Italian wine reviews (tasted through June 2017)

Check out my latest reviews (216 wines): Barolo, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbaresco and more

blind tasting Kerin O'Keefe

Alto Piemonte: the “Other” Nebbiolo

© Kerin O'Keefe | Christoph Kunzli of Le Piane in his vineyard in Boca
© Kerin O’Keefe | Christoph Kunzli of Le Piane in his vineyard in Boca

If you’re a fan of Nebbiolo – the sole grape behind Barolo and Barbaresco – you’ll love the radiant, mineral-driven Nebbiolos and Nebbiolo-based offerings from Alto Piemonte.

© Paolo Tenti | Cinzia Travaglini in one of her vineyards in Gattinara
© Paolo Tenti | Cinzia Travaglini in one of her vineyards in Gattinara

Vibrant and loaded with finesse, the best are drop-dead gorgeous, possessing age-worthy structures and impeccable balance. And if warmer temperatures and drier summers are pushing alcohol levels to the extreme in other areas, vineyard altitudes, cooler temperatures and highly acidic soils in Alto Piemonte make it rare to find wines above 14% abv.

© Kerin O'Keefe | Paolo De Marchi with some of his Proprietà Sperino bottles
© Kerin O’Keefe | Paolo De Marchi with some of his Proprietà Sperino bottles

Located at the foothills of the northern Piedmont Alps, the most exciting wines come from five small growing areas: Lessona, Gattinara, Ghemme, Boca and Bramaterra that lend their names to the wines.

 

 

A bottle of 1921 Lessona Sella, tasted during a Master Class at Vinitaly 2017
A bottle of 1921 Lessona Sella, tasted during a Master Class at Vinitaly 2017

The wines are steeped in history: in the late 1800s, Alto Piemonte boasted almost 45,000 hectares (111,197 acres) of vineyards, most of them now long gone. Reds made with Nebbiolo (locally called Spanna) – often blended with other local grapes, like Vespolina and Uva Rara – were already imported to the US in the latter half of the 19th century, decades before anyone had heard of Barolo or Barbaresco.

© Kerin O'Keefe | large Slavonian casks at Proprietà Sperino
© Kerin O’Keefe | Large Slavonian casks at Proprietà Sperino

 Then, in the early 1900s, after outbreaks of devastating vine diseases and a catastrophic hailstorm in 1905 destroyed entire vineyards, growers abandoned agriculture en masse to work in the booming textile mills in the nearby city of Biella.

Thanks to a few brave producers, Alto Piemonte is now undergoing a full-blown Renaissance.

 

Read the full article here: http://www.winemag.com/2017/05/08/learn-about-italys-secret-nebbiolos/

Italian wine reviews (tasted through May 2017)

Check out my latest reviews (135 wines): Lugana, Collio, Isonzo, Etna, Puglia and more

blind tasting Kerin O'Keefe

Italian wine reviews (tasted through April 2017)

Check out my latest reviews (226 wines): Lugana, Collio, Soave, Taurasi, Aglianico, Fiano, Greco, Falanghina and more

blind tasting Kerin O'Keefe

Italian wine reviews (tasted through February 2017)

Check out my latest reviews (282 wines): Brunello di Montalcino, Alto Adige, Soave and more

blind tasting Kerin O'Keefe

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Reclaiming Its Throne

After years of challenges Vino Nobile is finally regaining its lofty reputation.

If you haven’t tried Vino Nobile di Montepulciano lately, you’re missing out on the return of an Italian classic. While it’s still a work in progress, the last few vintages have revealed a steady rise throughout the denomination of more polished, terroir-driven wines that boast aging potential and pedigree. And the best part? With few exceptions, Vino Nobile still costs way less than most other Tuscan wines at this quality level.

As the latest releases prove, Vino Nobile estates are finding their groove. Many producers have cut back on or abandoned Cabernet and Merlot and are returning to native grapes Canaiolo, Colorino and Mammolo to blend in with Sangiovese. Still others are using exclusively Sangiovese, known locally as Prugnolo Gentile. Better Sangiovese clones and more sustainable viticulture have had a big impact on quality while producers who have stepped back from less invasive cellar techniques are generating wines with more character and elegance.

Read the article: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Reclaiming Its Throne

 Check out my Vino Nobile di Montepulciano reviews

Italian wine reviews (tasted through December 2016)

Check out my latest reviews (367 wines): Bolgheri, Toscana IGT, Morellino di Scansano, Montecucco and more

Top 12 Wines of the Month

Tenuta San Guido 2013 Bolgheri Sassicaia 98 Points Cellar Selection

Castello dei Rampolla 2012 Vigna d’Alceo (Toscana) 95 Points Cellar Selection

2012 Brunello: a return to finesse and age-worthy structure

If you love wines with elegance, fragrance and longevity, then you’ll love the just-released 2012 Brunellos. And even though I’m one of the biggest critics of the Consorzio’s Brunello vintage classifications (I find most vintages have been overrated), when it comes to 2012’s five-star rating, I completely I agree.

Defying the intense heat of the growing season, many 2012s have the vibrancy usually found in cooler vintages. They boast juicy red berry fruit, noble tannins and impeccable balance that will allow them to age well for years. Out of the 140 Brunello 2012s I tasted so far, I rated 88 wines 90 points or more, with 20 of these getting 94 points or higher. I was pleasantly surprised to see a return to finesse, enticing aromas and generally lower alcohol levels when compared to other recent releases.

The 2012s even have more consistent quality across the denomination than the highly acclaimed 2010s. The latter were a mixed bag divided between majestic wines boasting structure and finesse, and subpar wines marred by low acidity, cooked fruit and alcohol of 15% abv or more.

Quality is more uniform in 2012, but in terms of weather, 2012 was an undeniably difficult year. Unstable conditions included a cold, wet winter and an extremely hot, dry summer marked by late rains. But the extended heat wave was gentler on the grapes than the turbulent temperature changes of other past vintages.

Read more here: 2012 Brunello: a return to finesse and age-worthy structure

Here you find the full reviews: 2012 Brunello di Montalcino reviews by Kerin O’Keefe

Sicily: wine-lover’s paradise

Sunny Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, sits just off the tip of the boot-shaped peninsula of Italy. Dotted with ancient Greek temples and Norman cathedrals built by former invaders, the island has a rich history and multifaceted cultural legacy.

Ruins and columns of antique Greek theater in Taormina and Mount Etna in the background. Sicily ; Shutterstock ID 519852616

It also boasts miles of pristine beaches, breathtaking scenery and the highest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna.

On top of those wonders, Sicily makes fantastic wines from native and international grapes. It produces everything from full-bodied reds to vibrant, mineral-driven whites. Pair them with the fantastic local cuisine, and you understand why this is a wine-lover’s paradise.

Read the article: Sicily: wine-lover’s paradise

Italian wine reviews (tasted through November 2016)

Check out my latest reviews (167 wines): Lessona, Boca, Gattinara, Bramaterra, Ghemme, Valtellina and more

Top 10 Wines of the Month

Proprietà Sperino 2011 Lessona, 96 Points, Cellar Selection

Arpepe 2007 Sassella Vigna Regina Riserva Valtellina Superiore, 96 Points, Cellar Selection

Colombera & Garella 2013 Lessona, 96 Points, Editors’ Choice

Gaja 2013 Barbaresco, 96 Points, Cellar Selection

Le Piane 2009 Boca, 95 Points, Editors’ Choice

Gaja 2013 Costa Russi Barbaresco, 95 Points, Cellar Selection

Nino Negri 2013 5 Stelle Sforzato di Valtellina, 95 Points, Cellar Selection

Germano Ettore 2012 Prapò Barolo, 94 Points

Germano Ettore 2010 Lazzarito Riserva Barolo, 94 Points, Cellar Selection

Anzivino 2010 Gattinara, 93 Points, Cellar Selection