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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > ITALY: North-West, including Gavi & Barolo/Barbaresco

Winner Details

Italy: North-West, including Gavi & Barolo/Barbaresco

An underwhelming performance from a part of Italy that has charmed our tasters in the past

There is, as any fule kno, plenty of weird and wonderful wine kicking around in the Italian north-west. But generally speaking this part of the Sommelier Wine Awards is dominated on the red side by Barolo/Barbaresco and on the whites by Gavi. They resemble a pair of gnarled old prize fighters outwitting faster-moving but naïve opponents.

Except that this year they didn’t.

There was only one paltry red Gold from the north-west, and it went to a Barbera, not to one of its bigger, more leathery older brothers.

And yet, oddly, the feedback for Barolo and Barbaresco was far less negative than it has been in the past. In previous years, our tasters have been left nursing their aching gums like teething rugrats, whereas this year ‘even the wines that didn’t get medals, there was nothing wrong with them – they just weren’t giving enough’, said Marco Adreani from The Pass at South Lodge.

The worst elements of winemaking, it seems, are dropping away (possibly helped by some naturally riper vintages). But it’s still a tough style to commit to listing unless you’re very sure of your clientele. ‘I only have one Barolo on my list,’ mused Christophe Richelet of Viajante. ‘They are a hand sell, and I don’t always feel happy doing that.’

The rest of the region’s reds were (as too often in SWA) something of a disappointment. Not bad, exactly, just a bit ‘meh’. Praise for the Il Cascinone, though, which had a real sense of place.

‘It said north-west Italy and it had really great fruit concentration,’ praised consultant Jade Koch. ‘It delivered at £8-£9, which isn’t always the case. It was quite serious, but not over-the-top serious, and ready to drink.’

The whites, meanwhile, put in a feeble performance. The medal winners were praised by team leader Richard Bampfield MW as ‘the sort of dry whites Italy does so well: effortless, appetising and classy’. But, as the paucity of medals shows, there really weren’t enough wines that reached this level, particularly for the kind of money being demanded.

‘The first half of the flight was very good value for money, but the value dipped as they got more expensive,’ said The Rib Room’s Louise Gordon. ‘I don’t think people are going to pay £50 for a bottle of Gavi on a wine list.’
All of which explains why the two medal-winning Gavis were under £7 – and why the more ambitious oak-fermented versions were removed.

‘This really needs to be a wake-up call for Gavi,’ said Hakkasan Group’s Christine Parkinson as she co-ordinated our final Gold List. ‘It could be a good trade-up wine. Lots of people love the style of the wine, but too many are just not good enough.’

‘People who want Barolo don’t mind too much about the price. They know the product, and it’s not for every day.’
Marco Adreani, The Pass at South Lodge

‘Gavi should be up there elbowing out NZ Sauvignon Blanc, but too much of it is pitiful. This was a siren call for the category.’
Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan Group