Wine Gifts: Italy

The Best Wine Gifts for 2013


So far I’ve worked my way through a pretty impressive set of wines that would make for some splendid gifting. I’ve covered Cabernet, Pinot Noir, the wines of France and today I turn my attention towards Italy. Without a doubt my favorite wine producing country; Italy is home to more variety and styles of wine than anyplace else on the planet.

As much as i would love to run through all of those wines today, the truth is that gift giving will generally focus on but a handful of famous wines. This of course makes perfect sense, gifting being about buying something that someone might not buy for themselves or buying something that is particularly noteworthy and special. With this in mind  I will spread my attention a bit more liberally throughout the country. I've got my suggestions for Nebbiolo and Sangiovese of course but there are simply so many noteworthy and special wines being produced in Italy today that to ignore them would do a disservice to them and to you, our potential gift giver.

I will however start here with Nebbiolo, my favorite grape and when placed in the hands of one of the top producers, a grape capable of producing wines that marry power and elegance. At once hugely structured, yet so aromatic with delicate perfumes of violets and roses, leather, tar, red fruits and licorice all wrapped up in an age worthy package that can evolve for decades. Barolo and Barbaresco, they are two of the world’s greatest wines. Dare i say the greatest? Having said that they also generally require a fair amount of cellaring, which can pose a problem for pouring whatever vintage is on the shelves at this moment. Here is a very brief rundown of vintages to help guide your purchasing.
2010 Just a few Barbaresco from this vintage have hit the shelves as of yet. A vintage that seems to be better in Barolo, where it is spectacular, than in Barbaresco, where it is merely very good. A classic vintage that might have some early appeal but is structured for the long haul, and is not the best option for early consumption.
2009 The current release for Barolo and a lovely one at that. Big, rich with the fruit of a warm vintage yet quite structured as well. These should drink well enough today and for the coming year before closing down.
2008 A very aromatic and smaller scaled vintage that is bright and austere with an almost lacy, yet frm structure. Not a hedonistic vintage but one that is remarkably complex and has that delicate/powerful thing going in spades. 
2007 A warmer vintage; plump with ripe fruit yet many wines are not very well balanced. Still drinking well enough though and as a generalization, with an approachable character that makes them good for gift giving. 
2006 Tough as nails, but a great vintage.
2005 Similar to 2008 in style though many wines have shut down.
2004 A very good vintage with fairly classically styled wines, though some are a touch dilute. Still approachable today.
2003 The product of a very hot vintage, easy drinking and plump if neither terribly complex nor particularly structured. 
2002 A washout best avoided with one notable, and expensive, exception.
2001 A great vintage that is shut down hard, as evidenced by this recent tasting.
2000 A warmer vintage that yielded plump, generous wines that do not represent the pinnacle of what Nebbiolo can achieve but these wines are drinking terrifically today and would make a perfect gift this holiday season.

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