MW Symposium 2014: Italian wine tasting

MW Symposium 2014: Italian wine tasting

We should be pleased, for manifold reasons, that Italy was able to host the Symposium MW: delegates from 32 countries were able to keep up-to-date with trends and the state of Italian winemaking. I think that the most appreciated feature of our winemaking was the variety, as well as the quality, of the wines on offer. Sarah Jane Evans, vice president of the IMW, brought the proceedings to a close by summarising in three key words the values emerging from the 8th Symposium: “diversity”, “authenticity” and “community”. I totally agree.

Coming back to Italy, the speakers held their own with the audience, introducing interesting concepts. The hospitality was tops: the evenings at Palazzo Corsini (including a Botticelli canvas…) organised by the Consortium of Chianti Classico and the final evening at the new Antinori winery in Bargino, which was simply unforgettable. One evening, the delegates were divided up among twenty dinners in wineries around Florence. My group was magnificently welcomed by Leonardo Bellaccini at Borgo San Felice: an enchanting place with great wines and we were particularly struck by the one from native grapes that only this winery valorises and bottles as a monovarietal: Pugnitello 2007 (which I gave 88 out of 100), served from a magnum, with hints of undergrowth, red fruits, strawberries, chestnuts, with great roundness and length on the palate. The winery also owns an estate in Montalcino and, as an aperitif, we toasted in style with the Brunello Campogiovanni 2009 (90/100): elegant, powerful, lingering, multilayered and decidedly balanced on the palate, with 15.5 ABV perfectly sustained by the acidity.

#3-Symposium-MW-Chianti

MW Italian wine tasting

I didn’t count how many Italian wines the MWs, aspiring MWs and friends of MWs could have tasted in these 4 days, but I would hazard a guess at over 120 different wines, considering that 110 are in the official catalogue, and about ten will have been offered by individual wineries on Friday evening. Dividing them according to “themes”, we tasted 10 Trento DOC wines on Thursday afternoon as a “welcome” to the congress (and thanks to my friend Roberto Anesi who presented them with his colleagues from AIS Trentino), where in my opinion the Giulio Ferrari 2002 stood out (93/100). At the grand opening gala, 26 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione wines at Palazzo Corsini (my top score went to Colonia 2009 by Fèlsina – 95/100, subtle, elegant, Sangiovese without compromise or being too muscular). On Saturday evening, 38 wines from 19 wineries that make up the Istituto Grandi Marchi (the main sponsor of the event) and on Sunday, before leaving, one of the 5 iconic wines selected for the grand finale was Masseto. The others, just for the record, were Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Le Clavoillon 2010 Domaine Leflaive, the Australian wine from Eden Valley Mount Edelstone 2010 Henscheke (my favourite of the five with a score of 95/100), the Californian Promontory Estate 2009 by Bill Harlan and the Spanish Pingus 2009 by Peter Sisseck produced in Ribera del Duero. All real legends.

Discovering the new Italy

But it appears from the comments that the Italian tasting that probably impressed the participants of the Symposium the most was “Discovering the new Italy”, on Saturday morning. 46 wines from 23 wineries, meeting certain requirements: the use of rare or unusual varieties, heroic viticulture on difficult terrains, recovery of abandoned vineyards, challenges to traditional winemaking with innovative or extreme techniques. I am particularly happy about the reception of the theme and of the wines chosen, because I took part in the selection with other MWs and my friend Michèle Shah. Someone might wonder where all these names came from and with extreme transparency I’ll explain: each of us expressed about twenty preferences for wineries, the wineries nominated by at least two of us were invited. This underlines the exceptional variety and subjectivity of the suggestions if only 23 wineries emerged, seeing that 5 or 6 of us voted. The same happens when you cross-check the wine guides! Now I think it would be interesting to recall these wineries one by one: Lo Triolet (Valle d’Aosta), Perla del Garda (Lombardy), Cesconi (Trentino), De Battè (Liguria), Vigne Petrussa, Ronchi di Cialla (Friuli Venezia Giulia), D’Uva, Cipressi (Molise), Nicodemi (Abruzzo), Poderi Morini (Romagna), Librandi (Calabria), Tenuta Santa Caterina, Franco Martinetti, Vigneti Massa, Nervi (Piedmont), Gianfranco Fino (Apulia), Dettori (Sardinia), Agricola Punica (Sardinia), Occhipinti, I Vigneri, Passopisciaro (Sicily), Poggio Argentiera (Tuscany), Marisa Cuomo (Campania).

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