Gambero Rosso: 2018 Tre Bicchieri Winners

Nov 13, 2018

In Italy people go to cafés and taverns to spend time with each other. When they do, they drink wine. Everybody has at least a glass. If it’s a good wine most folks will enjoy a second glass. But when it’s an exceptionally good wine, when it’s one of the best, that’s the time for a third glass.

Such is the idea behind the highly competitive “Tre Bicchieri” wine tastings coordinated by Gambero Rosso, the popular Italian journal exclusively devoted to Italian food and wine. In a prodigious annual effort Gambero’s reviewers coordinate extensive tastings in each of Italy’s twenty regions, all of which produce wine. The tasters are experts and their results carry great weight. Three glasses (tre bicchieri), the top commendation given to only a few of the very best wines, is followed by two glasses, more widely awarded and one glass for those good wines that don’t quite make it to the top. Added to the rankings is a sort of honorable mention category often devoted to emerging trends or provocative producers.

Every fall, right around harvest time the present year’s results start trickling in. Over the course of several weeks, region by region the winners are posted on the magazine’s web site.

Starting in the south, including the two islands, then covering the north and finishing with the middle, the wines and their number of glasses are listed alphabetically. Smaller regions like Lazio and Val d’Aosta that typically have only a few glasses are revealed before bigger regions like Piedmont and Tuscany that always have a lot. Breaking in to these choice winner’s circles is not easy for a new producer, or even an established one. But for the top performing wines it’s an honor that carries the twin rewards of high acclaim and automatic sales.

Consumers support Gambero Rosso and lend great credibility to their recommendations. The Tre Bicchieri road show tastings that feature the winning wines visit big cities every year and are extremely well-attended. Over time these events have contributed strongly to Gambero’s elevation as the leading source for news and information about the best wines from Italy.

Prego, on to this year’s results. But first keep in mind we’re talking about Italy where award announcements, like meals, go on and on. After over a month of posting two or three times a week, to date only 16 of Italy’s 20 regions have revealed their Tre Bicchieri selections. We’re still waiting for the big four – Tuscany, Piedmont, Veneto and Campagna so we’ll have to catch you up on those next time. For now, our congratulations go to the following winners.

SICILY – It’s a trifecta!

The first shout out goes to Michele Faro for his PIETRADOLCE 2016 Etna Rosso Contrada Rampante, a new vintage of the estate’s emblematic ancestral expression based on 90-year old pre-phylloxera, north-facing, Nerello Mascalese vines grown in volcanic soils at an elevation of almost 3,000 feet.

The next is directed to the dashing duo of Gianfranco Sabbatino and Andrea Barzagli from tiny LE CASEMATTE in Sicily’s northeast corner along the high and narrow Straits of Messina that separate the island (by less than five miles) from mainland Italy. The entire DOC of Faro is only 20 hectares. All of it is planted with indigenous vines, a third owned by Le Casematte whose top wine, a smart blend of 55% Nerello Mascalese, 25% Nerello Cappuccio, 10% Nocera and 10% Nero d’Avola hails by the simple designation of “Faro.”

The final hip hip hooray goes to TORNATORE whose top wine, Trimarchisa, a limited production bottling from the 2016 vintage, made the grade in the rarest of ways: as a newcomer!

SARDINIA – Cantina di Santadi

In 2018 our friends at CANTINA DI SANTADI once again are honored with Tre Bicchieri recognition and once again it’s for their most famous wine, the epic Terre Brune made from ungrafted pre-phylloxera Carignano vines grown in the sandy soils of Sulcis along Sardinia’s wild and woolly southern coast. Congratulations to Santadi for their 2014 Terre Brune, a truly impressive and unique wine.

LOMBARDY – Ferghettina, Costaripa

Hats off to perennial winner FERGHETTINA for their 2011 vintage of Pas Dosage Reserva (special order only) a small production Blanc de Blancs based on a vineyard blend of select Chardonnay parcels from Ferghettina’s highest elevated vineyards in the sun dappled hills above Lake Iseo in central Lombardy.

A tip of the fedora also goes to tiny COSTARIPA for owner Matteo Vezzola’s (Bellavista’s long time winemaker) 2015 Chiaretto (the local name for Rosé) Momenti, famous for its “tear-drop” (we call it free run) color extraction process.

UMBRIA – Tenuta Bellafonte

Rustic Sagrantino’s most modern face may best be exemplified by BELLAFONTE owner Peter Heilbron’s delicious 2014 Bellafonte Sagrantino Collenottolo, an artful wine produced from non-inoculated, whole cluster grapes and aged in Slovenian barrels for three years. We agree, it’s a knockout!

We’ll wrap it up next time with Tre Bicchieri updates from the big four. Meanwhile calibrate your palate with any of the above 2019 Tre Bicchieri winners. Cheers!


Bright scarlet in color, the wine shows notes of red fruits, earth, and minerality. On the palate the wine is elegant with an excellent sense of balance and finesse.

“Good full, deep red. Aromas of spicy dark plum, licorice and botanical herbs. Supple and fresh, with a slightly medicinal, savory cast to the flavors of plum, tobacco leaf, and leather. Finishes with supple tannins, a subtle resiny quality and very good length.” 92+pts Vinous

“There is so much red berry fruit here such as red currants and raspberries as well as ripe notes of ash, tar, dried rose petals and spices. The palate is rich and dense yet kept fresh by tangy fruit and acidity.” 95pts James Suckling

“Intense crimson with slight garnet hues and a very complex bouquet of impressive finesse, recalling plums, blueberries, sweet spices, laurel, juniper, tobacco and chocolate.”
90pts Decanter

Rich brioche aromas with hints of apple and citrus behind some yeasty, savory characters. The palate is similarly complex – mineral, nutty and lightly saline notes backed with crisp citrus and a fine mousse. Real weight and length.

Boasting a gorgeous, luminous shade of pink, it has floral, fruity, ample and intense aromas, recalling May flowers, black cherries and pomegranate. Well balanced and silky on the palate, with a subtle, pleasing almond finish; very persistent, characteristically fresh and appealing.

Bright ruby red color with notes of blackberries and wild berries. Spicy and mineral sensations, which gradually become more and more sophisticated and complex. The mouth has a great texture and energy.

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