Best Italian Wines of 2016 From Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Magazines
Each year Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Magazines publish their rankings of the top 100 wines from around the world released this year. 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 reputation and popularity.
In their selection of the top wines of the year both magazines draw exclusively from those wines that have previously been reviewed and evaluated by their respective staffs over the course of the year. If a wine has not been previously submitted for review it is not eligible for consideration in either Top 100 list.
The Wine Spectator (WS) has been publishing an annual Top 100 wine list since 1988. Of the thousands of wines reviewed by WS in 2016 only those rated as outstanding (90 points or higher on WS’s 100 point scale) by the magazine’s staff are considered for inclusion in the Top 100 wines.
WS bases their final selections on quality (as indicated by WS staff’s scores) as well as other considerations such as value (judged by the wine’s release price), availability (determined by the 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.”
Fourteen countries are represented in WS’s Top 100 wine list. U.S. wineries account for the largest number of wines by country with 32 wines ranked in WS’s top 100. Of these, California accounts for the lion’s share of domestic wines with 21. But Washington State and Oregon are also well represented with 6 and 4 wines, respectively. A dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes region of New York also made the list (#70).
WS’s top wine of the year is a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Lewis Cellars in California’s Napa Valley that retails for $90. The 2nd and 3rd-ranked wines are both from Oregon State thereby completing an American wine trifecta.
But Italy, France and Spain are also well represented in the Top 100. Italian wines fared especially well with 18 Italian wines securing spots in WS’s Top 100, only one less than the year previous. More than half (10) of the Italian total are from Tuscany, primarily Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Super-Tuscan wines. Two Barolo wines and a Barbaresco are included giving the Piedmont region a total of 3 wines in WS’s Top 100.
The highest-rated Italian wine in WS’s Top 100 is a 2011 Barbaresco from the Produttori del Barbaresco cooperative winery. It is ranked 5th and has a retail price of $59.
Wines from southern Italy also do well with 3 in WS’s Top 100. This includes 1 each from Puglia, Basilicata and Sardinia.
The Italian wines appear reasonably priced with only 2 having triple-digit price tags and 5 are priced at $25 or less. The average price of the 18 Italian wines is $41, considerably less than the $55 average price the previous year.
Fifteen wines from France are represented in WS’s Top 100 while 11 Spanish wines also made the Top 100 list.
The table below presents relevant information for the 18 Italian wines included in Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of the year.
The Wine Enthusiast (WE) list of the top 100 wines of 2016 includes 31 wines from the U.S., by far the largest country total. California, with 17, has the highest number of wines in the Top 100 but Washington State and Oregon are also are well represented with 7 and 5 wines, respectively.
France comes in second with 17 wines in WE’s Top 100 with Italy close behind with 16 wines. Spain and Portugal also do well with 6 wines each in the top 100.
The top-rated wine in WE’s Top 100 list is a 2005 “Rioja Gran 904” Rioja from the La Rioja Alta winery in northern Spain. Its retail price is $50.
Of the 16 Italian wines included in WE’s Top 100, 6 are white, a relatively high percentage (38 percent) when compared with the 18 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 of which only 2 (11 percent) are white wines.
Of the 16 Italian wines, 10, or a little less than two-thirds of the total number, are from either Piedmont or Sicily. The Piedmont region has 5 wines in WE’s Top 100 - 2 Barbaresco, 2 Moscato d’Asti and 1 Barolo wine. Sicily also has 5 in the Top 100 - 4 Etna Rosso from the Mount Etna region in eastern Sicily and 1 red blend from the Vittoria region in southern Sicily. Interestingly, the 3 highest-rated Italian wines are all red wines from Sicily. The top-rated Italian wine (ranked #3 overall) is the 2014 Etna Rosso from the Benanti winery and retails for a relatively modest $24. By way of comparison, it’s interesting to note that no wines from Sicily are included in WS’s Top 100.
The 16 Italian wines in WE’s Top 100 have an average price of $38, mot much different than the $41 average price for the 18 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 list.
The table below presents the wines and relevant information for the 16 Italian wines in Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 wines of 2016.
All in all, WS and WE magazines’ rankings of the top wines for 2016 indicate another good year for Italian wines on the world stage.
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December 8, 2016
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