Posts Filed Under on the road

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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Friends Of The Devil (Concha y Toro Premium Recent Releases)

Vinted on March 21, 2017 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

Casillero del Diablo, Maule

Ostensibly, vinous Chilean powerhouse Concha y Toro is a budget-minded wine lover’s dream. With five major facilities across the county, and twenty million cases produced annually, they have pretty much nailed the tasty-and-clean-and-varietally-correct-juice-for-very-low-prices thing.

But this is me, so of course we’re not going to talk about that, right?

Nope. What we’re going to talk about are a couple of top-tier Cabernet wines from their premium lines, the less than 200K case, winery-within-a-winery concepts focusing on single vineyards, which I tasted at in Maule when I visited Chile on a media tour late last year.

Because, well, yeah, I am that guy who does that sort of thing…

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The Terror Of Writing About Terroir (February Monferrato Moves)

Vinted on March 15, 2017 binned in Italian Wine, on the road

Monferrato grapesAs a wine-scribe-type-guy, I absolutely despise writing about terroir.

If there is another term (aside from “optimal ripeness“) that is more flippantly overused in the wine business than terroir, I am unaware of it. In fact, its overuse – and the fear that it engenders – is so ingrained in me that I am incapable of typing the word terroir without italicizing it. As if, somehow, calling further attention to my use of it will protect me from the madness surrounding its misuse.

Yeah, good luck with that, right?

I was asked to tackle the concept – in writing – for my Monferrato gig, and, since I am supposedly a professional and all of that, I couldn’t say “no, thanks, I’m good.”

And so I offer you my humble take on what is often the least humble notion in wine; including why I specifically despise writing about it, why I disagree with the common English translation definitions of the word, why the word terroir shouldn’t be used as often as it is, and, fianlly, why I think that Northern Italian Barbera truly has a legitimate claim on its use. Check out the full essay on MyNameIsBarbera.com

MONFERRATO: BARBERA’S SOUL

Cheers!

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