February 25, 2013
I'd like to talk about an Italian Red (what a surprise) and for the first and probably only time, some white wines. The Italian Red is called a Carmignano. Carmignano is a wine region (and city) in Tuscany, not too far from Florence. Carmignano wine was the original "Super Tuscan" wine before that term actually came into existence due to its mixing of Sangiovese with Cabernet dating back to the 18th century. There's an interesting history dating back to the Middle Ages that I won't go into but it's worth a Google if you got nothing better to do some rainy day. Anyway, it is one of the lesser known DOCG wines in Italy and not as easy to find even though it has been around such a long time. Carmignano is a dry red containing a blend of at least 50% Sangiovese and then including a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, and Canniolo Nero (up to 20% each). It is a medium-bodied wine with a nice dark red color, fruity and very smooth to drink. It pairs with many foods but especially with pasta (red or pesto sauce), veal, cheeses and red meat as well. Depending on the blend of the Cabernet's it can also be a fuller-bodied wine too. My favorite wine is called Piaggia Riserva, produced by Mario Vanucci. Cost varies around $28-$38 a bottle. Other producers are Ambra and Cappezzana, both around $27ish a bottle. The wine stores well too but probably should be drunk within 10 years. So, I highly recommend you give it a try if you can find a bottle, you won't be disappointed. I had it with a veal parmigiano a few weeks ago and it was an awesome pairing.
The white wines I'd like to mention are from the Avellino region of Italy (where my ancestors hail from). They are Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. As you may know I don't often drink white so my repertoire is limited but these wines are different from your typical Californian wines and I find them great with seafood on occasion when I don't want a red. I find the Greco to be a little more dry than the Fiano but both are fruity. The Fiano is also a bit heartier and can be held 3-5 years. The producer I like is Feudi do San Gregorio and the wines are priced in the high teens ($). (Feudi also makes a great Aglianico which I've written about before). So if you want to try something different than your basic California Chard, give the Italians a try.
September 4, 2012
"Wines and Notes From Piedmont"
It's been about 2 weeks since we returned from Italy, so the taste of great wines is still fresh on my mind (and palate) though fading. We had so many great meals that I don't even know how to describe them. Fresh pastas, fish, risotto, pesto sauces, red sauces, Bolognese, etc.. I was trying to decide what to talk about since we tasted and drank so many wines including Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello, Vino Nobile, Chianti, various Rosso's and Amarone. On the white side we tried Moscato, Prosecco and Vernaccia from San Gimignano. We also tried a new afternoon drink called Spizzzissimo, which I predict could become a big hit here in the States (more on that in Part 2). So I thought I'd just impart a few thoughts and things we learned from the overall experience. Hopefully it adds some value. Since there is a lot I'd like to mention I will do this in 2 notes with another following later this week.
Barolo and Barbaresco
The two big B's of Piedmont are some of the best produced Reds in Italy. I've written about both these wines in prior notes which you can find on my website at www.forzainvestment.com under the Italian Wine Tips heading. There were many recent great years including outstanding years for 2006 and 2007. The '07 Barbaresco is one its best years with the '06 Barolo getting the nod there. Since we drove through Piedmont in one afternoon, we only stopped at 2 vineyards for tastings. Both of which are available here in the US and are very affordable wines. First was Damilano. They produce almost everything Piedmontese including Dolcetto, Barbera, Barolo and Nebbiolo - and of course, Grappa. We tasted their whole lineup and were impressed with almost all of their wines. Our second stop was at Marchesi di Barolo, one of the most famous producers. We primarily stuck to tasting their Barolo and Barbaresco wines as they make several different varieties of these at varying price points.
Our notes and thoughts:
First, though we don't drink a lot of whites, the Vernaccia of San Gimignano is one of Italy's finest and oldest whites. It is a golden-colored, medium-full bodied, dry white that pairs well with fish and other somewhat mild meals. If you like white wine, give it a try. Also, the Moscato wine is a sweeter wine that is great for Poolside on hot days as well as pre- or post- meal.
Barbarescos tend to open after 6-7 years and peak 8-12 years, though wines from good vintages can last 20+. So now you should be drinking wines dated around 2000-2005.
Barolos are highly tannic and could take up to 10 years to open, but will last much longer.Best years are 2001, 06, 07 although 99, 00, and 04, 05 also excellent. 2002 was a tough year in most of Italy and normally stay away from it. To really appreciate a hearty Barolo, you should be opening wines around 2003,4 and older. The 2008 vintage is going to be another 90+ point vintage and 2009 also is looking promising.
Barbera is the third B wine and is the everyday table wine. Great bargains are to buy a Barbera of the great vintages as your table wine. They can last several years but are often meant to be drunk within 3-5 or so years. Buy the Barbera's now for 2008-2009 years to get a "heads up" on the coming releases of Barolo. Dolcetto wines are meant to be drunk very young and are another excellent table wine. They are not to be aged.
Barbarescos are aged at least 9-mos in wood with Barolo requiring at least 18-mos. A Barolo Riserva is only made in the best years and spends at least 5 years aging before release while a Barbaresco Riserva spends a year less.
Damilano wines are generally rated 88-94 points by various publications, with the Barolo getting high ratings so they are good quality and affordable.
We favored the Damilano Riserva 2000 which we brought back with us.
A great bargain is the Marchesi di Barolo Riserva Barbaresco or Barolo. Usually very highly rated, they can often be found in older vintages here for reasonable prices. I highly recommend you pick up some bottles, usually under $50.
In general, the Canubi vineyards of Barolo producers are considered "cru" class as is the Brunate vineyard. They will cost a bit more but are the best quality.
We noted that the wines aged in small French Barrique barrels will have a distinctive Oak smell and wood taste. If you are not an Oak fan, find the wines aged in larger wood barrels called Slavonian oak. Many producers will age in both, starting the aging in the larger barrels and finishing in Barrique.
Both wines can stand up to hearty meals with the Barbaresco a bit less dense than the Barolo. I had it with a dish of Trout in a red sauce that was outstanding. Check this out, the sauce was with tomato, mushroom, black olive, baby shrimp and clams. Ridiculous! So go out and enjoy some Piedmontese wines. Fall and winter are great times to be drinking hearty redsand the Barolo fits the bill. Grill up a great steak or Veal steak or Veal chop, or try it with a Bolognese sauce. For a hearty but medium-bodied wine, try a Barbaresco.
Later this week I'll send out Part 2 which includes Brunello and Vino Nobile.
June 25, 2012
"SECRETS FROM THE ITALIAN WINE CELLAR - PART 2"
I apologize for taking so long to get Part 2 of our favorite Italian wines out to you. I tried to limit them to wines I am sure you can find in most wines stores, especially here in NJ. In Part 1 I talked about Tuscan wines. Today I'd like to cover other parts of Italy including the Piedmont area. Piedmont is home to the great wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as the smaller wines Barbera and Dolcetto. Most of the producers I will mention make all 4 of these wines, so if you don't want to pay-up for the bigger wines, buy the Barbera or Dolcetto from the same producer. We are value shoppers when it comes to expensive wines. I like to find Barolos and Barbarescos in the $35-$55 range. You don't have to pay big prices but sometimes it pays to pickup 2 bottles.
(Note: When buying somewhat more expensive wines, try to buy at least 2 so you can save the 2nd for a special occasion if you really like the first:)
Roberto's (& Anna Maria) Favorite Italian Wines:
Barolo - Produced from the Nebbiolo grape, it is often considered Italy's greatest wine. Recall that these are full-bodied, big, tannic, earthy wines dark in color and great with hearty meals - especially steaks, read sauces and dry aged cheeses. Barolos really need to age at least 7 years but can last up to 30+ years in many instances. These wines need the extra years in the bottle to mature and mellow. So you need to collect these now for drinking later. Fortunately, there are a lot of great years to choose from. Most recently 2006, 2007 are spectacular - above even the equally great 2004,5 vintages. I suggest you buy-up anything from 2004-2007 now and lay them down for a few years. Other than 2002, the years 1996-2001 were all great years really ('97 and '01 the tops). I will list our favorites in a second. Another thing to consider is that often the producers have different versions of Barolo with varying price points. So you might see for instance, Marchesi di Barolo, one of our faves, with wines ranging from the $50's to over $100. We bought most of ours years ago before the prices started skyrocketing. The big producers like Voerzo and Gaja are several hundred dollars a bottle. Our other favorites that are more affordable include (these are all 90+ point producers):
Barbaresco - Also made from the Nebbiolo grape, these wines are a bit more versatile but also not quite as full-bodied. They are aged a year less than a Barolo (minimum of 2 years with at least 1 in oak). You can drink them 5-10 years after vintage but can last 20+ years. Often an elegant wine it pairs well with rich full foods like lamb, beef, stew, mushroom sauces and dry aged cheeses. Some producers have stopped making Barbaresco and now make a Langhe which allows the producer to blend other grapes with the Nebbiolo. Our favorite affordable Barbaresco wines are:
Barbera andDolcetto - These are the more affordable everyday wines made from the Piedmont region. There are many good producers so go to a store and just try them out. You can find many of these wines from $10-$20. The Dolcetto is meant to be drunk very young and not aged. Along with the producers I mentioned above other good producers of these wines we like are:
Aglianico - As a reminder (see my Feb 6th wine notes) Aglianico is an Italian red wine based on the Aglianico grape and produced in the Basilicata region of Italy (near Potenza and east of Naples). One of my personal favorite table wines, it goes great with many dishes. Cost is reasonable often at $14-$20 a bottle and many restaurants carry decent bottles too. The 3 we most often buy are (in order of preference):
OK, I'll stop here and give you some time to digest (or imbibe) this information. I hope you can get out and try a few of these wines. Again, let me know if you get to taste any and what you think.
This Week as promised, I have an Italian wine tip. I'd like to talk about Primitivo wines.
Primitivo is a dark-skinned grape variety used from the Puglia region of deepest southern Italy. It is perhaps better known under its American synonym Zinfandel, which has become one of the most widely planted vinifera vines in the western United States. Thus it has some spice and earthy tones to it.
A classic Primitivo wine is high in both alcohol and tannins, intensely flavored and deeply colored. It does need to age a few years in bottle or barrel. The flavor of Primitivo reds vary somewhat depending upon growing conditions; wines from cooler climates have a light fruity flavor, while wines from warmer districts offer a more peppery taste. Good pairings for a Primitivo include spicy seafood dishes, lamb, Pizza with toppings and cheeses like Taleggio, Asiago, Jack or Goat.
So Primitivo may not be your typical everyday wine, but for a change of pace I suggest you give it a try. To make some fun out of it, taste it alongside your favorite Zinfindel for a comparison.
March 19, 2012
Barbera di Alba & Barbera di Asti
I can't believe I haven't talked about two of my favorite and most versatile wines yet -- Barbera di Asti andBarbera di Alba. Made from the Barbera grape in Piedmont, the same locale from where we get Dolcetto as well as the great Barolo and Barbaresco, these 2 wines are very similar but different at the same time. The towns of Alba and Asti stand only about 10 miles apart and are two beautiful ancient villages with long traditions. Barbera is the 2nd or 3rd most produced grape variety in Italy, so the wines are abundant and easy to find. The wines are very fruity, dark in color, generally aged in oak for some time and very smooth. They can be drunk soon after a vintage is released or aging for a few years is preferred. Barbera is a great everyday wine and whether you get an Asti or Alba, they both tend to be consistently good. They pair well with many everyday foods including pizza, pasta, tomato-based dishes, meats and soft or aged cheeses. Alba wines tend to be fuller-bodied with less acidity while Asti is lighter-bodied with tarter fruit flavors and more acidity. Look for some aged in Oak to get a fuller flavor. The wines are priced to sell ranging from $12 - $20 generally. You can also pay up for a bottle to get more aging potential and refinement, although I admit I have never really found the need to pay more than $25. So grab a bottle of each and do your own taste test!
February 6, 2012
Today I’d like to tell you about another one of my favorite versatile wines – Aglianico (for you non-Italians it is pronounced “ahh-lee-ahn-ico”. It is also known as a Taurasi – this is a region where typically some of the better Aglianico wines are produced.
Aglianico is an Italian red wine based on the Aglianico grape and produced in the Basilicata region of Italy (near Potenza and east of Naples). It’s a beautiful dark Purple color and is medium to full-bodied. There are many Aglianicos that can be drunk within 2-3 years but they age well and the top wines can be aged up to 20 years. I like drinking them when they are 4-5 years old if you can find them. They are reasonably priced and there are many producers selling around $14-$18 per bottle. I think it pairs well with all kinds of meats, pasta with red sauce and other hearty and spicier dishes. You can even try it with Chili! Two good producers are Feudi San Gregorio and Irpinia. Feudi also make some great white wines as well and a high end Aglianico called “Serpico” that is great if you can afford it. So give it a try and let me know what you think.
December 19, 2012
Sagrantino di Montefalco & Dolcetto
Today you get 2 tips for the price of one - free; a higher-end wine and an everyday wine.
In the medium to high-end, one of my favorite Italian wines is said to be the best red wine you never heard of -- Sagrantino de Montefalco. Although a little pricier ($25-$60), it is a wine you can buy and put down for a few years before it really opens up and matures. Sagrantino is made in the Umbria region of Italy from 100% Sagrantino grapes and it was thought it would become as popular as Brunello. However, other than in restaurants it hasn’t quite caught on here in the US. If you have a special occasion and want a dry, ruby red, big, full bodied wine with great fruit that goes great with meats, fowl and hearty pasta with a red sauce -- pick-up a Sagrantino. Also goes well with mature cheeses. Arnoldo Caprai is the premier producer and makes the pricier wines but the highest rated ($50+). Colpetrone makes a wine in the $23-$30 range that is also very good. The wine should probably be at least 5 years old to open up (but preferably closer to 10+ years old if you can find and afford them). Pick one up for your Christmas meal and you won't be disappointed!For an everyday wine that can be drunk young, try a Dolcetto. This red wine is meant to be drunk while it is young so you can drink the current releases. The wine is light, dry and fruity with a dark red color and goes great with pizza and tomato-based pasta, game, pork, Italian hams and cheeses. Also, it can be paired with spicy Mexican and Chinese. Why not? Cost is $11-$18 per bottle. Dolcetto di Asti or di Alba. There are many good producers.
November 14, 2011
Good Wines to Pair with Pizza:
Looking for a good wine that pairs well with Pizza? Pizza has a lot of flavors going on so other than beer which goes with everything, a good red is sometimes hard to find. Well fear no more. A 100% Sangiovese wine from Tuscany goes great with Pizza. Also, from the Piedmont region look for a Dolcetto di Alba or Dolcetto di Asti. Both these wines can be drunk "young", only a few years old, right after release. There are many good producers and you should only have to spend between $10-$15 for a nice bottle.
So you ask, what is a money manager doing giving Italian wine tips? Well, growing up as an Italian American, I came to love Italian wines and all the great foods you can eat with them. I've been fortunate to have visited Italy a number of times and my wife and I have been collecting (and drinking) Italian Reds for many years. So, I thought I'd have a little fun by occasionally recommending some of our favorite Italian wine varietals. I hope you find the tips useful. Check back frequently as I will update the page as often as I can. Feel free to leave me a comment or story about your favorite wines. I'll never turn down an opportunity to try a wine:) Also, if you are looking to visit Italy, see our recommendation to the left of where to stay in Tuscany. Ciao!
- Bob Centrella, CFA
For an authentic, beautiful Tuscan villa to stay at in the heart of Tuscany, please consider Relais Ortaglia in Montepulciano. We've stayed here many times. Click below to see the website of this beautiful villa. New Villa owners Sandy and Phil will make you feel like family. Mention that Bob Centrella referred you and ask for a 10% discount on the room rates!
July 8, 2013
"Refreshing Italian Summer "Spreetz" recipe"
Below is a recipe for a great and refreshing Italian Spritz.
Spritz is a refreshing drink that is commonly served in the northern part of Italy, especially in Venice, which had influence from the Austrian Empire. Many Venetian towns had their own specific version of this drink. In the last decade, the Aperol Spritz with Prosecco has become the most popular type served in Italy. To date, this drink is hardly known in the United States
The Spritz cocktail is drunk all day in Italy in their cafe shops, ostari, and in bakeries. Because this drink is low in alcohol, it is a great way to start your meal, as it is a digestive drink that whets the appetite. It;s also a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.
In Venice, it is simply called a “spreetz.” Making the Aperol Spritz is very easy to make, and it is also worth experiments with to determine proportions that suit your taste.
Ice Cubes (approximately 3 or 4 ice cubes)
2 to 3 ounces Prosecco or any sparkling wine
1 1/2 ounces Aperol*
Splash of soda water, sparkling water, mineral water, or Club Soda
Orange wedge or slice
Green Olive (optional)
*There are also recipes that use Campari or other types of bitters
Our friends in Tuscany at www.ortaglia.it introduced us to the drink. They also represent a bottled version that can be found in NYC called "Veneziano" that is a sprizzissimo. Give either version a try and I'm sure you will enjoy it. (By the way, if you ever decide to stay at Ortaglia in Montepulciano, mention my name and get 10% off room rates.)
September 17, 2012
"Wines and Notes from Tuscany"
Dear Fellow Wine Enthusiasts,
With all the action in the financial markets that has taken place in the last 2 weeks I thought it was a good time to pause and send out the second of my two wine notes from our recent trip to Italy. I tried to make it more value-add rather than a recap of our trip, though I included some specifics in case any of you find yourselves in Tuscany.I've also included a few photos from our stops.
Following are some random thoughts on our trip through Tuscany and about some wine info we learned that I'd like to share. We spent a day driving through Montalcino and 5 nights in Tuscany staying at Relais Ortaglia(www.ortaglia.it) in Montepulciano. As I mentioned before, we highly recommend a stay here. It is a cozy villa nestled in a vineyard a short hop away from the picturesque hill town. If you want to go, tell the owners Terenzio and Mara that I recommended you and they will give you a 10% discount on their published rates! Regardless, they will always treat you like family and I guarantee you will fall in love with the place. We've been there 8 times already! Montepulciano is our family's favorite stop in Tuscany with great food, wines, shopping and sights.Although the most produced wine in Tuscany is Chianti, for me the best wines are the Brunello di Montalcino and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I've also written about these wines in prior notes. (Page-down for all of the notes.)
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO
We started our adventure in Montalcino and had a great tour and tasting at Poggio Antico, makers of a great Brunello. They also have a beautiful Ristorante which was closed for renovation unfortunately. We sampled their Rosso and Brunello wines and some of the Grappa too. The wines are available here in the US and are excellent quality. I especially like the Riserva but their 2007 Altero Brunello was a show-stopper.(rated 97 points by WS). The wines are a little more on the expensive side but this is one of the top producers in Montalcino.
While driving across the hills to lunch we came across a find - Tenuta di Collosorbo. A beautiful property set back from Sant'Antimo, the wines were tremendous. Aside from making an outstanding Brunello, we thought their table wines were some of the best values we came across. If we could, we would have shipped cases home of their Terrarossa and Ciacci Rosso wines which were priced near only 10-12 Euro per bottle. We did bring home a few Brunellos though including a '04 and '06 Riserva. The Brunello wines would retail here for around $40-$50.
Speaking of lunch, we ate at a quaint place in Sant'Angelo in Colle called IL Leccio. Attached is a picture of 2 of the dishes we had. They were so colorful and delicious I had to take a picture. We also enjoyed a Rosso from another producer we like, Col D'Orcia. They make a great Brunello and a Super Tuscan. The Brunello is under $50. (Below are our pasta dishes from Il Leccio.
We finished our tastings at Casanova di Neri, probably our favorite Brunello producer and one of the best in Montalcino. Each year they produce some very highly-rated wines and their 2006 Tenuta Nuova ($100, single vineyard) is awesome and was rated 100 points by Wine Spectator! The 2007 was rated 95-97 points. Needless to say we found a way to stuff a few wines in our suitcases. These wines are priced higher her in the US but their normale Brunello is under $50 and always delicious.
For Brunello, the 2006 and 2007 vintages are considered up to par by some experts with the great 1997 vintage. The 2007 is the current release. You should definitely buy some of these vintages and put them down for the future. They will age great. We have several 97's and they are tasting great right now.
During our tastings we also learned that the 2009 Brunello will be a 4-star vintage and the 2010 will be excellent. Buy the Rosso di Montalcino now of these years to get the same grapes from which the Brunello are made. The Rosso is usually < $20.
Beyond the Montalcino tastings, we did a lot of "research" in Tuscany on the food, wines and yes, Grappa. In Montepulciano we drank the famous Vino Nobile wine. Vino Nobile is made from the Sangiovese grape (as is Brunello) and is too often confused with Montepulciano d' Abruzzo which is more of a table wine. THESE ARE NOT THE SAME WINES. Vino Nobile is higher quality, is one of the oldest red wines ever produced in Italy and there are many excellent producers.
Vino Nobile is aged for a minimum of 24 months (36 for Riserva) including at least 12 months in large oak barrels.The small Barrique barrels that are popular in making Brunello are actually prohibited in making Vino Nobile. The wine is usually a maroon color and ages well, between 8-15 years the sweet spot.
Our Villa was located on a vineyard and the owner belongs to a consortium that uses the grapes. Crociani is a wine he represents and their Vino Nobile is an excellent value and good quality.
Other Vino Nobile producers we tasted and liked include Poliziano, Avignonesi, Valdipiatta, Villa Sant'Anna and Fattoria del Cerro. I would buy any of these producers without hesitation.
Some other tidbits:
A popular drink in Italy that is usually consumed between 4pm and 6pm especially when it is warm out is a Spritz. A Spritz is a carbonated beverage with an aperitif such as Campari or Aperol combined with Prosecco or soda water. A new drink being shipped to American coasts now is called "Sprizzzissimo". You can drink is straight from the bottle or combine with a little Prosecco. Either way, it is very refreshing and I'm predicting that it could become very popular here in the US. So Google the Sprizzzissimo and give it a try.
Regarding Amarone, it was interesting to find out that almost all Amarone years are good due to the process of making the wine. Because the grapes are dried when making the wine, the producers are less subject to weather conditions. (Although the rains of 2002 affected the Amarone too like much of Italy.) Due to the high sugar content, the wines also age very well.Finally I must end by talking about our closing BBQ in Montepulciano at our villa at Ortaglia. We went thru 7 wines including a 1982 Barolo which held up great, 1990 & 1991 Chiantis, 2005 Amarone, and a more recent Ripasso and other 2 other Red table wines. Quite a night and of course we finished it off with Grappa and Nocino. Nocino is a homemade sweet walnut liqueur that is drunk as a digestivo after the meal. If you've never had it, you don't know what you are missing!
Some of the wines we drank at our villa in Tuscany are available in NYC at BottleRocket. If you are interested, let me know and I can recommend a few to try.
OK, that's a lot to read and think about. Give some of these wines a try if you can find them and please let me know what you think.
June 4, 2012
"Our favorite Italian Wines from Tuscany"
I have listed below some of our favorite Italian Wines. I know here in NJ these wines can be found at many of the wine shops. I can't vouch for other states. If you do find and try them, please let me know what you think.
Roberto (& Anna Maria's) Favorite Italian Wines:
This week I will cover the wines my wife and I like to drink and that we have collected in the past. Next week we'll travel thru other parts of Italy. We love all the Italian wines so it was hard to choose, but these are definitely some of our faves.
Remember that when buying any wine, knowing the year is about as important as knowing the producer. Weather plays a big part in the quality of a wine each year. (Btw, if you can find a 1997 of anything, buy it! It was one of the best years ever in Tuscany. They are drinking great right now as we happen to have a few...)
Brunello - Since this wine has become immensely popular there are many great producers at prices ranging from the mid $20's but more likely $mid 30's and much higher. I will list just a few that we have visited and really enjoy. The wines I list below are priced in the $40's - $70 range. You can also get their Rosso di Montalcino at a much lower price.
These are aged less but the grapes are usually from the same vineyard and the cost is generally in the $20's. (Again, the 2000's other than 2002 were good years. 2001 & 2004 were excellent years and 2006,07 will also be excellent years).
Super Tuscan - These wines are most often expensive although we have found more that are very reasonable of late. Although the Sassacaia and Ornellaia are great wines and highly rated, I won't list them because they just cost too much. But if you can get a bottle, go for it. Better yet, take a client to dinner and pay up! (Years are similar to Brunello.)
Give a few a try and let me know your thoughts. Next week I'll hit on some other areas of Italy as we continue the wine tour:)
Note 1: Both DOC and DOCG wines refer to zones which are more specific than an IGT, and the permitted grapes are also more specifically defined. The DOC system began in 1963, seeking to establish a method of both recognizing quality product and maintaining the international and national reputation of that product. The main difference between a DOC and a DOCG is that the latter must pass a blind taste test for quality in addition to conforming to the strict legal requirements to be designated as a wine from the area in question.
February 27, 2012
The Mighty Brunello di Montalcino (and Rosso di Montalcino) Brunello di Montalcino, alongside Chianti is arguably the most prestigious of all Italian wines. The wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown in Montalcino - a classic Tuscan hilltop village 20 miles (30km) south of Siena. There are many types of Sangiovese grapes grown throughout Italy. Brunello translates roughly as 'little dark one', and is the local vernacular name for Sangiovese Grosso, the large-berried form of Sangiovese which grows around Montalcino. I've been fortunate enough to be in Montalcino several times and have never been disappointed either with the wines or the beauty of the countryside and the town itself. There are so many great Brunello wines that I hesitate to even mention any by name because for every one that I like you will find 2 more that you might like better. Brunellos should be aged and drunk after at least about 5 years, more like 10+ years. We have some 1995-1997 Brunello that still taste fantastic. There have been a lot of highly rated vintages with the 2004 being one of the great ones most recently. My advice if you want to pay-up and buy some Brunello is to look for the 2004 and buy them up. The 2006 which should be released this year is also going to be a great vintage. Going back a few years, 2001 was one of the greatest ever. Stay away from 2002 as Italy had a lot of rain and the wines in Montalcino were not very good that year. Unfortunately, since the wine is so popular and ages so well, it tends to cost more. The prices range all over the board but you can find great wines in the $40-$60 range (try online). You can also find some decent Brunellos in the $25-$35 range on sale. Just be careful of the year you buy. 2003 and 2005 were decent years (rated 88-89 points) too.
If you can't afford a Brunello, try its baby brother -- Rosso di Montalcino. The Rosso is aged less than half the time but is generally made from the same grapes. It can be drunk a little younger and tends to cost in the $16 - $22 range.
So what makes the Brunello so good? First, it is aged in oak and then not released for at least 4 years. This time in the barrel gives it that big, bold taste but not overpowering. Another reason why it cost more. For me, it is the big fruit flavor that I like so much and its deep purple color. It goes great with hearty pasta with red sauce, steaks and especially veal. For a cheese, try something a little stronger like a parmgiano reggiano, asiago, pecorino, gouda or provolone. I've also had it with fresh, soft mozzarella. Drizzle some Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a bowl, add a little basil and pepper and you can dip away with your Italian bread and cheese and feel like you are in the Italian countryside. Mamma mia, tutto buono!!
December 5, 2011
One of my favorite Italian red wines is an Amarone. Amarone and its cousins Valpolicella and Ripasso comefrom the Veneto region of Italy, also known for the white wine Suove and Prosecco. One of the problems with Amarone is that it is also a bit expensive. Usually a good bottle will be upwards of $40 and more like $50+. Great producers will cost quite a bit more. But there is a way to get the taste of an Amarone at a better price point and that is by buying a Ripasso. In a nutshell, Valpolicella is the everyday wine, cheaper and very average in my book. The Valpo Classico Superiore is a few steps higher and pairs well with lighter foods such as pizza, pasta and even fish and chicken. The Amarone is made by letting the grapes grow longer so they ripen more and then letting the grapes dry for 3-5 months before crushing. This produces a full bodied wine that is higher in alcohol and often spicy and raisiny. Amarones are aged about 5 years before they are sold. They go great with hearty dishes, steaks, cured meats and especially with a Bolognese sauce. The Ripasso is in-between the two wines. It is made by taking Valpolicella Classico wine and allowing it to ferment in the Amarone pomace for 2 weeks. This way you get a baby Amarone and for half the cost. So, for $20-$30 you can almost get the taste of an Amarone. Goes great with game, roast pork and mature cheeses. So go out and enjoy a nice Ripasso or splurge for an Amarone. Btw, Amarones can age for many many years.
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