Hello friends. The Gambero Rosso’s “Vini d’Italia” guide, published each year, is the most influential wine review publication in Italy. To give you an idea of its scope, the guide generally evaluates around 20,000 wines, using a two-step process: first, a series of blind tastings in the region of origin; then, a final round of tastings at Gambero Rosso’s headquarters in Rome.
The review scale is simple, reminiscent of Michelin stars, but with glasses (bicchieri) in place of stars. Wines are either unrated, or receive one glass (good), two glasses (very good), or three glasses (extraordinary). In most years, only about 2% of the wines evaluated receive the coveted “tre bicchieri” review.
The tre bicchieri award winners for the 2017 guide were just announced, and a familiar wine landed on the list for the very first time:
Basically, when a wine at this price point secures the coveted three glasses, it’s like a really excellent burger joint getting a Michelin star. In Italy, this award is enormously influential, so – no surprise – this vintage of San Felice’s Classico sold out immediately after the news was announced. Their export markets, however, still have some parcels available (I’m sure San Felice would re-import those if they could), and one of those markets is Seattle.
Because of our long support for this winery, we’ve been offered a goodly chunk of what remains in the Emerald City. It just required us to move this offer up by about a month from its normal date in late October. Not a problem, since peak Sangiovese-drinking season basically begins now. Dark days, bubbling pots, rustic Chiantis. Yes please.
I continue to be thrilled with the way our list members have embraced Chianti over the past few years. It is a terrific value-hunter’s category, but it requires legwork, a lot of frog-kissing to find the princes. And that’s the Full Pull model: we kiss the frogs so you don’t have to. Chianti’s fortunes are improving in the US market, but it’s still walking the line between fashionable and unfashionable, still burdened by the days of swill-in-straw-baskets. But no matter. We know better. Fashion or no, we know that Chianti remains one of the world’s beating hearts of Sangiovese, and that the good bottles are really, really good.
As our list members have discovered over the past few years, San Felice is really, really good. The winery sits in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga (located here), at an altitude of about 1300ft. Their grounds encompass 650 hectares of grapes, 17,000 olive trees (!), and an agritourismo (!!). (Yes, we should all visit soon.) Their Chianti Classico is classic indeed, a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 10% each Colorino and Pugnitello from the calcareous marl soils of Castelnuovo Berardenga in the foothills outside of Siena, aged for a year in large Slavonian oak botti.
The ’13 clocks in at 13% listed alc and offers a complex, appetizing nose combining red cherry, tomato paste, fennel, and mushroom. This is such a characterful wine, so true to this part of the world, and with its tomatoey acidity, such a wonderful pairing for any tomato-based pasta dish. What I would do is: saute a whole mess of onions and hot Italian sausage in a mix of butter and olive oil. Deglaze with white wine and boil until all the wine is cooked off, then add tomato paste and equal parts chicken stock and whole milk. Another half hour of simmering and you have a ragu for whatever pasta (or gnocchi!) you like. Hopefully you’ve been enjoying a glass or two of San Felice Classico while cooking, and now it’s time to (begrudgingly) share the rest of the bottle with your dinner guests. Buon appetito!
First come first served up to 24 bottles, and the wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.