Quality, Individuality, Value

Our aim is to find wines that we believe in, so they must not only be good to drink but reflect the grapes and the soil from which they derive and the personal approach of the people who make them. We favour character and individuality, whatever the price level, so we don’t just list wines in order to fill a gap, nor are we content merely to trot out famous names or follow the latest trends, but constantly strive to unearth new and emerging talent so that we can bring you great wines at realistic prices.

Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2016 Tre Bicchieri, Argiano

Gambero Rosso is the world’s foremost guide to things Italian and, especially, so far as we’re concerned, wine, and it has a rather different set-up to most professional wine review magazines: for a wine to be awarded one, two or three glasses it has to have first been tasted by a panel of experts local to the area of production (Chianti, for example), make it through to tasting by a regional panel (Tuscany) and then be selected for the final, national stage. This takes place in Rome at Gambero Rosso’s headquarters where the most prominent experts compare wines from all the regions, marking them out of 100, with any wine having an average score of 90 or more being awarded the coveted Tre Bicchieri. On top of this, every tasting is ‘blind’, so that the tasters have no prior knowledge of where the wine comes from or who made it. As you can see, the whole process is much more rigorous than the approach taken by most journalists.

Finally, the best of the best are again tasted blind to decide the award of Wine of the Year. To achieve this, the wine has to be beyond exceptional! And,

This year’s winner is:-
Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2016 Tre Bicchieri, Argiano

Price is GBP per case size as indicated,  inclusive of VAT, delivery charged on orders below £200.  All wines offered subject to availability.  E & OE   10% Discount on 24 bottles, may be mixed.

Argiano
Dating back to at least 1500, the historic and visually stunning Argiano estate covers some 100 hectares of prime Brunello-shire, sharing its land between vineyards, olive groves and meadows, and with Mount Amiata in the background it is an estate that would be well worth visiting even if they made nothing better than cooking wine. Fortunately for us, it is a top-class winery. In 1992, the estate was acquired by Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano, and the philosophy changed from quantity to quality; Sebastiano Rosa, whose experience included a two-year tenure at Chateau Lafite Rothschild and three years at Sassicaia, was appointed as General Manager and the great oenologist, Giacomo Tachis (Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia, to name a few), was to oversee the viticulture and winemaking – not a bad team. In 2013, the estate was purchased by Andre Esteves, who only added to the efforts to continue the long-standing tradition of Argiano: the world-renowned Chilean terroir consultant, Pedro Parra, was added to the winemaking team in 2015, the cellars and villa have recently been renovated and under  Bernadino Sani,  CEO and winemaker, things have never looked better at this famous estate.

2019 Non Confunditur  –  £107.70 per 6 x 75cl
Non Confunditur is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 30% Syrah and Sangiovese Grosso, vinified separately and grown at 280 – 310 metres on mostly clay and limestone high-density, organically managed vineyards using spurred cordons. Before blending, the wines are aged for 6 months in one-year-old French barriques or two-year-old tonneaux. After blending, they are aged in stainless steel.
A little more serious than the price reflects. Lovely ripe black and red fruits combine with a fleshy palate, ripe tannins and good acidity to make a really attractive, youthful, wine to go with a huge variety of foods.

2019 Rosso di Montalcino  –  £119.70 per 6 x 75cl
100% Sangiovese grown at 280 – 310 metres on mostly clay and limestone, high-density, organic vineyards using spurred cordons. Cold soaked prior to spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel, with 10 days on the skins. Argiano’s Rosso is always one of the best and leans more squarely towards Brunello than most.
This has a lovely bright  ruby colour; fragrant nose – red and black cherry, plum with hints of spice. Youthful palate, energetic, cherry, ripe red fruits, fine tannins with good acidity and medium long finish. Really very good now and over the next few years.

2016 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo, Gambero Rosso Wine of the Year 2021 (very limited)  –  £399 per 3 x 75cl  (or £645 per 6 x 75cl under bond)
This vineyard is on the southwestern side of Montalcino, on a spur of rock overlooking the Val d’Orcia, the Sangiovese Grosso vines are 55 years old and lie 320 meters above sea level, on a soil of clayey-limestone marl, rich in fossils from when this area was a seabed. Only the best parcels of vines are selected for the del Suolo. Fermentation was natural and spontaneous, and maturation was for 30 months in 10-15 hectolitre Allier oak barrels from Garbelletto, including some ovoid (egg-shaped) – after bottling in April, during the most beneficial phases of the moon (Bernardino’s attention to detail is key to the quality of Argiano’s wines) the wine rested for 10 months.

Gambero Rosso note
The wine is announced with a deep ruby ​​colour, and opens with a seductive bouquet with ripe cherries and small fruits turning to more complex notes of tobacco, floral and scrub, and then fade into spice and citrus peel. The mouth is wide, deep, clear, supported by a rich acidic structure that supports an intact and pulpy fruit and tannins of spectacular finesse. Rich but not dense, it is assertive, deep, very elegant, with an extraordinary vitality that predicts glorious aging. We will talk about it for a long time…

‘Vinous’ note
The 2016 Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo from Argiano lifts up with a minty freshness which gives way to peppery herbs and florals. Medicinal cherry, hints of clove and licorice come forward over time. It is dense and textural, leaning toward black fruits, with a complex web of salty minerals and tannins that penetrate the senses. The 2016 Vigna del Suolo shows remarkable length, yet is currently folded in upon itself, creating what feels like a black hole of structure through the finale, which nearly masks an array of residual spices and perfumes. That said, it’s a long-distance runner that is packed full of potential.  Vinous 96+ pts Drinking window: 2026 – 2040 Eric Guido. Tasting date: November 2020

2018 Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco

A new release from the Produttori del Barbaresco is always something to look forward to: meticulous vineyard management, thoughtful and precise winemaking combined with extremely fair pricing make their wines irresistible. This vintage was slightly unusual, so all the best vineyards are going into one ‘super’ cuvee of their signature Barbaresco; fill your boots would be my advice.

The 2018 Growing Season

A long, cool and wet winter replenished the ground water (which had diminished after a dry 2017 summer/autumn) and delayed bud-break until the second week of April which, itself, was a month of quite varied temperatures. May started with heavy rain, storms and lower temperatures, which led to a lot of work in the vineyards trying to prevent fungal diseases brought on by the cool and moist conditions. June was good, with warm, dry weather and flowering and fruit set took place in ideal conditions. Things looked set for a good harvest and green harvesting looked likely, but on 15 July there were terrible hail storms that affected, in particular, the Ovello, Montestefano and Montefico vineyards. The good weather continued throughout the rest of the summer and harvest began on 2 October. Quantities were, of course, well down.

The lack of quantity no doubt influenced their decision to put all their vineyards into one cuvee, the Barbaresco, so there will be no Riserva’s or Crus – all the best stuff has ended up in the ‘village’ Barbaresco (a case of every cloud…), which is being sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

Barbaresco

Up until the late 19th century, Barbaresco grapes simply went into Barolo wine and the region didn’t really have an identity of its own. The man that transformed this and started the revolution was Domizio Cavazza, the principal of the Royal Oenological School in Alba and owner of the Barbaresco castle and its surrounding land. In 1894, he invited nine local growers to join him in producing wine in the castle cellars, and so was born the ‘Cantine Sociali di Barbaresco’ co-operative, the first producers to make wine under the Barbaresco label. In the 1920s, the Fascists forced the Cantine to close down but, in 1958, Don Fiorino Marengo, parish priest of Barbaresco, restored the tradition by uniting nineteen growers to form the Produttori del Barbaresco, with the first three vintages produced in the church basement before being transferred to the current cellars on the opposite side of the square. Today, the Produttori count over fifty members, and under the co-operatives’s legendary Director, Aldo Vacca, have come to be considered one of the pre-eminent producers in the region, as well as one of the leading wine co-operatives in the world.

All Prices are Under Bond UK, wines are due to be shipped later in the autumn. Duty, VAT and delivery will have to be added for domestic deliveries, IB transfers charged at £10 ex VAT or at cost, whichever is the greater.

 

2018 Barbaresco – £175 per 6 x 75cl, 12 bottles at £165 per 6 x 75cl, 24 bottles or more at £155 per 6 x 75cl. 

Magnums at £190 per 3 x 75cl

After the spectacular 2016 and 2017 vintages I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’? Well, not a bit of it, I’m pleased to say. The nose is very appealing, lifted, expressive already with red and ripe black cherries, floral, spice, earthy notes, quite refined. This follows on into the mouth, the tannins are soft and supple, the flavours very pure and, although it’s not a heavy wine, there is good depth and, while youthful, the balance is such that it is immediately appealing. Medium weight with a long, balanced finish, this is a terrific Barbaresco for the medium term. Delicious.

 

A note from Aldo Vacca

Barbaresco, September 2021

The 2018 vintage was good overall, with a dry end of the season, but not enough day/night temperature difference in September to give the extra complexity and depth to the single vineyards, riserva wines. We therefore decided to just release one blend Barbaresco for this vintage so to give the desired complexity to our flagship wine. We did the same in 2012 vintage, a similar vintage. 2018 is lighter wine compared to 2016 and 2017, but very well balanced and with nice aromas, I actually find it very drinkable and quite attractive right away.