Posts Filed Under Italian Wine
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 )
This post, the Dude is offering his review of Joseph Bastianich’s & David Lynch’s weighty tome on all things Italo-wine-related: Vino Italiano.
My review is part of a larger blog-carnival-type effort with near-simultaneous reviews of the same book happening at other wine blogs, called the Wine Book Club. You can check out some of the haps and conversation at the Shelfari book group. For more on the background of WBC, and a bit about the authors of Vino Italiano, check out my previous post on the subject.
You’d think that a 500+ page book would warrant a lengthy review, but that’s simply not the case here (thankfully!). This is mostly due to the well-considered layout of the book.
Vino Italiano is divided into three sections:
- A primer on Italian wine history & wine laws (essential information if you hope to understand an Italian wine label!)
- A tour of each of Italy’s major wine regions in turn, starting with cultural interactions / story-telling, moving to well-written descriptions of the wine styles of the region, and ending with a recommended regional food & wine pairing
- Reference material, including a glossary of Italian wine terminology, and a wine producer directory.
How To Use This Book
Novices will find the first section particularly useful. When you’re dealing with Italian wine, expect to be confused – there’s simply no easy way to deal with it, so you might as well jump right in; this section will help make that jump as painless as possible.
Wine geeks like the Dude here will find the 3rd section the most interesting, if only for a handy reference to remind us what some of the Italian wine label terms mean, or digging up the detail on what is and isn’t permitted in some of the regional quality classifications, etc.
Most people, however, will find the book’s large midsection the most useful. That’s because the authors of Vino Italiano know what the Italians know: the only way to truly appreciate Italy’s regional wine treasures in full is to experience them as part of a larger picture – that picture including a unique blend of regional culture, history, and (most importantly) food.
The majority of Italian wines are meant to be consumed with their regional gustatory counterparts – the recipe and wine pairings (provided by Lidia Bastanich and household-name Mario Batali) at the end of each chapter are not after-thoughts – they are essential components if you want to “get” Italian wine. Personally, I’ve been hoping to try the Spagheti alla Luganica and Anglianico del Vulture pairing (see pgs. 330-331). If you don’t get hungry at some point when reading Vino Italiano, then you’re missing the point.
You needn’t read the book cover-to-cover – the book is structured so that skipping around to read about a particular region will give you a perfectly good understanding of that region and its wines.
Buy It or Skip It?
Buy it. Vino Italiano is well-written (Dude majored in English Lit. in undergrad, so he does not offer that sort of praise lightly!), and its harmonious blend of regional Italian culture, food, and wine make it a winner. It’s also a book that will provide benefit for a wine lover at nearly every stage of his/her wine knowledge development. This is one of the few instances where a book’s many accolades (on the jacket, and in its on-line user reviews) are well-deserved.
Cheers, and happy reading!
This month’s edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday comes to us courtesy of Spitton.biz, who have tasked the collective talents of the budding wine blogging community by asking us to review an Italian Red, using just seven words.
Tricky, to say the least (get it?); especially for those of us whose prose, how shall I put this… does not value highly the elegance of the concise.
But let’s not sell ourselves short (get it??), or wax too philosophically about the relative merits of our brief (get it?!?) and minute (get it?!??) contribution to the great big blogosphere.
Ok, ok… I’ll stop!
Anyway, for this excellent exercise in enological economy, Dude chose an old stand-by wine: Castello Banfi’s Rosso di Montalcino D.O.C. (2003, Tuscany). Before Dude delves deep into the diminutive depiction of this dapper delicacy, let us first examine some way-cool background information so you can get up close and personal with what Rosso di Montalcino is all about….
Most wine lovers have at least heard about the famed wines of Brunello di Montalcino, from Tuscany in Italy’s Central-west region. These suckers are famed because a) they’re expensive, b) they taste great and can make amazing matches with roast meat dishes and c) need upwards of 20 years of aging to tame their harsh tannins and bracing acidity, developing over long periods of time into a plum-fruit-filled, smoky, and leathery behemoth of a wine (Dude has personally tasted 25+ year old Brunellos that still could’ve used a few more years in the bottle to soften up!).
But what if a) you’re not rich and b) you don’t want to wait around for 20+ years until you’re old and gray in order to enjoy a big, bad Montalcino wine?
You can still get some of that good, down-home Montalcino love by going with a Rosso di Montalcino. Both Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino wines are made from the Brunello grape, which is a clone of Sangiovese, and both undergo similar wine-making techniques. But Rossos have a much lower minimum barrel aging requirement, and usually are made with grapes from younger vines than those that make it into the Brunellos. This makes them a) cheaper (usually under $20), and b) ready to drink without the multi-decade waiting period typically needed for good Brunellos. They’re not as heavy, heady, rich, or complex as Brunellos, but Rossos give you a tasty teaser of what their bigger brothers are like, and are well worth the effort of checking out in their own right.
Got it? Groovy!
Now, let’s get to this typically wordy Dude’s atypically “unwordy” review. My 7 words are meant to tell a story, so I enlisted the help of some pictures (hopefully that doesn’t mean I actually used 7,007 words… oh, drat!):