With the 2008 PdB Barbaresco available in Australia soon, here was my take on it on a brief visit to the winery in April.

il vino da tavola

Whilst today did not snow, there was a distinct chill in the air and many in the Langhe think it could snow this week. As a type this post, there is loud thunder and threatening clouds in the horizon. It is a good night to be in with my laptop, glass of Barolo and a plate of truffle risotto by my side.

Today I went to Barbaresco to the cellars of Produttori del Barbaresco to meet with Aldo Vacca and try some of my favourite Barbaresco. Whilst I do not import Produttori it is a winery that I always make an appointment and visit when I am in the Langhe. I have a deep rooted respect for the way this coperative does business and treats their growers. It reflects in all the quality of their wines.

The most facinating aspect of todays’ visit was a tour of the new cellar by…

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A week of Sangiovese: Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, Super Tuscans & Brunello di Montalcino

Well sometimes you just have those weeks when you have back to back dinners and because of this, you get to look at some amazing wines. Last week was the case and two of those dinners featured Sangiovese and the best of the best of all styles being made in Tuscany at the moment.

On Monday night, my Italian wine group headed to Mister Bianco to look at Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, so called ‘Super Tuscans’ and Vin Santo. On Thursday, a group of Italian wine lovers went to Scopri with the focus of the dinner being Brunello di Montalcino from the 2004 vintage. Two great dinners, 32 Sangiovese from Tuscany and some pretty amazing food all matched to the wines.

One of the key lessons I learnt from this two dinners is that Sangiovese can be so different depending on the age you drink them and the context as well. Some of the 2010 Chianti Classico’s and 2007 Chianti Riserva’s that I loved at Vinitaly looked all over the shop on Monday night with the biggest crime being way too much oak. As much as I love Chianti Riserva, it almost seems that the person selling oak barrels to Montalcino in the ’90’s has left and moved to Chianti Riserva.

Too many wines showed extreme levels of oak without the fruit intensity to match the oak levels. I must admit to preferring Chianti Classico over Chianti Riserva on the night and those that know my tastes, know how much I love Chianti Riserva. To say I was disappointed is a big understatement and I can’t wait to revisit these wines in five years time to see if the oak has fallen into balance with the fruit. For me, the best wine in this bracket was the 2007 Poggerino Chianti Riserva.

On Monday night, we also looked at some fantastic 100% Sangiovese (but not classified as Chianti Riserva) and also Super Tuscans. These wines looked good with the 2001 Isole e Olena Cepparello and 2001 Percarlo delivering complex wines without the excessive oak of so many Tuscan reds.

It wasn’t the greatest bottle of Cepparello I have had and I think the best Cepparello is still the 1997 or 1999 vintages. Time will tell and to me Cepparello has moved to a slightly more modern style in recent years. I will be interested to see what the 2009 and 2010 Cepparello is like when they land in Australia to see if things are back on top.

Finally on Thursday night we looked at 16 Brunello di Montalcino from the 2004 vintage. Overall the wines showed so well with one of my favourite producers in the world, Fuligni again showing the way with a classical standard 2004 Brunello and an amazing 2004 Riserva. It was a bottle of ’90 Fuligni which made me consider Brunello as one of Italy’s ‘greatest wine styles’ and this dinner again showed why I am now back in love with Brunello.

For me the best Brunello reminds me of Burgundy. They are fragrant, medium red in colour with depth of fruit and velvety tannins that make these wines live for years. It was a stunning dinner with food and wine delivering to the highest standard.

The only disappointment was a slightly corked bottle of 1971 Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino that still had some fantastic fruit lurking below that cork taint.

It will be a quiet week this week and over the next month whilst the craziness that is Christmas descends on everyone.  I can’t wait to jump back into these dinners that highlight certain styles or varieties in early next year.

When is enough enough?

One of the toughest things (and I am not complaining really) is that with Australia being such a young and interesting market for Italian wines, there are still so many producers that are not imported into Australia.

Take a pick from any region and there are still up-and-coming wineries that deserve to have their wines shown in Australia plus those already well established around the world. We have been able to pick up producers like Salvatore Moliettieri from Campania, Roagna from Barbaresco, Castello Monsanto from Tuscany and Passopisciaro from Mount Etna in Sicily just to name a few. These are wineries I think that are as good as any from those regions that were previously imported into Australia.

This is not to say that the importers that have been importing Italian into Australia were not doing a good job. The opposite. Nearly all the importers of Italian wine in Australia that have been importing long term have done an unbelievable job in building the ‘love’ of Italian wine in Australia. As an importer, I owe what I do to these importers. Without them, the reputation of Italian wine in Australia (from the wines and wineries they import) would not be as high as it is today.

If I had to pick one region which has probably been ‘fished out’ then maybe only Tuscany would come to mind. Even in the Langhe where some of the greatest wines of the world are made each year, there is still plenty of amazing producers not imported. You could pick up ten producers of Barolo and Barbaresco and still have room for more. So when do you shut up shop and say I have enough?

For a mid sized company that primarily focuses on the South and parts of the North of Italy, we thought representing twenty wineries was more than enough. Well with the addition of Il  Palazzone in Montalcino mid this year and Il Fatalone from Puglia next year we will break our ‘twenty winery’ rule. Sometimes when something so good comes along, you just can’t pass it up. Hopefully though our portfolio will stay around this size for a few more years and allow us to keep building the names of the wineries we represent in Australia. This is our aim and I think in the last five years we have achieved our aim.

A new month, a new batch of wines arrive in Oz

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Well after a great holiday it was back to reality yesterday with a container waiting at my back door on my first day back.

Whilst I have been away, new wines from a variety of producers have been rolling through the door. It is always a highlight when new release wines from Luca Roagna arrive and last night I opened a bottle of the new Roagna Le Coste Barolo 2007.

This famous vineyard has been making some of the best wines in Barolo for close to one hundred years. Some of the first Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Barolo came from this vineyard and Luca has managed to buy grapes from this plot for the first time.

It is a beautiful wine and I can’t wait to see it develop over the next two decades.

With holidays over, it is going to be a busy month ahead.

Family, sun, surf & Italian beer

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I can’t say that I have drunk a lot of good wine. Most of the restaurants have massive mark ups for some pretty average wines. I did sneak up a couple of bottles of Roagna and Hoddles Creek Chardonnay which will go down a treat when we eat in.

I have however enjoyed spending the daylight hours at the beach, broken up by lunch (typically salad washed down with Italian beer). It is amazing to see my kids grow up and for them, a day at the beach with their family and friends is their idea (and mine) of perfection.
Life is short and time with family is so precious.

There is still lots of stuff happening whilst I have been away. New shipments from Luca Roagna and Salvatore Moliettieri plus heaps of containers full of #realitalianbeer.