In the company of the Red Shrimp at the edge of Europe – selected Italian wines

Gambero Rosso – the red shrimp – is the name of the inn where Pinocchio once ate supper together with the Fox and the Cat. The inn in the fairy-tale world has given its name to Italy’s most famous wine guide and one of the world’s largest annual wine tastings.

Sixty tasters go through approximately 45,000 wines in May to July each year. They know the vintage and the region, but not the producer. They judge wines on a 100-point scale. All wines that may be 85p, which is 1200-1500 wines, go on to the final in Rome. The blind tested twice and get a final assessment.

For simplicity they translate scores into three groups: one, two or three glasses – bicchieri – meaning good, better or best. All wines with 90p get three cups. The organization also travels around the world to promote Italian wines.

An elegant seafood creation as a starter for lunch

An elegant seafood creation as a starter for lunch, copyright BKWine Photography

Lorenzo Ruggeri, who is one of the leading editors (senior editor), held a very interesting Master Class when the travelling party reached Stockholm. He presented only as an exception wines with three cups – tre bicchieri – and focused more on particularly interesting wines. Probably they adapt what wines to show for each country. It seems likely when four of thirteen wines (31%) were called Amarone at the Sweden-visit. (Ed note: Amarone is amazingly popular in Sweden.)

Compared that to Valpolicella itself (including also other wines than Amarone), that represents one hundredth (1%) of all wine produced in Italy. Approximately 45 million litres are produced each year in the Valpolicella region and throughout Italy they produce 45 million hectolitres of wine. The production of amarone is a quarter of all the Valpolicella wines and therefore 0.25% of the entire Italian production.

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Rubinelli Vajol

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Rubinelli Vajol, copyright BKWine Photography

The wines presented were:

Franciacorta Animante Brut NV, Barone Pizzini

A sparkling wine of 78% chardonnay, 14% pinot noir and pinot blanc 8% in the modern style that has been 27 months on the lees. The aroma has yellow apples, toast and citrus with a fresh and generous taste. The mousse is elegant, although the aftertaste is a bit faded but perfectly acceptable for this price. Approximately 16 EUR

Vermentino Superiore Monteoro 2014, Tenute Sella & Mosca

A difficult vintage in Italy, but good in Sardinia where the wine is made in 140 000 bottles. Delicious aromas of pear, herbs, spices and tutti-frutti with some saltiness and balanced acidity. Long aftertaste that is definitely worth the three glasses it received. Approximately 10 EUR

Chianti Classico 2013, Castello di Volpaia

A young wine with 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot aged in second use barrels. Surprisingly complex aromas of cherry, violets, herbs with some volatility, barely medium-bodied with good astringency and acidity. Approximately 10 EUR

Gambero Rossi tasting

Gambero Rossi tasting, copyright M Karlin

Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Lanciola

The wine is made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo and aged for 12 months in large barrels, 12 months in new French barriques and 12 months in steel tanks. Fine aromas of sweet cherries, liquorice, herbs and tobacco with medium full body, nicely integrated tannins and supple acidity. A very fine wine that will be on top in about 3-5 years. Approximately 20 EUR

Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, Badia a Coltibuono

An elegant and classic wine from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Colorino aged in large oak barrels. The 2012 vintage had three bicchieri. Delicate aroma of cherries, cranberries, herbs with a slight volatility, tight and astringent taste with mild oak notes. Will no doubt keep 5-15 years. Approximately 25 EUR

Bolgheri Superiore 2012, Castello di Bolgheri

A cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, that spent 46 months in barrels and was awarded three glasses. Elegant and complex aroma of red fruits, plums, spices, old leaves (underbrush) and barrel with a good balance between acidity and astringency, will be at its best in 5-15 years. Approximately 35 EUR

Taurasi Fatica Contadina 2010, Terredora di Paolo

100% Aglianico as is customary in Campania. The wine has spent 18 months in barrique, 12 months in large barrels and 8 months in the bottle before it was released for sale. A restrained aroma of dark fruits, blueberries, rosehips and leather with a still young astringency and an acidity that makes the wine likely to improve over ten years. Approximately 25 EUR

Gambero Rossi tasting

Gambero Rossi tasting, copyright M Karlin

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Jago 2012, Villa Spinosa

A fresh cherry aroma with red currants and hints of cinnamon. Medium bodied with good structure and acidity, the best balance of all Ripasso wines that I have tasted, unusually affordable. The wine was released to the market six months ago. Approximately 10 EUR

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012, Farina

Some of the grapes are harvested green and some are harvested ripe. The wine is then aged in French oak for six months and 18 months in large barrels. The aroma is intriguing with roses, rose hips, sweet cherry with some volatility. Soft taste in the mouth with good bite from the acidity and not as full-bodied as expected. Approximately 20 EUR

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2011, Rubinelli Vajol

It has been aged for 24 months in 3000 l barrels. Powerful aromas of very sweet cherries, raisins, herbs and caramel. The taste is concentrated, a certain bitterness and acidity that refreshes. Here we begin to approach the limit of what I can tolerate in terms of Amarone, but it is firmly on the right side of the border. Approximately 35 EUR

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010, Buglioni

Lovely cherry aroma with cocoa and herbs, otherwise a rather sweet nose. Concentrated flavours with both bitterness and sweetness in combination, somewhat mass-market in style. Approximately 40 EUR

Guerrieri Rizzardi in Bardolino and Valpolicella

Guerrieri Rizzardi in Bardolino and Valpolicella, copyright BKWine Photography

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Villa Rizzardi 2009, Guerrieri Rizzardi

Great aroma of quite acidic (!) cherries, red berries, raisins and herbs. Fine, concentrated flavour with some bitter alcohol notes, very typical Amarone. Approximately 60 EUR

Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé 2013, Donnafugata

A Sicilian dessert wine made on moscato or Muscat of Alexandria with 200 grams of sugar per litre. Wonderfully rich and full-bodied aroma of orange peel, apricot, honey, peach preserves and dried figs. Interesting whiffs of flint smoke. The wine can be an excellent dessert in itself, a worthy conclusion to an interesting tasting. Approximately 65 EUR

It is of course interesting to taste four different Amarone wines of high quality, but it feels as if it is an adaptation to the local market in Sweden. It is certainly understandable that the Gambero Rosso also has half an eye to the commercial side of Italian wine production. However, it was a relief to not be exposed to the semi-dry / semi-sweet Italian red wines (table wines) currently that currently have a large part of the Swedish wine market.

Changes in the market that one might have highlighted a bit more is that the wines of southern Italy are improving and that Italy produces more and more organic wines. And where were the fine white wines which admittedly are rare but are also present in Italy?

On the whole it was a nice and interesting tasting where the dessert wine and the only (dry) white present still wine surprised very positively, while Tuscany consolidated its position as a region that produces many fine wines that go well with almost any food that is suitable for red wine.

If you have no idea which wine that would go well to a dish, a good option is to take a decent Chianti. It will in any case never go wrong. Believe me, please.

Mikael Karlin writes för BKWine Magazine on wine tastings and wine events in Sweden.

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This post is also available in: Swedish

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