Italy vintage 2008: the good, bad, and delicious

Above: Tracie P made a delicious pollo alla canzanese (with potato purée) last night for dinner. After she tasted a bit paired with the 2008 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, she said: “wow, Chianti goes with everything!” Selvapiana is one of our favorite wines, in terms of cost, food-friendliness, general deliciousness… and of course, its old-school ethos.

It’s too early to make any general sweeping observations (and no matter what the vintage, there will always be idiosyncratic expressions of any appellation depending on the grower, growing sites, and winemaker), but 2008 — from what I have tasted so far — is sizing up not to be the greatest vintage in northern and central Italy in recent memory. The legacy of 2008 has yet to reveal itself but it would seem that rain — particularly rainfall in the latter part of the vegetative cycle when the vines need aridity to avoid mildew — made for a harvest without a lot of longevity.

But that’s not bad news. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s really more a question of when the wines will begin to show well (earlier in this case) and their approachability and food friendliness.

So far, the two standouts for me have been the 2008 Langhe Rosso Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco (which we served at our wedding, if that’s any indication of how much we like it!) and the 2008 Chianti Rufina by Selvapiana, which our friend Sarah (a publicist who reps the importer, Dalla Terra) recently sent to us to try. Of course, anyone who reads my blog knows that Tracie P and I are big fans of Selvapiana.

The wine wasn’t as tannic and did not have the structure of the 2007 (which we drink regularly at home, because of its under-$20 price tag and its wonderful versatility at the table; it was my pick for Thanksgiving 2009, as you may remember).

Instead, this time around the wine was bright and showed nice ripe fruit right outta the box. It was lighter in body and sang a cheerful tune in the glass. I probably won’t stash a bottle of the 2008 to see what it tastes like in a few years (as I did for the 2007): when it hits the Texas market, it’s sure to be a a Wednesday- or Saturday-night (or in last night’s case, a Sunday-night) wine for the dinner table at home, to be drunk as soon as it’s had time to rest after arriving from our local wine monger.

The best news is that in tough vintages (as 2008 is shaping up to be), winemakers will often choose not to make their flagship wine and their top vineyards will go into their second and third label.

Above: A few weeks ago, we served the 2006 Chianti Rufina Riserva [single-vineyard] Bucerchiale, the winery’s current flagship release, with roast lamb on the patio of our new home. Rich and still very young for its age, a wonderful roast and grilled meat wine, still very tannic but approachable with some aeration, one our favorite expressions of Sangiovese. Definitely a Saturday-night or Sunday-feast exclusive (the PARZEN 7-DAY RATING SYSTEM® is calculated according to a festivity-and-celebratory-worthy algorithm).

I don’t know whether or not Selvapiana intends to bottle their single-vineyard Bucerchiale from the 2008 vintage or not and it’s highly likely that the winery doesn’t know yet either: they’ll taste and re-taste the wine before they decide how they choose to age and subsequently label it. We’ll see.

Legend has it that famed Italian winemaker Piero Talenti once said, “there is no such thing as a bad vintage. There are just vintages where we make less wine.” However apochyphal, there is more than a grain of wisdom in this axiom. Vintage is just one element in the vintage-terroir-winemaker equation.

After all, Bordeaux 2009 may be the “most talked about vintage” in the last 30 years, as Alfonso pointed out on the corporate blog that he authors, but I won’t be able to afford it!

POST SCRIPTUM Here are a couple of interesting links and recipes for Chicken Canzanese: Cooks Illustrated and Amanda Hesser in The New York Times via 1969.

Tasted any good 2008s? Please share!

7 Responses to Italy vintage 2008: the good, bad, and delicious

  1. Thanks for the nod, Dr. P. It’s kind of like cars. My little Jetta thinks it’s a Maserati. I just hope my little Barbera doesnt start acting like a Barolo

  2. tracie p says:

    wow, you put that little ‘R’ after your rating…looks all official now :)

    even though that particular dish was on the lighter side, the chianti supported it beautifully. is chianti the wine-pairing catch-all? when in doubt…

    :X

  3. tom hyland says:

    Jeremy:

    I’ve had a few 2008 reds and I’ve been delighted in how drinkable these wines are. One excellent example is the Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I try so many young reds from Italy in their anteprima stage and after awhile, the tannins and wood notes are just too much.

    How nice that the ’08 reds are so approachable! This will not go down as a legendary vintage, but you know what? It’s nice to have a vintage like this once in a while where you don’t think about the wines – you just drink them!

  4. Do Bianchi says:

    @Alfonso I think that 2008 is a great “restaurant” vintage, don’t you?

    @Tracie P there’s another category in my ranking system: “Wines I only drink with Tracie P.” ;-) It’s my top ranking…

    @Tom I couldn’t have said it better myself: “just drink them!”

  5. A wonderful wine and a great bottle.
    Just a question, one of these bottle, how many cost in U.S.?

  6. r d forman says:

    2008 Rufina will arrive in the state of TX late May and has already arrived in many other markets. Meanwhile 2007 is around still. FYI-Selvapiana’s vineyards are now certified organic. Federico is debating on whether to put that on the label for the 2009 vintage however.

  7. Cory Taddio says:

    Hi there could I quote some of the information from this blog if I provide a link back to your site?

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