I had the great pleasure and honour of being invited as an expert judge for the seventh edition of the Radici del Sud wine festival, which took place at the formidable Borgo Egnazia resort (http://www.borgoegnazia.com/#/en/) in Savelletri di Fasano, Apulia, from 7 through 11 June 2012.
Just a bit of history to begin with: Radici del Sud – “Roots of the South” – is the brain child of the wonderful Nicola Campanile, Apulian enogastronomic events organizer (and much more) extraordinaire.
The festival started out in 2006, originally to showcase Apulian wines made exclusively from indigenous grape varieties, but this first edition was such a success that it has subsequently prompted a gradual increase of scope as well as the enrollment of Italian wine writing luminaries Franco Ziliani and Luciano Pignataro (see links) as part of the organizing committee. By now, Radici del Sud encompasses the regions Apulia, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria and Sicily, still with a large showing by Apulian producers. The concept remains strictly focussed on indigenous grape varieties, a wonderful and much endearing quality to me.
Wines entered in the competition were judged simultaneously by two juries. One jury – to which I belonged – was labelled alternatively “international” or “expert” and consisted of a number of non-Italian wine importers and writers, with the addition of the Apulian wine hero Pasquale “Lino” Carparelli of Azienda Agricola I Pastini (whose wines, sadly, as a consequence could not be entered in the competition) and Angelo Peretti, noted Italian wine and gastronomy writer and president of the Bardolino Consortium. The other jury was labelled alternatively “national” or “the passionates” and consisted of mainly southern Italian wine and food writers and restaurateurs. For a full list of the participants and a deeper description of the proceedings, turn to http://www.radiciwines.com/.
The 2012 version of the event started out with two days of one-on-one meetings between the jury members and a number of the participating wine producers. Two and a half days of blind tastings of the 222 competing wines then followed, with the wines split into 17 categories. The evenings alternated between excursions to wine producers and restaurants and more quiet dinners at the resort. On the evening of 11 June 2012 the winners and runners-up within each category were announced, and an almighty party followed, to which many Facebook and other pictures and posts bear subsequent evidence.
Wines were scored on a 100-point scale and emphasis was very much on typicity, with a full 18 points available as a top score for this trait; there was discussion as to whether this – to many all-important – trait could in future be given even more prominence, particularly given that the tastings were exclusively of indigenous varieties.
The entire event was carried out with a high level of professionalism, with only few glitches, a notable one being the rather incredible tardiness in bringing my morning coffee on the part of the otherwise professional and courteous resort staff. The jury participants were a wonderfully diverse and interesting lot, and the entire event was carried out on a positive, almost joyous, note, the final evening being particularly noteworthy for its festive mood and happy, humorous energy.
Impressions from one-on-one meetings
You have realized by now, of course, that I am hopelessly biased in favour of southern Italian wines. For years I have been preaching that world-class wines could be found in every corner of the South, and that the reputation for tired and/or bulk wine was – at least in large part – wrong. However, following events such as Radici del Sud, it must now be evident even to the casual observer that fantastic wine from the South is not just the domain of a select few producers, but that there exists an army of high-quality producers with a wide array of great wines. Certain problems do persist, to some extent, such as the continued love affair with exaggerated wood influence in some wines, sometimes rather heavy-handed use of cultured yeasts, and sometimes a tendency towards extraction and power to the detriment of finesse, but even this is criticism on a very high level, and the movement towards greater elegance, complexity and territoriality is very evident throughout.
The initial one-on-one sessions and the evening dinners gave me a wonderful opportunity to hook up with some producers that I had not seen for some time, and also allowed me to meet a good number of producers whose wines I have been admiring, but whom I had not previously met. The best part, however, was encountering new producers whose wines I had not previously seen. One might be surprised (or perhaps even embarassed) that, after years of reasonably frequent travelling in the regions and attending large events such as VinItaly, I can still come across a goodly number of high-quality producers whose wines I have not tried. I choose to take the positive angle, though, and say that this is due to the explosion of good new wine producers, or indeed the much-improved winemaking practices of existing-but-previously-considered-uninteresting producers, everywhere in the South. So while I am confidently preaching about the high level of the wines today, I am still in no doubt that we will see even greater wines from an even greater array of producers in the future. So get on the bus or get left behind.
In no particular order, the following sets out – in a very brief manner – my highlights of the first two days. For reasons of space, proper tasting notes of a fuller line-up of producers will have to follow in later posts.
Aziende Agricole Tamburello (www.aziendetamburello.it): This small, organic producer out of Sicily was new to me. I was deeply impressed with the lovely, sappy, light, fresh, elegant and minerally 100% nero d’avola called Dagala. The web site will tell you it is 20% cabernet sauvignon, but apparently recent versions do not contain any of this, the pest of the wine world. This very terroir- and minerals-driven style of nero d’avola ought to be the way ahead for this interesting variety, if you ask me. Enough of the ballbuster extraction and wood notes of the style so prevalent today.
Azienda Agricola Morella (www.morellavini.com): This producer is not new to me, but I had not yet encountered its co-proprietor and winemaker, Australian-born Lisa Gilbee. Lisa turned out to be a wonderful personality with firmness of intent, yet a searching, curious mindset and laid-back subtle humour. Great wines out of Manduria, Apulia, in particular a juicy, highly drinkable primitivo/malbek (sic) blend as well as the two large Primitivo di Manduria wines of La Signora and Old Vines. The 2008 version of the latter impressed me deeply with its combination of power, aromatic intensity, firmness, minerality and fruity elegance.
Du Cropio (www.viniducropio.it): This was my first encounter with outspoken, confident proprietor Vincenzo Ippolito, whose vineyards are exclusively located in the hillier, slightly cooler subzones of the Calabrian Cirò denomination. This is now my new benchmark for Cirò, with red wines that in my opinion are streets ahead of other Cirò reds in terms of both varietal character, terroir definition, firmness and freshness. It all boils down to superior gaglioppo clonal selection, good vineyard sites and great attention in vineyard and cellar. It apparently is always that simple.
Pietraventosa (www.pietraventosa.it): The lively, energetic owner of this small property, Marianna Annio, really has something to boast about. Her property is among the forefront of an amazing reawakening of winemaking in the comparatively cool, windy and rocky (hence the name of this property, which translates to “windy rock”) Gioia del Colle area of Apulia, and she has shot to comparative fame in a very short space of time. Compared to many other primitivo wines from Apulia, her wines are quite firm and fresh, relatively low in alcohol, with lots of good berry fruitiness and juiciness, high minerality and intensity, while maintaining instant primitivo recognizability. Primitivo of the highest order, in short, even if the Riserva can have a bit too much wood..
Azienda Agricola Guastaferro (www.guastaferro.it): This producer was new to me. Proprietor Raffaele Guastaferro produces a small range of wines in the Taurasi area of Campania, but had chosen to show only his Taurasi Riserva “Primum” in vintages 2003 and 2006. This wine hails from a reportedly 150-years-old vineyard in the actual comune of Taurasi, and the age of the vines shines through, with very strong and typical aglianico aromas and powerful terroir markers. Powerful, intense, hugely but warmly tannic, yet very minerally and elegant, these wines take no prisoners. A real find for me, this producer.
Michele Biancardi (www.michelebiancardi.it): Another new face for me, this young, dynamic producer makes wines from his own vineyards in the northern Apulian Cerignola area. This area used to be famous for its wines, but little of the former glory has been apparent until recently (see also Podere 29 further down). Michele makes a lovely, fragrant and minerally minutolo, and a small range of other good wines. The real eye-opener here, though, is a pure nero di troia called Mille Ceppi aged for 8 months in terracotta amphorae. Nero di troia is a difficult grape variety, which combines enormous colour with small berry fruitiness, juiciness and hefty tannins. In recent years it has been common among producers of nero di troia wines to try and soften the tannins by using barriques, but this has two obvious drawbacks: Wood flavours often become very prominent and the barriques add their own tannins. The Mille Ceppi is a lovely wine that maintains a pure and fresh nero di troia fruitiness and minerality while having relatively (and I do mean relatively) soft, round, gentle tannins; no wood flavours! I think I have glimpsed the future of nero di troia.
I Pastini (www.ipastini.it): Lino Carparelli owns this estate together with his brother. Lino is virtually single-handedly responsible for several enological breakthroughs in Apulia, including the first pure nero di troia-wine (Torrevento’s Vigna Pedale) and the rediscovery of several forgotten indigenous white wine varieties, minutolo in particular. I Pastini is that exceedingly rare thing in Apulia, a predominantly white wine producer. We had the privilege of visiting I Pastini’s vineyards and listening to the maestro himself. The wines are well-known to me, but when tasted again they confirmed just how far Lino is ahead of the rest of the Apulian game in white wine terms, with wines of uncommon finesse, great varietal character, elegance, consistency and minerality. His pure minutolo, Rampone, deserves special mention – it is still the best minutolo out there by a long shot. A tank sample of an unfiltered, unsulphured 2010 Gioia del Colle Primitivo was delicious, big, with a fragrant, juicy fruit sweetness of great intensity and length. It seems obvious that the previously highly technologically oriented Lino has now embraced the life of a vigneron with a vengeance, and that the main focus these days is varietal and territorial expression, as it arrives from the vineyard. Amazingly, Lino, with a wealth of years and experience, and after so many achievements already under his belt, has embarked on a truly transformational road. Praise is due indeed.
Tenuta Sarno 1860 (www.tenutasarno1860.it): This tiny two-hectare Campanian estate has taken the amazing and courageous decision of making one single wine, a Fiano di Avellino, from a special site in the middle of a large park and at a level of 600 metres above the sea. The resulting wine has strong varietal character towards the citrussy, and a very marked minerality. Fascinating, lovely wine.
Podere 29 (www.gelsonero.it): This young Apulian producer in the vicinity of Cerignola started out as late as 2004 and by now makes three wines. The white wine, Gelso Bianco, is a fresh, minerally 100% minutolo, while the two red wines as far as I have understood are essentially the same wine, from 100% nero di troia, the difference being wood ageing. The non-wooded Gelso Nero is clearly the better of the two for me, with lovely berry juiciness, good intensity, very balanced tannins and a bit of that geranium spiciness that is so typical and delicious of the variety. For me, the wood-aged Gelso d’Oro has its typicity and juiciness muted by unwelcome wood influence, but there is no arguing that the wine is very well made, and it may even appeal more to the international palate.
Cantina del Barone (www.cantinadelbarone.it): This tiny Campanian producer showed only two Fiano di Avellino wines at the one-on-one event. Both wines were extremely interesting, being partially fermented on the skins and with no sulphur added, which accentuated the mineral and fruity aspects of the wonderful fiano variety. Lovely, concentrated, sappy, food-friendly wines, with a slight bitterness, that I would expect to do badly at a blind tasting, because you need to understand how they came about. Definitely a producer to watch out for. I am not normally in the business of commenting on labels and web sites, which I leave to the people who actually have to sell wines to consumers, but I really dislike the labels here, which seem to try to perpetuate some sort of bucolic myth of disorderly but cosy Italian peasantry, when the wines are in fact bang-up-to-date and very serious. The web site is all but devoid of content. A shame, really, for these wines deserve wide distribution, and would for instance be very welcome at the New Nordic table.
Cardone Vini Classici (www.cardonevini.it): An established Apulian producer, which has gone from strength to strength recently. Despite a range that is probably a bit too wide, the best wines here are really good, lead by the delicious, quite weighty, yet fresh, flowery, appley and minerally Locorotondo Il Castillo – among the top-two of its kind right now – and a fruity, juicy, highly drinkable and only marginally-too-oaky primitivo called Primaio. The wood-aged primitivo called Euclide, while concentrated and minerally, simply has too much oak for me.
Vinicola Savese/Pichierri (www.vinipichierri.com): For decades, the Pichierri family of Sava were the only quality producer in the Apulian Manduria denomination, and while recent developments have seen a number of very good producers shoot to comparatively greater current fame, the Pichierris have continued producing their traditional wines in the time-honoured fashion. This basically means low yields, late harvest and very traditional, slightly oxidative winemaking. The resulting wines are fantastic, with raisiny, meaty and spicy aromas, and carry a slight whiff of volatile acidity with aplomb, because they are simply so concentrated. I fear that this style of winemaking, which is most certainly extremely valid, and which has historical and current kin throughout the Mediterranean, is going out of favour due to a shortsighted and history-less focus on banal fruitiness on the part of writers and non-critical audience. On the other hand, the wines are so good that if the Pichierris weren’t making them, someone else would have to invent them. My particular highlight was the Dolce Naturale Passione 2003, a hugely complex and intense effort, but the entire range is very valid. (Note that if the methods employed were used on other than the highest quality grape material, the resulting wines would be awful; don’t let my enthusiasm tempt the less than extremely scrupulous into trying this on.)
Porta del Vento (www.portadelvento.it): This small Sicilian producer was new to me. Sited in western Sicily, at an altitude of some 600 metres, they produce wines from cataratto, perricone and nero d’avola, although they only brought the latter for the competition. The vineyards are managed biodynamically, and the wines are made with little manipulation, little or no sulphur and no new wood. Low alcohol levels are maintained throughout. The cataratto was amazingly fresh, steely and minerally, a lovely glass, while the Maquè rosé made from 100% perricone was redolent of small, light red berries, with wonderful freshness, sapidity/juiciness and minerality. The Maquè Perricone red from 100% perricone had lovely fresh, juicy dark berries and very interesting spicy and herbal aromas with lots of minerality. The wines have a real sense of place, while remaining fresh and highly drinkable.
Masseria l’Astore (www.lastoremasseria.it): Having disengaged themselves from a well-known consultant with a penchant for much new wood, this Apulian property is now on the road towards making the new breed of negroamaro wines. I still think there is a bit too much of the new oak in their top wines, but the sheer quality of the raw materials in their large Alberelli di Negroamaro, made from 100% negroamaro from vines planted in 1947, shines through, giving a wine of modern firmness and freshness, yet with lovely varietal aromas of small dark berries, spices and bakelite + that tell-tale Salento old-vines minerality. If we could get rid of slightly obvious oak, this for me points the way towards the future of negroamaro for those who want to move away from the glories of perhaps more old-fashioned wines in the style pioneered by Severino Garofano. Not that they necessarily need to, but there may be a perceived need in that old monster, the market. L’Astore also make a lovely, charming, fresh and minerally malvasia bianca called Krita.
Calafè/Petrillo (www.calafe.it): The Petrillo family started bottling wine from this Campanian estate in the late 90’ies. Wines are made from greco and aglianico, from vineyards at altitude and with low yields. The style is deliberately slim and with little wood in order to let the terroir shine through. The Petrillos believe in the potential longevity of the wines made from these varieties in this location, and so turned up with wines going back 6 years for both the whites and reds. The white Greco di Tufo Aria Vecchia 2006 was particularly impressive, still very young and firm, with lovely, steely fruit and great minerality. The Taurasi 2006 was of a tight, bitter-herbal persuasion, and clearly had the underlying fruit and stuffing to last for another decade or more. These wines are not likely to win blind tastings, but will in time come into their own as products of the terroir, particularly with food. A real discovery.
Azienda Monaci (www.aziendamonaci.com): This is the property of another Apulian wine hero, Severino Garofano, who pioneered modern winemaking practices in Apulia (and Calabria) from the 70’ies onwards, in the process creating such glorious classics as Notarpanaro, Patriglione, Graticciaia and Gravello. There is no exaggerating Garofano’s beneficial influence on southern Italian wine. I first met him at a wine fair in Copenhagen back in the 80’ies and was immediately taken with his combination of erudition, warmth and wily humour (+ lovely wines!). A small book – published in Danish translation only, I believe – on the wines and foods of Apulia, was another wonderful contribution, which by rights should have had a much greater distribution; I am yet to taste gnemerieddu… The property is today extremely ably run by Garofano’s children, Stefano and Renata, and they continue the by now decades-old run of excellence. Their 100% negroamaro rosé called Girofle (the French translation of garofano = cloves) is among the best of an exalted few in the Salento, and therefore in the world. The crowning glory, however, is the Le Braci, a large, intense, but soft and highly complex red with the typical Salentine negroamaro pruney fruitiness, spiciness and minerality, coupled with a balsamic note. Made using Garofano’s trademark deliberately slightly oxidative winemaking (I mean this in the technical sense), but in no way oxidized or tired, this represents the current state of the art in terms of the by now traditional Salento Big Red style. Great wine.
Masseria Aprile (www.masseriaaprile.it): This is not a wine producer but an agriturismo, where we had a lovely time tasting the local gastronomic specialities and the wines of I Pastini. Accommodation here is in old, refurbished trulli, and looks very inviting. This is not a restaurant per se, but the masseria produces many raw materials on its own, and these were also used for our meal. We gorged ourselves on a huge variety of foodstuffs, among which two stood out: The wonderful, very delicately smoked salted and dry-cured neck of pork by the name of Capocollo di Martina Franca, and the very fresh, cucumbery melon that goes by the local name of cucumarazz. Wine merchant Michele Cianciulli, of Campanian stock, found this dialect name so amusing and typical of Apulia that he started a sort of chant: “Azz-azz lu cucumarazz”, and this chant quickly became the most frequently uttered expression for the next 5 days. I’m of a mind to make a t-shirt…
A’ Cr’janz (www.acrianzputignano.it): This is also no wine producer, but a fantastic restaurant, and another wonderful discovery on this trip. It is a tiny place hidden away at the back side of a large house near the town square of the lovely town of Putignano. The food is of the highest order, with simple cooking of absolutely outstanding raw materials, and although this sounds rustic, it is done with such sensitivity and sense of balance and flavour that the food is elevated far beyond this image. An ethereal meal was had, accompanied by lovely wines from a number of Gioia del Colle producers.
Results of the Radici del Sud competition:
The following lists the winners and runners-up within each category and for each jury. Where I have found it appropriate, I attach a few comments, either to the category or the individual wines. My own scores are in parentheses after the wines; note that my scores may seem low compared to many others, and that scores of 90 and above will be very rare indeed. A score of, say, 78 or 79 is a good score in my book, and scores in the 80’ies are reserved for really good wines.
First: Cantine Astroni – Colle imperatrice Falanghina Campi Flegrei 2011 (80)
Shared second: Azienda Agricola Torre del Pagus – Falanghina Taburno 2010 (82)
Contrada Salandra – Falanghina Campi Flegrei 2010 (81)
First: Cantine Astroni – Colle imperatrice Falanghina Campi Flegrei 2011 (80)
Shared second: Cantina del Vesuvio – Mariè Falanghina Pompeiano 2011 (83)
Terra dei Vuttari – Nummus Falanghina Beneventano 2011 (84)
My comment: Reasonable correspondence between the two juries. My own favourite was the wine from Terra dei Vuttari, which to me seemed to be the tighter, more varietal sample.
MIXED GROUP WHITE WINES PUGLIA AND BASILICATA
First: Cardone Vini Classici – Il Castillo 2011 (Locorotondo DOP) (80)
Second: Cantina di Venosa – Dry Muscat 2011 (IGP Bianco Basilicata) (83)
First: Cardone Vini Classici – Il Castillo 2011 (Locorotondo DOP) (80)
Second: Vigne di Rasciatano – Malvasia Bianca 2011 (81)
My comment: Again, reasonable correspondence between the juries. The Il Castillo certainly is a very classy wine and deserves a high score. My personal favourite, however, was the 100% greco Terre Giunchi 2011 from Valentina Passalacqua (84), which had bags of personality and proper varietal character.
WHITE WINES FROM NATIVE GRAPES
First: Azienda Agricola Michele Biancardi – L’Insolito 2011 (IGT Puglia) (78) My comment: I did not score this highest, which – I guess – is to be expected; the subtle, terroir-driven and minerally style here does not lend itself well to blind tastings. The national jury got it right, though.
Shared second: D’Alfonso del Sordo – Catapanus 2011 (IGT Puglia) (76)
Podere 29 – Gelso Bianco 2011 (IGT Puglia) (76) My comment: Same as Biancardi. Also: We may need to get used to the somewhat aromatic character of minutolo.
First: Villa Schinosa – Fiano 2011 (IGT Puglia) (82) My comment: Odd, this, because when I taste Schinosa’s wines open, they seem to bore me, but this was my highest score in the flight.
Second: Candido – Tenuta Marini 2011 (IGT Salento) (80)
Overall comment: Quite a lot of very diverse wines here. Hopefully in future there will be the opportunity to taste at least some of these in categories of their own, in order to level the playing field.
First: Centopassi – Terre rosse di Giabbascio 2011 (IGT Sicilia) (80)
Shared second: Buceci Vini – Cataratto 2011 (IGT Sicilia) (77)
Calatrasi – Terra di Ginestra 2011 (IGP Sicilia) (77)
First: Caruso&Minini – Insula 2011 (IGP Sicilia) (76)
Second: Buceci Vini – Cataratto 2011 (IGT Sicilia) (77)
My comment: Interesting difference between the juries. I have to agree with the national jury, which picked by far the more concentrated and minerally wine.
First: Terre D’Aione – Fiano di Avellino 2011 (80)
Second: Tenuta Cavalier Pepe – Refiano 2011 (79)
First: Feudi di San Gregorio – Fiano 2011 (86)
Second: Tenuta Sarno 1860 – Fiano di Avellino 2010 (83)
My comment: Very marked difference between the juries. It seems to me that the international jury veered towards the slimmer, more minerally wines, while the national jury preferred broader, more woody wines. I would have to side with the international jury here.
ROSE’ WINES FROM NATIVE GRAPES
First: Calò Michele e Figli – Mjere 2011 (80) My comment: This tight, honest rosé is one of my perennial favourites, but apparently does not do it for me when put up against other, larger wines in a blind tasting. Sigh. The nationals got it right, though.
Second: Azienda Monaci – Girofle 2011 (89) My comment: Another perennial favourite, but perhaps here, the slightly more loose style and the delicious berry fruit hit home.
First: Palamà vini del Salento – Metiusco 2011 (90) My comment: Textbook Salento negroamaro rosé. Lovely. But when tasted alongside food with, for instance, Mjère, it did not shine as brightly, being slightly too loose and lacking the tightness and acidic focus. Blind tasting may be touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread, but clearly does not tell the whole story.
Second: Rivera – Pungirosa 2011 (84) My comment: Lovely. I often think bombino nero makes slightly run-of-the-mill rosés, but this one, from the originator of the entire category, simply shone.
Overall comment: It is quite obvious that I really like Apulian rosés, and therefore score them as highly as red and white wines. I do not belong to the community that thinks that rosé wines are frivolous and less worthy. My heart lies with the picks of the national jury, but I have to say that I also rated a number of other wines quite highly, notably Cantina San Donaci’s Anticaia 2011 (87), Libera Terra’s Alberelli de la Santa 2011 (84) and Soloperto’s Negroamaro Rosato 2011 (87). In my defence, I must say that these are all negroamaros from the Salento, and as such the offspring of a world-class family of great rosé wines. A special case must be made for Apollonio’s Diciotto Fanali 2010 (87), which is a negroamaro rosé aged in acacia wood. This forms part of a tiny – but growing – number of wood-aged and very interesting rosés recently pioneered by Rosa del Golfo with their Vigna Mazzì, followed by a similar, but characteristically more brutal, wine from Michele Calò. Those with long memories will of course recall that the original rosés out of Apulia, the one from Rivera, and the original Five Roses from Leone de Castris, were wood-aged, sometimes for long, with the latter one in particular having a reputation for being perhaps the world’s only reallly age-worthy rosé. History repeats itself…
MIXED GROUP RED WINES
First: Azienda Vinicola Albano Carrisi – Platone 2008 (82)
Second: Cantine Paradiso – Terraferma 2010 (84)
First: Azienda Vinicola Albano Carrisi – Platone 2008 (82)
Second: Azienda Agricola Duca Carlo Guarini – Malia 2009 (86)
My comment: One has to acknowledge the quality of the Albano Carrisi wine, but for me this simply has a bit too much oak. The Malìa from Guarini is easily the best pure malvasia nera out there, which marries the typical varietal aromas with a lovely minerality. One wine apparently collectively overlooked is the 100% montepulciano Monte Zero 2011 (82) from naturalist winemaker Valentina Passalacqua. Valentina scored very highly with me with the two wines that she could bring to the competition, so ignore her at your peril.
NERO DI TROIA
First: Azienda Agricola Santa Lucia – Riserva Le More 2008 (78) My comment: This was an odd result. Santa Lucia do not normally make heavily wood-dominated wines, but this one stank of Bounty bar. American oak?
Second: Antica Enotria – Nero di Troia 2009 (84)
First: Cantine Botromagno – Nero di Troia 2008 (87)
Second: Colle Petrito – Iaccio della Portata 2009 (89) My comment: This is great, textbook nero di troia stuff. Easily my best wine of the flight, with beautiful varietal aromas, savoury tannins and that whiff of black olives that I normally associate with Spagnoletti Zeuli’s wines.
Overall comment: There is so much great nero di troia being made these days. Other wines that I liked in this flight: Masseria Duca d’Ascoli Nero di Troia Free 2011 (no sulphur added) (83), Cantina Vignuolo Maniero di Federico 2010 (83), Podere 29 Gelso Nero 2010 (82), Agricola del Sole Jazzo Rosso 2010 (84), Conte Spagnoletti Zeuli Il Rinzacco Riserva 2009 (88) – yes, another perennial favourite does it again in the austere and brutal department, Rivera Violante 2009 (85) – lovely wood-free wine, Villa Schinosa Nero di Troia 2009 (86) – odd how this producer keeps destroying my prejudice, Vigne di Rasciatano Nero di Troia 2009 (86), Cantine Paradiso Angelo Primo 2009 (87) and Cantine Carpentiere Armentario 2006 (88). This was on average the highest-scoring flight for me, even if the very highest scores went to other categories. There is much dependability in nero di troia-land these days.
First: Azienda Monaci – Le Braci 2004 (90)
Second: Conti Zecca – Negroamaro 2009 (80)
First: Azienda Monaci – Le Braci 2004 (90)
Second: Casa Vinicola Apollonio – Divoto 2004 (84)
My comment: A large flight of wines, with fairly even quality throughout. Stylistically, the wines were spread across a spectrum from quite traditional – in the best sense – such as the Le Braci to very modern and heavily wood-influenced, as exemplified by Feudi di San Marzano’s “F” 2009 (82). I also gave good scores to the following wines: Alessandro Carrozzo Carminio 2009 (83), Cantina San Donaci Fulgeo 2008 (84), Castello Monaci Salice Salentino Aiace 2008 (83), Tormaresca Masseria Maìme 2008 (82), Masseria l’Astore Alberelli di Negroamaro 2008 (82), Agricole Vallone Vereto 2007 (82), Candido Cappello di Prete 2007 (85) and Schola Sarmenti Nerìo 2007 (83).
Shared first: Librandi Antonio e Nicodemo – Magno Megonio 2009 (83)
Cantine Spadafora – 1915 2007 (81)
Shared second: Ferrocinto – Magliocco 2011 (88)
Società Agricola L’Acino – Tocco Magliocco 2008 (74)
First: Ferrocinto – Magliocco 2011 (88)
Second: Librandi Antonio e Nicodemo – Magno Megonio 2009 (83)
My comment: Magliocco is a very interesting grape variety, and plantings of it have by now been discovered everywhere in Calabria, where it was often mistaken for gaglioppo. As these plantings surface in the form of new wines I think we will see clear differences between the varioys areas of Calabria. This is exemplified here by the difference between the exuberantly fruity, juicy and minerally wine from Ferrocinto, from the high-altitude Pollino area, and the somewhat more austere, darker and much meatier Magno Megonio from Librandi, grown in the low-lying Val di Neto area close to the Ionian coast. As evidenced by the scores, my vote goes by a fairly wide margin to the cooler climate wine, which was simply delicious and so drinkworthy. This is not to say that the ground-breaking Magno Megonio is not a great wine, but even though the wood influence in this wine has been decreased somewhat since the earliest vintages I still think it has a bit too much carpentry to carry for its own good.
First: Colletti Luca – Don Luca 2010 (88)
Second: Buceci Vini – Nero d’Avola 2010 (79)
First: Planeta – Santa Cecilia 2008 (82)
Shared second: Colletti Luca – Don Luca 2010 (88)
Buceci Vini – Nero d’Avola 2010 (79)
My comment: A very mixed flight of wines, with significant peaks and troughs. Looking at my brief notes, I have generally scored the juicy, minerally, cool wines highest, but the Santa Cecilia, for instance, while muscular and dark, is also a lovely wine. My favourite wine in the flight, the very sappy, juicy, fruity and minerally Argille di Tagghia Via di Sutta 2010 from Centopassi (90), seems not to have found the same favour with others; perhaps I simply have higher tolerance for sappiness than others, who might interpret it as unwanted greenness? Other wines I liked: Principi di Corleone Nero d’Avola 2010 (81), Caruso & Minini Isula 2010 (84), Ajello Nero d’Avola 2010 (83) and Xeravuli Nero d’Avola 2009 (81).
First: Colle di San Domenico – Aglucus 2006 (90)
Shared second: Villa Raiano – Aglianico 2010 (85)
Galardi – Terre di Lavoro 2010 (80)
First: Colle di San Domenico – Aglucus 2006 (90)
Second: Azienda Agricola Case Bianche – Cupersito 2010 (84)
My comment: No bad wines in the flight, but I do detect the heavy-handed use of oak a bit too often here. The big, complex, very varietal Aglucus seems to have been universally liked and is not very oaky. Other wines I liked: Terra dei Vuttari Uberitas 2010 (83), Cantina del Vesuvio Maestro 2009 (83), Donnachiara Aglianico 2008 (82), Calafè Aglianico 2008 (82), Antica Masseria Venditti Marraioli 2008 (87) and Azienda Agricola Torre del Pagus Maiardi 2007 (85).
AGLIANICO DEL VULTURE
First: Cantine del Notaio – Il Sigillo 2008 (79)
Shared second: Agricola Basilisco – Aglianico del Vulture 2007 (75)
Musto Carmelitano – Serra del Prete 2009 (86)
First: Casa Maschito – La Bottaia 2006 (88)
Second: Cantine del Notaio – Il Sigillo 2008 (79)
My comment: My highest scoring wine was the Casa Maschito, which avoided heavy wood influence while really bringing varietal and territorial characteristics to the fore. This was probably helped by the age of the wine as well as the quality of the 2006 vintage. Otherwise, once again I detected a bit too much wood influence in some wines. Aglianico has it all, in my opinion, and really does not need the support of wood. This is the reason why I scored the wines from Cantine del Notaio and Basilisco relatively modestly. Other wines worthy of mention were Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture 2009 (82), Cantina di Venosa Gesualdo da Venosa (84) and Carbone Vini 400 Some 2008 (83).
First: Castel di Salve – Cento su Cento 2010 (83) My comment: There is no denying the very high quality of the raw materials here, but the oak is a bit exuberant.
Shared second: Cardone Vini Classici – Primaio 2011 (81)
Vetrere – Barone Pazzo 2010 (81)
First: Azienda Agricola Morella – Primitivo Old Vines 2008 (87)
Second: Agricole Pietraventosa – Primitivo Riserva 2008 (77) My comment: While I generally like Pietraventosa’s wines very much, the Riserva simply gets a bit too much oak for me, hence the score.
Overall comment: A large flight, with many wines overly marred by new wood. The best, however, were excellent, with great depth of fruit and intensity coupled with good freshness and firmness. My favourite wine of the flight surprised me: Schola Sarmenti’s Cubardi 2008 (88); Schola Sarmenti’s wines are frequently slightly too oaky for me, but the sheer depth and intensity of the wine here was very convincing. Morella’s high score was no surprise, however, and I predict that it will outlive the rest by some considerable margin, in the meanwhile only adding to its magnificent depth of flavour. Other good primitivos in the flight: Agricola Guida Egiale 2011 (82), Cantine Soloperto Centofuochi 2010 (86), Santi Dimitri Sharav 2009 (82), Albano Carrisi Taras 2009 (84), Tenuta Casa al Baio Zambro 2009 (82), Castello Monaci Artas 2009 (81), Tenute Chiaromonte Muro Sant’Angelo 2009 (85), Feudi di San Marzano Sessantanni 2009 (86), Cannito Drumon 2009 (83), Vigne & Vini Papale 2008 (85) and Masseria Altemura Altemura di Altemura 2008 (84). Predictably, Vinicola Savese’s Terrarossa 2008 did not do well here; the wines from this very traditional producer need to be tasted in the proper context to be appreciated.
First: Librandi Antonio e Nicodemo – Duca San Felice 2009 (80)
Second: Cantine Vincenzo Ippolito – 160 anni 2008 (78)
First: Caparra&Siciliani – Volvito 2009 (83)
Shared second: Cantine Vincenzo Ippolito – 160 Anni 2008 (78)
Azienda Vitivinicola Du Cropio – Serra Sanguigna 2008 (84)
My comment: Some gaglioppo (and aglianico) wines can tend towards a very Bovril-like brothiness that smells suspiciously like unclean barrels and oxidation (this is unlike the smell of brettanomyces, which is more horsey). I may be particularly sensitive to this, but when it surfaces in anything more than the most minuscule quantities it tends to detract fairly significantly from my scoring. This may explain why I did not score Ippolito’s 160 Anni as highly as others seem to have. Du Cropio’s wine, in the meanwhile, was my hands-down winner of the flight; this is the new breed of gaglioppo wines, and is simply firmer, fresher and more transparent to the terroir.
First: Guastaferro – Primum Riserva 2006 (88)
Second: Villa Raiano – Taurasi 2008 (88)
Shared first: Montesole – Taurasi 2007 (83)
Calafè – Taurasi 2006 (89)
Shared second: Guastaferro – Primum Riserva 2006 (88)
Villa Raiano – Taurasi 2008 (88)
My comment: I am with the national jury here, except that I thought that Calafè’s very terroir-faithful wine was the best of the bunch. Other wines I liked: Terre d’Aione Taurasi 2008 (81), Feudi di San Gregorio Taurasi 2008 (83), Vesevo Taurasi 2007 (81), I Favati Terzotratto 2007 (82) and Contrade di Taurasi Coste 2007 (81)
First: Patria – Etna Rosso 2010 (82)
Second: Cottanera – Etna Rosso 2008 (85)
First: Patria – Etna Rosso 2010 (82)
Second: Cottanera – Etna Rosso 2008 (85)
My comment: Not a large flight here, but a couple of lovely wines, with the Cottanera clearly ahead for me. Noteworthy for the first complete agreement between the juries.
THE BEST ORGANIC WINE
First: Azienda Agricola Morella – Primitivo Old Vines 2008
Second: Michele Biancardi – L’Insolito 2011
First: Masseria l’Astore – Krita 2011
Shared second: Azienda Agricola Case Bianche – Cupersito 2010
Antica Masseria Venditti – Marraioli 2008
My major take-aways from this event:
The top level of primitivo winemaking in Apulia today is incredibly high
There is definite terroir difference between the primitivos from Manduria, Goia del Colle and the Salento
Gioia del Colle is coming out with a very wide range of really excellent producers, among which those present at this event
Nero di troia is taking an exciting new direction
Negroamaro is somewhat schizophrenic at the moment; the best examples of the “old” style remain fantastic, while a more modern style has not fully settled yet
Apulian white wines have come a very long way, and the road ahead is bright and shining
Apulian rosés of high quality abound, and there is more to come, with some very interesting developments gaining fooothold
Gaglioppo is finally coming into its own and made a big impression on the international jury; the new style is more fruit-forward and juicy, a very welcome development
Magliocco may be at its very best from relatively cool locations such as the Pollino massif
Perricone is taking an exciting turn in Sicily
…and so is nero d’avola, which showed several examples of the juicy, sappy, minerally persuasion
Aglianico – from both Campania and Basilicata – is at a bit of a crossroads; the “modern”, wood-tainted versions are really not that lovable, but seem to continue to increase in number; while those wines of a more traditional bent clearly were superior for me, but only when made from superior raw materials