Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A Classic From Chianti Classico

The Sangiovese grapes for the 2020 Il Grigio da San Felice Riserva Chianti Classico were grown at the San Felice estate vineyard in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Siena. That is the part of Chianti Classico where it is said the wines are the ripest and richest in the region. 

It was a mild winter in the 2020 vintage, but a freeze in the spring lowered the yield of the Sangiovese grapes. Lower yield means higher concentration, so all was not lost.  

Most of the wine achieved malolactic fermentation in steel tanks before being transferred to Slovenian oak casks for a 24-month aging period. The remaining 20% went into smaller French oak barriques. The wine aged for three months in the bottle to justify its riserva status. The label art shows a painting by Titian of a knight in armor who was instrumental in a Siena military victory. Alcohol for Il Grigio hits 13.9% abv and the retail price sits just a bit below the $28 mark. 

This wine has a dark purple color and a complex nose. Aromas of black cherry, violets, anise, clove, leather and earth are plentiful in the bouquet. The palate offers a medium mouthfeel with great acidity and firm tannins. The fruit flavors are carried along by the more savory aspects of the profile. It is a wine which would love a pairing with a steak or a pork chop, or with a meaty stew. 


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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Big Enjoyment From Cheap Lambrusco

Notte Rosso is likely found on the bottom shelf of your grocer's wine aisle. It's an inexpensive wine, but is it a bargain wine? We'll find out here and now. 

The Notte Rosso winery is located in In Salento, in Italy's Puglia region, in the area known as Primitivo di Manduria. The Notte Rosso Lambrusco, however, is from the Emilia region, in Italy's north. The wine has a very low alcohol content of 7.5% abv and generally sells for less than $10.

This wine colors up a medium garnet in the glass. The nose is rather muted, but offers a blackberry aroma draped in an earthy note. It's a slightly fizzy wine with a palate that shows dark blue fruit and a hint of coffee. It is not a particularly complex sip, but it is rather pleasant. The label has a meter pointing to "sweet," but it does not come off that way to me. I would call it off-dry, if anyone were to ask me. 


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Monday, January 29, 2024

A Classic From Chianti Classico

San Felice is an Italian winemaking company which is located in the Chianti Classico area of Tuscany. Their history includes the fact that they were on the leading edge of the development of the Super Tuscan style, decades ago.

Their 2021 Chianti Classico comes from the rolling hills of the Castelnuovo Berardenga area in Chianti Classico. The sandy soil soaked in minerals is good for growing Sangiovese grapevines. San Felice winemaker Leonardo Bellacini is right at home here, since he has worked with that grape variety through much of his career. The wine has 12% abv and sells for less than $20. 

This medium ruby wine smells of black cherry, coffee, mocha and a hint of eucalyptus peeking through. The palate is weighted medium, with dark red fruit flavors mingling among the oak spices. The wood is not overplayed, however. I can taste clove, cinnamon, allspice, anise and oregano in here, yet the feeling is very fresh and lively. I'm usually not a pizza-and-wine guy, but this one goes well with a slice of cheese and black olives. 


Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Gimme A Gavi

People don't give wine importers enough credit for what they do. The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us. Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office about a decade ago. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

Mack and Schuhle say that Riva Leone was a "man of unique character and personality who was an ambassador for the special wines of the Langhe all throughout Europe in the early 20th Century." They are proud to help carry his legacy in wines which they say "uphold the winemaking traditions of Piedmont for a new generation of wine lovers across the world."

The 2021 Riva Leone Gavi DOCG is made from 100% Cortese grapes which were grown in the village of Gavi and vinified in stainless steel tanks, where the wine was aged for a few months before bottling. The limestone soil gives big minerals to the wine's nose and palate.

This wine is very lightly tinted, a mellow yellow-green hue. The nose shows plenty of minerals, housed in beautiful citrus notes - lime and tangerine, mainly. The plate is just as laden with minerals. There is a strong streak of salinity which runs through the sip and a very fresh acidity. The finish lingers with those lime notes hanging in there the longest. 


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Monday, January 15, 2024

A Piedmont Barbera We Can Afford To Drink Every Night

People sometimes don't give wine importers enough credit for what they do. The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us. Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Miami-based importer Mack and Schühle find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office about a decade ago. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

Mack and Schuhle say that Riva Leone was a "man of unique character and personality who was an ambassador for the special wines of the Langhe all throughout Europe in the early 20th Century." They are proud to help carry his legacy in wines which they say "uphold the winemaking traditions of Piedmont for a new generation of wine lovers across the world."

The 2021 Riva Leone Piemonte Barbera 2021 was vinified in steel tanks, where the wine achieved malolactic fermentation. It was then aged for 12 months in American and French oak. The wine's alcohol level sits comfortably at 13% abv and it sells for a mere $12. 

This wine is medium dark garnet in color. The nose is full of brambly cherry and raspberry aromas laced with spice and oak. The palate is fruity and spicy with a generous supply of tannic grip. A long finish carries a bit of sweetness along after the sip. Great with a meat sauce pasta or with sweet Italian sausages. 


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Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Sweet Italian Bubbles From Asti

Wine importers do not get enough credit for what they do. The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us. Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office a bit more than a decade ago. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

One fun member of their portfolio is the Acquesi Asti DOCG Sparkling Wine. The Moscato grapes for this bubbly were grown in Asti, in Italy's Piedmont region. The distributor relates the winery's description of the locale like this:

"The vineyards are located on the hilly ridge that goes from Alice Bel Colle to Santo Stefano Belbo passing through the amazing hills of Ricaldone, located at an altitude between 250 and 400 meters above sea level. A large part of the soils that give life to our Cuvée are characterized by light limestone marl while the minority part has a strong sandy component. The different microclimates affected by this selection of musts offer a complete photograph of the expressions of the native aromatic varieties."

Sounds like a beautiful place. I'm ready for a visit. Winemaker Daniele Astegiano produced this sparkler to 7% abv and it retails for $18.

This wine has bubbles galore, for a minute or so. A huge, white, frothy head pours up and hangs around a bit before dissipating. The nose is a beauty, full of ripe peaches, apples, pears and nectarines. The palate is just as sweet, maybe sweeter. It's not exactly a dessert wine, but it  certainly would do in a pinch. The pairing with dessert is a natural, as is its more reserved role with Asian food or sushi. 


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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Sweet Wine From Sicily For The Holidays Or Anytime

The holidays are a great time for dessert wines. The festivities just seem to shine a little brighter with a sweet wine in your glass, which is why I always try to have a few, at least. If you missed your chance at holiday sweets, there is another opportunity on the way. We call it Valentine's Day. 

One of the finest sweeties I have had was from the Sicilian producer Donnafugata. Donnafugata produces wines from a number of vineyards across the island on their estates in Contessa Entellina, Pantelleria, Vittoria and Etna. The historical family cellars in Marsala serve as a center for innovation. 

The iconic 2021 Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria is a sweet, complex, and aromatic wine made of 100% Muscat of Alexandria grapes, also known as Zibibbo. Passito is the style of wine made from dried grapes. Why call this wine Ben Ryé? The name comes from the Arabic term for "Son of the Wind." The wind always seems to be sweeping around the grape vines on the island of Pantelleria.

The wine was aged for eight months in oak and at least a year in the bottle before being released for sale. Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and the price is $46 for the 375 ml bottle.

This white dessert wine has a most beautiful, rich-looking copper color. The nose is just as enticing, with big aromas of orange candy and dried apricots. The palate is a sheer delight. It is sweet enough to be dessert on its own, but has enough acidity to pair with your favorite after-dinner sweets or a selection of cheeses. It is pricy, but it is an experience that can be savored. 


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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Kosher Barbera D'Asti

People who are looking for kosher wines should look into the lines offered by the Royal Wine Corporation. They import wines to the U.S. from all over the world and produce wines at their winery in Southern California. They have been in business for 175 years, dating back eight generations to their beginning in Europe. Their wines are top quality, as I have found through tasting a number of their bottlings through the years.

Royal's Director of PR and Manager of Wine Education Gabriel Geller says that this year "brings an abundance of exciting releases to complement every course" of holiday meals.

Geller says that the newly arrived Lovatelli wines are a treat. The line from Piemonte includes a Primitivo ($16.99), a Barbera d’Asti ($24.99), and an Orbaio Rosso blend ($29.99), as well as two vermouths ($24.99). The Lovatelli Barbera D’Asti clocks in with alcohol at 14% abv. It is mevushal. 

This wine is quite dark in the glass, almost indigo with a violet hue around the rim. The nose is heavy with black fruit - plums, blackberries, black raspberries. The palate is loaded with those fruit flavors, as well as savory notes of earth, leather, cigar and allspice. The tannins are firm and ready for a steak. The acidity is mouthwatering. 


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

An Italian Red From The Heel Of The Boot

The Susumaniello grape is a rarity. It is found growing only in the southern reaches of Italy, in Apulia, Puglia, the "heel of the boot" if you are looking at Italy on a map. It is a grape which is usually used for blending, but this bottling offers a full varietal version of it.

The 2021 Ruggero di Bardo Susumaniello came from Trader Joe's in a squatty bottle. As with many of the wines I have tried from that store, it is surprisingly good. Maybe I should stop being surprised after shopping at TJ's for decades. 

There is not a lot of information out there about this wine, or at least I didn't find much. It is reportedly aged in both steel tanks and oak barrels and it definitely shows the oak effect, although not to distraction. Alcohol sits at 4.5% abv and the bottle costs $12.

This wine is as dark as ink in the glass. It smells dark, too, with notes of black cherry, blackberry, clove, cinnamon, forest floor and hints of vanilla and cedar. The palate is bold and fruity, with cherry flavors hitting the tongue first. The sweet oak spice is enjoyable, not overdone. Tannins are firm and the wine has a good tannic grip. The overall feeling of sweetness is beautiful, but don’t expect a dessert wine. This is a truly enjoyable red wine at a truly affordable price. 


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Mixing Wine And Fashion

The Donnafugata winery was founded in 1983 by Giacomo Rallo, but there were three generations of winemaking experience before him. A fifth is now helping to create quality wines from five estates of Sicily.

The winery is thrilled by their partnership with the fashion boutique Dolce & Gabbana. Donnafugata has no problem expanding their reach from wine into fashion, just as they have done with art and music.

The 2019 Donnafugata Dolce & Gabbana Tancredi was made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero d’Avola and Tannat grapes. The wine came from the Terre Siciliane IGT. Aging took place over 12 months in oak and three years in the bottle. Alcohol hits 14.2% abv and it retails for $48.

The wine is very dark. The nose is quite expressive, with bright blackberry and blueberry aromas drifting in and out of oak spice and wonderful notes of licorice, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. On the palate, dark fruit bursts forth, with notes of tobacco, spice and earth playing supporting roles. 


Wednesday, May 31, 2023

From Sicily With Nero D'Avola

The Donnafugata winery was founded in 1983 by Giacomo Rallo, but there were three generations of winemaking experience before him. A fifth is now helping to create quality wines from five estates of Sicily.

Cerasuolo di Vittoria is the first and only red wine in Sicily which has DOCG status. It is made from Nero d'Avola and Frappato grapes, vinified in steel tanks and aged there for eight months before maturing for another 10 months in the bottle.

The Donnafugata website describes the front label art as "a fantastic figure of a woman who is giving the gift of … flowers and fruits." It is a lovely and eye-catching illustration to go with the lovely wine inside the bottle.

This wine is medium tinted in a violet hue. It sports a nose of raspberry, but the fruit is just about covered up by a savory blanket. There is a strong earthy element to the aroma package, and even a bit of barnyard funk. The palate is quite dark - black raspberry, blackberry, bramble - with an extremely savory aspect. It is a very tasty wine, the acidity is dead-on perfect, and the tannins are firm, so it will pair well with your meaty dishes or pizza. 


Monday, May 22, 2023

Barolo In A Family Way

Pio Cesare has been producing Barolo and Barbaresco wines in the Italian city of Alba for more than 135 years. They are now in the fifth generation of family winemakers. The man named Pio Cesare began it all by making wine just for family and friends. He was so good at it, though, that it turned into a career.

Those who followed in his footsteps have held the quality high. They have been doing wonderful things with Nebbiolo grapes for well over a century, and it doesn’t appear that they plan on stopping anytime soon.

This Barolo wine has a medium-dark violet color, with a sort of brick red tint to it. Aromas of plums, blueberries, cassis and flowers come forth on the nose. The palate is black fruit and earth, with a peppery note and a firm set of tannins. A savory aspect rides along with the fruit, and there is a fine acidity which will make for some delicious pairings with food. 


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

A Twist On The Super Tuscan Recipe

San Felice is an Italian wine estate situated a half hour from Siena, in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. Their flagship wine, Vigorello, has grown and matured along with the winery. It started off in 1968, as a 100% Sangiovese wine. It was the first wine from Tuscany to incorporate international wine grapes, making Vigorello the first Super Tuscan wine. 

Today, Vigorello is crafted from 35% Pugnitello grapes, 30% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Pugnitello is a grape native to Tuscany. Once thought to be Montepulciano, but DNA research showed that it is its own grape. Pugnitello languished almost forgotten for years before being resurrected by studies at the University of Florence. 

The grapes sprouted early in the 2018 vintage for San Felice. A warm March and April were followed by a rainy May and the usual mix of heat and showers for the summer. September brought about sunny days and cool nights, which helped the grapes along to their proper maturity.

The fruit was vinified and aged for 24 months in French oak barriques, then aged another eight months in the bottle. Alcohol tips 14% abv while the wine retails for around $60.

Vigorello is a dark wine, allowing almost no light to pass through it. The nose holds a savory shield over the fruit aromas of plum, blackberry and raspberry. The palate is a complete joy - full of dark fruit which is colored by a rustic earthiness. The wine isn’t afraid to flex its muscles. The tannins are firm, but fine. That, plus the refreshing acidity, makes for a wine which is literally made for the dinner table.


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Monday, February 20, 2023

Not Barolo, But Nebbiolo

This wine - Ebbio Langhe Nebbiolo - is produced by Fontanafredda, in the Langhe area of Piedmont. Established in 1858, they are the largest certified organic winery in Piedmont. The Nebbiolo grapes for Ebbio were grown in hillside vineyards on the 250-acre estate. The wine was vinified in stainless steel tanks, then aged eight months in neutral wood, then finished with another few months aging in the bottle. 

Aging makes the difference between a Nebbiolo wine and a Barolo, which is also made from Nebbiolo grapes. The Barolo will age in wood for about three years. Winemaker Giorgio Lavagna brings the Ebbio in at an alcohol level of 13.5% abv. It sells for around $25. 

This 2019 wine is ruby red, but with a tinge of brick around the edge of the glass. The nose is full of ripe cherry and some very fresh spices, cinnamon and nutmeg. The palate shows full red fruit with a hint of orange peel and a minty herbal slant. The tannins are smooth and the mouthfeel is full. As always, Nebbiolo is a pleasure. 


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

A Nice Italian Wine For Right Now

Dolcetto is my kinda grape. The folks at Agricola Brandini like it, too. They say that it is "the wine of the Piedmontese peasant family… an expression of simplicity and freshness. It is a wine that wants to be immediate, in the realization and in the sensations that it transmits." That works for me, because I simply cannot maintain a wine cellar. I want it now, immediately, I can't wait. And Dolcetto doesn't mind being opened early. In fact, it likes it. 

The Brandini estate vineyards are Barolo-classified and run by Piero Bagnasco and his daughters, Giovanna and Serena. Winemaker Beppe Caviola oversees production. The 2020 Filari Lunghi - it translates to "long rows" - is made entirely of the Dolcetto grape farmed organically in the Dolcetto d'Alba DOC in Piemonte. Fermentation and aging happens in stainless steel tanks, and the wine is released about six months after harvest. Alcohol is somewhat restrained, at 13.5% abv, and the wine sells for around $22.

This medium dark wine is plenty aromatic. There is big fruit first - blueberry, blackberry, black cherry - met with cinnamon, nutmeg, forest floor, a whiff of smoke and a splash of tar. The palate is robust, to say the least. That dark fruit is there to lead the way, with spices in tow and a strong tannin profile that is more than ready to attack a hunk of beef. This wine is demanding on its own, but at its best when paired with a meaty dish. 


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Crossing The Rubicon For Sangiovese

I could find out little about the Gran Conti winery, except that they sell plenty of Italian wines at lower-than-reasonable prices. The grapes for their 2021 Sangiovese Rubicone were grown in the Rubicone Valley in the southern part of Emilia-Romagna. The wine has an alcohol level of 12% abv and I got mine at Whole Foods Market for $10.

This wine is a rusty red color in the glass. The nose carries a strong aroma of sweet cherries, leather and a bit of cedar and cigar box. The palate shows a darker side, with heavy mineral notes draped over the cherry flavor. The wine’s acidity is fresh and the finish is savory. I bought it for cooking a pot roast, but very much enjoyed sipping a glass.


Monday, January 2, 2023

Vermentino Is My Favorite - Today

San Felice is an Italian winemaking company which is located in the Chianti Classico area of Tuscany. Their history includes the fact that they were on the leading edge of the development of the Super Tuscan style, decades ago.

We are sampling today, however, a Vermentino. This is probably my favorite grape from Italy - my favorite white grape, anyway. That's the beauty of wine's variety - there are so many grapes, so many styles, so many pairings, that it is almost impossible for an adventurous taster to be limited to just one favorite.

The 2021 San Felice Toscana is made from mostly Tuscan Vermentino grapes, grown on the Perolla estate in Maremma, with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc thrown in for some extra aromatics. Personally, I prefer Vermentino from Sicily or Sardinia - despite what science tells us, I know I can smell and taste the ocean in those.

This Vermentino has alcohol at 13% abv and sells online for less than $18. I got my bottle at a sale during the holidays at Eataly for considerably less, so it was a steal.

The wine's nose comes across a bit muted, with a little grapefruit, a little lemon and a whole lot of that mineral aroma that comes up off the sidewalk after a rain. There is a beautiful salinity available as it begins to open up in the glass. The palate shows a bit of the Sauvignon Blanc with a pink grapefruit note, while the savory minerals carry it along. Acidity is fresh and inviting, offering plenty of pairing possibilities from pork to poisson. 


Monday, November 14, 2022

A Great Fall Wine From Italy's Ankle

The Caldora winery is in the community of Ortona, in Italy's Abruzzo region, just above the "ankle" on the back of the "boot."  Abruzzo is described as an endless vineyard, from the mountains to the Adriatic Sea. The winery has a special arrangement with the many small growers in the two coastal provinces of Teramo to the north and Chieti to the south.  They say they don't actually buy grapes from these growers, but rather rent the vineyards and use the fruit for their wines.

The 100% Montepulciano d'Abruzzo grapes for the 2020 Caldora wine were grown in Chieti, harvested by hand, destemmed and gently crushed for vinification. Alcohol hits only 13% abv and the wine sells for around $16. It is imported by González Byass USA.

This medium dark red wine offers a nose of red fruit aromas, joined by some cigar box, earth and baking spices. The great smell gives way to a great taste, with flavors of cherry, raspberry and a savory serving of salinity. The wine seems much more open and complex than it did a coupla years back when I tried it. Very nice finish, medium in length and somewhat savory.  


Friday, November 4, 2022

A Beautiful Red Wine From Italy's Bootheel

The Torrevento estate in Apulia dates back to 1400, but it wasn't a winery then.  It was a Benedictine monastery. Winemaking took root in 1948, when Francesco Liantonio bought Torrevento and its vineyards. The old monastery now houses the cellar and casks. The Torrevento winemaking philosophy concerns staying out of the way and letting the terroirs of the rugged Murgia and Salento regions speak for themselves. 

The Nero di Troia grape (or Uva di Troia) thrives on the calcareous and rocky soils of Torrevento's vineyards. They have made a full-varietal wine from this grape since 1992. The wine is aged in steel tanks for eight months, then for a year in oak. Alcohol hits 13.5% abv and the wine sells for about $25. 

This 2016 Torrevento Vigne Pedale Riserva Castel del Monte DOCG is tinted medium dark ruby. The nose is somewhat muted upon opening, but shows dark fruit - blackberry, plum - laced with an earthy minerality and a whiff of smoke. The palate has the dark fruit and cherries up front, and the sip is smooth. Spices and herbs liven up the taste, but it does not seem over-oaked. The tannins are well integrated and provide ample food-friendliness without getting in the way of the mouthfeel. The finish is medium-long and the minerals play through to the end.


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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Bubbles, Italian Style

Valdo Winery is located in Italy's Valdobbiadene region, in Veneto, founded in 1926. The winery has long been a leader in Prosecco production, and now they catch consumers' eyes with special edition packaging which is backed up by the quality sparkling rosé inside the fancy bottle. 

The bottle art for the Valdo Floral Rosé Brut: Special Jungle Edition was commissioned from Italian designer Fabrizio Sclavi. This is the fourth special edition by Valdo, devoted to the world of flowers and the wild. The bottle is redesigned each year with an original illustration and a different theme. 

Inside the bottle: a blend of two native Italian grape varieties, Glera and Nerello Mascalese. The former is the white variety used in the production of Prosecco, while the latter is a red variety which thrives in the warm seashore climate of Sicily. The skillful blending of the two varieties creates a rosé with an intense fruity and floral bouquet, low alcohol, and exuberant bubbles. Alcohol sits at 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $19.

This lovely pink sparkler carries a nose of ripe strawberries and flowers, while the palate has loads of fresh acidity and flavors of red fruit. The bubbles are numerous, but enjoy them before they disappear. This is a festive bubbly, suitable for any occasion that calls for some fun.