Saturday, 1 April 2017

All about Gambero Rosso

Now in its 30th edition, the Gambero Rosso Vini d’Italia Wine Guide covers 2400 producers and 22000 wines, making it the most comprehensive guide to Italian wines. There is compact and relevant detail for each featured producer, but I found more interest in the preface for the guide. Of the 429 wines awarded the top rating of Tre Bicchieri, 80 hailed from Tuscany, 75 from Piedmont, and 38 from Veneto. Yet the top two still wines in this edition were from neither of these places. The top red is the Gioia del Colle Primitivo Muro Sant’Angelo Contrada Barbatto 2013 from Tenute Chiaromonte, while the top white is the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Misco 2015 from Tenuta di Tavignano. Side note – it boggles me that anyone would think that the longer the name the more impressive the wine. Surely wines such as Sassicaia, Margaux and Opus One have proven that consumers appreciate easy to remember labels? The key point here though is that these wines, from Puglia and Marche respectively, show that there is value to looking outside of the traditionally more famous wine regions of Italy.

Gambero Rosso started in 1986 as a weekly food and wine supplement in the newspaper Il Manifesto. Since then it has expanded into a monthly magazine, established a training centre and television channel, and even published a guide to Italy’s gelaterias. The name comes from the restaurant in which two of its original founders, Stefano Bonilli and Carlo Petrini met to discuss the idea of a wine guide. That restaurant, in San Vincenzo, was helmed by chef Fulvio Perangelini, although he says that “In reality, the Gambero name doesn’t belong to anyone and belongs to everyone… There are hundreds of Gambero Rosso restaurants in Italy.” It’s a tribute to the success of Gambero Rosso that competitors such as the Slow Wine Guide and Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine have sprung up, published by people who used to work for Gambero Rosso.

Eschewing the common wine rating system of awarding points, the Gambero Rosso Wine Guide scores each wine from one to three glasses. A symbol of one glass denotes wines that are moderately good to good, while two glasses denote very good to excellent wines and three glasses (the coveted Tre Bicchieri) are given to excellent wines in their respective categories.  A star is given to any winery that has won ten Tre Bicchieri awards, with the highest number of stars given to Gaja (a total of 54 stars). Interestingly, one of Gambero Rosso’s past editors once criticised Gaja as being cold and soulless, although technically perfect. The history of Gambero Rosso has not always been one of perfect agreement.

One of the initiatives that Gambero Rosso has embarked on to reach a wider audience is the Top Italian Wines Roadshow. Eighteen cities have been scheduled for the 2017/2018 world tour, including a stopover in Singapore last month, the fifth time the roadshow has been held here. For the Italian wine lover, it is a great opportunity to taste wines from around Italy and discover some lesser known varieties. During my rounds I found two that left an impression. Pecorino is a white grape that produces light and crisp, minerally wines with tropical fruit notes and a hint of sweetness. My tasting notes reflect flavours of lemon, starfruit, herbs and chamomile. The name is derived from pecora, which means sheep, and it is believed that the grapes were a favourite snack for sheep moving from pasture to pasture. It is widely found in Marche and Abruzzo. Velenosi makes a good example, the Falerio Pecorino “Villa Angela” DOC 2016 available from The Italian Wine List. At the opposite spectrum are wines made from the red Sicilian Nero d’Avola grape, producing dark, full-bodied wines with notes of black cherry and licorice. It takes well to barrel maturation, which can imbue the wine with smoky and mocha flavours. The most rapturous example I found was the Planeta Noto Santa Cecilia 2011, a mouthfilling and tannic wine displaying polished notes of smoke, toast, cherry, black forest cake and licorice. It is available from local distributor Ferrari Food+Wine.

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