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Masterclass report: Italian Showstoppers from the Decanter World Wine Awards

When Richard Baudains stands up to speak, it’s hard not to be drawn in by his impeccable knowledge drawn from years of experience tasting and judging wines.

Hosting a masterclass at Vinitaly in Verona – one of the wine world’s biggest wine fairs, and Italy’s most prominent – Richard Baudains presented 10 top-scoring Italian wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards 2022 to a captivated audience.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023, with judging commencing this week, the DWWA is a huge operation. Richard explained that last year, 18,244 wines were entered from 54 countries, and involved 237 experts from around the world, including 54 Masters of Wine and 16 Master Sommeliers.

Richard Baudains presenting to the trade at Vinitaly 2023

While wine competitions of old were based on analytical scoring – individual scores for each element, such as appearance, nose, palate were added up, and the final score was the average of every judge’s totals – the DWWA has always emphasised independent judgement, using what Richard described as a ‘symposium of tasters’ tasting flights of wines blind and then discussing the results. Those awarded Gold medals (95-96 points) are grouped by category and re-tasted blind by a different team of experts, and all those achieving a Platinum medal (97-100 points) are retasted by the Co-Chairs, who finally pick out the Best in Show wines – just 0.2% of the total number of wines entered.

The DWWA 2022 awards were a success for Italian wines, just pipping France to first place with 3,100 medals to 3,097. Of the 50 Best in Show wines, nine were Italian; while Italy also represented 24 of 165 Platinum medal winners and 114 of 676 Gold medal winners.

Richard noted that 44% of entries achieved a Bronze medal (86-89 points), which is ‘encouraging because it means the quality of the wines is going up and up.’

The 10 masterclass wines

The 10 wines in the masterclass were personally picked out by Richard, representing a variety of styles.

First, the Masottina RDO Levante Extra Dry Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Rive 2021, a mouthful to say and a delicious mouthful to drink, with pear fruit brightened by flecks of apricot, apple and a mineral steeliness. Richard noted that Masottina were the first Prosecco producer to win a Gold medal, and in 2022 they achieved a very impressive Platinum medal with 97 points awarded by the judges.

The second wine, Mandrarossa’s Fiano Terre Siciliane 2021 from Sicily represents great quality for the price, achieving a 97-point score and a Best in Show award. Aromatic, juicy, vibrant and super-fresh, it’s bursting with pithy citrus peel, garrigue herbs and underlying soft creaminess. Delicious!

Going back up to the north of the country, Tiefenbrunner’s Feldmarschall von Fenner 2020 from Alto Adige is a 100% Müller-Thurgau full of focused mineral-drenched aromas and flavours: zingy green fruits, yellow plum, white pepper and bitter herbs, all wrapped up in a fresh and juicy package. It achieved a Gold medal and 95 points at DWWA 2022.

Richard picked out the next wine as he admitted he has a soft spot for the wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, given that he lives in the region! But Muzic’s Stare Brajde 2020 from Collio DOC makes the list on merit too, achieving a Platinum medal and 97 points at the DWWA 2022. Almost salty in character, it’s round and weighty with subtle texture and flavours of yellow plum, stone fruits and orange peel, cut through by a vein of juicy fruit. A mouthwatering finish completes this impressive wine.

Moving to Emilia-Romagna, Oinoe’s 4.0 Rea Malvasia 2020 from Colli di Parma is an incredibly perfumed white bursting with potpourri-infused white peach, and medicinal notes. Intense, textured and fresh, its sapid stone fruit character leads to a pithy finish. Only around 2,000 bottles were produced but it’s worth seeking out given the Platinum medal and 97 points it was awarded last year.

The indigenous Cagnulari variety from Sardinia takes centre stage in Chessa’s Cagnulari Isole dei Nuraghi 2020, which achieved a Best in Show medal and 97 points in 2022. Richard described it as a ‘raunchy style’, and its soft brambly fruit is certainly appealing, its ripe and flesh berries cut by very fresh acidity and finishing with a stony, earthy quality.

Tuscany achieved the most medals of all Italian regions last year, and Riecine’s Vigna Gittori Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2019 is a great example of why this region is flying high. Best in Show and 97 points is just the start, as this will no doubt improve with ageing. Black tea and perfumed red fruit aromas lead to an intense palate with a sweet, delicate core of pretty violet and lavender, cherry and wild strawberry wrapped in well integrated wood and zippy acidity.

Another one for the cellar is Ciabot Berton’s Roggeri Barolo 2017. It also achieved a Best in Show award and 97 points. Showing all the balsamic nuance of the hot and dry 2017 vintage, it has a big, bold structure with gum-gripping tannins and some timid cherry and dried fruits, accompanied on the finish by some earthy notes and succulent acidity. Give it time and it will no doubt soar.

Yet another Best in Show and 97 points comes from Zenato in Veneto, whose Sergio Zenato Amarone delle Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2016 is an absolute stunner. Intense, spicy and complex, it showcases dried black cherry, plum, raspberry coulis and cocoa-infused tannins, with balsamic and medicinal notes. It’s of course full bodied, yet surprisingly light on its feet and incredibly fresh.

Back to Tuscany for a Platinum medal winner with 97 points, Tenuta di Capezzana’s Vin Santo di Carmignano Riserva 2014 is such a rarity that the bottles for this masterclass were kindly provided from the estate’s private stocks. Vin Santo is a classic Italian sweet wine, here made with dried Trebbiano (90%) and San Colombano (10%) grapes matured for more than five years in casks of different wood species under the winery’s loft roof. Super-bright, aromatic and nutty, it displays hints of dried fruits, apricot jam, lime juice and raisins. A truly delicious, complex sweet wine.

View all Italian wine results from Decanter World Wine Awards 2022

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