Tre Bicchieri Highlights

By Ray Isle Posted March 21, 2007

The annual Tre Bicchieri tasting was at the Puck Building on Monday afternoon, and as I do every year, I hied my way over to it, feeling the usual uneasy mix of the anticipation of tasting the wines combined with the dread of facing the thronging hordes of people jammed into the (every year) wildly overheated room. It really is the least pleasant way to taste wine—that is to say, sweating to death while trying to avoid getting spilled (or spat) on by an ever-drunker congregation of Italian wine-o-philes. But whatever. All for the good of the cause.

As usual, I managed to taste only about a tenth, at best, of the wines being poured (which were this year's winners of the "tre bicchieri" accolade bestowed by the Italian wine and food magazine Gambero Rosso). Some highlights—two of which I've now determined aren't even in the country, annoyingly enough—are as follows:

2004 Claudio Mariotto Pitasso (not imported) I don't know a dern thing about Claudio Mariotto, save that he clearly knows how to make terrific white wines. This one is made from the obscure Timorasso grape (not listed in Oz Clarke's Grape Encyclopedia, and someone has made off with my copy of Jancis Robinson's similar book; nor is it listed on the UC Davis Integrated Viticulture Online site); it's from the obscure Colli Tortonesi region in Piedmont; and it's a lovely, vibrant white, crisp and minerally, full of citrus zest notes. I'd drink it by the case if some smart importer would get around to bringing it to the US.

2005 Luigi Maffini Pietraincatenata (also not imported, at least yet) OK, a tad difficult to pronounce, but this was also a stellar white. Essentially, this is a barrel-aged version of Maffini's appealing Kratos wine, and like the Kratos is made from 100% Fiano de Avellino. It's rich and full-bodied, with an almost tannic rasp on the end, loaded with dried apple and apricot aromas and flavors, along with that characteristic Fiano nuttiness. The wine seems to have soaked up the oak just fine. Would be great with pork loin cooked with dried fruits. Panebianco, who imports Maffini, does not currently carry this wine, but if they've got their wits about them, they certainly will in the future. Meanwhile, Maffini's Kratos bottling is also well worth checking out.

2003 Le Macchiole Paleo Rosso ($100) This was the wine of the tasting for me. 100% Cabernet Franc from Tuscany—a phrase that usually makes you put down your glass in alarm, as Jay McInerney & I both agreed at a dinner following the tasting. Here, though, those words are just precursor to an extraordinarily aromatic (leather, sweet cherries, horehound), luscious red. The flavors shift more to black currant than cherry, the tannins are substantial and velvety, and if I win the lottery some day I will be stocking up on this. Until then, I'll just remember it. Great wine.


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