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Top 22 Italian releases from the hors Bordeaux campaign

db’s Colin Hay tastes his way through the Italian releases that comprise the September edition of the hors Bordeaux campaign, finding a 100-point Masetto and a selection of ‘impressive’ wines.  Here is is verdict. 

Italian releases (red) Vintage Region New? Rating
La Poja (Allegrini) 2018 Veneto No 95
Amarone Classico Riserva Fieramonte (Allegrini) 2016 Veneto No 99
Barolo Cerretta (Giovanni Rosso) 2019 Piedmont No 93+
Barolo Bussia Riserva ‘Oro’ Vigne Munie (Parusso) 2014 Piedmont No 94
Caiarossa 2020 Toscana No 94
Orma 2021 Toscana No 94
Oreno (Tenuta Sette Ponti) 2021 Toscana No 95
Siepi (Castello di Fonterutoli) 2021 Toscana No 96
Sette (Tenuta Sette Ponti) 2021 Toscana No 96
Il Pino di Biserno 2021 Toscana No 93
Biserno 2020 Toscana No 96
Petrolo Galatrona 2021 Toscana No 97+
Giorgio Primo (La Massa) 2021 Toscana Yes 96
Solaia 2020 Toscana No 97+
Massetino 2021 Toscana No 98
Masseto 2020 Toscana No 100
Testamatta (Bibi Graetz) 2021 Toscana No 95
Colore (Bibi Graetz) 2021 Toscana No 97+
Giodo Brunello di Montalcino 2019 Toscana No 95
Marchese di Grésy Barbaresco Camp Gaiun Riserva 2018 Piedmont No 96
Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino 2018 Tuscany No 97
Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2016 Tuscany No NYT

Allegrini La Poja 2018 (Veronese IGT; 100% Covina Veronese; from a single-vineyard site at 32 metres of altitude and with a south-eastern exposition). Just the second release of this wine on la place – from the somewhat cooler 2018 vintage. The somewhat longer hang-time has produced a deeply impressive wine. It is a little tight and closed at first, almost reticent to express itself aromatically. But this is very fresh and everything is in place. Indeed, this exudes cool restraint. There’s a very gentle spiciness – cinnamon and nutmeg – that is both attractive and enticing. The fruit is sensuous, pure and precise. Plums, pomegranate and loganberry, a little sour cherry – all fresh and plump. And this is very well structured – with the fruit strapped tightly to the spine. This is more crystalline and luminous than the 2010, tasted alongside. Chewy yet always fine-grained tannins build towards the finish, producing grip at first and then releasing a fine fantail. Elegant and pure with a subtle oakyness only really present in the empty glass. 95.

Allegrini Amarone Classico Riserva Fieramonte 2016 (Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG; 45% Corvina Veronese; 45% Corvinone; 5% Rondinella; 5% Oseleta; from a single-vineyard site at 415 metres of altitude with a south-eastern exposure). From an excellent vintage that saw a little more spring rainfall, no excessive summer temperature spikes, a good diurnal temperature range and perfect ripening conditions. A wine of outstanding balance. Incense. Cordite. Struck match. Confit fruits and the sweet shop of my childhood memories. Minerality in doses. Leather – the old armchair. But also great freshness and verticality. The is gloriously opulent. An explosive wine with fabulous potential but revealed as if in slow motion. At this stage it really needs a decanter and a spare day or two! Sumptuous and opulent, gracious and rolling and rippling. And so sapid and fresh with undercurrents of fresh cool juiciness welling up from below. Fabulous on the finish. Richer and even fuller than the 2015 (re-tasted alongside) and the tannins are more plump and somewhat less grainy. Very, very fresh. So dynamic over the palate. An exceptional wine with so much complexity and layering. 99.

Barolo Cerretta (Giovanni Rosso) 2019 (Barolo DOCG; 100% Nebbiolo; 14% alcohol). Subtle and refined and requiring something of a mental recalibration after the Etna wines tasted just before. One is struck first by the spiciness – there’s lots of cinnamon and clove here. There’s a lovely note of rose petals too. This is radiant, elegant and quite ethereal. The palate is charming and quite crystalline – light, delicate and yet tender. There’s decent amplitude in the mouth and this feels lithe, fluid and dynamic, if a little restrained. It’s light and airy. The result is that the fruit is a little dominated by the spice, but that brings interest and character. Quite focussed on the finish, with a nice tight sense of grip. 93+.

Barolo Bussia Riserva ‘Oro’ Vigne Munie (Parusso) 2014 (Barolo DOCG Riserva; 100% Nebbiolo; 14% alcohol). Much oakier than the Barolo Cerretta of Giovanni Rosso, as you would imagine. Fuller, richer and certainly much more ‘old-school’ in style. But even if this not exactly my favourite style of Barolo, it’s well done here. Liquorice. Lavender. Leather. Crushed petals and patchouli. A touch of coffee. Pretty and highly expressive once one recalibrates one’s palate to the oak. This still needs a little longer to cohere, however. And there is quite a lot of unresolved tannin, leading to a touch of dryness on the finish. 94.

Caiarossa 2020 (Toscana IGT; 28% Cabernet Franc; 23% Syrah; 18% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13% Merlot; 13% Sangiovese; 4% Petit Verdot; 1% Grenache; 14.5% alcohol). Oaky. Smoky. Cinnamon toast and Speculoos biscuits. A distinct and evident iron minerality. This is fresh, lively and interesting with copious dark berry fruits and a nice sense of both grip and tension. There’s quite a lot of tannin still to resolve, but the palate is nicely shaped and well-structured. Long and rippling on the finish, though the slightly dry grain of the tannin means that this loses a little of its freshness just at the end. 94.

Orma 2021 (Bolgheri DOC; 50% Merlot; 30% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% Cabernet Franc; 15% alcohol; organic). A little closed at first, though less so when re-tasted a month later. Incense, a touch of clove. Sweet spices but a nice fresh fruited red and darker berry character – raspberry and bramble, perhaps a little strawberry and, with more aeration, baked plums. A little cherry too and a pleasing stony minerality. Tight, energetic, bright and intense on the palate, with impressive purity even if this feels just a little foursquare and stolid. But the tannins are fine-grained and bring plenty of grip to elongate the fresh and sapid finish. Well made. A subtle florality reveals itself before the rich, spicy, peppery finish. 94.

Oreno (Tenuta Sette Ponti) 2021 (Toscana IGT; 50% Merlot; 40% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Petit Verdot; 15% alcohol; organic viticulture). From Tenuta Sette Ponti. Slightly fuller, slightly richer, slightly more refined and with a more ferrous sense of minerality on the nose than Orma, tasted alongside. Tapenade, baked plum, dark cherries, a little cassis. Garrigue herbs and wild thyme. It’s also more floral aromatically, with a hint of patchouli and rose petal. Black tea too. Taut and tender but with gracious tannins. Like Orma, this is quite foursquare in the mid-palate at this early stage, forming quite a dense and stubborn block in the mouth. It will need time to soften and is more of a vin de garde. But the potential here is considerable, as is signalled by the quality of the tannins. This broadens impressively on the finish with a pleasing fantail. Serene and rather opulent. 95.

Siepi 2021 (Castello di Fonterutoli) (Toscana IGT; 50% Merlot; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% alcohol). Spicy and decidedly sweet-tinged at first, but with a prominent saltiness too. Cordite. Incense. Flaming candles. Pot pourri. There’s a pleasing complexity here and it feels very Italian. Sundried tomatoes but there’s also a good intensity of fresher fruit components – blackberry and black cherry the most notable. There are toasty, bready notes too. In the mouth this is plump and plush but with lovely freshness and forward drive over the palate. The freshness seems to mop up the oak as it goes, cleansing the palate as it does so. Very good indeed. 96.

Sette (Tenuta Sette Ponti) 2021 (Toscana IGT; 100% Merlot; 15% alcohol). The second release of this wine on la place. Cedar and incense, cinnamon and candlewax, a little ferrous mineral note. Patchouli and wild, garrigue, herbs. Japanese sour plums and black cherries, a hint of mulberry. Rich, full, but with a pleasing tension as the tannins grip and sculpt this. There’s a very impressive sense of structure and evolution over the palate. Sapid and juicy. The tannins are just a shade dry perhaps, if I’m being hyper-critical, accentuated by the lavender note that builds towards the finish. But that will resolve. Above all, I like the style, the complexity, the energy and the sense of evolution over the palate. Cool, crystalline and fresh too. Very fine. 96.

Il Pino di Biserno 2021 (Toscana IGT; 17% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot and 8% of assorted other varietals; pH 3.64; 14.5% alcohol). Very dark fruited and with an appealing floral element on the nose. Brambles, blueberries, copious freshly ground black pepper, a little sweet spice – but not too much – and a lovely Cabernet leafiness. I like this a lot. It’s bright, plush and quite plump, but also gracious and quite elegant – though without the complexity, depth and aging potential of Biserno itself. 93.

Biserno 2020 (Toscana IGT; 32% Cabernet Franc; 30% Merlot; 32% Cabernet Sauvignon; 6% Petit Verdot; pH 3.70; 14.5% alcohol; Michel Rolland is the consultant oenologist). A big wine – a bit of a Bison – but with plenty of elegance and finesse too. Ripe brambles, violets and a touch of lavender (the floral elements much more evident now than they were when I first tasted this nearly a year ago). Chalky powdery tannins. Like Il Pino, this is rather Bordellais – but from a period when the new oak was more evident. There’s much more obvious oak and spice presence on the nose here than the gentle and elegant Il Pino (though the extra year in bottle has really helped). The sweet spice that this brings still hides, for now, some of the purity of the fruit, but it’s there. There are pleasing cedary elements intermingling with the Cabernet florality. Suave, elegant on the attack and silkily textured despite the girth, density and concentration. Nice violet notes that build in the glass and that will come through more with age. This is a little like old-school Pavie, it’ll be excellent with time, but it requires patience. The terroir is present in the lovely minerality, the freshness and the fine-grained powdery tannins. Bigger and bigger at is sucks in the air and exhales. 96.

Petrolo Galatrona 2021 (Val d’Arno di Sopra DOC; 100% Merlot; 14% alcohol). This is a little closed aromatically and feels rather restrained and serious – almost a little moody. But it’s immediately quite ample on the attack and has great mineral intensity. The black cherry fruit is prominent but this is a wine that is not giving up many of its secrets at this stage – and one sense a greater complexity than is immediately evident. What is evident is the freshness of this, right from the lovely plunge-pool cool svelteness of the attack. This is rich, lithe and layered and, as it start to open in the mouth, it dances. There’s still a lot more to come here. For now this remains a little firm, closed, almost austere – but magisterial all the same. Sapid, juicy, fresh, bright and really sharp and clean on the long tapering finish, with a touch of green peppercorn adding to the sense of freshness. Very promising and quite possibly the best vintage yet made of this wine. 97+.

Giorgio Primo (La Massa) 2019 (Toscana IGT; 55% Cabernet Sauvignon; 40% Merlot; 5% Petit Verdot; 14.5% alcohol). A very welcome new entrant to la place. Mineral-charged and quite ferrous. Crushed rocks too. This is big and imposing without ever being too rich or sweet. Classy. Crystalline. Cool. It’s less ample with the fruit held much tighter to the spine than the Galatrona tasted just before. And here we have more cherry and sour cherry notes and red berry fruits – raspberry and loganberry. The tannins are refined and very fine grained-tannins adding to the sense of cool precision. Chewy on finish where, once again, we pick up the fresh mineral signature of this impressive wine. 96.

Solaia 2020 (Toscana IGT; a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc; 14.5% alcohol). A very accomplished and impressive Solaia. The minerality is very evident. Tasted alongside Massetino, this is a little richer and broader aromatically, but also less effusive and more held back at this stage too. There’s a subtle florality, a little note of sage too, and freshly grated liquorice root. But it’s the patchouli and the parfumiers’ essences of dried flowers that give this its aromatic identity. On the palate this is pure and quite classical, with incredibly soft tannins and lovely cedary and graphite notes. It’s rather more Bordellais than Massetino in a way. Lithe and with great layering and complexity, this is very long and exudes harmony and balance. As ever for me, this seems the most stylish and refined of the super-Tuscan superstars. 97+.

Massetino 2021 (Toscana IGT; 90%; 10% Cabernet Franc; 15.5% alcohol). This is a super Tuscan in the sense that it’s super and it’s Tuscan – but it is no powerhouse. A wine of grace, elegance and finesse. Even at this nascent stage, it’s quite simply ethereal. The minerality is again very evident – crushed rock, manganese and iron oxides. And it’s fabulously pure-fruited with lovely plump crunchy raspberries. The Cabernet Franc brings further freshness and a lovely leafiness to the aromatics and a coolness to the palate. The tannins are graciously grippy, accentuating the leafy Cabernet notes that seem to build as the wine is slowly sculpted and chiselled in the mouth. Wow. This works so well. A truly fabulous wine and something of a revelation. 98.

Masseto 2020 (Toscana IGT; 85% Merlot; 15% Cabernet Franc; 15% alcohol). A wine that you somehow expect to disappoint but that simply never does – here perhaps more than ever. The presence of the Cabernet Franc for only the second time (it was at 10% per cent in the 2019 as I recall) raises this, for me, to a level never previously attained. We have fireworks, both quasi-literal (in that there is a slight hint of cordite in the aromatics) and figurative (in that the image that comes to my mind when I try to capture what encountering this wine feels like is that of a firework display). But that is misleading too. For this is a wine of aromatic and sensual intensity but also of great calm, composure, grace and eloquence. It is subtle just as much as it is explosive. And it is also holding quite a lot back at this early stage. There is already great complexity here – a little subtle vanilla of hint, which is there in the empty glass too; graphite; a touch of spice and a little pepper; there’s blood orange too and a wondrous, again subtle, violet floral note from the Cabernet Franc. On the palate, this is rich and broad – Masseto is to Tuscany what Petrus is to Pomerol. But it is also hyper-fresh and so soft and caressing, with the most sublime, ultra-fine grained tannins. There’s plenty of grip, but a very slow and calm evolution over the palate – no fireworks here. Above all this is a wine of such wonderous potential with so much more to come; all in harmony and elegance. On the finish this is still chewy with tender tannins and exceptionally long – and a lovely rise to the top of the palate producing a vertical plume. So very pure and so very precise. 100.

Testamatta (Bibi Graetz) 2021 (Toscana IGT; 100% Sangiovese; 13.5% alcohol). Spicy. Lithe and limpid. Discrete at first. Quite floral and made in a very crystalline style. Beeswax. Crushed single berries and a little cherry. Wonderfully vibrant and fresh. Raspberry and loganberry, a little redcurrant too and a slight leafiness accentuating the sense of freshness. A little cinnamon and the scent of a dusty baked summer path winding through the vines. A touch of espresso and a little hint of smoke. Limpid, glossy, if lacking just a little of the mid-palate concentration of the wines above (and, indeed, Colore this year), but with nice tension and forward momentum across and over the palate. Stylish and, above all, crystalline. Tender and taut, resolving itself into a fine linear trace on the long finish. 95.

Colore (Bibi Graetz) 2021 (Toscana IGT; 100% Sangiovese; 14% alcohol). More complex than the Testamatta and something of a step up, especially in this vintage. Spices and assorted fresh and dried flowers. Espresso bean, wild flowers and garrigue herbs, rose petals, hints of wild rosemary, wild strawberry and those darker plump whole berries and red cherry  – then the candlewax – one is really in the cathedral here. All of that and there’s still so much more to come. A pleasing undernote of earthiness. And, strangely, almost a slight iodine/peaty note (like an Islay whisky – Ardbeg perhaps). Soft and voluptuous. There’s a lot more volume here and it is more distinct from Testamatta than it used to be. Green tea, sundried tomatoes, a lovely mineral salinity (and that sea spray note again). Tighter and more compact than its stablemate, but bigger boned too, more ample and opulent. The breadth and softness that one finds immediately on the attack is disrupted by the freshness that spurts out into the cheeks horizontally, enlivening the mouth and charging the palate for the finish. Lithe and with enough concentration to make the crystallinity not feel like dilution. There’s a nice grip from the tannins and that releases the fresher notes that recharge the palate. Impressively full and concentrated by the finish (the intensity creeps up on you). 97+.

Giodo Brunello di Montalcino 2019 (Toscana IGT; 100% Sangiovese; 14.5% alcohol). Spicy, stylish and very authentically ‘of Brunello’. But not overdone. Fresh and floral; bright and elegant. Lots of candlewax. Green tea. A little cinnamon – but subtle in its spiciness. Crushed peppercorns. Limpid, fluid, lithe and concentrated but not heavy at all and helped in that by the stony minerality. Great Brunello authenticity. Sapid. I rather like this. 95.

Poggio di Sotto Brunello di Montalcino 2018 (Brunello di Montalcino; 100% Sangiovese; 14% alcohol; certified organic and biodynamic). First released in December and so part of neither the March nor the September campaign. Really exciting. Fabulous harmony and elegance and complexity with that lovely spicy richness so redolent of top Brunello. Dried cherries, cinnamon toast, cloves and fresh garrigue herbs, a slight balsamic lift, roasted hazelnuts and liquorice, a brilliant stony minerality, this wine offers so much. Power, but in refinement. Rich, compact, plump yet crystalline, pure, fluid and very gracious. Chewy fine grained tannins on the finish and a very long life ahead of it. Utterly brilliant, even before one begins to set it in the context of the vintage. 97.

Marchese di Grésy Barbaresco Camp Gaiun Riserva 2018 (Barbaresco; 100% Nebbiolo; ). Bright, hyper fresh and quite vertical in presentation, if not at this stage particularly expressive aromatically – it needs a little tempting to spring to life and ‘spring’ it does for this is fresh and sprightly, crisp and crunchy in its bright red fruit profile – lots of raspberry and loganberry, a little redcurrant. A little black tea leaf too, but very subtly and only a hint of leather – it’s there but understated. Very rich and intense and impressively compact in the mouth – a real vin de terroir. Long, tender, chewy and with gracious but considerable tannins that will give this significant aging potential even in a vintage that one tends to think of as earlier drinking. 96.

Italian releases (white)

Vintage Region New? Rating
Petrolo Bòggina B 2021 Toscana No 94
Testamatta Bianco (Bibi Graetz) 2022 Toscana No 95
Colore Bianco (Bibi Graetz) 2022 Toscana No 98

Petrolo Bòggina B 2021 (Toscana IGT Bianco; 100% Trebbiano; 12% alcohol). Fresh and flinty. Lithe. Lots of zesty, lime citrus notes. Grapefruit too. Candlewax. Crisp, bright, vertical, quite viscous but that actually accentuates the sense of vertical lift and energy (to give lift to a wine of greater density is more gravity-defying and impressive in a way). Nicely done. An upward pointing fire hydrant of fresh energy and gentle citrus sapidity. On the finish, white melon, a hint of guava and a dusting of fleur de sel. 94.

Testamatta Bianco (Bibi Graetz) 2022 (Toscana IGT; 100% Ansonica; sourced entirely from the island of Giglio on granitic soils; 14% alcohol; no longer in a clear glass bottle). Tasted in Paris just before the release. Another superb white from Bibi Graetz and Testamatta. Crisp, taut and bright aromatically with very clear and expressive apple and citrus notes, a little wild herbal element, nettles too and a hint of hazelnut. I love the wisp of sea-spray too. A lovely grippy attack, really charged with freshness and tension, the wine staying very close to the spine which gives it great intensity. It’s also remarkably dynamic and fluid, almost sparkling as it dances around and over the palate releasing little whirlpools of freshness. Excellent and more tense than some previous vintages. 95.

Colore Bianco (Bibi Graetz) 2022 (Toscana IGT; 100% Ansonica; sourced entirely from the old Pietrabona vineyard on the island of Giglio sloping down to the sea; 14% alcohol). From a sample sent to Paris just before the release. After having tasted the already superb Testamatta bianco there is eager anticipation as I pull the cork on this. It does not disappoint. Exhibit A for the thesis (wrong, as it happens) that all truly great wines come from truly beautiful terroirs. Somehow it always seems more credible in Italy. A little darker in the glass revealing, as much as anything, the age of the vines from which this hails. Much more intense and even more taut than Testamatta, with peach, apricot skin, candlewax and grapefruit joining the assorted citrus and herbal elements of its younger sibling (younger, that is, in terms of the average age of the vines). This is more intensely saline too – with, again, that lovely iodine note – with almost a hint of oyster shell and fruits de mer too. Fabulously intense and profound on the attack, with a plunge-pool crystallinity to the mid-palate and an amazing density for a wine that is so viscerally flesh. Soft, plump, luxuriant and succulent but as tense as a Cold War standoff. Brilliantly mineral. A triumph and the best Colore bianco I have had the privilege to taste (the first vintage, if I recall correctly, was 2018). It will be even better in five years’ time. 98.

A note on the tasting notes:

As regular readers will know, Colin is the Bordeaux and La Place correspondent for the drinks business, whose specialism is Bordeaux, in particular, and northern Europe (especially Piedmont and Tuscany), secondarily. He argues that this should be taken in mind when it comes to his tasting notes for  regions with which he is less familiar and which he encounters primarily through La Place.

“My notes, as ever, are those of an enthusiast and a wine-lover and, for these regions above all, they are best read as such,” he says.

All of the wines were tasted either in Bordeaux at the offices of the courtiers or négociants bringing these wines to the international market, at the property itself, or in Paris, from samples sent directly from the property – and, in many cases, multiple times.

NYT – not yet tasted or re-tasting (with tasting notes to appear in a later article).

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