Most Expensive Italian Wines

Plus some value alternatives

 


Italy is a country with a very long history of making wine, but unlike the French, for instance, the Italians have not done a particularly good job in marketing their wines. Heck, the truth is that until quite recently there were only a handful of wineries that could really compete at the highest levels.

That’s not to say that Italy made bad wine -- well, that’s not to say that Italy made appreciably more bad wine than anyone else, at least. What was missing was the ability to convince the world that their wines were the Ferraris, Guccis, and Ferragamos of their kind. Actually, the Ferragamos got into the wine business and, not surprisingly, did a pretty fine job of getting their wine noticed.

Monfortino

Giacomo Conterno’s Barolo Monfortino is an iconic wine. Not only is it one of the oldest producer-bottled Barolos, but it’s also often the best in any given vintage. In fact, as far as I am concerned, it has been the best in any vintage I’ve tried. It’s only made in the best vintages, about 45 vintages since it was first bottled around 1920.

I love Monfortino, but the only problem with it is that it is one of Italy’s most expensive wines. Current release vintages range between $250 and $400 a bottle, and vintages at peak sell for upwards of $1,000 a bottle! What’s a wine lover to do? 

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Cappellano Rupestris

If you are looking for a traditional Barolo from Serralunga, look no further. The one wine that grabbed my attention more than any other on my trip to Piedmont in 2009 was Teobaldo Cappellano’s 2004 Barolo Rupestris.

This is a rich, deep expression of Barolo, packed with fruit, but capable of complexity that very few wines achieve, with Monfortino being an obvious exception here. These are traditional wines, so they can be a little reticent in their youth but do blossom with time in the bottle. They need about half the time a typical vintage of Monfortino does to reach its peak, and sell for about a quarter the price of current release vintages of Monfortino. $75/btl

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Burlotto Monvigliero

While Burlotto's Monvigliero is a complete different style of Barolo to Monfortino -- being much more feminine than the rugged Monfortino -- it is almost as iconic. It’s one of the few Barolos to undergo a vinification as traditional as Monfortino’s.

In Monvigliero’s case it’s iconic of the poorly known vineyard of the same name that expresses a unique terroir bound to the soil of Verduno, where the vineyard and Burlotto winery are located. 

The best part though is that Burlotto’s Monvigliero matures a decade before Monfortino, and sells for about one-seventh the price of Monfortino! $50/btl

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Gianfranco Soldera Brunello Riserva

Brunello has been racked by scandal and an identity crisis for years. Some producers said, “Screw the identity of Brunello” early on and went their own way, crafting wines that speak as much about the grape (Sangiovese) and the soil as they do about the producer.

Gianfranco Soldera is one such producer. His Brunellos have emerged as the most coveted wines coming from this rather crowded appellation, and one of the few Brunellos that has a strong secondary and auction market. These are wines that are very traditionally made, with vines selected from the corners of Italy’s Sangiovese vineyards, all yielding a remarkably fresh, age-worthy, and complex example of Brunello Di Montalcino… with prices starting at around $300 a bottle!

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Poggio di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto is a minor cult in its own right. These are also traditionally made wines that showcase the potential of Sangiovese, cutting no corners and using methods that incorporate some of the best advances of the 20th century, yet with roots in the soil and hands of the earliest producers of Brunello.

The results speak for themselves: killer wines, but they don’t come cheap -- just cheaper than Soldera’s. Figure about $100 a bottle for the Brunello, but the big secret in Montalcino is how damn good the Rossos can be. Poggio di Sotto doesn’t come cheap, especially for a Rosso, but at about $50 or a little less it’s worth it.

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Conti Costanti

One step down the ladder brings me to Conti Costanti, my fallback favorite Brunello producer. The wines are still traditional, though they can lack some of the purity of Poggio di Sotto’s wines and the overall impact of Soldera’s. Nonetheless, they are still wonderful expressions of Brunello: elegant, rich, and layered with a firm tannic structure. Just classic, if $75 or so a bottle. For about half that you can enjoy Conti Costanti’s Rosso di Montalcino.

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Comments

  • Snooth User: lawdown
    87975 3

    Perhaps you have overlooked the Bolgheri region in Tuscany. Ornellaia, Sassicaia, for example. Very pricey, but generally memorable.

    Nov 10, 2010 at 3:24 PM


  • Snooth User: Eric Guido
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    92549 180,823

    Man Greg, you've been on fire. Nice string of great articles here on snooth!

    Nov 10, 2010 at 7:58 PM


  • Snooth User: mfurrer
    276836 2

    Bolgheri is def missing. Especially talking about iconic wines, Masseto is probably the icon per se in italy. Bruno Giacosas Barbaresco Santo Stefano another one. And going south, whenever you have the chance of trying Montevetrano from Campania, don't miss it. Still i enjoyed reading the article, as it is as always mind opening and enjoyable.

    Nov 11, 2010 at 1:02 AM


  • Snooth User: erniex
    634476 60

    Have to agree on the comments already posted. Quite few wines could be added to a list of most expensive from Italy. Like Gajas top end portfolio, Dal Forno & Quintarelli, definitely Bolgheris super Toscans, and even more Barolos such as Mascarello and Sandrone.
    In general still a way up to the most coveted French counterparts, but for sure a wider range than the few mentioned here...
    And if looking for value alternatives, I could recommend to dig through the second wines of the super Toscans. In a good vintage these wines are often very close to big brother, earlier ready for consumption, and often almost cheap - in comparison at least..

    Nov 11, 2010 at 2:57 AM


  • Personally, I prefer Amarone to Barolo and I was really surprised to see it missing from the list, although I accept that the article was titled "Most Expensive" as opposed to "The Best Italian Wines" - More on Italy please!

    Nov 11, 2010 at 3:23 AM


  • Where are the Super Tuscans? An entire story in their own right, achieving Bordeaux-like status - yes, Ornellaia and Sassicaia, and the consequent wider produce of people like Antinori.

    Oh, we've trawled the bad stuff - read our postings on chianti, for example - but there's some great stuff in Italy too.

    Nov 11, 2010 at 4:03 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 221,222

    Thanks for the comments. Other areas will included in follow-up emails. I started compiling this list and it quickly became obvious that this would have to be done in several parts but I'm glad to see that this has started a discussion!

    Nov 11, 2010 at 7:23 AM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,841

    I'll agree with Eric that you have a number of articles on excellent themes these days. Just wish we didn't have to trudge through all the page changes in the now-universal slide shows. They really are a pain you-know-where, and I accordingly don't even begin on any slided article if I feel rushed for time.

    I'll also agree with others in this thread that you've shorted the 'Super Tuscans', even Tignanello. If you say the most expensive 'Italian' (not Barolos or Brunellos), you're opening yourself to this. And if price is the determiner, personal preferences aside, you'll have to look at a Gaja or two, as erniex has suggested... ;-)

    Nov 14, 2010 at 2:54 AM


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