Monday, September 29, 2008

Statti Gaglioppo (2006) Calabria

This wine is why I think Italian wines are so great; a delicious red from a place few people have heard of, made from a grape known by fewer still. The 2006 Statti Gaglioppo hails from Calabria, the sun baked “toe” of the Italian boot. Calabria is one of the 20 regions of Italy who in total, produce hundreds of different varietals, most of them limited to a very small geographical area of production. The Gaglioppo is just such a grape. Suspected of being related to an ancient Greek varietal or the Sicilian Frappato, the Gaglioppo is well adapted to the exceedingly hot and dry conditions in Calabria. The 2006 Statti Gaglioppo is 100% Gaglioppo (read: not tainted with any other grapes you never heard of). The Statti estate, owned by Alberto and Antonio Statti, is over 500 hectares in size, making it one of the largest in the region. Besides growing indigenous varietals (Gaglioppo and Mantonico, a white grape used in sweet nectars) they produce olive oil, grow vegetables and raise livestock. Fermented and aged in stainless, the wine has an intense ruby red color and a strong nose of cherries and spice. Fruit-bombish in taste, but at the same time, softly tannic. Beautifully textured mouth feel; nice smooth finish. Well worth the trouble to find. I look forward to trying more wines from this region.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bivio Tuscan Red IGT (2006) Tuscany

Nothing super about this Super-Tuscan. A blend of 65% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot from Bivio, a partnership of 585 Wine Partners of Sonoma (best known for their Picket Fence and Red Truck wines) and Gruppo Italiano Vini (GIV). Bivio’s Italia Range includes a Chianti, a Tuscan Red, and the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio. A statement from one of their press releases reads as follows: “The wines will feature bright, colorful labels in a palette evocative of their country of origin. With a reference to both classic and contemporary Italy, the labels depict a stylized image of an Italian scooter and an iconic shield reminiscent of Italian racecars.” What?!?! Clearly more time was spent on the label then on the wine. I found the 2006 Tuscan Red to be almost Smuckers-like in its jammy fruitiness, with a nose and color of cherry jello. Luckily, the wine has a short finish so you aren’t subjected to it for very long. My seventy-nine year old father, who enjoys wine by mixing his “under the sink” red with Diet Squirt (a.k.a. “A Big Shot”), found the wine to be “sweet”. That’s “sweet” as in “yuck”, not “sweeeeeeet”.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Paitin Sori Paitin Barbaresco (2000) Piemonte

A beautifully perfumed Barbaresco from a venerable Piemontese winemaker. The history of this winemaker borders on the ridonkulous; a few historical highlights: The farmstead and vineyards were purchased by Benedetto Elia in 1796 (Napoleon and Josephine were married); their first Barbaresco was bottled in 1893 (Columbian Exposition in Chicago); they began exporting wine in 1898 (Remember the Maine!). 212 years after its founding, the estate is now run by Secondo Pasquero-Elia, along with his sons Giovanni and Silvano. 2000 was a great year in Piemonte (George Bush was elected President??!!) and the 2000 Sori Paitin, with its elegant ripe tannins, does not disappoint. The wine is 100% Nebbiolo that has a beautiful garnet red color and characteristic orange rim. The wine receives nearly two years of aging; 60% in Slavonian oak casks and 40% in French oak barriques, which give it a wonderful soft, round finish. I enjoyed this wine with Mario Batali's Garganelli al Ragu d'Anatra. ( I used chicken thighs in the recipe because my daughter, due to her beliefs regarding animal cruelty, will not eat anatra.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sandrone Barbera d' Alba (2004) Piemonte

A ordinarily simple wine becomes sublime at the hands of winemaker extraordinaire Luciano Sandrone. Since the late 1970's, the former cellarman and his brother Luca have been making some of the worlds finest wines (particularly their Barolo's) on 63 acres of vineyards located in the best part of the Langhe and Roero. Experts like Parker and Galloni consider Sandrone's Barolos to be marvels; soft and approachable when young, yet capable of substantial aging. The grapes for his Barbera come from three different vineyards; two in Novello and one Monforte d' Alba. The grapes are vinified separately in steel fermentors. Maloactic fermentation and 12 months of aging take place in 500 liter French oak barrels (20 -25% new). The wine receives an additional 9 months of aging in the bottle. Beautiful black fruit on the nose, with a voluptuous, smooth texture and finish. Albeisa bottle.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Senator John McCain’s Goiter - Sub Dermal Protrusion, Italian Wine Lover

In a continuing series on the 2008 Presidential election, The Italian Cellar is pleased to present an exclusive interview with another lover of Italian wine, Senator John McCain’s goiter.

The Italian Cellar: "Senator McCain’s Goiter, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview."

Senator McCain’s Goiter: "It’s a pleasure to be here – and by here, I mean both doing this interview and on the Senator’s face."

TIC: "What first attracted you to Italian wine?"

Sen.McC'sG: "Well, since I am a goiter, I can’t see or smell, so I think I would have to say taste. Because of their wonderful sense of proportion; the balance of fruit, acid and tannin, Italian wines accentuate, rather than dominate the food they’re served with. The regional differences of Italy also impart their nuances on the wine; the heat of Puglia adds spice, the fog of the Langhe helps ripen the plush Nebbiolo. The regional nuances are also reflected in the regional foods; each is blessed by one another’s company. Italian wines are truly unique in this regard."

TIC: "Has Senator McCain had you looked at by a doctor?"

Sen.McC'sG: "I’m asked that all the time. Of course he has; the Senator has been declared fit as any seventy-one year old man with skin cancer and a goiter!"

TIC: "Red or White?"

Sen.McC'sG: "Red, of course!"

TIC: "How does someone not know how many houses they own?"

Sen.McC'sG: "Well… know the words "house" and "own" can be tricky things to define….."

TIC: "Sarah Palin??!!"

Sen.McC'sG: "No comment."

TIC: "Senator McCain’s Goiter; thank you for your time."

Sen.McC'sG: "It was my pleasure."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Primaterra Primitivo (2005) Puglia

An inexpensive, spicy Italian red wine from Primaterra; a funky, young winery from Puglia. Puglia (the sun baked heel of the Italian boot) was formerly a mass producer of bulk wines, but because government subsidies for the large co-ops have been drastically reduced in recent years, the area has been slowly evolving into a producer of better quality bottled wines; particularly their two most popular reds, Negroamaro and Primitivo. The 2006 Primaterra Primitivo is 100% Primitivo, a clone of the California Zinfandel (an American wine that’s one of my favorites) that has a nice spice from the Puglian heat, and a ripe dark fruit nose. A perfect wine for an end of the summer barbeque. 40% of the wine is aged in oak and the remainder is aged in stainless steel. The partial oak aging slightly softens the spice and helps smooth the finish. All of Primaterra’s wines have a cartoon line drawing on the label; the Primitivo has a drawing of a hen laying an egg. Synthetic cork.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Aldo Conterno Dolcetto Masante (2006) Piemonte

A delicious, luxurious, everyday Italian red wine from Poderi Aldo Conterno, whose Barolos consistently rank as some of the finest wines in the world. Their vineyards, located in the heart of the Langhe, enjoy both the choicest soil and exposure. This, coupled with the skill gleaned from five generations of winemaking that both respect tradition and embrace technology, is a recipe for outstanding wine. While Conterno's Barolos are priced beyond everyday enjoyment, their Dolcetto's (and Barbera's) are wines that exhibit all the breeding and talent given to their more expensive cousins. The 2006 Aldo Conterno Dolcetto Masante is full of fruit on the palette (the wine both vinified and aged in stainless steel) and has a long, smooth finish; a wine that is terrific with food or on its own. Albeisa bottle.