Gambero Rosso was founded in 1986 as a food and wine magazine for a daily Italian newspaper. Today it has established itself as a global authority on Italian wines. They publish on an annual basis The Vini d’Italia guide reviewing 20,000 wines and more than 2,500 wineries each year. The result is a carefully curated selection of wines celebrated for the skilled craftmanship of their winery and the impeccable wines they produce. The most coveted wines are awarded “Tre Bicchieri”.
Here is a list of 36 wines that were awarded the highly esteemed Gambero Rosso “Tre Bicchieri”. These wines represent the top wines of Italy. Next time you are shopping for great Italian wines, look no further and be sure to take this list. These are truly some of the best of the best wines of Italy. The article is divided into three separate posts. In part two, we travel to Sicily, Sardinia, Abruzzo, Lazio, Campania, and down south to Puglia. We end with some incredible wines from Mount Etna in Sicily.
Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri Wines
CUSUMANO Etna Bianco Alta Mora 2019 (Retail $30) – Sicily, Italy
Twenty years ago Alberto and Diego made their debut in the world of wine. Bolstered by solid family traditions, in a short time they’ve managed to make Cusumano a benchmark for quality winemaking in Sicily. Five estates constitute a priceless patrimony of diversity. Each vineyard corresponds to a project aimed at developing the relationship between terroir and cultivar, while giving rise to wines that are unique in elegance and character.
Tasting Notes – The Alta Mora Bianco is is made from the local indigenous Carricante grape. This wine is one of the great white wines of Italy. It is a pure Etna wine that cannot be confused with any other place. On the palate, there is crisp freshness, with bright citrus notes and noticeable salinity on the finish. The distinct minerality and salinity give the wine a sense of place that is clearly expressing its volcanic soils. Fresh, vibrant and stylish are the clear characteristic of the wine. The terroir, soil and sun are singing in the wine.
PALA Vermentino di Sardegna Stellato 2019 (Retail $25) – Sardinia, Italy
Pala is an impressive producer that has contributed to making the territory of Sardinia famous and prestigious. It’s led by Mario Pala and his family, with the valuable help of Fabio Angius. Their wines do an excellent job of transmitting the terroir with their subtle sapidity. In addition to Sardinia, the winery makes use of plots in Terralbese. Here they cultivate Bovale, still ungrafted, on sandy soils.
Tasting Notes – Stellato is a single vineyard Vermentino from Pala’s 60-year-old vines that are grown on limestone-rich soils located 220 meters above sea level. A pale yellow color in the glass, the wine is fragrant with a bouquet of Mediterranean herbs and floral notes. There is juicy acidity and distinct minerality that coats the palate. It is everything you want a Vermentino to be; balanced, crisp, bright, and complex.
SURRAU Vermentino di Gallura Superiore Sciala 2019 (Retail $26) – Sardinia, Italy
Surrau is indubitably one of the producers that have most convinced of late. Credit goes to Tino Demuro and his staff, true children of Gallura, who’ve managed to bottle impressive wines while also developing a concrete commercial strategy that’s slowly gaining producer recognition worldwide. Hospitality is also a priority, thanks to a lovely cellar, open year-round, which hosts exhibitions, conferences and meetings of all kinds. Their range comprises whites made with Vermentino, some very interesting reds, and some admirable Metodo Classico sparklers.
Tasting Notes – The terroir is clearly expressed in the wine through its minerality. A brilliant straw yellow color in the glass with a fantastic nose. There are hints of lime, lemon, and floral notes. On the palate, the wine is rich and intense. The wine exhibits great balance and consistency with a salty mineral finish. Mouthwatering, clean and delicious.
FEUDO ANTICO Tullum Pecorino Biologico 2019 (Retail $25) – Abruzzo, Italy
Founded as a DOC appellation in 2008 and ‘promoted’ to DOCG in 2019, Tullum is the smallest Italian appellation in terms of size. But it has a very important standard-bearer: Feudo Antico, a winery that has focused and continues to focus on the territory’s potential like few others. Unlike many other Abruzzo cooperatives, here we are dealing with a small producer: about fifty members oversee 20 hectares of vineyards, bringing painstaking attention and respect for nature and the environment to their work while following principles of organic farming.
Tasting Notes – This is an intriguing and wonderful interpretation of Pecorino. The wine is certified organic and vegan made with 100% Pecorino. It is an elegant wine with a brilliant straw yellow color in the glass. The nose is fresh and vibrant with aromatic herbs. On the palate, it is rich and balanced with hints of lemon, lime and rosemary. Nice zesty acidity leads to a long finish.
TENUTA TERRAVIVA Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo Giusi 2019 (Retail $12) – Abruzzo, Italy
The winery was founded in the 1970s by Gabriele Marano, who decided to combine his work as a building contractor with that of a winemaker. The turning point came in 2006 when the producer passed in to the hands of Gabriele’s daughter Pina and her husband Pietro Topi. They slowly transformed the estate by turning towards organic farming and deliberately adopting artisan winemaking techniques carried out with indigenous yeasts and spontaneous fermentation.
Tasting Notes – The Terraviva Cerasuolo rosé is made with 100% Organic Montepulciano. There is a rich cherry red hue in the bottle. It has a bright nose, with red fruits and spice. Refreshing, elegant and well-balanced on the palate. It is a juicy wine with crunchy red fruit that lingers around till the finish.
VALLE REALE Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Vigneto di Popoli 2015 (Retail $22) – Abruzzo, Italy
The winery established by Leonardo Pizzolo dates back to the late 1990s. From Verona he moved to a magical part of Abruzzo, an uncontaminated area with the protected natural parks of Gran Sasso, Majella and Sirente-Velino all nearby. Biodynamic principles are applied in the vineyards while an artisanal approach has been adopted in the cellar, making for characterful, territorial wines, from their basic offerings to their ‘cru’.
Tasting Notes – 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, this is a broad and structured wine made from old vines. It is a great example of how beautiful Montepulciano can be with dark and red cherry notes. It is delicate yet spicy and smooth on the palate. There are soft silky tannins that are harmonious and well-balanced. Classic notes of red fruit and pencil lead. This has great finesse and elegance. There is a lot to discover in this wine. Great to drink now but will continue to give joy for years to come.
POGGIO LE VOLPI Roma Rosso Edizione Limitata 2017 (Retail $70) – Lazio, Italy
Manlio Mergè laid the first stone of the winery in 1920, when he began to produce and sell bulk wine. The step from a local to a national winery was taken by his son Armando, but the real leap in quality came with Felice, who made Poggio Le Volpi one of the leading wineries in Lazio in 1996. It is located in Monte Porzio Catone, a few kilometers from Rome, where the winery’s 35 hectares of vineyards find the old volcanic soils give excellent results and make for wines marked by nice territorial expression.
Tasting Notes – This is a blend of Montepulciano, Syrah, and Cesanese from the most recent DOC Roma created in 2011 with the first vintage in 2015. The Montepulciano gives the wine structure and body, the Cesanese give juicy fruitiness and the Syrah adds spiciness, creating a wonderful blend. Grown on volcanic soils, it is a rich and well-structured wine with smooth tannins.
DONNACHIARA Taurasi 2016 (Retail $38) – Campania, Italy
Ilaria Petitto has demonstrated her ability in running this winery in Irpinia. It is named after Chiara Mazzoleni, a noblewoman from Campania who married surgeon Antonio Petitto, with the lovely Torre Le Nocelle estate in Irpinia making up part of her dowry. With the help of winemaker Riccardo Cotarella, Ilaria produces a neat range of wines that embrace the main appellations in Irpinia. She exploits the potential of Aglianico, Greco and Fiano and promotes them on the main world markets with professionalism and determination.
Tasting Notes – The Donnachiara Taurasi is 100% Aglianico from the elegant 2016 vintage. It is a classic Taurasi with its dense rich color and violet hues. The wine is well balanced and elegant with a fantastic nose of cocoa, coffee, spice, ripe plum and cherries. The oak is well integrated into the wine and the tannins are smooth. An expansive wine that has a long-lasting finish.
FELLINE Primitivo di Manduria Zinfandel Sinfarosa Terra Nera 2017 (Retail $20) – Puglia, Italy
For over a quarter of a century, Gregory Perrucci has been among those leading a revival in the winemaking traditions of Salento, especially through the recovery and development of old Apulian bush-trained vines. The vineyards are situated in various parts of the Primitivo di Manduria appellation and on different types of soil, from sandy ones, near the sea, to rocky terrain, from red to black soil. The wines are modern, elegant, rich in fruit and exhibit great aromatic clarity.
Tasting Notes – This wine is 100% Californian Zinfandel that is spicy, rich and intense. There is bright fruit on the palate along with spicy notes. The tannins are smooth and soft. Notes of dark cherry, chocolate, tobacco and white pepper give the wine character and depth. A very well-balanced wine.
COPPI Gioia del Colle Primitivo Senatore 2017 (Retail $30) – Puglia, Italy
Lisia, Miriam and Doni Coppi run the family business established in 1976 by their father, Antonio, who took over a winery founded in 1882. The vineyards are all located in Turi and Gioia del Colle and about half are bush-trained vines. All the wines produced, which exhibit a modern style, good territorial identity and aromatic precision, are made using native grapes: Primitivo, Aleatico, Malvasia Nera and Negroamaro for the reds; Falanghina, Malvasia Bianca and Verdeca for the whites.
Tasting Notes – The Senatore has good acidity and is very easy to drink. There is nice balance and elegance in the wine. Very juicy and fresh, the wine has notes of red cherries and spice along with hints of vanilla and chocolate. Tannins are smooth and the wine is incredibly well balanced.
PIETRADOLCE Etna Rosso Archineri 2017 (Retail $45) – Sicily, Italy
With the latest acquisitions in Feudo di Mezzo, this charming estate, one of Sicily’s most famous, has grown to comprise more than 30 hectares of vineyards. The new underground cellar is so well integrated into the landscape that in the direction of the hill, it’s truly difficult to know where one begins and the other ends. Inside, together with the most modern technology, we find many works of art, such as those by Alfio Bonanno, a world-famous exponent of ‘Land Art’ or the beautiful sculpture ‘Pietre d’Acqua’ by Veronese artist Giorgio Vigna.
Tasting Notes – This beautiful Etna Rosso is made from 100% Nerello Mascalese of pre-phylloxera vines(95-year-old vines) that are 850 meters above sea levels. Notes of plum, pomegranate and juicy cherries coat the mouth. The tannins are smooth and the minerality is intense and distinct. This is an elegant wine that has great harmony, finesse and balance.
COTTANERA Etna Rosso Feudo di Mezzo 2016 (Retail $50) – Sicily, Italy
Cottanera Iannazzo is one of Etna’s most important producers in terms of quality and surface area. It was founded thanks to the foresight and vision of the late Guglielmo Cambria and his brother Enzo. The grandchildren of the latter, Mariangela, Emanuele and Francesco, are continuing the family adventure, bringing new enthusiasm and the same dedication to their work. In addition to their prized selections made with native cultivars, it’s worth mentioning the successful use of international grapes as well.
Tasting Notes – The Cottanera Rosso is 100% Nerello Mascalese grown on black volcanic lava soils made from 45-50 year vines. This is an amazing wine, it is a wine that gives you an experience of being on Etna. Rich in texture and structure. Nice juicy fruit and spice coat the palate, along with refined tannins. Wild cherries, blackberries, clove, nutmeg and white pepper stand out in the wine. An elegant wine with a long-lasting finish.