Italian Selections

February, 2009

The i-WineReview focuses attention on Italian wines February and March 2009. In addition to issuing our in-depth report #15 on the wines of Chianti-Classico, we review over 100 new releases from Tuscany, Campania, Veneto, Friuli, Sicily, Sardinia and elsewhere in Italy. These selections are exemplary of the high quality and diversity of wines being produced throughout Italy today. They include several authentic hand crafted wines such as Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone made from indigenous grapes cultivated only in Italy. We also review a large number of wines that represent good values for these difficult times. These include Chiantis and Pinot Grigios, in particular, but there are others--like Vernaccia--that are less known but widely available on the market. The adventurous wine enthusiast will find many exciting and affordable wines that merit purchasing and tasting. In our view, most Italian wine goes best with food.

Part I – Wines of the Veneto, Pinot Grigio, Interesting Selections

VenetoVeneto

The Veneto is a region of both large industrial and artisanal winemakers. It is best known for Amarone, Soave, Valpolicella and, of course, Prosecco and other spumantes (see the i-WineReview’s report #14 on the World of Sparkling Wine). Much of Italy’s best known mass-market wines of Bolla and Santa Margherita are produced here. But so, too, are the wines of internationally renowned artisanal winemakers like Nino Pieropan and Inama, two of the best producers of Soave in Italy. The Veneto is also a region where winemakers have mastered the process of drying grapes, and thus it is where one finds Amarone, a very special wine made from semi-dried, little known local varietals such as Corvina and Rondinella.

Accordini 2000 Amarone "Le Bessole" Veneto ($48) 91

Le Bessole is a deep dark ruby blend of 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 10% Rossignola. Grapes dry on racks until November when they are pressed and allowed to age on the lees for 15 days. It shows loam, tar, and concentrated black fruit on the nose. Very generous and juicy on the palate, it is also well-balanced with intense ripe blackberry fruit and violets and lots of tannic grip. The finish lingers on and on.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

Accordini 2004 Ripassa Rosso Veneto ($25) 92

The Accordini Ripassa is a deep dark ruby blend of 60% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 20% Corvinoni aged on Amarone lees. Amarone must is topped up with Valpolicella. The result is an exotique, beautifully balanced wine with a lovely nose of black pepper, blueberry, and dark plum with a soft, lush attack. It is youthful and fresh with a beautiful, exotically flavored, rich and juicy palate showing flavors of coffee, dark plum, black pepper that finishes with good tannic grip.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

Accordini 2003 Soffio del Creato Veneto ($20) 90

Made from 60% Corvina, 12% Corvinino, 16% Rondinella, and 12% Rossignola and aged in oak for 36 months, this opaque ruby wine reveals an exotique nose of loamy black fruit, tar, and bitter chocolate. This is followed by a beautifully balanced palate of dark fruit, violets, and blueberry notes. The mouthfeel is elegant with firm tannins and black pepper and tar on the finish.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

Marcato 2007 La Barche Soave Veneto ($16) 87

Enrico Marcato crafts this pleasingly fresh, medium straw Soave Classico from 80% Garganega, 15% Trebbiano di Soave, and 5% Chardonnay vinified in stainless steel.. Fragrant aromas of ripe pear with note of pineapple give way to a soft attack of ripe pear and red apple flavors on the palate complemented by racy acidity.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

Marcato 2007 La Giareta, Pinot Grigio Veneto ($15) 88

A fresh, steely character marks this medium straw, 100% Pinot Grigio fermented and aged in stainless steel for 4 months. The wine is sourced from a very densely planted [8 thousand plants/hectare] 45 ha.vineyard. It shows very pleasant white floral scents and a nice attack of spritzy acidity with a dry mid-palate. This is a lively wine that’s fun to drink.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA

Pieropan 2007 Soave Classico Veneto ($20) 89

Leonildo Pieropan makes this medium straw colored 2007 Soave Classico from a blend of 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano di Soave. Lovely, very attractive perfumed tropical aromas of ripe melon, flowers and notes of anise follow through to spicy, ripe fruit-rich flavors on a medium weight palate with tart acidity and a nice, long finish. A classy wine for the price!

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Pieropan 2006 Soave Classico “La Rocca” ($50) 91

This medium lemon gold single vineyard Soave boasts a gorgeous nose of pure, ripe apricots and peaches. On the palate it offers a full round attack with honeyed flavors of apricot, and almond with excellent acidity, and a long dry finish. A complete wine.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

CalvarinoPieropan 2006 Soave Classico “Calvarino” ($37) 92

The 2006 “Calvarino” displays delicate aromas of ripe melon and pear with mineral notes. It is more subtle in texture and flavor than “La Rocca” and is beautifully balanced on the palate with good acidity and delicious fresh fruit flavors. It finishes long and dry and very satisfying.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Pieropan 2004 Recioto di Soave "Le Colombare" Veneto ($55) 91

This beautiful gold caramel colored wine is made from Garganega grapes dried for five months and then fermented and aged in oak barrels for two years.. It displays an exquisite nose of apricot compote and a sweet, sugary attack on a richly textured palate with intense flavors of golden raisins and ripe apricot. Surprisingly for a dessert wine, it finishes almost dry.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Pieropan 2004 Ruberpan Veneto ($50) 90

This medium dark ruby wine is aged in oak cask and barrique for 30 months. It shows ripe red berry fruit with barrel notes and a medium weight palate with elegant texture and red fruit and vanilla oak on the palate. It has a long, long flavorful finish of well integrated oak and fruit

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Speri 2004 Amarone St. Urbano Veneto ($92) 93

Sant’Urbano is the most prestigious cru in the Classico heartland of Valpolicella. The grapes for this dark ruby wine come from a single vineyard. It is dried for 25 days prior to being soft-pressed and macerated. It is aged for 2 years in new 500-liter Allier oak tonneaux . The Vigneto Sant’Urbano reveals dark cherry fruit with brambles and earth notes on the nose. On the palate, there’s a soft and silky attack with fresh red cherry and black fruit. This is a delicious wine ready for drinking now.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Speri 2006 La Roverina Veneto ($17) 89

La Roverina is a medium ruby, 70% Corvina, 205 Rondinella, 5% Molinara, 5% Oseleta blend aged in 50 hl. oak barrels for 10-12 months. It shows aromas of plum and a medium weight, uncomplicated palate of moderately concentrated cherry and dark plum fruit. The finish lingers on, providing a suitably satisfying finish.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Speri 2005 Recioto Veneto ($78) 92

Recioto is Valpolicella’s extremely flavorful dessert wine. Relative to Amarone, the grapes for Recioto are picked later and dried longer. The blend of Speri’s opaque ruby Recioto is 70% Corvina and 30% Rondinella. After fermentation, the wine is aged about 30 months in 500 liter French oak. It flaunts a super ripe nose of dark fruit compote and a rich and raisined palate, with sweet flavors of dried dark fruit. It finishes like an extremely rich English Christmas cake. Indeed, it might pair very well with it.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Speri 2006 Ripasso Veneto ($28) 88

Ripasso became a distinct Valpolicella DOC in 2005. The Speri 2006 Ripasso is medium dark ruby blend of 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara showing red berry, plum and earth on the nose. It has a medium-weight palate, somewhat tart, with nice flavors of plum and black cherry and finishes clean, with lingering spicy fresh fruit flavors.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio is one of Italy’s quintessential white wines and is popular within and outside of Italy. It is produced in a variety of styles ranging from light, crisp and refreshing to more complex, textured and flavorful. The five wines reviewed here are all attractive examples of Pinot Grigios on the market.

Avanti 2007 Pinot Grigio Friuli ($9) 86

Pale gold straw in color, this easy drinking wine shows fresh mild citrus aromas and a straightforward palate of modest citrus fruit with anise accents and moderate acidity.

Importer: The Marchetti Co. Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Ca Montini 2007 Pinot Grigio L'Aristocratico Trentino ($20) 88

The Ca’ Montini 2007 Pinot Grigio is starbright medium lemon in appearance with a very attractive spicy, honeysuckle nose matched by a nice, fresh palate of light dried peach. Refreshing to drink ice cold on a hot summer day.

Importer: AV Brands Columbia, MD

Ecco Domani 2007 Pinot Grigio Veneto ($12) 87

The Ecco Domani 2007 Pinot Grigio is an appealing bright light lemon with aromas of dry hay and lightly perfumed spice. Its brisk acidity and quite neutral fruit flavors make it a refreshing accompaniment to a wide range of foods. And it is widely distributed in restaurants, wine shops and supermarkets.

Importer: Ecco Domani, USA, Healdsburg, CA

Lagaria 2007 Pinot Grigo Veneto ($8) 87

This is a medium straw yellow wine with a rich nose of herbal and woody notes. It’s easy drinking with moderate acidity, light peach and melon flavors, and a degree of complexity added by a portion of late-harvested grapes. It finishes clean and long.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Maso CanaliMaso Canali 2007 Pinot Grigio Trentino ($15) 89

Winemaker Fabrizio Gatto uses a small portion of raisanated fruit in crafting this lush, full-flavored lemon gold Pinot Grigio. The fruit is sourced from the 500 meter high Maso Canali vineyard. The wine has a very attractive tropical nose, richness on the palate, and marvelous intesity of flavor with a persistent crisp mineral character. Great value.

Importer: Maso Canali USA, Healdsburg, CA

Interesting Selections

Vigne Regali 2007 Principessa Gavia Gavi ($14) 86

This lovely Gavi is medium straw in color and is lightly aromatic. with delciate pear and melon fruit on the palate. It is a pleasant sipping wine to be served well chilled on hot summer days and a pleasant alternative to Pinot Grigio

Importer: Banfi Old Brookville, New York

Vigne Regali 2007 L'Ardì Piedmont ($11) 88

Made from100% Dolcetto grapes, this wine is dark ruby with a nose of fresh black cherry and pepper. The palate is uncomplicated and flavorful, showing plum and dark cherry flavors. It finishes dry with good fruit and mild tannins. A delicious wine to be served chilled.

Importer: Banfi Old Brookville, New York

Costaripa 2007 Pievecroce Brescia ($23) 89

This pale lemon 100% Trebbiano offers aromas of lemon citrus and fragrant white flowers. It features a dry crisp attack of ripe pear fruit flavors with minerals. It is full-bodied, well-balanced and flavorful with a nice, long finish.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

Costaripa 2007 Mazane Brescia ($20) 87

This dark ruby beauty is a 100% Marzemino wine from the Garda region of Northern Italy. If you’ve ever had Argentina’s Bonarda, the aromas of this wine will seem familiar to you. They’re a bit wild with red fruit and brambly notes. It’s medium bodied with plum and black cherry fruit on the palate and shows assertive tobacco notes. Finishes with dry tannins but long-lasting flavors.

Importer: Empson USA Inc. Alexandria, VA

By Mike Potashnik and Donald Winkler