Posts tagged ‘coffele’

Best Italian Sparkling and Dessert Wines of the Year

Here is part two of my lists of the Best Italian Wines of 2011. My last post dealt with white wines and my next few will be about the red wines (I’ll need more than one post for that). This post will focus on the finest sparkling and dessert wines from last year.

Please note that this is a partial list – there are other wines that made the list (see end of post for more information).

2005 Bellavista Gran Cuvée “Pas Opere” (DOCG Franciacorta)- Bellavista is one of the largest houses in Franciacorta and has been among the very best for more than three decades. Their line of Gran Cuvée wines are selections of the best grapes from older vineyards, most of them planted more than 25 years ago. The Pas Operé is a blend of 62% Chardonnay and 38% Pinot Nero, the majority of which is fermented in oak barrels. The wine spends some six years on its own yeasts before release and the finished product is amazingly powerful, yet graceful and elegant, displaying aromas of  lime, yeast and red apple with a pale mousse and persistent stream of fine bubbles. The finish is quite long and round with hints of citrus fruits. Drink now or over the next 5-7 years. Suggested retail price: $80

2007 Le Marchesine Franciacorta Rosé (DOCG Franciacorta) - Quality is extremely high at this medium-sized Franciacorta estate, managed by the Biatta family. Their Secolo Nuovo (“new century”) lines represent their finest; this past year however, I was very impressed with their 2005 Rosé Brut Millesimato. A blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Nero, this wine spent three years on its yeasts before bottling. The color is deep copper/light strawberry with aromas of cherry and currant. Quite rich on the palate, this has excellent persistence and very high acidity – the style of this wine is quite austere. This will drink beautifully for the next 3-5 years and perhaps longer. This is among the three of four best examples of Franciacorta Rosé I have had enjoyed! (Not imported in the United States at the present time.)

2003 Ca’del Bosco “Cuvée Annamaria Clementi” (DOCG Franciacorta) - This wine, named for the mother of Ca’ del Bosco owner Maurizio Zanella, is one of the benchmarks of Franciacorta. This is a blend of 55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Bianco and 20% Pinot Nero; the grapes were sourced from 16 different vineyards, with an average age of 39 years. One of the secrets to complexity in a Franciacorta (or any great sparkling wine) is the length of time the wine spends on its own yeasts; for many of the best cuvées in Franciacorta, that time is as long as 50-60 months. However for this wine, that period was 78 months, a full six and one-half years! Full-bodied, with aromas of dried pear, peach and yellow flowers, this has explosive fruit and a long, well-structured finish. This should drink well for another 5-7 years, at least. $75

2001 Ferrari “Riserva del Fondatore Giulio Ferrari” (DOC Trento) - Those who point to the Trento zone as being the home of Italy’s finest bubblies use this wine as evidence. Ferrari has been one of the quintessential sparkling producers – using the metodo classico (classical method) – since the first decade of the 20th century. The Giulio Ferrari bottling is 100% Chardonnay, with the grapes coming from vineyards some 1650 to 2000 feet above sea level. The wine spends 10 years(!) on its own yeasts (specially cultivated from Ferrari’s own cultures); the result is sublime. The aromas are intense, offering notes of honey, dried pear, caramel and vanilla and the wine has a generous mid-palate and a long, beautifully structured finish with vibrant acidity. The bubbles are very small and there is outstanding persistence. I would expect this wine to drink well for at least ten years. Amazing complexity and class! $90

2006 Brigaldara Recioto della Valpolicella (DOC)- While Amarone is quite popular around the world today, Recioto is not. This is more than a bit ironic, as Amarone is a fairly recent innovation, first made in the 1950s, while Recioto is the wine that has been made in cellars in the Valpolicella zone for over a thousand years. Both wines are produced according to the appassimento method, in which the grapes are dried on mats or in plastic boxes for several months. Amarone is of course, fermented dry, while Recioto finishes fermentation with some residual sugar, so given the difficulty in selling dessert wines these days, it is not a surprise that Recioto is not that much in demand. However, a great example, such as the current release from Brigaldara, should convert many wine lovers. Deep purple with tantalizing aromas of black raspberry and black plum, the wine is quite rich with only moderate sweetness, as there is good balancing acidity. This is a great example of how elegant Recioto della Valpolicella can be. Absolutely delicious now, this will drink well over the next 5-7 years. $30 per 375 ml bottle

2009 Coffele Recioto di Soave “Le Sponde” (DOCG) - Recioto di Soave is a remarkable dessert wine, produced from Garganega grapes that are dried naturally on mats – or hung on hooks – in special temperature and humidity controlled rooms. Coffele produces one of the finest examples; with an amber golden color and lovely aromas of apricot, golden raisins, honey and pear, this is a wine with heavenly perfumes; it is also a delight to taste with its lush fruit and a light nuttiness in the finish. Medium sweet, this has very good acidity to balance the wine so it is not overly sweet. Enjoy this over the next 5-7 years. $25 per 375 ml

2007 Pieropan Recioto di Soave “Le Colombare”(DOCG) – Leonildo Pieropan has been considered one of the benchmark producers of Soave Classico for more than thirty years. His cru bottlings are superb examples of how complex and ageworthy Soave can be, while his Recioto di Soave is among the finest each year. There are excellent examples of Recioto di Soave in many styles; while some are quite lush and sweet, the Pieropan bottling is subdued with only a trace of sweetness. Light amber gold, the sensual aromas are of apricot, lemon oil, mango and almond while the finish is quite long with lively acidity. Offering beautiful complexity and balance, this wine oozes class and breeding! Enjoy over the next 7-10 years. $50 per 500 ml

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This is a partial list of the best Italian sparkling and dessert wines of the year. The complete list will be in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, which will be sent to paid subscribers. If you are interested in subscribing to my publication – currently in its 11th year – email me at thomas2022@comcast.net.

January 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm 4 comments

Rediscovering Soave


Castello di Soave (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

It’s always a pleasure to be in the town of Soave and the surrounding wine zone, easily one of my favorites in all of Italy. This was especially true for my most recent visit the last few days of May, as I hadn’t been there in four years, so it was definitely time for a return trip. Making this an even more enjoyable stay was the fact that I would be visiting producers with Giovanni Ponchia from the Soave Consorzio. Giovanni set up the tour and put together a wonderful mix of small producers along with cooperatives; he planned stops at some of my favorite producers I have become friends with over the years and also introduced me to some excellent producers I have never visited, such as Corte Adami, Dal Cero, Filippi and Fattori. It was an excellent three days – grazie tanti, Giovanni!

Vineyards at Castelcerino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

A lot of people know the name Soave, but unless you’ve been there or have tasted a lot of wines from there, chances are you really know only a little bit about Soave. What I mean by this is that Soave has an image of being a pleasant, refreshing wine to drink young and while there are many examples in this manner, the truth is that there are a few dozen producers in the area that have elevated Soave into a complex white with distinct minerality that can age for more than a decade. To me, Soave at its best is a white that ranks with the finest in Italy.

The reason these wines can be so good are the vineyards. You might view Soave from the A4 autostrada and see the beautiful castello as pictured above and think to yourself what a lovely little postcard of a town. But all around the old town are hillside vineyards some 400-1200 feet above sea level. Many of these cru are comprised of basalt rock or volcanic stone, which explains the minerality in the wines, while other sites are more dominated by calcaire (limestone). Given the excellent drainage of hillside vineyards, yields are naturally low, which provides more deeply concentrated wines which can age for many years. Among the finest cru are Castelcerino, Pressoni, Foscarino and Frosca.

Regarding this last cru, Frosca is one source of grapes for Gini, one of the area’s premier producers. The Gini brothers, Sandro and Claudio, produce several bottlings of Soave, from a typical Soave Classico, blended from several sites to the old vines bottling labeled Contrada Selvaneza to the Frosca bottling itself. I was able to taste several vintages of the Frosca bottling at the winery, including 2009, 2007 and 1997, but it was the 1990 bottling that really opened my eyes. With a light yellow color that was amazing for a 20-year old wine, the wine offered aromas of wet stone, dried pear and apple peel, backed by excellent concentration and a flinty finish with vibrant acidity that made me think I was drinking a Grand Cru Chablis. The wine was in amazing shape and has another 7-10 years of life ahead of it.

Filippo Filippi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Another great Soave producer is Filippi, located in the Castelcerino sottozona. I had tasted his 2008 Castelcerino bottling a year ago and was impressed not only with the complexity, but also the flavor profile – its strong minerality was reminiscent of a single vineyard Chablis. Headed by Filippo Filipi, this is an organic estate that is among the most precise in the area. The care that Filippo takes with his vineyards is evident in his various bottlings of Soave, from the Castelcerino (2009 is the current release) to the Monteseroni bottling (vines here were planted in the 1950s) and the Vigne della Bra offering. My favorite this time around  was the 2008 Monteseroni with its excellent depth of fruit, lengthy finish and stylish acidity. (While 2009 is arguably the best vintage of the past few years in Soave, 2008 is almost as good – and even better for some wines – as the wines from that year offer amazing aromatics and ideal acidity. The 2008s will drink well for another 5-7 years, at least).

There were several other excellent producers that I visited, such as Ca’Rugate, Coffele, Agostino Vicentini and Monte Tondo, but instead of detailing every piece of information, let me list a few of my favorite wines from the trip. Note that most bottlings of Soave are not aged in wood; this not only preserves the wonderful perfumes such as honeydew melon, pineapple and cherry blossoms, but it also means the minerality in the finish is more pronounced. However there are some notable versions of Soave that are aged in wood (even a few in barriques) that are wonderful wines; one of the best is the Ca’Rugate “Monte Alto.”

Here is a short list of several of the finest Soave I tried (and that are available in the United States):

  • Filippi Monteseroni 2008
  • Coffele “Alzari” 2009
  • La Cappuccina “San Brizio” 2008
  • Gini “Contrada Selvarenza” 2008 (a brilliant wine!)
  • Agostino Vicentini “Il Casale” 2009
  • Ca’ Rugate “Monte Alto” 2009
  • Battistelle “Roccolo del Durlo”
  • Cantina del Castello “Carniga” 2008
  • Cantina di Soave Rocca Sveva 2010

I also tasted the 2009 “Castelcerino” bottling from Cantina di Soave, a lovely wine that is not imported into the United States at present, but may be one day.

Finally, I can’t write about Soave without mentioning Recioto di Soave, the great dessert wine of this region (and one of the best in Italy), produced solely from Garganega grapes that have been dried for several months before fermentation. These wines are redolent of apricot and honey flavors and often have a light nuttiness to them. Some are medium-sweet and a bit lush, while others are lighter and actually only lightly sweet of off-dry. Recioto di Soave is liquid gold – tantalizing, delicious and sensual and I love every version. The best on this trip were from Fattori, Coffele, Ca’Rugate, Corte Adami, Monte Tondo and Agostino Vicentini. Try these lovely dessert wines on their own at the end of a meal or pair them with an almond tart or apricot torte.

June 22, 2011 at 9:56 am 4 comments

2009- Shaping up to be a great year

Cutizzi Vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

It’s early of course, but it appears that 2009 may be judged a great year for Italian wines throughout the country. I’ve written earlier posts about the white wines and now that I’ve tasted a few dozen reds from this vintage, I’m beginning to think that you really can’t go wrong with just about any 2009 Italian wine type.

The Italian whites from 2009 are first-rate, offering the depth of fruit of the 2007s with the structure and acidity of the 2008s. I’ve tasted several dozen of these wines, predominantly from the regions of Friuli and Campania and many of the top examples show the potential to drink well for 3-5 years. Among the top 2009 whites I’ve tasted so far are the following:

FRIULI

  • Edi Keber Biano (Collio)
  • Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon (Collio)
  • Livio Felluga Sauvignon (Colli Orientali)
  • Isidoro Polencic Ribolla Gialla (Collio)
  • La Tunella “Biancosesto” (Colli Orientali)
  • Zuani “Vigne” (Collio)

CAMPANIA

  • Feudi di San Gregorio “Cutizzi”
  • Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
  • Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
  • San Paolo Greco di Tufo “Montefusco”
  • Marisa Cuomo “Fiorduva”

OTHER WHITES

  • Coffele Soave Classico “Ca’Visco”
  • Guado al Tasso Vermentino (Bolgheri)
  • Lunae Bosoni Vermentino Lunae “Etichetta Nera” (Liguria)
  • Malvira Roero Arneis “Trinita”(Piemonte)
  • Planeta Fiano “Cometa” (Sicilia)

Of course, many of the top whites, especially the blended whites and selezioni from Friuli, Campania and Alto Adige are yet to be released, so the list should dramatically expand.

Paolo Veglio, Cascina Roccalini (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

As for the reds, a few 2009s have been released, ranging from Dolcetto and Barbera in Piemonte to Valpolicella from Veneto and Chiantis of all types and Morellino di Scansano in Toscana. I love the purity of fruit, concentration and acidity of these wines. It was a warm year, especially in Piemonte, so there is an explosion of fruit in these wines. Yet as there were several cool spells during the growing season, there is beautifully defined acidity, as the grapes experienced a long hang time. Among my favorites so far are these:

  • Cascina Roccalini Dolcetto d’Alba
  • Cascina Roccalini Barbera d’Alba (arriving in the US market in a few months)
  • Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba
  • Fontanabianca Langhe Nebbiolo
  • Motta Morellino di Scansano

Of course, most Italian reds from 2009 have not been released and in some instances, such as Barbaresco, Barolo, Amarone, Taurasi and Brunello di Montalcino, we will not see them in the market for at least another 1-5 years. But based on what I’ve tasted so far, Italian wine lovers should be in for several years of finds from the 2009 vintage – white and red.

January 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm 4 comments

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


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