Posts Tagged ‘italy’

Kicking your Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc Addiction: Italian Whites

April 21, 2010

Wine addiction? No worries, we all have been there. I hit rock bottom when for a while, I refused to drink anything but Kendall Jackson Chardonnay ($22.99) which is very good by the way, keeping its quality consistent through the years. When I thought I was on my way to rehabilitation wham! I stumbled upon Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs and the Jackson Estates “Stich” kept me semi-comatose for a while, with its charming fruit and exciting acidity.

However, a true wine lover must be an explorer. So I went back to the wine roads of the world, wide and long and branching off at every turn. There was Greece with its refreshing, intriguing Moschofilero, Argentina with its potent Torrontes and France with its Rousanne-Marsanne-Viognier blends. I decided to go Italy. No regrets. Here is what I found.

Poggio al Tesoro 2008. Bolgheri Solosole IGT Vermentino. $29.99. Tesoro means treasure. Solosole goes for “only sun.” This wine honors both its monikers. Rich, deep and audaciously citrusy.

Primo V Prosecco 2008. Treviso. $22.99. Your buds will dance to the lemony, bright, chalky music of this sparkling darling.

Plozner Tocai Friuliano 2008. DOC Friuli Grave. Very fragant nose, a bit grassy and mellow on the palate. Loved the finish, a tad almondy-bitter.

Verdicchio di Matelica Vigneti del Cerro 2008. “Belisario”. $17.99. Stupendous Verdicchio. Fresh, minerally and with a large acidic footprint. Don’t look further for your next salmon barbeque white. Where can you buy it?

Feudo Arancio Grillo 2006/07. Sicily. $16.99. Mango leads the tropical fruit charge, followed by a refreshing palate with slightly creamy texture. When you get tired of Grigio ask for Grillo.

Of all five, for quality vs value I recommend the Belisario Verdicchio di Matelica. If there is only one you could taste before trashing your monthly wine budget, that would be the Plozner Friuliano. If you do, get some good quality Prosciutto, perfect Italian match.

Chi Veddiamo!

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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.

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon: The Reds

October 24, 2009

Scary. Looking at my calendar I realize that the next IVSA event is scheduled for November 9th! So, before I get a glut of new wine notes to comment here, I will go back to those I had in the September event. And since I already posted notes on the whites I enjoyed, let’s now visit the tintos I found memorable. You may notice that mostly I am covering Italian wines but given the size of the IVSA event and the number of products (and the number of people you stop by to say hi and chat) there was little room for anything else.

• Let’s start with one of my favorites of that busy evening. Enoteca Bacco brings a truly delicious Negroamaro varietal, the 2006 Verve IGT from Salento. Pure expression of fruit, direct and ample, with dark overtones and really fun to drink. Not surprisingly, a previous incarnation of this wine, the Verve 2004, collected gold medals left, right and center. Battle the incoming November blues with Verve matching grilled blue fish like mackerel, sardines or spicy dishes (click on links for recipes). Just under 30 dollars, this listed product is available at LDB stores.

Tempus Malbec 2007. Under 18 dollars, I fully enjoyed this uncomplicated, fruity, filling Malbec brought to us by MKR Importers. A no brainer for roasted beef, grilled meats, sausage in a bun with friends, etc. Just make sure you don’t eat your friends. Ha ha.

• When I had the Anghelos IGT 2006 I did understand the reason for the name: Angelic. I recommend this wine with absolutely NO reservations to those who enjoy a balsamic nose followed by a meaty, fleshy chunk of fruity acidity and elegant tannins that do not let go. Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano and Sangiovese are blended in this superb broth hailing from the Marche region. Soft enough to accompany a Pasta Fagioli (pasta and beans in tomato sauce) but will stand up to an Osso Bucco. Wine Quest importers hit it right on the nose with this vino tinto. Under 40 dollars, this is the kind of wine you want to kick off the cool part of the year in full form.

Fontanabianca means “white fountain”, which is the name of the winery that makes the Sori Burdin 2004 Barbaresco. This broth is potenza (potence) in the full meaning of the term. Nebbiolo grapes in grand style, with a tremendous aromatic profile and an equally tremendous body and tannic structure. Robert Parker, in his flowery-paralegal style calls this wine “authoritative”. I don’t know how a wine can be authoritative but I surely like the adjective here. Close to 90 dollars, granted not a wine for everyday consumption, but make sure you have a bottle around for that special occasion. And give me a shout when you do; I’d love to have this tinto again.

Di Majo Norante is a producer that always delivers quality at affordable prices, without compromising the quality and more importantly, the sense of terroir. Their Sangiovese and Ramitello are good examples of this, but here I want to mention the Prugnolo del Molise IGT 2004. A delicious, easygoing yet flavorful Sangiovese. Light and playful but balanced and structured enough to be taken seriously. This product, brought by Style Wines retails for less than 22 dollars.

•The last two wines are both represented by Liquid Art Fine Wines. The Tenuta Sette Ponti ‘Crognolo’ IGT 2006 is a Sangiovese Merlot blend from Toscana. At around 40 dollars a bottle, it merited a 92 pt score by Wine Spectator (08/31/08). Full bodied, concentrated, tannic, warm, with cherry and earthy aromas and flavors, this is a delicious, powerful wine.

I closed the night with the Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC, 2006. I knew it would be my last tasting of the night. The lights had already flickered off a couple of times and the Liquid Art reps were already putting their gear away. I could not but ask for a second pouring, being late and feeling like I deserved a break. I savored every drop of the Cristia. Elated and in awe, I only jotted down

depth suavidad elegance long red fruit rocks beautiful alcohol integration A

Enough said.

Hasta la proxima.

Budget Fall Wines

October 20, 2009

In good and bad times it is always nice to find good quality, inexpensive vino. Customers are always looking for a bargain, aka “bang for your buck” and I have tasted innumerable cheapies to separate the grain from the chaff. Prices vary greatly in Metro Vancouver, so be sure to buy your wines in stores where you will get the lower tags.

Starting with whites, I recently found two wonderful Chardonnays. The first one hails from Southern France louislatour_chardand is produced by world known winehouseLouis LaTour. The 2007 Ardeche Chardonnay is a delightful unoaked version, which has been allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. Light, slightly creamy, with touches of tropical fruit, I enjoyed this one a lot and since I posted a shelf talker many a customer has become a fan. It sells for 13.99 at Everything Wine (North Vancouver) and LDB stores (check website for branches that carry it. Some cold beer and wine stores sell this product for up to 23.99 so beware.

From Southern Italy, in the Puglia region, we have the Tormaresca Chardonnay (2006, 2007). Light and 3348-tormaresca-chardonnay-500minerally this wine offers great value. I think this one to be unoaked or only slightly oaked. At 15.99, it has become one of my favorite whites.

Puglia also brings us an excellent red, perhaps on the top ten under ten dollars. The Paiara blend of paiara Cabernet Sauvignon and Negroamaro grapes is round, balanced and persistent, surprisingly so for a wine so inexpensive. LDB stores and Everything Wine sell the product for 9.99 and once you taste it you will probably make it a staple for weekdays. My woman recently made a delicious Tortilla de Patatas (potato omelette, Spanish style. Click link for recipe) for brunch and this medium-light red was the perfect companion.

From the land of Kangaroos, Koalas, venomous critters and man-eating sharks, the 2006 Rock Art Cabernet Merlot is sensational for the price. Everything wine carries the product for 12.99 but it had it as special during the Thanksgiving long weekend, selling scores of cases at 8.99, an absolute steal. Even at 12.99 this little wine is serious and convincing, with a solid fruit front, balance and a bit of structure that suggests that the 3 years spent in bottle added a little quality.

To finish this ripasso, let’s go to Patagonia, Argentina, and taste the 2007 Diego Murillo Merlot. Organic, diegomurillovelvety and full flavored, this wine is perfect for the nostalgic, sweet emotions that only the season of falling leaves can arouse. Dark and deep, this little jewel by Humberto Canale winery is well worth the 10.99 you pay for it at LDB and Everything Wine.

Enjoy the rest of the season and brace yourselves for overwhelming, rainy, grey November.

Dessimis Pinot Grigio: Not Business as Usual

June 9, 2009

A sixty-one dollar bottle is not everyone’s idea of a Pinot Grigio to cool down these late spring warm Dessimis-PinotGrigio
afternoons. Not mine, that’s for sure. In fact, this wine was offered to me at a blind tasting, and my first reaction was “E-W! cheap oaky chard”. It was oaky indeed, very much so. Very thick, almost syrupy, by Italian Pinot Grigio standards. The more I drank however, the more I was attracted to this deep colored broth (again, by Grigio standards). Deep lemon, almost gold, with tremendous legs, witness to a whopping 14% alcohol, high level not just by Grigio standards. On the nose, the oaky whiff overwhelmed everything at first impression. Then, suddenly, a high note of fruit -ripe peach- hit a spot on my nose and stood there, hanging, unwavering, until a bit of tropical fruit took over. The body was foreseeable full, and more tropical fruit appeared, together with lemony touches. The finish was long, very long, even compared to other white grape varieties that normally outplay Pinot Grigio on this quality. Should I say that it greatly improved after an hour or so? Should you get together with two or three others and buy a bottle, just for the sake of it? (meaning, wine). Most definitely. Those pesky Italians know well what they’re doing. Cheers.

Product: Dessimis

Variety: Pinot Grigio

Vintage: 2006

Winery: Vie di Romans

Origin: Friuli Isonzo DOC, Italy

Alcohol: 14.0%

Price: 60.99 (Everything Wine

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)

Il Bruciato, a Red Blend by Antinori

May 21, 2009

Il Bruciato is an italian expression for “the burned one”, which probably refers to its outstanding aromas of toasted oak barrel. A powerful blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah by famous Italian winery Antinori. This Bolgheri DOC wine brings a inca-whitetremendous nose with barnyard, almost poopy character, dark red fruit in compote, dancing over a framework of old furniture notes. The medium-plus body reveals high acidity which is balanced by an impressive array of flavors in which black berry predominates. The tannins are a bit rough but they don’t negate the overall satisfaction this broth can deliver. The finish is long, with tones of dark berries and a brushstroke of vegetal. Il Bruciato is one of those wines not to be missed.

Product: Il Bruciato

Variety: Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah

Vintage: 2006

Winery: Antinory

Origin: Bolgheri, Italy

Alcohol: 14.0%

Price: 34.99 (Everything Wine)

PasSo Doble 2007, Italo-Argentinian Red Blend

April 20, 2009

Argentina meets Italy in this inexpensive yet flavorful red. Not that they haven’t met  before, given that half of Argentineans have last names finishing in tutta, tutti, chini, gini and chetto. Batistutta, Maradona and Caniggia are prime soccer player examples of Argentinean graftings on Italian rootstock, to use wineology terms. Here the two countries meet in the winemaking field, thanks to Italian wine powerhouse Masi. The big winery plays with archetypal Italian Corvina grapes -grown in Mendoza and partially dried- blended with archetypal Argentinean Malbec, to give a medium body broth of  rich ruby color and even richer nose. Coffee, dry plum and wooden tones dance against a conspicuous -almost South African- gamey background. Good acidity and soft tannins lead to a long, convincing finish.

With this wine reminiscent of the Italian tradition -even the label has a marked tano style- we are reminded that Argentina, with its vast lands amenable to viticulture will continue to surprise us for a while.

Variety: Blend. Malbec, Corvina, Merlot

Vintage: 2007

1081Origin: Mendoza

Winery: Masi Agricola

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 17.99 Cdn