Not all bubbles are created equal ...
Try a bottle of 'pas dosage' Oltrepo Pavese metodo classico from this historic castle estate in Lombardy to experience the pure elegance of north Italy sparkling Pinot Nero.
This 'Blanc de Noirs' rivals better-known Champagnes (beats many) and with only a few bottles here in the little red dot you need to be quick or you'll miss out - click here!
Mountain white ...
Ask most somms which wine they pick to 'wake up' the palate and they'll say RIESLING.
A bone-dry, high acid, refreshing Riesling, with its classic notes of lime and green apple, is just the thing for a hot Singapore afternoon! So stock up on this award-winning 2019 from Dolomite legends Pojer & Sandri here.
Food-friendly white ...
A challenge in the vineyard, Arneis means 'little rascal' in local Piedmont dialect. Thankfully, it's no challenge in the kitchen as it's a super food-friendly wine!
Capable of long ageing but already drinking beautifully now, the award-winning CECU is a premium selection of Arenis, made by the president of the Roero wine consortium. Order it here.
Orange wine is a foodie dream ...
No doubt you've read some of my enthusiastic emails, posts or blogs about the awesomeness of orange wine, aka white wine with extended skin contact.
Aside from a stunning colour, aroma and taste, it's also a remarkably flexible wine for food-pairing. The umami flavours in sushi work brilliantly; the fresh aromatic herbs in a Thai salad match like a dream; and a recent test with Sri Lankan curry was a hit too. Let me know what YOU try with award-winning Ribolla Gialla Miklus 2016 from Friuli - click here.
So named for its role as an introduction to the obscure grape Ruché, CLASIC 2019 (rated 3/3 Gambero Rosso) is a beautiful balance of red fruit and floral notes, with hints of spice.
When to drink it? Any time :)
It's such a tasty red that it works as a first drink of the evening, but has enough structure to pair well with a variety of dishes from simple cold cuts, to lamb or pizza. My personal favourite? Duck pancakes, of course :)
GATTINARA PIETRO 2015 by Paide Iaretti (also 3/3 Gambero Rosso) is an approachable Nebbiolo from a less famous region (north Piedmont) worthy of more recognition!
The description for Gattinara wines is confusing - sometimes known as more 'feminine' than south Piedmont cousins Barolo and Barbaresco. But it's a useful way to think about this wine region of north Piedmont ... capable of reds with subtly and finesse; wines that tend to be 'ready to drink' sooner than some more heavily tannic versions of Nebbiolo.
IL PAONAZZO 2013 (rated GOLD at IWC) is the 100% Syrah from biodynamic estate Serra San Martino of Marche (the 'next' Tuscany?)
A really super 'Super Tuscan'
Popular Super Tuscan blend from the Barbanera family, VECCIANO 2017, is a great buy (at $45 before discount).
As well as the top score from Luca Maroni it averages 4.2 with 2500+ ratings on wine community platform Vivino.
Picking the best ...
The vines at the Poggio Le Volpi estate enjoy an incredible view of the 'eternal city' and the winemakers are proud to showcase the rare local grape, Cesanese, in their red named for its home city - ROMA. Relatively recently elevated to DOC status, this delicious blend also includes Montepulciano and Syrah. Expect ripe red fruit notes, some black fruit too, with soft tannins and a rich, smooth character.
Unsurprisingly, the Limited Edition (a meticulous selection of grapes) boasts top marks too - where ROMA 2018 was rated 99/99 Luca Maroni and a gold trophy at Berlin, the 'Edizione Limitata' 2016 received 5/5 bunches AIS, 3/3 glasses Gambero Rosso and 99/99 Luca Maroni. This red will go with bolder flavours (if going Italian, think wild boar or game etc) or makes a perfect 'end of the night' option! Buy it here.
Dark flesh, dark wine ...
Did you know that nearly all wine grapes, no matter the name (white or red), have clear juice? A few* wine grapes have higher than usual pigmentation levels, making them ideal to add colour to blends. They're known as teinturiers* and they produce fruit with intensely coloured skin and juice.
Among the many endemic grapes of Italy, the delicious NeroBuono grape is a teinturier. It produces rich, velvety red wines with a great depth of colour and character. Fire up the BBQ and click here to get a get a bottle of Baccarossa at the ready!
* the small group of vines known as teinturiers (aprox 20, out of possibly 10,000 known species) release dark coloured juice, unlike most wine grapes that run clear (only achieving colour in the final wine from contact with anthocyanin rich skins).
Zin time ...
There are many styles of Zinfandel (aka Primitivo**), from young-vine 'fruit bombs' to layered, savoury, rich reds.
They all have their place (and pair with different dishes) but if you haven't yet tried the highly-awarded flagship wine of Nicola Chiaromonte you're missing out!! For a powerful steak-pairing red, try the newly released Muro Sant' Angelo Barbatto 2017 here and don't forget the decanter :)
Succumb to passion and pleasure!
Alongside the Apulian wine described above, the evocatively-named ES 2019 from Gianfranco Fino also achieved top scores from many critics (including 3/3 Gambero Rosso and 5/5 AIS). Year on year, this wine showcases the ageing potential of the Primitivo (aka Zinfandel**) grape.
In fact, between Gianfranco and Nicola, their premier Apulian reds are undoubtedly two of the finest expressions of this important variety to be found not only in Italy but across the world's vineyards!
** this vine was first recorded in the 15th century in Croatia as Crljenak Kastelanski, before being taken to southern Italy and called Primitivo, and then traveling to California where it thrives as Zinfandel.
SAVE 15% ON ALL THESE ... AND MORE ... WITH CODE EW15 (until midnight on Sunday 3rd July, 2022).
As you'll know if you joined any of my wine tasting events in the past, I don't believe in fixating on awards or ratings, for various reasons.
- One obvious 'problem' is that a high rating doesn't mean it's the right wine for your personal pallet, or it may refer to the wine's impressive potential for future drinking (which doesn't help us much here in Singapore, when most of us buy to drink and enjoy relatively soon). If you want to take your wine buying seriously, you should get to know the critics so that you can focus on reviews in line with your preferred style. Perhaps the obvious example is Robert Parker, who famously likes his reds to be big and bold with prominent fruit notes - so if that works for you then he's a good guide, but if that's not your style you'd be better looking elsewhere for reviews. Rather than focussing on a specific award or rating, it's usually more helpful to consider a wine that boasts a range of good reviews.
- Another very practical 'problem' is that smaller wineries don't always put their wines forward for review, which can create the misunderstanding that a wine isn't well-rated. This is especially true for many of our wineries (small-production, family-run estates) and is the same reason that looking up a Vivino rating can be less helpful than for bigger wineries - as the pool of 'tasters' is so often much smaller.
Having said all that, a wine that receives the top rating from a critic or organisation deserves its time in the spotlight.
So that's just what we're doing this week....
CLICK HERE to start shopping from our 'perfect score' collection of Top Marks wines and don't forget to use the code TOP15 at checkout to enjoy your 15% discount until Sunday 3rd July.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT RATINGS?
Get to know the critics....
Remember, there are many different opinion-makers offering recommendations on wine. Our advice is to find out more about the ratings and awards, but not let the details overwhelm you when choosing wine.
Keep in mind - for our mostly Italian wine collection - that international ratings can be a good guide, but it also makes sense to pay attention to wine experts who specialise in Italian wine.
NB: some boutique wineries produce a small quantity of wine which means they may not be included on all lists. This is not a reflection of quality but instead the extent of the wine’s distribution outside of Italy. It is, in fact, this BOUTIQUE aspect that we value at Once Upon A Vine and it’s what makes our wine portfolio so exclusive.
Above all, we recommend wine buyers to consider a range of ratings and tasting notes. Comparing different opinions (or ‘CROSS-RATING’ wine) can be very useful because wine – once it reaches a certain level of quality – is arguably a very subjective product to analyse.
Here's a quick summary of the various ratings and awards that you'll see mentioned in this week's highlighted wines:
* GAMBERO ROSSO - this week's promo collection features 7 wines rated TOP MARKS by Gambero Rosso. The ‘Tre Bicchieri’ (Three Glasses) rating system is used by the Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso every year to rate numerous wines across Italy. A wine that receives 1 glass is considered good but 2 glasses is very good to excellent. If the wine received 2 red glasses it was considered for a position in the top category but didn’t quite make it whereas the 3 red glasses status means the wine made it through the final tasting and is considered an “excellent” wine in its respective category.
* AIS - this week's promo collection features 5 wines rated TOP MARKS in Bibenda Vini d'Italia. The AIS (Italian Sommeliers Association) was formed in 1965 and is a founding member of the WSA (Worldwide Sommelier Association). The AIS wine rating system (printed in "Bibenda Vini d'Italia") is represented by bunches of grapes. A wine that receives 4 bunches has great merit and the 5 bunches award goes to excellent wines.
* LUIGI VERONELLI - this week's promo collection features a wine rated TOP MARKS by the I Vini di Veronelli guide. Food and wine connoisseur, Luigi Veronelli, published numerous guides to hotels, restaurant’s, olive oil and wine, using a 100 points system. Famous both inside Italy and overseas, it has been said that he was “the most important Italian writer on food and wine culture” and played a vital role in promoting Italian oenogastronomy (food and wine) all over the world.
* LUCA MARONI - this week's promo collection features 3 wines rated TOP MARKS by Luca Maroni. The ratings from Luca Maroni are especially helpful for the Asian market as the wine listing includes many fruity wines, which pair very well with Asian cuisine. His rating system reaches to 99 points for the best wines, using a criteria based on his own theory of ‘fruit-grade’ in wine. He asserts that the pleasantness of a wine (the enjoyment in drinking it) comes from how closely the wine recalls the taste of the original fruit, so to evaluate the “the quality (pleasantness) of a wine, we must evaluate its fruit-grade” by paying attention to consistency, balance and integrity.
* INTERNATIONAL WINE CHALLENGE (IWC) - this week's promo collection features 2 wines rated TOP MARKS (gold) at IWC. It is a competition that started in 1984, in the UK (judges include Oz Clarke and Tim Atkin MW), which has grown into competitions all around the world.
Other key names to know:
* JAMES SUCKLING: With three decades in the wine industry, including his current role as wine editor for Asia Tatler, James Suckling is a well-known wine expert and more specifically a strong advocate for Italian wine. He uses a 100 points rating system.
* JANCIS ROBINSON: A legend in the wine industry, British wine writer and critic Jancis shares open and honest tasting notes for a wide range of wines. Her ratings are scored up to 20 points.
* THE WINE ADVOCATE: Robert Parker produces tasting notes, as published in The Wine Advocate, using a 50-100 points system.
* WINE ENTHUSIAST: Every month, editors in different countries conduct blind tastings to compile reviews of 1,000+ wines for Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The rating system has a maximum of 100 points.
* WINE SPECTATOR: Every year, the editors at Wine Spectator magazine conduct blind tastings of more than 15,000 wines. They rate “each wine relative to other wines” within the tasting group and use a 100 points system.
And then of course there's us at Once Upon A Vine ... right here in Singapore, often tasting alongside local Asian cuisine, and very happy to share our recommendations any time!
* We believe in ‘cross-rating’ wines.
* We recognise that not all awarded wines are right for every palate.
* We know that superb wines, worthy of recognition, might get overlooked.
If in doubt – ASK US! Let us be your guide to the best wine Italy has to offer!
Read more abut Italian wine categorisation and rating systems at our blog: https://onceuponavine.sg/blogs/news/italian-wine-labels-and-ratings
Still got questions?
Get in touch (email Laura) and let us be your guide to fabulous wine finds from up and down the Italian peninsula!