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2018 Great Wines of Italy

What to do when a disaster happens? What disaster you ask? We could not attend one of the great wine events of the year, James Sucklings Great Wines of Italy. But do not fear, we called in another Aussie drinker to attend so you, and we, could enjoy all of those beautiful Italian wines vicariously through a wine lover with a fine palate and not just a couple of grumpy old punters. So this time you don't need to take our word for it, you now have the privilege of reading about this great event from a very talented Aussie, Michelle.

In her words;

Whether you're a rookie or have a seasoned Italian palate, wine tasting events are always a stellar way to learn more about what's in your glass. Leave it to James Suckling to take it one step further, to not only bring momentous wines to consumers, but also the top producers of these wines that are often behind the scenes.

In preparation for this premium Italian wine tasting event, Suckling and his team of top tasters visited a number of regions in Italy, and tasted and rated their way through 3,500 bottles in 2017. From that, his team picked 175 prestigious producers for this event to showcase everything Italy has to offer – all rated over 90 points.

The Great Wines of Italy San Francisco event took place in the Golden Gate Club on a beautiful, warm winter's day – and what better way to start off an event than with bubbles? A splash of Fraciacorta is always welcome, and Bellavista’s Edizione Teatro alla Scala Gran Cuvèe Brut was a refreshing way to kick things off. A traditional blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it hit all the notes…a light, crisp sparkling wine backed by a beautiful fine lace of bubbles!

Italian whites seem to be rockin' the wine stage lately, and today there were some real stunners from classic regions such as Veneto and Campania to the tiny islands of Gorgona and Giglio (located right off the Tuscan coast.) It was tough to pick a favourite, but a definite noteworthy one was the fresh and zesty Franz Hass Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige. Refreshing and porch-sipper worthy, this is the kind of wine that gets me really jazzed for summer.

Next up were the Brunello's and boy, was this something to get excited about! Next to Barolo, DOCG Brunello (di Montalcino) is considered king in the Italian wine world and today's lineup was a rip-roaring example why. 2014 was known for being a fairly weak vintage for Tuscany, but 2015 came back with a vengeance – in fact, six out of Suckling's top 10 Italian wines this year were Tuscans. Although these new release wines are looking very promising, the majority of the producers from this classic region were pouring from the much heralded 2012 vintage, with some showcasing the slightly lighter side of Brunello by pairing them with their 2013 siblings.

Across the board, these beauties were wonderfully balanced, intense and structured and it was difficult to choose a favorite. The experience of being able to taste from all of these wonderful producers from a relatively small region (~3,000 acres) side by side was the highlight of this event; The true terroir and geographical variation of the region races to the forefront, as the wines range from drinking very elegantly with fine tannins to more dense and concentrated versions you want to squirrel away for decades.

Of course Brunello wasn’t the only representation of Sangiovese at this tasting–a large contingent of Chianti producers were on hand to flaunt their interpretations of this timeless, yet ever-evolving varietal. While a few producers showcased single varietal Chiantis, it was the classical blends that stole the show (and the points!)

Staying in Tuscany brought us to some of the surprise delights of the event; Single. Varietal. Bottlings. True, the international varietals may not be the first thing to jump to mind when thinking of Italy but with Cabernet Sauvignon having been planted for over 250 years, there is some serious precedence here. Carus Vini’s 2013 Cabernet (Sauvignon) Toscana Robeo and Marilisa Allegrini’s Cabernet Franc Poggio al Tesoro Bolgheri Superiore Dedicato a Walter were some fantastic standouts. It’s hard to pick individual wines from Suckling’s top 100 list but these two stood out as an incredible blend of early 20th century restraint with modern winemaking.

While 2013 was a variable year for Nebbiolo, the wines on exhibit here showcased the vintage’s typical elegance. These were wines that tasted almost cool climate with their length, elegance and bright, diverse aromatics. Though the Barolo’s and Barbaresco’s were not as numerous as the rest of the wines on offer, they were examples that did their region proud. Cordero Montezemolo poured through their allotment faster than most could grab their glasses and the desire was well worth it; Not only did they have a display worthy of the Oscars but they also had award-winning Barolos. However, their “high” elevation wine had a depth that would make almost any winemaker jealous.

Suckling, you outdid yourself once again. To wrap it up as James said, “In a world driven by mass culture and uniform tastes, these well-respected Italian producers have stayed true to unique local traditions, as well as capitalizing the best in viticulture and winemaking.”

The event was again entertained by the incomparable Surahn! knockin out the beat like no one can.

The next Great Wines event in SF will be on September 30th, when Suckling will showcase wines from the Andes. Until then, Saluti!

While incredibly disappointed not to be there ourselves, we want t thank Aussie Michelle for filling in for us and it is wonderful to read about what a great tasting experience Michelle had. Till the Andes James Cheers!

Happy Tasting Adventures,



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