Back in April, I wrote a post about a few examples of Italian wines that I loved, if for no other reason than they were unique – uniquely Italian, that is. Given that producers in all 20 regions of Italy- from the cool mountain territories of Alto Adige and Friuli – to the warm sectors of Basilicata and Sicily – craft products made from any number of varieties, Italian wines offer an endless glimpse into the viticultural landscape. No country works with as many indigenous varieties as there are in Italy; thus there are more distinctive and individualistic wines from Italy than any other country in the world.
With that in mind, here are a few more examples of distinctive Italian wines I have tasted lately:
2010 Argiolas “Iselis Bianco” – Here is one of my new favorite whites from Italy – and I have a lot of them! This is from one of Sardinia’s best producers and it’s a blend of Nardo along with a lesser percentage of Vermentino. Nardo is a rare variety that’s normally used to produce dessert wines, but it’s also excellent when vinified dry. This has a bright golden yellow color and beautiful aromas of jasmine, banana and apricot. Medium-full, this has lively acidity (as you would expect) and a rich finish with notes of dried yellow fruit and a distinct minerality. First and foremost, this is a delicious wine that’s very rich with impeccable balance, but it’s also a lovely food wine, especially paired with vegetable risotto, roast chicken or many Greek dishes. ($20, excellent value) – Imported by Winebow, Montvale, NJ.
Grotta del Sole Aspirinio di Aversa Spumante NV – Italians love – make that adore sparkling wines. Several of the finest Champagne houses sell more of their product to Italy than any other export market. Then of course, Italians produce some excellent bubblies; Franciacorta and Prosecco are the most famous, but there are also notable sparkling wines known as Alta Langa in Piemonte, while there are assorted producers such as Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania that work with Champagne producers as partners with their sparkling wine project.
There are also more humble everyday spumanti made all over Italy, from Friuli in the north to Sicilia in the south. One of the more unique is Aspirinio di Aversa from the northern Campanian province of Caserta. Aspirinio is a high acid white, so that while it is often made as a dry white, is is also ideal for a sparkling wine.
I’ve just tried the non-vintage Asprinio di Aversa spumante from Grotta del Sole, a wonderful producer based in the Campi Flegrei area just north of Naples. This bottling is made according to the charmat method, the same used to make Prosecco; the producer also has a sparkling Aspirinio made according to the classic method (as with Franciacorta).
The wine has attractive melon, lemon and peony aromas, a good stream of bubbles and a clean, dry finish with good acidity. This is not a sparkling wine to age, but rather one to enjoy on a summer of fall day by itself or with lighter antipasti. – ($16.99 – Imported by Downey Selections, Lorton, VA)
2008 Didier Gerbelle Torrette Superieur “Vigna Tsancognein” – Ask yourself- when is the last time you tasted a wine from Valle d’Aosta? It’s probably been some time and for some of you reading this, the answer may be “never.” Clearly this region in far northwestern Italy is the least publicized of any wine region in the country (except perhaps for Molise); while that’s easy to understand based on the limited production as well as the unusual varieties planted here, the flip side is that these wines are among the most distinctive in all of Italy. Torrette is a red wine produced near Amayvilles in the center of the region that is made primarily from the Petit Rouge grape (70% minimum); this bottling also has smaller percentages of local varieties Cornalin, Premetta and Fumin. Didier Gerbelle, who graduated from the enology school in Alba and has returned to work his family’s vineyards, has made a lovely version of this wine, which has blackberry, mulberry and charred meat aromas. Medium-full, this has medium-weight tannins, subtle wood notes (it was aged partly in large oak casks and partly in steel tanks) and a rich, flavorful finish with notes of ripe plum. It’s a little bit like a Dolcetto, but racier and a bit heartier in nature. Enjoy this over the next 3-5 years with a variety of foods, from tajarin pasta with tartufi to pork medallions. ($32.99 – Imported by Oliver McCrum Wines, Oakland, CA)
2007 Villa Dora Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso “Gelsonero” – Many tourists to Napoli and the Amalfi Coast have enjoyed a glass of Lacryma Christi del Bianco at a local trattoria, but they may not realize there is also a red Lacryma Christi (as well as a rosato). This version from Villa Dora is easily one of the finest I’ve tried. This producer, whose organically-farmed vineyards are situated on the lower slopes of Mount Vesuvius, has made a Lacryma Christi rosso that is a bit more serious than most other examples, as this has 20% Aglianico in the blend along with 80% Piedirosso. This is significant, as many examples of this red are pure Piedirosso, which delivers a fruit-driven, charming red with very light tannins; as this wine has Aglianico in the blend, it makes for a wine that can stand up to richer foods and can also age for several years. This has sensual black plum, black raspberry and tar aromas, is medium-bodied and is quite delicious; the acidity is very good and the tannins are round and not obtrusive; in short, this is one of the most stylish examples of this wine you can find. Still offering very good freshness, this is drinking well now and will be enjoyable for another 3-5 years, especially paired with lighter pastas. ($24.99 – Imported by Oliver McCrum Wines, Oakland, CA)