This time of year is no different from others. I’m thinking of VinItaly and sad that it’s the first time I’ve missed this fair in 4 years. But I can always drum up a little Italy love in my own wine glass as I think back to some of these wineries that I’ve had the incredibly good fortune to visit.
Stylistically, this time of year, I want my reds to bring texture and lightness but not too much weight. And I want freshness and brightness in the whites, but an element of complexity and nothing too fruity. Here’s what I’m working with this week…
From Italy’s northeast, in the Veneto region:
Remo Farina Bianco di Custoza 2011. This is a bright, crisp white wine made with a blend of the five regional white grapes of the region. Orchard fruit from ripe yellow apple to creamy peach, this is a crowd pleasing white wine that has an incredible capacity to serve both as a cocktail wine or would work well with poultry, shellfish or spring vegetable dishes.
From Alto Adige, in Italy’s Dolomite mountains.
Cantina Terlano “Terlaner Classico” 2012. Rich and textural, this is a multi-faceted blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Pinot Bianco. Each of these grapes makes its way into their own bottlings at Cantina Terlano. This proprietary blend of the three has been a perpetual favorite wine of mine since it first hit my lips around 2007. Fruit notes are ripe apple and sutle pear, and it bears a very rich mouthfeel without the weight of having been thumped with oak. A pretty phenomenal bottle of wine for this “classic” range of wines from Terlano. Almost everybody falls in love with this wine, including people who often fancy themselves exclusive red wine drinkers
From the northwest, in the Piedmont region, famed for the rich Barolo wines:
Paolo Scavino Langhe Bianco DOC 2012. This wine wine glistens with fresh acidity and international styling. It makes perfect sense when you think of the people who live in this region, farmers at heart, but with an incredible reverence for the land and blessed with some of the most incredible culinary riches in the world, including earthy and decadent truffles and chingale, or wild boar. This region is also famed for Barolo wines, beautiful and elegant wines made in either a modern or more traditional style, but these are wines that are quite contemplative and require years to mature. So, often the people here reach for something easy and refreshing, like this Langhe bianco, which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Delicious and citrus-toned with an incredible backbone of minerality and a brave streak of acidity.
From the heart of Tuscany, three wines from Italy’s own Sangiovese:
Ali Sangiovese 2012 is a bottle of wine that holds it’s own on a weeknight with easygoing counterparts like pizza or burgers. The fruit shines, with bright red fruit like cranberry and Bing cherry and tannins are soft and medium-bodied. Great value and easy to like!
Alteo Chianti DOCG 2012 is pleasant and fruity with more elements of earth and ripe fruit, like blackberry and black cherry. Tannins are smooth but add great texture. This would be a great accompaniment to grilled red meats, grilled vegetables or pasta in a tomato-based sauce.
Bramosia Chianti Classico DOCG 2011 is a wine that wears its pedigree well and stikes a great balance between tannin and acidity, offering a complexity on the palate that well belies its low price tag. It shows nice earthy notes of forest floor, but is clean and bright and is definitely in the camp of modern style Chiantis. The oak barrel aging adds nice spice notes, like nutmeg and cinnamon and just a hint of vanilla. The fruit is mature and reminiscent of black cherry and plums.
Back to the Veneto for this red:
Remo Farina Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2012. Here’s a wine that seems to blow everybody away! Made from grapes that have been partially dried prior to pressing, the natural sweetness of the grapes is enhanced and the concentration is richer. The juice is passed over the dried grape skins one more time (ripasso = re-passed) to extract even more of the baked fruit concentration and the resulting wine is a velvety combination of rich baked fruit and beautiful brown spices like cardamom, cinnamon and also brings forth elements of cigar box and cedar. Tannins are very fine and the wine is medium in weight, perfect for a spring/summer red. Made up of a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.
I. Love. Barolo. I especially love Paolo Scavino Barolos.
I can’t think of many ways I’d rather spend an afternoon than hanging out with Elisa Scavino and her family’s gorgeous wines. Specifically their Barolos, which in my opinion reign supreme in Piemonte, in terms of purity and elegance.
I had the very good fortune to visit their winery in 2010, and embark on a highly memorable multi-course dinner which started in the neighborhood of eleven p.m. and ended many wines, many courses, and many hours later. It followed a day of tasting Barolo at their winery, which was also one of the most memorable winery experiences I have ever had.
Elisa’s father Enrico Scavino is at the helm of operations, with 2012 being his 61st harvest. I remember thinking him the most meticulous winemaker I’d ever met, with the cleanest and most pristine winery, hoses suspended in the air by big metal hooks, so that they don’t touch the floor. He rarely lets others in the cellar, working only with two others. And he often subjects his family to blind tastings of the wines during various phases of production, so they can single out not just which vineyards they think are producing the best quality, but various plots within single vineyards. They separate the wheat from the chaff (though I doubt the chaff is very low qual) and sell the juice they won’t use.
The Scavinos produce wine from an astounding six of the 11 villages in Barolo, and 19 of the 21 vineyards they get grapes from are owned by the family. They work with 18 different Crus in all. They produce seven different styles of Barolo, including four single vineyard Barolos. Try keeping track of that.
History and principles aside, today was a beautiful sunny day in Minneapolis, and even more so because the lovely Elisa was with us sharing wine and her stories. She managed to pull away from Piedmont for a quick wine tour through the States, despite the fact that the winery is in full operational mode and has begun harvesting.
Today’s lineup started off with the Langhe Bianco 2011, which is a super drinkable blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. It leads with pretty floral aromatics and soft tropical fruits, like baked pineapple. On the palate it’s broad and even a little oily, offering a full mouthfeel but none of the weight of an oaked white. The Sauvignon aromas are well behaved, simply bringing forth some herbal notes that persist on the incredibly long finish. I could drink this wine all spring and summer.
We tasted the Langhe Nebbiolo, Rosso di Tavola, Barbera d’Alba, and Dolcetto d’Alba. All tasty and fun, especially the uber-approachable Barbera which is so drinkable it doesn’t require food. And my perpetual friend, the Langhe Nebbiolo, which is more budget friendly than Barolo but brings plenty of moxie to the table.
Barolos (brief tasting notes follow):
Barolo 2007- At first whiff, lots of violet and soft florals. Tannins are soft and silky, this is an approachable style of Barolo, bringing together the finer qualities of their various vineyards.
Carobric 2007- This blend (Ca + Ro + Bric) is jammed full of bright anise notes on a mineral and herbal core. Acid and tannin, check. Not a pedestrian Barolo by any stretch, this blend brings forth some of the best qualities in this style of wine, including the classic rose petal notes and dusty cocoa.
Bricco Ambrosio 2007- Single vineyard from Rotti village. It’s the only cru in the village, and makes a fatter, fleshed out style of Barolo (relatively speaking, of course). Softer acidity and more fruity than it’s counterparts, still a force to be reckoned with.
Monvigliero 2007- The first release of this wine, it’s a new single vineyard from Verduno in the northern region. The fruit comes from .5 hectare of 45 year-old vines. The nose has lots of black pepper followed by anise and followed by eucalyptus. It’s really pretty.
Cannubi 2007- Coming from the center of the cru Barolo village, this is more fleshy and shows more fruit, specifically black fruits and crushed raspberry. I love the way this wine feels in my mouth, the tannins are tight and grippy (is that a word?) but they coat my mouth like a big velvet blanket. Elisa describes this wine as having a typical Balsamic aroma. I just know that I love it.
Bric del Fiasc 2007- I actually made some kind of audible (and therefore embarrassing) sigh when I smelled this wine. Gorgeous leaps out of the glass. The ball starts rolling with peppermint, young raspberry, candy cane, leather, tar and black licorice. I know that sounds kind of freakishly unappetizing, but it was a truly well-woven and elegant wine. My pen couldn’t even keep up with my senses as I was trying to record my impressions of this wine, there were so many layers of aroma, flavor and texture. I wish I had a lifetime supply.
We were also really lucky today to taste the 2000 vintage of Carobric, which is remarkably fresh but shows lots of mature fruit and all the sweetness of the wet forest floor. Delicious.
And the Rocche dell’Annunziata Riserva 2005, which is the current release. Is that sick or what? It was so beautiful, really classic with crushed rose petal, graphite and wet leather notes. Lots of eucalyptus here too. Simply a breathtaking wine and a luxury to drink.
Loved the food that accompanied the tasting today, all prepared by Broder’s Pasta Bar in Minneapolis.
And special thanks to Bourget Imports for putting this tasting together with Banville and Jones, who imports the wine from Italy. It was excellent!
More information about the Scavino Estate can be found here. I hope you have luck finding the wines locally (make the investment, you will not regret it). Unfortunately, the winery is only open to the trade by appointment.