Best Italian Wines of 2019 selected by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast Magazines

 

December is the month for wine awards. It’s a time when wine cognoscenti and wine-focused 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 buying a wine selected as one of the world’s best that hails from an unlikely corner of the world?

And so it goes with Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, two prominent wine-centric magazines with world-wide circulations.Glass of white wine with fruit and cheese plate. Each December they publish their annual lists of the top 100 wines released that year from around the world. Both 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 highly 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 in 2019. Both include a number of Italian wines and it’s interesting to review what wines they selected and compare their choices.

Of special interest is that an Italian wine is selected as the world’s best by Wine Enthusiast while another Italian wine is rated 3rd best in the world by Wine Spectator.

Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Selections
The Wine Enthusiast (WE) reviewed more than 24,000 wines from around the world in 2019 in preparation for its selection of the world’s best. Only wines that received an initial minimum rating of 90 on WE’s 100 point rating scale are considered for inclusion in its Top 100.

On a country-by-country basis, the U.S. comes out on top with 30 wines included in WE’s Top 100. The majority are from California (18) but Oregon, Washington and New York are also represented with 5, 4 and 2 wines, respectively.

Italy is well represented with 17 wines in WE’s Top 100, the second-highest country total, followed closely by France with 16 wines and Spain a distant 4th with 5 wines. 

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

WE’s top-rated wine of the year is Nino Franco’s “Rustico” Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, a non-vintage Prosecco from the Veneto region that is competitively priced at $20. Many Prosecco producers in recent years have been moving to production of less sweet, dryer versions of Prosecco and that appears to be paying off in terms of popularity and critical acclaim.

Behind Nino Franco’s Prosecco in the number 2 position is a 2017 Pinot Noir from the Williams Selyem winery in California’s Sonoma County that retails for $39.

The 17 Italian wines selected by WE are widely distributed throughout Italy, from Alto Adige in the north to Sicily in the south. Three each are from Tuscany and Piedmont followed by 2 each from Sicily, Abruzzo and Alto Adige and 1 each from 5 regions scattered throughout Italy.

There are a goodly number of still white Italian wines in WE’s Top 100. Seven of the Italian wines selected are white, the same number as for still red wines. The remaining 3 wines consist of 2 sparkling wines and a Rosé. The two sparkling wines include the top-ranked “Rustico” Brut Valdobbiadene from Nino Franco and the lightly-sparkling 2018 “Radici” Lambrusco di Sorbara from Paltrinieri (#79). The single Rosé is the 2013 “Dal Tralcetto”, made entirely of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo grapes by the Cantina Zaccagnini winery in Abruzzo (#79).

The most expensive Italian wine in the WE’s Top 100 is the 2014 Brunello di Montalcino from the Le Chiuse estate in southern Tuscany that retails for $79 (#50) while the price of the least expensive Italian wine is $18, of which there are four in WE’s Top 100.

The average price of the 17 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 is $31, $15 less than the equivalent average price the year previous. Only 2 wines have price tags in excess of $50 while 12 wines are priced under $30.

The table below presents the wines and relevant information for the 17 Italian wines in WE’s Top 100 wines of 2019.

             
 
Italian Wines in Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Wines of 2019
 
             
Rank Score Producer Wine Vintage Region Price
1
94
Nino Franco "Rustico" Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore
NV
Veneto
$20
6
93
Adriano Marco e Vittorio "Basarin" Barbaresco
2016
Piedmont
$29
11
94
Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
2015
Tuscany
$24
14
95
Tiefenbrunner "Feldmarschall Von Fenner zu Fenberg" Muller-Thurgau
2017
Alto Adige
$40
18
95
Paltrinieri "Radici" Lambrusco di Sorbara
2018
Emilia-Romagna
$24
23
93
Marangona Lugana
2018
Lombardy
$18
30
96
Renato Ratti "Marcenasco" Barolo
2015
Piedmont
$65
35
94
Giovanni Rosso Etna Bianco
2017
Sicily
$39
41
93
Elena Walch "Vigna Castel Ringberg" Pinot Grigio
2017
Alto Adige
$28
45
92
Mustilli Falanghina del Sannio, Sant'Agata dei Goti DOC 
2017
Campania
$34
50
95
Le Chiuse Brunello di Montalcino
2014
Tuscany
$79
53
92
Volpaia Chianti Classico
2017
Tuscany
$21
65
92
Rivera "Cappellaccio" Aglianico Riserva, Castel del Monte DOC
2013
Puglia
$25
79
91
Cantina Zaccagnini "Dal Tralcetto" Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Rosé 
2018
Abruzzo
$18
86
91
Donnafugata  "Sur Sur" Grillo
2018
Sicily
$18
92
91
Contesa Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
2016
Abruzzo
$22
94
90
Villa Sparina Gavi del Comune di Gavi 
2018
Piedmont
$18
           
    Average Price      
$31
             
Source:  Wine Enthusiast Magazine, December 31, 2019      
             

 

Wine Spectator's Top 100 Selections

The staff of Wine Spectator (WS) reviewed more than 15,000 newly-released wines in 2019. Of these, WS winnowed its potential 100 list to the slightly-over 6,000 wines that scored 90 points or higher on WS’s 100-point rating scale.

WS bases its final 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 large number of countries. As in past years, wines from France, Italy and California dominate its Top 100 list, accounting for approximately two-thirds of the total, but Spain, Australia and Oregon are also well represented.

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

WS’s top-rated wine of the year is a Château Léoville Barton from the St. Julien appellation in Bordeaux. This Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend from 2016, a stand-out vintage in both Europe and the U.S., is full and dense with ripe tannins and crisp acidity.

Italian wines fare especially well with 21 Italian wines appearing in WS’s Top 100, 2 more than the previous year. WS’s highest ranked Italian wine is a Chianti Classico from the San Giusto Rentennano winery in Gaiole-in-Chianti in the Chianti Classico appellation. This Sangiovese-based wine has a splash of Canaiolo and is from the great 2016 vintage. It is ranked #3 in WS’s Top 100 and the only Italian wine in the top 10. Its retail price is a relatively modest $36, only $4 above the $32 average price for Italian wines in WS’s Top 100.

The lion’s share of the 21 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 are from two regions, Tuscany and Piedmont with 7 and 6 wines, respectively, and collectively account for almost two-thirds of all Italian wines in the Top 100.

The Tuscany total includes 3 Chianti Classico wines, all from the excellent, back-to-back 2015 and 2016 vintages. There are also several Super-Tuscans such as the 2017 “Zingari”, a Merlot, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot and Syrah blend from the Petra winery in Tuscany’s coastal area (#29). Also included is a 2016 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from the highly-regarded Poliziano winery in southern Tuscany (#54).

The Piedmont wines in WS’s Top 100 include several Barolo and Barbaresco wines in addition to a Gattinara, a Nebbiolo-based wine from the northern Piedmont (#36), and a Barbera from the Monferrato appellation (#50).

The remaining Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 include 2 each from Sicily and Lombardy and 1 each from Le Marche, Calabria, Basilicata and Alto Adige.

With a price tag of $85, the 2015 Gattinara from the Nervi Conterno winery in the northern Piedmont is the most expensive Italian wine in WS’s Top 100. The other Italian wines are priced well south of that. The average price of the 21 Italian wines is $32 and 6 wines are $20 or less.

Surprisingly – at least to me – is that no Veneto wines made it into WS’s Top 100 list. Hence, no Amarone, no Valpolicella, no Soave, no Valpolicella della Recioto, no Prosecco or Valpolicella Ripasso, among others. Oh well, it is what it is.

The table below presents the wines and relevant information for the 21 Italian wines in WS’s Top 100 wines of 2019.

             
  Italian Wines in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2019  
             
Rank Score Producer Wine Vintage Region Price
3
95
San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti Classico
2016
Tuscany
$36
11
97
Moccagatta "Bric Balin" Barbaresco
2015
Piedmont
$62
17
94
Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico
2017
Tuscany
$22
19
96
Tenuta Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva
2015
Tuscany
$30
26
94
Tolaini "Legit" Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana
2013
Tuscany
$45
27
95
Renato Ratti "Marcenasco" Barolo
2015
Piedmont
$65
29
93
Petra "Zingari" Toscana
2017
Tuscany
$15
33
92
Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico
2015
Tuscany
$14
36
94
Nervi Conterno Gattinara
2015
Piedmont
$85
39
93
Ca' del Baio "Autinbej" Barbaresco
2015
Piedmont
$28
48
93
G. D. Vajra "Albe" Barolo
2015
Piedmont
$40
50
91
Marchesi di Barolo "Maraia" Barbera del Monferrato
2017
Piedmont
$13
54
92
Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
2016
Tuscany
$30
68
92
Mirabella Franciacorta Brut Rosé 
NV
Lombardy
$29
72
90
Marotti Campi "Luzano" Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 
2017
Le Marche
$17
77
90
Vincenzo Ippolito "Mare Chiaro" Ciro Bianco
2018
Calabria
$19
80
91
Casa Vinicola Triacca Valtellina Superiore Sassella
2016
Lombardy
$18
83
90
Planeta Cerasuolo Vittoria
2017
Sicily
$24
85
92
San Martino "Arberesko" Aglianico del Vulture
2015
Basilicata
$24
87
90
Cantina Terlano "Tradition" Pinot Grigio
2018
Alto Adige
$25
96
90
Benanti Etna Rosso
2017
Sicily
$28
           
    Average Price      
$32
             
Source: Wine Spectator Magazine, December 31, 2019      

All in all, it was another good year for Italian wines on the competitive world stage.

 

Return to About Italian Wines

©Richard Marcis
December 4, 2019

 

 

Help keep this website ad-free and independent.
Consider making a contribution to support the work of WineWordsWisdom.com.
For your safety and security, all transactions are remotely processed using PayPal's secure servers.
No credit card or other sensitive information is held on this site. However, you do not need a
PayPal account to make a contribution as PayPal will also process regular credit card transations.

 

 

Copyright 2008-2016, Richard Marcis. All rights reserved. www.winewordswisdom.com