Posts tagged ‘bastianich’

Best Values of the Year – Italian Whites

As we head into the final few weeks of 2010, it’s time to look back on some of the more memorable wines of the year. I’ll list some of my top choices over the next few weeks, but for now, I’m focusing on the best values. This post is about Italian white wines, while the next will be on the reds:

2009 MASTROBERARDINO LACRYMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO BIANCO

There is so much excitement about the white wines of Campania these days, given the wonderful bottlings of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina that are being produced in regular numbers. But don’t forget about the humble Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, a popular wine served in many trattorie in Napoli. Produced entirely from the Coda di Volpe grape, this has gorgeous perfumes of lilacs, quince and Bosc pear, offers good depth of fruit and glides across the palate. Aged only in stainless steel, this would be an ideal partner for shrimp, clams or just about any shellfish – I love it with seafood pasta as well. This 2009 bottling (a wonderful vintage) from this iconic Campanian producer is a standout for its suggested $18-$20 price tag.

2009 BASTIANICH “ADRIATICO” FRIULANO

I just posted on the Adriatico project from Joseph Bastianich, a selection of three whites from areas near the Adriatic Sea. Each of the wines is notable, but it is the 2009 Friulano (DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli) that is the most complete and complex. This is a delicious white with notes of Anjou pear, mango and cinnamon that has remarkable richness and complexity for $15. This is an outstanding value!

2009 GRADIS’CIUTTA BRATINIS (DOC Collio Bianco)

I featured this wine in a post last month and raved about the quality as well as the price tag. Robert Princic manages this estate in San Floriano del Collio, which has rapidly emerged as one of Friuli’s finest. This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ribolla Gialla offers gorgeous aromatics, impressive concentration, vibrant acidity and a distinct streak of minerality and should drink well for another 2-3 years (perhaps longer). Not bad for a wine that retails for $20!

2009 COFFELE SOAVE CLASSICO “CA’ VISCO”

This family estate has released one of its finest bottlings in recent years with the 2009 Ca’ Visco. Produced from 80% Garganega and 20% Trebbiano di Soave, the grapes are sourced from the family hillside estate in Castelcerino in the heart of the Classico zone. Medium-bodied with excellent complexity and light minerality, this is ideal with vegetable or seafood risotto or lighter white meats. ($17)

2009 FRATELLI GIACOSA ROERO ARNEIS

I featured this wine in a post on my other blog back in August. This is a typically fresh, no-oak version of Arneis with textbook pine and pear aromas and a rich, refreshing finish. Perfect with risotto or lighter poultry dishes or just by itself over the next 1-2 years. Arneis has become very popular over the past decade, driving prices up slightly, so the $17 price tag here is quite welcome.

December 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm 5 comments

Adriatic Pleasures

Every industry needs new ideas – this is true no matter how large or small a business we are talking about. The wine industry welcomes new wines from emerging markets all the time, yet many of these wines are their country’s vintners’ take on recognized varieties seen around the world.

I recently tasted three wines from a project that is not only new, but one that is creative and very welcome in the wine world. The wines are three whites produced by Joseph Bastianich, who worked with several growers and producers in Istria, Slovenia and Friuli to craft these delightful aromatic wines. As the represented wine regions are all near the Adriatic Sea, Bastianich has given this project the name of Adriatico.

My tasting notes are below, but a few general notes on the three wines. They represent this area very well, each focusing on a different variety: Malvasia (from Istria), Ribolla (from Slovenia) and Friulano (from the Colli Orientali del Friuli zone of Friuli). They are from the excellent 2009 vintage and feature bright, tasty fruit and lively acidity, are beautiful food wines and are delicious. Best of all, each wine retails for $15! There are some gorgeous wines in these areas that retail for two to three times that and as some of those wines have received tremendous critical acclaim, it’s great that Bastianich and his friends in these areas have combined to give consumers such lovely wine values, which can only help focus more attention on these wine zones.

Here are brief notes on the Adriatico wines:


2009 MALVASIA (Istria)

Winemakers: Matosevic, Degrassi, Kozlovic

Bright yellow with a light effervescence. Yellow peach, pear and honey aromas – just lovely. Medium-bodied with good concentration. Lively acidity, good persistence in the finish and subtle notes of yellow spice. Very refined and delicate – enjoy over the next 1-2 years. Fine for lighter Oriental cuisine.

2009 RIBOLLA (Brda, Slovenia)

Estate bottled by Marian Cimcic, Ceglo, Slovenia

This variety is often identified as Ribolla Gialla; Bastianich is using the variety name as it is most often known in Slovenia. Straw-light yellow with lovely aromatics of spiced pear, jasmine and cinnamon. Medium-full with very good concentration. Rich entry on the palate and a lengthy, beautifully structured finish with vibrant acidity and notes of ginger and white spice. Gorgeous wine- enjoy over the next 2-3 years. (35-40 year old vines- stainless steel fermentation and aging).

2009 FRIULANO (Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC)

Ripe Anjou pear, cinnamon and mango aromas – just lovely. Medium-full with very good depth of fruit, very well defined texture, vibrant acidity and very good persistence in the finish along with a distinct streak of minerality. Perfect winemaking, excellent complexity and an outstanding value for $15. This wine is all about varietal purity, balance, complexity and best of all, pleasure! Enjoy this over the next 2-3 years. This is the richest wine of the three and offers the greatest complexity. This can stand up to most rich seafood and it would also work well with vegetable risotto or lighter poultry dishes.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, every industry needs new ideas. The Adriatico wines at a $15 retail tag are especially welcome in this economy, but this is a concept that goes well beyond value. It’s also a project that sheds some light on a wonderful area of the wine world that receives much too little attention from the major wine publications. Congratulations to Joseph Bastianich and his team for their outstanding work on this initiative, from the beautiful label design and packaging to the remarkable quality of the wines!

December 6, 2010 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

Friuli – The Great Whites of Collio and Colli Orientali

Located in the far northeastern reaches of Italy, Friuli is one of the country’s most distinctive wine regions. Though some intriguing reds and a few remarkable dessert wines are made here, it is the singular white wines that give this region its strongest viticultural identity.

There are nine different DOC districts in Friuli; the most famous are two that border with Slovenia: Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. These zones are dominated by hillside plantings that limit yields; combine that with cool breezes from the nearby Adriatic Sea and the Giulian Alps and you have a recipe for wines of beautiful structure thanks to the long, cool growing seasons.

White wines are the stars of these zones, produced from a mixture of indigenous varieties such as Friulano and Ribolla Gialla and others such as Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. These white wines – most of them without any oak aging – represent the soul of the vintners in these two zones. Robert Princic, owner of the Gradis’ciutta estate in Collio, produces a brilliant Sauvignon typical of this area with its bright pear and spearmint fruit, light herbal notes, vibrant acidity and impressive structure. For Princic, Sauvignon from Collio, “is always elegant, at times discreet. at times intense, never coarse.” While he understands that there are many styles of Sauvignon from around the world, he finds that some of these wines are a bit aggressive, unlike the bottlings from Collio. “One should discover the pleasure that is the strength of Sauvignon from Collio.”

Robert Princic, Gradis’ciutta (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Here is a brief list of some of the finest producers of Sauvignon in the Collio and Colli Orientali districts:

  • Gradis’ciutta
  • Russiz Superiore
  • Villa Russiz
  • Venica & Venica
  • Ronchi di Manzano
  • Primosic

The local variety Friulano is another that deeply reflects the character of this region and its’ winemakers. Fermented dry and usually aged only in stainless steel (a few producers do experiment with older oak barrels), Friulano offers a variety of aromas, depending on the local terroir; in fact, I have yet to find a variety that displays as wide an aromatic profile as this. One example will feature pear and chamomile aromas while another offers notes of mandarin orange, kiwi and grapefruit. When you have as many pleasing aromatics as you do with Friulano, why cover it up with oak?

One other advantage Friulano has is its ability to age. Even the basic examples are often fine three years after the harvest with most drinking well from five to seven years from the vintage date with a few lasting as long as 10-15 years. At the I Clivi estate, owner Ferdinando Zanusso is now selling his 1999 and 1996 bottlings of Friulano; the wines have beautiful color and excellent freshness; these two wines, if properly stored, should drink well for another 5-7 years.

Here is a brief list of some of the best producers of Friulano from the Collio and Colli Orientali districts:

  • Bastianich
  • I Clivi
  • Livio Felluga
  • Russiz Superiore
  • Villa Russiz
  • La Castellada
  • Le Vigne di Zamo
  • Isidoro Polencic
  • Livon

Many vintners in these two zones also produce a high-end white – sometimes referred to as a Super Friulian – blended from several varieties. Arguably the most famous is Terre Alte from Livio Felluga, a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon. Quite rich on the palate with aromatics of chamomile, pear, grapfruit and hawthorn, this is one of Italy’s finest wines and one of its longest-lived whites; bottlings from the late 1980s and most of the 1990s are drinking beautifully now.

Other producers also make a similar white. Livon is well known for its Braide Alte bottling, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Picolit and Moscato Giallo, the last two varieties used for increasing the aromatic profile. This wine spends more time in oak than the Felluga Terre Alte, so the flavor profiles vary, yet it too enjoys a long life; I tasted the 1996 at VinItaly this past April and was impressed by its power and balance.

Here is a brief list of the most famous blended whites from Collio and Colli Orientali:

  • Bastianich “Vespa”
  • Livio Felluga “Terre Alte”
  • Livon “Braide Alte”
  • Russiz Superiore “Col Disore”
  • La Tunella “Biancosesto”
  • Gradis’ciutta “Bratinis”
  • Marco Felluga “Molamatta”

These blended whites – as well as the monovarietal whites – are striking examples of the quality of the whites wines from Friuli in particular and Italy in general. Here’s hoping that these wines are given more widespread visibility so the world can experience the glories of the Collio and Colli Orientali districts!

July 20, 2010 at 10:17 am 4 comments

The Decade’s Best Producers – Part Two

 

 

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:

SICILIA

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!

COS

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?

Giusto Occhippinti, COS (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

BENANTI

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!

PLANETA

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.

 

PUGLIA

TORMARESCA

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.

ALBERTO LONGO

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.

 

FRIULI

LIVIO FELLUGA

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.

BASTIANICH

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

January 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment


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