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Tre Uve Ultima: the ultimate Ďbrandedí wine 

Tre Uve Ultima is an interesting project from Western Wines that in some ways represents the ultimate in branded wines. Divorced from any geographical identity (the grapes are sourced from three very different Italian regions) and vintage designation (although this wine is made from the 1999 vintage, it isnít indicated anywhere on the front or back labels), when you purchase this wine you are buying into a winemaking concept. Western Winesí chief winemaker is South African-based Rhyan Wardman, who spends his winter overseeing their European projects. For Tre Uve Ultima, he takes three grapes (the 1999 vintage is 10% Sangiovese, 35% Primitivo and 55% Montepulciano) sourced from three different regions (Emilia Romagna, Puglia and Abruzzo), and gives them 10 month oak maturation in 80% French (60% new, 40% 2nd use) and 20% new American oak barrels. Thereís also a slightly less expensive Tre Uve, with roughly the same blend and barrique maturation (less new oak though?). Both wines have been pretty successful, picking up Gold medals in this yearís International Wine Challenge.

Thereís no doubt that Rhyan has fashioned a tasty wine, but I must admit to being a little bit uneasy about the concept. For me, part of the fascination of a bottle of wine is its link to the patch of ground where the grapes were grown, and the historical link to a particular vintage. I feel quite strongly that wine is an agricultural product with significant human input, rather than being something that is manufactured. In this sense, the ultimate expression of wine is one made from grapes grown in a single vintage from a particular vineyard. The human input is to take what nature has given that year, and then to produce the best wine possible from these grapes; one that hopefully will reflect their origin. The branded wine concept as displayed here stems from a different philosophy: one that places the winemakerís input as central, and seeks to iron out any local or temporal (e.g. vintage) variability.

For those that think, like Malcolm Gluck, that there is nothing more to a wine that what is in the glass, this may well prove a very satisfying wine. Itís certainly got some character, and offers good value for money. But while I enjoyed it, Iíd hate this concept to be the future direction of wine. Multiregional blending is fine for making tasty plonk that has to hit tight price points, but itís not the way to make fine wine.

My tasting note:

Tre Uve Ultima, Vino da Tavola, Italy
An interesting concept here: a branded wine with no vintage date indicated, nor any particular geographical origin (other than Italy), but made in a premium style with maturation in new French and American oak barriques. This is a deep coloured wine with an attractive nose of ripe berry fruit, spicy oak, and coffee and chocolatey complexity. The modern, fruit-driven palate displays cherry and spice flavours, good acidity, and a slightly alcoholic finish (this one weighs in at 14%). Very good (£5.99 Tesco, £6.49 Oddbins) 09/01

(Photo courtesy of Western Wines.)

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