Best New Releases From Italy

On the following pages are notes on my favorite new Italian wines tasted in recent months, from among six or seven hundred sampled. Not included are Barolos and Barbarescos I tasted in their finished form a year ago, and current releases from Central Italy reviewed by Daniel Thomases in Issue 86.

Among the highlights of my recent tastings: late-arriving Barberas from the glorious 1997 vintage; a number of excellent 1998 Barberas and Dolcettos; a host of Chiantis and other Tuscan reds from the splendid 1997 vintage; and some new entrants from mostly indigenous varieties in the southern regions of the country. Lowlights included numerous fruit-deficient, sour or downright dilute 1998 white wines from northeastern Italy; persistent September rains resulted in an extremely inconsistent crop of wines from Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

A majority of the following wines come from seven important sources, which I'll identify here rather than repeat address information in the notes that follow: Winebow, Inc., New York, NY; Vias Imports, New York, NY; Vinifera Imports, Ronkonkoma, NY; broker Marc de Grazia, with numerous importers around the country (including Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY; Vin Divino, Chicago, IL; and Estate Wines Ltd., San Rafael, CA); Empson U.S.A., Alexandria, VA; Vin Divino, Chicago, IL; and Villa Italia Imports, South San Francisco, CA.