Posts Filed Under elegant wines

The Week That Terrantez Took Over My Brain (Tasting Old Terrantez Madeira)

Vinted on June 14, 2017 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review
Committee Boston

Committee Boston

Rouge Tomate tasting

Getting our Madeira on at Rouge Tomate Chelsea

“As uvas de Terrantez Não as coma nem as dês, Para vinho Deus as fez.” *

Earlier this month, I had what amounted to a kind of dream speaking gig for me: leading Madeira masterclasses in both Boston (at Committee) and NYC (at Rouge Tomate Chelsea).

Pinch meeeeeee!!!!

I was a hired gun for these events, so I had no hand in choosing the wines on offer during the classes or walk-around tastings; not that I’m complaining, since there was an embarrassment of riches in the lineups, ranging from the intriguing to the excellent to the pretty-much-life-changing.

Given that this was a paying gig, I didn’t want to formally review any of the wines on hand at the events, but I struggled with not sharing something from the wares we tasted on those days, if only because these are precisely the kind of wines that blow my dress up over my head. And so, I thought that I’d share something on the rarer side of these rare vinous treasures…

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Less Is More (Marangona Lugana Recent Releases)

Vinted on June 2, 2017 binned in elegant wines, on the road, overachiever wines, sexy wines, wine review
Marangona's Alessandro Cutolo

Marangona’s Alessandro Cutolo

Alessandro Cutolo kind of looks like a viking.

Aside from close proximity to a body of water (in this case, the Italian Lake Garda), however, the heavy-handed Old Norse warrior comparison fizzles out completely. Because at the crossing of the Veneto and Lombardia regions, Cutolo, as owner and winemaker of Lugana’s Marangona, crafts elegant, svelte whites without even a hint of the roughshod among them; thanks in part to what could only be described as a minimalist approach.

Marangona vines“I want to do as little as possible,” Cutolo told me during a recent media-trip visit, “to [express] my idea of the wine.”

This don’t-touch-it-in-fact-don’t-eben-look-at-it-you’ve-already-seen-enough approach starts in his calcareous-clay soil vineyard, where the grass is high (“it helps with disease”) and the treatments are few. “If it’s possible to have less [impact],” he remarked, “than why not?”

Cutolo owns 27 hectares of ten to fifty year-old vines in Lugana, most of them planted to the deceptively age-worthy Turbiana variety. The estate’s buildings date from the late 1600s, and his family farmed grapes, corn, and cattle here since the 1950s. He now produces about one hundred thousand bottles of (downright delectable) Lugana wine per year…

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Land Of The Almost Lost (Terre del Principe Recent Releases)

Vinted on April 13, 2017 binned in crowd pleaser wines, elegant wines, Italian Wine, on the road, wine review
Manuela Mancini

Manuela Mancini

Nestled in the sandy clay soils between the Taburno and Matese mountain ranges in Italy’s Campania region, at about 200 meters above sea level, sit a relatively small number thirty year old lost souls.

Well, almost lost souls, anyway.

Specifically, the “esoteric” grape varieties Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia, rescued in part as a passion project of husband and wife team Peppe and Manuela Mancini, the former lawyer and journalist, respectively, that founded Terre del Principe. (which I visited this year as part of a media tour around the Campania Stories event).

That their vineyard is a land of the almost lost (no Sleestaks, of course) is one of the more charming things about a charming couple who are making mostly charming wines.

Peppe Mancini

Peppe Mancini at Terre del Principe

Peppe Mancini, in remembering the Pallagrello wines form his youth, sought out the vines and ended up finding them in this vineyard, which turned out to belong to one of his family members. Until recently, Pallagrello Bianco wasn’t even in the National Register of winemaking grapes. Seemingly, it had fallen out of favor when the Bourbons fell during the unification of Italy (King Ferdinand IV had taken a liking to it), and had never recovered.

Similarly, Casavecchia (taking its name from an “old house” where the vine was found growing in Pontelatone) had been relegated to small-time, rustic production until Mancini helped to spearhead its rediscovery in the 1980s.

Along with cellarmaster Luigi Moio, Peppe makes the wines of Terre del Principe (while Manuela, as she modestly states, “just drinks it.”) in Castel Campagnano tufo cellar that dates back to the 10th century (the well in the 15th Century entrance is now used for lowering French oak barrels into the cellar space), and was likely part of the Longobardo castle’s external warehouses.

Everything about Terre del Principe seems similarly, charmingly small, and modestly adjusted only where absolutely necessary. The vineyards pergola training (a hold-over from the past, to protect the grapes from wild boar) is still in use, though modified slightly to reduce vigor. Production has recently been culled back to 20,000 bottles per year (“It’s higher quality,” notes Manuela, “and less work!”). And the wines, in turn, seem all the better for it…

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Seeing Royal Red (Santa Rita Chile Recent Releases)

Vinted on April 6, 2017 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, on the road, sexy wines, wine review
Santa Rita garden 1

“Thank the heavens, for we have Cabernet Franc!”

To me, Chile’s Santa Rita (which I visited in Alto Jahuel as part of a media jaunt last year) can best be summed up in one long, run-on sentence.

Established in the late 1800s on a former farm that at one point sheltered 120 soldiers and has its own chapel; olive, almond, and fruit tress on forty hectares of land that also houses an old mansion-turned-hotel; Santa Rita is one of Chile’s three largest wineries, producing eighty million liters of wine per year and employing about six hundred workers.

Santa Rita garden 2

And, well, there you go. The place is gorgeous, and almost unduly impressive in terms of size and history. Of course, that doesn’t mean diddly to most of us if the wines aren’t any good.

After a short tour of the grounds, I tasted through the mostly-high-end portion of the Santa Rita lineup, so I can tell you that within that range, the reds in most certainly do not suck…

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