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A Guide to Italian Wines

April 8th, 2014 No comments

Italians know their wine. But there are so many varietals from its sunny, breezy climes that sometimes the rest of us forget the difference between a Barbera and a Barbaresco. No fear: this handy guide will keep you straight.

Italian Reds:

  • Amarone: From the Veneto region come Corvina grapes, which are partially dried to make this big, full-bodied wine that has a surprising undertone of sweetness.
  • Barbaresco:  Like Barolo? Try this lighter, more easy-drinking alternative.
  • Barbera: Mainly from the Piedmont region, this medium-bodied, very fruity wine is a crowd-pleaser and a great choice at a restaurant.
  • Barolo: This dry, full-bodied wine is complex, with berry flavors as well as earth, herbs and even tar. Delicious and often priced to match.
  • Brunello di Montalcino: From grapes grown in the Montalcino zone of Tuscany, this wine is dry and tannic.
  • Chianti: That perpetual favorite of homey Italian restaurants, Chianti is dry, moderately tannic, and usually flavored of tart cherries.
  • Lambrusco: A sparkling red wine that is often sweet.
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: Smooth, flavorful, and great with food.
  • Salice Salentino: Dry wine from the Puglia region. Often has aromas of ripe fruit with a rich, chewy texture.
  • Valpolicella: Dry and moderately tannic with intense cherry flavors.
  • Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Like Chianti, but bigger.

Italian Whites:

  • Asti: Sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes, this wine is sweet and fresh.
  • Frascati: Mainly made of Trebbiano grapes, this wine is dry, light, and easy to drink.
  • Gavi: A medium-bodied wine, typically dry with aromas of apples and minerals.
  • Orvieto: A medium-bodied wine, often with flavors of pear and apple.
  • Pinot Grigio: This popular wine is light, dry, and crisp with no oakiness.
  • Soave: Generally dry, crisp, and medium-bodied. From the Soave zone in the Veneto region.
  • Verdicchio: From the Marche region, Verdicchio grapes make this wine dry, crisp, and pleasantly mineral.

 

 

Two Wines Reviewed by Chris Noel of Vintage Cellars

July 2nd, 2013 No comments

For me, going wine tasting to me is like heading out to find new friends. You will find plenty that you only keep around for a short time, but every now and then you find those lifelong relationships that you want to last for years. I had the fortune to attend a wine tasting a few weeks ago, and just so happened to come across a couple of those wines I want keep around for a long time.

The first was the 2002 Lail Vineyard J. Daniel Cuvée. Lail Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley, and can trace its origins back five generations to 1879. Their 2002 Lail Vineyard J. Daniel Cuvée is made from lots of Cabernet Sauvignon. Abundant sunlight this season allowed the grapes to get extremely ripe. 900 cases of this wine were produced.

The wine is elegant and stylish, with a delicate, creamy texture leading to a tasty core of mocha-laced currant, anise, wild berry and plum flavors. The tight focus keeps the flavors flowing on a long luxurious finish. If you’re not in a hurry to enjoy this lovely wine, I would recommend laying it down for another 3 to 5 years to see its full potential.

Montalcino Italy

Montalcino, home of Brunello wines

The second wine that I enjoyed was a Argiano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino from Italy. Montalcino is well-known for its Sangiovese grapes. What might not be familiar to some is the name, “Brunello di Montalicino,” which is a red wine produced from grapes grown in the vineyards that surround the town of Montalcino, in the wine region of Tuscany. Originally, it was thought that a unique type of grape grew in this area, and it was given the name “Brunello.” But in 1879, experiments showed that Brunello grapes were, in fact, Sangiovese grapes, and now, “Brunello” means that the wine was produced with 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.

When tasting the Argiano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino, I received intense aromas of fresh raspberry and sliced mushrooms and a hint of black olives. The wine is full-bodied, with chewy tannins. It’s long and structured. This wine would pair perfectly with a hearty Italian gravy over your favorite pasta on a Sunday afternoon with family and friends. I really enjoyed this selection.

If you’re looking to add some new wines to your cellar, you can’t go wrong with these two choices. Cheers!

Wine Review: “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009

June 15th, 2011 No comments

Ottone I Bottle Image
I picked up a bottle of Cantine San Silvestro’s “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009 the other night on a whim, not sure what to expect.  Consisting of 100% pure Barbera grapes from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, this full red was simply bursting with big fruit flavors.  Ruby red in color with a soft-but-sound nose including black raspberry, raspberry, cherry, and hints of strawberry, my initial reaction was most positive.  With a rounded body, this delicious wine is filled with luscious cherry, berry, and even dark jam flavors.  The finish, though not too long, was crisp and pleasing.  This is a quality wine that pairs well with a variety of foods. While moderately tannic, the tannins are very well integrated and will complement saucy pasta dishes, beef, pork, and recipes that utilize robust cheeses.  For meals with these components, San Silvestro’s  “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009 is a sure winner.  It can even be served slightly chilled with cold meat platters, and with salads rich with black olives.  Talk about versatility!  (If you choose to chill it, why not look into an affordable and stylish Wine Credenza for optimal temperature control?)  So go ahead!  Grab a few bottles, and enjoy the “Ottone I” Piemont doc Barbera 2009 wine now, or through 2012.  I know I will.

Wine Review: 2007 Maculan Pino & Toi

May 20th, 2011 No comments

Unlike sweet Hungarian wines made from Tocai Friulano grapes, this Italian Pinot Blanc blend utilizes this curious grape to create an elegant and interesting combination of flavors and scents consisting of 60% Tocai Friulano, 25% Pinot Bianco, and 15% Pinot Grigio.  Fermented in stainless steel, the Pino & Toi is very fresh, aging little before bottling.  It is often recommended that this wine be consumed fairly quickly (within 2 to 4 years), which is why I was delighted that my 2007 bottle did not disappoint!  The wine’s light yellow color complements its pleasing citrus nose.  Though a bit acidic on the first sip, balance is quickly restored with overflowing flavors of peach, lemon, honey, and melon (The acidity works very well to provide a well-balanced finish).  Though given an 82 point rating by Wine Spectator, I agree more with Robert Parker’s rating of 86 points if only for the added complexity found wanting in other blends.  If you’re looking for an interesting dry, medium-bodied white to accompany summer salads, seafood, Chinese food, or to drink on its own, try the 2007 Maculan Pino & Toi.  It’s a crisp, enjoyable summertime sipper with personality!

2007 Maculan Pino & Toi

Pino & Toi