Gambero Rosso’s Best Italian Red of the Year
In 2017, Italy’s wine bible — Gambero Rosso — assessed 25,000 wines from 2,400 wineries. 428 were awarded “Tre Bicchieri.” But only one was selected as “Red Wine of the Year” for its 30th consecutive annual publication. That was the 2013 Barbatto from Chiaromonte. This prestigious award is the Italian equivalent of being named the #1 on Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100. In June last year, at a tasting with owner Nicola Chiaromonte, I locked into the exclusive U.S. allocation. All 125 cases flew and are now resting in Wine Access client cellars, or have already been consumed. I phoned up Nicola and have just secured another 75 cases. This is the most impressive under-$40 Italian red you’ll try this year.
It was no surprise when this astonishing red from the heel of the Italian boot earned the highest award an Italian red wine can receive. After all, Nicola Chiaromonte is renowned as the “King of Primitivo,” and this is his top wine. His estate, located on a limestone plateau in the center of Puglia, was first cultivated in the 1800s from a single 7-acre plot. This powerhouse red, culled from 70-year-old vines in an Apulian tree vineyard, achieves the pinnacle of balance at 16.5% alcohol, and will undoubtedly appeal to lovers of cult Napa Cabernet as much as it will aficionados of great Italian wine.
Nicola Chiaromonte inherited the business from his father in 1998 and began searching for the purest expressions of Primitivo. Then he separated the fruit from the bush-trained, ancient vines of his most elite sites to craft cuvées like this one, brilliantly highlighting the Gioia del Colle DOC provenance. His vineyards, composed of calcareous soil at 1,083 feet in elevation, offer perfect conditions for growing Primitivo — the European grandfather of California’s Zinfandel.
Matt Deller MW
Master of Wine