Best Italian Wines of 2018 selected by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Magazines

 

December is the month for wine awards. It’s a time when wine cognoscenti and organizations pause to look back and rank the wines they liked, or disliked in some cases, over the course of the year. It’s an attempt to quantify the qualitative experience of drinking and enjoying wines. If done independently and with unbiased resolve, the rankings can help the wine-buying public make sense and order of the thousands of wines released each year and perhaps encourage one to try some previously-unknown labels. And besides, who doesn’t love viewing a “best” wine list?

And so it goes with the Wine Spectator and the Wine Enthusiast, two prominent wine-centric magazines. Each December they publish their annual lists of the top 100 wines released that year from around the world. Both Dinner place setting with glass of red wine.magazines’ choices of the top 100 wines are based on surveys of the wines reviewed by their respective staffs over the course of the year. Their published rankings are closely followed since they can have a significant impact on a wine’s - and the producing winery’s - reputation and popularity.

Both magazines recently released their lists of the world’s best wines released this year. Both include a number of Italian wines and it’s interesting to review what wines they selected and to compare their choices.

Of special interest is that this year the top-ranked selection for both magazines is an Italian wine.

Wine Spectator's Selections

Wine Spectator (WS) has been publishing its Top 100 wine list for 30 years. WS selected its list of the top 100 wines of 2018 from the approximately 15,000 wines its staff reviewed over the course of the year. WS based its selections on considerations such as quality (as indicated by their staff’s scores), value (judged by the wine’s release price), availability (determined by the number of cases either made or imported into the U.S.) and a cryptic “x-factor” that they define as “the intensity of interest the wines generated by way of their singularity or authenticity.”

WS’s Top 100 represent a wide range of varietals, appellations and prices from a wide range of countries. As in past years, the U.S. accounts for the largest number of wines (28) in the Top 100 but Italy (19), France (17) and Spain (9) are also well represented.

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

Italian wines generally fared well with 19 Italian wines appearing in the Top 100, 3 more than the previous year. WS’s top-ranked wine of the year is the 2015 “Sassicaia” from the Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri, Tuscany. This Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc has been a sensation ever since its initial commercial release fifty years ago in 1968. And like other much-sought-after wines it is achingly expensive. At approximately $245 a bottle it is considerably above the $46 average for Italian wines in WS’s Top 100.

In addition to Sassicaia, 2 other Italian wines appeared in WS’s prestigious top 10. Castello di Volpaia’s 2015 Chianti Classico Riserva, priced at $60, clocked in at number 3 while Tenuta della Terra Nere’s 2016 “San Lorenzo” Etna Rosso is ranked 9th. The latter is significant in that this is the first time a Sicilian wine has achieved a coveted spot in the top 10 of WS’s ranking of the world's best wines.

It's worth noting than an "orange" wine, Radikon's 2015 "S Label Slatnik" from the Friuli region is ranked #51. To my knowledge, this is the first "orange" wine to be included in WS's Top 100.

While the 19 Italian wines in the Top 100 are geographically distributed across Italy, the lion’s share are from Tuscany with 8 wines included in WS’s Top 100. This includes 3 Chianti Classico wines, all from the excellent 2015 and 2016 vintages.

Of the remaining Italian wines in the Top 100, 3 are from Piedmont, 2 from Emilia-Romagna and 1 each from Friuli, Alto Adige, Calabria, Umbria and Veneto.

While 2 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 bear price tags in excess of $100, most others are priced well south of that. The average price of the 19 Italian wines is $46 and 6 wines are $20 or less.

The table below presents the wines and relevant information for the 19 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 wines of 2018.

             
  Italian Wines in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2018  
             
Rank Score Producer Wine Vintage Region Price
1
97
Tenuta San Guido "Sassicaia" Bolgheri-Sassicaia
2015
Tuscany
$245
3
96
Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva
2015
Tuscany
$35
9
95
Tenuta delle Terre Nere "San Lorenzo" Etna Rosso
2016
Sicily
$60
11
95
Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
2013
Tuscany
$30
13
96
Produttori del Barbaresco "Rabaja" Barbaresco Riserva
2013
Piedmont
$66
15
97
Canalicchio di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino
2013
Tuscany
$79
17
95
Carparzo Brunello di Montalcino
2013
Tuscany
$45
19
94
San Felice Chianti Classico
2016
Tuscany
$17
24
97
Antinori "Tignanello" Toscana
2015
Tuscany
$135
51
95
Radikon "S Label Slatnik " Friuli - Giulia
2015
Friuli
$35
54
93
Terre del Barolo "Undicicomuni" Arnaldo Rivera Barolo
2013
Piedmont
$30
60
95
Fontodi "Vigna del Sorbo" Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
2015
Tuscany
$89
67
90
Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio
2017
Alto Adige
$16
73
90
Pra "Otto" Soave Classico
2017
Veneto
$20
76
91
La Stoppa Trebbiolo
2014
Emilia-Romagna
$22
81
90
Librandi "Critone" Val di Neto IGT 
2017
Calabria
$15
88
93
Paolo Scavino Barolo
2014
Piedmont
$49
96
95
Tabarrini "Colle alle Macchie" Montefalco Sagrantino
2013
Umbria
$75
99
90
Cleto Chiarli e Figli "Fondatore" Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC
2016
Emilia-Romagna
$17
       
    Average Price  
$46
       

Wine Enthusiast's Selections

The Wine Enthusiast (WE) reviewed more than 24,000 wines from around the world in 2018. Only wines that initially received a score of 90 or more are candidates for inclusion in WE’s Top 100.

On a country-by-country basis, the U.S. comes out on top with 31 wines included in WE’s Top 100. The majority are from California (17) but Oregon, Washington and even New York are well represented with 7, 5 and 2 wines, respectively.

On a country basis, there is a tie for 2nd place with Italy and France each having 17 wines in WE’s Top 100. Spain and Portugal are also well represented with 6 each.

Readers can view WE's complete list of the Top 100 wines along with price and vintage data HERE.

As with WS, WE’s top-rated wine is also Italian, in this case a Barbera from the Piedmont region. Michele Chiarlo’s 2015 “Cipressi” Barbera from the Nizza DOCG takes the top spot. Although considered the traditional home for the production of Barbera, the little-known Nizza zone only received DOCG status in 2014. Chiarlo’s “Cipressi” is made entirely of Barbera.

The 17 Italian wines selected by WE are widely distributed throughout Italy. Four are from Tuscany, 3 each from Sicily and Piedmont, 2 each from Lombardy and Veneto and 1 each from Emilia-Romagna, Friuli and Abruzzo.

Ten of the Italian wines selected are red and 3 are white. Three are sparkling wines and include the 8th-ranked Prosecco di Valdobbiadene from the Ca’ dei Zago estate in Veneto, the Lambrusco di Sorbara from Paltrinieri in Emilia-Romagna (#20) and the Franciacorta from Ca’ del Bosco in Veneto (#47). Also included in WE’s Top 100 is a sweet Italian wine, the outstanding 2015 “Ben Rye” Passito di Pantelleria from the Donnafugata estate in Sicily (#68).

The most expensive Italian wine in WE’s Top 100 list is the 2007 “Rocce Rosse” Sassella Riserva from the Ar.Pe.Pe estate in the far northern reaches of Lombardy that retails for $110 a bottle. In case you’re wondering, the estate’s name is not a typo. The owner, Arturo Pelizzatti Perego, decided to rename his family’s winery using only the first two letters of his full name; hence, Ar.Pe.Pe.

The average price of the 17 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 is $46, the same average price as for the Italian wines in WS’s Top 100. Only 2 Italian wines are priced under $20 in WE’s Top 100.

The table below presents the wines and relevant information for the 17 Italian wines in WE’s Top 100 wines of 2018.

             
  Italian Wines in Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Wines of 2018  
             
Rank
Score
Producer
Wine
Vintage
Region
Price
1
95
Michele Chiarlo "Cipressi" Barbera Nizza DOCG
2015
Piedmont
$25
8
93
Ca dei Zago  Dossagio Zero Metodo Classico Prosecco di Valdobbiadene
2015
Veneto
$25
18
98
Franchetti-Passopisciaro "Contrada R" Nerello Mascalese
2016
Sicily
$66
20
94
Paltrinieri "Leclisse" Lambrusco di Sorbara
2017
Emilia-Romagna
$24
23
95
Biondi "Outis" Etna Rosso
2016
Sicily
$40
26
98
Ar.Pe.Pe "Rocce Rosse" Sassella Riserva Valtellina Superiore
2007
Lombardy
$110
31
95
Castello di Ama "San Lorenzo" Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
2013
Tuscany
$53
35
96
Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino
2013
Tuscany
$79
39
96
Comm. G. B. Burlotto "Monvigliero" Barolo
2014
Piedmont
$80
42
93
Russiz Superiore Friulano Collio DOC
2016
Friuli
$28
47
95
Ca' del Bosco "Vintage Collection" Dosage Zero Franciacorta 
2013
Lombardy
$75
68
94
Donnafugata "Ben Rye" Passito di Pantelleria
2015
Sicily
$40
72
92
De Fermo "Don Carlino" Pecorino
2016
Abruzzo
$30
76
91
La Lastra Vernaccia di San Gimignano
2016
Tuscany
$19
78
91
Allegrini "Palazzo della Torre" Veronese IGT
2014
Veneto
$25
82
92
Columberra & Garella "Cascina Cottignano" Bramaterra
2014
Piedmont
$44
94
90
Terenzi Morellino di Scansano
2016
Tuscany
$18
   
    Average Price  
$46
             
Source:  Wine Enthusiast Magazine, December 31, 2018      
             

 

All in all, WS and WE magazines’ listings of the top wines for 2018 indicate another good year for Italian wines on the world stage.

 

Return to About Italian Wines

©Richard Marcis
December 8, 2018

 

 

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