Italian Wine fans - Thoughts on the Gambero Rosso Annual Guide?

Just got an e-mail from Amazon mentioning that the 2010 Gambero Rosso guide will be released in a week or so. I’ve never purchased it before (and to be honest, I haven’t been all that impressed with the recent Nicholas Belfrage book on Tuscany’s Finest Wines).

So what do folks think about this guide?

I’ve never bought it or taken much heed of it. They seem to give equal weight to all kinds of wines that don’t seem all that equal to me. They also have a rule that only one wine per winery per wine type can be counted or something.

Otay, well that sounds like a definite pass then.

I used to buy it when I went to the tre bicchieri tastings – I have a link to the 3 bic information up in the Tuscany topic, so you can have a peek.

But Ken is right that most American wine drinkers take it with a grain of salt. There have been some odd developments recently, they broke off their long relationship with the Slow Food Movement and there are rumors that the 3 bic. judging was tainted somehow.

On the other hand – I have a theory that information is better than no information, and when I was more actively buying Italian wines I would frequently look up wines I as I was shopping to see what they had to say about it.

They don’t restrict themselves to one wine, you generally see a whole range of wines listed on a given producers page, and each producer gets a whole page, each major producer.

My most recent issue was the 2004…

I bought it for years and found it a very useful, compact guide to the cantine. It gave some context to the wines and winemaking, and was very useful traveling over there because it is grouped by village and had all the contact info.

But it was very strongly skewed toward modernists for many years – a supreme irony given that Slow Food is devoted to preserving traditions. One year at the TB tasting here in NYC, it seemed like every other wine was a Sardinian syrah or a Puglian cabernet. Many of the Tre Bicchiere wines were grossly exaggerated, super oaky disasters. I remember the importer who was pouring one such wine apologizing. He said his producer was a traditionalist but made this one cuvee for “the Slow Food, Fast Wine crowd.”

By the mid-2000s, traditional wines were treated more fairly in the scores. A well-connected Italian friend told me that the publishers were responding to complaints that the there was a bias. But by then I had tasted and learned more, and I found the rankings simply didn’t match my palate, so I stopped buying the book a few years back.

So I guess it might still be one useful starting point for someone getting into Italian wines, so long as they recognize its limitations.

You know (and maybe this is a reflection of their lack of market cache’ at the higher end), I do miss being able to read good wine books about Italy. It’s the lion’s share of my cellar, and as our good friend Roberto consistently points out, the boot has as much or more in terms of wine diversity when compared to other wine producing countries.

But at least IMO, it is woefully underserved in terms of “must read” literature. I still have my copy of Sheldon Wasserman’s tome, and that is a treasure when it comes to Piemonte & Tuscany, but it’s woefully outdated now. The Wine Atlas of the Langhe is a “coffee table book” with exquisite vineyard photography, but it’s not anything you’re going to use to research wine. As I alluded to in my initial post, Nicolas Belfrage’s book is okay if you’re a neophyte when it comes to Tuscany, but it’s hardly a “bible” when it comes to that region.

I guess I could always read Bob’s latest Bordeaux book while I’m swilling Barolo if I want literature with my vino [wink.gif]

I, for one, would definitely NOT pass on picking up a copy. To Frank’s well-written point, GR has for years served me as a key reference point for relatively up to date information at the cantina level differerently and not as comprehensively as with American or British publications…but with the caveat that most publications post scores that are often biased, inconsistent or just plain suspect, and GR is unfortunately no exception.