Posts tagged ‘dolcetto d’alba’
At the end of one year or beginning of another, “best-of” lists are quite common; I’m no different, as I’ll include a few of these posts soon. But for today, I’d like to highlight a few of my favorite Italian wines I enjoyed during 2012. Some of these will be included in my year’s best list, but many will not. The difference between “best” and “favorite” is rather arbitrary to begin with anyways; quite often all of us get too caught up in the “best”, as we believe that having these wines will enhance our lives. Perhaps, but more often than not, my “favorite” wines are the ones that best fit the moment, whether it’s an ideal match with the meal I’m enjoying or simply a wine that delivers great character for the right amount of money.
Enough with the philosophizing, on to the list!
2011 Jankara Vermentino di Gallura – Vermentino is a successful white along the coast of Tuscany as well as in Liguria and Sardegna. This Jankara version is from the latter region and it’s a textbook example of what this variety is all about, with its expressive aromas of jasmine, grapefruit and green apple, excellent richness on the palate and vibrant acidity. This relatively new producer made a nice version of this wine from the 2010 vintage, but this 2011 is far superior! This has an especially lengthy finish and is ultra clean with excellent complexity; pair this with just about any type of shellfish. ($26)
Emanuele Rabotti, Monte Rossa (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Monte Rossa Franciacorta Blanc de Blancs Brut “P.R.” - I tasted so many wonderful bottlings of Franciacorta during my visit to this district back in November, with many different styles from Extra Brut to Rosé. Here is one my my favorite Blanc de Blancs, a 100% Chardonnay with a very fine and persistent stream of bubbles along with beautiful melon, pear and acacia aromas and flavors. Medium-full with excellent persistence, this has good acidity, lovely varietal character and ideal balance. It’s also delicious, whether enjoyed on its own or with risotto or lighter seafood. Every cuvée from this first-rate producer is something special!
2011 Giovanni Manzone Dolcetto d’Alba “Le Cilegie” -This renowned producer from Monforte d’Alba crafts some pretty special examples of Barolo – his 2008 “Bricat” is outstanding – but he also puts a great deal of effort into his other, more “humble” wines such as this beautiful Dolcetto. This has classic aromas and flavors of red plum, boysenberry and black raspberry fruit along with a hint of lavender on the nose and it’s a juicy, fresh and absolutely delicious wine! Medium-bodied, this has moderate tannins, balanced acidity and it’s nicely balanced and above all, such a pleasure to drink. What a great partner for lighter pastas or a simply prepared roast chicken. If more people were not as serious about “great red wines” that can age for decades and more excited about a purely delicious wine such as this – one that’s a real crowd pleaser – Dolcetto would be one of the most popular wines – red or white – in this country. ($25)
2008 Zyme Valpolicella Classico Superiore – Today in the Valpolicella district, Amarone has become so famous and so revered that Valpolicella has become somewhat of a forgotten wine. Thankfully, there are numerous producers who still produce an excellent example of Valpolicella; this version from Celestino Gaspari offers delightful bing cherry fruit along with hints of tar and cedar in the nose, while there are moderate tannins and very good acidity and overall balance. This is a medium-bodied red that’s so typical of what a well made Valpolicella should be – a wine to be enjoyed with lighter red meats or risotto or stews tonight or over the course of the next year or two.
Last time, I listed a few of my favorite value white wines from Italy in 2010; now for the reds:
TORMARESCA “NEPRICA” 2008
This is a beautiful blend from Antinori’s wine project in Puglia, cleverly named for the first two letters of the three red varieties: NEgromaro, PRimitivo and CAbernet Sauvignon. It displays tasty black fruit and good spice with moderate tannins. It’s eminently rinkable right now with all sort of foods. In other words, a fun and uncomplicated wine! Priced anywhere from $8-12, how can you go wrong?
MASTROBERARDINO AGLIANICO “RE DI MORE” 2008
Aglianico is the wonderful red variety of Campania that is used to produce the classic Taurasi, one of Italy’s most distinguished wines. Many wineries produce a lesser, fresher version of Aglianico that is released earlier for younger enjoyment and Mastroberardino generally produces one of the most consistent bottlings. This 2008 Re di More is from an older clone of Aglianico and the wine delivers excellent complexity with flavors of black raspberry and mocha. Medium-full with polished tannins and light black spice, this can be enjoyed with lighter game and most red meats (especially grilled) over the next 3-5 years. (note- this wine is not imported in the US at the present time, so look for the winery’s Aglianico Campania IGT offering, which is also quite good at $20.)
CASTELLO DI VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2007
There are so many beautiful examples of Chianti Classico from this excellent vintage; this from one of my favorite producers, is a steal at $20. Red plum and currant aromas, light black spice, very good acidity and moderate tannins combine to make a very typical and very drinkable Chianti Classico that will be a fine match with pastas, pork and veal dishes over the next 2-3 years.
PIO CESARE DOLCETTO D’ALBA 2009
No surprise here, as this has been one of my favorite bottlings of Dolcetto d’Alba for some twenty years now; combine that with the 2009 vintage, a year of excellent ripeness and depth of fruit and you have a recipe for something special. Gorgeous perfumes of mulberry, cranberry and toffee backed by impressive persistence, very good acidity and moderate tannins, this is delicious! Pair this with pastas or even duck breast (cherry or orange sauce) or many poultry dishes and you’ll have a great experience, especially considering you only have to spend about $22 on this wine!
CASCINA ROCCALINI BARBERA D’ALBA 2008
After reading notes about the wines from this new artisan estate in the commune of Barbaresco, I contacted importer Terence Hughes in New York who was kind enough to arrange an appointment at the winery with owner Paolo Veglio and winemaker Dante Scaglione, I am eternally grateful to Terence for that, as the wines here are brilliant. Veglio used to sell his grapes to Scaglione when he was winemaker for Bruno Giacosa; now he keeps them for his own label.
The Barbaresco is aged only in large oak casks and is elegant with a beautiful sense of place, while the Dolcetto is amazingly fruity and delicious. The Barbera is the best of all – there is subtle spice, but this is all about varietal purity and outstanding concentration. This has layers of flavor and outstanding complexity and is a impressive a Barbera as I’ve had in years. This is not only an excellent value at $27, it’s also one of the best wines of the year!
Paolo Veglio and his winemaker, Dante Scaglione (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
One of the most exciting things about Italian wines is discovering a great new estate that produces honest wines – wines that truly represent their territory. Cascina Roccalini in Barbaresco is the newest and most dynamic of this group of small estates in Italy that I discovered on my recent trip to Piemonte.
I have to thank Terence Hughes of Domenico Selections in New York for this find; I just happened to be looking at a few blogs before my trip and came across his post (read here) on this estate; he will begin selling the wines this autumn. Terry put me in touch with Paolo Veglio, the owner, who was delighted to arrange a visit for two of my Italian journalist friends, Franco Ziliani and Roberto Guiliani, along with myself.
Paolo Veglio is a young man who sold his grapes for years to the Bruno Giacosa winert when Dante Scaglione was the winemaker. Dante is no longer associated with Giacosa and now consults with several estates; in fact, he approached Paolo about being his winemaker when he decided to produce his first bottlings at Cascina Roccalini.
The winery is named for the Roccalini subzone (known as a sottozona of Barbaresco); Veglio has 3.5 hectares (approximately 8.6 acres of Nebbiolo) and another hectare (2.47 acres) divided between Dolcetto and Barbera. The vineyards have optimal exposure and are located at approximately 200 meters above sea level. The view from the winery is an impressive one, with the Tanaro River and the Roero district to the west and the Barbaresco Tower only a few kilometers to the south.
There are many important things to note about the wines of Roccalini, but perhaps the most significant is the elegantly simple winemaking philosophy of Dante Scaglione. The Barbera and Dolcetto are aged only in stainless steel (with one exception of the Barbera Superiore), while the Barbaresco is aged solely in grandi botti of 10 and 22hl casks. Tasting through the wines, you are enveloped in the varietal purity as well as fruit persistence and elegance.
The soon to be released 2007 Barbaresco is very typical of the vintage, with pretty red cherry and plum fruit, graceful tannins and precise acidity. This is not a powerhouse wine, but a beautifully expressed wine that is very attractive now and will be at its best in 10-12 years. The 2008 Barbaresco, tasted from cask, is an even better wine, in my opinion. While 2008 was a cooler year than 2007, the conditions were optimal for Nebbiolo and this wine has tremendous length in the finish with finely tuned acidity and a beautiful note of fennel in the aromas. This is a more reserved wine, but one that I believe will age even longer than the 2007; look for this wine to peak in 15-20 years. The 2005 Barbaresco, from the first vintage of Roccalini, is also beautifully crafted, with notes of currant and mocha and is drinking well right now; it should offer pleasure over the next 7-10 years.
As is typical in this area, Barbera and Dolcetto are also produced. Now while many other producers of Barbaresco also make very fine examples of these wines, the truth of the matter is that the bottlings from some local estates are pleasant, though hardly memorable wines. That’s not the case at Cascina Roccalina – questi vini sono incredibili!
The 2008 Dolcetto d’Alba has gorgeous color and stunning aromas of boysenberry, black cherry and dark chocolate; there is excellent persistence and complexity with beautiful acidity and moderate tannins. This is a particularly complex Dolcetto that is absolutely delicious and remarkably elegant. The 2009, tasted from the tank, simply explodes on the nose and palate with beautiful ripe boysenberry and black plum fruit and notes of black mint. While 2008 with its long, cool growing season, may turn out the be a better year than 2009 for Nebbiolo, the opposite is true for Dolcetto (and Barbera) in this territory and this 2009 Dolcetto is a promise of the upcoming glories of this vintage. After tasting only these two wines, this is one of my top Dolcetto estates in all of Piemonte!
But the real star at Cascina Roccalini (at least it was to all of us on the day we visited) was the simple Barbera d’Alba. In truth, simple is a poor choice of words, as there is nothing ordinary about this wine. The 2008 Barbera d’Alba offers lovely myrtle, black plum and tar aromas with excellent concentration and superb acidity. The finish is long and very pleasing and there is tremendous fruit persistence. The 2009, tasted from the tank, is even better, with ripe black plum fruit and notes of anice; the acidity is precise, the varietal character is pure and the layers of fruit on the palate are remarkable. I can’t wait for the 2009 and I’m definitely looking forward to trying the 2008 several more times (I’ll have to contact Terence about acquiring a few bottles down the road – ditto for the Dolcetto!)
After the formal tasting, we were treated to a lovely dinner prepared by Paolo’s mother Luciana, which included a sublime spinach flan wrapped in Raschera cheese, a local cow’s milk variety; this dish rivaled the best I had all week long in the area’s ristoranti!
What a start young (34 years old) Paolo Veglio is off to with Cascina Roccalini! Of course, it also helps to have great vineyards as well as a superb winemaker such as Dante Scaglione. But this is no overnight success, as Paolo has been working these vineyards for many years, delivering great fruit to the cellar.
Keep in mind that this is a small estate – only 14,500 bottles are produced, so the wines are quite limited. Thanks again to Terry for helping me organize this visit – I would have been disappointed to miss this estate. Best of luck selling the wines – though I’m not sure you’ll need much of it, given the spectacular nature of these offerings!