Which of the The WineHunter’s best Italian wines can you buy in the UK?

The Merano WineFestival is the epitome of Italian “dolce vita”. Each year, experts gather in the Alpine spa town to sample fine wine, high-end olive oil, gourmet food, craft beer and small-batch spirits. After the tastings, they award points to decide which are the best products that Italy has to offer. The event has been taking place since 1992, and 2020 was no different. Despite the global pandemic, The WineHunter team managed to rally the troops and keep the awards going. Safely, of course.

The fine wine festival is at the heart of Merano, as expert panels from The WineHunter pass judgement on thousands of bottles of wine. Winemakers from all over Italy send their bottles throughout the year and, before the festival begins, experts blind-taste and score them to find the most outstanding Italian vino. On the day, they announce which wines they consider to be the year’s crème de la crème.

As a result, it’s become an important ceremony for everyone in the industry, as well as wine lovers everywhere. This year it’s especially exciting, as some of the top-scoring bottles are already in the UK. Even better, they can be purchased for next day delivery by our readers. Let’s take a closer look at what’s available, and what The WineHunter awards are all about.

How does The WineHunter award work?

There are eight expert panels with at least three members each, blind-tasting forty wines in multiple rounds of tasting. Every bottle is opened at least two hours beforehand to let the wine breathe, open up and reach its full potential.

The experts are told a few key details about each wine: which region it’s from, which grapes it’s made from, how it’s made and the vintage. The producer is kept secret, so no-one can cheekily award their mate top score.  The wines with the best marks are then tasted by the Central Committee of Merano: Helmuth Köcher (founder of The WineHunter) and two other seasoned experts.

After tasting the wine, the expert panels assign scores out of 100 based on the way the wine looks, the way it smells and the way it tastes. The best wines – those that score more than 90 points – are awarded diplomas of excellence:

– Rosso (Red): 90 to 92.99 points

– Gold: 93 to 95.99 points

– Platinum: 96 to 100 points.

Which of The WineHunter’s best Italian wines are available in the UK?

To find out which wines are available, we spoke to boutique wine merchant Independent Wine. They were recently shortlisted for the title of Italian Specialist in the 2020 Decanter Retailer Awards due to their work with small winemakers in Italy. They currently stock 12 of The WineHunter’s best Italian wines.

They have a similar ethos to The WineHunter festival, whose motto is “excellence is an attitude”. The owners, Elvira and Oleg Dmitriev, work hard to choose the best Italian wines for their customers. They personally visit hundreds of small wineries in the furthest corners of Italy, taste hundreds of wines, and pick out the ones they think are fantastic. As many of their wines have also been chosen by the WineHunter’s expert panel, we reckon their taste can be trusted.

The award-winning wines listed below are all currently available from Independent Wine’s website, with next day delivery to anywhere in the Mainland UK.

The WineHunter Award

 Wine

Rosso

Gagliole | 2017 Valletta | Colli Della Toscana Centrale IGT

This organic Super Tuscan wine is a blend of Merlot and Sangiovese from an ancient terraced vineyard in Panzano, in the Chianti Classico region. The wine offers deep and enchanting aromas of rose, red cherry, vanilla, cloves and biscuit layered with notes of dried cranberry and prune

Gold

Castello Di Radda | 2017 Chianti Classico DOCG

Crafted by the legendary Beretta family at their vineyard in the very heart of the Chianti Classico region. Expect aromas of sweet black plum, liquorice, chocolate, and violet.

Rosso

Francone | 2016 Barolo DOCG

This UK-exclusive Barolo is made from grapes grown at two cru vineyards: La Morra and Monforte. Each of those two areas contributes its own, distinctive terroir character to the blend – La Morra lends richness and power, while Monforte brings elegance and freshness.

Rosso

La Castellina | 2015 Tommaso Bojola | Chianti Classico DOCG

A rich and spicy Sangiovese wine softened by elegant Merlot. The notable feature of this wine is its exceptionally soft tannins, complemented by deep flavours of blackberry and dried prunes.

Gold

K.Martini | 2017 Alte Reben Pinot Bianco | Alto Adige DOC

Elegant and refreshing, this white wine is made from Pinot Bianco grapes in the German dry style “Weissburgunder”. The 2017 vintage has overwhelming aromas of pear, guava, melon, ginger and honey, with subtle undertones of biscuit.

Rosso

K.Martini |2017 Maturum Chardonnay | Alto Adige DOC

Maturum is the high-end wing of K.Martini & Sohn, a Swiss-Italian winemaking family. Expect notes of golden apple, vanilla and tropical fruit such as lychee, mango, honeydew melon and pineapple.

Gold

Ridolfi | 2015 Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG

This wine is already well-respected on the market as it has won the Decanter Silver award. Fresh, fruity and elegant, it’s matured in large Slavonian oak barrels. This introduces a subtle and almost undetectable flavour, serving to highlight the natural aromas of Sangiovese.

Rosso

Ridolfi 2018 Rosso Di Montalcino Classico DOC

A deliciously fresh and floral wine, produced in the same vineyard as the famous Brunello di Montalcino. While the powerful Brunello is aged for three years, Rosso is released after only one year of ageing. Fresh and zingy, it is full of vibrant flavours of red cherry and raspberry.

Rosso

Rubinelli Vajol | 2015 Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC

This wine offers a pleasant aromatic intensity of rose, strawberry and raspberry, underpinned with notes of biscuit, chocolate, dried cranberries and figs. It recently received a very positive review from The Independent.

Gold

Massimago | 2015 Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG

This Amarone is Massimago’s top of the range wine, produced by Camilla Rossi-Chauvenet – the estate’s owner and winemaker. It has a very rich and concentrated flavour of strawberries and orange peel. This is underpinned by complex notes of vanilla and leather after four years of careful ageing in oak and in bottle.

Rosso

Fortemasso | 2015 Barolo Castelletto DOCG

This delicious Barolo is produced by the famous Gussalli Beretta family, in their Monforte d’Alba winery “Forte Masso”. 2015 was possibly the decade’s best year for Barolo, and how lucky are we that this wine will soon be ready for drinking? Expect pronounced aromas of black cherry, raisins, dried herbs and spices. Hints of clove and black pepper from oak ageing are interlaced with a pleasant touch of leather from time in bottle.

Rosso

I Garagisti Di Sorgono | 2016 Manca VDT

Rich and powerful red wine made from Sardinia’s ancient grape, Cannonau. This UK-exclusive wine is made by a cooperative of four friends in Sorgono, in the remote heartlands of Sardinia. It has a deep, dense flavour, dominated by black fruit and spice. Full bodied and elegant, it benefits from fresh acidity and an excellent long finish.

So if you want to try the best of the best Italian wine, those 12 bottles would be a great place to start. 

The Exeter Daily