Italian Wines 2014

Image of Italian Wines 2014
Release Date: 
April 7, 2014
Gambero Rosso
Reviewed by: 

“As always, Italian Wines 2014 is an indispensable guide, but no substitute for actually tasting the wines yourself.”

The annual review of Italian Wines has been released, and once again lovers of Italian wine need to obtain their copy.

We have previously reviewed the 2011 and 2013 editions on this site. Comparing the 2013 edition to the 2011 edition, we noted the significant shrinkage of the dimensions of the book, beginning with the 2012 edition. The 2014 edition is identical to the 2013 edition in terms of size and number of pages. But there are some significant changes within.

For those encountering the Gambero Rosso for the first time, the basic premise of the Guide is that, in the course of a year, 60 wine experts sample 45,000 wines throughout Italy. Of these, 20,000 wines are chosen to rate and include in the book. Those experts rate the wines either “one glass” or “two glasses,” with some two glasses being selected as potential “three glasses.”

Those potential three-glasses wines are evaluated at Gambero Rosso’s offices in Rome, and a few hundred are selected to be designated with the coveted “three glasses.” This year 415 wines received that distinction, compared to 399 in the 2013 edition.

The wineries are grouped by region, not alphabetically but more or less north to south, and west to east within a particular latitude. Within a region, the wineries are listed alphabetically. Those wineries with more than a few rated wines are listed two to a page, while at the end of each region, those wineries with just a few rated wines are listed six to a page.

For each of the wineries, Gambero Rosso lists the address, telephone number, and website (or email address). For the wineries listed two per page, Gambero Rosso also indicates whether the winery has cellar sales, allows prebooked visits (very few wineries in Italy are like U.S. wineries, where one can simply drive up during open hours and get a tasting), rooms, and food, or visitor facilities (relatively few). All this information makes Italian Wines an essential book when contemplating winery tourism in Italy.

It also lists the annual production (in bottles), the number of hectares under vine, and whether the viticulture method is natural, certified organic, or biodynamic.

In our review of the 2013 edition, we noted the significant reduction in the amount of text devoted to each winery, with tasting notes for individual wines eliminated entirely. The tasting notes are back in the 2014 edition, and the notes for each winery are longer and more thoughtful. The 2013 notes seem almost tossed off by comparison.

It’s always fun to check up on old friends, and contemplate what the story is behind the short write-up. For example, in our review of the 2013 edition, we noted the apparent travails of G.B. Odoardi in the Calabria region, where the winery seem to fall off the map for a number of years before making it back to the short section last year. This year, Gambero Rosso writes of this winery: “After a long pause for reflection and a low-key return to last year’s Guide, Barbara and Gregorio Odoardi’s winery is finally back in in full swing with a range of excellent wines with plenty of promise.”

For the 2013 edition, we noted the willingness of Gambero Rosso to write disparagingly of entire regions, such as Marche and Basilicata. This year, all of the regions are doing wonderfully, as Gambero Rosso tells it.

In Gambero Rosso, all the wineries and wines are, like the children of Lake Wobegon, above average. Considering that the staff sampled 45,000 wines and included 20,000 in the book, this might be literally true for the wines in Italian Wines 2014.

There have been a number of occasions when we tasted an Italian wine, thought it was rather good, and then looked it up in Gambero Rosso to discover that it had been awarded “only” one or two glasses. Like all wine ratings, the ratings in Gamberro Rosso are no guarantee that you will like or dislike any particular wine.

As always, Italian Wines 2014 is an indispensable guide, but no substitute for actually tasting the wines yourself.