Lately, I’ve been reserving this virtual space for featuring producers I have recently (ok, ok, more like not-so-recently) visited in-person, with my feet in tasting rooms, cellars, vineyards, dilapidated vineyard trucks, etc.
Today, however, I’m taking a short break from that feature run to turn your attention towards three items from the ever-expanding sample pool, all of which are exemplary examples of exquisite vinous fare, and all of which are perfectly capable of pulverizing your wine-guzzling ass in the best ways possible. Be forewarned, shiz is about to get very expensive.
One could make a very serious argument that this red is the finest produced in all of Alentejo, and maybe the world’s finest expression of the sometimes-maligned and almost-always-misunderstood Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira grape varieties. I was converted to the chrch of Mouchão a couple of years ago, and happily have never looked back. Texture, tension, bramble, herbs, berries, graphite, and barely-tamed wildness are the names of the game (ok, that’s a long name but whatever). In terms of aging, this is a red that can easily go a decade without breaking a sweat…
Chiara Condello grew up “ten minutes away” from Predappio’s Azienda Vitivinicola Condé, a place so picturesque – even by exceptionally picturesque Romagna standards – that it houses its own resort, which in turn houses its own restaurant in an area that’s nearly synonymous with Italian cuisine.
Condello’s father, Francesco, established this little slice of Napa-Route-29-in-the-heart-of-Romagna-wine-country in 2001, after retiring from real-estate finance brokering and consolidating nearly 80 hectares of vineyards (73 of which are devoted to Sangiovese, with a bit of Merlot and chardonnay making up the rest) from their previous owners.
The U-shaped Condé estate has 52 parcels, from which 7 wines are made, and boasts plantings dating back to the late 1930s on Spungone soils (sandy, sponge-like limestone rich in ancient seabed fossils) that date back a lot further (over three million years, to the Pliocene). In other words, it’s prime Sangio growing territory, with good winegrowing and winemaking talent behind it (including agronomist Federico Curtaz, eonologist Stefano Zoli, and Tuscan consultant Federico Staderini). Of course, they also have olive production. And, of course, they’re organic (“for me, it was crucial,” notes Chiara, “in terms of respect; I don’t want to change the balance that we have in the area”).
Chiara Condello has four acres of her own to play with on the estate, and has access to all of Condé’s winemaking resources. But before you write her off as embodying the stereotype of a modern European princess, you should know that Chiara studied Economics at Luigi Bocconi University in Milan; and got her CEMS Master in International Management; and is currently studying eonology; and seems to know what the hell she is doing when it comes to making Sangiovese (something that I learned firsthand when tasting these wines during a recent media visit)…
MS, MW, friend of 1WD, and exceptionally cool wine geek Doug Frost is not a man to mince words. As a media guest recently for the 2019 incarnation of Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco, I managed to catch up briefly with Doug, who had this to say regarding Zinfandel continuously being cited as the quintessential American grape variety:
“That’s utter bullshit.”
This is, of course, because Zinfandel is actually of Croatian origin, where it sometimes goes by the name of Tribidrag (which might also be the name of a character from The Silmarillion… I’m not sure). In the shorter-term history of American fine wine, however, Zinfandel does have deeper roots than most other grapes, Croatian or otherwise. As Frost put it, “back in 1961, Sonoma’s principal grape was Zin.”
ZinEx, for me, consisted of several tastings, both media-only and open to the public, though I find the former a lot easier to digest than the latter (I’m not exactly a large guy, so it’s not easy to signal my way to a spit bucket with a mouthful of high-octane red wine in a crowded room). The minor suffering was worth it, of course, as ZinEx was chock full of excellent examples of the surprising versatility of California’s adopted Croat wonder-boy grape.
Following are highlights from my ZinEx encounters (skipping badges, because there are just too many recommendations, 90% of which would just be tagged “Kick-Ass” anyway)…
While Giovanna Drei Donà “hates” technical questions about wine, she is fond of horses; maybe more fond of horses than her children Ida Vittoria and Enrico, the fourth generation who have helped to run the winemaking operations at the picturesque Drei Donà estate now owned by her husband Count Claudio Drei Donà (who focused on its thirty hectares of land and its ‘La Palazza’ farmhouse, constructed around a fifteenth century watchtower, as a passion project after retiring from law in the 1990s).
Drei Donà’s wines are named after their several horses (after visiting during a media tour, I think that their ten or so dogs might be jealous, given their propensity for barking in seemingly coordinated protests), and she readily admits that she recalls the births of the horses “more than the birth of my sons!” Drei Donà’s horses earn their keep, apparently; they are one of the best litmus tests for proper grape ripeness: “when they start to eat the grapes, they’re ready.”
While “nestled” is an overused term bordering on cliche (both in the wine writing biz writ-large, and here on 1WD), if ever a vineyard was nestled, Drei Donà is it. The estate sits only about 150 meters high, located in the ancient hills between Forlì, Castrocaro and Predappio – on the other side of the hills from Montalcino. Its landscape is influenced by both the Adriatic coast and the Apennines mountains. As in ancient Romagnan times, Sangiovese is the focus here (“it’s maybe the oldest vine in the world” Giovanna proclaimed, though I suspect that’s true only in the world of Romagnan wine).
“Romagna is more known for food than for wine,” Giovanna admits, though Drei Donà makes a very good case for altering that global market perception. “This was a sort of peninsula in ancient times,” she notes, “with water running along the rocky soil beneath the clay and sand on which their vines are planted. Back to being nestled – bad weather tends to follow the hills and thus travel around their site, lowering disease pressure and enabling them to utilize organic viticultural practices. The results are wines about as bold – and with personalities nearly as strong – as Giovanna herself…
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