Posts tagged ‘pallagrello bianco’
One Italian white wine, one red- one famous, one unknown – both great.
Today’s lesson on the joys and wonders of Italian wine has to do with the pleasure of discovering greatness in different places. I’m going to focus on two wines – one of which is famous and one of which is not. Both are remarkable wines.
The white wine – the one that’s not well known outside of its immediate zone – is the 2010 Terre del Principe Pallagrello Bianco. This small producer (less than 5000 cases per year) specializes in indigenous varieties in their territory, the province of Caserta in Campania. Now I love Campanian whites, but most of the examples I try are either Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino from the province of Irpinia (aka Avellino) or a wine made from Falanghina, which is planted in all five provinces of Campania. These wines are the calling cards for Campanian whites and they are enjoyed the world over.
But when it comes to Pallagrello Bianco (there is also a Rosso), this wine is rarely seen outside of its native surroundings. It’s suffered from a mistaken identity, as for years it was thought to be Coda di Volpe, a variety commonly used in Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco, a charming, if ultimately a rather undistinguished white wine from vineyards not far from Vesuvius. Pallagrello yields a white wine of much greater complexity and Peppe Mancini and Manuela Piancastelli do a superb job in capturing all the glories of this variety. My notes for this 2010 – aged solely in steel tanks – list the inviting aromatics of lemon zest, grapefruit and orange poppies. This has excellent depth of fruit, beautiful texture and a long, very flavorful finish with lively acidity. This is elegant and quite delicious and it’s going to be quite a pleasure over the next 2-3 years, especially with lighter seafood. This is quite a vibrant white that has widespread appeal – I’d love to try this with Thai or other Oriental cuisine as well. (Suggested retail price of $34. Imported by Vias Wines, New York, NY).
As far as a red wine that every Italian wine lover knows, Brunello di Montalcino is at or near the top of the charts. This illustrious wine, produced exclusively from Sangiovese, is a world-class red that can age for decades. Col d’Orcia, under the leadership of Francesco Marone Cinzano, is one of the most renowned estates in Montalcino, crafting examples of Brunello of uncommon class and elegance.
The Poggio al Vento Riserva bottling is from a single vineyard planted in 1974; situated some 1150 feet above sea level, the soil here is primarily limestone with a strong presence of gravel. The wine is aged in large casks (botti grandi) of Slavonian as well as French oak for four years. It is then bottled and rests two years in the cellars before being released.
This long period of aging certainly helps refine the wine and give it a lengthy mid-palate with deep fruit flavors that coat every corner of your mouth. The 2004 bottling, just being released, is another exceptional example of this wine, one that is produced only from the finest vintages (the three previous releases were 2001, 1999 and 1998). There are textbook aromas of red cherry and cedar along with a hint of fennel; overall, the wine is beautifully structured with very good acidity, subtle wood notes and outstanding complexity. This should reach peak maturity in 20-25 years, although I may be a bit conservative in the guess, especially based on previous releases of this wine. It is a sublime example of what a great Brunello di Montalcino is all about.
The 2004 Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “Poggio al Vento” has a suggested retail price of $150. Given the limited production (about 2000 cases for the entire world) as well as the fact that it is not produced every year along with the tremendous breeding and class of this wine, this price is undoubtedly just (there’s also the happy situation of this 2004 riserva just being released, while most producers are now offering their 2006s as their riserva). Imported by Palm Bay, Boca Raton, FL.
This is part two of my discussion of white wines from Campania. The last post dealt with Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino. This time around, I will discuss Falanghina as well as white wines from the Amalfi Coast.
Falanghina is another of the great ancient white varieties of Campania. The name comes from the word falerna, meaning “poles,” a reference to the system used by the Greeks more than a thousand years ago of attaching the vines to stakes, rather than having the vine directly in the ground. In the province of Caserta in northern Campania, Falerna is the local name of Falanghina.
The signature of Falanghina is its vibrant acidity; this is enhanced when the grapes are planted near the coast, as with the Villa Matilde estate in Caserta (Falerno del Massico DOC) or the Campi Flegrei DOC that hugs the shoreline just north of Napoli. Yet even inland in Benevento (Sannio DOC) and in Avellino, Falanghina maintains its healthy acidity.
This is a wine with lovely aromatics; apple and pear are most common, but today, the best bottlings offer greater complexity in their perfumes, including notes of quince, acacia, white peaches and even some tropical fruits such as kiwi or guava. As the aromatics are so special, most offerings are aged in stainless steel; an exception is the “Caracci” bottling from Villa Matilde.
The best examples of Falanghina available in the United States today include:
- Mastroberardino “Morabianca”
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Serrocielo”
- Villa Matilde “Caracci”
- La Sibilla “Cruna deLago”
These cru bottlings are priced in the $22-28 range. However there are many fine examples of Falanghina labeled as Sannio DOC or Beneventano IGT that are less expensive, well-made wines (often priced in the mid-teens); these include bottlings from Mastroberardino and Vinosia.
Feudi di San Gregorio also produces a lovely sparkling Falanghina as part of its DUBL series, which is co-produced with the French Champagne firm Selosse. As you might guess from the natural acidity of Falanghina, this is a nicely structured wine; the aromatics of pear and lemon along with a light yeastiness makes for a lovely wine.
Given its high acidity, Falanghina is ideal with shellfish.
Everyone knows about the gorgeous seaside setting of the Amalfi Coast, but few realize this is an excellent wine zone as well (Costa d’Amalfi DOC). Here growers use the traditional pergola system of training the vines; in this system, the overhead canopy protects the grapes from too much sun.
Vintners along the Amalfi Coast work with several white varieties not found elsewher; these incude Fenile, Ginestra and Biancolella. Most of the whites produced here are blends, offering lovely aromatics (most notably citrus, pear and melon) with vibrant acidity. Usually non-oak aged, most of the bottlings are meant for consumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date; they are perfect with local shellfish such as vongole, the tiny clams from the sea.
Among the best producers of white wine from the Amalfi Coast are:
- Marisa Cuomo
- Giuseppe Apicella
- Tenuta San Francesco
Marisa Cuomo, along with her husband/winemaker Andrea Ferraioli, is recognnized as one of Italy’s finest white wine producers. Their most famous wine, Fiorduva, is a powerful Amalfi blend fermented in barrique.
OTHER CAMPANIAN WHITES
There are a few other excellent areas for white wine in Campania, including the island of Ischia, off the coast of Napoli. Here producers struggle with high winds and other conditions to make white blends from varieties such as Forestera and Biancolella. Top producers from Ischia include Pietratorcia and Casa d’Ambra.
In the province of Caserta, there are a few producers working with Pallagrello Bianco; this variety is quite unique in that the aromatics are not fresh melon and pear, but more along the lines of dried herbs, flowers (such as acacia) and a distinct nuttiness. These wines remind one of Campania’s past! Look for producers such as Alois and Terre del Principe.
Finally, a white variety named Aspirinio is grown in Caserta in northern Campania. The vines of Aspirinio in the Aspirinio di Aversa DOC are trained to poles and reach as high as 30 feet off the ground, meaning pickers must climb ladders to harvest the grapes. While a dry white and sparkling version of Aspirinio di Aversa is produced, the most famous version is the passito bottling.