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Weekly Tasting Report (Nov 23-Dec 6): Italy’s diversity on full show


Our tastings this past fortnight cover more than 600 wines and took us to Australia, China, France, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Uruguay and the United States.

Starting in the US, the Aubert Chardonnay Napa Valley Sugar Shack Estate Vineyard 2018 highlights the greatness of the 2018 vintage for both white and red in Napa. It’s the second 99-pointer from this vineyard after the 2017. Marc Aubert says that he normally picks this vineyard before all others so it always maintains an acid driven freshness and structure besides the ripe fruit.

Australia’s Hunter Valley has really flexed with high quality shiraz wines from the recent 2019 vintage with producers like Tyrrell’s, Mount Pleasant, Brokenwood and Margan all delivering exceptional wines that showcase diverse and increasingly vineyard-specific styles. The great thing about these 2019 shiraz wines is that they possess that elusive matrix of ripeness, concentration and freshness in the right proportion. An exceptional vintage for sure and one that will age so consistently.

The great vineyards of Alsace continue to drive quality, especially in riesling, and in spite of rising temperatures and ever-warmer vintages. The wines of Domaine Valentin-Zusselin reviewed here certainly assert the resilient nature of riesling, in particular when farmed along biodynamic principles. Their 2017s excel and, along with a 2012 from Hugel, they also remind us that these wines are often long-term prospects that practically demand ageing. Don’t miss Stuart Pigott’s report on Alsace after tasting nearly 350 wines, published this week.

Italy is well-represented here with high-scoring wines from the north to the south. Fuller-bodied reds with profound tannin structures are performing well in the 2018 vintage in the northeast. There we find many wines that, like the Hunter Valley wines above, offer intensity and ripe fruit characters with very pleasing freshness bringing balance and drinkability to varieties like teroldego.

Good news from Piedmont too, as we are tasting more and more 2018 wines that offer impressive drinkability. In the Barbera, Langhe Rosso and the like we are seeing a consistent trait of purity and vivid fruit expression that makes for very drinkable wines. We’ve tasted more impressive 2016 vintage Barolo wines lead by Silvio Grasso, and a suite of 2017 Barbarescos from Giorgio Rivetti’s La Spinetta are detailed and expressive.

Campania’s best producers are finding good quality in the 2018 and 2019 vintages with both reds and whites. The big flesh, bold structures and mouth-filling reds of Feudi di San Gregorio impressed as did wines from Galardi and some older vintage releases from Quintodecimo. The 2019 whites from Campania we have tasted so far are flavorful, layered and full-bodied and will offer good drinking on release.

Finally, Sicily is performing so well across recent vintages with red wine highlights from 2017, 2018 and 2019 here. The wines of Pietro Caciorgna, Pietradolce and Donnafugata all came out with high scores. The ability for these wines to deliver finesse and definition in a way that is really unique along the landscape of Italian red wine is really something, as is the resilience and consistency of style.

The depth and breadth of Italian wine is always so impressive and just one of the reasons they are such a big part of this week’s coverage here at

Enjoy these reviews and stay safe.

– Nick Stock, executive editor

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