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Italy Wins Another World Cup

Posted: Nov 17, 2006 3:58pm ET

I just got off the telephone with Giacomo Neri of Casanova di Neri and it sounded like he personally won this year’s World Cup. In a sense, he did. He said that his phone has been ringing off the hook congratulating him for his 2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova being chosen as Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year. The Italian networks have run programs on their nightly news reports. Politicians have been calling him. It is a big deal. It is a day of celebration for Italian wine producers, he told me.

He deserves it. Giacomo makes great wine and is an example of a new generation of Italian winemakers who put all their efforts in their vineyards to produce superb wines. “I don’t know what to say,” he said, almost sobbing on the phone. “It is hard to believe that a wine that originates from the vineyards, that comes from hard work in the vineyards, can be the best wine in the world. I am so happy.”

Just a word of caution to all of you. I have noticed that some wine shops are also selling the 2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino, which is not—I repeat, NOT—the Tenuta Nuova. Please be sure you are getting the real deal. I don’t even taste the base Brunello officially for the magazine because it is not imported into the United States. What is available has come in through the gray market. It’s a good wine but not the amazing Tenuta Nuova.

I noticed some Forum members boasting that they paid $40 for the Wine of the Year, and I am worried that they unknowingly bought the standard Brunello from Casanova di Neri!

I also noticed some Forumites saying that they don’t like the Tenuta Nuova because it is too marked by the small, new wood barrels that they use for aging the wine. Wrong. Neri doesn’t use Bordeaux barrels for his wine. He uses 600-liter casks, and about 40 percent is new wood. Maybe they are confusing the wine with some other? Or they just like to spread misinformation.

Anyway, it’s great stuff. I tasted a few old vintages at the winery this summer. So I thought I would include the notes from this non-blind tasting in this blog:

1995: Aromas of blackberry and meat with a floral undertone. Medium-bodied with fine tannins. Refined and silky. Drinking wonderfully now. 92 points.

1997: Incredibly fresh with plum and Indian spices. Full-bodied, with ultrafine tannins and a freshness that is amazing. Tight and refined. Needs some more time. Best after 2008. 95 points.

1999: This is thicker and richer than the 1997 but I am still not sure I like it better. I would say equal. Full-bodied, chewy and very long. Loads of plum, blackberry and cedar character. Better after 2009. 95 points.
Albert Jochems
The Netherlands —  November 17, 2006 4:43pm ET
Its great to see this recognition of the quality of wine making in Montalcino in general, and that of Casanova di Neri in particular.

Its a shame that I didn't get any further than tasting their 'regular' Brunello '99 this summer. It was good, but nothing special compared to some others. Thanks for pointing this out explicitly.

BTW I'm afraid that this might sky-rocket prices of BdM in general....... on one hand rightfully so compared to some Bordeaux prices, on the other hand it doesn't make life easier for a BdM addict like me!
Robert Taylor
New York, NY —  November 17, 2006 5:18pm ET
James, I recently discovered a little one-room trattoria downtown and I know the 2000 Tenuta Nuova is on the list. (It was last week, anyway. Hopefully still will be when I return tomorrow.) How's the 2000 drinking right now? -Rob
Glenn S Lucash
November 17, 2006 6:04pm ET
Great to see a marvelous Brunello become WOTY. If you recall James, I wrote in your blog several times that I was so disgusted with the Bordeaux '05 futures that I completely withdrew from any purchases so instead I purchased a case of '01 Tenuta Nuova @ $ 49.99 per bottle. I guess I should run out now and buy some lottery tickets. I just noticed that the WOTY is being offered and sold for over $ 125.00 per on some online auction sites. I think since I have a case, I'll try one now as you suggest on your video and then let the rest sleep for a couple of years unless I need to celebrate something like becoming a grandfather again. Great choice by the WS team. Bravo!!!! And Kevin V, if you read this blog, I'll gladly send you a bottle or two to Delmonico's if you can't get your hands on any.
Greg Raynor
November 17, 2006 7:47pm ET
People who purchased on pre-arrival from Premier Cru did get the Tenuta Nuova, James. It was quite a deal. I'm a big fan of these wines and have 1995, 1997, 1999 and (insert smile) 2001 Tenuta Nuova and the 1995 Cerretalto in my little collection. Just wish I'd bought more of the 2001. Your magazine's rating will surely push it past my QPR comfort zone now.....
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  November 17, 2006 7:59pm ET
From my source: Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nova 2001 $49.99 (en primeur).I scored three earlier this year. They had some more this morning but it's all gone. Booyah!
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  November 17, 2006 8:05pm ET
William Grant is bringing another 100 cases in next week and taking care of a few accounts that have been supporters - of course, it will provide them with great leverage!!! Kudos for having 2 wines in the top 10, let alone one being #1.
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  November 17, 2006 8:10pm ET
I was glad to see a Brunello di Montalcino win the top award. The only downside is that we will have to wait 3 years before the next good vintage comes around (2004). This will create quite a short supply in the market and may potentially raise prices.
Roger Cabot
nantucket —  November 17, 2006 8:13pm ET
james,i noticed that decanter magazine rated the 01 casanova di neri,tenuta nuova about 75 out of eighty on 01 brunellos tasted, they almost put it in the fair column.. they called it slightly raw
Eric Griffith
BC Canada —  November 18, 2006 12:31am ET
Roger and James,
I checked Decanter and they gave the Riserva 5 stars and called it "hedonistic and persistent". Whereas the standard Brunello, 3 stars, the wine being "slightly raw".

I am confused. Which is the Wine of the Year in question?

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, Casanova di Neri, Tenuta Nuova, 2001 (5 stars)
Brunello di Montalcino, Tenuta Nuova, Casanova di Neri, 2001 (3 stars)

John L Deoskey
Graham, WA —  November 18, 2006 3:40am ET
The world thirsts for honesty. James...hummm...Decanter 5 star?...Tonight was the Isole & Olena Chianti Classico 2003. But, yes, you tried it three times. You tell it like it is. Some wines only get an 81. I agree. Very impressed...you go mate!
Dr J Rosenblatt
Montreal, Canada —  November 18, 2006 8:11am ET
I can't believe you selected the Tenuta Nuovo '01 as the WOTY!! I visited the vineyard this summer and purchased ONE BOTTLE and also purchased the fabulous Casanova di Neri Cerretalto Brunello (1997 and 1999). I'm excited and can't wait to taste this beauty - I'm am completely crazed that I only bought one (being Canadian, we have import laws that restrict bringing wine back to Canada - what a pity!). Congratulations to Casanova di Neri and Montalcino!!
James Suckling
 —  November 18, 2006 11:46am ET
Eric: If Decanter wrote about the Casanova di Neri Riserva Tenuta Nova 2001, it got it wrong. Doesn't exist. The wine of the year is the Casanova di Neri TENUTA NOVA Brunello 2001, not the Casanova di Neri Brunello 2001. The later is a simple Brunello from slightly inferior vineyards. Okay?
Jennifer Awbrey
Austin, Tx —  November 18, 2006 4:08pm ET
If you Google search images for Casanova di Neri, you can see the different labels. Tenuta Nuova in goldleaf is pretty obvious sandwiched between "Casanova di Neri" and "Brunello di Montalcino" and then the vintage below that.The regular bottle has the vintage sandwiched between Casanova di Neri and Brunello di Montalcino, and no goldleaf.The Cerretalto Riserva has a black label, and it would be against Italian DOCG laws for ANY 2001 riserva Bdm's to have been released yet, so don't worry about finding it by mistake. PS James, you typod NOVA, it is NUOVA.
Jennifer Awbrey
Austin, Tx —  November 18, 2006 4:25pm ET
So, I have a couple of questions for all of you. Last year's WOTY was Insignia, and the wholesale cost did not increase just because it was WOTY, but most retailers and restaurants raised their prices drastically. Same thing is happening now to the Casanova di Neri. Since wine is a limited commodity, and there is only so much to go around, isn't it fair to try to get whatever the market will bear? How do you feel about wine shops and restaurants raising their prices and would you do the same if you had some to sell?
Dave Joyce
Winston-Salem, NC —  November 18, 2006 4:30pm ET
James, This winery was imported by William Grant, but according to one of their regional reps, the winery has been trying to terminate the relationship for about 6 months. According to this William Grant source, only a few hundred cases of this came into the US before the winery suspended shipments of all of their wines while they sought to terminate William Grant and to find another importer. What have you heard about this from the winery? If only a couple of hundred cases actually hit the US of the Tenuta Nuova (not the grey marketed base wine), it doesn't seem this is wide enough distribution to be considered for Wine of the Year.
James Suckling
 —  November 18, 2006 5:18pm ET
Dave. It's no longer imported by William Grant. Bryan Larky at Della Terra brings it in. And a whole container was apparently shipped recently. Grant has lost almost all of its Italian wines.
James Suckling
 —  November 18, 2006 5:23pm ET
Jennifer: Thank you for finding my typod. Is that like an i-pod? Tenuta Nuova doesn't come in the riserva flavor.... And yes, riserva 2001s will not begin to be released on the market until early next year, although I am tasting them in my office in Tuscany at the beginning of December. Grazie tanto!
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  November 18, 2006 8:04pm ET
I too was wrong about William Grant - Dalla Terra is the importer now.William Grant is focusing on their spirits brands now.
Elizabeth Hoskins
Dallas, TX —  November 18, 2006 8:33pm ET
Gotta love a great critic with a sense of humor. :-)
Apj Powers
Dallas, TX —  November 19, 2006 4:57am ET
James: I liked the way WS did the website for the WOTY. It kind of added to the excitement. I had some fun w/ my purchases last week trying to buy 1st on what I thought would get picked. I guessed right on the Concha y Toro but missed by 1 line on the Brunello. I picked up several cases of the Valdicava. The Casanova was right below it on page 76(Oct 31 issue). I guess cost and availability held it back.(I've never tasted either but I trust your reviews). When I saw the picture on p. 73 I thought I had guessed right, esp when I saw the Brancaia hit the Top 10. =)
Apj Powers
Dallas, TX —  November 19, 2006 5:08am ET
Another thing I got a laugh about was the Leoville Barton for $75. You did say "en primeur."One of the distributors gave me a buy sheet a few wks back and, let me tell you, that price looks like the "typod." 2003 Bordeaux are scary-crazy. I guess backwards pressure from the '05 prices. The L-B was a bargain compared to the Las Cases though. What's a couple hundred bucks when you get up near a thousand :)
James Suckling
 —  November 19, 2006 10:11am ET
Abj: What was the Barton 2003 offered to you for?
Kirk R Grant
Ellsworth, ME —  November 19, 2006 12:48pm ET
James, There is a ton of talk on the net about the WS Top10. I was wondering if you would explain something to me that I'm confused about. WS says that taking the list into consideration you look at Score, Price, Availability, and X-factor. There were two wines that threw me for a loop in the Top 10. First is the 04' Bella's Garden. Did an extra point and 300 more cases then the previous year really draw it up from the #40 spot in 2005 to #10 in just one year¿s time? I guess I could see it going into the top 20...but that was a huge jump. The other confusing factor was the Leoville Barton & Quilceda Creek. They are both exciting wines...but the Quilceda Creek costs more, produced less AND got a lower score. Was the X-factor THAT powerful that it outweighed three of the four determining factors? To the wine drinker with a completely unbiased opinion it doesn't look as if all of the wines reviewed over the year were given a fair shake. I am not pointing fingers...however I am always playing the devil's advocate and I thought you'd be the person to ask seeing as how it was your reviewed wine that I think didn¿t get a fair shake.
James Suckling
 —  November 19, 2006 9:41pm ET
Kirk: The X factor weighs in a lot. The choice is not scientific by any means. If you are worried about the Barton not getting a fair shake, it's price is now more like $125 to $150 a bottle. So, I think it is good where it is. I wish I could give you a more clear answer.
Kirk R Grant
Ellsworth, ME —  November 19, 2006 11:43pm ET
James, Thanks for trying...it does help. I guess it's just one of those things that made me scratch my head. It's funny...but I am more interested in 11-100 comming out tomorrow than I was in the top 10. It's always nice to get a good reminder of what to keep an eye on. As for price jumps...The Kosta Browne is fetching about $125 or more...it's the sort of thing that reminds me of Screaming Eagle or Harlan Estate.
Joseph Vorih
CT —  November 20, 2006 10:16am ET
James, great to see Italy on top again. I am curious why the Valdicava (with a higher score) did not finish out on the Top 100 at all? Price can't be it since Krug is there, at 3x what I paid for the Valdicava. Interested on your point of view. Keep up the good work regardless!
Robert Caruana Jr
East Islip, NY —  November 20, 2006 10:21am ET
James - I just saw the completed Top 100 list and one wine that I though for sure would be in the Top 10 wasn't even on the Top 100 list at all. Can you explain why the 2004 Schild Shiraz Barossa was left off the list? 96 points, $24, and 5,200 cases made...Based on your four criteria for scoring the Top 100 (score, price, availability and x-factor), the wine must have had negative x-factor (or Harvey got the 96 point rating wrong). I am interested to hear your response.
Mark Mccullough
GA —  November 20, 2006 3:58pm ET
Robert, you have posted this on three different blogs and seem quite concerned. Did you speculate and stock up on Schild, dude?
Patrick Mcdonough
wyckoff, n.j. —  November 20, 2006 5:34pm ET
does it make sense that you made a wine of the year that is not imported into the united states, except by gray market?
Dana Nigro
New York, NY —  November 20, 2006 8:20pm ET

To clarify, the Tenuta Nuova is imported into the U.S., by Dalla Terra. (See James Laube's blog for a story on the company's founder, Brian Larky.) James was saying that Casanova di Neri's regular Brunello bottling is not imported.
Robert Caruana Jr
East Islip, NY —  November 20, 2006 9:08pm ET
Mark - I did post it on three different blogs because I'm interested in all three of those individuals opinions on the subject. I did stock up on Schild, but not for speculation....I tasted the wine after it got the rating and loved it. That is why I stocked up on it.
Ralph Michels
The Netherlands —  November 21, 2006 5:05pm ET
Yes, I have the same question as Joseph Vorih:

Where is Valdicava Brunello 2001??? (98/100 and 115$)

Or Galatrona 2004?? (97/100 and 85$)?

Best, Ralph
James Suckling
 —  November 22, 2006 4:27am ET
Ralph, Both wines had about 600 cases exported to the United States, which in my opinion, was not enough to be included in the Top 100.
Joseph Vorih
CT —  November 22, 2006 7:40am ET
James, thanks for the clarification on the Valdicava. The low importation (I guess I was a lucky one!) makes much more sense that the debate over whether it's really a traditional Brunello style to me.
Ralph Michels
The Netherlands —  November 22, 2006 8:23am ET
James, Basically, what I am saying is that I don't understand the drivers to build the top-100.

Your answer brings some clarification though. However, I think people perceive this list as a quality list and availability in the US market is a criterium that is not much of interest for the large audience in the rest of the World. But you must have heard this too many times probably. :-)

best, Ralph
Apj Powers
Dallas, TX —  November 22, 2006 5:57pm ET
The Top 100 seems mostly based on the x-factor. Which I don't mind. I guess we could all just line up the btls by pts in descending order, but what fun would that be. Look at the debates going on. This is 1 of the most heavily traveled blogs. I liked trying to figure it out. But, I looked at it more like a reality show that I got wrong. My finalists were the Valdicava 01 & the Hillside Select 02 =(
Patrick Siconolfi
Oakville Ontario Canada —  March 16, 2007 12:15am ET
I am visiting Tuscany this summer and actually staying very close to the Montalcino Region. Can anyone tell me exactly where the winery that produces the Tenuta Nuova is and what it is called? I'd like to visit it and see if I can buy some of this now famous wine./ps
James Suckling
 —  March 16, 2007 12:30am ET
Casanova di Neri. It's about 10 minutes from Montalcino. Call first for an appointment.

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