The saga of 2006 Nebbiolo continues…

produttori del barbaresco

Above: I snapped this photo when I visited what may be my favorite winery of all time, Produttori del Barbaresco, in March of this year. Are the 09s destined to be bottled as crus?

Yesterday, in the wake of the publication of Antonio Galloni’s superbly written and recently published notes on 2006 Barolo, friends Thor and Scott brought to my attention the fact that Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco has decided not to bottle his 2006 crus.

Aldo’s been traveling in the U.S. and while I haven’t spoken to him directly about this, various emails and links thrown about led me to a thread in the unforgiving landscape of, where a kind gentleman named Bob wrote the following:

    Attended a Produttori event last night. Asked Sr. Vacca about the 2006 standard. He mentioned a couple of items that went into the decision re: no riservas. One was the concern that the standard bottle would be be too unbalanced with not enough fruit to match the structure. Too lean for the style that they try to produce. They take the standard bottling very seriously at the co-op. Also, given the embarrassment of riches in recent vintages, he felt that the co-op could go a vintage without the range of riservas for one year. He mentioned experience with previous vintages like 1995 (riservas made because none since 1990, but standard was perhaps too lean) and 1998 (standard might have been too lean, so riservas not produced after a few vintages in a row that were) that informed their thinking in 2006. Also, there was first lot of standard released locally in Albese before the potential riserva juice was blended in. All lots since then have been blended, including what’s in international markets now. Co-op’s current plans include riservas in 2007 and 2008.

And so the saga of 2006 Nebbiolo from Langa continues…

In other news… that’s what friends are for…


Got to drink the above last night thanks to my friend Tom. Wow… Did I mention that I love Il Poggione? Both wines were simply stunning. Thanks, Tom! You R O C K!

And in aesthetic news…


Chicago is such an interesting city to look at. Whenever I visit the city, I can’t help but think of how it represents an encyclopedia of and monument to America’s industrialization and its twentieth-century pre-imperial glory. It was a beautiful day in the city yesterday when I arrived. Snapped the above walking from the L Train to my hotel.

Gotta run now… Meetings, meetings, meetings… Thanks for reading, ya’ll!

TTB lifts certification requirement for Brunello

The U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax, and Trade Bureau (TTB) has officially lifted its requirement that importers of Brunello obtain an Italian government declaration stating that the wine has been made in accordance with appellation regulations.

You can read the statement by the TTB here.

As a self-anointed semiotician, I can’t help but note what an interesting instance of wine writing this document represents. A close reading of the text reveals that that the TTB will ultimately be remembered as the author who “wrote the book,” so to speak, on the Brunello controversy. A winery, as of this week not yet implicated, also emerges in the document.

It’s at once the grimmest form of wine writing and the happiest: I hope it truly marks the end of the controversy known as Brunellopoli (Brunellogate).

I believe that Mr. Franco Ziliani was the first to publish the news in Italian and my friend Ale, author of Montalcino Report, was the first to publish the story in English.

Banfi 2004 Brunello, I cannot tell a lie (and other notes and posts on 04 Brunello)

Tracie B snapped the above pic of me using my Blackberry the other night, when she came home with an open bottle of Banfi 2004 Brunello di Montalcino in her wine bag (when not otherwise occupied being knock-out gorgeous, Tracie B works as a sale representative for a behemoth mid-west and southeastern U.S. wine and spirits distributor).

The moment of truth had arrived: it was time for me to taste the wine with my dinner of Central Market rotisserie chicken, salad, and potatoes that Tracie B had roasted in her grandmother’s iron skillet.

The wine was clear and bright in the glass and had bright acidity and honest fruit flavor. The tannin, while present, was not out of balance and the wine had a slightly herbaceous note in the finish that might not please lovers of modern-style wines but that I enjoy. If ever there were a wine made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, I would say this were one — tasted covertly or overtly.

According to, the average retail price for this wine in the U.S. is $65. I can’t honestly say that I recommend the wine: it’s not a wine that I personally look for at that price point. I did not find this to be a great or original or terroir-driven wine but I will say that it is an honest expression of Sangiovese from Montalcino.

Anyone who reads my blog (or follows news from the world of Italian wine), knows that Banfi has been the subject of much controversy over the last year and a half. But fair is fair and rules are rules and I cannot conceal that I enjoyed the 04 Brunello by Banfi. (Btw, Italian Wine Guy, who is Glazer’s Italian Wine Director, recently posted on 04 Brunello, including a YouTube of Banfi media director Lars Leight speaking on the winery’s current releases at a wine dinner in Dallas.)

Above: Facing south from Il Poggione’s vineyards below Sant’Angelo in Colle, looking toward Mt. Amiata.

Despite the will of some marketers to make us think otherwise, 2004 was not an across-the-board great vintage in Montalcino. In my experience with the wines so far, only those with the best growing sites were able to make great wines in the classic style of Montalcino and wines that really taste like Montalcino.

Btw, in all fairness, it’s important to note that the Banfi vineyards lie — to my knowledge — primarily in the southwest subzone of the appellation, one of the historic growing areas for great Sangiovese. When you drive south from Sant’Angelo in Colle, you see signs for the Banfi vineyards on the right. Earlier this year, my friend Ale over at Montalcino Report posted this excellent series on understanding the terroir of Montalcino using Google Earth. It’s one of the best illustrations of why the wines from that part of the appellation are always among the best, even in difficult years. (Ale’s killer Il Poggione 04 Brunello, which I tasted for the first time at Vinitaly in April, received such glowing praise from one of the world’s greatest wine writers that it caused near pandemonium in the market, prompting wine sales guru Jon Rimmerman to write that it “may be the most offered/reacted to wine I’ve ever witnessed post-Wine Advocate review.”)

Above: Facing north in Il Poggione’s vineyards, looking at the village of Sant’Angelo in Colle (literally, Sant’Angelo “on the hill”).

Franco recently tasted 93 bottlings of 04 Brunello at the offices of The World of Fine Wine in London and wrote of his disappointment with the wines delivered by even some of the top producers. Here are Franco’s top picks and straight-from-the-hip notes, posted at VinoWire.

In other news…

One of the greatest moments of personal fulfillment in my life was when my band NN+’s debut album reached #6 in the college radio charts so I guess that stranger things have happened: a colleague in Italy emailed me last week to let me know that my blog Do Bianchi was ranked #9 in the official (?) list of “top wine blogs.” Who knew?

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to read Do Bianchi. The blog has been such a rewarding experience for me and it means so much to me that there are people out there who enjoy it.

Remember the victims of the Abruzzo earthquake

The Latins liked to say that nomina sunt consequentia rerum (names are the consequence of things). If ever there were an irony to that saying, it applies in the case of Alessio Occhiocupo, above, 28 years old, a native of Abruzzo, a photo reporter, based in Madagascar where he’s working on a photo essay of life there. His last name, Occhiocupo, literally means dark eye.

I was recently put in touch with Alessio by Stefano Illuminati of the Dino Illuminati winery, one of Abruzzo’s leading wineamakers (I am a big fan of his Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane Zanna Riserva).

Alessio was kind enough to share some photographs of wine country in Abruzzo, like the one below.

My friends Alfonso, Alessandro, and Mosaic Wine Group have remembered Abruzzo by posting about the region today. If you’d like a photo of Abruzzo to post on your blog, please send me an email and I’ll send you some of Alessio’s beautiful photos (I’m working all day today in Dallas so I’ll send out the photos tomorrow).

Please remember Abruzzo and help the victims of the April earthquake there by drinking Abruzzo wines and visiting Abruzzo on your next trip to Italy.


Alessandro just posted the results of the voting here. Brunello will continue to be made with 100% Sangiovese grapes. Long live Brunello! Long live Sangiovese! (And nicely done, Alessandro!).

Word from the vineyard: Sangiovese harvest has begun in Montalcino

My friends in Montalcino just let me know that they have begun harvesting the 2008 Sangiovese Grosso. Alessandro’s been posting nearly every day over at Montalcino Report and he also posted his winery’s government-issued certification letters (translated into English but for the bureaucratically minded only). Ale, I’m really digging the Montalcino weather widget!


Italy day 2: desperately seeking Sangiovese

Above: in my book, penne should be rigate di rigore (obligatorily ridged as opposed to smooth). Otherwise, the pasta doesn’t absorb the sauce properly. Yesterday at Il Poggione in Sant’Angelo in Colle (Montalcino), we were served penne from Gragnano dressed with a rich ragù.

Yesterday, My Life Italian wrote a post about that “epiphany” wine where it all got started. Wine, she wrote, is a “stained-glass window to the world, a way to touch another culture… a way to travel that is much more visceral than vicarious.” The post got me thinking about my own “epiphany” wine.

Above: lunch began with classic Tuscan antipasti — prosciutto toscano, salame, chicken liver and spleen crostini, and a slice of saltless Tuscan bread drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil.

It was nearly twenty years ago that I first came to Montalcino, to stay in my friend and composer Michael Convertino’s apartment in Bagno Vignoni, a small village in the south of the township, where a Roman hot springs bath still dominates the main piazza. I became friends with Riccardo Marcucci and his brothers Leonardo and Andrea. Riccardo ran the wine program at his family’s hotel and he took it upon himself to teach me about Tuscany’s grand winemaking traditions. It sounds unbelievable now but every night we opened bottles of Sassicaia, Solaia, Ornellaia, Tignanello, Pergole Torte, and every other Bordeaux-inspired wine under the Tuscan sun. The year was 1989, the Super Tuscan craze had not yet begun in the U.S., and the wines didn’t command the prices they do today.

Above: next came stewed wild boar and beans. Not very photogenic but delicious.

But my “stained-glass window” wine was the wine their father Augusto used to make. 100% Sangiovese vinified in a natural style (natural yeasts and no temperature control) and aged in large old oak casks. I’ll never forget the night (it was 1994 by then) that my then band was invited to dine at Augusto’s home on the hill above the village. We ate fried wild boar liver (from road-kill boar that Augusto had collected and frozen), drank Sangiovese, smoked and told jokes late into the night. Augusto couldn’t understand a word we were saying but he laughed and clowned with us all through the evening. We played a show the next night in the town piazza.

Above: the stars of lunch were a 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva and an 18-month pecorino. What a fantastic pairing. We tasted the ’97 side-by-side with the 2003. Both vintages were warmer than usual in Montalcino. The 2003 is still very tight and will need many years in bottle to come around. The ’97 was showing beautifully. It will be great to come back to the ’03 in 5-10 years or so.

The same way a junkie seeks forever to recreate that same first high… I’ve been looking for the flavors and aromas of Augusto’s Sangiovese since that day.

Epilogue: in May, Eric le Rouge and I had a chance to taste Il Poggione going back to the 1970s. I’ll do a post on our tasting when I get back Stateside.

Just in from Montalcino…

My friend Alessandro Bindocci, whose family makes traditional-style Brunello (at Il Poggione in Sant’Angelo in Colle, one of my favorite producers of Brunello), sent me a copy of the Italian agriculture minister’s decree establishing an official government body (the ICQ) to provide Brunello producers with “declarations” that their wines are 100% Sangiovese. I’ve translated the salient passages of the decree and posted at VinoWire.