Posts Tagged ‘aglianico’

Di Majo Norante

September 18, 2010

What a great winery this is. Located in the Molise region of south central Italy (if you know Italian geography by its boot shape, Molise would be located on the lower part of the calf).  Wines have been made in the area since the times of the Romans. Which is not to say much in a country where wine is as much part of the national identity as Calcio (soccer), funny shaped pasta and bodacious, sultry divas like Gina Llollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale.

I don’t know about you, but I love a beautifully packaged product. I hate putting on my table wines with tacky labels. And if that is the wine I have, then it goes in a decanter. But with labels like the ones offered by Di Majo Norante, well,  I have them on my table and discuss and appreciate them with friends. Maybe they can try next a picture of Gina or Claudia on the label of a full bodied wine. Just kidding. But, no, seriously.

Di Majo Norante’s products in Vancouver are available both through LDB and private stores. With prices hovering over the 15-24 dollar range they offer excellent quality for the money. The Sangiovese Terre degli Osci IGT 2008 has merited a 90pt score by Antonio Galloni (www.erobertparker.com) no small achievement for a wine under 15 dollars. Great label, dry and mellow wine, with red fruit and a bit of leather.

Prugnolo is made of Montepulciano grapes. A great match to pasta dishes, meats or cheese. Taut, firm and structured with good balance between acidity and dark fruit. Which sounds like any other wine but trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Price?  22-25 dollars.

Ramitello is a blend of Sangiovese and Aglianico grapes. I think in a post waaay back I said Montepulciano and Aglianico. My mistake. This one has a fullish, mellow body made interesting by that ashey, raw mineral quality of the Aglianico variety.

A visit to the winery’s website www.dimajonorante.com shows that they make a number of other red wines and a selection of whites. Until recently the Contado Aglianico was available in Vancouver. Heard was quite good. I would like to try their renditions of Falanghina, Greco and Fiano. Particularly interesting to me is the Apianae, a sweet white made with Moscato grapes. Hopefully the importers, Stile Enterprises, will bring some of these products to our wine thirsty city.

 

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Cellaring on a Budget

August 4, 2010

Contrary to what most people believe, you don’t have to spend large sums of money to get a wine cellar started. In fact –according to expert Michaela Morris– if you have only one or two bottles that you are reserving for future drinking, you already have a cellar. Michaela and Michelle Bouffard are the owners of house wine, a business dedicated to wine education and consulting. In an informative and fun session at the Listel Hotel, they quenched the audience’s thirst for wine tips.

The first thing you should know before you start a cellar is how you like your wines. If you like them fruity and fresh then perhaps cellaring is not a good idea. If you like to taste past those vibrant fresh fruit tones and discover strokes of barn, forest floor and earthy minerality, then ageing wine is for you. Once you decide to start cellaring wines, you need to find a place where the temperature will be relatively stable and unlikely to get too hot. Usually this place could be a basement or if you live in an apartment, a closet which door should be kept shut to fend off temperature variation. Ideally the temperature should be around 12-15C. Lights should be kept off as much as possible and a humidifier comes in handy if the natural air moisture is low.

The Housewine experts xplained that wines you choose to cellar must be the ones you like. Once that point is checked you need to taste the wine and ponder three qualities: acidity, tannin and fruit. If the wine lacks acidity then is not a good candidate for long term cellaring. This is because acidity underpins the fruit flavors of the wine and with low acidity the wine will taste flat and will lack freshness. Tannin is the other element to consider, especially when picking red wines. Tannins are compounds found in the grapes’ skins as well as in seeds and other woody tissues. Tannins have an antiseptic role as well as an anti-oxidative one. These qualities will allow the fruit to remain free of oxidation, showing its flavor through time.

As for the number of bottles you need to purchase to start your cellar,  Michaela recommend to buy three as a minimum. The first one you can open after a couple of years. This is a testing time also, since the wine will show its capacity to age. If it still maintains good level of fruit and acidity and tastes better than the original product, you can keep the other two bottles and open one at year four or three and the last one at year five. However, if the flavors already start to decline it is the moment to drink. Further ageing will disappoint you with lack of flavor and sluggish acidity. Finally, when assessing wines to age, acidity is the main indicator for whites and tannin for reds. In both cases time will turn the color towards brown. Red wine will have a brick red hue; white will become golden or even amber.

Wine Recommendations

Good white varieties to age, due to their natural high acidity include Riesling and Semillon. The first one will develop a diesel-like aroma, with fruit going from the green apple initial to riper apple, stone fruit or even tropical notes. Semillon is known to age well for decades due to its unflagging acidity and develops deliciously toasty flavors. Good choices include Nederburg (12.99), Hattenheimer (22.99) or Markus Molitor Himmelreich (53.99) for Rieslings. Excellent candidates for Semillon or Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blends are Poacher’s Blend (12.99), Brokenwood (22.99), Black Hills Alibi (36.99) and Bordeaux’ Chateau Mirambeau (43.99).

Tannic load, as mentioned before, will increase the capacity of a red wine to age gracefully. Little known Xinomavro grape is one of the best Greek varieties for this purpose. Boutari Naoussa Reserve (21.99) will improve greatly with five years in the cellar, enhancing its natural dry cherry and fig flavors. Italy’s Nebbiolo grape always benefits from ageing. Barbaresco by Produttori (42.99) is a great option. Also from Italy, but this time in the south, the Aglianico grape with its fiery tannins gets only better after a few years of rest. Red Cello (14.99) will see its fruit shine and its tannins soften up. Other reds to put away for a couple of years include Volteo Cabernet Tempranillo (19.99), Morande Pionero Pinot Noir (15.99) and Agua de Piedra Cabernet Sauvignon (13.99).

You don’t need to be rich to start a cellar. In a few years you will be more than happy you did.

Aglianico: Volcano in a Bottle

November 6, 2009

For the average wine consumer, Italy, with its twenty wine regions and scores of commercially grown grapes –mostvulture-blog little known and with hard to remember names- can be plain down befuddling. Even for those who have tasted Chianti, Valpolicella or Sangiovese, these are seldom first picks when they go wine shopping. Like in every other sphere of thought and culture, wine is full of stereotypes and myths, and –unfortunately- Italian wine is plagued with them. “They are too acidic”, say some. “I can’t stand the strong tannins”, complain others. “Only good with food”, is what most say.

The reality is that, even myself, used to be in one of the groups above, or in all of them. It takes tasting more than a few Italian wines to realize that the myths above are not only false; they come from perceptions born out of tasting one or two wines from one or two regions only. Many people never go beyond Chianti and Valpolicella, usually low quality versions served as house wines in restaurants. More adventurous consumers go for ITP blends. These, the Indicazione Geografica Tipica wines, are made from international varieties (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah) sometimes blended with Italian ones, and can be just delicious, full bodied, powerful wines on their own right.

ITP wines have gained international recognition, but the heart of Italian wines resides in the indigenous varieties. Most of the well-known ones are grown in the north: Nebbiolo, found in Barolo and Barbaresco. Chianti’s Sangiovese or Valpolicella’s Corvina. But there is one variety that stands tall in the south: Aglianico. “The Nebbiolo of the south” as they call it, is like the true Nebbiolo, a grape that yields wines that can be big, sometimes massive.

The variety was taken to Southern Italy by the Greeks, although DNA analysis shows that its lineage cannot be traced to anything that is cultivated today in Greece. The name is believed to be a distortion of the word “Ellenico”, Italian word for Greek. Most Aglianico is cultivated in Basilicata (the region between the tip and heel of the Italian boot) and in Campania (the front side of the boot’s ankle). Some vineyards can be found in Molise and Puglia and, to a lesser extent, in Australia and California. In Basilicata the grape enjoys DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controlatta) status, with the most prestigious wines coming from the volcanic soils around Mount Vulture. In Campania the grape has its own DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controlatta e Garantitta) based on the Taurasi appellation.

In the vineyard, Aglianico prefers volcanic soils, as mentioned above, and seems to benefit from relatively high altitude (400-500m). The dark skinned berries ripen incredibly late, a fact that has limited the quality of wines made from early harvesting. Aglianico wines, when well made, can deliver a powerful sensorial experience that rivals or bests that of most other big reds. An intense nose of tectonic force is a hallmark of good Aglianico. Chocolate, plum and spice are common. In the palate the combination of these flavours with the indomitable character of its tannins makes a lasting impression. Due to its high acidity and “ferocious tannins” (as described by Jancis Robinson) , Aglianico wines benefit from cellaring and will make the absolutely perfect match for grilled meats, roasted lamb and game.

Bocca di Lupo, massive Aglianico

May 31, 2009

Bocca di Lupo is Italian for wolf’s mouth. Which seems appropiate when applied to this ninety per cent bocca di lupoAglianico – ten percent Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Castel del Monte in Pulia, Southern Italy. This wine is a statement of power that doesn’t exclude finesse. Aromas of dry blue berries and oak notes followed by a manly body, full, substantious and non-apologetic. Plenty of rounded tannins lead to a very satisfying finish. I don’t know if a wolf’s mouth tastes and smells like this, but if it does you will see me kissing wolves in the mouth for some time.

Product: Bocca di Lupo

Variety: Aglianico del Vulture

Vintage: 2003

Winery: Tormaresca

Origin: Castel del Monte, Italy

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 44.99 (www.everythingwine.ca)