Sunday, July 31, 2016

Italian Wine In The Extreme: The Collisioni Experience

Article and Photos by: Eric Guido

You think you know Italian wine. You spend ten years studying and tasting. You research, you write, and you spend every spare moment immersing yourself in the topic. You also taste with individuals that share your passion, and you meet with visiting producers on a regular basis. Over time, you start to feel as if you have become an authority on the topic. Your friends believe you have mastered it, and you may have even have convinced yourself of this. Then you go to Collisioni, and you realize that all you know is just the tip of the iceberg.

My first introduction to Collisioni was through an e-mail I received from Ian d’Agata, who if you don’t already know is something of a jack-of-all-trades within the wine world. You can imagine that, with his experience as a wine writer and critic for Decanter, International Wine Cellar and now Vinous media, author of the Native Wine Grapes of Italy, Scientific Advisor for Vinitaly, and creative director of Collisioni, an email from Ian d’Agata is not something you ignore. Over the years, I’ve received many invitations to be included in trips and tasting tours, but this one really stood out. In fact, I was sold the second I read the invitation.

Collisioni started as a festival for music and literature, but it grew in a short time to encompass food and wine. What started as a small event hosting 10,000 in 2009 has now grown to expect 150,000+ attendees that fill the streets of the small town of Barolo. The preparation for such an event is a massive undertaking, and being one of the guests, I was able to watch as the town of Barolo went from sleepy streets to a bustling festival over the course of only a few days.

The best part is that the who’s who of Piedmont winemaking turned out for the event. Even producers who weren’t involved in the myriad of tastings, round tables and tours could still be seen walking the streets and taking in the many sights and sounds. As this was a festival born from music and literature, it seemed as if every corner held an attraction, with onlookers amassed throughout each nook and cranny of the cobblestone streets.

On one night, the entire city gathered to watch Elton John. If you can imagine the streets of Barolo, completely empty, as the sounds of “Rocket Man”, “Candle in The Wind”, and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, echoed throughout. Every soul seemed to be aligned that night with Elton John’s timeless setlist. It amazed me how everyone there seemed to connect during the show. Even people who didn’t seem interested in attending the concert earlier that day were found singing along. It was a magical evening.

The entire experience was something truly special.

However, what we are here to talk about is wine, which Collisioni excelled at, as it provided its guests with a selection of regional tastings from around Italy that were as challenging as they were interesting. We aren’t talking about the average room full of tables with which professionals tour in search of the handful of wines that stand out. Instead, this was five days of intense tastings, each done in a round table style with producers in attendance to answer all questions and a panel of specialists to comment and drive the conversations.

My attendance placed me tableside with producers in panel discussions and accessing wine in front of the crowd on a regular basis. Each night followed with a visit to a winery, where we were able to soak in the gorgeous surroundings of the region and taste with some of Piedmont’s best and up-and-coming producers. All this while surrounded by fellow professionals and experts from around the world. The days were long and not a moment was spent waiting for something to do–but you know what? I loved every second of it.

I’ve decided that the best way to honor this experience is to showcase a number of the standouts and most memorable moments.

Enter Dogliani


Isn’t it ironic that on a trip to the heart of Barolo, surrounded by producers and great wines, one of the most impactful evenings was spent with producers of Dolcetto Dogliani?

One of the main topics throughout our Collisioni experience was how Nebbiolo was slowly replacing all other varieties throughout the villages that make up the Barolo appellation. It’s believed that the days of seeing a Barbera or Dolcetto d’Alba will soon be over. This will leave a large void for lovers of Piedmont's other great varieties. However, in the case of Dolcetto, Dogliani has us covered.

First let me say that if you’ve tasted Dolcetto from anywhere else and decided that it’s not for you, then you owe it to yourself to taste a Dolcetto Dogliani.

Keep in mind that Dogliani has the same diverse terroir and rolling hills that your find throughout Barolo. The difference is that these producers take advantage of the best expositions to plant Dolcetto, not Nebbiolo. It’s difficult to compare Dogliani Dolcetto to one from any other location.

The best part is that, after tasting a number of wines from the 2105 vintage, now is the perfect time to jump into this region. These are tremendous examples of the variety, and the vintage is so easy to like. As for recommendations, I was smitten with examples from Addona Marziano, Chionetti, San Fereolo, and Einaudi.

Top Wine: San Fereolo Dogliani Superiore 2007 - The bouquet was positively refreshing and exotic with a mix of blackberry, and crushed raspberry fruits, followed by dried flowers and both sweet and savory spices. On the palate, it was alluring in it’s soft yet rich textures, and lifted by vibrant acidity and minerals, giving way to blackberry and plum fruit. It finished long and fresh as the fruit faded slowly to reveal fresh inner floral tones. Really this is just a pleasure to drink. (93+ points)

What’s a Lucana?


This was one of those moments when you realize that you knew much less than you thought you did. Sitting at our lunch pavillion (think of a buffet at a movie set, but make all the food Piedmontese), I stared at my schedule and noticed that the Regionale Lucana tasting was to follow. I asked the other guests at my table, “What’s a Lucana?”, and they all shrugged.

In the end, this was one of the best focus tastings of my trip. Lucana, otherwise known as Lucania, is also known as Basilicata (starting to make sense now?). Basilicata is a region of Southern Italy which borders Campania, and it is one of the few regions that has a coast on two sides of the boot. What it is also well known for is Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano, that gives its name to Aglianico del Vulture.

Aglianico del Vulture is a DOC that I’ve taken a lot of interest in over the years, since I believe that it has all of the potential and ingredients to be a world-class wine, but no one has come along as a champion for the region. The ingredients I speak of are first and foremost the variety, Aglianico, which is renowned for its use in creating Taurasi in Campania. Add to that the diverse volcanic soils, moderating influences from two seas, a large range of altitudes and degrees of elevation, and you’d think that Aglianico del Vulture would be the next big thing in Italy–but it’s not.

Why? Well that was what I was here to find out. Unfortunately, the reason seems to be more about growing pains and devotion than it is about a quick fix. If anything, this tasting revealed that there are a small number of quality-minded producers who are working very hard to put Aglianico del Vulture on the map. The problem is that there are many more who aren’t giving it their all.

That said, out of 28 wines tasted, the cream did rise to the top. Elena Fucci, Cantina di Venosa, Donato D’Angelo, Cantine del Notaio and Madonna delle Grazie all deserve your attention. (Tasting notes: Cellar Tracker)

Top Wine: Elena Fucci Titolo 2013The nose was wonderfully expressive, showing tobacco, earth and ash up front, followed by focused blackberry and notes of fresh herbs. On the palate, I found dark red fruits, pepper, violet florals, leather and youthful tannins. The finish was youthfully austere, yet complex in it’s black fruit, savory spice and fine tannin. I would love to see this wine again in five years. (93 points)

Nonino Grappa


In Italy, wine is food. It’s created to be enjoyed with a meal, and going back through history, it was often used as a way of surviving and fortifying oneself for a hard day. However, wine is seldom thought of in Italy as a “drink.” When dinner is over, and the time for a drink is upon you, Italians in the north reach for Grappa.

That’s not to say that Nonino Grappa should be thought of as just another spirit, because frankly it is so much more than that.

Located in Friuli, Nonino is a family-run company with a history going back over 100 years and can lay claim to the fact that they put Grappa on the map. Their success in the media and worldwide markets opened the minds of consumers and placed Grappa on their tables.

Yet, to this day, there is Grappa and then there is Nonino. After this experience, I believe it’s safe to say that much of this is the passion of the family who’s running the show. We tasted through six different variations of Nonino Grappa, each made from the pomace of varying grape varieties. For my tastes, it was the Grappa Nonino Monovitigno Il Moscato that stole the show, with its unending array of aromatics. In fact, each time I returned to the glass, there seemed to be an entirely new and exotic mix of aromas. This tasting made me a believer.

Build a Better Albe


Okay, in all honesty, I don’t think I could build a better Vajra Albe than Aldo Vaira himself, but I couldn’t help but try. This was one of the best tastings of our entire trip. After a day full of tasting and regional focus groups, we were sent off to Locanda in Cannubi, a restaurant located in the heart of Cannubi. The cuisine was phenomenal, with traditional regional specialties that were given a contemporary twist. The Bertolini-Boggione family do an amazing job here, since after a week of eating traditional foods, I found myself salivating over each plate that was placed in front of me.

However, the real honor was in sharing my table with Milena Vaira (Aldo’s wife), Ian d’Agata and two Masters of Wine. Seriously, how could we fail?

To be honest, it was a cutthroat competition, right up to the final announcement that our time was up. We took the more logical approach of blending by the percentage of Vajra’s holdings throughout the three vineyards that produce Albe (Fossati, La Volta, and Coste). In the end, Ian gave a last-second splash of La Volta that rounded our blend out nicely.

We were victorious.

But it bears mention that Levy Dalton, of “I’ll Drink to That” fame, demanded a rematch in 2017.

For the Love of Amarone


I have to admit, as difficult as I find it to keep Amarone in my personal rotation, I truly do love these wines. For many years now, I’ve been attending tastings with the Famiglia dell’Amarone d’Arte, and with each vintage I find myself enjoying them more and more. Frankly, they are easy to love. Especially since the organization was created to showcase the classical zone of the region and unite producers who were dedicated to upholding tradition and quality production. In the end, they are hedonistic wines of pure pleasure, but the hard part is maintaining refinement amidst all of the richness and intensity of Amarone. These are the producers who have mastered the art.

One thing I will say is that as we all become aware of two distinctly different styles of Amarone (the rich going on confectionary, versus the rich going on bitter and savory), I have to ask if there will ever be an official way to identify them on the shelf. A perfect example is the conversing styles of Speri (who I love for their classicism and poise) and Zenato (who I love for their ripeness, intensity and richness). If you are looking for a wine for a fatty steak, grab the Speri. If you are looking to pair something with a chunk of blue cheese, then Zenato is a match made in heaven. So how does the consumer tell the difference?

These are questions for another time. For now, my standouts were Tommasi, Speri, Tedeschi and Zenato. (Tasting Notes: Cellar Tracker)

Top Wine: Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2009 The nose was deep, rich and intense with ripe cherry giving way to notes of orange peel, brown spice, dark chocolate, and hints of undergrowth. I found broad and silky, palate-coating textures contrasted by zesty bright cherry and spice. It finished with fine, classic tannins, bitters, sweet herbs and dried black cherry. It was big, rich, intense and hard to resist. An unapologetic Amarone. (95 points)

We’re in Piedmont; what about Barolo?


Barolo, I didn’t forget about you. How could a lifelong fan of Barolo and all things Nebbiolo not give these wines the spotlight they deserve?

So, yes, I did taste a lot of Barolo. Probably the most important data point I can provide is on the 2012 vintage, of which I tasted quite a bit. There are many publications that have gone on about the vintage conditions, so I won’t rehash that here, but I am happy to share some general observations.

The 2012 vintage falls into a shadow that is being cast by the power of the 2011s, the classicism of the 2010s, and the speculation over the much-touted 2013s. These are good wines, but the fact remains that they possess neither the vibrancy and drive of a warm vintage, nor the structure and refinement of a cool vintage. They are pretty wines that display the purity of nebbiolo fruit. Most have beautiful aromatics, but they lack the details on the palate that would round out the experience. There are standouts, as there are in all vintages, but the bulk of the wines lack any thrill factor.

So what do we do while we wait for 2013?

We backfill classic vintages (’04, ’06 and ’08) and look at the often overlooked 2011s. Many Barolo collectors have been conditioned to shun warmer vintages, but I believe this is a huge mistake when considering the 2011 vintage. They are ripe and often intense, but beneath all of that fruit is a structure of sweet tannin and a bold acidity that carries the wines gracefully. My opinion is that we will be drinking these wines twenty years from now and wondering why we didn’t buy more.

My 2012 Barolo Standouts: Giuseppe Rinaldi, Rocche Costamagna, and Giacomo Fenocchio. (Tasting Notes: Cellar Tracker)

Top Wine: Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate 2012The nose was soaring from the glass with a display of deep, dark red berry fruit, dried roses, tobacco, leather and savory spice. On the palate, wonderfully pure, silky textures ushered in ripe, bright cherry fruit, minerals and inner violet floral tones, as fine spicy tannin settled in and dried the sense. It finished more on subtle tannin, with fresh plum, cherry, and inner floral tones. There’s a Pinot Noir like elegance here, showing remarkably pretty and pure. (94 points)

Tidbits and outtakes (since I felt this was verging on a novelette):



  • A person can live on a diet of Carne Cruda, Vitello Tonnato, e Pomodoro con Buffalo Mozzarella twice a day for a week straight.
  • Verdicchio deserves more attention (See: Notes).
  • I know just enough Italian to get into a lot of trouble.
  • There’s a rumbling in Abruzzo; check out Tiberio (you’ll thank me later).
  • Donnafugata Ben Rye may be the greatest dessert wine on earth.
  • Tasting 32 Grignolinos sounds a lot worse than it really is. (See: Notes)
  • Donatella Cinelli is doing some exciting work in Orcia.
  • Senza Glutine doesn’t work as well in Piedmont as you might think.
  • There’s more to Gavi than La Scolca.
  • There’s a underground Terracotta aging movement in Piedmont (check out Rivetto).
  • Piedmont is most definitely the most beautiful wine region on earth.


That’s all. In closing, I would like to thank Ian d’Agata for including me and the Collisioni team for all of their hard work. This was an undertaking of immense proportions. Well done!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Barolo & Barbaresco 1996, 20-Year Retrospective

Whatever happened to our dreams of 1996 being a great vintage? For over a decade, I’ve been pursuing this vintage with hopes that it would be another 1989, yet now I begin to wonder. Last year we put together a blind ‘96 Barolo tasting, and the outcome led me to believe that there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. The odd thing about that tasting was that the best-performing wines were all produced in a modern style. That wasn’t the case here at our 20-year retrospective tasting.

At the 20-year mark, the majority of these ‘96 Barolos are still as hard as nails. What’s more, in some cases, the fruit appears to be receding and drying out, even as their tannin and acidity continue to power on. On this night, we tasted the best of the best, and when all was said and done, only a handful of them truly impressed. However, what a handful that was, as two of my top three wines are at the peak of the pricing pyramid and extremely hard to find. In fact, the most all-around enjoyable wines of the evening were from the Barbaresco flight, which did well here due to their more feminine and softer fruit profiles. Of course, three out of four were Bruno Giasoca, with Cappellano (a wine made from purchased fruit) scoring very high as well.

In the end, considering the list of names tasted here and the notes and scores I left with, I’d find it very difficult to recommend many of these bottles to the average consumer. While the Ca d'Morissio was drop-dead gorgeous and with a long life ahead of it, I only see availability in Europe, and at almost $500+ per bottle. My runner up, the Giacosa Riserva Asili can be had for $450+ in the US, which isn’t so bad when you consider the cost of recent vintages. That said, I won’t be seeking out any to buy. As for the Massolino Vigna Rionda, that’s the bottle that I would buy, assuming you can find it (for readers in the UK and Switzerland, you may be in luck). The Massolino was ridiculously close in quality to the top-scoring wines at this tasting. If you really want a great ‘96 Barolo in your cellar, that won't break the bank, then this is the one to hunt for.

So how long do we need to wait for these wines to come around? At this time, I would look to start drinking any ‘96 Barolo from a modern-styled producer. For the traditionalists, you’re looking at another 5-10 years or more. As for Barbaresco, with the proper decanting, these are just entering their drinking window.

 As is usually the case, whenever my vintage reports come back with any negative feedback, I’m sure there will be many who will call me out. However, what kind of writer would I be if I didn’t share my honest opinions with my readers? I hope I’m wrong, but at this time, ‘96 isn’t looking like the all-around great vintage we had all hoped for. At the top of the pricing pyramid, your chances of a great experience increases.

My advise is to tread lightly, and look for Barolo recommendations from those who have recently tasted the wines. As for Barbaresco, this tasting has tempted me to dig deeper, as this night’s examples were showing beautifully.

On to my tasting notes: 


(All wines were served blind in three flights. Bottles were opened between 9am - 11am, decanted for sediment, and then returned to their original bottle until the start of the tasting.)


Castiglione & Monforte d'Alba 


1996 Poderi Aldo Conterno Barolo Riserva Granbussia - The nose displayed dark fruit, as blackberries dipped in liqueur, sweet spice and hints of espresso dominated. On the palate, it was soft, dare I say diluted, with notes of plum and tart cherry. It finished stern, with drying tannin and bitter remnants of red fruit. Everything about this wine made me believe it would be a modern-styled Barolo. (90 points)

1996 Vietti Barolo Rocche - The nose opened strangely, revealing notes of crushed seashell and saline-minerality. However, with time, the Rocche evolved with a display of floral undergrowth, brilliant red fruits and fresh green flora. On the palate, it was firm from start to finish, with earthy red fruits and intense minerality. Dried floral tones lingered throughout the finish, along with drying tannin and minerals. I had high hopes for this bottle, but it appears to be in a very closed phase. (91 points)

1996 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato - The nose showed dark red fruits, menthol, sweet spice and dried flowers. With time, its fruit fleshed out, as a beautiful expression of fresh roses appeared. On the palate, it was lean yet with persistent tart cherry fruit that stained the senses. It finished structured and tense, yet the fruit remained intact. I have to wonder if this may have scored even higher had it not been tasted next to the Ca d'Morissio. (93 points)

1996 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Ca d'Morissio Riserva Monprivato - This revealed a bouquet of dusty black cherry, dried flowers, dark exotic spice and crushed stone minerality. It was hauntingly dark and and floral. On the palate, I found pure fruit and saturating tannic structure, as tart black cherry steamrolled across the senses, leaving a trail of acid-tinged minerals in its wake. The finish was long and structured, with lingering notes of dried berries and inner floral tones. I can only imagine that this wine will see a very long life, and I seriously hope to be able to taste it again. (96 points)


Barbaresco (Or the story of three Giacosas and a Cappellano) 



1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Asili - The nose was deep and layered, revealing ripe red fruits, plum, sweet spice, tar, smoke and earth. It was dark, seductive, and even a bit savory. On the palate, I found silky-soft textures with spiced cherry and plum coating the senses, along with licorice and violet florals. It finished incredibly long yet balanced and fresh with inner florals and remnants of dried cherry fruit. As it was tasted blind, I had guessed this to be the Rabaja--looks like I should be buying more Asili. (96 points)

1996 Cappellano Barbaresco - The nose showed dusty florals up front, with ripe cherry, exotic spice, menthol and sweet floral tones. On the palate, it was vibrant with silky textures that caressed the senses, as dark red fruits and inner floral tones persisted well into the long finish. Its structure loomed, along with a coating of minerals and a hint of herbs. This may not be quite as moving as the last bottle I tasted, but it was still an amazing experience. (94 points)

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà - The nose was sweet and layered with dark red fruits, dusty florals tones and minerals. On the palate, I found soft, juicy textures with vibrant red berry fruit that coated the senses. Tannin came late and lasted long into the finish, along with lifted minerality and dark fruit. (92 points)

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Albesani di Neive - The nose was perfumed and floral with bright cherry and minerals in a very pretty expression. On the palate, I found soft textures with dark red fruits and spice, yet there seemed to be something missing throughout the mid-palate. It finished on dried red fruits and inner floral tones. On this night, the Santo Stefano came across as small-scaled and pretty, but not much else. (90 points)

 Serralunga d'Alba 


1996 Massolino Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda - The nose showed intense minerals, almost saline, with sweet herbs and dark red fruits. It was structured on the palate, yet showing intense dark fruits with a zing of brisk acidity before it’s still youthful tannin took effect and saturated the senses. It finished dry with a coating of minerals and tart cherry extract. This is still a baby, but it’s sure to enjoy a long and fulfilling life. (95 points)

1996 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto - The nose showed dark black cherry and minerals, yet it was restrained and ungiving at this stage. On the palate, the fruit turned crystalline and brilliant with mineral-wrapped black cherry and dark herbal tones that shot across the senses. It finished on concentrated red fruits, iron and fine tannin. I feel like many of the other tasters were let down by the Falletto tonight, yet I found it to be youthfully poised to grow into a beautiful wine. (92 points)

1996 Cappellano Barolo Piè Franco Otin Fiorin (Gabutti) - The nose displayed an attractive mix of minerals, dusty red fruits, spice, and iron, all with a savory leaning. On the palate, I found dark, bitter red fruits and minerals with earth tones and inner florals. It finished on fresh herbs, minerals and earth, with a coating of gruff tannin that saturated the senses. As is often the case with Otin Fiorin, I have to wonder if it just needs more time to truly show it's potential. (94 points)

1996 Pio Cesare Barolo Ornato - The nose was almost savory, showing olive brine and sweet herbs before turning to crushed cherry, brown sugar and dark chocolate. On the palate, it was silky but also a bit one-dimensional, with notes of red berry, smoke and a hint of minerality. It finished on dark red fruits, yet it was murky and partially restrained. Unfortunately, I feel that the fruit here simply didn't integrate well with Ornato's barrique oak aging. (89 points)

 Article, Photos and Tasting Notes: By Eric Guido

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The World of Terre Nere with Marc di Grazia

(The following write-up and reviews are the result of two days’ worth of focused tastings with Marc di Grazia.)

When asked if I would be interested in attending a ten-year retrospective of Terre Nere, my response was a resounding YES! For me, Terre Nere represents something more than just the sum of its already-impressive parts. Those parts being the location, winemaker, and pioneering methodologies. What Terre Nere represents to me is coming full circle with Sicilian wine and the impetus behind Mount Etna’s rise to the world’s stage.

When I think back to over ten years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to put an Etna wine against the world's top regions. In fact, the general consensus about Sicily as a whole wa
s that they were trying hard--but failing. That all changed because of Terre Nere. Yes, there were many great wineries before them, and a number of pioneers placed stakes and made moves on Etna. However, Terre Nere was the property that broke out of the Sicilian wine category and put Mount Etna on the map.

Much of this is the result of its owner, Marc di Grazia, whose unrelenting passion for Italian wine guided him to become one of the most famous exporters and innovators in the world. You see, Marc didn’t just discover producers to propel to international fame; he literally guided them to create a product that the world’s wine consumers wanted at the time. The list of Italian properties whose names are staples in the industry today may never have arrived if it wasn’t for this man.

So you can imagine that, when the time came that he wanted to buy vineyards and start his own winery, the entire industry waited with bated breath to hear where Marc di Grazia’s new project would be started. When the news came that it was on Mount Etna, an unproven and volatile region of Sicily, many people scratched the heads in wonder. What did he see in this region? Why would someone want to make wine on the side of an active volcano? Little did they know the level of success that would follow.

In truth, what Marc had done in creating Terre Nere was use the same skill set that helped him succeed as an exporter; he literally saw the potential in something that others missed. On Mount Etna, he found vineyards filled with ancient vines, complex soils, diverse climates and a myriad of possible expressions from a native variety that had the potential to make great wine: Nerello Macalase.

Instead of creating one wine, the choice was made to separate each vineyard parcel to express the diverse terroir of the region. With the majority of his holdings on the Northern side of Mount Etna, Terre Nere began its production with the 2002 vintage. In the grand scheme of things, success came quickly, as my first introduction to the brand was with the 2005 vintage, and already the industry was buzzing about the amazing wines then coming from Mount Etna.

So here I was, over ten years later, and in front me stood a ten-year retrospective, which was followed by a focused tasting of the ‘12 and ‘13 vintages. What was even more amazing was when Marc explained that he had never had the opportunity to taste so many vintages back-to-back, hence it would be an exploration for all of us.

A few of my general impressions:


Two of the questions I had always had regarding Terre Nere was how well they would age and what the drinking window would be on the average bottle. One of the best descriptions I can give to explain these wines and the variety to a newcomer is that they fall somewhere between the expressions and structures of Barolo and Burgundy. Each time I’ve tasted them through the years, I would wonder how the tannin would resolve and what would be waiting on the other side of the aging curve.

Vintage variations aside, I would say that a general guideline would be to wait between 6 - 8 years before they enter their early maturity. This was seen with the ‘08, ‘07 and ‘05 vintages (with 2006 still needing some time to soften).

As for the different vineyard designations, three now stand out to me the most. First is the Santo Spirito, for its early appeal, allure and elegance. Then there’s Calderara Sottana, with its layers of dark fruit, earth and classic structure. Lastly, the Prephylloxera, as it is a wine of such balance and elegance while remaining wild and savage. These three designations have formed my holy trinity of Terre Nere, but don’t sleep of the rest of the lineup. Guardiola, a vineyard at a steep, 30-degree incline, which sits adjacent to Santo Spirito but at higher elevation, is something of a perfect marriage between elegance and structure, while Feudo di Mezzo seems to be the most balanced and consistent wine of the group.


My thoughts on vintages after hearing Marc’s commentary:


  • 2014 was an unusual vintage of ups and down, yet with excellent results and producing alluring yet perfectly balanced and structured wines.
  • 2013 was difficult as it was wet and unusually cool through the fall. The wines are enjoyable today, but they lack the stamina found in better vintages.
  • 2012 was a dry, warm vintage that produced tiny grapes with thick skins. However, these wines showed enough structure to hold their ripe fruit firmly. They show beautifully with plenty of cellar potential.
  • 2011 was considered a classic, near-perfect vintage. Dry winter, mild spring, warm summer and perfectly timed rain in September led to an ideal harvest. Classic is the word here, as the wines I’ve tasted are of excellent quality with cellar potential.
  • 2010 was off to a good start with an equally beneficial summer, but ups and downs into the fall disturbed ripening. My only example to go by was the Prepylloxera, which show ethereal weightlessness. The jury is still out.
  • 2009 was a difficult vintage defined by a harsh winter, short summer and rainy harvest. The Guardiola was a prime example, being my least favorite of the flight with lean fruit and over-accentuated tannin.
  • 2008 had some irregular weather, including hail, yet resulted in a late ripening and ultimately beautiful vintage. Warm weather into the fall pushed ripeness to the limits, yet the Santo Spirito still showed very balanced. Past experiences have also been very positive, and I’d keep my eyes out for well-stored bottles to snatch up.
  • 2007 (Limited comments from Marco)--I would say this was a riper vintage, and the wine is ready now. I admit to checking wine-searcher for more 2007s immediately after this tasting.
  • 2006 (Limited comments from Marco)--Still structured but with the fruit to carry it for many more years.
  • 2005 (Limited comments from Marco)--Balanced, pretty, elegant and ready to drink today. Keep an eye out for well-stored ‘05s.

On to the tasting notes (by vintage):


2014 Terre Nere Calderara Sottana Bianco - This had a rich and robust nose, with ripe apple, peach, smoke, hints of tropical fruits, even banana. It was then freshened by minerals and florals with a hint of lemon zest. On the palate, a silky veil of ripe stone fruit covered the senses, providing a pleasing feel, as hints of minerals and inner floral tones set in. This finish displayed a buzz of vibrant acidity with hints of lime and stone lingering long. (93 points)

2014 Terre Nere Prephylloxera Vigna di Don Peppino - This showed an intense, exotic and deeply-layered nose, as savory cherry gave way to notes of charred meat and Indian spice before it turned fresh and invigorating with spiced citrus and wild herbs. On the palate, I found rich, intense yet silky textures, with savory cherry and spice giving way to sweet herbs and a hint of citrus. Is it grapefruit and brown spices or dried orange? It’s hard to tell, but the results are stunning. The finish was lifted and long with sweet tannin coating the senses, as notes of sour cherry and orange peel lingered long. This is drop-dead gorgeous--a truly wild yet elegant wine. (97 points)

2013 Terre Nere Prephylloxera Vigna di Don Peppino - This was a wine of beautiful contrasts, as intense spiced cherry was offset by soaring floral aromatics, smoke and black earth, in an exotic yet nuanced expression. On the palate, it was lifted and ethereal while saturating the senses with sweet tannin-wrapped black cherry, sweet tobacco and herbs. The finish was floral with fresh red fruit and minerals, yet its tannic clout lingered on. The '14 may be a step up, but the '13 is pure class. (94 points)

2013 Terre Nere Santo Spirito - The nose displayed dusty cherry and spice, with smoke-tinged minerality giving way to sweet tea and floral tones. On the palate, vibrant acidity mixed with silky tannin, providing a grippy sensation, as notes of cherry and sweet tea permeated the senses. It finished with dried red fruits and inner floral tones. The 2013 is remarkably youthful, feminine and perfumed. (91 points)

2013 Terre Nere Calderara Sottana - What a tremendous bouquet, showing olive and earth up front, followed by rich and massive wave of black cherry, currant and spice with hints of undergrowth. On the palate, it was soft and caressing, displaying ripe cherry and strawberry in a pliant and positively satiating experience. It finished with medium length, as its fruit tapered off and left the mouth watering. This wine was a gentle giant. (92 points)

2013 Terre Nere Feudo di Mezzo - The nose was rich, showing black cherry and herbs with crushed stone minerality. On the palate, I found a mix of tart cherry and strawberry, which seemed to morph into an intense and saturating note of pomegranate, yet through it all a wave of brisk acidity provided a liveliness and mouthwatering experience. It finished with medium-length, displaying hints of wild berry and a twang of lively acidity. (92 points)

2012 Terre Nere Feudo di Mezzo - What a gorgeous wine. The nose was dark and brooding with crushed stone and black earth up front. Dried raspberry came forward with time in the glass, along with dry cocoa and flowers. On the palate, it was silky with acid-driven vibrancy to its tart cherry and spice. It turned floral and mineral-like through the finish with a long and lingering note of sweet tea and smoke. This is so enjoyable today for its pliancy and richness on the palate, yet there’s a lurking structure beneath that is sure to carry it for many years (like Volnay). (93 points)

2012 Terre Nere Calderara Sottana - If I had to pick one wine from these recent tastings to put in my cellar today, this would be it. The 2012 Calderara Sottana was deep, rich, and vibrant. On the nose, I found dark earth, ripe black cherry, crushed raspberry, sweet herbs, dusty spice and minerals. On the palate, silky textures were contrasted by sweet tannin-laced black cherry, spice, cocoa and saline-minerality. It coated the senses throughout the finish with concentrated cherry and pomegranate, while hints of tannin lingered on. Wow! (95 points)

2012 Terre Nere Santo Spirito - The nose was intense and alluring, displaying crushed stone up front, then opening to reveal spiced cherry, dusty floral tones, a hint of herbs and green olive. On the palate, I found soft textures, which were contrasted by a core of spice and tannin-wrapped cherry fruit. Like a freight train speeding along a track, the fruit component seemed unstoppable and center-focused, saturating the senses. It finished on lingering spice, sweet tannin and a coating of concentrated dried cherry. I can only imagine that the future is very bright for the 2012 Santo Spirito. (94 points)

2011 Terre Nere Calderara Sottana - The nose was tense and deeply pitched, showing red currant and brown spice, contrasted by pretty floral tones and crushed stone. On the palate, silky textures were contrasted by a mix of minerals, spice, and tart cherry, then seemingly turning to ripe strawberry. It finished remarkably long on sweat tea leaves, spice and a hint of citrus. The ‘11 Calderara Sottana is a pleasure on the palate for its remarkably silky yet refined and elegant expression (all stone and rock soil mixed with black pumice). (95 points)

2010 Terre Nere Prephylloxera Vigna di Don Peppino - The nose was intense, giving and remarkably pretty, displaying sweet herbs and spice up front, giving way to rosy floral tones, a hint of red pepper, and bright cherry. On the palate, it was finessed and pretty with light cherry and inner floral tones This relies on beauty over power and comes across as quite classic. The mouth watered throughout the finish, as a coating of sweet tannin lingered along with citrus-tinged spice. (93 points)

2009 Terre Nere Guardiola - The nose showed dark fruits with hints of dried cherry and crushed raspberry, giving way to saline minerality and savory herbs. It was tense on the palate, as vibrant acid provided a buzz on the palate that resolved into saturating cherry fruit and herbal tones. Savory cherry remained through the finish, along with a coating of gruff tannin. (90 points)

2008 Terre Nere Santo Spirito - The nose started restrained, showing dried cherry and minerals, yet it opened dramatically in the glass, as hints of potpourri and exotic spice filled the glass. On the palate, I found silky textures with intense, densely-concentrated red fruit, which seemed to be wrapped in a mix of spice and sweet tannin. It finished on finesse and was quite pretty with dried red fruits and inner floral tones. (94 points)

2007 Terre Nere Calderara Sottana - The nose showed dark, brooding fruit with savory herbs and brown autumn spice, ultimately very pretty and finessed while adding a note of dried flowers. On the palate, I found silky, alluring textures with black cherry, strawberry fruit and sweet spice that seemed to coat the senses. It finished long, long, long on fresh cherry pits and minerality. This is so beautiful today, both focused and intense, yet ready to enjoy. There may be the slightest hint of heat on the finish, but it is an undeniably beautiful wine. (95 points)

2006 Terre Nere Guardiola - The nose was dark yet quite closed, showing plums, dark spice, crushed stone, black earth, and wax. It was angular on the palate yet still fresh, with notes of bright cherry and softening textures over time. It finished long on candied cherry, inner floral tones, and minerals. This still needs a few more years to truly come together, but it is already enjoyable. (92 points)

2005 Terre Nere Feudo di Mezzo - The nose was pretty and finessed, showing spice-tinged cherry and minerals, along with dusty dried flowers. On the palate, I found a finessed and lifted wine with notes of dried cherry and inner floral tones. It was very pretty on the finish with a mix of tart cherry and minerals. This is ready to enjoy today. It’s vibrant through balanced acidity with perfectly resolved tannin and beautifully pure fruit. (93 points)



Article, Photos and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido
Originally posted at: The Cellar Table