Best Italian Wines of 2017 From Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Magazines


With 2017 winding to a close it’s time for the annual best-of-the-best lists for every conceivable object or event to start appearing on the web and newsprint. After all, it’s only human nature to look back and review our experiences over the year and categorize or rank them according to their relative interest and significance. And nowhere is this need to annually reflect and rank on more prominent display than in the world of wine.

Each year Wine Spectator (WS) and Wine Enthusiast (WE) Magazines independently recap a year’s worth of tastings with their own comprehensive lists of the top 100 wines released that year from around the world. The Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast are prestigious wine-centric magazines and they, along with the Wine Advocate, are immensely influential in establishing a wine’s - and the winery’s - reputation and popularity.

It is important to note that in their deliberations both magazines only consider wines that (a) have been red wine glass with red dinner platesubmitted over the course of the year by producers for review and ranking and (b) further limit the choice of wines to that subset that have high initial rankings by each magazine’s reviewers. So, wines that have not been submitted for review are excluded from consideration for inclusion in each magazine’s list of the top 100 wines.

As you would expect, both lists include a number of Italian wines and I think it’s interesting to examine exactly what wines are included and to compare their choices.

WS has released a listing of its top 100 wines world-wide each year since 1988 and rated over 16,000 wines in 2017. Of the thousands of wines reviewed only those rated as outstanding (95 points or higher on WS’s 100-point scale) by the magazine’s staff are eligible for inclusion in the Top 100. WS bases its selections not only on quality (as indicated by WS staff scores) but also considers factors such as value (judged by the wine’s release price); availability (determined by wine’s general availability in U.S. markets); and an “x-factor” that WS cryptically defines as “the intensity of interest the wines generated by way of their singularity or authenticity.”

WS’s Top 100 represent a wide variety of varietals, appellations and prices. As in past years U.S. wines account for the largest number of wines, approximately one-third of the total with California wines leading the way.

But France and Italy are also well represented. WS’s top wine of the year is a domestic red, a 2014 “Three Palms Vineyard” Merlot from Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley that retails for $98. The average score for WS’s Top 100 wines is 93 points, the same as last year, and the average price is $43, down from $46 the previous year.

You can view WS’s complete list of the Top 100 wines along with price and vintage data HERE.

Wines from Italy fared well with 16 wines making an appearance in WS’s Top 100, 2 less than the previous year. The highest-rated Italian wine in WS’s Top 100 is a 2012 Brunello di Montalcino from the Casanova di Neri winery. It placed 4th in the overall ranking and has a retail price of $65.

Brunello wines did extremely well with 3 Brunello di Montalcino wines included in WS’s Top 100 list all of which are from the excellent 2012 vintage. 2012 was hot and dry in southern Tuscany but some rainfall before harvest refreshed the vines. The 2012 Brunello is a powerful vintage with all the necessary prerequisites for long-term ageing.

The Italian wines hail from 8 different regions with 6 from Tuscany, 2 each from Piedmont, Campania and Veneto and one each from Calabria, Sicily, Marche and Umbria.
Four wines in the Italian contingent are white and include a Soave Classico from Veneto; a Vernaccia di San Gimignano from Tuscany; a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from Marche; and a Greco di Tufo from Campania.

The 16 Italian wines range in price from $65 to $16 with an average price of $38. The most expensive Italian wine in WS’s Top 100 is the Brunello from Casanova di Neri (ranked 4th in WS’s overall rating) and the least expensive Italian is Luigi Einaudi’s Dolcetto di Dogliani (ranked 38th overall).

The table below presents the wines and relevant information for the 16 Italian wines in Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of 2017.

      Italian Wines in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2017    
  Rank Score Producer Wine Vintage Region Price  
  4 95 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino 2012 Tuscany $65  
  11 96 Altesino "Our 40th Harvest" Brunello di Montalcino 2012 Tuscany $65  
  20 96 San Felice "Campogiovanni" Brunello di Montalcino 2012 Tuscany $60  
  23 95 Mazzei "Tenuta Belguardo" Maremma Toscana DOC 2013 Tuscany $55  
  38 92 Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto di Dogliani DOCG 2015 Piedmont $16  
  46 91 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino 2015 Tuscany $27  
  61 97 Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Ovello 2013 Piedmont $62  
  66 92 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino 2011 Umbria $40  
  69 90 Gini Soave Classico 2016 Veneto $21  
  71 90 Donnachiara Aglianico Irpinia 2015 Campania $18  
  80 90 Michele Castellani "San Michele" Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2015 Veneto $28  
  84 90 Simone Santini "Tenuta Le Calcinaie" Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2015 Tuscany $18  
  92 90 Garofoli "Podium" Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2014 Marche $25  
  94 90 di Meo "G" Greco di Tufo 2016 Campania $27  
  96 91 Feudi del Pisciotto "Versace" Nero d'Avola Terre Siciliane IGT 2015 Sicily $33  
  97 92 Odoardi "GB" Giovan Batista Calabria Rosso IGP 2014 Calabria $45  
      Average price       $38  
  Source: Wine Spectator Magazine, December 31, 2017        

The Wine Enthusiast (WE) reviewed nearly 23,000 wines in 2017 of which only wines rated 90 or above were considered for inclusion in the magazine’s Top 100 wines of the year. The WE Top 100 list features selections from 17 countries of which approximately a third of the total (30) are from the U.S. with California leading the way with 17 wines. France comes in second with 18 wines followed by Italy with 14 wines. Spain and Portugal are also well represented in WE’s Top 100 with 6 wines each. The average price of the Top 100 wines is $35 which denotes incredible value for wine enthusiasts.

The top-rated wine in WE’s Top 100 is the 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay from the Gary Farrell winery in Sonoma that retails for $35. This is the first top-rated white wine for WE in over 10 years.

You can view WE’s complete list of the Top 100 wines along with price and vintage data HERE

The 14 Italian wines that made WE’s Top 100 list range in price $58 to $19 with an average of $33. Ten of the wines are red, 3 are white and one, the “Vitalba” Albana Secco in Amphora from the Tre Monti winery in the Emilia-Romagna region, is orange.

The top-ranked Italian wine in WE’s Top 100 is a 2011 “Rabaja” Barbaresco Riserva from the Produttori dei Barbaresco winery in the Piedmont region. It ranks #2 overall, has a 97 point score and, with a $58 price tag, is the most expensive Italian wine in WE’s Top 100.

Only 1 Brunello wine is included in WE’s Top 100 compared with 3 Brunello wines included in WS’s Top 100. The relative absence of Brunello di Montalcino wines accounts for the relatively low number of Tuscan wines overall in WE’s top 100. Only 2 wines from Tuscany are included in WE’s Top 100 compared with 6 Tuscan wines that made WS’s Top 100.

Four of the 14 Italian wines in WE’s Top 100 are from the Piedmont region; 3 from the Veneto; 2 each from Sicily, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna; and 1 from the Alto Adige region. This may be compared with the 2 Piedmont and 2 Veneto wines in WS’s Top 100 list.

The average price of the 14 Italian wines in WE’s Top 100 is $33, 5 dollars less than the $38 average price for the 19 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 list.

The table below presents the wines and relevant information for the 14 Italian wines in WE’s Top 100 wines of 2017.

          Italian Wines in Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Wines of 2017      
  Rank Score Producer Wine Vintage Region Price  
  2 97 Produttori del Barbaresco "Rabaja" Barbaresco Riserva 2011 Piedmont $58  
  7 95 Abbazia di Novacella "Praepositus" Kerner 2015 Alto Adige $25  
  12 96 Columbera & Garella "Pizzaguerra" Lessona 2013 Piedmont $35  
  22 96 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino 2011 Tuscany $45  
  25 94 Tre Monti "Vitalba" Albana Secco in Anfora  2015 Emilia-Romagna $24  
  30 95 San Felice "Il Grigio" Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 Tuscany $55  
  37 94 Gini "La Frosca" Soave Classico 2015 Veneto $29  
  43 93 Paltrinieri "Radici" Lambrusco di Sorbara 2016 Emilia-Romagna $20  
  48 94 Le Fraghe "Brol Grande" Bardolino 2015 Veneto $20  
  54 95 Renato Ratti "Marcenasco" Barolo 2013 Piedmont $50  
  60 93 Tornatore Etna Bianco 2016 Sicily $30  
  71 93 Braida di Giacomo Bologna "Monte Bruna" Barbera d'Asti 2014 Piedmont $28  
  86 92 Andreola "Dirupo" Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2016 Veneto $19  
  100 92 Curto "Fontanelle" Nero d'Avola 2009 Sicily $29  
      Average Price       $33  
  Source:  Wine Enthusiast Magazine, December 31, 2017        

All in all, WS and WE magazines’ rankings of their top wines for 2017 from around the world indicate another good year for Italian wines on the world stage.

Return to About Italian Wines

©Richard Marcis
December 1, 2017



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