Posts tagged ‘pigato’

Uniquely Italian

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).

April 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm 4 comments

Italian Varieties – P to S

Sagrantino vineyards near Montefalco (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Sagrantino vineyards near Montefalco (Photo ©Tom Hyland)




White variety from Abruzzo and Marche. Generally aged in stainless steel, though some vinters barrel age it, achieving a creaminess. Pear and apple aromas.


Lovely red variety of Campania, literally meaning “red feet,” a descriptor for the birds that sit on the vines when they eat the ripe berries. High acid, light tannins and charming fruit flavors of raspberry, cranberry and black cherry. Primarily used as a blending varietal; in small percentages (less than 15%), it cuts the aggressive tannic bite of Aglianico in the great Campanian red, Taurasi. It is also the primary variety in the medium-bodied Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso.


One of Liguria’s most important white varieties with flavors of pineapple and pear with notes of herbs (often rosemary).


Red variety of Friuli with big tannins and deep color and flavors of black fruits. Used only by a few producers and often in blends.

Pinot Bianco

The most widely planted white variety in Alto Adige, this has flavors of apples with a touch of spice. Examples vary from light, crisp and refreshing to more serious bottlings with deep fruit concentration and distinct minerality (such as the top examples from producers such as Cantina Terlano, Cantina Tramin and Alois Lageder.)

Pinot Grigio

Wildy popular white variety grown in several regions of Italy, with the finest bottlings coming from the cool northern regions of Alto Adige and Friuli. Flavors of apple, pear and dried flowers with most examples being quite light and simple. A few producers make single vineyard or special selection bottlings that are more complex. (Known as Pinot Gris in France and other countries.)

Pinot Nero

Known almost everwhere else in the world as Pinot Noir, this is a red variety with moderate tanins, cherry/strawberry fruit and high acidity. A few examples from Piemonte and Tuscany, but the best in Italy are from Alto Adige.


Red variety of Puglia, with deep color, black fruits and plenty of spice. Generally found in southern Pugila and often bottled on its own. DNA related to Zinfandel of California.


White variety from Veneto and Friuli used in the production of the sparkling wine of the same name. Flavors of white peach and lemon, aged in steel tanks.

Prugnolo Gentile

The name for Sangiovese in the town of Montepulciano (used in the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.)




The complete name of this variety is Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso – or “Refosco with a red stalk.” Yields wines of big spice, red fruit and distinctive tannins.

Ribolla Gialla

Charming white variety of Friuli that produces light to medium-bodied wines with high acidity and flavors of pear, lemon, chamomile and dried flowers.


One of the major red varieties of the Valpolicella district with deep color and good fruit (red cherry) intensity and moderate tannins.


Rarely seen red variety grown near Asti in Piemonte that makes a lightly spicy, high acid red.




Red variety of Umbria, grown only in the Montefalco area. Known for its intense tannins, Sagrantino is even more tannic than Nebbiolo. Cherry fruit and distinct spiciness as well. Sagrantino is made in both a dry and sweet (passito) version.

Ripe Sagrantino Grapes (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Ripe Sagrantino Grapes (Photo ©Tom Hyland)



One of Italy’s most famous and widely planted red varieties, this is best known for its use in three famous Tuscan reds: Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. High acid, garnet color and fresh red cherry fruit along with notes of cedar; today some modernists have tweaked Sangiovese to deepen the color and add spice and vanilla from small oak barrels. Sangiovese is also planted in Umbria, Marche and Emilia Romagna.


Known as Sauvignon Blanc throughout the rest of the world, this white variety is found most famously in Friuli and Alto Adige, where it produces assertive wines with bracing acidity and flavors of asparagus, pea and freshly mown hay. Also grown along the coasts of Tuscany.


Red variety from Friuli that produces lighter reds with cherry, currant fruit, high acidity and light tannins. Also known as Vernatsch.


Red variety of Friuli with big tannins and spice. Only a few producers work with this grape.


Red variety of Campania with lively acidity, dark berry fruit and moderate tannins. Usually a blending variety, but also used to make a lightly sparkling red wine.


Red variety of Puglia with deep purple color and big tannins. Usually part of a blend, but sometimes bottled on its own. Interestingly, the name of the grape is loosely transalted as “the back of a donkey,” perhaps because of its productivity in the vineyard.



August 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm 2 comments

tom hyland

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