Sunday, June 27, 2021

5 wines from Italy that are helping the return to normal life

Dear readers,

You’ve endured a lot from me over the years. From my sci-fi worlds of the future to my incessant gyrations about the wine trade, the state of the world and whatever else erupts from this mind. Today, I am cycling back to wine and recommending 5 wines that have crossed my path lately. They are all good, if not always available. But they found their way to me. So, they must exist somewhere else in reality. Read on:

Poderi Cellario È Bianco (Liter) NV

From the winery: “Arneis & Moscato. Hand-harvested into small bins. De-stemmed, pneumatic direct press. Spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel. Aged in stainless steel tanks. Bottled with minimal sulphur (~10ppm) and without sterile filtering or fining.”

My wine buyer friend at Whole Foods in East Dallas, Scott, pressed a bottle into my hands. “I think you’re going to like this,” he said. So, into the basket with the weekly groceries, it went.

Later in the week, the kids were over for a Mediterranean supper. Lots of hummus, tzatziki, falafel, tahini, baba ganoush, along with marinated chicken tenders and lamb kofta kebabs. Starting off the meal, during prep, my son popped this bottle something on his key ring. A casual start and a casual wine, but in no way a flippant one.

A 1-liter bottle for under $20, and a hand-made wine at that, it was? The wine was light, delicate and refreshing, just what we needed to prime the pump for a late afternoon of eating and imbibing.

Would I buy it again? Of course. The born-again hippie young adults in the family approved. A fun wine, made in a serious manner, but without being staid and somber.

Librandi 'Segna Librandi' Ciro Bianco 2020

I was really looking forward to this wine, and at $11 a pop, hoping it wouldn’t disappoint (spoiler alert: it didn’t). 100% Greco grapes. At first impression, the wine was floral and open, a touch of the sun, but not cooked. Chilled for a warm North Texas day, this wine went down easily, and paired well with a fresh swordfish with lemon and capers. Can a wine be gulpable and still be taken seriously? Somewhere, I imagine. But we were having too much fun enjoying the gestalt of the moment we found ourselves entranced within, thanks in large part to the wine and how perfectly it worked with the fish. I was so relieved that this wine over-delivered. It will become a summer staple on our little island.

Costantini ‘Febe’ Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo 2020

A group of Italian producers are lobbying to have their rosé wine called rosa (not rosato) and Costantini belongs to that group. I was going to lunch with a friend and brought this, hoping for a companion to this wine in the likes of a good penne Arrabbiata. One of my fondest memories is spending summer vacation at San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic and drinking Cerasuolo di Abruzzo with a well-made Arrabbiata.

Well, my memories are too fond. After all, I’m not in Italy, but deep in the heart of Texas. We made do, and with the help of some additional pepper (never lacking in Texas in many guises) the penne performed admirably. One of the best combos I know of. Hot weather, hot pasta and cold Cerasuolo.

From the Montepulciano grape, this is one of those wines that performs as well as a rosé as it does a red. What a gift to the world. Needless to say, the Costantini was the wine of the day at our table. (Imported into the US by Tuscan Vineyard Imports

Marchesini ‘Coralin’ Chiaretto Classico 2020

People who read this blog know I am more inclined to darker rosé, or rosa, wines. Part of the problem with the onion skin hue of rosé wines that emulate Provence, is that they smell and taste, to me, like bleach. Yeah, not my idea of what I want to swallow or smell. But Italy has enough well-tanned rosé wines to satisfy my cravings.

Chiaretto rosa wines have gotten lighter over the years (I first started importing Bardolino Chiaretto in 1984), and so when I see the wines of Chiaretto getting lighter and lighter, I fret a little. But the Coralin had a healthy hue. Fortunately, the wine was delicate and flavorful, went really well with sauteed fresh Sockeye salmon from the Pacific Northwest. I had half a bottle left and finished it with a Wagyu McKinney steak. It held up to the meat, but also offered a little relief from the heat of summer in Texas (and apparently all across the USA West right now). SRP $15 (The importer, Enotec, brings in some of the Marchesini wines. At this point it is not known about the if/when for ‘Coralin’).


Ah, Mongibello. Etna. It’s been a while. I thought you didn’t like, seeing as the last time I was there you tried to kill me and my colleagues. But five years have passed and we’re almost all healed back to normal. So, let’s taste something, eh?


Tenuta di Fessina ‘Il Musmeci’ Etna Rosso Riserva 2014

In 2014 we spent ten days in Sicily, and the time we were on Etna, it rained in Biblical proportions. I remember when it wasn’t raining water, it rained small-grained volcanic ash. I destroyed a pair of shoes walking in the muck. Etna wasn’t and isn’t for the meek of heart.  But sometimes it’s worth it.

So, the wine. I opened it around 11 AM and spent the next 4 hours over a leisurely lunch (when an out-of-control child wasn’t running about the restaurant throwing dishes). After the child had been safely dispatched with his parents, I was able to wax a little more philosophical about the wine.

Everything about the wine is correct. The aromas, the color, the body, the flavor, the length. I kept thinking about Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir when I was tasting this wine, as it seems it has become part of that club. But I am not so sure that is the proper way to take in Nerello Mascalese, and red wine from Etna. After all, it is a Sicilian. And Sicilians can be deceptive.

In fact, after this long afternoon, I think I must abandon any comparison with the Langhe or the Côte de Nuits. It doesn’t fit me to do that. Maybe it is the Sicilian in me. But this wine was a bit of a mystery to me. I couldn’t quite pinpoint this wine in my lexicon of wine experience (wow, how’s that for a mansplaining sentence?). In any case, I kept with the wine trying to get a breakthrough moment.

The thing about this wine, is that it was softer and quieter. It was muted, like a small set of waves that kept hitting the shore and building, building a core of emotion that eventually washed the sand away from the beach and into the larger sea beyond. The wine really caused me to go meditative. That doesn’t happen that often these days, what with all the distractions and noise in the machine of life.

I am interested in the wine and this winery. I long to go back to Linguaglossa and have that wonderful plate of pasta alla Norma with this wine. Maybe in the future. Just maybe.

Pasta alla Norma


That’s it for today, thanks for reading along.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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