Tre Bicchiere: Finding A Great Wine for a Lousy Day


Tre bicchiere: three glasses. [Photograph: eflon on Flickr]

I'd had one of those days—you know the type, where it seems like life wants to kick you upside the head. And there's only one thing to do when life won't be nice to you: be nice to yourself. In other words, it was a day to blow off what was left of the afternoon, and seek out a great glass of wine.

I had a slip of paper in my purse that had been floating there for about a month, a press release from a relatively new Italian eatery in New York's Tribeca: "Trattoria Cinque is pleased to announce a rare opportunity to taste Tre Bicchieri wines from Italy..."

Tre Bicchieri is Italian for "three glasses"—the highest rating bestowed upon Italian wines by Vini d'Italia, a respected wine guide in the country. Published by the Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso, the guide's reviews are indicated by the number of stylized wine glasses next to the wine's name. Ratings are "good," one glass; "very good," two glasses; or "extraordinary"—tre bicchieri.

Most restaurants or wine bars serve these wines by the bottle, but Trattoria Cinque offers quartinos, priced at around $19. A quartino is about a third of a bottle, usually a glass-and-half, and one of my favorite ways to sample wines. If it's good, in my opinion, one glass is not enough. But two glasses can be too much sometimes, unless it's over the course of a full meal. So a quartino makes for perfect portion sizing.

The menu is small and well-edited, just a handful of wines, all Italian. But no indication as to bicchieri, "tre" or otherwise. So I asked. The bartender—a charming import from Tuscany—pointed to a Super Tuscan on the menu: "That's the one." (From here on in, I'm referring to the bartender as "the Super Tuscan" as well). I ordered a carafe, and a plate of fried calamari too. The Super Tuscan poured a carafe and set down the bottle: Il Bruciato Antinori 2007.

The Bruciato Antinori stood out from any red I'd ever had; the texture was soft and velvety, with just a touch of puckery tannin, making it a little too easy to drink. I drained three-quarters of the carafe; the Super Tuscan smiled broadly and topped it up, despite my weak protest. And the flavor wasn't too fruity: more of a subtle earthiness, a hint of dark chocolate, and then some plum and dark berry too. Overall, a winner that I would gladly try again.

A note to Trattoria Cinque (and any other restaurant offering tre bicchieri)—don't make your customers hunt for these lovely wines. A press release touting these offerings is a good thing, but don't forget to market directly to the customers already in your establishment. I realize that it's not typical for wine lists to include third-party scores, but in this case I'm willing to make an exception.

Though the $19 price point is surely a value compared to ordering a bottle of the same in most restaurants, a full bottle purchased at retail is also about $20. So that's a bottle I'll be seeking out to have at home—and I don't plan on saving it to brighten up a lousy day.