Posts Filed Under Italian Wine
When you write about wine, it’s easy to start becoming a little… jaded isn’t the right word… actually, yeah, jaded is the right word but it’s soooo overused… how about effete?… okay, a bit effete regarding wines that are typical of their varietal character and place of origin. When they’re really, really good, you don’t tire of them – at least, I don’t – but when wines are pretty good it’s easy for your tasting eye (I hope I’m the first and last person to ever use that image…) to start to wander, like a bored husband starting to check out the college cheerleaders at an NCAA tournament game.
Boring. That’s the word.
Truth be told (though it’s not like I lie to you on a regular basis), the “regular” stuff can get a little boring sometimes.
Which is why I like to try new things when I get the chance, so I did not turn down Rosa D’Oro when they offered me samples of some of their current releases – they’re a family-run outfit in Lake County, CA, that specialize in making wine from Old World Italian varieties. Now that’s different – and probably not boring, I thought, despite the fact that most CA-transplanted Italian varietal wines I’ve had have more-or-less sucked. They might not turn out to be good, but the experience wouldn’t be boring!
Not that I don’t encourage the spirit of experimentation beyond the norm – I do – but some of those broken eggs in the omelet-making process are kind of rotten.
What was even more intriguing to me than their list of offerings (Refosco? really?!??) was their clear intent on engaging the “new media” of wine – reaching out to wine bloggers, advertising in new trend-busting publications like Mutineer, attending new media-themed events like Wine 2.0, and authoring their own (very well-written) blog.
So, I worked my way through a sampling of Rosa D’Oro Refosco, Sangiovese, and Muscat Canelli – varieties more closely affiliated with Italy than Northern Cali.
And they’re among the best attempts at adapting Old World Italian wine to CA climate that I’ve ever tasted.
The `07 Muscat Canelli was a surprise, starting with dry green grape but taking on more intense citrus aromas a it warmed in the glass; on the palate, it’s bracingly acidic and immediately made me want to summon up a salad with oranges and lump crab.
The reds were just as pleasantly surprising as the Muscat. The Refosco was the more interesting of the two, with a complex nose that covered the gamut from florals to red fruit and even leather. The palate was less complicated but still interesting and very tannic (you’ll want some meat handy for this one). The `07 Sangiovese was eerily close to feeling like it had come from a Chiant satellite region; it lacked the dried orange peel character of the most kickin’ Chiantis, but it certainly had enough red fruit character, tannin, and acidic structure to suggest it would evolve well for another 2-3 years in the bottle.
The really adventurous among you might want to try lining up some Rosa D’Oro selections in a comparison tasting with their Northern and Central Italian counterparts, but I’ve got diapers to change so I don’t have the time to run that conceit through to its logically conclusion (and I’ve tasted enough wines from CA and Italy to tell you that I think I can predict the outcome).
For now, I’ll settle for he knowledge that the concept of “CalItalia” wine is far from a lost cause.
(images: nscpcdn.com), rosadorowines.com)
Little sweet one…
I’m not talking about me. Or Plumboo (that’s the monkey – who, now that my daughter is old enough to play with her toys, has been M.I.A. somewhere in her bedroom).
I’m talking about a grape from Piedmont. More on that in a minute. Or two.
Plumboo (in spirit) and I (physically) are taking part in the 54th edition of the venerable blog carnival Wine Blogging Wednesday – this month hosted at fellow Philly-area blogger David McDuff’s Food & Wine Trail.
David has picked an exciting theme – “Passion for Piedmont.” It’s not just exciting because I get to return to Tales of the Purple Monkey and drink Italian wine – which is exciting in and of itself, to me at least – but because David has decided to focus on what is arguably the most exciting wine region in Italy right now.
It wasn’t always like that, though. Piedmont wine-making began sometime before the 13th century (started by the Etruscans or the Greeks – no one knows for sure which – followed by monks after the fall of the Roman Empire), but the wines weren’t considered to be particularly good (Piedmont doesn’t even get a mention in Pliny the Elder‘s list of best Italian vino).
My, how times have changed…
Tradition, geographical diversity, and modern wine-making techniques have combined to make Piedmont one of the most varied wine regions in all of Italy. As you will no doubt find from other wine blogger’s choices of wine reviews for this edition of WBW, Piedmont offers a staggering choice of wine styles from sparklers to everyday sipping reds to age-worthy, must-own-your-own-yacht priced Nebbiolo-based reds to sweet Passito dessert ‘stickies.’ This doesn’t account for the wide variety of styles within those styles, either.
Sure, Tuscan wines, especially the reds, are sexy. But so much of Tuscan red wine (Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino) are not so much variety as they are variations on a single theme – Sangiovese. Now Piedmont – that’s variety!
Since I can’t try all of Piedmont’s various offerings in one night (believe me, I thought about it), Plumboo (in spirit) and I (physically) opted for Piedmont’s answer to everyday red wine – Dolcetto.
Dolcetto is one of the few low-acid Italian varietals, but it’s high-octane fruit delivery makes it easily accessible early (even in the versions that are built for longer aging). It’s not sweet, despite the moniker, but most offerings (there are seven different production areas within Piedmont) fall into a category that is probably best described as a cross between French Beaujolais and jammy California Zinfandel. Some are made as more serious fare, but Dolcettos are primarily fun wines, if a bit lacking in the sophisicated structure of other more “serious” Piedmontese reds.
For this WBW, Plumboo (in spirit) and I (physically) went with a high-production, readily available example: Pio Cesare’s 2007 Dolcetto d’Alba.
It’s dark, like most Dolcettos, and on the nose offers alternating waves of candied fruit and black cherry, with some floral and spice elements to keep it interesting. On the palate, the wine is agreeable, with a very drying finish. Not really integrated or focused, but pleasing on the whole.
Fun and accessible, but not mind-blowing. What do you want for $18, anyways? Instead of Merlot, try picking up some Dolcetto party-making magic for your next get-together, and enjoy the long stares of approval at your sophisticated wisdom from your dinner guests. You’re welcome!
For more on Piedmont wines, check out Bastianich & Lynch’s Vino Italiano.
(images: 1winedude.com, justerinis.com, dotcomwines.com)
Welcome to the latest edition of Tales of the Purple Monkey!
This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday blog carnival has Plumboo and I contemplating the theme: “Wines Brought to You by the letter S.” Like a fine wine grape, that one is just ripe for interpretation!
Finding a wine that starts with the letter S was relatively easy. Making that find an interesting and educational read is a bit more difficult (at least for me – and a plush toy with a squeek for a head). So to significantly spice things up in the S-wines department, Plumboo & I sailed off to Sunny Southern Italy, to give you a taste of the Salice Salentino DOC.
Salice Salentino is located in the decidedly Mediterranean clime of southeast Italy – the ‘heel of the boot’ (see above). It’s part of the Apulia region, a relatively flat, fertile, and hot area that has been ruled by (in alphabetical – but not chronological – order) the Angevins, Aragonese, Bourbons, Byzantines, Hohenstaufen Germans, Moors, and Normans. Now, it’s ruled by wine; Apulia produces a ridiculously large volume of wine, even by Italian standards (up to three times as much as is produced by all of Chile). And a lot of it is total plonk…
But… there has been a move towards increased quality in the region, and better wines can be found accross the price spectrum, including the value category.
With a hot climate, Salice Salentino needs a hardy grape that can take the heat. It’s found it in the thick-skinned Negroamaro varietal, whose name basically means “black & bitter.” The origins of Negroamaro are not conclusively known, but one thing’s for sure – it thrives in Salice Salentino. Negroamaro produces dark, tannic wines with flavors of black licorice and bitter tea, but for all their bitterness the better examples still exude softness and sultry black currant flavors. A good match for the spicy tomato sauces and garlic-laden cuisine typical of the region. Mmmm…. garlic…. [editor’s note: drooling permitted ].
As for our wine review for this month’s WBW – we take a quick look at a widely-available and very accessible SS:
2005 San Marzano Salice Salentino (It): Sultry, sensuous & $ensible SS from sunny Southern Italy. Scents of black licorice sweeten the sale.
For more on Salice Salentino and the wines of Southern Italy check out:
(images: maps.google.com, italyis.com )