WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:26 pm

Vintage - Avoid generalizations

As recently as last week ("Revisiting old friends," Aug. 30), I spoke of the pleasure of returning to a good, characteristic vintage in the Rhone Valley in 2004 after two not-so-typical years: The rainy floods of 2002, which produced many thin, diluted wines in the region, and the torrid heat of 2003, which fostered fruity, powerful and weirdly atypical wines.

In that report, I took the usual pains to emphasize that vintage advice represents only a general guide, and that people who follow vintage charts too slavishly pay the price by missing a lot of really good wines that don't fit the conventional wisdom.

But the caution is worth repeating, since wine geeks like to collect vintage reports as sports geeks like to collect statistics. It's all part of wine-as-hobby, and there's nothing wrong with that, as long as we keep it in perspective and don't let it interfere with our enjoyment of the game. Er, the drink.

Today, then, let's take a quick look at another exception that proves the rule. I had held off for a while on picking up <b>Falesco 2003 Vitiano Rosso Umbria</b>, in spite of Vitiano being one of those good-value favorites that I usually pick up every year, because of my general disdain for the fat'n'happy 2003s.

The other day, though, noticing a good supply still on the shelf at a reasonable price, I finally succumbed, and to my pleasure, I found it to be fresh and nicely balanced, food-friendly and structured. It's one 2003 that doesn't make me yell "Run away!"

<table border="0" align="right" width="165"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/fale0827.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>Falesco 2003 Vitiano Rosso Umbria ($10.99)

Inky dark reddish-purple. Black cherries and subtle brown spices on the nose and palate, well structured with snappy fresh-fruit acidity, with smooth tannins coming in on the finish. Clean and fresh, well balanced, with alcohol at a rational 12.5 percent, a pleasant surprise from the overheated vintage of 2003. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC; Leonardo Locascio Selections. (Aug. 27, 2006)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> A natural with red meat and a cliche, for good reason, with tomato-sauced pasta and pizza. It fared well with the Northeastern Italian dish of polenta topped with sausage and mushrooms and Asiago fresco cheese featured in last week's 30 Second Wine Advisor FoodLetter</i>.

<B>VALUE:</B> It's a fine value, strongly competitive in the $10 range.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Vitiano is made as a drink-me-now wine, but when our Wine Tasting 101 participants studied an earlier vintage a few years back, the conventional wisdom was that its fruit and balance made it a reasonable candidate for at least short-term cellaring. In short, there's no rush to drink up; it should keep well for at least a couple of years.

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
Winebow, the Falesco importer, tops its international portfolio with an extensive line of Italian wines selected by its founder and owner, Leonardo Locascio. Here's a link to the fact sheet on Falesco Vitiano.
The Falesco site is comprehensive in Italian, but its English option leads only to an "Under Construction" page. Click for the Italian pages.

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Compare prices and find online vendors for Falesco 2003 Vitiano on Wine-Searcher.com.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby OW Holmes » Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:41 pm

I found a bottle of 1999 Vitiano stuffed away in a corner of my cellar a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, over the hill and providing little pleasure. Also had the 2004 three weeks ago, and no notes, but it had nice acidity to go with food, and was a better food wine than a stand-alone sipper. Also not as interesting as earlier vintages IMHO - or maybe my tastes are changing. In any event, even at 7.99 a bottle, I didn't go back for more.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Sep 06, 2006 2:50 pm

OW Holmes wrote:Also had the 2004 three weeks ago, and no notes, but it had nice acidity to go with food, and was a better food wine than a stand-alone sipper. Also not as interesting as earlier vintages IMHO - or maybe my tastes are changing. In any event, even at 7.99 a bottle, I didn't go back for more.


Thanks for the caution on the '04, O.W., and for the observation on aging as well. I almost wonder if Vitiano is a case where the rising tide (or the rising heat of '03) actually improved certain wines. Some of the very low-end Bordeaux from '03 seemed to behave that way, actually reaching adequate ripeness from vineyards that don't always do that.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Sam Platt » Wed Sep 06, 2006 4:44 pm

O.W. Holmes wrote:Also had the 2004 three weeks ago, and no notes, but it had nice acidity to go with food, and was a better food wine than a stand-alone sipper. Also not as interesting as earlier vintages IMHO - or maybe my tastes are changing. In any event, even at 7.99 a bottle, I didn't go back for more.


O.W., I actually prefer the '04 to the '03 as a food match. It's really been a go to wine for spaghetti with meat sauce. After having a bottle of both the '03 and '04 I went back and picked up of a half case of the '04 Falesco Vitiano. The $2.00 price differential between the two didn't hurt either. I have not tasted either vintage without an accompaning meal.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby OW Holmes » Wed Sep 06, 2006 5:33 pm

Sam Platt wrote: After having a bottle of both the '03 and '04 I went back and picked up of a half case of the '04 Falesco Vitiano. The $2.00 price differential between the two didn't hurt either. I have not tasted either vintage without an accompaning meal.


I haven't had the '03, and had the '04 without food, so you are way ahead of me, Sam. I guessed the latter would be better with food, and didn't go back for more because I have no rack space left, and precious little floor space in my small cellar, and plenty of food wines that are rapidly approaching the date in my "Drink B4" column.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Clinton Macsherry » Wed Sep 06, 2006 6:23 pm

Last September, my take on the 2003 was somewhat similar to Robin's, though perhaps not as positive.

Falesco “Vitiano” Rosso 2003 (Umbria IGT)

Sangiovese / Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot blend. Clear, medium-dark violet-purple with a watery rim. Very grapey nose right out of the bottle, but it develops into baked dark fruit, holiday spice, and worn leather. Medium-bodied, with red plum (and perhaps some strawberry), more leather, and a wisp of licorise. It seems flabby on the mid-palate, and I wonder if there’s more Merlot in the blend than usual. Finishes with dry tannins. This isn’t as blocky as it’s sometimes been, but I don’t think it’s better, either. $10. Forgot to note the alcohol, but it was nothing out of the ordinary.


Based on Robin's note, it sounds like the intervening year has been to good to the 2003. I've had the 2004 a couple of times, and most recently, my impressions were not good. At least for the first day, it had a burnt rubber harshness, especially on the finish. But I seem to recall it improved significantly a day or two later. (I'll see if I can dig up a TN.) I wonder if Vitiano, ostensibly a drink-me-now kind of wine, might actually need a wee bit of bottle time to blossom.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Sep 06, 2006 6:35 pm

Clinton Macsherry wrote:I wonder if Vitiano, ostensibly a drink-me-now kind of wine, might actually need a wee bit of bottle time to blossom.


There was just such speculation when we featured the 1999 Vitiano in WT101 back in the summer of 2001, Clinton. That one seemed a little tannic and unyielding, rather odd for a low-end drink-now wine, at that time.

As for the '03, as I mentioned, I had put off tasting it due to 2003-phobia, and perhaps it's good I did. It definitely was more refined than "grapey" for me, and I thought the acid structure and soft tannic structure was about right, a good $11 buy. I'm pretty sure I found a reference indicating that it held to the 33/33/33 blend, but can't swear to that.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Bill Hooper » Wed Sep 06, 2006 8:01 pm

Robin,

You're dead on about vintage generalizations being too, well general. Besides continent wide heat waves and massive harvest time floods, bad (extreme) vintage conditions can be very localized.
Hail damage (usually a vintage killer either early or late in the year) is often contained to a very small area, sometimes only a few vineyards within a region. The 2005 Bergerac vintage is a good example of this. Some vineyards were decimated. Others produced great fruit. There are many vineyards in Alsace with SW or even Northern exposures which produce wonderfully acidic wines even in hot years. If there is a rainy year in the Mosel or Rheingau, the steep gradients of some vineyards (Bernkasteler Doktor and Berg Schlossberg amoung many others) provides excellent drainage and usually a saved vintage. Harvest time in some areas can be a week or two apart even for adjacent vineyards (not to mention different varietals). For some, the gamble pays off in extra Brix, others are destroyed by hail or frost.
Only when vintage guides are provided for every Lieu-dit, einzellage, and "single vineyard" will they be correct. Luckily for wine lovers, to most people, a "bad vintage" means "hard to sell". We all know what that means -DISCOUNT!


Prost!
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby KarlLung » Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:31 pm

Robin and Bill:

I fully agree with your comments on variation within vintages. However, for a typical consumer (or even advanced consumer), we typically don't have the opportunity to try all the wines and find the variations, especially for the more pricy ones.

Vintage to a wine is like a brand. It gives consumer more confidence (but not assurance) of a better wine.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby James Roscoe » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:11 pm

Clinton
FEAR THE TURTLE ! ! !

How are we gonna do this year? Does the Fridge have a team?

Okay, y'all can get back to the wine talk.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:37 pm

karllung wrote:I fully agree with your comments on variation within vintages. However, for a typical consumer (or even advanced consumer), we typically don't have the opportunity to try all the wines and find the variations, especially for the more pricy ones.

Vintage to a wine is like a brand. It gives consumer more confidence (but not assurance) of a better wine.


Karl, I think you've made a good point. Bill has expressed an extreme position, and as an object lesson, I can get on board with it: No vintage chart is perfect, because by their nature, they generalize about a lot of specifics, and - as I pointed out in the article - there are always going to be exceptions.

Your point, however, is valid too, and I won't get on board all the way with Bill if he says that vintage charts should not be used at all. I think they're a very helpful guide, and good ones, like Hugh Johnson's in his Pocket Wine Book or Berry Bros & Rudd online, can be a good guide.

It doesn't hurt to know that a 2002 from the Southern Rhone is likely to be thin and dilute or that a 2003 from Burgundy is probably going to be fat and happy and atypically Californicated. When you're making a quick decision from a restaurant wine list or grabbing a wine for dinner off a retail shelf, it's useful to know these things (or look them up) to serve you as a guide.

But as I'm saying - and Bill says a little more colorfully - even if you use the charts, keep your mind open to the possibility than the exceptions can be the best buys.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:37 pm

karllung wrote:I fully agree with your comments on variation within vintages. However, for a typical consumer (or even advanced consumer), we typically don't have the opportunity to try all the wines and find the variations, especially for the more pricy ones.

Vintage to a wine is like a brand. It gives consumer more confidence (but not assurance) of a better wine.


Karl, I think you've made a good point. Bill has expressed an extreme position, and as an object lesson, I can get on board with it: No vintage chart is perfect, because by their nature, they generalize about a lot of specifics, and - as I pointed out in the article - there are always going to be exceptions.

Your point, however, is valid too, and I won't get on board all the way with Bill if he says that vintage charts should not be used at all. I think they're a very helpful guide, and good ones, like Hugh Johnson's in his Pocket Wine Book or Berry Bros & Rudd online, can be a good guide.

It doesn't hurt to know that a 2002 from the Southern Rhone is likely to be thin and dilute or that a 2003 from Burgundy is probably going to be fat and happy and atypically Californicated. When you're making a quick decision from a restaurant wine list or grabbing a wine for dinner off a retail shelf, it's useful to know these things (or look them up) to serve you as a guide.

But as I'm saying - and Bill says a little more colorfully - even if you use the charts, keep your mind open to the possibility than the exceptions can be the best buys.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Bill Hooper » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:54 pm

[quote="Robin Garr"][/quote]

Bill has expressed an extreme position



In typical Bill fashion I might add! :wink:


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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:23 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:In typical Bill fashion I might add! :wink:


None better! :shock:
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Agostino Berti » Fri Sep 08, 2006 9:42 pm

I think a hot year like 2003 allowed producers in colder areas to produce wines they wouldn't normally be able to produce, thus a good thing. I look for 2003's in areas like Alto Adige, etc. especially for the reds.

I'm quite wary of wines like Vitiano in any vintage. There's probably millions of bottles made of that wine. Its a commercial wine, so being a product, it needs to be similar year after year. How much manipulation takes place? Probably quite a bit, and that's probably why it doesn't show the 2003 vintage characteristics that much. Honestly, who knows what they do to that wine. Its probably not a "real" wine as we like to think.

By the way, talking about not generalizing, 2002 was a pretty good year in Goriska Brda (Collio) and Alto Adige, so if you're at a restaurant don't worry about those areas. As far as 2003 is concerned I had a Merlot form Goriska Brda that was 16% alcohol! And the white wine this producer made he decided to call it "Dezert Air", which says a lot...

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Vintage - Avoid generalizations (Falesco 2003 Vitiano)

Postby Clint Hall » Fri Sep 08, 2006 10:16 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Clinton Macsherry wrote:I wonder if Vitiano, ostensibly a drink-me-now kind of wine, might actually need a wee bit of bottle time to blossom.


There was just such speculation when we featured the 1999 Vitiano in WT101 back in the summer of 2001, Clinton. That one seemed a little tannic and unyielding, rather odd for a low-end drink-now wine, at that time.

As for the '03, as I mentioned, I had put off tasting it due to 2003-phobia, and perhaps it's good I did. It definitely was more refined than "grapey" for me, and I thought the acid structure and soft tannic structure was about right, a good $11 buy. I'm pretty sure I found a reference indicating that it held to the 33/33/33 blend, but can't swear to that.


If I recall correctly, in that discussion in WT101 and in TNs on the main board there were lots of different opinions about the wine. I bought a case and there was considerable variation between some of the bottles even though all twelve bottles came from the same retailer. Has Vitiano ever got its bottle variation problem under control?
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