Central Italy- the top 2 grapes

Italian_southernredsbacklabel

The two most widely grown red grapes of Italy are:

#1 Sangiovese– mostly grown  in central Italy (Tuscany, Emilia Romania).

#2 Montepulciano– mostly grown on the Adriatic Coast (Abruzzo, Apulia, Marche).

The wines selected to showcase their differences, similarites:

2010 Scopone L’Olivare – This wine is a bit on the modern side (produced in smaller barrels with shorter maceration which produces an earlier drinking wine).

Sangiovese is a high acid grape with what some call “gravely” tannins. The name translates to “blood of Jove” and many believe it’s highest expression comes from the specific Brunello clone isolated by Clemente Santi (Biondi Santi ancestor).

It has red fruit flavors along with distinctive flavors of orange peel, tomato leaf and balsamic. The more “serious” Sangiovese wines that are made for aging have pronounced earthy qualities as well.

Brunello di Montalcino, by law is 100% Sangiovese. 2010 is a phenomenal vintage and prices are reasonable but they will need some time to develop. If you want to drink now decant for a few hours beforehand.

2009 Umanchi Ronchi, Cumaro, Rosso Conero– Umani Ronch is a fairly new winery owned by the a Bianchi-Bernetti since 1959 and Cumaro’s first vintage was 1985. This is 100% Montepulciano fermented with natural yeasts and hand picked.

Montepulciano has some riper red and black fruit flavors like plum and (sour) cherry. The wines can also have a boysenberry flavor which I happily associate with childhood camping trips.

Lower in acidity than Sangiovese the wines are also a little softer and easier to drink, especially Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which I often suggest to the closet Merlot drinkers.

 

 

 

 

WTF…Montepulciano grape, or region?

Another installment of what IS this wine

2010Contucci_VNdMVino Nobile di Montepulciano is produced in Tuscany, around the town of Montepulciano. The wine name translates into “Noble wine of Montepulciano”.  Since the most noble red grape in this region is Sangiovese (called Prunolo Gentile here) the wines are a traditional blend of mostly Sangiovese. The grapes must make up at least 60–80 percent of the final wine, and may be complemented by Canaiolo (10–20 percent) and other local varieties permitted in the province of Siena, including the rare, violet-scented Mammolo (Sciacarello). This wine is 80% Prugnolo Gentile, 10% Canaiolo Nero, 10% Colorino. Purchased on WTSO for $20.

Some have described Vino Nobile as having the perfume of Chianti Classico’s with the richness of Brunello di Montalcino. This is a great description for this wine.

Montepulciano is also the name of a grape which is primarily grown on the eastern shore of Italy in Abruzzo (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOCG) and Marche (Conero, Rosso Conero, Offida).

Both Montepulciano and Sangiovese make excellent wines but they are very different.

Further information:

proper pronunciation for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

a thorough article on the Montepulciano grape.

 

Vintage Charts…how to use them.

3BrunellosMany of us believe that the best wine is the highest rated wine…not necessarily true..

WS_VintageChartWhat do vintage charts mean and how to use them…

Hold (cellar)This wine is not really ready to drink. It will probably be very tannic and require some aging. If you do want to drink it now you should open it up and decant it (pour it into a larger container and swirl it around) then wait a few hours before serving it. This helps the wine soften and open up.

Drinkno explanation needed here.

Drink/Hold– Gets a little more complicated. Whether it will drink well right now depends on the producer, where the grapes were grown and what the weather conditions were like that year.

A real world example using a Wine Spectator vintage chart (app) for one of the greats- Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany, Italy.

2010ScoponeLooking at the chart for the highest rated wine, would indicate that you should buy the 2010. 2010 produced some amazing wines and they are well priced BUT they really aren’t ready (see Hold above). If you want to hold this wine for 5-10 years this would be a great purchase.

 

 

2004IlPatrizieFor a splurge and drinking now, the next highest rated would be 2004. This is what you want! 2004 was an excellent vintage for this wine and they are perfect right now. They may be a little difficult to find and a little pricey, but the search is worth it.

 

 

2005CortePavoneFor value drinking you will need to stay away from the top rated vintages. A good strategy is to look at wines that fall in between 2 great vintages. 2005 was between the high rated vintages of 2004 and 2006. This is what the wine pros buy because they are more readily available and the best buy.

 

Please share your favorite Vintage tips

100% Italian!

While studying for my Italian Wine Professional Certification I put together a list of the known Italian Denominations that are required by law to use 100% of a grape in the wine.

Most wines, around the world, are blended wines so if you want a true expression of any of these Italian grapes look for these Denominations (in bold) on the label:

Piemonte (Piedmont)

Reds

Barbaresco DOCG (100% Nebbiolo)

Barolo DOCG (100% Nebbiolo)

Diano d’Alba DOCG (100% Dolcetto)

Dogliani DOCG (100% Dolcetto)

Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore/Ovada DOCG (100% Dolcetto)

Dolcetto d’Alba DOC (100% Dolcetto)

Dolcetto d’Asti DOC (100% Dolcetto)

Dolcetto d’Aqcui DOC (100% Dolcetto)

Nizza DOCG (100% Barbera)

Whites

Asti DOCG (100% Moscato)

Erbaluce di Caluso / Caluso DOCG (100% Erbaluce)

Gavi (di Gavi) DOCG (100% Cortese)

 

Toscana (Tuscany)

Reds

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (100% Sangiovese)

Rosso di Montalcino DOC (100% Sangiovese)

 

Basilicata

Reds

Aglianico del Vulture Superiore DOCG (100% Aglianico)

Aglianico del Vulture DOC (100% Aglianico)

 

Puglia

Red

Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale DOCG (100% Primitivo)

 

Umbria

Red

Sagrantino Montefalco DOCG (100% Sagrantino)

 

Veneto

White (dessert/sparkling)

Recioto di Gambellara DOCG (100% Garganega)

 

PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF I MISSED ANY SO I CAN KEEP THE LIST UPDATED…

 

 

Summer wine pairing

pesto_roseOne of my favorite (easy) fresh summer appetizers is Basil Cream Cheese pesto with tomatoes.

The fancy version involves making an “X” shape in the end of a cherry tomato and stuffing the tomato with the pesto filling.

I prefer to spread it on grilled bread and top with chopped fresh garden tomatoes to make bruschetta.

Pesto_ingredientsHere is my version of this summer favorite:

8-12 basil leaves (around 2 cups)

2 or 3 cloves garlic (depending on size)

1/4 c. pine nuts (toasted preferably)

1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

6 oz. low fat cream cheese (or Neuchâtel preferably)

1/2 c. Olive Oil

Pulse all solid ingredients together in a food processor while drizzling olive oil into the mixture. Blend until smooth.

Brush fresh bread with olive oil and grill or broil.

Spread pesto mix onto bread, top with chopped tomatoes and extra cheese if desired.

Enjoy with a low-tannin light red, or rosé wine.

IRDC_LaSpinettaMy wine pairing suggestion is a pink Sangiovese like this one. Il Rosé di Casanova- La Spinetta. Around $15.

#Super Bowl XLVII- BEER vs. WINE

I rarely drink wine at live sporting events.
Wine doesn’t taste great in plastic bottles and cups.  And it just doesn’t feel right.

In the privacy of your home you should drink what you want, but wines are sometimes a better match with food. Try it for yourself, beer vs. wine,  with your favorite Super Bowl dishes.

 If you normally drink lager beer…

(Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois), you are drinking beers that are light bodied, bright and crisp.

Similar white wines would be Pinot Grigio (from Northern Italy), or Sauvignon Blanc (try the Loire Valley, French version). Drink with Chips and Dip!

If you want to try some reds look for low tannin, fresh acid wines like Barbera or Beaujolais (not Nouveau, please). Great with Doritos!

Summer ale (Sam Adams) or Belgian White (Blue Moon) is your thing?

Try white wines with more aromatics like Albariño (Rías Baixas, Spain) or Torrontés (Argentina).

For a slightly more aromatic red you may like a chilled Tempranillo (Rioja/Ribera del Duero), or unoaked Sangiovese.
All great with nachos or chili!

Hefeweizen (wheat) beer fan?

For whites, try Gewürztraminer from Alsace, France. Gewürz (guh-vorts) for short, is spicy and can be dry, or have a little sweetness. Perfect with asian flavored chicken wings.

Another option is Zweigelt, a funky, spicy, but floral red from Austria.

IPA (hop) head?

You might want to try the New Zealand (Marlborough) style of Sauvignon Blanc, grassy with Juicy Fruit (the gum) flavors. Another white wine option is Chenin Blanc (French, not South African) if you want a fuller bodied wine.

“Go to” reds could include Cabernet Franc or Carmenere from Chile.
Also great with chili!

For traditional Ales/Stoudts…

Since they are full bodied there are only a few whites for you, Viognier (northern Rhone, France) or oaked Chardonnay (Burgundy, France).

On the red side, go big or go home! You would probably enjoy full bodied reds like Aglianico (Italy) or Australian Shiraz.
Save these wines for the main course…

For some of my other “Super Bowl” favorites see previous recommendations:

Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLVI

 

As always, please let me know what you think…

Why don’t Americans drink Chianti?

I recently attended the launch of the Slow Wine Guide as well as the Italian Wine Masters class on Tuscan wines.

One of the wines that we tasted and discussed, was Chianti.

Forget everything you know about straw basket Chianti. The main grape of Chianti, Sangiovese, with it’s high aciditiy, produces some of the most affordable, food friendly, versatile wines that I enjoy.

Also, because Chianti can be made in so many styles you are sure to find one that suits your tastes.

So why don’t we drink Chianti, more often? STRAW BASKETS!

It is probably due to Americans past negative experiences with Chianti…

1. Originally the laws for making red wine in Chianti were very restrictive:

•  Wines needed to include a white grape, Malvasia (they don’t anymore)

•  Producers had to match the “recipe” or established percentage of each grape set in the mid 19th Century (now vast improvements have been made by winemakers)

2. Quality of wine exported to the United States was not very good. Producers focused on quantity, for exports, and kept the best wines for the local market (Italians)

3. The main grape, Sangiovese, doesn’t grow well outside of Italy so we are not as familiar with it as we are with other California staples like Cabernet and Merlot.

NEW, IMPROVED Chianti… On to the wines

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