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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.

 

 

Wine Review: 2006 Domaine Paul Autard Châteauneuf-du-Pape

December 9th, 2010 No comments

2006 Domaine Paul Autard Châteauneuf-du-Pape If you’re looking for a great French red to fall madly in love with this winter, look no further.  The Domaine Paul Autard Châteauneuf-du-Pape has got it all.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape has an almost mystical reputation among wine lovers.  It’s a commune in the southeastern region of France.  Like many areas in the Rhone region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape has an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designation.  But unlike the wine areas around it, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is permitted to grow a huge number of grape varieties: 13, in fact, from Terret Noir to Bourboulenc.  But for a wine to be an authentic Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it must be at least 50% Grenache grapes, and it must be aged in oak barrels for a year.

The French are known for their love of terroir, the distinctive taste and aroma characteristics of an area.  In the case of their beloved Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the terroir is highly unique.  Embedded in the soil of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region is a layer of pebbles, mostly quartzite, brought there by ancient glaciers.  The rocks retain heat that they release during the cool nights, keeping the vines from getting too chilly.  They also help the soil retain moisture during the hot summer months, keeping the vines from getting too thirsty.  It is because of these rocks in the dirt that the region is so renowned.

And it’s no surprise that the wines of this region have a distinctive terroir.  Paul Autard’s 2006 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a rich,

Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard.

A Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard.

medium-bodied wine with background tastes of spice, leather, cinnamon, and tobacco.  But the strongest taste is one of earthiness: a mineral-and-soil taste that makes you think of being outside in the warm sun.  It’s such a distinctive taste that the drinker gets a sense of the place the wine came from, a place of crumbling castles, châteaus, and miles of sunny vineyard, even without ever having been there.

This is a delicious, opulent wine that I’m sure you’ll love.  Store it in your cellar to age to greatness for 7 years or so, or if you can’t help it, crack it open now and take a miniature trip to France.