Sunday, October 04, 2015

Five Italian wines every 29 year-old should own

This past week I was doing wine service at a wine dinner with a younger salesperson. I poured a glass of wine, the 2011 Felsina Chianti Classico and handed it to her. She took a sip and smiled. “This is wonderful, what is it?” she asked. I showed her the bottle and then said, “This is something you should collect a case of to drink over the next 20 years.” She raised an eyebrow, Spock-like, almost as if to say, “Collect? 20 years?” I reckon, to a 29 year-old, being 49 is akin to staring into an infinite abyss of eternal nothingness. Nonetheless, this millennial took it in good stride.

It got me to thinking about wine I have “collected” over the years and how those years just rolled along, with no consideration toward me regarding their velocity. Hopefully I gathered a few good ones for the long, fast ride. But for a 29 year-old, that is, if I were 29 years old, here are a few wines I would recommend to myself to buy a case of and enjoy over the next 20 years. This is also applicable for 39, 49, 59 and 69 year-olds, providing you are mindful of your health, diet and don’t set foot in a crosswalk when the driver of a truck is texting.

2011 Felsina Chianti Classico. Not the Riserva nor the single vineyard Rancia, all which bear collecting, drinking and making love to, on a regular basis. Nope, just the plain vanilla, 2011 Annata. And while in today's climate, wine geeks, especially millennials, shun reviews (or scores) from recognized experts, this wine has more than gotten its share of critical acclaim. So if that means anything to you, have at it.

I will say this about this wine – it is undeniably delicious and can stand up in a field with Brunello and Super Tuscans, like we did this past week, and hold its own. It’s a classy, quiet, deep wine that puts flavor and place above all else, And it is really quite affordable, find-able at under $25 retail in the US. Try and find a Brunello at that price or Super Tuscan that will go the distance at twice the price.

2010 Nino Negri Sfursat delle Valtellina – one rung down from the famous “5 Stelle” offering, this one I referred to as the “tradizionale” . A little more expensive, but can be had for under $50. Try finding a Burgundy with this kind of provenance for that amount. I’m not a jammy wine kind of fellow, and this wine certainly doesn’t fall under that category. But it is a bit hefty in its youth. A case of this wine, over the next 20 years, will be a treat. Hey, you can blow $600 on two moving violations and what do you have to show for it? An increase in your insurance, that’s what. Slow down, get a case of this wine and let the next 20 years be a pleasurable experience.

The verdict might still be out, but I’m willing to bet that a wisely chosen Etna Rosso might be a good addition to the cellar. A little more pricey, but pretty hard to get as there are only 3,000 bottles made, my vote goes to the 2013 Terre Nere Etna Rosso Prephylloxera La Vigna di Don Peppino. What you are paying for (at around $90 a bottle) is good real estate. This is one of the more revered parcels on Etna, 130 years old on their own rootstock.

Etna wines are a bit of a Holy Grail for me and others. I came late to this party, having been exposed to Etna wines in the early 1980’s and was not particularly impressed then. But what a difference 20 (or 30) years makes. The biggest problem, as I see it, with Etna wines, is to just let the wines alone and not to try and force them to make statements outside of their territoriality. One must dig deep, kiss a lot of frogs, and hope one’s choice will make for good sailing for the next 20 or so years. I think the Terre Nere flagship wine is a good choice, not the only one, but one I am betting on.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t put a Vino Nobile in this post. Anyone who reads this blog over the last 10 years knows I have an affinity for Vino Nobile. The 2010 Poliziano “Asinone” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, although it is a bit pricey (mid $50’s) is a keeper. However, if you are 29 and don’t have that kind of loot, (or you blew a bunch on a case of Etna Rosso) you can still lock down the 2011 Poliziano Vino Nobile (normale) for around $30 US.

What I love about Vino Nobile is that it isn’t a noisy wine. It doesn’t knock your door down letting you know it’s big and bad. It’s a seductive little chantress, not clamoring for your every attention. Just a little love, once in a while. Surely twelve bottles in 20 years isn’t too much to ask?

Aglianico is still a pretty good value. I lean towards the Basilicata appellation, Aglianico del Vulture, as I like a wine that expresses a native rusticity, wine where you can taste the wine and sun and soil. The 2008 Terre degli Svevi Re Manfredi 'Serpara' Aglianico del Vulture will go into my cellar when it gets here. It might be a wine that one could cellar for more than 20 years, but I sense this will be a wine, like an Hermitage, that in 20 years will be, if not in full blossom, worthy of popping a cork to gauge its development. I’m particularly encouraged that three of the four reviewers are female. That bodes well by my sensibilities, as a wine that isn’t too spoofulated. I’ve been to this property (as I have to all the wines I am writing about) and know the caretakers of these vineyards are focused on retaining al the native rusticity that comes so naturally in this forgotten little corner of the world. Wine lovers are the ultimate beneficiaries of this benign neglect. And while this wine weighs in at around $45, It’s a good spend.

There you have it. Five wines. Five cases. With an investment amortized over 20 years that comes to about $12.50 a month, which is a whole lot less that anyone spends on coffee. So, is it worth it? Or would you rather kiss the frogs yourself?

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vinotravels21 said...

Nice variety Alfonso. I admire your years in the business and being able to have experienced some wines of the past and what they have evolved into today, ie the wines of Etna.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, Jennifer - I'm looking forward to the next 20 (30-40?) years myself. Lots of Etna going in the wine room for sure

Unknown said...

Hi Alfonso. I know it’s hard to turn an Italian off Italian wines but I’d love to hear what you think of wines from other countries. I live in the Margaret River region in Australia and we have such fabulous winery tours, I’m always trying something new. I never really venture beyond Australia for my wine choices and wonder just how limiting being so parochial is.

Faith Thomas @ The Berry Farm

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