Posts tagged ‘alberto longo’
A stunning Franciacorta, some gorgeous 2009 whites and that Vermentino Nero:
Back from another VinItaly and bursting with dozens of beautiful wines I’d like to talk about – and I didn’t even get to taste any wines from Abruzzo, Alto Adige or Sicily. Here are thoughts on a few:
Beautiful 2009 whites
VinItaly has the advantage of being the first major fair of the year where producers sample their newest wines for the press and the public; in the case of the white wines that meant the 2009s for most bottlings. However, this also meant wines that had only been bottled for a week or two, so it’s a bit difficult to reach a final decision on these wines, as they’re not quite all together yet. However, the 2009 whites as a whole showed beautifully, especially from Avellino in Campania and from Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. Among the finest 2009 white wines I tasted were the Alberto Longo Falanghina “Le Fossette” from Puglia; Monte de Grazia Bianco, a blend of local indigenous grapes from the Amalfi Coast including Peppela, Ginestra and Tenera; the Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino “Radici”; the I Clivi Verduzzo Friulano, a dry version of this grape that is normally vinified dry (I Clivi is doing wonderful things with several grapes from their vineyards in Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli – this winery will not be a well-kept secret for long) and the Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon from Collio.
This last estate is managed by Robert Princic, who at 34 years of age has become one of the most important vintners in Collio, a great white wine area. This Sauvignon is a brilliant wine, offering aromas of spearmint, bosc pear and ginger with excellent concentration, a lengthy finish and vibrant acidity. Look for this wine to be at its best in 5-7 years.
Stunning 2008 whites
There are always some exceptional Italian whites that are released a bit later than the normal wines; given the complexity and structure of these wines, they are ideal when they are initially offered some 18 months after the harvest. The finest at this fair included Bastianich “Vespa”, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit from Friuli; the exceptional Grattamacco Vermentino from Bolgheri and the stunning Marisa Cuomo “Fior’duva”. an Amalfi Coast offering made from Ginestra, Ripole and Fenile. This is as lush and as concentrated a version of this wine I have enjoyed and it should once again be in the running for one of the best Italian white wines of the year.
There are just too many wines to try at the fair, so it’s difficult to focus on one category. I didn’t try as many Amarones as I would have liked, but the two best for me were the 2006 Tedeschi “Monte Olmi”, full of ripe cherry fruit and peppery notes and the 2004 “Il Fornetto” from Stefano Accordini. This last wine is a true riserva, produced in only the finest years. This is a robust, full-bodied wine with impeccable balance and is a great Amarone from one of the area’s most dependably consistent producers – one that should be better known.
Yes, you read that right – there is a Vermentino Nero grape that is planted in tiny numbers in Liguria and Tuscany’s western coast. The bottling I tasted is from Cantine Lunae of Liguria, also the home of brillliant examples of Vermentino Bianco.
This is a rosato, as the Vermentino Nero grape does not have the structure to produce a red wine, as the winery’s export manager, Michele Gianazza, explained to me (hope you’re not disappointed, Jeremy). Che un rosato! This has a deep cherry color, aromas of bing cherry, chrysanthemum and mint and finishes very dry. What a pleasure to try this rarity!
A Stunning Dessert Wine from Soave
Ca’Rugate in Soave makes one of the very best examples of Recioto di Soave, the famed DOCG dessert wine of the area. Now comes the 2001 Corte Durlo, an amazing wine, a 100% Garganega made from dried grapes that have been aged in small barrels that have been sealed for seven years. My notes for this wine go on and on; aromas of creme caramel and dried sherry with notes of honey and mandarin orange in the finsh; I think this should drink well for 12-15 years and it could go on for 20 years! This is basically a Vin Santo; however, it is not legal to label the wine this way in Soave, so it is technically a Veneto Bianco Passito. Regardless, this can compare with the finest examples of any dessert wine produced today in Italy.
Matteo Vezzola, Winemaker, Bellavista (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A Brilliant Franciacorta
If I had to name one wine that was my favorite at this year’s best fair, it was the 2002 Bellavista “Vittorio Moretti”. I tasted through the lineup of Gran Cuvée bottlings from this producer and then was asked if I wanted to taste one more wine. When I was told what it was, I had honestly never heard of it; I’m sure I’m not alone as this is only the sixth time this wine has been made in the winery’s 33 year existence. Named for Bellavista’s owner, the wine is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero that was partially barrel fermented. The lip of the bottle has two levels, meaning that the normal crown cap used to seal the bottle ater the first fermentation cannot be implicated here; rather a cork is used and the wine is manually disgorged.
The wine itself is full-bodied, with sublime aromas of yeast, biscuit, quince and dried pear. I told winemaker Matteo Vezzola that while I didn’t mean to compare Franciacorta with Champagne, as they are two different products, that this wine reminded me of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Matteo smiled and said that my comparison was fine with him!
A brilliant wine from a brilliant producer – bravo Matteo!
Planeta Moscato di Noto (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Here is part two of my list of the Best Italian producers of the first decade of the 21st century:
DUCA DI SALAPARUTA
The days when this winery was best known for Corvo white and red are long over. Today, this is one of Italy’s top producers, especially for its glorious red, “Duca Enrico”, which was the first great bottling of Nero d’Avola. The “Triskele” bottling, which is primarily Nero d’Avola with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, is another excellent wine. Congratulations to winemaker Carlo Casavecchia for his excellent work!
Partners Giambatttista Cilia and Giusto Occhipinti continue to produce beautifully styled wines from indigenous varieties at their winery near Vittoria. Their bottlings of Cerasuolo di Vittoria are so elegant and finesseful, while their offerings of Nero d’Avola and Frappato are so varietally pure. Then there’s the aging process in amphorae - why be a slave to modernity when you can make wines this good in the centuries-old way of tradition?
This is one of the finest producers from the exciting Etna district; this producer is adept with both whites and reds. The top white called “Pietramarina” is made from the Carricante variety – the word Carricante means “consistent”, an apt descriptor for this producer. Several noteworthy reds here as well, especially the “Rovitello” and “Serra della Contessa” Etna Rossos. Never anything less than excellence from Giuseppe Benanti and his sons!
Arguably Sicily’s best-known producer – also one of the best, period. While famous for a lush, tropical-tinged Chardonnay, for me their best white is the non-oak aged Fiano called Cometa, an exceptional wine. I also love the beautifully structured “Santa Cecilia” Nero d’Avola, produced from grapes grown near Noto. The Syrah and the eleganty styled Moscato di Noto dessert wine are also highly recommended. Wonderful work from the Planeta family – they do as much as anyone to spread the good word about the wines of Sicily.
This is the Antinori project in Puglia and one of their best. I love the fact that they are offering not only high-ticket wines, but value bottlings as well; the Neprica, a blended red that sells for about $12 is very good. At the other end, the Bocca di Lupo, a 100% Aglianico, is a first-rate rendition of this variety, bursting with fruit and combining all the components in harmony.
A vastly underrated estate that concntrates not on making the biggest wines, but the most honest. A very good Nero di Troia called “Le Cruste” an even better Falanghina (“Le Fossette”) that is a revelation for white wines from Puglia and best of all, a lovely version of the local DOC red, Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera, a charming blend of Nero di Troia, Montepulciano and Bombino Bianco. Longo almost singlehandedly kept this DOC from extinction – bravo!
CASTEL DI SALVE
From the far southern reaches of the region, rich, ripe and modern wines, but beautifully balanced, zesty and for the most part, handled without too much oak. My favorites are the “Priante”, a Negroamaro, Montepulciano blend (aged in used French and American oak) and the “Lama del Tenente”, a Primitivo/Montepulciano blend. Then there is a remarkable Aleatico Passito, one of the finest of its kind.
A long-time standout producer in this region; excellent white and reds. The Pinot Grigio is famous; the Friulano and Sauvignon should be – each is subtle with exceptional balance. The “Terre Alte” is one of Italy’s finest and most ageworthy whites. The “Sosso” is a beautifully crafted blend of Refosco, Merlot and Pignolo and is one of this region’s most consistent reds. Finally, the Picolit is a rare and exceptional dessert white.
MARCO FELLUGA/RUSSIZ SUPERIORE
I love the elegance and flavor of these wines and I also love the price, as most are quite reasonable. Best evidence of that is the “Molamatta”, a Pinot Bianco, Friulano, Ribolla Gialla blend that offers one of the best quality/price relationships for a Friulian white. The Russiz Superiore Sauvignon is assertive, flavorful and quite memorable.
This producer gets the award as much for the quality of its wines as for its efforts to popularize the lovely whites from this region. Joseph Bastianich, one of America’s most famous restaurateurs, is becoming as successful in the wine world as he is with Italian food. The regular Friulano is simply delicious, while the blended white “Vespa” (Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit) is a stunning white that also ages well (try this wine at 5-7 years after the vintage – if you can find a bottle). The “Vespa” Rosso (Merlot, Refosco and Cabernet Sauvignon) is another fine bottling.
LE VIGNE DI ZAMO
An exceptional estate that consistently produces some of Friuli’s best whites and reds. My favorites include the “Cinquant’anni” Friulano, the “Ronco delle Acacie” blended white (Chardonnay, Friulano and Pinot Bianco) and the Schiopettino, a spicy specialty red of this region. Hard to go wrong with this producer!
Next post – Part Three of the decade’s Best Italian Wine Producers
Given that all twenty regions in Italy are wine-producing areas, it stands to reason that some of these regions get overlooked when it comes to the quality of their products. You just don’t hear that much about the red wines from Puglia, so I thought I’d address that in this post.
Puglia is the region in the far southeastern reaches of Italy that everyone recognizes as the “heel of the boot.” The fact that more people know that piece of trivia as compared to its wines is a bit sad, but the overall quality of Apulian reds is quite good and improving all the time. Historically, this has been a region of large production, meaning much bulk wine, but thankfully that reality is changing.
The most famous red from Puglia – at least in the United States – is Salice Salentino. This is produced in the southern part of the region in a district north of the town of Lecce and southwest of the major city of Brindisi. Named for the eponymous commune, Salice Salentino is made primarily from a local variety known as Negroamaro, which literally means “black bitter.” The variety has deep color and offers aromas of black cherry and other black fruits; the acidity levels are not too high and the tannins are lightly bitter, but usually not overly aggressive. Salice Salentino must have a minimum of 80% Negroamaro, with the remaining blend often contaning another local variety, Malvasia Nera, which adds acidity and fragrance to the finished wine.
Most examples of Negroamaro are meant to be consumed within 3-7 years of the vintage. Some lighter, fresher examples are priced very reasonably ($12-$14), while the richer, more complex examples that can age for close to a decade are often priced around $25. Among the best examples of a complex, ageworthy Salice Salentino are the “Donna Lisa” bottling from Leone de Castris, the “Armecolo” from Castel di Salve and the “Selvarossa” Riserva offering from Cantine due Palme.
Here is a short list of the best producers of Salice Salentino:
- Agricole Vallone
- Cantine de Falco
- Castel di Salve
- Castello Monaci
- Conti Zecca
- Feudi di Guagnano
- Feudi di San Marzano
- Leone de Castris
- Li Veli
- Tenute al Bano Carrisi
Another well-known red variety in Puglia is Primitivo, used throughout the region, but primarily in the south (many producers that make a Salice Salentino also bottle a Primitivo). Most researchers believe that from DNA evidence, Primitivo is a genetic parent of Zinfandel, the famed red variety of California. Primitivo offers rich spice, zesty tannins, deep color and ripe black fruit flavors (black raspberry, black cherry, black plum).
Most examples of Primitivo focus on the ripeness of the variety and its fruit-forward nature. Generally, most bottlings of Primitivo do not offer the complexity or graceful qualities of a Salice Salentino, but there are examples that are excellent, especially the DOC wines of Primitivo di Manduria. Among those are the “Sessantanni” from Feudi di San Marzano (named for the average age of the vines – 60 years), the “Papale” and “Chicca” bottlings from Vigne e Vini and the “Feudo del Conte” from Antiche Terre del Salento.
CASTEL DEL MONTE
Another excellent wine district is Castel del Monte, in north-central Puglia, located a bit west of Bari, the region’s capital. The primary grape here is Nero di Troia, also known as Uva di Troia. While this has ripe black cherry flavors, there is very good acidity with medium-weight tannins, meaning a well-made wine made from this variety has a nice degree of finesse and elegance to go with its richness.
Other varieties used in a Castel del Monte DOC red (the wine is named for a famous castle in the area) include Montepulciano and Aglianico. There are monovarietal Castel del Monte reds as well; these include Pinot Nero and Bombino Rosso (there are also bottlings of Castel del Monte whites – Bombino Bianco is the principal variety here – and lovely rosés as well, often made from Nero di Troia or Aglianico).
Here is a short list of the best producers of Castel del Monte rosso:
- Tenuta Cocevola
- Torre Vento
One note on a special Castel del Monte red. The “Bocca di Lupo” from Tormaresca is a gorgeous 100% Aglianico with layers of fruit, rich tannins and beautiful complexity. This is reminiscent of some of the finest bottlings of Aglianico from the nearby Basilicata region. Given its seductive black cherry fruit and notes of chocolate, this is so tempting upon release, but this is a wine that is at is best some 7-12 years after the vintage.
As with other Italian regions, producers in Puglia are crafting some beautiful IGT reds. Among the best are the “Graticciaia” from Agricole Vallone, a wonderfully concentrated, beautifully structured 100% Negroamaro; “Duca di Aragona” from Candido, a blend of Negroamaro and Montepulciano that is a graceful blend of spice, tobacco and black cherry fruit; “Priante” from Castel di Salve, a 50/50 blend of Negroamaro and Montepulciano that is quite rich and ripe and shows a more modern approach with these varieties, yet is beautifully balanced and the “Torre Testa” from Tenute Rubino, a powerful offering made from the indigenous variety, Susumaniello.
Finally I have to mention one of the most enjoyable – and at the same time – most rarely seen DOC reds from Puglia. It’s Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera (pronounced kotch-ay meet-ay dee lew-chair-a) and it’s from a small zone near Foggia in the far northern reaches of the region. Only a handful of producers make this wine; the leading estate is Alberto Longo. This is a medium-weight red made at Longo from Nero di Troia, Montepulciano and Bombino Bianco. This is a delightful wine with moderate tannins and tasty red cherry fruit with distinct spice and earthiness – it has the fruitiness of a Dolcetto with the rustic qualities of a simple French Cotes-du-Rhone. It doesn’t cost much and it’s reminder of the simple charms of traditional Puglian red wine.