Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip

In early May, at the invitation of the Consorzio di Tutela Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG I returned to the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region of Italy for the first time in more than 17 years. My previous visit was to attend a wedding, and while we did a little bit of wine tasting at the time, I was more focused on connecting with friends than diving deep into the wine. But my impressions of the wines from that trip, as well as many subsequent tastings of Prosecco Superiore since are fairly clear.

In fact, I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of Prosecco Superiore over the last 15 years. It has gotten drier, more refined, and more expressive. When I first visited, not many producers were making extra brut or brut nature versions of their wines. Most were focused on the extra dry versions of Prosecco, which can contain between 12 and 17 grams of sugar per liter. These days, nearly everyone has extra brut versions of their wines (with less than 6 grams of sugar per liter) and many make a brut nature with less than three grams of sugar.

A number of other things have changed in the region over the past 15 years, most notably the declaration of the wine region as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the region’s decision to make a total ban on the use of glyphosate in any of its vineyards (the first region in Europe to do so).

The Prosecco DOCG region has also spent a lot of time digging deep, so to speak, into its terroirs, and has identified 43 of its steepest, highest-quality, most historical vineyard production areas and codified them into named Rive that can be thought of as the region’s equivalent to Burgundy’s climats.

Needless to say, there was a lot of new stuff for me to explore on my recent trip, and a chance to get to know the region with more depth and intimacy.

What You Need to Know About Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Not all Prosecco is created equal. Sparkling wine made from the Glera grape in a massive swath of northern Italy stretching from Lake Garda across most of the Veneto and all of Friuli gets bottled as Prosecco DOC.

The Prosecco DOC region in light and dark green with the two DOCG regions in yellow and brown.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Prosecco DOC wine from the wider area. Producers there have even started to make a Rosé version of it that is pretty fun. But a tastier, higher-quality version of Prosecco exists, and that is the wine made in the Prosecco Superiore DOCG region, a much smaller area with stricter controls on how the wine is made, and a striking, definitive terroir and climate.

There are actually two of these DOCG regions, a tiny one surrounding the commune of Asolo, and the other, more well-known one—an area of 15 different communes stretched between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, which is where I recently spent a week.

The Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG region consists of slightly more than 9000 hectares or 23,600 acres of vineyards, split among more than 3400 growers, most of which farm only a tiny slice of a hillside vineyard near their homes.

These vineyards sit just in front of what the Italians call the “pre-alps.” The DOCG region occupies the very first folds of hills that come up off the Venetian plains before the Dolomites rise steeply to snowcapped peaks, which can easily be seen from various vineyards on a clear day.

Cool air flows downwards from these mountain peaks, along with precipitation, creating something of a goldilocks growing region with mild temperatures, generous rainfall, and well-drained, stony hillsides, many of which conveniently face towards the sunnier south.

The soils of the region are all sedimentary in origin, but include 5 distinctly different types, ranging from cobbly conglomerates to iron-rich marls to gravelly morainic soils left behind by glacial outwash.

Most people don’t know that the Prosecco DOCG vineyards are among the most visually spectacular, difficult, and even dangerous vineyards to farm in the world. It can be tough to reconcile this fact with cheerful bubbles that only come with a $18 price tag, but quite often someone dies each year doing vineyard work on the precipitously steep slopes that mark the region.

Here’s what they look like (click for larger views):

These slopes, marked in many places by by grassy unwalled terraces known as ciglioni, necessitate an incredible amount of intensive work by hand—what the locals like to refer to as “heroic” viticulture. Whereas a flat vineyard will require about 150 hours of labor per hectare, per year, the hillside vineyards of Prosecco require more than 600 hours per hectare.

The folded hills, pushed and pulled by tectonic forces and carved by the action of ancient glaciers before being covered with their patchwork quilt of terraced vineyards, were the basis for the region’s UNESCO World Heritage designation.

Many vineyards in the region train their vines in a distinctive classic double cane method, known locally as doppio capovolto, an approach that helps manage the vigor of the Glera grape variety, which has a tendency to produce a lot of fruit if given the opportunity.

Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip

While Glera is the region’s primary grape variety and most wines are made solely with this grape, legally 15% of the wine can be made with the other four permitted grape varieties in the region: Verdiso, Perera, Bianchetta Trevigiana, and Glera Lunga. Of these, Verdiso and Bianchetta seem to be the only two that most people bother with these days, as Perera seems quite finicky and very susceptible to mildew and rot, while Glera Lunga isn’t thought to have much character.

Within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG region, there are two additional wine designations that are important to know. The first is the aforementioned concept of a rive. A rive is a contiguous vineyard area across a hillside or series of hillsides representing one of the steepest, most historical areas of production for Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

While there have been 43 of these rive established, that doesn’t mean you’ll see all 43 of these names on bottles. Only about 15 rive have yet to make it onto the names of commercial Prosecco bottlings. This has to do both with the newness of the concept (established in 2009), as well as the realities of how the region is farmed.

With vineyard ownership split among so many small growers, it can be difficult to assemble enough acreage within a single rive to make enough wine to justify a single-rive bottling, especially in a region where the smallest commercially viable quantity of wine is usually many times larger than a single barrel or two.

These rive both are, and are not, the equivalent of Burgundy’s climats. On the one hand, just like Burgundian climats they are named, defined plots that have been known by those names for many decades, and sometimes more than a century. They have achieved general consensus amongst the region’s winemakers as the highest quality sites in the region.

However, on the other hand, these plots and their specific borders were not established through careful organoleptic analysis by monks over several centuries, and are therefore partially similar to Burgundy’s lieux-dits, which are simply named sites without necessarily any quality designation.

It is not necessarily possible to identify each of the rive through blind tasting. Though one might argue the same is true of Burgundy. The best blind tasters can reliably distinguish Meursault from Puligny-Montrachet, but have a harder time consistently pegging the difference between Meursault Les Caillerets and Meursault Sous Blagny.

Just as with Burgundy, what is under the surface in Prosecco doesn’t necessarily closely align with the historical boundaries of the rive. In fact, I have been told by the head of the Consorzio that scientists have identified 19 different subzones of the region—combinations of soil types, meso-climate, and chemical signatures of finished wines—that are organoleptically distinct, but this research is still ongoing and has yet to be published.

The other designation important to know is the Cartizze DOCG, a separate DOCG area embedded within the larger Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG region. Cartizze is one particularly steep hillside that, for reasons not entirely clear to geologists, features a much higher calcareous component than the rest of the region. It is arguably the most famous and historically prestigious site for Prosecco wine, spanning 264 acres across the main hillside and a few of its rolling companions. Wines from Cartizze typically cost roughly twice what you’d pay for a good DOCG Prosecco, and have a wonderful minerality and fineness that often accompanies limestone-driven terroirs around the world.

Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip
The main hill of Cartizze

How Prosecco is Made

Like most fine sparkling wines, Prosecco is made with two fermentations, the first results in a dry wine (with no residual sugar). New yeast and sugar are then added to this base wine, and their fermentation creates the bubbles. Whereas Champagne and some other sparkling wines generally have this second fermentation take place in individual bottles, Prosecco mostly uses the Charmat method, in which this second fermentation takes place in (generally large) sealed and pressurized tanks called autoclaves.

The locals in Prosecco like to refer to this process by its original name, the Martinotti Method, as it was invented and patented by an Italian of that name before being globally popularized by a Frenchman with the last name Charmat.

The second fermentation that happens in these pressurized tanks is generally done rather quickly, under temperature control, preserving the bright, floral, and fruity flavors of the Glera grape, yielding the friendly and reliably tasty character that has made the wine popular for decades. Once the fermentation has progressed to produce the desired level of pressure (usually 5-6 bars), the wine is filtered, cold-stabilized, and then put into bottles.

This method also has the benefit of being able to make sparkling wine somewhat “on-demand” in relatively flexible amounts (the limitation being the size and number of your autoclaves). So as a result, most producers make a vintage worth of still base wine that they keep in sealed, temperature-controlled tanks, which they then turn into Prosecco in batches throughout the year, bottling as demand necessitates. This allows them to deliver the freshest possible product to market and keeps them from having to store lots of bottles of wine until they’re sold.

Of course, like anywhere in the world where winemakers exercise their creativity, there are exceptions to this rule. Some winemakers make bottle-fermented prosecco, including the un-disgorged version that has recently become an officially sanctioned form of DOCG Prosecco known as sui lieviti (which I wrote about in some depth a number of weeks ago).

The Best Proseccos and How They Taste

The primary word that for me most distinguishes the best Prosecci is refinement. While most decently made Prosecco Superiore wines share a green apple and white floral character, those that are most compelling have a more chiseled aspect. They tend to show more mineral character and lean slightly more savory than your typical bottling.

I will admit to generally preferring Prosecco Superiore on the less-sweet end of the spectrum (Brut, Extra Brut, and Brut Nature). Having said that, you will see a couple of Extra Dry and Dry (remember that confusingly when we’re talking about sparkling wine, Extra Dry is semi-sweet, and Dry is sweeter still) bottles below included in the best of what I tasted on my trip. These sweeter wines managed to still convey a precision and minerality and had enough acidity to balance any sweetness on the palate.

Prosecco Superiore of course is not Champagne and never will be. Even when made in a classic method, with bottle fermentation and longer time on the lees, it doesn’t develop the complexity, mouthwatering salinity, and richness that mark the best Champagnes and sparkling wines around the world. Instead Prosecco delivers wonderfully fresh, crisp, and precise floral and apple flavors that while rarely profound, can be wonderfully refreshing and delicious. On the flip side, Prosecco is never marred by the astringency and angularity that characterizes a lot of inexpensive (and not very pleasurable) Champagne.

Because of its expression of clean, floral freshness, Prosecco Superiore is generally best drunk quite young and doesn’t usually reward cellaring. Having said that, one of my favorite wines from this past trip was a 6-year-old bottle of extra brut that was still quite delicious.

I continue to be amazed at the extraordinary value that Prosecco Superiore represents in the market, especially given the amount of work required to farm and harvest these incredible vineyards. To get the equivalent of a single-vineyard expression of place, made entirely by hand, in quantities of only a few hundred cases for less than $20 retail in the United States is somewhat astonishing.

Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip
The Rive Farra di Soligo, which extends over three layers of rolling hills

Tasting Notes

Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip

2021 L’Antica Quercia “Matiú Brut” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive Scomigo, Veneto, Italy
Near colorless in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of apple, wet stones, and lime zest. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers beautifully clean flavors of green apple that have a faint sweetness as lime zest and citrus pith linger through the finish. Excellent balance and acidity. 6 g/l residual sugar. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2020 Adami “Col Credas Extra Brut” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di Farra di Soligo, Veneto, Italy
Near colorless in the glass with a hint of green and very fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and white flowers with hints of unripe pear. In the mouth, slightly saline flavors of wet stone mix with white flowers, citrus oils, and green apple skin. Wonderfully fine, stony minerality and length. Very refined. 4 g/l residual sugar. 11% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2020 Adami “Vigneto Giardino Dry” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di Colbertaldo, Veneto, Italy
Palest greenish gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and crushed spices. In the mouth, a voluminous mousse delivers flavors of citrus peel, white flowers, spices, faint salinity, and a whisper of sweetness. Wonderful hints of blood oranges linger in the finish. Excellent acidity. 20 g/l residual sugar. 11% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2021 Le Colture “Gerardo Extra Brut” Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di San Stefano, Veneto, Italy
Palest greenish gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, white flowers, and greengage plums. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers crisp flavors of green apple, greengage plum, white flowers, crushed shells, and a touch of herbs. One of the highest vineyards in the Valdobbiadene area. Made with a longer fermentation lasting 3 months. Limestone soils, and vines that are around 100 years old. 11.5% alcohol. 5 g/l residual sugar. 6000 bottles made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip

2016 Bianca Vigna “Brut Nature” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di Ogliano, Veneto, Italy
Pale greenish gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of honey and nuts and wet stone. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers incredibly fresh minerality underneath honey roasted nuts and a whisper of baked apple. White flowers and a hint of salinity linger in the finish. Very clean and bright and still very fresh given 6 years of age. 11% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2019 Ca’ dei Zago “Metodo Classico Dossagio Zero” Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, Veneto, Italy
Light gold in the glass, with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet stones and ripe apples. In the mouth, applesauce, yeasty bread, and lemon peel flavors are welded to a wonderful wet stone quality that is very compelling. Excellent acidity and a soft mousse. More savory than many Prosecco wines. Contains 5% Verdiso and 2.5% each of Bianchetta and Perera. Macerates for 2 days on the skins in concrete tanks. The wines are bottled in the spring, and the second fermentation takes place in the bottle with lees contact for 14 months before disgorgement. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40.

2020 Bianca Vigna “Extra Brut” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di Ogliano, Veneto, Italy
Near colorless in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and green apple. In the mouth, crisp lime zest and lime leaf float on a soft mousse with wet chalkboard and a very nice clean finish. Excellent acidity. Grows on morainic clay soils. 1.5 g/l residual sugar. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.

2020 Bianca Vigna “Extra Brut” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di Soligo, Veneto, Italy
Palest gold in the glass, with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of citrus pith, lime zest, and lemon cucumber. In the mouth, a plush mousse delivers flavors of stony crushed shells and wet chalkboard minerality laced with citrus pith and lean stone fruit. Farmed on conglomerate soils with some intrusions of limestone at a precarious 70% slope. 1.5 g/l residual sugar. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.

2020 Bianca Vigna “Extra Dry” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di Colalto, Veneto, Italy
Palest gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and candied green apple. In the mouth, faintly sweet candied apple flavors mix with white flowers and wet stones, all floating on a soft mousse. This is clean and crisp and stony and faintly sweet. Comes from a heavily wooded section of the appellation, and a very stony hill. 17 g/l residual sugar. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.

2020 Carpenè-Malvolti “1868 Brut” Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di San Pietro Barbozza, Veneto, Italy
Palest gold in the glass, with fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet pavement and honeysuckle and a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers wonderfully fine and clean mineral notes with scents of white flowers and Asian pear flavors. Very clean and crisp. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip

NV Adami “Dei Casel Extra Dry” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, Veneto, Italy
Near colorless in the glass (faint hint of green) with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of linalool and green apple. In the mouth, white flowers, green apple, wet chalkboard, and bright hints of lime are borne on a soft mousse with lime zest in the finish. Nice mineral undertones. Excellent acidity. 16 g/l residual sugar. 11% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2021 Andreola “26˚1˚ Extra Brut” Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Rive di Col San Martino, Veneto, Italy
Pale gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells slightly of bread dough, white flowers, herbs, and wet pavement. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of white flowers, winter melon, and a touch of Asian pear all infused with citrus notes. Crisp and bright. 0 g/l residual sugar. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

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The Best of Italian Wine: Tasting the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

As a wine writer and critic, I am frequently asked to name my favorite wine. It’s an annoying question, like asking an art critic what is their favorite painting, but it invariably comes from an innocent curiosity and enthusiasm, so I try not to roll my eyes when asked. Instead, I demur, and say that while I can’t name a single wine, my best answer to the spirit of the question is that if I had to drink the wines from just one country for the rest of my life, that country would, without question, be Italy.

I could provide many reasons for my attestation, including sheer variety, value-for-money, and many others, but why get specific? I adore Italian wine and always have. It’s fantastic stuff, from the top of the boot to the bottom.

All of which is why one of my favorite wine tastings every year (remember those?) was always the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting, which involved hundreds of Italian producers showing up in San Francisco to show off their wines for members of the trade and media.

Gambero Rosso is, of course, the leading wine guide and source of wine criticism in Italy, and each year, they bestow their One, Two, and Three Bicchieri (glasses) awards on those wines they believe are the best of their kind. Tre Bicchieri, of course, being the top of the top, cream of the crop.

I don’t know about you, but I pay less attention to scores these days than I used to, having let my subscriptions to the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and other such publications expire long ago. But back when I was thumbing through them with some regularity, for any given set of scores, there were quite a few that I disagreed with. Which is to say, that tasting any random sampling of 10 or 20 highest-scoring wines, there would be quite a few that I didn’t care for.

Not so, for Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri. Any wine that has actually been awarded this coveted three glasses, I can almost guarantee that I will appreciate it, and most of the time I will really enjoy it. At least that has been my anecdotal experience having tasted the Tre Bicchieri selections with some regularity for the past 10 or 12 years.

All of which is a very long explanation for the fact that when the Gambero Rosso sent a note asking if I’d be interested in receiving a few cases of Tre Bicchieri wines to taste in the absence of the large public tasting, my answer was, of course, “Hell yes!”

Here’s what they sent, and what I thought of the wines. There are some absolutely stunning values in this list, not the least of which is possibly the first $12 wine I have ever given a 9 to 9.5 rating on my approximate 10-point scale.

The wines are largely from the 2017, 2018, and 2019 vintages with a few older vintages in there as regional aging regulations might dictate.

While these aren’t the absolute top Tre Bicchieri wines of Italy (i.e. no Ornellaia or Sassicaia or Massetto below –most of whom would never be bothered to send a whole raft of samples to a bunch of US journalists as part of such a scheme) these are all fantastic examples of their style, and several are among some of my favorite Italian wines.

Note that some of the vintages I tasted are not yet in the US. I find that many Italian imports tend to lag sometimes as much as a year or two from their release dates overseas. It just depends on the size of the importer, which often relates to the size (and financial power) of the producer. The larger and more successful the winery, the more efficient their global distribution.

Enjoy.

Tasting Notes

2019 Bortolomiol “Brut Ius Naturae” Prosecco Superiore, Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
Near colorless in the glass with just a hint of greenish-gold highlighting its very fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and green apple and citrus. In the mouth, a moderately coarse mousse delivers crisp and clean flavors of green apple and white flowers with a hint of citrus pith. Ethereal and effortless, with just a hint of salinity on the finish to add complexity. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $21. click to buy.

2019 Biancavigna “Rive di Soligo Extra Brut” Prosecco Superiore, Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
Near colorless in the glass with a hint of green and very fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and star fruit. In the mouth, lime and green melon, wet slate and white flowers have a crisp, lean quality to them. A moderately silky mousse caresses the palate and leaves the mouth feeling refreshed as notes of lime zest and green apple linger in the finish. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2019 Borgoluce “Rive di Collalto Extra Brut” Prosecco Superiore, Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
Essentially colorless in the glass, with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of JuicyFruit gum and salty lemon pith. In the mouth, wonderfully saline flavors of white flowers and seawater are borne on a voluminous, silky mousse. Delicate and very refined, this wine has a subtlety and faint floral quality that is quite alluring. Saline notes of green apple linger in the finish. 11.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $32.

2018 I Campi “Campo Vulcano” Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle, unripe apple, candle wax, and wet pavement. In the mouth, gorgeously brisk flavors of lemon pith, unripe apple, wet chalkboard, and lemon cucumber flavors crackle with phenomenal acidity and leave a crystalline impression in the mouth. Includes 15% Trebbiano. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2018 Pieropan “Calvarino” Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of honeysuckle and wet pavement. In the mouth, honeysuckle, chamomile, bee pollen, and deeply crystalline, quartz-like minerality shimmer and snap, thanks to fantastic acidity. There’s a wet chalkboard quality to the finish. Contains 30% Trebbiano. Fermented and aged in cement. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2018 Tenuta Luisa “I Ferretti” Friulano, Isonzo del Friuli, Friuli, Italy
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of unripe peaches, citron, and white flowers. In the mouth, beautifully bright honeysuckle, exotic citrus, and grapefruit flavors have an electric sizzle thanks to fantastic acidity and a deeply mineral wet-chalkboard finish. Clean, crisp, and delicious. About half of this wine’s grapes are left to dry on the vine for 10 to 12 days following the fresh harvest. 30% ages in oak, with lees stirring. 13.5% alcohol. 4000 bottles made. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2019 Tenuta Stella Friulano, Collio, Friuli, Italy
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of chamomile and celery, wet pavement, and green apple. In the mouth, green apple, chamomile, and rainwater flavors have a bright crystalline quality that crackles with fantastic acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30.

The Best of Italian Wine: Tasting the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

2018 Edi Keber “K” White Blend, Collio, Friuli, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of chamomile, exotic citrus, and melting snow. In the mouth, gorgeous citrus pith, wet chalkboard, and yellow herbs have a brisk snappiness thanks to fantastic acidity. Pomelo and pomelo pith linger in the finish. A blend of Tocai Friulano, Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla Gialla fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in cement. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $36. click to buy.

2019 Bosco Del Merlo “Turranio” Sauvignon, Friuli, Italy
Near colorless in the glass with just a hint of greeny-gold, this wine smells of passionfruit and kiwi. In the mouth, passionfruit, kiwi, and cut grass flavors have a bright crystalline quality to them. Deeply mineral and bright, with a lovely passionfruit flavor lingering in the finish. Clean and refreshing. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $23. click to buy.

2019 Tiare Sauvignon, Collio, Friuli, Italy
Palest greenish gold in the glass, nearly colorless, this wine smells of green apples and gooseberries. In the mouth, incredibly bright green apple and cut grass flavors seem filtered through glacial ice. Incredibly clean and bright. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5 . Cost: $24. click to buy.

2019 Cantina Kurtastsch “Kofl” Sauvignon, Sudtirol Alto Adige, Italy
Pale greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of lanolin, citrus oils, and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, exotic citrus, wet chalkboard, and a hint of musky animal funk mix with a crystalline quality thanks to fantastic acidity. There’s just something interestingly savory about this wine, like a hint of green olive or dashi. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2018 La Roncaia “Eclisse” White Blend, Venezia Giulia, Italy
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of star fruit and struck match with a hint of citrus pith. In the mouth, star fruit, lemon cucumber, and winter melon have a faint floral quality that wafts above a deeply mineral core. Fantastic acidity leaves the mouth feeling like it’s just been washed in a mountain stream and wiped dry with a buddha’s hand citrus. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Picolit. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

The Best of Italian Wine: Tasting the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

2019 Cusumano “Alta Mora” Etna Bianco, Etna, Sicily, Italy
Light greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet pavement, yellow flowers, and exotic citrus. In the mouth, the wine is deeply stony, but brimming with bright neon lemon zinginess thanks to fantastic acidity. Flavors of chamomile, bee pollen—but above all Meyer lemon—simply make the mouth water. Deeply satisfying. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2019 Pala “Stellato” Vermentino di Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy
Pale yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and green melon and white flowers. In the mouth, juicy pear and green melon flavors mix with thyme and a hint of other green herbs. Excellent acidity keeps the mouth watering, but there’s definitely some alcoholic heat in this wine. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2019 Surrau “Sciala” Vermentino di Gallura Superiore, Sardinia, Italy
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, citrus pith, and pears. In the mouth, juicy pear and grapefruit pith flavors have a bright zing to them thanks to excellent acidity. Great crystalline depth and a clean floral finish with hints of yellow herbs. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2019 Feudo Antico Pecorino, Tullum, Abruzzo, Italy
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of lanolin, lemon zest, and dried herbs. In the mouth, grapefruit and lemon brightness is filtered through a dried herbal quality, as hints of dried sage and cumin mix with a stony minerality. Quite savory, with excellent acidity, and a very long citrus-tinged finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2018 Ottella “Molceo Riserva” Lugana, Lombardy, Italy
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of poached pears, honey, and apples. In the mouth, silky and juicy flavors of apples and chamomile, pears and a hint of kumquat have a nice brightness thanks to good acidity. Quite pretty and drinkable with that nice balance that Lugana can have between richness and zip. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2017 Perla del Garda “Madonna della Scoperta” Lugana Superiore, Lombardy, Italy
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apples, apricots, and pink grapefruit. In the mouth, very silky flavors of pink grapefruit, green apple, and Asian pear are shot through with a hint of exotic citrus pith. Good acidity and a marmalade finish. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $ . click to buy.

2019 Tenuta Terraviva “Giusi” Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of struck match and river mud. In the mouth, tangy sour cherry and redcurrant flavors have a bright intensity thanks to excellent acidity. The wine’s vibrance seems to build on the palate, leaving the mouthwatering as saline flavors of citrus, unripe strawberry, and some herbs linger in the finish. Faint, faint tannins. This wine qualifies as slightly funky, but in a very good way. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $22.

2015 Valle Reale “Vigneto Di Popoli” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and boysenberry. In the mouth, bright boysenberry fruit is wrapped in a light, fleecy blanket of tannins as hints of orange peel and dried herbs linger in a long finish. Excellent acidity and lovely texture. 13.5% alcohol. 27530 bottles made. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2017 Poggio le Volpi “Edizione Limitata” Red Blend, Roma, Latium, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of richly oiled leather, cassis, and maraschino cherry with a hint of roasted nuts. In the mouth, dark cherry, cedar, and leather flavors are bright with excellent acidity, which leaves an orange peel citrus note on the finish, along with river mud and leather flavors. Supple, suede-like tannins only emerge with some time on the palate. A blend of Cesanese, Montepulciano and Syrah. 14% alcohol. 22,600 egregiously heavy bottles made. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100.

2016 Donnachiara Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and leather, dried herbs, and earth. In the mouth, rich flavors of black cherry and blackberry are held in a muscular fist of tannins. Bright acidity makes the mouth water and the finish of blueberries and herbs soar for many minutes as darker dusty flavors rumble in the bass clef. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

The Best of Italian Wine: Tasting the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

2017 Accademia dei Racemi “Zinfandel Sinfarosa Terra Nerra” Primitivo do Manduria, Puglia, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberries and earth. In the mouth, blackberry and black pepper flavors mix with potting soil and a touch of dried oregano. Powdery tannins coat the mouth as brambly, citrusy flavors linger in the finish. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2017 Coppi “Senatore” Primitivo, Gioia del Colle, Puglia, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and cassis. In the mouth, juicy blackberry, cassis, and licorice flavors have a wonderful taut tannic skein to them, with hints of citrus, black pepper, and dried green herbs. Notes of dried flowers linger in the finish. Quite pretty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2017 Pietradolce “Archineri” Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily, Italy
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of dried flowers, rock dust, and forest berries. In the mouth, incredibly bright flavors of strawberry, mulberry, and redcurrant are electric-bright thanks to racy acidity. Gorgeous notes of citrus rind and dried flowers linger in a very long finish as powdery tannins leave the mouth with a deeply mineral impression. Incredible texture and length, and only a tiny bit of heat hinting at the substantial 15% alcohol. Made from vines between 80 and 90 years old grown at 850 meters of elevation. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2016 Cottanera “Feudo di Mezzo” Etna Rosso, Etna, Sicily, Italy
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of forest berries, wet pavement, and dried flowers. In the mouth, intense flavors of dried flowers, strawberries, and mulberries are deeply stony, as the powdery tannins coat the mouth and leave the feeling of having inhaled a mouthful of chalk dust. Long and persistent and beautiful. Taste the volcano. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50.

2016 Tacchino Albarola Barbera del Monferrato, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of earth, blackberries, and black cherries. In the mouth, dark and rich black cherry flavors are shot through with dried herbs, earth, and leather, as notes of citrus peel and pink peppercorns linger in the finish. Gorgeously wispy tannins are barely perceptible at the edge of the palate. There’s a touch of wood flavor underneath this fruit, but it is subtle and well-integrated. Excellent acidity and despite the intensity of flavor, a drinkability that is charming. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $36.

The Best of Italian Wine: Tasting the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

2018 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Light to medium ruby in the glass this wine smells of strawberries and cherry and wet potting soil. In the mouth, wonderfully bright cherry and strawberry fruit is shot through with dusty, dry herbs and enclosed in a gauzy haze of supple tannins. Fantastic acidity and beautiful depth. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2017 Barone Ricasoli “Gran Selezione Colledilà” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Medium ruby in color, this wine smells of cherry and new oak. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is shot through with the nutty toastiness of new oak and cocoa powder. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit bright, and notes of dried herbs also appear as the wine finishes, but the dominant “spice” here is oak, which is too much for my taste. A shame, really, as this would have been a truly exceptional wine without it. As it is, the wine is merely very, very good. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $72. click to buy.

2017 Teunta Arceno “Riserva” Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass with a touch of garnet in it, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit. In the mouth, intense cherry fruit has an incredible purity to it and a stony backdrop against which hints of dried flowers and dried herbs emerge. Mostly, however, this is a ringing crystalline chime singing the flavor “cherry” more intensely than you can imagine is possible. Outstanding. Gorgeous acidity, perfect poise. There is wood here, but it is so well integrated into the wine, it is but a whisper of the leathery tannins and a whiff of toasted espresso. Pierre Seillan strikes again. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2016 Tenuta Monteti “Monteti” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and blackberries. In the mouth, smoky notes of black cherry, toasted oak, espresso, and cocoa powder are bright with juicy acidity and clasped in a muscular fist of fine-grained tannins. Dark and powerful, but with some lift thanks to the excellent acidity. Notes of oak and licorice linger in the finish. A blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Matures in 70% new French oak for 18 months followed by 2 years of bottle aging. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2017 Piaggia “Riserva” Red Blend, Carmignano, Tuscany, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, roasted figs, and black olives. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, niçoise olives, licorice root, and a hint of bitter wood are deeply savory. There’s decent acidity here, but I would love some more. As it is this wine provides a very brooding character, and may simply need some time in the cellar to open up. A blend of 70% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, and the balance a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Ages in 10% new French oak barriques 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $43. click to buy.

The Best of Italian Wine: Tasting the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri

2016 Caiarossa “Aria di Caiarossa” Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and tobacco leaf and pencil shavings. In the mouth, gorgeous dark cherry, cedar, and pipe tobacco flavors mix with brighter notes of orange peel and dried sage. Suede-like tannins caress the edges of the palate and settle in with some weight as the wine finishes beautifully floral and long. Excellent acidity, this is a wine that is built for the long haul. Give it 10 years and watch out! A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a dollop of Syrah and Petit Verdot. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $54. click to buy.

2015 Tenuta di Sesta Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
Medium ruby in the glass, with hints of orange at the rim, this wine smells of strawberries, cherries, and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and sandalwood flavors are matched with dried orange peel and a wonderful freshness like chopped green herbs. Gorgeous acidity and incredible poise, this wine is incredibly drinkable, with only the barest grip of tannins at the edge of the palate at this point. Incredibly elegant 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2016 Speri “Sant’Urbano” Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of chocolate-covered raisins and black cherries. In the mouth, rich flavors of black cherry, chocolate, raisins, roasted figs, and licorice all remain quite juicy thanks to excellent acidity. A classic note of incense lingers in the finish along with dried cherries. Very drinkable. A blend of 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara dried in the traditional manner to 60% of their former weight before pressing. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2016 Tenuta Sant’Antonio “Campo dei Gigli” Amarone della Valpolicella, Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dried cherries, prunes, and sawdust. In the mouth, strong notes of incense and dried herbs mix with raisins, chocolate, licorice, and black cherry fruit. There’s a spicy peppery quality that lingers in the finish. The tannins drape like a weighted blanket over everything, but the excellent acidity keeps the saliva flowing. This is a breed of Amarone that is just a bit too much for me. A blend of 70% Corvina and Corvinon, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, and 5% Oseleta. 16% alcohol in a terribly heavy bottle. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.

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I’ll Drink to That: All About Lake Garda

Episode 484 of I’ll Drink to That! features a deep dive into Italy’s Lake Garda, and the wines produced along its shores. Erin Scala leads a tour of the wineries of the Lake Garda environs, examining the history of the area as well as the recent changes in winemaking there.


The popularity of pale pink rosé wines has united wine areas around the world in a shift towards their greater production. But what if an agreement about the efficacy of such wines was found in multiple regions of the world back even in Imperial Roman times? While examining the history of Bardolino, Erin Scala came across a common connection between the wines of Lake Garda in what is now Italy, and the wines of Provence, now a region of France. And that connection is rosé. The Romans, she relates to us in this episode, brought to both areas the idea of pressing grapes off their skins early in the maceration period. While those areas of Europe have been subsequently divided into different countries during the march of time, they share a common winemaking history dating back to the 3rd century AD. And the producers of Bardolino are referencing that history more and more as they move to embrace making rosé wines today. Erin found dramatic changes in the methods of wine production in the area, a general turn dating back less than a decade. Sweeping change, with an ancient historical precedent, buffered by the crosscurrents of modern nation-states? Who better to tell that story in a fun, engaging, and panoramic way than Erin Scala? Check out episode 484 of I’ll Drink to That! to hear her, as well as many of the producers of Bardolino wine today.

The photo by Erin Scala above shows Roberta Bricolo of Cantina Gorgo, one of several winery owners featured in the episode.

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I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine

The post I’ll Drink to That: All About Lake Garda appeared first on Vinography.

I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Lorenzo Accomasso

Episode 482 of I’ll Drink to That! features legendary Barolo producer Lorenzo Accomasso, along with a deep lesson in the history of the Piedmont region’s journey from World War II until now.

Italy experienced a civil war in the 20th century, specifically in 1943 through 1945. In those years Fascists backed by Nazi Germany held territory in the north of the country, while Allied troops controlled Sicily and fought to move up the peninsula from the south. At that time, guerrilla warfare was waged by Italian resistance fighters known as Partisans. Italians attacked Italians as well as foreign armies, as Partisans battled the remnants of Benito Mussolini’s Fascists. That period of strife is still within living memory for people such as Lorenzo Accomasso. Accomasso is a vintner in Piemonte’s La Morra area who experienced the Second World War as a child, and the war between the Modern and Traditional Barolo as an adult. Perhaps those two conflicts had more connections than we might first suppose, a thought which occurred to me after listening through episode 482 of the I’ll Drink to That! podcast. That episode contains both a deep dive into the history of the Piemonte in the latter half of the twentieth century and an encounter with the elderly Accomasso, still hard at working making wine each year from his small parcels of vines. Accomasso speaks at length about the changes he has witnessed over the years, sometimes expressing more acceptance of the differences than approval. What wisdom should we take from Accomasso to apply to our own period of massive disruption? “Everyone must stay in their own garden” he tells us, “and I stay in mine.” Accomasso is ready to take responsibility for what he can, leaving us to do the same.

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I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine

The post I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Lorenzo Accomasso appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/22/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This past week included wines from all over the place. But let’s start quite close to home, at least for me. Urban Legend Cellars is a small operation working out of the “wine ghetto” on the island of Alameda, near Oakland. Run by the husband-and-wife team of Steve & Marilee Shaffer, who are “recovering” engineers from Silicon Valley who decided they wanted to make wine. They purchase grapes from a wide range of sources, and make a number of wines, including this Vermentino, from the Clements Hills sub-AVA in Lodi. It’s quite fresh and tasty, and might easily convert anyone to Vermentino’s charms.

A little farther afield I’ve got a cracking Chardonnay from J. Christopher Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which illustrates perfectly why people are so excited about Oregon Chardonnay. It’s crisp and citrusy, and gorgeous.

You could say the same thing about the Dr. Loosen Riesling from the famed “spice garden” vineyard, Ürziger Würtzgarten, in Germany’s Mosel River Valley. One of Germany’s more famous sites for Riesling, made by one of Germany’s more famous names makes for a scintillating example of the form.

Let’s move on to reds.

Before I dive deep into a pool of Syrah, I’ve got a Pinot from J. Christopher winery that will be of interest to anyone who likes their Pinot Noirs more on the savory, earthy side.

I was recently sent a number of Côtes-du-Rhônes, which were a lovely reminder of how I really should be drinking more of them. All were compelling, from the lean dark fruit flavors of Stephane Ogier’s rendition, to the more savory, brooding qualities of Delas Frere’s interpretation.

But my favorite example of Côtes-du-Rhône comes from Clos Bellane, a small organic producer that sits at more than 1200 feet of elevation on steep, limestone slopes outside the village of Valréas, which sits in the northern part of the southern Rhone wine region.

Vigneron Stephane Vedeau purchased the Clos Bellane estate in 2007 and is making really remarkable wines there, as this, his entry-level wine, demonstrates. It’s wonderfully aromatic, incredibly fresh and bright, and just a delight to drink. And at between $16 and $20, it’s a shockingly great value.

Back on this continent, I was really delighted to see just how fresh the Owen Roe “Ex Umbris” Columbia Valley Syrah was in its expression of boisterous blackberry fruit. A bit father south in Oregon’s Applegate Valley, Troon Vineyard is making whole-cluster fermented Syrah where you can really taste the influence of the stems, making for a savory interpretation of the grape.

Lastly, I’ve got one of the regal wines of Taurasi, the Piano di Montevergine from venerable producer Feudi di San Gregorio. This wine comes from the estate’s oldest plantings of Aglianico at an elevation of around 1300 feet above sea level in the Irpina region of Campania, not far from Mount Vesuvius. Even at 8 years of age, this wine is still a bit of a monster when it comes to tannins, and needs some air to mellow, as well as perhaps some more time in the bottle. In my personal experience it is a wine that rewards significant aging, especially if you appreciate the leather and dried flowers scents that Aglianico can offer with some time in the bottle. Now, however, the Piano is a bit forte, if that’s your speed.

Tasting Notes

2019 Urban Legend Cellars “Gill Creek Ranch” Vermentino, Clements Hills, Lodi, Central Coast, California
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of poached pear in sweet cream. In the mouth, bright pear and pastry cream flavors have a slight tinge of lemongrass and chamomile. Silky textured, this wine has a very nice acid balance and crisp finish with a hint of orange peel. 13.1% alcohol. 168 cases made. Closed with a screwcap. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24.

2018 J. Christopher “Olenik Vineyard” Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus pith and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine is quite floral, with a gorgeous quartz-like crystalline quality and juicy lemon and lemon pith flavors, and a touch of green apple. Very elegant and poised with just a hint of salinity in the finish. . 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.

2018 Dr. Loosen “Ürziger Würtzgarten Spätlese” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Palest greenish-gold in color, this wine smells of tangerine zest and white flowers with a hint of lemon cucumber. In the mouth, gorgeous exotic citrus flavors mix with honeysuckle and rainwater minerality, all sizzling with excellent acidity. Lightly to moderately sweet, but definitely in my sweet spot. 8.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2016 J. Christopher “JJ” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit shot through with a hint of barnyard funkiness. In the mouth, pure bright cherry and raspberry fruit has a nice zing thanks to excellent acidity. There’s some bitter cedar and herb notes lingering in the finish along with that faint hint of manure. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2018 Clos Bellane Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Valréas, Rhône Valley, France
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich cherry fruit. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy flavors of cherry mix with incredibly aromatic herbs like wild thyme and lavender even as a crystalline stony quality makes the whole red and black fruit concoction glint and shimmer on the palate. Barely perceptible tannins. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2017 Stephane Ogier “Le Temps Est Venu” Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhône Valley, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry fruit and a touch of forest floor. In the mouth, juicy black cherry flavors are shot through with dried sage and other dried herbs making for quite a savory impression. Very faint powdery tannins creep about the edges of the mouth, while a faint bitter herb and orange-peel note lingers in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2018 Delas Freres “Saint-Esprit” Côtes-du-Rhône, Rhône Valley, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, cassis, and potting soil. In the mouth, flavors of black cherry, cassis, and wet earth have a wonderful freshness to them thanks to excellent acidity and a faint green herbal kick that meshes with a definite stony quality. Dark and brooding, yet without feeling heavy, and quite delicious. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2018 Owen Roe “Ex Umbris” Syrah, Yakima Valley, Washington
Medium to dark purple in color, this wine smells of rich blackberry fruit with a hint of woodsmoke. In the mouth, wonderfully juicy blackberry and cassis flavors are positively electric on the palate thanks to fantastic acidity. Faint, powdery tannins dust the palate while notes of licorice emerge on the finish. Excellent. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $24. click to buy.

2018 Troon Vineyard “White Family Selection” Syrah, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wet earth and chopped herbs. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and cassis flavors are shot through with a cedary, incense quality, thanks no doubt to the whole cluster fermentation, which seems to have imparted a sort of woody note from the stems. Excellent acidity and freshness, with tightly wound, muscular tannins that flex through the finish. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2012 Feudi di San Gregorio “Piano di Montevergine – Riserva” Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of leather, dried flowers, and licorice. In the mouth, massive, billowy tannins envelop a core of black cherry, licorice root, and dried flowers, even as earthier, darker notes rumble about in the basement. Good acidity, but still massive even with 8 years of age. Give it some air, or better yet, another 5 years in the bottle. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $65. click to buy.

The post Vinography Unboxed: Week of 11/22/20 appeared first on Vinography.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 6/21/20

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included some excellent values from Italy among other places. Two of them came from Gioacchino Garafoli, a dynastic producer in the Marche that’s been making wine under their last name since the late 1800s. Their Verdicchio and their Rosé of Montepulciano are both steals at $15 and under as is their red Montepulciano named Piancarda. Their slightly elevated, oak-aged Verdicchio is also worth paying attention to.

Sticking with Italy for the moment I’ve also got a couple more wines from Veneto producer Inama. Their Vigneti di Carbonare Soave Classico has a faint whisper of wood to it and is quite lemony tasty, while the difficult-to-pronounce “Bradisismo” blend of Cabernet and Carmenere is also quite tasty in its herbal, red fruit goodness.

I’ve reviewed the wines of Acumen previously, but their newest Sauvignon Blanc has just been released, and it’s worth a look for classic lemon-lime essence.

The Jordan Chardonnay is likewise dependably tasty, and a relative bargain at $35.

The real star of this week, however, is a small production rosé made by Kathleen Inman in the Russian River Valley. It’s deliciously bright, juicy, fruity, and snappy, with that gorgeously silky texture that Pinot Noir rosé can have if treated right. This is a wine picked and pressed for rosé, and its worth the slightly higher tariff you’re paying for basically single-vineyard pink Pinot Noir.

In addition to all these, I’ve got Flora Springs’ Merlot and Jordan’s Cabernet below as well, both solid examples of their form.

Tasting Notes:

2017 Inama “Vigneti di Carbonare” Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy
Light gold in color, this wine smells of ripe golden apples warmed by the sun. In the mouth, juicy pear and lemon pith flavors have a hint of butteriness to them, and a touch of butterscotch in the finish. Excellent acidity makes the mouth water and a nice wet chalkboard minerality lingers for a while. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29. click to buy.

2019 Acumen “Mountainside” Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and grapefruit. In the mouth, lemon and lime flavors mix with a touch of cut grass and sweet celery. Good acidity and length, with a hint of herbal bitterness in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2019 Garafoli “Macrina” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC, Marche, Italy
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon pith and pears. In the mouth, zingy lemony pear and apple flavors have a nice wet chalkboard background to them. Floral notes linger in the finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. click to buy.

2017 Garafoli “Podium” Verdicchio, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC, Marche, Italy
Pale yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and grapefruit pith with a hint of oak. In the mouth, flavors of lemon and grapefruit mix with a touch of buttery vanilla. Good acidity and length. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $25. click to buy.

2018 Jordan Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn and lemon curd. In the mouth, lemon curd and grapefruit flavors have a nice brightness thanks to very good acidity. A faint hint of toastiness lingers in the finish with notes of lemon curd and grapefruit pith. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $35. click to buy.

2019 Inman Family Winery “Endless Crush – OGV Estate” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Pale baby pink in color, this wine smells of strawberries and watermelon rind. In the mouth, juicy watermelon rind, berries and hibiscus have a fantastic bright snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Crisp, clean and quite delicious, a tiny bit of kumquat lingers with the berries in the finish. 12% alcohol. Closed with a screwcap. Score: around 9. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2019 Garafoli “Komaros” Montepulciano Rosato, Marche, Italy
Pale ruby pink in color, this wine smells of watermelon rind. In the mouth, crisp and bright flavors of watermelon rind and hibiscus have a nice bounce thanks to excellent acidity. A faint sour cherry note lingers in the finish. Pretty. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2017 Inman Family Winery Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and cedar and raspberry mix with an earthier, forest floor quality. Faint tannins dust the edges of the mouth as the wine lingers with a touch of dried herbs. Good acidity and length. 13.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2016 Inama “Bradisismo” Red Blend, Veneto, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and chopped green herbs and a touch of green bell pepper. In the mouth, flavors of cherry and cola mix with green herbs and touch of dark earth. Excellent acidity and fine grained, dusty tannins. A blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenere. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2017 Flora Springs Merlot, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and black plum. In the mouth, plummy cherry and cassis mix with chocolate and a touch of tobacco. Good acidity and well-integrated wood leave a mocha note in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38. click to buy.

2017 Garafoli “Piancarda” Rosso Conero, Marche, Italy
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and a touch of woodsmoke and leather. In the mouth, black cherry and blackberry flavors have earthier, leathery notes but excellent acidity that gives a citrus kick to the dark fruit. Leathery tannins feel somewhat restrained around the edges of the mouth. Hints of herbs in the finish. Made with the Montepulciano grape. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2016 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and cola. In the mouth, black cherry and cola flavors are smooth and nestled into a gauzy bed of tannins. A hint of herbs lingers in the finish, with a fresh, medium-bodied feel to the wine, thanks to its restrained 13.8% alcohol. Good acidity, but not super dynamic. Even-keel and pleasant. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $58. click to buy.

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Break Out The Oysters and…Red Wine?!?

I know. Oysters and red wine. It sounds so…unappealing. That is, to my particularly persnickety preferences. I do love white wine and steak. But that doesn’t seem as radical. Hey, I’m a drink-what-you-like kind of person, but bivalves and big reds are one of the very few things I can’t get behind.

So I was surprised while conducting interviews for my latest VinePair missive to hear about a red wine and oyster pairing from a winemaker. (Who heard it from a sommelier.) Valpolicella was the wine. This red blend from northern Italy’s Veneto region was one of my first steady wine loves and a killer, spot-on pizza wine.

If you are into chillable reds, get thee to a bottle of Valpolicella. Unfortunately, lighter versions are a little harder to track down. You might be confronted with the broader-shouldered, concentrated “Ripasso” wines. Nothing wrong with a little heft, but I want to beat the drum for the light and lithe Valpolicellas.  Anyhow, check out my VinePair article about a wine to chill (with).

Why Pinot Noir Fans Should Consider Valpolicella’s Crushable Classicos

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If It’s Cold, It’s Sold: Prà Morandina Valpolicella

As a retail wine guy, one of the mantras of the business (and grocery in general) is “Stack it high and watch it fly.” For any beverage (beer/wine/cider/soda/water) the other old saw is “If it’s cold, it’s sold.” You don’t see red wine a lot, if ever, in the cooler, though. That’s changing, as more people are wisely chilling their reds. So kudos to Dandelion Wine, who actually had a bottle of Prà Morandina Valpolicella in their dedicated rosé fridge. (Yes, you have to love this shop.)

Prà is a superstar producer of Soave, the great white wine of the Veneto made primarily from the Garganega grape. When this wine popped up on my Instagram feed. I had two thoughts as my scrolling came to a screeching halt:

  • Wowzers! Look at this unicorn label, so cool.
  • Wait, Prà makes red wines, too?!?

Valpolicella also hails from the Veneto, and it’s a blend of grapes usually Corvina-forward. Let’s take a closer look at this wine.

Prà Morandina Valpolicella 2017

Price of this wine hovers around twenty bucks. It’s a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Oseleta from a vineyard planted in 2001. The grapes are lightly dried for 20 days, which I found surprising because it has no dried fruit characteristics. This wine is the opposite of Amarone, folks. It ferments in stainless steel then spends a few months in oak casks. The winery suggests serving the Morandina “slightly cooled” and advises enjoying a glass with “nibbles and salami.” I’ll double-down on  the first part and say drink it COLD. Especially if you dare drink red wine on a NYC day like this one where it’s going to be 90 and humid.

If you are looking for a wine comp, importer Polaner Selections has some good thoughts. “Think fresh, crunchy, Cru Beaujolais-like fruit with a bright, chalky core,” advises their website. It’s only 12.5% alcohol as well. One of the most purely pleasurable red wines I’ve drank in a while. Highly recommended. And people are going to flip over the label. This is truly a unicorn wine. Very pleasurable to drink sans accompaniment. But better with company.

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This Italian White Wine Belongs in Your Cellar and It’s a Great Value

In the halls of legendary wines rewarding decades of patience in a subterranean cellar, surely reds reign supreme. Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, and beyond. But at a recent media dinner I was flabbergasted by the ageability and affordability* of an Italian white wine: Garofoli Verdicchio. This winery is making surprising whites, recalibrating any notion that cellaring wines means plunking down loads of cash on trophy reds.

Verdicchio vineyards

Garofoli is located in the Marche, not too far from the Adriatic. It’s east of Umbria and south of Emilia-Romagna. The Verdicchio comes from hilly regions set back a bit from the sea, protecting vines from strong breezes.

Before I jump into the aged bottles, let me say a few words about the welcome wine, the 2018 Macrina ($15). This Verdicchio was fresh, medium-bodied, and not too acidic. I don’t know if it’s middle age but I’m a little less keen on white wines with enamel-chipping, gum-bleeding acidity.

Garofoli Verdicchio: The Eye-Opener

We shifted to the main (wine) course: Podium. This is Garofoli’s top Verdicchio; we enjoyed a few aged bottles. Ok, first we started with a more recent vintage, the 2015. It was kinda minty and licorice-y, with a Sherry-like body. Certainly not oxidized, but with a subtle nutty quality. Intriguing! Also I must note that this is an unoaked wine.

The next two bottles were the game-changers, ones that had me thinking of smashing all my expensive reds in the cellar to make way for some Garofoli Verdicchio. Ok, that sounds kind of psychotic. Forgive me, the aged Podium duo was so dang good I was out of my mind and prone to rash thoughts. Rather, I would drink all my reds to make room. Or invite my friends over to have a big cellar depletion party. (If I had a cellar, took a little artistic license there to make a point. Hey, I live a Brooklyn apartment that roasts in the sun. Maybe I could turn it into a Madeira facility in the summer.)

We drank the 2010 and 2004 side-by-side. At this point I’d like to introduce Gianluca Garofoli. He’s the fifth-generation winemaker and owner of his family’s eponymous winery. How rude of me not to mention him earlier, my apologies, Gianluca. I was reminded of his comment about Garofoli Verdicchio, specifically Podium: it’s like a “white Barolo.” Quite audacious to compare ANY wine to Barolo, let alone a white wine, but I was on board after sampling the duo of library bottles.

Step Up to the Podium

2010 was a cold vintage, while 2004 was a warm one. So I’d expect the former to be a little leaner and the latter to have more round richness. Though with the six years of age disparity, they’d be in different stages that might mute vintage difference. Anyway, the 2010 was rich, powerful, and full of tingle.

The 2004 was beguiling, like a collection of Stevie Nicks shawls. (Sidebar: She has a vault for all of them!) There was almost a botrytis (“noble rot”…focus on the first word not the second) type of honeyed richness with a tinge of funky intrigue. Big finish on the wine, some heft from alcohol in a good way from this warm vintage. (No burning.) A wine well-developed but certainly not fading. I don’t know if it would get much better, so I’d err on the side of opening and drinking the 2004.

Ooh, let’s get to the best part about the Garofoli Verdicchio: the price! A bottle of the 2016 Podium will set you back $26. Where else can you get a bottle with 15-years-plus aging potential for that amount of coin? (Maybe a few off-dry German Rieslings? Aussie Riesling/Semillon? Anybody?)

Ok, I’ve spent a lot of time on the whites but the rosé, called Kòmaros, was really good, too. It had something a lot of pink wine lacks: F-L-A-V-O-R. I’m guessing because it’s made from the Montepulciano grape. We had the 2018 and it’s 14 bucks. Very good deal!

The only bummer were the reds, the 2016 Piancarda and the 2012 Grosso Agontano. Both were too heavy and jammy. Not my bag.

CONCLUSION: If you are a drink-now kind of person, stock up on the Macrina and Kòmaros. Both are $15 and under and will make you happy all summer/year-long. If you have a wine fridge/storage, tuck away a few cases of Podium and start pulling them out after five years. I wouldn’t say no to an invite to either party, ok?

*In the context of the great red wines of the world, $26 is affordable. I know that’s still a lot of money to spend on a bottle of wine. But if you had $300 disposable wine income, think how many more awesome bottles you get to pull (and share) by getting a case of Podium.

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This Wine is Indestructable

Sometimes you defeat a wine, sometimes a wine defeats you. This was my experience with a recent sample bottle of Cantele Amativo. I tried my darndest to tame it, but had to give in and be humbled in/by its presence.

Vineyard in Salento producing grapes for Amativo

This is an Italian wine from the Salento region. Located within Puglia, the heel of the boot that is Italy, wines of the region are not lacking in power. Amativo is a blend of 60% Primitivo and 40% Negroamaro. It is a big, rich, brawny wine. I used to think of it as monolithic, but now I think of it as not related to/resembling a monolith but in and of itself a MONOLITH.

Let’s go to the dictionary, shall we? Here’s a meanings of monolith I find apt:

an organized whole that acts as a single unified powerful or influential force

Yes, this is what it is. Though a blend of two grapes, the wine becomes one. More than the sum of its parts. I call it indestructible because after opening the Amativo I did all the wrong things. I set the bottle in my non-climate controlled bedroom. Probably exposed it to sunlight as well. But this wine on day two, three, even four and five (!) would not fade. I also found myself enjoying it more the longer it was open. Obviously at some point the law of diminishing returns comes into play.

Lessons from the Cantele Amativo: One To Grown On

Though I’m much more of a light and lacy kinda red wine guy, I learned something from this bottle. Namely that time and patience are not only required for a winemaker, but sometimes for a wine drinker as well. Whatever wine you choose, from low-ABV see-through sipper to black-as-pitch Zinfandel, I guarantee it will be a different wine the next day. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But each are instructive. And if you are the type to contemplate cellaring wine, beware of any bottle that falls off a cliff on day two.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of INDESTRUCTIBLE WINES. Kind of reminds me of a comment Chris Blandy had about Madeira. It doesn’t have a shelf life, but rather a half life. Of course, Madeira is a fortified wine so it’s going to last longer than any “regular” wine. But Amativo will surprise you with its staying power. Just don’t be a dolt like me: put your open bottle in the fridge to slow down the oxidation.

Also in the interest of full disclosure Paulo Cantele bought me dinner the last time he was in town. It was January. Jeremy Parzen was there as well. So were other people. Wines were consumed. Food was eaten.

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