As I’m tasting Italian wines, from time to time I’ll note a wine that I label a crowd pleaser. This is a wine, be it red white, rosé or sparkling that has forward, tasty fruit with good ripeness and a clean, round finish. These are wines that appeal to just about everyone, be they beginning wine tasters or those that have been drinking wines for decades.
It’s great to find such bottles, but then I realized something. Many of the Italian wines I prefer the most are the ones that aren’t crowd pleasers. These are wines that have fruit, but a lot of other characteristics in the nose and on the palate,. Often they have an earthy, herbaceous finish that might have one day been called rustic. These are wines that have higher acidity than what many wine drinkers are used to – this is true in the reds as well as the whites – and they are, at their best, wines that truly reflect a sense of place. These are authentic Italian wines and like most of the finest things in life, they’re not for everyone. But if you give them a try, if you go out of your normal wine routine for just a bit, you too may discover the pleasure of these authentic Italian gems.
Here are a few I tasted recently:
2009 Ippolito 1845 Ciro Rosso Superiore “Liber Pater” – Let’s face it – the wines of Calabria are never going to be hip. But they are flavorful, distinct and authentic. Ippolito 1845 (named for the year the winery was established) is a medium-size producer in Calabria that produces Ciro Rosso, a tangy wine made entirely from the local Gaglioppo grape. This selection is medium-bodied with aromas of dried cherry and oregano and an earthy finish with notes of poricini mushrooms and tobacco; this is definitely an earthy or “rustic” wine; drink this with red meats, stews, game, ribs or even pizza over the next 2-3 years. ($20 suggested retail- imported by Wine Emporium, Brooklyn, NY)
2010 Bio Vio Pigato di Albegna “Marene” - Many wine lovers don’t even realize that Liguria is a serious wine producing region; after all, how many Ligurian wines have most of us tasted? This biological producer makes an excellent version of Pigato from the local white variety. Medium-bodied and aged solely in stainless steel, this has inviting aromas of golden apple, saffron, jasmine and dried pear with lively acidity and a dry finish highlighted by notes of salted almond; this character is derived from the proximity of the vineyards to the sea. Wonderful with most shellfish over the next 1-2 years. ($22 suggested retail – imported by Wine Emporium, Brooklyn, NY)
2010 Tenuta Cocci Grifone Pecorino “Colle Vecchio”- I’ll admit that the style of this wine is a bit more attuned to the majority of consumers’ likes than most of the other wines in this post, so the reason I’m including this is the grape variety. Everyone knows that pecorino is a wonderful type of cheese made from sheep’s milk, but how many know that there is a grape variety named Pecorino? There are plantings in both the Abruzzo and Marche regions; this one comes from the Offida DOC area in southern Marche. Cocci Grifoni, a winery established in 1970, has been refining their efforts with this variety over the past decade and the 2010 is a lovely offering, imbued with flavors of Bosc pear and pippin apple along with notes of jasmine and white flowers. It’s been aged exclusively in steel, so as not to dampen the bright fruit and it’s also got lovely acidity and a round, tart finish. Try this with lighter poultry dishes or delicate seafood over the next 1-2 years – it’s also delicious on its own! ($16- nicely priced. Imported by Empson, USA, Alexandria, VA).
2010 Corte dei Papi Cesanese del Piglio “Colle Ticchio” - The deep ruby red/light purple color of this wine might make you think this is an internationally-styled fruit bomb, but that’s clearly not the case. This is from Lazio, made entirely from the Cesanese variety and aged only in steel tanks. The aromas are quite distinct – tobacco, blackberry, bitter chocolate and roasted meat! Medium-bodied, this is ripe with a clearly defined rustic finish. This is not something you’d just grab a glass of on its own, but with game, spicy pastas and grilled foods, it’s a delight! Enjoy this over the next 2-3 years. ($18 – imported by Vias, New York City, NY)
2010 Strasserhof Kerner - Here is a beautifully structured and delicious white from Valle Isarco in northern Alto Adige. The Kerner variety is found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but almost nowhere else but Alto Adige in Italy. This 2010 version from this renowned producer has explosive aromas of yellow peach, apricot and orange rind, backed by excellent concentration and persistence with lively acidity and a rich, dry finish. Pear this with Thai or Oriental cuisine or with turkey; it will also age well for another three to five years. ($31, imported by Vias, New York, NY).