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Judging Tuscan Wines

Judging Tuscan Wines

Charles Scicolone (December 17, 2008)

The Judgment of Siena


We had just sat down to dinner on board the Corinithian II as it was leaving Malta for Agrigento.  Suddenly, my cell phone rang.

 It was a representative of the Italian Trade Commission in New York wanting to know if I would like to go to Siena to judge Tuscan wines.  My answer was, “Perche No?”


The event was called the Vino VII Selezione del vini della Toscana and it was held on October 17, 18, and 19 In collaboration with the Enoteca Italiana di Siena, Associazaione Enologi Enotecnici Italiani, Istituto Estero, Amministrazioni Provinciali, Camere di Commerico Consorzi di Tutela.


The tasting and judging took place in the Garden Hotel,     

( which is about a 25 minute walk from the Campo, in the center of Siena.


The event is held every two years.  The wines included in the competition were D.O.C.G., D.O.C. and I.G.T. denominations from Tuscany.  250 producers participated and there were 1,250 wines in seventeen categories. For example, category #2 included D.O.C.G. and D.O.C. white wines elaborated in barriques or refined wood while #8 was D.O.C. red wines from the last two grape harvests (2006/2007).   This is the only type of information we were given on the wines – we did not have the producers’ names, the names of the wines or even the grape varieties.


Each of the nine panels of judges contained seven members:  five enologists, one sommelier, and one journalist.  Five of the journalists were non-Italians, representing England, Poland, Canada, France and the U.S. (me).


We evaluated the wines based on the method used by the Union International des Oenologues.  We were given tasting sheets and told to write our panel number, the wine sample number, category, vintage, and whether the wine was White or Red.  We had four minutes to evaluate each wine on the basis of Sight, Bouquet, Taste/Flavor.  To do so, we circled numbers indicating a range from excellent to negative.  Finally we had to add up our scores and put in a total.  Once marked on the sheet, changes were not permitted.  If necessary, you could do the whole sheet over but the organizers preferred to have your first impressions.  If a wine was bad another bottle was poured, but now you had only two minutes between wines.  Finally, there was a place for remarks and the sheets had to be signed. 



Giacomo Moretti of the Associazione Enologi e Enotecnici italiani was responsible for running the tasting. With a nod of his head the sommeliers would appear, show the judges the bottle with the number on it (so there would be no mistake), and pour the wine. If there was a bad bottle he would say “un altro bottlglia” and indicate the panel. This went like clockwork; even if someone dropped a glass or spilled the wine it was taken

care of efficiently. If a judge made a mistake on a tasting sheet it was Signor Moretti who came looking for you later.


The final score for each wine is a mathematical average eliminating both the highest and lowest scores. Luigi Prosperini, a lawyer, was responsible for the tasting sheets and calculating the scores.  If a wine received at least 82/100 it was awarded with a Certificate of Merit, 85/100, a Certificate of Special Mention, and the first five wines in each category that obtained the highest number of points were awarded an Honorary Diploma.


I have never tasted so many wines with so little information and so quickly. It was a great experience and I learned a great deal. By the end of the tasting my mathematical skills had improved greatly.



The day before I was to leave for Siena I was invited to a tasting in New York of the wines of Ruffino ( ) at Bar Boulud. The speaker was Adolfo Folonari, a member of the family that owns the winery. We tasted a number of wines but the one I liked best was their Vino Noble di Montepulciano Riserva “Lodola Nuova” D.O.C.G. 2004.(90% Prugnolo Gentile-the local name for Sangiovese and 10% Merlot)  When I received the list of medal winners at Siena, this wine was one of them and it was one of my highest rated wines.  I was glad to see that my taste had been consistent.  (See The Sangiovese Family November 5th 2007)


For more information on the tasting and a list of the medal winners go to  www.enoteca-italiana-it and 


Salvatore De Lio , manager of the Enoteca Italiana and Franco Ignesti from Toscana Promozione answered all of my questions and did a great job in organizing the tasting. ).  Elena Boggiano, who organizes special events & promotions for the Enoteca Italiana, was of great help to me during and after the event supplying me with useful information.



I did not just taste wine while I was in Siena, I also had some good meals.  On the first afternoon I had some free time and decided to walk into Siena. There were workmen eating in the Osteria Da Titti (Vai Camollia #19), and the menu looked interesting so I went in. It was typical Tuscan food, very good and inexpensive. I had an antipasto including tomato topped bruschetta, pici cacio e pepe, veal stew with Tuscan style beans, water, a half liter of red wine, and coffee, all for 42 Euros.


Signori Ignesti, Moretti, Prosperini, and De Lio took the foreign journalists to dinner. They could not have been nicer and we had long and interesting discussions on Italian wine and food. Il Mestolo dl Gaetano restaurant in Siena, Via Fiorentina, 81, Tel. O57751531. There are not many restaurants in the heart of Tuscany that serve seafood. This one was excellent. The Fiano di Avellino-Colli di Lipio 2006,- Ramano Cielia and Furore 2007- Marisa Cuomo went very well with the food.


The second night we ate at the Enoteca Italiana in Siena. If you are in Siena you should stop there if you what to know more about Italian wine. We had dinner featuring tartufo bianco from Tuscany. This is the first time I have had white truffles from Tuscany – they are more typical of Piemonte.  The food was very good and the best dish was the Gnocchi al tartufo bianco delle Crete Senesi. The dessert was panna cotta al cioccolato con tartufo delle Crete Senesi.  It was an interesting idea but I would have preferred it if they had put more tartufo on the gnocchi instead.  The wine was served in glasses made of luxion, a material I had never heard of.  I was told that it was a resistant and brilliant new material created by RCR Cristalleria Italiana using a unique mixture of pure raw materials  (


The last night we ate at the Antica Osteria Divo, a few steps from the Duomo, Via Franciosa 29 (  The young chef, Pino Di Cicco, served some very innovative appetizers. The highlight was the bistecca Fiorentine with boiled white beans in olive oil.  The meat was cooked to perfection (I had the piece with the bone) and how I love the beans!


Michele wanted me to bring back an aged pecorino cheese and I looked all over Siena for one. At the Antica Pizzicheria Chigiana De Antonio Niccoli-via di Citta 93,  I found a cheese that had been aged in ashes.  When I arrived home Michele was very happy that I had remembered the cheese.  One of our favorite ways to eat it was stuffed into large medjool dates acoompanied by prosecco. 




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