Decanter Great Italian Fine Wine Encounter: notes on Barolo and Tuscany, plus video!

I attended two wonderful master classes at yet another Decanter fine wine encounter – this time a full day concentrated on Italian wine on Saturday 15 May 2010. Almost 90 exhibitors, some rather famous, others often constituting hidden treasures. I did not taste as much as I wanted because I was slightly under the weather, but the two superb master classes gave me greater insight into Italian wines.

The fine wine encounters are highly recommended because the winemakers are present in five very clean and spacious halls. Well-known wine authors usually sign their books. Oz Clark, for example, was busy signing his latest tome. All in the lovely setting of the Landmark Hotel across from the Marylebone tube station (just next to the more convenient Baker Street tube station).

Before we get to the notes, here a video tour of the encounter:

Notes from two master classes (wines in red I like; in red and bold, I like even more)

Tuscany – the new frontier, with Steven Spurrier


Marchesi Antinori Badia a Passigano Chianti Classico Riserva 2006: The terroir is 300 meters above sea level, selection massalle of grapes. 100 percent Sangiovese. Malolactic in barrel. Lovely, rather sweet nose of strawberry, there is a clove aspect, and floral aromas. For Spurrier, it was briary and autumnal. Fine viscosity on the palate, fine voluminous aspect and refreshing and tonic on the finish with a hint of dark chocolate. Some oak derivation but nicely integrated. ‘A very good example of modern Chianti,’ Spurrier said. Overall, I enjoyed this and am a buyer if the price is right.

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva Bucerchiale 2006: Looks older. Has a color that is ‘beginning to mature’ Spurrier said. The nose is more forest like. Good sap on the palate. Perhaps a bit more vibrant than the above, I noticed more acidity. Although also 14.5 percent alcohol, which I did not notice. Another fine Chianti producer perhaps less ‘modern styled’ but also a recommended purchase.

Super Tuscans

Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006: Another 100% pure Sangiovese, this wine showed nutmeg and earth on the nose, with Sangiovese sour cherry and a bit of road tar. Good sap, strawberry aspect. I did not find it quite as polished, more tar like than I would have liked.

Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve 2006: Malo in new oak barrel. Darker color. A bit more extracted feel on the palate, and I get some heat but not too much. Still, I feel more the winemaking than notion of terroir – this is perhaps my least favorite of the wines. 15% alcohol by the way.

Tenuta di Capezzana Villa di Capezzana 2006: Always a bit of Cabernet in this wine, I understood. They have vintages going back to 1925. I really like the fresh nose, elegant, integrated and polished. Good smoothness on the palate, perhaps a bit of pronounced acidity? Time needed to age, but this is lovely. Recommended.

Poggio Verrano Dromos 2006: Back to a style from #4 but not as extracted. This has a sweeter nose, a bit of road tar. Reminds me of #3 but bigger. Wild raspberry fragrance of Cabernet Franc with density of Alicante, said Spurrier. I was not as impressed by this wine.

Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi 2006: Mix of grapes includes Bordeaux Merlot and Cabernet along with Alicante. Even a bit of Syrah. This straddles intensity and finesse, with a bit of jammy cherry, some herbal and smoke aspects. Quite complex yet enjoyable. One of my favorites so far.

Caiarossa 2006: Bordeaux connection, same owners as Giscours and Du Tertre. Sweeter nose, tarry – even a bit of road kill. About 20% each of Cabernet Franc and Merlot with 23% Sangiovese and other varietals, this 12 hectare property makes wine that is engaging, but just too tarry for my taste at this stage.

Fattoria Nittardi Nectar Dei 2006: What a great story by German owner Peter Femfert – ‘it all began with a woman’ – he is still married to the same woman he said at the end. Another great wine for me here, lovely nose with real pine forest freshness, just a hint of tar, but overall fresh and crisp. Many different grapes used. I was busy recording his speech, and then left the recording in … London! But this is a very fine wine.

Tenuta Marsiliana 2006: Cabernet and Merlot plus Petit Verdot and Syrah. Rather Bordeaux like – it could almost pass for a cru bourgeois! Sweet licorice, smooth and fluid like, not over warm although not as engaging as the previous wine. Vines planted in 1996.

Michele Satta Piastraia 2005: Black licorice and tar, sweetness but very fine palate texture – a bit of road tar but not too much. Good sap. About 25% each of Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese and Cabernet.

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Brunello di Montalcino Vigna di Pianrosso Riserva 2004: Breathtaking? Perhaps. Spice and finesse, forest freshness, yet fine sweetness. Beautiful. 14.5% alcohol.

Barolo master class with Ian d’Agata – 2001 vintage Barolo, one of the best vintages ever

Renato Ratti Barolo Rocche 2001 (La Morra): Had this one later for dinner with editor Adam Lechmere. Delicious. Lightly colored coming from Tortolian soil (precocious), orange rind freshness and licorice, sour red cherry, some floral aspects, a bit of tar but not obtrusive (in fact, rather enhancing). Fluid and suave, very pleasing nuances of mint, camphor and strawberry on the pleasing palate which is still showing decent backbone. Ian compares La Morra to Musigny in Burgundy. I get it… Lovely!

Elvio Cogno Barolo Ravero 2001 (Novello): The St Estephe of Barolo, Ian explained. More tar like tobacco but also good cherry fruit, strawberry jam. Palate shows licorice, with firmer tannins. Edgy, but good.

Chiarlo Barolo Cannubi 2001 (Barolo): He said that this was more in between styles, but I liked it least. Road tar, road kill? With earthy underbrush, the palate is better, showing some sweet cherry and strawberry.

Vaira Barolo Bricco delle Viole 2001 (Barolo): Owner Giussepe Vaira was so nice. This bottle was hard to find – he brought from an Australian importer. Subtle nose, floral. Comes from high soils at 400 meters above sea level. Fine and perfumed aspect. Very good sap but with refreshing tonicity. 14% alcohol hardly felt. Lovely.

Damilano Barolo Liste 2001 (Barolo): This Ian referred to as the St Julien, kind of in between. I felt like it tasted more of an average vintage of Lafon Rochet. Nose showed iron but the palate was chunky. Good sap, but a bit metallic and edgy with firming tannins. Not as graceful as the previous wine.

Cavallotto F.ill Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe 2001 (Castiglione Falletto). 340 meters above sea level. From a magnum bottle. Polished nose of tobacco, hint of espresso, sour cherry, with leather. This also has a tannic edge but much more finesse, good sap. Excellent!

Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 2001(Castiglione Falletto): Bric means top of the hill. This is 240 meters high. More gingerbread like sweetness here, a bit of earthiness, very strawberry nose (14.5%). Palate is smooth albeit a bit brick like on the finish. Good but not as refined as the above.

Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 2001(Castiglione Falletto): Top part of the vineyard at 340 meters above sea level. Lots of sand – very good in rainy vintages. Very intense notes of perfumed cherry and tar. Palate is equally intense, showing high minded balance, not quite ready to drink but displays creaminess and sap, with a distinct note of aniseed. This is a great wine, but could use more time in bottle.

Parusso Barolo Bussia 2001 (Montforte): Strawberry and creosote on the nose, but also a bit of musc and earth. More ready to drink, I suppose, with some mint aspects which Ian said are typical of the Montforte sub region. This is good but does not excite me as much as the previous or the next wine.

Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2001 (Montforte d’Alba): This is a polished wine, showing balsamic and raspberry aromas and flavors, with a firm yet supple palate. Very nice.

Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato 2001 (Serralunga d’Alba): Very limestone nose – and hey, this comes from a terroir with the highest limestone content in Barolo. I am glad I detected that limestone, which I liked very much. Also showed aniseed. The palate has fine tonicity, good substance and a dark cherry finish. The tannic presence reassures that this is built to age. Apparently not a very expensive Barolo. If so, this is an excellent price/quality ratio.

Massolino Vigna Rionda Barolo Vigna Rionda 2001(Serralunga d’Alba): All I could say at the very first whiff was ‘what an amazing nose!’ Indeed this showed pine forest freshness with depth and intensity preceding a palate full of sap and nuanced flavors that revealed themselves in a subtle, polished manner that reminded me simply of a superb Cognac. Power and grace, Ian said. Wow, I agree.

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