Cantina Santadi Carignano del Sulcis Grotta Rossa 2009

Cantina Santadi Carignano del Sulcis Grotta Rossa 2009

Cantina Santadi Carignano del Sulcis Grotta Rossa 2009

While I’ve been on something of a quest for new and interesting grapes, there’s certainly more to learning about wine than just grape varieties.  Today’s selection is about the place, because while this is made from a familiar variety, it’s from a region we have not visited before.  So we’re off to Sardinia with the  Cantina Santadi Carignano del Sulcis Grotta Rossa 2009.

Sardinia is an island in the Mediterranean between Italy and North Africa, just south of the French island of Corsica.  It has a colourful history, having been run at different times by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Aragónese, Spanish, Austrians, and the House of Savoy.  It joined what was to become Italy in 1861 and is run as an autonomous region.

In terms of wine, there isn’t as much history, colourful or otherwise.  There is historical evidence of viticulture pre-dating the Carthaginian rule, but other forms of agriculture dominated, particular cultivation of grain and grazing of livestock.  While vines, mainly of Spanish origin, were imported under the rule of Aragón, wine has not been as important culturally or economically on Sardinia as it has been in mainland Spain, Italy or France.  Plantings were encouraged and subsidized after World War II, resulting in a rapid expansion of vines and availability of low quality, high alcohol wines used for blending on mainland Italy.  However, funding was cut in the 1980s and such bulk wine production has dwindled greatly.

Though there are almost twenty Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) regions and one Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) established on the island, production of quality wine is somewhat undermined by the expansiveness of some of the DOCs (including the entire island in several cases) and high limits on yields.  Vermentino, Cannonau (also known as Garnacha Tinta, or simply Grenache), Carignano (Carignan), Vernaccia and Malvasia are widely planted, as are some of the more common Italian and international varieties, but there is not a wealth of popular varieties unique to the island the way there is with Sicily.  I’ve seen references to Cannonau, Carignano and Bovaleddu as bring native Sardinian grapes, but for our purposes they are Grenache, Carignan, and Graciano respectively.  On the other hand, Monica Nera, Nasco and Nuragus are a red and two white grapes respectively that have yet to be identified as anything other than Sardinian.

As to Carignan, it is a grape that is familiar to long time readers of this site, but for a recap it is worth having another look at the Carignan (blend) I tried from De Martino last year.

Carignana del Sulcis is a DOC in the southwestern tip of the island, including two smaller islands, Sant’antioco and San Pietro.  A DOC since 1989, it is one of the few areas within Italy where Carignan is grown, and in addition to the standard varietal bottling, there are levels of quality defined as Riserva and Superiore which require additional ageing.   Rosé and Passito wines are also produced.  The climate, as with the island as a whole, is as Mediterranean as you can get, and soils vary with clay, sand and limestone, though the island as a whole is known for decomposed granite as well.

Cantina di Santadi is a large cooperative winery established in 1960.  It had its start producing vast quantities of bulk wine which was sold unbottled and unbranded.  Fortunately, a change of management in the 1970s resulted in a shift, and the coop has moved from being an anonymous supplier of cheap wine to being a rare example of a coop with a strong focus on quality wine production.

To that end, they’ve worked in close partnership with Giacomo Tachis, one of Italy’s most famous winemakers.  One of the driving forces behind the massive improvements within the Italian wine industry through the 1970s and 80s, he has been involved with Antinori and helped create the Super Tuscan Sassicaia.  He’s long had an interest in Sardinia, and in particular believes that Carignan, not widely loved or revered in the production of fine wine, is especially well suited to the climate and soils of southern Sardinia.

Today the company produces over a dozen different wines, DOC and IGT, red, white and rosé, as well as a grappa. Beyond Carignan, the company makes use of Cannonau (Grenache), Bovaleddu (Graciano), Vermentino, Monica Nera, Nasco, Nuragus, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Chardonnay in their wines.  In addition, they released a special edition 1960-2010 commemorative bottling comprised of Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which could be called a Super Sardinian.

As to the wine in front of me, in the glass it’s clear and bright, with a dark ruby colour and quick, thick legs.  On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium intensity and notes of cherries, sweet spice, pomegranate, and strawberries.  On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, medium body, medium minus tannins, medium alcohol, medium plus intensity, and medium plus length.  There are notes of black cherries, liquorice, some red meat, dried red fruit, and small goods.

This is a good quality wine.  It was interesting for more than just its origin, but not overly complex.  Despite having good intensity, I felt myself reaching for descriptors as the fruit was somewhat indistinct.  However, it certainly suffered no faults and was pleasant to drink.

Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2010

Origin: , ,

Colour and type: ,
Main Variety:
Contributing varieties:

Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto D.O.C. 2010

Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto D.O.C. 2010

It’s the first Monday after the Christmas and New Year holidays and I want to proclaim that standard service is now resuming.  I have a queue full of wines and notes, so it should be simply a matter of switching from holiday mode to work mode.  These reviews aren’t going to write themselves, right?  While I’m feeling somewhat bleary from both the holidays and the heat (over 100°F/40°C here) this is just the wine to get me through the transition, Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2010.

Coming up on the anniversary of the infamous WSET Diploma Unit 3 Exam which I managed somehow to pass last January, it’s a good time to reflect on how little I actually know about wine, in particular with respect to what I should know.  For instance, within the syllabus for North East Italy there is a link to an OCW entry for Bardolino which describes the geography, the grapes grown and the style of wines produced.  Sadly, my reaction when I first encountered this wine was “I’ve never heard of that.”

Had I been a better student, I would have recalled that Bardolino is a region within the Veneto.  It is best known for light red wines, typically made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, which are grown on a large plain to the east of Lake Garda.  The soils are fairly fertile, made up of fine gravel and silt, especially in the southern end of the region.  The climate is mild and moderated by the proximity to the lake.  As with many Italian denominaziones, there is the greater Bardolino region as well as a core Classico area which has slightly more stringent requirements (an extra 1% ABV and a year of ageing) though the differentiation is more to do with a relatively recent expansion than with an appreciable quality difference.  The Bardolino Superiore DOCG, on the other hand, does represent a step up.  Rosé wine has its own DOC called Bardolino Chiaretto, and there is a corresponding Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante DOC for sparkling rosé wine.

While three grapes are grown in the region, this wine only makes use of Corvina and Rondinella, and as this if the first time I’ve covered a wine made of either, they’re both worth a mention.  Corvina, or Corvina Veronese as it is officially called in Wine Grapes, and Rondinella are not only both red grapes native to the area around Verona, but are in fact related, with Corvina believed to be a parent of Rondinella.  Both are used, along with Molinara, in the light, red blends of Valpolicella and Bardolino, and Corvina may be used on its own in Garda DOC wines. Of the two, Corvina is generally regarded as being a higher quality grape, though Rondinella produces higher yields.  Neither is widely cultivated outside of North East Italy, though Freeman Vineyards in New South Wales apparently has plantings of both and uses them, by way of a prune dehydrator, to make an concentrated wine in the style of Amarone (which obviously I must now seek out).

Azienda Agricola Benazzoli Fulvio is a relatively young company but with family roots going back four generations.  The family business was established in Trentino after World War II and as it grew it passed from father to son to grandson over the decades that followed.  In 2009 two of the founders’ granddaughters, Claudia and Giulia with qualifications in winemaking and viticulture respectively, established the Benazzoli brand in Bardolino and bottled their first vintage.  Their holdings are comprised of 28HA of Corvina and Rondinella vines, from which they produce Bardolino, Chiaretto and Chiaretto Spumante, all DOC.  They also produce a Veneto IGT Pinot Grigio.

In the glass this wine is clear and bright with quick thick legs and a medium plus salmon colour.  On the nose it’s clean and youthful with medium intensity and notes of strawberries, vanilla, peaches, and bananas – real smoothie material.  On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, medium plus body, medium intensity, medium minus alcohol, medium minus tannins and medium plus length.  There are notes of strawberries, raspberries, banana, and little hint of tart cranberries.

This is a good wine.  The fruit notes on the nose had me worried there might be some residual sugar but a sip banished such thoughts.  It has slightly more weight on the palate than I might have expected given that it’s light in terms of alcohol and tannins, but it gives it a nice texture.  And while I don’t generally care so much about a wine’s colour, this one is a particularly pleasing shade of pink.

Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2007

Origin: , , ,

Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2007

Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2007

While I’ve been more focused on grapes than regions of late, I do try to spread my attention around somewhat, if only to keep the pins on my map from all ending up in a tight clump.  However, in trying to maintain some level of distribution, I’ve sometimes managed to neglect key regions.  I’ll fill in one of those gaps today with this Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2007.

Chianti is one of the better known wines/regions of Italy, though among people who know little about wine it may conjure up images of either a peculiar food pairing which includes fava beans or a straw wrapped bottle repurposed as a candle holder, depending on the age of the person in question.  (That straw covered bottle, now somewhat dated, is called a fiasco, something I only just discovered and which I find strangely amusing.)

Contemporary cultural touchstones come and go, but the region Chianti has a reputation dating back to at least the 14th century.  First recorded as an area of Tuscany between Florence and Sienna, the wines produced at that time were white.  Fast forward to today and the area within that designation has grown greatly and is now broken up into eight zones which can all use the term Chianti in conjunction with their geographical name.  In addition, there is a broad bordering area which may produce wines called Chianti without finer geographical designation.

This wine is a Chianti Classico, which deserves a bit more detail.  Within Italy, the term Classico is often used to indicate a part of a region as it stood before expansion, which can sometimes undermine a region’s brand and perception of quality.  To maintain that differentiation, the DOCG rules for Chianti Classico are more stringent than Chianti.  Sangiovese much make up 80% of the blend, whereas in Chianti the minimum is 75%.  Maximum yields in the vineyard are 3.34 tons / acre, the finished wine must be 12% ABV, must see seven months in oak, must be bottled under cork, and cannot be released until October 1st of the year after vintage.  (24 months ageing, including three months in bottle are required for the Reserva designation.)  Chianti limits are 4 tons / acre in the vineyard, finished wines must only be 11.5% ABV, and only four months in oak are needed.

I had a difficult time pinning down the exact requirements for the remainder of the blend until I actually looked at the official website.  They’re described as “red grapes belonging to varieties recommended and authorized in the administrative districts of the production zone of the grapes” which I means it’s not set in stone, but rather locally decided.  The regional red grape Canaiolo is commonly used, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

The climate of the region is Mediterranean, with most of the area under vine being within 100km of the sea.  Autumns are wet, making it often difficult to achieve full tannic ripeness with Sangiovese.  The hills vary in altitude from 250m to 500m, and the soil types largely consist of galestro, a grey chalky marlstone, as well as some sandstone.

Santa Margherita was founded in 1935 by Count Gaetano Marzotto Jr. and is run currently by his grandson, Vittorio Emanuele.  Marzotto was running a textile group at the time, and founded the estate between Fossalta and Portogruaro in the Veneto as part of a larger modernization effort which put and end to sharecropping and aimed to improve the conditions of farm workers.  While based in Portogruaro, and best known for wines of the Veneto, they also own property and produce wine in Alto Adige, Lombardy, Tuscany and Sicily, covering the range of dry and sweet, still and sparkling, red white and rosé, IGT, DOC and DOCG.  The company is part of the Terlato Wines International group based in Illinois, which makes wine across six continents and over 40 brands.

As to this wine, in the glass it is clear and bright, with a medium garnet colour and legs. On the nose it is clean and developing with medium plus intensity and notes of raspberries, sweet spice, red cherries, and a little vanilla. On the palate it is dry with medium plus acidity, medium minus body, medium tannins, medium intensity, a medium plus length, and medium alcohol. There are notes of raspberries, sweet spice, cranberry and some vanilla and oak on the finish.

This is a good wine – solid, hits the numbers, slightly thin but not particularly lacking because of it.  There is a lack of complexity or developed notes, but it delivers on the general tasting notes expected from the region.  It’s a solid Chianti Classico from a big producer, certainly well made and enjoyable, but not what I’d call particularly exciting.  I think a trip to Italy might be what I need to reignite my interest in the classics.

Pin in the map is in Portogruaro in the Veneto, which this wine is actually from Chianti Classico in Tuscany on the other side of northern Italy.  I can’t find Santa Margherita’s actual address, so the pin is the location of the building on the label, Villa Marzotto, at one time owned by the founder of the company.

Luigi Cavalli Lambrusco Dell’Emilia

Origin: ,

Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Luigi Cavalli Lambrusco Dell’Emilia

Luigi Cavalli Lambrusco Dell’Emilia

One of the many nice things about studying wine is that there are a good number of very knowledgeable and interesting people who are writing about it.  I’ve made no secret of how important Jancis Robinson was in my Diploma studies, and I mentioned Victoria Moore back in December with regards to writing good tasting notes.  Another writer I especially respect and enjoy reading is Eric Asimov, which is how I ended up with this bottle of Luigi Cavalli Lambrusco Dell’Emilia.

Back in 2006 he wrote a column about Lambrusco, singing its praises and lamenting how its image had been all but ruined by the likes of Riunite in the 1970s.  I hadn’t even started to study wine, but I remember the column because it allowed me to tuck away the fact that sparkling red wine was produced in Italy and I made use of it several times in the face of people who insisted that it was an Australian innovation.  It was purely academic, however, as I did not have an opportunity to actually try one.

Since then, despite numerous wine courses, Lambrusco has remained nearly mythical.  I did encounter it once in a large bottle shop, but the packaging was so dubious and the price so inexpensive that I thought I should wait for a better example before having my first sip.  Further years have passed since, and a few weeks ago Asimov published another column in which he again championed the wine.  (He also has a book due out in October, How to Love Wine.)  As I am currently on a string of wines which will not make my (temporarily) non-drinking wife jealous, I decided now was the time to actually see what Asimov was writing about and so I sought out a huge wine retailer and finally bought a bottle.

For those not familiar with Lambrusco, it is an Italian red grape found largely in the north of the country.  When I say grape, I really mean grape family, and it’s commonly said that there are 60 subvarieties or clones of the grape.  More recently though, advocates of the grape have put forward that there in fact 13 (possibly as many as 17) different varieties of Lambrusco, with the vast majority of wines being made from a subset of only six, Lambrusco Salamino, Lambrusco Marani, Lambrusco Grasparossa, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Maestri, and Lambrusco Montericco.  The grape is especially productive in the vineyard, and is typically used to make sparkling red wines that vary from dry to fairly sweet.  It’s used in wines across eight DOCs (and four sub DOCs) around Modena, Reggio  Emilia, Parma and Lombardia, and is also made into Indicatione Geografica Tipica level wine in Reggio Emilia and Lombardia.

Unfortunately, most Lambrusco is tank fermented and very cheaply mass produced.  As a wine it is best known for having flooded the USA market in the 1970s in the form of a frothy red wave of sweet Riunite.  After years of popularity, the wine’s reputation is now largely bound up with that industrial style and not looked upon kindly by most people who are serious about wine.  Asimov though is on a mission to revive the wine by highlighting quality producers, and has had some success in New York and Los Angeles.  Good examples, often with the secondary fermentation in bottle, are being imported by specialist merchants and promoted in Italian restaurants, particularly those featuring flavours of Emilia-Romagna.

Sadly, his influence has not yet reached Adelaide (as far as I know).  My quest for a bottle last week was rewarded with a choice of three options, and my selection was the most expensive at just under $8.  I’m guessing from its appearance that neither the label nor the contents have changed since the 1970s.  Speaking of the label, it’s worth spelling out the information on it.  This is a Lambrusco Dell’Emilia Indicatione Geografica Tipica, which tells us the grape (family) and that it’s from Emilia-Romagna but a step down from DOC quality.  Vino Amabile Frizzante lets us know that this is a sweet, bubbly wine.  There is no indicated vintage.  The label also says “di San Ruffino” ® which I cannot claim to fully understand, other than that there are areas within Emilia-Romagna by that name which the producer, Luigi Cavalli, has apparently trademarked.  I do not believe that it has anything at all to do with Ruffino, a highly regarded producer in Tuscany.

A quick word about Emilia-Romagna – it is a huge region in the north of Italy that spans 240km east to west.  Within it are at least 22 DOCs and 2 DOCGs, though they account for only 15% of wine produced.  The Lambrusco family of grapes, if taken as a whole, makes up roughly 40% of production, with Sangiovese being the second most popular grape at 23%. The area is geologically diverse, from hills and peaks in the west down to coastal plains in the east.  The climate likewise is much cooler in the mountainous zones than on the milder plains as they stretch toward the Adriatic.  I’ve also read that the region has officially dropped the hyphen between Emilia and Romagna but can’t find a corroborating source, so I’m sticking with it for now.

I’ve also been unable to find very much information regarding this producer, not even a website nor a physical address, so if anyone has more information please drop me a note or leave a comment.  Fine print on the top label suggests that the company has been passed from father to son since 1901.  Beyond that though, all I’ve been able to determine is that it’s made for Cantarella Bros., a company based out of Sydney (though with offices throughout Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore) that imports a range of products, largely food, from Europe.  It’s best known brand in Australia is Vittoria Coffee.

Diving into the wine itself, in the glass, it is clear and bright, with a deep purple colour, quick legs, and some bubbles around the rim but no overt carbonation.  You can only tell there is any fizzing whatsoever by putting your ear to the glass, at which point you’ll hear the odd bubble breaking the surface.  On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium minus intensity, and notes of cough syrup, some bitter herbs, and a splash of Campari.  On the palate it’s off-dry and you can tell that there is some prickliness of carbonation, but no real fizz.  It has medium minus acidity, medium plus flavour intensity, medium body, low alcohol, low soft tannins, and a medium minus length.  There are notes of cola, red cherries, bitter herbs, some bitter orange, and cough syrup.  It has a very sour finish that made me shudder a bit on my first sip.

I really don’t know what to make of this.  I’ll go with acceptable in terms of quality, and I cringe to think what I would have made of either of the two lower priced bottles next to it on the shelf when I bought it.  It has an interesting flavour profile, with some amount of complexity, but not one that I associate with wine.  Beyond that though, I hesitate to judge a wine style that is so completely new to me.  I don’t expect I’ll be rushing out to buy another bottle of Lambrusco until I can find one from a producer that Asimov specifically recommends.  Sadly this wine is more of the tradition that has caused many to dismiss Lambrusco rather than of a quality that might have them reconsider.

Pin in the map is approximate only to Reggio Emilia where the producer is based, and I’m calling this a varietal “Lambrusco” as I don’t have any better granularity of which specifically.

Pio Cesare Gavi 2010

Origin: , ,

Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Pio Cesare Gavi 2010

Pio Cesare Gavi 2010

If last week’s Barossa Shiraz was the epitome of the familiar, this wine is at the other end of the spectrum with a new grape and a new region (for this blog).  There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll just dive right into this Pio Cesare Gavi 2010.

Italian whites are something of a weak area in terms of my personal wine knowledge.  While I have a handle on a few of them, there are just so many.  At this point they are all vaguely familiar but not so much that I can remember which is which.  Obviously I need to spend a few months touring Italy to understand the geography and the grapes.

Gavi is a town in the southeast of Piedmont, not far from border with Liguria which stands between it and the Mediterranean.  We know Piedmont from past posts on Barbaresco and Dolcetto d’Alba, and I’ve spoken a bit about the hierarchy of red grapes there and sparkling wine.  However, I completely failed to mention any white grapes in Piedmont, which is something of an oversight.  The main white grapes in Piedmont are Arneis and Favorita, found in Roero to the north of Alba, and Cortese which is the grape of Gavi.

Gavi, in addition to being a town, is a DOCG region as of 1998.  Cortese has been cultivated there since at least the 17th century, and is the sole grape for the DOCG, though Dolcetto was historically grown there but not widely replanted after phylloxera struck.  The region is hilly, with aspect and altitude being key factors in site selection.  Soils vary in Gavi, with white limestone and red clay being two distinct types.  The climate is continental and similar to the rest of Piedmont, with hot summers and cold winters, but with a maritime influence from the Mediterranean 70km to the south.

Cortese is a new grape for me, and I hope I can be forgiven for pronouncing it as it is spelled rhyming with tease, instead of how it’s actually pronounced, more like core, tea, and say strung together with the emphasis on tea.  It’s a white grape, and while it’s most commonly associated with Gavi, it’s the primary grape in other DOC areas of Piedmont, and used in blends in DOC wines of Lombardy and the Veneto.  It is capable of retaining acidity at full ripeness and has good disease and pest resistance.  It can also deliver high yields without the typical drop in quality, and the DOCG rules in Gavi permit 70HL/HA.

Cortese is not a grape grown widely outside of Italy.  According to Vinodiversity.com, the only Australian producer is Lost Valley Winery in Victoria.  Mosby Winery in Santa Barbera, Cougar Vineyard and Winery and Mount Palomar in Temecula Valley, and the Graziano Family of Wines in Mendocino (and possibly a few others) have plantings in California.

Pio Cesare is a fifth generation family run producer based in Alba, having been established in 1881 by Cesare Pio.  They are a fairly large scale producer, with 45HAs of vines they own outright, and longstanding relationships with a number of neighbouring growers.  They produce wines from regions across Piedmont, including DOCG Barolo, Barbaresco, Mostaco d’Asti and this Gavi.  In addition to those wines, they produce DOC Barbera and Dolcetto d’Alba, and varietal DOC wines from Grignolino, Freisa, Arneis and Chardonnay.  Their wines are very traditional in style, but their winemaking is fairly modern, with temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel and no shortage of French oak.  This wine in particular was fermented in steel and then remained on lees for four months prior to bottling.

In the glass this wine is clear and bright, a pale, lemon green colour with quick thin legs. On the nose it’s clean, with medium intensity and a developing character.  There are notes of quince, lemon curd, a little white pepper, and the suggestion of oak, even those this wine has not had seen the inside of a barrel.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium body, medium alcohol, medium plus flavour intensity, and a medium plus length. There are notes of quince, some sandalwood, lemon, and some herbs.  It has a slightly oily texture – not unpleasant, but noticeable.

I score this wine as good, possibly very good, as there is some complexity and it measures well in terms of length, acidity and intensity.   As this is my first Cortese, I can’t vouch for its typicity, but it is very pleasant in the glass, and probably just the thing to pair with shellfish in the summer.  Alas it’s grey and wet here as we pass the midway point in the Antipodean winter, but it managed to brighten my day nonetheless.

Soave Pieropan 2009

Origin: , ,

Colour and type: ,
Main Variety:
Contributing varieties:

Soave Pieropan 2009

Soave Pieropan 2009

Regular visitors may have noticed on the homepage a small map on the right sidebar which has a pin in it for the ten articles that feature on the homepage.  Articles that aren’t strictly about a single wine don’t have a pin, but in general it should show the location of the the ten or so most recent producers.  I do try to spread the love as much as possible, and while North America is often not represented, I’m reasonably happy with the spread at the moment, across the Old World, South America, Africa and Australasia.  What’s not on the map though is a wine from Italy, but to correct that I give you the Soave Pieropan 2009.

This is the first Soave I’ve covered, so let’s get right to it.  I have vague recollections of the name from my youth, which makes sense as it was the best selling Italian DOC wine in the USA in the 1970s.  It has since been surpassed, but still remains popular.  It’s a slightly complicated situation in that it’s the name of a commune in the Veneto region in the Province of Verona in northen Italy, but the term is generally used to describe wine from there.  However, the wine situation is slightly more complicated.  Soave was initially given DOC status in 1968, though the area under the the DOC was expanded well beyond the original borders over the following decades.  In 2001 DOCG designation was given to an area which was not exactly the original DOC area, causing great controversy and for some producers to drop out of the DOC/G designation to produce IGT wines.  There is a classico area which was originally designated in 1927, which is an additional descriptor that may be attached to wines produced from vines in the oldest of the original area.

Broadly speaking, the DOCG and classico area consists of plantings on hillsides, where the soil is less fertile than the soils of the flat alluvial plains of the expanded DOC region.  The hilly areas in the west are largely based on limestone which provides retained warmth for ripening, while the eastern hills are more decomposed volcanic igneous rock which provide minerality to wines.  The climate is warm Mediterranean though being in the hills the influence of the Adriatic is somewhat diminished.  However, the mists of the Po Valley in the autumn can bring mould and disease pressure.

Winemaking in Soave is largely centred around the grape variety Garganega, and it is required to make up at least 70% of a blend.  The contents of the other 30% vary depending on DOC or DOCG designation.  For DOGC wines, Trebbiano de Soave, Pinot Bianco or Chardonnay may make up to 30%, but up to 5% cumulatively are permitted of Friulano, Cortese, Riesling Italico, Vespaiolo, and Serprina.  For DOC wines, Trebbiano Toscano, the same rules largely apply with the exception that up to 15% of Trebbiano Toscano is permitted.  As everywhere, the required alcohol levels are higher and permitted yields are lower for DOCG wines than for DOC.

Garganega is a familiar grape for people who have been reading along since the early days.  We had a look at one with the Domain Day, but as with most of my early posts, I hadn’t really found my format and so I didn’t give the grape the coverage it deserves.  It’s a thick skinned white grape, vigourous and late ripening.  In addition to the wines of Soave, it’s also used to form most of the blend in nearby Gambellara.  As with so many grapes, it performs well when it can fully ripen, has it’s yields carefully managed, and particularly when planted on hillsides with poor fertility.  (I need a macro to paste that, I find it being so often the case.)

Outside of the Veneto, it’s not widely planted, or at least it wasn’t thought to be so until recently.  DNA profiling suggests that it is the same grape that is known as Grecanico Dorato (aka Grecanio) in Sicily.  Outside of Italy, the only record I can find of it being planted is with the aforementioned Domain Day.

Pieropan is a fourth generation family business, established in 1890 by Leonildo Pieropan in Soave.  They produce a number of Soaves, from this relatively entry level wine up through some single vineyard bottlings and Passito della Rocca, a barrel fermented and aged blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Trebbiano.  In addition, they expanded into red wines with the purchase of property in the nearby Amarone and Valpolicella area, and they produce at the moment one of each of those wines, as well as a sparkling rosé.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with pale lemon colour and thick legs.  On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium minus intensity and notes of pear, sandalwood, vanilla, and cream.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium flavour intensity, medium acid, medium plus alcohol, and medium body.  There are notes of lime, passion fruit, vanilla, and honeycomb, but with a sour/nail varnish finish.  It had a medium plus length but not in a good way given the sour finish.

I’m torn between this being acceptable and good.  It has an unimpressive nose, but on the palate it hits the marks with intensity, balance, and a reasonably interesting and complex flavour profile.  However, that finish really didn’t agree with me.  I’m going to go with good, particularly as it’s a relatively affordable entry level example, and it was by the glass so it’s possible I wasn’t tasting it at its best.

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco DOCG 2006

Origin: , ,

Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco DOCG 2006

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco DOCG 2006

Yesterday was the familiar, but today is somewhat less so.  We’re back in Italy, in Piedmont, but instead heading southwest from Alba, we’re going in the opposite direction where we can find this Cantina del Pino Barbaresco DOCG 2006.

I wrote a little about Piedmont when I covered the Dolcetto d’Alba not so long ago, but only really to say that’s where Alba is located.  It’s a hugely important wine region in the northwest of Italy, best known for three grapes:  Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto.  Nebbiolo is the cornerstone grape of a dozen DOC/DOCGs, and is perhaps most famous when produced on Barolo or Barbaresco.  Barbera is somewhat more rustic, and while widely produced, is very much the second grape of the region.  Dolcetto is third in the rankings, and usually made into a drink now style of wine.  Piedmont is also home to two styles of sparkling wine, Asti and Mostaco d’Asti, as well as some white varieties which represent a small but growing percentage of production.

Barbaresco itself is a DOCG (since 1980), situated to the east of Alba in the Langhe area. A hilly region, the soils are calcareous marl.  The climate is similar to the rest of Piedmont, with hot summers, cold winters and fog, though it is moderated by the river Tanaro.

As the wines of Barbaresco are nearly always viewed as a counterpart to neighbouring Barolo, it’s worth noting how the wines differ.  Both are made from Nebbiolo, but the conditions in Barbaresco ripen the grapes sooner and give lighter wines.  As a result, Barbaresco is a lighter style, and the ageing requirements are a year in oak and two years total, a year less than Barolo.  The lighter body does not take away from the tannins and acidity for which Nebbiolo is known, though Barbaresco matures rapidly and is not meant for the extented ageing commonly associated with Barolo.

I’ve written briefly about Nebbiolo in the context of Jasper Hill, but here again are the basics:  early budding, late ripening, susceptible to poor fruit set with thin but tough skins, it produces lightly coloured wines of high acidity and high tannin levels.  In Piedmont, in addition to Barbaresco and Barolo, it produces several other DOC/G wines, as well as many other less regulated local wines as varietals and blends.  Outside of Piedmont, it is also grown in Valtellina where it is known as Chiavennasca, but otherwise it is little grown in the rest of Italy.  In the New World it has many fans but it is a challenging grape to grow.  There are plantings in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, Argentina, and in cooler areas of Australia, but only a few stand out examples.

Cantina del Pino is one of the oldest producers in Barbaresco.  The vineyards were established nearly a hundred years ago by the former director of the Royal Enological School in Alba, Domizio Cavazza, who first called wine produced in that area from Nebbiolo grapes Barbaresco.  The company is named after a pine tree he planted to mark the birth of his first son, and while his family did not take up the business after he died, the Vacca family who took over after him have maintained it ever since, now on their fourth generation.  They produce three Barbarescos, a Langhe Nebbiolo, a Barbera d’Alba, and a Dolcetto d’Alba, as well as a Langhe Freisa.

While they don’t make any claims as to organic certification, they use no chemical fertilizers, and the average age of their vines is 40 years old.  They use 20-30 day macerations and fermentation in stainless steel, both under controlled temperatures.  They age their wines for two years in oak and at least another year in bottle.  They neither fine nor filter their wines.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with a medium minus garnet colour, and very slow, thick legs.  On the nose it is clean with medium intensity and a developing character.  There are notes of sour cherry, sweet spice, and potpourri.  The palate is dry, with medium plus mouth coating tannins, medium plus acidity, medium minus body, medium flavour intensity, medium plus alcohol.  There is a bit of tar, some perfume, and lovely pomegranate notes. It has a medium plus length.

I rate this a very good wine – I really enjoyed it.  It had a complex mix of flavours and good intensity on the palate.  In addition, it has a really nice colour, as in pretty shade, though not especially deep.

Corte Normanna Falanghina Sannio DOC 2007

Origin: , ,

Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Corte Normanna Falanghina Sannio DOC 2007

Corte Normanna Falanghina Sannio DOC 2007

With a pair of Australian reds back to back, it’s time to go a bit further afield.  While you can expect tastings of whited to lessen in frequency as the chill sets in, and rosé wines may not be seen for months, it would be unreasonable to exclusively drink reds until spring arrives.  (Yes, I’m in the Southern Hemisphere.)  So today it’s a wine from somewhere that’s fairly warm already, the south of Italy, with this Corte Normanna Falanghina Sannio DOC 2007.

As I’ve said before, I find Italy both fascinating and confounding for the sheer variety of regions and varieties.  I will never more than scratch the surface of its vast complexity, but with each wine and region I know a little more than I did, so it keeps me coming back.

Speaking of which, we’re back in Campania, which is in the southern half of the country, and we’re about midway between Rome and the instep of the boot.  We were last here with a Greco di Tufo, but this time we’re in Sannio DOC which is a geographically much bigger area just to the north of Greco di Tufo.  This masterful level of geographic information is straight off the De Long’s Wine Map of Italy, available from Vinodiversity.

The climate of Sannio is similar, if not identical, to Tufo, classic Mediterranean with plenty of sunshine.  (I have seen central parts of the region described as more continental, but in this part of Italy it’s difficult to be more than 70km from the Mediterranean or the Adriatic so I’m not convinced.)  The geography is hilly, and the DOC specification gives some particularly detailed descriptions of the geology, with dolomite and limestone rock sediments on the surface in some areas and clay and sandstone sediments in others, with soft rock underneath.

Falanghina is a local white grape, believed to be the grape of the Falerian wine which was all the rage in ancient Rome.  It’s name is thought to be taken from falangae, the Latin term for stakes in the vineyard for holding up vines.  It is little known outside of Italy, and even as an exported wine it is typically overshadowed by the two big Campanian white grapes, Greco Blanc and Fiano.  However, with modern winemaking enabling better preservation of its fresh aromas, there has been increased interest in it.  That said, I can’t find anyone who has planted it outside of Italy, so it hasn’t quite hit the big time.

As a grape, it is found in compact clusters of round berries which are typically covered in bloom.  The skins are thick, and of a yellow-gray colour.  It ripens from September through October.  The vines are vigourous with average yields.  It makes wines with a light body and moderate to high acidity.

Corte Normanna is a family owned producer based just south of the town of Guardia Sanframondi in the Sannio region and run by the brothers Gaetano and Alfredo Falluto.  Founded in 1927 by a previous Gaetano Falluto, the company left the local cooperative winery in 1984 to set up their own production, with their first exports in 1997.  The name is a nod to normal lords, the Sanframondos, who ruled the area from 1138 until 1460.  They produce a range of products from locally grown grapes and olives.  Their red wines are primarily Aglianico, with two varietal bottlings and two blends.  They produce dry Fiano, Greco Blanc, and three styles of Falanghinas –  a sweet passito dessert wine, and a charmant method sparkler in addition to this dry, still wine.  They also distill grappas and press olive oils.

In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a medium straw colour, and a thin, quick film (as opposed to legs).  On the nose, it’s clean, with a medium intensity (very closed initially) and aromas of yellow flower, honeycomb, lemon, and initially a slight nuttiness, though less later.  It shows some development, but not fully developed.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus intensity, medium minus acidity, medium plus alcohol, medium plus body, and medium length.  It has nutty notes, lemon preserves, and a bit of zest and minerality.  It had a clean finish.

I’ve said before it’s difficult to judge quality with a wine variety and region that are unfamiliar, so it’s best to fall back to the formula of balance, concentration, complexity, length.  (Typicity is part of the formula, but alas, not useful in this case.)  It’s reasonably well balanced, though lacking acidity relative to its other qualities.  It isn’t short on concentration with good intensity and alcohol.  It has good complexity with both fruit and developed characters coming through, and the length was fine.  I’m going to put this in the good category, though I would have liked more freshness either from a younger vintage or more acidity.

In terms of personal enjoyment, I really did like this wine.  It’s a new variety for me, from an unfamiliar region, and as something of an unknown it did not disappoint.  Well matched with fish or chicken, it carried the meal with which I paired it, and I’d be happy to have another bottle.

Sordo Giovanni Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2007

Origin: , ,

Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Sordo Giovanni Dolcetto d'Alba DOC 2007

Sordo Giovanni Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2007

As with many aspects of this blog, I’m sure I like the maps much more than anyone else who has ever visited.  I like seeing where a particular wine is from, I like going to the Where I’m Drinking page to see the big picture, but I especially like the small map on the right hand side of the homepage that just shows the last ten or so.  It serves as an indicator if I have been recently ignoring part of the world, and looking at it now it’s been three weeks since I wrote about a European wine.  To get back on track, here’s the Sordo Giovanni Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2007.

The last few weeks have been pretty slack, I must admit.  I wrote about some favourites, and the vast majority of wines were from regions I’ve physically visited, and in most cases I’d been to the actual cellar doors of the producers.  Today though it’s all new territory for me, with an unfamiliar grape, region and producer.

The grape is of course Dolcetto, a red variety most commonly associated with the northwest of Italy.  It ripens early, and while it can be prone to dropping bunches and is vulnerable to some fungal diseases, it’s not difficult in the vineyard.  It can tolerate both cold and altitude, which are both common where it is grown in Piedmont.  In the winery though it’s another story.  It tends to be low in acidity (a possible reason for the name “little sweet one”), but somewhat high in tannins.  Various techniques are employed to prevent overextraction, such as short fermentations, and as a varietal wine it typically only has light to medium tannins.  While it’s most commonly found in Italy, there are also plantings in the USA and Australia.

In Italy, it can be found as a varietal wine in a DOCG and seven DOCs, all of which conveniently have the word Dolcetto in their name.  It also features as a required majority grape in a number of other regional wines.  However, within northwest Italy it is often overshadowed by Nebbiolo and Barbera.  As those can command high prices, Dolcetto is often relegated to less favourable sites.  Also, as Nebbiolo and Barbera can have extensive ageing requirements, Dolcetto is generally made in a drink now style and sent to market without extensive maturation in barrel or bottle which helps ease cash flow problems associated with producing a wine that cannot be sold until years later.

Dolcetto d’Alba is the name of the DOC from which this wine originates, in Piedmont, and it extends to the east and south from the town of Alba, known not only for wine but also white truffles.  The region is known for hot summers, cold winters, with fog in between.  The terrain of Piedmont is varied, with the Alps to the north, the hills of Langhe to the south (where Alba itself is located), and river plains in between.  The soils are clay marls, with Dolcetto performing best on the white variety while not doing living up to its potential in heavier soils.

Sordo Giovanni is a traditional producer, based near Garbelletto, to the southwest of Alba.  Established in the early 20th century, they are currently on the third generation of the family, with Giorgio Sordo and his wife Emanuela at the helm.  They make a wide range of regional wines, including Barbaresco, Barbera d’Alba, several Barolos, Moscato,  Prosecco, a traditional method sparkler, an Arneis, and several types of grappa.

This wine is from vineyards in the Serralunga and Castiglione Falletto areas, grown on south-facing hillsides, on bluish-grey calcareous marl with mineral salts.  Grapes are picked at full ripeness, undergo a week-long fermentation, are stored in stainless steel tanks and then given six months in bottle before they are released.

In the glass, this wine is medium ruby red, with a few thin quick legs.  On the nose it’s clean with a developing character and medium plus intensity.  There are notes of deep black cherry, forest floor, red licorice candy and a little bit of tar.  The palate is dry, with medium plus acidity, medium minus body, medium alcohol, medium flavour intensity, and medium minus tannins, which are green if they’re there at all.  I picked up notes of sour cherry, liquorice, pencil shavings, and black pepper with further sour cherry on the finish.

This is a very good wine, fresh and flavourful.  I was almost surprised that it’s five years old, as it’s keeping so well.  It has more complexity than I would have expected, given what I’ve read of Dolcetto.  It does live up to the easy drinking reputation, but offers a bit more depth and variety of flavour that puts it a step up from just being good.

 

Tenuta Cavalier Pepe Nestor Greco di Tufo 2010

Origin: , ,

Colour and type: ,
Varietal:

Tenuta Cavalier Pepe Nestor Greco di Tufo 2010

Tenuta Cavalier Pepe Nestor Greco di Tufo 2010

So, Italy continues to be something of a gold mine in terms of serving up new (to me) varietals as I try to hit a century.  I’ve been working through some whites as it’s still quite warm here, and today it’s the Tenuta Cavalier Pepe Nestor Greco di Tufo 2010.

From a country that can at times be quite challenging in terms of varieties, regions, and the names they use interchangeably in some cases for both, the details of this wine are refreshingly straightforward.  First, Greco is the grape, Greco Bianco in this case.  Secondly, the grape is believed to have originated in Greece, as one might reasonably expect from the name.  Finally, this wine is from the region surrounding the town of Tufo, which amazingly takes its name from the type of soil in the area.  Game, set, match – that’s what I call easy.

So Greco is actually a pair of grapes, Bianco and Nero for white and black, though when people use the term Greco on its own, they’re generally referring to Greco Bianco.  Of course, I find that slightly annoying, in the same way that people talk of Pinot as though there is only Noir and no Gris or Blanc, or Cabernet as though there is only Sauvignon and no Franc.  The same is true for regions – people refer to Bordeaux and Burgundy as though they are only red wines and Sancerre as though it’s only white.  Sigh.

Getting back on topic, Greco Bianco is a white grape that’s best known from the wines produced in the south of Italy, particularly in Campania and Calabria.  It’s known for it’s long, loose bunches and small round berries, with thin skin.  It is a relatively hardy variety, and provides consistent cropping, with high sugar levels as well as acidity, though it can fall prey to downy and powdery mildew.  It is believed to be the same grape as Asprinio, which is also found in Campania.

While the grape is permitted in a number of DOCs, it is best known as the primary grape in the Greco di Bianco DOC and the Greco di Tufo DOCG.  Greco di Bianco DOC in Calabria is a dessert wine made from partially dried grapes in what’s called passito style.  Greco di Tufo in Campania of on the other hand, this wine, is a dry wine with a strong aromatic character and texture that reminds some of Viognier.  It’s also used to make a dry white on the island of Capri, blended with Biancolella and Falanghina.  Greco Bianco has made it overseas and I know of at least one Australian producer in McLaren Vale who is making one, but more on that when I can get a bottle.  Beyond that though, it’s not widely planted outside of the south of Italy.

Tufo is a town and commune in center of Campania, and the surrounding regions are the home to Greco di Tufo.  A classic Mediterranean climate, the distinguishing feature is the namesake soil.  I first came across this soil type in the context of the Loire Valley, where the area of Vouvray in particular is famous for the caves dug into what the French call tuffeau.  In Italian it’s tufo, and apparently in English it’s tuff (news to me but I’m no geologist).  More a rock than a soil, it’s volcanic in nature, relatively soft and one of the easier rocks to excavate.

Tenuta Cavalier Pepe is an Avellino producer with over 40 HA of vines, producing three DOC Aglianico red blends, an Aglianico rosato, a Fiano, a DOCG Aglianico, a Coda di Volpa (will have to look that up later), and an IGT Falanghina (in addition to this Greco di Tufo).  Their plantings are intermingled with olive and nut trees in the hills of the region at an altitude of between 350 and 500 meters, with largely southern and southeasterly exposures, and they sit on clay loam and sandstone over the tufo.  Their red wines are exclusively estate grown, which implies they buy in at least some of the grapes for their whites.

This wine was pale lemon green in the glass with thin quick legs.  It was clean, of medium intensity, youthful, and had elements of peach, almond, apricot, white flower on the nose.  On the palate it was dry, with medium minus acidity, medium body, slightly oily, with medium plus intensity, and medium plus alcohol.  The palate matched the nose with stone fruit, almonds and white flower, though there’s a strong taste on the finish, stone fruit that’s gone a bit sour.

While I don’t have a great deal of context in terms of this grape or style, not having had Greco di Tufo before, it does come across as a very well made wine.  While the flavour profile is not overly complex, the texture and intensity is where it shines.