Sunday, August 19, 2007

Italian Red Wine Class: Summary

How much do you know about Italian red wines? Would you like to learn more? If so, you should have been there yesterday at the Wine Education Class at the OurGlass Wine Co. The topic was Italian Red Wines. The class focused on some unique, exceptional red wines from all over Italy. We took a look at a handful of different regions and tasted the red wines of that region: i.e. Piedmont, Sicily, Tuscany, the Veneto, Puglia, to name a few. This class was another collaboration with OurGlass Wine Co.

Our guest speaker was Steven Chevalier from Ideal Wines. He was a wealth of knowledge about Italy. He is the person who actually sources the vineyards that they choose to import. So he knows the winemakers and vineyards personally. Steven was very personable and I am sure everyone learned a lot about Italian reds.

About 14 people attended the class, some from the North Shore Winers. We tasted ten wines, most costing under $20. There was also a platter of various Italian cheeses (including Parmesan, Tallegio and Piave), fresh bread and Soppressata. Brian also prepared a sheet listing all of the wines, with full descriptions, for each of the attendees. This was a nice touch.

Onto the wines…

Let me start with the most surprising wine of the day, the 2005 Tenuta Pederanza Lambrusco “Grasparossa” ($13.99) from the Emilia-Romagna region. “In the province of Reggio Emilia and Modena, Lambrusco vineyards extend from the slopes of the hills to the line of the Po River, which separates the district from Mantuan territory. All four of the existing Lambrusco Denominazioni do Origine Controllata are found in that zone. Lambrusco has an extremely noble background. The wild vine from which the existing variety originated, called labrusca by the Latins, was known to the Etruscans and Romans. And its fossilized remains have been found in soils of the Eocene period. Despite is extremely ancient origin, Lambrusco was never well known or appreciated outside its production area until it achieved a remarkable commercial success in the U.S. in the seventies and eighties. Despite the fact that it is now widely distributed, there are still many prejudices about the wine. Matters are not made easier by the widespread conviction that there is only one Lambrusco when, in reality, there are many, each different from the other in sensory characteristics and composition, whether in terms of the subvariety used or in those of area or origin.”

This is definitely not a Riunite Lambrusco! I did not know what to expect but found it to be a serious wine. It is a single varietal, estate bottled wine and is served chilled. It has a bit of frizzante, a slight carbonated taste, which is refreshing. It has lots of flavor, nice berry tastes. This is a perfect summer wine, something that would go well with pizza. This is not just a simple wine though. Even people that don’t like most wines might find they like this wine. A great value at this price and I highly recommend it.

Let us move on to the 2004 Castello La Lecchia Chianti Classico ($17.99) from Tuscany.
"Castello La Leccia is the typical Tuscany estate everyone deams about. Situated on an hill near Siena surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, the castle is an old fortress you reach through a long alley of cypresses. It is owned by an enthusiastic young man, Francesco Daddi, able to communicate his passion to everyone who works with him. With the help of Paolo Salvi, the famous enologist, he produces wines of increasing quality. The blend is made of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiola and spends 8 months in French barriques. It’s a perfect example of a grand modern Chianti, one that rivals the most ambitiously scaled wines of the region. With terrific fruit extraction and an ample overlay of oak. La Leccia gives a first impression of considerable power. But after an hour or so of breathing, the soft attractive fruit beneath the tannic cloak begins to emerge."

This was an excellent Chianti with nice flavors of cherry and raspberry. It has a nice bit of acidity and layers of complexity. I felt that the wine was a little tight and needed a bit more time to breathe. But that did not conceal the quality of this wine. I very much enjoyed this wine and would rate it at the top of similar Chiantis. I heartily recommend this wine.

We also got to taste their 2003 Castello La Lecchia Chianti Classico ‘Bruciagna’ ($29.99), their Riserva. This wine was not on the list for the class but Steven generously opened a bottle for us to taste. “Bruciagna is La Leccia’s best single-vineyard, its ‘Cru’, 1,150 feet in altitude. The hand picked grapes from Bruciagna yield 28 hectoliters of juice per hectare, a miniscule yield equal to or even less than that of the finest ‘Grand Cru’ Burgundy vineyards of the Côte de Nuits. Optimum quality fruit selection at harvest, scrupulous attention to every phase of the winemaking and 18 months in barrique end up in this bottle of deeply flavored, elegant and beautifully-structured wine. Decanting is recommended.”

This was a superb wine, a decadent delight. Though it had not been decanted or allowed to breath, the power of this wine was obvious. It is a very complex wine, with many layers of flavors including some dark berries and a bit of spice. It has a long, lingering finish. This is a wine to carefully savor. And at this price, it is a steal. Similar wines can cost twice as much. This is a wine that will benefit from cellaring and which will last a long time. Go ahead and splurge and buy this wine.

Now on to the Piedmonte region and the 2004 San Fereolo Dolcetto di Dogliani Valdiba ($10.99) “Only founded in 1992 by Nicoletta Bocca, this winery has received great critical acclaim from authorities such as Gambero Rosso. A consistent winner of Tre Bicchieri, its highest accolade, Bocca fashions Dolcetto and Barbera of unusual purity, power and finesse. The greater part of her holdings (totalling 10 hectares) are in the Valdiba, where steep slopes give powerful, tannic, long-lived wines. She also produces more elegant lots from the sandier soils of San Luigi, near the village of Valdiberti. There are many factors contributing to the seriousness of the wines. The vines are from forty to sixty years old, the rootstock is selected for producing small grapes, and the vinification and wood-ageing all aim at well-extracted, complex wines. Scents of liquorice and mature plum mingle with mineral notes and the more familiar fruit character of Dolcetto. Current production is under 4,000 cases.”

This is their introductory Dolcetto. It is more perfumy than other Dolcettos. It is concentrated with licorice and dark cherry flavors and light tannins. The wine sees no oak. It is an easy drinking wine, very pleasing. A good value wine.

We then moved onto one of San Fereolo’s more ambitious wines, the 2003 San Fereolo Austri Langhe Rosso ($23.99). “The Barbera could be mistaken for a chunky Barolo were it not for the depth of colour that gives away that it is Barbera. These vines were planted as far back as the 1940s, at an altitude of 450 meters. Its called Langhe Rosso because of the blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo.”

This is a well structured wine with great fruit flavors and a long, smooth finish. Plenty of complexity and well balanced. A serious wine which is definite to please. This wine would easily last ten years in your cellar. A good buy.

The 2004 Conti Zecca Donna Marzia Negromaro ($9.99) is from the Salento region. “Donna Marzia is the largest and best known of four estates in Salento owned by the Conti Zecca family. Salento's wine-growing history goes back thousands of years, at least to the Magna Graecia period (8th Century BCE) if not before. Trade with Asia Minor encouraged the development of wine-growing, through the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods right up to the eighteenth century arrival of the Bourbons, who were actively involved in the trade. The Conti Zecca family had moved from Naples at the end of the sixteenth century to settle in Leverano, and became large estate holders, practicing mixed agriculture, (including wine-growing). Their alliance with the Auverny, French bankers and businessmen who followed the Bourbons to the area, led to export to France, Sweden, England and Denmark. During the twentieth century the estate was greatly modernized, so that today it is at the forefront of quality wine production. From clonal selection and nurseries all the way to the bottling line, the estate marries the tradition of excellence to the most modern technical methods. Of the 800 hectares in Salento belonging to the family, Donna Marzia represents 190 hectares. Negroamaro (or Negramaro) is the hearty grape behind the success of lusty reds like Salice Salentino and Copertino. Its name means ‘bitter black’ but its wine is far from that. It gives a glass full of personality – full-bodied with gamey, dark fruit, rich and savoury without being overly jammy.”

This wine sees no oak and is filtered. It has lots of bright cherry flavors and is a little tannic on the finish. An easy drinking wine that is sure to please and a good value at this price. A lot of character for the price.

The 2005 Cantina Numa Tolenus Rosso Piceno ($9.99) is from the Marche region. “The Marche region is located in the central western area of Italy on the Adriatic Sea. This hilly, often mountainous area has been inhabited for about six thousand years. It belonged to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Over the centuries, it was occupied by many different peoples. Its population is a little less than 1.5 million people. Because of its rough terrain and unproductive soil, the Marche is not one of the most agriculturally advanced regions of Italy. Wheat, olives, corn, and fodder are abundant. The Marche is known for Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale, highly prized white veal. And what a selection of fish and seafood is available, including lobster, relatively rare in Italy. The Marche devotes about 60,000 acres to grapevines, its ranks 12th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about 48 million gallons, giving it a 10th place. About 38% of the wine production is red. The region produces 13 DOC wines. Rosso Piceno is a term given to blends of Sangiovese and Montepulciano. The Tolenus is 70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangiovese.”

This wine has a nice, fruit nose. That fruit is expressed on the palate as well. Such a delicious taste. It has a medium finish and is very smooth. A great everyday wine and a great value at this price. Enjoy this with pizza or pasta.

The 2004 Cantina Sasso Aglianico del Vulture ($11.99) is from the Campania region. “The Aglianico varietal has been cultivated in the Vulture area of the province of Potenza from the most ancient times. Vulture’s woods are dense and the volcanic soil rich and fertile. The Greeks planted the original Aglianico but it is now so firmly entrenched in Italy that it has earned native status. It is endearingly referred to as the “Barolo of the South.” The Aglianico grape sprouts late, thereby avoiding frosts, and matures well in this ideal ground of volcanic origin.

This aromatic wine has good fruit flavors, with a tinge of sweetness, and is very smooth. It sees no oak and is a definite crowd pleaser. Another good value wine.

Another wine that was not part of the class, but was a generous addition, was the 2005 Mola Aleatico Dell’Elba. It comes in a 500ml bottle and sells for around $35. This is a sweet, dessert wine made from Aleatico grapes.

This was an excellent dessert wine. It had a nice sweetness that was not cloying at all. You also could taste the fruit in the wine. I think it might pair well with a chocolate dessert.

The 2005 Fondo Antico Nero D’Avola ($12.99) is from Sicily. “An ancient grape become newly fashionable, Nero d’Avola is a Sicilian native. Round and fullbodied but very lively, this version is jam-packed with bright raspberry and cherry fruit. Very versatile -we’ve tried it with everything from sausage and rapini through takeout Thai. One word of warning though - it disappears fast in company.”

This is the only wine I disliked in this tasting. Its nose had a sour smell that was out me off to this wine. The wine has plenty of cherry flavors but still that tinge of unpleasant sourness. I have had Nero D’Avola wines before and enjoyed them so it is not just the varietal in this case.

Overall, this was another excellent wine class. We tasted many very good wines, including some excellent value wines. We got to taste some very different Italian reds as well. Steven was a great speaker and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I bought a case of wine and will buy more of these wines in the future. Check out the wines I recommended.

Kudos to OurGlass Wine Co. and Ideal Wines!

1 comment:

Montepulciano wine Italy said...

It was an excellent event with delicious wine. Congratulations to the organizers and all the participants!