Posts Filed Under on the road

Once More, Unto The Breach (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 2)

Vinted on May 24, 2017 binned in Italian Wine, on the road, wine review
Verona garden

A scene from Verona… or the opening of “The Prisoner”

Forthwith, we continue my highlights from the 2017 incarnation of VinItaly, held in Verona earlier this year, and to which I was lucky enough to have been invited as a media guest.

[ For background on VinItaly, details on the first batch of wines that grabbed my vinous attention at the event, and the format for these highlight reels, see Part 1. ]

We have many a wine to highlight in this second installment, so… a rush, and a push, and the land will be ours… let’s charge right into things. First, the bubbles:

Soave Durello VinItaly 20172016 Ca’ d’Or Lessini Durello Blanc de Blancs Selezione Vintage, $NA

Lessini Durello is an odd bird of a wine; it’s growing, for sure (from 3 to 26 producers in the last two decades, now pumping out about one million bottles per year), but its primary calling card, aside from the bubbles, is still acidity. And I mean, acidity. As in, face-ripping, blood-of-the-Alien-zenomorph kind of acidity.

What I liked about the Ca’ d’Or Selezione is that it offered aspects beyond the face-peeling and gum recession: tropical and exotic fruit notes, limes, white flowers, and pineapple hints that were more subtle than overt. This is Durello tweaked up a notch or two, with an emphasis on balancing all of that ample acidity with purity of fruit….

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Expo Be Crazy! (VinItaly 2017 Highlights, Part 1)

Vinted on May 19, 2017 binned in Italian Wine, on the road, wine review

VinItaly is… well… totally folle.

Held in Verona, Italy, bringing together hundreds of soon-to-be-inebriated members of the wine biz/trade/press/you-name-it, and functioning as a focal point for all (and I do mean all) of the wine regions of Italy, there is no other world wine event that combines quite the same blend of creativity, craftsmanship, and chaos.

Vintitaly crowd 1

Throngs of the soon-to-be-drunken at VinItaly 2017

That VinItaly has been held for decades and still isn’t quite what the Germans would consider as appropriately organized is less a statement about the event itself (which is, all in all, quite well-run), and much more an aspect of the reality that no one (and I say this as someone of Italian descent) is going to be able to successfully corral that many Italians in one place at the same time.

Joe @ VinItaly 2017

Cleaning up (apart from the shaving) for VinItaly 2017 in Verona

VinItaly, for all of its madcap madness, is actually an overwhelming surfeit of vinous pleasure for lovers of Italian wine. Weaving in an out of the complex of crowded, airplane-hangar-sized event spaces (organized by Italian wine regions), on the second day of the event I actually found myself wondering if I was going to be able to make it the full four days.  And I’m an extrovert.

But once everything was over, I found myself loving VinItaly. Not despite the madness, but because of it; because that unpredictable chaos is baked into the DNA of Italy, and, to some extent, its wines. So it’s fitting that some of my most memorable tasting episodes took place entirely by chance while I was there on a media invite earlier this year.

Because VinItaly is so, well, folle, I’m going to break up the highlights into two separate posts. As always with 1WD feature material, the focus is on the stuff that I fond most interesting; the wines that really blew my dress up for whatever reasons. There are a few too many highlights for me to give them the badge treatments, which I hope and trust that you’ll forgive. Not all of these wines are available stateside, and I’m hoping that some focus here can help rectify that.

So pour yourself a glass of something obscure from the Italian hinterlands, and let’s delve headfirst into the chaos…

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Butt Bugs And The Art Of Mellowing Out (Recent – And Not So Recent – Trabucco Rapicano Releases)

Vinted on May 11, 2017 binned in kick-ass wines, on the road, wine review

Trabucco vineyard

You wouldn’t necessarily know it when meeting him, but Nicola Trabucco‘s childhood nicknames (which in turn provide the fantasy names for two of his eponymous winery’s releases) included “bug up the ass” and “active.”

Maybe the former consulting agronomist/enologist (and, it could be argued, aging Michael Keaton doppelganger) has mellowed with age? That would be fitting, considering how his flagship Aglianico performs after several years of bottle rest. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; context first, right?

Nicola Trabucco

Nicola Trabucco

Trabucco spent over ten years as a consultant to wineries in Campania’s Falernum region, helping some of his clients achieve high scores from the traditional wine rags, and bringing additional attention (some of it unwanted, apparently) to the Monte Massico area, and a small explosion of sorts in the number of wineries producing and labeling Falerno. In 2003, he opened his own winery in a former Carinola stable, with vineyards seated not far from the coast, among the cherry trees dotted at various elevations on Massico.

By his own account, Trabucco can thank the past for much of his success. Aside from the high Parker scores that helped ensconce his consulting gig, the name Falerno itself is a favorite of history buffs, being derived from the famous falernian wine of ancient Rome. As Trabucco puts it, “Falerno today has little to do with the drink of antiquity.” For starters, that wine, though made from Aglianico, was probably white. But, like modern Campania reds, it was powerful; as Pliny the Elder put it, falernian vino was “the only wine that takes light when a flame is applied to it.” [ Editor’s note: I’ll bet that they were sober when they performed that experiment, too. ]

It’s how Aglianco fares over time, however, that constitutes its modern reputation; to wit, here’s a little trip down Trabucco’s corsia di memoria del vino rosso

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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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