Posts Filed Under on the road
Another day at the “office”
Back in February, I spent a handful of days in the charmingly-imposing Italian town of Montefalco, as the U.S. media guest attending the anteprima showing of Sagrantino’s somewhat-troubled 2014 vintage.
Generally, the way that these things work is that we press-types get to sit around in beautiful locales tasting (and pontificating upon) the latest – and usually not-so-latest – vintages of a region, when we’re not attending dinners or visiting nearby producers, I mean. Just another day at the office…
After highlighting a handful of producers from that visit, I thought that I would wrap up the Sagrantino-related coverage here by sharing some of what I found to be among the more interesting wines that I encountered on that anteprima trip. Some of these wines will, in true 1WD form, be nigh-impossible to find, though most won’t; but think of this less as the brain-dump of tasting notes that it is, and more of an enthusiastic recommendation of some of Montefalco’s best producers.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I have what feels like ten billion wines to tell you about; and so, let’s get it started in here while the base keep runnin’ runnin’, and runnin’ runnin’…
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Hey, remember when I waxed all dime-store-poetic about the longevity and power of Barbera reds from the relatively-new, tippy-top-of-the-Asti-area-quality-pyramid region of Nizza?
Well, I do.
Anyway, if you’re curious how the highest-end Piedmonte Barbera wines fare when they have upwards of a decade of aging under their labels, check out the latest video in my Barbera in the Glass series for MyNameIsBarbera.com.
This episode features the second portion of my tasting with Tenuta Olim Bauda head honcho Gianni Bertolino, in which we delve in-depth into a couple of older vintages of their Nizza wines, and I kind of have my mind blown and gesticulate wildly with my hands while I make funny faces trying to express how good those wines really are. It’s a quick watch, and definitely worth a viewing if you’re one of the true lovers of Monferrato wine (and if you’re not… what the actual f–k is wrong with you?!??).
The name Perticaia is familiar to lovers of big Italian reds, but its meaning – “plow” in the local dialect – likely isn’t as well-known. It is, however, an apt description of how Azienda Agraria Perticaia has forced its way through to the top of the critical food chain when it comes to Montefalco Sagrantino wines.
For that, Perticaia can thank both timing and focus. The brand was founded by Guido Guardigli towards the end 1990s, when Montefalco began a quality boon and a production boom, during which the number of wineries in the region nearly quadrupled. They now farm some sixteen hectares of vines, with not an International grape variety to be found among them, and more or less focus on yields that take produce about one 750ml bottle of wine per plant. Of their 125,000 bottle annual production, a whopping seventy percent gets exported, which means that their oenologist Alessandro Meniconi (working with consultant Emiliano Falsin) is a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades, handling (among other things) some export management duties, as well.
Among Montefalco Sagrantino producers, Perticaia is one of the more fastidious when it comes to production techniques, and understanding those is key to getting a full grasp of why their Sagrantino releases are so appealing at such young ages. Only about fifteen percent new French oak is used, with the remainder in some cases being as old as six years, which is kind of like the dotage period in French oak barrel terms (they’re making a push to move towards higher use of older, larger barriques, too).
The big key, however, might be in their seemingly non-intuitive, ass-backwards decision to let their Sagrantino undergo longer than normal maceration. One would think that this would make those reds tougher-than-nails when it comes to Sagrantino’s already rough tannins, but one would be wrong, because Chemistry. The longer maceration actually polymerizes the tannins, making them more approachable at the expense of color (which, as Meniconi emphasized to me during a media visit, “Sagrantino has plenty of, anyway)…
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Jesús del Rio Mateu, proprietor of the Masroig-area Mas de l’Abundància – doesn’t just have an enviable name; he’s also got an enviably amazing vineyard view, enviably old vines, and sits enviably close to one of Spain’s critical-darling DOs, Priorat.
He also has an enviably-close relationship to a good importer, Folio Wine Partners, owned by the Michael Mondavi clan, who, Jesús is quick to point out, love to visit his hilly, llicorella-heavy eight hectares of aging vines.
Jesús del Rio Mateu
“‘Can you fell the energy?’ That’s what they said when they were here,” he told me during a media tour visit to his Montsant DO estate. And while Jesús’ “house of plenty” certainly has its own energetic charm, my guess is that the tingling vibes felt by the Mondavis on their visit had more to do with the overhead high-tension power lines. Either that, or it was the pent-up tension in their shoulder-blades being released after taking in the glory of the scenery.
Anyway… the dramatic views of Priorat and the encapsulating Montsant mountain ranges from Jesús’ vines seem to have imbued him with senses of both literal and figurative perspective about the place; after all, this region of Spain has belonged to monks, aristocrats, Romans, and Arabs. Jesús puts it this way: “this doesn’t belong to me; I belong to it.”
The “it” in this case, coupled with ample sunlight, elevation, slope, and a continental climate, have combined to produce Montsant wines that are nearly as compelling, dramatic energetic, and “deep” as Mas de l’Abundància’s location…
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