Barbaresco, Barolo, and Brunello di Montalcino are the three “King Bs” in the world of fine Italian red wines. Just rolling their names off your tongue feels good; not to mention sipping and swirling these sublime wines in your mouth. But how do you know what producers and vintages to try?
When it comes to Italian wines, there are hundreds of tempting options. In fact, Italy is comprised of twenty wine regions. This includes four different classifications of wine that include: seventy-four DOCGs (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), more than three hundred DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), more than one hundred IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), plus many more VdT (Vino da Tavola). All of this is derived from more than 350 common grape varietals and thousands of producers. So one question remains: How do you best navigate through all of these options?
Ask any Italian wine aficionado where they turn for advice for what to drink, or where to dine, and almost everyone will say, “Gambero Rosso!” For more than three decades Gambero Rosso has been the go-to guide for anyone who enjoys Italian food and drink, whether you want to select a top-rated wine, dine at an Italian restaurant, or learn about a specific region of Italy.
Many Italian wine experts agree that Gambero Rosso may be Italy’s best-kept secret for accessing its finest wines. “Gambero Rosso is [an] excellent resource for wine industry professionals; however outside of the industry, many Americans may not be familiar [with] it. Gambero Rosso is an important industry institution that deserves to have better visibility in America,” stated Tony May, who formerly owned world-class San Domenico and SD26 restaurants in New York City and now runs the May-Mei Italian Culinary Academy.
Established in 1986 as an eight-page supplement in the Italian left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto, Gambero Rosso published its first “Vini d’Italia” guide to Italian wine in 1987. It quickly became popular throughout Italy for its comprehensive listings of producers by region and for its descriptive anecdotes about the winery and the vintners, often families who’ve been making wine for generations.
Gambero Rosso’s name, which translates in Italian to “red prawn” was the name of a tavern in the popular Italian book The Adventures of Pinocchio. The red prawn is displayed in the Gambero Rosso logo and it is also a delicacy in Italy.
But the guide’s true star symbol is Tre Bicchieri (“three glasses”), which is the system Gambero Rosso uses to rate Italian wines. A panel of more than seventy independent expert tasters blind-taste more than forty-five thousand wines annually to decide which ones will receive the prestigious designation. Rankings are based on one glass (“good”), two (“very good”) and three (“extraordinary”).
The 2018 Vini d’Italia included twenty-five thousand rated wines of which only four hundred and twenty-nine (less than one percent of all wines tasted) achieved Gambero Rosso’s top Tre Bicchieri distinction. While rating systems vary, for this special one percent, the prestige factor for a top Tre Bicchieri ranking is akin to earning a ninety-five point or higher score in a publication that reviews and rates wines, or a three-star rating in the Michelin Guide.
More importantly, it can help you decide which wines to buy or collect. “Italian wine can be a daunting subject with hundreds of varietals, hard-to-pronounce names and a vast range of wine styles. Tre Bicchieri provides an excellent highlight reel of the best wines in Italy. It gives people an excellent starting place to explore Italian wine without the stress and worry of finding something great on your own,” noted Brad Nugent, Beverage Director at Porter House Bar & Grill in New York City, which hosts an annual Tre Bicchieri Wine Dinner.
Many leading wine professionals agree that Gambero Rosso raises the bar on quality Italian wines and provides essential information on the producers. Hristo Zisovski, Beverage Director for Altamarea Group in NYC, (Ai Fiori, Marea, Vaucluse, Osteria Morini, and others) recommends the Vini d’Italia to all his new sommeliers. “When I was researching Italian wines more in-depth for the restaurants, Gambero Rosso was my guide. It’s the quintessential reference book for Italian wines and understanding the different styles and range by different producers. And it’s the best guide to find out more details about wineries and the producer’s full lineup of wines and provides helpful comments.”
Some compare the prestige of Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bichieri rankings to the “Michelin Guide,” France’s most famous travel and dining guide with a highly coveted rating system. The two do have distinctly different coverage aspects; Michelin rates restaurants of various cuisines around the world and Gambero Rosso is dedicated to solely Italian wine and food (publishing both Vini d’Italia and also Ristoranti d’Italia, which provides a comprehensive listing of Italian restaurants and rankings based on one, two or three forks). However, their Rating systems are both highly revered and respected.
And, while many hang onto their print copies of Gambero Rosso, content with flipping through the pages to find out where to visit and what to drink, this information is also located with the tap of a finger through the publication’s mobile application
So, the secret is out! Whether your taste preference leans to a crisp Soave, a spumante Prosecco Superiore, a spicy Primitivo, a velvety Brunello di Montalcino, or perhaps something a little more dolce like Vin Santo, let Tre Bicchieri clue you into the “one percent.”
To purchase the 2018 Gambero Rosso Guide to Italian Wines click this link.