Alllllriiiighty, folks… this will be my last feature entry on my 2023 media jaunt Romagna, this time focusing on the wines of Faenza (in the province of Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna).
As cool as the wines of Romagna are, even I am kind of sick of talking about them at this point. Speaking of cool, that was absolutely NOT the operative word during my visit, which took place during the record-setting heat-wave that engulfed central Italy and much of Western Europe during the Summer of 2023. Coming at the heels of the region’s historic flooding, the humidity factor was not exactly pleasant.
Those are about the worst conditions in which to evaluate wines, especially structured reds like the Sangioveses for which Romagna is known. So I figure if the wines of Faenza impressed me during this tasting in those circumstances (and for some reason—probably because it was towards the end of several days tasting in the oppressively sweltering heat and I’d pretty much had my fill at the point of feeling like my clothes were grafted onto my skin—this latter tasting was one of the more difficult for me)… well, then, those wines must be pretty f*cking good, indeed.
Made from Famoso (see my previous post on the cool story behind that variety), this white is farmed from an organic, 23 ha site, and leans to the fleshier, rounder, citrus side (rather than the floral, showier side that Famoso can exhibit). Fruit-dominant, witha slight honey note, this was a sight for sore palate eyes on such a hot day.
Technically, these guys are in Forli, but whatever. This red feels Old School but in very good ways. Big, broad, and not playing any games with its amped-up mouthfeel of red fruits, cola, and spices, this is a smoky, savory, gamey, graphitic, earthy, and mineral mouthful.
BOOM! What a boisterous beauty. This dessert style Albana is brimming with orange blossom, honey, mandarin, orange hard candy, and jasmine action. Luscious but also energetic, the candied orange peel, sultana, and exotic/tropical fruit flavors in the mouth are an absolutely hedonistic delight.
Sourced from 120 meter elevation plantings, this red sees 30 days of maceration and 12 months in large French oak barrels. it wasn’t meant to be tasted in such a muggy setting, but it showed well anyway. Dark black cherries, dark blue and black plums, dark leather, dark spices, even the minerality feels dark here. Fresh, focused, and firm, the finish is long AF.
What’s with this region and obscure grape varieties? Centesimino is just f*cking cool: this once forgotten variety was saved by a local, who bore the a nickname that suggests he was a penny-pincher, and after which the grape is now known. As per Jancis Robinson’s hefty Wine Grapes:
“In the mid twentieth century, during the reconstruction of vineyards after phylloxera, Pietro Pianori propagated this obscure variety from old vines growing in his walled garden at Podere Terbato in Faenza. Those vines had fortunately escaped phylloxera, and all modern plantings of this variety derive from cuttings taken from Pianori’s garden. Pianori was nicknamed ‘Centesimino’ (meaning ‘little cent’), which gave the grape its modern name.”
Violets, sour cherries, plums, and spices kick this off, and it’s tangy, fruity, chewy and long in the mouth. Almost rustic in the palate, it’s a full-bodied red that is fun and sporting good acidity. This marks the first vintage under DOC status for the variety, according to my hosts.
This producer (of whom I’m a fan), likes pushing the envelope. That’s true in this case, both with the high density of plantings from which this 40/60 combo of late harvest (somewhat botrytized)/dry Albana is farmed, and in its cellar treatment, which resulted in 33 g/l or residual sugar, and a whopping 78 g/l of acids. Honey, white figs, blossoms, under-ripe mango… it’s a head-turning mix on the nose. In the mouth, its rich and broad, pushing the limits without breaking them, and ending in a super-long, nutty, toasty, grilled-citrus finish.
From a third-generation grower, first-generation family producer, this red comes from a 10 ha single vineyard situated in the hills along the Marzeno river. Here, leather and licorice mingle with sour red cherry fruits, with a palate that’s tangy and lazer-focused, fresh and deep and structured. And damned long, too, tinged with dried herb spices throughout.
This red sees similar winemaking as the one mentioned above, with similar bottle aging (of two years), and differs primarily in the vineyards source: a mere single kilometer apart from one another (though this one is slightly higher in elevation at about 240 meters). Reserved, spicy, leathery, and darkly fruity, I loved how gorgeously fresh this Riserva felt. The flavors are starting to move towards blue plums in its grippy, luxurious, and still youthful mouthfeel.