In the December 1 issue of the Wine Enthusiast, Kerin O’Keefe published an article called Italy’s Most Collectible Wines. Focusing exclusively on red wines, she surveyed the last approximately 20 years, singling out the best vintages and producers for each of her chosen great denominations – Barolo, Barbaresco, Amarone, Brunello, Bolgheri, and Taurasi – and offering a single exemplary bottle for each vintage.
Given the ever-irksome space limitations of print publication, which are immensely burdensome to any writer with something to say, she did a great job with so potentially huge and shapeless a subject. Very few American wine writers – very few writers in English, in fact – know Italian wines as well as KO’K, and she nailed the important vintages exactly for each of her wines. No one – not even a notorious carper like me – could find fault with her chosen examples either. I wish she had had room for more individual producers’ names, and I’d bet KO’K does too – that’s where those space limitations really hurt. “Here’s your assignment: Tell us all about the great vintages and producers of Barolo (don’t forget to explain what Barolo is) in 250 words.” As the immortal Alfred E. Neuman was wont to say, Aaaarrrrggghhh!
For those who don’t follow WE, here’s a brief summary of what O’Keefe fitted in:
Vintages: 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010
Producers: Bartolo Mascarello, Giuseppe Mascarello, Brezza, Massolino, Paolo Scavino
Vintages: 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010
Producers: Produttori del Barbaresco, Cascina delle Rose, Giuseppe Cortese, Roagna, Gaja
Vintages: 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010
Producers: Giuseppe Quintarelli, Tommasi, Cesari, Tedeschi, Masi
Vintages: 1995, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2010
Producers: Col d’Orcia, Lisini, Costanti, Biondi Santi, Il Marroneto
Vintages: 2001, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012
Producers: Le Macchiole, Michele Satta, Antinori, Ornellaia, Tenuto San Guido (Sassicaia)
Vintages: 1997, 2001, 2004, 2008, 2010
Producers: Mastroberardino, Contrade di Taurasi (Lonardi), Guastaferro, Terredora di Paolo, Feudi di San Gregorio
My only serious quibble with this list is with Bolgheri and its profusion of French varieties, of all of which I am far less a fan than the vast majority of wine journalists – though I am pleased to see the inclusion of the first-rate winemaker Michele Satta. I would rather have used the limited space available for a few off-the-beaten-track great wines – some Gattinaras or Caremas, for example, or Chianti Rufina, especially Selvapiana, or Sicily’s Palari or some Etna wines. But this is a small area of disagreement with a very authoritative listing of Italy’s red crème de la crème – if that isn’t too repulsive a metaphor for what is meant to be high praise.