Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vinitaly 2009: wine notes (1)

Vinitaly, for those who never heard about it, is the biggest wine fair of Italy (and most likely one of the biggest of the world), an impressive circus that I have been regularly visiting for many years with a spirit sometimes similar to those of the children going to an enormous free playground.
It is, in fact, a much more serious business-oriented event where more than 4000 exhibitors renew their business contracts, present their wines and (for some of them) enjoy discussing about their wines and the passion for producing them.
This year Vinitaly seems to have reached new records, with more than 150.000 visitors (and not all of them wine connoisseurs...I avoid the fair on sunday due to the rough assault of the crowd to the stands) and the atmosphere did not give the impression of being in the middle of an economic crisis.

During my 3-day visit to the fair I moved across the Italian regions and, while I did not even achieve one third of my objectives (every year the same frustration, but also the joy of spending more time discussing longly with great people and tasting some excellent wines), I was still able to have a good overview at the Brunello di Montalcino 2004/Rosso 2007, visiting a good bunch of excellent producers from Friuli, spending some time in Alto Adige, moving across Tuscany, stopping at Zaccagnini a few days before the earthquake hit Abruzzo (and the wine delegation leaves Verona) and finally having a wonderful time tasting all of the wines of Roagna.
The following are the notes taken during these days and put together a couple of weeks after the fair. I have my notes in three parts, the first is focusing on the wines of the North of Italy:
I Clivi. (Friuli) I visited i Clivi on the morning of friday, at my arrival at the fair. I have actually been looking to taste the wines of Ferdinando Zanusso for some time after reading some reports of friends and bloggers. I discovered there that Ferdinando, in addition to being a very friendly and serious producer, has behind him some important experiences, notably as responsible for the World Food Programme in Mogadiscio, a place not suited for the faint of hearth. I Clivi produces two "Friulano" (ex Tocai): Brazan, with grapes of an old vineyard from Cormons and Galea, equally an old vineyard but from the area of Corno di Rosazzo.
I tasted the Brazan 2005 and Galea 2005, both showing a good nose, not explosive but elegant followed by a nice freshness on the palate and medium lenght. Ferdinando let me then try the Galea 1999 and I could appreciate the good evolution of his wines: the 1999 was showing a richer nose, while on the palate there was a higher complexity and structure with very good lenght.
I was also impressed by the quality of the Malvasia 2005, with strong and crispy aromas while showing a good body, with balsamic scents and nice lenght. Next time I will try also their Merlot that was not available at the stand.
Vosca. (Friuli) Francesco Vosca is, like many of the area, is a family run winery, which is producing most of the wines under the D.O.C. Collio and Isonzo and is located in Cormons. His wines are in general rather light in structure but pleasant to drink. I have tasted both the Friulano 2007 and 2008 and I preferred the latter,which, while maintaning a nose of citrus (agrumato) and mango, shows more lenght and body. The same happened with regard to the Malvasia, where I preferred strongly the 2008, showing a pleasant elegance and good acidity. I did not appreciate particularly the Sauvignon 2007 and 2008 that I found a bit unbalanced and green.
Colle Duga. (Friuli) The winery, which is conducted by Damian Princic, is located at Cormons along the Slovenian border. I appreciated particularly: Collio Bianco 2008 (a blend of Friulano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Malvasia which spends a short time in barriques), which opens with elegant exotic fruits (papaya) and has good structure and lenght; Sauvignon 2008, with a good nose of kiwi and explosive in the mouth and good lenght; Merlot 2007, showing a typical earthy nose of marasca cherry with good balanced and lenght. A bit disappointing the Friulano 2008, not particularly expressive and rather short.
Franco Toros. (Friuli) I have been drinking so many times the wines of Franco Toros (including at Vinitaly), one of the best producers of Cormons, that I was rather surprised to find on this occasion that they were not at all ready for being tasted here. It is true, we all know that some of the wines coming to Vinitaly for the tastings are "forced" into the bottle a few days before the fair and this particularly true for the white wines of the harvest preceding the fair (in this case 2008), but this was particularly true for the wines of Franco Toros this year. While I could clearly recognised on the nose the perfumes and aromas that I like so much on his Pinot bianco (one of the best of Italy!), Friulano, Sauvignon and Pinot grigio, I had great difficulties in judging wines that were clearly unbalanced and with an acidic taste due to the recent bottling. I can only note that the Pinot bianco, on the nose, was showing very well with aromas of dried fruits, elegance and good crispness. The Merlot 2004 did not impress me much, not very expressive on the nose and on the palate lacking personality even if very well balanced.
Gigante. (Friuli) The vineyards of Adriano Gigante have an extension of 12 hectares in the area of Corn di Rosazzo (Colli Orientali). I have tasted three Friulano and I have found the 2007 rather "light" and not very expressive, while the 2008, more structured and expressive (notably a nice citrus nose) and in particular the "Storico", showing a very good nose, sligthly "fume".
Le Due Terre. (Friuli) I have to make a mea culpa for having spent so much time to taste the wines of Le Due Terre but I have to admit that I have been lucky to have enjoyed my first time with her. Le Due Terre is a tiny producer (only hectares around the main property) that follows natural winemaking approach which enable them to produce four excellent wines while maintaining very moderate prices.
Their Sacrisassi bianco 2006 (a blend of Friulano "Tocai" and Ribolla Gialla) offers a rich and unctuous nose followed by a strong attach and great lenght and presence. It enjoys 10 days of maceration on the skins and 20 months in used barriques (450 lt). The Pinot nero 2006 is very elegant (with no barnyard notes) with an alcoholic nose ("vinoso"). It is very pleasant on the palate with soft tannins and good lenght. The Merlot 2006 is powerful and slightly tannic, while showing a cherry aromas with the minerality that characterizes typical of the merlot from Friuli. Finally, the Sacrisassi rosso 2006 is the top of their production, very elegant but powerful aromas combined with great structure on the palate and impressive lenght. This is a wine with good aging potential.
Sutor. (Slovenia) What I like about Vinitaly is that when sitting at a stand that is shared among several producers it is often possible to make great discoveries. This is what happened with Sutori, a Slovenian producer that is creating a set of impressive wines. In particular I appreciated the Burja 2007, a blend of Ribolla, Malvasia and riesling where it is possible to identify each varietal aspect, from the aromatic elements of the Malvasia to the freshness of Ribolla and the the typical mineral and hydrocarbons nose of the Riesling. I also tasted the Sauvignon 2006, with good aromatic nose and acidity and the Pinot Nero 2007, the less impressive of the whole set, with a light bitterness.
Primosic. (Friuli) Primosic has been acquiring a certain renown for the great efforts he spent to promote the Ribolla beyond the Friuli. Most recently, he promoted with Porsche a literature prize across Italy. For a Ribolla sympathizer as I am, this effort is extremely welcomed. I like the freshness, lightness and the expression of the poor soil that one can really feel in a glass of ribolla. I tasted both the Ribolla 2008, a good expression of Ribolla, with a clean and fresh nose and good lenght and the Ribolla Riserva 2006, where one feels a slight boise/fume aspect (8 months spent in wood) that I do not associate with the ribolla character. The Klin 2006, a blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ribolla and Picolit shows an expressive and elegant nose of pear and peach. The wine in the mouth is powerful and very long.
Villa Russiz. (Friuli) The performance of the wines of Villa Russiz has been more disappointg than usual. The Friulano 2008 was the best of the three wines that I tasted, showing white flowers but a rather nervous nose, while in the mouth there is a good balance. The Sauvignon 2008 and the Merlot 2007 (the "Sauvignon de la Tour" were not present) were not particularly expressive and in the mouth they were both characterised by a very light structure.
Rottensteiner. (Alto Adige) The Lagrein Riserva 2006 (which is in fact the basic lagrein) is a pleasant but rather simple wine, while the Lagrein Griser Select 2006 is a perfect example of Lagrein at its best, with deep nose of marasca cherry, and a very good taste slightly sweet and juicy with a good body and lenght. The Gewurtztraminer passito 2007 has a good nose of almond, figues and a good balanced sweetness even if not particularly powerful.
Terlano. (Alto Adige) While at the beginning I was planning to try only a bunch of wines (including the Lagrein Porphyr) here, after the as often super quality of the first wines I could not stop. Starting from the Terlaner 2008, a wonderful blend of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and sauvignon, nose exceptionally perfumed and complex and such a freshness, power and lenght in the mouth. Every year I am amazed by the quality of this wine. The good series continue with two more white wines: the Sauvignon Quarz 2008, elegant wine with very good aromas, the Gewurztraminer Lunare 2008, a perfectly balanced wine. And then I tried the Lagrein riserva Gries 2006, showing a good nose of marasca cherry with a good balance and progression in the mouth and the Lagrein Porphyr 2006, a monster of Lagrein, with an impressive, deep nose of riped marasca cherry, while in the mouth the great elegance was perfectly paired by an impressive lenght.
Cantina di Bolzano. (Alto Adige) I quickly tasted the Lagrein taber 2007, with a good nose of black fruits and wild cherry nose. However, the wine was rather short and light in the mouth.
Andriano. (Alto Adige) The Lagrein Tor di Lupo 2006 has a good nose of marasca cherry but does not impress particularly in the mouth and is not very complex.

Les Cretes (Val d'Aosta). Les Cretes is an important reality of the Val D'Aosta and a founder of the Federazione Italiani dei Vignaioli Indipendent (FIVI). The Petite Arvine 2008 has a good floral nose while in the mouth the wine is tangy and with good acidity. The Chardonnay 2008 is very fresh and crispy with a good complexity and lenght. The Cuvee Bois 2006, the most famous wine of Les Cretes, is very impressive, showing structure and lenght well sustained by a perfect acidity. The red wines are not at the level of the white: Pinot Nero 2007, with a good nose of barnyard and small fruits, but a certain bitterness in the mouth; Fumin 2007, with good intense aroma of red fruits but a rather light structure; Torrette 2007, a pleasant wine with good fruit aromas and light structure.