What if there were one American wine competition that stood above all the others. But what if the judges also went out on the road to do their blind tasting in each region every year and also managed to visit hundreds of wineries.
But then, after all the results were in, the sponsoring organization showed off the cream of the crop – the gold medal wines – in a dozen one-day tastings in cities around the world.
Who would want to miss an opportunity to sample the best U.S.-made wines each year? Nobody I know.
But alas, there is no such competition and no world swing.
But there is in Italy, which trails only France in annual table wine production, doubling the amount produced in the United States.
An organization called Gambero Rosso recently completed the 27th annual Tre Bicchiere judging. Tre Bicchiere means “three glasses,” the designation for the 415 wines deemed to be the finest among the 20,000 sampled last year.
Chicago’s Union Station is one stop on the tour. The other U.S. events take place in New York and San Francisco. Elsewhere, Tre Bicchiere wines were poured in Seoul, Osaka, Sydney, Singapore, Sao Paolo and Mexico City.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Chicago tasting. Only about a third of the top-rated wines were available, seeing that the thus-honored wineries – called cantinas – must pay their own way to each city.
But each region was represented. Wine is made in all parts of Italy, Sicily and Sardinia included. U.S. importers still focus on Tuscany and Piedmont, but wines from other districts increasingly are turning up here. Excellent wine also is made in the Veneto, near Venice; Alto Adige in the Dolomites; and in Friuli, Abruzzo, Emilia-Romagna and Puglia.
To reinforce the fact that great wine comes from everywhere in Italia, look at the cantinas and winemakers recognized for exceptional work. The white wine deemed to be the finest in the land was a 2012 pinot bianco from Alto Adige. The red wine of the year was made in the Veneto while the best white wine, a 2012 pinot bianco, comes from Alto Adige, northwest of Venice. The best sweet wine was made in Umbria.
Alessandro Princic from Fruili was named the winemaker of the year.
Gambero Rosso also recognizes cantinas that either are certified organic or have adopted extensive biodynamic practices.
Salcheto in Tuscany was recognized for having the most sustainable operation in the country. Twenty percent of the “three glass” wines were either organic or were made by cantinas that are following at least some sustainable practices. More than 500 obtain at least part of their energy from renewable sources.
If you are an Italian wine devotee, you can order a copy of the 2014 Tre Bicchiere book on Amazon. It provides informative short narratives on each winery and not just those producing top-tier wines. It is a valuable tool to take when trying to track down the best wines from that wine-loving country