New Releases from Southern Italy

Italy

This is the fourth in a series of wine review articles on Italy. Part I focused on Veneto, Part II on Tuscany, and Part III on Southern Italy. In Part IV we again focus on the wines of Southern Italy. Readers are encouraged to consult Report #6 The Wines of Southern Italy: From Quantity to Quality for background information on the wines and wineries presented here. The wines reviewed here are from the portfolio of Neil Empson, one of the finest importers of Italian wines in the United States.

Basilicata

Terra del Rei

Located at 650 meters on the slopes of Mount Vulture, this small state-of-the-art winery produces some of the finest Aglianico in southern Italy. The grapes for these estate bottled wines are sourced from 11 hectares of high density 40-year old Gouyot-trained vines ranging from 5,500 to 8,000 vines per hectare. Winemaker, Sergio Paternoster, is one of Italy’s leading enologists.

Terra dei Re 2005 Aglianico del Vulture Basilicata ($25) 90

This 100% Aglianico is a big brooding complex wine offering scents of wild and earthy black cherry and a palate rich in black currant fruit and minerals. Aged in 50 hectoliter oak barrels for 7 to 8 months, with further aging in the bottle, the wine shows good acidity and balance and has a big tannic grip on the finish. Cellar this wine for 3-5 years, and your patience will be rewarded.

Terra dei Re 2004 Divinus Basilicata ($42) 92

Even more impressive than the Aglianico del Vulture is Terra dei Rei’s Divinus. Sourced from low-yielding Aglianico vines, this youthful bottling exhibits outstanding concentration and power. Aged in 225 liter French barriques, it is highly aromatic and shows ripe dried black cherry fruit flavors, mixed with plum, spice, toasted oak and earth. It is still very tannic and in need of time to soften, but it has all the qualities of an outstanding wine.

Sicily

Abbazia Santa Anastasia

Located along the northern coastline of Sicily in the province of Palermo, this large modern estate (a former medieval abbey) produces some of Sicily’s finer wines. During the past 20 years, its owner Francesco Lena has made considerable investments in upgrading and expanding the estate’s vineyards (198 acres) and building a state-of-the-art winery. The vineyards are located at 200-500 meters with a density of 3,500 vines per hectare and with Gouyot-trained vines. The winery uses gravity and minimal intervention in its wine making and draws on the expertise of Riccardo Cotarella to help craft the wines.

Abbazia Santa Anastasia 2006 Grillo Sicily ($16) 87

Pale yellow hue with aromas of lemon citrus. On the palate, it is creamy, light and flavorful with excellent acidity and a crisp finish. 

Abbazia Santa Anastasia 2007 Contempo Nero d’ Avola IGT Sicily ($18) 90

The 2007 ruby red Contempo displays aromas of fresh dried dark cherry and black pepper. On the palate it offers ripe red fruit flavors with a silky smooth palate, excellent balance, and a long lasting finish. A delicious, juicy wine.

Abbazia Santa Anastasia 2005 Passomaggio IGT Sicily ($25) 89

A blend of 80% Nero d’Avola and 20% Merlot. Offers dark plum fruit aromas on the nose, followed by a soft attack of dry black cherry flavors on the palate with slightly earthy accents together with pepper, spicy, round tannins, and good grip on the finish.

Abbazia Santa Anastasia 2004 Litra IGT Sicily ($87) 94

This is the top of the line bottling at this winery. Produced from Cabernet Sauvignon and in small quantities, the Litra displays an opaque ruby hue and offers black currant fruit and loam on the nose. Big and concentrated on the palate, it is velvety smooth and exhibits elegant oak, black currant and ripe black cherry flavors with big round tannins on the dusty long lasting finish.

Sardinia

Cantina di Santadi

Founded in 1960 and located on the southwestern coastal area known as Sulcis, Santadi is among the top producers in Sardinia, if not all of Italy, offering a range of authentic high quality wines sourced from 500 hectares of indigenous varieties, particularly Vermentino and Carignano. Santadi uses state-of-the art technology in its winemaking and has employed the expertise of the renowned international consultant, Giacomo Tachis.

Santadi 2007 Vermentino di Sardegna “Villa Solais” Sardinia ($14) 88

This blend of 70% Vermentino and 30% Nuragus displays a medium yellow-green tint and has pleasant floral aromas with yellow melon flavors and mineral notes. It is well balanced with good acidity and is long lasting on the palate.

Santadi 2006 Carignano del Sulcis "Grotta Rossa" Sardinia ($15) 89

Santadi’s Carignano del Sulcis is dark ruby in color and exhibits earthy aromas and flavors of dried red and black cherry fruit. It is soft on the attack, velvety smooth on the palate, and has a long lasting finish. This is an easy drinking wine offered at a great price.

Santadi 2005 Carignano del Sulcis Riserva “Rocca Rubia” Sardinia ($30) 91

This barrique-aged Carignano is opaque ruby with ripe plum cherry, black pepper and toasted oak aromas. It is velvety smooth and elegant on the palate, as well as full-bodied, rich and concentrated.

Santadi 2004 Carignano del Sulcis “Terre Brune” Sardinia ($30) 92

The “Terre Brune” is this winery’s jewel in the crown. 95% Carignano, it is opaque ruby in color and displays dried black cherry and earthy aromas. Aged for 18 months in French oak, it is velvety smooth on the palate and has highly concentrated dark berry fruit flavors with hints of smoky oak and green peppercorn notes. Polished and elegant with big tannic grip, this wine while delicious now will improve with bottle age.

Mike Potashnik and Donald Winkler, September 2009