Learning Italian wine tasting recs

Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
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Robert M yers
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Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#1 Post by Robert M yers » July 28th, 2020, 5:01 pm

I’ve been really behind the curve where I want to be in Italian wines. What I’d like to do is open one benchmark wine from every significant grape/region within a short time frame if not on the same night. I’m not sure how many wines this might entail honestly, but I’d like to get a general education in as many as might make sense.

I’m not looking for labels and high end wines here, I’m looking for classic examples of each grape which are readily found and preferably at the best qpr.

One wine from each grape/region, so who you would put in the tasting(s) and what wines would you include in this benchmark tasting.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#2 Post by Michael S. Monie » July 28th, 2020, 5:18 pm

You are sure to get plenty of advice with this but what you are suggesting would be a massive undertaking. Ian D'Agata counts Italy's native varieties at over 500. A more streamlined and systematic approach would be more realistic.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#3 Post by AndyK » July 28th, 2020, 5:23 pm

There is also the question of winemaking style. For example, in Barbaresco you may consider Produttori del Barbaresco and La Spinetta as two representative producers at a similar price point. They vary widely in style with the Produttori being very classic and the Spinetta being modern... Your conclusion may be driven more by producer than region.

Another suggestion is to spend a bit of time in each region, for example the Langhe. Look at a few producers from each sub-region (Barolo, Barbaresco) at different levels and from different winemaker, to really get an idea what you like... I would limit this to the main regions first and then dive into smaller and lesser known areas.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#4 Post by Jan Janas » July 28th, 2020, 5:48 pm

Italy is very variegated and diversified with a higher number of indigenous grapes than anywhere else in the world. If you want a broad stroke you could try to go for grape variety and basically hit all the 20 regions, or you could focus more on the most important regions, as already suggested, and then continue into the more obscure stuff. And a middle-ground would be to go for appellations. For example: Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, Chianti Classico, Bolgheri, Valtellina Rosso/Superiore, Etna Rosso, Aglianico del Vulture, Primitivo di Manduria, Taurasi, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Greco di Tufo, Franciacorta, Prosecco Valdobbiadene, and so on.

A thread to start in the white wines camp: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=159760

A list of top Italian whites: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomhyland/ ... ite-wines/

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#5 Post by Ian S » July 28th, 2020, 6:23 pm

Italy is just as daft as Burgundy. Maybe moreso.

One tip: taste the difference between Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti made from 100% Sangiovese. Brunello is required to be 100% Sangiovese. You'll have to make sure you get a proper Chianti because they can be blended with small amounts of other grapes. I suggest this is because of the 2 different strains of Sangiovese: Brunello being Grosso, and Chianti being Piccolo. Grosso is a larger berry than Piccolo. Not only are they different sizes, but grown in different areas with different soils. In warmer Southern Tuscany, where Brunello is grown, the soils are loamy limestone giving more tannin and richness with a darker fruit flavor. The wines are in oak for at least 3 years, longer for Riservas, and are made for extended cellaring before drinking. In the cooler Classico region, where the best Chiantis are made, the soil is clay & limestone, making the wine more acidic and red fruited. These wines are in barrel for approximately a year (again, longer for Reserve), and are made to be consumed earlier.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#6 Post by Robert M yers » July 28th, 2020, 6:51 pm

Italian Beginner here, so the plan was to keep it to the basics and the classics and then we can branch off from there. A starting point which can lead down the many tributaries in the worm hole. I guess I was thinking maybe the top dozen or maybe twenty wines (classic in style) to taste over a week to just get a feel for where I might like to go first. I probably shouldn’t have said grapes, appellations as suggested might be a better focus.

I realize this is to easy to pin down and can never be all inclusive, but I’d just like to pick up 10-20 bottles and see where it might take me.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#7 Post by Wes Barton » July 28th, 2020, 8:55 pm

You could make it easier linking us a retailer site you use. That narrows it down for us, and gives you one stop shopping. If their selection sucks, we'll tell you. That gives you enough to taste to give you direction what to look for and ask about next.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#8 Post by Otto Forsberg » July 28th, 2020, 11:37 pm

Probably the best way would be to taste through the classic regions both red and white and go through them by tasting some classic producers. If 20 wines, then probably these:

Whites/bubblies:
Franciacorta
Piemonte: Roero Arneis / Timorasso
Alto Adige: Pinot Bianco
Veneto: Soave Classico
Friuli: Ribolla Gialla / Friulano
Friuli with skin contact like Gravner or Radikon
Tuscany: Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Marche: Verdicchio di Matelica or Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
Campania: Fiano di Avellino
Sicily: Etna Bianco

Reds:
Emilia-Romagna: dry Lambrusco
Lighter Nebbiolo: Gattinara/Bramaterra/Ghemme/Valtellina
Weightier Nebbiolo: Barolo/Barbaresco
Veneto: Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
Friuli: Schioppettino/Refosco
Tuscany 1: Chianti Classico
Tuscany 2: Brunello di Montalcino
Umbria: Sagrantino di Montefalco
Campania: Taurasi
Sicily: Etna Rosso

You are just scratching the surface with these, but if you manage to source some classic (i.e. not overtly polished, glossy modern wines), you should get a somewhat clear picture of the Italian wines as a whole and the stylistic differences between the regions. However, it's hard to point out to good producers/wines when one doesn't know what is available where.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#9 Post by Brian Gilp » July 29th, 2020, 3:51 am

Otto’s list is a great starting point.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#10 Post by Peter Petersen » July 29th, 2020, 8:44 am

Robert,
I'm on the same road. Aside from from several random buys I also connected with the Italian wine buyer, Lance Montalto, for The Wine House (very close to me) and had him select a case for me. That was super educational as it included wine areas and grapes that I didn't even know existed.
Also Sec Wines in Portland has an excellent selection at extremely good prices, also they all lean traditional according to Eric, the owner.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#11 Post by Jim Stewart » July 29th, 2020, 9:19 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:37 pm
Probably the best way would be to taste through the classic regions both red and white and go through them by tasting some classic producers. If 20 wines, then probably these:
. . .
That list is 'gold'. Otto.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#12 Post by John Kight » July 29th, 2020, 9:28 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:37 pm
Probably the best way would be to taste through the classic regions both red and white and go through them by tasting some classic producers. If 20 wines, then probably these:

Whites/bubblies:
Franciacorta
Piemonte: Roero Arneis / Timorasso
Alto Adige: Pinot Bianco
Veneto: Soave Classico
Friuli: Ribolla Gialla / Friulano
Friuli with skin contact like Gravner or Radikon
Tuscany: Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Marche: Verdicchio di Matelica or Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
Campania: Fiano di Avellino
Sicily: Etna Bianco

Reds:
Emilia-Romagna: dry Lambrusco
Lighter Nebbiolo: Gattinara/Bramaterra/Ghemme/Valtellina
Weightier Nebbiolo: Barolo/Barbaresco
Veneto: Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
Friuli: Schioppettino/Refosco
Tuscany 1: Chianti Classico
Tuscany 2: Brunello di Montalcino
Umbria: Sagrantino di Montefalco
Campania: Taurasi
Sicily: Etna Rosso

You are just scratching the surface with these, but if you manage to source some classic (i.e. not overtly polished, glossy modern wines), you should get a somewhat clear picture of the Italian wines as a whole and the stylistic differences between the regions. However, it's hard to point out to good producers/wines when one doesn't know what is available where.
Very good, comprehensive list above, though for a true beginner, I would move slowly, and focus on a few of these before moving on to some of the more obscure ones. Truth be told, I would urge any beginner, particularly someone whose initial wine knowledge is primarily based on New World reds, to begin in Tuscany....And actually start with Super Tuscan and Bolgheri wines (focused on international varieties, either alone or blended with Sangiovese), and then from there to Chianti and Brunello. I feel like Sangiovese is actually an acquired taste, and if someone is just "tasting through" 50 different Italian varietals, they'd rarely wind up thinking that they liked Chianti/Brunello. It's only with drinking enough samples to recognize the characteristic flavors (and the differences, for example, between typical Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, and Brunello, as well as the difference between more modern and traditional versions of each) that I think anyone can begin to have an informed opinion of the grape.

Next up would be Piemonte...Langhe, Barolo, Barbaresco (and maybe even Barbera and Dolcetto if the goal is to focus on QPR food-friendly wines).

While ALL of the regions above can make amazing wines and are worth exploring later, any more mainstream discussion of Italian reds will typically start and stop with Tuscany and Piedmont, and any list of the top 10-20 red wines of Italy would likely be 85%+ comprised of wines from just those two regions....Once a base understanding of the above is achieved, move on to the others (Aglianico, Nerello Mascalese, Sagrantino, Refosco, Corvina, etc.)....

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#13 Post by Marshall Manning » July 29th, 2020, 9:37 am

Otto +5!

There are far more grapes and regions on top of Otto's excellent list. Italy is probably the most diverse wine-producing country, and you can only scratch the surface with something like this. While Barolo/Barbaresco, Chianti and Brunello make up most of the big names, there are so many other varieties and regions that make fantastic wine.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#14 Post by Robert M yers » July 29th, 2020, 9:54 am

Otto, thanks for taking the time to make that list, very helpful. If anybody has specific wines to fill in that would be great. I can shop at any place that ships really, although NY/Chi/DC would be best.

I tolerate modern wines ok, but my palate is decidedly northern Rhône minus Brett. (Maybe that Actually makes it modern :))

I certainly don’t think I’m going to tackle Italy in a week, I’m just looking to get a good start with classic wines and avoid easy missteps along the way.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#15 Post by Joseph Zamrin » July 29th, 2020, 10:02 am

Just start drinking the wines with dinner. Try to match up with typical dishes of the region or something appropriate. There's no shortcut. You will imho shortchange your experience if you try to lump all these various wines together over just a few nights.

A few recents for me for value and quality:
Tuscany: Col D'orcia 15 Brunello, Carpineto 15 Vino Nobile
Piedmont: Moccagatta 16 Barbaresco Bric Balin, Giacosa Roero Arneis
Marche: Simone Capecci 18 Pecorino
Emilia Romagna: Fattoria Moretto Lambrusco sec
Campania: Salvatore Molettieri 12 Taurasi Vigna Cinque Querce, Radici Fiano di Avellino

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#16 Post by Robert M yers » July 29th, 2020, 11:26 am

I don’t necessarily have to taste them all at once, but I do need to buy them all at once or I’ll keep pushing it off. There just isn’t enough of a selection around here to try and piece together a broad collection here and there.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#17 Post by John Kight » July 29th, 2020, 11:34 am

Many of these are NOT the "board favorites" (as many of those will take you over the $80 range...While 1-2 of these might be over $80, I've tried to focus on a variety of styles and values relative to the categories as a whole:

Chianti Classico (and Chianti Classico Riserva): (Look for '15 and '16 vintages): Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva; Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva; Fontodi Chianti Classico; Antinori Badia a Passignano; Tenuta Tignanello "Marchesi Antinori" Chianti Classico Riserva; Fonterutoli "Castello di Fonterutoli" CR; Badia a Coltibuono CR; Selvapiana 'Bucerchiale' Chianti Rufina Riserva

IGT ("Super Tuscan") and Bolgheri: Felsina Fontalloro (100% Sangiovese); Antinori Tignanello; Isole e Olena Cepparello (100% Sangio); Montevertine 'Montevertine IGT' (100% Sangio); Caiarosso 'Caiarosso Toscana' (Merlot/Cab Franc blend); Castellare di Castellina 'Poggio al Merli' IGT (Merlot); Castello di Bossi 'Corbaia' IGT. Also, any number of very solid Bolgheri wines available for $35-$45...Le Maccheole 'Paleo Rosso' is terrific and has been a favourite over the years, but is now pushing $100...I'd look for under $50 in this category.

Brunello di Montalcino: (Look for '15 or soon-to-come '16) Lisini; Livio Sassetti Pertimali; Fuligni; Ciacci Piccolomini; Altesino; Il Poggione; Uccelliera; Conti Costanti; Argiano. (At $33, the Caparzo is a decent value, and something of a "go-to" wine for pizza but is definitely NOT as exciting or as good as any of these others (although the others area mostly about twice that price).

Barbaresco/Barolo: (look for '15 and '16 if you're buying recent vintages): Mauro Molino Barolo (always a great value for about $33, and sometimes at Costco); Vajra Barolo ('Albe' or 'Bricco della Viole', both nice values); La Ca Nova Barbaresco (great value; any of the single vineyards...Montestefano and Montifico are good ones); Moccagatta Bric Mentin (or Basarin) Barbaresco (more modern); Produttori di Barbaresco 'Barbaresco' (or their 'Lange') (board favourite...always solid).

Campania (Taurasi or Aglianico del Vulture): Elena Fucci 'Titolo' Aglianico del Vulture (Great value); Terredorra di Paolo Taurasi (probably my favourite Taurasi from a consistency and value perspective); Mastroberardino 'Radici' (or Radici Riserva) Taurasi (modern-ish but a gold standard example)

Umbria (Sagrantino): Paolo Bea 'Pagliaro' (but it's pricey at $110-ish); Lungarotti (good value); Perticaia; Scacciadiavoli

Sicily (Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Nero d'Avola): COS (any of their wines); Occhipinti (any of the wines); Calabretta Nerello Mascalese V.V. (brilliant value); Tenuta Terre Nere (any of their wines); Passopisciaro (Never been my favourite, but many here love it)
Last edited by John Kight on July 29th, 2020, 11:48 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#18 Post by Jim Stewart » July 29th, 2020, 11:41 am

John Kight wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 11:34 am
Many of these are NOT the "board favorites" (as many of those will take you over the $80 range...While 1-2 of these might be over $80, I've tried to focus on a variety of styles and values relative to the categories as a whole:
. . .
Nice work putting some "flesh on the bones", John. Robert is not going to be the only beneficiary of this thread for sure.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#19 Post by Patrick T a y l o r » July 29th, 2020, 12:18 pm

Robert M yers wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:54 am
Otto, thanks for taking the time to make that list, very helpful.
Otto's list is great. And Ian had a good suggestion to try Brunello, Chianti Classico, and Chianti. I agree that Sangiovese is an acquired taste. My palate is happy with cheaper Chianti. Yours might not be so happy.

It sounds like you have dismissed your local wine shops. I think you should reconsider. I live near Indianapolis and there are at least 3 wine shops where I could easily pick up a nice mixed case of Italian wines. And Indy is not a wine town. Surely Cleveland or the burbs has one or two good shops? Rozi's in Lakewood looks interesting. And the downtown Heinen's says they have 1000 labels - not sure if they have a wine-specific employee. Just my .02.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#20 Post by Brian Gilp » July 29th, 2020, 4:02 pm

WRT Sangiovese being an acquired taste, everyone is different. I have a good friend who didn’t like wine but his wife loved it and he asked me to help him find something he would like so he could share at least some wine with her. We tried a number of things without success. Not sure now what led me to try Chianti’s but he liked it from the first sip. That’s been a few years ago now and he has branched out to other things but still loves his Chianti especially Monsanto.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#21 Post by Joseph Grassa » July 29th, 2020, 4:12 pm

lots of good info in the responses above. This one in particular stands out as important to me.
John Kight wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 9:28 am
Truth be told, I would urge any beginner, particularly someone whose initial wine knowledge is primarily based on New World reds, to begin in Tuscany....And actually start with Super Tuscan and Bolgheri wines (focused on international varieties, either alone or blended with Sangiovese), and then from there to Chianti and Brunello. I feel like Sangiovese is actually an acquired taste...
When you shift into Sangiovese, I think you should make at least a few attempts at each Chianti & Brunello. The only other thing I think really should be considered is age. I think a young Brunello is very much an acquired taste, but a well aged Brunello seems to be loved by everyone. If you are trying relatively young wines, I recommend trying a given Sangiovese over many hours, so you can get an idea of the changes as well.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#22 Post by Mattstolz » July 29th, 2020, 5:22 pm

personally, I think there are some regions in Italy where you gotta spend a little time to understand them. having a single "token" Barolo isn't gonna help you, any more than a single Burgundy doesn't let you understand burgundy. at the very least, there is a big difference between the two soil types in Barolo, Serralunga vs La Morra. Or even within the same producer of Barbaresco, Produttori, the 11 crus they produce can be very different. not to mention, aged Nebbiolo is a totally different beast and experience compared to the young stuff. then you get into the fact that a classic producer probably produces Barolo, langhe Nebbiolo, Barbara, dolcetto, freisa...

everyone already mentioned how different Sangiovese can be, and thats not even taking into account Chianti vs Chianti Classico, vs CCR, vs individual areas in chianti.


all this gets around to the fact that I think learning about Italian wine is hard to do as a general overview. I would suggest region deep-dives instead, starting with the classics: Piedmont (at least Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, dolcetto), Sangiovese (Chianti and brunello), Veneto, and Sicily. the lists of producers people have above have great examples!

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#23 Post by Jan Janas » July 29th, 2020, 5:51 pm

Otto Forsberg wrote:
July 28th, 2020, 11:37 pm

Whites/bubblies:
Lombardy: Franciacorta Cà del Bosco
Piemonte: Roero Arneis / Timorasso
Alto Adige: Pinot Bianco Cantina Terlan Vorberg Riserva
Veneto: Soave Classico Pieropan
Friuli: Ribolla Gialla / Friulano
Friuli with skin contact like Gravner or Radikon
Tuscany: Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Marche: Verdicchio di Matelica Bisci or Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Umani Ronchi, Bucci
Campania: Fiano di Avellino or Greco di Tufo Pietracupa
Sicily: Etna Bianco Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Cusumano

Reds:
Emilia-Romagna: dry Lambrusco
Lighter Nebbiolo: Gattinara/Bramaterra/Ghemme/Valtellina Dirupi, Arpepe
Weightier Nebbiolo: Barolo/Barbaresco Produttori del Barbaresco
Veneto: Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
Friuli: Schioppettino/Refosco
Tuscany 1: Chianti Classico Querciabella, Felsina, Isole e Olena
Tuscany 2: Brunello di Montalcino
Umbria: Sagrantino di Montefalco
Campania: Taurasi
Sicily: Etna Rosso Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Occhipinti, Passopisciaro
I put some names next to the list of the ones I am comfortable with.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#24 Post by Otto Forsberg » July 29th, 2020, 10:38 pm

When looking for the wines, I heartily suggest going for the 2013 or 2016 vintages when available and avoiding 2014 whenever possible. There are some places that break the above rule (like Barbaresco making sound wines in 2014) but as a whole 2013 and 2016 were top vintages in Italy while 2014 was anything but.

2015 is much more variable, so in many cases you'd need to know the producer if you want to be sure. I haven't had enough 2017 and 2018 yet to decide if there is any consistency through the regions.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#25 Post by John Kight » July 30th, 2020, 6:20 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 10:38 pm
2015 is much more variable, so in many cases you'd need to know the producer if you want to be sure.
This may be true if you're exclusively looking for classically styled, long-term agers, but I think 2015 is a good bet for someone wanting to get a feel for the wines. It is a warmer vintage . My experience with '15 Chianti and Brunello is that they drink very well now, with a ton of opulent fruit. The '16 Chianti's and CCRs I've had are a bit more reserved, a bit higher in acidity, and will likely be the "better wines" with time. I think this may be true of Barolo as well, where it may be even more clear that '16 is the "better" vintage, but the '15s are likely to show well early. I have no view on the vintage comparison of other regions (Campania, Sicily, etc.), although I would bet the Sagrantinos from '15 would be terrific, as that grape LOVES hot vintages.

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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#26 Post by Ian S » August 1st, 2020, 5:57 pm

Otto Forsberg wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 10:38 pm
When looking for the wines, I heartily suggest going for the 2013 or 2016 vintages when available and avoiding 2014 whenever possible.
Why not 2012? Lots of good Brunellos that drink well early from that year.
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Re: Learning Italian wine tasting recs

#27 Post by Otto Forsberg » August 2nd, 2020, 1:43 am

Ian S wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 5:57 pm
Otto Forsberg wrote:
July 29th, 2020, 10:38 pm
When looking for the wines, I heartily suggest going for the 2013 or 2016 vintages when available and avoiding 2014 whenever possible.
Why not 2012? Lots of good Brunellos that drink well early from that year.
2012 was definitely a good vintage in many places, but not as uniformly great as 2013 or 2016 throughout the country. My suggestion was just to have a vintage you don't have to memorize specifically for certain regions.

2012 in Tuscany and Piedmonte are often pretty great, but less so when you go south from Tuscany.

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