The more we taste examples from the 2016 vintage in northern Italy, both red and white, the more wonder we experience. Wine after wine shows a clarity of purpose, purity of fruit, and uniquely expressive nature unlike anything we can recall in recent times. Are these wines really that good? The more we experience, the more inclined we are to say ‘yes, they are!’
It wasn’t that long ago we were pretty gaga over the 2010 whites from this part of the world. The fruit had substance and power, there was plenty of zip and verve and, in short, they were everything that you could expect n Italian white to be. We remember the 2010s fondly, and were using them as the ‘benchmark’ for everything that was special about Italian whites. The 2016s are all of that and more, with everything that the 2010s had plus an undefinable ‘presence’ and harmony that sets the 2016s on another level. That being said here are three more outstanding examples to make our point:
Filippo Gallino Arneis 2016–The story here isn’t extensive, just a committed producer that consistently makes very good wine and doesn’t charge a lot for it. With a ‘naked’ grape like Arneis you can’t really tweak it in the cellar with wood and have to be very careful with extended lees contact as both can negatively affect the desired freshness of the wine’s profile, you get what Nature gives you. Wines like this really are made in the vineyard and those that farm meticulously are the successful ones.
Sure there are slightly more exotic aromatics with some of the big dogs labels that cost a lot more. But this one presents all of the fresh floral nuances and apple-skin aromatics and the lively fruit driven palate that are the essence of this genre. The 2016 simply has more energy and fruit weight than past versions, which makes this one a killer deal.
Inama Soave Classico 2016– As we have remarked, even the little wines are noticeably better in 2016. Somehow they have a little more punch, a little more lift, and a surprising degree of harmony that forces you to take notice. Inama is a staple around here, and we buy it almost every year. But there’s just ‘more’ to this wine than any that we have tasted in recent memory.
There’s no big story here. This is just Garganega, the classic grape of Soave, done in 100% stainless steel. Sure it sounds simple enough. But again this is a ‘naked’ wine which they can’t really mess with in the cellar of everything doesn’t go right, so there is a bit more to it. All of the words matter. To carry the name ‘classico’ the grapes must come from the hillside vineyards around the municipalities of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone in the original and oldest classic “zone” of Verona established back in 1927.
Forget those over-produced, insipid Soaves that flooded the market 20-30 years ago. This is nothing like those. Advocate’s Monica Larner’s words are precise enough, “This entry-level Soave Classico delivers the elegant mineral definition and fruit sensation you should expect of the best Garganega grapes. The 2016 Soave Classico Vin Soave benefits from very favorable growing conditions in a classic vintage. The bouquet is refined and polished with stone fruit, citrus, dried sage and saffron.” Driving and quite engaging for the fare.
Keber Collio Bianco 2016–No place does this kind of thing like the northeast of Italy. Riveting, purposeful blends of a mixture of white varietals make for some uniquely compelling whites with lifted fruit, plenty of sizzle, but also unexpected palate presence. In that realm, Keber has always been one of the stars. Their Collio Bianco can stand with the best in the region, but is much more attractively priced.
Maybe it was just a good day, but the 2016 Keber Collio is the best version of this wine we can remember tasting, everything the past efforts have been but with seemingly another gear. The blend is 70% Friulano , 15% Malvasia Istriana, and 15% Ribolla Gialla. The concept is Friulano for structure, Malvasia Istriana for its aromatic qualities, and Ribolla Gialla for
acidity. These varietals do very well in the so-named “Ponka” soil, composed of marl and sandstone, that naturally stresses the vines. The grapes are whole cluster, soft-pressed to minimize oxidation during crushing. The juice is fermented and matured on the yeasts for 6 months in
cement vats. Twenty per-cent of the Friulano is aged in older, large barrels.
This wine, from a 10-acre estate near the Slovenian border, always has remarkable weight, body and a distinctive, super-minerally aspect typical of the region. The estate produces just this wine but it is a constant winner. This time around, it’s just a notch or two better, which is pretty sensational.