Sunday, October 06, 2013

Five Hot Italian Wines to Bag for Autumn

Someone turned off the summer switch and turned on the autumn one. To celebrate these cooler days and our procession to the holidays, I have found five wines from Italy that I’m bagging up and taking to the celebrations. They are:

Lechthaler Pinot Noir 2011

The label should be a giveaway that this isn’t a traditional Italian wine. Graphically it is one of the smartest labels I have seen in a long time. But behind the façade is a really interesting wine. When we tried this wine is was cellar temperature, and it displayed a brightness to the color. Not dark, it is Pinot Noir and from a relatively cool climate on a hillside location with gravely soil. So what did I like about it? Well, I’m a Pinot Noir snob. I like ‘em from Burgundy. And growing up drinking Pommard and Volnay I can’t quite wrap my head around fruit or alcohol bombs. I prefer a more subtle seduction. Lechthaler was a like the person you accidentally started dancing with at a party and all of a sudden you found someone who could dance. Light, delicate, good spice, really tasty wine. Way outside of my bubble of preconception, hence a good surprise. A few of the wines here were like that. Trentino is a beautiful zone and they make a diverse array of red, white, sparkling and sweet wines. This red will be on my list of recommended wines for the holidays, very versatile, tasty and a relative bargain at around $13 retail.

Petra Ebo 2010

From Tuscany’s Maremma. The winery in in Suverato and the DOC is Val di Cornia. The label has been redesigned and is sci-fi with a little cheery on top. I like it.

This is a modern wine. It’s a wine a put in the hands of wary folks who come up to me in a store and when I ask them what they are used to drinking and they tell me Cabernet, if they are looking to spend more than $20 ($23) I lead them over by the hand and put a bottle in it. It’s that simple. The wine is rich in fruit, dry in finish and is interwoven with a cornu copaie of textures, flavors and sensations. It’s downright delicious, even if it isn’t 100% traditional. But it’s from the Maremma, so tradition there is not exactly what folks are striving for. And it isn’t what brings folks to those wines. So there. Lovely wine, great with all the sumptuousness the incoming holidays will bring. Looks smart and when you take it to the relatives it will look like you made a smart choice and spent a wad of cash on them. Smart yes, in two ways. Retails for around $23.

Podernuovo a Palazzone “Therra” 2009

I’ve written elsewhere about this wine, but I’m not about to let it go. I have not been to this winery but I plan to go the next time I’m in southern Tuscany. Soil wise and mind-space wise, this terroir is 180 degrees from Suvereto. Not as lush, more stark and rustic. The owners aren’t (Bolgeri fashion family dynasty) but the land tends to over sway the individual. The wine is a Toscana IGT, a blend of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. And yes, Riccardo Cotarella is the wizard behind the screen here. But wait just a minute.

I think this wine heralds a maturing of the youthful bull in a china shop approach he had shown in his earlier career. He’s older now (65) and has plenty of fame and money. Anyway the land is older and takes precedence over any one person. And it looks like this wine has been born from this union of land, man and a maturing sensibility. I did not want to like this wine. The label is plain; the wine just shouted out it was going to be a big overblown Super (Egotistical) Tuscan. And then I put it to my lips.

I felt like Saul in Damascus. The wine was balanced, toned-down. I was expecting more of everything and fearing it at the same time. Yes it is more of a modern wine, but Tuscany really comes through this wine. I am now an evangelist for this red wine. It has spice, it has balance, and the flavors mingle deliciously. It’s like having four aunts and uncles, all different but all from the same place, at the dinner table. What a treat. About $24 retail.

Frentana "Rubesto" Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva 2009

Anyone who has read On the Wine Trail in Italy since I first started writing it in 2005 must know how much I love Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. If not, now you do. I had been schlepping Illuminati for 30 years until they found another route to market. I had always loved their Zanna Riserva, but over the years felt the wine got too big, too important, too pricey (now around $45). I still love the family but they have moved on and so I have had to find another Montepulciano “lover.” I actually have found several, but the big surprise is the Riserva from Frentana, the Rubesto. When I first tasted this wine at Vinitaly in 2003, I was smitten. It tasted like the old Zanna from the 1970’s and 1980’s. That is, rich fruit, no overabundance of oak, spicy and balanced. Very slurpable. And reasonably priced. Yesterday in the wine store where I hang out on Saturdays from time to time there were two instances when people came up to me asking me for a wine. One young lady had been “used” to drinking Cabernet wines (from California). I suggested this to go with the food they were having, classic Italian-American food, lasagna, red sauce, etc. The other chap was “used” to Pinot Noir. But his family was from Southern Italy and they were also having Italian-American fare, meatballs, pasta, etc. I put this wine in his hand too. How odd, I didn’t even consciously do that, but both of them (youngish) needed to have that wine. I cannot think of a better wine as a crossover wine from the American palate than Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. And the wine is so delicious. Retail for $15.

Lastly…my mania…Etna

Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2010 

This wine falls within the all-encompassing Sicilia IGT bucket. Nerello Mascalese from the north eastern section in the contrade (district) of Sciaranova and Allegracore in Randazzo. Ground zero for great Etna wines. I have put this wine into a lot of hands lately on my days off. I want to go back and crush grapes with my feet in the Palmento. Someday. I don’t know what it is, but the wines of Etna have got a real hold on me. And this wine is a great entry into the beauties and the mysteries of La Mutagna. The wine is crisp, has sharp acidity. The fruit is right there with it, though. Great balance, super flavors, I cannot get enough of this wine. I love it. Retails for about $20.

There you have it. My bag list. Also what is in my wine bag these days when I hit the streets. But forget about the selling aspect. These are wines that have a lot of soul and purpose. They aren’t just "another" Italian wine. These are five interesting, affordable, delicious wines to enjoy between now and the end of the year. Or until the end of time. Whichever comes first.

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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