Arnaldo-Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 2001

85 points

Montefalco, Italy. 14.5%

I discovered Sangrantino di Montefalco, made from the grape Sangrantino, quite a few years ago when staying in a little Umbrian village Todi, where it was the local wine – and practically the only one available. Back then it was unknown to the outside world, but got discovered shortly afterwards and I saw bottles in the US and Singapore.

It’s always a rich wine, of robust alcohol 13.5-14.5 but clearly there has been international, particularly US influence. This is pretty extracted, high octane, heavily oaked. Not a charming wine. Beats up my tongue.

It’s intense. I think there is quite a lot in this wine, maybe time will work wonders though at 12 years old it’s hardly blossoming. Breathe for a good hour.

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Isole e Olena Cepparello 2005

86 points

This Tuscan wine has nice weight, doesn’t seem 14% alcohol.

Unfortunately the oak is over-the-top. Dry sawdusty, not sweet. Like chewing on a plank. Oak and fruit tannins coat the mouth, though this aftertaste is quite grapey.

Still, disappointing.

Needs food. And age…. but will it ever come right?

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Brezza Barolo 2001

89 points

Piedmont, Italy. 13.5%

Very developed for its eight years, although it was bought off retail shelves, or maybe Nebbiolo browns quickly and picks up oxygen. Anyway it was still enjoyable, quite fascinating. Soft yet with very interesting summer fruit-like acid finish. Quite complex. I have had very little Barolo in my life – I’m now motivated to buy more.

Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 1996

86 points

Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy. 13.5%

Bought off retail shelves in 2007 which explains the excessive oxidation for a 12 year old wine.  But the fruit is still there, sweet and slightly caramel, perhaps due to the oxidation.  Grapey acidity keeps the wine alive, very much an Italian (and Nebbiolo) character.

Not worth the money, but interesting.

Vagnoni Vernaccia Di San Gimignano 2005

89 points

Vernaccia Di San Gimignano, Toscana, Italy.  13.5%

A region (and grape by the same name) that I have not heard of.  So this is a very pleasant introduction.  Flavoursome with a nice seam of acidity – great finish.

The Oxford Companion to Wine (by Jancis Robinson) says that DOCG status was awarded in 1993 though there are records of wine in this appellation in 1276.  She describes the white wine “at its best, the wine has a crisp, refreshing quality and an attractivenly bitter finish”.  I think Jancis needs to lift her expectation for this region going by this particular bottle.

Great to see serious winemaking attention going to these unique local grape varieties.

Pio Cesare Barolo 1999

85 points
Barolo, Italy.

Warm soft, somewhat spicy. Pleasant but disappointing for a Barolo, expensive as always. I think this highlights the dangers of buying aged wines off retail shelves, they often seem to have the stuffing knocked out of them.

Rocca Di Fabbri Sagratino de Montefalco 2002

90 points

Montefalco (near Todi), Umbria, Italy. 13.5%

A bit of a rare wine, from a single grape variety. We discovered these wines when staying in Todi more than 10 years ago, it was unheard of then, and cheap. Not anymore. I recently had one that was alcoholic, very extracted and oaked up (Parkerised as they say) but this is seriously savoury, perhaps reflecting the difficult vintage.

Italian wine often is very grapey, in a grape skin slightly bitter way. This is quite extreme bringing grape pips even to mind. Rounded out a tad by the neutral French oak. Very grippy tannin finish. Needs food, and excellent with food. Very good wine from a poor vintage.

Brezza Stanta Rosalia Nebbiolo D’Alba 2001

88 points

Piedmont, Italy. 13.5% A$35

Striking interesting wine. Like a pinot noir structure wise, but with herb flavours dominating the finish – definitely not pinot. Marred by a bit of oxidation, signs of travel and storage (this was bought off the shelf).

Overall an interesting and enjoyable wine, with flavours unlike anywhere else in the world.

Italian tasting review

Guicciardini Strozzi Chianti 2003
72 points
12% A$19 one litre bottle

This was bought purely for the bottle, so we can stick a candle in it and pretend we are in an old-fashioned Italian cafe. I expected a thin poor wine, but it was quite dark and full (the 2003 vintage effect I guess), with some Brett, oxidation, and rather unpleasant acids. You’d need pretty distracting food to drink much of this.

Guerrieri Rizzardi “pojega” Valpolicella Superiore 2001
78 points.
12.5% A$25

Light colour, medium bodied, not unattractive wine. Simple. Not for keeping.

Frescabaldi Nipozzano Chianti Reserva 1998
83 points
12.5% A$30

This wine has seen better days. In spite of the decent vintage this wine lacks the stuff to handle the 8 years (and travel). Mind you it was bought of retail shelves (buying older imported wine off retail shelves in Australia is generally a mistake). Half a bottle was left over after dinner – says a lot.

PianCornello Brunello de Montalcino 2001
88 points
14%

Compared to the previous wines this has greater structure, weight of fruit, and oak. The wine is noticeably fresher too, no oxidation, clean clear Sangiovese flavour. With this sort of tight structure and zippy acids I tend to think the wine will live for a long time.

Zilzie Reserve Sangiovese 2002
from King Valley, Victoria, Australia (for comparison)
67 points

Flat dull pruney flavours. Rather disgusting to drink when put against the Tuscan wines. I’m surprised I remember this as much fresher and fruiter (when younger of course).

Arnaldo-Caprai “Collepiano” Sangratino di Montefalco 2000
84 points
14% A$70

I was very impressed with these wines 11 years ago when staying in Todi, Umbria. Made from the Sangratino grape which gives bright dark wines with considerable fruit, with chewy grapey tannins. Compared to the other wines this is far more concentrated (extracted ?) with noticeable alcohol, bold acid, tannin and whopping amount of new oak. It’s bold impressive wine, seemingly only a couple of years old (not 6). For long aging. But now I really didn’t like it.

I suspect that now that Sangratino has been discovered and money is pouring in (the wines are very expensive now) winemakers are trying out all sorts of modern techniques to make even more impressive wines. Fine for getting attention at wineshows, not good for the dinner table.