony edge.  Its penetrating flavor persists long after the wine has left your mouth.  It’s a versatile sparkler, working equally well as a great way to start an evening, with cold shellfish, or simply grilled fish.
88 Michael Apstein Nov 19, 2013

White:

Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania (Italy) Falanghina 2009 ($15, Palm Bay Imports):  The whites from this part of southern Italy are prized for their earthy minerality, rich viscosity and balancing acid. These characteristics would seem incompatible with the hot climate, but that is the miracle of Campania. Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino are well regarded and among the most important white wines in all of Italy. Falanghina doesn't enjoy such a lofty reputation, but its popularity is surging, no doubt because of the price differential. When it comes to quality and pleasure of drinking, however, there isn't such a huge different. The '09 from Feudi di San Gregorio (one of the most celebrated producers in the region) exhibits lush tropical fruits, a refreshing undercurrent of citrus and green apple, with a hint of honey and white flower on the finish. It is a remarkably complex wine for this price range, and one of the world's best values in white wine for less than $20. 93 Robert Whitley May 17, 2011

Terredora Di Paolo, Campania (Italy) Falanghina 2018 ($16, Vias imports):  A Mastroberardino family son split off from the family winery and started this venture with some of the family vineyards.  Vibrant acidity drives stony minerality and herbs over tart lemon and grapefruit flavors.  The acid mellows a little in the finish, helping the flavors to integrate and linger pleasantly and allowing a faint banana note to poke out.  A solid food wine with backbone.  
90 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

Terredora Dipaolo, Campania (Italy) Greco di Tufo 2007 ($24):

With earthy nuances, you feel the effect of the volcanic soil near Vesuvius where these vines grow. The absence of oak allows the steely and mineral-laden character to shine.  A firm citric edge keeps it lively and fresh throughout a meal.  Although lovely now, it will evolve and develop nicely over the next couple of years, so there's no rush.  And for that matter if you see Terredora Dipaolo's 2006 Greco di Tufo on the shelves, don't hesitate to pick it up either.

90 Michael Apstein Aug 12, 2008

Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania (Italy) Fiano di Avellino 2004 ($21, Palm Bay Imports): Fiano is unusual for aromatic white varieties in that it ages quite well (10 to 15 years) and actually improves with age, along with its companion white variety in Campania, Greco di Tufo. Feudi di San Gregorio is one of southern Italy's leading producers. The 2004 Fiano di Avellino, with 12.5% alcohol, has floral, peach, and melon aromas and flavors, is dry, concentrated, firm, and quite full-bodied. It is rather quiet now; it should improve with a few more years of aging. 88 Ed McCarthy Jun 27, 2006

Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania (Italy) Falanghina 2006 ($15, Palm Bay Imports): Falanghina, a white grape indigenous to Campania, deserves more recognition.  With this excellent example, a delicate perfume of white flowers is followed by subtle green apple-like flavors and crispness.  A hint of minerality reflects Campania's volcanic soil. It is a marvelous choice for simple seafood. 88 Michael Apstein Apr 1, 2008

Cantina del Taburno, Campania (Italy) Falanghina 2007 ($17, Michael Skurnik Wines): Many people assume that cooperatives are incapable of making fine wine.  Cantina del Taburno, a leading co-op in Campania, dispels that notion with this Falanghina, a grape native to that region.  Not long ago, Falanghina was felt to be unsuitable for fine wine, but now it is soaring in popularity both in Italy and in the United States.  Taburno's version, less floral than many, retains hints of melons and a complementary cutting acidity that keeps it refreshing throughout a meal.  It would also be a fine choice as an aperitif or with antipasto. 87 Michael Apstein Sep 23, 2008

Terredora Dipaolo, Campania (Italy) Falanghina 2007 ($17, Vias Imports): Aromas of white flowers deceive you into thinking this is a sweet wine.  It's a lovely deception because the interplay of honeysuckle and a cutting citric finish keeps your attention with every sip.  This lively, pure wine without a trace of heaviness or oak is a great accompaniment for simply prepared seafood. 87 Michael Apstein Aug 12, 2008

Villa Matilde, Campania IGT (Campania, Italy) Falanghina Tenuta Rocca dei Leoni 2010 ($18, Empson USA):  Villa Matilde manages to turn out expressive, highly detailed renditions of Campania’s leading grape varieties with impressive consistency, and this is a delicious case in point.  Aromas and flavors of ripe nectarines and citrus fruit lead the way, with an appealing floral accent and a hint of minerality in the finish. 91 Michael Franz Sep 20, 2011

Villa Matilde, Campania IGT (Campania, Italy) Greco di Tufo 2010 ($18, Empson USA):  Another winning wine from Villa Matilde, this Greco shows real weight and breadth on the palate that will let it work well with bigger dishes than can be handled by most un-oaked wines like this one.  Despite its impressive weight and flavor impact, it remains quite vivid and fresh, with stone fruit notes edged with citrus acidity and accented with nutty, mineral nuances. 91 Michael Franz Sep 20, 2011

Villa Matilde, Campania IGT (Campania, Italy) Falanghina Tenuta Rocca Dei Leoni 2007 ($20, Empson): This is a very impressive winemaking effort, and an exemplary rendering of Falanghina, a potentially excellent variety from southern Italy that was recovered from obscurity largely due to the efforts of this producer.  The finished product is so well integrated in its nuances that I'm frankly unsure whether or not it was made with oak barrels.  Some depth of color, a slightly smoky edge, and a faint whiff of vanilla would all suggest a positive answer, but Falanghina can sometimes display these characteristics even when vinted without oak.  And when it is unclear whether a wine's character derives from the vine or the vintner, you are talking about a well-made wine. 90 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2009

Terredora Di Paolo, Coda di Volpe (Campania, Italy) 2011 ($17, Vias Imports): This producer has a seemingly magic touch with every white grape, and this wine demonstrates that this holds true for Coda di Volpe as well. Medium-bodied, it shows lots of expressive fruit aromas and flavors recalling papaya, mandarin orange and pear, but the real excitement is the wine’s intense minerality, which announces itself at the first whiff and rides past the fruit and acidity to stand as the last lingering note in an extremely long finish.
92 Michael Franz Apr 9, 2013

San Salvatore, Falanghina Campania IGP (Italy) 2017 ($18, Banville Wine Merchants):  The Falanghina grape is most known in southern Italy’s Campania region. It is a white that provides a delicious tasting experience.  The 2017 vintage from San Salvatore is a great success and shows the attractive style of the grape. The Falanghina grapes are grown in the volcanic soils that surround Mt. Vesuvius and yield wines of considerable depth.  The 2017 San Salvatore Falanghina shows scents of wildflowers, lemon zest, peach, honey, and subtle herbs.  On the palate, pure lemon and peach fruit flavors are backed by floral, honey, herbal and creamy hints.  The layers of full and exotic flavors are underscored by a bracing, crisp acidity.  It’s a delicious white with a rich texture that will be a fine companion for poultry and richer seafood dishes.
92 Wayne Belding Dec 4, 2018

Terre Stregate, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) “Svelato" 2017 ($18, Artisanal Cellars):  The Falanghina grape is most known in southern Italy’s Campania region. It is a white that combines luscious fruit aromas and flavors with a rich texture.  The 2017 vintage from Terre Stregate in Sannio is a great success and shows the attractive style of the grape. Sannio is a relatively new DOC in the hills north of Naples.  The Falanghina grapes are grown here in the volcanic soils that surround Mt. Vesuvius and yield wines of considerable depth.  The 2017 Terre Stregate “Svelato” Falanghina shows scents of wildflowers, citrus peel, peach, honey, and subtle herbs.  On the palate, pure lemon and peach fruit flavors are backed by floral, honey, herbal and creamy hints.  The multilayered, full and exotic flavors are underscored by a bracing, crisp acidity.  It’s a delicious white with a rich texture that will be a fine companion for richer seafood and fowl recipes.   
92 Wayne Belding Nov 19, 2019

Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2017 ($14, Terlato Wines International):  Floral and fruity with mouth-cleansing zestiness, this Falanghina is ideal for summer sipping -- and drinking.   Enhanced by a hint of an almost white pepper-like spice, it is a tremendous value to cut through August’s humidity and accompany light pasta dishes or simply grilled fish. 
91 Michael Apstein Aug 14, 2018

La Guardiense, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) "Janare Senete" 2018 ($11, Monsieur Touton Selection):  The Falanghina grape is most known in southern Italy’s Campania region. It is a white that provides a delicious tasting experience.  La Guardiense is a cooperative winery in Campania.  With around one thousand grower members, they are able to select the best grapes from their growers for the Janare Senete bottling.  The 2018 vintage is a great success and shows the attractive style of the grape with surprising depth and complexity for its affordable price.  The Falanghina grapes are grown in the volcanic soils that surround Mt. Vesuvius and yield zesty and flavorful wines.  The 2018 La Guardiense Janare Senete Falanghina shows scents of peach, wildflowers, lemon zest, honey, and subtle herbs.  On the palate, the peach and almost tropical fruit flavors are backed by floral, honey, herbal and creamy hints.  The layers of full and exotic flavors are underscored by a bracing, crisp acidity.  It’s a delicious white that will drink well for another two years.   
91 Wayne Belding Apr 14, 2020

Cantina del Taburno, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2017 ($15):  A pretty southern Italian white, with a floral bouquet, stone fruit flavors, and faint echoes of dried herbs in its finish.  Though showing no wood, the wine has a full enough body to stand up to rich dishes -- creamy seafood preparations, for example, or a month from now, the Thanksgiving bird. 
90 Paul Lukacs Oct 16, 2018

Mastroberardino, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2012 ($16, Winebow): A very reliable producer of this variety brings us a wine that shows delicate lemon, lime, white flowers, melon and mild spice on the nose.  It's very crisp and dry on the palate, with scouring lemon zest and racy acidity on the finish.  A great fish accompaniment at great price.
89 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Villa Matilde, Falanghina del Sannio (Campania, Italy) “Rocca di Leoni” 2006 ($15, Empson): Dry and delicate, with minerally, floral aromas and flavors and substantial acidity.  Fresh and clean, not as heavy-handed as some Falanghinas.  Excellent with pasta and seafood. 89 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina del Sannio DOC (Campania, Italy) 2015 ($15, Palm Bay International):  Falanghina, the grape was named after falengae, the Latin word for the stakes the Romans used to support the vine, is my “go to” wine in Italian restaurants with modest wine lists because it almost always represents good value. This one certainly does.  Reflecting the rather warm vintage, Feudi di San Gregorio’s 2015 is ripe with peachy notes and enlivening acidity that keeps it fresh.  It’s a great choice for Italian seafood dishes, from grilled octopus to linguine and clam sauce. 
88 Michael Apstein Oct 3, 2017

Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina di Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2006 ($15, Palm Bay): Feudi is the largest producer of both Greco di Tufo and Falanghina.  Its 2006 Falanghina from Sannio is dry, but with ripe, fruity, floral aromas and flavors.  It is earthy, with very good depth.  A lovely $15 white wine. 90 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2008 ($18, Palm Bay International):  Here’s another easy-to-recommend white wine, from a less well-known grape--Falanghina, for this summer’s seafood.  Sannio is a small hilly district within Campania whose Falanghina is so highly regarded that the area was awarded DOC status.  Feudi di San Gregorio, one of the region’s best producers, uses only stainless steel tanks for fermentation--no oak--to capture the delicate fruitiness of this wine.  Hints of white flowers in the bouquet are followed by lively notes of citrus and green apple.  Its clean and fresh finish invites another sip. 90 Michael Apstein Aug 3, 2010

Feudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2007 ($18, Palm Bay Imports): Crisp and fresh, with a floral bouquet, this Falanghina exemplifies the high quality white wines now coming from Campania--a region famous for whites in antiquity but ever since better known for sturdy reds.  Those ancient wines, however, were 'seasoned' with pitch and resin, and invariably tasted oxidized, a flavor profile valued then but certainly disparaged by most people today.  Happily, there is nothing old-fashioned about the taste of this wine.  Its clean, bright character marks it as deliciously modern. 90 Paul Lukacs Mar 10, 2009

Fiudi di San Gregorio, Falanghina Sannio (Campania, Italy) 2006 ($18, Palm Bay): Notably fruity but not assertively so, this provides lots of mineral notes and a faintly earthy streak that lend interest from the first sniff to the final sensations from the finish,  Well structured with crisp, refreshing acidity, this should work well with most delicate preparations of seafood. 88 Michael Franz Jun 26, 2007

Clelia Romano, Fiano d’Avellino (Campania, Italy) “Colli di Lapio” 2007 ($25): The unique mountainous terrain of Avellino, the best area for Fiano, an indigenous grape brought to Italy by the Greeks, keeps the vineyards cool in this otherwise warm part of Italy and explains why the wine has achieved DOCG status.  The Clelia Romano estate, established in 1994, is one example of new, talented producers in the area and helps explain the surge in popularity of wines from the region.  Their Colli di Lapio (literally, hills of Fiano), bright and bursting with flavor, has incredible length and persistence. The waxy characteristic of Fiano adds a lovely texture and is right on target. 90 Michael Apstein Sep 23, 2008

Feudi di San Gregorio, Fiano d’Avellino DOCG (Campania, Italy) 2016 ($18, Terlato Wines International):  Floral and clean, like fresh fruit blossoms, Feudi di San Gregorio’s 2016 Fiano conveys a lacey delicacy.  Combine that with its lip-smacking acidity and you have a refreshing choice for simply sautéed -- or if your grill is still functioning -- grilled fish.  Not an opulent wine, it’s easy going and would be equally at home as a stand-alone aperitif. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2017

Mastroberardino, Fiano di Avelino DOCG (Campania, Italy) “Radici” 2015 ($24, The Winebow Group):  While Fiano is grown practically everywhere in southern Italy, it’s most famous in the Campania appellation of Fiano di Avellino DOCG.  This wine is like lemon sunshine radiating from the glass.  Vibrant and mineral-driven, it offers a slightly chalky palate with a medium body and a touch of nuttiness on the finish.
93 Jessica Dupuy Aug 21, 2018

Donnachiarra, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) 2010 ($18, Michelangelo Imports):  This gorgeous wine shows why Fiano di Avellino has DOCG ranking.  It combines a honey-like, but not sweet, richness with alluring spices.  Vibrant acidity means it stays fresh and lively and allows the flavors to explode in the finish.  Both lacey and concentrated, its finish seems endless. It’s simply marvelous—and worth twice the price. 93 Michael Apstein Nov 1, 2011

Mastroberadino, Fiano di Avellino (Italy) "Radici" 2004 ($25, Wilson Daniels): This is a serious white wine made from perhaps the most important white grape grown in southern Italy. The Fiano grape thrives in the volcanic soils near Naples, which produce a wine that is extraordinarily complex, with exceptional minerality. Predominant aromas of pear, honey and roasted nuts coupled with firm acidity make this a wine that matches well with shellfish, particularly lobster. 93 Robert Whitley Jul 11, 2006

Terredora Di Paolo, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) 2011 ($25, Vias Imports): This producer makes stunning white wines and reds that are every bit as fine, and at this point I’m losing confidence that I’m ever going to figure out which I prefer. This wine is made entirely from the ancient Fiano grape from the Terre di Dora estate vineyard, and it is remarkably complex and nuanced while still seeming perfectly integrated and harmonious. Medium-bodied, it shows lovely fruit that recalls both ripe, tropical notes and edgy citrus ones, with impressive substance but also excellent cut and definition. Wonderfully expressive mineral notes mark the wine’s aromas, mid-palate, and especially its finish. Great on its own and great at the table, this is simply terrific.
93 Michael Franz Apr 9, 2013

Terredora Di Paolo, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) “Terre di Dora” 2009 ($30, Vias Imports):  I love white wines from the fascinating varieties grown in Campania, and I particularly love Fiano, so it is saying something to note that this is among the handful of best examples that I’ve ever tasted.  Medium-bodied and leaning toward full, it shows outstanding breadth and depth of flavor, with stone fruit and tropical notes edged with lively citrus accents.  There’s also an intense mineral character to the wine that heightens its complexity and enlivens its finish.  This is a remarkable single-vineyard wine that has it all:  Expressive aromas, authoritative flavors, intricate detail and completely convincing finish.  If my score is off, it is off on the low side. 93 Michael Franz Nov 8, 2011

Feudi di San Gregorio, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) 2004 ($21, Palm Bay Imports): If you can find a more complex and interesting white at this price, please give me a call! This is fascinating in all respects, including aroma, flavor, texture and finish. Fruity but intensely smoky aromatics get this wine off to a great start, and fine fruit backed by solid mineral notes prove very satisfying. The finish is very fresh and long, thanks to a combination of intense fruit and zesty acidity. Distinctive but not at all weird, this is a marvelous, highly-versatile wine and a great value. Feudi's highest-end Fiano, "Pietracalda," shows riper fruit and some notable wood influence, but isn't as interesting and rings up at $30, so this Fiano is the wine to buy. 92 Michael Franz Jan 10, 2006

Mastroberardino, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) “Radichi” 2006 ($22, Wilson Daniels): Mastroberardino makes a standard Fiano, but its Radichi comes from a selection of grapes in its best vineyards.  It is dry, with wonderful aromas of white flowers, mint, and eucalyptus, great concentration of flavors and substantial acidity.  Very sleek, with good aging potential. 92 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Mastroberardino, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) "Radici" 2006 ($22, Wilson Daniels): Radici is the proprietary name Mastroberardino uses for his top wines, his red from Taurasi and this white made from the Fiano grape.  He works magic with the Fiano grape, especially when it comes from Avellino, the most renowned area for it.  The grapes for this Fiano come from Mastroberardino's Santo Stefano del Sole vineyard, which he planted in the mid-1990s.  Lacey with a distinct and haunting minerality, it's full-flavored without being heavy.  Bright acidity keeps it lively and makes you want to go back for more. 92 Michael Apstein Jan 22, 2008

Terredora, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) Terre di Dora 2006 ($20, Vias Imports):

Terre di Dora is one of Terredora's own vineyards.  Dry and crisp, with fresh fruity aromas suggestive of pineapple.  It has great length on the palate, with a rich finish.  Excellent Fiano.

92 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Mastroberardino, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) “Radici” 2010 ($25, Winebow): For those unfamiliar with Campania, Mastroberardino is one of, if not its best, producer.  Radici is the moniker they use for their best wines, both white and red.  Fiano di Avellino is Campania’s other white DOCG wine.  Mastroberardino’s 2010 conveys alluring floral notes, delicate pineapple-like nuances and an attractive firmness, almost bordering on bitterness, in the finish.  This concentrated solid wine is another steal at the price. 91 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2011

Monte Faliesi, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) Fiano 2011 ($20, Opici Wines): Campania’s other great white wine is Fiano di Avellino.  Monte Faliesi’s 2011 has a bracing backbone, just what it needs to offset its floral and rich character.  As an unexpected dividend, a nuanced nuttiness appears in the finish.  Their Fiano and Greco are the antithesis of the prototypical “fruit bomb.”
91 Michael Apstein Sep 17, 2013

Villa Matilde, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) Tenuta di Altavilla 2005 ($26, Empson USA): Villa Matilde is a pioneering winery in Campania, its founder having isolated and propagated certain clones of some of the region's important native grape varieties.  But its wines are fairly new to the U.S.  This Fiano is a dry, full-bodied white with silky texture cut through by high acid depth, and medium-intense flavors of peach, apple and ripe lemon.  Its nose suggests even more aromatic complexity, hinting of floral notes and minerality, besides the fruity character found on the palate.  The wine has a great balance between its aromas/ flavors and its structure, a solid but flavorful wine.  If it has received oak treatment, it does not show in the wine's taste.  The only shortcoming is the wine's length, which falls short across the palate due to the high alcohol. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jan 23, 2007

Villa Matilde/Tenuta di Altavilla, Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) 2005 ($26, Empson): Villa Matilde is a pioneering winery in Campania, its founder having isolated and propagated certain clones of some of the region's important native grape varieties.  But its wines are fairly new to the U.S.  This Fiano is a dry, full-bodied white with silky texture cut through by high acid depth, and medium-intense flavors of peach, apple, and ripe lemon.  Its nose suggests even more aromatic complexity, hinting of floral notes and minerality, besides the fruity character found on the palate.  The wine has a great balance between its aromas/flavors and its structure, a solid but flavorful wine.  If it has received oak treatment, it does not show in the wine's taste.  The only shortcoming is the wine's length, which falls short across the palate due to the high alcohol. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jan 30, 2007

Nativ, Fiano di Avellino DOCG (Campania, Italy) 2014 ($28, Montcalm Wine Imports): Nativ’s Fiano is a bit more floral than their Greco di Tufo.  Instead of transmitting a sense of volcanic ash, it conveys a delicate white flowery sensation.  It’s also a touch weightier and more tropical than their Greco.  Invigorating acidity keeps it lively throughout the meal.  It’s an excellent example of Fiano di Avellino.  For those who want to learn about these great whites from Campania, this is the perfect place to start because they reflect the respective DOCGs clearly.
91 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2016

Marisa Cuomo, Furore Bianco (Costa d’Amalfi, Italy) 2005 ($22, Panebianco): Also known as Gran Furore, Marisa Cuomo's winery, run by Marisa and husband Andrea Ferraioli, is the best on the Amalfi Coast.  It's located In the town of Furore, but they also source their grapes from Ravello; in both cases grapes are grown on very steep hillsides.  The 2005 Furore Bianco, made from Biancolella and Falanghina and unoaked, is broad and minerally, with flavors suggesting white peaches.  A sheer delight. 90 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Donnachiarra, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2010 ($18, Michelangelo Imports):  It’s fashionable to talk about the fruit in a wine. And that’s understandable since wine is made from grapes.  But I recommend this wine, not for its fruitiness, but for its edgy firm mineral-like character.  You can almost taste the lava rich soil where the grapes grew.  Not austere, its flavors and charm persist long after each sip.  Those looking for opulence will be disappointed.  Those who want something to enjoy throughout a meal will find it a great foil for grilled swordfish. 92 Michael Apstein Nov 8, 2011

Mastroberardino, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) “Nova Serra” 2010 ($20, Winebow):  Despite family squabbling and the loss of many vineyards several years ago, Mastroberardino continues to make exceptional wines.  This Greco di Tufo, one of Campania’s DOCG wines, comes from a single vineyard at an elevation of about 1,700 feet in the hills of Campania.  Although the vineyard is filled with chalky soil, you can still feel the influence of Vesuvius in the firm underpinning of the wine.  A subtle honeyed richness lends an intriguing counterpoint to its distinct minerality.  Fortunately for consumers, wines from Campania are still terribly undervalued.  You’d be hard pressed to find this kind of quality for this price anywhere else in the world. 92 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2011

Terredora Dipaolo, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2008 ($25, Vias Imports): The current releases from this producer are extremely impressive and utterly convincing, and though they don’t come cheap, they are nevertheless very tough to beat at their price levels.  In other words, $25 is a lot for an unoaked white wine, but you’ll have a bloody hard time finding anything that can touch this for the same price.  Certainly one of the best dry Italian whites that I’ve tasted all year, it shows vivid fruit showing tangerine, guava and white peach notes.  There’s an intense citrus interwoven through the fruit that plays a perfect counterpoint, and consequently the wine seems almost crackly in its freshness even as it seems generously ripe and juicy.  Extremely satisfying but also enduringly refreshing, this is something special. 92 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2009

Colli di Lapio, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) Greco “Alèxandros” 2013 ($23, Marc de Grazia Selection): Greco di Tufo at its best is a delicious and refreshing white.  The Colli di Lapio Greco reflects the best characteristics of this ancient variety.  Pure lemon, apple, peach and tropical fruit aromas are enhanced by scents of white flowers and delicate green herbs.  The flavors are juicy, pure and bright with the citrusy tones of the grape bolstered by the intriguing floral and herbal elements.  It will be a wonderful wine to enjoy with fresh seafood.
91 Wayne Belding Apr 21, 2015

Feudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2008 ($20, Palm Bay International):  Feudi di San Gregorio, one of Campania’s--and Italy’s--leading wineries, continues their streak of success with this Greco di Tufo.  Attractively earthy and mineraly, you can almost taste the volcanic soil where the grapes grow.  It has an appealing firmness, uplifting acidity and fabulous length that makes it ideal for fish from the grill this summer. 91 Michael Apstein Jul 20, 2010

Feudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2006 ($19, Palm Bay): Firm, almost steely aromas with a touch of anise and honey.  Fascinating minerally flavors, resembling a rich, ripe Chablis, but more expressive.  The 2005 is the current vintage available, but will be replaced soon by the 2006. 91 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2007 ($23, Palm Bay Imports): This lovely wine is an object lesson in the charms of subtlety.  The aromas are a bit shy, with just a little whiff of herbs, straw, nuts and fruit.  The flavors are more expressive, with notes of fresh figs and, again, roasted nuts.  But the real show begins in earnest only when the wine has rolled off one's tongue, as the finish adds a terrifically appealing mineral note and a beam of enlivening acidity to all of the other flavor components, and all of these components remain in symmetrical relation to one another as the aftertaste tails off--very slowly.  Match this with something subtle that will let it show its subtle stuff, such as sautéed fin fish with a simple crumbling of dried herbs and squeeze of lemon. 91 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2009

Feudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) "Cutizzi" 2004 ($30, Palm Bay Imports): This lovely wine features lots of interesting little nuances on a light frame, making it a great choice for warm weather sipping or pairing with very light foods like raw oysters or sautéed trout. Aroma and flavor signals are subtle but abundant, including notes of crisp apples, stone fruits, roasted nuts, wet straw, and minerals, all held together with bright acidity. Fresh but fulfilling, this is a great light drink. 90 Michael Franz Jan 10, 2006

Fiudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2005 ($23, Palm Bay): Subtle is the word for this wine, as the fruit notes are delicate and restrained to the point of near austerity.  Nevertheless, it is very interesting and highly versatile, as mineral notes provide most of the aroma and flavor.  This rare profile shows up in a few fine bottlings from Chablis and in fine bottlings of Assyrtiko from Santorini, and is very much worth your attention. 90 Michael Franz Jun 26, 2007

Mastroberardino, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) “Novaserra” 2005 ($25, Wilson Daniels):

The name of the grape--Greco--indicates that the Greeks brought it with them to Italy.  It grows best in the volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius, especially around the village of Tufo.  This focused wine captures you with its class and length, not its weight.  The freshness characteristic of Mastroberardino's wines and a subtle pleasing earthiness that must come from the soil makes it a wonderful choice for grilled fish.

90 Michael Apstein Mar 20, 2007

Monte Faliesi, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2011 ($20, Opici Wines): The price of this delicious wine reflects the reality that Greco di Tufo is one of Italy’s underappreciated grapes.  On the volcanic soil of Campania, it produces a distinguished wine, like this one.  Fresh and steely, Monte Faliesi’s has a subtle and attractive vaguely bitter finish.  You can almost taste the volcanic ash.  It’s a great choice for grilled swordfish or a more complicated fish stew.
90 Michael Apstein Sep 17, 2013

Villa Matilde, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2005 ($26, Empson USA): One of Italy's finest white grape varieties, Greco is the same grape that was originally grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvious and called Lacryma Christi. When cultivated in the Avellino province of southern Italy it takes the name Greco di Tufo. Villa Matilde's '05 is a beautifully balanced wine, showing exceptional minerality and racy acidity combined with aromas of citrus and spice. On the palate it is rich and viscous, long in the mouth and delivers the essence of swet fruit despite finishing quite dry. 90 Robert Whitley Sep 5, 2006

Villa Matilde, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) Tenuta di Altavilla 2005 ($26, Empson USA): A fascinating contrast to this winery's Fiano di Avellino, highlighting the difference between the Fiano grape and the Greco grape.  This is what I would call an 'earthy white,' as opposed to the Fiano, which falls into the 'aromatic' style.  This Greco di Tufo is dry and full-bodied, with a medium amount of succulent acidity and a rich, substantial texture.  Both on the nose and palate, its relatively subdued aromatics are mainly minerally and earthy, the only suggestion of fruitiness being a lemony character.  It has very good length across the palate.  Reach for this wine with less flavorful foods. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jan 23, 2007

Villa Matilde/ Tenuta di Altavilla, Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) 2005 ($26, Empson): A fascinating contrast to this winery's Fiano di Avellino, highlighting the difference between the Fiano grape and the Greco grape.  This is what I would call an 'earthy white,' as opposed to the Fiano, which falls into the 'aromatic' style.  This Greco di Tufo is dry and full-bodied, with a medium amount of succulent acidity and a rich, substantial texture.  Both on the nose and palate, its relatively subdued aromatics are mainly minerally and earthy, the only suggestion of fruitiness being a lemony character.  It has very good length across the palate.  Reach for this wine with less flavorful foods. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jan 30, 2007

Nativ, Greco di Tufo DOCG (Campania, Italy) 2018 ($24, Montcalm Wine Importers):  The deep yellow-gold color is itself a come-on, and the palate is likewise enticing.  Equally compelling are the fruity flavors balanced by salty minerality and finishing with racy acidity.  Worth noting, perhaps, is that the word “Tufo” comes from the name of the region’s volcanic soil, which may be what produces that appetizing salinity.   
92 Marguerite Thomas Aug 20, 2019

Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, Greco di Tufo DOCG (Campania, Italy) “Grancare” 2016 ($36, Romano Brands):  Greco di Tufo is one of Italy’s great white wines.  This one has slightly nutty nuances and the hint of lava-like mineral notes you’d expect from its location near Mount Vesuvius.  Bright and enlivening acidity tingles the palate.  It screams for linguine and clam sauce.  Just don’t overchill it or you lose the wine’s complexities and charms.  
92 Michael Apstein Nov 19, 2019

Feudi di San Gregorio, Greco di Tufo DOCG (Campania, Italy) 2015 ($18, Terlato Wines International):  Feudi di San Gregorio’s Greco di Tufo is less floral and more mineral-tinged than their Fiano d’Avellino (also reviewed this week), but has a similar refreshing edginess to it.  A more “serious” wine, it has an engaging firmness and more of a presence on the table.  It cuts a wider swath without being opulent.  Indeed, its charm rests in its austerity and reserve.  Whereas the Fiano makes a fine aperitif, this Greco cries for food because of its more rigid spine.  This wine and Feudi di San Gregorio’s Fiano reminds us how Campania remains an underappreciated treasure trove region for whites. 91 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2017

Nativ, Greco di Tufo DOCG (Campania, Italy) 2014 ($24, Montcalm Wine Imports): Nativ’s Greco di Tufo, one of Campania’s signature white wines, conveys a stony, almost volcanic essence, which is not surprising since this grape grows well on Vesuvius’s soil.  A tinge of bitterness in the finish buttressed by bracing acidity catapults this wine into the “easy-to-recommend” category because it’s a serious wine that delivers more than the price suggests.  It’s perfectly balanced and piercing in an invigorating way, which makes it perfect for flavorful seafood.
91 Michael Apstein Sep 6, 2016

Terredora di Paolo, Greco di Turo (Campania, Italy) "Loggia Della Serra" 2017 ($15, Vias Imports Ltd):  From one of the largest estates in southern Italy (with almost 500 acres of vineyards) comes this outstanding white wine.  Uniquely elegant and balanced, it has pear and apple aromas and flavors, with a bonus of both honey and saline minerality.  Nicely focused acidity and a persistent finish are also among the many attributes of this fine wine. 
93 Marguerite Thomas Nov 6, 2018

Terredora di Paolo, Greco di Turo (Campania, Italy) “Loggia Della Serra” 2016 ($19, Vias Imports Ltd):  Bright and fresh, with vivacious acidity for balance and an invigorating cornucopia of summer and autumnal fruit flavors, this a beautiful example of a modern wine made with an ancient grape variety.  It tastes new based on its clean character, but echoes something venerable in its seamless integration of disparate elements.  Suffice it to say, though, that no wine made in antiquity tasted anything like it. 
90 Paul Lukacs Oct 30, 2018

Terredora Dipaolo, Irpinia (Campania, Italy) Falanghina 2008 ($18, Vias Imports): I’ve never tasted anything from this producer before, but was floored in a single week by two wines, this dynamite Falanghina and an amazing Taurasi.  This white shows terrific fruit recalling white peaches and mandarin oranges, along with subtle floral and mineral notes.  There’s lots of acidity interlaced with the fruit, and the integration of the two is so effective that the wine seems almost to crackle with freshness.  If you want to find a more interesting and complete white for $18, all I can do is wish you luck. 91 Michael Franz Oct 20, 2009

Mastroberadino, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (Campania, Italy) 2004 ($19, Wilson Daniels): The white wines of southern Italy are remarkable in the sense that they develop richness and depth from the warmth of the climate yet maintain acidity and minerality that keep them fresh and exciting, as well as an excellent match with the savory cuisine found in the area around Naples. The '04 Lacryma Christi (translated to 'the tears of Christ') offers a voluptuous mouthfeel, ripe aromas of tropical fruit and peach, and an earthy, slightly medicinal minerality that is typical of the region. 90 Robert Whitley May 2, 2006

Mastroberardino, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio (Campania, Italy) Bianco 2005 ($18, Wilson Daniels): One of the most important producers of Southern Italy, the Mastroberardino family has been making wine since the early 18th century.  Mastroberardino is a noted crusader in the effort to save historic, indigenous grapes such as Aglianico and Greco di Tufo from extinction.  Lacryma Christi ('Tears of Christ') is made from Coda do Volpe grapes grown in the rich, volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius.  While the nose (at least in this vintage) seems somewhat muted, the wine is pleasant and easy to drink--but the real reason to single it out is for its extraordinarily long, long, long finish. 87 Marguerite Thomas Jan 16, 2007

Mastroberardino, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco (Campania, Italy) 2006 ($16, Wilson Daniels): Perhaps the most popularly known wine of the region, if not the best.  In the hands of a good producer, such as Mastroberardino, it is very solid and substantial: dry and lean, with lots of minerality and lingering on the palate. 89 Ed McCarthy May 29, 2007

Feudi di San Gregorio, Sannio-Falanghina (Campania, Italy) Falanghina "Serrocielo" 2004 ($30, Palm Bay Imports): I'd guess that there won't be much of a backup at the local wine shop to get to a $30 Falanghina from Campania, which is great, since I'll be able to stride straight to the front of the line. This is a marvelous wine, with wonderful aromas of ripe tropical fruits, grilled nuts, smoke and wet straw. Medium-bodied and substantial but still quite crisp and refreshing, it finishes with great minerality, persistence and authority, with all flavors tailing off symmetrically. Fantastic! 93 Michael Franz Jan 10, 2006

Feudi di San Gregorio, Sannio-Falanghina (Campania, Italy) Falanghina 2004 ($12, Palm Bay Imports): Fresh and zesty but also complex and very interesting for a wine at this price, this shows nice aromas of smoke, straw and freshly cut green apples. The palate is light-bodied but flavorful, with lots of subtle, faintly earthy notes and strong mineral character enhancing the basic core of tart apple fruit. This refreshes like a really good Pinot Grigio, but brings a lot more complexity to the party. 89 Michael Franz Jan 10, 2006

Back to Top


Delle Venezie:

Sparkling:

Martini & Rossi, Prosecco DOC (Italy) NV ($13):   Although made in an extra-dry style (which is actually sweeter than brut) this lovely Prosecco from Martini & Rossi is well balanced and inviting, showing more robust depth than is typical for Prosecco (due methinks to the combination of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the blend along with the traditional Glera) bright notes of pear and green apple. The wine finishes fresh and clean and the price makes it a bit of a steal. 88 Robert Whitley Nov 7, 2017

White:

Cantine Buglioni, Bianco Delle Venezie IGT (Italy) Garganega “Il Disperato” 2012 ($22, Wilson Daniels): This 100% Garganega’s bright peach and nectarine aromas blow right out of the glass, with hints of mango and passion fruit.  The palate is dry with crisp acidity and a rich feel with a long nectarine focused finish.  A fine solo sipper or an accompaniment for fresh salads or mild cheeses.
89 Rich Cook Aug 6, 2013

Buglioni, Delle Venezie (Veneto, Italy) Bianco 2013 ($19, Wilson Daniels): This fresh, well-balanced white from Delle Venzie shows more generosity of flavor and character than is typical of the appellation. On the nose it offers aromas of white flowers and spice, with notes of tropical fruit and richness on the palate. The acidity is fresh and lively, and the wine shows an attractive hint of minerality. Serve it with tapas, steamed shellfish or grilled fish. 92 Robert Whitley Apr 21, 2015

Benedetto, Delle Venezie (Veneto, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2010 ($11, GK Skaggs):  A great many Pinot Grigios taste non-descript.  Their crisp acidity makes them pleasant enough, but their lack of defined flavor ultimately renders them dull.  Not this one.  Crisp and fresh, it also has subtly layered flavors the echo citrus fruit, smoked almonds, and dried herbs, and finishes long and lean.  It’s a delightful warm weather choice.  Tasted blind at the Critics Challenge Wine Competition. 90 Paul Lukacs May 31, 2011

Bertani, Delle Venezie (Veneto, Italy) "Due Uve" 2007 ($18, Palm Bay Imports): This combination of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc hasn't caught fire with other producers in the region, which is something of a mystery because it's an excellent combo that has been successful for Bertani since being introduced a number of years ago. The best-kept secret in Italian wine, perhaps, is the quality of Sauvignon Blanc from northern Italy. The Sauvignon adds weight and texture to this blend, and a hint of floral on the nose. The Pinot Grigio lends a bit of minerality and tames the natural pungency of the Sauvignon. With light appetizers or simply as an after-work sipper, Due Uve is clean, refreshing and a winner in either setting. 89 Robert Whitley Jan 13, 2009

Ecco Domani, Delle Venezie (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2013 ($12): This familiar brand, imported by E&J Gallo, is something of a miracle in the bottle, considering about a quarter-million cases make it to our shores and yet quality is very good while the price is relatively low. This vintage, which includes a generous injection of Chardonnay for body and aroma, shows aromas of green apple and lime, is well balanced and it's so widely distributed you can count on finding it just about anywhere. If you're looking for a tasty house white, this could be your ticket. 88 Robert Whitley Oct 21, 2014

Ogio, Delle Venezie (Italy) Pinot Gris 2011 ($13, WX Imports): Pinot Grigio such as this one appeals to its fans in part because it is a somewhat neutral wine--that is to say it has soft, subdued flavors that don’t cry out for attention, and a clean, crisp texture.  There’s nothing showy or flashy going on, it’s a wine designed for you to simply sip, swallow, and enjoy the easy ride.
88 Marguerite Thomas Dec 3, 2013

Eugenio Collavini, Delle Venezie (Veneto, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2008 ($13, MW Imports): Showing more depth of flavor than is often found in northern Italian Pinot Grigios, this crisp wine offers citrus fruit flavors and a mineral-scented bouquet.  Fairly priced, it should be especially enjoyable when paired with fresh seafood dishes. 87 Paul Lukacs May 12, 2009

Cantine Buglioni, Delle Venezie IGT (Italy) 2013 ($19, Wilson Daniels): One of the many things that I love about wine is its ability to take you back to a place in your sensory memory that might not come forward via any other means.  This wine takes me directly to the age of 7 in my parent's backyard where there stood a large loquat tree that seemed to me to be perpetually loaded with fruit that I would eat myself silly on.  It's fresh, floral and viscous, with nice dry loquat and spice, and acidity to cut the viscosity and extend the finish.  I'll definitely have this in my summer poolside arsenal.
91 Rich Cook Apr 28, 2015

Back to Top


Friuli:

Red:

Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali (Friuli, Italy) "Sassó" Riserva 2001 ($46, Moet Hennessy USA): A marvelous blend of mostly Merlot with Refosco and Pignolo, the 2001 Sassó is even more engaging than Livio Felluga's regular Merlot.  The first aromas tell you this is a special wine.  Rich with black fruit flavors supplemented by minerality, herbal nuances and spice, it's wonderfully balanced and complex. The ever-changing flavors in the finish will bring back for more. 93 Michael Apstein Feb 20, 2007

Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali (Friuli, Italy) Merlot 2004 ($24, Moët Hennessy USA): As with past vintages, Livio Felluga's 2004 Merlot is worthy example of that variety.  Ripe, but not over ripe, it has real character, with an exotic earthiness in the finish.  The moderate tannins are supple yet add necessary structure.  This bright and balanced wine is definitely meant for the table, not as an aperitif. 90 Michael Apstein Feb 20, 2007

La Tunella, Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli, Italy) Cabernet Franc 2005 ($24, Quintessential): Displaying a characteristic Cabernet Franc aroma (something that always reminds me of wet cement), this wine resembles a good Chinon from the Loire, in being medium-weight with faintly herbal undertones beneath its plum-flavored fruit.  It finishes very dry, with pasty tannin, and being young, probably will benefit from decanting. 87 Paul Lukacs Mar 13, 2007

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Merlot “Graf de la Tour” NV ($40): Collio is rightly famous for white wines, but it is also a source for some mind-blowingly good reds, such as this one.  It offers a marvelous mix of fruity and savory aromas and flavors, with a core of black plum and dark berry fruit with accents of tobacco leaf and baking spices.  Very fine-grained tannins lend just enough spine to help this finish with some firmness, but there’s noting astringent about it, and the texture is as impressive as the aromas and flavors.
94 Michael Franz May 19, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Cabernet Franc 2013 ($30, Winebow): Marco Felluga and his team have made a drop-dead gorgeous Cab Franc in 2013, one that is highly complex, very flavorful, and yet almost aristocratic in its stylishness and restraint.  There’s no hint of the green aromas that can mar wines made from this variety when under-ripe, so you should shelve any prejudice you’ve got against Cabernet Franc.  Medium-bodied, it shows wonderful aromas of spices, woodsmoke, black fruits and dried herbs, and the palate notes flow seamlessly from the aromas, leaving an overall sensory impression of exceptional harmoniousness.  This may get even better during the next few years, but it is already so delicious that you should surely dip in now…even if only to learn whether you want to buy more before this vintage is sold out.
93 Michael Franz Nov 22, 2016

Azienda Fratelli Pighin, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($23, Kobrand): Pighin makes great Pinot Grigio. Located in Friuli Venezia Giulia region, they make two Pinot Grigio from their vineyards in two major DOCs, Grave, or Grave del Friuli, and Collio. With so many vapid Pinot Grigio on the market, it is refreshing to find serious ones. The bottling from Grave has spice, vivacity and unexpected-for Pinot Grigio-length (91); the Collio Pinot Grigio is more complex and denser, with an intriguing earthiness. 92 Michael Apstein Aug 8, 2005

Fiegl, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Merlot "Leopold" 2001 ($32): That's right -- 2001 -- and the wine is in perfect condition to this day.  It still shows a serious lashing of oak, though the wood notes are now fully integrated with the wine's fruit, which remains fresh and lively.  Savory undertones lend complexity, just as very fine-grained tannins lend structure.  An undeniably world-class wine, I would buy this in a heartbeat.
92 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Rosso Riserva "Degli Orzoni" 2009 ($33, Dalla Terra): A complex, complete and convincing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this shows a pleasantly leafy aromatic topnote -- though not one that is indicative of any under-ripeness (2009 was a notably warm growing season in Collio).  It is still rather firm thanks to abundant tannins, yet there's very good depth of fruit that will keep the wine seeming generous as it unwinds and gains even greater complexity over the coming decade.  Fresh acidity will likewise keep this in excellent shape, and though the wine is already delicious, it will richly reward the patient.
92 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Cabernet Franc 2011 ($35, Dalla Terra): This wine from Marco Felluga is totally convincing and very complex.  It shows a subtle herbal aromatic note that is totally appropriate for Cabernet Franc (indeed, I’d have been disappointed if it didn’t show up), followed by dark berry and black plum fruit that is completely satisfying -- but without any heaviness.  Medium-bodied, with excellent freshness by dint of perfectly proportioned acidity, this is a very fine wine.
92 Michael Franz Oct 20, 2015

Pascolo, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Merlot Selezione “Vigne di Ruttàrs” 2010 ($30, Jessa Wine Imports): Although this wine was still a little hard when tasted a year ago, there is no question that it will develop for years and ultimately unfold into something very fine, as it is beautifully proportioned. The balance of fruit and tannin is excellent, and the aromas show a very nice herbal layer without seeming at all vegetal or under-ripe. Collio is one of the world’s best sources of Merlot regardless of the fact that this is still not widely known. The variety always gets ripe, even in cool, wetter years, with a very low tendency to rot even in the rainiest seasons. The vines must be managed to prevent them from over-cropping, but conscientious vintners can do very well…as exemplified by this wine.
91 Michael Franz Oct 20, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Cabernet Franc 2005 ($26, Dalla Terra):  I understand not everyone will embrace this wine as I have. It is unusual, which is one of the aspects that I find attractive. And it is well made by one of Italy's top producers, Marco Felluga. This distinctive red has a dominant white pepper nose that mutes the fruit at first whiff. Be patience, for the blackberry, black currant and cherry fruit exists in abudance and will emerge after getting a bit of air. There is enough of an herbal nuance to identify the grape as Cab Franc, but otherwise this is a wine that will stump -- and likely please -- many an expert. And you'll love the fact it's only 13.5 percent alcohol, giving it a lightness and freshness on the palate that makes for a perfect summer red. 90 Robert Whitley Aug 10, 2010

Primosic, Collio Rosso (Friuli, Italy) “Metamorfosis” 2009 ($30): Collio is justly famous for outstanding white wines, but it also produces some excellent reds that are quite complex aromatically with moderate weight and structure.  This is a fine example now approaching its peak of development.  Based on 70% Merlot with the remainder comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it shows a pleasantly herbal bouquet followed by medium-bodied flavors of dark berries with good depth and excellent balance between fruit, acidity and tannin.
91 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Le Monde, Friuli Grave (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy) Cabernet Franc 2014 ($17, The Sorting Table): Le Monde is a producer worth seeking out. While situated within the Friuli Grave DOC, their local conditions set them apart from most and yield distinctive wines. In an area mostly known for gravel, Le Monde’s vineyard have a greater proportion of calcareous clay, which seems to endow their 2014 Cabernet Franc bottling with added depth and richness. The wine offers a deliciously ripe and round style. The bouquet shows black cherry, red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with hints of green herbs, graphite and black pepper. The red and black cherry fruit flavors are underscored by savory herbal tones and black pepper spice. The herbal style of the Cabernet Franc is beautifully expressed and balanced nicely by the rich fruit. It’s a delicious Bordeaux-style red that will age gracefully for another 5 years and more. 92 Wayne Belding Apr 12, 2016

Crearo, Friuli Grave (Italy) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($17, International Cellars LLC): Cabernet isn’t the first varietal that comes to mind when one thinks of Friuli in northeastern Italy. In fact, it’s probably one of the last. Relatively cool, the region is best known for its crisp white wines.  While some Friulian vintners do produce good Merlot, succeeding with later-ripening Cabernet would seem to be a long shot there.  Well, here’s a wine that beats the odds. Medium-bodied, with firm but not aggressively astringent tannins, it displays dark berry fruit flavor, an earthy, spicy finish, and just a hint of herbaceousnes in the bouquet.  Very well-balanced and harmonious, it tastes distinct and different, and so provides welcome relief from the plethora of cookie-cutter Cabernets from warmer regions crowding each other out on store shelves and restaurant lists. 90 Paul Lukacs Feb 2, 2010

Conte Brandolini, Friuli IGT (Friuli, Italy) Merlot “Vistorta” 2005 ($30, Palm Bay International): Sourced from Friuli’s Grave district, this is a terrific Merlot that shows soft fruit recalling black plums and cherries but also a defined, fresh profile thanks to structural acidity that keeps its Italian origins clear.  Very subtle whiffs of toast and smoke from barrique ageing lend additional complexity, and fine-grained tannins provide backbone without any bitterness of astringency.  Secondary aromas are starting to develop in this current release from the 2005 vintage, which offers excellent complexity and value for the money. 91 Michael Franz Oct 13, 2009

Conte Brandolini, Grave (Friuli, Italy) “Vistorta” 2007 ($25, Palm Bay International):  It should come as no surprise that Count Brandino Brandolini d’Adda can turn out a marvelous Merlot.  He is the president of Château Greysac, a leading Bordeaux property where Merlot accounts for half the blend.  And he brought in Georges Pauli, who consults with many Bordeaux properties, to lend his expertise to this wine, which is made entirely from Merlot.  With so much insipid wine labeled Merlot that gives the variety a bad name, it’s a pleasure to find one that really sings.  It’s a polished aromatic mixture of black fruit and earth notes highlighted by Italian vivacity.  Filled with “not just fruit” flavors, the 2007 Vistorta delivers far more than the price suggests.  It’s a beauty to drink now. 93 Michael Apstein Aug 21, 2012

Azienda Fratelli Pighin, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($16, Kobrand): Pighin makes great Pinot Grigio. Located in Friuli Venezia Giulia region, they make two Pinot Grigio from their vineyards in two major DOCs, Grave, or Grave del Friuli, and Collio. With so many vapid Pinot Grigio on the market, it is refreshing to find serious ones. The bottling from Grave has spice, vivacity and unexpected-for Pinot Grigio-length. 92 Michael Apstein Aug 8, 2005

Azienda Fratelli Pighin, Grave (Friuli, Italy) "Terre di Risano" 2004 ($16, Kobrand): Although the Grave DOC is perhaps best known for Merlot, this wine is a beautiful blend Friuli's major white grapes-Tocai Friulano, Pinot Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. It takes its name from the town of Risano, where the bulk of the Pighin estate is located. An alluring combination of floral and fruity elements, it has hints of ripe peaches, but without the sweetness. Its lively acidity, from Sauvignon Blanc, delivers the balance. 91 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2005

Conte Brandolini d’Adda, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Merlot 2004 ($13, Palm Bay): Consumers will recognize this much more readily as an Italian wine than a Merlot, as it is dead dry and nicely structured with acidity--unlike many vaguely sweet Merlots.  The fruit recalls plums and dried cherries, with medium-bodied weight leaning toward the light side, making this a promising partner for chicken dishes or relatively robust fish preparations. 85 Michael Franz Jan 2, 2007

Tenuta Luisa, Isonzo del Friuli (Friuli, Italy) Merlot 2007 ($21, Vias Imports): This wine shows delicious flavors and very versatile styling, hitting just the right balance between softness and structure.  Fruit notes of plum and black cherry are pure and fresh but not obvious or grapey, and the acidity and tannin are nicely weighted to the fruit.  Light undertones of spices, smoke and fresh mushrooms lend additional interest, and the finish tails off slowly and symmetrically. 90 Michael Franz Dec 8, 2009

Sparkling:

Eugenio Collavini, Vino Spumante di Qualitá (Friuli, Italy) Ribolla Gialla Brut 2014 ($20):  You’re excused if you’ve never heard of the Ribolla Gialla grape, which is unique to the Fruili region in northeastern Italy and adjacent Slovenia.  Even most of those who have heard of the grape don’t realize that it can be used for sparkling wine as well as still.  Well, here’s a head’s up -- at least in Collavini’s hands, it makes a super sparkling wine.  The still wine has an alluring density and attractive texture that shines in this sparkling version.  Bright, yet not aggressive, acidity holds it all together.  This is a bubbly to start the evening and then to carry to the table.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 28, 2018

White:

Castello d’Albola, Acquileia, Friuli (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2011 ($12, Zonin USA, Inc.):  Tank fermented and no oak, this Pinot Grigio is bright and crisp with plenty of fruit, an inviting wine for anytime enjoyment.  The color is a brilliant light gold and the aromatics offer citrus peel and ginger ale, while the flavors are fruity, crisp and dry with good length and 12% alcohol. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 23, 2012

Pighin, Colio (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2005 ($23, Kobrand): For those tired of innocuous Pinot Grigio, look no further than the wines from Pighin.  This one, from Collio, one of the best zones within Friuli, has tropical fruit flavors and more complexity than the norm.  Fuller than most Pinot Grigio, it retains crisp acidity and a welcome bite. 89 Michael Apstein Mar 20, 2007

Attems, Colio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($18, Folio Wine Company): This ripe, medium-bodied wine brings more to the party than your typical Pinot Grigio--for better or worse. Although it is at odds with the stylistic stereotype most consumers hold for Pinot Grigio, many tasters will regard this as a pleasant surprise, since the wine is full of apple fruit with nice mineral edging in the finish. Substantial but still refreshing. 87 Michael Franz Nov 8, 2005

Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali del Friuli (Italy) "Terre Alte 2004 ($45, Moet Hennessy USA): An innovative blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco and Tocai Friulano that Livio Felluga created in 1981, it is always their most complex and alluring white wine.  Felluga's exacting standards means it's not made every year (Felluga made no Terre Alte in 2005).  The Sauvignon and Pinot Bianco undergo fermentation and aging in stainless steel tanks to capture and preserve their fruitiness, while part of the Tocai undergoes barrel fermentation and aging for additional complexity.  It's a blend of grapes and techniques that works well to create a complex, layered wine that has richness and depth, all balanced by bright acidity. 
93 Michael Apstein Mar 5, 2007

Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli, Italy) Rosazzo “Terre Alte” 2006 ($70, Moet Hennessy USA): This extraordinary blend is comprised of Tocai Friuliano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc, which could conceivably just result in a mish-mash, but in this case results in a phenomenally complex wine.  It is rich and concentrated, with medium-plus body and very deep, penetrating, long-lasting flavors, and yet it remains nimble and fresh, as the fruit notes are interlaced with marvelous acidity.  Lightly floral and herbal aromatic notes lead the way to fruit recalling white melon baked apple with an edge of lime, and subtle tinges of minerals provide an additional layer of complexity in the finish.  Obviously this is a very pricey wine, but it is far more intricate and compelling than most $70 reds, and a great partner for a beautiful piece of fish on a special occasion. 93 Michael Franz Jun 17, 2008

Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali del Friuli (Friuli, Italy) “Terre Alte” 2006 ($75, Moet Hennessy USA):

This blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon consistently ranks as one of Italy’s finest white wines.  It delivers full flavors that echo citrus and summer stone fruits, as well as toasted nuts and vanilla-tinged spice.  While forceful, those flavors come in a refined, elegant form, with both crisp acidity that provides structure and a creamy texture that delivers plenty of sensual pleasure.  “Terre Alte” has an impressive track record of aging well, and Livio Felluga tends not to release it until its ready to drink.  Any Italian restaurant with a decent wine list needs to include at least one vintage, and this 2006 would be a good start.  

92 Paul Lukacs Dec 29, 2009

Gradis’ciutta, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($28): This was (narrowly) my favorite of all the Sauvignons I tasted in Collio, and I tasted a lot of them.  That it was three years old at the time is a testament to its exceptional qualities, though in fairness I should indicate that it was poured from a magnum, and was hence likely a little fresher than it would have been from a 750ml bottle.  In any case, what came out of that big bottle was a lovely, supremely intricate wine that had only improved with age.  Light floral scents were joined by suggestions of limes and dried herbs, and as the fruit tailed away in the finish, it was supplemented by an intensely stony minerality that expressed itself for at least half a minute.  My raw note on this wine from an extensive tasting of Collio Sauvignons reads, “a wine to beg for… or steal perhaps, and maybe kill for if necessary.”
94 Michael Franz Oct 27, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) 'Col Disore' Bianco 2006 ($37, Dalla Terra):  Friuli's Collio is renowned for its elegant white wines, and here in one wine you can taste four of the primary grapes of the district in one spectacular cuvee. This stunning blend is 40 percent Pinot Bianco and 35 percent Friulano, with Sauvignon and Ribolla Gialla making up the rest. It shows ripe yellow stone fruits, a bit of a tropical note, with a good underpinning of acidity and just a hint of hazelnut and spice on the finish. Beautiful! 94 Robert Whitley Aug 10, 2010

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon 2011 ($24, Dalla Terra Winery Direct): One of my greatest disappointments when traveling through northern Italy, principally Alto Adige and Friuli, is that so few of their outstanding sauvignons make it to the United States. Both areas are famous for pinot grigio and that's where the demand is. Russiz Superiore is the happy exception and its sauvignon is consistently delicious, as good as most sauvignon-based wines from Bordeaux and the highly acclaimed sauvignon blancs of France's Loire Valley. This vintage of Russiz Superiore is exceptional, exhibiting notes of grapefruit and white peach, with exquisite balance and a persistent, lingering finish.
94 Robert Whitley Jan 15, 2013

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon 2010 ($22, Dalla Terra):  Marco Felluga acquired the Russiz Superiore property in 1967 It was to him “one of the most beautiful lands of the Collio.”  While Marco Felluga whites see no oak, a small percentage of each of the whites from Russiz Superiore are barrel fermented giving them a bit more heft.  This is an entrancing Sauvignon Blanc with grapefruit and lime fruit suffused with herbal and dusty mineral notes.  It has a stately structure intensified by vibrant acidity offset by round creamy notes from partial barrel fermentation and lees contact. 94 Rebecca Murphy Aug 21, 2012

Toros, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2013 ($22): Among the handful of best Friulano wines that I’ve ever tasted, this is exceedingly complex and expressive, with all of its aromas and flavors apparently derived from fruit rather than wood or cellar tricks.  The floral, fruity and mineral notes are all quite distinct and yet all exceptionally harmonious.  When a wine performs at this high a level, the only possible explanation is that the fruit drawn from the vineyard was, well, perfect.
94 Michael Franz Jul 7, 2015

Borgo Conventi, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc “Colle Blanchis” 2012 ($25): Established in 1975, Borgo Conventi is among the largest of Collio’s producers, and its wines are consistently solid.  This one, however, is downright striking.  Sourced from a single vineyard site, it is made in very limited quantities (roughly 2,000 bottles per year) from a special clone planted on just four terraces.  Of these four, only two of the terraces are used for making this special wine, which is notably rich in the signature Collio style, yet also quite fresh as well--also in the signature Collio style.  Exceptionally persistent aftertaste notes all tail off symmetrically, which is yet another indication of superior quality.  An extremely impressive wine that speaks even more of place than grape variety.
93 Michael Franz May 19, 2015

Ca’Ronesca, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($22): This is a terrific, excitingly complex and unusual wine.  The bouquet shows herbal scents characteristic of the grape variety, but also floral notes and even a vaguely nutty aroma reminiscent of toasted hazelnuts.  The acidity is relatively gentle but still more than adequate for providing freshness and definition in the finish, which is marked by a strongly mineral edge.  The wine actually reminded me more of a Sauvignon from South Styria in Austria than Collio, but there’s nothing wrong with that (since South Styria makes some of the world’s best Sauvignons despite being little known, and since this also shows that Collio can be a source for multiple styles).
93 Michael Franz Oct 27, 2015

Marco Felluga, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio “Mongris” 2011 ($18, Dalla Terra):  The Collio region in northeastern Italy is in some places a step from Slovenia.  It has more in common with the former Yugoslavia than other parts of Italy.  Here white wine rules, perhaps the finest whites of Italy.  This is a statuesque Pinot Gris with pear fruit highlighted with an insinuation of fragrant white flowers.  It owes no debt to oak for its elegant structure and lush, creamy mouth-feel.
93 Rebecca Murphy Aug 21, 2012

Muzic, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2013 ($22): This is an outstanding rendition of one of Collio’s signature grape varieties.  Substantial and generous on one hand, but fresh and energetic on the other, it is exceptionally well balanced, with fruit and acidity working in tandem to create a very interesting tasting experience.  Along with light floral aromas and flavors marked by stone fruit and mandarin orange notes, there’s also a striking suggestion of celery that makes this especially distinctive.
93 Michael Franz Jul 7, 2015

Pascolo, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Collio Bianco "Agnul" 2006 ($30, Jessa Wine Imports): This superb wine is usually blended from 50% Friulano (that is barrel aged) along with 40% Pinot Bianco and 10% Sauvignon, though in this vintage a small amount of Malvasia was included. “Agnul” is Friulian word for Angel, after Angelo, the current proprietor’s grandfather. Pale gold in color after 9 years since vinification, it shows some oxidative development, but all of this is positive in sensory terms, and the wine is far from over-the-hill despite being fully mature. The aromas recall honey and toasted nuts, and the fruit component is reminiscent of poached pears. The wine is now thoroughly integrated, with the oak virtually undetectable as an overt element, and it shows a wonderful layer of subtle minerality in its very long finish. I also tasted this wine from 2009 and 2010, but this was clearly the pick of the litter.
93 Michael Franz Oct 20, 2015

Picéch, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2013 ($22): This is probably my favorite wine from the Picéch family, which operates a lovely accommodation amidst a beautiful stretch of Collio’s vineyards and also operates a top-notch winery.  A totally convincing and charming rendition of Friulano, this wine offers lots of lifted flora aromas and then backs them up with real depth of fruit based on tropical and mandarin notes.  Despite the wine’s juiciness on the palate, it never seems obvious or sweet, and indeed the finish is marked by an interesting mineral tone rather than sweetness.  Tasted on three separate occasions, this wine was a star at each showing.
93 Michael Franz Jul 14, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2014 ($27, Dalla Terra): Friulano is an intriguing grape which, when vinified well, yields delicate and complex wines.  The 2014 Russiz Superiore Friulano is an exceptional example of the grape.  Grown in the heart of the Collio Goriziano -- the rugged hills that encompass the Italian/Slovenian border -- the Russiz Superiore Friulano offers surprising richness and complexity.  It has a lovely bouquet of  green apple, grapefruit, lemon peel and spice.  The flavors are pure and exciting, with juicy grapefruit, apple and lemon fruit flavors underlain by subtle citrus peel, herb and spice tones.  It has a remarkably rich texture and will provide great tasting enjoyment for the next year and more.
93 Wayne Belding Mar 8, 2016

Schiopetto, Collio (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy) Friulano 2016 ($30):  White wines of Italy are often overlooked because of the stature of the country’s reds.  Schiopetto, one of the top producers in the Collio, shows the heights that white wines can achieve in Italy.  This 2016 Friulano amazes with its lanolin-like texture. Hints of apricot or other stone fruit-like flavors are buttressed beautifully by bright acidity, which amplifies the finish.  Try it with seafood pasta. 
93 Michael Apstein Oct 23, 2018

Sturm, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($25): I had never experienced a wine from this producer before tasting this one, but my first impression was so strong that I immediately bought a magnum of it to haul back to the USA.  The aromas are extremely expressive, showing a fruit profile recalling a fresh peach pie along with mineral notes so palpable that they compelled me to write, “rainwater on hot rocks” while tasting the wine.  The midpalate is very generously fruity, yet the wine doesn’t finish sweet, as there’s lots of energetic acidity to counterbalance the opulence of the fruit and bring everything to an exciting conclusion.  Few Sauvignon Blanc wines from anywhere can pack this much sheer fun into a glass.  If my score is off, I missed on the low side.
93 Michael Franz Oct 27, 2015

Sturm, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2013 ($20): This is a surpassingly complete and complex Friulano, with terrific fruit at its core surrounded by floral and mineral accents that are extremely appealing.  In structural terms, it shows excellent definition and acidic cut, yet still seems quite generous and almost rich despite its lovely freshness.  Outstanding.
93 Michael Franz Jul 7, 2015

Venica, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon “Ronco del Cerò” 2013 ($25): This is certainly one of the world’s best examples of Sauvignon Blanc, and indeed it is so good that I doubt that any experienced taster would dispute this assertion after tasting the wine.  Especially complex in aroma and multi-dimensional in flavor and texture, it shows superb depth of flavor and breadth on the palate, yet still manages to show excellent linear energy.  Fresh acidity counterbalances a slight hint of sweetness in the finish, which is very persistent and symmetrical.  Some of the world’s top Sauvignons attain excellence with sheer flash whereas others make the grade by dint of sustained attractiveness and versatility with food; this is a wine that reaches the heights on both of these counts.
93 Michael Franz Jun 9, 2015

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon “De da Tour” 2013 ($30): This is one of the world’s finest Sauvignon Blancs…every single year. Villa Russiz makes a ”regular” Sauvignon that is very good (about 40,000 bottles per vintage), but the “De La Tour” bottling is sourced from a single vineyard site and only about 10-15 thousand bottles are made in any particular year.  The clusters are not de-stemmed before pressing, and after vinification it spends 10 months on its yeast lees rather than the 6 months for the regular bottling.  All of this adds up to a wine with phenomenal dimensionality for a Sauvignon, with a fruit profile that includes both citrus and melon aspects, and also a riveting combination of substance and freshness.  This must be tasted to be believed, and even more amazing is the fact that this wine isn’t even the house’s top rendition of Sauvignon; the “Bleu” bottling earns that distinction, but at a price of roughly $120 in the USA, we’ll consider that wine on another day when I’m feeling more flush….
93 Michael Franz May 19, 2015

Borgo del Tigliof, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2011 ($22): A wonderfully interesting wine, this has aged beautifully, and is now showing very expressive minerality as the floral aromatics and primary fruit have settled down over time.  Although it doesn’t have the palpable acidic cut of a new release, it remains very fresh in overall impression, and everything that has been deducted during its maturation has been repaid -- with interest -- by other elements indicating positive development.
92 Michael Franz Jul 14, 2015

Branko, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2013 ($20): This rather unusual rendering of Friulano from Branko shows the variety’s prominently “feminine” aspect in its graceful, lifted, fresh finish.  And yet, the wine is also admirably concentrated and deeply flavored, with weight that makes it seem surprisingly “masculine” as well.  Superb purity of fruit serves to unify these rather divergent sensory impressions, providing the wine with an overall harmony despite its interestingly layered character.
92 Michael Franz Jul 14, 2015

Carlo di Pradis, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2013 ($22): An excellent example of Friulano, this is relatively reserved in aromatic terms, but shows excellent concentration and lots of acidity and minerality that sharply define the flavors while lending interest and persistence to the finish.
92 Michael Franz Jul 14, 2015

Gradis'ciutta, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Malvasia 2013 ($24): A terrific take on Malvasia, this wine shows very deft winemaking, and there's no doubt that the work in the vineyard must also have been excellent.  The evidence for this comes in the form of very expressive aromas and flavors -- as one might expect from this variety -- but with terrific length and structure for a wine made from a floral grape.  The balance is so fine that the wine manages to seem opulent and restrained at once, which is an uncanny combination.
92 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Linon, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Malvasia "Soluna" 2013 ($22): There isn't a lot of varietal Malvasia made in Collio, but the best examples are so good that one wonders why there aren't more of them in commercial circulation.  The superb rendition shows heady floral aromatics and a wonderfully opulent mandarin orange mid-palate, yet it also achieves excellent balance thanks to fresh acidity and a streak of citrus pith bitterness that adds definition to the finish.
92 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Livon, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano “Manditocai” 2013 ($22): There’s notable wood influence showing in this wine’s aromas and palate performance, and yet what is most surprising -- even arresting -- is how much freshness and lift and acidic cut the wine shows despite the wood notes.   This is an interesting and successful take on a traditional variety, reminiscent of almost nothing else in the world of wine other than perhaps a successfully oaked Albariño, which is likewise a real rarity.
92 Michael Franz Jul 7, 2015

Livon, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Ribolla Gialla Tenuta Ronc Alto 2013 ($30): Ribolla Gialla vies with Friulano for the title of Collio’s signature indigenous grape variety, and though Friulano seems the more consistent of the two, this is a Ribolla that shows such superb quality that the competition between the two varieties seems unlikely to end anytime soon.  Notably high acidity is expected from this grape and is certainly present in this finished wine, but there’s also exceptional concentration and substance that results in terrific balance and internal symmetry.  Interesting, the wine’s edgy acidity and rich breadth of texture are so well integrated that this is more a wine of harmony than tension, as is usually the case with Ribolla.  Terrific juice.
92 Michael Franz May 19, 2015

Livon, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano “Manditocai” 2013 ($23): This seems to show wood influence on both the nose and palate, and yet the overall profile of the wine is very fresh and even energetic, with excellent acidic cut that never seems to outrun oak so effectively.  Very faint floral aromas work beautifully with fruit and spice notes that mark the flavors and finish.  The only wine this resembles would be a superb barrel fermented Albariño, but that’s not all that helpful on account of the fact that this is a better wine than any barrel fermented Albariño I’ve ever tasted.
92 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2015

Marco Felluga, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 'Mongris' 2011 ($18, Dalla Terra Winery Direct): Pinot grigio from Friuli in northern Italy, and in particular the sub-zone of Collio, has its own personality that set it apart from other wines made from the same grape in other parts of Italy and the world. Part of that difference is textural. Pinot grigio from the Collio has body and texture, which is quite different from the light pinot grigio produced elsewhere. Mongris from Marco Felluga shows a floral note on the nose, with aromas of apple and green citrus on the palate, and a hint of smokiness despite the fact it hasn't spent so much as a single day in an oak barrel. This vintage has the heft to stand up to the strong flavors of grilled fish and steamed shellfish.
92 Robert Whitley Jan 15, 2013

Marco Felluga, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Molamatta 2010 ($23, Dalla Terra Winery Direct): Friuli's Collio zone, in the foothills of the Alps, is home to a number of white grape varieties with which most American consumers are unfamiliar. Wines like Molamatta could well change that. From the renowned Marco Felluga production team, Molamatta is a blend of tocai friulano, ribolla gialla and pinot bianco, three grapes that are common in the region. The pinot bianco is fermented in oak barrels, much like a white Burgundy, and thus lends a toasty, smoky nuance to the finished wine. The other two are fermented in stainless steel tanks, preserving their freshness and aromatics. The aromas range from familiar stone fruits to exotic tropical fragrances, giving the wine the essence of sweetness though fermented to dryness. It finishes with a subtle note of baking spice. Beautiful, and very, very different.
92 Robert Whitley Jan 15, 2013

Pighin, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($23, Kobrand): Although the recent rise in interest in this Italian white grape variety has spawned production of an ocean of uninspiring wine, Pinot Grigio from the right areas (Friuli and Alto Adige are at the top of the list) can be a serious wine when handled with care. Pighin produces a couple of Pinot Grigios from Friuli, but this one, from the Collio district, is the weightier and more complex of the two, with excellent intensity of fruit and exceptional minerality. The grapes are hand-harvested from low-yielding hillside vineyards at the foot of the Alps. The quality of the fruit and the care in handling are readily apparent in a Pinot Grigio that is several cuts above the everyday plonk that is widely available. 92 Robert Whitley Jan 3, 2006

Pighin, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2015 ($25, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): Pighin’s Pinot Grigio, made from grapes grown in the Collio region of Friuli, is even more impressive that there Grave bottling.  It has more of everything -- concentration and finesse -- without becoming overblown or blowsy.  It remains perfectly balanced with all the components somehow highlighting each other.  Its refreshing edginess and exceptional length keeps it exciting throughout a meal.  After tasting it, you realize why Pinot Grigio has become so popular.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 4, 2016

Primosic, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio “Murno” 2013 ($20): This standout rendition of Pinot Grigio was sourced from a single vineyard planted in the 1970s… long before Grigio became a consumer fad and was planted in all sorts of places that were best suited to cranking out large quantities of innocuous wines.  Aromas of subtle smoke and musk get this off to a great start, and medium body provides satisfying substance on the palate. Layered in character thanks to tinges of minerality and a fruit note reminiscent of apricot skin that lingers through the finish, this is excellent now but also capable of holding or even improving for another couple of years.
92 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Primosic, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano "Belvedere" 2013 ($23): Sourced from a single site, this is a remarkably complex, layered, elegant Friulano.  It shows an uncanny combination of creaminess on the palate but edginess in the finish that really marks it as a wine from Collio… so much so that it would seem impossible any place else.  The lovely flavors recall mandarin oranges and stone fruit, and though these are quite generous, there’s still an overall sense of subtlety to the wine.
92 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2015

Primosic, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio "Murno" 2013 ($23): This is an exceptional rendition of Pinot Grigio from a single vineyard side that was planted in the 1970s in the village of San Floriano.  The aromas are subtle but detailed, with very interesting suggestions of smoke and musk.  The medium-bodied flavors are surprisingly generous, with stone fruit and white melon flavors edged with citrus.  The finish is strikingly long, with suggestions of minerals, apricot skin and a faint smokiness.  This may actually get better over the course of the next year and perhaps two.
92 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2015

Ronco Blanchis, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($22): Ripe, fruity and even juicy in profile, with fruit notes recalling stone fruit and melon characters as much as the standard citrus notes that often dominate Sauvignon-based wines, this shows its Collio origin right out of the starting blocks.  However, this core is foreshadowed by herbal aromas and followed by enough energizing acidity to offer a clear expression of the variety as well as the region.  This is a very successful rendering that should prove very versatile.
92 Michael Franz Oct 27, 2015

Schiopetto, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Bianco 2010 ($29, Vintus):  Those who believe Pinot Bianco (a.k.a. Pinot Blanc) is only a light innocuous white wine need to try this one.  Schiopetto, one the region’s best producers, holds their Pinot Bianco back a year before release because they know its stature.  One sip tells you this is like no other Pinot Bianco because of its extraordinary texture and depth.  Still, it’s sparkling clean and refreshing.  Thirty bucks for an Italian Pinot Bianco--who would’ve thunk it?  But it’s worth it. 92 Michael Apstein May 8, 2012

Venica, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Malvasia “Pètris” 2013 ($20): Venica makes terrific Malvasia almost every year from a strain of the variety that they believe is distinct from most others.  Be that as it may, the 2013 shows lovely floral aromatics followed buy juicy, generous flavors that show multiple dimensions but recall mandarin oranges above all.  A wonderful foil for antipasti, especially salty charcuterie.
92 Michael Franz Jun 9, 2015

Venica, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon “Ronca delle Mele” 2013 ($20): The international variety Sauvignon Blanc is simply known as “Sauvignon” in north-eastern Italy, and Collio is a region that is among the world’s very best with this grape.  Venica is among Collio’s star producers, and this “Ronca delle Mele” bottling as truly stellar in 2013.  Beautifully balanced in all respects, it shows quite expressive aromas without turning overly pungent, and likewise shows refreshing finishing acidity without turning excessively tart.  Relatively rich for the variety but quite standard in this regard for Collio, this is a supremely versatile Sauvignon at a more-than-fair price.
92 Michael Franz Jun 9, 2015

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2013 ($28): Villa Russiz is an historic and exemplary producer in many different respects, one of which is that it makes one of the world’s most convincing renditions of Pinot Grigio.  Whereas this is usually a non-descript wine category, the Villa Russiz 2013 (still going strong) is quite complex and uncanny in its combination of seamless integration along with interesting interplay between fruit and acidity.  This vintage was described to me as a “perfect” harvest that was conducted over a long span of 25 days with cool nights and no consequential rain, permitting the picking of every variety and plot at optimal ripeness.  This wine offers powerful testimony to back up this claim.
92 Michael Franz May 19, 2015

Fiegl, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Ribolla Gialla 2013 ($20): This house dates from 1782 but only began bottling wines from estate fruit in 1992.  They certainly took their time practicing before hitting the market in their own name, and this excellent Ribolla Gialla shows that their practice paid off.  It shows plenty of juicy, satisfying fruit before the grape's characteristic acidity takes over and cleanses the palate in the wine's impressively long finish.  A model of balance between generosity and structure from this interesting variety
91 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Marco Felluga, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio Riserva "Mongris" 2011 ($21): The very idea of a Riserva Pinot Grigio will be difficult for many consumers to comprehend, but this wine is always released much later than standard-issue Grigios, and is also much more complex than the norm.  Both its complexity and its age-worthiness are attributable in large part to the fact that roughly 30% of the juice is barrel fermented.  Nevertheless, the sheer quality of the fruit also explains the wine's excellence, as lesser grapes would be overwhelmed by oak notes.  The fruit is sourced from a single site, and though the wood notes are prominent, they certainly don't dominate the wine, which shows impressive richness balanced by fresh acidity and appealing suggestions of baking spices.
91 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Renato Kerber, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2012 ($23): Knowing that this wine was made from the 2012 harvest made me skeptical initially that it could succeed in remaining fresh, but that’s exactly what it did.  Although the floral aromatic notes have receded somewhat and the wine shows rather gentle acidity at this point, it excels on the strength of very deep flavors and seamless integration.
91 Michael Franz Jul 14, 2015

Ronco Blancis, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2013 ($22): A wonderfully fresh rendering of Friulano, this was apparently bottled early with refreshment value in mind, as a bit of unresolved carbon dioxide shows in the form of bubbles in the glass.  This provides additional lift to a wine that is already quite energetic and crisp, which are highly desirable characteristics in a wine featuring floral and tropical aromas and flavors.  Immediately endearing, but also enduringly so.
91 Michael Franz Jul 7, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Bianco Riserva 2007 ($30, Dalla Terra): That’s right -- Pinot Bianco from 2007 -- and the wine is still singing.  This has not only proved durable over the years, but actually improved even with extended ageing. With medium-plus body and a rich mouthfeel, it is a quite generous wine, yet also subtle and elegant, as is fitting for Pinot Blanc / Bianco.  It is starting to show the slightest whiff of alcoholic heat in the finish, so the time has come to uncork this, but the fact that the time to uncork it hasn’t already passed is pretty damned impressive.
91 Michael Franz Oct 20, 2015

Schiopetto, Collio (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($29, Vintus):  Sauvignon Blanc from Collio, a DOC tucked away in Italy’s northeastern corner, is unique, aping neither those from Sancerre nor those from New Zealand.  Schiopetto’s has a subtle mineral quality and just the right amount of bite, without being aggressive.  Pure and crisp, it’s the perfect antidote for the heat and humidity of the summer. 91 Michael Apstein Jun 5, 2012

Venica, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Friulano “Ronco delle Cime” 2013 ($20): Friulano from Collio can be a quite dramatic wine, with big floral aromas that can sometimes seem a bit overblown.  However, this is an especially stylish take on the variety from Venica, showing subtle aromas, broad flavors, and zesty finishing acidity.  Delicate and drinkable rather than overly demonstrative, this is a very convincing rendition of one of Collio’s signature varieties.
91 Michael Franz Jun 9, 2015

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon "de la Tour" 2006 ($55, Empson): This superb wine takes truly great fruit and augments it (rather than masking it, thank heavens) with just a whiff of very appealing oak.  The wood notes are just about as subtle as they could be, and most of the effect is really indirect rather than overt, as oxygen intake seems to have been more the objective than outright flavoring.  Be that as it may, the end result is indisputably delicious, showing quite complex fruit notes of lime, honeydew melon, and ripe fig, along with accents of dried herbs and smoke. 91 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2007

Zorzon, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($22): This wine is a little unusual in style for Collio, showing a pungent, grassy aromatic profile that seems closer to Marlborough or South Africa than the broader, richer norm for Collio.  Nevertheless, it is certainly an excellent expression, with a lot of linear energy and acidic refreshment value in a citrus fruit style.  Flashy, if not fleshy.
91 Michael Franz Oct 27, 2015

Dragna, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Ribolla Gialla 2013 ($20): This fine example of Ribolla Gialla succeeds on the strength of a strong mineral undercurrent that works very well with the wine's restrained fruit and highly energetic acidity.  Satisfying but also refreshing in the extreme, this should prove highly versatile at the table with a wide range of seafood dishes.
90 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Eugenio Collavini, Collio (Friuli, Italy) “Broy” 2006 ($49, Distillerie Stock USA Ltd.): An unusual wine, both because of the blend and the winemaking technique, this is a sumptuous white that tastes truly luxurious.  It not only can stand up to rich cuisines, but almost demands them as an accompaniment.  A blend of Chardonnay (40%) Tocai Friulano (40%) and Sauvignon (20%), the wine is made with grapes picked very late in the season.  The Chardonnay and and Tocai grapes are dried before being crushed, so as to shrivel and concentrate flavors, while the Sauvignon is crushed and then preserved at low temperatures.  The entire blend then is fermented and aged in French oak.  The result yields a wine that seems simultaneously lavish and refreshing--a very unusual combination.  Golden in color, it tastes of tropical fruit (especially mangoes), with a faint herbal note, and just enough acidity to stay in tenuous but thrilling balance.  On its own, it may seem a bit heavy.  When paired with a rich cheese or a cream-enhanced dish, however, it comes into its own, the presence of the Sauvignon providing lift and verve. 90 Paul Lukacs Jun 10, 2008

Livon, Collio (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2013 ($17, Angelini Wine): With all the mediocre examples of Pinot Grigio on the market, it’s understandable that those consumers really interested in wine just avoid the category entirely.  As is often the case, price doesn’t separate the wheat from the chaff with many vapid ones occupying the same price point as this commendable one.  Fresh and mineraly, one sip explains why the category became so popular.  It’s lively with plenty of depth putting it a cut above the usual.  You can reintroduce yourself to Pinot Grigio with Livon’s.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 25, 2014

Schiopetto, Collio (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy) Friulano 2010 ($28, Vintus):  The Friulano grape (formerly known as Tocai, but changed at the EU’s insistence to avoid potential confusion with the Hungarian wines, Tokaji) is Schiopetto’s most important cultivar, comprising almost half of their production.  They do a splendid job with it.  The 2010 has a gorgeous texture and subtle stone fruit or honeyed quality without being heavy.  Lip smacking acidity keeps it fresh and vibrant.  Great length just makes it all that more enjoyable with grilled swordfish. 90 Michael Apstein May 22, 2012

Venica, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Bianco “Tàlis” 2013 ($20): Pinot Bianco is one of the world’s most delicious and versatile wines with food, and yet it is also among the most under-appreciated.  Collio is a particularly good source for excellent examples, and this rendition from Venica (a.k.a. Venica & Venica) shows fine balance between the creamy and defined characteristics that the grape variety can show.  It isn’t strikingly complex, but subtlety is the whole point of fine Pinot Bianco / Blanc, and this wine is subtle without seeming mute.  Excellent, and likely to get even better over the next year.
90 Michael Franz Jun 9, 2015

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon 2006 ($32, Empson): This exemplary Sauvignon is complete and convincing, with great balance between crispness and breadth.  There's plenty of expressive herbal aroma and lots of cutting citrus acidity for those who like their Sauvignons on the wild side, but the wine never seems too pushy or pungent in aromatic terms, and the acidity is bright but never sour or overly tart.  There's also a nicely ripe note of white melon that fills out the mid-palate, and the wine shows surprising weight and depth of flavor.  And on top of all that, this is not even the top Sauvignon Blanc from this producer, though it is within a whisker in terms of overall quality, with the differential between the two really coming down to subjective preference between more intense and more augmented styles. 90 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2007

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon Blanc "Sauvignon de la Tour" 2005 ($51, Empson USA): This classy Sauvignon Blanc from one of the world's great Sauvignon  terroirs is still very youthful, and it expands its expression even as it sits in the glass.  The nose foretells the wine's quality, suggesting depth, fullness and understated aromas of minerals, citrus and green vegetative character.  On the palate, the wine is dry and crisp but also fairly full-bodied for a Sauvignon Blanc, and it has a soft, almost creamy texture that is a fascinating contrast to the wine's high acid crispness.  It gives no hint of oakiness.  This is a Sauvignon that can age at least for five years and most likely improve in the process.

 

Bortoluzzi, Venezia Giulia IGT (Italy), Sauvignon, 2005 (Empson USA, $18):  You could confuse this wine for a Pouilly Fumé in its gunflint aroma, but in the mouth, it has a bit more fruitiness than you'd find in Pouilly Fumé.  It's dry and crisp but not at all austere, with considerable weight and silky texture, as well as fairly succulent citrus flavors.  This wine has enough heft to stand up to dishes such as tuna in a Niçoise or Livornese style.  88 MEM

90 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Dec 19, 2006

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon "de la Tour" 2005 ($51, Empson USA): This classy Sauvignon Blanc from one of the world's great Sauvignon  terroirs is still very youthful, and it expands its expression even as it sits in the glass.  The nose foretells the wine's quality, suggesting depth, fullness and understated aromas of minerals, citrus and green vegetative character.  On the palate, the wine is dry and crisp but also fairly full-bodied for a Sauvignon Blanc, and it has a soft, almost creamy texture that is a fascinating contrast to the wine's high acid crispness.  It gives no hint of oakiness.  This is a Sauvignon that can age at least for five years and most likely improve in the process. 90 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Dec 19, 2006

Borgo Conventi, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Ribolla Gialla 2013 ($20): This shows the refreshing acidic sting for which Ribolla Gialla is famous, but that isn't the wines only attraction.  It also offers delicious, medium-bodied fruit as well as a faintly smoky edge that makes it enduringly interesting to taste.  Very well made.
89 Michael Franz Nov 3, 2015

Livio Felluga, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2007 ($25, Moët Hennessy USA): From one of Northern Italy's premier producers, this is Pinot Grigio that has both flavor and character (attributes that are often absent in Pinot Grigio from the Friuli region--why this invariably banal varietal has achieved such popularity among American consumers is a mystery.)  Felluga's wine has an appealing yellow-gold color, a sweet bouquet, and on the palate a strong impression of apricots and honey.  Because it is exceptionally refined and delicate, it makes a wonderful summer aperitif. 89 Marguerite Thomas Jul 22, 2008

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Bianco 2005 ($27, Empson): Along with Alsace and Austria's South Styria region, Friuli is one of very few places in the world where winemakers have the good sense to take Pinot Blanc seriously.  This delicious, supremely food-friendly bottling will show the wisdom of that decision.  It features a fruit profile with autumn pears and ripe golden apples in the forefront, along with a surprising combination of rounded texture and sharp acidic definition.  Good luck trying to find a food appropriate for white wine with which this medium-bodied wine won't shine. 89 Michael Franz Nov 14, 2006

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon 2006 ($32, Empson): A delicious Sauvignon Blanc that can give many a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé a run for their money, this mineral-infused wine tastes luscious.  Like those French benchmarks, the secondary characteristics prove as exciting as the citrusy fruit.  It's both complex and compelling, but then it should be--given its step price tag. 89 Paul Lukacs Oct 9, 2007

Branko, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Tocai Friulano 2005 ($20, Zoncanella Imports): Medium-bodied, with autumn fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and an almost viscous mouthfeel, this is wine is a fine partner for chicken or seafood salads, or in fact any dish that itself has a rich texture.  Though its flavors seem sumptuous, it feels refreshing, making it a fine choice for summer al fresco suppers. 88 Paul Lukacs Jul 17, 2007

Branko, Collio (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy) Friulano 2010 ($28, Masciarelli Wine Company):  Friulano is the name given to the grape and wine previous known as Tocai or Tocai Friulano.  The Hungarians had long lobbied that Tocai, although a zesty dry white wine, could be confused with their delectable sweet wine, Tokaji (sometimes spelled Tokay) and were successful in having the name banned beginning in 2008.   But the appeal of the wine remains.  The zestiness in this Friulano is balanced by real substance and concentration. It’s easy to recommend with roast chicken or hearty seafood preparations. 88 Michael Apstein Jan 24, 2012

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2006 ($32, Empson): Yes, $32 is a pretty hefty price for Pinot Grigio, but this is a delicious, highly versatile wine with much more depth and dimension than the run-of-the-mill Grigios that dominate sales in North America.  Ripe and rounded by comparison to the norm, it nevertheless finishes with bright acidity that balances the wine's heft and offers ample refreshment value. 88 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2007

Villa Russiz, Collio (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Bianco 2006 ($32, Empson): This is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, as this wine does not fit the stereotype of Pinot Blanc as a rather mute wine that is chronically short on personality.  This rendition is quite ripe and soft and rich, with fruit notes recalling very ripe pears, along with a faintly earthy, almost 'sweaty' character that I found very interesting.  Pair with moderately robust fish dishes. 87 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2007

Gradis’Ciutta, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Bràtinis” 2011 ($30): Collio is one of Italy’s three premier white wine sources (along with Alto Adige and Campania), and though it produces a wide range of single-variety wines, Collio Bianco is always a blend.  For many producers, Collio Bianco is the house’s flagship wine, but it can’t quite be the region’s flagship wine due to the fact that the varieties in the blend differ among producers. Gradis’Ciutta (an exemplary producer) always uses Ribolla Gialla, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and always draws the fruit from the same vineyard sites.  There is some vintage variation, however, due to differences in the warmth and yield levels of different growing seasons.  I haven’t tasted enough different renditions to know how the 2011 stacks up against other vintages, but I tasted this particular wine on three separate occasions…and adored it all three times.  Not only is it still alive at this stage, but actually quite vibrant and highly complex, with multiple layers of generous flavors and a very long, symmetrical finish.  It is so complex that it seems impossible that no wood was involved, but that’s indeed the case.  A totally compelling wine.
94 Michael Franz May 19, 2015

Borgo del Tiglio, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Studio di Bianco” 2011 ($24): Really ripe and generous in character, this is a wine with a lot of ripeness and weight on the palate but no lack of focus or freshness.  The generous fruit notes recall tangerine and mango, but just when this seems that it might be a bit too juicy, the late-arriving acidity energizes the finish.  Wines from the 2011 vintage in Collio often show this unusual sensory characteristic of late-arriving acidity, and this is a fine case in point.  Broadening out beyond the year, this also offers an object lesson in the unusually rich-but-sharply-defined template of Collio whites.
93 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2015

Carlo di Pradis, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) 2005 ($28): If you need proof that the top wines of Collio are amazingly ageworthy, this is the bottle that will prove the point.  This has not only held on for a decade, but developed and improved in multiple aspects.  The color shows the effects of time in bottle, but the oxidative notes shown in the wine’s aromas and flavors are all positive, lending complexities akin to those found in perfectly aged Champagnes.  The bouquet is especially marked by tertiary characteristics, but primary fruit is still showing from start to finish in the sensory sequence offered by this wine.  Its layered profile is also underpinned by remarkably prominent minerality that cannot only be tasted but actually almost felt on the palate as the wine’s flavors tail off in an impressively persistent finish.
93 Michael Franz Jul 7, 2015

Gradis’Ciutta, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) "Bratinis" 2011 ($26): If you see this wine, buy this wine… and buy it without fear that it might be cracking up on account of being sourced from the 2011 vintage.  Excellent renditions of Collio Bianco can improve for five years or more and can hold for a full decade.  This particular rendition starts with a super complex bouquet, followed by flavors that are very generous and almost succulent and tropical.  These are mid-palate sensations; as the wine finishes, acidity gracefully supersedes the juiciness and provides remarkable refreshment value for a wine from a warm growing season.  Starting lavish but then turning energetic, this provides a surprising and downright exciting tasting experience.
93 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2015

Ronco Blanchis, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Blanc di Blancis” 2013 ($23): Blended from Friulano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia, this medium-bodied wine starts with subtle but intricate aromas, followed by fleshy texture and open flavors that are focused by fresh acidity.  Quite detailed and layered in profile, with exceptional quality in its aromatics, flavors and texture.
93 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2015

Ca’Ronesca, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Marnà” 2010 ($25): This is a wonderfully complex and expressive wine.  The aromas are quite alluring, but the real fireworks start once the flavors kick in, starting with opulent tropical fruit and mandarin orange notes.  A subtle undertone of stony minerality rises to the fore in the finish as the fruit flavors tail off, and the string of sensations is energized throughout by a strong streak of citrus acidity.  If my score is off, it is off on the low side, and this impressive wine offers yet another object lesson in the capacity of Collio whites to improve with extended ageing.
92 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Tercic, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Planta” 2011 ($22): An outstanding wine from a difficult vintage, this shows an uncanny combination of creaminess and cut, with rich fruit recalling lemon curd that actually sharpens rather than dulls as the flavors tail off in the finish.  Complex in structure as well as flavor, this is a wine that would prove enduringly interesting to drink.
91 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Livon, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) “Solarco” 2013 ($22): The front label indicates that this is a blend of Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, and I have no reason to doubt that, though I would have guessed that there was some Sauvignon in the mix on account of an herbal aromatic topnote.  Whatever the case, the bouquet (which also has a subtle floral character) is quite appealing, and the flavors are energized by bright acidity from the Ribolla Gialla component, which also provides freshness and persistence to the finish.
90 Michael Franz Jun 23, 2015

Zuani, Collio Bianco (Friuli, Italy) "Vigne" 2013 ($23): This charming white is an unusual blend of Friulano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio.  It’s a blend that somehow works, delivering a subtle whiff of white flowers, melon-like nuances and crisp balancing acidity that add vibrancy.  Overall, it has a softer, gentler profile that makes it work equally well before or with dinner.
88 Michael Apstein Nov 3, 2015

Russiz Superiore, Collio DOC (Friuli, Italy) “Bianco Col Disore” 2016 ($40, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  A delightful yet more serious blend from the Marco Felluga stable.  Specific acacia aromas are joined by spiced pear and sweet grapefruit, and the fruit elements translate directly to palate flavors over a silky texture (thanks to large format oak) and a bright finish where the pear is elevated slightly now.  I’d like to see this alongside a spicy sea bass on the table – a light saline note in the finish will tie it all together.  Contains 40% Pinot Bianco, 35% Friulano, 15% Sauvignon and 10% Ribolla Gialla.   
93 Rich Cook Nov 5, 2019

Luisi, Collio DOC (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2017 ($18):  The Collio district of Friuli is home to many of the finest Pinot Grigios produced in northern Italy.  The 2017 Pinot Grigio from Luisi is a beautiful example, exhibiting freshness and texture, with bright citrus and melon notes and a excellent persistence through a thoroughly satisfying finish.  
91 Robert Whitley Nov 20, 2018

Jermann, Friuli (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2017 ($23, Jermann Wines USA):  After reviewing this vintage of Jermann Pinot Grigio last fall (Oct 22, 2019) I wanted to taste it again to see if had changed much over the past few months.  I’m happy to report that while it was delicious then, it has evolved into an even more beguiling and enchanting wine now.  A little more maturity has toned down the fruit a tad and elevated the minerality into perfect balance, while the acidity is spot-on without intruding.  There’s only one thing wrong with this wine:  I drank my last bottle of it.  
95 Marguerite Thomas Mar 24, 2020

Campanile, Friuli (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2007 ($13, Foster's Wine Estates): The fruit for this juicy Pinot Grigio came from the Grave sub-region of the northern province of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, renowned in Italy for aromatic white wines.  Tank fermented and aged, the wine has lovely floral notes, ripe flavors (without being overripe), crisp citrusy acidity and good length through the finish.  With more body and texture than the regular Pinot Grigio, this is an excellent example of a vibrant wine with juicy flavors.  A good choice as a crisp accompaniment to hors d'oeuvres, or with lemon chicken. 89 Gerald D. Boyd May 20, 2008

Eugenio Collavini, Friuli Colli Orientali (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy) Ribolla Gialla Turian 2016 ($25):  I love the sound -- ree-bow-la jala -- when ordering this wine.  The only problem is the plethora or styles -- barrel fermented, orange or this beautifully fresh and vibrant version by Collavini.  There is no warning on the label alerting the consumer to the style, so once again, it’s producer, producer, producer.  Not only is Ribola Gialla fun to say, Collavini’s is a joy to drink.  It has a textural element similar to a top-notch Pinot Gris -- not Pinot Grigio -- but without a hint of sweetness.  Its density along with its balancing acidity make you stand up and take notice.  This is a serious wine, not just some bright flash in pan.  Try it with robust seafood dishes or linguine and clam sauce.  
93 Michael Apstein Aug 28, 2018

Volpe Pasini, Friuli Colli Orientali DOC (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy) Sauvignon "Zuc di Volpe" 2018 ($28, Europvin USA):  The hills of Friuli are especially noted for pure and intense white wines.  From Pinot Grigio to Friulano to Sauvignon Blanc and beyond, Friulian whites are celebrated throughout the wine world.  The Volpe Pasini Zuc di Volpe Sauvignon shows the depth and precision of the best Friulian whites.  Their 2018 vintage is fresh and vibrant.  It shows a wonderful combination of peach, grapefruit and green apple fruit scents followed by elements of green herbs, lily and almond.  The flavors of mouthwatering citrus, nectarine and fresh green herbs are backed by subtle floral and nut hints.  The wine is refreshing, layered, richly textured and is a great match for most any seafood or poultry dish.   
93 Wayne Belding Apr 28, 2020

Jermann, Friuli DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2017 ($23):  This lovely Pinot Grigio offers aromatic hints of tropical fruits against a floral backdrop.  The palate tends toward crisp apple and juicy pear along with accents of minerality.  The wine was aged in stainless steel tanks.  With its complex flavors, good structure, engaging texture and generous finish this sophisticated white wine is definitely not your mama’s Pinot Grigio.  
93 Marguerite Thomas Oct 22, 2019

Jermann, Friuli DOC (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2017 ($23):  Pinot Grigio has become so popular that, for many, it is a commodity, as in “I’ll have a glass of Pinot Grigio…” with no sense of site or producer.  The result is that a bevy of innocuous watery Pinot Grigio have diluted (no pun intended) the wine’s reputation.  For those who want to understand what real Pinot Grigio tastes like -- and see why it has become so popular -- reach for this one from Jermann.  Friuli, in the northeast of Italy, is one of the best sites for Pinot Grigio and Jermann is one of the top producers in that region.  Their 2017 is delicately floral, persistent and has real depth.  A bright finish makes even more engaging.  I recently had a 10-year old Jermann Pinot Grigio bottled under screwcap that had extraordinary complexity and suaveness.  For Jermann, Pinot Grigio is not a commodity, but a serious wine.  And very well priced. 
92 Michael Apstein Sep 18, 2018

Jermann, Friuli DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2017 ($25, Jermann Wines USA):  This wine swims to the front of the ocean of this varietal coming out of northern Italy with its freshness and brightness.  Apple, citrus and a touch of spiced peach fly on wings of lively acidity and finish crisp and full flavored.  Drink up!  
91 Rich Cook Jun 4, 2019

Marco Felluga, Friuli DOC (Italy) "Bianco" 2016 ($18, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  A blend of Pinot Bianco ((67%), Pinot Grigio (24%) and Friulano (9%) this surprisingly substantial wine tastes fresh but also full, with enough weight on the palate to accompany many fish and poultry dishes, as well as zesty acidity that also makes it a delicious aperitif.  This time of year, with holiday entertaining coming fast and furious, its versatility makes it well worth buying by the case. 
91 Paul Lukacs Dec 11, 2018

Poggiobello, Friuli DOC (Italy) Pinot Grigio 2018 ($25):  As with most traditional Italian Pinot Grigios the overriding theme here is delicacy.  A light fragrance resembling fresh hay wafts up from the glass, and in the mouth gentle suggestions of juicy green apple and lime dominate.  Serve this refreshing wine with fried food (chicken, shrimp), creamy cheeses, or mac and cheese.   
90 Marguerite Thomas Dec 17, 2019

Vigneti Le Monde, Friuli Grave (Italy) Pinot Bianco 2016 ($15, The Sorting Table):  Vigneti Le Monde makes a delicious and affordable rendition of Pinot Bianco.  Their 2016 bottling offers a rare combination of power, depth and elegance.  This elegant white shows varietal purity with aromas of peach, red apple and pear fruits backed by floral and spice hints. The layered fruit character results in a rich and creamy texture.  Although Pinot Grigio gets more notoriety, savvy white wine lovers should seek out Pinot Bianco as well.  When it is as well made as the Vigneti Le Monde 2016, it shows marvelous elegance and complexity.  Very food-friendly, its combination of rich fruit and creamy texture lets it pair well with grilled seafood or summer salads. 
92 Wayne Belding May 15, 2018

Borgo M, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2010 ($11, Domaine Select):  Friulano is capable of making terrific wine in Friuli but--like its indigenous stablemate, Ribolla Gialla--it remains relatively obscure in the wider world of wine.  This situation wasn’t helped by the fact that it was long known as Tocai Friulano but has now lost that name under EU rules due to possible confusion with a famous wine of Hungary.  In any case, good Friulano is very, very good, and this rendering is a fine object lesson in that fact, with generous fruit recalling ripe peaches and pears, with surprisingly energetic acidity in light of how ripe and generous the fruit tastes.  Gorgeous as a stand-alone sipper but very versatile at the table, this is a wonderfully impressive wine that is still at the top of its game. 92 Michael Franz Mar 6, 2012

Bollini, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($18, Kobrand): I couldn't quite figure why my tasting sample of this wine had just recently arrived, as I'd think this 2004 would have optimally started its cycle in the market in late April of last year. Nevertheless, it is my job to taste without preconceptions, and though it was hard to approach this without thinking that its time had passed, it was easy to see that it was still fresh, and that it had actually acquired some complexity and dimension over the course of the past year. Pinot Grigio with sufficient character to improve with time in bottle...who knew? In any case, this is a complete wine for its type, now at the peak of its appeal. Aromas of tart apples and green melons lead into a palate that straddles the line between light and medium weight, with ripe fruit strongly counterbalanced by assertive acidity and notable mineral notes in the finish. Impressive stuff! 90 Michael Franz Jan 24, 2006

Borgo Viscone, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Friulano 2007 ($12, Siema): This is a compelling white wine that comes at a bargain price.  Delicately floral in the bouquet, it offers crisp apple-like flavors and a surprisingly rich finish.  Delicious as an aperitif, it also should pair well with light seafood or poultry dishes.  Though well-balanced now, its acidity seems restrained, so I would advise drinking it this spring and summer, and not saving any bottles for next year. 90 Paul Lukacs Apr 7, 2009

Pighin, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2015 ($18, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): Buying Pinot Grigio, one of America’s most popular white wines, is like walking through a mind field.  With so many vapid examples on retailers’ shelves, it’s hard for a consumer to know how to choose.  Well, you can start with this one by Pighin.  White flower aromas lend a delicacy that is amplified by lemony acidity and a subtle hint of bitterness in the finish.  Balanced, clean and long, it serves double duty as an aperitivo-style wine and as a accompaniment to simple seafood.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 4, 2016

Vigneti Le Monde, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Bianco 2015 ($14, The Sorting Table): Vigneti Le Monde is a consistent producer of affordable and appealing wines.  Their Pinot Biancos offer a rare combination of power, depth and elegance.  The 2015 Le Monde Pinot Bianco shows varietal purity with aromas of peach, red apple and pear fruits backed by floral and spice hints. The layered fruit character results in a rich and creamy texture . Although Pinot Bianco is often overlooked, it shows marvelous elegance and complexity when crafted by the Cantine Le Monde.  This lovely white will be a fine companion for late summer fare.  Its combination of rich fruit and creamy texture lets it pair well with grilled seafood or summer salads.
90 Wayne Belding Aug 1, 2017

Villa Chiopris, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2008 ($15, Angelini): One of the better Pinot Grigios I’ve tasted in 2009, this shows uncommon depth and substance, but remains fresh and lively.  The fruit shows notes of ripe apples and pears, with a nice edge of acidity that sharpens the focus of the finish.  Although this is well suited to the sort of stand-alone sipping for which Pinot Grigio is commonly utilized, this can also do nicely at the table thanks to its unusually substantial profile. 89 Michael Franz Dec 15, 2009

Pighin, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2010 ($14, Kobrand):  I’m always surprised at the popularity of more expensive Pinot Grigio when ones like this one are widely available.  The Grave area of Friuli is one of the best places in Italy for white wines in general and Pinot Grigio in particular.  And the brothers Pighin have been a leading producer for decades.  Their 2010 demonstrates why this varietal is so popular.  Delicately floral, it delivers bright subtle fruit nuances and great length.  Vibrant acidity refreshes and amplifies the flavors. 88 Michael Apstein Nov 29, 2011

Pighin, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2004 ($15, Kobrand): This is one of the best 2004 Pinot Grigios that I've tasted, as well as a wine that has proved quite consistent from year to year. It shows subtle apple fruit and nice mineral edging, along with fine acidity. Although the wine is clearly light-bodied, it shows more substance and flavor impact than most Pinot Grigios, yet remains crisp and refreshing. 88 Michael Franz Jan 3, 2006

Plozner, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2006 ($18, Empson): February and March are tough months for lovers of Pinot Grigio, and for restaurateurs who must cater to them.  Most wines made in the northern hemisphere during the previous year's harvest are not yet available, and most made during the year before that have lost the freshness that is Pinot Grigio's calling card (and, some would chide, its only virtue).  However, this wine is still very much alive and kicking at this point, with subtle aromas but conspicuously vigorous, apple-driven flavors and lots of vibrant acidity.  Subtle mineral notes lend additional interest, and the wine is quite convincing regardless of its age. 88 Michael Franz Feb 19, 2008

Conte Brandolini, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Tocai Friulano 2005 ($14, Palm Bay): This is a very nice, reasonably priced Tocai Friulano that hits the mark with floral aromas that are expressive without being overbearing. They are followed up by light but flavorful fruit recalling white melons with a spritz of citrus and some subtle mineral notes. Dry but certainly not austere, this is a delightful aperitif or a promising partner for light appetizers. 87 Michael Franz Oct 17, 2006

Pighin, Grave (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2006 ($14, Kobrand): The incredible popularity of Pinot Grigio has resulted in a plethora of vapid examples on retailers' shelves.  Thankfully, Pighin's version is not one of them.  Its engaging aromatics, a lovely texture and refreshing crispness remind us why Pinot Grigio is so popular. 87 Michael Apstein Apr 1, 2008

Luisa, Isonzo del Friuli (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon 2008 ($20, Vias Imports):  This is the best Sauvignon Blanc-based wine that I’ve tasted from Friuli in over a year, and that’s saying something.  Full of varietal character in both aroma and flavor, the wine is very expressive and yet neither pungent nor overly aggressive on the palate.  Notes of lemons and limes intermingle with white melon and dried herbs, with a very appealing hint of minerality in the finish. 91 Michael Franz Jun 22, 2010

Puiatti, Isonzo del Friuli (Friuli, Italy) Sauvignon “Zuccole” 2010 ($13, Vin DiVino):  Although the Friuli region of northeastern Italy might not rank foremost in wine drinkers’ minds as a world-class Sauvignon Blanc terroir, in fact it is a classic region for this grape variety.  This Sauvignon (as the grape is called in Friuli) is from the Puiatti estate, which is one of the properties of the Tenementi Angelini wineries.  The wine is dry, crisp and un-oaked, with fresh herbal and citrus aromas and flavors.  This is not a rich Sauvignon Blanc, nor a particularly intensely flavorful one, but it has true varietal character, weighs in at only 12.5 percent alcohol, and is fully dry. This is a very food-friendly white, suitable for all sorts of fish, chicken preparations, risotto, white-sauced pasta or pizza, and salads. 88 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Oct 11, 2011

Pieropan, Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy) 2014 ($20, E. & J. Gallo): I’m a sucker for well-made Soave (not the cheap stuff that comes in fish-shaped bottles).  Pieropan has produced wine in Soave since the 1880s, and its Classico is a fine introduction to the Garganega grape -- which has been blended with 15 percent Trebbiano di Soave.  The wine is steely and reserved rather than fruity and juicy, which makes it a fine foil for a wide range of foods, including roast chicken, pork chops, fish and shellfish.  Its wet-stone minerality comes largely from the volcanic soils of the region, and crisp pear, citrus and apple flavors balance that flintiness, closing with brisk acid finish.
91 Linda Murphy Nov 3, 2015

Jermann, Venezia Giulia IGT (Friuli, Italy) "Vintage Tunina" 2015 ($58, Lux Wines):  Jermann wines are justifiably famous as top class Friulian whites, and none merits the accolade more than Vintage Tunina.  The name Tunina refers to the old owner of the land on which the original vineyard is located. First made commercially in 1975, Vintage Tunina has become an iconic Friulian white wine.  It is a field blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Malvasia, Ribolla and the rare Picolit.  The 2015 Vintage Tunina is rich and ripe with extraordinary breadth, depth and complexity.  It offers a luscious bouquet of ripe apple, peach and guava fruits backed by fresh herb, floral and spice hints. The multilayered fruit character is enhanced by a seductively rich and creamy texture with the pure fruit flavors veritably dancing across the palate.  There is lots to like about this pure and complex white.  It can also age well for five years or more. 
95 Wayne Belding Mar 20, 2018

Jermann, Venezia Giulia IGT (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2016 ($30):  Jermann’s Pinot Grigio explains why that grape has taken the world by storm.  This one’s the real thing.  And don’t let the lowly IGT designation, instead of a more prestigious DOC or DOCG classification, deter you.  In Italy, the official categories often don’t correspond to quality, as this wine demonstrates.  Floral notes leap from the glass and are followed by good concentration, a sublime texture and a glorious finish.  If you want to know what Pinot Grigio really tastes like, try this one. 
93 Michael Apstein Jul 24, 2018

Schiopetto, Venezia Giulia IGT (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy) “Blanc des Rosis” 2010 ($28, Vintus):  Usually a blend of four grapes, Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Malvasia, and Sauvignon Blanc, Schiopetto sometimes includes a fifth, Ribolla Gialla, when the wine lacks acidity. The 2010, an engaging wine with a broader flavor profile, has plenty of verve and vibrancy.  It would be a good choice for hearty seafood dishes. 90 Michael Apstein Jun 5, 2012

Jermann, Venezia Giulia IGT (Friuli Venezia Giulia) Sauvignon 2005 ($35, Empson):

This Sauvignon bears some resemblance to Sancerre because of the minerality that comes through on its nose and palate.  But it has concentrated citrus fruit character that emerges slowly, and more aromatic intensity than you would expect to find in a Sancerre.  It is bone dry and medium-bodied, with crisp acidity and a fresh, clean personality, not to mention the concentration and length that marks a fine wine.

89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Nov 7, 2006

Jermann, Venezie Giulia (Friuli, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2005 ($29, Empson): Pinot Grigio that exhibits depth, weight on the palate and textured layers of complexity could be one of the most rare commodities in wine. There are exceptions to the simple, watery Pinot Grigios in fashion at the moment, and most of them come from northeastern Italy, where this typically prolific grape variety is treated with great respect and care. Jermann is one such producer, and its 2005 Pinot Grigio from the Venzie Giulia district is a splendid example of the elegance and finesse Pinot Grigio can achieve when yields are kept low and the wine is handled carefully in the cellar. This vintage offers a unique hazelnut aroma on the nose and subtle citrus and tropical fruit notes, with a textured mouthfeel that is most appealing. 91 Robert Whitley Jul 31, 2007

Back to Top


Lazio:

White:

Fontana Candida, Frascati (Lazio, Italy) 2008 ($10, Banfi Vintners):  Think back to your first bottle of Italian white wine.  If it wasn’t Soave, then it was likely Frascati, the so-called wine of Rome, because copious amounts of it are served in the trattorias of the Eternal City as well as the tavernas of nearby Castelli Romani.  Made from Malvasia Blanca di Candia, Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia del Lazio, it is tank fermented and matured, then bottled to retain all its lively flavors of peach and nectarine with a subtle almond back note.  Bottled at 12.5% alcohol, this Frascati from Fontana Candida is a good summer sipping wine or with pasta with cream sauce, seafood and cold salads. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 15, 2010

Fontana Candida, Frascati Superiore DOCG Riserva (Lazio, Italy) "Luna Mater" 2012 ($23, Banfi Vintners): Fontana Candida’s Luna Mater will transform your image of Frascati, typically a light refreshing, but otherwise undistinguished, white wine.  Well, Luna Mater is certainly distinguished.  It’s not just more concentrated than the usual Frascati -- though it is.  What is astounding is its character: complex, deep and long, words not usually associated with Frascati.  Its seductive creamy texture, the slightly bitter almond note in the finish, and racy acidity adds to its allure.  It has enough stuffing and verve to pair with full-flavored seafood dishes or veal scaloppine.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2016

Casale Del Giglio, Lazio (Italy) Petit Manseng 2015 ($20, Siema):  Dazzling aromas and breathtakingly flavorful fruit sets this Petit Manseng apart from the fray.  With all the complexity one could wish for, plus lashings of refreshing acidity on the finish, this bottling is a wine well worth its relatively low price.  Petit Manseng is a grape variety that is finding a welcome home in places other than its native French Jurançon region, including Virginia, New Zealand, and Portugal.  Casale Del Giglio’s Petit Manseng makes a terrific aperitif, and is delicious with any number of different dishes, from something as rich and creamy as Spaghetti Alfredo to a simple grilled salmon steak. 93 Marguerite Thomas Nov 21, 2017

Falesco, Lazio (Italy) Vitiano Bianco 2004 ($11, Winebow): Falesco is owned by Riccardo Cotarella, the renowned consultant. The 2004 Vitiano Bianco is a unique white wine, comprised one-third each of Verdicchio, Viognier, and Vermentino, and the blend really works. It is fresh and lively, with delicate lime and other citrus aromas and flavors. Cotarella thinks that Verdicchio adds freshness, Viognier softness and sweetness, and Vermentino character and structure. The 2004, just the second vintage of Vitiano Bianco, is a great value! 91 Ed McCarthy Sep 12, 2005

Fontana Candida, Lazio (Italy) 'Luna Mater' 2009 ($23, VB Imports):  For years, Frascati was thought of as a café sipping wine, a good choice  for a summer afternoon.  With the release of Luna Mater, Fontana Candida has taken Frascati to a higher level.  Blended from two types of Malvasia, with Greco, Bombino and Trebbiano Toscano, the refreshing wine has a brilliant gold color, grapefruit rind and mineral aromatics, good texture, ample fruit, 14.5% alcohol and a long crisp finish.  Even with the higher alcohol, this Frascati drinks nicely with no heat. 90 Gerald D. Boyd May 24, 2011

Falesco, Lazio IGP (Italy) “Ferentano” 2012 ($20, Winebow): This is a delightful, full-flavored white from an obscure grape variety and a relatively unknown region.  The 2012 Ferentano is made from Roscetto grapes, a local variety indigenous to the area around Montefiascone, north of Rome in northern Lazio.  The Roscetto vine is naturally low yielding and offers fruit with concentrated flavors and the ability to retain refreshing acidity.  The wine is barrel fermented and aged in French and American oak.  The 2012 Ferentano has a forward nose of peach, mango, apple, vanilla, cream and spice.  On the palate, the luscious layers of peach and exotic tropical fruit are enhanced by a lively, lemon zest nuance and a creamy texture.  Try it with roasted chicken or grilled fish and fowl.
90 Wayne Belding Feb 24, 2015

Falesco, Lazio IGT (Italy) Roscetto "Ferentano" 2011 ($20, Winebow): This rare white shows the character and style that can be found among Italy’s treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties.  The 2011 Ferentano is from Roscetto grapes grown around Montefiascone, in northern Lazio.  The wine is partially barrel fermented and aged in French and American oak.  It has an opulent nose of ripe apple, peach, tropical fruit, cream and spice.  On the palate, the luscious layers of peach and apple fruit are enhanced by an appetizing citrus peel element and a delectably creamy texture.  The subtle baking spices that linger at the finish add interest to the already complex flavors.
90 Wayne Belding Apr 29, 2014

Back to Top


Liguria:

Red:

Cantina Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Lunae DOC (Liguria, Italy) “Niccolò V” 2010 ($30, Montcalm Wine Imports): I don’t know enough about all the producers in Liguria to say that Lunae Bosoni is “the best.”  But what I can say, after tasting their wines for several years now at Montcalm’s annual portfolio tasting, is that they are a superb producer.  Red or white, it makes no difference.  I’d be pleased to have any of their wines on my table.  Take this red, for example.  It’s a blend of Sangiovese (70%) filled out with Merlot and Pollera Nera (a rare red grape practically unique to Liguria) aged in French oak that you might think is “modern” because of the Merlot and French oak.  But no.  The Merlot and barrique aging add a subtle dimension without overwhelming the wine.  Italian vivacity stands out in this mid-weight red and the slight bitterness in the finish makes you return for another sip after a bite of hearty pasta. It delivers more complexity and enjoyment than you’d expect at the price.
93 Michael Apstein Dec 20, 2016

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) "Niccolo’ V" 2015 ($30, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Lunae Bosoni, the largest producer in Liguria, shows that big can be outstanding.  Niccoló V, their flagship red, is named for a Pope who was born nearby the winery.  A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Pollera Nera, which their website says is grown nowhere else in Italy.  The 2015 is sensational.  It’s floral, savory and layered with flavor.  It’s a suave wine that wins you, not with power, but with elegance, length and complexity.  It’s a bargain for what it delivers and you can enjoy it now because of its sublime texture.  
95 Michael Apstein Oct 22, 2019

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni Rosso DOC (Liguria, Italy) “Auxo” 2012 ($25, Montcalm Wine Imports): Though the Colli di Luni Rosso DOC straddles two regions, Liguria and Tuscany, the blend is typically Tuscan, Sangiovese (70%) with Cannaiolo and Ciliegiolo.  A balanced wine, it achieves roundness and generosity without being overtly fruity of flabby. Indeed, there’s an attractive bitter note in the finish and Tuscan acidity keeps it vigorous and fresh. The tannins are refined, which makes it an excellent choice for current consumption.  The price makes it very easy to pull the cork this summer.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2016

Rosé:

Lunae Bosoni, Liguria di Levante IGT (Liguria, Italy) “Mea Rosa” 2015 ($25, Montcalm Wine Imports): Readers know I’m not swept away by the tsunami of enthusiasm for rosé, often recommending chilling a light red instead.  Well, this rosé makes me reassess my opinion of the category. Made entirely from Vermentino Nero, an autochthonous grape from Liguria, it has layers of flavor that impart character.  Fruity and fresh, it has amazing substance and length for a rosé. Of course, it would be a good choice for the usual summer salads.  But it has enough energy and oomph to hold up nicely to a tomato-based seafood preparation. This rosé is just more evidence that Lunae Bosoni is a superb producer.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2016

White:

Lunae, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino “Etichetta Nera” 2014 ($40, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): Forty dollars for a Vermentino, a wine more often found in the under $20 category, is an extraordinary price.  But this one, Lunae’s Black Label and the winery’s flagship, is an extraordinary wine.  After tasting the 2014, I can understand why Gambero Rosso, the prestigious Italian wine guide, has awarded the wine Tre Bicchieri (their highest accolade) for six consecutive years.  The 2014 delivers alluring bright spice -- an almost white pepper quality -- and saltiness.  Unencumbered by oak aging, its clean and crisp nature imparts a palate tingling vivacity that carries through to an exceptional finish.  Each sip brings additional nuances, making it a delight to sip throughout a meal.  Savor this Vermentino with simply grilled fish to allow the wine to shine.  It will.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino "Black Label" 2018 ($40, Montcalm Wine Importers):  I know my editor, and others, are wondering how I could possibly could give 95 points to a Vermentino.  Taste it and you’ll see.  As much as I like Lunae Bosoni’s “Grey Label” Vermentino, this, their so-called “Black Label,” is just better.  It has everything that their Grey Label has, but is longer, denser, more complex.  In brief, it’s a more complete wine.  Both floral and mineral-infused, it’s amazingly long and bright.  It has enormous energy that persists into the finish and then some.  It’s one of the best Vermentinos I’ve ever had.  The leap in quality is likely due to both a careful selection of grapes and a bit, but not too much, of skin maceration in the winery.  On a personal note, usually, after I taste samples that have been sent to me, I give the remainder of the bottles to friends.  Not this one.  I drank it with our dinner of grilled swordfish in a robust tomato caper sauce.  Gambero Rosso, one of Italy’s most prominent wine reviewers, has awarded this wine tre bicchieri (three glasses), its highest ranking, 10 years in a row.  I’m betting this will be the 11th.  
95 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino “Cavagino” 2017 ($45, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Though this Vermentino comes from three vineyards in the more highly regarded Cavagino area of the DOC, I suspect that the major difference in the wine’s character compared to Lunae Bosoni’s other Vermentinos is in the winemaking, because they have been experimenting with barrique fermentation.  Forty percent of this wine underwent barrique fermentation, which lends a bit of creaminess to Bosoni’s Vermentino hallmark floral spicy nose and freshness.  The oak influence is not intrusive.  It adds an extra dimension at the expense of some of the Vermentino’s energy.  
92 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino “Numero Chiuso” 2015 ($60, Montcalm Wine Importers):  This, Bosoni’s “number one,” is a limited production of 2,600 bottles from a single 20-hl barrel, where the wine rested on the lees for 14 months.  The lees aging adds richness and roundness, which results in a different expression of Vermentino.  Though still bright and refreshing, the wine’s suaveness mutes its vivacity a bit.  Bosoni’s Numero Chiuso and their Cavagini complete a gorgeous quartet of Vermentino that offers something for everyone.  
92 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino “Etichetta Grigia” 2015 ($25, Montcalm Wine Imports): If you see Lunae Bosoni’s name on a label, buy the wine.  This producer is consistently top-notch, whether it’s a white wine, like this Vermentino, a rosé -- their Mea Rosa is stunning -- or a red.  Their Etichetta Grigia, or grey label, distinguishes it from their flagship Vermentino, which is adorned with a black label.  Vermentino can certainly disappoint and you might think if they produce a flagship wine, any other Vermentino should be avoided as vapid swill.  How wrong you’d be.  This is a stunning little brother of a wine showing intensity and a captivating edginess.  A pineapple-like spice adds another dimension. It has requisite concentration and freshness to hold up against a hearty seafood stew.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2016

Lunae Bosoni, Colli di Luni DOC (Liguria, Italy) Vermentino "Grey Label" 2018 ($25, Montcalm Wine Importers):  Lunae Bosoni, the largest winery in Liguria, shows that big can be beautiful.  They make an exquisitely consistent line-up of Vermentino.  Scents of wild herbs and spice leap from the glass of this one, their so-called entry level wine.  Its clean and cutting nature enlivens the palate.  A subtle touch of white pepper-like spice in the finish enhances its appeal.  It’s a fantastic choice for summertime seafood, such as linguine bathed in a clam sauce. 
91 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Punta Crena, Colline Savonesi (Liguria, Italy) Mataòssu Vigneto Reiné 2013 ($27, Kermit Lynch): Wine lovers like me tend to seek out new and unusual grape varieties that they have not tasted previously to add to their vinous experience.  The 2013 Mataòssu bottling from Punta Crena certainly falls into that category.  Grown on terraced cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean waters of Liguria, the wine reveals a classic Mediterranean style.  Pure aromas and flavors of lemon zest, green apple and grapefruit are enhanced by hints of white flowers and delicate green herbs.  The flavors are clean, pure and bright with the citrusy tones nicely balanced by the wine's surprisingly rich texture and the delicate herbal tones that linger at the finish.  It will be a wonderful wine to enjoy with fresh seafood this spring.
90 Wayne Belding Mar 31, 2015

Cantina Lunae Bosoni, Rivera Liguria di Ponente DOC (Liguria, Italy) Pigato 2015 ($24, Montcalm Wine Imports): Though Pigato is the same as the Vermentino grape, according to DNA analysis, it has a different flavor profile when transformed into wine, presumably because of where it’s planted.  Indeed, Lunae’s 2015 Pigato, though equally enjoyable as their Vermentino, is different.  It’s less floral with more spice.  It has the same wonderful acidity and balance as Luane’s other wines.  Snap it up.
91 Michael Apstein Dec 20, 2016

Back to Top


Lombardy:

Red:

Costaripa, Benaco Bresciano (Lombardy, Italy) “Mazane” 2005 ($21, Empson): From vineyards along the shores of scenic Lake Garda, this red IGT is made with a local grape variety, Marzemino, made famous by Mozart in his opera Don Giovanni, where the title character drinks wine made with it.  The wine is well worth trying off stage too.  Light-bodied, with a characteristic northern Italian zing of acidity and bright cherry fruit flavors, it provides delightful aperitif sipping or will pare nicely with light fare. 88 Paul Lukacs Dec 18, 2007

Monte Rossa, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut Rosé “P.R.” NV ($50):  A very successful Franciacorta Rosé, this shows pleasantly rooty, robust character from the 40% Pinot Noir from which it was crafted.  Yet it never seems heavy or ponderous, thanks to fresh acidity underlying its full-bodied style, as well as energetic, foamy effervescence. 91 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2013

Agit Optima, Oltrepo Pavese DOC (Lombardy, Italy) Pinot Nero 2012 ($25): Pinot Nero, aka Pinot Noir, is hardly the first wine that comes to mind when contemplating outstanding Italian reds. Over the years there have been more misses than hits, yet there are those who continue to pursue their passion for Pinot despite the disappointing results to date. Agit Optima is the particular passion of winemaker Jean-Francois Coquard, a transplanted Burgundian who's actually had success with Pinot Nero in Italy. The 2012 won't make anyone forget La Tache, but that's not the point. It's a meaty, ripe, well-rounded expression of Pinot Noir from the Lombardy region around Milan. Showing a strong savory note, a hint of cola and aromas of strawberry and black cherry, this is a Pinot Nero that commands respect at a downright modest price.
88 Robert Whitley Jul 7, 2015

Agit Optima, Oltrepo Pavese DOC (Lombardy, Italy) Pinot Nero 2012 ($25, Alma Wines): A very interesting, if very different, expression of Pinot Noir.  From northern Italy, it shows a very different sort of earth mineral character than we see in the wines of Burgundy or California.  It's quite dry, with cherry and a touch of blackberry fruit, and shows a light peppery character, likely from some stem involvement during fermentation.  The finish is chalky and shows a touch of oak char, but it's quite lengthy and interesting.  Pair this where you might use a light bodied Syrah for a different twist.
87 Rich Cook Sep 22, 2015

Sartori di Verona, Provincia di Pavia IGT (Lombardy, Italy) Pinot Noir 2006 ($13, VB Imports): On average these days, inexpensive Pinot Noir is not merely a disappointing wine category, but an outright train wreck.  This wine is a notable exception, and though it is not likely to make many tasters swoon, it is newsworthy on account of being quite tasty, versatile with food, and free of flaws.  The fruit note recalls red cherries, and is fresh but not grapey nor obvious, and the wine is appropriately light but not watery or innocuous.  This is a fine choice for light meats or more substantial fish dishes that might be overwhelmed by the more chunky style of New World Pinot. 84 Michael Franz Sep 9, 2008

Azienda Agricola Caven, Sassella (Valtellina Superiore, Lombardy, Italy) "La Priora" 1999 ($10, Masciarelli Wine Imports, Weymouth MA): This is a refined, finessed version of Nebbiolo from the Alpine hills of northern Lombardy. High-toned nose of eucalyptus, camphor and mint has base notes of dark berries. Dry and near-full-bodied with high acid and firm, fine grained tannin, and alcohol that's high but balanced within the wine. Medium intense flavors of blackberry and herbs carry long in the mouth. A complex wine, classically Nebbiolo, from a cooler terroir. Can hold for approximately three years. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Sep 1, 2005

Fay, Sforzato di Valtellina (Lombardy, Italy) “Ronco del Picchio” 2005 ($38, Siema):  This is a terrific rendition of Nebbiolo from an extremely high-altitude site that offers the complexity of a Barolo or Barbaresco costing twice as much.  The fruit is relatively rich for a Nebbiolo-based wine, but what is most impressive are the many aromatic and flavor nuances, including notes of dried flowers, mushrooms, woodsmoke and carpaccio.  The tannins are fine in grain and perfectly weighted in relation to the wine’s density, and the acidity is ripe and balanced in proportion to the fruit.  An intriguing wine that will likely get even better over the next few years. 92 Michael Franz Feb 23, 2010

Nino Negri, Valtellina Superiore (Lombardy, Italy) "Quadrio" 2014 ($19, Frederick Wildman and Sons):  The steeply-sloped vineyards of the of the Nino Negri estate in the Valtellina Superiore have yielded a delicate but richly nuanced red wine in the 2014 vintage.  Made from the Nebbiolo grape (locally called Chiavennasca) with 10% Merlot, the Negri Quadrio red has a lovely bouquet of raspberries, cranberries, dried flowers, anise, leather and spices.  Its pale color belies its rich and multilayered flavors.  Dried cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruits are enhanced by subtleties of potpourri, autumn leaves, anise, vanilla, herbs and spices.  The remarkable combination of delicacy and complexity is evidence of the aristocratic nature of the Nebbiolo grape.  This is a delicious and affordable Nebbiolo that will provide great drinking pleasure for another 5 to 8 years. 
90 Wayne Belding Nov 20, 2018

Rainoldi, Valtellina Superiore DOCG (Lombardy, Italy) "Sassella" Riserva 2013 ($51, Winebow):  Rainoldi is an iconic producer in the Valtellina Superiore – located on the north bank of the Adda River in the Alpine region of Lombardy.  The Valtellina has several subdivisions, but the steeply-sloped vineyards of Sassella have the stoniest soils and rank among the best sites.  The terraced vineyards on this south-facing slope offer a perfect habitat for the Chiavennasca (the local name for Nebbiolo) vines.  Rainold’s 2013 Sassella Riserva is a delicate, pure, nuanced red wine.  It has a lovely bouquet of pure fruits – raspberry, red cherry, cranberry are all evident and supported by hints of dried flowers, earth, leather and spices.  Its flavors are surprisingly rich and intense.  Pure cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruits are enhanced by elements of dried flowers, forest floor, vanilla, herbs and spices.  The remarkable combination of purity, delicacy, complexity and balance make this a wine that you can enjoy now or cellar for another five years.   
93 Wayne Belding Dec 10, 2019

Mamete Prevostini, Valtellina Superiore DOCG (Lombardy, Italy) Sassella San Lorenzo 2016 ($29, Massanois Imports):  Mamete Prevostini is a small producer in the Valtellina Superiore -- part of the Alpine area of Lombardy.  The Valtellina has several subdivisions, but the steeply-sloped vineyards of Sassella rank as one of the best sites.  The San Lorenzo Vineyard is enclosed within the Convent of San Lorenzo.  The south-facing slope at an elevation of 1400 feet offers a perfect habitat for the Nebbiolo vines.  Mamete Prevostini have crafted a delicate but richly nuanced red wine in the 2016 vintage.  It has a lovely bouquet of raspberries, cranberries, dried flowers, anise, leather and spices.  Its pale color belies its rich and multilayered flavors.  Pure cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruits are enhanced by subtleties of potpourri, autumn leaves, anise, vanilla, herbs and spices.  The remarkable combination of delicacy and complexity make this wine a memorable taste treat.  
92 Wayne Belding May 14, 2019

Nino Negri, Valtellina Superiore DOCG (Lombardy, Italy) Nebbiolo Sassella "Le Tense" 2016 ($37, Frederick Wildman and Sons Ltd.):   The Adda River flows south from the Alps of Italy’s Lombardy region.  For a brief few miles, however, the river turns westward, offering up a steep, south-facing slope that is the Valtellina Superiore.  Nino Negri is a top producer in the Valtellina Superiore.  The Valtellina has several subdivisions, but the vineyards of Grumello and Sassella rank among the best sites.  The Sassella vineyards offer a perfect habitat for the Nebbiolo vines – locally known as Chiavennasca.  Negri’s 2016 Le Tense Sassella is a multilayered, pure and nuanced red wine.  It has a lovely bouquet of dried raspberry and red cherry fruits plus hints of dried flowers, earth, tea and spices.  Its flavors are surprisingly rich and intense.  Dried raspberry and cherry fruits are underlain by elements of forest floor, tea, herbs and spices.  The remarkable complexity and balance make this a wine that you can enjoy now or cellar for another decade.   
92 Wayne Belding May 5, 2020

Arpepe, Valtellina Superiore Riserva (Lombardy, Italy) Sassella “Stella Retica” 2006 ($45, Tellitalia Imports): The steeply-sloped vineyards of Sassella in the Valtellina Superiore have yielded a delicate but richly nuanced red wine in the 2006 vintage.  Made from the Nebbiolo grape (locally called Chiavennasca), it has a lovely bouquet of raspberries, cranberries, dried flowers, anise, leather and spices.  Its pale color belies its rich and multilayered flavors.  Dried cherry, raspberry and cranberry fruits are enhanced by subtleties of potpourri, autumn leaves, anise, vanilla, herbs and spices.  The remarkable combination of delicacy and complexity make this wine a memorable taste treat.
90 Wayne Belding Aug 26, 2014

Rosé:

Mamete Prevostini, Alpi Retiche IGT (Lombardy, Italy) Nebbiolo “Monrose" 2019 ($22, Massanois):  Producers of Nebbiolo red wines are not often noted for their rosé wines.  The 2019 Monrose Alpi Retiche Rosato from Mamete Prevostini, however, shows that Nebbiolo can be a fine source of rosés as well.  Mamete Prevostini is a small producer in the Valtellina Superiore – part of the Alpine area of Lombardy.  Their Monrose Rosato ages on the grape skins for about 12 hours and extracts a vibrant salmon-pink color.  It offers a delicious combination of juicy fruit and lively spice.  Made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in and near their Valtellina vineyards, the Monrose Rosato bursts with red cherry and cranberry fruits enhanced by floral nuances and hints of coriander spice.  It is pure and lively, with juicy red fruits as well as subtle floral and spice tones.  This is a pure, lively and juicy rosé that is a versatile food companion.  It will offer great tasting pleasure for the warm months ahead.  
90 Wayne Belding Apr 14, 2020

Sparkling:

Albinea Canali, Emilia-Romagna (Lombardy, Italy) Ottocentonero “Sparkling Dry Lambrusco” 2010 ($16, VB Imports):  Long considered to be a fruity red sparkling wine not to be taken seriously, Lambrusco has improved its wine and image in recent years.  Unfortunately this Lambrusco does not do the efforts credit.  Intense purple-ruby in color, the deep aromatics show blackberry notes, while the flavors are grapy and fizzy, supported by high acidity and 11.5% alcohol, leading to an austere finish.  A cautionary note:  It may just have been the bottle I had, but the cork was extremely difficult to pull, even with champagne pliers. 86 Gerald D. Boyd Feb 8, 2011

Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) "Cuvée Prestige" NV ($37, Santa Margherita USA):  Ca’ del Bosco is one of the leading estates of Franciacorta, consistently producing Franciacorta wines of exceptional quality.  The best Franciacortas are brilliant, elegant and complex sparkling wines.  Ca’ del Bosco’s Brut Cuvée Prestige is made from 75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Bianco.  It has a very low dosage and is balanced and refreshing.  The bouquet is pure and vibrant, with lemon and apple fruits interwoven with lovely floral, yeasty and creamy nuances.  The flavors are juicy and pure, with layers of fresh lemon and apple fruits underscored by a deliciously creamy texture.  The finish is long, lively and intriguing.  The beautiful bouquet and layered, complex flavors of the Ca’ del Bosco are benchmarks of the quality and elegance of fine Franciacorta. 
95 Wayne Belding Jun 19, 2018

Ferghettina, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Extra Brut 2009 ($58, Empson USA): Ferghettina consistently produces Franciacorta wines of exceptional quality.  The best Franciacortas are brilliant, elegant and complex sparkling wines.  Ferghettina’s 2009 Extra Brut is made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir grown in higher altitude sites.  The bouquet is pure and vibrant, with lemon, peach and green apple fruits interwoven with lovely floral, yeasty and creamy nuances.  The flavors reflect the promise of the nose, with layers of fresh apple, lemon and peach fruits underlain by a deliciously creamy texture.  The finish is long and intriguing.  The beautiful bouquet and layered, complex flavors show just how special fine Franciacorta can be.
95 Wayne Belding Mar 8, 2016

Majolini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Blanc de Noir Brut NV ($56, Banville Wine Merchants):  Production of this wine is limited, with a mere 3,000 bottles produced, and only in the best years.  The wine is rich and complex, with hints of apple and dried apricot.  Some chalky minerality can be sensed in the finish.  The winery is located at the top of a limestone laced hill, and no herbicides or chemical fertilizers are used in the vineyard. 
95 Marguerite Thomas Nov 20, 2018

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut Natura 2013 ($40, The Winebow Group):  Barone Pizzini estate is a consistent, top quality Franciacorta producer.  They have created a truly exceptional bubbly once more with the 2013 Brut Natura.  Made without the addition of residual sugar, the Barone Pizzini 2013 Natura is pure, lively, dry and refreshing.  It is a blend of the best Pinot Nero and Chardonnay wines from several vineyards.  The finished wine is complex, exciting and delicious!  The bouquet is pure and vibrant, with lemon, lime and green apple fruits underscored by hints of wildflowers, cream and subtle yeasty tones.  The flavors resonate with juicy lime, lemon and green apple fruits enhanced by the subtle floral and yeasty components.  It has a satisfying, creamy texture that allows the pure flavors to linger well at the dry finish.  
94 Wayne Belding May 15, 2018

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut Natura 2011 ($43, Leonardo Locasio): Barone Pizzini is among the top echelon of Franciacorta producers.  They have created a truly exceptional bubbly with the 2011 Brut Natura.  Made without the addition of residual sugar, the Barone Pizzini 2011 Natura is pure, lively, dry and refreshing.  It is a blend of the best Pinot Nero and Chardonnay wines from several vineyards.  The finished wine is complex, exciting and delicious!  The bouquet is pure and vibrant, with lemon, lime and green apple fruits underscored by hints of flowers, cream and fresh-bread yeastiness.  The flavors resonate with juicy lime, lemon and green apple fruits enhanced by the subtle floral and yeasty components.  It has a satisfying, creamy texture that allows the pure flavors to linger well at the finish.
94 Wayne Belding Apr 5, 2016

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) "Alma Gran Cuvée" Brut NV ($34, Monsieur Touton Selection):  The best Franciacortas are brilliant, elegant and complex sparkling wines.  The Bellavista Brut Gran Cuvée Alma displays all that Franciacorta can be.  The grapes for the Alma are chosen from ten different plots in the Franciacorta DOCG, and the blend is Chardonnay (80%), Pinot Nero (19%) Pinot Bianco (1%).  These top sites have a higher elevation, better soil drainage and are cooled by breezes off the nearby Lago d’Iseo and the Alpine foothills.  The bouquet is pure and complex, with lemon, pear and green apple fruits interwoven with subtle, buttery, yeasty and creamy nuances.  The flavors exhibit the promise of the nose, with fresh apple, pear, berry and lemon fruits underlain by the buttery-creamy character of the Chardonnay.  The finish is long and intriguing.  The beautiful bouquet and layered, complex flavors compare favorably with any sparkling wine from anywhere in the world. 
94 Wayne Belding Jun 25, 2019

Ferghettina, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) "Riserva 33 Pas Dosé" 2011 ($60, Empson USA):  The best Franciacortas are brilliant, elegant and complex sparkling wines and Ferghettina is among the best producers in the appellation.  Ferghettina’s 2011 Riserva 33 Pas Dosé is made from 100% Chardonnay grown in higher altitude sites.  The bouquet is pure, clean and vibrant, with lemon, peach and green apple fruits interwoven with lovely floral, creamy and fresh bread nuances.  The flavors are pure and lively, with layers of fresh apple, lemon, lime and peach fruits underscored by a rich and creamy texture.  The finish is long and intriguing.  The quality, finesse and elegance of the Riserva 33 Pas Dosé compares with any wine in its price range from anywhere. 
94 Wayne Belding Oct 22, 2019

Ferghettina, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Pas Dosé Riserva 33” 2007 ($66, Empson USA): The best Franciacortas are brilliant, elegant and complex sparkling wines.  Ferghettinas Pas Dosé Riserva 33 displays all that Franciacorta can be. The bouquet is pure and vibrant, with lemon, lime and green apple fruits interwoven with subtle, buttery, yeasty and creamy nuances.  The flavors exhibit the promise of the nose, with fresh apple, lemon and lime fruits underlain by the buttery-creamy character of the best Chardonnay-based bubblies.  The finish is long and intriguing.  The beautiful bouquet and layered, complex flavors show just how special fine Franciacorta can be.
94 Wayne Belding Feb 10, 2015

Majolini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Pas Dosé 2006 ($36, Franciacorta Imports): Since the sparkling wines from Franciacorta are inherently softer than Champagne because the warmer climate results in riper grapes, the added verve imparted by a Pas Dosé (a.k.a. non dosage) provides welcome structure.  This one is gorgeous. Despite its power and persistence, it’s gentle and graceful on the palate.  Its silky texture is unusual for a non-dosage sparkling wine and makes it all that more appealing.  Though a great choice as a stand-alone celebratory drink, it has enough backbone to stand up to a rich sautéed scallop dish.
94 Michael Apstein Oct 22, 2013

Monte Rossa, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut “Salvadek” 2007 ($55):  This is unmistakable as a wine of the very highest quality in all respects.  The aromas are very complex and the flavors are intricate, layered and persistent.  Perhaps most impressive is the texture, which is marked by extremely fine effervescence.  The acid balance to sweetness is, well, perfect, making for a wine that is at once rich and refreshing.  This is the sort of wine that should be keeping the Champenois awake at night. 94 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2013

Ricci Curbastro, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) 2012 ($35, Domenico Valentino): Riccardo Ricci Curbastro has created a truly exceptional bubbly with the 2012 Extra Brut.  Made with a two grams per liter dosage, the 2012 Ricci Curbastro Extra Brut is pure, lively, dry and refreshing.  It is a blend of 50% Pinot Nero and 50% Chardonnay wines from vineyards in Iseo and Ricci Curbastro’s home village of Capriolo.  This exquisitely balanced sparkling wine is pure, complex, exciting and delicious!  The bouquet shows lime, lemon and green apple fruits enhanced by hints of flowers, cream and fresh-bread yeastiness.  The flavors resonate with juicy lime, lemon and green apple fruits enhanced by the subtle floral and yeasty components.  It has a deliciously creamy texture that allows the pure flavors to linger well at the finish.
94 Wayne Belding Aug 1, 2017

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Millesimato Brut 2012 ($45, Vision Wine):  Founded in 1977 Bellavista now owns some 479 acres of vines (almost a tenth of Franciacorta’s vineyard land) and produces about 1.2 million bottles of bubbly a year.  This vivacious Millesimato offers apple and citrus flavors, with traces of appetite whetting bitter almond on the finish.  Thirty percent of the wine was fermented in oak, and it was hand-riddled. 
93 Marguerite Thomas Nov 20, 2018

Berlucchi, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Non-Dosato Riserva “Casa delle Colonne” 2005 ($40):  Strikingly complex and sharply detailed, this is a remarkable wine blended from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir.  Aged on its yeast lees for a full 72 months, this is nevertheless very bright and fresh, with excellent crispness and drive accentuated by very fine-grained effervescence. 93 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Majolini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut NV ($29, Franciacorta Imports): Franciacorta is Italy’s top locale for sparkling wines and Majolini is one of the area’s star producers.  Soft and creamy, this graceful Brut caresses the palate.  It spent an incredible four years on the yeast before disgorgement, which helps explain its amazing complexity.  This very stylish wine has uncommon sophistication for the price.  Your Thanksgiving guests will thank you.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 22, 2013

Ricci Curbastro, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Dossagio Zero “Gualberto” 2004 ($46):  I tasted this from a magnum that was disgorged in 2010.  Although the size of the bottle and the fact that the wine was never transported makes me wonder how representative it is of the stock available in commercial channels around the world, it was so spectacular that I cannot fail to review it.  Blended from 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, it shows lots of dramatic yeasty aromatic complexities but is extremely crisp and fresh on the palate, with flavors of fresh lemons and green apples driven by seemingly electric acidity 93 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Millesimato 2008 ($35):  An excellent wine that offers expressive aromas and satisfying flavors but is nevertheless very fresh, with a lifted, lemony edge and excellent linear energy. 92 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Animante” Brut NV ($30, The Winebow Group):  Barone Pizzini lays claim to having developed the first organic winery in Franciacorta.   This fine Brut, made from 78% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir and 14% Pinot Bianco grapes is a vibrant, slightly floral, delicately yeasty bottle of fizz that charms and invigorates the palate. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Nov 20, 2018

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut “Grande Cuvée” NV ($55, Empson USA):  Stored for a minimum of five years with the spent yeast from its second fermentation, this is definitely a luxury wine, with complexity and price that come with the territory.  Expressive in aroma and authoritative and persistent in flavor, this is a sparkler with real muscle, yet also one with grace, thanks to the balance and integration lent by extended ageing. 92 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2013

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Rosé “Grande Cuvée” 2007 ($65, Empson USA):  Mine may be a minority view these days, but I am not a lover of Rosé sparklers, so this wine had a couple of strikes against it from the get-go.  However, it succeeds brilliantly.  Pale salmon color is quite attractive, and the wine shows subtle aromas and flavors that are layered and enduringly interesting.  Still focused and firm, this will actually improve for a few more years of cellaring, though few who taste it will retain the patience required to test that proposition. 92 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2013

Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut “Cuvée Prestige” NV ($32, Santa Margherita USA):  The various grapes for Ca’ del Bosco’s Cuvée Prestige were sourced from 135 different vineyards, which may partly explain the appealing complexity of this iconic Franciacorta wine.  Or maybe it was that the wine matured on its lees for 25 months.  In any event, the beguiling sparkler is aromatically seductive, with hints of apple and almond on the palate. A blend of 75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Nero and 10% Pinot Bianco. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Nov 20, 2018

Faccoli, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut Rosé NV ($45, Summit Selections):  The family-run Faccoli estate is small (by Franciacorta standards), with a little more than 12 acres of vines.  This approachable rosé captivates the senses with its fresh red berry flavors and hints of minerality.  Aged on lees for 30 months the wine is both dry and multifaceted. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Nov 20, 2018

Majolini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Millesimato Pas Dose 2006 ($38):  Absolutely dry in character but somehow not austere, this remarkable wine is surpassingly fresh, with notes of Granny Smith apples up front that give way to even fresher lemon notes in the finish.  A model of clarity and refreshment. 92 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Majolini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Electo” Brut Millesimato 2005 ($35):  Crafted from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, this big, broad, foamy wine shows very expressive fruit but somehow manages to firm up in the finish to seem zesty and fresh.  Very different in profile from the Majolini Pas Dose, this shows the versatility of this house quite impressively. 92 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Majolini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut 2009 ($40, Banville Wine Merchants):  Franciacorta is arguably Italy’s finest sparkling wine.  The Majolini Estate is located in the small village of Ome, in the eastern reaches of the Franciacorta appellation.  The higher altitude vineyard sites in this part of the appellation yield Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes that are perfectly balanced for sparkling wine production.  The 2009 Majolini Franciacorta spent over 6 years on the lees and has developed great finesse.  The bouquet is pure and vibrant, with lemon, lime and green apple fruits interwoven with subtle, buttery, yeasty and creamy nuances.  The flavors exhibit the promise of the nose with fresh apple, lemon and lime fruits underlain by the buttery-creamy character of the best Chardonnay-based bubblies.  The finish is long and intriguing.  The beautiful bouquet and layered, complex flavors show just how special fine Franciacorta can be.  
92 Wayne Belding Jul 9, 2019

Ricci Curbastro, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Saten Millesimato, Dossagio Zero NV ($49, Domenico Valentino):  Dry and refreshing, this sprightly sparkler has an edge of sweetness that dances across the palate in tandem with well balanced acidity.   Because of that acidity the wine pairs unexpectedly well with a variety of foods, including tomato-based dishes. 
92 Marguerite Thomas Nov 20, 2018

Ronco Calino, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Non Dosaggio “Nature” 2008 ($32):  Lean, racy and very persistent in flavor, this is an exemplary Franciacorta made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir.  Light and lemony at first blush, it shows surprising intensity and drive thanks to energetic acidity that powers through the effervescence and lingers agreeably on the palate. 92 Michael Franz Jan 22, 2013

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Dosaggio Zero “Numero Zero” NV ($28, Vinifera Imports): The winemaking team at Villa Crespia makes fully 20% of its sparkling wines in this ultra-dry style, which they predict will eventually become the leading category for all of Franciacorta. I’m not certain that they’ll be correct in this prediction, but I certainly hope that they are. Made entirely from Chardonnay, this shows an aromatic and flavor profile recalling apple skin and lemon that works very well with this lean, fresh, driving style. Strikingly bright and crisp but neither austere nor sour, this is terrific.
92 Michael Franz Jan 22, 2013

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Extra Brut NV ($28):  Made predominantly from Chardonnay with 5% Pinot Noir added in for good measure, this is broader and deeper in flavor than this producer’s nice Brut, and that it achieves these characteristics with a lower dosage level is particularly impressive, and is attributable to an additional year of ageing (and perhaps also to superior grape material). 91 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Satèn Millesimato 2008 ($36):  Although I lament the fact that the Satèn category is overshadowing the drier wines of Franciacorta in commercial terms, there’s no disputing the fact that the best wines in this style are extremely appealing.  Fully 35% of the base wine for this cuvée was barrel fermented, and with lower effervescence than typical sparklers, this comes off as a big, creamy, luxurious wine.  Nevertheless, it is balanced and sufficiently fresh to work very well as an aperitif or as a partner for fairly delicate foods. 91 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Saten” NV ($65, Empson USA):  This is among the best bottlings of Franciacorta Saten available, and a great choice for giving this soft style a fair try.  It stands out thanks to a cleaner, more focused character and better acidic structure than the run of the Saten mill, perhaps because the vineyard sites chosen as sources for this are all at upper elevations.  Excellent. 91 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2013

Ca del Bosco, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Cuvée Prestige” NV ($53, Terlato Wines International): Made with 75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, and 10% Pinot Blanc, this Champagne-inspired sparkler offers delicious proof that northern Italy can make truly world class dry bubbly.  The wine tastes bright (think lemons and other citrus fruits) but also toasty (brioche), and has a wonderfully long finish.  Though priced on a par with top non-vintage Champagnes, the quality in the glass makes that seem justifiable. 91 Paul Lukacs Jan 6, 2009

Monte Rossa, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Blanc de Blancs Brut “P.R.” NV ($60, Domaine Select):  This wine is a blend of younger and older stocks, and consequently shows a soft, creamy side as well as a more energetic undercurrent that provides drive and length.  Aromas and flavors of fresh lemon and baked apple are very alluring, and though the wine is notably sweet, it finished with fine clarity. 91 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2013

Ricci Curbastro, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) NV ($34, Vos Selections):   Franciacorta is a delicious sparkling wine that deserves more attention than it gets.  Ricci Curbastro’s Franciacorta Brut is a truly exceptional bubbly.  Made with all three permitted Franciacorta grapes (Chardonnay 60%, Pinot Bianco 30% and Pinot Nero 10%), the Ricci Curbastro Brut is pure, lively, dry and refreshing.  The fruit is sourced from vineyards near the Lago d’Iseo.  The deep, glacially-carved lake moderates the climate of the Franciacorta vineyards.  The Ricci Curbastro Brut is pure, lively and delicious!  The bouquet shows green apple, lime and lemon fruit nuances underscored by a fresh bread yeastiness that comes from its extended bottle age on its lees.  The Pinot Bianco adds hints of flowers.  The Pinot Nero adds depth and the overall result is delightful.  The flavors show juicy lemon, lime and green apple fruits enhanced by the subtle floral and yeasty components.  It’s a perfect wine to serve at your next festive gathering.  
91 Wayne Belding Dec 24, 2019

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut “Riserva dei Consoli” NV ($44, Vinifera Imports): This very well made non-vintage brut shows excellent balance that enables it to seem--at once--impressively deep in flavor but also quite fresh. The yeast accents are subtle and the acidity is energetic, so while the wine shows real power and persistence, it remains refreshing and clean.
91 Michael Franz Jan 22, 2013

Antica Fratta, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Rosé 2009 ($36, Mascarelli Wine Company): Pierot Bonomi, Antica Fratta’s winemaker, almost apologetically commenting on his Rosé’s pale color notes that rosé “must be drunk with the mouth, not with the eyes.”  No apologies needed.  This powerful blend of Pinot Noir (70%) and Chardonnay delivers delightful fresh strawberry-like flavors accented by a creamy mousse.  Lovely by itself, it’s an excellent choice for smoked or even, grilled, salmon.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 5, 2013

Antica Fratta, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut NV ($26, Mascarelli Wine Company): Despite this wine’s strong personality, its elegance is apparent.  Made entirely from Chardonnay, this Brut has attractive power and yeastiness along with a luxurious suaveness.  Though quite firm and ideal with food, it is still round enough to stand alone as a celebratory drink.  It reminds us that these sparkling wines from Franciacorta often over deliver for their price.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 5, 2013

Bellavista, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) Brut “Cuvée” NV ($45):  This is Bellavista’s most widely available wine, and it is well represented by Empson USA, giving American consumers a good chance of actually finding a bottle to try.  It is distinctively rich, with a pleasantly creamy texture, yet it finishes with admirable focus and clarity. 90 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2013

Guido Berlucchi, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Cuvèe ’61” Rosé NV ($22, Terlato Wines International): This gorgeous Rosé sparkling wine, made predominantly from Pinot Noir, has, paradoxically, lovely power and delicacy.  Floral and redolent of strawberries, it has a creamy roundness that makes it irresistible as a stand-alone aperitif.  It’s hard to imagine at more enjoyable Rosé bubbly on the market for the price.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 19, 2013

Guido Berlucchi, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Cuvée ‘61” NV ($19, Terlato Wines International): Franciacorta, a small, relatively obscure (at least in the US) appellation in Northern Italy is a treasure trove for fine sparkling wines.  The Guido Berlucchi firm is credited with inventing the category in 1961, hence the name of the Cuvée.  This mostly (90%) Chardonnay-based sparkler is crisp and nicely structured, but not aggressive. Although its slightly rounder fruitiness makes it a lovely choice as an aperitif, there’s enough backbone that allows it to hold up well next to a creamy risotto.  At $19--and I’ve seen if for less--it’s a great buy.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 15, 2013

Guido Berlucchi, Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) “Rosé Cuvée ‘61” NV ($22, Terlato Wines International): Arturo Ziliani, the winemaker at Guido Berlucchi, describes making the Rosé as “a challenge,” because he says that dealing with Pinot Noir is always a challenge. He clearly slayed that dragon with this Pinot Noir dominant (60%) Rosé Cuvée 61.  Paradoxically both powerful and delicate, its aromatics and strawberry-like fruitiness are hard to resist.  Its roundness makes it ideal as a welcoming glass at a party, while its depth makes it a good choice to accompany smoked salmon.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 15, 2013

Ferghettina, Franciacorta DOCG (Lombardy, Italy) "Riserva 33" Pas Dosè 2010 ($42, Empson USA):  The best Franciacortas are brilliant, elegant and complex sparkling wines and Ferghettina is among the best producers in the appellation.  Ferghettina’s 2010 Riserva 33 Pas Dosé is made from 100% Chardonnay grown in higher altitude sites and finished without any sweetener after disgorging (hence the Italian phrase, "Pas Dosé”).  The bouquet is pure, clean and vibrant, with lemon, peach and green apple fruits interwoven with lovely floral, creamy and crusty bread nuances.  The flavors reflect the promise of the nose, with layers of fresh apple, lemon, lime and peach fruits underscored by a rich and creamy texture.  The finish is long and intriguing.  This is a lovely sparkling that compares with any wine in its price range for quality, finesse and elegance. 
95 Wayne Belding Apr 24, 2018

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta Riserva (Lombardy, Italy) "Bagnadore” 2005 ($40):  Under appellation regulations for Franciacorta, “Riserva” means that a wine has spent a minimum of 5 years on its yeast lees, and these wines are always vintage-dated.  All of the base wine was barrel fermented in this instance, and after disgorging, it was finished with no dosage.  Subtly yeasty, with mineral notes so pronounced that it seems almost saline in character, this is a striking wine of exceptionally high quality.  Tart apple fruit notes are very appealing, and it is very complex due to positive oxidation.  Extremely impressive. 93 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2012

Contadi Castaldi, Franciacorta Rosé (Lombardy, Italy) Brut NV ($22, TMT USA): Here’s a real find--a classy rosé sparkling wine for well under $25.  Lighter than Champagne, but more serious than Prosecco, the delicate strawberry-like flavors dance across the palate.  It’s incredibly fresh, yet not harsh and works perfectly well as a stand-alone aperitif or a fine choice for a first course of prosciutto and melon.
92 Michael Apstein Jun 11, 2013

Ballabio, Vino Spumante di Qualità (Oltrepo Pavese, Lombardy, Italy) "Farfalla" Noir Collection, Zero Dosage NV ($22):  Consumers tend to forget that Italy makes a host of sparkling wines in addition to Prosecco.  And though I have nothing against Prosecco, many of Italy’s other bubblies, such as this one, provide a lot more interest.  This one is positively riveting.  It’s made using Pinot Noir exclusively, and in the Metodo Classico or classic Champagne method involving a secondary fermentation in the bottle.  Despite zero dosage and no malolactic fermentation, techniques that might result in austerity, this bubbly is full of flavor and persistence.  Firm, without being hard, its laser-like focus grabs your attention and holds it.  It’s racy and elegant simultaneously and an unbelievable value.   
94 Michael Apstein Oct 8, 2019

White:

Beando, Pavia IGT (Lombardy, Italy) Pinot Grigio 2014 ($10): Just what you would want from a summertime white, this Pinot Grigio from the Lombardy district near Milan shows a fresh lime/citrus note with flinty minerality and crisp, mouth-watering acidity. It's 100 percent pinot grigio and 100 percent stainless steel fermented.
88 Robert Whitley Jul 7, 2015

Back to Top


Marche:

Red:

Umani Ronchi, Conero DOCG (Marche, Italy) “Campo San Giorgio”, Riserva 2015 ($71, Vineyard Brands):  Also from the Conero region, Campo San Giorgio is a single-vineyard Rosso Conero Riserva from a very small (2.5 acre) select vineyard that was planted in 1999, with the first vintage made in 2009.  The wine, 100% Montepulciano, is aged in new oak for 12 months, and then transferred to large oak casks. This is Umani Ronchi’s most tannic red wine; it will be at its best with several more years of aging.  Only 5,000 bottles are produced annually.  It should last for decades, and may well merit a higher score with aging.   
94 Ed McCarthy Dec 3, 2019

Umani Ronchi, Conero DOCG (Marche, Italy) “Cùmaro” Riserva 2015 ($37, Vineyard Brands):  Umani Ronchi’s most important red wine, Cúmaro is made in Marche’s Conero region near the sea, in Umani Ronchi’s revitalized winery in the city of Osimo.  Cùmaro, a Rosso Conero DOCG wine, is made from 100% of the Montepulciano grape.  It was first produced in the 1985 vintage, as a complement to Umani Ronchi’s Verdicchio wines.  Umani Ronchi does not release its wines until they are ready to drink; this 2015 Cùmaro, released just this year, is perfect to drink now.  It has some soft tannins, with good acidity.  It is fully ripe, with excellent balance and structure.   It should be fine for drinking for a decade or more.     
94 Ed McCarthy Dec 3, 2019

Umani Ronchi, Conero DOCG (Marche, Italy) “Pelago” 2015 ($48, Vineyard Brands):  From vineyards in the Conero region of Marche, Umani Ronchi’s Pelago is a blended wine.  It seems that almost every winery in central Italy makes at least one wine with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.  Pelago, first produced in the 1994 vintage, normally has 50% Montepulciano, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10 % Merlot. This 2015 has a 45-45-10% ratio.  Pelago is made only in the better vintages.  The 2015 Pelago is drinking well now, still retaining its Italian heritage in taste.   
92 Ed McCarthy Dec 3, 2019

Luigi Guisti, Lacrima di Morro d’Alba (Marche, Italy) Rubbjano Vineyard 2008 ($30, Premium Brands, Inc.):  This is an unusual and unexpected red wine with rose petal and spicy black pepper aromas, rich, perfumed black cherry and strawberry flavors restrained by tangy acidity and fine-grained tannins.  The grape variety is Lacrima from the town of Morro d’Alba in the Marche region of Italy.  It almost disappeared until a DOC was created in 1985.  Luckily for us, the Guisti family farms this grape seriously to make a seriously delicious wine. 91 Rebecca Murphy Aug 28, 2012

Lucchetti, Lacrima di Morro d'Alba Superiore (Marche, Italy) Guardengo 2010 ($20, Admiralty Beverage Company): I admit: I’m totally besotted with wines from this grape and appellation.  It may not be for everyone.  Its aromas are intense with roses, fresh and dried, strawberries and cherries.  In the mouth, the roses persist with ripe cherry, strawberry, blackberry fruit with savory, wood spice notes.  It’s medium bodied with vibrant acidity and ripe tannins.  The fruit character, while intense, does not dominate.  Fruit, acidity, tannins and alcohol strike a lovely balance. Don’t be confused by Alba in the name of the grape.  It is from the Marche region of Italy, not Piedmont. The grape was nearly extinct, but has been revived by the interest of growers like Mario Lucchetti, who started planting the grape in the early 1980s. The Guardengo is a single vineyard wine.

94 Rebecca Murphy Aug 6, 2013

Angelini, Pergola Rosso (Marche, Italy) 2011 ($17, Angelini Wine, Ltd): Pergola Rosso is a virtually unknown, tiny, 100-acre DOC, in the Marche where the similarly unknown Vernaccia Rossa (a.k.a. Aleatico) grape reigns supreme. Perhaps its purported relationship to the Muscat family that explains it’s alluring floral rose petal-like aromas. Bright cherry-like fruit flavors follow. A seductive hint of bitterness in the finish adds intrigue. This lovely mid-weight wine is equally enjoyable after a half hour in the refrigerator because of its lack of tannins. I would have saved this review for warmer weather and recommended the wine as a stunning alternative to a rosé, but it is terrific now when the meal calls for a light red wine.
89 Michael Apstein Jan 1, 2013

Umani Ronchi, Rosso Conero (Marche, Italy) “San Lorenzo” 2009 ($17, Bedford International):  Umani Ronchi describes the San Lorenzo as the little brother of their flagship wine, Cumaro.  And what a good little brother it is.  Made entirely from Montepulciano, it conveys black cherry-like notes and an ever so subtle attractive bitterness in the finish.  Ponderous, but not heavy or overwrought, it’s beautifully balanced.  The tannins are perfectly polished which allow enjoyment now with winter fare.   But don’t try it as a stand-alone aperitif. 91 Michael Apstein Nov 20, 2012

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Rosso Piceno (Marche, Italy) Superiore 2003 ($12, Empson): Light and bright and perfect for pasta dishes with tomato-based sauces, this wine shows nice fruit notes with tinges of both red and black cherries.  The tannins are fine-grained and very nicely tuned to the wine's light body, and a streak of racy acidity lifts the finish without seeming overly tart. 86 Michael Franz Jan 9, 2007

Le Caniette, Rosso Piceno DOC (Marche, Italy) “Morellone” 2008 ($36, Montcalm Wine Importers, Ltd): A blend of Montepulciano (70%) and Sangiovese, Le Caniette’s Morellone has weight and convey an alluring dark cherry fruit quality.   Nicely polished, it retails a hint of charming rusticity in the finish, which frankly, adds to its appeal.  A smokey richness and a chewy texture coupled with its uplifting acidity make it an easy choice for hearty fare as the temperatures plunge this fall.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 17, 2015

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Rosso Piceno Superiore (Marche, Italy) "Le Torri" 2003 ($13, Empson): A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes, this is a soft, fruit-filled red wine with plenty of character. Its fruit flavors resemble cherries and red berries, all enhanced by a dusty, characteristically central Italian note in the finish, and an enticing floral note in the bouquet. Wines from Marche on the Adriatic coast remain great values. If this wine came from Tuscany, it surely would cost two or three times as much. 88 Paul Lukacs Feb 28, 2006

Sparkling:

Velenosi, Vernaccia di Serrapetrone DOCG (Marche, Italy) Secco NV ($23, Vias Imports):  This unusual wine was presented to me by Paul Botamer, who is the sommelier at Fearing’s Restaurant in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Dallas.  I doubt I would have run across it otherwise, and probably would have dismissed it out of hand.   Thank goodness that Paul just poured it into my glass, because it is now one of my favorites.  It is a from the Marche region of Italy, made from Vernaccia Nera, which to my surprise, is another name for Grenache.  However, it is made like no other Grenache I have known.  It goes through three fermentations.  At harvest, a minimum of 60 percent of the grapes is fermented, while the remaining grapes are dried until after the beginning of the year after harvest.  The dried grapes are crushed and fermented then both batches of juice are combined in a pressurized tank with additional yeast to create the bubbles.  The result is an exuberant mélange of rich, slightly sweet black cherry, plum, strawberry compote,  orange zest fruit and dried roses juxtaposed with frisky acidity, slightly chewy tannins and an inkling of bitterness in the finish.  It is a versatile wine that can stand up intensely flavored foods like those in Dean Fearing’s Southwestern creations, a selection of charcuterie or a Thai curry.    
91 Rebecca Murphy Aug 27, 2019

White:

Umani Ronchi, Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC (Marche, Italy) Verdicchio “CaSal di Serra”, Vecchie Vigne 2017 ($31, Vineyard Brands):  The Verdicchio variety reaches new heights with this wine, made from 50 year-old vines planted in the early 1970s.  Umani Ronchi favors full ripening, not picking the grapes until mid-October.  The resulting wine, 100% Verdicchio, is full and complex, with so much citrus flavor, accompanied by great acidity.  I loved this wine!  It was easily the wine of the tasting for me.  And retailing at $31, it’s a really great value.      
97 Ed McCarthy Dec 3, 2019

Umani Ronchi, Castelli di Jesi DOC (Marche, Italy) Verdicchio “Plenio” Riserva 2017 ($31, Vineyard Brands):  Umani Ronchi’s "Plenio" Reserve 100% Verdicchio is aged longer than its other Verdicchio wines, and is a richer wine, more full-bodied and elegant.  I did think it was exceptional, but for me the Vecchie Vigne is the better wine.  Plenio retails at the same price as the “Casal di Serra” Vecchie Vigne.  
94 Ed McCarthy Dec 3, 2019

Villa Bucci, Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Riserva DOCG (Marche, Italy) 2013 ($49): A tiny -- just over 350 acres -- DOCG, Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Classico Riserva was carved out of the larger Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC in 2010. (They changed the name -- putting the geographic name, Castelli di Jesi, before Verdicchio, the name of the grape -- a year later, in 2011.) The Verdicchio grape, which means the “little green one,” is part of the Trebbiano family and is identical to Trebbiano di Soave.  In the hills around the town of Jesi, this inherently high-acid grape conveys captivating flavors. Villa Bucci, a top producer in the region, transformed the grape into a superb, exciting mid-weight wine that combines a delicate fruitiness and a haunting minerality.  This is a sophisticated wine that will enhance the meal the next time you’re grilling fish.
93 Michael Apstein May 2, 2017

Villa Bucci, Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG (Marche, Italy) 2014 ($40):  In 2010, Italian wine regulators created a new DOCG by adding a Riserva designation to the Verdicchio dei Castelli Jesi DOC for wines that have been aged slightly longer and have been made from riper grapes.  To emphasize the importance of place instead of the grape, the official name became Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG.  Though I doubt normal consumers will notice the placement of the grape name in the legal denomination, they should take notice of the Riserva designation because wines carrying that moniker are a cut above those labeled Verdicchio dei Castelli Jesi.  The Verdicchio grape, which means the “little green one,” is part of the Trebbiano family, is identical genetically to Trebbiano di Soave, and is considered to be one of Italy’s great white wine grapes, according to Ian D’Agata, a world’s expert on Italian wine.  Villa Bucci, a top producer in the region, transformed the grape into a superb, exciting mid-weight wine that combines a delicate fruitiness and a haunting minerality.  This is a sophisticated wine that will enhance the meal the next time you’re grilling fish.   
95 Michael Apstein Feb 25, 2020

Boccadigabbia, Colli Maceratesi DOC (Marche, Italy) Ribona “Le Grane” 2016 ($16):  So you’re not familiar with the Colli Maceratesi DOC or the Ribona grape?  Join the club.  Ribona, more commonly known as Maceratino Bianco, takes its name from the city (Macerata) in the western part of the Marche region.  The Colli Maceratesi DOC, comprising only about 600 acres, does not produce a lot of wine, which explains why we in the U.S. don’t see much of it.  Judging from this example, that will change.  It delivers bright stone fruit flavors with a slightly alluring lanolin-like texture.  Not a heavy wine, it finishes with an uplifting and refreshing crispness.  It would be a good choice as an aperitivo-style wine as well as accompaniment to prosciutto or other antipasti. 89 Michael Apstein Oct 17, 2017

Fontezoppa, Falerio DOC (Marche, Italy) Pecorino “Citanò" 2018 ($20):  This is a quintessential Pecorino, displaying verve, salinity and pleasant hint of lemon or a grapefruit rind bitterness in the finish.  This lively and energetic wine is great for balancing the pepperoncini that finds its way into the linguine and clam sauce. 
92 Michael Apstein Oct 8, 2019

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni, Offida (Marche, Italy) Pecorino "Podere Colle Vecchio" 2004 ($23, Empson): I can't say that I've got much prior experience with wines made from the Pecorino grape, but man, it is off to a seriously good start with me. Fascinating aromatics include notes of baked apples, dried herbs, hay, roasted nuts, smoke and minerals. The flavor notes are nearly as intricate and nuanced, and there's even some textural interplay between fleshy fruit, strong minerality, and zesty acidity. If all that isn't enough for you, it is also sure to flummox the gasbag know-it-all in your tasting group. 91 Michael Franz Feb 28, 2006

Rio Maggio, Offida Pecorino DO (Marche, Italy) Pecorino “Colle Monteverde” 2014 ($18, T. Edward Wines): Pecorino is also a grape, not only a cheese.  And one that is capable of producing lively white wines with refreshing vibrancy, such as this one.  This light wine delivers a precise cutting edge without being aggressive.  It will energize of meal of shellfish or grilled fish.
90 Michael Apstein Jan 12, 2016

Azienda Santa Barbara, Verdicchio Castelli Dei Jesi (Marche, Italy) 2018 ($12, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant):  From Italy’s Marche region, located a short distance from the Adriatic Sea, comes this crisp, cleansing white wine.  Greenish in color and taste (think green apples for example), and with an undertow of subtle saline minerality, enjoy it as a refreshing aperitif, or serve it with seafood or cheeses.   
92 Marguerite Thomas Apr 7, 2020

Bucci, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore 2005 ($18, Empson): A complex Verdicchio, this offers plenty of refreshment value while also proving enduringly interesting.  Fruit notes of white melon are very bright and focused, with alluring mineral notes in the finish that are very classy indeed. 90 Michael Franz Jul 31, 2007

Garofoli, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore “Macrina” 2015 ($25, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  A very crisp, refreshing and bright mix of apple and peach fruit, with balanced acidity and a solid core of stony minerality that keeps things together through the mouthwatering finish.  It’s too bad more of this doesn’t make it across the ocean -- it’s a unique product that’s bound to win some fans here. 
90 Rich Cook Aug 14, 2018

Garofoli, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore, “Macrina” 2015 ($25, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  The name is a mouthful, but so is the wine.  This is an exceptional example of the signature white wine from Italy’s Marche region.  Clean and crisp, with freshness galore, this vintage of Macrina shows notes of apple and pear with impressive length on the finish for this particular grape variety.   
90 Robert Whitley Oct 29, 2019

Tavignano, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore 2006 ($12, Marc de Grazia): An exemplary Verdicchio, this wine virtually crackles with freshness, and yet it also shows sufficient substance to hold its own at the table with relatively light fare.  The acidity is very refreshing but not screechy or sour, and the fruit shows admirable depth of flavor. 90 Michael Franz Jul 31, 2007

Tavignano, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore 2007 ($12, Marc de Grazia Selection/ Michael Skurnik Wines): Verdicchio from Italy's Marche region is an often unjustly overlooked varietal.  When well-crafted, wines made with it taste of lemons and nuts, with a fairly full body.  They display subtle but unmistakable charm.  Some of the best come from the Castelli di Jesi DOC, and this particular example embodies all of Verdicchio's myriad charms.  If you don't know the grape, it will provide a delicious introduction. 89 Paul Lukacs Mar 31, 2009

Bucci, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore 2005 ($21, Empson): Verdicchio is named for its faint greenish tinge (verde: green).  It is the leading white wine grape of the Marche, where the wines have been enjoyed for some 2000 years (it is clearly one of the world's oldest wines still being consumed).  The Bucci interpretation has complex perfumy aromas, with a hint of almond underlying the fruity flavors.  A good companion for seafood and light chicken dishes. 88 Marguerite Thomas Apr 3, 2007

Sartarelli, Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico (Marche, Italy) 2016 ($16, Tenth Harvest):  With greenish-yellow hues, this oak-free, dry white wine is fresh and soft.  It has delicate peach flavors and subtle hints of honey.  Chalky minerality and palate-cleansing acidity on the finish are also part of this wine’s appeal.  Castelli de Jesi is a white wine DOC in central Italy’s Marche region. 
90 Marguerite Thomas Nov 6, 2018

Le Vaglie, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico (Marche, Italy) 2006 ($17, Michael Downey Selections): This terrific Verdicchio is light and lacy but nevertheless full of character and flavor.  Very delicate fruit notes of white melons and apricots are accented with lovely floral aromas and a nice mineral edge in the finish.  Very well integrated and balanced, this is an excellent aperitif or a fine partner for light summer dishes. 88 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2007

San Lorenzo, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico (Marche, Italy) “Vigna di Gino” 2008 ($14, Vias Imports):  This is undeniably pleasant if not as mind-blowing as San Lorenzo’s “Vigna delle Oche” bottling of Verdicchio, and given that it is actually the fuller of the two wines but barely half as expensive as its stablemate, it definitely deserves your attention.  Very ripe fruit is effectively balanced by acidity that lends cut and definition in the finish.  Pair with moderately robust finfish dishes or seafood pasta.
88 Michael Franz Sep 29, 2009

Sartarelli, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marche, Italy) “Tralivio” 2015 ($18): It’s easy to understand why Sartarelli, one of the region’s top producers, calls the wine Tralivio, which means around the olive trees, instead of using the tongue-twisting name of the DOC.  Wines made from Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi are undergoing a renaissance as producers realize that the focus should be on quality over quantity.  Indeed, the Verdicchio grape has the potential to make wines that evolve with bottle age as well as a wine, such as this one, that is enticing to drink now. Its density comes from the grape because Sartarelli opts to avoid oak during vinification and aging.   Weighty, yet not over ripe, brilliant acidity keeps you coming back for another sip.  This wine will make you rethink your idea of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi.
92 Michael Apstein Jun 13, 2017

Garofoli, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marche, Italy) "Podium" 2015 ($25, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  Something I don’t see every day, or even every month, but something on my list to seek out. This area of central eastern Italy makes some fine wine that doesn’t often make it past the regions borders.  Made entirely from Verdicchio, this is a mineral driven honey and citrus mix that is very refreshing, and leaves a sort of light cognac impression in the finish. Quite intruiging -- I wish I had had this to put in a recent tasting of miscellaneous Italian whites -- it’s a star. 
91 Rich Cook Oct 9, 2018

San Lorenzo, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marche, Italy) “Vigna delle Oche” 2008 ($26, Vias Imports): Verdicchio is enjoyed by most people who encounter it, but it is often dismissed as being a simple sipper and not a wine of any particular importance.  If that’s the way you regard Verdicchio, you owe it to yourself to taste this wine, which will provide an entirely new point of reference.  The subtle fruit recalls perfectly ripened white melons and pears, and the fruit notes are beautifully balanced against freshening acidity and a nice mineral undertone.  Very lively and complex--especially on the palate--the grapes seem to have been picked at just the right time, and likewise the wine seems to have been bottled at just the right point of development, as it is both generously full in flavor but almost crackly in its freshness. 91 Michael Franz Sep 29, 2009

Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio Dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marche, Italy) "CaSal di Serra" 2017 ($19, Vineyard Brands):  An entirely charming, delightful wine that never tries too hard, this shows delicious fruit recalling ripe autumn pears with a refreshing spritz of lemon.  A streak of minerality shows up in the finish to lend added interest, and the wine remains interesting sip after sip on account of its essentially perfect balance of juicy fruitiness and fresh acidic structure.  Pair with lighter fare such as oysters or fish, or you could simply enjoy it as a sipping wine.  However, be careful if you try to use a single bottle for both of these purposes, because sipping it before dinner will almost surely result in the wine never making it to the table. 
91 Michael Franz Nov 6, 2018

Pievalta, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marche, Italy) 2012 ($17, De Santis Selections): Riveting on the palate, this extremely dry white calls out for fresh shellfish or light fish preparations (pan-seared trout, for example).  Tasted on its own, it seems almost overly tart, but it expands on the palate when paired with food, becoming softer and friendlier as you sip it.  It remains, however, lean and lithe, and proves extremely refreshing.
90 Paul Lukacs Aug 5, 2014

Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marche, Italy) “CaSal di Serra” 2011 ($17, Bedford International):  I cant think of a better-value white wine than this Verdicchio -- and by “value” I am referring to the quality as much as the price.  It’s a dry, medium-bodied, unoaked white with crisp acidity offset by oily texture, for an uncommon yin-yang effect.  Aromas and flavors suggest lime, ripe apple and pear, and a slate-like minerality.  The wine has a slight saline suggestion that’s typical of Verdicchio.  Although most Verdicchio is drunk young, this Verdicchio can age nicely for a few years.  Definitely worth a try. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Nov 27, 2012

Colle Stefano, Verdicchio del Metalica (Marche, Italy) 2014 ($20, Oliver McCrum Wines): This Verdicchio has focused lemon, melon & stone aromas, with white flowers in back. It's long and bright on the palate, with lemon flavors taking center stage, and surrounded by mild grassy notes.  It's quite like a crisp California Sauvignon Blanc -- fresh and lively.
89 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Bucci, Verdicchio di Castello di Jesi (Marche, Italy) Classico Superiore 2006 ($22, Empson): This wine impresses year after year with its citrus-flavored fruit and nutty finish.  Though not especially expressive aromatically, it offers impressively long flavors on the palate.  With plenty of fresh acidity, it's a natural to partner with seafood. 89 Paul Lukacs Oct 9, 2007

Fontezoppa, Verdicchio di Matelica (Marche, Italy) 2013 ($15, Soilair Selection): I'm glad to see more wine from the Marche region making its way to the US market.  This one is very stony and mineral driven up front with light lemon and soft floral aromas.  Pithy and dry on the palate, it delivers a long leafy finish.  Quite pleasant.
88 Rich Cook Oct 6, 2015

Back to Top


Molise:

Red:

Borgo di Colloredo, Biferno Rosso (Molise, Italy) "Gironia" 2003 ($26, Tesori Wines):

A red unlike most others from southern Italy, this blend of Montepulciano and Aglianico is simply delicious, and a wonderful food wine. This vintage shows red fruits -- cherries and currants -- and fresh acidity that will make it pop with all sorts of dishes from olive-oil based pastas to grilled fowl and meats. Perfect for summer or winter because it is less heavy than most reds from the south of Italy, yet I wouldn't hesitate to cellar it for three to five years for additional complexity.

88 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

White:

Borgo di Colloredo, Molise (Italy) Falanghina 2005 ($19, Tesori Wines):

One of the most prolific white grapes of southern Italy, Falanghina nevertheless produces wines of true character and quality, especially when they exhibit the level of minerality combined with ripe stone fruits that this vintage from Borgo di Colloredo delivers. Round and full on the palate, with hints of honey, peach, apricot and minerals, this is a Falanghina to be paired with roast chicken or pork.

87 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

Back to Top


Piedmont:

Red:

Quattro Leoni, Asti (Piedmont, Italy) Barbera d'Asti 'Vino Rosso' 2007 ($17): For far too long the benchmark wines of northern Italy’s Piedmont region have scared away potential customers due to price. While not daunting to collectors and well-heeled aficionados, Barolo and Barbaresco are certainly priced far beyond the “everyday” classification. Yet there is another fabulous red wine from the region that is now getting notice and carving a niche among the value seekers, and that is Barbera. There were good reasons – poor winemaking chief among them – that Barbera had been ignored in the past. Barbera can be sometimes exhibit unpleasant acidity, but better practices in the vineyard and winery have resulted in more attractive wines that are both long-lived and affordable. The Quattro Leoni delivers lovely aromas of dark cherry and raspberry, with hints of leather, spice and coffer. The nose offers a seductive floral quality, and on the palate the wine has an underlying minerality and earthiness that is a soul mate to grilled meats and artisan cheeses. 90 Robert Whitley Mar 2, 2010

Vietti, Asti (Piedmont, Italy) Barbera d'Asti "Tre Vigne" 2003 ($17, Remy Cointreau USA): A sumptuous bouquet, redolent of ripe plums, dried herbs, leather and spice, introduces a tasty but somewhat dry wine that should be drunk in the near term. The searingly hot summer of 2003 in Western Europe produced many red wines that seemed seductive from barrel or cask, but that have turned out to be less appealing with time in bottle. This one tastes delightful now, but don't wait too long before you pull the cork. 88 Paul Lukacs Jun 13, 2006

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Gaiun Martinenga 2004 ($85, Dalla Terra):

A classic Barbaresco from a superb vintage, Marchesi di Gresy's Gaiun is from a special block of the Martinenga vineyard and only produced in exceptional vintages. It is beginning to show nuances of leather, tar and wet earth, along with the trademark sour cherry fruit of the nebbiolo grape. The tannins are fine and long, and come into play most on the back of the palate. Watch this wine come alive with grilled meats and meat-based ragu! Superb for the collector who's willing to be patient and allow this lovely wine additional time to evolve.

97 Robert Whitley May 4, 2010

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Camp Gros Martinenga 2004 ($85, Dalla Terra):

Beautifully made, elegant and well balaced, the Camp Gros is maybe the ultimate expression of Nebbiolo from the Martinenga vineyard. Don't be fooled by the pale color. Deliciously perfumed, it delivers aromas of earth, lead pencil and tar, supported by sweet black cherry fruit and packed with fine, beautifully integrated tannins. It is the very essence of Barbaresco elegance, and a treasure from this outstanding vintage. I wouldn't hesitate to lay it down in the cellar another 10 to 15 years. Gorgeous wine.

97 Robert Whitley May 4, 2010

Giuseppe Nada, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Casot” 2010 ($45, American Northwest): Enrico Nada is a rising young star making a range of impressive wines and a downright stunning Barbaresco from a steep, perfectly exposed Cru called Casot near Treiso. Tasted twice blind and then again at the winery (how could I not ask to see the people behind this?), the wine shows billowing aromas that interweave ripe fruit scents with a host of floral, earthy, meaty and leathery accents. Light-medium in body, explosive in flavor, and delicate in texture, this is traditionally made, with no overt oak but plenty of acidic and tannic structure to develop over time. However, it is among the most immediately enjoyable Barbarescos I’ve tasted during the past decade, edging out Nada’s 2009 Casot, which I rated 94 in a blind tasting in May of 2012. Enrico thinks the 2009 will eventually be the better of the two wines, and though I’m not initially inclined to agree, I’m damned sure going to re-run the test for as long as I can get my mitts on the wines. By the way, the Riserva wines from this house are also very complex and tastefully made, and Langhe Nebbiolo is also quite successful.
96 Michael Franz May 21, 2013

Ada Nada, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Valeirano” 2010 ($50):  Sensationally complex, this wine features wonderfully earthy aromas recalling wild mushrooms, damp earth and cured meat, yet it doesn’t seem dirty or bretty.  The fruit is very ripe, recalling dark cherry liqueur, with very soft texture and a long, sweet finish.  A total fleshpot of a wine, I wouldn’t hazard a guess regarding how this will age, but it wouldn’t have much chance of getting to age in my possession anyway, so marvelous is it already 95 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Albino Rocca, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Cottà” 2016 ($50):  Barbaresco “Ronchi” from Albino Rocca is also quite good in this vintage, but the bottling from Cottà is the pick of the litter.  Ripe, soft, sweet and pure, it is wonderfully natural-seeming in its aromas, flavors, and internal symmetry.  There’s real depth and impact of flavor in the wine, yet it doesn’t seem at all “wrung out” from overly aggressive maceration.  Remarkably graceful for its style, this is a very beautiful wine. 
95 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Battaglio, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serragrilli” 2016 ($50):  This is clearly the best wine I’ve ever tasted from this house.  It is brimming with expressive aromas and flavors, combining both fruity and savory notes and showing the richness most commonly associated with Barolo but also the nuanced, nimble character of top Barbaresco.  Big for the vintage, but still without any hint of excess, this is a remarkable achievement of grape growing and winemaking that will have this producer up on my radar screen from now on.   A killer wine. 
95 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Ceretto, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Asili 2006 ($130, Wilson Daniels):  Ceretto, one of Piedmont’s leading producers, has a separate winery for their Barolo and Barbaresco in each of those areas to minimize damage to grapes that occurs during transportation from vineyard to winery.  Hence, this wine is sometimes called Bricco Asili Bricco Asili Barbaresco because both the winery, which is located in the vineyard, a rarity in Piedmont, and the vineyard have the same name.  From a great vintage in Piedmont, this 2006 has more power and tannic backbone than Ceretto’s other Barbaresco.  That said, it’s not a massive wine, but rather graceful and even charming, emblematic of Ceretto’s style.  A seemingly contradictory combination of floral and tarry notes is captivating and adds to the Burgundian-like allure of flavor without weight.  With only 500 cases produced, Barbaresco fans will need to search for it.  It’s worth the effort. 95 Michael Apstein Oct 2, 2011

Ceretto, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Asili 2001 ($170, Moet Hennessy USA): I believe the Bricco Asili is Ceretto's finest Barbaresco generally and certainly in 2001. It's a staggering wine, not for its power, but for its elegance and length. Like a grand cru Burgundy, it wows you with its expansive-but not heavy-flavors. The flavors sneak up on you as opposed to 'hitting you over the head.' Tannic now-after all it is young Nebbiolo-the floral nose and impeccable balance indicate it will evolve beautifully over the next decade. 95 Michael Apstein Sep 26, 2006

Giacosa Fratelli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Basarin Vigna Gianmatè” 2009 ($55):  Very dark color and a sexy, smoky bouquet announce the seriousness of this wine before it ever even hits one’s tongue, and once it hits, there’s no doubting its excellence.  Rich and rippling with power but also very complex and stylish, this is extremely impressive. 95 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

La Biòca, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Ronchi” 2016 ($40):  I can’t say that another wine from this producer has stuck in my memory, but I can say that this one will stay lodged there for a very long time.  Quite concentrated and even enveloping in its ripe richness and depth of flavor, this is a big wine but also one that is uncanny in its nimbleness, with restrained wood and just the right measure of tannin to frame the fruit without drying it out.  Already quite delicious, this also shows lots of room for improvement with time in bottle.  The only bottle of this that I could find offered online was a 2015 in the UK, so I hope a USA-based importer will take notice.   
95 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Martinenga 2006 ($55, Dalla Terra):

With a tarry nose and firm tannins, this lightly colored Barbaresco is a beast in the making. I mean that in the best way, for this Barbaresco at four years is still in its infancy and will benefit from additional age, fleshing out a bit showing more fruit as the hardness of the tannins dissipates. Beautifully perfumed and impeccable balanced, at $55 it is a stunning exxample of why I believe the classic Nebbiolo-based wine of northern Italy's Piedmont region are the best values in the market today for those who would purchase red wines to hold in the cellar.

95 Robert Whitley May 4, 2010

Montaribaldi, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Sorì Montaribaldi” 2009 ($40):  This producer has a relatively low profile in the USA but has performed superbly for at least three consecutive vintages.  This bottling shows impressively dark color and substantial weight on the palate, with a very engaging texture that is rich but also defined.  The ripe, plush fruit, fresh acidity, and grippy tannins are perfectly proportioned, and the finish shows a deliciously savory character that persists thanks to very subtle oak. 95 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

Negro Angelo E Figli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Cascinotta” 2010 ($50):  This was sourced from a cru within the broader Bassarin vineyard in Neive, and almost all of the wines from Bassarin were exceptionally good in 2010.  This shows abundant oak, but the ripe (indeed, pleasantly stewed) fruit is easily able to hold center stage.  Exceptionally well integrated, this manages to seem both soft and firm at once, which is a mark of the most successful Barbareschi from 2010. 95 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Taliano Michele, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Ad Altiora” 2010 ($50):  Expressive, even punchy aromatics show ripe, intense red fruit scents backed by commensurately intense scents of oak.  This was among the most dramatic of the 2010 Barbareschi, with very ripe and flavorful fruit that also shows real complexity, with balsamic and savory undertones.  Despite the dramatics, the wine isn’t heavy or hard, showing phenomenal depth and intricacy without a lot of weight.  Extremely impressive. 95 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Adriano Marco E Vittorio, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Bassarin” 2010 ($50):  Complete and convincing, with excellent balance and complexity from the first whiff to the conclusion of the very persistent, impressively symmetrical finish, this is an outstanding wine.  Wood and fruit are very well integrated already, and there are lots of other nice little nuances peeking out from the perimeter.  Not among the most powerful of the 2010 Barbareschi, but a model of balance and proportionality, with superb balance and depth. 94 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Bel Colle, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Roncaglie” 2010 ($50):  Promisingly dense pigmentation offers an accurate indication of what is to follow, as this wine delivers exceptional depth of flavor.  The fruit is quite ripe, with a pleasantly stewed tinge, and tones that are predominantly reminiscent of red fruit, but with a hint of black as well.  Nuanced and very persistent in flavor, this is a very well made wine that will perform very well early on but also for years to come. 94 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Ca’ Rome’, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rio Sordo” 2012 ($70, Empson, USA): Ca’ Rome’ is a terrific producer of both Barolo and Barbaresco (as well as Dolcetto and Barbera), and made in absolutely immaculate conditions in a gorgeous little winery located in the Barbaresco district.  It you find yourself anywhere in the neighborhood, this will prove to be one of the sweetest winery visits you’ll ever enjoy.  As for this particular wine, it shows highly distinctive scents of menthol and peppermint get this wine off to a striking start, and the flavors really follow through with a rich, open sweetness that perfectly offsets the high-toned aromatics.  If you’ll permit an audiophile analogy, this has perfect balance between treble and bass.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Ca’ Rome’, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rio Sordo” 2012 ($70, Empson, USA): Ca’ Rome’ is a terrific producer of both Barolo and Barbaresco (as well as Dolcetto and Barbera), and made in absolutely immaculate conditions in a gorgeous little winery located in the Barbaresco district.  It you find yourself anywhere in the neighborhood, this will prove to be one of the sweetest winery visits you’ll ever enjoy.  As for this particular wine, it shows highly distinctive scents of menthol and peppermint get this wine off to a striking start, and the flavors really follow through with a rich, open sweetness that perfectly offsets the high-toned aromatics.  If you’ll permit an audiophile analogy, this has perfect balance between treble and bass.  The wines from Ca’ Rome’ are all on the expensive side for their types, but the quality is so high that all of them offer excellent value.
94 Michael Franz Dec 13, 2016

Cascina Morassino Di Bianco Roberto, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Ovello” 2010 ($50):  This was among darkest, deepest, most brooding of the Barbareschi tasted at Nebbiolo Prima this year.  Dense and strikingly intense, with hints of black raspberries on a core of red-toned fruit, this is marked by great inner strength that enables the fruit component to blast past the oak and remain predominant through the finish.  This will need time to show the full measure of its excellence, but there’s no questioning the superb quality. 94 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Cascina Saria, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Colle Del Gelso” 2010 ($50):  This wine has many things going for it, but foremost among them is a gorgeous, sweet-savory nose featuring ripe fruit intertwined with notes of wild mushrooms, leather and cured meat.  Marked by sensational complexity and expressiveness on the palate as well, this would merit an even higher score if not for a hint of harsh oak and a tough of heat in the finish.  Both of those characteristics may diminish with ageing, in which case this will become one of the very best wines from an outstanding vintage. 94 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Castello di Neive, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Santo Stefano Albesani” 2016 ($65):  A marvelously stylish Nebbiolo that is extremely expressive but still seemingly weightless, this shows open fruit with light savory undertones and appropriately understated wood.  The tannins are likewise very fine-grained and unobtrusive, brilliantly tuned to the fruit’s delicacy.  Fresh acidity never quite turns tart, and all of the wine’s structural elements seem perfectly proportioned, enabling all the aromas and flavors to sing together harmoniously.  Just beautiful. 
94 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Castello di Verduno, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rabajà” 2012 ($48): Completely successful in terms of aromatics and flavor, this is very showy from start to finish.  There’s almost no hint of wood influence, which makes the wine’s performance even more impressive, as it seems entirely based on the quality of the fruit.  The flavors are sweet, soft, savory and succulent, and yet the wine remains fresh, which is an uncanny but delightful combination.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Fontanabianca, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serraboella” 2010 ($50):  Sweet aromatic notes lead into a soft, open, deep set of flavors.  Balanced and perfectly--I mean perfectly--symmetrical, this shows both sweet and savory notes that are nuanced and lovely.  Powerful and persistent in flavor, with interesting intricacies as well, this is a stunning wine that shows just the slightest alcoholic heat in the finish. 94 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Giacosa Fratelli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Basarin Vigna Gianmatè" 2010 ($50):  Dense in feel and very deeply flavored, with very impressive intensity and length, this is nevertheless not a standard-issue powerhouse.  It shows wonderful proportionality, with restrained oak and virtually perfect balance of acidity, tannin and fruit.  I found it to be one of the most impressive wines of the Barbareschi in this year’s Nebbiolo Prima tastings for sheer power and breeding, as the wine seems natural and direct, yet it also shows real dimension in addition to its palpable depth and density. 94 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Giuseppe Cortese, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rabajà” 2016 ($55):  Add up an exemplary producer, a great cru, and an outstanding vintage and this is what you get:  A wine of impressive depth and length on the palate that nevertheless shows lovely purity and quite subtle wood accents.  This shows the seemingly effortless elegance of the vintage to great effect, even from a cru that often shows enough muscle to mimic Barolo rather than seeming obviously like Barbaresco. 
94 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Giuseppe Nada, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Casot” 2016 ($48):  With the extremely talented young Enrico Nada making the wines and his father Giuseppe still energetically tending the vines, this house is rapidly rising in reputation among Barbaresco producers.  Not the most overt wine of the vintage by a long shot, this requires some swirling and patience to express itself, but once it opens, it displays superb purity and precision in both aroma and flavor.  Very natural in both flavor and feel, it certainly wasn’t overworked in the cellar, and its outstanding proportionality will enable it to gain complexity for up to a decade while still staying in balance.  I’ll be buying this -- just as I’ve bought every vintage I’ve seen offered in the USA. 
94 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Giuseppe Nada, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) "Casot" 2013 ($45, Vintage '59 Imports): Enrico Nada and his phenomenally fit and hard-working father, Giuseppe, are making some of the very best wines in Barbaresco (which is to say, some of the best wines in the world).  Totally unassuming, you'd never hear this from them, but I know what I'm talking about, as I've tasted almost every wine they've grown and crafted over the past decade (the 2007 Riserva was and remains among the best Nebbiolo-based wines of that vintage, including all of the Barolo district).  The 2013 vintage of Barbaresco Casot has turned out beautifully, with gorgeous floral aromatics, supple fruit recalling red and black cherries, light undertones of leather and wild mushrooms and baking spices...and that's just an abbreviated list of descriptors.  Very flavorful but still immaculately fresh, this is already marvelous but destined to improve for at least another three or four years.  Complete and utterly convincing, this is a pure delight.
94 Michael Franz Oct 30, 2018

Giuseppe Nada, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Casot” 2009 ($40):  This standout from the commune of Treiso is boldly oaked, but the wood is backed up by terrific fruit recalling dark cherries and a host of accents including Asian spices and church incense.  There’s an alluring sweetness that rides through the considerable acidity and tannin that keep this ripe wine in form, and which will enable it to develop even more complexity in coming years.
94 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

La Ganghija Az. Agr. Di Rapalino Enzo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2010 ($40):   Of the various generic Barbaresco bottlings from 2010 with no indication of a specific cru, this was perhaps the single most impressive.  Deep color and expressive aromatics suggest that the wine will pack a punch on the palate, and indeed it does, with excellent depth of flavor and an alluring sweetness to the fruit.  That sweetness is key to the wine’s success because it is also quite structured, and indeed quite “masculine” in character for a Barbaresco, though firming tannins rather than oak seem to lie behind the grip in the wine’s finish.  Very impressive. 94 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Martinenga” 2006 ($55, Dalla Terra):  Martinega is one of the rare vineyards in Barbaresco owned by one producer. Although he makes consistently impressive wines from the site, the 2006 is one of his best.  Beautifully balanced and fragrant, it’s well structured without coming across as hard.  It delivers a Burgundian-like paradox of enormous flavor without weight.  Despite spending six months in French barriques, the oak and tannins are beautifully integrated.  Its fragrance is haunting.  Wonderfully layered, hints of leather peak out from sweet fruit flavors.  Although a splendid young Barbaresco, this elegant wine will reveal even greater complexity and more grandeur after a decade of bottle age. 94 Michael Apstein Feb 16, 2010

Negro Angelo E Figli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Cascinotta” 2010 ($50):  This very complex wine shows just a whiff of oak that is appealing without seeming overbearing, and the fruit is soft and strongly alluring.  Somehow managing to seem both soft and firm at once, this is as complex in texture as it is in aroma and flavor. 94 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Orlando Abrigo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Montersino” 2012 ($49): I love this producer’s wines consistently, though I fluctuate somewhat between favoring this bottling or the one from “Meruzzano” from year to year.  In 2012, this won by a nose, thanks to a slightly more complex and layered character.  But make no mistake:  Both of these are wines to buy, based on their exemplary combination of richness and purity.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Paitin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Sori Paitin” 2012 ($43): Much the bigger and bolder of two excellent 2012s from Paitin, this shows the slightest flaw as the finish is just a bit hot, yet sheer richness and depth and breadth of the wine’s fruit make it immensely appealing.  There’s an old cliché by which Barolo is supposed to be masculine and Barbaresco feminine, but this wine apparently didn’t get that memo.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Paitin di Pasquero-Elia, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Sori Paitin Serraboella” 2016 ($50):  Rarely a powerhouse but usually among the most interesting wines from Barbaresco, this is well suited to the growing conditions of the 2016 vintage.  Sweet and savory at once, with an appealing mélange of floral and cola topnotes, it shows great purity in its core of fruit but also a host of interesting little accents. 
94 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Pasquale Pelissero, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Cascina Crosa” 2016 ($40):  This wine is an object lesson in the ability of 2016s from Barbaresco to achieve both concentrated flavors as well as purity and “lift” from expressive perfume, fresh acidity and fine tannin.  It shows significant ripeness as well as some overt oak, but the inner strength of the fruit easily counterbalances the wood and allows the wine to attain virtually perfect balance.  Earlier vintages of this are selling at very reasonable prices in the USA, and if this comes in at a comparable cost, it will be a steal. 
94 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Pertinace, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Marcarini” 2012 ($45): I was totally enthralled with all three 2012 Barbarescos that I taste from Pertinace, and though I had the slightest preference for this bottling, I’d also buy the “Castellizzano” or the “Nervo” in a heartbeat.  This one gets the nod for offering just a bit more in the way of sheer generosity, with mouth-coating flavors that prove amazingly persistent and won’t let the wine’s tannins impose any hint of astringency.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Pertinace, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Nervo” 2010 ($50):  Pertinace clearly got things right in 2010, as the “Marcarini” bottling (reviewed below) is also outstanding.  The Nervo shows scents of sweet, ripe, succulent fruit, and the flavors deliver these same attributes in spades.  Pure and perfectly balanced, this is remarkably open and delectable at this early stage.  There’s acidity and tannin and oak to be found here, but only if you “look” for it, as these structural components are enveloped in gorgeous fruit. 94 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Poderi Colla, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Roncaglie” 2016 ($55):  This traditionally-styled wine is always good, but this vintage may be the best rendition I’ve tasted in a decade.  Writing that the aromas are “seductive” is really not engaging in hyperbole, and the flavors and finish all follow suit, melding soft fruit notes with gorgeous savory accents.  The wood is subtle almost to a vanishing point, and the seemingly oxidative vinification of the wine works just perfectly with the fruit from this growing season.  Only you can know how you most like being seduced, but if you like being whispered to rather than yelled at, this is your wine.  
94 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Poderi Elia, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serracapelli” 2012 ($50): I’ve never taken particular note of any wine from this producer before, but this one took me by the collar and demanded my attention.  Ripe and juicy on the nose as well as the palate, it offers fabulous breadth and depth of flavor, but without seeming over-ripe, over-extracted, or over-anything.  There are no signs of cellar tricks or bolstering from wood here, just perfect Nebbiolo fruit.  Fabulous.
94 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Rattalino, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Ronchi” 2010 ($50):  The deep, rich, aromas of this wine are quite arresting, and though it is very ripe in character, there’s nothing raisiny about it, suggesting that the timing of the picking was spot on.  Dense and deeply flavored, this is braced by spicy oak that accents the fruit without ever taking over.  It shows lots of potential for improvement, but make no mistake:  It is already superb. 94 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Ressina Az. Agr. Di Ressia Fabrizio, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Canova” 2010 ($50):  This wine is a model of subtle excellence, with years of positive development ahead of it.  Brooding and backward, but still loaded with nuances and delicate accents, this is terrific already and potentially a great wine. 94 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Albino Rocca, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Ronchi” 2010 ($50):  Very sexy aromas show spices and toast along with fresher, more primary notes of bright red fruit.  The texture is soft and the flavors are open and generous, with good depth and persistence, and very low overt oak.  This is a charming wine ready for current enjoyment, though it is worth remembering that young Nebbiolo-based wines that taste this good have a track record of continuing to shine for a very long time. 93 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Tettineive” 2009 ($50):  Marvelous scents of wildflowers and autumn leaves work exceptionally well with the dark-toned fruit in this wine, which is concentrated and deeply satisfying but still true to the feminine profile of Barbaresco. 93 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

Battaglio, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2010 ($40):  This wine features a fabulous bouquet with subtle balsamic, floral and spice notes on a core of red-toned fruit.  The wood is admirably restrained, enabling the wine to display outstanding complexity and symmetry.  For a straight Barbaresco bottling with no designation of a particular cru, this is seriously impressive. 93 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Boroli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Castiglione Falletto “Villero” 2011 ($60): An admirably light, fresh and restrained rendition of Barolo from the vintage, this shows nice acidity and delicate floral topnotes that are rare from 2011.  A bit of an outlier, but in a good way.
93 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Cascina Delle Rose, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rio Sordo” 2010 ($50):  Quite dark in color, with very inviting aromas of ripe fruit with a depth and density that can almost be smelled.  There’s also enough smoky new oak to make it advisable to lay this down for several years, but there’s no question that the fruit will prove up to the challenge of outlasting and absorbing the wood component.  Although the fruit is quite powerful in its concentration and intensity, there’s still a sense of delicacy to this wine that is appropriate to Barbaresco. 93 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Cascina Luisin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Rabajà” 2016 ($50):  This is a bigger, riper, sweeter rendition of the Rabajà cru than the 2016 released by Giuseppe Cortese, and in that sense is a bit more representative of what many Barbaresco lovers expect of this growing site.  I found it a bit less complex and polished, but it is so deliciously fruity and flavorful that there’s no denying its excellence, and time in bottle will undoubtedly augment its complexity.  
93 Michael Franz Mar 5, 2019

Cascina Morassino, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Ovello” 2009 ($45):  This generous wine is stuffed with deep flavors recalling both red and black fruits backed with a serious but balanced dose of spicy oak.  Meaty, savory notes augment the fruit beautifully and lend a sense of completeness to the wine, a sense that is enhanced by its exceptional symmetry and balance.  Still quite firm but hardly closed, this could be enjoyed in the near term but would best be cellared for three or four years. 93 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

Fontanabianca, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Bordini” 2009 ($49):  If a wine can be “sexy,” this is a very good candidate for the term.  Soft, sweet, rounded and alluring, it displays lovely aromas of lavender and sweet spices, followed by tender, succulent fruit that easily counterbalanced its structural components of acidity and tannin. 93 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

Gaja, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2011 ($180):  Gaja's 2011 Barbaresco stands at the crossroads between now and later. While still very, very young and tight, the promise of the future is beginning to reveal itself. The nose is floral and inviting, with an earthy truffle note, a hint of tar and a mineral nuance. On the palate the tannins remain firm, but they soften with aeration and allow the wine's cherry, raspberry fruit to blossom. Drink now, but know it will be infinitely better in another four to seven years.
93 Robert Whitley Mar 17, 2015

La Spinona Az. Agr. Di Berutti Pietro, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Faset” 2009 ($40):  This is a dark, intensely flavorful wine that doesn’t achieve its impressive flavor impact at the cost of seeming over-ripe or over-oaked.  Complete and coherent, it is firmly structured but nevertheless openly and persistently flavorful thanks to the lovely impression of sweetness lent by the ripe fruit. 93 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serragrilli” 2009 ($65):  A very showy wine that somehow manages to seem more natural than contrived, this displays lots of sweet oak on the nose, but there’s also enough sweet fruit to maintain a perfectly balanced profile on the palate and through the finish.  Already delicious, this will nevertheless reward at least another five years of cellaring. 93 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) "Martinenga" 2006 ($55, Dalla Terra):  This is a complete, convincing wine from Marchesi di Gresy that shows real restraint and sophistication but also lots of deep, flavorful fruit.  The lead notes recall both black and red cherries, with lovely accent notes of anise seed, spices and woodsmoke.  The oak is subtle and the tannins are very fine in grain, so this is ready to enjoy now with decanting and food, but also capable of years of positive development. 93 Michael Franz Jun 15, 2010

Moccagatta, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Basarin” 2012 ($42): This is impressive for depth of color and degree of concentration, and the winemaker was apparently emboldened by the seriousness of the material to apply a pretty serious dose of wood.  That isn’t generally to my taste in Barbaresco, but the wine is an undeniable success, with very ripe fruit soaking up the tannins and providing a balanced finish for a wine with a lot more punch than one would expect from this appellation.
93 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Molino, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Toerema” 2010 ($50):  This shows impressively dark color and quite expressive aromas, as well as fine concentration but no hardness on the palate.  The soft tannins and restrained wood allow the wine to show fine depth of flavor that seems to match its density.  Oak is notably is present, but very nicely balanced, firming the finish but not seeming to shorten it or render it astringent. 93 Michael Franz Jun 11, 2013

Montaribaldi, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Palazzina” 2012 ($45): This wine always seems excellent to me (often rivaling this producer’s flagship bottling from the Sori Montaribaldi vineyard), but in 2012 it was so outstanding that I had to re-taste it even after learning its identity.  It is irresistibly alluring in aromatic terms, with scents of sweet fruit and dried flowers, and the palate is even more engaging, with remarkable depth and length.  Given that it shows no overt wood and not the slightest whiff of alcoholic heat, this comes across as a wine of great class as well as great power, which is an exceedingly rare combination.
93 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Paitin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serra” 2012 ($33): The Barbaresco bottlings from Paitin appeal to me at a very high level almost every year, and the pricing in the USA is always quite reasonable, so they are well worth a search.  This was on the lighter side of the best wines from 2012, but it proves quite winning thanks to expressive aromas and excellent balance and integration.  A subtle swath of sweetness across the midpalate holds everything together and provides softness to the finish.
93 Michael Franz May 24, 2016

Paitin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Serra” 2009 ($35):  This wine was initially a bit reticent in terms of aroma, but swirling over time brought out lots of lovely floral and spice nuances that offer appealing accents to the dark, dense, ripe and flavorful fruit.  Packed with stuffing and succulence, this is clearly an offspring of the warm 2009 vintage and a testament to how good these wines can be. 93 Michael Franz Jul 10, 2012

Albino Rocca, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Ronchi” 2009 ($50):  This driving, intense wine shows abundant power and purpose, with excellent depth of fruit and a very persistent finish.  These are descriptors that don’t usually coincide with others like “fresh” and “pure,” but those also appear in my notes from the blind tasting, which is especially impressive.
92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Angelo Negro e Figli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Cascinotta” 2009 ($49):  Sweet, flowery aromatics lead to lovely flavors that are rather unusual, showing ripe raspberry and wild strawberry flavors more than the standard issue cherry notes.  Feminine but focused and serious, this is very stylish and indisputably delicious. 92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Ca’ del Baio, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Asili” 2009 ($40):  A deeply delicious wine, with excellent concentration and persistent, penetrating flavors, but also fine definition and appealing savory accents. 92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Ca’Rome, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($91, Empson): Ninety-one bucks seems like a lot to ask for a straight Barbaresco (as opposed to a single-vineyard bottling from a well-known site), and you'd be justified in expecting a really good wine in return.  In this case, you'd get it.  This excellent rendition of Nebbiolo shows lots of complexity on an appropriately light, stylish frame.  The aromas are very appealing, with fruit notes of red berries and cherries accented with hints of spices, tobacco leaves, woodsmoke and dried herbs.  Light- to medium-bodied and very versatile with food (especially promising for lighter meats like veal, pork or duck), the wine offers generous, integrated, persistent flavors, finishing with delicate, fine-grained tannins. 92 Michael Franz Nov 4, 2008

Cascina Morassino, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Morassino” 2009 ($40):  Ripe, full and generous, this wine is off to a terrific start on what may prove to be a long life.  Plush but not chunky or obvious, it shows fruity aromas and ripe flavors, with subtle mineral backnotes and restrained oak.  Despite its soft, rounded character, there’s plenty of acidity and tannin to structure the ripe fruit.
92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Ceretto, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Asili 1997 ($85, Moet Hennessy USA): Even though the 1997 vintage tended to produce ripe, precocious wines in this region, Ceretto's 1997 Bricco Asili is state-of-the-art Barbaresco: well-balanced, with excellent acidity, and gorgeous Nebbiolo fruit flavors. Quite delicious for drinking now, this will keep for another five years. Excellent with pasta, risotto, or meat entrées. 92 Ed McCarthy Oct 17, 2006

Ceretto, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2009 ($75, “Bricco Asili Bernardot”):  This is a fleshy, muscular wine that displays wonderful texture, with rich fruit that is framed by very classy oak and lots of fresh acidity and fine-grained tannin.  It wasn’t as flashy and overt as most of the wines listed above it here, but I don’t doubt that it will surpass many of them over the longer term. 92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Giordano Luigi Giuseppe, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Cavanna” 2010 ($50):  This shows relatively thin pigment concentration and even some signs of oxidation, which reinforces the impression of a wine that was crafted in the traditional manner.  Tasters who are unaccustomed to such wines might dismiss this one based on appearance, but that would be a bad, bad mistake, as it offers up a lovely, highly expressive bouquet of floral and savory notes along with alluringly ripe fruit.  The finish is long and symmetrical, with excellent balance between pure fruit and exotic accent notes. 92 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

La Ca’ Nova, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Montestefano” 2009 ($45):  This features a pretty, pure nose with expressive floral topnotes and a fresh, feminine profile.  It is a little lighter in weight than many of the 2009 Barbareschi, but there’s no lack of expressiveness to the ripe fruit notes of red cherry and red raspberry, and indeed the wine is actually more distinctive and impressive for packing so much flavor into a relatively modest package. 92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Luisin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Sorì Paolin” 2009 ($45):  An impressive wine showing dark color, ripe Bing cherry fruit, and flavors that are deep and authoritative.  There’s lots of oak showing on both the nose and the palate, but there’s more than enough fruit to keep this in near-optimal balance. 92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2001 ($38, Dalla Terra Imports): Most Barbarescos and Barolos of this quality retail for well over $50. Marchesi di Gresy, a traditional producer, happens to own one of the premium vineyards in Barbaresco -- Martinenga. He makes more expensive, specific bottlings from the same vineyard -- Camp Gros and Gaiun -- but di Gresy's 2001 Martinenga Barbaresco is marvelous. It is elegant and supple, truly expressive of the Nebbiolo variety, with aromas and flavors of tar, strawberries, licorice and menthol. It is clean, like a laser, rather than powerful. Not a blockbuster, drinkable even now, but with all the finesse and style of the Marchesi himself. 92 Ed McCarthy Jun 13, 2006

Michele Chiarlo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Asili” 2009 ($50, Kobrand):  This utterly charming wine shows lovely aromas that are freshly floral, purely natural, and only faintly adorned by spicy oak.  The flavors are tender and sweet, with invitingly soft texture that persists through a long finish thanks to wonderfully fine-grained tannins. 92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Moccagatta, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Bric Balin” 2010 ($50):  This is a boldly, even aggressively oaked wine at this stage in its development, but the balance works, as the sweetness of fruit never tires beneath the onslaught of the oak.  This will need time to fully integrate and really express itself, but it is a daring wine that will pay big dividends, as the proportions seem just right.  Although it is not made in the style that I initially find most appealing, there’s no begrudging the excellence this promises for the future. 92 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Pertinace, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Marcarini” 2010 ($50):  Impressively dark color and a deep, earthy, expressive bouquet get this wine off to a smashing start, and it fulfills its promise with deep flavors and lovely sweetness.  However, there’s no sense of over-ripeness, and the dose of wood is tastefully restrained, enabling the gorgeous fruit in this wine to really shine. 92 Michael Franz Jun 18, 2013

Pietro Rinaldi, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “San Cristoforo” 2009 ($60):  This was the darkest of a flight of notably dark wines tasted "blind" this May at Nebbiolo Prima in Alba, and it followed through with deep, intense flavors that were very engaging and impressive.  It will need time to unwind more aromatic complexity, but there’s no doubt it will do so. 92 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Armando Piazzo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2009 ($35):  This feminine wine is a little light in color and weight and might not initially seem as impressive as some others, but it packs a lot of punch on a light frame.  Fresh aromas show floral and spice notes, followed by engaging flavors of dried red cherries that remain sweet through the finish, which is structured by lots of ripe, fine-grained tannin. 91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Gaja, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($160, Paterno Imports): With black cherry aromas and flavors, along with firm tannins, this is a bit harsh on the palate right now. The 2003 is a chewy, powerful wine, presently dominated by its black fruit flavors. It is quite ripe, as is typical of the hot 2003 vintage. It needs at least another five years to develop. (Gaja's 2001 Barbaresco is the currently available vintage.) 91 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Giacosa Fratelli, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Basarin” 2009 ($50):  Dark in color and also dark in fruit tone, with flavors recalling black cherries and plum sauce, this is surprisingly open and juicy in flavor.  An excellent example of the modern style of Barbaresco. 91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Moccagatta, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Basarin” 2009 ($51):  This wine needs a little more time to achieve optimal integration, but the component parts are very impressive.  There’s lots of smoky, spicy wood on the nose, with plenty of sweet, savory fruit underneath. 91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Paitin, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Sorì Paitin” 2009 ($45):  Ripe and even a bit stewed in flavor profile, this wine shows itself as a product of a very warm year, yet the ripeness is very endearing thanks to the spicy aromas and flavors and the saline mineral notes that accent its aromas and flavors. 91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Pasquale Pelissero, Barbaresco (Piedmont) Bricco San Giulano 2010 ($35, Massanois Imports): Pelissero’s 2010 Bricco San Giulano Barbaresco is an appealing and complex Nebbiolo.  It shows the intensity of the 2010 vintage.  Layers of juicy black cherry and raspberry fruits are underlain by hints of dried rose, tobacco, anise, tar, smoke and spice.  The flavors are rich and ripe, with fresh and dried red fruits backed by both rustic hints of tar and earth as well as elegant potpourri, smoke and spice tones.  This is a powerful Barbaresco that can age well for another decade and beyond. 91 Wayne Belding Feb 3, 2015

Poderi Colla, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Roncaglie” 2009 ($55):  This exceptionally consistent wine is lovely in 2009, showing soft, sweet flavors and lovely floral aromas.  The fruit is pure in profile and soft in texture, but there’s enough acidity and tannin to enable this to develop additional aromatic and flavor nuances over the course of another 5-7 years. 91 Michael Franz Jul 17, 2012

Produttori Del Barbaresco, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2011 ($48, Vias Imports): This amazing cooperative continues to amaze with it entry-level bottling for 2011, making one wonder how good the Riservas might be when they hit the market two years from now.  Be that as it may, this shows only the barest hint of a relatively hot growing season, with lifted floral aromatics and pure, persistent fruit that recalls red raspberry flavors above all.  Conspicuously juicy and fresh for the vintage, this is an impressive effort.
91 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Beni di Batasiolo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2008 ($40, Boisset Family Estates):  Barbaresco has sometimes been described as “Baby Barolo,” but Fiorenzo Dogliani, in a non P.C. mood, says that Barbaresco is the “wife of Barolo.”  Either way, the Batasiolo Barbaresco is fragrant and rich with supple ripe fruit flavors.  The color of this 2008 is a medium-deep ruby and the nose is ripe with lovely berry notes, while the nicely textured flavors reflect the same fresh berry character, supported by big tannins from aging in Slovonian oak, 14.5 alcohol and good length.  Give this Barbaresco another year or two then enjoy with roasted or grilled meats, or pasta with grilled vegetables. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 7, 2012

Colle dei Venti, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Tùfo Blu” 2001 ($27, Banville & Jones): An attractively priced Barbaresco, showing Nebiollo's tell-tale floral perfume and anise-tinged flavors, this well-balanced wine is ready to drink.  While it should age well, there is no need to cellar it before opening it, so would be an especially fine choice for restaurateurs. 90 Paul Lukacs Apr 10, 2007

Marziano Abbona, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Faset” 2006 ($44, Frederick Wildman):  This light, delicate rendition of Barbaresco impresses more with its delicacy than with fruitiness or power, and if opened relatively early and paired with appropriate foods, it will prove very pleasing at a below-average price.  The fruit component recalls red berries more than black ones, and the fine-grained tannins are well tuned to the wine’s overall weight. 90 Michael Franz Jun 29, 2010

Michele Chiarlo, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) "Reyna" 2009 ($34, Kobrand):  Though the Nebbiolo grape is the heart of both Barbaresco and Barolo wines, where those grapes are grown produces very different expressions.  Barolos are often described as powerful, while Barbarescos are ascribed more delicate qualities.  Certainly this Barbaresco is a graceful wine with gossamer aromas of strawberries, cherries and wood spice.  It has a Burgundian delicacy in the mouth with cherry, red plum and strawberry fruit accompanied by savory, spicy, herbal notes in perfect harmony.  Vibrant acidity and burnished tannins complete this charming wine. 90 Rebecca Murphy Oct 23, 2012

Poderi Colla, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Roncaglie Estate 2003 ($63, Empson): No one could blame you for suspecting that a Barbaresco wouldn't be ready to enjoy at less than three years of age, but in this case, you'd be wrong. No doubt the famous heat of the 2003 growing season is a factor in the outcome here, but in any case, this wine is already soft and delicious-if not quite classic in structure or style. Ripe fruit notes recall dried cherries and black plums with nice little spice accents and just enough wood to lend additional complexity. Acidity is adequate for pairing with dishes involving tomatoes, but very soft tannins and lower acidity than is normal for the breed make it advisable to crack into this wine much earlier than normal for a Piedmontese Nebbiolo. 90 Michael Franz Aug 15, 2006

Ca’Rome’, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) “Maria di Brun” 2004 ($85, Empson): This classically-styled Barbaresco is all about structure at this early stage of its development.  Acidity and tannin are keeping the fruit under wraps, and though there are little whiffs of dried cherries, cedar and tobacco that provide some near-term interest, the wine is currently so tight that one would be well advised to cellar this for at least five years.  I'm confident that it will turn out to be a good investment provided that it is handled with sufficient patience. 89 Michael Franz May 15, 2007

Ceretto, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Asij 2008 ($43, Wilson Daniels):  Ceretto is a leading name in Piedmont, producing complex red wines from the noble Nebbiolo grape.  The grapes for this wine come from Barbaresco and Treiso.  Ceretto employed tank fermentation with a brief maceration, then aging for 24 months in French oak barrels.  The finished wine has a medium ruby color, forward spicy French oak nose with vanilla back notes, light to medium red fruits, brisk acidity, firm tannins, 14% alcohol and good length through the round, fruity finish.
89 Gerald D. Boyd Apr 24, 2012

Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) 2006 ($36, Vias Imports):  Light and fresh but not lacking for guts or depth of flavor, this is a fine rendition of Nebbiolo that will work nicely with a wide range of lighter meat dishes or moderately robust pastas.  The fruit notes recall red cherries and dark berries, with just a little spiciness around the edges and a bit of tannic grip in the finish. 89 Michael Franz Jul 13, 2010

Ca’ Rome’, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Söri Rio Sordo 2004 ($77, Empson): The 2004 vintage has produced some very nice wines from Barolo and Barbaresco, with a core of primary fruit that is absent in many bottlings from 2003.  A dried cherry fruit note provides a solid core for this wine, with subtle aromatic notes of spices, dried herbs and tobacco leaf, and a finish that shows plenty of tannin for structure and grip--but not more than can be counterbalanced by the fruit. 88 Michael Franz Dec 11, 2007

Ca’Rome, Barbaresco (Piedmont, Italy) Söri Rio Sordo 2005 ($102, Empson): This is a very tightly structured Barbaresco that is likely to become much better if you can keep your hands off of it for another four or five years.  At this point, it takes an hour to begin to unwind even with decanting, and then is still packed with acidity and tannin.  However, patience yields very appealing notes of dried red cherries, tobacco leaf, Asian spices, and cloves, with a nice little wisp of woodsmoke on the nose.  Abundant though the tannins may be, they are very fine in grain, and thankfully a moderate dose of oak doesn't pile much wood tannin on top of the grape tannins.  There's no doubt that the proportions in this wine are right, and with time this will become a delightful wine. 88 Michael Franz Dec 16, 2008

Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Asili” 2012 ($200, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Once in a while I get a chance to taste a wine that shows me something I've not experienced before in the most positive way imaginable.  The Asili is such a wine -- at its young age, it shows absolutely explosive aromas of cherry, fresh cut orange, powder, candied raspberry and mixed spice, all just as clear as a cathedral bell.  The palate is just starting to show the promise of the nose, with a firm grip and dry earth minerality up front now, but the promise is solid as a rock. Riveting wine!
98 Rich Cook Oct 4, 2016

Vietti, Barbaresco DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Masseria" 2015 ($95):  Vietti, clearly one of Piedmont’s and Italy’s top producers and known for their stunning array of Barolo, makes only one Barbaresco, currently, according to their website.  Labeled, “Masseria," it comes from two vineyards in Neive and Treiso.  The 2015, from a riper vintage, is gorgeous and particularly engaging at this point in its life.  Both elegant and explosive, it has the Vietti impeccable balance.  It conveys the Burgundian-like sensibility of flavor without weight and then Nebbiolo’s firm tannins appear, providing structure.  It already shows fabulous complexity, with an intermingling of fruit and earth flavors.  Its balance and Vietti’s talents suggest it will develop beautifully over the next decade or two.  I’d advise either drinking it now to capture its youthful exuberance or wait a decade to savor its mature elements that I am certain will develop.   
95 Michael Apstein Oct 22, 2019

Luca Bosio, Barbaresco DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) 2013 ($37, Quintessential):  There's nothing like a young Nebbiolo from the Piedmont when it comes to challenging your tooth enamel.  Not to worry -- time will round things out and turn the dental alarms off.  There's already a gorgeous nose here, with blueberry, powder and a touch of fresh wintergreen.  The palate shows cherry, blueberry, a touch of vanilla and expected acidity which, as it fades, will leave a feminine expression of the flavors.  I've been impressed by this producer of late.
92 Rich Cook Dec 26, 2017

Tenuta Carretta, Barbaresco Riserva (Piedmont, Italy) Cascina Bordino 2012 ($60):  People who think Barbaresco is a lighter version of Barolo will change their opinion after trying this wine.  A burly and broad-shouldered Barbaresco from the relatively obscure Cascina Bordino vineyard in the southern edge of Treiso, this one combines firm minerality with weight and appropriately prominent tannins.  Though attractive floral elements peek through adding to its appeal now, I’d leave it in the cellar for five to ten years.  
89 Michael Apstein Jan 1, 2019

Ca’Viola, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Bric du Luv” 2007 ($46, Vias Imports): I’m about to gush about this wine to such a degree that I worry about losing my credibility, so let me note something critical and confide that I can take or leave the Dolcettos I tasted recently from Giuseppe Caviola. By contrast to the Dolcettos, the Barberas are outstanding, and by comparison to the Barberas of almost everyone else in Piedmont, they are absolutely exemplary. This is a seriously complex wine, with interesting fruit notes recalling ripe red berries and black plums, along with a leathery, pleasantly earthy backnote. The wine has already integrated almost all of the wood to which it was exposed over the course of 17 months in barriques, and it is very soft and inviting in texture. Nevertheless, it shows fine freshness thanks to Barbera’s famed acidity, which is all-too-often absent in current releases due to overly late picking. Absolutely delicious.
93 Michael Franz Apr 9, 2013

Ca’Viola, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Brichet” 2009 ($27): More affordable than this producer’s “Bric du Luv” bottling and very nearly as good, this shows wonderful balance between ripe fruit, fresh acidity, very subtle wood, and interesting earthy accents. 2009 was a hot year in Piedmont, and the label indicates 14.5% alcohol, but this is perfectly ripened and very skillfully made, and it will prove terrifically versatile at the table. 92 Michael Franz Apr 9, 2013

Conterno Fantino, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Vignota” 2008 ($33, Empson):  This terrific Barbera is one of the best that I’ve tasted during the past year.  It shows lots of delicious fruit that is full of flavor without any hint of over-ripeness.  More impressive still is the fact that the fruit notes are accompanied by an extremely appealing meaty, savory character that marks both the aromas and flavors.  The finish is persistent and focused thanks to moderate tannin and also bright thanks to plenty of ripe acidity.  This will prove extremely versatile at the table, and will work very well with a whole host of moderately robust meat and pasta dishes. 92 Michael Franz Jun 15, 2010

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Ruvei” 2014 ($18, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): I’m writing this review on 11/17/15, and last night I showed this bottle at a wine class devoted to possible choices for Thanksgiving dinner.  Of the fourteen wines that I showed, the attendees regarded it as one of the two best wines and choices for the meal… and the other top choice was an Icewine costing $70 for a 375 bottle.  When this bottle was unveiled and the price announced, an audible gasp was heard, and more than one person in the room was doing the gasping.  And for good reason, too, as this is amazingly good for the money, or for twice this price, quite frankly.  It shows full ripeness, a delicious layer of fruit, interesting savory undertones, and the tangy finish that really should define fine Barbera.  As a Barbera lover who tastes hundreds of wines on site in Alba each year, I must say that climate change and a fashion for over-ripe wines has really turned most renditions of this grape into bottles that I don’t find very useful for anything.  But here’s a terrific case in counterpoint, as this is very flavorful and satisfying -- on one hand -- yet immaculately fresh and defined in a way that will enable it to prove highly successful with a very wide range of dishes.
92 Michael Franz Nov 17, 2015

Beni di Batasiolo, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Sovrana” 2009 ($24, Boisset Family Estates):  This 100% Barbera was tank fermented and then aged in French oak barriques for 13 months.  The color is a rich medium ruby and the aromatics show Barbera’s characteristic fresh berry notes, with subtle floral and spicy oak back notes.  Medium flavors are supported by brisk acidity, firm fine tannins, hints of exotic spices, 14% alcohol and good length.  Enjoy this fruit-forward Barbera with sauced roasted meats and medium cheeses. 91 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 7, 2012

Conterno Fantino, Barbera D’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Vignota” 2011 ($30, Empson, USA): Conterno Fantino is among the most respected producers of Barolo, and the Ginestra bottling is particularly prized, but this wine demonstrates the house’s excellence at more approachable prices. It shows expressive aromas of both red and black fruits as well as accents recalling fresh meat, damp earth, minerals and spices. Neither tart nor over-ripe, this a classic Barbera that avoids the extremes into which many producers lapse with this variety under the challenges of a rapidly changing climate in the Langhe district around Alba. Once the most reliable of all Piedmontese wines, Barbera has become a dicey choice during the past decade, but this one comes up double-sevens.
91 Michael Franz May 21, 2013

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2008 ($18, Wine Wave):  This is a delicious rendering of Barbera that is true to the variety (relatively low tannin and high acid) while showing enough soft, ripe fruit to work well with a wide range of foods or even be enjoyed as a stand-alone sipper…which is generally not the case with this variety.  Dark cherry fruit is brightened with a backnote recalling tart cherry pie filling, with accents of mushrooms and autumn leaves.  Versatile and very, very appealing. 91 Michael Franz Mar 6, 2012

Marziano Abbona, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Rinaldi" 2008 ($23, Frederick Wildman):  Since it is possible to buy good Barbera for as little as $12, I suspect that many consumers are reticent when asked to pony up nearly twice that, as would be necessary to taste this wine.  However, it is an equally valid to observe that few wines from anywhere in Italy costing $25 or less can offer the depth, complexity, and structural interplay of acidity and fruit that one can find in a really good Barbera from a top Piedmontese producer.  And just to be clear, this is a very good Barbera.  Although it displays the bright beam of acidity for which the grape is justly famous, it is enveloped in so much ripe, sweet fruit that the wine always seem--at once--to be both relaxed and taut in terms of flavor and structure.  Aromas of melted butter and ripe berries lead into broad, deep flavors that prove very persistent, tailing off symmetrically in a balanced, surprisingly fresh finish. 91 Michael Franz Mar 22, 2011

Borgogno, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2004 ($13, Michael Skurnik): The tradition-minded producer Giacomo Borgogno makes its Barbera in the lean, racy style that I love-more like an Asti Barbera than an Alba wine.  Fresh, lively, with tart cherry fruit, great length and depth, and unoaked.  Also, a top value.
90 Ed McCarthy Jan 2, 2007

Ca’ Rome, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “La Gamberaja” 2006 ($36, Empson): This is an exemplary Barbera that shows how intricate and multi-dimensional this variety can be when treated seriously by a highly-skilled vintner.  Relatively light in body but quite expressive in both aroma and flavor, it shows a wide range of little nuances that change quite markedly over several hours.  The fruit is delicate and the structural elements (acidity and tannin) are almost perfectly balanced to provide counterpoints to the fruit without overwhelming it.  As a result, this would be terrific with roasted duck or chicken, and could likewise suit a wide array of moderately robust foods. 90 Michael Franz Nov 11, 2008

Cascina Roccalini, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2008 ($30, Domenico Selections):  Barbera wines come in many styles, from very light and fresh to very ripe and oak-influenced.  This Alba-zone Barbera, from a tiny producer situated in Barbaresco, falls smack in the middle of the gamut.  It’s fairly full in body and has the deep color and textural richness of grapes that are good-and-ripe, but it has the vibrant acidity and the purity and juiciness of fruit character that’s missing from the richest, most expensive Barbera wines, and it is unoaked.  Personality, vivacity, concentration, and weight -- a Barbera worth trying.  Will age nicely for 5-plus years. 90 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jan 11, 2011

Marcarini, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Ciabot Camerano” 2010 ($18, Empson USA):  Although Marcarini has been an excellent producer in the Langhe region of Piedmont for years, quality seems to have ratcheted up a couple of additional clicks here in just the past two or three years.  That enhancement is clearly evident in this wine, which is beautifully styled and extremely versatile, showing perfect ripening that furnishes the wine with expressive, generous aromas and flavors but also with fresh acidity and a focused, energetic profile appropriate to this variety.  Climate change in the Langhe has resulted in many producers’ Barberas turning overblown and soupy, and this wine is an outstanding case in counterpoint. 90 Michael Franz Nov 13, 2012

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2007 ($19, Wine Wave):  A delicious Barbera that is fully ready to drink, this wine offers sweet red fruit followed by a hint of typically northern Italian bitterness, resulting in a very food-friendly glassful that proves delightfully complex and so compelling.  With its soft tannins and fresh acidity, it’s fully ready to drink now. 90 Paul Lukacs Feb 22, 2011

Marziano Abbona, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Rinaldi” 2007 ($23, Frederick Wildman):  Deeply pigmented and full of concentrated, lasting flavors, this is an excellent Barbera that provides a delightful combination of generous fruit, firm but not-too-challenging structure, and interesting accents of saddle leather and spices.  It also shows enough of Barbera’s characteristically high acidity to seem fresh and focused despite all of that dark, concentrated fruit. 90 Michael Franz Jun 29, 2010

Pertinace, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Barbera 2011 ($12, MW Imports): Pertinace is a small (only 15 members), high-quality cooperative in Piedmont that controls only 175 acres of vines but makes a great Barbera.  Their 2011 is bright and lively with an ideal balance of fruit and spice with slightly briary undertones.  Barbera’s well-known energetic acidity stimulates the palate without puckering tartness.  It’s amazing to find the hallmark of a “food” wine, an attractive bitterness in the finish, in a $12 wine.  Perfect for current drinking.
90 Michael Apstein Feb 11, 2014

Pio Cesare, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2010 ($19, Maisons Marques & Domaines):  The Pio Cesare winery was founded by Cesare Pio in 1881 and is still family owned and operated.  The grapes for this Barbera come from their vineyards and those of long time growers in Barolo territory.  They say that the grapes from this area give the wine its full-bodied structure and complex flavors.  It is indeed a very likeable wine with juicy blackberry fruit with floral, smoky aromas.  It’s mouth filling and balanced with Barbera’s trademark vibrant acidity and it finishes with ripe tannins.
90 Rebecca Murphy Oct 2, 2012

Poderi Colla, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Costa Bruna” 2004 ($24, Empson):

Concentrated and very complex, this superb wine is the best 2004 Barbera yet to pass my lips.  This producer seems to get this grape just right in almost every vintage, with aromas and flavors that provide an intriguing interplay of fresh fruit notes and exotic, meaty, subtly earthy complexities.

90 Michael Franz May 8, 2007

Renato Ratti, Barbera D’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2011 ($19, Dreyfus-Ashby): Pietro Ratti makes two strikingly different--but equally delicious—bottings of Barbera from Piedmont. This one, from Alba, is all about suave softness, spending just 6 months in oak. The fruit recalls fresh cranberries and pie cherries with a dark backnote and pleasant aromatic accents of dried flowers and spices. Very easy to enjoy but also suited to a wide range of foods, this is as versatile as it is delicious. 90 Michael Franz May 21, 2013

Renato Ratti, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Torriglione" 2011 ($18, Dreyfus, Ashby):  The Barolos crafted by Pietro Ratti in recent vintages have been so outstanding that one could easily overlook the other Piedmontese varieties with which he works--which would be a bad, bad mistake.  This textbook Barbera shows terrific fruit recalling dark cherries and black plums, along with fresh acidity and interesting savory backnotes.  The key to its excellence is perfect ripening of the fruit, which provides the wine with plenty of body and depth of flavor without giving it the stewed, soupy character that has become lamentably widespread as winemakers in the Langhe seek size without regard for balance or freshness.  Bravo! 90 Michael Franz Nov 27, 2012

Sandrone, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2009 ($40, Vintus):  All too often the third B (Barbera) of Piedmont wines is forgotten behind the more regal Barolo and Barbaresco.  But what Barbera has going for it is it’s immediate drinkability.  It’s one of my favorite red wines in an Italian restaurant.  Sandrone, an A-list Barolo producer, does an equally good job with Barbera.  Their 2009 delivers ripe red fruit, an appealing spiciness and the all important lip-smacking freshness from bright acidity.  Bold enough to stand up to hearty pasta dishes, it’s not heavy or alcoholic. 90 Michael Apstein May 8, 2012

Vietti, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Tre Vigne 2005 ($21, Remy Cointreau): Vietti, one of Piedmont's great producers, makes engaging, versatile Barbera as well as stylish traditional Barolo, so when I saw this one on a wine list recently, I did not hesitate.  I took my WRO colleague Ed McCarthy's advice about chilling red wines in summertime and asked the sommelier to put this bottle in an ice bucket.  The absence of tannins (both from the grape as well as wood casks) meant that the wine's astringency was not magnified, but chilling amplified the inherent vibrant acidity of Barbera that balanced succulent black fruit flavors.  It was a good match for lamb-filled ravioli. 90 Michael Apstein Aug 28, 2007

Poderi Colla, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Costa Bruna” 2006 ($30, Empson): Quite generous for a Barbera (which can be thin and acidic in a lesser version), this wine shows good ripeness and depth of flavor, but still provides a finish marked by the nice acidic cut for which the grape is famous.  The tannins are quite unobtrusive, and this would be a fine match for all sorts of pasta dishes or lighter meat dishes. 89 Michael Franz Nov 11, 2008

Damilano, Barbera d’Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($17, Vias Imports): Rightly known for their Barolos, Damilano also produces this juicy Barbera.  It's filled with bright red and black fruit flavors and lip-smacking acidity.  Very polished, it is still in the traditional style with only 10% of the wine undergoing oak aging.  Mild and supple tannins combined with a zippy character make it a perfect choice for flavorful pasta dishes now. 88 Michael Apstein Mar 25, 2008

G.D. Vajra, Barbera d’Alba Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) 2013 ($40, Country Vintner):  Still available in many markets even though the next vintage has already arrived on these shores, this outstanding Barbera remains youthful, with brooding, deep and tightly packed flavors, an enticing bouquet, and a well-delineated structure.  It definitely benefits from exposure to air, so decanting is advised. 
93 Paul Lukacs Jul 10, 2018

Cascina delle Rose, Barbera d’Alba Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) “Donna Elena” 2008 ($27, Polaner): With only a 7.5-acre estate, this small producer focuses on and is justifiably well known for their Barbaresco.  Nonetheless, this Barbera is a stunning wine that deserves attention because of its high quality.  It doesn’t hurt that it’s well priced for the enjoyment it delivers.  (Superiore in this case is similar to the Riserva designation is other parts of Italy.  The grapes are slightly riper as measured by minimal alcohol of the wine and it is aged a bit longer.)  Beautifully ripe red fruit-like flavors are intertwined seamlessly with a firm minerality.  The acidity for which Barbera is known, balances the whole package perfectly without intruding.  They’ve aged this classy wine in large old barrels (botti) for two years so its beauty comes out unencumbered by oak.
92 Michael Apstein Mar 12, 2013

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) Nizza "La Court" 2012 ($43, Kobrand Wine And Spirits): Barbera is often overlooked as a superb quality grape in Piemonte, where all the attention is focused on Nebbiolo.  The best Barberas, though, are powerful and complex wines. The 55-acre Tenuta Aluffi is in the southern part of Asti, near the town of Nizza Monferrato, a choice area for exceptional-quality Barbera.  Within Aluffi is the La Court estate with excellent soils, old vines and a beneficial south-southwest exposure.  Chiarlo’s 2012 La Court Barbera packs a velvety punch.  Lovely aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, red cherry, violets, smoke and baking spice emanate from the glass.  The flavors are luscious and silky-smooth, with layers of black cherry, plum and blackberry fruits underlain by the slighty rustic smoky/earthy/leathery complexity.  This could change your mind about how good Barbera can be.  Exceptionally enjoyable now, it can age well for another 3 to 5 years.
93 Wayne Belding Mar 8, 2016

Renato Ratti, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Battaglione” 2016 ($20):  Talk about racy acidity!  I’d describe this wine as a black cherry, blueberry and blood orange beauty, with bright leafy herb and brown spice joining in to make a stellar food wine at a great price.  To those who say that Barbera is the second grape of the region, I agree, but I would add that there are usages in which this works better than the regal Nebbiolo.  Try it with turkey, or a simple salted sirloin.  
93 Rich Cook Oct 30, 2018

Renato Ratti, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Battaglione” 2016 ($20):  Barbera is undoubtedly the most underrated grape variety in the Piedmont district and perhaps all of Italy.  While it sometimes lacks the complexity, and certainly the longevity, of Barolo and Barbaresco, when it’s handled properly in the vineyard and the grapes get ripe, it can hold its own with any red in Italy.  Ratti nailed it in 2016.  The 2016 Ratti Barbera d’Asti is a profound Barbera that deliver rich, ripe black fruits with impressive depth and length. 
93 Robert Whitley Oct 9, 2018

Cascina Roera, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Cardin” 2004 ($30, Adonna Imports):  Jeannie Rogers, the owner of Adonna Imports, is extraordinarily knowledgeable about Italian wines.  (I’m sure she has forgotten more about Italian wine than most people know).  She scours Italy to find small quality-oriented producers.  The name, Adonna Imports, on a bottle is a guarantee of quality.  She believes the key difference between Barbera d’Asti and those from Alba is that in Asti, Barbera is the most important grape--it doesn’t play second fiddle to Nebbiolo--and therefore producers focus on it.  Barbera can be thin and acidic or all gussied up with oak.  This one from a single vineyard, Cardin, is neither, just lush and layered, with sufficient black cherry-like flavors to harmonize with a savory earthiness.  Bright acidity awakens the palate with each sip and the tannins add just the right balance without being intrusive. 92 Michael Apstein Feb 9, 2010

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera D’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Nizza La Court” 2009 ($40, Kobrand):  This, Chiarlo’s single vineyard Barbera, is far more serious and sophisticated than their Le Orme.  Though more polished and glossier, it still retains the energy and acidity for which Barbera is known.  Chiarlo has not overdone it with super ripe grapes or gobs of oak; it still retains an attractive bitter element in the finish.  Even at the price, it’s easy to recommend. 92 Michael Apstein Nov 20, 2012

Carussin, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) Lie Vi 2013 ($20, The Vine Collective): Carussin’s Barbera labeled Lie Vi shows the importance of old vines.  From a single vineyard whose vines average about 40 years, it delivers more purity, complexity and depth without losing any of the energy of their regular — Asinoi — bottling.  Indeed, it has even more vivacity, which amplifies the finish.  It would perk up a simply roasted chicken without breaking the bank.
91 Michael Apstein Mar 3, 2015

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2004 ($15, Dalla Terra): Marchesi di Gresy, long one of the great Barbaresco producers, has made an outstanding traditionally-styled, unoaked '04 Asti Barbera.  Clean, linear, focussed like a laser beam; lively, combining ripeness with freshness and depth. A great value, one of my favorite under $16 Barberas. 91 Ed McCarthy Jan 2, 2007

Renato Ratti, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Battaglione” 2016 ($18):  Full disclosure: I love Barbera.  Mild tannins and bright acidity allow you to chill it in the summer, which amplifies its spicy fruity nature.  Its bold flavors hold up to hearty pasta dishes and even grilled meat.  The problem is that there is a lot of mediocre -- or worse -- Barbera in the market.  Thankfully, this is not one of them.  Indeed, its quality and refinement is no surprise because Renato Ratti is one of Piedmont’s top producers.  Balanced and energetic, this Battaglione is an easy go-to red this summer or when colder weather descends.  My advice: buy it by the case. 
91 Michael Apstein Jul 31, 2018

Vietti, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Tre Vigne” 2010 ($17, Dalla Terra): This is an outstanding rendition of Barbera that successfully bridges the gap between traditional and modern style.  It shows the snappy acidity for which Barbera was traditionally valued, along with some hints of earthiness and a whiff of cured meat, yet it is also packed with fruit recalling both red and black berries.  Very well proportioned and integrated, this avoids the Barbera extremes of being either screechy or soupy, and hits the bulls eye for balance. 91 Michael Franz Jul 9, 2013

Coppo, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Camp du Rouss” 2012 ($21, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Barbera is a grape made for the cool and yes, wintery, weather ahead of us.  And this one from Coppo is easy to recommend.  It’s a pleasantly gutsy wine with briary fruit, good grip and uplifting acidity.  While some Barbera can be dilute, this one is not, presumably because Coppo limits yields, giving the wine good depth.  Mild, but present, tannins allow you to enjoy it now, but not as a stand alone aperitif.  Coppo’s Camp du Rouss Barbera is for a hearty pasta dish as the temperatures drop.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 4, 2016

Damilano, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2011 ($18, Vias Imports): Though light-bodied, this wine is chock full with flavor.  Or should I say flavors, as it is multilayered and invitingly complex, with both fresh and dried red fruit flavors enhanced by subtle notes of cedar, spice, and tobacco.  Very inviting, it does not need cellaring to be enjoyed.
90 Paul Lukacs Feb 18, 2014

Damilano, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2008 ($18, Vias Imports): Really good Barbera is a terrific food wine and sometimes a great value, and this bottling lives up to all of those descriptors.  Remarkably complete and balanced for such a young wine, this features red and black cherry fruit that is ripe but still vividly fresh, with Barbera’s famous acidity being evident but not at all biting.  The tannins are very tame but still notable and welcome as a source of structure.  This is a killer match for lighter meat dishes and almost any pasta preparation involving tomatoes. 90 Michael Franz Sep 29, 2009

Damilano, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2010 ($18, Vias Imports):  A classic-tasting Piedmontese Barbera, meaning marked by vivid plum and dark cherry fruit enhanced by deep earthy undertones, this is a wine with a dry, almost dusty finish that melts away when paired with food.  A great choice to have with Italian-American foods like old-fashioned spaghetti with meatballs or veal parmigiana, it also should age gracefully for a good five years or more. 
90 Paul Lukacs Feb 7, 2012

La Spinetta, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Ca’ Di Pian" 2004 ($24, Opici Wine Company): The ever expanding range of style of Barbera-extending from lots of oak aging to the more traditional use of large old barrels--makes selecting Barbera more difficult these days.  La Spinetta hit the balance perfectly with this wine.  Big and juicy, with ripe fruit and some sweet oak flavors, it's still lively and fresh--not jammy or heavy--because of the inherent acidity of the grape. 90 Michael Apstein Mar 13, 2007

Marchesi di Gresy, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($16, Dalla terra Imports): The great Barbaresco producer Marchesi di Gresy also happens to be making one of the finer, lighter-styled Barberas in the Piedmont region.  His '05-fresh, lively, and lean, but with excellent concentration-is my idea of a great warm weather red wine.  It will go with most foods, but would be especially delicious with pizza. 90 Ed McCarthy Jul 24, 2007

Renato Ratti, Barbera D’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2011 ($19, Dreyfus-Ashby): By contrast to Ratti’s 2011 Barbera from Alba, which benefits from the delicacy and sophistication imparted by excellent limestone-laced clay soils, this Asti bottling is built for power from a south-facing site (an exposure that is almost always reserved for Nebbiolo in the districts surrounding Alba).  A year’s worth of time in oak has layered gutsy wood tannins atop the grape tannins, but the ripe, flavorful fruit powers right through them, providing a lingering sweetness that makes for a long, impressive finish.
90 Michael Franz May 21, 2013

Carussin, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Asinoi" 2013 ($17, The Vine Collective): Carussin, a family run estate founded in 1927, focuses on Barbera.  This one — Asinoi, an illusion to donkeys, which they also raise — is a blend from four of their vineyards.  Despite its fruit-filled profile and its concentration, it’s neither sweet nor jammy.  Zesty acidity, characteristic of Barbera, keeps it fresh and lively, making it just what you need for a meaty pasta dish this winter.
89 Michael Apstein Mar 3, 2015

Damilano, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2009 ($19, Vias Imports):  Good Piedmontese Barbera offers full flavor but a light to medium body, making it very versatile at the supper table.  (No wonder it tends to be the wine of choice in restaurants in the region.)  This is a very good one, with both fresh and dried fruit flavors, and an enticing because spicy finish.  There is plenty of acidity to keep everything in balance, further adding to its appeal as a dinner partner. 89 Paul Lukacs Feb 8, 2011

Bava, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Libera” 2009 ($16, Wine Wave):  Bava’s wines are new to me, but from now on, I’ll definitely be paying close attention on the strength of wines like this Barbera, as well as a striking 2006 Barolo.  This wine is medium-bodied, which is good news and a refreshing departure from the current trend toward overly-ripe, insufficiently fresh renderings of Barbera.  Although modestly weighted, it is full of satisfying, persistent flavors, and the finish shows bright edging that will enable the wine to work well with tomato-based sauces while also succeeding with white meats like pork or veal. 88 Michael Franz Nov 27, 2012

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera D’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Le Orme” 2010 ($13, Kobrand):  What a terrific wine for the price.  Savory and bright, as Barbera should be, Chiarlo does not try to make it “important” with lots of oak or manipulation.  Buy it by the case for hearty winter fare or just the take out pizza. 88 Michael Apstein Nov 20, 2012

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “La Court” 2003 ($41, Kobrand): Gorgeously packaged if painfully priced, this is a very fine rendition of Barbera.  The unusual ripeness of the famously hot 2003 vintage hasn't tamped down this grape's energetic acidity, and the unusually prominent dose of wood is an effective structural counterweight to the soft ripeness of the wine.  Dried cherry fruit notes work very nicely with undertones of leather, cedar and spices. 88 Michael Franz Jul 3, 2007

I Quaranta, Barbera d’Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Asia" 2005 ($25, Terra Verus Trading Company): Barbera is the 'workhorse' grape of Piedmont.  The locals might wax eloquently--as they should--about the majestic Barolo and Barbaresco from the region, but Barbera is what everyone drinks.  Many producers are experimenting with oak aging for Barbera, but I Quaranta is not, at least not with this wine.  This wine conveys straightforward, bright, slightly spicy red fruit flavors. It's full-bodied but not over-worked, and has the uplifting acidity for which the varietal is known.  A solid, satisfying wine, it's a good choice now for a grilled veal chop or hearty pasta. 87 Michael Apstein Mar 10, 2009

Vietti, Barbera d’Asti DOC (Piedmont, Italy) 2017 ($18):  Vietti long ago learned to tame the rough edges of the Barbera grape.  The 2017 Tre Vigne is an excellent example of Vietti Barbera, showing rich black-fruit aromas, firm acidity and rich grape tannins in a wine that will only get better with time.  That said, it is very enjoyable now and comes alive when paired with roasted meats such as veal shank.    
93 Robert Whitley Feb 18, 2020

Vietti, Barbera d’Asti DOC (Piedmont, Italy) “Tre Vigne” 2017 ($16, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  I love Barbera for its red and blue fruit combination and vibrant acidity, both of which are in fine form in this bottling from Vietti.  It’s quite ripe, placing it on the bold side of the varietal spectrum, but the acidity is more than up to the task of taming the fruit and making a luscious food friendly wine that will pair with meats white and red.  A great value!   
92 Rich Cook Feb 11, 2020

Braida, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco dell’ Uccellone 2015 ($68, SoilAir Selection):  In the chase for the next great Nebbiolo from Barolo, wine lovers often overlook the exemplary character of the best Barberas.  Perhaps no Barbera is more worthy of attention than the Braida Bricco dell’Uccellone.  Giuseppe and Raffaella Bologna are the third-generation proprietors of the Braida estate and are united in their quest to elevate the Barbera to the top echelon of red wine grapes.  Their 2015 Bricco dell’Uccellone is a powerful and complex wine.  Lovely aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, violets, bay leaf and sandalwood emanate from the glass.  The flavors are luscious and rich, with layers of black cherry, plum and blackberry fruits underlain by a hint of vanilla and an earthy/leathery complexity that lingers nicely at the finish.  This is top-class Barbera that can compare with similarly-priced wines from any region or grape. 
95 Wayne Belding Mar 20, 2018

Abbazia, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) 2016 ($15):  If you’re looking for great value from Italy’s Piedmont area, look no further than Barbera d’Asti.  If you look up food friendly in the dictionary there’s probably a picture of this wine.  If you lack such a book, I’ll draw you a picture -- bright cherry and blueberry fruit, soft tobacco, bright oak spice and a long finish where the blueberry come forward.  I’ll leave the food pairing picture to you.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Sep 25, 2018

Bricco dei Guazzi, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) 2013 ($13, Montcalm Wine Importers):  A more robust, richer style of Barbera, Bricco dei Guazzi’s 2013 still maintains the grape’s hallmark juicy acidity and low-ish level of tannins that makes it hard to resist.  Darker in color with a whiff of oak flavors, it a seductive, suavely textured wine that has a black, rather than red, fruit profile.  Exceptional length makes you pause between sips.  Another fabulous bargain! 92 Michael Apstein Nov 7, 2017

Renato Ratti, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Battaglione” 2016 ($20, Renato Ratti Wines USA / Gallo):  This terrific Barbera is certainly one of the best bargains I’ve tasted this year -- out of more than 5,000 wines to this point.  It shows wonderful purity and freshness, but is also full of red and black berry flavors, with just the right tannic grip to enable it to excel at the table.  I opened my press sample bottle for review purposes one afternoon last week, and was so impressed with its quality that I took it to show at an evening wine class on that same day.  Of 12 wines shown in that class, this was the consensus favorite of a set including other wines at 3 times the price of this one.
92 Michael Franz Jul 3, 2018

Banfi, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “L’Altra Anima” 2017 ($17, Banfi Vintners):  The name, L’Altra Anima, translates literally as “other soul,” presumably in reference to Barbera being the “other” major grape of Piedmont.  It has the engaging spiciness and verve of Barbera with an unusual -- and welcome -- polished patina.  Thankfully it’s not so polished as to obliterate the charms and grip of Barbera, but just enough to smooth its sometimes-rough surface.  It’s a great buy and a go-to wine for hearty tomato-based pasta or pizza. 
91 Michael Apstein Dec 11, 2018

Cantine Sant’Agata, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) "Baby" 2016 ($11, Montcalm Wine Importers):  This juicy mid-weight wine is an example of why Barbera d’Asti is so popular.  Lip-smacking, cherry-like acidity enlivens the briary, spicy character of the wine’s fruitiness.  Mild tannins make it perfect for current consumption.  This is not an “important” wine, but rather one you could open on the spur of the moment -- it has a screw cap, so you don’t even need a corkscrew -- when a take-out pizza arrives at your door.  A fabulous bargain!
91 Michael Apstein Nov 7, 2017

Vietti, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Tre Vigne” 2015 ($17, Dalla Terra Direct): Spoiler alert.  This wine is a fantastic bargain for current consumption, even in the summer.  For starters, Vietti is one of the superstar producers in Piedmont.  Their Barolos are legendary, with comparable pricing.  Vietti’s Barberas are equally enjoyable, albeit in an entirely different manner.  Barbera d’Asti is a potentially confusion category because the wines can range from dreadful and cheap to stylish -- and still bargain-priced -- like this one.  Juicy and spicy bright red fruit and mild tannins mean it takes a chill nicely in the summer.  In the fall and winter, despite its mid-weight body, it is still robust enough for heartier fare.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 8, 2017

Luca Bosio Vineyards, Barbera d’Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) 2013 ($15, Quintessential):  Though the Piemontese speak of Barolo and Barbaresco with reverence, they all drink Barbera d’Asti with gusto.  And this wine shows why.  Its bright red fruit flavors mingle nicely with a spiced herb component.  The naturally high acidity balances good concentration, making it energetic and lively.  It delivers more than the prices suggests, so it’s a perfect choice for pasta with a tomato sauce or even take-out pizza any night of the week. 90 Michael Apstein Dec 5, 2017

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) “La Court” 2011 ($52, Kobrand): La Court, a more polished and “important” wine, makes a fascinating comparison with Chiarlo’s other Barbera d’Asti, Le Orme.  The grapes come from the same vineyard, according to Alberto Chiarlo, but the ones destined for La Court are harvested later and then treated differently in the winery with fermentation occurring like Barolo, in open vats.  Half the wine spends time in oak barrels while the other half ages in large old barrels before Chiarlo blends the two components.  In place of Le Orme’s charming rusticity, La Court delivers a riper and more suave impression.  These two wines represent the opposite ends of the Barbera spectrum.  Both are easy to recommend.  While La Court might be more appropriate for prime rib and Le Orme for skirt steak, frankly I’d be happy to have either on my table this fall with either cut of beef.
91 Michael Apstein Oct 14, 2014

Ca’ Bianca, Barbera d’Asti Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) “Chersi” 2007 ($28, Frederick Wildman):  There’s a theory that Barbera is at its best around Asti rather than the more renowned Alba on account of the best sites near Alba being planted to Nebbiolo rather than Barbera.  That idea has a rather plausible ring to it, and this wine certainly rings true to the notion.  Ample in size and quite deep and persistent in flavor, it nevertheless seems fresh and pure thanks to the grape’s famous acidity, which enlivens the wine without ever seeming tart or distracting.  This would be a great choice for marinated, grilled meats with a light chilling during summer, but its balance should make it very versatile throughout the year. 90 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2011

Ca’ Bianca, Barbera d’Asti Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) 2007 ($17, Frederick Wildman):  Fresh and focused but also appealingly fruity, this fine Barbera is very nicely balanced and hence appropriate as a partner for a wide range of foods.  Fruit notes of red and black berries show nice ripeness but also a lot of lift and definition from bright acidity. 89 Michael Franz Jun 15, 2010

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti Superiore (Piedmont, Italy) “Le Orme” 2011 ($15, Kobrand): The 2011 vintage, a warm one in Piedmont, was particularly good for Barbera because the extra ripeness balances that grape’s inherent acidity.   With its bright signature and fruity charm, Chiarlo’s Le Orme is a great introduction for those who are unfamiliar with the virtues of that grape and wine.  It has plenty of punch and enough depth to be an ideal choice for a hearty pasta dish this fall.
88 Michael Apstein Oct 14, 2014

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Nizza DOC (Piedmont, Italy) La Court 2013 ($42, Kobrand):  In addition to making noteworthy Barolo, Chiarlo, a top producer in Piedmont, also makes excellent wine from lesser known areas, such as Nizza.  Starting with the 2014 vintage, this wine will be labeled simply Nizza Riserva DOCG, since this small subzone of the Barbera d’Asti region was recently awarded DOCG status.  The 10-acre La Court vineyard, which has been in the Chiarlo family for decades, has one section of 30 to 40-year old vines and another section with 69 to 70 year old ones.  These old vines help explain the stature of the wine, which has a seemingly endless finish. Chiarlo manages to combine power and a stop you-in-your-tracks presence with suaveness.  A patina of oak adds subtle creaminess without intruding.  Drink now with robust fare or find a place in your cellar -- Chiarlo’s releases from La Court develop splendidly over a decade. 93 Michael Apstein Oct 24, 2017

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Maggiora" 2016 ($30, Quintessential Wines):  In the Piedmont region of northern Italy, the stars of Barolo and Barbaresco cast a long shadow.  So much so that those two icons of Italian wine overshadow the region’s other superb red wine, Barbera, the Rodney Dangerfield of Piedmont.  For the record, Barbera can be splendid on the same scale, though the price hardly reflects that.  The 2016 Maggiora Barbera from Attilio Ghisolfi is a great example.  This vintage delivers richness and depth, ripe dark fruits and a serious touch of wood spice.  It’s a sensational wine.  Will anyone notice?  I certainly hope so. 
94 Robert Whitley Oct 23, 2018

Ca'Viola, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Brichet 2003 ($40, Vias): Forty bucks is pretty startling for a Barbera, and since this doesn't present itself in a huge, self-important, "statement" bottle, it will raise plenty of eyebrows in retail stores. However, I can't imagine that anyone who gives it a try will be disappointed, as it is beautifully symmetrical and positively packed with complex fruit recalling plums, black cherries, and red berries. Subtle wood notes lend complexity without obscuring the lovely fruit, and the wine shows great class from the first whiff to the final note of the impressively long finish. 94 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Luciano Sandrone, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2015 ($40, Vintus):  This is the best Barbera I tasted during 2017, and one of the best young Barberas ever to pass my lips.  Everything about it is impressive, and that includes the fact that it wasn't crafted solely to impress.  By that I mean that both the ripeness and wood are tastefully restrained, yet the wine is packed with pure fruit aromas and flavors.  Dark cherry and berry notes are predominant, but with some red tones showing as well.  Quite concentrated, it nevertheless emphasizes purity over power, and manages to do so because the very fresh acidity is perfectly balanced against the sweet core of fruit.  I don't throw around the word "perfectly" more than a handful of times each year, but the balance of this wine deserves the term.  Delightful as soon as opened, this just gets better and better for hours on end, suggesting that it will become notably more complex for those who can summon the patience to keep their mitts off of it for a few years.  There is exactly no risk that the fruit will dry out anytime soon.
94 Michael Franz Dec 12, 2017

Poderi Colla, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Costa Bruna" 2003 ($22, Empson): A truly profound Barbera, this is virtually black in color and opaque in appearance. Notes include dark berry and black cherry, with flavors that are deep and very satisfying but still fresh and flashy. Acidity is less prominent than in more typical, traditional Barberas, but the balance is lovely and the wine is convincing in every respect. 94 Michael Franz Sep 27, 2005

Brovia, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Sori del Drago" 2004 ($26, Neal Rosenthal): This wonderful Barbera has density and power without relying on intrusive wood flavors from barrique (small French oak barrels) aging.  Aged entirely in large barrels-botti-the incredible hints of cherries, dark chocolate and smoke come from the grapes.  The silky tannins buttress the wine without adding astringency. 93 Michael Apstein Dec 5, 2006

Bruno Giacosa, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($30, Winebow): Big but not pushy, this is ripe and quite rich for Barbera, yet it is marvelously balanced and proportioned. Although very flavorful, it is not at all obvious, as nice little nuances surround the core of dark cherry fruit. Wood notes are subtle and well woven into the fruit, which is generous but also very fresh and vivid. Fantastic! 93 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Conterno Fantino, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Vignota" 2003 ($27, Empson): This marvelous wine features expressive fruit notes of ripe plums and black cherries, along with interesting accents of damp earth, tobacco leaf, and woodsmoke. With excellent complexity as well as superb integration, this is a convincing winner. 93 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Giacomo Conterno, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Cascina Francia 2004 ($33, Polaner Selections): The superb Giacomo Conterno winery, which consistently makes one of the top Barolos, also produces one of the great Barberas from the same vineyard where the Barolo comes from, Cascina Francia in Serralunga. The '04 has intense fruit balanced with substantial acidity. Perfectly structured, with no oak aging, it is a superb traditional Alba Barbera, but much more concentrated than most. 93 Ed McCarthy Jan 2, 2007

Paruso, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Ornati 2003 ($27, Montecastelli Selections): Exceedingly complex and classy, this superb wine gets off to a great start with interestingly nuanced aromas. However, the real show starts once you start tasting, as the wine is soft and remarkably layered in texture and flavor. Ripe fruit notes include black cherries and dark berries, with relatively light body but lots of flavor. That will make it very versatile with food, and you'd actually have a hard time finding foods with which this wouldn't work. 93 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Vietti, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Scarrone Vigna Vecchia 2004 ($80, Remy-Cointreau):

The Scarrone vineyard, on a hillside in back of Vietti's winery, has a small section of 80-year-old vines. From this plot Vietti has been bottling a separate Barbera, called Scarrone Vigna Vecchia.  Great depth and length; ripe fruit along with substantial acidity.  A great example of barrique-aged Barbera d'Alba.  (Vietti's standard Scarrone, at $36, is also very fine.)  Vietti is clearly one of the great Barbera producers.

93 Ed McCarthy Jan 2, 2007

Luca Bosio, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2009 ($20, Quintessential): Barbera is a tricky grape variety that can produce unpleasant results because of its naturally high acidity. No such luck with this effort from Luca Bosio. The 2009 Barbera d'Alba is packed with juicy red and black fruits, complex notes of mocha, anise and dried herbs, all supported by smooth, supple tannins. This is an outstanding effort and a steal at the price. 92 Robert Whitley Mar 11, 2014

M. Marengo, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Vigneto Pugnane 2012 ($25, Marc de Grazia Selection): The Pugnane vineyard located in Castiglione Faletto, one of the important communes of Barolo, is usually planted with Nebbiolo because the grape planted in that locale makes exemplary Barolo.  Marco Marengo says the vineyard is also well suited for Barbera.  Since he wanted Barbera in his portfolio he decided to plant some there.  I, for one, am glad he did.  This is top-notch Barbera with mouth-watering acidity -- that’s the grape speaking -- that supports and amplifies dark fruit notes. I suspect its concentration and finesse reflects the grandeur of the site.  This is an amazing Barbera.
92 Michael Apstein May 5, 2015

Massolino, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2016 ($25, Vineyard Brands):  An extremely compelling Barbera, marked by cherry fruit augmented by all sorts of spicy (sweet as well as savory) secondary flavors.  Medium-bodied, it should prove very adaptable at the supper table and, given its acidic backbone, should become even more nuanced with a few more years of bottle age.
92 Paul Lukacs Oct 16, 2018

Viberti, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “La Gemella” 2017 ($16, Opici Wines):  This is terrific Barbera by any standard and at any price, but at $16 - $18, it is a delightful steal as well as a wonderful partner for a very wide range of foods.  Beautiful, brilliant deep color had my mouth watering from the outset, and the fresh aromas only intensified the great start.  Fresh aromas of bright red and black berries are underlain by subtle savory scents and flavor notes, making this seem both youthfully energetic but also a wine of serious standing.  With low tannin but very bright acidity, this would be a refreshing stand-alone sipper but also excellent with moderately robust foods of many different kinds. 
92 Michael Franz Feb 12, 2019

Vietti, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Scarrone "Vigna Vecchia" 2003 ($38, Remy Amerique): About 20 percent of Vietti's Scarrone vineyard has 80-year old vines, and the Currados have been vinifying a separate Barbera from these vines since 1992. I especially love this wine with some age, after the oak tannins from the barrique aging become resolved in the wine. The 2003 Vigna Vecchia is rich and ripe, with intense, tart cherry fruit flavors. It has great concentration and depth for a Barbera. It will be even better in two or three years. 92 Michael Apstein Feb 21, 2006

Beni di Batasiolo, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Sovrana” 2010 ($22, Boisset America): This is a Piedmont wine you can enjoy now while you store the 2010 Barolo for the long haul.  Warm spice, black cherry, raspberry, flowers and faint earth aromas lead to a complex palate that delivers the nose elements with style and grace.  The acid is firm, and it's got some tannic grip, but it's all working well with the fully integrated flavor profile and promises a reward with a year or two of bottle aging.
91 Rich Cook Sep 16, 2014

Boroli, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco 4 Fratelli 2003 ($17, Boroli USA): Ripe cherry fruit is the lead attraction in this wine, but it is hardly the sole attraction, as it is nicely augmented by notes of fresh meat, smoke, spices and tobacco leaf. 91 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

G. D. Vajra, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2011 ($23, The Country Vintner): Vajra is a top Barolo producer, so when I spied their Barbera on a list at East 12th Osteria, an excellent, but under-the-radar restaurant with a thoughtful wine list in New York City, it was an obvious choice.  Ripe and juicy, it had the refreshing and bright acidity characteristic of Barbera without a trace of sourness.  Its suave texture makes it easy to drink now with hearty wintertime pasta, such as tagliatelle with a mushroom sauce.
91 Michael Apstein Jan 13, 2015

Giacomo Conterno, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2000 ($24, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): The 2000 Barbera d'Alba from Giacomo Conterno is fresh and vibrant with good acidity and tart black cherry fruit. It is just a lovely wine to drink now. Although 2000 was also a very warm vintage, it was not quite as hot as 2003. 91 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2004 ($17, Vinifera Imports): The 2004 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d'Alba has rich, tart cherry aromas and flavors and excellent acidity. It is drinking well now, but will even be better in two years. 91 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Lodali, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Bric Sant' Ambrogio" 2003 ($13, Siema): This attractively-priced wine shows very nice balance and lots of interesting little nuances. Nicely poised between the more rustic and more modern styles, it is both complex and clean. 90 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Rocce Costamagna, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Annunziata" 2003 ($19, Siema): This wine is packed with ripe fruit, and there's some notable wood influence also, but there's no mistaking this as a Piedmontese Barbera, as it shows complex aromas and retains great freshness and linear drive thanks to excellent acidity. 90 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Boroli, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Quattro Fratelli" 2004 ($15, Boroli USA): This delicious Barbera offers excellent performance at a bargain price. It is seriously ripe and concentrated with very deep flavors of dried cherries and dark berries, yet it is no mere fruit bomb. On the contrary, it shows nice nuances of tobacco and fresh meat, along with the zesty acidity that marks the Barbera variety. Unlike many thin, tart Barberas, this is very enjoyable to sip on its own, but is also a great partner for moderately robust foods like pork, veal or pasta. 89 Michael Franz May 23, 2006

Bruno Giacosa, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($31, Winebow): While many European wines suffered in 2003 because of extreme heat and quick ripening, which did not allow full tannin development in the grapes, Barbera, a low-tannin variety, fared better. Here we have a deliciously grapey Barbera, fresh and youthful with characteristic high acid and a medium amount of fine-grained tannin that does not compromise the wine's length on the palate. Enjoyable now, and will remain so for about five years. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan May 23, 2006

Bruno Giacosa, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2015 ($28, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Bruno Giacosa was best known for his exceptional Barbaresco and Barolo, often produced from purchased grapes.  It turns out that he produced excellent Barbera as well, as this 2015 shows.  There’s an ongoing argument as to which is better:  Barbera from Alba or from Asti?  The answer to that question will wait for a future column.  What’s not in dispute is how good Giacosa’s Barbera is.  More polished and suave than many, it still retains the refreshing bite and acidity for which that grape is known.  Ready to drink now, it’s a fine choice for the pappardelle and sausage.  
89 Michael Apstein Mar 5, 2019

Burlotto, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($16, Bacchanal Wine Imports): Burlotto's '05 Barbera d'Alba, from the commune of Verduno, is firm with vibrant red fruit flavors, good concentration and length, substantial acidity, and some oak tannins.  Only a bit too much ripeness prevented me from giving it an even higher rating. 89 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Franco Serra, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2013 ($12, Scoperta Importing): Barbera d’Alba is a somewhat forgotten appellation.  Grown in the shadow of the great Nebbiolo-based wines of Barolo and Barbaresco,  Barbera consistently provides a lot of character for a very affordable price.  The 2012 Franco Serra bottling shows a traditional style, combining fruit and earth nuances in an entirely pleasing manner.  Luscious raspberry, red cherry and red plum fruit tones are interwoven with elements of dried herbs, cocoa, tobacco, potpourri  and cracked pepper.  The flavors are initially soft and ripe with the juicy red fruits enhanced by the herbal and spicy nuances.  The earth and herb tones linger pleasantly at the finish.  Its autumnal style makes it a perfect pizza wine, as well as a fine companion for herb and mushroom-laced pasta recipes.
89 Wayne Belding Sep 8, 2015

Giacomo Conterno, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($24, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): Giacomo Conterno normally makes one of the very best Barberas in the region. The 2003 will appeal to you if you like rich, easy-drinking, plummy wines. I would prefer more acidity. But then, 2003 is not my kind of European vintage, generally speaking; many wines are just too ripe and soft. Having said that, this 2003 Barbera d'Alba is quite delicious right now. 89 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Lodali, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Vigneto Bric Sant Ambrogio 2004 ($14, Siema): This is a remarkably complex wine for $14, with interesting aromas that meld bright cherry fruit notes with a host of pleasantly earthy nuances. Light enough to pair with chicken dishes but sufficiently flavorful to work well with red meats, this is an exceptional value. 89 Michael Franz Jan 17, 2006

Marcarini, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Ciabot Camerano" 2003 ($18, Empson): Simple, but simply delicious, this features lovely cherry flavors and nice little spicy accents. With pure fruit and just the slightest whiff of wood, this is very appealing and is certain to prove very versatile with food. 89 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Ruvei" 2003 ($15, Palm Bay): Very polished and very pretty, this is an aristocratic wine quite in tune with its producer's name. However, while it is accurate to characterize this as a thoroughly civilized wine, given its pure berry fruit, ripe acidity, and exceedingly soft mouthfeel, it is certainly not overly staid. Juicy and generous, but soft all along the way, it features satisfying red berry and cherry flavors with nice subtle accents. 89 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Vietti, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Tre Vigne" 2004 ($19, Remy-Cointreau): Vietti's standard Barbera d'Alba, made from a blend of three Alba vineyards.  Concentrated red and black fruit flavors, round, with just a touch of oak tannins. A good Barbera, but for me, Vietti's Tre Vigne Asti is even better. 89 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Boroli, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Quattro Fratelli" 2005 ($15, Dalla Terra):

A fuller-styled Barbera, in the Alba fashion. The '05 Boroli Barbera is dry, concentrated and yet fresh, with some oak tannins.

88 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Damilano, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($18, Vias Imports): Known more for their Barolo--they own part of the famous Cannubi vineyard--Damilano also makes a lovely Barbera.  The 2005 combines the freshness and lively character inherent to that grape, along with full ripeness.  A balanced wine, its charm is, fortunately, not obscured by oak.  An excellent choice for pasta and a hearty tomato based sauce. 88 Michael Apstein May 22, 2007

Mauro Veglio, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($16, T. Edward Wines):

Mauro Veglio's '05 Barbera d'Alba is fresh and spicy, light-bodied, lean, crisp, and bright.  It could just use a little more weight; 2005 is not quite so good as 2004 in Piedmont.

88 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Pio Cesare, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2004 ($16, Maisons, Marques & Domaines): The oak aging in Pio Cesare's '04 Barbera d'Alba dominates the natural tart fruitiness of the variety.  A good wine, but somewhat compromised by the oak; would be more popular with consumers who have New World wine palates rather than with Italian Barbera lovers. 88 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Pio Cesare, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($15, Paterno Imports): Meaty and gutsy and packed with flavor, this is an excellent effort that shows all the best characteristics of the vintage while still letting the grape shine through. Ripe and quite expressively fruity, but still a bit meaty and earthy, this is a very impressive wine at an approachable price. 88 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Marcarini, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) “Ciabot Camerano” 2004 ($18, Empson): If you want a moderately-priced red with pure fruit and a little of Barbera's famous tanginess to accompany a dinner involving red pasta sauce, your ship has come in.  Simple and straightforward but very useful on account of being fresh and bright, this is a great wine for the table. 87 Michael Franz May 8, 2007

Pertinace, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($15): A soft, supple Barbera, with dried cherry fruit flavors and a sexy, spicy bouquet.  Its only weakness is a somewhat short finish, but the attractive price tag makes that only a minor concern. 87 Paul Lukacs Oct 9, 2007

Salvano, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($11, Siema): An excellent value, this shows good weight and depth of fruit, but also nice balance thanks to bright acidity. Light aromatic nuances lend interest, and fine proportionality and integration will enable this to work well with many foods. 87 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Elvio Cogno, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) "Bricco dei Merli" 2001 ($23, Vias Imports): Normally, I'm a fan of Elvio Cogno's wines, especially his Barolos, but his 2001 Barbera d'Alba is a bit heavy-handed, with some over-ripeness and rich oak tannins; lacks freshness. 85 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Lodali, Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) Vigneto Bric Sant’Ambrogio 2005 ($12, Siema): A worthy--if notably different--successor to the excellent 2004 Lodali Barbera, this release shows fruit notes of bright red cherries and dried dark berries, with accents of spices and mushrooms.  Although it doesn't show the earthy, meaty funkiness of the 2004, it is nearly as interesting while being fresher and more versatile with food. 85 Michael Franz May 8, 2007

Salvano, Barbera d'Allba (Italy) 2003 ($12, Siema): Bright and cherry-fresh, with plenty of fruit, excellent structure, and soft tannins, this exuberant wine provides plenty of pleasure for not much money. While the hot 2003 vintage was not particularly friendly to Nebbiolo, Piedmont's most regal red grape, it yielded many excellent Piedmontese Barberas that are ripe and juicy, offering excellent near-term drinking. 88 Paul Lukacs Mar 28, 2006

Vietti, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) La Crena 2001 ($40, Remy Amerique): When Vietti bought the La Crena vineyard in the Asti region about ten years ago, it was a symbolic move. Alfredo had always made wine from his home region of Alba. His son Luca pursued the purchase of La Crena, with its now 75-year old vines, and expanded the vision of the winery. Like the 2003 Scarrone Vigna Vecchia, the 2001 La Crena--Vietti's most full-bodied Barbera--still needs a bit more time to integrate the oak tannins. With age, La Crena becomes profound: delicious and complex, with great depth. Give it two more years. 94 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Vietti, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) La Crena 2003 ($42, Remy-Cointreau): Vietti's single-vineyard La Crena, made from 75-year-old vines, sets the standard for barrique-aged Barbera d'Asti. Great concentration of red fruits, silky texture, ripe, with good acidity, especially for the torrid 2003 vintage. Great depth.  Probably will be even better in the superior 2004 vintage. 93 Ed McCarthy Jan 2, 2007

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "La Court" 2001 ($40, Kobrand): This is one gorgeous Barbera, with fabulous depth of flavor from low vineyard yields but still the bright, acidic edge for which this variety is famous. Perfectly mature on release, with all sorts of complex notes of smoke and spices and leather and fresh meat. Beautifully balanced and impressively persistent on the finish, this is an indisputably great wine. If you think that Barbera cannot make great wine, you are incorrect, and this here wine is the proof. 92 Michael Franz Dec 20, 2005

Pio Cesare, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Fides" 2003 ($29, Paterno): This impressive wine results from a concerted effort on the part of the Pio Cesare family to demonstrate the potential greatness of Barbera. They grow the grapes for this bottling on a single, south-facing site adjacent to their Ornato vineyard in the Serralunga district of Barolo, ageing the wine for 20 months in Allier barriques. This vintage is impressively deep in flavor, with beautiful cherry fruit that is ripe but immaculately pure, along with accents of smoke and spices from the oak. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the wine is that it isn't pushy or showy in any respect, but rather seamlessly integrated and perfectly poised. Although it is not the most dramatic of the wines reviewed here, it is quite possibly the classiest. 92 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Prunotto, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) Costamiole 1998 ($43, Winebow): Prunotto's great single-vineyard 1998 Costamiole, which is still available, is one of the best barrique-aged Asti Barberas. I love its richness, its firm structure, its balance, and its great length. The '98 Costamiole proves that a Barbera can be aged in oak without losing its essence. 92 Ed McCarthy Jan 2, 2007

Alasia, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Rive" 2003 ($25, Vias): Very fine and very polished, this is an unusually civilized Barbera, and yet the wine is certainly not domesticated or boring. The color is dark and the pigmentation very deep, with lots of depth and dimension to the fruit, but no hardness at any point. Exemplary winemaking here. 91 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Araldica, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2012 ($11, Vias Imports): This is a fabulous bargain.  Barbera from Asti and the Monferrato Hills consistently provides a lot of character for a very affordable price.  The 2012 Araldica bottling is exemplary.  Luscious raspberry, red cherry and red plum fruit tones are interwoven with elements of dried herbs, earth, potpourri  and cracked pepper.  The flavors are pure and multilayered, with the juicy red fruits enhanced by the herbal and spicy nuances.  The texture is rich and the finish is long.  It’s a perfect pasta or pizza wine for the coming winter months.
91 Wayne Belding Oct 7, 2014

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "La Court" 2003 ($41, Kobrand): Although best known for his Barolo, Michele Chiarlo has carved a niche for himself with beautifully balanced Barberas (there are the La Court and the Le Orme) that have climbed nearly to the top of the heap in this rejuvenated sector of Piedmont red wines. The '03 La Court, the more prestigous and expensive of the two, is quite an achievement for the winery. Michele Chiarlo was able to deliver a well-balanced, food friendly Barbera that bucked the warm vintage's trend toward higher alcohols (13.5 percent). It doesn't lack for richness and power, however, and will make a wonderful match for savory stews and roasted meats and game. 91 Robert Whitley Oct 2, 2007

Vietti, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Tre Vigne" 2004 ($19, Remy-Cointreau): Vietti's '04 Tre Vigne Asti, made from a blend of three Asti vineyards, has aromas of black cherry and black pepper, lively acidity, and a leaner style than his Barbera d'Alba Tre Vigne. Just a touch of oak tannins.   Fine value. Drinking Vietti's Alba and Asti Barbera Tre Vignes together will give you a good idea as to which style you prefer.  I prefer the Asti.
91 Ed McCarthy Jan 2, 2007

Damilano, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2013 ($17): I admit it.  I love good Barbera.  Along with Dolcetto, another workhorse grape and wine from Piedmont, Barbera is often my go-to choice at Italian restaurants because it meshes so nicely with food and almost always offers good value.  Damilano (an estate that also made excellent Barolo in 2010) made a 2013 Barbera d’Asti that’s easy to embrace.  It is bright and vibrant with excellent concentration.  Its cherry-like nuances and lip-smacking acidity help it stand up nicely to a hearty pasta dish.
90 Michael Apstein Feb 24, 2015

Renato Ratti, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) “Battaglione” 2013 ($20, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.): Spend some time with the nose here -- it's quite layered, with initial bold damp earth and dried herbs giving way to deep cherry cola and a touch of wintergreen mint.  The palate has bright acidity and a moderate grip, and is showing the wine's oak load at present, so decant long for near term enjoyment, or age it 3 to 5 years.
90 Rich Cook Jan 10, 2017

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) Le Orme 2004 ($11, Kobrand): Michele Chiarlo's  standard Barbera d'Asti, the Le Orme, is my quintessential summer red: it's light, fresh, and lively, goes with most summer foods, and is a good value as well. The '04 has surprising depth for a wine of this price, great acidity, and is easy to drink. 89 Ed McCarthy Jul 24, 2007

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 'Le Orme' 2009 ($13, Kobrand): Le Orme is Chiarlo’s  version of an “everyday” wine.  It’s light and delicious with black cherry, raspberry flavors and aromas with a glimmer earthiness nicely balanced with piquant acidity.  Have it with pizza or a burger.
89 Rebecca Murphy Oct 30, 2012

Prunotto, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($15, Winebow): This isn't terribly impressive for looks, as it is presented in a relatively short, shallow-punted, rather dumpy bottle. However, the wine is absolutely delicious, with lovely flavors and excellent balance. Dark cherry notes predominate, with subtle accents and very nice acidity. 89 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Vietti, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Tre Vigne" 2003 ($17, Remy Amerique): Dark and serious, with impressive concentration and ripeness, this delicious Barbera also shows real varietal character including the refreshing, bracing acidity that is the calling card of this grape. Aromas of blackberries and saddle leather lead the way, with robust flavors following suit. 89 Michael Franz May 30, 2006

Braida, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) Monte Bruna 2004 ($20, Vinifera Imports):

The late Giacomo Bologna was an early champion of barrique-aged Barberas.  Bologna's family continues to make some fine but pricey barrique-aged single-vineyard Barbera d'Asti wines at the Braida winery. Monte Bruna, its least expensive, has firm oak tannins, with high acidity and a certain rustic raspiness.

88 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Luca Bosio, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) 2012 ($13, Quintessential): This lovely Barbera is the perfect wine for the summer barbecue, showing ripe black fruits, spice and a subtle tarry note. It's supple and juicy, ready to drink now and would fit most anyone's wine budget. 88 Robert Whitley Jun 3, 2014

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Le Orme" 2004 ($11, Kobrand): Michele Chiarlo's basic Barbera is dry, light-bodied and vibrant, with lots of acidity. It is an unoaked gem of Barbera d'Asti in the lighter style. Great value. 88 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Pico Maccario, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Lavignone" 2003 ($18, Winebow): Atypically juicy and even slightly sweet, this is a major departure from the tight, tart Barbera that many will recall from earlier experience. Tender in texture, it is rounded in feel from the very first touch on the tongue with primary fruit notes of red berries and cherries. Juicy and fun, this is basically what really great Beaujolais would taste like if such a thing existed and came from Italy. 88 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Malgra, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Fornace di Cerreto" 2003 ($17, Monarchia Matt International): The '03 Malgrá Fornace di Cerreto is fairly ripe and chunky, typical of the hot 2003 vintage. Its style is in-between traditional and barrique-aged, with some oak tannins. 87 Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Le Orme" 2003 ($12, Kobrand): Lean enough to please traditionalists but ripe enough to keep this true to the vintage, this shows good depth of color and flavor as well as some judiciously subtle wood accents for the dark cherry fruit. 87 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Icardi, Barbera d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) "Tabarin" 2004 ($11, Vinifera Imports):

The traditionally made '04 Icardi Barbera d'Asti is dry, lean, fresh, light-bodied, unoaked, but with lively fruit and high acidity.  It would be teriffic with pizza. An exceptional value.

Ed McCarthy Jan 9, 2007

Luca Bosio, Barbera d'Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) 2017 ($15, Quintessential Wines):  A case is required when purchasing this wine as you’ll want to have some for now and some for later, at a price that’ll make you look really good on the later end.  Pulsing acidity carries bold black cherry, soft dried herbs and a subtle blueberry note.  Saucy pasta dishes will sing with this beauty.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Jun 11, 2019

Trecini, Barbera d'Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) Superiore 2015 ($28):   This lovely Barbera d'Asti has just enough age to have softened the acidity and rounded any rough edges.  Lush and rich, with exquisite balance, it shows aromas of black cherry and spice with impressive palate weight and a long, lingering finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 37th San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
94 Robert Whitley Apr 9, 2019

Cantine Sant’ Agata, Barbera d'Asti DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) "Baby" 2016 ($14, Diamond Wine Importers Ltd):  Everything about this wine is easygoing, from the reasonable price and simple twist-off screw cap all the way to the soft tannins on the finish.  In between you’ll get an easy-sipping trifecta of fruit, spice and acidity.  Yeah, Baby, you’re all pleasure all the time.  
90 Marguerite Thomas May 7, 2019

Luca Bosio, Barbera d'Asti DOGC (Piemonte, Italy) 2016 ($15, Quintessential):   Barbera can be quite tart and acidic when young and very difficult to handle as an inexpensive quaffing wine.  The 2016 Barbera d'Asti from Luca Bosio -- made in a fresh, fruity style -- is the exception to the rule.  The acidity is a bit soft, making this Barbera more accessible at this stage.  It's fleshy, round, with smooth, supple tannins, an inviting floral note on the nose and juicy black fruits on the palate.  Fire up the barbecue and serve this wine with smoky, savory meats from the grill. 
87 Robert Whitley Feb 13, 2018

Michele Chiarlo, Barbera d'Asti Superiore Nizza (Piedmont, Italy) 'Le Court' 2007 ($33, Kobrand): This is a superb Barbera with serious intentions.  Its color is an opaque, deep, black ruby. Intense blackberry and black plum fruits with suggestions of violets and smoky, dusty notes continually develop in the nose.  It’s full bodied, yet graceful in the mouth with fulsome black fruit flavors layered with vanilla and bitter chocolate are intensified by decisive acidity and burnished tannins.   The grapes come from the winery’s Le Court vineyard where Michele Chiarlo says the nearly double magnesium levels in the soil gives that beautiful, sensuous silkiness to the wine.

93 Rebecca Murphy Oct 30, 2012

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbera del Monferrato DOC (Piedmont, Italy) "Maraia" 2015 ($15):  This wine is phenomenally consistent and always a bargain, and the 2015 is at least as good as any vintage I can recall.  It delivers substantial flavors of wild berries with earthy echoes in the finish and just a hint of wood.  
91 Michael Franz May 1, 2018

Marchesi di Barolo, Barbera Monferrato (Piedmont, Italy) "Maraia" 2003 ($10, Palm Bay): Fresh and bright, yet generously endowed with ripe cherry and plum fruit, this is nicely balanced at a point midway between the peculiarities of vintage and grape variety. Very well made from fine raw materials, it is clearly a steal for ten bucks-especially in a time when the dollar is weak against the euro. 86 Michael Franz Sep 26, 2005

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Lazzarito” 2010 ($180): This is among the three or four best Barolo wines from 2010 that I’ve tasted, and its superb quality was instantly obvious.  With that said, however, there’s nothing obvious about the wine, which is the key to understanding the distinctiveness of its character.  It is nowhere as pushy or made-up as the most aggressive wines from Serralunga in 2010, yet its complex, highly alluring aromas and layered, deeply satisfying flavors could hardly be more apparent.  The fruit is exceedingly open and pure, yet the overall impression is at least as savory as it is fruity, and they wine is flawlessly proportionate in its structural components and perfectly balanced in the prominence of its different scents and flavors.  In sum:  A wine of breathtaking beauty.
99 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2015 ($80):  I have the highest respect for Virna Borgogno’s wines, and put my money where my mouth is…by buying at least one or two of her wines in her portfolio in most years, ranging from the Riserva through the cru wines and right down to the normale Barolo DOCG bottling.  This, however, is the most striking young wine I’ve ever tasted from the estate, and from a vintage that is not my favorite.  Perhaps I should write “admirable” rather than “striking,” as what is really special about this is its magical purity.  Sure, there’s an alluring sweetness to the fruit, but there is actually nothing remotely overdone about any of the wine’s components or characteristics.  The fruit got picked at just the right moment…and the wine got pulled out of barrel at just the right moment, and all the other little details were right on the button too.  As this matures and fills out with tertiary notes from bottle age, it may very well merit another point.  At the risk of lavishing too much praise on the wine, I should confess that my raw note from the first (blind) taste of it concludes with, “…a sexpot, but of the Grace Kelly variety!”    
99 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Ceretto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Rocche 2004 ($200, Wilson Daniels):  Ceretto has separate wineries for their Barolo and Barbaresco, which has the potential for confusion.  This wine is sometimes listed as Bricco Rocche Bricco Rocche Barolo because the winery and the vineyard, both located in the town of Castiglione Faletto, have the same name.  Let there be no confusion about the beauty of this Barolo.  It’s a magnificent wine.  Still tightly wound with firm tannins, all its components are integrated and balanced.  It has a Burgundian-like paradox of power without weight.  Layers of flavors, from sweet fruit to savory earthiness, explode on the palate and flow together seamlessly.  I hate to praise such an expensive, limited production (fewer than 600 cases from the 4.5-acre vineyard) wine, but consumers who love Barolo and can afford it should search for it. 98 Michael Apstein Sep 13, 2011

Gagliasso Mario, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata” 2010 ($75): This producer’s 2008 “Torriglione” was among the most wildly earthy and exciting Barolo wines of that vintage, yet I was forced to give it a relatively modest score of 93 on account of it being somewhat “iffy” due to a whiff of volatile acidity and some indications of premature development.  By contrast, this 2010 from the great La Morra cru of Rocche dell Annunziata has all the complexity and excitement value of that 2008--but without the warning signs.  Frankly, given the fact that the producer isn’t world-famous, I’ve got my doubts that other reviewers will give this wine the score that it truly merits.  The color is extraordinary and the bouquet is huge and extremely engaging, with an earthiness that never quite turns “dirty” or “animal” in character.  The flavors are comparably compelling, with virtually perfect balance between fruity elements and leathery, savory ones.  The tannins are evident but not obtrusive, and the wine is sexy even in its structural impression, with a very persistent finish.  My raw note from when I tasted this blind in Italy is full of enthusiastic expletives, and I’m dying to taste it again….
98 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Giacomo Conterno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monfortino 1998 ($265, Polaner Selections): Made entirely from the Nebbiolo variety, Barolo is a massive wine, with incredible aromas of strawberries, tar, mint, eucalyptus, roses, spices, and white truffles when at its best.  The secret is to seek out a great producer.  Giacomo Conterno makes my favorite Barolos and Monfortino is its best--for me, the world's greatest Barolo.  Young Roberto Conterno took over from his father Giovanni, the 'king' of Barolo, who passed away a few years ago, and is doing a fantastic job.  The 1998 vintage in Piedmont is excellent.  Possibly the world's greatest red wine? 98 Ed McCarthy Feb 5, 2008

Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Ca' d'Morissio 1996 ($190, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): The 1996 Ca' d'Morissio is due to be released sometime in 2006. The combination of this premium Monprivato plot and the great 1996 vintage has produced a massive wine, complex and rich. Only 200 cases made. It will need years to develop, but will be superb. 98 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

L'Astemia Pentita, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Cannubi" 2015 ($85):  I cannot recall tasting a wine from this producer or even reading the name, and consequently I had to taste this three times before I could believe my eyes…and my palate.  The second and third tastes came more than an hour after I’d run through all of the day’s wines, so this looks fabulous not only in the context of the exalted Cannubi cru but also against the backdrop of a lot of big-name wines from the communes of Barolo, La Morra and Verduno.  The wine just sings from the first whiff to the last sensory impression in its very long finish.  Aromas of dried flowers mingle with scents of ripe fruit and balsamic notes, followed by flavors that deliver on the bouquet’s promise in spades.  The flavors are full of stuffing, with excellent depth and breadth on the palate, yet the wine retains a sense of prettiness and reserve despite its formidable flavor impact.  Marvelously integrated at this young age, this shows an excellence that seems…well, effortless…a great wine in which everything fell together naturally and beautifully.  I hate to end this review by noting anything negative, but this is the kind of bolt-from-the-blue performance that makes me wonder:  How many of those who tasted this will have the guts to score a less-than-famous wines as generously as it deserves?  
98 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Marziano Abbona, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Pressenda” 2010 ($75, Frederick Wildman & Sons): I’ve loved this wine for years, but I’ve never tasted a rendition that could match this stunningly beautiful 2010, which stood out immediately in a giant blind tasting as an obviously great achievement.  Sweet and spicy aromas and flavors are irresistibly enticing, and the texture is supple and seductive.  Showing sensational depth and dimension and integration, this wine has it all, and has it in abundance but also in perfect balance, as demonstrated by its extremely long and symmetrical finish.  One of the two or three best wines out of 400 tasted in Alba over five days in May.
98 Michael Franz Jun 10, 2014

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche Dell'Annunziata” La Morra 2015 ($110):  This was obviously the best wine in a long string of Barolos from La Morra that I tasted blind from this vintage, and that was obvious before I had any idea it came from the house run by Pietro Ratti, whom I admire and like very much.  I’ll have multiple reasons for buying this myself, but chief among them will be to pour it for an importer friend who dismisses this house for making what he believes to be overly ripe, oaky renditions of Barolo.  This will dispel that misimpression very quickly, as it shows delightful aromatic freshness that sets it off from its neighbors, and then follows that up with detailed but restrained fruit and tastefully restrained oak that offers spice and framing without any astringency.  The finish is long and perfectly proportional, and the overall impression is one of exceptional precision and class. 
98 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Bricco Visette" 2014 ($95, Quintessential Wines):  This suave Barolo from Attilio Ghisolfi walks the fine line between the more modern iterations of Barolo and the fierce wines of yore.  Powerfully structured and firm, with ample tannin for long-term cellar potential, but remarkably enjoyable despite its youth.  It shows a floral nose with hints of spice, followed on the palate by the aroma of dark cherry and notes of dried herbs.  Drink now or anytime over the next two decades.  
97 Robert Whitley Nov 6, 2018

Brezza Giacomo e Figli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Sarmassa" 2015 ($75):  Probably the best vintage of this wine going all the way back to the great 1996, this is the Sarmassa of the vintage, but only beating the Marchesi di Barolo by a nose.  It shows even more richness and heft than the very top Cannubi bottlings from 2015, yet there’s nothing obvious or overdone.  Beautifully proportional and harmonious, a diagnostically minded taster can work to break this down and consider its components, but doing so will only show that the acidity, sweetness, tannin and wood are…again…proportional and harmonious.  A terrific achievement. 
97 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Sarmassa” 2010 ($105): This is a stunningly impressive wine.  On one hand, it is sweet and open and generously flavored, yet it is also massively structured, with a boatload of tannin and lots of fresh acidity.  Uncanny it its ability to seem at once elegant and intense, this poised-but-powerful wine is an obvious star in a historically great vintage, and its greatness is made obvious by its exceedingly persistent and proportional finish.
97 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Mauro Veglio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Rocche dell Annunziata” 2010 ($100): Mauro Veglio generally believes that Rocche dell Annunziata is his best site, and it turned out a killer wine in 2010.  It shows terrific pigment concentration and is quite generously ripe.  Although it is a wine of great power and persistence, it also shows extraordinary class and complexity.  With lots of little nuances and plenty of fine-grained tannin, there’s a lot going on here, but everything is driven by deliciously sweet, dark-toned fruit that just won’t quit.  This is always a pretty expensive wine, but also one of the safest purchases you could make because of its type:  A rare wine that will be balanced and delicious regardless of when you drink it over the course of two decades.
97 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubi 2013 ($100, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  OMG, as good as Chiarlo’s 2013 Cerequio is, their Cannubi is just better.  It stops you in your tracks.  Chiarlo owns about 3 acres of Cannubi, which is Barolo’s most famous vineyard.  They are so selective and quality-oriented that they usually wind up using only half of their Cannubi crop for this wine.  This Cannubi has everything that Chiarlo’s Cerequio has, and then some. The tannins are finer, which highlights a silkier -- when have you heard that work describing Barolo -- texture.  Better make room for another Barolo in your cellar.
97 Michael Apstein Oct 9, 2018

Pecchenino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “San Giuseppe” 2010 ($80): This house is known most widely as a source for exemplary Dolcetto from the Dogliani district, but my blind tasting over the past few years have indicated that Orlando Pecchenino has also got a golden touch with Nebbiolo.  His 2009s from the Monforte D’Alba crus of Le Coste and San Giuseppe were both brilliant, and the 2010s are even better.  In 2009, I slightly preferred the Le Coste, but in May of 2014, the 2010 San Giuseppe was sensational.  Among the handful of most alluringly perfumed wines of the 400 tasted blind in May, this showed a core of dark-toned fruit with perfect ripeness and gorgeous accents of spices, smoke and cured meat.  The flavors are so deep that my raw note reads, “almost unfathomable,” and yet the wine is no mere powerhouse but also one marked by exceptional purity and integration.  Want to buy this?  I’ll see you in line.
97 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Brunate” 2012 ($160): When tasting this blind in a lineup of 117 Barolos on May 11, 2016, I knew immediately that it was a wine from a great site and a top producer, and that it would prove to be expensive…which would make me sad.  All of that proved true, which is a mixed blessing.  Vietti’s 2012 Brunate is a wine of supreme complexity and class, with essentially perfect proportionality and balance.  Sweet but also savory, and soft but still structured, it is highly expressive -- but even more impressive on account of its detail and precision.
97 Michael Franz Jul 19, 2016

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi Boschis” 2010 ($85): This wine is an object lesson in the greatness of the 2010 vintage.  The growing season seems to have been particularly outstanding in the villages of Serralunga and Barolo, and this wickedly good bottling from the cru of Cannubi Boschis shows fabulously expressive aromas with suggestions of leather, spices, incense and wild mushrooms.  The flavors are equally engaging, with fruity and savory notes that are perfectly symmetrical.  In structural terms, there’s no astringency, no heat and no harshness…just an incredibly smooth ride, though the wine certainly does not lack grip.  Brilliant.
97 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Ascheri, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Ascheri” 2010 ($85): This wine wasn’t among the darkest or most concentrated of the many terrific Barolo bottlings that I tasted from the 2010 vintage in May of 2014, but it was definitely among the most intricate and interesting.  The aromas are particularly wonderful, showing floral, spicy, leathery, musky scents that are so alluring that they provide a very satisfying experience before one even tastes the wine.  However, tasting only confirms the excellence presaged by the aromas, as this is packed with a mélange of compelling flavors.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Bricco Visette" 2014 ($95, Quintessential Wines):  I always hate opening wine like this as it’s several years too soon, but it comes with the territory, and I’m pleased to inform you that a beautiful future is in store for this already elegant and expressive bottle.  Beautiful cherry and blueberry fruit are already showing, and typical youthful Barolo acidity is on full display, carrying those flavors into the distance now, and making for a wine that will have an overnight long finish when it reaches full maturity -- in fifteen years or so.  Bravo! 
96 Rich Cook Nov 13, 2018

Bric Cenciurio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Coste di Rose" 2009 ($75):  Gorgeous from stem to stern, this wine is a fantastic success in 2009.  It shows very little overt oak, but the wood that is present is just prominent enough to structure the strongly appealing sweetness of the fruit in perfect balance.  Soft floral aromas make a delightful first impression, and on the palate, pure red fruit notes are accented with delicate impression of baking spices.  Remarkably soft and open, even for a 2009, this will prove very difficult to resist during the next few years. 96 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Cavallotto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Boschis” 2010 ($75): This captivating wine is an object lesson in the completeness as well as the immediate appeal of the 2010 vintage in Barolo.  Moreover, its appeal is not only immediate but also comprehensive:  It looks great (impressively dark color), smells great (pretty floral notes along with spicy, toasty oak and fresh fruit) and tastes great too (with deep flavors driven by dark-toned fruit).  All of the sensory impressions made by the wine are symmetrical and harmonious, adding up to the inescapable conclusion--which I rarely state so starkly--that this is simply a great wine.
96 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Ceretto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Rocche 1999 ($190, Moet Hennessy USA): Ceretto's Bricco Rocche vineyard Barolo, his top-of-the-line wine, is from the Castiglione Falletto district. The 1999 vintage is on the level of the 1996, but more approachable. The 1999 Bricco Rocche is a tremendous Barolo: round, well-balanced, but with complex Nebbiolo aromas and flavors and a long finish. It's more forward than the 1996 Prapó, and a more complete wine. Just outstanding! 96 Ed McCarthy Oct 17, 2006

Dario Stroppiana, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “San Giacomo” 2011 ($60): This is a seriously under-rated producer on a roll, and those who care more about the quality of their wine than the name recognition of their labels would be well-advised to look for Stroppiana Barolos.  This San Giacomo from La Morra was among the handful of most expressive and exciting of all the 2011s that I tasted, showing astonishing aromatics recalling roses, incense, cola and ripe fruit.  The flavors are very deep, and the texture quite rich, with tannins in evidence, but just barely due to the sheer richness of the wine.  Extremely impressive. 
96 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Fontanafredda, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigna La Rosa” 2007 ($95, Palm Bay International):  This Barolo comes from Fontanafredda’s La Rosa vineyard within the commune of Serralunga d’Alba.  It’s a denser, more robust and earthier version of their Barolo labeled Serralunga d’Alba.  Fabulously long and balanced, it’s a gorgeous wine with layers upon layers of excitement.  It has a “modern” patina without losing any of the traditional mixture of savory and fruit flavors found in top notch Barolo.   This young Barolo simultaneously bombards and caresses the palate. 96 Michael Apstein Sep 18, 2012

G.D. Vajra, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Baudana” 2011 ($70): Aside from being one of the most delicious of the 2011 Barolo wines, this is also among the very most admirable in stylistic terms, with striking purity and an intriguing combination of fresh red fruit notes.  Excellent acidity for the vintage also makes this stand out, yet it shows the richness of the year as well.  A complete wine, I’ll bet that this will be mistaken for a 2010 Barolo many times over its long life.
96 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Germano Angelo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rue’” 2010 ($70): I loved the 2008s made by this producer, and this wine offers further proof that the wines remain absurdly under-appreciated.  Traditional in style, with virtually no suggestion of flavoring from oak, this is marvelously complex despite the absence of any overlay of wood-based notes.  Succulent, sweet and savory, it is intricate and layered and very deeply flavored.  The wines are very difficult to find in the USA (virtually impossible outside of California), but the family has a small wine shop in the village of Barolo.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Germano Angelo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Mondoca di Bussia” 2010 ($70): This producer’s name will be unfamiliar even to most Barolo hounds in the USA, but the estate has been turning in excellent performances in recent vintages, and this wine shows a capacity to craft wines that are close to the very top of the quality pyramid.  Deep color and serious density show this to be a formidable wine, but it isn’t all about power, as it features a lovely bouquet with a complex mélange of fruity and savory notes.  Similarly, the flavors show a highly complex, layered character and a finish that is impressively symmetrical and balanced.  Already gorgeous, and destined to get even better during the coming decade.
96 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Giacomo Conterno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Monfortino" 1998 ($275, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): The 1998 is the current vintage of Giacomo Conterno's magnificent Monfortino, as it normally ages for seven years in large casks. It has incredible, explosive, perfumed aromas of wild strawberries, tar, and licorice. With rich, voluptuous flavors, it's enjoyable even now, although it will only improve with age. Giacomo Conterno Barolos generally age as well as First Growth Bordeaux. 96 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monprivato 1998 ($80, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): At this stage, the 1998 Monprivato is even better than the 1999! Classic aromas, similar to the 1999, but more complete on the palate. Just an outstanding Barolo, even now. 96 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Luciano Sandrone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Le Vigne" 2010 ($110): Sandrone is widely regarded as one of the most skillful vintners in Barolo, and the 2010 vintage has been hailed as possibly the most complete in a decade, but this wine remains jaw-droppingly impressive even when allowing for all of that.  Highly expressive in aromatic terms, it shows scents of ripe fruit and exotic spices as well as subtle savory accents that lead seamlessly into comparable flavors.  Very deep and persistent in flavor without any extraneous weight or ripeness, this is a classic in the making, with all of its many virtues derived predominantly from perfectly grown and ripened fruit--rather than cellar tricks.  The restrained wood and fine-grained tannins will need several years to resolve before this wine hits its apogee, but it already shows its excellence quite manifestly, so there’s nothing dicey about purchasing this even at its usual high price.
96 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Brunate” 2010 ($85): This exemplary producer turned out a fabulous Brunate from the 2010 vintage in Barolo.  Always masculine and rather brooding in its youth, the 2010 nevertheless already shows hints of the leather and cocoa powder notes it tends to display in its maturity, along with a suggestion of truffles and spices.  Built for the long haul, this would best be stored for at least five years, but it will likely develop in a positive direction for a full two decades.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Sarmassa" 2015 ($95):  This big, historic producer has long been more famous for Cannubi than any other cru, but when they get things right from Sarmassa, this is the cru to buy.  And man, did they ever get things right in 2015, risking an overblown wine by (evidently) picking late in a hot, dry year but snatching up the fruit right before things might have gone haywire.  Very rich, ripe, dense and sweet, this shows a vaguely candied character but no hint of raisiny over-ripeness nor any hint of heat in the finish.  There’s actually enough acidity to keep it seeming fresh despite the faintly candied character, and enough tannin to avoid any sensation of flabbiness.  This won’t win any points for restraint, but it is quite an alluring fleshpot of a wine.  
96 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Mario Gagliasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2012 ($55, Kysela): I’ve been following the wines of this producer very closely since tasting the fantastic 2008 release from the Rocche Dell’Annunziata cru, and visited the winery two years ago after tasting the equally thrilling 2010.  I wouldn’t have guessed that the same level could be attained from the 2012 vintage, but the fact is that this may be the strongest wine of this terrific trio.  It is a riveting wine that will strike some strict modernists as being a bit too dirty for their taste, and indeed there seems to be a bit of a brettanomyces issue in this winery, which is full of new and new-ish oak, but always seems to issue notably earthy wines.  With that said, I found the aromas of cured meat, wild mushrooms, aged leather to be totally alluring.  The concentration is admirable, and there’s a streak of pure, sweet fruit that offsets the earthy elements very effectively, making for a complete experience… at a very high level.
96 Michael Franz Jul 19, 2016

Marziano Abbona, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Pressenda” 2007 ($80, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd): I adored this wine when I first tasted it in Italy 28 months ago, scoring it at 94 points during four days of blind tastings alongside roughly 250 other 2007 vintage releases from Barolo.  The only problem is that my score was too conservative, based on how strongly the wine is now performing.  It has totally absorbed all overt oak notes, which can now be sensed only as subtle traces of smoke and spices that are perfectly integrated with the wine’s fruit component and its savory undertones.  Admirably concentrated but not heavy, this shows perfectly ripened Nebbiolo character, with striking aromatic expressiveness and great intensity of flavor flowing from a core that is remarkably graceful and really only medium-bodied.  Dark fruit tones are beautifully accented with notes of cured meat, wild mushrooms and saddle leather.  Some critics have written this vintage off as having been too hot, and I remain alert to that reservation, but continue to find that many of the wines are undeniably delicious.  This one is particularly convincing, and if it were possible to wring out one more drop from an empty bottle, I’d still be wringing this one.
96 Michael Franz Sep 10, 2013

Massolino-Vigna Rionda, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Margheria” 2011 ($85, Vineyard Brands): A model of perfectly ripened fruit and irreproachable decisions in the cellar, this shows all of the generosity of a top wine from Serralunga but also a lot more freshness and energy than one might expect from 2011.  Marvelously proportional and integrated, this is a thoroughbred with a very long run ahead of it.
96 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Mauro Veglio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monforte d’Alba “Castelletto” 2011 ($50): Veglio seems to get superb wines from this site in Monforte d’Alba in warmer years, as the 2007 was superb, and this wine is on track to be every bit as impressive.  Conspicuously dark in the glass, it follows through on that initial visual cue at every stage, showing ripe, brooding aromas of dark fruit, very deep flavors with excellent concentration, restrained oak, and lots of muscular fruit to counterbalance all of the tannins.  The sheer longevity of this might be doubted, but it is so delicious in its youth that it will still have a broader span of excellence than most wines from firmer years like 2005.  Veglio turned in a terrific performance in 2011, and the “Arborina” bottling from La Morra earned a score from me that brought it within a single point of this beauty from Monforte d’Alba.
96 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Paolo Manzone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Meriame” 2012 ($70, Quintessential Wines): This designated cru wine from Serralunga standout Paolo Manzone is the one to buy from the 2012 vintage if you can afford the somewhat higher purchase price, as it shows greater overall complexity and dimension.  On one hand, it is even silkier in texture and more elegant in character than the village wine from Serralunga, yet the fruit shows darker tones and more grip and firmness in the finish, suggesting a longer period of positive development ahead of it.  Billowing, sexy aromas and impressively dark color draw immediate attention, and things only get better from there, with gorgeous notes of cola and dried black cherries accented with savory hints but virtually no overt oak at all.  Both Manzone wines are stunning from 2012, and both should be bought without a moment’s hesitation, but this is the one that should make you take a hammer to your piggy bank.
96 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Paolo Manzone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Meriame” 2012 ($70, Quintessential): This designated cru wine from Serralunga standout Paolo Manzone is the one to buy from the 2012 vintage if you can afford the somewhat higher purchase price, as it shows greater overall complexity and dimension.  On one hand, it is even silkier in texture and more elegant in character than the village wine from Serralunga, yet the fruit shows darker tones and more grip and firmness in the finish, suggesting a longer period of positive development ahead of it.  Billowing, sexy aromas and impressively dark color draw immediate attention, and things only get better from there, with gorgeous notes of cola and dried black cherries accented with savory hints but virtually no overt oak at all.  Both Manzone wines are stunning from 2012, and both should be bought without a moment’s hesitation, but this is the one that should make you take a hammer to your piggy bank.
96 Michael Franz Dec 13, 2016

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bric dël Fiasc" 2007 ($120, Banville & Jones):  This extraordinary wine manages to show all the virtues of the 2007 vintage (great richness and remarkable textural softness) without any of the vices (a slightly stewed aromatic note and a lack of balancing firmness) that afflict the less successful products of this hot growing season.  The core of dark berry fruit shows striking vibrancy and freshness but also great depth and warmth, with intriguing accents of fresh flowers, incense, Asian spices and anise seed.  Intricate but also very powerful, this is already very tempting, but is best cellared for another five years to enable it to attain all of its marvelous potential. 96 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2012

Sobrero, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Castiglione Falletto “Ciabot Tanasio” 2011 ($60): I have not followed this producer’s wines closely in past years, but this wine will put an end to that.  Among the most vibrant of the top Barolo wines of the vintage, this is rich and lush, but also shows a fresh beam of red-toned fruit that brightens the wine and lends linear energy and freshness.  Layered and highly complex, this is a terrific success in a distinctly warm year.
96 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Stroppiana Oreste, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2010 ($75): I’ve had my eye on this producer for several years, as the quality of the wines has been impressive and consistently improving.  This terrific wine provides final confirmation of potential at this house for actual greatness, as it shows a big, billowing, super-sexy bouquet and set of flavors that show even more savory than fruity character.  Nevertheless, the balance and strength of the fruit is what enables this wine to seem coherent and natural in the presence of all of those savory dramatics. 
96 Michael Franz Jun 10, 2014

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Sarmassa” 2010 ($100): An exceedingly intricate wine, this shows wonderfully expressive aromas and flavors of spices, woodsmoke and saddle leather, with terrific balance between these savory accents and a core of ripe fruit.  Even the fruit element in the wine is complex, in the sense that it shows pure facets as well as a very slight stewed character.  Beautiful.
96 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi Boschis” 2009 ($68):  One of the very best Barolo wines of 2009, this even looks the part, with impressive dark color and pigment concentration.  Scents of spices, toast and woodsmoke are very expressive, but the wood-based notes never overwhelm the fruit on the nose or palate.  With exceptional depth of flavor and driving fruit that manages to outlast the wood and formidable tannins in the finish, this is already very sexy but still likely to be one of the most age-worthy wines of the vintage. 96 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Alessandria Crissante, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “La Punta dei Capalot” 2009 ($50):  A remarkable success from a village that had a very tough year in 2009, this wine from La Morra shows very dark color and extremely prominent aromas of black fruits but also cherry liqueur and red raspberries.  The oak seems quite restrained, but that could simply be the result of being overwhelmed by the sheer expressiveness of the fruit.  The tannins seem very ripe, but the wine shows no raisiny character and there’s no heat in the finish.  An indisputable star of the vintage. 95 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Alessandria Fratelli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Monvigliero” 2010 ($75): This smashingly good wine from the commune of Verduno as all about gorgeous Nebbiolo fruit from a great vintage, as opposed to many excellent 2010s that speak more of the cellar than the vineyard behind them.  Although the fruit shows ample ripeness, there’s a brightness and purity to the aromas as well as the flavors that indicates a virtually perfect picking strategy.  Not heavy at all, the wine nevertheless shows a wonderful rounded texture and terrific immediate appeal, with sufficient acidity and tannin to provide focus and structure, but not so much as to obscure the glorious fruit.  Wines of this type can age very well in some cases, but they rarely get the chance when showing such succulence and appeal in their youth.
95 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo (Italy) Bussia Bricco Visette 2008 ($80): This is an outstanding Barolo that has it all, beginning with an intriguing nose of black truffles, forest floor and bing cherries. On the palate it is powerful and firm, a wine that will improve over time, but with layers of fruit aroma behind that formidable wall of tannin. A Barolo lover's Barolo. Give this wine another five to ten years in the cellar and watch it blossom. 95 Robert Whitley Apr 29, 2014

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Visette 2008 ($80, Quintessential Wines): Wines like this deepen my understanding of fans of Barolo.  The nose is vibrant and nuanced all at once, showing cherry, blueberry, flowers, wintermint, mild toast, leaf and tea.  The palate is soft and rich, with a silky entry followed by a bright acidic grip that keeps everything lively. It delivers the nose elements with intensity and nice integration, with the structure to improve for several years. This can take on your finest ripe cheeses and truffle sauces with ease.
95 Rich Cook May 13, 2014

Aurelio Settimo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2012 ($60): The spectacular success of the Rocche Dell’Annunziata cru in the village of La Morra extended so broadly that even producers who have escaped my notice in past years -- such as Settimo -- were able to make fabulous wines.  Never again will I fail to check on wines flowing from this estate, as this wine is almost magical in its combination of power and earthiness on one hand, along with freshness and purity on the other.  The style is definitely traditional, with some faintly rustic and animal notes suggesting larger, older oak may have been involved in the vinification and/or ageing processes, but these are accents that enhance the overall complexity of the wine, rather than indications of a rogue element like brettanomyces that could threaten to overtake the wine’s character.  An absolutely terrific wine, and one that I will buy immediately if I see it offered in the USA.  Other wines from Rocche Dell’Annunziata to watch for:  Rocche Costamagna (which I’ve already purchased), Andrea Oberto and Trediberri.
95 Michael Franz Jul 26, 2016

Bosco Agostino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “La Serra” La Morra 2015 ($65):  In most vintages, I find Marcarini turning out the best wine from this cru, but Bosco’s was clearly better in 2015.  That’s good news, as these wines are often quite reasonably priced when you can find them in the USA, though this deserves your attention on sheer quality even if it doesn’t come in at a low price.  Like many 2015s from La Morra, it is a little shy on aroma (which can result from heat burning out the aromatic compounds) and also just a bit alcoholic in the finish (with heat again being the likely culprit, causing sugars to soar as acids drop).  But with those caveats noted, this is still a winning wine, delivering a big, delicious wallop of fruity flavor with tastefully balanced oak and some delightful savory undertones.  Don’t serve this in overly polite company, as it might make a ruckus, but it could definitely get along with a grilled veal chop.  
95 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Camparo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Boiolo” 2011 ($70): This traditionally styled wine offers a wild ride based on huge aromatics and very deep, exotic flavors that show all sorts of mushroomy, leathery, gamy characteristics.  There’s plenty of ripe fruit in the wine as well, which suggests that this won’t simply go rustic and funky all of a sudden, but this sort of wine need not be held to get complexity from bottle ageing.  Better to drink this in the near term, but first you’d better buckle up.  
95 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Cantina Mascarello Bartolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2012 ($140, The Rare Wine Company):  Although single vineyard bottlings are all the rage in Barolo and elsewhere, Maria Teresa Mascarello continues her father’s time-honored philosophy that Barolo is best when it’s a blend of vineyards.  Mascarello’s Barolo is a blend of grapes from four vineyards they own, three in the village of Barolo itself, Rué, Cannubi, St. Lorenzo, along with one in La Morra, Rocche d’Annunziata.  The 2012 is a gorgeous wine, with a delicate, but persistent floral nose.  It delivers a combination of sour red cherry fruit mixed with spice.  Deceptively light in color (Nebbiolo lacks the skin pigments that color most red wines more deeply), it is powerful and persistent.  Although reminiscent of red Burgundy because of its paradox of power and lightness, the firm, though not harsh, tannins remind you quickly you’re in Barolo.  This is a beautiful balanced young Barolo that will show its best in a decade or two -- or three. 95 Michael Apstein Jul 18, 2017

Cascina Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Castiglione Falletto “Pernanno” 2011 ($60): I often come away from wines from this producer thinking they are a bit too woody to respect the terrific vineyards owned by the estate, but there’s no doubt that this is one of 2011’s best wines from Castiglione Falletto.  Although it is very deeply flavored and richly textured, it is also driving and detailed, with the wood providing some welcome firmness in the finish.
95 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Cascina Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Cannubi" 2015 ($85):  My love affair with this house runs hot and cold, and the cold sets in when the fruit is too ripe and the oak too prominent.  No such problems here, though, so we’re back in love.  This shows exactly no excess ripeness on either the nose or palate or finish, and for that matter, there’s no extraneous weight, indicating a truly tasteful winemaking effort in a year that was loaded with temptations to excess.  The oak treatment is commensurately respectful of the beautiful fruit.  In sum, I taste almost all the wines from this estate almost every year, and have purchased more than my share of them, but I can’t remember ever tasting a more suave and stylish wine from Cascina Adelaide. 
95 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Cascina Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2010 ($90): This is the best young wine I’ve ever tasted from Cascina Adelaide, and I’ve tasted quite a few of them.  The signature note of oak is definitely present in the wine’s bouquet and there’s a hint of wood tannins in the finish, but the wonderful fruit of the vintage refuses to be pushed from center stage.  Sweet but also pure and poised, this is a very striking wine, with leather and toast working beautifully as accent notes.  At once supple and taut, this may tighten up for a few years, but it was showing a lot of immediate appeal in May of 2014, though capacity for a decade of further development is undoubtedly present also.
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Conterno Fantino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Sori Ginestra” 2010 ($80): This wine is usually very tight and woody when released, and there’s plenty of fancy oak showing in the 2010 rendition, but also a lot of deep, layered fruit that is clearly up to the challenge of counterbalancing the wood.  Always a wine for the cellar, this shows wonderful power and inner energy, and may someday surpass even the sensational 2004 Sori Ginestra from this house.
95 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Cordero di Montezemolo, Barolo (Piedmont) 2010 ($50, Wine Warehouse): Fine Barolo is an astonishingly complex and attractive wine.  This excellent 2010 bottling offers an enchanting bouquet.  Ripe cherry, raspberry and dried strawberry fruits are followed by elements of dried rose, violet, sandalwood, tea, tobacco, vanilla and cinnamon spice.  The flavors are delicate and equally complex with the dried red fruits underlain by a woodsy, leafy / herbal nuance plus hints of dried flowers, cocoa, tea and subtle spice.  Barolos as rich and complex as this will provide great pleasure for decades. 95 Wayne Belding Feb 3, 2015

Damilano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubi 2010 ($85): Cannubi is one of the truly great vineyards in the Barolo zone.  If there were a Burgundy-like classification system of vineyards in Barolo, Cannubi would clearly be awarded the equivalent of Grand Cru status.  Combine grapes from this vineyard, the stunning 2010 vintage, and an excellent producer and… bingo, you have a stellar wine.  It conveys the textbook “tar and roses” description of young Barolo.  It’s structured with fine tannins that are clearly evident but not aggressive.  Each sip brings additional nuances.  Bright acidity amplifies the already persistent finish.  An exciting wine, some might enjoy it now for its youthful exuberance -- as long as you don’t mind a healthy tannic punch.  I’d suggest putting it the cellar for a decade or so.
95 Michael Apstein Feb 24, 2015

Elvio Cogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Pernice 2005 ($114, Vias Imports):  At once powerful and elegant, this is an object lesson in the magic of great Barolo.  Really just medium-bodied, it nevertheless offers an amazing array of expressive aromas and likewise shows uncanny depth of flavor in relation to its relatively modest weight.  Fruit notes of dried dark cherries and black plums are extremely appealing, with accents of spices, smoke and fresh meat lending added interest. 95 Michael Franz Jul 13, 2010

Elvio Cogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigna Elena” 2004 ($92, Vias Imports):  This gorgeous wine is sourced from a special plot within the cru of Ravera and made in a relatively traditional manner.  Although it is structured and build to develop for many years, the purity and generosity that marks so many bottlings of Barolo from the 2004 vintage shines though already.  Delicate but expressive in both aroma and flavor, it shows lovely notes recalling fresh flowers, dark cherries, plums and carpaccio.  You’ll have severe difficulty keeping your mitts off any unopened bottles once you’ve tasted this, but all signs point to at least another five years of positive development. 95 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2011

Francesco Rinaldi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubbio 2008 ($69): Rinaldi is one of Barolo’s great traditional producers, whose wines develop magnificently with proper cellaring (I had a stunning bottle of the 1988 of this wine last Thanksgiving).  This one, from perhaps the region’s best-known vineyard, Cannubi (which he labels with its ancient name) is classic Barolo with its magical combination of floral and tarry elements.  Extraordinarily perfumed, the mineral-infused flavors dance across the palate.  The impressive tannins are there but somehow don’t seem out of place and certainly not drying or aggressive.  The wine shows an uncanny combination of great flavor with little weight.  The extraordinarily long finish just adds to its appeal.  I would give it at least a decade of cellaring given my experience with the 1988.
95 Michael Apstein Mar 12, 2013

Francesco Rinaldi & Figli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubbio” 2015 ($75):  A marvelous performance from this renowned producer, even in view of the fact that 2015 was a year when the wine gods obviously smiled on the famous cru of Cannubi.  This shows as much or more concentration as any of the six renderings from Cannubi that I tasted (blind, and in succession), but this is no mere powerhouse, as the fruit is enveloped by very retrained wood and very delicate tannins.  A wine that impresses without seeking to impress, this is, in brief, a beauty.  
95 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

G. D. Vajra, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco delle Viole” 2008 ($65):  The hard-working, unassuming Vajra family is rapidly achieving aristocratic status for their wines regardless of the refreshing fact that none of them act like aristocrats themselves.  The already excellent wines have gotten even better since the terrific 2006s, and this wine definitely keeps the winning streak alive.  The wine’s core is all about bright red cherries, with terrific purity and persistence as well as a profile bespeaking exceptional balance and grace.  This is an object lesson in tasteful winemaking. 95 Michael Franz Aug 15, 2012

Germano Ettore, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Serralunga" 2010 ($60): 2010 was clearly a great year for this producer, as this wine is slightly sexier than the terrific Cerretta, which is likewise extremely showy.  It shows a very ripe fruit profile and just the faintest suggestion of heat in the finish, but the apparent gamble of picking late certainly paid off.  Very generous and deep in flavor, with quite rounded texture for a young Nebbiolo, this is a sexpot of a wine that may or may not age well, but is totally irresistible in its youth.
95 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Giacomo Borgogno & Figli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubi 2008 ($134, T. Edward Wines): Wines from Cannubi, one of the very best vineyards in the Barolo zone, are capable of an amazing combination of grace and power.  While some growers may attempt to capitalize on the name Cannubi to sell their wines, others aim to express the grandeur the vineyard has to offer.  Giacomo Borgogno is one of those growers.  While the 2010 vintage in Barolo has, justifiably, received much praise, consumers should not overlook previous vintages, such as the 2008.   Giacomo Borgogno’s 2008 Cannubi is just marvelous.  The epitome of Barolo, it seamlessly combines a tar-like power with incredible grace.  For all its intensity, it’s really its elegance, especially in the finish, that is captivating.  Still an infant of a wine, it has years to go before reaching a plateau.  The problem will be resisting the temptation to open a bottle this winter.  For those of you for whom the finance gods have been generous in 2015, this wine should be in your cellar.
95 Michael Apstein Jan 12, 2016

Gianni Gagliardo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Serre” 2008 ($75):  This is a big, dramatic wine with lots of oak that gets pushed into the background by even bigger fruit.  However, this is definitely not an oaked fruit bomb, but rather a highly complex and notably earthy (but clean) wine with interesting notes of shitake mushroom and carpaccio along with pronounced minerality.  Quite simply, this is a riveting wine. 95 Michael Franz Aug 21, 2012

Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Ca' d'Morissio 1997 ($190, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): Mauro Mascarello uses only the Michét clone of Nebbiolo for his 2-acre plot of Ca' d'Morissio in his Monprivato vineyard. The 1997 is the current vintage, and only the fourth vintage of Ca' d'Morissio (following 1993, 1995, and 1996). The wine has proven to be even more intense and explosive than Monprivato; a classic Barolo, even in the rather precocious 1997 vintage. 95 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Guido Porro, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “V. S. Caterina” 2012 ($47): I do not recall having been struck by a wine from Guido Porro previously, but this one sure proved striking.  The bright cherry topnotes are unusual but very appealing, and the flavors likewise prove clean and delicious, with super-fine tannins and not the slightest sense of any extraneous, un-integrated wood.  The texture of the wine comes off ultimately as soft and sexy, in counterpoint to the bright, fresh initial notes, making for a wonderfully interesting overall impression.
95 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Luigi Baudana, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cerretta 2010 ($80): The Baudana family owns a small, 10-acre estate comprised of prized vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, a subzone of the Barolo DOCG known for powerful wines.  Since 2009, G. D. Vajra, small but one of Barolo’s top producers, has been responsible for tending the vineyards and making the wines.  The 2010s, still sold under the Baudana label, are not to be missed.  The Barolo Cerretta, from a prized vineyard in Serralunga, has the power you’d expect from a wine from Serralunga, but with elegance and sophistication that is Vajra’s hallmark.  Baudana’s Cerretta, muscular with fine tannins, is impeccably balanced with amazing finesse and an engaging tarry bitterness in the finish.  Like great wine, it reveals itself slowly and becomes more impressive with time.  Barolo lovers should search for this wine and put it in the cellar for a decade or so.
95 Michael Apstein Mar 3, 2015

Luigi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Nebbiolo Cannubi 2011 ($73, Empson USA): Although this vintage has been in the market for several months, it is still available from several sources and only getting better as it ages. The Cannubi vineyard is one of the best sites in all of Barolo and Einaudi’s 2011 is a benchmark for the appellation. The ripeness of the 2011 harvest adds flesh to an already fine wine. The bouquet is forward and complex, with sweet cherry and raspberry fruits enhanced by the classic “forest floor” style of Barolo -- tones of dried leaves, flowers, smoke, cocoa, herbs, anise, and baking spices. The flavors are multilayered and rich with the ripe red fruits interwoven with leafy, herbal elements as well as the smoke, vanilla and spice components. Although approachable and thoroughly enjoyable now for its generous fruit, the 2011 Einaudi Cannubi Barolo will develop and improve for another 20+ years in the cellar. 95 Wayne Belding Apr 12, 2016

M. Marengo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Brunate” 2010 ($62, Marc de Grazia Selection): Barolo experts and aficionados agree that Brunate, a vineyard than spans both communes of Barolo and La Morra, is one of the top spots in the Barolo DOCG.  Marengo owns about 3 acres of this 62-acre vineyard and from it they have produced an irresistible wine in 2010.   The delicate, but explosive, floral notes stand in contrast to the wine’s sturdy stature.  Its power and finesse is most apparent in an extraordinary -- seemingly endless -- finish.  As with many great young wine, it grows in the glass.  It belongs in the cellar for at least a decade before putting it on the table.  There’s some in mine.
95 Michael Apstein May 5, 2015

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Brunate” 2009 ($65, Empson USA):  Although this wine shows a very ripe profile that is reflective of the heat in 2009, the results are still outstanding for those who enjoy open, supple Barolo.  Scents of kirsch and stewed cherries are very appealing, and the flavors are penetrating and persistent thanks to subtle wood and ripe, soft tannins that lend a lush, rounded texture.  It isn’t clear to me how well this will develop or hold up over time, but it is certainly a terrific wine for near-term consumption. 95 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2008 ($80, Frederick Wildman):  2008 is shaping up as the best vintage for this historic producer in years, as both the Sarmassa bottling and this terrific sine from Cannubi are marvelous.  This is slightly the more complex of the two at this developmental stage, showing deep, alluring aromas and fruit that is very ripe but nevertheless impressively pure and fresh.  The oak is admirably restrained, permitting the gorgeous fruit to shine from center stage.  Gorgeous wine. 95 Michael Franz Aug 14, 2012

Marchesi Di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2010 ($105): Packed with power and braced with plenty of wood, this is an impressive and assertive wine, yet also one that shows real finesse.  Dark and dense, it still seems more generous than brooding or backward, and the sweet purity of the fruit is what leaves that lasting impression.  Showing both dark and red fruit tones, this is complex and interesting, but that doesn’t change the fact that it also shows kick-down-the-door intensity of flavor.
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Marziano Abbona, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monforte d’Alba “Pressenda” 2011 ($80, Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.): Marziano Abbona has made this vineyard sing every year of late, and 2011 certainly shows no break in that streak.  Balsamic and floral aromatic notes are very expressive, and though the fruit is ripe and forceful, it also shows some savory layering and a very appealing edge of wood spice in the finish.  Excellent already, but built to last.
95 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Mauro Veglio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Rocche Dell’Annunziata 2009 ($75): An absolutely outstanding wine from La Morra for this vintage, this shows a remarkable combination of darkness and depth with exceptional purity of fruit.  Whereas many 2009s from La Morra show cooked or stewed characters, this shows very expressive fruit with predominant red tones showing moderate ripeness and big, billowing aromatics that are very enticing.  There’s plenty of oak in the mix, but it is not remotely overbearing, and the wine’s impeccable balance will likely enable it to develop better with age than the vast majority of wines from this vintage.
95 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Mauro Velgio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2012 ($70): The Rocche Dell’Annunziata cru in La Morra was apparently perfectly attuned to weather and growing conditions in 2012, as these wines totally stood out as a group when tasted blind.  Veglio’s rendering of Rocche is just a little oakier than the other most successful wines, but it has more than enough concentrated, sweet fruit to counterbalance the wood, and is already delicious.  Firm but still fleshy, this will be terrific in just a year or two, and will surely improve for a full decade.
95 Michael Franz Jul 26, 2016

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cerequio” 2007 ($82, Kobrand):  Chiarlo owns a parcel within the Cerequio vineyard, one of Barolo’s most famous sites and in 2007 he made a fabulous wine from it.  Very aromatic, it conveys the classic sensation of tar and roses attributed to Barolo.  The tannins are prominent at this stage as would expected for a young Barolo but are perfectly in balance with the ripe, almost flamboyant flavors.  Despite its power, it has considerable elegance and indeed, its layered nuances are what impress the most.  Knowing how his Cerequio evolves, I suggest at least a decade of cellaring.  You won’t be disappointed. 95 Michael Apstein Nov 20, 2012

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Cannubi" 2010 ($107, Kobrand): The 45-acre Cannubi vineyard, one of Barolo’s most acclaimed, is divided among 22 producers, according to Alberto Chiarlo.  With 3 acres, Chiarlo is the second largest owner, but they still produce only 6,000 bottles annually.  Chiarlo explains that Barolo’s two major soil types converge in Cannubi, which, in his opinion, accounts for its wines’ complexity and power.  With a black-fruited imprint rather than the red-fruited signature of their Cerequio, Chiarlo’s 2010 Cannubi is denser with more power.  Despite its muscle, a sublime elegance persists.  The combination of power and elegance reverberates in the finish.  Engaging now, yes.  But do yourself a favor and keep it in the cellar for a decade to allow it to unfold.  This wine sings and explains why Barolo, especially the 2010s, are so revered.
95 Michael Apstein Oct 14, 2014

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cerequio 2013 ($103, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  With the trio of producer, vintage and vineyard going for it, it’s not surprising that Chiarlo’s Cerequio is outstanding.  The 2013 vintage in Barolo was very successful.  Chiarlo is a top producer and Cerequio is a great vineyard.  More tannic and firmer than their blended Barolo, Tortoniano, it’s also more mineral-y.  The charm remains despite the bump up in everything else.  Long and elegant, this explosive wine belongs in every Barolo-lover’s cellar. 
95 Michael Apstein Oct 9, 2018

Michele Reverdito, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Badarina” 2012 ($65): Barolo wines from Serralunga were particularly successful as a group in 2012, and this is a particularly impressive case in point.  Already very showy but not seeming over-developed for its age, it is highly expressive in every important respect.  The sheer density and weight is impressive for starters, and the flavors prove as intense and lasting as the wine’s physical properties suggest they will be.  Beautifully balanced between fruitiness and savory character, this is a complete wine that will provide great near-term enjoyment and continue to impress for a decade.  Based on this eye-popping performance, this is surely a producer to watch in coming years.
95 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Palladino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Ornato” 2012 ($75): The most famous wine from the Ornato cru in Serralunga is made by Pio Cesare, but in 2012 I found this rendering from Palladino to be superior, and indeed one of the strongest efforts in a year when Serralunga really excelled overall.  As complete as it is convincing, it shows wonderfully expressive aromas and flavors that interweave notes of dried fruits, subtle floral impressions, and nascent meaty accents.  The balance of fruit, tannin, wood and acidity is so precise that the wine seems impeccably refined even though it is highly expressive and even striking.  Impressive in every respect.
95 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Palladino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Parafada” 2010 ($75): I have never visited this producer nor met anyone associated with the company, and consequently have no particular opinion of anything associated with it.  I note that merely to emphasize how deeply impressed I was with all three of the 2010 Barolo bottlings that I tasted blind in May of 2014.  The straight, non-cru-designated Del Comune di Serralunga D’Alba bottling is terrific; the single-site “Ornato” is even better, and this wine from Parafada is downright sensational.  Very dark and impressive in appearance, it shows very deep aromas and wonderfully assertive fruit that pushes any wood influence very far offstage.  There’s just a faint whiff of heat in the finish, but I couldn’t bring myself to fault the wine on this count after multiple tastes.  In style, this is a bit of an outlier for the vintage, being more ripe and powerful and intense than most of the top wines of the year, but it is eye-poppingly impressive.
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Paolo Manzone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Del Comune di Serralunga 2011 ($50, Quintessential Wines): I chose to visit this (energetic, engaging and innovative) producer in 2016 based on how well his 2011 wines showed in the 2015 Nebbiolo Prima tastings.  The cru offering from Meirame is more firmly structured and will probably surpass this at some point, but for pure pleasure and also on grounds of value, I’ll be buying this from the 2011 vintage and save some money for the Meirame from 2012 (which is fabulous).  Rich and very powerful but also admirably pure and focused, this offers all of the muscle one would expect from a Serralunga wine in a warm year, but also shows more composure and class than virtually all of its village counterparts.
95 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bric del Fiasc” 2010 ($80): This producer has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and the 2010s may be the best set of wines ever from Scavino.  This shows terrific fruit that is tender and sweet but not at the cost of any over-ripeness, leading to a finish that is packed with spiciness and structure.  A wine that has it all--in abundance--but with nothing in excess, this is a great example of a 2010 Barolo that is already sensationally appealing but is also build for many years of additional development.
95 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Monvigliero” 2007 ($75, Banville & Jones):  Remarkably firm and structured for a Barolo from the famously warm 2007 growing season, this will take far longer to unwind than most wines from this vintage, but then again it already shows more emergent complexities than the vast majority of its counterpart wines.  Floral aromatic accents prove very alluring, and are joined by subtle notes of spices, woodsmoke and truffles.  The fruit is dark and dense and backed by formidable tannins, but there’s an engaging, endearing sweetness to the fruit that enables the wine to achieve near perfect balance.  A terrific achievement 95 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2012

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bric dël Fiasc” 2009 ($85, Banville & Jones):  One of the best wines of the vintage, this shows excellent depth of color and a strong but balanced dose of spicy oak.  Very dense on the palate, this shows deep flavors that totally envelop the wood and tannins, with marvelous fruit sweetness but no heat or over-ripeness.  This is a 2009 that I’m confident will improve with time, but it is also very promising for relatively early drinking. 95 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Pecchenino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Le Coste” 2010 ($80): Pecchenino’s bottling from Le Coste wasn’t quite as showy as the San Giuseppe in May of 2014, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it is a superb wine that may end up surpassing its stablemate at some point in the future.  It shows wonderful savory accents on a core or dark-toned fruit, with well-measured wood that lends spice notes and a bit of added structure without drying the wine’s finish.  This has a long life ahead of it, but should be ready to enjoy after another three or four years.
95 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Pecchenino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monforte d’Alba “Le Coste di Monforte” 2011 ($80, Vias Imports): This producer was most famous for years for excellent renderings of Dolcetto from the Dogliani district, but a move into Barolo with purchases of a few choice vineyard sites and a small cellar are yielding clearly outstanding wines -- and doing so every single vintage.  This shows a little spicy oak, which helps to frame the rich fruit.  Oak spice shows up again in the finish, but there are also savory notes that undergird the fruit flavors, providing a layered impression throughout the sensory experience.  A beautiful wine that will provide great pleasure for many years.  The San Giuseppe bottling is also quite good in 2011, but this certainly seems like the one to buy if offered a choice.
95 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Pio Cesare, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Nebbiolo Ornato 2009 ($99, Maisons Marques and Domaines): Pio Cesare’s 2009 Ornato is a lusciously appealing and complex Barolo.  While it shows the ripeness of the 2009 harvest and the sleek spiciness of French oak, the greatness of the Nebbiolo grape takes center stage.  Layers of juicy black plum and cherry fruits are underlain by hints of dried rose, leather, sandalwood, anise, tar, smoke and spice.  The beautiful, long finish reveals nuances at every turn.  Delicious now for its ripe style, it can cellar well for another 20+ years.
95 Wayne Belding Apr 15, 2014

Poderi Colla, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bussia Dardi le Rose” 2010 ($75): This is a subtle, understated but nevertheless clearly beautiful wine.  It is not conspicuously light or lacking in any respect, so I don’t want to be mistaken for seeming to damn it with faint praise.  The point, rather, is that the wine isn’t conspicuous in any particular characteristic, as it is an object lesson in purity of fruit, structural proportionality, balance, and integration of aromatic and flavor components.  Already delicious, this is extremely likely to stay impeccably balanced as it develops over the next two decades.
95 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Poderi Colla, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Dardi Le Rose Bussia 2003 ($57, Empson USA): The Colla brothers formerly owned the much larger Prunotto winery in Alba.  They sold it to Antinori and now the younger brother, Tino, runs the smaller, more manageable Poderi Colla in Alba, which he  and Federica Colla purchased in 1993.  Federica is the daughter of the revered older brother, Beppe Colla, who at 77 is still the wine consultant of Poderi Colla.  Dardi le Rose is a vineyard in Bussia, a sub-region of Monforte d'Alba.  The '03 Dardi Le Rose is my kind of Barolo, very traditional. And yet with great elegance,  balance and grip.  A fantastic achievement in a difficult vintage.  It has aromas and flavors of herbs, tar, and strawberries.  Teriffic value! (my highest-rated review, and almost the lowest-priced!) 95 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Nei Cannubi” 2008 ($80, Empson USA):  This standout wine shows Einaudi in top form, with sexy aromatic notes of toasted oak and alluring spices but very expressive fruit that effectively counterbalances the wood’s influence.  The fruit is also very flavorful, but a saline mineral note keeps it from seeming one-dimensional, and the long finish shows both sweet and savory notes.  Superb balance and symmetry here. 95 Michael Franz Aug 14, 2012

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche” 2006 ($87, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.):  This is the best of three remarkable bottlings of Barolo from Renato Ratti in the 2006 vintage.  It shows soft, lightly sweet notes of red and black fruits that are beautifully accented with floral and spice notes.  Full of flavor but nevertheless admirably delicate, it features perfectly ripened fruit that is framed but a touch of tasteful oak and very fine-grained tannins.  Completely convincing, this is one of the stars of an excellent vintage in Barolo. 95 Michael Franz Oct 26, 2010

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche” 2006 ($87, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.):  This is the best of three remarkable bottlings of Barolo from Renato Ratti in the 2006 vintage.  It shows soft, lightly sweet notes of red and black fruits that are beautifully accented with floral and spice notes.  Full of flavor but nevertheless admirably delicate, it features perfectly ripened fruit that is framed but a touch of tasteful oak and very fine-grained tannins.  Completely convincing, this is one of the stars of an excellent vintage in Barolo. 95 Michael Franz Jun 29, 2010

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Marcenasco” 2010 ($65): This is the best rendition of the “Marcenasco” bottling from Pietro Ratti that I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve been following this house’s wines closely for years.  This features an arresting and distinctive menthol scent in the bouquet, but the freshness and energy of the fruit notes keep this in balance as an accent rather than a distraction.  The wine shows very good richness and depth of flavor, yet fine-grained tannins keep it from seeming heavy or overly aggressive.  This combination of power and elegance is very interesting, and the wine continues to show new facets and layers as it opens with aeration.  For reasons unknown to me, Ratti’s top wine from the La Morra cru of Rocche dell’ Annunziata wasn’t shown in the Nebbiolo Prima tastings, and one can only wonder how spectacular that wine must be in light of the strikingly success of this entry-level “Marcenasco.”
95 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 'Marcenasco' 2012 ($50): Now going on five years old, Renato Ratti's Barolo Marcenasco is beginning to soften and approach prime drinkability. Showing a floral nose, with black cherry on the palate, this tarry beauty has only now come into its own, but it should hold easily for another 12 to 15 years given the excellent color and depth of fruit, not to mention an abundance of tannin.
95 Robert Whitley Jan 3, 2017

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Conca” 2011 ($80, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.): Some vintages of Ratti’s Conca can seem impenetrably hard and oaky, but the wine is terrific in 2011, and one won’t need to hope for the best for 15 years before being rewarded.  There’s plenty of toast and vanilla up top, as usual, but the sheer sweetness of the fruit derived from this vintage over-rides the oak notes and tames the tannins as well.  Still, there’s loads of coiled power in this wine, which shows very dark-toned fruit.  It may well firm up at some point in its development, but it is already a great wine.  Pietro Ratti turned in a sensational performance in 2011, and I had his (always striking) bottling from Rocche dell’ Annunziata also scored at 95.  The Conca got the write-up here because it rarely attains the level of excellence of the Rocche, but the real star of the year may be the “Marcenasco” bottling, which is blended from several different sites in La Morra.  Ratti makes much more of it, with a lot less fancy oak, but it has been superb in 2010 as well as 2011 (94 was my blind score), and is a terrific value at the top level of quality.
95 Michael Franz Jun 14, 2016

Rocche Costamagna, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche Dell'Annunziata” La Morra 2015 ($55):  This producer can make superb Barolo from this cru, and though I loved the 2012, I like this even better despite a little streak of alcoholic heat in the finish.  That’s La Morra’s “Achilles heel” in 2015, but in this instance, the wine’s many virtues easily overwhelm its one shortcoming.  The aromas are fresh rather than cooked, and the flavors are really more savory than overtly fruity, with the fruit notes themselves showing no candied character or hint of raisining.  The oak is subtle and entirely welcome as a provider of structural grip.  Winning juice.   
95 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Rocche Dei Manzoni, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Big ‘d Big” 2010 ($75): Sourced from the Mosconi area in the commune of Monforte D’Alba, this terrific wine shows strikingly dark color and very demonstrative character, with lots of sexy oak but very powerful fruit that manages to keep the wood at bay.  Ripe in profile and quite dense and deeply flavored, with an interesting note of cola and lots of savory spiciness, this is quite a thrill ride that is already intensely appealing but destined for improvement for up to a decade.
95 Michael Franz Jun 10, 2014

Sandrone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubi Boschis 2008 ($167, Vintus):  As Barbara Sandrone explains, Cannubi is large--just over 110 acres.  The 15-acre Boschis area is one of four distinct plots within the vineyard that she believes produces even more special wine.  And their 2008 is special, indeed.  It’s just fabulous with the classical combination of tar and roses.  Elegant and powerful all at once, the tannins are firm, but nothing can hide the explosive power of this wine.  Having just tasted the 1996, which is just entering its mature phase, I’d have no hesitancy about putting the 2008 in the cellar for a couple of decades.  If you want to know why people rave about Barolo, have money and patience, this is one to buy. 95 Michael Apstein May 8, 2012

Sebaste, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bussia” 2009 ($70):  This traditionally-styled wine is among the most aromatically expressive and exciting of the hundreds of 2009 Barolo bottlings that I tasted in May of 2013.  Scents of ripe red berries are enveloped with complex nuances of damp earth, cured meat and wild mushrooms.  The wine could hardly be more open and engaging at this point, but it also shows ample acidity and structure to hold it together over time.  There is a question regarding whether the earthy components will overtake the fruit, but that may be a moot point--in view of how difficult this will be to resist in the early years after its release. 95 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Preda Sarmassa” 2009 ($75):  
One of two stunning successes from Virna Borgogno in 2009, this is a wine of impressive depth and dimension, showing explosive aromas of smoke, spices and damp earth that lead to admirably pure fruit notes.  Although it is strikingly flavorful, the wine is really rather moderate in density and weight, which is an accomplishment in the context of the vintage and a feature that will likely make this one of the top performing 2009s at the table.  Modest oak is also a big plus, and this open, fruit-driven, natural-seeming wine is one of the stars of the year.
95 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Andrea Oberto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigneto Rocche” 2009 ($80): This wine will turn off a few purists with a slightly but notably stewed cast to its fruit profile, but even taking that into account, there’s no denying that this is one of the top sexpot wines of the vintage.  Impressively dark but hardly forbidding, this is richly aromatic and flavorful, with notable high-class oak riding up front.  The fruit is very ripe and succulent, and it just starts to turn stewy as the finish gets underway when the wood and grape tannins slap the wine back to attention.  That’s a welcome slap in this case, which is really saying something about the wine’s succulence, as this was the 189th young Nebbiolo I had tasted when it arrived in the lineup -- not a point at which one commonly places an order for tannins.
94 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Andrea Oberto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigneto Rocche” 2008 ($75):  This wine was sensational in the 2007 vintage, and though the 2008 is a bit more reserved, it likewise is explosively fruity and already sufficiently developed to enjoy with food.  Impressive in every respect, it is especially strong in terms of texture, with exceptional balance between soft fruit and grippy tannins. 94 Michael Franz Aug 21, 2012

Andrea Oberto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Albarella” 2012 ($55): I have admired this producer’s wines for years on end, but this is the first vintage in which I preferred this wine from the Albarella cru to the bottling from Rocche Dell’Annunziata.  Although the wine is boldly oaked, it is also very dense and quite deep in flavor, with plenty of sweet fruit to counterbalance the wood notes.  The tannins are abundant but fine in grain and easily supported by the fruit.  Accordingly, while the wine doesn’t need time to soften, it will benefit greatly from cellaring so that its elements can integrate and harmonize.  If I’ve missed with my score on this, I’m off on the low side, but that won’t likely become apparent for another five years.
94 Michael Franz Jul 19, 2016

Angelo & Davide Germano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bussia 2009 ($65): Very complex and a standout for stylishness, this shows engaging aromas recalling spring flowers, vanilla, menthol and spices.  The texture is rounded and the flavors are quite deep and persistent.  Although there are no hard edges showing, the softness of the wine was not purchased at the price of any stewy, over-ripe flaws.  Very well done. 94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Angelo Germano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Mondoca Dardi” 2008 ($65):  Impressively dark color is very promising, and this wine delivers the goods in many other respects as well.  The fruit is quite ripe and expressive both aromatically and in terms of flavor, showing a plum note as well as suggestions of both red and black cherries.  In overall terms, the wine is dense and deep and very pure, with moderate oak indicating minimalist winemaking that makes sense given the sheer deliciousness of the fruit, which will need a little time to develop secondary characteristics but has terrific and inner strength. 94 Michael Franz Aug 14, 2012

Anselma Giacomo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2009 ($65): One of the very best Barolo wines from 2009 that doesn’t hold a cru designation, this shows a striking, pleasantly earthy, savory bouquet with a leathery note that seems to mark only the young wines of Serralunga in this vintage.  Highly complex with low but notable wood influence, this is a marvelous wine in the traditional mold.
94 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Armando Parusso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2012 ($40): This is a rather wild but nevertheless thoroughly exciting wine on the basis of its exceptional expressiveness and power.  The aromas show balsamic notes as well as floral tones and a mushroomy character that also shows on the palate.  Already rather developed for a Barolo from the 2012 vintage, this doesn’t seem likely to end up as one of the more long-lived examples from the year, but it is already so developed and delicious that there’s really no reason not to consume it with pleasure over the next five years.  A remarkable wine for a straight Barolo bottling with no cru designation.
94 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Barale Fratelli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Castellero” 2015 ($65):  This was the only wine from the Castellero cru in the commune of Barolo that I was able to taste form the 2015 vintage, and it damned sure makes me wish I could taste others as well.  A big, ripe and fleshy wine with lots of aromatic expressiveness as well, this is wonderfully satisfying, but without trying too hard.  My raw note from the blind tasting references “easy power,” which isn’t easy to translate, though sports fans who’ve see Ernie Els drive a golf ball or Wayne Gretzky zing a wrist shot will know exactly what I mean.  
94 Michael Franz Apr 23, 2019

Bava, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Scarrone” 2010 ($60): I blind-tasted newly-released, Nebbiolo-based wines in Piedmont in May, and for me the primary point of the effort is to find producers that are essentially unknown to me that are on the rise and making excellent wines.  There’s no doubting the excellence of this effort, which shows more smoky, toasty oak than I usually prefer, but it doesn’t obscure the alluring ripe fruit or the complex savory nuances that make this an obvious success.  Sharply detailed and immediately engaging.
94 Michael Franz Jun 10, 2014

Brovia, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Brea 2009 ($60): Quite complex but exceptionally well integrated, this is a superb wine that makes a very big impression despite the fact that none of its aromatic or flavor components are overwhelming.  The subtle bouquet shows lovely floral notes with oak, spices and fruit all in evidence.  There’s also a wonderful savory character on the palate that works beautifully in concert with the fruit and wood.  The texture is rounded and even tender, yet the overt sweetness that often accompanies this textural profile in 2009 is not present here.  Very, very impressive.
94 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Cascina Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Fossati” 2009 ($70):  This lovely wine shows a purity of fruit that is quite exceptional for La Morra in this vintage.  The color is dark and dense, and the flavors follow suit, displaying notes of blackberry and dark cherry.  The finish is very persistent, and the purity of the wine is extremely impressive in light of its great power. 94 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Cascina Ballarin, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Rocca” La Morra 2015 ($60):  A conspicuously high percentage of the 2015s I tasted from the commune of La Morra showed unbalanced alcoholic heat, which makes the loveliness of this wine really stand out as an accomplishment.  The aromas are nicely delicate and detailed, with very good focus that also characterizes the flavors, which display both red and black fruit tones.  Texturally, the wine is quite soft on entry, but is firm and taut in the finish, as is appropriate for a Barolo at this stage. 
94 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Ceretto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Prapó 1996 ($75, Moet Hennessy USA): The Prapó vineyard is in Serralunga-the district which produces the fullest-bodied, most austere Barolos. Combine this with the magnificent 1996 vintage, and you have a serious Barolo. Ceretto's 1996 Prapó is a brooding, intensely concentrated wine with classic Nebbiolo aromas of tar and camphor, and flavors of tart strawberries. It needs several years to develop, but should live for 20 to 30 years. Exceptional Barolo! 94 Ed McCarthy Oct 17, 2006

Ciabot Berton, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Roggeri 2009 ($55): This is an intense, aggressively modern wine with lots of oak showing in its youth, but it also shows excellent concentration and depth that enables it to come off as balanced--if rather brooding.  Ripe but not raisiny, with dark toned fruit that is very dense and powerful, this will benefit considerably from five years of ageing, but (like many big 2009s) is already enjoyable with robust food.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Claudio Alario, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Riva Rocca” 2008 ($55):  This extremely impressive and expressive wine features a big, plush, penetrating, leathery bouquet that opens onto gorgeous fruit on the palate, with almost no overt oak.  The texture is marvelously tender and inviting, and the tannins are magically soft and rounded.  This is really not a big, muscular wine, but one that still seems opulent because of its fabulously rounded feel, which permits the fruit to show very deep, satisfying, persistent flavors. 94 Michael Franz Aug 14, 2012

Conterno Fantino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monforte d’Alba “Sori Ginestra” 2011 ($80, Empson, USA): Conterno Fantino almost always treats wines from this top Monforte d’Alba site to a lot of new wood, and consequently they can take years to loosen up and show the wonderful appeal they often achieve in their maturity.  However, the 2011 is very quick out of the starting blocks, with some topnotes of smoke and toast that indicate the wood treatment, but then a lovely swath of ripe fruit that dominated the mid-palate and over-rides the tannins in the finish.
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Elvio Cogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Ravera” 2008 ($60, Vias Imports):  This exceptionally consistent wine is terrific once again in the 2008 vintage, showing terrific balance and integration that give it a profile marked above all by purity and a sense of naturalness.  Lovely floral aromas get it off to a great start, followed by deep and persistent flavors that are framed but fresh acidity and very subtle oak. 94 Michael Franz Aug 14, 2012

Elvio Cogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Ravera” 2008 ($55, Vias Imports):  This exceptionally consistent wine is terrific once again in the 2008 vintage, showing exceptional balance and integration that give it a profile marked above all by purity and a sense of naturalness.  Lovely floral aromas get it off to a great start, followed by deep and persistent flavors that are framed but fresh acidity and very subtle oak. 94 Michael Franz Jul 24, 2012

Fontana Livia, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Villero” 2010 ($65): This wine was so intensely expressive in aromatic terms that I wondered whether the scents had been juked up with wood, and needed to return to it for a second look after working through another set of wines.  Renewed scrutiny showed a marvelous wine that draws almost all of its overwhelming appeal from beautifully ripened fruit rather than cellar tricks.  The fruit is almost succulent in its sweetness, yet there’s an equally prominent savory streak that recalls cured meat and sautéed porcini mushrooms.  The tannins are quite gentle and rounded in effect, allowing the wonderful fruit to persist deep into the long, lovely finish.
94 Michael Franz Jun 10, 2014

Fontanafredda, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga d’Alba 2010 ($45, Palm Bay International): Add Fontanafredda’s Serralunga d’Alba to your list of 2010 Barolo wines for your cellar.  In a decade you will not be disappointed.  The power that follows the enormous initial floral impact is unexpected, startling and then captivating.  It makes you wonder how something with such aromatic delicacy can pack such a punch.  Deceptively easy to taste because of its alluring nature, the tannic kick reminds you it’s a young wine that will reward cellaring.  But overall, it’s a true expression of power and elegance.  Not a heavy powerhouse, there’s a Burgundian sensibility -- flavor without weight -- aspect to this stellar wine.  Given the demand for 2010 Barolo, it’s a bargain.
94 Michael Apstein May 12, 2015

Fratelli Revello, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Gattera” 2010 ($52, Marc de Grazia Selection): Similar to many other Barolo producers, Fratelli Revello made more than one Barolo in 2010, which creates a potentially confusing situation for consumers.  This one, Gattera, is from a single vineyard in La Morra and is aged in large old barrels.  A beautifully balanced wine, it demonstrates the grandeur of the 2010 vintage delivering a gorgeous balance of earthy savory notes with deep fruitiness.  It’s the epitome of power and elegance.  Substantial, but not aggressive, tannins and acidity provide appropriate structure to allow the flavors to develop with aging.  Don’t confuse it with their Barolo “Conca,” which they aged in barriques and has a different profile, with substantial seductive oaky flavors showing at this stage.
94 Michael Apstein May 5, 2015

G.D. Vajra, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Delle Viole” 2015 ($85):  This excellent producer turned in the best of three performances from the Bricco Delle Viole cru in 2015, as this shows a complex bouquet with savory notes intertwined with a whiff of toasty oak and the promise of sweet fruit.  On the palate, the promise of fruity sweetness is indeed delivered, along with firm but balanced tannins that seem mostly derived from fruit rather than wood.  Clearly an excellent wine, the sole shortcoming here is a bit of alcoholic heat in the finish.  
94 Michael Franz Apr 23, 2019

Gagliasso Mario, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Torriglione 2009 ($50): With very dark color and deep pigmentation, this is imposing at first sight, and the wine really follows through with sappy, succulent fruit that shows both red and black tones.  Oak is quite modest, which leaves center stage to the fruit notes and the accents of carpaccio and cured meat.  Soft, ripe tannins allow these delicious flavors to persist in a long, symmetrical finish.  Sign me up.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Gemma Sri, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Collaretto 2009 ($60): Exceptionally expressive and thoroughly delicious, this shows ripe fruit as one expects from the vintage, but the fruit shows a darker tone than most of the 2009s, as well as a leathery character that is extremely rare for the year.  This offers remarkable aromatic and flavor impact for a traditionally styled wine that hasn’t been cooked in the vineyard, or beefed up with oak, or subjected to an aggressive maceration.  Bloody impressive wine.
94 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Germano Ettore, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cerretta” 2010 ($65): Wonderful notes of cola and savory spices, with sweet fruit that pushes any wood notes so far into the background as to render them almost indiscernible.  A very wise rendering of the materials offered by a great vintage, this seems to have been picked at just the right time and then minimally manipulated to let the gorgeous fruit shine from center stage.
94 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Germano Ettore Di Germano Sergio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Prapo’ 2009 ($55): A very boldly styled wine, this is packed with muscular fruit and punchy oak, but it isn’t merely a two-note wine.  The dark toned, strikingly sweet fruit is augmented with appealing savory notes and nice spicy undertones.  Terrific inner strength to the raw materials in this wine.
94 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Giacomo Anselma, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Collaretto” 2012 ($50): This terrific wine from Giacomo Anselma is very impressive aromatically, with notes of ripe fruit beautifully intertwined with impressions of cured meat, wild mushrooms and exotic spices.  This strong expressiveness is followed by deep flavors and a soft, sexy texture.  The only element that brought me up short from awarding an even higher score is just a whiff of alcoholic heat, but that doesn’t detract from the wine’s vast appeal, which will surely last for another 5 to 7 years at a minimum.
94 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Giacomo Grimaldi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Le Coste” 2015 ($65):  Here’s a 2015 that fits the general profile of the vintage without crossing any of the lines that could take it away from showing excellent taste.  It shows lots of sappy richness but not the slightest hint of over-ripeness (which is not so easy to do), and manages to come off as flavorful but not overly weighty and structured but not forbidding or astringent.  Very nimbly grown and made in a vintage that tripped up plenty of others. 
94 Michael Franz Apr 23, 2019

Gianfranco Bovio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Gattera” 2015 ($65):  I’ve had my eye on the Gattera cru since tasting some amazing renditions from Mauro Veglio more than a decade ago, so it is a great pleasure to now see a beauty turned out by Bovio.  Moderately expressive aromatically, it turns things up as soon as the wine hits the palate, showing very sexy flavors based on red and black fruits, balsamic notes, spices and thin threads of toast and fresh meat.  There’s a faint flash of alcoholic heat late in the finish, but you’ll already be won over by the time you get to that. 
94 Michael Franz Apr 23, 2019

Giovanni Rosso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Ceretta” 2011 ($80): This is a multi-dimensional winner from Serralunga that succeeds on the strength of restrained winemaking that permits prolonged interplay between ripe, sweet fruit and interesting savory undertones.  Rich but relatively soft, this is already completely delicious, but is structured adequately for another five years of positive development.  As an aside, this was no fluke, as Giovanni Rosso’s “Serra” bottling is every bit as good as the “Ceretta.”
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monprivato 1999 ($55, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): The 1999 Monprivato is a classic in the making, with rich aromas and flavors of wild strawberries, tar, and camphor. It has great depth and complexity on the palate, with a long finish. Superb value! 94 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Brunate-Le Coste 1999 ($80, Vinifera Imports): What a treat the 1999 Barolo-Le Coste is! When we left Giuseppe Rinaldi's winery, we stopped for lunch at Il Cantinetto, a small restaurant in the village of Barolo, and enjoyed the 1999 there. It is rich and fine, very much like the 2001, but with the advantage of two more years of age. 94 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Josetta Saffirio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Castelletto 2009 ($70): A highly distinctive and exceptionally pretty wine sourced from a cru that I associate much more with sheer power, this is strikingly floral and high-toned, with wonderful delicacy suggestive of a much cooler year.  I’m not sure how the vintner managed to conjure this from Monforte in 2009, but I am mighty impressed.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Josetta Saffrio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Millenovecento48” 2008 ($70):  This striking wine was the most deeply colored and flavored of a flight of very big wines, and yet its impressive power and intensity was not purchased at the price of over-ripeness or any harshness from over-extraction in the cellar.  The wood is likewise restrained and, considering the sheer beauty of the fruit in this wine, respectful. 94 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Josetta Saffrio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2010 ($60): This is just a straight village Barolo DOCG rather than a wine designated as being sourced from a particular cru, but it would be a bad mistake to dismiss it on that ground.  It shows impressively dark color, and backs up its appearance with big aromas and flavors.  My raw note from the blind tasting in which I encountered it reads, “Just a total kick-ass wine,” with perfectly ripened fruit that is only enhanced by a tastefully restrained dose of oak.
94 Michael Franz Jun 10, 2014

M. Marengo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco delle Viole” 2010 ($60, Marc de Grazia Selection): I was unfamiliar with this producer until recently when I had the opportunity to taste a range of their wines at a tasting in Boston put on by their importer.  Now, I’ll buy anything they make.  This Barolo, from the Bricco delle Viole vineyard in La Morra, is closed and firm on initial taste, but explodes in the finish.  Though its grandeur is not immediately apparent, the tannins common to young Barolo are.  The wine forces you to contemplate it.  After a bit of time in the glass you appreciate the combination of floral elements and tarriness that makes Barolo so alluring.  And you wonder how a wine that’s so powerful is also so elegant.
94 Michael Apstein May 5, 2015

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Serra” 2011 ($70, Empson, USA): This is an unusual wine for the vintage, with a feminine, graceful, silky profile that seems out of keeping for the year but very much in the mold of what Marcarini tends to coax from this site.  Sweet aromatics recalling cola and pressed flowers are quite lovely, and soft texture with gentle tannins make this seem very harmonious in all respects.
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “La Serra” 2009 ($50): Cherry liqueur is the prime note in a lovely aromatic bouquet, lending a very inviting cast to the wine before it has even been tasted.  This is beautifully crafted wine that is built on what the vintage was giving, namely, lovely red fruit that is soft, open, alluring and actually quite deep in flavor if not overly structured.  The tannins are ripe and rounded but adequate to the task of framing the fruit.  Don’t wait terribly long to crack this open, and don’t forget to let me know when you do.
94 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Sarmassa” 2008 ($80, Frederick Wildman):  This is a “showy” wine featuring lots of fancy oak, but there’s such depth and drive in the fruit that it never seems remotely imbalanced.  Complete and quite complex despite a lot of power, and pure too despite all of its complexity, this is simply outstanding. 94 Michael Franz Aug 14, 2012

Mario Gagliasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche dell'Annunziata” 2015 ($55):  Whether from this cru or Torriglione (a little cru located just below the winery), Gagliasso seems to turn out ripe, soft and sexy wines in almost every other vintage.  That’s not usually a profile that does so well in hot, dry years, and there is indeed a bit of alcoholic heat in the finish of this, but the abundant flavors and succulent, silky texture are so overwhelmingly alluring that I was already won over before the heat set in.  By the way, the Torriglione was just too hot for me to recommend in 2015, but I tasted this three times, and in every instance, quickly forgave for its sole transgression. 
94 Michael Franz Apr 23, 2019

Mario Gagliasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rocche dell’ Annunziata” 2011 ($65, Kysela): This producer flashed onto my radar with a terrific wine from this site in La Morra in 2008, and has remained impressive with every release since then.  The 2011 from the small Torriglione vineyard earned the same score as this Rocche, and is actually a little bigger and more expressive, but also shows the heat of the year with some noticeable alcohol.  The Rocche is the one to buy if offered both from 2011, as this shows lovely cola and spice notes on a sweet, soft core of fruit.  Although this is a quite modern-looking cellar with new-ish cooperage, the wines often show tinges of volatile acidity and brettanomyces, which is not a reason to avoid them, but is a reason to drink them relatively young.
94 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Mario Marengo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Brunate" 2015 ($60):  This is what Barolo from La Morra tastes like in 2015 when a producer goes with the tendency of the growing season, but doesn’t go too far.  The aromas are a bit reticent, but the flavors are anything but shy, flaunting dark fruit notes and accents recalling roasted game.  Muscular but neither woody nor astringent, this tightrope walks the line between wildness and composure without tipping in either direction.  
94 Michael Franz Apr 23, 2019

Mauro Molino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigna Conca” 2008 ($70):  This is one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted from Mauro Molino, showing terrific density and great power and persistence of flavor.  There’s plenty of structure to firm up the overall impression, but a superb abundance of fruit at the core of this wine is the real story, and quite impressive in the context of a vintage that is considerably more restrained in this regard than 2007 was. 94 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cerequio” 2010 ($107, Kobrand): Chiarlo owns more than half (23 of 40 acres) of this famed vineyard located in the commune of La Morra.  In the 19th century the Cerequio vineyard was considered the only first growth of Barolo, according to Alberto Chiarlo, describes the wine from this vineyard, a south-facing amphitheatre, as the “Queen of Barolo” because of its ripe and open character.  Chiarlo’s 2010 Cerequio is gorgeous, with an initial captivating floral character followed by rich red fruit flavors and an alluring bitterness in the finish.  The firm tannins hover in the background, but lend fine structure.  It has a Burgundian -- flavor without weight -- sensibility and conveys both elegance and power, without being overt.  The classic description of Barolo, “tar and roses” is appropriate in this case.  Surprisingly approachable now, its balance, structure and complexity suggest at least a decade of cellaring will reward you.
94 Michael Apstein Oct 14, 2014

Monchiero Fratelli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche di Castiglione” 2010 ($65): I don’t know anything about this producer other than that this wine is a terrific rendering of Nebbiolo from the wonderful 2010 vintage.  The best thing about the top 2010s is that they show completely convincing inner balance, which is to say that the fruit shows sweet ripeness but also acidic freshness and tannic grip in doses that are so well proportioned that the wines seem pure and integrated and natural even at this early stage of development.  This wine fits that description very closely, and I admire the winemaker’s decision to forego any overlay of oak that might have obscured the immediate appeal of its sweet, spicy core character.
94 Michael Franz Jun 10, 2014

Negretti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Ambrogio” 2010 ($75): This is a modern-style Barolo that pushes its luck with prominent wood notes on the nose as well as the palate, yet the wine is sufficiently concentrated and potent to keep the oak in check and achieve excellence.  Dark, dense pigmentation shows the seriousness of the raw materials, and tasting confirms that this wine holds massive latent power that will enable the fruit to resolve and integrate the tannins and wood.  Definitely a wine for ageing, this intense wine will prove highly rewarding for those who can wait until the end of this decade before cracking into it.
94 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Negretti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Rive” 2012 ($55): Strikingly earthy and savory in aroma, this is perhaps the single most immediately exciting young wine that I’ve ever tasted from Negretti.  The earthiness is more balsamic and leathery than animal or bretty, and this impression is borne out by flavors that show purity and naturalness, with minimal oak but lots of complexity nonetheless.  Clearly outstanding.
94 Michael Franz Jul 19, 2016

Oddero, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Brunate” 2012 ($85): This relatively large, notably traditional producer has enviable vineyard holdings…and really knows what to do with them.  This wine shows admirable concentration and depth, but it is just as impressive for its balance and intricacy as for its sheer size.  The wood element is muted, permitting the sweet fruit and subtle savory notes to hold center stage.  Already excellent, this will become far more complex if given another five years to age.  By the way, of the 500+ Nebbiolo-based wines that I tasted in the region during the second week of May in 2016, the single most impressive one was Oddero’s Barolo Riserva Bussia Vigna Mondoca 2008, a wine of phenomenal complexity that is still very fresh and actually still available from several retailers around the world.
94 Michael Franz Jul 19, 2016

Olivero Mario, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Bricco Ambrogio" 2015 ($55):  This is easily the wine of the vintage in Roddi, or at least the best one I tasted (one wonders what Paolo Scavino achieved from this same Bricco Ambrogio cru; I didn’t taste that wine, but it would be much more expensive than this one, so let’s just not think too much about it).  Superb purity of fruit is the key to its success, especially in a year when restraint and purity were in short supply.  Thankfully, tasteful work in the cellar kept the oak to a minimum, lending a whiff of toast and spice but nothing so overt as to obscure the gorgeous fruit, and likewise the maceration didn’t extract more tannin than the wine can support even in its youth.  The combination of gorgeous fruit, excellent proportionality and superb balance will make this a delight to drink over an unusually long period…starting right now.   
94 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Paolo Manzone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga 2012 ($55, Quintessential Wines): My blind-tasting scores for the wines of Paolo Manzone were already rising for the past couple of years, prior to my first meeting with him in May of 2016, and it is perhaps also worth noting that this wine was also tasted and scored prior to my first encounter with this infectiously enthusiastic man.  This is a terrifically impressive “village” wine with no cru designation, showing the overall attention to quality at this estate.  Soft and sexy and very deep in flavor and texture, this shows wonderful integration of its fruity and savory and woody elements.  Terrific!
94 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bric del Fiasc” 2008 ($90, Banville & Jones):  This is a very serious wine showing deep, dark color and excellent concentration, both of which seem to indicate admirably low crop yields.  Although it is already very expressive and deep in flavor, the fruit shows some restraint as well, with fine freshness and purity suggesting that the fruit was picked when perfectly ripe.  Oak is present but already quite well integrated, and in overall terms this is a complete and very, very well made wine. 94 Michael Franz Aug 21, 2012

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2007 ($120, Banville & Jones):  Scavino’s rendition of Cannubi from the 2007 vintage is wonderfully expressive and generous at this relatively early stage in its development, showing lifted aromatics and rich, sweet fruit augmented by very appealing savory notes recalling carpaccio and truffles.  The tannins are certainly notable but have no astringent effect on the finish, which is very persistent, with all of the flavor notes tailing off symmetrically.  A beautiful wine.

94 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2012

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Carobric” 2007 ($90, Banville & Jones):  This shows excellent complexity and detail, with intricate aromas and a host of balanced flavor notes that add up to a wine that seems, well, complete.  Ripe but also quite fresh, with welcoming softness but also plenty of subtle structure from acidity, tannin and oak, this exceptionally well made wine is sourced from three top vineyard sites.  Some purists may prefer more individuated wines that display the particularity of a single site, which is fine, since that will leave more of this for the rest of us who can appreciate its remarkable symmetry and completeness. 94 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2012

Pecchenino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Le Coste 2009 ($65, Vias): One of two sensationally scented wines from this producer in 2009, this shows gorgeous floral aromas with backnotes of menthol and incense.  The fruit is very flavorful but only moderately weighty, with delicate red berry flavors that show impressive purity and delicacy for the vintage.  Of the two, this is the more powerful and age-worthy, although it is slightly less expressive now in aromatic terms.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Pecchenino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) San Giuseppe 2009 ($70, Vias): This is one of the most expressive and interesting of the 2009 Borolo bottlings, showing only moderate weight but superb intricacy--especially in aromatic terms.  Almost intensely floral, it also shows cardamom and menthol and balsamic topnotes.  The flavors are ripe and the texture is smooth, with a lovely sweet impression to the fruit that is enhanced by modest oak and very fine-grained tannins.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Poderi Colla, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bussia Dardi le Rose 2009 ($65): Lovely floral aromas offer the first of several indications that this is among the most stylish wines of the vintage, with outstanding delicacy and intricacy of aroma and flavor.  Only moderately concentrated but still highly expressive, with notable but balanced wood influence, this will likely age very gracefully thanks to the impressive symmetry of its elements.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Poderi e Cantine Oddero, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche di Castiglione” 2013 ($74):  Oddero is one of Barolo’s top producers, Rocche di Castiglione is a top site in Castiglione Falletto, and 2013 was an excellent year for Barolo, so this wine’s stature is no surprise.  Floral and pretty, it emphasizes elegance over power, although it still packs plenty of the latter.  Prominent firm, but not astringent tannins, enrobe cherry-like (red rather than black) fruity flavors.  Balanced and quite easy to taste even at this young stage, I suspect it will close up only to reemerge with even more complexity in a decade’s time. 94 Michael Apstein Nov 14, 2017

Prunotto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bussia” 2010 ($75): This wine stood out among the releases from this famous vineyard in Monforte D’Alba, though not in the way that generally draws gaudy scores.  Conspicuously pale in color, it doesn’t look like an exceptional wine…until one recalls that Nebbiolo--like Pinot Noir--doesn’t reliably show its level of flavor impact accurately from its appearance.  The aromas are extremely expressive and interesting, showing lovely floral, savory and spice notes up top, with ripe fruit scents underneath.  On the palate, the sweet fruit notes effectively counterbalance the wine’s acidity and tannin, making for a proportional and delicate finish.  Excellent, and tasteful, too.
94 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Conca” 2006 ($70, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.):  This is a terrific Barolo that shows excellent expressiveness in both aroma and flavor.  It is even more complex than the “Marcenasco” bottling from this famed producer, and yet it is also more concentrated and more firmly structured, and thus holds even greater potential for development over time.  You could enjoy it during the next couple of years if decanted and paired with robust food, but with a bit of patience, it is sure to transform from excellent to extraordinary. 94 Michael Franz Oct 26, 2010

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Conca” 2006 ($75, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.):  This is a terrific Barolo that shows excellent expressiveness in both aroma and flavor.  It is even more complex than the “Marcenasco” bottling from this famed producer, and yet it is also more concentrated and more firmly structured, and thus holds even greater potential for development over time.  You could enjoy it during the next couple of years if decanted and paired with robust food, but with a bit of patience, it is sure to transform from excellent to extraordinary. 94 Michael Franz Jun 29, 2010

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Conca” 2008 ($75, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.):  Based on its exceptionally dark, deeply pigmented color, this wine stood out before I could even get my nose in the glass.  It followed through with excellent concentration and a very ripe profile, with fruit character that was just shy of stewed in character.  Dark fruit tones are sweet and opulent, and the notable oak framing is not overdone but rather just about perfect as a counterpoint for this remarkably rich wine. 94 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Reverdito Michele, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Badarina 2009 ($50): It is a damned good thing that I resisted the temptation to write this wine off on account of a big blast of oak that hit me on my first sniff of it.  A second look at the wine (at the end of the flight in which it was presented to me) showed that the oak is of very high quality, and also that the wine is actually a quite proportional rendition of the modern style, with lots of underlying fruit energy that effectively counterbalances the assertiveness of the wood.  The wine will require years of cellaring to hit its optimal balance point, but I have no doubt that it will make the move from excellent now to outstanding in the future.
94 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Rocche Dei Manzoni, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Perno Vigna Cappella di Santo Stefano” 2010 ($90): This producer has turned out some extraordinary wines from this site over the years, and the 2010 will likely turn out to be the equal of the best of them.  Not overly weighty or assertive, it is nevertheless completely charming thanks to lovely scents of cola, wood spice and incense.  The fruit is delectably sweet, with balsamic undertones and a savory hint of cured meat.  Fine-grained tannins lend a soft character to the finish, which is structured for years of improvement, though the tender sweetness of the fruit will lead many to crack into this before it gets much older.
94 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Silvano Bolmida, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigne dei Fantini” 2008 ($45):  The first word in my notes from the blind tasting in which I encountered this wine was “Yikes,” and here is why:  This shows a huge, sweet, spicy nose and backs it up with amazing intensity and persistence of flavor.  There is plenty of wood in evidence, but the fruit sweeps away every other flavor component, showing just a touch of heat in the finish.  This is a wild ride. 94 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Stroppiana Oreste, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Gabutti Bussia 2009 ($65): A beautifully perfumed wine, this shows real coherence of style once it hits the palate, as the texture is supple and sexy, just as the tannins and oak are supportive but not assertive.  There’s no evidence of over-ripeness, yet the wine is very approachable already.  An excellent wine in the traditional mode.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Stroppiana Oreste, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Vigna San Giacomo 2009 ($60): Rather light in color for a wine from La Morra in 2009, this nevertheless shows wonderful expressiveness, starting with heady aromas of fresh flowers, woodsmoke and cured meat.  Only moderately rich, but packed with aroma and flavor, this pleasantly earthy wine is among the most complex and engaging of the vintage.
94 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Sylla Sebaste, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bussia” 2010 ($70): I have no track record with this producer, whose wines don’t seem very widely available from what I can gather, but the manifest fact is that this is a terrific wine.  Absolutely gorgeous in aromatic terms, it shows some toast and vanilla notes that suggest the presence of new wood in the winemaking regimen.  However, the integration of these elements with the sweet fruit is so good that only a dogmatic traditionalist could fault the wine.  I’m officially intrigued, and will be learning more about this winery in short order.
94 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Rocche 1999 ($90, Remy Amerique): Vietti's single-vineyard Rocche has always been Alfredo Currado's favorite among his Barolos. It is a massive wine, quite tannic and brooding at present, but will be spectacular in another five or six years. It has great depth of fruit, and a long, concentrated finish. 94 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi Boschis” 2008 ($65):  Both this wine and the “Preda Sarmassa” bottling from this producer are terrific in the 2008 vintage.  This shows savory aromas and flavors recalling mushrooms, tobacco leaves and carpaccio, along with subtle spice notes from finely integrated oak. 94 Michael Franz Aug 21, 2012

Virna Borgogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Preda Sarmassa” 2008 ($65):  Every bit the equal of the superb Cannubi Boschis from this house, this wine shows many of the same savory qualities and then layers on even more minerality that is almost saline in character.  Deeply and persistently flavored, this is already highly expressive at this early stage of development. 94 Michael Franz Aug 21, 2012

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Bussia" 2014 ($70, Quintessential Wines):  Still a baby, the 2014 Barolo Bussia from Attilio Ghisolfi is firm and grippy, concealing impressive depth that likely will take as much as a decade to show its true colors.  The nose shows cherry fruit and a floral earthiness.  On the palate the wine exhibits intense cherry aroma with hints of leather and spice.  This is one for the cellar.  Put it away in a dark, cool place for at least another six years. 
93 Robert Whitley Oct 23, 2018

BelColle, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Simposio" 2015 ($60, Quintessential Wines):  Only now coming into its own, the 2015 Simposio shows mellowing tannins along with exceptional aromatics and impressive depth that only begins to reveal itself when the wall of tannin recedes.  The nose is floral, with hints of wood spice and dried cherries.  On the palate rich layers of red fruit and forest floor are starting to emerge.  The finish is long and impressive. 
93 Robert Whitley Oct 29, 2019

Brezza, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Sarmassa” 2008 ($65):  This is a very impressive wine, but it impresses less on the basis of sheer power than by its complexity and class.  Aromas are subtle but clearly defined, showing notes of wildflowers, eucalyptus, baking spices and ripe, red-toned fruit.  Oak is admirably restrained, permitting the admirably pure fruit notes to shine. 93 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Bric Cenciurio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Coste di Rose” 2008 ($70):  Floral and feminine, with very expressive red fruit notes recalling cherry and raspberry, this lovely wine is actually more suggestive of Barbaresco than Barolo.  Bright acidity and excellent inner energy make for a striking tasting experience, and though this is already a delicious, invigorating wine, it will surely become even more complex and interesting over the course of the next five years. 93 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Broccardo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “I Tre Pais” 2012 ($45): A clear over-achiever at this level in the Barolo hierarchy (meaning, wines blended from fruit drawn from multiple villages within the appellation), this shows excellent quality with lovely aromas that blend delicate floral notes with more earthy accents.  The flavors and texture are appealing soft, and the wine has a restrained, refined character in overall terms.  Not a wine that kicks down the door, but rather one with a much more seductive approach.
93 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Cascin Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Preda 2004 ($100, Tesori Wines): A beautiful Barolo that brings everything to the table: gorgeous dark-fruited aromas, gripping structure and even now exceptional length in the mouth, which will be more evident as the years pass and the tannins subside. As with other Cascin Adelaide Barolo, there is a rustic aspect that should serve well when this wine is paired with roast game such as venison. 93 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

Cascina Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2009 ($70):  This shows a distinctly modern-style, with lots of toasty, spicy oak adorning its bouquet, but there’s still enough punchy fruit to work in tandem with the wood, which is of such high quality that its prominence is a net plus for the wine.  I rarely look favorably on Nebbiolo-based wines with this much wood influence, but this is a remarkably well crafted release. 93 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Cascina Ballarin, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Rocca” 2009 ($65):  Among the most successful wines from La Morra in 2009, this shows very appealing savory aromas or cured meat and baking spices, with soft fruit,  very open flavors, and tannins that are fine grained and well weighted to the fruit.  A lovely wine that indicates some very good work in the vineyard and wise decisions on harvesting. 93 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Cascina Bruciata, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi Muscatel” 2008 ($65, Siema Imports):  This producer turns out superb Riserva wines, but this bottling demonstrates great skill with a more conventional ageing regimen as well.  The fruit is very ripe but just short of stewed in character, with predominantly red tones but some suggestions of black fruit around the edges, which are tinged with oak that is subtle and very well tuned to the weight and energy of the fruit. 93 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Cavalier Bartolomeo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Castiglione Falletto “Altenasso” 2011 ($50): Rich, warm, soft and deep, this offering from Castiglione Falletto is certainly a wine of the vintage, with low acidity and very notable sweetness.  It shows the barest hint of heat, but this is certainly not problematic, as the sheer generosity of the sweet fruit sweeps away all of the tannin and leaves a deeply satisfying impression.
93 Michael Franz Jun 21, 2016

Ceretto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Prapo’ 2009 ($90): This is heady stuff, with very dark color and soaring aromas recalling dark cherry liqueur.  The fruit shows very deep flavors but retains a softness of texture that is very appealing.  There’s a notable dose of new-ish oak in the finish, but neither the tannin nor the wood foreshorten the finish, which is persistent and very nicely balanced.
93 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Crissante Alessandria, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Galina” 2008 ($50):  This striking wine features a fabulous bouquet of earthy notes recalling damp earth, mushrooms, autumn leaves and fresh meat.  The fruit is open and sweet with faintly stewed notes, yet there’s notable acidity to freshen the overall impression.  This is a terrific rendition of a rather traditional style. 93 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Damilano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Cannubi" 2004 ($74, Vias Imports):  A delicious Barolo from a famous site and a great vintage, this seems quite reasonably priced in the current scheme of things.  Still unwinding yet already impressively complex, it shows scents of mushrooms, herbs, woodsmoke and fresh meat as well as core fruit notes of dark cherries and black plums.  Impressively concentrated but not heavy or over-ripe, it delivers a lot of flavor that holds the tannins at bay long in to the persistent finish. 93 Michael Franz Jul 13, 2010

Damilano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2008 ($75, Vias Imports):  Quite ripe and soft for a 2008 rendition of Barolo from Cannubi, this is supple and soft, with just enough acidity to keep it in fresh form.  Much of the wine’s structure is derived from oak tannins, which are quite notable but very nicely tuned to the weight and character of the ripe fruit. 93 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Dario Stroppiana, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Leonardo” 2012 ($45): Dario Stroppiana has been making some terrific wines during the past few vintages, and they remain relatively little-known among consumers (at least in the USA), which means that there’s also an opportunity to buy them for less than they are worth relative to their peers--at least for now.  Conspicuously dark in color (especially for a blended wine, as opposed to a single-cru bottling), this follows through with impressive concentration and very good depth to the dark-toned fruit.  Definitely styled on the masculine side of the continuum, this may shut down at some point, but it was definitely open and showy in May of 2016.
93 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Diego Morra, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Monvigliero” 2015 ($64):  There’s plenty of ripeness in this wine, but the overall impression is one of precision in last-minute restraint:  The fruit for this beauty was picked at exactly the right time -- and crafted in just the right way -- to achieve great sweetness of fruit and breadth of flavor on the palate without the slightest whiff of heat or any sense of excess.  The oak is just right too, which is to say that it is supportive without being obtrusive.  This producer is new to me at this level of quality, and I’ll have an eye peeled in hopes of more excellence in future releases. 
93 Michael Franz Apr 30, 2019

Elio Grasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Gavarini Vigna Chiniera 2001 ($55): Elio Grasso, although labeled a 'modernist' in Barolo, ages this wine, from the best part of their Gavarini vineyard, in traditional large-2,500 liter-Slovenian botti (as opposed to small-225 liter-French oak barrels). It's quintessential Barolo with the enticing floral component balancing the ripe, almost tarry, intensity. Long and remarkably suave for young Barolo, it will evolve beautifully for decades. 93 Michael Apstein Sep 19, 2006

Elvio Cogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Ravera 2005 ($76, Vias Imports):  This highly successful 2005 shows lots of aroma and flavor intensity and yet manages to seem integrated and classy at the same time.  The fruit is sweet and fully ripe but still pure and fresh, with nice acidity providing lift just as fine-grained tannins provide grip but no harshness or drying in the finish.  Already very enjoyable if decanted and served with food, this will gain even more complexity during the next five years if you can manage to keep your hands off of it. 93 Michael Franz Jul 13, 2010

Enrico Serafino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2013 ($34, Dalla Terra Winery Direct):  This is an amazing value among Barolos.  The Enrico Serafino Barolo is drawn from vineyards in two communes -- La Morra and Monforte -- and the wine reflects both the power of Monforte as well as the pure fruit and floral character of La Morra.  The 2013 Serafino is an elegant, appealing and complex Barolo.  While it shows the ripeness of the harvest and the sleek and subtle spiciness of oak, the unique style of the Nebbiolo grape takes center stage.  Layers of juicy raspberry, plum and cherry fruits are underlain by floral rose hints and elements of leather, sandalwood, smoke and spice.  The flavors show finesse and elegance, with the delicate fruits enveloped by the classic, leafy, forest floor character of fine Barolo.  The beautiful, long finish reveals the inherent delicacy and complexity of the wine.  Delicious now, it can cellar well for another 10 years. 
93 Wayne Belding Oct 16, 2018

Franco Conterno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Panerole” 2010 ($80): This is a quite traditional-seeming Barolo that offers terrific immediate appeal while standing as a rather dicey prospect for long-term ageing.  Deeply pigmented and explosively aromatic, it starts the thrill ride with a big waft of volatile acidity that lends an earthy, gamy character to the bouquet.  Yet the flavors are surprisingly clean and fresh despite the rather animalistic start, with fruit that shows strong flavor impact and a long, exciting finish with savory and fruity notes tailing off symmetrically.  Many American and English tasters will tell you that you must age Barolo for at least a decade before drinking it, but winemakers in the region advise much earlier consumption for most wines, so don’t be afraid to taste this sooner rather than later, as there’s no telling how prominent the gamy aspect may become over time.
93 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Fratelli Revello, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Giachini” 2009 ($65, Marc di Grazia): Although this is not among the kick-down-the-door powerhouse entrants from 2009, it has a lot going for it, with big ripe aromas that lead into broad flavors that show some depth.  Thanks to the subtlety of the wood signature, this remains juicy and deeply enjoyable even after the wood and tannin have been taken account of in the wine’s finish.
93 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

G. D. Vajra, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Ravera 2010 ($68): Vajra’s Ravera comes from the Barolo commune (subzone) where the two different soil types of the Barolo DOCG meet.  Hence, experts say that wines from this area are the most complete Barolo because, reflecting both soils, they exhibit both power and grace.  The experts must have tasted this wine when they came up with that assessment.  This is the first vintage Vajra has bottled Ravera separately.  Previously they included it in their multi-vineyard blend because the vines were too young to express the vineyard’s individuality.  Though the vines are still young by Barolo standards — about 10 years old — Vajra believes they are now starting to produce a distinctive wine.  The 2010 Ravera leads with beautifully floral aromas and follow with an alluring austerity.  Tannins are firm, but finely honed and perfectly integrated making this a seamless wine.  Like many great young wines, it explodes in the finish.  There is a Burgundian sensibility — flavor without weight — to it.  Another one for the cellar.  In a decade or so, you’ll be happy it’s there.
93 Michael Apstein Mar 3, 2015

Gabutti Di Boasso Franco, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Gabutti 2009 ($55): This beautiful wine is rich and deep and meaty in character, with low oak and a lovely savory undertone.  The aromas show no overt oak, and are relatively mute at this point in relation to the flamboyant flavors, which are sweet and spicy and savory and quite compelling.  The sweetness outruns the tannins in the finish, but the wine never seems confected.
93 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Gagliasso Mario, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2009 ($50): A very well grown and crafted wine from a cru that really shows the heat of the 2009 vintage.  There’s a lot of oak showing on both the nose and palate, but the fruit is surprisingly vivid and lively in profile, in a style that is so deftly balanced that the wine is serious as well as charming, and could be described accurately as either masculine or feminine--if one went in for that sort of thing.  Very impressive.
93 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Giacomo Conterno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cascina Francia 2001 ($120, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): The 2001 Barolo Cascina Francia has the characteristic Nebbiolo aromas of tar, licorice, and strawberries, with exceptional balance. It is in a quiet stage right now, and requires several hours of aeration. But it should be exceptional in another six to eight years, and will have a long life after that. 93 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Giuseppe Rinaldi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Brunate-Le Coste 2001 ($80, Vinifera Imports): Le Coste is a special section of the Brunate vineyard in La Morra which Giuseppe Rinaldi particularly favors. Rinaldi makes classic traditional Barolos--not a barrique in sight in his winery. The 2001 Brunate-Le Coste has rich, intense aromas and flavors of tar, licorice, and red berries. It is quite tannic now, but is well-balanced, and has all the makings of a great Barolo. 93 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Grimaldi Bruna, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco Ambrogio 2009 ($45): Gorgeous aromatics are the prime attraction in this wine, with soaring floral scents riding atop red berry fruit with savory backnotes.  The savory note re-appears in the flavors, along with perfectly ripened fruit and soft tannins.
93 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Guido Porro, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Vigna Lassairasco 2009 ($45): The bouquet of this wine are rather muted at this point, suggesting that time is needed for tertiary aromas to bring its aromatic performance into line with its flavor impact, which is complex and very deep.  The flavors are open, generously fruity, and pleasantly earthy, with sweet fruit notes that easily buffer the wine’s tannins through the long but feminine-seeming finish.  Lovely. 93 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Luca Bosio Vineyards, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2008 ($44, Quintessential Wines): Ah… Nebbiolo from its proper home, made well, is always a joy.  For me, the best wine experiences evoke memories of a time spent in a place, where the scents and flavors put you right in that spot again, if only in your mind.  This wine shows the classic Barolo profile, with cherry, tobacco leaf and cardamom predominating. Smooth and rich on the palate, it delivers the nose elements with firm acidity and a lengthy grip, preserving integration of flavors through the lingering finish.  I'd go for some fine aged cheese with this one, while fondly recalling an Italian sunset.
93 Rich Cook Jun 10, 2014

Luciano Sandrone, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Le Vigne” 2003 ($120, Vintus Wines): Although Luciano Sandrone is known to be one of the great, modern-style Barolo producers, he also employs traditional  methods.  For example, his use of new oak is very sparing and judicious.  Sandrone makes two Barolos,  the single-vineyard Cannubi Boschis from Barolo village and the Le Vigne, a blend from a variety of vineyards.  The '03 Le Vigne is a beauty, with the balance and depth that are Sandrone's trademarks. The tannins are well-integrated; wonderful red berry aromas and flavors.  Very attractive now, but it should even be better in four or five years. 93 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Serra 2003 ($48, Empson USA): Marcarini, one of the great, traditional Barolistas, always makes one of my favorite Barolos.  Ironically, the Marcarini  Winery is in La Morra, the village in Barolo which has the most modern-style producers.  Marcarini's two main single-vineyard Barolos, Brunate and La Serra, are traditional bastions in La Morra -- aged in old, large Slovenian bottes, not a barrique in sight.  The '03 La Serra has aromas and flavors of tart red fruits, mainly raspberries and strawberries.  Lots of tannin, very dense.  This baby needs time.  If you drink it soon, give it lots of aeration.  Great  value! 93 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Marco Curto, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “La Foia Arborina” 2008 ($70):  This shows beautiful color in both its shade and concentration, followed by open aromas with fresh, red-toned fruit that really rings true to the Arborina cru.  Accents of fresh flowers and new saddle leather are very appealing, and the fresh, vivid character of this wine will prove very pleasurable whether it is enjoyed young or in its full maturity. 93 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Mario Gagliasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Torriglione” 2008 ($65):  I regard 93 as an absolutely outstanding score, and yet this wine’s rating would be even higher if it did not seem faintly volatile and curiously over-developed for its age.  Nevertheless, it was one of the most dramatic wines of the hundreds shown at Nebbiolo Prima in 2012, exhibiting floral aromas, ripe red fruit, savory accents recalling carpaccio and wild mushrooms, and saline minerals that lend special interest to the finish.  There’s plenty of tannin the mix, but successive waves of fruit hold it at bay quite effectively. 93 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Marziano Abbona, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Terlo Ravera” 2010 ($75): This excellent producer turned in such a strong performance in 2010 for Barolo that this isn’t even the top wine…which is really saying something.  Although you’d be well advised to watch for the 2010 “Pressenda” bottling, which is nothing short of sensational, this is a wine to buy.  It shows very expressive and alluring aromatics, with notes of fruit, spices, cured meat and wild mushrooms all working in concert to produce a proportional bouquet.  With serious flavor impact and a very persistent finish, this will likely improve for at least five years and perhaps many more.
93 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Mauro Veglio, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Castelletto” 2008 ($50):  Maruo Veglio’s wines are all supremely individuated from vineyard to vineyard, and this rendition from Castelletto is packed with powerful flavors and superb linear drive.  Spicy balsamic accents are very appealing, and the finish is sweet and supple despite the presence of abundant tannins. 93 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubi 2012 ($86, Kobrand):  Chiarlo owns about 3-acres of vines in the heart of Cannubi, arguably Barolo’s most famous vineyard.  From it, they make a sensational wine. Their 2012 Cannubi combines power and elegance, just as the textbooks say.  Its wonderful aromatics and intriguing tar-like character make for an unusual pairing, but the combination is captivating and keeps you coming back for another look.  The tannins are firm, not aggressive, and refined.  More muscular and denser than their Cerequio, this wine would benefit from at least a decade of bottle aging. 93 Michael Apstein Nov 7, 2017

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Tortoniano” 2006 ($70, Kobrand):  Michele Chiarlo tends to make wines with an eye towards the international marketplace, and this Barolo is certainly softer and more accessible than many produced by his compatriots in the region.  At the same time, however, it tastes very much like what it is, with a violet-tinged perfume and deep, dark plum fruit enhanced by echoes of licorice, leather, and more.  While internationally accessible, it remains genuinely Piedmontese to the core, and so can be enjoyed both now and for years to come. 93 Paul Lukacs Feb 15, 2011

Mirafiore, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Paiagallo” 2010 ($80, Domaine Select Wine Estates): Here’s another example of the stature of the 2010 vintage in Barolo. Serralunga, the village within the Barolo DOCG zone where the Paiagallo vineyard is located, is known for powerful wines.  Mirafiore’s certainly fits that description. Most amazingly, it has extraordinary finesse that belies its power.  Adding to the paradox of power and elegance is its explosion of floral elements more characteristic of the wines from the communes of Barolo or La Morra. Surprisingly approachable now because of that aromatic profile, I would still put this easy-to-recommend Barolo in the cellar for a decade or so to allow its complexity to develop fully.
93 Michael Apstein Feb 24, 2015

Monfalletto-Cordero Di Monteze, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Gattera” 2009 ($60): Certainly among the most expressive and immediately endearing wines of a very forward vintage, this was showing all of its plumage in May of 2013.  Soft, sweet scents of red raspberry and cherry waft up from the glass, and those are likewise the notes that arrive on the palate.  There’s just a little wood to lend a spicy counterpoint to the juicy fruit, but also some grippy tannin to pack a punch and give this a chance to develop further complexity over time.
93 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Monvigliero 2009 ($73, Banville & Jones): Beautifully balanced ripeness is the key to this wine’s success, as it shows dark color and impressive density, but also a fine purity that is often absent from Barolo wines in 2009.  The texture I meaty and broad, with fruit notes showing both red and black tones, and very tasteful framing from notable but balanced wood.  Very tastefully styled.
93 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2013

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Monvigliero” 2010 ($80, Banville & Jones): This top Barolo producer clearly made the best of the excellent cards that were dealt by the 2010 growing season.  This is deep and rich and immediately appealing in both aroma and flavor, with notable wood that never competes with the concentrated, exceptionally flavorful fruit.  Aside from the slightest suggestion of heat in the finish, which isn’t really distracting, this is an absolutely exemplary wine from the vintage.
93 Michael Franz Jun 3, 2014

Pio Cesare, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2008 ($65, Maisons Marques & Domaines):  Augusto Boffa says that 2008 is a “traditional” vintage producing traditional style Barolos.  While this 2008 can be enjoyed now, especially with food, it is a baby, a beautiful baby.  It was sourced from family owned vineyards in Serralunga d'Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra and Barolo–Novello, as well as from long-term growers.  Aromas of roses, raspberries and a bit of smoke introduce tightly structured and layered flavors of cherry, licorice and a touch of menthol.  The fruit is invigorated by piquant acidity and the wine finishes with tight, dusty tannins. 93 Rebecca Murphy Oct 2, 2012

Pira Luigi Di Gianpaolo Pira, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Marenca 2009 ($65): This wine always seems to be among the darkest, most intense, and most ruggedly structured Barolo bottlings, and the rendition from 2009 is hardly an exception.  Brooding black fruit is bolstered by notable but subtle oak, with no hint of over-ripeness.  Most 2009s are so accessible that they’ll hit their peak before their comparable bottlings from 2006, but this is one that you should simply forget about for a full decade.
93 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Poderi Luigi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Cannubi" 2015 ($70):  This is a masculine rendering of Cannubi from 2015, which is to say that it runs with rather than against the vintage, as do some of its even more beautiful neighbors.  That’s a bit of a backhanded compliment, but still, this is an impressive wine that delivers just the kind of richness and flavor impact expected by a lot of consumers shelling out the cash required to buy Cannubi.  They’ll get just a bit of alcoholic heat in the finish for their money, but they’ll also get so much deliciousness that no doubt this will be easily forgiven.  
93 Michael Franz Apr 23, 2019

Poderi Ruggeri Corsini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “San Pietro” 2008 ($65):  Impressive and yet tasteful at once, this shows deep color and full body, but its structural components are so well integrated and its aromatic and flavor elements are so harmonious that it truly seems like a refined and even complete wine--which is very noteworthy at this early stage in its development.
93 Michael Franz Aug 28, 2012

Raineri Gianmatteo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2010 ($50): This isn’t a cru-designated wine, but rather a straight Barolo DOCG release from a producer based in Monforte D’Alba.  Nevertheless, it certainly performed on a par with other excellent cru wines, and indeed surpassed many of them in quality when tasted blind in Alba in May of 2014.  Dark and deeply pigmented, with a big, expressive bouquet that isn’t dominated by any particular element, it gets off to a great start before one has even tasted it.  Tasting doesn’t disappoint, as the fruit is ripe and expressive despite the fact that there’s plenty of supporting oak to help structure the flavors.  An excellent example of the modern style of Barolo that is likely to be reasonably affordable to boot, this will need some time to fully integrate its oak, but the craftsmanship of the wine is obviously outstanding, and there’s no gamble involved in buying this for the cellar.
93 Michael Franz Jul 1, 2014

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Marcenasco 2009 ($45, Dreyfus Ashby & Co): Year after year, the Marcenasco bottling from the Renato Ratti estate offers superb examples of Barolo and particularly the sleek and elegant style of the commune of La Morra.  The ripeness of the 2009 harvest adds flesh to an already fine wine.  The bouquet is forward and complex, with sweet cherry and raspberry fruits enhanced by hints of sandalwood, cocoa, dried herbs, anise, potpourri and baking spices.  The flavors are multilayered and rich with the ripe red fruits interwoven with the dried herb and floral nuances as well as the sandalwood, vanilla and spice components.  Although forward and thoroughly enjoyable now for its generous fruit, the 2009 Marcenasco Barolo will develop and improve for another 15+ years in the cellar.  It’s a great value among top class Barolos.
93 Wayne Belding May 6, 2014

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra “Marcenasco” 2012 ($48): Pietro Ratti’s entry level Barolo is terrific yet again in 2012 -- as it has been in 2011 and 2010.  It is easier on the wallet than the Conca or Rocche Dell’Annunziata bottlings, which are always more age-worthy and intense, but also require considerably more time before entering their window of optimal drinkability.  This edition of Marcenasco shows a little wood but not in an overt or obtrusive way, and there’s more than enough sweet fruit to counterbalance it.  There are also some interesting savory notes, and though this is more about purity and balance than sheer power, that’s no knock on the wine.  A well grown, beautifully crafted wine.
93 Michael Franz Jul 19, 2016

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche” 2009 ($90, Dreyfus-Ashby): This was among the three or four flashiest wines in aromatic terms of all the 2009 Borolo wines tasted this May.  Although it shows the heat of the vintage in the form of a prominent stewy character to the fruit as well as a hint of dill, it also shows big, billowing scents of spring flowers, toast, menthol and spices.  There’s plenty of new oak for the wine to absorb, but plenty of fruit to get the job done.  The tannins are very ripe, and the wine is already sufficiently soft to be enjoyed now, though it will surely benefit from a few years of cellaring to enable it to integrate its components more fully.
93 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Marcenasco" 2015 ($55):  Year after year, the Marcenasco bottling from the Renato Ratti estate offers superb examples of Barolo and particularly the sleek and elegant style of the commune of La Morra.  The ripeness of the 2015 harvest adds flesh to an already fine wine.  The bouquet is forward and complex, with sweet cherry and raspberry fruits enhanced by hints of sandalwood, cocoa, dried herbs, anise, potpourri and baking spices.  The flavors are multilayered and rich with the ripe red fruits interwoven with the dried herb and floral nuances as well as the sandalwood, vanilla and spice components.  Although forward and thoroughly enjoyable now for its generous fruit, the 2015 Marcenasco Barolo will develop and improve for another 15+ years in the cellar.  It’s a great value among top class Barolos.    
93 Wayne Belding Sep 17, 2019

Renato Ratti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Marcenasco” 2008 ($50, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.):  Pietro Ratti turned in a terrific performance with his Barolos in the 2008.  This bottling shows dense pigmentation and impressively deep aromas and flavors rooted in dark-toned fruit.  Wood influence is subtle on the nose and more prominent on the palate, but the sheer energy of the fruit prevents any drying in the wine’s finish until the fruit has made a very lasting impression. 93 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Roccheviberti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche Di Castiglione” 2009 ($70):  This is a very stylish wine that shows excellent intensity and persistence of flavor but only moderate weight.  Oak shows more flamboyantly in the aromas than the flavors, and the scents of toast and charcoal work very well with the dark tones of the fruit and the appealing accents of spices and cured meat.  Quite complex and enduringly interesting. 93 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Sordo Giovanni, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Serralunga “Gabutti” 2010 ($70): This is the best wine that I can ever recall tasting from this producer, showing wonderful scents of woodsmoke and spices and compelling savory flavors that provide interesting accents to the core of sweet fruit.  Despite being very flavorful and alluring on account of its sweet-seeming fruit, this is really only medium-bodied, enhancing its impression of elegance.
93 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Tenuta Carretta, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Cannubi” 2012 ($65):  Tenuta Carretta owns a small piece of Cannubi, arguably Barolo’s most famous vineyard.  A youthful Barolo, it delivers a haunting combination of floral elements followed by tarriness.  Paradoxically, it’s delicate, but with a substantial presence.  Its firm tannic structure is appropriate for its age and does not perturb the wine’s harmony and balance.  If you’re a fan of the youthful vigor of Barolo, drink it this winter, but open and decant it a couple of hours before dinner.  My preference is to cellar this Cannubi for another five years. 
93 Michael Apstein Jan 15, 2019

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Rocche 2003 ($96, Rémy USA): Vietti's Rocche and Villero are the  two 'home' vineyards; both are in the village of Castiglione Falletto, close to the Vietti winery and home.  For me, Rocche and Villero (when it's made) are consistently Vietti's two finest Barolos.  The '03 Rocche is traditionally made, very dry, with lots of tannins, and powerful aromas of tar, with a very good concentration  of ripe, red fruit flavors.  Quite ripe and fleshy, a characteristic of this vintage. 93 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Castiglione” 2012 ($50): The class of this wine was immediately apparent in the glass, and learning several hours that it was made by Vietti only confirmed an impression made by the wine’s classy, harmonious performance when tasted blind.  Although it wasn’t particularly “flashy,” it still stepped out of the pack on account of its sheer intricacy and proportionality, which isn’t to say that it isn’t deep in flavor and strong in overall intensity -- which indeed it is.  Always among the best buys from Barolo’s top producers, this is a wine to buy yet again in 2012.
93 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2016

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Brunate” 2008 ($120):  Still rather undeveloped, this brooding wine is packed with power and potential.  Dark color and impressive concentration show its seriousness, and relatively restrained oak lends attractive accents. 93 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Abbona Marziano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Terlo Ravera 2009 ($65, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd): One of the most successful wines from the commune of Novello in 2009, this shows sweet fruit notes with subtle wood edging and a pleasantly earthy undertone.  There’s a bare hint of volatile acidity in the aromas, but the wine seems quite stable and actually more complex on account of this note.
92 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Azelia, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Margheria 2009 ($66): A very sexy, immediately appealing wine, this shows ripe red fruit notes recalling kirsch liqueur.  Close to over-ripe, with the faintest hint of heat in the finish, this was brought right up to the line of being excessively ripened, but it was caught just in time, with delightful results.
92 Michael Franz Aug 27, 2013

Beni di Batasiolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigneto Bofani” 2004 ($85, Boisset Family Wines):  Bofani Vineyard spreads along a hill about 800 feet above sea level and is known for wines that are rich and textured.  This 2004, aged for two years in Slovonian oak casks, then one year in bottle, is maturing nicely, with a lovely garnet color, deep-set nose with bright fruit notes, cherry-berry, richly textured flavors, anise notes, 14% alcohol, firm refined tannins and a nicely structured finish.  This complex aged Barolo is a good match with game, roasted meats and strong cheeses.  The 2004 may not be in all markets as the 2006 Bofani is now coming into the market. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 7, 2012

Boroli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2005 ($48, Dalla Terra):  Although this Barolo sells for a relatively modest price and bears no specific site designation, it more flavorful and complex than many renditions with gaudier names and price tags.  Medium-bodied but full of intense, expressive fruit, it is wonderfully open and enjoyable already, though the depth of fruit and strength of structure will enable it to improve for another five years. 92 Michael Franz Jun 15, 2010

Bosco Agostino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “La Serra” 2009 ($40): This is a nice example of what could go right with this vintage, as the aromas are soft and sweet, with rich fruit that shows bold red and black tones.  The texture is soft and the flavors very open, with restrained wood that really lets the wine show its charms.  Whether it will merit such high praise in a decade remains to be seen, or not -- if buyers drink it in five years as I would recommend.
92 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Ca’ Romé, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Vigna Ceretta 2003 ($65, Empson USA): Lovely, traditionally made Barolo with aromas of tar and ripe strawberries.  Tannic and lean; not a powerful Barolo, but has a concentration of pure fruit on the finish. Ca' Romé's winery is in the village of Barbaresco and this producer is more known for his Barbaresco wines, but he also owns two vineyards in the Barolo village of Serralunga d'Alba, including this Vigna Cerreta.  As you might expect with a traditional Barolo, the Ceretta tasted better the second day. 92 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Cagliero, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Ravera” 2009 ($65):  This is an excellent wine for near-term enjoyment, with delicate floral and spice aromas and very soft, open flavors that are framed with just enough oak to lend shape to the mid-palate and finish.  There’s just a touch of alcoholic heat in the finish, which is all that holds this below the very top rank of performers in 2009. 92 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Camparo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Boiolo” 2009 ($75): This shows subtle sweetness on the nose, with a spicy backnote.  Interestingly, the sweet character of the wines shows even more prominently in the flavors, yet there’s real freshness and purity to the fruit—more than is typical for the vintage.  Wood and grape tannins firm up the finish, but the fruit outruns both of them, resulting in a finish with real persistence and charm.
92 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Cascin Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Fossati 2004 ($100, Tesori Wines): Very ripe for Barolo, Cascin Adelaide's '04 from the Fossati vineyard is a huge mouthful of wine. Everything is big, especially the impressive wall of tannin. The ripeness of the grapes, however, permits the fruit to show behind the tannin, and as with all of the Cascin Adelaide Barolos from this vintage there is a rustic, earthy motif of  herbs, forest floor, truffles and spice. Very complex! All I want now is a big platter of veal osso buco! 92 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

Cascina Del Monastero, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Luciani” 2009 ($60): A faint but distinctive and appealing menthol note shows in the bouquet, and it offers an interesting counterpoint to the floral aromas.  A scent of sweet red berry fruit is also evident, and it shows up again in the wine’s flavors and persists through the finish.  Oak shows up late in the sensory sequence, offering welcome firming but virtually no astringency, and the tannins are also quite fine in grain.  Very well done.
92 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Castello di Verduno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Massara” 2008 ($55):  Fresh, fruity aromas rise from the glass, showing dark cherry notes edged with a tasteful touch of spicy oak.  Firm but not astringent thanks to very fine-grained tannins, this is an exceptionally well-made wine that can be enjoyed now or cellared to improve for up to a decade. 92 Michael Franz Jul 24, 2012

Damilano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Liste” 2008 ($75, Vias Imports):  Quality has been surging at this estate in recent vintages, and this wine shows that the trend continues.  Fresh and pure, the fruit for this wine was clearly picked at perfect maturity, and the restraint shown with oak influence permits the delicious fruit to shine. 92 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Elio Grasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Gavarini Vigna Chiniera 2003 ($60, Classic Wine Imports): Elio Grasso produces three Barolos in most years.  They age this one, from the Gavarini Chiniera vineyard, in large oak barrels--as opposed to new small French oak that they use for Runcot Barolo--for two years before bottling.  Floral notes are prominent in this powerful, yet elegant, wine.  Tarry elements combined with its floweriness remind you it's clearly Barolo.  Lovely freshness in the finish is a pleasant surprise. 92 Michael Apstein Oct 23, 2007

Fontanafredda, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Serralunga d’Alba” 2007 ($45, Palm Bay International):  Fontanafredda’s 2007 Barolo from its vineyards in Serralunga d’Alba, one of the communes that comprise the Barolo DOCG, is a deceptive wine.  Surprisingly approachable initially--perhaps the nature of the vintage--the tannins and structure become readily apparent in the finish.  The tannins, however, do not obliterate the elegance and overall class of the wine, allowing the lovely combination of pure fruit and earthy flavors to shine.  The classic “tar and roses” description of Barolo is apt here.  It’s a young wine with a bright future. 92 Michael Apstein Sep 18, 2012

G. D. Vajra, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bricco delle Viole 2004 ($46, Adonna Imports):

This is a traditionally styled Barolo--not gussied up with lots of oak--with superb length and elegance. Intriguing nuances of earth and herbal notes complement the ripe fruit flavors.  Firm tannins lend support.  Impeccably balanced, this Barolo--from a great vintage--will evolve beautifully, so put it in your cellar.  You’ll be very happy you did five or ten years from now.

92 Michael Apstein Dec 29, 2009

Giacomo Borgogno & Figli, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Fossati 2008 ($68, T. Edward Wines): As of 2008 Borgogno decided to bottle wines from specific vineyards separately.  Prior to that time, they blended the wines and labeled them as Barolo or Barolo Riserva.  Fossati, a cru or vineyard (as opposed to a proprietary name), is located in the village of Barolo itself.  The wine, while still young and vigorous, delivers a splendid balance of seemingly paradoxical flowery and tarry elements.  It expands with time in the glass, gaining complexity and even more allure.  Though enjoyable now with hearty pasta, it would be even better if you could leave it in the cellar for another decade.
92 Michael Apstein Jan 12, 2016

Giuseppe Mascarello, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Santo Stefano di Perno 1999 ($45, Polaner Selections; Rare Wine Company): The Santo Stefano vineyard in Perno is just outside of Castiglione Falletto. Stylistically, this is a bigger wine than the Monprivato, although not as elegant, with black fruit flavors and excellent length on the palate. Another great value from this producer. 92 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Luigi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($68, Empson): Traditionalists may look askance at this highly atypical Barolo, which is very ripe, rounded and fleshy.  No doubt this is attributable to the famously hot growing season of 2003.  Although this certainly doesn't have the ageing capacity for which Barolo is famous, the wine is so lovely right now that I cannot find it in myself to fault it on this ground.  Soft fruit notes of cherries and plums are sweet and soft, with spicy, smoky accents that are very appealing.  There's plenty of acidity and tannin to structure the wine, though the wine will still prove surprising to seasoned Barolo tasters, as these structural elements are very much in the background rather than the foreground, which is where one would expect to find them at this young age. 92 Michael Franz May 15, 2007

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “La Serra” 2008 ($55, Empson USA):  Strikingly big, deep and earthy by comparison to recent vintages of this wine, this shows excellent complexity and abundant character.  Floral aromatic accents are especially interesting in the company of leathery notes, and the finish is firm but cushioned by the sheer abundance of fruit. 92 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Marchesi di Barolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubi 2004 ($100, Palm Bay):

Still very much a baby, this traditionally-styled Barolo comes entirely from the Cannubi vineyard and simply exudes class and style.  There is nary a note out of place either in the bouquet or on the palate, and the wine finishes with layered length.  Even though the tannins are quite firm right now, the secondary notes of spice, licorice and leather come through to support the deep-tasting fruit, suggesting that the wine may well merit an even higher score with five or more years of cellaring.

92 Paul Lukacs Sep 30, 2008

Marziano Abbona, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Pressenda” 2008 ($75, Frederick Wildman):  This modern-style Barolo shows expressive ripe fruit and lots of smoky, spicy oak, but thankfully the balance between the two is so deftly orchestrated that the fruit isn’t overwhelmed but rather supported and augmented.  Very well made. 92 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Tortoniano” 2008 ($42, Kobrand):  In the 1980s Michele Chiarlo began working to make his Barolo more approachable without losing the unique character of the region.  In the vineyard he lowered yields, while in the winery he controlled fermentation temperatures and reduced the amount of time the fermenting juice spent in contact with the grape skins.  Tortoniano refers to the geological area and its soils, which Chiarlo believes gives this Barolo its elegance.  This is a polished and sophisticated wine with ethereal aromas of roses and cherries with traces of mint, cedar and smoke.  In the mouth layered flavors of cherry, black tea, dark chocolate and licorice are intensified by decisive acidity and dusty tannins.  It’s drinking beautifully now and should continue to develop in the bottle for several more years. 92 Rebecca Murphy Oct 23, 2012

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Bricco Ambrogio” 2007 ($75, Banville & Jones):  Bricco Ambrogio is a highly regarded cru among insiders in Barolo, but is little known in export markets on account of being situated in the small and rather obscure commune of Roddi.  Scavino’s 2007 rendition shows striking ripeness and very generous fruit that is backed by plenty of fine-grained tannins and tasteful framing from subtle oak.  Dark cherry and black plum fruit notes are accented with a floral topnote and undertones of tobacco leaves and spices. 92 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2012

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Monvigliero” 2008 ($75):  Notably deep color, this is impressive on looks alone, and the deep, sweetly fruity aromas are even more alluring than the wine’s appearance.  Ripe, rounded, textured palate impressions are more appealing still, and though this will need a few years to develop secondary aromas and flavors to lend it additional complexity, it is as safe a bet to achieve that as almost any Barolo from 2008 that I have tasted. 92 Michael Franz Jul 24, 2012

Pietro Rinaldi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Monvigliero” 2008 ($75):  Stylish and yet very satisfying at once, this shows exceptionally interesting aromatics with notes of lavender, menthol, and autumn leaves, followed by deep flavors recalling red cherries and dark berries.  Rounded and generous, with restrained wood, this is already delicious but will improve for years to come. 92 Michael Franz Jul 24, 2012

Poderi Colla, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Bussia Dardi Le Rose 2004 ($76, Empson): A very complex and interesting wine, this shows a lovely core of plum and red cherry fruit that is surrounded with all sorts of little nuances including notes recalling fresh flowers, dried herbs, tobacco leaves, damp earth, and woodsmoke.  These accent notes are roughly equivalent in expressiveness, which has the important consequence that they are all delightfully evident in the wine's aromas and flavors once it has been decanted for an hour or so.  Although this can certainly benefit from years of ageing, it is ready to enjoy now if decanted and paired with food. 92 Michael Franz Dec 30, 2008

Poderi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Costa Grimaldi” 2008 ($80, Empson USA):  I love the wines from this estate, and they almost always show very well even when I’m tasting blind and any favoritism is impossible.  This shows plenty of toasty oak and a light minty note underneath, followed by flavorful but focused fruit and a firm finish structured by spicy oak. 92 Michael Franz Sep 4, 2012

Poderio Luigi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Costa Grimaldi” 2008 ($79, Empson USA): I love the wines from this estate, and they always show very well even when I’m tasting blind and any favoritism is impossible, as was the case at this year's Nebbiolo Prima  tastings.  This terrific Barolo shows plenty of toasty oak and a light minty note underneath, followed by flavorful but focused fruit and a firm finish structured by spicy oak. 92 Michael Franz Jul 24, 2012

Renato Buganza, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Annunziata” 2009 ($65): Lovely aromatics get this off to a great start, and the mélange of sweet and savory scents is backed by flavors that show an interesting combination of initial openness on the attack and firm structure in the finish.  Oak is present but moderate and balanced with the fruit, which shows mostly red tones and very tasty edges of spice.
92 Michael Franz Aug 6, 2013

Viberti Giovanni, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Buon Padre” 2009 ($45):  One of the most impressive 2009 bottlings of straight Barolo DOCG with a proprietary name rather than a cru designation, this shows impressively dark color and backs it up with deeply flavored fruit showing dark tones and very tasteful framing from oak.  There’s a very nice impression of sweetness that buffers the tannins, but no evidence of over-ripeness.  Very well done. 92 Michael Franz Jul 23, 2013

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Castiglione 1999 ($40, Remy Amerique): The 1999 Castiglione is Vietti's one 1999 Barolo that you can drink even now. It is made from a blend of about five different vineyards, and vinified to be ready sooner than Vietti's single-vineyard Barolos. A great value. 92 Ed McCarthy Feb 21, 2006

Bel Colle, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2008 ($33):  This deeply appealing, high-value wine shows very expressive aromas and flavors driven by a sweet cherry fruit note.  Only moderate in weight but exceptionally flavorful, it shows restrained wood influence and a fresh, focused profile. 91 Michael Franz Jul 24, 2012

Beni di Batasiolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Vigneto Briccolina” 2004 ($90, Boisset Family Estates):  Vigneto Briccolina is over 1,300 feet in the hills of Serralunga d’Alba, making it one of Batasilolo’s highest vineyards.  Aged for two years in French oak barriques, then one year in bottle before release, it has a deep garnet color, layered nose of ripe cherry and plum, hints of spice, full flavors, textured, big refined tannins, 14% alcohol, good fruit in the finish with a little lingering heat.  Briccolina is a rich wine with depth and texture and it will only get better with another year or two of bottle aging.  The 2006 Briccolina is just now entering the market. 91 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 7, 2012

Damilano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Lecinquevigne” 2004 ($40, Vias Imports):  A beautiful rendition of Nebbiolo sourced from five vineyards, this is unusually approachable at this relatively tender age for a Barolo, but the relatively open softness of the wine was not purchased at the price of typicity.  The acidity and tannin that make these wines so distinctive are still notably present, yet they are interwoven with enough soft, sweet fruit to make the wine seem structured for another decade of development.  The aromas and flavors are already impressively nuanced, and additional time in bottle will no doubt bring even more complexities to the fore.  Very attractively priced in relation to the going rate for Barolo in this era of a weak dollar, this is a wine for Barolo lovers to jump on. 91 Michael Franz Mar 2, 2010

Elio Grasso, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Ginestra Vigna Casa Mate 2003 ($60, Classic Wine Imports): This wine, another one of Grasso's Barolo's aged in large old oak barrels, has more intensity and richness combined with an alluring tarriness because the Ginestra Casa Mate vineyard's heavier soil produces riper grapes.  It will warm the hearts of those who prefer more power in their Barolos. 91 Michael Apstein Oct 23, 2007

Elvio Cogno, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cascina Nuova 2005 ($49, Vias Imports):  It is quite a challenge to find a bottle of fine Barolo for less than $50 these days, and though this doesn’t make it under that line by much, it is a very fine Barolo and well worth every penny you’ll pay.  Cherry and plum fruit is accented with subtle nuances of fresh flowers, wild mushrooms and carpaccio.  The sweetness of the fruit holds up against the tannins to soften and lengthen the finish, which is impressively persistent for a wine in this price range. 91 Michael Franz Jul 13, 2010

Luigi Einaudi, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Costa Grimaldi 2003 ($70, Empson USA): The Luigi Einaudi winery is in Dogliani, a village south of Barolo that is famed for its Dolcetto, and indeed Dolcetto is Einaudi's calling-card wine.  But it also makes some fine Barolos.  Once a very traditionally winery, Luigi Einaudi is now producing more modern-style Barolos -- not as modern as Conterno-Fantino's, but somewhat more centrist.  Its Costa Grimaldi vineyard is actually in the village of Barolo.  The '03 Costa Grimaldi combines medium, soft, ripe tannins with ripe, red fruits.  Long, concentrated finish. 91 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Marziano Abbona, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Pressenda” 2005 ($75, Frederick Wildman):  This is a promising Barolo that will reward patience, as proved by the fact that it was far better after sitting open for 24 hours after I first tasted it--and better still after 48 hours.  Barolos from the 2005 vintage suffer from being sandwiched between 2004 and 2006, two years that provided softer, rounder wines that are easy to appreciate while young.  However, those with cellars and patience will likely find that the best 2005s have the acidic structure to age even longer than ‘04s and ‘06s, and can ultimately develop even more intricacies of aroma and flavor over the long haul.  If you can lay this down for a decade, you’ll be richly rewarded.  If you haven’t the facilities or the patience to do that, look for Abbona’s 2004 Pressenda, which is richer, softer, and notably more generous for near-term drinking. 91 Michael Franz Mar 22, 2011

Paolo Scavino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2007 ($52, Banville & Jones):  This exemplary producer turns out four or five more particular and more expensive bottlings from Barolo each year, so one might be tempted not to take this wine seriously on the theory that it is assembled from inferior components.  That would be a bad mistake, as this shows very serious concentration and depth of flavor, along with more complexity and class than many single cru wines from other Barolo producers.  It shows the ripe, plush character of the very warm 2007 vintage, and is already very enjoyable to taste even at this young age, but it has the structure and guts to develop for at least another five years. 91 Michael Franz Oct 16, 2012

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Brunate 2003 ($96, Rémy USA): Vietti produces three single-vineyard Barolos in most vintages and one riserva (Villero) in great vintages. The Brunate, from La Morra, is invariably the most approachable of the four.  Winemaker/proprietor  Luca Currado combines a modern approach with traditional methods.  For instance, he ages the Brunate and Lazzarito in barriques, but uses no barriques for Vietti's Rocche or Villero Barolos.  The '03 Brunate has delightful aromas of tart red fruits along with overtones of tar.  The tannins are soft and sweet. It should be ready to drink soon, but can age for at least another five years. 91 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Lazzarito 2003 ($96, Rémy USA): Vietti's Lazzarito Barolo is sourced from a vineyard in Serralunga d'Alba and is always a bigger, more powerful wine than the Vietti Brunate.  Although the '03 Lazzarito has a huge structure, its tannins are soft and sweet, either from its barrique aging or the nature of the vintage-or both. It has good depth, high acidity, and a fine concentration of red fruits.  It will be ready to drink sooner than usual. 91 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Bongiovanni, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2003 ($59, Empson): This is a very enjoyable, user-friendly Barolo that is already very soft and tasty and multi-dimensional.  Although the famously hot growing season of 2003 undoubtedly explains the ripe, supple profile of the wine, I found nothing raisiny or cooked about it, and indeed it does not lack for structure.  However, an abundance of fruit and a range of interesting aromatic complexities make it as interesting as it is tasty, making this a great buy for high-end restaurants that don't want to carry Barolo inventory forever. 90 Michael Franz Jun 5, 2007

Cascin Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Cannubi 2004 ($84, Tesori Wines): This is one of the more earthy Barolo's you are likely to find from the important Cannubi vineyard, one of the regions most famous scraps of land. Aromas of dried herbs and leather, with a hint of cigar box, dominate. The underlying fruit is black cherry, and there are hints of spice as a back note. With good viscosity and palate weight, and firm but sweet tannins, this vintage of Cascin Adelaide Cannubi can be consumed young. 90 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

Conterno Fantino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Vigna del Gris 2003 ($89, Empson USA): Conterno Fantino , in the Barolo village of Monforte d'Alba, is definitely in the modern camp.  Its Barolos, such as this '03 Vigna del Gris, emphasize ripe fruit (strawberries) and soft tannins.  It is easier to drink this wine than a traditional Barolo, and it will appeal to those who can't tolerate austere, tannic Barolos.  You can actually drink this wine now; very approachable. 90 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Damilano, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Lecinquevigne” 2010 ($35): Rarely have I read as much unanimity regarding the stature of a vintage as I have concerning the 2010 Barolo.  And now, having tasted a fair number of them myself, I agree -- it’s a consistently great vintage.  Damilano is a well-known producer who bottles several single vineyard Barolos, which are captivating in 2010.  What’s especially exciting to me about this one, which is not from a single vineyard, but rather a blend of wines from five separate vineyards, is the price in relation to its quality.  It’s classic Barolo with a floral component underpinned by a hint of tarry bitterness.  Accessible now if you’re willing to decant it and let it breath for an hour or so, it will certainly be more complex five years down the road.  A great buy from a great vintage.
90 Michael Apstein Feb 10, 2015

Marziano Abbona, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) “Pressenda” 2005 ($48, Frederick Wildman):  This fine Barolo shows lots of intensity on a platform that is relatively modest in terms of weight, which should make it very successful as a partner for many foods.  Red and black fruits are intermingled in both the aromas and flavors, with a prominent spiciness lending added interest on the nose and in the finish, which shows impressive persistence. 90 Michael Franz Jun 29, 2010

Michele Chiarlo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) "Tortoniano" 2013 ($51):  This marvelous Barolo comes from grapes grown in the Cerequio and Sarmassa vineyards.  It’s classically proportioned, with a Burgundian-like sensibility of “flavor without weight.”  Elegant and refined, it packs plenty of flavor without a trace of heaviness.  Substantial, yet not aggressive tannins, in the finish remind you it’s a youthful Barolo.  Dare I say, it’s charming, not a word often associated with young Barolo.  I would either drink it this winter with substantial fare and capture its charm, or cellar it for 5 or 6 years. 
90 Michael Apstein Oct 9, 2018

Cascin Adelaide, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2004 ($65, Tesori Wines): Intensely earthy on the nose, and exhibiting exotic dried fruit aromas, hints of licorice, and game, with good length on the palate. This is an evolved Barolo that will show well tonight but develop even more complex aromas of tar and leather over the next several years. 89 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

Conterno Fantino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Sorì Ginestra 2003 ($89, Empson USA): Conterno Fantino's '03 Sorì Ginestra Barolo apparently received more sun/warmth than its Vigna del Gris, because it's higher in alcohol (14.5 percent as opposed to 14 percent) and has riper, sweeter flavors.  A hedonistic wine; cries for a steak or a cut of rare roast beef.  This is the type of Barolo one might expect in a very warm vintage. 89 Ed McCarthy Sep 18, 2007

Beni di Batasiolo, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) 2007 ($45, Boisset Family Estates):  Aged for two years in Slovonian oak casks, then an additional year in bottle, this 2007 Barolo is a blend of nine vineyards.  It has a deep ruby color with a faint orange rim, good berry aromas and flavors, touch of spice, firm tannins, 15% alcohol and a balanced finish with just a touch of heat.  Stored properly, this “entry level” Barolo should last another five years but is not likely to develop more in the bottle.
88 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 7, 2012

Conterno Fantino, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Sori Ginestra 2003 ($104, Empson): One of the better 2003 Barolo's I've tasted, this shows medium body and an interesting blend of pure fruit and smoky, earthy, leathery accent notes.  Dried cherry flavors ride into the finish along with bright acidity, and a pleasant bite of slightly bitter tannin us cushioned by the fruit's lingering impression of sweetness. 87 Michael Franz Dec 4, 2007

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Serra 2003 ($59, Empson): I confess that I'm not wild about most of the 2003 Barolos I've tasted, and yet I know that there is a need in many restaurants for solid Barolos at reasonable prices, especially in the wake of the downright disastrous 2002 vintage.  This wine, while rather simple, answers the need for renditions that show some sweet primary fruit along with the acidity and tannin for which the Nebbiolos of Barolo are famous. 84 Michael Franz Dec 4, 2007

Marcarini, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) Brunate 2003 ($59, Empson): Having tasted a number of 2003 vintage Barolos that bore little or no resemblance to the acidic, tannic norm for wines from this appellation, I was surprised to discover that this wine is just about as tightly strung (especially in terms of acidity) as any young Barolo I can recall.  Although it showed a bit of fruit and flesh after a couple of hours of airing, this is definitely a wine for those with four things: patience, a cool cellar, a tendency to drink wines with food, and a taste for traditionally-styled Nebbiolo. 84 Michael Franz Jun 5, 2007

Vietti, Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) La Morra, “Brunate” 2010 ($160): Everybody loves Vietti’s wines, so I don’t pride myself in coming up with anything newsworthy by identifying this wine’s greatness, but let me say this:  Brunate 2010 from Vietti is one of the most charming, almost “hypnotic” wines that I’ve ever tasted.  Both of those terms show up in my raw note from a blind tasting experience in May 2014, along with “charismatic,” and this was probably the most extraordinarily beautiful of all the 2010 Barolo wines that I tasted over the course of five days.  The remarkable thing is that the wine is very deep and long in flavor, yet never seems to assert itself.  Moreover, it is simultaneously layered and seamless, which is an uncanny effect in combination, since those two characteristics almost always cut in opposite directions.  Oak is notable but perfectly balanced, and the wine’s weight and fruit are likewise perfect foils for its acidity and tannin.  This is a marvel of intricacy, but also a whole that is greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts.  Simply perfect.
100 Michael Franz Jul 29, 2014

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo Bussia DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) 2006 ($55, Quintessential): Still tannic after all these years, this beautifully structured Barolo from Attilio Ghisolfi is built for the long haul, but even here in the short haul it shines. It shows enticing aromas of forest floor and spice on the nose, with a complex palate of layered black cherry, anise and root beer. A mouth-watering complement to braised veal shank. 94 Robert Whitley Jun 10, 2014

Vietti, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Ravera” Novello 2015 ($195):  Those who haven’t been reading my Barolo reviews from the past 10 years of blind tastings in Alba wouldn’t have any way to know that I’m not overawed by the region’s big names, nor afraid at all to give very high scores to up-and-coming producers regardless of how obscure they may yet be.  But with that noted, it is also true that sometimes famous houses prove entirely deserving of their fame, as in the case of this phenomenally great Ravera from Vietti.  In terms of texture, it is simply the best 2015 I’ve tasted, with an uncanny combination of silkiness and proportionality that effectively disguises the fact that it is actually a big, concentrated, powerful wine.  Wine descriptors are all just analogies, so bear with me while I note that it is essentially impossible for a human being to come off as “charming” and “formidable” simultaneously, whereas this wine proves that the combination is no impossibility in the rare realm of truly great Barolo.  Ultra-complex and yet amazingly pure and natural-seeming, this will be expensive, but well worth taking a hammer to your piggy bank.   
99 Michael Franz May 28, 2019

Vietti, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Lazzarito” Serralunga d’Alba 2016 ($200):  In the 2015 vintage, I thought “Ravera” from Novello was Vietti’s best bottling (and my “Wine of the Year” for all of 2019), but this Lazzarito is my pick from 2016.  It is breathtakingly impressive, with an almost eerie combination of power and grace.  For example, it is hugely flavorful but not huge, really being just medium-bodied.  Similarly, it carries loads of tannin, but so fine-grained that there isn’t the slightest sensory astringency, even at the end of the finish.  The proportions of everything seem unquestionable, and the integration of the elements is likewise seemingly perfect:  Acid, fruit, tannin, wood… everything is just right, and everything lets everything else express itself.  Delicious now, but surely even better 25 years from now, this is the kind of wine that can defy belief that such a work of art could result from… grapes.  I may be under-scoring this at 99.  
99 Michael Franz Feb 4, 2020

Pira, Luigi di Gianpaolo Pira, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Margheria” Serralunga d’Alba 2015 ($65):  I can’t lay claim to having tasted every wine made at this estate during the past decade, but I’ve tasted most of them, and this is the best I’ve tasted since the marvelous 2006 “Marenca” (which was among the very best wines made in a great but still un-ready and widely misunderstood vintage).  How am I so sure this 2015 Margheria is a great wine?  Because I tasted it blind immediately following Vietti’s superb 2015 Lazzarito, and this was significantly more impressive…which is really saying something.  It shows truly prodigious size and depth of flavor, yet remains harmonious and even graceful due to the fact that no particular aroma, flavor or structural component pushes out ahead of the others.  The fruit is ripe and wonderfully appealing without seeming obvious; the wood frames and supports the wine without obscuring its fruit, and the tannins lend structure and guts without drying out the finish.  Very competitive in the running for “wine of the vintage,” this doesn’t quite show the effortless, seamless quality of Vietti’s Ravera at this point, but it is a much less expensive wine that is very close in overall quality.  An incredible performance in this vintage.  
98 Michael Franz May 28, 2019

Renato Ratti, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche dell’Annunziata” 2016 ($110):  The bad news is that this wine is now priced near the quality tier on which is sits in the Barolo hierarchy, with top vintages such as 2015 and 2016 selling for over $100 (and for $130 at Zachys in New York, which is usually competitive nationally).  The good news is that both the 2015 and 2016 are fabulous, and still less expensive than some of their quality peers that have a bit more “cult” status.  The ’16 is notably different than its predecessor, with significantly lighter pigment concentration as well as physical density.  However, it would be a very bad mistake to downgrade the wine for those reasons, as it displays absolutely gorgeous aromas with floral notes, woodspice and ripe scents of dried cherries that could hardly be more seductive.  The flavors follow suit, but also add a wonderful savory note recalling cured meat.  In overall profile, this offers an incredibly high ratio of aroma and flavor to weight, and in that respect will remind many tasters more of Grand Cru Burgundy than their stereotypical notion of Barolo.  But make no mistake:  This is truly great Barolo, and a jaw-droppingly beautiful wine.        
98 Michael Franz May 19, 2020

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) Bussia "Bricco Visette" 2015 ($90, Quintessential Wines):  This stylish Barolo continues to exhibit firm structure four years on and could certainly benefit from additional cellar age.  That said, it is a beautiful expression of Barolo from the white tufa Bussia district.  Though firm, the tannins are polished and trending toward supple at this stage.  On the palate the wine shows notes of black truffle, dark cherry and wood spice.  The finish is long and dazzling.   
97 Robert Whitley Dec 10, 2019

Bruno Giacosa, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Falletto” 2012 ($250, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Massive, high-toned, cherry and blueberry fruit aromas are joined by an intriguing brushy note.  The structure is what you'd expect from a wine of this pedigree, and it's incredibly tight on the palate now.  That said, it's destined for real elegance.  I'm not in the habit of dropping 100 points on a wine, but this is one of the few future candidates that I've come across.  I'll get back to you in about ten years if I get the chance.  Wow!
97 Rich Cook Oct 4, 2016

E. Pira – Chiara Boschis, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Mosconi” Monforte d’Alba 2015 ($110):  This is clearly the best of all the wines I’ve tasted from Monforte in this vintage, and though it comes off as quite overt and modern in profile, I find it difficult to believe that anyone who loves Barolo wouldn’t adore it regardless of their particular stylistic preferences.  I tasted it several times before and after several other wines, and was struck by different aspects in these multiple encounters, but every aspect was appealing and every encounter was immensely pleasurable.  For example, my initial note emphasized its extremely expressive and alluring fruit aromas, with oak seeming very restrained in relative terms, though I later found a lot of vanilla scents that didn’t jibe with my first sniffs, but still seemed lovely in relation to the wine’s other aromatic components.  Dark and dense in appearance, with so much open, seductive appeal that it provides a completely enveloping experience, this is a marvelous fleshpot of a wine.  Yikes!   
97 Michael Franz May 28, 2019

Ettore Germano, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Cerretta” Serralunga d’Alba 2016 ($70):  This is an already-superb house that still seems to get stronger with each passing vintage, and here’s a fabulous case in point.  Fresh and pretty in line with the vintage, but also with prodigious depth and power as expected from Serralunga, this is an obviously great 2016 Barolo.  It isn’t weighty, but the depth of flavor seems almost bottomless.  Similarly, it is quite expressive and complex, but there’s really nothing “showy” about it.  Rather, its excellence seems “effortless,” a term that reappears frequently in my raw notes from blind tasting the top 2016s.  A wine of great beauty, but of the classiest sort… as in Grace Kelly beauty.     
97 Michael Franz Feb 4, 2020

Abrigo Fratelli, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Ravera” 2016 ($60):  Abrigo is a fairly common family name around Alba, and I have no direct experience at this house, though this exceptional wine from the great cru of Ravera makes me determined to change that.  Ravera is rapidly becoming one of the most highly esteemed vineyards in all of Barolo, and in 2016, all six renditions that were included in the Nebbiolo Prima blind tastings were excellent, scoring at least 93 points in my assessments.  Only 333 cases of this were produced, so you’ll need to be lucky to find it at all, but it is well worth a search.  A billowing, dramatic bouquet is entirely arresting, and the wine follows through brilliantly on the palate with intense flavor impact.  Most impressively, though, it provides layers of intense flavor without ever teetering from its near-perfect balance nor showing anything short of impeccable grace.  My raw note ends with the words, “bloody impressive.”    
96 Michael Franz May 26, 2020

Attilio Ghisolfi, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) Bussia “Bricco Visette” 2015 ($90, Quintessential Wines):  Another standout wine from this producer, with the stuffing to age longer than I likely will.  Vibrant rose aromas lead off,  with cherry, blueberry, soft brown spice and dry earth aromas turning to flavors that promise future beauty and elegance.  “Bricco Visette” is this producer’s primo plot within the famous cru of Bussia.  Cellar up!  
96 Rich Cook Dec 24, 2019

Aurelio Settimo, Barolo DOCG (Piedmont, Italy) “Rocche dell’Annunziata” 2016 ($58):