Italian winemakers dream of being awarded the prestigious Tre Bicchieri, the highest wine rating from Gambero Rosso, an Italian magazine and publishing company focused on food and wine. The magazine, which puts out an annual book called Vini d’Italia recommending the best wines of the year, awards several levels of wine excellence. I had the pleasure of attending this year’s tasting and networking event in San Francisco.
The award system was explained to me by none other than Robin Shay, Market Manager of the Americas for the Allegrini Group as I worked my way through their table of multiple Tre Bicchieri winning wines:
“If a wine gets Un Bicchiere, you probably won’t order it again but you probably won’t spit it out either. If a wine receives Due Bicchieri, it’s a bloody good wine. But if the wine receives Tre Bicchieri…it delivers a rare experience that will blow your mind.”
This was my first stop, and to be honest, it was difficult to go anywhere else after my experience here! I arrived at the Allegrini booth, which proudly displayed both Allegrini Valpolicella Wines and wines from their Tuscan winery Poggio al Tesoro. Robin stood behind the Poggio al Tesoro bottles, curly blonde hair and a bright smile, explaining with much excitement the story behind the wines he poured.
The first wine he poured for me was their 2013 Solo Sole Vermentino, made from grapes grown at a vineyard called “Le Sondraie”, located in the Livorno Provence. There is a very forward taste of the sea in this wine, probably because the vines are just 400 yards away from the cool Mediterranean. The wine was crisp, tangy and coastally floral. I could visualize drinking a glass of this Vermentino in Ponza by the sea. I might have to limit myself to one or two glasses, however, because with a 14.5% alcohol content, this wine could fool you with its easy drinkability. It is definitely a wine for aperitifs, light seafood, and vegetarian cuisine.
Then I moved on to taste last year’s Tre Bicchieri winner from Poggio al Tesoro, a Cabernet Franc dedicated to an invaluable member of the Allegrini family, Walter. Walter and his sister Marilisa, who is now the powerful force at the helm of the company, started the Poggio al Tesoro winery together in 2002. Tragically, Walter passed away shortly after in 2003 and this wine was made in his honor. It is aged 16 months in oak and just 50 cases were sold in the U.S. You can taste the oak, dry and forward, but it’s followed by a fruity flavor on the tongue and then finishes dry again. Seven years is the prime length of aging on this wine although it is ready to drink now.
Finally, we moved on to this year’s all-star and Tre Bicchieri winner, the 2011 Bolgheri Superiore Sondraia. This blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Cab Franc was bold but very smooth and not quite as dry as I had expected it to be. It hit the tongue with silky fruit flavors but finished in earthiness. This is definitely a wine made for food! Any rich, grilled red meats would pair perfectly with the Sondraia, as well as bold cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano. After 10 years of aging, 2021 would be the prime year to drink this wine but it will hold longer.
This is when I spotted owner, marketing director and “resident bad ass,” Marilisa Allegrini and I quickly skirted over to meet her. She smiled as she greeted me with a glass of 2011 Palazzo della Torre, but when the subject switched to the wine description her face became a focused depiction of every ounce of passion and dedication that she had for her wines. This Veronese blend has made Allegrini a household name all over the world. It was fruit forward on the nose, smooth drinking, and finished dry but grapey. It pairs well with classic Italian food like risottos and pastas.
Next was a taste of 2011 La Grola, a blend of mostly Corvina varietals, with small amounts of Oseleta and Syrah grown in the La Grola vineyard in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella. I first noticed its beautiful maroon color and big, bold aroma. This is a wine that can age for about 10-12 years and pairs extremely well with grilled meats and earthy vegetables. Allegrini suggests opening this bottle one hour before you plan to drink.
Marilisa’s enthusiasm escalated when she poured me a glass of this year’s Tre Bicchieri winner, the 2010 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico. As I sipped, Marilisa described the “process of elegance” used to make it, and I could taste exactly what she described. The wine is made from grapes that are dried for 4 months, usually from September to January. The drying process causes the grapes to lose most of their weight and liquid, making the result a thicker, more concentrated flavor of raisins, dried plums, and a hint of spice. It finished tart and delicious. This wine is generally paired with hearty dishes, meats, and more mature cheeses. It’s also best when left to breathe for at least an hour before drinking. Before leaving the table, I asked Marilisa how she would describe the experience of drinking this wine in one word. Her response was simply that, “One word wouldn’t be enough.” Upon our goodbye, she exclaimed, “See you in Italy!”
Note to self: Immediately plan trip to Italy and Allegrini Vineyards so I can drink more wine with Marilisa! She rocks!
I had a transformative experience at Tre Bicchieri San Francisco. I tasted incredible wines and met a plethora of passionate winemakers, like Marilisa, with unique stories. I am glad I was able to share one of them with you! I would highly recommend anyone in the wine industry to make the effort in attending this grand showcase of some of Italy’s most highly awarded wines. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and that you too can experience these wines through tastings or winery visits in Italy! I know who can plan it for you! www.selectitaly.com
Canden Bliss Jackson, is an LA-based “winey-foodie” and TV Personality! A former Miss Alabama Teen USA, this southern girl turned world traveler has degree in International Relations and Italian. Her passions include culture, travel, food, wine, and horses! She’s a lifetime equestrian who now dabbles in the west coast Polo circuit. She studied at the Università di Bologna and has made it her life’s goal to perfect her Italian language skills so that she can one day move to the Tuscan countryside with her horses (and her wine stash).