Tag Archives: primitivo

Italian Wines Newly Discovered

23 Oct

photoI promised that I’d tell you about some of the wines that I quaffed while in Italy. If I’d been a true and dedicated blogger with my readership front of mind, I’d have posted regularly with interesting anecdotes of our trip. “As we approached Guagnano from the north, the facade of the imposing cathedral cast a long protective shadow across the surrounding countryside like a grey polar fleece blanket on an autumn morn. I shifted into third gear and took a long drag on my dwindling Guitane. I shifted into third gear and tried to get my bearings. I wondered what the vineyards of Taurino Cosimo would have in store for a weary traveler and his sleeping wife.” But, “Bill, we don’t really care” right? Although I sniffed, quaffed, tasted, drank, swallowed many wines, there are but a small proportion mentioned in this post. Some of the left out wines were very local and never to be seen on these shores. The ones I’m reporting on are from producers with connections in North America or, in the case of the Morellino, a type of wine that I haven’t really mentioned much in my posts but bears looking out for at your local store.

2011 Mantelassi Morellino di Scansano

mantelassiScansano is a village in the Tuscan region near the city of Grosseto. So, it’s south and closer to the coast than many of Tuscany’s more familiar DOC(G)’s. Morellino di Scansano is a Sangiovese based wine (in Scansano, they call Sangiovese – Morellino). The wine doesn’t carry the importance or the critical acclaim of other Sangiovese wines – Chianti, Montalcino, but I’ve always found these wines great value, early drinking, and food friendly. The Morellino grapes ripen a bit more here than north and they capitalize on that with a fresh, early drinking wine. I had this wine at a trattoria in Roma with what ended up being my favourite dish of the whole trip – spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli with a butter sage sauce. You could smell it coming across the floor. Somehow that sounds like a Neil Young song? Utterly orgasmic – the ravioli that is. Why can’t we get pasta like this in North America? The wine was a great match to this with its understated herbal character, moderate acidity, and red fruits. If you have never had a Morellino, do pick one up or search out on a restaurant’s wine list. They are usually inexpensive. Yes, got it, Neil Young’s Unknown Legend – “I used to order just to watch her walk across the floor.” Approximate cost $15 CAD. Recommend.

2011 Feudi di San Marzano SUD Primitivo di Manduria

sudprimitivoManduria is a commune (circa 30,000 pop) that lies between Taranto and Lecce in Puglia. It has been making Primitivo wines forever if not longer. Much of that was shipped north to be blended (allegedly in some cases unmentioned with high priced juice) to add weight and roundness in watered down years. However, in the last couple decades, growers and wineries have started to focus on making fine local wines from this early ripening grape. Primitivo is a descendent of a Croatian grape and, I’ve read, is a DNA match for zinfandel. I don’t taste any great similarity but then again it’s a very different climate, soil, method of growing and vinification than California.  We purchased this wine in Alberello (picture – bottom of page) north east of Brindisi for our room (I really should say ‘I’ purchased it as Arlene doesn’t drink reds). So, bread, cheese and potato crisps were the accompaniment. All very ‘local’ as in purchased at the local Alimentari. This wine is a great introduction to Primitivo di Manduria. It had loads of what you typically find in southern France – a garriguish note with the fruit very much in the background in the glass until you take a swig. It’s round with softish tannins – which was a surprise as I usually get tannins that are pretty robust with these wines. Great red fruit, some of that same garrigue, and little to no meaty flavours and just as the finish finishes finishing there’s a hint of chocolate. OK, I made up the chocolate part to get you to try some. Loved this! Approximate price here will be about $16 CAD. I did recommend the 2010 in my newsletter a year or so ago. Would highly recommend this!

ilselva2011 Il Selva DOC Locorotondo

While in Alberobello, we were entertained by an owner of an alimenteri and butcher shop. He and his brother (I’m assuming here) told us all about the homemade charcuterie and local wines. I picked up the SUD Primitivo mentioned above which wasn’t all that local and Arlene tasted and purchased an interesting white from the winery located in Aberobello – Cantina Albea. White wines from hot locales, IMHO, tend to be crisp, lighter, and minerally usually. This white had some roundness – our host suggested that there was some Chardonnay involved. But I think that he overheard that Arlene’s favourite white was Chardonnay. In doing some research, the blend is 60% Verdeca, 35% Bianco di Alessano, and 5% Fiano Minutolo. It had a refreshing fruitiness, nice length and just loved being served cold which is just what we needed.

2011 Leone de Castris Villa Santera Primitivo di Manduria

villasanteraThis producer is perhaps the oldest one in Puglia as far as bottling their own wines. They work out of Salice Salentino, have large holdings themselves and purchase grapes from many growers in the region. Their flagship wines are generally Salice Salentinos (we get them in Ontario) but I thought that since I was on a Primitivo kick, I’d keep the meter running. I had this wine in Otranto. This didn’t have the heft of the one abovefairly unmemorable and my notes indicate a bit of flailing around trying to describe this wine – never a good sign. Although not higher in alcohol than the San Marzano – it carried a bit of heat that I attributed to the lack of balance generally and my sipping while talking without food mode. Approximate cost $14 CAD. Would not recommend this. But, do try their Salice Salentino Riserva – in most years good value. An incredibly consistent winery.

2010 Tenuta San Francesco Costa d’Amalfi 4 Spine

4spineI purchased this from a little wine shop in Amalfi. Il Costiera Amalfitana is quite simply – spectacular. To find local wines was just a pleasant bonus. Friends, Susanne and Brenda, had been to the area in June and visited this winery in Tramonti, so I wanted to look up their wares. This was supposed to be a ‘bring home’ wine @ 20 Euros but that concept got lost when I had to keep looking at it in our room in Ravello. Well, we had some local sheep’s milk cheese, a crust of bread and such (Bless the Child), and some fruit. It was perfect for an afternoon repast and gazing out over the Mediterranean (picture of view at top of post). This wine is a blend of 60% Tintore, 30% Aglianico, and 10% Piedirosso. To say I was blown away might be an understatement. This wine needed about an hour to clear the cobwebs and settle down which meant that I only had half a bottle left when it found its stride. Full-bodied, licorice, tar, and dark plums and black stuff – simply lovely to sit and sip. Contemplate life, a pre-dinner snooze, and re-cap the day’s walk. No heat present – balanced with more than enough tannin to match the sheep’s milk cheese and would duel well with red meat, I bet. Approximate cost $28 CAD. Highly, highly recommended! Did I say that I liked it?

2012 Mastroberardino Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio

lacrymaI had read a recent post by The Armchair Sommelier about this remarkable winery and man. He has been in large part responsible for the rejuvenation of the Taurasi DOCG and plantings in and around Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius (see below – my keeper wine). This wine is predominantly Piedirosso and I suspect a little blending of Aglianico (couldn’t find out definitively). I purchased this in the restaurant, drank half with a huge plate of scampi and prawns with mint sauce.  Did I say it was yuuge? I took the rest of the wine back to our room. I finished it up over the next two days. Anyone who knows me knows that that is a lie. I finished it that night! Well, if you like dirty reds – this wine is for you. Earthy, traces of foliage, figs and red dripping fruit on the nose and in the mouth everything coming through but with some minerality (the volcanic soil?). Moderately tannic but not too much so. Medium bodied and just plain nasty and delicious. I am going to make it my mission to turn people on to this inexpensive wine. Approximate price $17 CAD (at the friggin’ restaurant!). Highly recommend. Thanks to the Armchair Sommelier!

What I Learned In Italy Lesson #4

Based on the recommendation of The Armchair Sommelier, as I mentioned above, I looked for wines from Mastroberardino and found quite a few. They were readily available in Amalfi and Ravello. But not knowing that, I jumped the gun and the first ones I saw in a wine shop in Amalfi, I bought,. The man there was the best wine merchant on the trip – he was very convincing on the benefit of purchasing two bottles of everything. “You have now, you think about it, you leave other one for later? Good way.” Well, I ended up with a 1999 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici. Given how good cheaper wines were, I was thinking that I’d overspent at approximately $38 CAD (28 Euros). It’s now nestled safely in my basement and I can’t wait to drink it. The thing that I wanted to mention though was the variation in pricing in Italy generally but especially in tourist areas. The same wine in Ravello was 65 Euros or about $90 CAD. That’s $52 CAD or $51 USD more! Another revelation was the relatively solid pricing we have in Ontario for Italian wines compared to the Duty Fee at Roma Fuicimino. Example – Frescobaldi’s Castelgiocondo Brunello costs me $49.95 here. At the Fuicimino Duty Fee it was 40 Euros or about $58 CAD! Likewise Luce, Tignanello (80 Euros! – $102.00 CAD here). So, word to the wise – cheap wines abound in Italia just not as you’re exiting stage left or wondering around Villa Cimbrone.

Thanks to Karen McNeil’s Wine Bible, Wikipedia, and http://www.winesearcher.com for some of the more arcane details of these wine regions and grapes. “Somewhere on a desert highway. She rides a Harley-Davidson. Her long blond hair flying in the breeze. She’s been running half her life. The chrome and steel she rides  – colliding with the very air she breathes.”


Anglophones and Asia – The Red Daily Slosh

16 Aug

asiaargentoWe’re off to Italy in September and visiting Rome (another church?), Apulia (I’m stuffed), and the Amalfi coast (are we at the bottom of the hill yet?). To say I can’t wait would be an understatement. This week’s release features some wines from these areas so I thought I would whet my appetite pre-journey.

tresaggiThe first selection is a repeat recommendation but different vintage. The 2006 was one upon which I received great feedback from Oliver and Joanne. This is the 2008 Talamonti Tre Saggi Montepuliciano D’Abruzzo #204016 $15.95. The release booklet informs me that Tre Saggi means ‘three wisemen’. I will have to brush up on my Italian because I intuitively thought that it meant, ‘very’ something or other. I guess growing up Anglophone in a bilingual country where French is the other language on the cereal box, you superimpose French, in this case ‘tres’, on to other languages. I mean it was always flacons de mais, wasn’t it? Well, Tre Saggi does mean very something; very ‘interesting’. This medium-bodied wine carries so much character in the way of spiciness, smelly stuff like leather and oakiness (both in the air and on the tongue), that I wouldn’t think it could be anything but Italian. Picture sitting mid-afternoon (and I know I’ve used this before – but indulge me) at a road side café outside Locorotondo, with a glass of this, fresh bread, olive oil and burrata cheese, watching as Asia Argento (picture at top or, fill in suitable Italian male), herds her sheep past your table ……. Let’s just say that this wine tells us where it’s from and what you should do with it – sip out back with friends, under the night sky and partake of tomato-based dishes, pasta, and loads of bread. Too late for the Perseid meteor shower? Get some patio lanterns.

When I took written and spoken French through to the end of secondary school, I was bewildered  by how we were taught that the London in England was Londres en francais. Not sure how a formal name changes when you translate. But, then again Anglophones talk about Japan not Nippon. I am William never Guillaume. Dufton, never Duftonne or Duffus, regardless of language or what you think about me. So, what’s with Puglia? It’s got to be an anglification of Apulia. Or, is it just a variation on a name? Or, do I have it backwards? Please weigh in because I’m not Googling it. Regardless of how you say it, we’re off to Apuila with the first recommendation. My experience with aglianico wines has been one where they are pretty tannic when young but round out or smooth out a bit with age. However, I’m told that characteristic is less prevalent when the grape is grown in Apulia – probably the heat. At least that’s what the write up says. The 2011 Girolamo Capo di Gallo Aglianico #268367 $18.95 – is an earthy, I still think uncharacteristically smooth country wine with black fruit (blackberries, dark currants), mushrooms. If you are worried that all Italian wines are harsh (like I indicated above), thin, or meh, stop it. No, I mean STOP IT! Start your wine change now. This is smooth, rich, scrubby – Apulia – perfect! But wait, to quote Ron Popeil, there’s more. I can’t quite figure this wine’s origin and nomenclature out. It’s made by Girolamo (for me that means Sicily – Etna Rosso, etc.). It is called Capo di Gallo (I believe, a nature preserve in Sicily) but it’s from Apulia? Confused? Interested in some Sonoma Brut from Virginia? Anyone help me?

apollonioI had to think about what other Southern Italian wine to talk about. There is a Salice Salentino (2009 Taurino Riserva Salice Salentino Rosso #177527 $14.95) that deserves some love. But, the one I landed on was the 2007 Apollonio Terragnolo Primitivo #211813 $18.95. This is made using the primitivo grape that apparently has some DNA attachment to the zindandel varietal. I’ve never really experienced a kinship between these grapes on the sniff, taste and swallow. They don’t seem to have much in common once vinified IMO. This wine packs a punch – but a nice punch. Think Mohammed Ali – not Mike Tyson. It is not fruit focused at all but nuanced with earth, non-fat double latte (OK, just kidding – too precise), but really some kind of reminiscence of coffee at the top of the glass, prunish in the fruit department. I think that if you like full-bodied Old World wine, you’ll love this. I can’t wait to wander southern Italy and get my hands on some of their great local wines. If anyone out there has some suggestions for wineries in Apulia or Campania, please let me know.

beroniaPut your hand up if you are a Rioja fan. Those that didn’t put there hands up have to get a wine-loving life. This is a benchmark, iconic, must drink, oh so fine wine region. I have recommended so many from here. One of my favourite and our most available bodegas is Beronia. I recommended this very wine in January.This week, the 2008 Beronia Reserva #050203 $18.95 hits the shelves again. Grab a few! I read the write up and have to agree with Neil McLennan (www.westernlivingmagazine.com) in saying that “if you’re new to Rioja, this is a great place to start…” This is neither classic Rioja or in line with a newer more international take although a bit oakier than some classic Riojas. This is a mellow wine that is medium-bodied with loads of cherries and some vanilla in the swish. Tannins evident but not overpowering. Just a great stand and sip wine or maybe serve with some seafood tapas or meat on the plancha. Those of you that have had these products before are already checking inventory (I can see you in the Romper Room Magic Mirror) so the rest of you better get on it.

H3csI’m always singing the praises of Washington reds – particularly Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. So good! In Ontario, we don’t get access to some of the smaller wineries. Hell, we don’t get significant access to any of the smaller wineries – where many of the finer, more true to Washington wines are to be found. Can we say Privatize Please? The largest winery conglomerate in Washington and one of the biggest in the whole U.S. of A. is Chateau Ste. Michelle. Now, I’d rather be talking about Dunham Cellars but there are about 100 bottles of their wines in the whole province. Shout out to Dunham’s importer – try harder! So, we are left to grab wines from larger distributors and producers – not that there is anything wrong with that. After all, I’m supposed to be a label agnostic. This week, one of the Ch. Ste. Michelle stable, Columbia Crest, is featured. I’ve talked about the H3 wines before – even this very wine and vintage – 2010 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon #210047 $19.95. This is a wine for those that really dig that house red style that’s popular with California reds – a bit bigger, a touch of sweetness that isn’t syrupy but smooth and some oak. It’s very good, isn’t it? This wine has some pop on the finish, great red fruits like cherries and, uncharacteristically, strawberries (but this might have been brought on by the feeling of shame for not writing about a strawberry nuanced rosé for Wine Blogging Wednesdays this week) on the sniff, all muddled delightfully together in your mouth with interesting darker things like chocolate. It’s pretty neat and the year since I last had it has smoothed it out. Good value red! I know there are lots of McManis cab fans out there as it’s a popular value? Ontario sip. Take a flyer on the H3.

Revisiting Past Daily Sloshes

fermedumontA couple months back, I recommended a great Rhone wine La Ferme du Mont Le Ponnat Cotes du Rhones-Villages #171371 $17.00 – Subsequently, I recommended this wine to a friend who loves a Beaujolais style red as his ‘go to’ wine, thinking that he could branch out. He’s now aggressively working through a bunch of Le Ponnant that he bought. He loves it! I do too. If you are having a barbecue with friends or you just drink alone but deny it to others, pick up more than a single bottle. You have to trust someone with wine recommendations. Trust me. At least this once.

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