Tag Archives: italy

Back to the Future

Back to the Future

Challenging Times and the Road Ahead

We all have dealt with our share of adversity. You would think acknowledging the commonality of that experience would help to make it a little easier. Still working on that one…

I hope to be back at this wine/food writing gig, after years recovering from several orthopedic back and shoulder surgeries with extended recoveries and the overlapping crazy COVID period. I do hope the light is at the end of tunnel and bright years are ahead for myself, family and friends.

I will be working to renew old friendships and contacts and build new ones, as I enter back into the fine wine and gourmet food space again. My wife and I have been discussing the road ahead and we are excited to begin a new phase of wine and food travel, industry interviews, wine writing, technical training and meeting new friends. I have been drinking my share of beverages over this time, finding new auction sources and experimenting with making my own spirits. I have broadened my focus from fine wine and craft beer, to include premium whisky, and intend to add a tour of Kentucky distilleries to my list of must-do travel.

“Slow foods” is a passion of mine and since Italy seems to be the home, we have Italy travel plans for 2022 and hitting a few Agritourismos there to start (if we can find a few that haven’t already been booked). If you aren’t familiar with these properties, I will be writing a piece on this topic soon. I think Italian classes are on our horizon too… As my Sommelier training was heavily weighted to include paired cuisine, I will begin adding food writing to this site and promoting more wine/beer and food pairing content.

I apologize for the previous need to slow things down, but I expect to ramp-up during the balance of 2021 and a busy 2022 to come!

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Quarterly Wine Collector’s Tasting

Wine List

  1. Champagne – 2013 Cedric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Val Vilaine

  2. Cru Beaujolais – 2015 Marcel Lapierre Morgon Cuvée Marcel Lapierre

  3. OR Pinot Noir – 2014 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills

  4. Barolo – 1971 Barisone Barolo

  5. Barolo – 1970 Cantine Villadoria Riserva Speciale

  6. Barolo – 2000 Paolo Scavino Cannubi

  7. CA Syrah – 2014 Sine Qua Non Syrah Piranha Waterdance

  8. Vintage Port – 1985 Fonseca Porto Vintage

Barolo Education

Comparing the older style 47 and 48 year old Baroli to the newer style 18 year old was fascinating. The first two were definitely pushing the limit on age. The Barisone had lost most of its fruit and was highly oxidized, but the Cantine Villadoria still had some fruit on the palate and although it was oxidized too… there was still a fresher fruit aspect. The 2000 Scavino was very nice and just hitting its stride for my palate. Just the right balance of fruit, acidity and tannin. It was interesting to compare the aged bottles. Granted, a single instance with only a small sample, but it would appear the vicinity of 20 years seems to produce amazing Baroli for my palate.

Grower – Producer Champagne

The Bouchard Champagne to start off the night was excellent. No dosage, but still had a fruity-sweet character for a Brut. The bubbles were so fine, it was definitely a signature for this producer. This has opened a new category of Champagne for me. I intend to look for more small production, grower vintage Champagne.

Cru Beaujolais Intro

For under $30, these premium Beaujolais seem to be an interesting category to explore. I have never really been down this path, having been heavily influenced by Beaujolais Nouveau which I do not enjoy. The clean, freshness of the fruit with a nice acidic backbone – this reminded me of a quality Carneros Pinot Noir, with more of a strawberry/raspberry fruit profile. Another wine category I intend to explore moving forward.

Sine Qua Non

Second time I have tasted this producer and this was consistent with the first impression. Very fruity, but reasonably balanced profile. NOT a food wine. I would like to be aware of the hospitality expressed in sharing this wine… this is an expensive bottle, but I have to tell you… this reminds me of some Australian d’Arenberg Syrah I have in my cellar at a more reasonable price point.

Vintage Port Finish

Perfect topper for the evening. Beautiful soft, vintage port wine to finish our evening. Not overly oxidized, with a good balance of fresh & stewed fruit. This was right on what a vintage port should be!

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Filed under Barolo, Cool Climate Wine, International Wines by Region, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Piedmonte, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, U.S. Wines by Region, Willamette Valley, Wine by Varietal, Wine Collecting, Wine Education, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

Rico Soave!!

               

Pardon the reference to cliche 90’s pop culture, but it does kind of capture the feeling. This producer will turn your world upside down! Soave… memories of wine as a kid were my relatives drinking cheap Soave on a weekend afternoon. Of course, that graduated to Mogen-David Concord wine with dinner.

This was my understanding of Soave for decades. Now, I know how wrong I was. My wife and I visited Soave, Italy a few years ago and found a producer that was mind-blowingly good: Pieropan. Since then I have purchased this wine domestically and have held it in my cellar for a few years. My wife and I just popped a 2013 Pieropan Soave Classico. What a beautiful white wine!

2013 Pieropan Soave Classico

Soave, Italy

Tasting Note:

Nose is rich with candied lemon rind, lemon mousse and chalky minerality. The mouthfeel of this five year old white wine is astonishing. The texture is like melted butter! The fruit is fresh and crisp on the attack with high acidity. The oak is noticeable, but not overpowering. The palate follows the nose closely, but adds more complexity with green apple, pear and floral elderberry. The lemon mousse on the palate is gorgeous! The attack moves on to a slightly bitter, chalky mid-palate of key lime and a fruity finish that lasts forever. The few years of bottle age significantly improved the mouthfeel of this wine.

I only have a few bottles left. I need to buy more. At under $20/btl this is an exceptional deal!

 

 

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Italy: North vs. South – A Red Wine Blind Tasting

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wine

    

  • Zenato – 2012 Alanera – Veneto, Italy

  • Fuedo Maccari – 2012 Saia – Sicily, Italy

  • Tenuta Sette Ponti – 2014 Poggio al Lupo – Tuscany, Italy

  • Planeta – 2015 La Segreta – Sicily, Italy

  • Altesino – 2013 Rosso – Tuscany, Italy

  • Planeta – 2011 Burdese – Sicily, Italy

The Setup

A Young’s Market (wine distributor) rep hosted this blind tasting at Alessia’s Ristorante (Mesa, AZ). All wines were drunk while enjoying a charcuterie platter.

  • For the purposes of this tasting, it was assumed Tuscany was “South”.
  • Northern Italy is cooler than Southern: cooler climates generally produce wines with more acidity.
  • Northern Italy generally utilizes a different winemaking style: Southern Italy tends to make easier drinking red wine, versus Northern where reds tend to have more tannin and can be bottle aged. Tuscany in Central Italy can make both styles, but the Sangiovese and Cab Sauv grapes that dominate this area are not difficult to recognize.
  • The ringer:
    • Unusual winemaking processes commonly used by producers in the Western Veneto area (North) can produce fruity, rich red wines:
      • Appassimento – a process for drying of grapes and concentrating flavors (think raisins)
      • Ripasso – a process where additional skins from previously pressed fruit is added to the must to add structure

Wine Tasting Notes  & Comments

So, I landed five out of six for North/South growing region and the one ringer DID fool me. The Zenato wine was made Appassimento style and I thought it was Southern. The wine selections was great, but I missed having a traditional Barolo (North region) in the mix and it would have been fun to add a Dolcetto, Barbera (both North varietals), or Aglianico (South varietal) that might trick us. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a classic southern wine and probably should have been represented instead of multiple wines from Sicily.

Before we begin with the tasting notes, an observation about my palate. I enjoy fruity wines with the best of them, but they need to have some structure. Flabby, grape juice tasting wines are not my favorite, in fact I can enjoy big, young Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Keep that in mind when reading the notes below…

Zenato – My favorite wine of the night. Lots of fruit both red and black on the nose and palate. Medium-low acidity and tannin with a dark chocolate mid-palate and finish. There was an interesting almost tar-like finishing note, with violets. Something like the finish of a good aged Barbaresco… The wine had some structure, but the complexity was the real draw. This is a drink now wine. Best drinking window 2016-2018.

Fuedo Maccari – My number two from the list. Saia is one of the few wines coming out of Sicily with a reputation preceding it. This is a fruit forward wine of black fruit and dark chocolate, with medium acidity and medium-low tannins. There is a touch of sweetness. This is a lighter, softer wine, but a bit muscular compared to a typical Nero d’Avola. These Sicilian Nero d’Avola wines are fantastic value red table wines, but definitely don’t elevate to the level of product coming from better mainland producers. Saia is arguably the best of the Sicilian group, but will cost you a few dollars more. For those who enjoy a consistently fruity wine year over year, easy drinking – with some complexity, this would be a solid selection. Best drinking window: 2015-2019.

Tenuta Sette Ponti – This was a very disappointing, overpriced wine. I would choose their Crognolo label for much less money, or their Oreno label for a little more. High tannins and acidity make up its structure. The wine is not fruit forward and primarily presents an extremely bitter chocolate palate with some earthy character. You could say: “with some bottle age this may tone down”… but there is not enough balance to think it will improve drastically. The texture is good, with a long finish. Best drinking window: 2020-2030.

Planeta

La Segreta – Fruit forward with all red fruit on the nose and palate. The structure has no tannins and low acidity. The texture is slightly watery. This wine is past its drinking window. You can tell this is a drink now wine, that should have been drunk: 2014-2016. The 50% Nero d’Avola and 20% Merlot in this mix was a match made for a drink now table wine.

Burdese – Slightly fruit forward with red fruit on the nose and palate. Strong dark chocolate character on the mid-palate and finish. The cab franc adds a slightly spicy character. The structure was high in both tannins and acidity. This wine still needs more time in the bottle. Could make an effective food wine. Best drinking window: 2019-2022.

Altesino – Fruit forward with red and black fruits on the nose and palate. There was a forest floor character to the nose that blows off after about 20 mins. This is a very average Rosso di Montalcino with a very little bit of Brunello character. It is easy drinking and without much structure. The typical dark chocolate finish is there. Pretty decent, but maybe I just want to compare it too much with the much more expensive Brunello wines.

Fun Stuff

We invited our neighbors to join us and we all had a great time, including dinner afterwards. There were four other couples at the event and everyone enjoyed themselves. The rep from Young’s Market was fairly knowledgeable and added interest. If you haven’t tried a blind tasting, give it a shot. It adds a little extra entertainment to a tasting and the suspense of your assessment adds to the experience.

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2006 Macarico Aglianico del Vulture

2006 Macarico Aglianico del Vulture

Basilicata, Italy

Wine Tasting Note:

Fruity nose of blackberry, plum and black currant with hints of leather and pepper. After 11 years this is still a BIG wine. All the black fruit comes through on the palate with loads of white pepper that turns to black pepper on the finish. The earth shows as brambly fruit and leather, beginning on the mid-palate and getting stronger during a very long finish. This wine is still very tannic and the acidity is high. The fruit is still fresh, but starting to show age. Best drinking window: 2016-2022. This drinks very much like a young Gigondas Southern Rhone wine heavy on Syrah in the blend. Personally, I can enjoy strong tannins, when the wine is complex and balanced like this. If you don’t know Rhone wines, the closest domestic comparison would be young, robust Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Like Napa Cabs, this varietal tends to pair well with BBQ and red meat. Aglianico is always a good value, always ages well and is the best varietal of Southern Italy!

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Wine Buying Strategies for the Average Consumer

So, let’s say it is Friday and you are Mr./Ms. average wine consumer on your way home from work. You drop in to the grocery store for a few things and a bottle, or two, of wine for the weekend. Your tendency is probably to go to a brand label you know that has proven reasonable value in the $10-15/btl. range, like Yellow Tail, Cupcake, or Woodbridge. Now, let’s say this day you just got a raise, or your just feeling a little adventurous and decide your willing to up your budget to $20/btl. and you look at the 100′ long wall of wine in front of you… and you are totally lost! What do you do? Make a selection at random? by varietal? because you like the pretty label? If you are like me (before the wine training), I eventually gave up and rolled the dice, picking a bottle at random of a varietal I thought I enjoyed. Half the time, I struck-out and had to pour the bottle down the drain. It happened too often to stick to my pride and drink the awful bottle.

If this sounds familiar, just what can you do to be a little more realistic and have a better chance of selecting a bottle you will enjoy? This will require a little advance thought and a little time to walk through the process, but in the end, you will feel like your money is being better spent!

How do You Drink Wine?

Most importantly, think about how you drink wine: with food, or without. Food requires wines with more acidity to cut through and compliment fats, proteins and carbs. Acidity is the component that makes you salivate and a “bite” is usually felt near the back sides of the mouth and tongue. Easy drinking (less acidic) wines may be what you enjoy, but are best drunk on their own. For example, it is difficult to find a Malbec, or Red Zinfandel with good acidity. I am convinced this is the result of producers assuming people have discovered Malbec and Zin as simple, fruity wines that drink well without food. These varietals can present much more character, but aren’t often produced this way. In the end, wine is a business and if a producer doesn’t think they can sell a type of wine, they will simply choose not to produce it.

If you enjoy wine primarily accompanied with food, then one approach can be looking for regions that are known for producing primarily acidic wines, i.e. Chianti (Italy), White Burgundy (France), or White/Red Bordeaux (France).

Special Case: if you are a red meat eater, wines with high tannins should be your choice, as the tannins break-down the fats in the meat and clean your palate between bites. When your palate is cleared, it prepares your taste buds to appreciate the full flavor of the food with each bite. Tannins are the component that makes your mouth feel like Marlon Brando chewing on cotton balls for his next big scene in The Godfather. The cottony dryness is usually felt between the teeth and gums. These wines are fantastic paired with red meat. Examples would be: all Cabernet Sauvignon, Italian Sangiovese, French Red Bordeaux. Italian pasta dishes with red meat sauces are also good pairings for these types of wines.

Why Do You Drink Wine?

Do you drink wine for the appreciation of the flavor, or do you just enjoy relaxing with a bottle of wine after work? If you are the latter, just make an effort to learn the better quality growing regions and select something in your price range from one of these areas. In general, wine regions that are known for their quality, or have been growing wine for generations, tend to offer generally better wines. An example would be Napa Valley in the U.S., or Bolgheri in Italy. If you can find a $20 bottle of Cab Sauv from these areas, give it a shot…  it is more likely to be enjoyed, than a random Cab from Lodi, or Mendocino. If flavor is your thing, you are going to be one of those needing to put some effort into learning about wine regions, because that is the only real method for selecting wines by flavor profile.

If you are selecting wine to enjoy with friends, or at a restaurant… some of these same strategies can work. If you are lucky at the restaurant, you might get a server that actually knows something about wine, but in general think of these situations as opportunities to learn more about wine. I have written several more advanced posts on this site to help with a detailed approach to fine wine selection, if you are ready to dive in.

Cheers!

 

 

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2010 Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva

Wine Tasting Notes:

2017 Carpineto Chianti Classico Riserva

Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy

I really enjoyed this wine! Great mix of old & new world styles. Blackberry, raspberry and a touch of mint on the nose. The palate is of blackberry, raspberry and black currant in a rich, fruity style more reminiscent of Brunello, than Chianti Classico. This is my kind of fruit forward, mouth-filling and structured Sangiovese. No finesse here. If you like some tannin in your reds, drink now. If a softer wine is your speed, give it another 3-5 years in the bottle. With medium-high acidity and medium-high tannins, this will easily mature well. Pair this wine with red meats and red sauces. The value in Italian wines is undeniable!

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2008 Antinori Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore

Guado Pic

2008 Antinori Guado al Tasso Bolgheri Superiore

Bolgheri Superiore DOC, Tuscany, Italy

Wine Tasting Note:

Deep, dense purple color with brownish hue around the rim. Would have guessed older than 8 years in the bottle. Closed and limited nose on open. Not much coming through yet except alcohol, bitter chocolate and watery texture. Sampling until ready… about 45 mins. hitting its stride. Still ample freshness and has become fruit forward as opening. Plum, boysenberry, blackberry in front. Minimum mid-palate, with a medium length finish of subtle dark chocolate. Tannins are grippy and high, with high acidity. The texture has improved, adding a bit of mouth-feel and volume. Great structure, but the fruit has become subtler than an earlier bottle. Fruity enough to be drunk on its own still, but perfect for a pairing with red sauce and meat dishes. Antinori has delivered another quality Tuscan blend with versatility and some aging potential. I enjoyed a few glasses prior to dinner, but this would be even better with food. If you enjoy aged wine flavor profiles, this should be best drunk 2017-2018. If you aren’t concerned whether your wine is fruit-forward, the tannins should resolve somewhat in another 3-4 yrs. If you’re like me and you prefer some noticeable drying tannins, this wine is perfect now. A nice middle-ground between old and new world flavor profiles.

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Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano

720070

2014 Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC

Sangiovese Blend (80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon)

Carmignano, Italy

Tasting Note:

Walking through the store today and saw this wine. Have not tasted a wine from the Carmignano region in Italy and was curious. The area has an interesting winemaking history dating back centuries. I had success with the same selection process years ago, when I tried my first Anglianico from the Vulture region. Unfortunately, this was not as pleasant a surprise. The wine is a very good table wine meant to accompany food. At the $14.99 USD/btl price, it was priced just about right… The nose is weak with red & black fruits, leather and alcohol. The palate is barely fruit forward, the red fruit being sour raspberry and the black is blackberry and black currant. The mid-palate has some leather and there is a medium length bitter chocolate finish. The wine is a bit thin & watery, with medium acidity and medium tannins. This is fairly well balanced for table wine quality, potentially pairing well with pork chops. Would not go out of my way to find this, but would not turn it down if served with a meal.

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Italian Wine Tasting

venice pic

Wine Tasting

Alessia’s Italian Ristorante with Vinifera Imports

Mesa, AZ

I enjoy Alessia’s and it had been several months since I had visited last. So, with my wife busy and a free evening on the horizon, I decided to grab a bite and enjoy a wine tasting event. John Carr (Owner) has a good palate and a pretty fair depth of Italian wine knowledge and his wife Shari is a killer chef. If you’re in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metro, definitely make it a point to stop by. The experience won’t disappoint.

Vinifera is not my favorite Italian Wine Importer, but they have several labels I enjoy. I didn’t know the wines being tasted that night in advance, so I was hoping to be surprised.

Wine Tasting Notes

Barberani Ovieto Castagnolo 2014 (white blend)

Most enjoyable wine of the evening. Nose of lemon curd and herbs. Palate was of rich lemon meringue and a touch of spice. Tremendous coating mouth-feel – this wine had spent a substantial amount of time on the lees. High acidity, but balanced enough not to make it over-bearing without food. Well done white wine, that could be drunk on its own, or paired well with fish and pasta in white cream sauce. At $16/btl retail, a good value.

Cascina Chicco Barbera d’Alba Granera Alta 2013

Most disappointing wine of the evening. It was very much a rustic Old World style Barbera and not my favorite approach with this varietal. This was a food wine only. Barbera is capable of so much more, when in deft hands such as Vajra. Black cherry and alcohol on the nose. Completely over-oaked. Palate is not fruit-forward. In front, you get brown butter and smoke transitioning to sour black cherry. Poor, watery mouth-feel and medium-high tannins. Long finish of brown butter, if you like that sort of thing. At $22/btl retail, I wouldn’t rush out and grab this wine.

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2010

Fontodi is an old Italian producer with a long history… and that traditional approach shows. 2010 was a great year in Tuscany for wine and I was hoping for something exceptional. Instead, it was very average. A quality Chianti, but traditional and unexceptional. Nose of red cherry, mushrooms, bramble and rubbing alcohol. Slightly sour red cherry and menthol on the palate. Very high tannins. Medium mouth-feel and high acidity. Short to medium finish. Would be a great pairing with red meat and pasta with red sauce. At $40/btl retail a decent value.

Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo Riserva 2008

Best red wine of the evening. Very weak nose and definitely needed a little time to open. The palate was more complex than the other wines that evening. Fruit forward with black cherry and a touch of black currant, mushroom, leather and bramble on the mid-palate, with a weak bitter chocolate finish. Medium high tannins and high acidity. Well-balanced and the best mouth-feel of the reds that night. I enjoyed this wine and it is just entering its drinking window, 2016-2021. At $70/btl retail, I would pick a well-priced quality Brunello first.

Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino 2010

Unless you have a nice cellar and ten more years to wait, stay away from this wine. Black fruit and menthol on the nose. Very high acidity and very, very high rustic tannins. Maybe a touch fruit forward, but the acidity and tannins overwhelm everything. Impossible to assess much else. This is an Old World Chianti-style Brunello. All the things I love about Brunello are missing: good mouth-feel, balance, elegance… This wine should not have been bottled as Brunello. The grapes may have originated in a vineyard there, but the style has Chianti written all over it and at $135/btl retail, forget it.

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