Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – October 28th, 2017

Italy’s Classic Regions
By David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel & Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The lead feature in VINTAGES October 28th release is Italy, but not all of Italy mind you – only the higher priced wines from classic regions. The kind of wines people will buy to impress for Christmas giving and imbibing (sorry to utter that word before the end of October). Wines like Sassicaia, perhaps the most familiar Italian name to collectors, wine traders and auction goers. Tip: the 2014 vintage on offer this year is rather sparse and lean, and for $216 lacks requisite length.

Certainly, there are some excellent wines in the feature selection, but there are better buys in the non-feature selection of Italian wines embodied in the ‘main release’ section of the catalogue. Why are they not all combined into one feature on Italy? Why does the world not spin the other direction on its axis?

In any case, I do combine them below in the short sketches of Italy’s three main classic regions that follow. These are intended for those who might be joining WineAlign and joining wine itself, so if already familiar you can skip right to the recommendations. Last week John and Michael highlighted picks from other regions.

13th Street Gamay Noir 2016

October 28th VINTAGES Buyers Guide to Italy: 


Veneto is in northeast Italy, the backyard wine region of the romantic cities of Venice and Verona. There is something fittingly lively, charming and embracing about Veneto wines as well. The northeast is cool to mild and can be humid, suited for production of white grapes and some grapes that ripen in shorter growing seasons. It is unquestionably Italy’s dominant white wine region, home to sparking prosecco, pinot grigio and a famous white appellation called Soave that nestles in the hills near Verona that eventually run up to the Dolomite mountains (the Italian Alps). The cherry-like reds, dominated by Valpolicella, are based largely on the thinner skinned, not very tannic corvina grape, tend to be lighter, smooth and easy drinking. So much so that producers have resorted to adapting production techniques to boost alcohol and body. Most famously they have created Amarone – fully called Amarone della Valpolicella – by letting grape dry out and shrivel to raisin hood, concentrating sugar that is converted routinely to 15% alcohol wines. Amarone is well established as a classic Italian red, putting Veneto on the fine wine map. But by the 1980s, as the modern wine boom began, wineries wanted a red style somewhere in between, so they created “ripasso”, re-fermenting basic Valpolicella after adding pressed skins from grapes that were used to make Amarone. The most recent trend in this restless region are the growing number of whites and reds being produced under less strict IGT regulations that allow experimentation with different grapes, blends and winemaking techniques.

Pieropan 2016 Soave Classico, DOC Veneto ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Pieropan is one of the best named in Soave, and this goes far beyond the basic perception of Soave being a simple, dry white. It has weight, great acid/mineral structure and a quite refined and complex nose of well woven hazelnut, dried flowers and vague honey. Solid with firm almost tart acidity and a narrowed chalky finish, and excellent length.
Sara d’Amato – The definition of “sapid”, this highly tasty garganega from the highly reliable house of Pieropan is delicious find indeed and one which breaks the mold of “overpriced Italian” in this release.

Pieropan Soave Classico 2016Fumanelli Squarano Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2014

Fumanelli Squarano 2014 Valpolicella Classico Superiore, DOC Veneto ($42.95)
Michael Godel – A wine such as the Fumanelli Valpolicella should garner plenty of current attention. Acids are tight and the tannins grainy but the wine is really just inches away from integrating. It may be considered an expensive Valpolicella, not nearly into Quintarelli territory mind you, but I would never call this Squarano VCS overpriced.

Buglioni Il Lussurioso 2012 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva, DOCG Veneto ($52.95)
David Lawrason – The classic, ripe but not overripe cherry/plum fruit of amarone shines bright with nuances of chocolate, hay and marzipan. It’s full bodied, sweet yet rich, and showing some elegance not always present in Amarone. And there is some tannic structure boding well for longevity.
Michael Godel – Alfredo Buglioni’s Riserva 2011 bridges the old and the new school of Amarone. It notes less confiture and dried fig and is high in concentration. The properties of chalky and tannic will churn this through a ten-year development wheel.

Buglioni Il Lussurioso Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2011Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Campolongo di Torbe 2011Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Riserva Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2010

Masi Campolongo di Torbe 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, DOCG Veneto ($106.95)
David Lawrason – Amarone doesn’t get much more expensive or grand or profound than Masi’s three single vineyard bottlings. This pours thick and deep, and although not hugely intense on the nose there is a fine weave of chocolate fudge, prune, cherry, floral and woodsy notes. It is very full bodied, dense, plush and warm yet retains some poise.

Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi 2010 Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella Classico , Veneto, Italy ($79.95)
Sara d’Amato – A powerful bombshell, this aged beauty is only beginning to show signs of mellowing. The solid oak treatment can come nowhere near upstaging the impressive burst of fruit on the palate. The concentration here is extraordinary although it would be difficult to consume more than a glass.


In the northwest corner of Italy, in sight of the Alps on a clear day, lies a large region of majestic and serene hill ranges, diced by river valleys, the largest being the Po. Being in Italy’s north, and with some vineyards at high altitudes and some experiencing Mediterranean influence, the temperatures are moderately cool and warmer vintages are important for quality. In the varied micro-climates and soil types several different grape varieties prosper. The whites like cortese, roero and arneis are not as common, but they share high acidity and firmness that is a Piemonte signature. Moscato makes delightful fragrant sweet, sparkling Moscato d’Asti.  Among reds barbera is a widely produced, high acid, moderately tannic grape, as is deeper coloured dolcetto. But Piemonte is most renowned for nebbiolo, a very tannic grape that makes deceptively pale reds that pack power, acid structure and wonderfully complex aromas that weave red fruit, florals, herbs, spices and foresty earthy notes (this is also the land of truffles). The two classic appellations of Piedmont are Barolo and Barbaresco – neighbouring but not adjacent villages at high altitude that made reds. The wines of Barolo are perhaps sturdier, more tannic and longer lived, but they are so similar that one should not assume Barolo is better, or more desirable.

Massuco 2015 Roero Arneis, Piedmont, Italy ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Arneis is a variety that is almost a rarity in these parts so its presence on the shelves alone is worth a gander. In the hills of Roero, this rediscovered grape variety thrives and delivers pleasurable, widely appealing wines that offer both structure and perfume.

Prunotto 2016 Barbera d’Alba, DOC Piedmont ($18.95)
David Lawrason – What a pretty nose – so floral, perfumed with strawberry-cherry fruit and light oak vanillin. It is mid-weight, tart edged but so well buffed and polished, with very fine tannin. It is as modern a take on barbera as you will find. Chill just a little.

Massuco Roero Arneis 2015Prunotto Barbera d'Alba 2016Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2011Marco & Vittorio Adriano Basarin Barbaresco 2012

Giacosa Bussia 2011 Barolo, DOCG Piedmont ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This pale nebbiolo glows fire-ember orange in the glass. It has a lovely, complex and fine nose of sour cherry-raspberry fruit with perfectly integrated dried herb, twiggy, earthy notes. It is mid-weight, calm, firm and refined on the palate. in this lighter vintage. Very nicely composed.

Marco & Vittorio Adriano Basarin 2012 Barbaresco, DOCG Piedmont, ($38.95)
David Lawrason – From a lighter vintage and now evolved to garnet colour, this is very firm, very tannic nebbiolo with lifted aromas of candied cherry/marzipan, some acetone, oak spice and earth. Very authentic, rustic Barbaresco. It has real stuffing and power, but it is a rough, earthy volatile ride.


The province that harbours such wondrous renaissance cities like Florence, Siena and Pisa – plus medieval hill towns like Montalcino – is steeped in wine and culinary culture. Tuscany is somewhat warmer than Vento and Piedmont, but vines grown at higher altitude in Tuscan hills face ripening challenges in some years. There are white grapes and appellations, but the current/raspberry fruited fairly high acid, moderately tannic sangiovese grape fits the clime like no other place in the world. It is the bony hand the leather glove.  Sangiovese is the mainstay of the Chianti appellations, making wines of simplicity as basic Chianti, then upward through increasing structure and depth as Chianti Classico, Riserva and aged, single vineyard Gran Selezione. Different clones of sangiovese are grown in individual village-based Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. At lower altitude and warmer temps in the Maremma district on the Tuscan coast later ripening cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah become important. The appellation of Bolgheri gave rise to so-called ‘super-Tuscans’ like Sassicaia and Ornellaia.

Castello di Querceto 2013 Riserva Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany ($28.95)
David Lawrason – This classic, traditional, quite full bodied, dry and intense Chianti Riserva is showing the extra time in wood, with loads of spice, resin and vanillin around the ripe, almost sundried tomato-like fruitiness. It has some grip and gumption and considerable tannin. There is also richness and warmth. Not an elegant wine, but it will muscle through a meal.

Rocca Delle Macìe 2014 Riserva Chianti Classico, DOCG Tuscany ($23.95)
Michael Godel – It takes little time to find more ease, balance and immediately agreeable notions from the Zingarelli Castellina in Chianti CCR ’14. This is a wine that belies the vintage and the early to market release. The fruit is very ripe and supported by relatively copacetic acidity and tannin. The intention here is surely geared towards early gratification.
David Lawrason – This modern Chianti blends sangiovese with a small portion of cabernet and merlot, and was aged 24 months in French oak. It has a very pretty nose of raspberry jam, dried cedar, vanillin and even a floral note. It is medium bodied, slender, polished and poised with some warmth. Really very amiable wine at a good price.

Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013Rocca Delle Macìe Riserva Chianti Classico 2014Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 2012Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2012

Carpineto 2012 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, DOCG Tuscany ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This typical Vino Nobile has a quite lovely, lifted, complex nose of black raspberry, woodsy/herbal notes, oak vanilla/resin and cedary spice. It is medium-full bodied, fairly smooth, firm and a touch sour-edged, with some green tannin. I like the nerve and power, and sinewy outdoorsy character.
Michael Godel – There is no missing the amount of big, old and sheathing barrel in the Carpineto ’12 Riserva but there too is no mistaking the Vino Nobile style. This will age into umami, funghi and figgy-balsamic bliss over a 10-plus year period.

Antinori 2012 Pian delle vigne Brunello di Montalcino, DOCG Tuscany ($62.95)
Michael Godel – A perfectly perfumed Pian Delle Vigne from 2012 is vintage-relegated and vintage-captured. You need to appreciate how the Antinori team has kept the handling and the sheathing to a comfortable minimum, allowing fruit and collection of place to shine. Well made Brunello for 10 years easy.
David Lawrason – This very fine, perfectly pitched Brunello pours with a fairly pale but luminous red with brick red colour. Very fine pointed aromas with cherry/sweet tomato jam aromas flecked with rosemary, anise, cedar and forest floor earthiness. It is medium-full bodied, quite smooth, warm and engaging, picking up power on the palate, with fine tannin. So drinkable!

And that is a wrap for this edition. I am on the road across Canada with Gold Medal Plates as we speak, but will be chipping in reviews and recommendations where I can as Vintages ramps up its selection through the November buying season. Enjoy.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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