Posts tagged ‘livio felluga’
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A few thoughts today about some very tasty Italian wines I’ve enjoyed recently. Some of these are quite famous, a few not so famous, but they’re all extremely well made wines that offer a great deal of pleasure, both on their own and at the dinner table.
2012 Livio Felluga Sauvignon - I’m guessing that almost everyone who is an Italian wine lover has enjoyed a wine from the Livio Felluga estate at some point. Certainly the Pinot Grigio is one of the most famous examples in Italy and it’s also on my list as one of the most delicious. But the entire lineup is a brilliant array of vibrant whites and edgy reds that are evidence of the excellence of this estate, located in the Colli Orientali district of the Friuli region in far northeastern Italy.
Particularly memorable is the Sauvignon. This is the same Sauvignon Blanc grape that is grown throughout the world; however in Italy, it is known simply as Sauvignon. The examples from Friuli and Alto Adige, another cool climate northern Italian region, offer very good acidity as well as strong aromas and flavors; the 2012 offering from Livio Felluga displays attractive aromas of Bosc pear, freshly cut hay, spearmint and chervil. These aromas are textbook for this variety and it’s nice to find such complexity in the nose and on the palate. However, lest you think this is an intense wine, think again, as this is a harmonious wine with beautiful balance, excellent persistence, precise acidity and ideal varietal character. This is a delicious Sauvignon and while that term is often used for Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco or other lighter Italian whites, it’s not often applied to Sauvignon. But here it is and it’s very enjoyable on its own, although the subtle herbal characteristics of this wine deem it an appropriate partner for sautéed scallops or shrimp with lemon or ginger, while grouper or tilapia would also be ideal with this excellent white. Enjoy it tonight or over the next 3-5 years. (Suggested US retail of $26)
2013 Attems Pinot Grigio - I don’t drink much Pinot Grigio, as I find too many examples to be too simple for my tastes. This doesn’t mean they’re bad wines, it’s just that the wines are made as crowd pleasers, aimed at offending no one instead of trying to please with specific characteristics. One Pinot Grigio I did taste recently that offered a little more complexity- as well as richness on the palate – is the 2013 Attems Pinot Grigio. This wine is also from Friuli and it’s from the splendid 2013 vintage, one that was cool and ideal for whites with expressive aromatics and wines with admirable structure, given their beautiful acidity levels. This has aromas of yellow apples and lilacs, is medium-bodied and is quite dry. This is a must with food – pair it with risotto with seafood or chicken with vegetables. (SPR -$19)
2013 Cantina di Soave “Rocca Sveva” Soave Classico – I don’t have as much space as I’d like to discuss my love of Soave, a wine that’s remarkably misunderstood in this country. It’s too often thought of as a summer white, a term I dislike, as it equates to saying the wine is a simple quaffer with little to offer. Yes, there are some examples of Soave that are a bit one-dimensional, but price will often give you a clue to the identity of those wines.
The Soave district in the Veneto region – about a 30-minute drive from the lovely town of Verona – is actually home to at least three extinct volcanoes, so yes, the soils in much of this district are volcanic, which means the best examples of Soave Classico have a distinct minerality to them as well as excellent complexity. This isn’t to say that these are weighty, “ultra serious” wines, as they are very appealing in their youth; it’s just that the best examples of Soave are multi-dimensional wines that can age for anywhere from five to fifteen to even twenty years in a few instances.
All of this is a preface to let you know how much I enjoyed the 2013 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico from Cantina di Soave. This is a large cooperative, located just behind the famous castello in the town of Soave. You can bring in demi-johns and fill them up with the basic Soave for a very inexpensive price or you can enjoy their finest selection of Soave under the Rocca Sveva label. This 2013 is a beautiful wine with enticing aromas of honeydew melon, honey and magnolia – just textbook. Medium-full with a rich mid-palate and a lengthy finish, this is especially nice this year, as it’s from the excellent 2013 vintage, which as mentioned above, was outstanding for white wines. In fact, this is the finest version of this wine I have tasted! This is so delicious on its own, but even better with vegetable risotto, sole or roast chicken. (SRP $15 – a great value. I can’t say I’ve had even one or two other $15 whites that are this good!)
By the way, the three white wines I mentioned above are fermented and aged in stainless steel – no oak on these! I prefer this approach more often than not (although there are numerous oak-aged whites I think are first-rate). It all depends on the wine, but my point here is that there are so many brilliant whites wines that never see oak.
Mionetto Prosecco “Valdobbiadene Superiore” DOCG - Finally, a note on a very charming sparkling wine. Everyone knows about Prosecco, especially given its proliferation on the shelves of not only wine stores, but also supermarkets. It seems as there are dozens of $12 Proseccos everywhere and while these are pleasant, if undistinguished wines, spend a few dollars more – as little as $15 – and you can find a Prosecco that will interest you and your friends. In other words, these are Proseccos you wouldn’t dream of mixing with peach juice!
For just under $20 you can find an excellent Prosecco that’s one of the most elegant and flavorful I’ve tasted in a while. That’s the Mionetto Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, labeled as Extra Dry. In order to identify the finest examples of Prosecco, the regulations were changed a few years ago to let consumers know that the true home of Prosecco are the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene; this is important to know as the term Prosecco by itself has become somewhat generic as inexpensive sparkling wines from Friuli can be called Prosecco. Pleasant wines, perhaps, but not wines with much complexity.
Mionetto has been one of the leading producers of true Prosecco for some time now and their products are quite good and very representative of the heart of the real Prosecco zone. They’ve recently introduced their line of luxury cuvées of specialty Prosecco. This DOCG is well made with appealing lemon peel, chamomile and peony aromas, an off-dry finish (though dry enough for food) and an elegant finish. This is very refreshing and enjoyable on its own- I’ve enjoyed it with take-out Chinese food as well as seafood salad and I’m sure it would also be fine with lighter white meats. I can’t imagine a fan of Prosecco not loving this and wanting to find a few bottles for themselves.
As 2012 gets underway, it’s time to look back on the best Italian wines of 2011. Today’s post will focus on whites, while the next will be on sparkling and dessert wines with a third post highlighting red wines.
These posts will be partial lists of the best wines of the year:
2008 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Riserva “Vorberg” (DOC Alto Adige – Südtirol) Cooperative producers – wine firms that source grapes from growers that are members of the cooperative – are quite prevalent in the northeastern region of Alto Adige. Cantina Terlano, founded in 1893, is one of the very best. Pinot Bianco is the most widely planted white variety in Alto Adige, but few versions have as much complexity or style as this offering. Produced from grapes sourced from the eponymous vineyard more than 1500 feet above sea level, this wine received a short time in large casks that are a few years old. Medium-full, there are aromas of dried pear and tea leaf; the mid-palate is generous and there is excellent persistence. There is a distinct minerality in the finish along with notes of pink grapefruit. Overall, this is a wine that displays outstanding varietal purity, excellent balance and amazing complexity.
What a marvelous rendering of this variety, a wine that can be enjoyed tonight with a variety of foods, from grouper and sea bass to roast pork and veal. Or if you prefer, let this age and consume it in another 5-7 years, as the acidity and structure (signatures of the excellent 2008 vintage) guarantee a long life. Suggested retail price: $ 25 (and worth every penny!)
2008 Gini Soave Classico Superiore “Contrada Selvarenza Vecchie Vigne” (Soave Classico DOC)- Brothers Sandro and Claudio Gini have made their estate in Monteforte d’Alpone into one of the finest and most consistent in the Soave zone. Their Soave Classico normale is a textbook example of this wine every year and then you have this particular bottling, which shows just how complex and multi-dimensional Soave can be. Vecchie Vigne refers to old vines; in this instance, the grapes are sourced from 80-year old vines. Fermented in large casks and then aged in barriques, this is a Soave that has tremendous depth of fruit, while the oak adds texture and a bit of spice. The aromas are of Anjou pear and lilacs along with a pleasant note of heather (not that unlike a classic single malt scotch); the finish is extremely long and the wine has impeccable balance. From the marvelous 2008 vintage, my best guess is that this wine will be at its best in 10-12 years. I have had 10 and 15 -year old botlings of this particular wine and they have been in excellent shape. This is a great Soave! Suggested price: $35
2008 Primosic “Klin” (DOC Collio Bianco) - The Collio zone in the region of Friuli in the far northeastern reaches of Italy is a superb growing area for white varieties, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of outstanding white blends. The “Klin” from Primosic is the finest I tasted last year. A blend of Sauvignon (Blanc), Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Chardonnay, this wine was fermented and aged in small French oak barrels. While there are several blends from Collio that are aged only in steel tanks and are marvelous, the oak aging works beautifully with this wine, as this is reminiscent in many ways to a great white Burgundy. Just an amazing array of aromas, from pear and beeswax to lanolin and lavender; the finish is extremely long and there is outstanding concentration and vibrant acidity. Another remarkable wine from the 2008 vintage (notice a pattern here?), this should drink well for 10-12 years and perhaps longer. This is a wine – and a producer – that should be better known. $55
2010 Zuani “Vigne” (DOC Collio Bianco) – Here is another brilliant blended white from Collio, this one aged only in steel tanks (the winery makes a similar white that is aged in oak, named interestingly enough, Zuani “Zuani”). A melange of Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon in equal parts, the fruit is from vineyards that are between 15 and 30 years old. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this wine displays aromas of melon, peach, spearmint and dried yellow flowers with excellent persistence and a lovely brightness, thanks to very good acidity. The 2010 is a bit lighter than the 2009 and 2008 versions of this wine, but it is no less accomplished. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. $22 (an excellent value!)
2009 Livio Felluga “Terre Alte” (DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo)- Anyone familiar with the finest Italian white wines surely knows the Terre Alte bottling from Livio Felluga. Primarily sourced from vineyards in the Rosazzo zone, this is a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon that is aged for a brief time in oak. The 2009 is especially notable, given its deep concentration, lengthy finish and outstanding persistence. This wine has historically shown beautifully upon release and then little by little, displayed its complexities over the years. Look for this 2009 version to drink well for 12-15 years – at least! $75
This is a partial list of the best Italian white 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvest is on going throughout Italy. I asked a few producers to give me their thoughts on the 2011 growing season and harvest. Here are their comments.
Piero Mastroberardino – Director – Mastroberardino, Atripalda, Campania
Winter was long and cold with less rain than normal. The vegetative resumption was delayed due to the cold winter. In the first stages of blooming, we had a lot of rain that enriched the acquiferous layers of the earth. In May, June and the first part of July, we had a good climatic state, with rains of little intensity that were spread out, bringing back the vegetative state to normal again.
The third week of July with the coolest temperatures and a little rain, predisposed the vines to the water stress of August. In August, especially in the second and third week, we enjoyed very good thermal inversion between the days and nights. The rains of the final days contributed notably to a lowering of overall temperatures.
The actual climatic conditions along with the important thermal inversions and the good vegetative/productive conditions of the vines, have led us to a harvest of excellent quality.
Antonio Capaldo – Owner/Director – Feudi di San Gregorio, Sorbo Serpico, Campania
The harvest is overall very good in quality but with a strong reduction in quantity (30-40%) which is bringing a lot of pressure on us all.
Falanghina started a few days ago and is very beautiful.
Fiano and Greco appear on a similar condition but it is still too soon to say as it is starting raining after an incredible heat. For Aglianico it is definitely too soon but overall indication on lower quantity/higher quality appear to work here as well.
We are about 10 days in advance compared to average.
Alessandro Locatelli – owner/winemaker – Rocche Costamagna, La Morra, Piedmont
Another great harvest in Piedmont !
This was a very particular season that started 2 weeks early; the harvest also arrived 2 weeks before normal.
Great quality, perfect ripening, but very low production: 20% less.
We are happy and next week we will start the Nebbiolo harvest.
Andrea Felluga – winemaker – Livio Felluga, Brazzano di Cormons, Friuli
The harvest is going well. We have had sufficient flowering and a very balanced season… extremely hot at the end of August that came together well for a well-timed picking of the grapes. In the hottest days, we picked only in the morning, so as not to scorch the grapes. The whites and Merlot are now finished. We have also to pick the Cabernet, Refosco, Pignolo and Picolit, obviously. We are in a most delicate enological phase for the white wines: at the end of alcoholic fermentation, management of the lees and malolactic, but I am very optimistic for the quality of the wines.
Maddalena Paqua di Bisceglie – proprietor – Musella, San Martino, Veneto
I’m particularly happy this year to give you some notes about the Harvest 2011. A great vintage!
First of all, I have to say I was lucky to be helped and encouraged by the weather in our first year of Biodynamic and this is important…my enthusiasm for what could be considered a dream of a life is now even more intense after the first and incredibly evident results!
The weather in 2011 was not regular, considering a very advanced hot Spring and the cool July and beginning of August. These inverted conditions created a particular course of maturation. We had an advanced development of blooms, leaves and grapes, we arrived in June with at least a couple or even three of weeks of advance. In that period the weather changed and we suffered three long weeks of intense rains.
Around the third week of August it was extraordinarly hot week (40 C°!!) that gave a kick to the maturations and in only a few days we had the unusual condition to have almost all varieties ready to be picked!
Honestly we saved the quality with some water in form of irrigation we could gave during this week. It was more than a month we had not any rain and the vines started to take the water from the grapes and to stop the maturation! So, giving small quantity of water we interrupted this process.
Around the end of August in a weekend we had an amazing quantity of rain (60 mm), the entire Valpolicella area had an important relief and the grapes started to mature again everywhere here.
We never harvested Corvina before the first week of September and this year we did it in August…amazing and new for us, but that’s a part of the beauty of my job: it is never the same and could be very surprising, teaching us something new every year.
The first vinifications were perfect and even if we were worried for the first Biodynamic experience, we are very happy with it and even quite surprised how we already can taste more crunchy fruit in it.
The colors are very rich, the acidity not particularly high, but we will manage it with the malolactics. The general conditions gave us not a big quantity, but for sure a very important quality!
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:
- 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)
- 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”
- 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.
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.
Without further ado, here is a partial list of my choices as the best Italian whites wines of the year. A full list (along with the best reds of the year and a list of the best producers) can be found in the next issue of my Guide to Italian Wines. For subscription information, click here.
2008 CANTINA TRAMIN STOAN
This cooperative is one of Alto Adige’s finest producers, with excellent quality from the most simple whites to the most full-bodied bottlings. Stoan, named for the local stony soil, is a marvelous blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon (Blanc) and Gewurztraminer that displays gorgeous aromatics, rich concentration and vibrant acidity along with great structure and backbone. This was my favorite white wine of the year (from anywhere, not just Italy) and it is a perfect partner for a variety of foods, especially cracked crab.
2008 LIVIO FELLUGA TERRE ALTE
It begins to sound like a broken record, but each year this blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon from this esteemed Friulian producer is among the finest Italian whites. The 2008 is not as full-bodied as in some vintages (2007, e.g.), but it more than makes up for that with its gorgeous perfumes of chamomile, pear, almond and rose petals. This should offer drinking enjoyment for 7-10 years and perhaps longer.
2009 EDI KEBER COLLIO BIANCO
This blend of Friulano, Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla has in just a few short years, become one of the benchmark whites of Friuli. This is not as powerful as the Felluga wine above, but it offers as much complexity and varietal character. The vibrant acidity gives this wine backbone and structure – enjoy over the next 5-7 years, especially with shellfish.
2009 ZUANI COLLIO BIANCO “VIGNE”
Here is another gorgeous Collio blend, this comprising 25% each of Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon. The aromas jump out of the glass and the wine is all about pleasure and finesse. Try this over the next 3-5 years with a wide ranges of dishes, from risotto to shellfish.
2008 BASTIANICH VESPA BIANCO
This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit has been a favorite for years, not only for its complexity, but also its longevity, as ten-year old bottlings shine. The 2008 is not as rich as some vintages, but it is still quite lush and features gorgeous aromatics and vibrant acidity, which should preserve the wonderful freshness of this wine for many years.
2009 COLLI DI LAPIO FIANO DI AVELLINO
There’s really no mystery as to why this wine is among the finest in Campania every year; it’s a simple matter of excellent terroir combined with careful farming and winemaking. Medium-full, this has a big finish with lively acidity and a big streak of minerality. Look for this 2009 to drink well for at least 3-5 years, perhaps longer.
2009 MARISA CUOMO FIORDUVA
This Amalfi Coast white has become legendary over the past decade. A blend of the local varieties Ripoli, Fenile and Ginestra, this is a more powerful white than the typical offering from Campania. Fermented and aged in small oak barrels, the wine has pronounced aromatics of fruit (grapefruit, mango) and herb (fennel, chamomile) and a generous mid-palate with a beautifully structured finish. This should drink welll for 5-7 years and is big enough for veal or poultry, though I love it with lobster or swordfish.
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.”
Here is a brief list of some of the finest producers of Sauvignon in the Collio and Colli Orientali districts:
- Russiz Superiore
- Villa Russiz
- Venica & Venica
- Ronchi di Manzano
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:
- I Clivi
- Livio Felluga
- Russiz Superiore
- Villa Russiz
- La Castellada
- Le Vigne di Zamo
- Isidoro Polencic
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!
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!
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