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The Ecco Guide to the Best Wines of Italy
The Ultimate Resource for Finding, Buying, Drinking, and Enjoying Italy's Best Wines
The 100 Best Red Wines Under $100
1 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Tenuta Il Poggione 97/100 Tuscany
Victor Hugo once said that if a writer wrote only for his own time, he'd have to break his pen and throw it away. The same can be said for the great wines made here: the reserve Brunellos from this estate are some of the best wines in the world, and the basic Brunello, which costs much less than $100, is always very fine as well. Congratulations to the Franceschi family, owners and one of the original names in Brunello, and the father-and-son team of Fabrizio and Alessandro Bindocci, who manage this estate extremely well. Theirs is always a Brunello that speaks clearly of vintage differences (their '02, a rainy, cool year, is less good than the '01, and you would expect it to be just so), as opposed to other versions that, strangely enough, never seem to differ year after year. You'll be enchanted by its extreme depth of pure fruit (red currants, red cherries, raspberries, and plums), the hint of fine leather and tobacco, and the estate hallmark of silky-smooth tannins. It also happens to age splendidly, and is among the longest lived of all Brunellos. It almost always enters its best drinking phase about six to eight years after the harvest, but that depends on the vintage characteristics. Whenever you do decide to open a bottle, the first sip will tell you that all these wines will, just like Hugo's work, be talked about in future times as well.
Grape varieties: sangiovese grosso (100%); Number of bottles: 35,000; Alcohol: 14.5; Retail price: $6599; Try it with: roast pork, porterhouse; Imported by: Paterno Wines International (www.terlatowines.com); Past great vintages: 1955, 1967, 1970, 1975, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1999, 2001
The '82 is holding up nicely and has pretty red cherry fruit in a midweight, high-acid frame (93/100). The '90 is just wonderful, with much deeper, richer red cherry, leather, and truffle aromas. It's even better on the palate with ripe red cherry flavors and raspberry liqueur on the long complex finish (96/100). The '99 and '01 are two of the best wines of those very fine vintages, with rich fruit and smooth tannins. The '99 is sweeter and rounder (95/100). The '01 is more austere and refined (94/100).
The Producer: Tenuta Il Poggione
Address: Piazza Castello 14—Sant'Angelo in Colle, 53020 Montalcino (Siena); Tel/fax: 0577 844029/0577 844165; E-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.tenutailpoggione.it; Total bottles: 500,000; Total ha: 115; Visit: by appointment; Tasting room: yes; Highway exit: Firenze Certosa (A1)
Other recommended wines under $100 by Il Poggione: Rosso di Montalcino (small barrel oaked red), "Il Poggione" (sangiovese/merlot—large barrel oaked red), "San Leopoldo" (cabernet sauvignon/merlot—small barrel oaked red).
2 Barbaresco Rabajà
Bruno Rocca 97/100 Piedmont
Bruno, helped out by his daughter Luisa and son Francesco, makes a Barbaresco Rabajà that is one of the greatest red wines not just of Italy but of the world. Once you have tasted it, you won't forget it. Rocca's other Barbaresco, from the cooler Coparossa vineyard, can also be very fine, especially in warmer years such as 2003, when the Rabajà vineyard becomes almost too hot. Truly one of the great grands crus (best vineyard sites) of Italy, the Rabajà is an utterly beautiful, postcard-perfect site facing southwest with a soil composition of roughly 25% sand, 35% limestone, and 40% clay, rich in iron and manganese. This complex mineral environment contributes greatly to the many nuances present in the best wines made from the Rabajà. On the nose and the palate, the Rabajà by Bruno Rocca always shows a very evident note of cocoa, typical of this vineyard, but you'll also find plenty of red cherry, musk, truffle, and tobacco aromas. Very powerful in the mouth with similar flavors, it has almost chunky yet noble tannins that need years to resolve fully. It is a wine of unbelievable power, great complexity, and length. Drink it now or, better still, cellar it for another six to seven years and then enjoy it. The other wines made by Bruno are just fine, too, though he can get carried away by his enthusiasm for the small French oak barrel, yielding wines that are somewhat excessively oaky in their youth.
Grape varieties: nebbiolo (100%); Number of bottles: 18,000; Alcohol: 14.5; Retail price: $90; Try it with: grilled steak au poivre; Imported by: Trilussa Wine Company (www.trilussawine.com); Past great vintages: 1989, 1990, 2001, 2004
The '89 may well be the Barbaresco of the vintage, with a multilayered personality and complex aromas and flavors of red and black cherry, cocoa, and coffee. Long and very finely tannic finish (99/100). The '01 is almost as good and, again, one of the top wines made in Italy in that great vintage. Deep dark chocolate, plum, and smoky red cherry aromas are nicely followed by similar flavors on a rich, very long palate (98/100).
The Producer: Az. Agr. Bruno Rocca
Address: via Rabajà 29, 12050 Barbaresco (Cuneo); Tel/fax: 0173 635112/0173 635112; Web: www.brunorocca.it; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Total bottles: 60,000; Total ha: 12; Tasting room: yes; Visit: by appointment; Highway exit: Asti est (A21) Other recommended wines under $100 by Bruno Rocca:
Barbaresco (small barrel oaked red), Barbaresco "Coparossa" (small barrel oaked red). The special "Maria Adelaide" bottling of Barbaresco is very fine but costs in excess of $100.The Ecco Guide to the Best Wines of Italy
The Ultimate Resource for Finding, Buying, Drinking, and Enjoying Italy's Best Wines. Copyright © by Ian D'Agata. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.