Tre Bicchieri ( or 3 Glasses)—the Oscars of the Italian wine world—is always a highlight of the year for me. It’s the place to press the flesh, to catch up with winemakers we know and love. Plus, it’s a super-efficient way to scout both tours and articles, for one can taste the top 1% of 45,000 Italian wines submitted, all in one room.
My mission this year: Sample sparklers for an upcoming article. Scout wineries in Valle d’Aosta, where we’re taking a hiking group this June. Check out Etna wines for our new tour in eastern Sicily, The Volcanic Wines of Etna. And lay the groundwork for a future article on the new Barbera Superiore Nizza DOCG.
Ferrari, Perlé Zero 2011
Ferrari has been at 3 Bicchieri with one wine or another ever since the awards first started. But this zero dosage cuveé was new. “This is our second year of making it, but we’ve been experimenting with this style for 40 years,” said brand ambassador Jamie Alexander Stewart. With seven years on the lees, this sparkler has the nutty, brioche-like character I adore, combined with a bone-dry finish. In sum: Supreme elegance and complexity, from the Trento DOC. (Psst: We visit Ferrari on our Alps & Dolomites hiking tour, in case you want to taste in situ.)
Ricci Curbastro, Franciacorta Brut
Franciacorta lies to the west of Trento, and its proximity to Lake Iseo gives a warmer microclimate than Trento’s alpine hills. I visited this family-run winery on a press trip several years ago and have loved their wines ever since. It was great to meet the son, Gualberto Ricci Curbastro, who was there pouring. Their Franciacorta Satèn got the 3 Glasses award, but I prefer the classic Franciacorta Brut. Perhaps it’s due to 35% pinot bianco in the blend, which in my opinion always up the complexity, or maybe it’s because of its 7 grams of residual sugar (vs. 5 in the Satèn, which is by definition 100% chardonnay). Whatever the case, this is a nicely aromatic and fruity Franciacorta. Scrumptious!
Villa Sandi, Cartizze Brut, Vigna La Rivetta
The top Proseccos can be deceptively classy—like the one that comes from this gorgeous Palladian estate. Villa Sandi is one of 35 or so wineries making Prosecco from grapes on the prized Cartizze hill. This 106-hectare subzone is considered the tenderloin of the Valdobbiadene area, a U-shaped hill that catches the sun just right. It’s really steep. I know because I’ve hiked up its near-vertical slope, calf muscles screaming towards the top. Hail to the vineyard workers for helping made this elegant Prosecco possible! I also liked their Prosecco di Treviso, Il Fresco Brut, which had a few more grams of residual sugar (14 vs 10 gm), giving a fruitier impression.
Rosset Terroir, Sopraquota 900
I’m not sure what grapes are in this white, but they’re grown at 920 meters (3018 feet) and are 27 years old. I just know that the wine blew my mind. As did the dry and aromatic moscato, called Chambave Muscat. And so too the syrah/petite rouge, Trasor—as luscious as anything coming from southern France. Rosset Terroir, run by Rosset family, is just outside the town of Aosta, so this is a must on our Valle d’Aosta hiking tour this June. (Rebecca, are you listening?)
Les Cretes, Nebbiolo Sommet 2016
I’m a sucker for alpine nebbiolos. I like their leanness, their floral aromatics, their silky tannins. The nebbiolo of Les Cretes epitomizes that style, which one also finds in Valtellina, a valley immediately south of Switzerland. Valle d’Aosta, in turn, borders France—and is the smallest of Italy’s 20 regions. Les Cretes is Valle d’Aosta’s biggest winery, despite being only 20 hectares, a sign of the difficulty of growing vines in this mountain landscape. Like Rosset Terroir, Les Cretes is a consistent 3 Bicchieri winner. The honors this time went to their Chardonnay Cuvée Bois, modeled on Montrachet, where the winemaker spent time learning his craft. They also poured an interesting Petite Arvine Fleur, one of the obscure local varietals that I look forward to exploring this June.
Roberto Anselmi, Capitel Croce 2017
This was the last wine I tasted, and it ranked at the top. Given its explosive aromatics, I’d assumed it was a blend, perhaps with a splash of malvasia or gewürztraminer. But I discovered later that this is a single-vineyard garganega. Probably the magic comes from eight months of battonage in Allier barriques. Or from Anselmi’s perfectionism. (The maverick removed himself from the Soave DOC in protest of their industrialization.) Whatever, the key word here is magic.
Li Veli, Askos Verdeca 2017
Alfredo Falvo—formerly of Avigonesi—was pouring this bracingly good white from Puglia. The Falvo family sold their famed Vino Nobile di Montepulciano estate more than a decade ago (“We had an offer we couldn’t refuse,” was the gist of what Falvo said), and they took a family property in Puglia and built a state-of-the-art winery there. When Claudio and I visited Puglia in 2016, this native white grape was a pleasant discovery to me. Sauvignon-like in its bright acidity, with an equally aromatic character, it’s just the ticket for Puglia’s fish dishes and herbed pastas.
Coppo, Barbera d’Asti L’Avvocata 2017
With an average retail price of $16, this had to be one of the best price/value wines at the tasting. The historic Coppo winery, along with Michele Chiarlo and Braida, were the movers and shakers behind the new DOCG for Barbera from the Nizza region. Coppo normally gets a 3 Bicchieri for his single-vineyard Pomorosso, a Barbera Superiore Nizza DOCG ($59). But this time the award went to their entry-level, oakless version, coming from youngish 18–20 year old vines. But 2017 being a dry and concentrated vintage, it was just right for showcasing barbera’s intense dark fruit.