Roulot … Raveneau … Tiberio: Italy’s Answer to White Burgundy

Posted on: 04/11/18 6:28 PM


Look, the hyperbole’s not mine this time. Blame Levi Dalton, of the wildly popular and excellently done podcast I’ll Drink to That! I was fortunate enough to attend a vertical tasting of Christiana Toberio’s Pecorino spanning 7 vintages, from 2016 to 2005. Assisting Levi was Christiana herself and Ian d’Agata, the Vinous critic and the man who wrote the book on native Italian grapes. Literally. You can check it out here; it’s exceptional.

Why am I going on about this? Well, Tiberio, I am convinced, is producing the not only the greatest white win in Italy – the single vineyard Trebbiano d’Abruzzese Fonte Canale – but also among its greatest values. The simple Pecorino and Trebbiano should be thought of at least as Village wines, if not 1er cru qualitatively, while the Fonte Canale is firmly Grand Cru.

And it was affirming to see my opinion ratified by two of the wine world’s most well informed commentators. Neither Levi nor Ian were compensated for their attendance and time; both believed deeply in the excellence of Christiana’s work, and the promise of these excpetional wines to date.

Oh, and my title? Levi closed the seminar by asking how many in the room admired the wines of Roulot and Raveneau. After the universal show of eager hands stretched into the sky, he said: “Yeah, you should think of the Fonte Canale as on the same level. Really.”


2016 Pecorino 

Vinous: “Vivid dark straw-yellow. Tangy aromas and flavors of yellow apple, peach and honey, complicated by a delicate whiff of sage. Oilier and thicker in texture than Tiberio’s Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (the Pecorino variety builds up sugar with much greater ease and hence gives fleshier wines), but with sound acidity giving backbone to the ripe orchard fruit and herbal flavors. At once powerful but vibrant, this pure, refined wine is ready to drink now but will likely age well. 13% alcohol.” 91 pts.


2016 Trebbiano d’Abruzzese 

Vinous: “Pale, bright straw-yellow. Compelling nose of yellow apple, lemon, and honeysuckle. Wonderfully fresh and dry, with citrus and delicate herbal flavors firmed on the back end with a touch of apricot and minerals. Finishes long, light and lively with sneaky concentration and plenty of citrussy charm, and only 12.5% alcohol. This is the best entry-level Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Tiberio since their standout 2013 wine.” 92 pts.


2015 Trebbiano d’Abruzzese “Fonte Canale” 

Vinous: “Very pale luminous yellow. A precise, vibrant and scented nose combines lemon, tangerine, ginger, botanical herbs and lemon verbena, with noteworthy flintiness in the background. Offers a compelling scenario of rare precision, energy and size, displaying great lift and a penetrating quality to the focused flavors of lemon, lime, and crushed stones. A laser beam of lemony acidity carries through on the rising, piercing finish, which features outstanding clarity and cut, with repeating notes of lime and tangerine. This is the best Fonte Canale ever made; it’s also one of the best Italian white wines I have tasted in the last few years.” 95+ pts.


More about the Wine:

How’s this for a story? In 2000, Riccardo Tiberio found a 60-year old plot of Trebbiano d’Abruzzese so impressive he decided to change professions and become a winemaker. 23 miles from the seaside city of Pescara, below the Majella and Gran Sasso mountains were 31 hectares of prime vineyard land, already seeded with 8 hA of the aforementioned old-vine Trebbiano d’Abruzzese.

Think about that. A man changed his entire life – and that of his family – for Trebbiano. Seems crazy, right? After all, Trebbiano is the bane of Italy, producing insipid, thin and mediocre wines that offer only the benefit of being, well, wet, I guess. But that Trebbiano, the ubiquitous white grape of Italy is Trebbiano Toscana. This Trebbiano is Trebbiano d’Abruzzese.
Rarely found, perhaps Italy’s greatest white variety and offering exceptional quality, Trebbiano d’Abruzzese is another beast altogether. So, finding an abandoned plot of old vine d’Abruzzese in impeccable shape may as well have been stumbling across gold.

But the passion and nose for greatness wasn’t all that was necessary here. Great, sensitive winemaking was needed to bring all the pieces together. Enter Riccardo’s daughter Christiana.

A trained chemist and professor, she took the reins from Riccardo in 2008. In addition to being a remarkably talented oenologist, she staged at some of the greatest wine producers in the world Egon Müller, Nicolas Joly and Jacques Selosse before taking over the estate. Today, she is making some of the finest wine in all of Italy.

The “entry-level” Pecorino and Trebbiano wines are, in a word, remarkable. If you like white Bordeaux, the Pecorino scratches a deep itch for a fraction of the price. Full bodied and savory, yet retaining great balance, acidity and minerality, Pecorino seems like a grape well poised to become something serious. With someone as talented as Christiana at the helm, I have no doubt that this may become one of Italy’s great white wines. In some senses, it already is.

The Trebbiano and Fonte Canale, lean more on the white Burgundy side of the equation, with an expression that calls to mind the limestone-dominated Chardonnays of Burgundy. Fonte Canale reminds me of a Grand Cru Chablis, while the simple Trebbiano recalls a village Pernand or something from the chalkier vineyards of the Mâcon.

While it’s true that the Fonte Canale may be Italy’s greatest white wine, and is at least among them, it would be foolish to overlook the simple varietal bottlings. There are few wines in the world that deliver this much quality for such short money.

I really cannot say enough about this winery. You can afford to stock your Cape house with world-class wine … and drink it as well!!!

Posted in Daily Flash By Ian Halbert