Growing My Italian Wine Collection
Earlier this year I read a very interesting series of articles from Alfonso Cevola on his blog “On The Wine Trail In Italy” about his own personal strategies for collecting Italian wine. Ostensibly these were pieces on what wines Alfonso will collect and drink, for the rest of his life, when the elite collectors start sucking up all the great wines of Italy. It got me thinking of my own strategies for collecting Italian (red) wine.
No self respecting wine geek wants to consider themselves as a wine collector. It’s a negative term more associated with the City boys who hoover up all the blue chip Bordeaux and Bolgheri. Bullshit. If you hoard any quantity of wine for future drinking, whether that be a discounted case in your local supermarket (a lamentable approach) or religiously buying wine from a particular grower every vintage, you are a collector. The only difference is your strategy for collecting. My own strategy wasn’t even immediately clear to me, but after having a bit of a think about it, some key themes emerged.
The first thing that’s clear is that I’m stocking up on the classics. I love Sangiovese and Chianti Classico in particular. It offers freshness, savoury drinkability, vibrant acidity and an ability to age. But you do need to know where to look as there is a lot of boring, but not inexpensive, crap out there. Lately, I’ve been stocking up on Riecine, Monteraponi, Monte Bernardi, Isole e Olena and Montevertine (not labeled Chianti Classico I know). All quite different expressions of Sangiovese but each superb in their own right.
My Nebbiolo conversion is no longer coming. It’s here and it’s gathering momentum. There’s a problem though. Well, a couple of them actually, and I lay the blame entirely on supply and demand. Price is the biggest problem and, judging from the way Barolo prices are increasing, it won’t be long before the market excludes me entirely. Availability is another big issue in terms of current releases but even more so for wines that are in their drinking prime. There are some encouraging signs though. A recently found source of Produttori del Barbaresco back vintages is taking up a lot of my recent buying. I’ve also discovered one or two under the radar (sort of!) Barolo growers who still offer good value – and no I’m not telling you about them!
I love everything about COS – every vintage of every wine I’ve tasted has been delicious. I have no idea whether they age well, since I can’t stop myself from drinking them.
Tenuta di Valgiano produces stunning wines in the Colline Lucchesi DOC. They could possibly be considered outliers in terms of the other wine styles in my collection, but I absolutely love them.
Selvapiana’s Chianti Rufina and Chianti Rufina Riserva Vigneto Bucerchiale offer outstanding value in my opinion. In the face of increasing prices of the more famous Tuscan 100% Sangioveses, Bucerchiale offers just as much pleasure at less than half the price.
Sesti is a winery that I must admit to having limited experience with – that being said, alongside Il Poggione and Col d’Orcia, it has become a ‘go-to’ Brunello di Montalcino for me, even if Brunello itself it is a luxury that I can’t afford to purchase very often.
Need I say more about Castello di Potentino? Fantastically drinkable wines with no shortage of complexity from an idyllic valley in southern Tuscany. The stars are probably the Sacromonte (Sangiovese) and Piropo (Pinot Nero), but all the wines are worth seeking out.
At almost every tasting I go to lately, I unearth wines from some new grower (new to me anyway). In the last 18 months or so, I’ve discovered, loved and stocked up on La Stoppa‘s Trebbiolo Rosso and Ageno (had to slip a non red in somewhere!) and Stefano Amerighi‘s Syrah. I’d love to be drinking and collecting loads of Arianna Occhipinti, Foradori and Cristiano Guttarolo too, but I just can’t get them here in Ireland.
So where is all this going?
I think Chianti Classico might escape the seemingly inexorable price rises afflicting other Tuscan wines of late. It had a fairly significant bump about three to five years ago, so hopefully that’s the extent of it for another few years, and it’ll remain a staple of my collection.
While I’m hoping that Produttori del Barbaresco will remain a beacon of value in the face of the ever increasing demand for Nebbiolo, it’s worth remembering that Barbaresco and Barolo are not the only source of top quality Nebbiolo in Italy; Proprietà Sperino are producing great wines in Lessona, as are Ar.Pe.Pe in Valtellina. I suppose I’m lucky that I’ve caught the Nebbiolo bug at a relatively early age and just before prices skyrocket though, so hopefully whatever I buy now will be drinking well in 10-20 years.
I’d love to be buying more wines from Etna and elsewhere in Sicily but availability is again a problem. Despite that, I think my current love for COS and Arianna Occhipinti will soon spread to growers the length and breadth of the island.
And from there…who knows? That’s the beauty of Italy – there’s so much variety that you could conceivably spend a lifetime collecting and drinking, but still have barely scratched the surface of its wine world.