Posts tagged ‘donnachiara’
Piero Mastroberardino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
My recent 18-day trip to Italy was filled with so many great wines; this is part two of my report, focusing on the best whites I tried from Campania.
One important thing that the newly released 2012 whites from Campania and other great white wine regions such as Marche and Alto Adige (I’ll review these whites in my next post) have is their amazing quality, as 2012 is an excellent, even outstanding vintage for white wines not only in these areas, but all throughout Italy. I’ll write a post about this vintage soon; it really is amazing, but I’ve had 2012 whites from Piemonte and Umbria – regions better known for red wines – that are first rate and among the best I’ve tasted in recent years from these areas.
So imagine how good the 2012 whites are from zones such as Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino in Campania. Ironically, it didn’t seem as though 2012 was going to be much of a year at all for distinctive whites, especially early on, as the warm temperatures rushed ripening a bit. But according to several producers I spoke with there, rains in September slowed things down and allowed more hangtime, thus resulting in wines of more pronounced aromatics and better natural acidity, as compared to 2011, a very nice, but not great vintage (the 2011 whites are rich and slightly more alcoholic, so they grab your attention, but as a rule they will not age as long as they are not as well structured).
Now on to the wines. I have just written an article on Campanian whites for the 2014 Italian supplement to Decanter magazine in England, so you will be able to read a more detailed analysis of some of these wines when my text is published in February. For now, I will offer a few brief thoughts on a few of the best I tasted, starting with the 2012 Greco di Tufo from Feudi di San Gregorio. There has been a lot of excitement at this esteemed firm over the past several years, as proprietor Antonio Capaldo has been investing in a great deal of research in vineyard and cellar work, bringing in Pier Paolo Sirch to ideintify the finest lots of Greco, Fiano and Falanghina (I tasted one single vineyard offering of Falanghina – a wine that will not be released on the market – and was excited to taste such a distinctive wine, one with great persistence and ideal harmony with this variety. Falanghina has been a very successful wine in many markets over the past few years; I think we are on the forefront of greatness with this wine).
The 2012 Serrocielo Falanghina from Feudi is a solid 4-star (excellent) wine, displaying distinct aromas of green tea and chamomile along with notes of lime and melon. The Pietracalda Fiano from 2012 offers inviting perfumes of lemon peel and pineapple; there is also distinct minerality and a lengthy finish. The Cutizzi Greco di Tufo, which I have reviewed in the Decanter article is one of the finest produced to date, but the real surprise here is the classic Greco di Tufo from 2012. Capaldo has begun a new program of single vineyard offerings, beginning with the 2012 vintage. He decided to start with Fiano, while the best sites for Greco were blended into one wine. This is as good an entry level Greco di Tufo as you will find, with lemon zest, Anjou pear and lemon zest aromas along with a touch of almond. Offering a rich mid-palate and notable persistence, this is a delightful wine for clams or other shellfish and is a wonderful value, given the $22 retail price (approximate) on American shelves (the wine is just coming into the market, so it may be another month or so before you find it. Palm Bay is the importer).
Mastroberardino, is of course, the most historic winery in Campania and the one that made today’s explosion of Greco and Fiano possible, thanks in great part to the work of Antonio Mastroberardino in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when his work in the vineyards helped save the varieties. His son Piero, current managing director of the firm, has respected his father’s efforts and has expanded upon them; the lineup of white wines from Mastroberardino these days is outstanding.
Please take note of that last sentence; yes, the white wines from Mastroberardino are first-rate. Everyone knows that the winery has become world-famous for its magnificent Taurasi, a version that one would have to designate as the standard bearer for this wine. It’s so famous that their whites are routinely overlooked; one could understand that ten or fifteen years ago, as the Mastroberardino whites back then were well made with good varietal character, but over the last decade or so, the wines have taken a noticeable leap in quality. Much of this is due, as Piero has told me numerous times, to the acquisition of new vineyards in various zones along with implementation of planting the best clones at these sites.
Briefly, the Mastroberardino 2012 whites are flawless, most notably the elegantly styled Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra” and the tantalizing Fiano di Avellino “Radici” (the favorite white of Piero from this vintage). Both wines have gorgeous varietal purity and the overall harmony is just beautiful. But I also need to mention the absolutely delicious Falanghina “Morabianca” from 2012; this is a relatively new project for the winery, as Piero and his team have planted this variety in Irpinia and not in Benevento, which is where many local producers source their Falanghina. This has an added richness in the mid-palate and a lengthy finish that give this wine its special character; this wine is also better than previous efforts due to additional vine age, so combine that with the excellence of the 2012 vintage and you have a very special wine! (Note: this wine is imported in the US by Winebow. You may not yet find the 2012 bottling, but it will arrive soon, if it hasn’t already. Now if the importer could only be convinced to bring in the “Radici” Fiano and the “Nova Serra” Greco.)
Milena Pepe, Tenuta Cavalier Pepe (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
From Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, under the direction of the effervescent Milena Pepe, the 2012 whites that stand out are the Coda di Volpe “Bianco di Bellona” and the Greco di Tufo “Nestor.” The latter has been a favorite of mine or some time now and is profiled in my book Beyond Barolo and Brunello: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines; the 2012 is beautifully made. But it is the Coda di Volpe that really surprised me here, as this tends to be a variety that is not given the same care or respect as Greco or Fiano; indeed it is often used as a blending grape in Greco di Tufo or is the principal variety in Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, a wine that is too often categorized as a summer sipper. But here was an example of Coda di Volpe with inviting aromas of lemon zest and magnolia flowers along with lively acidity, good persistence and a light touch of minerality. It’s a lovely wine, one with simple charms and when I told the enologist how much I loved the wine, he did a little dance!
Other impressive 2012 whites from Campania I tasted were the Villa Raiano Fiano di Avellino “Alimata” and the Greco di Tufo “Contrada Marotta” (the latter is profiled in my Decanter article; this has become one of the best examples of its type over the past three vintages- the 2010 tasted during this trip was the finest Campanian white I tried; if you have a bottle, savor it, as it will be in fine shape for another 3-5 years). Also keep an eye on the classic level offerings of Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino from Villa Raiano from 2012; they are lovely wines, just a bit lighter than the cru offerings, with the Greco being especially noteworthy.
At Donnachiara, proprietor Ilaria Petitto was thrilled to have me taste her two new wines from 2012, the Fiano “Esoterico” and the Greco “Ostinato” that are limited production wines made from late harvest grapes picked in early November. The Fiano is an exotic wine, one that offers perfumes of honey, golden apple, mango and saffron and has excellent depth of fruit and is lush, almost oily on the palate. While her traditional Fiano di Avellino is treated only in stainless steel, this version is 20% barrique-fermented and then aged in barrique for 20 months. It’s quite a statement. (Incidentally, this is not labeled as Fiano di Avellino, as it was not tasted with the commission that approves wines to be labeled as DOCG).
As for the Greco “Ostinato” (some of the grapes are from outside the approved Greco di Tufo zone, so it cannot be labeled as such), it is produced in a similar manner as the Fiano (the fermentation here is extremely cold and lasts 12 months); the wine displays exquisite aromas of orange zest, pineapple and a touch of honeysuckle. Medium-full, there is excellent concentration, beautiful acidity and a light nuttiness in the lengthy finish (the persistence is outstanding). This is a wine of marvelous complexity, one that is exotic and distinct; I give the wine a 5-star (outstanding) rating and estimate that it will peak in 10-12 years. These two new wines from Donnachiara are prime evidence of the new direction being undertaken by the producers of Campania - brava, Ilaria!
Sabino Loffredo, Pietracupa (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A few final thoughts. As expected, the 2012 Pietracupa Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino are outstanding wines; the Greco with its gorgeous aromas of jasmine, lemon zest and magnolia flowers and beautiful ripeness, is especially memorable. Winemaker/proprietor Sabino Loffredo is among Italy’s most accomplished vintners and these wines serve as reference points for their category. Every wine he produces is a true statement of typicity, displaying great varietal purity along with a true sense of place. Also two examples of Fiano di Avellino from 2011, the Ciro Picariello and the Villa Diamante “Vigna della Congregazione” are powerful styles of this wine (especially the latter) and are evidence that 2011 was an excellent year that has been overlooked, sandwiched between the outstanding 2010 and 2012 vintages.
Maiori, Costa d’Amalfi (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Finally, I tasted an example of Biancolella that was arguably the finest I have ever come across. It’s from Raffaelle Palma and it’s called Pietracroce. This is a DOC Costa d’Amalfi wine from Palma’s stunning estate in the small seaside town of Maiori. Brilliant light yellow in color with a hint of copper, this has striking aromas of kiwi, honeysuckle and pineapple and offers vibrant acidity along with a lengthy finish with notes of green tea. Beautifully balanced and quite delicious, this is another accomplished wine from Vincenzio Mercurio, one of Campania’s most highly regarded enologists. This lovely wine is from the 2011 vintage, incidentally; I can’t wait to taste the 2012 offering!
Fiano Vineyard at Montefalcione (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
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I recently returned from a two-week trip to Italy that included three days in Campania. As the majority of my trip was in red wines zones of Tuscany (Montalcino and Scansano), I needed to head to a region that produces great whites, so I squeezed in some time in one of my favorite wine territories, the province of Avellino, also known as Irpinia.
Avellino is most famous for two white wines: Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. The wines are quite different with Greco tending to be lighter and a bit more reserved, with slightly higher acidity. Fiano on the other hand, tends to be most lush and ripe, being a bit more approachable upon release, while the finest examples of Greco tend to need a year or two after release before showing their best. Generally, Fiano, as it is a bigger wine, tends to age longer.
There is a third white grape planted in Avellino called Falanghina that is also planted throughout the Campanian region. Falanghina has vibrant acidity that is a trademark of the variety. It is an ancient variety that was almost forgotten over the last 30 years, but several producers in the region have made an effort to craft notable offerings from this grape. Many of the best examples come from the Sannio district in the province of Benevento, situated north of Avellino.
Ilaria Petito, Donnachiara (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A small producer that has become one of the most critically acclaimed for its whites is Donnachiara, headed by the engaging Ilaria Petito. Her first vintage for this project was only in 2006, so for her to gain as much attention as she has to date tells you the qualilty of the fruit she is working with along with the care in the cellars. For her new releases, it is the 2011 Fiano di Avellino that is a standout, with pear and quince aromas alongside those of toasted almond and hay. Medium-full, the wine has excellent ripeness and a lengthy finish with lively acidity. This should offer optimum drinking for 3-5 years, perhaps longer.
A quick word here about 2010 and 2011 in Campania. 2010 offered wines that were beautifully balanced with very good acidity; while not a powerful vintage, the wines offer very good typicity and are excellent representations of their types. 2011 was a warmer vintage and the wines are definitely richer on the palate and more forward. Yet this is not a flash in the pan vintage, but one that yielded excellent wines from many producers. Of course, some of the best estates have not yet released their 2011s, but based on what I’ve tasted so far, 2011 is clearly a successful vintage for white wines in Campania, with impressive depth of fruit as well as overall balance.
Cutizzi Vineyard of Feudi di San Gregorio, planted to Greco (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
One of my favorite estates – not just in Campania – but in all of Italy – is Feudi di San Gregorio, situated near the town of Sorbo Serpico. Proprietor Antonio Capaldo has done a marvelous job at this winery, producing offerings that lead the way for the region’s wine stature. One of my favorite wines from Feudi each year is the Greco di Tufo from the Cutizzi vineyard in Santa Paolina in the heart of the DOCG zone. The 2011 is medium-full with excellent concentration with aromas of pear, melon and kiwi. The wine is a bit plump on the palate and there is a lengthy finish with excellent persistence and very good acidity. This is a Greco di Tufo that reveals greater complexities with time, so look for this wine to be at its best in another five years.
The 2011 Falanghina “Serrocielo” is one of the best releases to date of this wine. This is a single vineyard Falanghina, something you don’t see to often; this planting is situated in the Benevento province. The aromas on this wine – stone fruit (peach and pear) along with notes of honey – are delightful and there is excellent weight on the palate and a nicely structured finish. This is a pleasure for current consumption and will improve for another 3-5 years.
The finest white from Feudi I tasted this trip was the 2010 Campanaro, a blend of Fiano and Greco. This wine is always released one year after the other Greco and Fiano bottlings, a wise choice, as the wine needs time to come together and show its finest characteristics. The 2010 has beautiful floral aromas (geranium, magnolia) to go along with its notes of Bosc pear, melon and lemon; medium-full, the wine offers excellent complexity. This is an outstanding wine that will drink well for 7-10 years.
I’ve always enjoyed visiting Matroberardino, the grand patriarch of all Campanian producers. My first visits, some ten years ago were with Antonio Mastroberardino; today I meet with his son Piero, a thoughtful individual who caries on his father’s work with great tact and skill. His new 2011 whites are beautifully made, from the simple, refreshing Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio – made entirely from the Coda di Volpe variety – to the single vineyard and selezione wines. The 2011 Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra” has yellow flower and lemon peel aromas, impressive weight on the palate and a beautifully defined mid-palate and a lengthy finish with distinct minerality; in short, this is a Greco di Tufo of excellent typicity.
As for Fiano di Avellino, I am very impressed with the Radici offering (radici meaning “roots”), which has expressive aromas of quince, Bosc pear, yellow flowers and chamomile. There is a rich mid-palate and excellent persistence and the wine is very clean and flavorful. There is excellent complexity and this year, a bit more ripeness, which only adds to the wine’s appeal. This is delicious and a great example of how beautiful the whites wines of Campania are for food, be it shellfish (especially with Greco di Tufo) or lighter poultry, veal and pork dishes, which are best paired with Fiano di Avellino.
In Part Two of this study of 2010 and 2011 Campanian whites, I will discuss the wines from some of the finest small estates of Avellino, including Villa Diamante, Vadiaperti and Pietracupa.
Here is my final post on the Best Italian Wines from the past year; this is the third entry on red wines. Again, this is a partial list, see the end of this post for more information on all of my selections.
2008 Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore - The gorgeous wine zone of Bolgheri, located in Tuscan province of Livorno, just a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea is the home of some of Italy’s most renowned estates. Most Italian wine lovers know two of these companies, namely Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and Tenuta San Guido, the latter firm being the one that produces Sassicaia. But in reality, there is a third producer here that ranks the equal of those two; the winery is Grattamacco. Established in 1977 and currently owned by Claudio Tipa, Grattamacco is a spectacularly beautiful estate where the vineyards seem to go on forever. Like most companies in Bolgheri, the top red wine here is made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon (65% in this wine), while Merlot makes up 20% and Sangiovese 15% of the blend. The 2008 is a brilliant wine with incredible depth of fruit, seductive aromas of black cherry, black currant, tar, licorice and black raspberry and an extremely long finish with beautifully silky, polished tannins. The acidity is remarkable as it cleanses the mouth (this is a astonishingly clean wine for being so powerful), and provides amazing freshness. There is outstanding persistence and the balance is impeccable while the complexity is superior. I have loved this Bolgheri Superiore, the top wine of the estate for years and I believe this is the finest offering of Grattamacco since the great 1999 bottling! A truly spectacular wine and a candidate for the Best Italian Wine of the Year. This is seductive now, but it will only improve with time and should be at its peak in 20-25 years. $85
2006 Sestadisopra Brunello di Montalcino - I have listed the Brunello from this traditional producer at or near the top of my rankings virtually every year since 2001. This is a lovely wine with beautiful red cherry, strawberry and cedar aromas backed by a rich mid-palate and an ideally structured finish with excellent persistence and fine acidity. Aged solely in big casks, this is a great expression of terrior in the small Sesta zone of Montalcino. This should be at its peak in 20 years and will probably drink well for a few years after that. $75
2006 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino - Another great traditional Brunello producer and one of my favorite Italian wines, period. Winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci manages to craft a superb Brunello each vintage by largely staying out of the way, as the fruit from the estate vineyards is so wonderful; Bindocci treats this fruit with kid gloves, aging it in large casks (grandi botti), allowing the varietal purity to shine through. This should be at is best in 20-25 years. $80
2006 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino - Here is another ultra consistent Brunello producer at the top of their game. Proprietor Andrea Cortonesi always crafts an elegant Brunello, even in a year such as 2006 that resulted in beautifully structured wines. The aromas feature notes of wild strawberry, red cherry, thyme and cedar; the tannins are polished and the acidity is finely tuned. This should be at its best in 15-20 years. $70
2007 Donnachiara Taurasi - Taurasi is arguably the finest Italian red that few know much about. Made primarily from the Aglianico grape in a zone near the eponymous town in Campania, Taurasi combines ripe cherry fruit with hints of bitter chocolate along with firm tannins and healthy acidity to result in a complex wine that is one of Italy’s longest lived; 40 year old versions that drink well are not uncommon. This version from a producer that should also be better known is not the biggest Taurasi from 2007, but it is an excellent example that has all the characteristics one looks for in a Taurasi. Medium-full with appealing varietal fruit, this has polished tannins and good acidity. Like most examples of 2007 Taurasi, this is forward and somewhat approachable now, but will improve with time and should peak in about 10 years. $40 (which is very reasonably priced for a Taurasi).
2007 Mastroberardino Taurasi “Radici” - Mastroberardino has been the family that has been one of the flag bearers for Taurasi over the past 100 years. They have produced some of the best bottlings in the last six decades; the famous 1968 bottling is still in fine shape, almost 45 years after the vintage. While the winemaking has changed over the years – today’s versions are aged in small and large barrels as opposed to only small barrels of years past – the quality has not. Deeply concentrated with elegant tannins and good acidity, this is a rich, quite complex Taurasi that is a very good expression of local terroir. This needs time to round out and will be at its best in 12-15 years. $50
2009 Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico “Dorilli” – Planeta, one of Sicily’s most influential producers never ceases to amaze. Excellent whites and reds, from Fiano and Chardonnay to Syrah and Nero d’Avola, are turned out on a seemingly routine basis. The latest success from this winery is this new bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the chamring Nero d’Avola/Frappato blend. The regular bottling of Cerasuolo di Vittoria from Planeta is very good, with its lovely freshness and tasty fruit, but with this Dorilli bottling (named for a local river), there is an added layer of complexity and elegance. A blend of 70% Nero d’Avola and 30% Frappato, this has beautiful aromas of black cherry, plum and violets with a lengthy, elegant finish with very good acidity. This is so delicious now and will drink well over the next 5-7 years. $20
2008 Arianna Occhipinti Nero d’Avola “Siccogno” - The effervescent Arianna Occhipinti is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti, co-owner of the famed COS estate in Vittoria. The younger Occhipinti produces several wines that are of similar caliber to her uncle; this was may favorite from last year. Medium-full, with inviting aromas of strawberry, red currant and mulberry, this is a complex Nero d’Avola with plenty of punch in the finish, yet maintains its elegance and finesse throughout. This is an outstanding example of Nero d’Avola; it should be at its best in 7-10 years. $35
This completes my posts on the Best Italian Wines of 2011. Given the space limitations of a blog, these have been partial lists. The complete lists of my Best Italian Wines of the Year will be in the Spring 2012 issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. To purchase this issue for $10 or to subscribe ($30 for four quarterly issues), please email me at email@example.com