Allegrini 2018

“Pocket Wine Book” 2021, the wine lover’s bible edited by Hugh Johnson

Producers, territories and evaluations of wines from around the world: advice, fun facts and insights, in a legendary pocket guidebook

No offense to believers, but even wine, considered a “religion”, has its own bible: the legendary “Pocket Wine Book”, published by Octopus Book and penned by Hugh Johnson, perhaps the most popular wine writer in the world. He was the columnist of the UK magazine “Decanter” for years, and author of books that have become milestones in the wine world culture. And, every year he “miraculously” manages to condense in a small pocket guide, the production landscape from all corners of the world: France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Germany, South Africa, New Zealand. Chile, Argentina and the United States.
The 2021 edition, soon to be published in Italian, has taken an accurate snapshot of wine on the Italian peninsula. In just a few pages, by Region, producer and denomination, it recommends in “code”, using abbreviations and bold type, the right vintages to buy, bottles to open and those to keep, to always make the right choice on holiday in Tuscany or discovering the Yarra Valley in Australia. The wines are judged in stars - from one to four – awarded to wine companies and the different denominations, litmus test, quick and easy to understand, of the thousands of tastings that Hugh Johnson experiences every year.
There is much more, though, because between brands and territories, there are also some very interesting in-depth windows.
For instance, the best Barolos, the top Brunellos, the secrets of Chianti Classico, the additional geographical mentions of Barolo and Barbaresco, the Etna surprise and the best companies in Valpolicella. There is a useful summary of the acronyms that narrate the quality of Italian wine productions: DOC, DOCG, TGI. And then, highlighted in red, some “clips” to be read and studied in depth, ranging from tasting notes to fun facts about vineyard prices, the etymology of a certain place to the pairings of wine and food, and notes on winemaking and vine identification.
The attention of the reader, and of the wine lover, is drawn to the evaluation of the wine companies. The biggest companies are judged from a minimum to a maximum, representing the vastness and variety of the production range. Let’s take into consideration only the “four stars”, i.e., the top companies and wines in Italy. In Chianti Classico, there are Castello di Ama, Fontodi, Isole and Olena, Montevertine and San Giusto a Rentennano, in Chianti Rufìna Selvapiana, and still wines such as Solaia and Tignanello of the Antinori family. Still in Tuscany, outside the top denominations, there are Tenuta di Trinoro in Val di Chiana (in Sarteano) and Tua Rita in Val di Cornia. In Montalcino, there are the great Brunello brands, Biondi-Santi, Case Basse (Soldera), Fuligni, Le Potazzine and Salvioni (La Cerbaiola). As we go towards the Tuscan coast, in Bolgheri, there are Sassicaia - Tenuta San Guido by Niccolò Incisa della Rocchetta, Ca' Marcanda by Angelo Gaja, Le Macchiole and Ornellaia.
In Piedmont, the top of the Langa, between Barolo and Barbaresco are: Gaja, Bruno Giacosa, Aldo Conterno, Giacomo Conterno, Bartolo Mascarello and Vietti. Plus, according to Hugh Johnson, the best producer of Grignolino, Crivelli, and the reference point of Moscato d’Asti, Paolo Saracco. In Valpolicella, Amarone by Tommaso Bussola, Dal Forno and Quintarelli, while for the Venetian whites, the two lighthouses of Soave are Pieropan and Graziano Prà. The top in Franciacorta is Ca' del Bosco; Feudi di San Maurizio in Val d’Aosta; Manni Nossing in Trentino Alto Adige and Miani in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
In Sardinia, the name to put on the agenda is Capichera, in Abruzzi, Tiberio and Valentini, reference of Trebbiano; in Campania the wines of Elena Fucci are at the top and in Apulia the wines of Gianfranco Fino. Finally, Sicily, between Etna and the sea, Frank Cornelissen, De Bartoli, Feudo Montoni, Gulfi, and Tenuta delle Terre Nere.

Focus - Hugh Johnson’s clips (interesting facts)

The most expensive Barolo crus: Bricco Rocche, Bussia, Cannubi, at 4 million euros per hectare.
In Asti, it is customary to drink Moscato with cold cuts. Try it!
Between 1954 and 2018 there was only one frost in Franciacorta, in 2017.
Depending on the level of ripeness, the same Sangiovese grape can develop different alcoholic strength levels, in order of one to one and a half degrees.
To be paired with Sicilian Arancini: Carricante (white) or Cerasuolo di Vittoria (red).
One of the most intense plants in the world, the bonsai vine in Montalcino: 62.500 plants per hectare.
What to drink with the classic Tuscan Ribollita? Chianti Classico or Morellino di Scansano.
The typical name of the old Piedmont bars is “piola”. In Veneto a glass of vino is called “shadow”.
In Italy there are 17 different varieties of Malvasia.
In Bolzano, where juicy Lagrein and fresh white wines are made, the temperatures in summer are the same as in Palermo.
Wines produced from Arneis and Ribolla Gialla grapes develop hints of saffron as they age.

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