We could lie and say that it was always Chris Wilson’s intention to focus just on the best new Italian vino bianco from the recent Il Collettivo tasting – an event that brought together, for the second year running, an exciting mix of Italian wines from five of the UK’s hottest wine importers. But we would be lying. Chris did try all the whites and selects his Top 10 with full tasting notes below. But why are there no reds rated? We’ll let Chris tell you his feeble excuse. It beats ‘leaves on the line’ that’s for sure.
Nascetta, Sylvaner, Ribolla, Falanghina, Passerina, Pecorino, Carricante and Trebbiano are just some of the many distinctive grape varieties used for these 10 white wines – or bianco bankers – for your wine list
It is not uncommon for wine journalists to attend and cover a number of events in one day. With a packed calendar of tastings, masterclasses, lunches etc. sometimes you can get full use out of a One Day Travelcard. This was one of those days; there were only two events to cover, but such were the timings that one would have to be sandwiched by the other in order to taste everything on show.
The events in question were the Il Collettivo tasting where five importers (Astrum, Flint, FortyFive10, Sommelier’s Choice and Swig) showed their Italian ranges in all their glory, and a lunch hosted by famous Alsace producer Trimbach. Il Collettivo was in Kings Cross, Trimbach was in St. James. The plan was simple; head to Il Collettivo when it opens at 10am, taste the white wines, hotfoot it to St. James for the Alsation masterclass and lunch, then bounce back north to tackle the Italian reds. Boom!
Sometimes, of course, best laid plans come unstuck and in this instance they came off the rails in spectacular fashion (think Evel Knievel at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1967). The problem – if you can call it that – was that things were overrunning at the Trimbach lunch and they had yet to serve the really special wines (Clos Ste Hune 1989, for example) as lunchtime ticked on to the afternoon.
You could see phones appearing from journalists’ pockets during the third and fourth courses of the six course lunch as attendees hurriedly double-checked their dairies and considered how long they could stay. Most stayed. Many cancelled their afternoon’s appointments.
For me this shook down to jettisoning the return to Il Collettivo (and the red wines) in favour of sticking with Trimbach to see the lunch through…. a lunch that was later described to me by Joe Wadsack (who wasn’t even there) as a once-in-a-lifetime endeavour.
So I must apologise for the lack of red wines in this review, but here in their full glory are my Top 10 best white wines from Il Collectivo 2018 – bianco bankers, if you will.
Villa Sparina, Gavi di Gavi Monterotondo 2014 (FortyFive10)
Made from 40-60 year-old ‘mountain’ vines, these are the oldest on the Villa Sparina estate and produce a textbook Gavi di Gavi that’s full and waxy with honeysuckle, peach, apricot and almond. There’s a lovely brightness and texture here, helped by the use of old 500L oak barrels.
Elvis Cogno, Anas-Cëtta 2016 (Flint)
Nascetta is a delicate, semi-aromatic grape found in Piedmont and used for years as part of a blend, never really expressing itself in its own right. Recently a handful of producers (some 30 grow and produce wines from Nascetta) have let it off the leash. This example is racy and aromatic with green apple and pear fruit, wet flowers, morning dew and a wet stone mineral edge. Its chalky finish has a distinctive ‘bite’, like undercooked Arborio rice.
Kuenhof, Sylvaner 2016 (Flint)
I have a real soft spot for the Germanic-style of whites coming from Italy’s South Tyrol. They seem to demonstrate the best of both worlds; the precision and purity of the German varietals and the racy flair of Italian winemaking. This Sylvaner is fresh with a delicate nose of lilies, which belies its fullness on the palate. Here it’s rich and generous with tropical fruit, a dash of salt and a pithy acidity. Great length too.
Kuenhof, Riesling ‘Kaiton’ 2015 (Flint)
The ‘Kaiton’ Riesling is floral and waxy with a dash of tropical and dried apricot fruit, but it’s the leaner, greener gooseberry and greengage fruit that lifts it up and adds an attractive spicy acidity. It finishes with a surprising but welcome prickle on the back of the throat.
Cantina Terlano, ‘Nova Domus’ 2015 (Astrum)
An ultra-premium blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which is aged for one year on the lees post-fermentation in wooden barrels of various sizes. It’s clean and mature with a herby, minty edge and an abundance of tropical fruit. There’s a creaminess on the palate which lifts the finish.
Di Lenardo, Ribolla Gialla ‘Comemivuoi’ 2017 (Astrum)
There’s a texture to this Ribolla that’s so inviting; it’s edgy and fine and plays wonderfully against the knife-edge lemon peel acidity. A focussed, mineral and juicy wine with grapefruit and hint of pink peppercorn spice that is delicious and so, so fresh.
Fattoria Lavacchio, Pachar 2016 (Swig)
Half of this blend of Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc is fermented and matured in oak barriques where it undergoes malolactic fermentation. The other 50 per cent is vinified and matured in steel, then the two parts come together. This results in a wine with a golden hue that’s full and tropical with crème caramel and tarte tatin characters. Delicious and rather unique.
Michele Satta, Costa di Giulia 2013 (Sommelier’s Choice)
This wine used to be 100% Vermentino but since 1997 a small percentage of Sauvignon Blanc has been blended in to add richness and fruitiness. It is certainly rich and fruity, but also lively and spicy with honeysuckle, nectarine and cut grass notes. Long and lush.
Abbazzia di Propezanno Anfora. Colli Aprutini Bianco 2016 (Swig)
A robust and confident blend of Falanghina, Passerina, Pecorino and Trebbiano this is lean with a metallic edge (like sucking on a teaspoon) but there’s fruit too – unripe guava, apricot, Pink Lady apple. A strong acid backbone ties it all together.
Bennati, Etna Bianco Superiore ‘Pietramarina’ 2014 (Astrum)
If you’re looking for a textbook example of Sicily’s signature white grape Carricante then look no further than this. It bursts from the glass with a zesty, floral nose of oranges and lemons and lilies. Then comes the minerality; ocean spray and wet stone. Together it’s an intoxicating and all-consuming mix. Awesome stuff.