Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Two Wines, Three Mysteries

StefanoRight before the winter holidays, creative fellow wine blogger Jeff (AKA The Drunken Cyclist) launched a fun initiative: a wine-based Secret Santa that he aptly renamed Secret Alcoholic. Basically, Jeff’s wife kindly took care of pairing each participant with a buddy Secret Alcoholic to whom one or two surprise bottles of wine could be shipped.

So, I mentioned in the title that there would be three mysteries to be solved – these are:

1. Who was my Secret Santa?

2. Which wines was she kind enough to send my way?

3. What did they taste like?

These three gripping mysteries worthy of Huckle Cat were all solved by the beginning of the New Year…

Right before Christmas, I received my package which, much to my 7 year old daughter’s delight, was nicely decorated with festive stickers, which led her to claim that the package “had to be” for her… ūüėČ After redirecting her to more age-appropriate presents, I opened the box and found a holiday card that solved mystery number 1: my Secret Santa was witty and ever pleasant to read Kirsten, AKA The Armchair Sommelier!

In a matter of seconds was mystery number 2 also solved: thoughtful and generous Kirsten had sent me two wines: a Viognier from her own State, Virginia, and one of her favorite Californian Syrahs, which is also a hard-to-get, wine-club-only red that has received some very positive attention from wine critics.

I very much appreciated the thought she put into selecting those wines: not only for her generosity in parting from and sharing with me a bottle of that exclusive Syrah, but also because she chose that Viognier to introduce me to one of the best expressions of that variety in Kirsten’s own State. I am all for promoting quality wines made from locally grown grapes, especially if they come from wine regions that are not as well known to the general public as others that enjoy widespread repute. So, way to go, Kirsten – I bow to you!

With Kirsten’s bottles in hand, solving mystery number 3 was only a question of waiting a few days before opening them and tasting their contents – just to make sure that they would recover from any bottle shock.

As is always the case for me with any wine, this was the most exciting mystery to unveil. Because no matter how well you may know a wine’s grape variety, the region it comes from, its environmental conditions, the producer or even previous vintages of that same wine, no matter all that, you may sure make your own educated guess about what to expect from it, but in the end you will always have to taste that specific bottle to appreciate all its subtle nuances.

To put it in the succinctly eloquent prose of fellow wine blogger Julia Bailey, who has devoted her own entry to Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #6 (theme: Mystery) to this very topic: “It is simply impossible to know exactly what your wine will taste like until you pop that cork.” So true: if you want to learn more, I definitely suggest that you read Julia’s entry wherein she elaborates on several reasons why this is so.

As for me, time to wrap things up by sharing my tasting notes of the two wines. My tastings have been conducted in accordance with the ISA wine tasting protocol, but for brevity here I will not go through the entire step-by-step tasting process: I will only summarize the main characteristics of the wines and of course provide my own assessment.

Check out our Grape Variety Archive for cool facts about the Viognier and Syrah grape varieties, including their DNA analysis which suggests that they are relatives!

1. King Family Vineyards, Viognier Monticello 2012 (13% ABV – $22)

King Family Vineyards, Viognier Monticello 2012In the glass, it poured a nice straw yellow and was moderately viscous when swirled.

On the nose, it offered intense and pleasant aromas of yellow peach, apricot, pineapple, white flowers and hints of white pepper (a tertiary aroma suggesting some gentle oak aging).

In the mouth, the wine was smooth and exhibited only moderate acidity, which suggests that this wine should be enjoyed now. It was balanced and medium-bodied, with intense mouth flavors that matched the aromatic pattern perceived on the nose, and had a medium finish.

Overall, a good white with a nice bouquet and fruity mouth flavors, ending up in an intriguing, slight peppery finish. Not extraordinarily complex, but definitely pleasant.

Rating: Good Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. Herman Story, Syrah “Nuts & Bolts” California 2009 (16% ABV – $45)

Herman Story, Syrah "Nuts & Bolts" California 2009In the glass, it poured ruby red and thick when swirled.

On the nose, it released an impressive array of intense and complex aromas of blackberry jam, wild berries, black cherry, tobacco, ground coffee, black pepper and licorice. A great bouquet that anticipated the “blackness” of this wine.

In the mouth, it immediately struck as a big, chewy, fruit-forward wine: its very high ABV (which nears the limits of alcoholic fermentation and pushes this wine to the highest step in the ISA scale of¬†ABV perception:¬†alcoholic) was tough for the wine’s good acidity and solid but unobtrusive tannins to counterbalance, also due to the wine’s not particularly high smoothness (I wonder whether it did full malolactic fermentation). This high ABV perception, that is clearly evident on the top of the palate, throws the wine a bit out of balance: given its good acidity, I would let it rest for two or three more years and then re-taste it.

The wine was full-bodied, exhibiting intense mouth flavors of blackberry, black cherry, plum, coffee, tobacco, dark chocolate, licorice and black pepper, which closely trailed the wine’s aromatic palette, and it had a medium to long finish.

Overall, I found the Nuts & Bolt somewhat of a “double-faced” wine: on the one hand, it had great, complex and intense bouquet and (if a little over the top) mouth flavors, but on the other hand, its very high alcohol (which its other qualities did not seem to effectively counter, at least at this stage of its life) made the wine feel a bit imbalanced. A few more years of aging may help make this wine more graceful.

Rating: Good (especially in perspective) Good Р$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

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Meet the Maker: History and Wine Tasting of One of Valtellina’s Finest: Ar.Pe.Pe.

On our previous post, we have presented the Italian wine district of Valtellina, its territory, history, dominant grape variety and just briefly, its wines. Now is the time to focus on one of the finest producers of Valtellina wines, Ar.Pe.Pe.¬†(pronounced “Ahr-Pay-Pay”).

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s History

The somewhat curious name of this premium Valtellina winery is an acronym that stands for ARturo PEllizzatti PErego, that is the full name of the winery’s founder.


Ar.Pe.Pe.'s stunning tasting room

Arturo was the descendant of a Valtellina family who had been in the wine industry since 1860 and who, by the 1960’s, had grown to own or manage 50 HA of vineyards. Arturo’s father, Guido, had built the family business’s winery by carving it into the rock of those very mountains on the slopes of which their vineyards lay: the new winery became operational in 1961.

Guido’s death in 1973 resulted in a paralizing feud among his heirs over the allocation of his estate: because of this, the heirs decided to sell the family’s business and the “Pellizzatti” brand to a then large wine and food conglomerate to which the family also leased the vineyards for a 10 year term.

‚Ä®Ar.Pe.Pe.'s fermenting barrelsIn 1983, however, upon the expiration of the vineyard lease term, Arturo claimed back his own portion of the family’s vineyards (12 HA), bought back the winery that his father had built and started afresh his own wine business, under the current Ar.Pe.Pe. brand.

Arturo devoted all his knowledge, experience and energy into creating a range of top quality wines that would underscore and maximize the potential of the mountain Nebbiolo grapes and Valtellina’s unique terroir. In so doing, he took his chances and from the very beginning he decided not to compromise on anything, aiming for top of the line wines that would be optimally aged by the time they were released to the market.

This meant that for the first six years following Ar.Pe.Pe.’s creation, their vineyards were harvested for six times, wine was made for each vintage, but not a single bottle was released to the market because of the very long aging times that Arturo had prescribed for his wines. This is what his heirs affectionately refer to as his “nostalgic hardheadedness“.

But when the first bottles of one of his top Crus, the Valtellina Superiore “Rocce Rosse”, were finally made available to retailers in 1990, all those sacrifices paid off and the immediate success and rave reviews proved that Arturo’s philosophy of unwavering commitment to excellence had been right and long sighted.

Ar.Pe.Pe. then quickly became one of the most respected and prestigious brands in the landscape of Valtellina’s Nebbiolo’s. In 2004, Arturo passed away and his legacy passed on to his three children: Isabella (who became Ar.Pe.Pe.’s enologist), Guido and Emanuele, who have since shared the leadership of the family business.

Isabella, 
Ar.Pe.Pe.'s enologist and co-owner, with her brother Emanuele in their tasting room

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s Wine Tasting

On the next post, we will publish our interview of Isabella Pellizzatti Perego, Ar.Pe.Pe.’s enologist and co-owner, but before that here are my quick tasting notes (i.e., these are not full-blown wine reviews) for¬†those wines in Ar.Pe.Pe.’s lineup that had just been¬†released to the market at the time of my visit and that my gracious hostess Isabella was kind enough to let me taste:

  • ArPePe, Rosso di ValtellinaRosso di Valtellina DOC 2011 (13% ABV)

This is Ar.Pe.Pe.’s entry-level wine, made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes harvested from their lower altitude vineyards (1,150/1,300 ft – 350/400 mt above sea level) in the Grumello and Sassella subzones (for more information, refer to our introductory post to the Valtellina district). The wine ages 6 to 12 months in large wood barrels before being released to the market. The Rosso di Valtellina retails in the US for about $32.

Tasting Notes: The wine’s color was ruby red, with aromas of violet, cherry and raspberry. In the mouth, the wine was freshly acidic, with smooth tannins – a young, easy to drink, ready to be enjoyed red.

Rating: Good Good

  • Valtellina Superiore Sassella “Stella Retica” Riserva DOCG 2006 (13% ABV)

ArPePe, Valtellina Superiore Sassella "Stella Retica" RiservaThis is the second vin of Ar.Pe.Pe.’s two¬†grand vins¬†in the Sassella subzone (the “Rocce Rosse” and the single-vineyard “Vigna Regina”). As will be better explained in our interview of Ar.Pe.Pe.’s enologist, the Stella Retica is only made in those vintages when the Rocce Rosse is not released (i.e., for any given vintage, either one of the Rocce Rosse or the Stella Retica is made).

The Stella Retica is made¬†from 100% Nebbiolo grapes grown at an altitude between 1,300 and 1,650 feet (400 to 500 meters). It ferments¬†in Ar.Pe.Pe.’s signature mixed wood fermenting barrels (more about this in our interview of Ar.Pe.Pe.’s enologist) for 12 days and ages in large wood barrels for 24 months, plus 24 additional months of in-bottle aging. The Stella Retica retails in the US for about $48.

Tasting Notes:¬†The wine’s color was ruby red with garnet reflections, with a fine and intense bouquet of cherry, wild strawberry and mineral hints of granite. In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was freshly acidic, gently tannic, and tasty, with medium body. All in all, a very pleasant and enjoyable wine.

Rating: Very Good Very Good

  • Valtellina Superiore Sassella “Rocce Rosse” Riserva DOCG 2002 (13% ABV)

ArPePe, Valtellina Superiore Sassella "Rocce Rosse" RiservaThe Rocce Rosse is one of Ar.Pe.Pe.’s two¬†grand vins for the Sassella subzone (in addition to the single-vineyard Vigna Regina): it¬†is made¬†from 100% Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Sassella subzone only in those years in which the quality of the harvest is extraordinary. It ferments in wood fermenting barrels for 40 days(!) and it ages in large oak, chestnut and acacia wood barrels for 48 months, plus 36 additional months of in-bottle aging.

The Rocce Rosse is a top of the line wine that is suitable for long-term aging. It retails in the US for about $72.

Tasting Notes:¬†The wine’s color was garnet, with a spectacular, complex and intense bouquet of cherry, raspberry, cocoa, nutmeg and hints of tobacco, licorice and minerals (granite). In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and¬†silky smooth; it was acidic, gently tannic, and tasty, with full body and a long finish. A spectacularly exciting wine, already perfectly balanced and integrated after 11 years: a true sensory pleasure to be enjoyed with red meat or game dishes.

Rating: Spectacular Spectacular

  • Valtellina Superiore Sassella “Ultimi Raggi” Riserva DOCG 2006 (14% ABV)

ArPePe, Valtellina Superiore Sassella "Ultimi Raggi" RiservaThe Ultimi Raggi is Ar.Pe.Pe.’s late-harvest dry wine, made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Sassella subzone vineyards at the highest altitude (about 1,950 feet/600 meters above sea level) and left on the vines to naturally dry and therefore concentrate and maximize sugar levels through a late harvest.

The wine is fermented for 20 days in wood fermenting barrels and aged for 24 months in large wood barrels, plus 12 additional months of in-bottle aging. The Ultimi Raggi retails in the US for about $79.

Tasting Notes:¬†The wine’s color was garnet, with a complex, intense and explosive bouquet of spirited cherry, strawberry jam, raspberry, red fruit candy,¬†cocoa, tobacco. In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidic, with supple tannins, and tasty, with mineral hints of granite. It was full-bodied and with a long finish. An outstanding, structured and masterfully balanced¬†wine: the perfect companion for structured red meat or game dishes or seasoned cheeses.

Rating: Spectacular Spectacular

Wine Review: Three First Drop Shiraz from Down Under

First Drop WinesAs most of you know, the wine-related part of this blog mainly focuses on Italian wine, although non exclusively as now and then I post about non-Italian wines that I have tasted and enjoyed: so far, I have posted about French, Portuguese and New Zealand wines: it is now time to talk about Australian wines.

Australia is one of the largest wine making countries of the New World, coming right after the USA and Argentina. A few official data: in 2012 in Australia there were 91,000 HA of red wine vines (almost 50% of which were Shiraz/Syrah, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and the South Australia region accounted for almost 60% of the entire red wine production. In terms of white wines, in 2012 Australia had 57,000 HA of white wine vines (almost 50% of which were Chardonnay, followed by Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) and the South Australia and New South Wales regions combined accounted for over 70% of the entire white wine production. The overall Australian wine production in 2012 was about 1.2 billion liters (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics)

One of the obvious consequences of so large a production is that out there you may find some excellent Australian wines but also some… less than stellar ones. So, not wanting to go through a potentially long trial and error process, I decided to ask Laura, an Australian wine expert, accomplished cook and last but not least author of the food blog Laura’s Mess, if she would be willing to help me in my quest for quality Australian wineries whose wines I could taste and review, by giving me a few pointers (by the way, should you not be familiar with Laura’s blog already, do pay her a visit because it is a food blog that is definitely worthwhile following, both for the great content and for the beautiful food photography).

Well, Laura went above and beyond what could be considered “fellow blogger courtesy” as she went to great lengths to provide me an overview of Australia’s main wine regions and a detailed description of her favorite producers and wines in each of them. Laura, thank you so much once again for your invaluable guidance in helping me learn more¬†about the Australian wine world.

Anyway, after going through Laura’s terrific survey and cross-referencing the producers that impressed me the most with the reality of what is available in the US market (and the awful lot of good stuff that unfortunately is not), I decided to start my Aussie tasting experience from First Drop, a young winery based in Australia’s prime wine region of the Barossa. This is because they came highly recommended from Laura, they focus on a variety that I like a lot (Shiraz/Syrah), their vineyards are in one of the premium Australian wine regions (the Barossa Valley, in South Australia) and last but not least I managed to find a US online retailer who carries most of their lineup. So I went ahead and placed a sampler order, buying four of their red wines, from entry-level to top of the line, which would hopefully give me a nice overview of the First Drop range.

These are the four bottles that I bought:

  1. First Drop, Shiraz “Fat of the Land” Greenock Cru, Barossa 2009
  2. First Drop, “Two Percent“, Barossa 2009 (a 98% Shiraz, 2% Tempranillo blend)
  3. First Drop, Shiraz “Mother’s Milk“, Barossa 2011
  4. First Drop, “Half & Half“, Barossa 2010 (a 50% Shiraz, 50% Monastrell blend)

Today I will publish my tasting notes of wines number 2, 3 and 4. The Fat of the Land will have to wait both because of my impressions about the three wines that I have tasted (keep reading if you want to know how I liked them!) and because wine number 1 is one First Drop’s top of the line single-vineyard crus, which in the US retails for a not inexpensive $72 price tag and therefore I want to give it a few years of cellar time before enjoying it since it is still pretty young. Now, of course, were First Drop’s US importer to ever send me a sample to try out right away, I would be very happy to oblige… ūüėČ

But let’s now cut to the chase and see how those three First Drop wines that I tasted performed.

As always, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

1. First Drop, “Half & Half”, Barossa 2010 ($18)

First Drop, Half & HalfAs mentioned, this is an unusual 50% Shiraz, 50% Monastrell blend. The must ferments for 6 days on the skins, then the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and ages for 15 months in French oak. In the US, it retails for about $18.

In the glass, Half & Half poured ruby red and viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was moderately intense, moderately complex and of fair quality, with aromas of cherry, red berries, coffee, black pepper, and hints of animal fur and tobacco.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidic, moderately tannic and moderately tasty. It was medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fair mouth flavors of cherry, red berries, red fruit candy, and dark chocolate. It had a medium finish and the evolutionary state was ready (i.e., fine to drink right away, probably better if you let it rest for a couple more years in your cellar).

Overall, Half & Half was a pretty good, entry-level red in the First Drop range, a wine with no frills: smooth, with medium tannins, easy to drink and quite pleasant in the mouth. One might wish that its bouquet were a bit more intense and complex (maybe some decanting/aeration could have helped, despite the wine’s young age?), but all in all it is a solid, every day wine, given especially its reasonable price point.

Rating: Good Good Р$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. First Drop, Shiraz “Mother’s Milk”, Barossa 2011 ($18)

First Drop, Mother's MilkThis varietal Shiraz is fermented for 8 days on the skins, then goes through malolactic fermentation and is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. In the US it retails for about $18.

In the glass, Mother’s Milk poured ruby red and¬†viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, moderately complex and fine, with nice aromas of plum, blackberry, sweet tobacco, leather, cocoa and black pepper.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidic, tannic and moderately tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of plum, blackberry, tobacco, dark chocolate and black pepper. It had a medium finish and the evolutionary state was ready (i.e., fine to drink right away, probably even better if you let it rest for a couple more years in your cellar).

Overall, I very much enjoyed my bottle of Mother’s Milk (sounds kind of creepy, I know, but that’s the name they picked!) Considering its appealing price point and how young the bottle I had was, Mother’s Milk was a good to very good performer, with intense and pleasant aromas and mouth flavors and a high ABV that was however well integrated into the wine’s structure and counterbalanced by already smooth tannins. Allowed to mature for two or three more years in bottle, I think the wine’s already pleasant aromas and mouth flavors would further evolve into an even more compelling, cohesive red that will be an even better value for money.

Rating: Good to Very Good and definitely Recommended Good to Very Good Р$ 

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

3. First Drop, “Two Percent”, Barossa 2009 ($35)

First Drop, Two PercentThis is a 98% Shiraz, 2% Tempranillo blend that ferments for 8 days on its skins, goes through malolactic fermentation and then is aged for 24 months in French oak barrels. In the US it retails for about $35.

In the glass, the Two Percent poured ruby red and viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with pleasant aromas of cherry, plum, raspberry, cigar box, vanilla, coffee, black pepper and rhubarb.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidic, tannic and tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of cherry, raspberry, vanilla, dark chocolate and black pepper. It had a long finish and its evolutionary state was ready (i.e., fine to drink right away, but certainly even better if you let it rest for a few more years in your cellar).

Overall, I loved Two Percent! Considering how young it was, it already performed as a show stopper: a big wine with an elegant, complex bouquet and lush, chewy mouth flavors, a silky smooth texture and perfectly integrated tannins, plus a long, lingering finish that just makes you want more. Definitely excellent value for money. Wow.

Rating: Very Good and definitely Recommended Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Now I can hardly wait to try that Fat of the Land bottle… ūüėČ

Wine Review: Two Chardonnays from Piemonte – Coppo, Chardonnay “Monteriolo” Piemonte DOC 2007 & Chardonnay “Costebianche” Piemonte DOC 2010

Disclaimer: this review is of samples that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wines are my own.

Today we are going to review two Chardonnays from the northern Italian region of Piemonte, made by Italian producer Coppo.

About the Grape

A few notions about Chardonnay as a grape variety, that you can also find on our Grape Variety Archive page, along with several other varieties that we have previously reviewed.

Chardonnay is a white-berried variety that is indigenous to the French area between Lyon and Dijon, encompassing Burgundy and Champagne. The earliest documented mention of Chardonnay dates back to the late XVII century in the village of Saint Sorlin (today known as La Roche Vineuse) under the name “Chardonnet“, although the variety takes its name from the village of Chardonnay near the town of Uchizy in southern Burgundy.

DNA analysis showed that Chardonnay is a natural cross between Pinot and Gouais Blanc.

Chardonnay Rose is a color mutation of Chardonnay, while Chardonnay Musque’ is a mutation with Muscat-like aromas.

Chardonnay is one of the most versatile and adaptable white grape varieties, which explains in part why it has been so extensively grown all over the world. Chardonnay grapes are generally high in sugar levels and do not have a dominant flavor of their own, so the wines made out of them tend to take on a variety of aromas depending on where the grapes are grown and how the wines are made. Thus Chardonnays run the gamut from subtle and savory to rich and spicy still wines as well as being one of the base wines for Champagne and other Classic Method sparkling wines.

Chardonnay is a typical international variety given how widely it is cultivated on a worldwide basis, from native France, to Italy, North and South America and Australia.

As always, this grape variety information is taken from the excellent guide Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012.

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Reviews

The Coppo lineup comprises three Chardonnays: beside the top of the line Riserva della Famiglia (which is currently not available in the US), Coppo makes the mid-range Monteriolo and the entry-level Costebianche, both of which we are going to review today.

As usual, for my reviews I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

1. Coppo, Chardonnay “Monteriolo” ($60)

Coppo, Chardonnay "Monteriolo"The first¬†wine that we are going to review is Coppo, Chardonnay ‚ÄúMonteriolo‚ÄĚ Piemonte DOC 2007.

1.1 The Bottom Line

Overall, the Monteriolo was a good, solid¬†‚Äúgently-oaked‚ÄĚ Chardonnay.¬†Both its bouquet and mouth flavors are¬†pleasant and ‚Äúclean‚ÄĚ, if just a tad subdued, presenting a nice balance between secondary and tertiary aromas. In my view, however,¬†the $60 suggested retail price is pretty steep and makes the Monteriolo face tough competition in the premium Chardonnay market segment.

Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good Р$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

1.2 Detailed Information

The 2007 Monteriolo was 12.5% ABV and was made out of 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from Coppo’s vineyards near the town of Canelli, Piemonte.

The must fermented for about 12/15 days at 59F/15C in stainless steel vessels. The wine then rested for nine months in 50% new and 50% previously used French oak barrique casks, plus eight additional months in bottle before becoming available for sale. The Monteriolo has a suggested retail price in the US of $60, but can be found for retail prices in the neighborhood of $50.

Let’s now see how the Monteriolo performed in our tasting.

In the glass, the wine poured golden yellow and quite thick when swirled.

On the nose, the bouquet was quite intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of citrus, apple, herbs, and hints of butter, vanilla and roasted hazelnut.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, quite warm, smooth; fresh and quite tasty. It was balanced and medium-bodied, with quite intense and fine mouth flavors of citrus, apple, butter, and hints of vanilla and roasted hazelnut. The finish was quite long and the evolutionary state was ready (meaning, fine to drink now, but may improve with one or two years of cellaring).

2. Coppo, Chardonnay “Costebianche” ($20)

Coppo, Chardonnay "Costebianche"The second wine that we are going to review is Coppo, Chardonnay ‚ÄúCostebianche‚ÄĚ Piemonte DOC 2010.

2.1 The Bottom Line

Overall, the Costebianche was a pretty good Chardonnay. Its bouquet is pleasant, although a bit narrow and veered toward tertiary aromas, those that develop with oak aging, that in this case tended to be¬†dominant over the fruity aromas. Also, I found the Costebianche a little ‚Äúthin‚ÄĚ in the mouth – I wished it had a little more body (this feeling is confirmed by its quite low ABV and glycerol levels, which both contribute to determine the structure of a wine). All in all, a fairly good, if a bit ‚Äúsoulless‚ÄĚ, wine.

Rating: Fairly Good Fairly Good Р$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2.2 Detailed Information

The 2010 Costebianche was 12% ABV and was made out of 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from Coppo’s vineyards near the towns of Canelli and Aglianico.

The wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation and then six months of aging, during which 70% of the wine rested in French oak barrique casks and the remaining 30% in steel vats, plus six additional months in bottle before becoming available for sale. In the US the Costebianche has a suggested retail price of about $20.

Let’s see how the Costebianche did in our tasting.

In the glass, the wine poured straw yellow with greenish hints and quite thick when swirled.

On the nose, the bouquet was intense, fairly narrow and quite fine, with aromas of Granny Smith apple, roasted hazelnut, and butter.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, quite warm, quite smooth; fresh and tasty. It was balanced and light-bodied, with intense and fine mouth flavors of citrus, Granny Smith apple, roasted hazelnut, butter, and wild herbs. The finish was quite long and the evolutionary state was ready.

Wine Review: Coppo, Gavi “La Rocca” DOCG

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wine are my own.

The white wine that we will review¬†today is a Gavi (an appellation¬†in the¬†southern part of Italy’s Piemonte region)¬†made by Italian producer¬†Coppo from Cortese grapes, namely¬†Coppo,¬†Gavi “La Rocca” 2011 DOCG ($17).

The Bottom Line

Overall, honestly I was not particularly impressed by this Gavi, but it did not disappoint either: I wish its bouquet¬†and mouth flavors showed more complexity and the wine a bit more personality, but it is still an¬†enjoyable (if very focused), “easy to drink” white¬†wine, with lively acidity and tastiness. In my view, it is not a show stopper, but at a retail price of about $17, it may be an option worth bearing in mind.

Rating: Fairly Good Fairly Good Р$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellation

1. The Grape. Cortese is an indigenous Italian white-berried grape variety whose first documented mention dates back to 1614 in Italy’s Piemonte region.

Nowadays, it is mostly grown in the area surrounding the towns of Asti and Alessandria (in south-eastern Piemonte), where it especially is the only grape variety allowed by the Gavi (or Cortese di Gavi) DOCG appellation. Cortese generally makes wines with rather neutral aromas and good acidity.

(Information on the grape variety taken from¬†Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz,¬†Allen Lane¬†2012 ‚Äď for more information about grape varieties, check out our¬†Grape Variety Archive)

2. The Appellation. The Gavi (AKA Cortese di Gavi) appellation¬†was created in 1974 as a DOC and was upgraded to DOCG status in 1998. Gavi DOCG encompasses¬†the territory surrounding the town of Gavi (near Alessandria) and certain other¬†neighboring small towns. The appellation rules require that the wines be made exclusively from Cortese grapes and that “Gavi Riserva” wines be aged for a minimum of 12 months (of which¬†at least 6 in wood barrels), and “Gavi Spumante” wines be aged for a minimum of 24 months (of which at least 18 on their lees).

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is¬†Coppo,¬†Gavi “La Rocca” 2011 DOCG.

The 2011¬†La Rocca¬†was¬†12.5% ABV and was made out of 100%¬†Cortese grapes harvested from Coppo’s vineyards in Monterotondo di Gavi (near the town of Alessandria).

The must fermented for 20 days at 59F/15C in stainless steel vessels, with no malolactic fermentation. The wine then rested for 2 months in steel vats, plus three additional months in bottle before becoming available for sale. It is a wine that is intended for immediate consumption, not for cellaring. The Gavi La Rocca retails in the US for about $17.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured straw yellow and moderately thick when swirled.

On the nose, the bouquet was intense, narrow and quite fine, with aromas of peach and citrus.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, quite warm, smooth; fresh and tasty. It was balanced and medium-bodied, with intense and fine mouth flavors of citrus and peach and mineral notes. The finish was quite long and the evolutionary state was mature (meaning, drink it now, it will not benefit from cellaring).

Wine Review: Coppo, Monferrato ‚ÄúAlterego‚ÄĚ 2007 DOC

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wine are my own.

Our overview of the wines in the Coppo range that are imported into the US continues on with the review of a wine that “on paper” had piqued my interest because of its unusual blend: enter the Alterego, a¬†60/40 Cabernet Sauvignon/Barbera¬†blend.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Coppo, Monferrato¬†‚ÄúAlterego‚ÄĚ 2007 DOC¬†($35) was a¬†good, pleasant to drink wine, a good match to red meat, game or meat-based pasta. Ideally, I wish its bouquet were a little more intense on the nose, but the aromas (if a little muted) are certainly pleasant. Also, it is a nicely balanced wine, where its ABV, acidity and tamed tannins exhibit an enjoyable equilibrium.

Rating: Good and Recommended Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grapes and the Appellation

1. Barbera: You may find all relevat information regarding Barbera as a grape variety on the¬†‚ÄúBarbera‚ÄĚ entry¬†of our¬†Grape Variety Archive.

2. Cabernet Sauvignon: Regarding worldwide famous¬†Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a black-berried variety that originates from the Gironde region in south-west France. The oldest documented reference to it (under the name ‚ÄúPetit Cabernet‚ÄĚ) dates back to the second half of the XVIII century.

DNA profiling showed that Cabernet Sauvignon originated as a (probably spontaneous) cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. In the XX century, there happened two genetic mutations of Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia that produced in one case pinky bronzed berries (now known as Malian) and in the other case white berries (now known as Shalistin).

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes make deep colored, concentrated and tannic wines, apt for long-term aging. Beside its native Bordeaux region, where Cabernet Sauvignon plays a key role in Bordeaux blends, it is a variety that has been planted extensively around the world and that (along with Merlot and Chardonnay) has become the epitome of the international varieties.

(Information on the grape varieties taken from¬†Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz,¬†Allen Lane¬†2012 ‚Äď for more information about grape varieties, check out our¬†Grape Variety Archive)

3. Monferrato DOC: Finally, the appellation Monferrato DOC was created in 1994 and it stretches across a fairly large territory near the towns of Alessandria and Asti, in Italy’s Piemonte region. Monferrato DOC is a loosely regulated appellation as regards grape varieties, in that the wines may be made out of any of the grape varieties that applicable regulations permit to grow in the Piemonte region, with the only exception of aromatic varieties that are not allowed.

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Detailed Review

The wine we are going to review today, Coppo, Monferrato ‚ÄúAlterego‚ÄĚ 2007 DOC, is the only red blend in the Coppo lineup: it has 14% ABV and retails in the US for about $35.

Alterego¬†is¬†a blend of¬†60% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 40% Barbera grapes grown in the estate vineyards around the town of Canelli, in Piemonte’s Monferrato district. The wine is fermented for about 10 days in stainless steel vats, goes through malolactic fermentation¬†and is¬†aged in new French oak barrels for 12 months.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, Alterego poured ruby red and viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was moderately intense, moderately complex and fine, with aromas of blackberry, plum, tobacco, cocoa and black pepper.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was acidic, tannic (with noticeable but well integrated tannins) and tasty. It was full-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of wild berries, plum, dark chocolate and black pepper. It had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was ready (i.e., absolutely fine to drink right away, but probably even better if you let it rest a couple more years in your cellar).

Wine Review: Planeta, Syrah Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007

Planeta, Syrah Sicilia Rosso IGTToday’s review is of a Sicilian varietal Syrah made by excellent Sicilian winemakers Planeta.

As usual, let’s first provide a brief overview of the Syrah grape variety.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I loved this Sicilian take of an international grape variety! Planeta, Syrah Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007 ($35) was a luscious red, with an elegant bouquet, interestingly devoid of those animal fur notes that Syrah from other geographic regions may exhibit. Despite its muscular ABV, the wine was wonderfully balanced and offered supple tannins counterbalancing its silky smoothness. Its rich, pleasant mouth flavors completed the picture.

Rating: Very Good and definitely Recommended Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

Syrah is a black-berried grape variety that is indigenous to the northern Rhone region of France, where it was first mentioned in a document dating back to 1781 under the name “Sira de l’Hermitage“.

DNA analysis proved that Syrah is a natural cross between Mondeuse Blanche (a Savoie variety) and Dureza (an Ardeche variety) that probably took place in the Rhone-Alps region.

Syrah has historically been mostly grown in the Rhone Valley in France and in Australia under the name Shiraz, although recently its planting has become more widespread (as in the case of the Sicilian Syrah that we are going to review) as a result of an increasing popularity of its wines.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 Рfor more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Estate

Planeta’s Syrah is made out of grapes coming from the 42 HA Maroccoli vineyard situated at 450 mt/1,475 ft above sea level within Planeta’s¬†Ulmo estate, located near the town of Sambuca di Sicilia (Agrigento), on the western coast of Sicily. The Maroccoli vineyard density is 5,000 vines/HA.

Ulmo is the first and the oldest among Planeta’s current estates: it became operational in 1995, along with its winery, and it encompasses some 93 HA of vineyards (including Maroccoli) where Chardonnay, Merlot, Grecanico, Nero d’Avola and of course Syrah are grown in different crus.

Our Detailed Review

The Planeta, Syrah Sicilia Rosso IGT 2007 that I had was a red wine made from 100% Syrah grapes grown in the Maroccoli vineyard and had 14.5% ABV. It is available in the US where it retails for about $35.

The wine fermented in steel vats for 12 days at 25C/77F and aged 12 months in French oak barrique casks, 1/3 of which were new and the remaining 2/3 previously used ones. As you may know, the reason for using barrels that had already been used before is to limit the interference of the oak with the organoleptic profile of the wine, so that the tertiary aromas developed during the barrique aging period do not overwhelm but rather coherently complement the fruity secondary aromas developed by the wine in the fermentation phase.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red with purple hints and viscous when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, moderately complex and fine, with aromas of black cherry, plum, tobacco, soil and leather.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, with high ABV and smooth; it was moderately acidic, tannic and tasty. It was full-bodied and perfectly balanced. Its mouth flavors were intense and fine, with notes of black cherry, dark chocolate, sweet tobacco and black pepper. Its tannins were supple and masterfully integrated. The wine had a long finish and its evolutionary state was in my view approaching its maturity, meaning the peak in terms of its potential (in other words, for best results enjoy it now or in the next year or so).

Wine Review: The Barbera Trilogy #3 ‚Äď Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG

Coppo, Barbera d'Asti "Pomorosso" DOCG For the epilogue of our “Barbera Trilogy” series, I am going to readapt here my review of the Pomorosso that I published a while ago.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found Coppo,¬†Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG ($60)¬†to be one of the best Barbera’s that I have had so far, a wine that is a pleasure to drink and savor sip after sip – a¬†perfect companion for a red meat dinner.

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended Outstanding Р$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellations

You may find all relevat information regarding Barbera as a grape variety and the four appellations in Piemonte where Barbera is the main grape variety on the “Barbera” entry of our Grape Variety Archive.

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG.

The Pomorosso is the flagship varietal Barbera¬†in the Coppo offering (which, as we have seen in previous posts, includes two less structured, less expensive alternatives: L’Avvocata and Camp du Rouss).

It is definitely a complex Barbera: it is made out of 100% Barbera grapes grown in selected vineyards of the 56 HA Coppo estate located in the surroundings of the town of Canelli, near Asti (Piemonte). The Pomorosso 2006 had 13.5% ABV, was fermented and macerated in stainless steel vats for 12 days at 28-30C/82-86F, went through full malolactic fermentation and aged for 14 months in all new French oak barrique casks. In the U.S. it has a suggested retail price of $70, but its street price is generally around $55-60.

Let me say outright that the Pomorosso is a great, structured¬†red wine, that is suitable for several years of aging (the 2006 vintage that I had was a symphony of aromas, flavors and balance). But let’s now move on to the technical wine tasting.

As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the 2006 Pomorosso poured ruby red and viscous.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine with a sequence of aromas of violet, plums, blueberries, cherries, tobacco and chocolate.

In the mouth, the Pomorosso was dry, with¬†high ABV and¬†smooth; it was¬†acidic, tannic and tasty. It was a full-bodied, perfectly balanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, showing good correlation with its bouquet as well as a perfect integration of the oaky notes released by its barrique aging. Its tannins, although very discernible, were also equally gentle and supple, with their delicate astringency counterbalancing the wine’s lively acidity. The Pomorosso had a long finish, with its flavors pleasantly lingering in the mouth for a very long time. Its evolutionary state in my view was mature, meaning that, with 7 years of aging under its belt, it was at or approaching its peak in terms of quality, making me think that additional aging, while certainly possible, would not likely improve its quality any further.

Wine Review: The Barbera Trilogy #2 ‚Äď Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Camp du Rouss” 2009 DOCG

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wine are my own.

In this second post of the “Barbera Trilogy” we will review¬†Coppo‘s mid-range Barbera, ‚ÄúCamp du Rouss‚ÄĚ, a fancy name which, in the dialect of Piemonte, means “field of the red-headed‚ÄĚ(!) – apparently, the reason for the name is that the previous owner of the vineyard where the grapes for this wine are grown was a red-headed man.

The Bottom Line

Overall, Coppo,¬†Barbera d’Asti “Camp du Rouss” 2009 DOCG¬†($23) was a good, muscular Barbera, with a nice balance between its secondary, fruity aromas and the tertiary, spicy ones as well as an appealing price.¬†It makes a good complement for red meat dishes. As a matter of personal preference, while I liked the Camp du Rouss, I liked L’Avvocata a tad better, because of the slightly lower ABV and more delicate tannins. But again, this is just a question of personal taste and YMMV! ūüėČ

Rating: Good and Recommended, considering its good QPR Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellation

You may find all relevat information regarding Barbera as a grape variety and the four appellations in Piemonte where Barbera is the main grape variety on the¬†“Barbera” entry¬†of our¬†Grape Variety Archive.

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is¬†Coppo,¬†Barbera d’Asti “Camp du Rouss” 2009 DOCG.

It has a muscular 14.5% ABV and is fermented for 14 days in stainless steel vats, before going through full malolactic fermentation. It then ages for 12 months in French oak barrique casks, 80% previously used ones and 20% new ones. The reason for utilizing used barriques is to limit the interference of the oak with the organoleptic profile of the wine, so that the tertiary aromas developed during the barrique aging period do not overwhelm but rather complement the fruity secondary aromas developed during the fermentation phase. The wine finally ages for an additional 12 months in-bottle before being released for sale. In the U.S., it retails for about $23.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the Camp du Rouss poured ruby red and unsurprisingly thick when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of red cherries, raspberries, leather, and cigar box.

In the mouth, the wine was¬†dry,¬†warm¬†(you can distinctly feel the “heath” of its ABV on your palate!) and¬†smooth;¬†fresh,¬†tannic¬†(with firm but not harsh tannins) and¬†tasty. It was¬†full-bodied¬†and¬†balanced, with¬†intense¬†and¬†fine¬†mouth flavors of wild cherries and black pepper. The¬†finish was quite long¬†and the evolutionary state¬†ready¬†(i.e., fine to drink right away, but likely better if you let it rest 2/3 more years in your cellar).

Wine Review: The Barbera Trilogy #1 – Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “L’Avvocata” 2011 DOCG

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wine are my own.

In the next three posts we will review and discover the three Barbera’s in the Coppo range that are imported into the US: L’Avvocata, Camp du Rouss, and the flagship Pomorosso.

In this post, we will start from Coppo‘s entry-level Barbera, ‚ÄúL’Avvocata‚ÄĚ, a fancy name which literally means “the female lawyer‚ÄĚ(!)

The Bottom Line

Overall, Coppo,¬†Barbera d’Asti ‚ÄúL’Avvocata‚ÄĚ 2011 DOCG¬†($15) was a solid, “clean” entry-level Barbera, with a great price point for the quality it delivers. Needless to say, and to state the obvious, the Pomorosso it is not, but¬†L’Avvocata is still a very enjoyable wine to pair with pasta dishes with meat-based sauces or veal-based dishes.

Rating: Good to Very Good and Recommended, considering its great QPR Good to Very Good Р$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellation

Barbera is a grape variety that is indigenous to the Monferrato district in the north Italian region of Piemonte. The first written references to Barbera date back to the end of the XVIII century. Nowadays it is the most widespread grape variety in Piemonte, from which wines are made that display lively acidity and a deep ruby color.

In Piemonte, Barbera is the main grape of four different appellations:

  • Barbera d‚ÄôAsti DOCG¬†(encompassing an area surrounding the towns of Asti and Alessandria, and requiring the use of 90% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 4 months for the base version or 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels, for the ‚ÄúSuperiore‚ÄĚ version);
  • Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG¬†(encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels)
  • Barbera d‚ÄôAlba DOC¬†(encompassing an area in the vicinities of the town of Cuneo and requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)
  • Barbera del Monferrato DOC¬†(encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)

Given its wide distribution, Barbera is produced in a¬†variety of styles, ranging from simpler, ‚Äúyounger‚ÄĚ versions that are only aged in steel vats to more structured¬†and evolved versions that are aged in oak barrels, including sometimes barrique casks.

(Information on the grape variety taken from¬†Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz,¬†Allen Lane¬†2012 ‚Äď for more information about grape varieties, check out our¬†Grape Variety Archive)

About the Producer and the Estate

You may find information regarding the producer, Coppo, and the estate in the first post of this series of reviews of the Coppo lineup.

Our Detailed Review

As we said at the beginning of this post, the wine we are going to review today, Coppo, Barbera d’Asti ‚ÄúL’Avvocata‚ÄĚ 2011 DOCG, is the entry-level Barbera in the Coppo lineup: it has 14% ABV and retails in the US for an attractive price of $15.

L’Avvocata is made from 100% Barbera grapes grown in the estate vineyards around the town of Canelli, in Piemonte’s Monferrato district. The wine is fermented in stainless steel vats, goes through malolactic fermentation¬†and is¬†aged in large French oak barrels (therefore, not barriques) for 6 to 8 months. L’Avvocata is a Barbera that is not meant for aging (although some cellaring will certainly not hurt!): it is released ready to be enjoyed.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, L’Avvocata poured ruby red with purple hints and thick when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine, with pleasant aromas of wild cherries, redcurrant, ground coffee, wet soil and hints of tobacco.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, warm and smooth; fresh, tannic (with present but pleasantly supple, well integrated tannins despite the young age) and tasty. It was medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors that nicely matched its bouquet. The finish was quite long and the evolutionary state ready (i.e., absolutely fine to drink right away, probably even better if you let it rest a couple more years in your cellar).

Coppo: The Winery that Reinvented Barbera

The US importer of the well-known Italian winery Coppo has been kind enough to send me samples of most wines in the Coppo lineup (those that are currently imported into the US) for me to taste and review: thank you, Rebecca, Brittany and Mari!

So, let’s start from the beginning, with some information about the producer, the estate, and the Coppo lineup.

About the Producer and the Estate

Coppo‘s 56 HA estate is located in Italy’s Piemonte region, in the Monferrato district, near the town of Canelli (Asti), an area where traditionally Moscato grapes had mostly been grown, especially for making sweet Asti Spumante¬†using the Charmat-Martinotti Method (for more information, check out our previous post about Charmat-Martinotti sparkling wines).

The Coppo family has been making wines at the estate since the early XX century, but the turning point took place in the mid Eighties, when the family extended their product range to encompass, beside Moscato, Barbera and certain international varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and modernized their production line.

Specifically,¬†1984 marked the first vintage of Coppo’s probably most famous, revolutionary wine: the Pomorosso, the successful result of efforts and investments aimed at coming up with a high-quality Barbera that would be meant for aging and be a tribute to such variety and its territory.

About the Wines

Coppo has been recognized as one of Piedmontese winemakers that have focused on high-quality production and preservation of the local traditions. Nowadays, the full Coppo lineup encompasses 16 wines:

  • 4 Barbera‘s
  • 1 Barbera-Cabernet Sauvignon blend
  • 1 Barolo (from Nebbiolo grapes grown in a vineyard outside the geographical boundaries of the appellation, but grandfathered so as to still let them use the Barolo DOCG appellation because production predated the creation of the appellation)
  • 1 Freisa
  • 1 Gavi (from Cortese grapes grown in a separate vineyard within the Gavi DOCG appellation territory)
  • 3 Chardonnay‘s
  • 4 Classic Method sparkling wines
  • 1 sweet Moscato

Out of those 16 wines,¬†Coppo’s US importer was kind enough to send me 9 to taste and review, namely those 9 that are currently¬†imported into the U.S.

Considering the number of wines to review, in an effort not to just focus on one producer for an extended period of time, I will review them over time, so in the next months you will see posts coming up devoted to each of such 9 wines, mixed up with posts on different wines, so please stay tuned!

The Coppo Wines We Are Going to Review

The 9 wines in the Coppo lineup that I am going to review are the following:

  1. Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” DOCG
  2. Barbera d’Asti “Camp du Rouss” DOCG
  3. Barbera d’Asti “L’Avvocata” DOCG
  4. Barolo DOCG
  5. “Alterego” Monferrato DOC (a Cabernet Sauvignon/Barbera blend)
  6. Chardonnay “Monteriolo” Piemonte DOC
  7. Chardonnay “Costebianche” Piemonte DOC
  8. Gavi “La Rocca” DOCG
  9. Moscato d’Asti “Moncalvina” DOCG

To get the series started, I am going to¬†launch “the Barbera Trilogy” ūüôā¬†that is I will review the three Barbera’s in the Coppo¬†range, starting from the entry-level “L’Avvocata” and culminating with the flagship “Pomorosso”, which I had already reviewed¬†on a previous post. The other wines will follow later on.

As always, let me know if you happened to try any of the wines in the Coppo range and, if you did, how you liked them!

Wine Review: Valdo, Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico “Numero 10‚ÄĚ 2009 DOC

Valdo, Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico "Numero 10" DOCAs you may already know if you have been reading this blog for a while, I am not a big fan of Prosecco: with very few exceptions (as in the case of Le Colture), I prefer the greater structure, complexity and finer perlage of a good Classic Method sparkling wine¬†over most Charmat-Martinotti Method Prosecco’s.

However… drum roll… enter Valdo, Prosecco Brut¬†Metodo Classico ‚ÄúNumero 10‚ÄĚ DOC (‚ā¨18), the game changer, the ideal bridge connecting Prosecco with Classic Method.

The Bottom Line

Overall, as I think you will be able to tell from my tasting notes, I really quite liked this Prosecco: personally, I applaud the producer who departed from the traditional way to make Prosecco (according to the Charmat-Martinotti Method) and instead went the Classic Method way. I think this gave to the Numero 10 that extra complexity and structure that I have almost regularly found lacking in the vast majority of the Prosecco’s that I have had so far. The choice of a relatively short period of aging on the lees also ensured that the secondary aromas would not become too pronounced at the expense of the fresh and fruity primary aromas of the Glera variety. All in all, a really solid sparkling wine for a reasonable price (at least in Italy): I seriously hope that the Numero 10 will become available in the US soon, maybe in time for next spring?… ūüėČ

Rating: Good to Very Good¬†and¬†Recommended¬†given its good QPR¬†Good to Very Good¬†– ‚ā¨

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Classic Method vs. Charmat-Martinotti Method

Let’s start from the beginning: the world of sparkling wines (in Italian, ‚Äúspumante“) is essentially divided into two camps: Classic Method sparklers (the archetype of which is Champagne) and Charmat-Martinotti Method sparklers (such as most Prosecco and Asti Spumante). We have discussed at length the differences between the two methods and the relevant production processes on previous posts, one regarding the Classic Method and the other one the Charmat-Martinotti Method, so you can refer to them in case of doubts.

The point here is that the wine we are going to review today is one of the very few Prosecco’s that are made according to the Classic Method, and therefore through in-bottle refermentation. Let’s dig deeper into it.

About the Grape and the Appellation

The main grape variety that is used in the production of the wine Prosecco was called Prosecco Tondo (now Glera) which DNA profiling has shown to be identical to a rare variety that is indigenous to the Istria region of Croatia named Teran Bijeli. This evidence supports the theory of an Istrian origin for the Prosecco/Glera grape variety. Glera is a partly-aromatic white-berried grape variety (grape variety information taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012).

Prosecco wine is made in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene¬†(or simply¬†Prosecco di Valdobbiadene)¬†DOCG¬†in the Veneto region, near the town of Treviso;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani DOCG¬†in the Veneto region, near and including the town of Asolo;
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which covers a vast territory stretching between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The regulations of the two DOCG appellations require that their Prosecco wines be made for 85% or more from Glera grapes, to which up to 15% of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera or Glera Lunga white-berried grapes may be blended. The regulations of the DOC appellation are similar but permit that a few additional grape varieties be blended to the Glera base grapes, as follows: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir.

For more detailed information about Prosecco and the Glera grape variety, please refer to¬†our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method¬†and to¬†the “Glera” entry in our Grape Variety Archive.

About the Producer

Valdo is one of the historical producers of Prosecco¬†in the premium hilly Valdobbiadene area, near the town of Treviso, in Italy’s Veneto region: they have been in the sparkling wine¬†business since 1926.

With its main offices smack in the center of the town of Valdobbiadene, Valdo nowadays is a big player, with an annual production of 5 million bottles, one third of which are exported.

The Valdo wine range is divided into four lines:

Our Detailed Review

Moving on to the actual review of Valdo, Prosecco Brut Metodo Classico “Numero 10‚ÄĚ 2009 DOC, I need to preliminarily point out that unfortunately at this time this wine is not among those in the Valdo range that are imported to the U.S.

I have reached out to Valdo’s U.S. importer to find out if they were planning on making it available in the largest wine market of the world any time soon and they told¬†me that, while no decision has been made yet, it is something they are considering. So… not all hope is lost! ūüôā

Be as it may, the bottle of Valdo “Numero 10‚Ä̬†I had was a typical 12.5% ABV – in Italy, it retails for about ‚ā¨18.

The Numero 10 was made from 100% Glera white-berried grapes grown in Valdo’s vineyards in the premium Valdobbiadene area, which makes the Numero 10 a Blanc de Blancs. After the soft pressing of the grapes, the must goes through a first fermentation phase at 15C/59F. As a result of the subsequent in-bottle refermentation, the wine rests in bottle¬†on its lees for 10 months, plus an additional 6 months following degorgement.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the flute, the Numero 10’s color was an intense straw yellow with golden hints; the bubbles in¬†its perlage were numerous,¬†average in¬†size¬†and long-lasting.

On the nose, the bouquet of the Numero 10 was intense, moderately complex and fine, and especially it was immediately captivating as it seemed to merge the fresh and fruity primary aromas that are typical of the semi-aromatic Glera grapes with the more complex, secondary aromas deriving from the double fermentation process and aging on the lees that are instead typical of a Classic Method sparkling wine. So, its kaleidoscopic bouquet offered aromas of Granny Smith apples, herbs (mint), apricot, and hints of minerals (graphite, chalk) and yeast.

In the mouth, the Numero 10 was dry, with medium ABV and moderately smooth; it was acidic and tasty. It was medium-bodied and balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors of minerals, brine, lime, Granny Smith apples and mint. It had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was mature (i.e., ready to be enjoyed now).

Wine Review: Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva 2007 DOC

Today’s review is about a northern Italian red wine that I particularly love (Muri-Gries,¬†Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva DOC 2007 – $38) which is made from an Italian indigenous grape variety that in my view undeservedly gets too little attention in the wine world: Lagrein.

Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein "Abtei Muri" Riserva DOC

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Abtei Muri was an extremely good, marvelously smooth, fruit-forward wine with supple tannins and good structure, an ideal companion to a red meat dinner. I think that with a couple more years of evolution under its belt, this wine may become truly spectacular: I will have to look for one more bottle from the 2007 vintage, if I can find one!

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended, given its great QPR Outstanding Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

The earliest mention of Lagrein is contained in a 1318 document found (of all places!) in Gries, near Bolzano, and surprisingly it refers to a white wine, that researchers have not been able to identify yet. Instead, the first reference to the red Lagrein that we know dates back to 1526.

Recent DNA analysis proved that Lagrein is a variety that is indigenous to the Alto Adige region of Italy, that it originated as a natural cross between Teroldego and an unknown variety and that, among other cool facts, it is a sibling of Marzemino and a cousin of Syrah!

In Italy, Lagrein is mostly grown in the northern regions of Alto Adige and Trentino. Outside of Italy, Lagrein can be found in California (Paso Robles) and Australia.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012 Рfor more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Appellation

A few words about the appellation. Alto Adige is a portion of the northern, mountainous region of Italy known as Trentino Alto Adige that is close to Austria and produces several wines of excellent quality, including indigenous Lagrein and very good Schiava and Pinot Noir among the reds and excellent whites ranging from Riesling and Sylvaner to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Given the great quality of the wines from this area of Italy, it is somewhat sad to notice that they all come from one single appellation that encompasses the entire Alto Adige area, known as Alto Adige DOC. It is true that this macro-appellation includes a few subzones (among which St. Magdalener, Terlaner and Valle Isarco) but still, one appellation with over 20 permitted grape varieties??? Talk about the importance of terroir… ūüė¶ ¬†So, as of today one can mostly rely on the seriousness and commitment to quality of many Alto Adige producers. Personally, I hope that at some point at least certain of those subzones may be upgraded to self-standing appellations, focusing only on the grapes that are best suited for that specific subregion.

About the Estate

Muri-Gries is currently a Benedictine monastery in the village known as Gries near the town of Bolzano (Bozen), in the northeastern Italian region of Alto Adige. The original building was erected in the XI century as a fortress and kept that purpose until 1407, when it was gifted to Augustinian canons who had lost their monastery due to a flood and it was converted into a monastery. Grapevine growing and winemaking started in 1845, when the monastery passed on to Benedictine friars, who had been ousted from their monastery in Muri, Switzerland, and who eventually settled in the Gries monastery, which changed its name to the current Muri-Gries. As of today, the Benedectine friars still take care of the monastery and its vineyards.

The monastery owns nearly 30 HA (75 acres) of vineyards (80% of which are Lagrein) and 52 HA (131 acres) of orchards, beside some 45 cattle, which make the monastery essentially self-sufficient. Even part of the wine made in the monastery is earmarked for the friars’ own consumption.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now move on to the actual review of the Muri-Gries, Alto Adige Lagrein “Abtei Muri” Riserva 2007 DOC that I recently tasted.

For starters, “Abtei Muri” is the flagship line of the monastery wine production. This premium lineup comprises four wines: the Lagrein that we are about to review, a Pinot Noir, a white blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Grigio, and a sweet Moscato Rosa.

Our Abtei Muri Lagrein was made from 100% Lagrein grapes and was fermented in steel vats and then aged for 16 months in barrique oak casks. It is 13.5% ABV and it retails in the US for about $38, which (as you will soon find out if you keep reading) is great value for this wine.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red with purple hints and thick when swirled

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with aromas of blueberry, blackberry, black pepper, tobacco and licorice.

In the mouth, it was dry, warm, smooth; quite fresh, with deliciously supple tannins, and tasty. The wine was full-bodied and perfectly balanced. The mouth flavors were intense and fine, with nice correspondence to the aromatic palette and hints of blueberry, blackberry and black pepper. It had a quite long finish and its evolutionary state was ready (that is, perfectly good to enjoy now, but will probably evolve even more with two or three years of additional aging).

Wine Review: Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012

Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc MarlboroughEver since fellow wine blogger and friend Oliver was kind enough to ask me to contribute a guest post to his excellent blog, The Winegetter, I have been really excited about the idea. Since the theme was “Somewhere Beyond the Sea” and the post was going to be published in the summertime, I thought reviewing one of my favorite New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs¬†(Cloudy Bay,¬†Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012 – $30) would just be the way to go: definitely “somewhere beyond the sea” pretty much from anywhere you look at it (unless of course you are a Kiwi!) and a refreshing summer wine. So there we go¬†– and of course: (i) you may find this post also in Oliver’s blog¬†and (ii)¬†thank you so much, Oliver, for including me in your list of distinguished guest contributors – I feel honored and it has been a lot of fun!

The Bottom Line

Overall, I¬†think that¬†Cloudy Bay is a¬†very pleasant Sauvignon Blanc¬†in the “Down Under” style: intense, concentrated fruit and herb aromas, lively acidity and citrus-centric flavors. So very refreshing and summery that I would keep drinking it all Summer long… if budget permitted! ¬†ūüėČ

Rating: Very Good and Recommended Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape

A few interesting notions about the origins of Sauvignon Blanc: recent DNA analysis has identified a parent-offspring relationship between Savagnin (an old white-berried variety that is common in the Jura region of France) and Sauvignon Blanc and, there being much earlier documents mentioning Savagnin than Sauvignon Blanc, the former is believed to be the parent of the latter. DNA results also support the thesis that, contrary to common belief, Sauvignon Blanc did not originate from the Bordeaux area, but rather from the Loire Valley in France, where documental evidence dates back to 1534 (compared to 1710 in Bordeaux). However, it is interesting to note that, when Sauvignon Blanc was grown in the Bordeaux area, it spontaneously crossed with Cabernet Franc to create Cabernet Sauvignon.

In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in the 1970s and soon became the most widely grown variety in the country, especially in the Marlborough region.

(Information on the grape varieties taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012  Рfor more information about grape varieties, check out our Grape Variety Archive)

About the Estate

Cloudy Bay‘s vineyards are located in different subzones of the premium wine region of Marlborough at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island, alongside the Wairau River. Cloudy Bay also sources part of the grapes used for making their wines from a few independent Wairau Valley growers with whom they have established a long-term business relationship.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now get to the actual review of Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2012, which in the US retails for about $30.

The wine has 13.5% ABV and was made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes sourced from estate and grower vineyards located in the Rapaura, Fairhall, Renwick and Brancott subzones of the Wairau Valley. Fermentation was primarily carried out in stainless steel, except for a small percentage that was fermented in old French oak barriques.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured crystal clear, a beautiful straw yellow in color, and thick with narrow arches and slow dripping tears

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with pleasant, Summer-y aromas of lime, grapefruit, citrus, green apple and herbs (nettle, mint)

In the mouth, it was dry, quite warm, quite smooth; fresh, quite tasty. The wine was medium-bodied and balanced, despite its freshness (i.e., acidity) being the dominating component – but that is in most cases a desirable feature in a dry white wine and in our case it also helped make the quite muscular ABV of the wine not so evident in the mouth, which is a good thing, so it did not change our assessment that the wine was balanced. Its mouth flavors were intense and fine, with pleasant, refreshing notes of lime, grapefruit, citrus and herbs. The wine’s finish was quite long and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning ready to be enjoyed now, with additional cellaring not likely to benefit the wine.

Wine Review P2: Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, “Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia” Range

Disclaimer: this review is of samples that I received from the producer’s US importer. My review of the wines has been conducted in compliance with my¬†Samples Policy¬†and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wines are my own.

After learning about the producer, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, the estate “Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia and the “Ammiraglia” wine range in general on our previous post (should you have missed it, please refer to it before reading this one), let’s now focus on the actual contents of the three bottles that I got to taste and move forward with my tasting notes.

In an effort not to make this post too lengthy, if you are interested in some very cool facts about the various grape varieties from which the wines in the Ammiraglia lineup are made (i.e., Vermentino, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo), by all means check them out on our Grape Variety Archive page. As always, such information is taken from the excellent guide Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012,

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

1. ¬†Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi,¬†Vermentino “Ammiraglia” Toscana IGT 2012 ($18)

The 2012 Vermentino Ammiraglia was¬†12.5% ABV and was made out of 100% Vermentino grapes harvested from just 5 HA of vineyards in the Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia estate, which achieve a good 5,500 vines/HA density.

After the grapes underwent a partial cryomaceration phase, the must fermented for 10 days at 68F/20C in stainless steel vessels, with no malolactic fermentation. After that, the wine rested for 4 months in steel vats, plus one additional month in bottle before becoming available for sale.

The fact that part of the grapes did cryomaceration and that the wine did not do any oak are both indications that the wine was made in such a way as to emphasize primary and secondary aromas and that it is intended for immediate consumption, not for cellaring. The Vermentino Ammiraglia retails in the US for about $18.

In the glass, the wine poured a light straw yellow and moderately thick when swirled.

On the nose, the bouquet was quite intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of grapefruit, citrus, honey, orange blossoms, with herbs and almond hints. One important factor to keep in mind to fully appreciate its aromas is service temperature: if you serve this wine too chilled, its bouquet will be restrained and will not do it justice. I noticed that a temperature of about 53-55F/12-13C is where the wine’s aromas peak, so bear that in mind if you buy a bottle.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, quite warm, smooth; fresh and tasty. It was balanced and medium-bodied, with intense and fine mouth flavors of citrus, almond, minerals and evident iodine notes. The finish was quite long (to reinforce the wine’s mineral and iodine flavors, the aftertaste leaves you a slight feeling almost of saltwater in your mouth!) and the evolutionary state was mature (meaning, drink it now, it will not benefit from cellaring).

Overall, I really enjoyed this Vermentino: ideally, I wish its aromas were a touch more intense, but its aromatic palette is quite complex (if tasted at the right temperature) and very enjoyable, as are its balance and tasty mouth flavors. And at a retail price of about $18, I think this wine delivers plenty of bang for the buck.

Rating: Good to Very Good and Recommended, given its great QPR Good to Very Good Р$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, “Terre More dell’Ammiraglia” Maremma Toscana DOC 2011 ($18)

The 2011 Terre More was a whopping 14.5% ABV Bordeaux-style blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 5% Syrah grown in 55 HA of vineyards in the estate with a good density of 5,500 vines/HA, on par with the Vermentino.

The must fermented for 10 days in stainless steel vats at 82F/28C and underwent 12 days of maceration as well as full malolactic fermentation. The wine finally aged for 12 months in second or third time used French oak barrique casks before becoming available for sale. The Terre More retails in the US for about $18.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red with purple hints and unsurprisingly (given its ABV) thick when swirled.

On the nose, the bouquet was quite intense, complex and fine, with aromas of wild cherry, plum, blackberry, leather, coffee, tobacco and black pepper, with the tertiary, spicy aromas given by the oak aging being a little dominant over the secondary, fruity aromas (despite the wise choice of second/third time used barriques).

In the mouth, the Terre More was dry, definitely warm, quite smooth; fresh, tannic, quite tasty. I have to say that the wine’s muscular ABV was very evident, and tended to tip the wine mouthfeel a little bit off balance. The tannins were firm but quite integrated, despite the wine’s young age. The wine was full-bodied and had intense and fine mouth flavors of plum, blackberry, coffee (quite evident) and black pepper. The finish was quite long and the evolutionary state ready, meaning you can drink it now but it will most likely benefit from a few years of additional in-bottle aging.

Overall, I ended up having mixed feelings about the Terre More: I quite liked its bouquet (despite the slight prevalence of oaky, tertiary aromas and it being not as intense as I would have hoped), but was not entirely convinced by its mouthfeel: despite its pleasant flavor profile, the heat of the wine’s ABV was in my view a little too evident. Truth be told, it is still a very young wine and a few years of cellaring would likely be beneficial. Having said that, with a retail price of $18, I think this wine is still a pretty good deal to pair with a juicy steak just off the grill.

Rating: Fairly Good Fairly Good Р$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

3. Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, “Pietraregia dell’Ammiraglia”¬†Morellino di Scansano Riserva DOCG 2010 ($25)

As mentioned on our previous post, the 2010 Pietraregia started off on the right foot by having a nice cork closure. ūüėČ Beside that, the wine was 14% ABV and was a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo and 5% Syrah.

The must fermented in stainless steel vats for 10 days at 86F/30C, underwent 20 days of maceration on the skins and did full malolactic fermentation, The wine aged for 24 months in French oak barrique casks and 2 additional months in bottle before becoming available for sale. The Pietraregia retails in the US for about $25.

In the glass, it poured dark ruby red and thick when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet was quite intense and a bit narrow, with aromas of plum, blackberry, violet and black pepper, but certainly fine. It is interesting to note how few spicy tertiary aromas the wine picked up after spending 24 months in French oak barrique casks. Honestly, I would have hoped that the nose of this wine delivered a bit more than it did.

In the mouth, the Pietraregia was dry, warm, smooth; fresh, tannic, tasty. It was a full-bodied wine with intense and fine mouth flavors of plum and dark chocolate. The finish was quite long and its evolutionary state was ready (you know what that means: fine to drink now, but if you cellar it for a few years it will likely improve over time).

Overall, I liked the Pietraregia: while I wish it had more to give in its bouquet, in my view the pleasant mouthfeel of this wine definitely made up for whatever it lacked in its aromatic palette. Once you sip this wine, it will make you happy, especially if you still remember that you paid some 25 bucks for it, which I think is more than adequate for what you get.

Rating: Good and Recommended Good Р$$ 

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

So, to sum things up real quick:

1. I am generally pleased by the quality that the three wines of the Ammiraglia range that I got to taste delivered, of course given their price points.

2. Personally, I would definitely buy the Vermentino and the Pietraregia, which in my view are good value for money, while (once again, personally speaking) I think I would pass on the Terre More as, while it certainly is not a bad wine, it does not quite meet my own tastes.

And of course, many thanks to Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi’s US importer for providing the samples.

As always, if you get to taste any of these wines, please share your experience in the comment section!

Wine Review P1: Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, “Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia” Range

Disclaimer: this review is of samples that I received from¬†the producer’s¬†US importer. My review of the wines has been conducted in compliance with my¬†Samples Policy¬†and the ISA wine tasting protocol and the opinions I am going to share on the wines are my own.

The US importer of the Italian winery Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi has been so nice as to mail me samples of a range of wines that are literally just being launched in the US market as we publish this post so I could try them out and see how I liked them… which I gladly did!¬†Needless to say, the opinions in my review are my own and are untainted by the fact that the wines I reviewed were free samples (which is something that, however, I greatly appreciated as it gave me the opportunity to preview a range of wines that I was not familiar with!)

The wines that I am going to review are made by¬†well-known¬†Tuscan producer Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi and they are part of a line called “Ammiraglia‚ÄĚ, after the name of the estate (Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia) where the grapes from which the wines are made come from.

In order not to make this post unbearably long, I am going to break it down into two parts: (i) this post will provide information about the producer, the estate and the Ammiraglia range in general, and (ii) the next post is going to focus on my tasting notes of the three wines in the Ammiraglia lineup that I had the opportunity to taste.

About the Producer

The Frescobaldi’s are an Italian (florentine) family of noble descent that, among other endeavors, have been in the wine business for quite a while. More specifically, the oldest documented reference to their wine production activities dates back to… the year 1300 (!) at the historic estate of Tenuta di Castiglioni in Val di Pesa, southwest of Florence.

According to the Frescobaldi’s records, their wine business took off pretty well pretty soon, as by the beginning of the 1400’s great Italian Renaissance artists such as Donatello and Michelozzo Michelozzi had become loyal clients.¬†One century later, the Frescobaldi wines were served at the tables of the Papal Court and the Court of Henry the Eighth of England.

According to the Frescobaldi’s Web site, in the second half of the XIX century they were also at the forefront of wine making innovation in Italy, as in 1855, at their estates of Nipozzano and Pomino, they were the first in Tuscany to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, while in 1894 at Pomino they built the first Italian gravity-fed cellars.

About the Estate

Tenuta dell’Ammiraglia is the Frescobaldi’s¬†latest project. This estate is situated in Magliano, near the town of Grosseto, in that beautiful, sunny and wild part of coastal Tuscany that is known as Maremma. Commercial production of the Ammiraglia wine range started recently, with the first vintage of two of the wines in the lineup being 2006, while the remaining two wines were introduced in 2009 and 2012 (see below for details). Even the state-of-the-art, environmentally conscious Ammiraglia estate winery was completed and became operational only in 2011.

About the Ammiraglia Range

The Ammiraglia lineup comprises four wines:

1. Vermentino Ammiraglia: the only white wine in the range and its newest addition (first vintage: 2012)
2. Terre More: a Bordeux-style blend (first vintage: 2009)
3. Pietraregia: a Sangiovese-based Morellino di Scansano Riserva (first vintage: 2006)
4. Ammiraglia: a varietal Syrah (first vintage: 2006)

However, currently only the first three wines in the Ammiraglia range have been imported into the US and therefore will be covered by my review. Word has it, though, that it will not be long before even the missing Syrah joins the other three wines on US wine store racks (probably, as early as next year).

Before we wrap this post up, here are three general observations on the wines that I have tasted –¬†two good and one…¬†not so good.¬† ūüėČ

– The good ones:

(A)¬†The price: if these wines deliver in terms of quality (I don’t want to spoil the outcome of my reviews here, so stay tuned for the next post!) I think they are going to sell really well: two of the three have a suggested retail price of $18 and the third one (the Pietraregia) of $25: certainly appealing.

(B) The capsule: the three wines come with a nice tin capsule, which I like so much better than cheap feeling and cheap looking plastic capsules. Besides, tin foil is much easier to take off in the context of a proper wine opening procedure (yes, at some point I will write a post about what this entails exactly!)

РThe not so good one (at least to me): only one of the three wines that I tasted (the more expensive Pietraregia) utilizes cork as a closure. The other two resort to a synthetic closure in a color that vaguely resembles cork.

Now, I realize that retailing at some $18 these two wines are not premium segment wines and using synthetic instead of cork helps keep the retail price down; I understand that they are not meant for long-term aging and this takes care of the question marks about the¬†long-term effectiveness of synthetic closures; and I also appreciate that using synthetic avoids the dreaded TCA taint problem (AKA, the occasional corked bottle) altogether. I get all that, of course. Still, my personal reaction to a synthetic closure in a bottle of wine is not one of excitement: I don’t know, I may be old school and everything, but to me,¬†it just makes the bottle feel cheap.

By the way, if you are interested in the whole wine closure debate, I have come across a pretty interesting article published¬†by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture summarizing the outcome of research conducted in 2007¬†at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center regarding the¬†“Effects of Wine Bottle Closure Type on Consumer Purchase Intent and Price Expectation”¬†that essentially shows how consumer appreciation and price expectations of a bottle of wine (a Chardonnay and a Merlot) were affected by the use of a screw cap, a synthetic closure or a real cork (the article also cites the outcome of previous studies on this topic).

Anyway, forget about my prejudice about synthetic closures: this is the end of part 1 of this review. On the next post, we will get to my actual tasting notes of the three wines that I got to taste, so stay tuned for more! ūüôā

Wine Review: Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG

LeColture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCGSummer has finally made its way to us, with some delay. So, what is there more refreshing and satisfying than a chilled bottled of foamy bubbles?

Before we even continue, though, I feel I have a confession to make. While I love a glass of good sparkling wine, I am definitely partial to Champagne or anyway to quality Classic Method sparklers, such as a nice Franciacorta or Trento DOC. Instead, I am not a big fan of Prosecco, I have to admit, or more in general of sparkling wines made with the Charmat-Martinotti Method. I just prefer the greater structure, the more complex aromatic and flavor palette of the former over the latter. There, I said it.

This, however, is a question of personal taste and is not meant to say that there are no good Prosecco’s out there (although you definitely need to know which ones¬†are the quality producers if you want to avoid disappointments) or that there is no place for a good bottle of a¬†Charmat-Martinotti Method sparkler on your table! To prove this, today I am going to tell you about the one Charmat-Martinotti Method¬†Prosecco that, to date, I like best¬†among those that I have had an opportunity to taste so far:¬†Le Colture,¬†Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG ($30).

The Bottom Line

Overall, I really liked this premium Prosecco and all that it offers. My only gripe is about the price: 30 bucks is in my view in the high end of the range, even for a quality Prosecco. Personally, I think it should be in the $20 to 25 price band. Other than that, in my view, the perfect interplay between its off-dry taste (due to its higher residual sugars) and its refreshing acidity and minerality is what really makes this Prosecco. Certainly, Champagne (or even a Classic Method spumante) it ain’t, but nor does it claim to be. There is definitely a place for this Prosecco in my fridge (and I would think it would not be wasted in yours either!) to enjoy chilled with friends on one of those warm Summer nights!

Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Appellations

Prosecco wine is made prevalently or exclusively from partly-aromatic Glera (also known as Prosecco – see more about this below) white-berried grapes in two Italian DOCG appellations and in one more loosely regulated inter-regional DOC appellation, as follows:

  • Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene (or simply Prosecco di Valdobbiadene) DOCG¬†in the Veneto region, near the town of Treviso;
  • Prosecco dei Colli Asolani DOCG in the Veneto region, near and including the town of Asolo;
  • Prosecco Spumante DOC, an appellation which covers a vast territory stretching between the regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The regulations of the two DOCG appellations require that their Prosecco wines be made 85% or more from Glera grapes, to which up to 15% of Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera or Glera Lunga white-berried grapes may be blended. The regulations of the DOC appellation are similar but permit that a few additional grape varieties be blended to the Glera base grapes, as follows: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir.

Prosecco is one of the main examples of a sparkling wine made according to the so-called Charmat-Martinotti Method, although there are a few producers who also make some very good Classic Method Prosecco’s. Compared to the Classic Method, the Charmat-Martinotti Method is a quicker and cheaper production process for sparkling wine, which is known to maximize primary (or varietal) aromas although it generally sacrifices the wine structure and the finest perlage. For more detailed information, please refer to our post on the Charmat-Martinotti Method.

With regard to residual sugar levels, according to applicable regulations, Prosecco spumante wines may be produced in any of the following styles, and therefore except only in the Extra Brut (less than 6 gr/lt of residual sugar) or Sweet (more than 50 gr/lt of residual sugar) versions:

  • Brut (less than 15 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Extra Dry (12 to 20 gr/lt of residual sugar)
  • Dry (17 to 35 gr/lt of residual sugar – as in the case of the bottle that we are reviewing)
  • Demi-Sec (33 to 50 gr/lt of residual sugar, which would make it taste quite sweet).

About the Grape

Here things for Prosecco tend to complicate a bit…

Up until recently, Prosecco was the name for three things: the wine, its main grape variety and the homonymous village near the town of Trieste (in the Italian region of Friuli) that probably gave the wine and the grape their name. Relatively easy so far.

Then in 2009, with Prosecco’s popularity and sales soaring (in 2011 the overall production of Prosecco was about 265 million bottles, 55% of which were exported), the consortium of Prosecco producers obtained an official change in the name of the grape variety, from Prosecco to Glera, so that Prosecco would only be the name of the wine (and not of the grape variety too) and could therefore be reserved for its designation of origin, thus preventing other producers from other Italian regions or other countries from calling their sparkling wines Prosecco (in this regard, see our recent post about the dispute with Croatia to require that they rename their own Prosek wine).

At any rate, the main grape variety that is used in the production of the wine Prosecco was called Prosecco Tondo (now Glera) which DNA profiling has shown to be identical to a rare variety that is indigenous to the Istria region of Croatia named Teran Bijeli. This evidence supports the theory of an Istrian origin for the Prosecco/Glera grape variety.

Other grapes that may be used in the production of the wine Prosecco and that used to be considered clonal variations of Prosecco Tondo, but DNA analysis has proved to be distinct varieties, are Prosecco Lungo and Prosecco Nostrano (the latter, by the way, has been proven to be identical to Malvasia Bianca Lunga).

(Information on the grape varieties taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

About the Estate

Le Colture¬†estate is located in proximity to Santo Stefano di Valdobbiadene, in the heart of¬†Veneto’s Prosecco district, and encompasses about 45 HA of vineyards. The bottle that we are about to¬†review is made from 100% Glera grapes¬†grown in¬†Le Colture’s vineyards in the high quality, hilly subzone known as¬†Superiore di Cartizze¬†and located near the village of San Pietro di Barbozza (in the surroundings of the town of Valdobbiadene) within the broader territory¬†of the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOCG appellation. The grapes are harvested between mid September and mid October and the wine is made, as is traditionally the case for¬†Prosecco’s, through¬†the refermentation of the must in pressurized autoclaves according to the Charmat-Martinotti Method. Please refer to our previous post about it for more information about this method, the main steps it entails and how it differs from the¬†Classic Method that is utilized for making (among others) Champagne, Franciacorta and Trento DOC sparkling wines.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now get to the actual review of Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG, which retails in the US for about $30.

The wine¬†is made from 100% Glera grapes, has 11% ABV and comes in the “Dry” variety, which means that it has¬†fairly high residual sugar, in the amount of 23 gr/l. At 4.5 ATM, the pressure in the bottle is also¬†gentler than that which¬†you would generally expect in a Classic Method wine (about 6 ATM), except in a Franciacorta Saten variety.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was brilliant with a pleasant straw yellow color. As to the all-important perlage, its bubbles were numerous, average in size (not the finest, but certainly not coarse either) and the chains of bubbles were definitely long-lasting.

On the nose, its bouquet was moderately intense, moderately complex and fine, with Spring-y aromas of jasmine flowers, peach, citrus and apple: something capable in and of itself to put you in a good mood. ūüôā

In the mouth, this Prosecco was off-dry, with low ABV and moderately smooth; it was acidic and tasty. It was light-bodied and pleasantly balanced, with its lively acidity and tasty minerals nicely counterbalancing its higher residual sugars any preventing any flatly sweet feeling. Its mouth flavors were intense and fine, showing a nice match with its aromatic palette, with refreshing notes of peach, citrus and apple. It had a medium finish and its evolutionary state was mature, meaning: do not cellar, drink it now and enjoy its freshness.

Wine Review: Planeta, “Santa Cecilia” Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT 2006

Planeta, Santa Cecilia Nero d'Avola, Sicilia IGT 2006Today’s review will focus on one of my two favorite varietal Nero d’Avola wines, namely Planeta‘s “Santa Cecilia”¬†Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT 2006 ($35).

The Bottom Line

Overall, the Santa Cecilia was an outstanding varietal Nero d’Avola, which delivered plenty of structure coupled with an enticing bouquet and juicy, delicious flavors. The wine was silky smooth with tannins that were marvelously gentle and integrated, lacking any of the harshness or aggressiveness that can instead be found in other varietal Nero d’Avola wines. Its still discernible acidity ensures a few more years of aging potential. Also, for its price point, this wine delivers plenty of bang for your hard earned bucks. Like I said, it is definitely one of my two favorite 100% Nero d’Avola wines. If you are curious which one¬†is my other favorite… well, stay tuned as it will be reviewed (and revealed) later this year!¬† ūüėČ

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended given its great QPR Outstanding Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

As usual, let’s now¬†provide a brief overview of the Nero d’Avola grape variety.

About the Grape

Nero d‚ÄôAvola is a black-berried grape variety that is widely grown in Sicily and that, apparently, was first brought there by Greek migrants during the Greek colonization of Southern Italy (so-called ‚ÄúMagna Graecia‚ÄĚ) in the VI century BC. This makes Nero d‚ÄôAvola essentially an indigenous grape variety to the region of Sicily, where it has been cultivated for centuries (the first official descriptions date back to the end of the XVII century) and where it is also known as ‚ÄúCalabrese‚ÄĚ ‚Äď however, this is not because it came from Calabria (which it did not), but because that name is thought to be a contraction of two words (‚ÄúCalea‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúAulisi‚ÄĚ) which, in the Sicilian dialect, mean ‚Äúgrape from Avola‚ÄĚ (Avola is the name of a Sicilian town).

Nero d’Avola makes wines that are generally deeply colored, full-bodied, distinctly tannic and with good aging potential. The use of Nero d’Avola grapes is permitted both in the only DOCG appellation in Sicily (Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, a blend in which Nero d’Avola can be used between 50 and 70% in combination with Frappato grapes) and in several of the Sicilian DOC appellations (among which the Noto DOC appellation), where it can be used to make varietal wines or in the context of blends. However, many of the best Nero d’Avola wines around are marketed under the more loosely regulated Sicilia IGT appellation, which affords serious producers more flexibility in experimenting and creating excellent wines out of Nero d’Avola grapes, especially by blending them with international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah to tame certain aggressive traits that varietal Nero d’Avola wines sometimes exhibit.

(Information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

About the Estate and the Appellation

Getting back to the specifics of the Santa Cecilia, this wine was produced for the first time by top quality Sicilian producers Planeta in 1997¬†under the Sicilia IGT appellation from mostly Nero d’Avola grapes blended with a small percentage of Syrah grapes coming from their vineyards in Menfi and Sambuca. However, in 1998 the good guys at Planeta identified a plot of land (known as Buonivini) in the vicinity of the town of Noto (somewhere in between the towns of Avola and Pachino) that was ideal for growing Nero d’Avola grapes. Over time, they completely renewed the Buonivini vineyards and built from scratch an underground winery with a view to shifting the production of the Santa Cecilia from Menfi/Sambuca to Noto.

The Buonivini winery became operational in 2003, which was also the first vintage of the “new” Santa Cecilia which since then has become a 100% Nero d’Avola wine made exclusively from grapes grown in the Buonivini vineyards. The new Santa Cecilia was still made under the Sicilia IGT appellation up until the 2007 vintage. However, in 2008 the area where the Buonivini vineyards are located was awarded DOC status also for black-berried grapes¬†under the name “Noto DOC and therefore, as of the 2008 vintage, the Santa Cecilia has been produced under the Noto DOC appellation (more information is available on Planeta’s Website and in the Noto DOC regulations).

More specifically, the Noto DOC had originally been created in 1974 under the name “Moscato di Noto DOC” and was restricted to the production of sweet white wines made from white-berried Moscato Bianco grapes. In 2008, the Moscato di Noto DOC appellation changed its name into “Noto DOC” and was extended to red wines based on Nero d’Avola grapes,¬†because the area was recognized as a traditional one for growing such variety – to be precise, it is believed to be the area where the cultivation of Nero d’Avola grapes in Sicily originated from. Nowadays, the Noto DOC regulations require that the wines made under such appellation be produced from grapes grown in an area encompassing the towns of Noto, Rosolini, Pachino and Avola, in the Siracusa province, and that red wines branded as “Noto Nero d’Avola DOC” (such as the Santa Cecilia) be made from 85% or more Nero d’Avola grapes.

Our Detailed Review

The Planeta, “Santa Cecilia” Nero d’Avola Sicilia IGT 2006 that I recently tasted was¬†a red wine made from 100% Nero d’Avola grapes grown in the Buonivini vineyard and had 14% ABV. It is available in the US where it retails for about $35.

The wine fermented in steel vats and aged 14 months in French oak barrique casks used once or twice before (i.e., not new casks). As you probably know, the reason for this practice is to limit the interference of the oak with the organoleptic profile of the wine, so that the tertiary aromas developed during the barrique aging period do not overwhelm but rather coherently complement the fruity secondary aromas developed by the wine in the fermentation phase.

As usual, for my review I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the Santa Cecilia poured ruby red and thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with aromas of blackberry, plum, black cherry, tobacco and cocoa.

In the mouth, the Santa Cecilia was dry, warm, smooth; fresh, tannic and tasty. It was a full-bodied, perfectly balanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, with notes of blackberry, wild cherry, cocoa, tobacco, black pepper and licorice. Its tannins were supple and wonderfully integrated, counterbalancing (along with its pleasant acidity) the silky smoothness of the wine. The Santa Cecilia had a long finish and its evolutionary state was ready, meaning absolutely enjoyable now (I sure loved mine!) but it may probably evolve even more and add additional layers of complexity to its already outstanding flavor palette with a couple more years of in-bottle aging.

Wine Review: Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG

Disclaimer: this review is of a sample that I received from the producer, who also happens to be a friend of mine! My review of the wine has been conducted in compliance with my Samples Policy and the opinion I am going to share on the wine is my own.

Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva DOCGToday I will review a bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva that I received as a sample from the producer, who happens to be a former schoolmate of mine and a friend. The wine that I am going to review is¬†Casa Sola,¬†Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG (\sim \!\,$35).¬†As I said in my disclaimer, my review will not be tainted by my personal relationship with the producer and will be as objective as a wine review can be. ūüôā

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found Casa Sola’s Chianti Classico Riserva to be a very pleasant Chianti, which could nicely complement a juicy steak or game dish.

Rating: Good to¬†Very Good¬†and Recommended¬†Good to Very Good¬† –¬†$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Let’s now¬†say a few words about Chianti in general.

About the Appellations

Chianti wine may be produced under two different Tuscan appellations: Chianti Classico DOCG or Chianti DOCG.

The Chianti Classico appellation encompasses that stretch of Tuscan territory where the grapes for making Chianti have traditionally been grown for centuries (the first document referring to Chianti dates back to 1398!): this means an area surrounding the cities of Florence and Siena, including such landmark towns as Greve in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti.

The Chianti Classico regulations require that the wine be made from 80% or more Sangiovese grapes, while the remaining maximum 20% may come from other permitted black-berried grapes (these include Canaiolo, Colorino or international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot). The minimum aging required is (i) 12 months for the base version of “Chianti Classico” and (ii) 24 months, at least 3 of which must be in bottle, for “Chianti Classico Riserva“. Every bottle of Chianti Classico wine must bear the “black rooster” ¬†logo on its neckband. Plenty of additional information may be found on the Website of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium.

The Chianti appellation encompasses a significantly larger territory in the surroundings of the Tuscan towns of Arezzo, Firenze, Pistoia, Pisa, Prato and Siena. The Chianti regulations require that the wine be made from 70% or more Sangiovese grapes, while the remaining maximum 30% may come from other permitted grapes, provided that (a) the use of permitted white-berried grapes may not exceed 10% and (b) the use of Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc grapes may not exceed 15%.¬†The minimum aging required is (i) 6 months for the base version of “Chianti“; (ii) 12 months for the “Chianti Superiore” version, and (iii) 24 months for “Chianti Riserva“.

About the Grapes

Regarding¬†Sangiovese, Chianti’s main grape variety, it is a variety that is indigenous to Central Italy and was first mentioned in writing in 1600 under the name Sangiogheto (which begs the question: if the first documented use of the word Chianti to identify the wine dates back to 1398, what did they call the wine’s main grape for those 200 and change years???). ¬†In 2004, DNA parentage analysis showed that Sangiovese originated as a cross between Ciliegiolo (a Tuscan grape variety) and Calabrese di Montenuovo (a quite obscure variety from Calabria).¬†Sangiovese is a vigorous and late ripening variety that is one of the most widely cultivated in Italy, especially in the regions of Toscana, Umbria and Emilia Romagna. Some is also grown in California and Washington State.¬†(Note: information on the grape variety taken from¬†Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz,¬†Allen Lane¬†2012)

Sangiovese is one of the most renowned Italian grape varieties and is utilized for making several signature Italian wines, including (beside Chianti) Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Morellino di Scansano.¬†Varietal wines made out of Sangiovese grapes tend to have fairly aggressive tannins when they are still ‚Äúyoung‚ÄĚ and are generally best enjoyed after a few years of aging, when time takes care of taming them. Given the massive quantities of Sangiovese that are produced, quality levels of the wines made out of such grape variety tend to be inconsistent and knowledge of the various appellations that allow its use and of the specific wineries is important to avoid unsatisfactory experiences.

Our Detailed Review

Now, on to the actual review of the wine I tasted, Casa Sola, Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 DOCG.

This Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot grapes grown in the winery’s vineyards near the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, in proximity to Florence. The wine has a muscular 14.5% ABV and was aged for 18 months in a mix of larger oak barrels and barrique casks plus 8 months of additional in-bottle aging. The Riserva retails in the US for about $35.

As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine poured ruby red and thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine with aromas of cherry, strawberry, sweet tobacco, licorice and vanilla.

In the mouth, the wine was dry, warm, smooth; fresh, tannic and quite tasty. It was a full-bodied, balanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, revolving mostly around fruity notes of cherry and strawberry. Its tannins were gentle and offered a pleasant counterpoint to the wine’s smoothness. It had a quite long finish and its evolutionary state was ready, meaning definitely enjoyable now but a few more years of in-bottle aging could make it evolve even more and add additional complexity.

Finally, beyond producing wine and olive oil, Casa Sola also offers guided tours of the vineyards and winery culminating in a wine tasting experience, cooking classes and in-house accommodation in 11 rustically-furnished apartments: for more information, please refer to Casa Sola’s Website.

A special wine tasting: Marchese Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC… and some cool facts about Nebbiolo

StefanoA few days ago we had a special night, with a few wine-aficionado friends coming over to our house for dinner, including fellow wine blogger Anatoli who authors the excellent blog Talk-A-Vino. Needless to say, several great bottles of wine were opened, some coming from our cellar and some that were graciously brought by our guests.

Today I would like to focus on a bottle that we opened that night and really was quite special: a 1969 Barbaresco! That’s right, as in 44 years old!¬†More specifically, it was a bottle of¬†Marchese Villadoria,¬†Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC ($22 for current vintages).

The bottle had been given to me a while ago by my father, who had forgotten all about it and recently “re-discovered” it in his own cellar. Clearly, with all those years of aging, much could have gone wrong, like the cork could have gone bad (which would mean an oxidized wine) or simply it could have been corked. But still… worth a shot, right?

The Bottom Line

Overall, I very much enjoyed tasting such an evolved Barbaresco: it has been the longest-aged wine I have ever had and¬†it has been a pleasure to the eye, the nose and the mouth. Regarding the quality of the wine itself, I cannot vouch for the contemporary vintages of Villadoria’s Barbaresco, as this was the first bottle I had from such producer, who is a little bit out of the limelight. But there is no doubt that that 1969 Barbaresco held his own: sure, the bouquet could ideally have been a little more complex, but hey – today you can buy¬†a bottle¬†for $22 (granted, I am not sure how much it went for back then): what more do you want for that kind of money? ūüėČ

Rating: Very Good, considering the excellent QPR Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

If you are interested, let’s now briefly talk about Barbaresco and the grape Barbaresco is made from, which is Nebbiolo.

About the Appellation

Barbaresco is a wine that is made in the northern Italian region of Piemonte in an appellation that earned DOC status in 1966 and was then “upgraded” to the top DOCG status in 1980. The appellation encompasses a small area in the vicinities of the town of Cuneo comprising three smaller towns (Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso) and a village named San Rocco Senodelvio. The regulations applicable to the¬† appellation require that Barbaresco be exclusively made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in that area and that the wine:

(i) be barrel-aged for a minimum of 26 months (at least 9 of which in wood barrels) plus an additional 10 months in bottle for “plain” Barbaresco wines; or

(ii) be barrel-aged for a minimum of 50 months (at least 9 of which in wood barrels) plus an additional 10 months in bottle for Barbaresco Riserva wines.

About the Grape

A few notions about Nebbiolo, without a doubt Piemonte’s most world-famous grape variety. Researchers have recently been able to trace back the origins of (or at least the first documented reference to) Nebbiolo to 1266, at which time the grape was called Nibiol. This makes Nebbiolo one of the oldest grape varieties in Piemonte. While Nebbiolo is definitely an Italian indigenous variety, doubts still remain as to whether it originated from Piemonte or Valtellina (a mountainous district in the neighboring region of Lombardia, where Nebbiolo is still grown nowadays and locally known as Chiavennasca).

The name Nebbiolo comes from the Italian word “nebbia” (fog) – some say because of the fog that in late Fall generally enshrines Piemonte’s hills where Nebbiolo is grown. Nowadays, three main different Nebbiolo clones have been identified: (i) Nebbiolo Lampia; (ii) Nebbiolo Michet; and (iii) Nebbiolo Rose’. Interestingly enough, however, DNA profiling has shown that, while Lampia and Michet have identical DNA profiles, Rose’ does not share the same profile, which has recently led to consider Nebbiolo Rose’ a different grape variety altogether rather than a clone of Nebbiolo.

Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC

Nebbiolo is a late-ripening, very finicky variety in terms of the terroir it requires to produce quality wine, which means that Nebbiolo successfully grows only in very few places on the entire earth –¬†Piemonte and Valtellina sure being two of them, along with certain of California’s AVA’s. Nebbiolo grapes generally have robust tannins and high acidity, which make it a variety that is very suitable for long-term aging. In Italy, Nebbiolo’s best expressions are in varietal wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco in Piemonte¬†or Valtellina Superiore and Sforzato della Valtellina in Lombardia’s Valtellina district (all of them being DOCG appellations).

(Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

Our Detailed Review

Now on to the wine we had last week: it was a Marchese Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOC (13.5% ABV). Current vintages of this wine retail in the US for about $22.

If you have read the preceding notions about the Barbaresco appellation, it will not come as a surprise to you that our bottle was designated “DOC” instead of the current DOCG designation which, back in 1969, did not exist yet.

Two peculiar features of our bottle (that I had never observed in any other bottle before) were that it came completely wrapped in coarse cloth to which one end of a string had been affixed using sealing wax while the other end had been stapled to the cork! The two snapshots to the right should give you an idea of what I am talking about. While I can only offer conjectures as to why the producer went through the hassle of doing all that, I would imagine that the idea behind the cloth wrap was to protect the wine from light exposure (and therefore harmful UV rays) while the string connecting the cork to the cloth was maybe an anti-tampering device of sort?

I opened the bottle and decanted it about two and a half hours before the time we would likely taste it, following a proper handling and decanting procedure codified by the Italian Sommelier Association (I may write a post about it at some point). Fortunately, it looked like the cork had held up well throughout all those years, so that was a promising sign. Thanks to proper cellaring and handling, the wine poured clear into the decanter up to almost the end of the bottle, when unsurprisingly some sediment showed up.

Villadoria, Barbaresco Riserva Speciale 1969 DOCFast forward two and a half hours (during which we managed to keep ourselves busy with appetizers, a pasta course and plenty of other wine) and the time had come to pour the Barbaresco into our glasses and taste it!

As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the wine was orange red in color, as expected after all those years of aging, and thick.

On the nose, it was intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of spirited cherries, licorice, rose, vanilla and ethereal notes. The bouquet was not very broad, but it was elegant.

On the palate, our wine was dry, warm and smooth; quite fresh, quite tannic and quite tasty. If you are familiar with the ISA wine tasting protocol you might notice that¬†our wine¬†was a little shifted toward the “softness” side and therefore you might wonder whether it can still be classified as balanced. Well, considering that it is only natural that, after 44 years of aging, tannins and acidity recede a bit and that for a structured red wine being a little slanted toward the softness side is certainly not a “sin”, by all means I will go ahead and call it balanced. In terms of structure,¬†our wine¬†was between medium and full-bodied and its mouth-flavors were intense and fine, showing a pretty good correspondence with the wine bouquet: I picked up strawberries, cherries, vanilla and licorice. Finally, the finish of the wine was quite long and its evolutionary state was mature.

An Overview of the 2011 Vintage Port Tour, NYC, and the Basics About Port

Last week I felt inspired by reading Anatoli’s wonderful accounts of his recent trip to Portugal on his excellent wine blog, Talk-A-Vino. Beside telling us all about the restaurants he dined at, he of course shared plenty of information about the wines he tasted over there, including of course Portugal’s world-famous fortified wine, Porto. And finally, today by total coincidence, he published a wonderful, extremely¬†thorough post on Port, with all you need to know about it – had I known in advance, I would have spared myself the work to research and write an overview of Port altogether (see below)! ūüôā¬†However, since by the time Anatoli published his post my Port write-up was all done already, I am going to publish it nonetheless, and then if you want to dig deeper into Port, please refer to Anatoli’s post of today!

Anyway, in order to remotely taste my own share of Portugal, I enthusiastically accepted the invitation to participate in the 2011 Vintage Port Tour that was held in New York City last week to offer to the press and the trade a preview tasting of Vintage Port’s latest production from the prestigious collection of brands belonging to the Symington Family.

Quoting directly from the literature that was handed to participants at check in, “the Symingtons, of Scottish, English and Portuguese descent, have been Port producers for five generations since 1882”. The Symingtons own four historic Port brands: Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s, plus the other three brands Quinta do Vesuvio, Smith Woodhouse and Quinta de Roriz. All such seven brands were represented at the 2011 Vintage Port Tour.

According to the brochure we were provided, the brands controlled by the Symingtons account for over one third of all premium Port and, with 965 HA (2,385 acres) of vineyards, the family is the largest vineyard owner in the Douro Valley. Also, Dow’s 2007 Vintage Port is so far the only Port in the XXI century to have been awarded a perfect 100 point score by Wine Spectator.

Before getting to the chase and telling you which ones among the Ports that I tasted at the event impressed me most, let’s take a look at a few basic facts about Port.

As we said, Port is a fortified wine, which means a wine in which the regular alcoholic fermentation process gets interrupted about half way through the conversion of the grape sugars into alcohol, CO2 and heat by the addition of a neutral grape spirit (a grape brandy). Port is made from a blend of different grape varieties, that must be included in an official list of authorized grapes that was compiled by the Portuguese government in 1940.  The main grape varieties that are used in the making of red Port are: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão.

Although at some point I will publish a post that explains the wine production process more in detail, here suffice it to say that one of the inhibitors of the yeast fermenting action is the presence in the must of alcohol in excess of about 16/17% VOL, which is why adding a spirit to a fermenting must blocks the fermentation process. The result of this addition is two-fold: on the one hand, it quite obviously increases the ABV of the resulting wine (generally, to about 19% to 21% VOL; hence the name “fortified wine”); on the other hand, by interrupting the conversion of grape sugars into alcohol, it leaves a considerable amount of residual sugar in the wine, which therefore tastes sweeter.

After being fortified, Port is moved into steel vats and/or oak or other wood casks for aging: depending on the intended type of Port, the aging process can be relatively short or even extremely long, with some of the finest Ports aging up to a century! After aging in casks, the wine gets bottled for consumption or for more in-bottle aging.

There are many different styles of Port, including White Port that is made from different, white-berried varieties. However, speaking of “regular” Port made from black-berried grape varieties, there are three main styles that are worth mentioning:

(i) Ruby: this is the most basic, simple style – it is a blend of different vintages that have aged for a relatively short period of time (generally, 3 to 6 years) in steel vats and/or wood casks and are meant for immediate consumption;

(ii) Tawny: this is a more complex, developed style of Port – it gets to age in wood casks for a very long time (essentially, 4 years or longer, with some Tawnies called Age-Designated that bear on the label an indication of how long they aged, ranging from 10 to 40 years), thus acquiring complex tertiary aromas and turning tawny in color due to the oxidation process induced by the lengthy in-cask aging;

(iii) Vintage Port: this is the king of Ports, which is made exclusively from grapes from a single vintage and only in the best years. After a minimum aging of 2 years in steel vats and/or wood casks, they are bottled unfiltered (which means that they will likely develop sediment in the bottle) and are meant for decades of in-bottle aging before being enjoyed at their best.

With all of this said, let’s now talk about my experience at the 2011 Vintage Port Tour.

The event was compact and well organized, with one table for each brand and each brand (except only Quinta de Roriz, which only had the 2011 vintage) offering for tasting both their own 2011 Vintage Port and an older vintage for comparison. In the exclusive interest of adequately covering the event, I got to taste *all* of the exhibited Vintage Ports: I know, when the going gets tough, the tough get going! ūüėČ Broadly speaking,¬†all the Ports that were showcased at the event¬†were very good, although some of them had a different style than others, clearly also because of the different aging of the older vintages made available for tasting.

Here below I will point out those that were my own personal favorites (with their approximate retail prices in the US) among the 13 Vintage Ports that I tasted, along with my tasting notes for each of them:

(1) 2011 Vintage:

Quinta de Roriz (about $60): purple in color; intense and complex aromatic palette, with a bouquet of caramel, black cherry, rose, licorice, raspberry, black pepper and tobacco; sensuous in the mouth, with intense flavors of plum, raspberry, licorice, dark chocolate, fruit candy and vanilla; warm, smooth, well balanced and long. Rating: Spectacular, with Excellent QPR Spectacular

Graham’s (about $90): purple in color; fairly complex bouquet (it needs aging to develop) of blackberry, black cherry, licorice and tobacco; wonderful in the mouth: intense, with excellent flavor-scent correspondence, plus additional flavors of dark chocolate and vanilla; warm, smooth, well balanced and very long. Rating:¬†Outstanding¬†Outstanding

Dow’s (about $80): purple in color; fairly narrow aromatic palette (it needs aging to develop) with aromas of plum, blackberry and licorice; very good in the mouth, with flavors of licorice, dark chocolate and spirited black cherry; quite warm, super smooth, balanced and quite long. Rating: Good to Very Good¬†Good to Very Good

Smith Woodhouse (about $55): purple in color; fairly narrow bouquet (it needs aging to develop) of fruit candy, licorice, ethereal notes; good corresponding mouth flavors; warm, smooth, balanced and long. Rating: Good Good

(2) Older Vintages:

Quinta do Vesuvio 1994 (about $90): garnet in color; with a not very broad and yet elegant aromatic palette of wild berries, wild strawberries, violet and chocolate; but the little bit that it lacked on the nose was more than compensated on the palate, with intense and outstanding mouth flavors of raspberry jam, licorice, tobacco and dark chocolate; warm, smooth, balanced and long. Rating: Outstanding Outstanding

Smith Woodhouse 2007 (about $55): purple in color; elegant and complex bouquet of black cherry, spirited wild cherry, raspberry, rose, tobacco, sandalwood and black pepper; wonderful in the mouth, with pleasing flavors of spirited wild cherry, dark chocolate, rhubarb, licorice and tobacco; warm, smooth and long. Rating: Outstanding, with Excellent QPR Outstanding

Dow’s 1985 (about $95): garnet in color; intense, unique and complex bouquet very focused on tertiary aromas with tobacco, gunpowder, black pepper, raisin and a hint of wild cherries; intense, luscious mouth flavors of spirited raspberry and wild cherry, Amarena Fabbri (if you guys know what I am talking about!), licorice and dark chocolate; warm, smooth, well balanced and long. Rating:¬†Outstanding¬†Outstanding

Graham’s 1980 (about $105): garnet in color with orange hints; to be honest, given its aging, I would have expected a broader aromatic palette: I picked up aromas of tobacco, black pepper, licorice, plum and wild cherry; very good and more expressive in the mouth, with flavors of raspberry candy, licorice, vanilla and spirited cherry; warm, smooth, balanced and long. Rating: Very Good¬†Very Good

Cockburn’s 2000 (about $70): ruby in color with garnet hints; intense nose with a fairly narrow bouquet of cherry, strawberry, plum and licorice; in the mouth, sweeter than the others, with pleasing flavors of licorice, vanilla, cherry jam, dark chocolate and tobacco; warm, smooth, balanced and quite long. Rating: Very Good¬†Very Good

That’s all for today. As always, let me know how you liked it in case you happened to enjoy one of the Ports that I reviewed!

Wine Review: Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG

Coppo, Barbera d'Asti "Pomorosso" DOCG

Today we are going to talk about Barbera, and more specifically about a bottle of Barbera that I recently had the opportunity to taste and that has definitely impressed me.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I found Coppo,¬†Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG¬†($55)¬†to be one of the best Barbera’s that I have had so far, a wine that is a pleasure to drink and savor sip after sip – a¬†perfect companion for a red meat dinner.

Rating: Outstanding and definitely Recommended Outstanding Р$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Grape and the Appellations

As you may know, Barbera is a grape variety that is indigenous to the Monferrato district in the north Italian region of Piemonte. The first written references to Barbera date back to the end of the XVIII century. Nowadays it is the most widespread grape variety in Piemonte, from which wines are made that display lively acidity and a deep ruby color. (Note: information on the grape variety taken from Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, Allen Lane 2012)

In Piemonte, Barbera is the main grape of four different appellations:

  • Barbera d’Asti DOCG (encompassing an area surrounding the towns of Asti and Alessandria, and requiring the use of 90% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 4 months for the base version or 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels for the “Superiore” version);
  • Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG (encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes and a minimum aging of 14 months, of which at least 6 months in wood barrels)
  • Barbera d’Alba DOC (encompassing an area in the vicinities of the town of Cuneo and requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)
  • Barbera del Monferrato DOC (encompassing the Monferrato district near Alessandria and an area near the town of Asti, requiring the use of 85% or more of Barbera grapes)

Given its wide distribution, Barbera is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from simpler, “younger” versions that are only aged in steel vats to more structured¬†and evolved versions that are aged in oak barrels, including sometimes barrique casks.

Our Detailed Review

The wine that we are going to review today is Coppo, Barbera d’Asti “Pomorosso” 2006 DOCG.

It falls within the category of the more complex Barbera’s: it is made out of 100% Barbera grapes grown in the 56 HA Coppo estate near the town of Canelli, near Asti (Piemonte).¬†It has 13.5% ABV and is aged for 14 months¬†in barrique casks. In the U.S., it retails for about $55.

Let me say outright that the Pomorosso is a great, structured red wine, that is suitable for several years of aging (the 2006 vintage that I had was a symphony of aromas, flavors and balance).

But let’s go more in the specifics through a technical wine tasting. As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, the 2006 Pomorosso poured ruby red and thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine with a sequence of aromas of violet, plums, blueberries, cherries, tobacco and chocolate.

In the mouth, the Pomorosso was dry, warm, smooth; fresh, tannic and tasty. It was a full-bodied, perfectly balanced wine and its mouth flavors were intense and fine, showing good correspondence with its bouquet as well as a perfect integration of the oaky notes released by its barrique aging. Its tannins, although very discernible, were also equally gentle and supple, with their delicate astringency counterbalancing the wine’s lively acidity. The Pomorosso had a long finish, with its flavors pleasantly lingering in the mouth for a very long time. Its evolutionary state in my view was mature, meaning that, with 7 years of aging under its belt, it was at or approaching its peak in terms of quality, making me think that additional aging, while certainly possible, would not likely improve its quality any further.

As usual, if you have tasted Pomorosso before, let me know how you liked it!

Wine Review: Donnafugat‚Äča, Contessa Entellina Bianco “Chiarand√†” 2009 DOC

Donnafugata, Contessa Entellina Bianco "Chiarand√†" 2009 DOCOn a previous post over at Flora’s Table, we have talked about how Chardonnay is successfully grown in various regions throughout Italy, literally from Valle d’Aosta in the north to Sicily in the south, and how several Italian wineries make some excellent wines from such a widely cultivated international variety.

Very broadly speaking, I have to say I rather review and promote wines made out of Italian indigenous grape varieties, essentially because they differentiate themselves from the ubiquitous international varieties, because there are many excellent ones and because, by so doing, I think I am giving my small contribution to preserve biodiversity also in the vineyard (a wine world populated only by Chardonnays, Sauvignons, Pinots and Merlots would be a pretty boring one, if you ask me!) and to make certain Italian wines better known outside of Italy.

However, it is undeniable that certain international varieties have been successfully grown in Italy and that excellent, elegant wines are made out of such grapes which oftentimes are not very well known to the general public.

So today’s review is of a Sicilian Chardonnay that I very much like and that illustrates the point that Chardonnay is an extremely versatile variety that can give excellent results even in warmer climates like Sicily’s.

The wine I am talking about is Donnafugata‘s Contessa Entellina Bianco “Chiarand√†” DOC 2009 ($35).

The Bottom Line

Overall, I very much enjoyed the Chiarand√†, which I found to be a very elegant and “clean” Chardonnay, in which its oaky notes are not dominant but rather very well integrated such that they add to (instead of overwhelm) its pleasantly fruity and mineral flavor palette.

Rating: Very Good and definitely Recommended Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

About the Producer and the Wine

Founded in 1983, Donnafugata is one of the¬†top Sicilian¬†wineries that¬†contributed to the “Sicilian wine revolution” by contributing passion, investments and professionalism to raise the profile of Sicilian winemaking and produce top quality wines.

Their Chiarand√†¬†is a 100% Chardonnay wine made from the grapes grown in Donnafugata’s vineyards in a hilly region of the Contessa Entellina DOC appellation near the homonymous town (about halfway between Marsala and Palermo), in the western part of Sicily, at an altitude between 200 and 600 mt (650 to 1,950 ft) above sea level. The vineyards from which Chiarand√† is made achieve an excellent density of 4,500 to 6,000 vines/HA and the vine training system used is spurred cordon.

The wine has 13% ABV and is fermented in stainless steel vats and then undergoes 6 months of aging on its lees in a mix of concrete and oak vessels of various sizes plus 24 additional months of in-bottle fining. Given its lively acidity (see, tasting notes below) it is a wine with great aging potential, in the 10 year range. In the US, the Chiarandà retails for about $35.

Our Detailed Review

Let’s now get down to the actual review of the 2009 Chiarand√† that I had. As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

In the glass, it is a beautiful golden yellow in color, and thick when swirled.

On the nose, its bouquet is intense, fine and definitely complex, with an array of enticing aromas of peach, tangerine, butter, vanilla, herbs (sage), mineral and iodine notes.

In the mouth, the wine is dry, warm, smooth; with lively acidity and pronounced minerality. It is medium to full-bodied with good structure and very balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors reminiscent of its aromatic palette and a long finish, with those flavors pleasantly lingering in the mouth long after gulping down a sip. Its evolutionary state was ready (meaning, fine to drink now, but can take two or three more years of aging without compromising its qualities).

As usual, if you have tasted Chiarandà before, let me know how you liked it.

Wine Review: Two Italian Dry Rieslings Made by Elena Walch and Abbazia di Novacella

I am writing this review with some trepidation as I know that most likely it will be read by fellow wine blogger and friend Oliver who authors the very enjoyable and educational blog The Winegetter (if you do not follow him already, I sure think you should!) and, most importantly, is definitely an authority when it comes to Rieslings! I think I know that his preference goes to German sweeter Rieslings, while the two wines that I am going to review today are both Italian dry Rieslings from the Alto Adige area of the Trentino Alto Adige region.

And now on to the reviews of the two wines that I tried. As usual, I will use a simplified version of the ISA wine tasting protocol that we described in a previous post: should you have doubts as to any of the terms used below please refer to that post for a refresher.

1. Elena Walch, Alto Adige Riesling “Castel Ringberg” 2010 DOC (12.5% ABV; ab. ‚ā¨15 in Italy)

Elena Walch, Alto Adige Riesling "Castel Ringberg" 2010 DOCElena Walch is one of my favorite producers of white wines from Alto Adige and, let me say it upfront, her Castel Ringberg did not disappoint me!

This is a single vineyard wine made of 100% Riesling grapes grown in the Castel Ringberg vineyard near the town of Caldaro. It was fermented and rested on its lees exclusively in stainless steel tanks. Unfortunately, although other Elena Walch’s wines are available in the US, this wine does not appear to be, which is a shame.

In the glass, the wine was straw yellow and quite thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with pleasant aromas of petrol (very discernible), followed by grapefruit, citrus, pear, minerals and herbs.

In the mouth, it was dry, quite warm, smooth; fresh and tasty, with medium body. The wine was balanced, with intense and fine¬†mouth flavors that trailed the wine’s bouquet. It had a long finish and it was ready in terms of its evolutionary state.

Overall, a very pleasant, fresh dry Riesling with a captivating bouquet.

Rating: Very Good¬†Very Good¬†– ‚ā¨

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

2. Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige Valle Isarco Riesling “Praepositus” 2009 DOC (13% ABV; ab. $35 in the US)

Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige Valle Isarco Riesling "Praepositus" 2009 DOCThis wine is part of Abbazia di Novacella’s premium line “Praepositus”. It is made of 100% Riesling grapes, grown in vineyards with an outstanding density of 6,000 vines/HA and harvested for 2/3 in October and 1/3 in December (late harvest). It was fermented in stainless steel vats and aged in bottle for 9 months before being released to the market.

In the glass, the wine was straw yellow with greenish hints, quite thick.

On the nose, its bouquet was intense, quite complex and fine, with aromas of petroleum, grapefruit, lime and Granny Smith apple.

In the mouth, it was dry, quite warm, quite smooth; fresh and tasty, medium-bodied. The wine was balanced, with intense and fine mouth flavors. It had a long finish and was ready as to its evolutionary state.

Overall, another very pleasant dry Riesling, although it personally impressed me a touch less than the Castel Ringberg, especially due to its narrower bouquet.

Rating: Good to Very Good Good to Very Good Р$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

At any rate, two Italian dry Rieslings that I would certainly recommend and that I am pretty sure would not disappoint you.

That’s all for today! As always, if you have tasted either one (or both!) of these wines, make sure to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Wine Review: Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri Sassicaia 1995 DOC… and the History of “Super Tuscans”

Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOCLast month, a friend of mine invited me and a common friend to dinner at his place. At the time of the main course, he showed us what he had decided to share with us: not only was it a bottle of Sassicaia, but it was a 1995 vintage!

The Bottom Line

Tenuta San Guido,¬†Bolgheri Sassicaia “Sassicaia” 1995 DOC ($150):¬†let me say it right from the outset –¬†WOW!¬†Although I had had Sassicaia before, having the opportunity to taste a bottle having 18 years of in-bottle aging under the belt was beyond fantastic.

Rating for this excellent wine: Spectacular Spectacular Р$$$$$

(Explanation of our Rating and Pricing Systems)

Before we get into the details of that almost mystic ūüôā experience, let’s take a closer look at the notion of “Super Tuscans” and let’s delve into some history about the archetype of all Super Tuscans, that is in fact Sassicaia.

History of the “Super Tuscans”

If you pardon my quoting my own Wine Glossary, the term “Super Tuscans” indicates certain Bordeaux-style red wines that have been made in Tuscany, since the early Seventies by winemakers who wanted to experiment and veer off traditional Tuscan winemaking styles, often utilizing international grape varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah) as opposed to traditional local ones (such as Sangiovese). In order to enjoy such freedom to experiment, those winemakers produced their Super Tuscans outside the strict rules of the most prestigious Italian appellations (DOC and, more recently, DOCG), which resulted in those premium wines to be initially labeled as ‚Äútable wines‚ÄĚ and more recently as IGT wines (a more loosely regulated Italian appellation) in spite of their quality and substantial price tags. The ‚Äúgrandfather‚ÄĚ of the Super Tuscans is Sassicaia, whose notoriety and quality led to the creation in 1994 of the DOC Bolgheri which includes a Sassicaia sub-zone, thus making Sassicaia the first Super Tuscan to enjoy DOC appellation status.

Although it appears that nobody knows for sure who coined the incredibly successful moniker “Super Tuscans“, some believe that it was created by Burton Anderson, a wine reviewer who covered Italy for Wine Spectator in the 1980s. What is certain though is that it very quickly became the name by which that kind of wines were internationally identified.

As we said, the wine that started the Super Tuscans phenomenon¬†was Sassicaia. This fabled wine was created by the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who first completed his agrarian studies in Pisa in the Twenties and then, thanks to his being a family friend of the Baron de Rothschild (the owner of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, one of Bordeaux’s Premier Crus), he had an opportunity to visit the famous estate and study the terroir where the grape vines that produced one of the world’s finest reds grew. Incisa then went on to acquire a few rootings of 50-year-old¬†Cabernet Sauvignon¬†and Cabernet Franc vines from an estate near Pisa owned by the Dukes Salviati to transplant them in 1942 at the family’s San Guido estate in Bolgheri, Tuscany.

His decision to transplant those vines in an area of Tuscany that up until then had never known any serious viticulture was due to the resemblance of the soil of that area (“Sassicaia” alludes to the Italian word “sasso” meaning stone, and seems to refer to a pebbled terrain) with that of the Graves (which in French means gravel) on the Left Bank of the Garonne river near Bordeaux, where another Premier Cru, Chateau Haut-Brion, is located.

At first, Sassicaia had not enthused the Marquis (nor his employees working the vineyards, who supposedly called the wine, with typical Tuscan coarseness, “good only for the pigs“): this convinced Incisa to keep the first “experimental” vintages of the wine for personal consumption only. However, Incisa soon realized that, after a few years of aging, that same wine that had not convinced him initially would turn into a much better wine.

This realization gave him the incentive to keep at it, making several improvements, including being the first one to import small barrique oak barrels into Italy for aging Sassicaia and cutting a deal with wine producer Antinori (Piero Antinori was Incisa’s nephew) for the future distribution of Sassicaia, as a result of which arrangements Antinori sent their well-known enologist Giacomo Tachis to the San Guido estate to work on Sassicaia. Tachis refined the blend, the wine making process and the cellaring of the wine until, in 1968, the first “official” vintage of Sassicaia hit the market with just 3,000 bottles and initially it did not really rock the wine world…

The turning point was 1974, when Luigi Veronelli, a famous Italian food and wine writer, published a rave review of the 1968 Sassicaia. International acclaim for Sassicaia came not long after that, in 1978, when during a worldwide blind tasting of 33 Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines organized in London by Decanter Magazine, the 1975 Sassicaia took the top spot, ahead of all the prestigious Bordeaux reds, thus marking the beginning of the Sassicaia success story. Later, Robert Parker awarded Sassicaia’s 1985 vintage (universally considered the best yet) a perfect 100 point score and James Suckling of Wine Spectator even compared it to the 1985 Mouton-Rothschild, admitting Sassicaia into the Olympus of the world’s best wines.

(Credits for most of the information that I researched as a basis for this Sassicaia history: Decanter; L’Acqua Buona; Sassicaia.it; and Sassicaia.com)

About the Estate, the Appellation and the Producer

For detailed information about Tenuta San Guido and the “Bolgheri Sassicaia” appellation, please refer to this post.

I would definitely recommend that you also check out this other post featuring an interesting interview with the owner of Tenuta San Guido, Marchese Nicolo’ Incisa della Rocchetta.

Our Detailed Review

Now, on to my tasting notes for the Sassicaia 1995 that I had the pleasure of drinking! Considering the high profile of this wine, I am going to follow all of the steps of the ISA wine tasting protocol in my review (for more information, see my previous post about such protocol and its various steps).

Tenuta San Guido, Bolgheri Sassicaia “Sassicaia” 1995 DOC¬†is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, with just 12% ABV. It underwent between 14 and 18 days of maceration and malolactic fermentation. It aged 24 months in barrique casks, part new and part previously utilized. The Sassicaia 1995 vintage retails in the US at about $150.

For more information about the grape varieties Sassicaia is made from, please refer to our Grape Variety Archive.

In the glass it was clear, ruby red with garnet hints, thick.

The bouquet was intense, complex and fine, with aromas of black cherry, blackberry, sweet tobacco, cocoa, vanilla, soil and a graphite hint.

In the mouth it was dry, warm, silky smooth; quite fresh, gently tannic, quite mineral; medium-bodied, perfectly balanced, intense in its mouth flavors (with very good correlation to the bouquet), with a long finish, of excellent quality; mature and definitely harmonious.