“This smells like a corn husk!” I exclaimed upon my first whiff of COS Frappato 2011. Unlike any frapatto I’ve ever tasted, nor like a typical Sicilian wine, I adored it.
My first experience with COS was New Year’s Eve three years ago when I had a bottle of Nero d’Avola 2008. It was equally interesting and not in a typical, hot Sicilian style. It’s extremely difficult to make a great Nero; when I find one, I usually make a note of the winery. COS practices biodynamic winemaking, began aging in amphorae in 2000 (just like another IWM favorite of mine, Gravner – maybe I just have a thing for amphora aged wines) and became the first winery to achieve DOCG status in Sicily in 2005.
Per my very vegetal first impression of this wine, you’d safely assume it’s not a fruit-driven vino. I got a lot of vegetation and soil on the nose, with notes of bark herbs like cinnamon and nutmeg as well as some strawberry leaf. On the palate, it was very smooth for a 2011, showing light tannins, more earthiness than I’d expected, and just a bit of orange zest. As the wine opened, a fruit character emerged in the form of under-ripe strawberries. Super delicious, this Frappato was great with Dijon marinated rib-eye steak and my new favorite side dish: sriracha sautéed sweet potatoes.
I had the great privilege of being a guest sommelier this past weekend here in New York City for the second La Festa del Barolo. It was an amazing two-day event with fifteen of Piemonte’s finest growers and winemakers. Just to give you an idea how tantalizing the venue was the following wineries were in attendance: Borgogno, Brovia, Cavallotto, Pio Cesare, Elvio Cogno, Poderi Aldo Conterno, Giacomo Conterno, Conterno-Fantino, Elio Grasso, E. Pira, Luciano Sandrone, G.D. Vajra, Vietti, and Roberto Voerzi—all presenting a Barolo from the 2008 vintage. In addition they each brought along some older vintages.
My two picks today reflect my enthusiasm for these great producers. Roberto Conterno and his family make milestone-setting wines at Poderi Aldo Conterno. Enrico Scavino and his daughters Enrica and Elisa are ensuring that the second and third generations are carrying on the dedication to high quality set forth by Enrico’s father Paolo Scavino, when he founded the winery in 1921.
This Dolcetto is so delicious that it behooves me to wonder how anyone could restrain themselves from opening a bottle on a daily basis. Poderi Aldo Conterno, known as the “King of Barolo,” needs an aptly named title for their Dolcetto. Made from different vineyards in Bussia (Montorte d’Alba), this wine vinifies in stainless steel vats to maintain the intense fruitiness of the wine. It has a bright crimson color with gorgeous aromas of cherries and blueberries, with hints of spice, smoke, and flowers. On the palate, it is smooth, fruit forward, with an edgy acidity that gives verve and character. A terrific food wine, this delicious wine from one of the greatest of Italy’s winemaking families deserves to be drunk in copious quantities.
Enrico Scavino is marking his 63rd year as the winemaker of Paolo Scavino. Enrico, a fanatic for quality, has long been creating innovative concepts in the vineyards and in the cellar, making wines that reflect his drive for producing wines that are elegant, pure and fresh. He is known for his practice of producing single-vineyard bottlings of Barolo that include Bricco Ambrogio, Carobric, Cannubi, Bric del Fiasc and my pick today, Barolo Monvigliero 2007. Monvigliero is a well-known vineyard in Verduno, planted in 1967. The wine is initially aged in French oak barriques for 12 months and then a further 12 months in large French oak casks. This highly rated wine has a tiny production of 6,300 bottles. This is a Barolo on the more feminine side with wonderful aromas of mint, flowers, and lovely red fruits. On the palate, the fruit flavors are forthright and plentiful with a great texture, soft silky tannins, purity, elegance, with a long continuing aftertaste.
Today is Kate Middleton and Prince William’s second anniversary. Traditionally, it’s the cotton anniversary; the contemporary gift is china. Just under 23 million Americans watched the wedding here in the States. I watched it in Montalcino, Italy, at a party at Il Palazzone, surrounded by British ex-pats and a few Italians.
Il Palazzone’s Estate Manager, Laura Gray emigrated to Montalcino from Scotland, and she had invited her British friends to celebrate the nuptials. Marco Sassetti, Laura’s husband and the estate’s General Manager, had set up long tables under a tent and a giant television hooked into the Skynet coverage. An eclectic group of people—one wearing fez that matched his velvet coat; others wearing tea dresses and floofy hats—gathered to eat bangers and mash, drink an eye-popping collection of Brunello, and celebrate this royal wedding.
I had traveled from my apartment in Liguria to join the party. It was a singular event, not only because royal weddings come every forty years, but also because I was here, the lone American, in this strange land watching a ritual that I had only the faintest concept of. It was a mille feuille of cultures, and I felt like I was reading a palimpsest: one text overlaying another, creating a textured experience where one element (cupcakes decorated with pictures of the happy royal couple) was inextricable from another (the inability to get the program in English for the first hour or so).
Pondering this Kate-and-Will anniversary, thinking about how I—and so many millions of others—bore witness to their wedding, and remembering watching with this group of people, it occurs to me that time and wine have a unique relationship. The first level is how we so often use wine to celebrate life’s milestones. We toast at weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. We share bottles of wine at holidays and special meals. Wine is a given.
But there are other levels too. Wine is one of the few things that you can consume when it’s decades old. You might freeze a part of your wedding cake, and you might take a bite of it a year later, but that’s about it. Wine, however, doesn’t just have the capability to age; it also can transform, mellow and grow better with age. Wine is the only comestible that mirrors human maturity. For that reason, it holds a place in our hearts and our imaginations.
I spent just under six months in Italy in 2011, and I saw Il Palazzone vines when they were just budding, when they were sending their delicate little tendrils toward the sky, and when they were brown and hibernating in the impending winter. I’m looking forward to drinking 2011 wine because I was there. I smelled the earth and the wind, and I felt the same sun on me that shone on the grapes.
This too makes wine special; it’s a reflection of the year that was. Each vintage is different, just as each year is different. It tastes of the snow, the rain, the sun and the soil, and the mixture of these elements will vary each year. It might be the same grape variety grown in the same vineyard, the wine made by the same people, crafted in the same way, but it always tastes different. It’s like children in that respect, a product as much of its nature as it is of its nurture.
Before I became a wine person, I measured years in hemlines and rock songs. Now I think about the glasses I drank, the vineyards I’ve visited, the botti I’ve tasted from. When I drink a wine that’s decades old, I feel the weight of the intervening years. I imagine the hands of the person who made it, their youth and their vitality. I see the tail fins of the ‘50s or the giant shark-faced gas-guzzlers of the ‘70s. It’s time in a bottle, and that makes it special.
Time seems infinite. It’s not. Thankfully, we have wine to celebrate time’s shiny points and to recollect time’s passing. It’s an amazing thing, wine, a perfect marriage of human ingenuity and nature’s largess.
Although Argentina is probably more well known for its Malbec, in the region of Patagonia, Pinot Noir is stealing a little of Malbec’s thunder. A perfect example is the project of Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, a third-generation winemaker and the grandson of Mario Incisa Della Rochetta, the creator and proprietor of Sassicaia, who purchased the first of Bodega Chacra’s vineyards in the Rio Negro Valley in 2004. This property had an existing, although abandoned, vineyard of gnarled old-vine, head-trained Pinot Noir that were planted in 1932 and still on their original rootstocks. The vines produced miniscule amounts of deeply concentrated grapes that Piero crafted into the intense first bottling which is called Treinta y Dos; since then, Piero has purchased more old-vine Pinot Noir vineyards within the region and is now producing several other wines, including one a vineyard planted in 1955 called “Cincuenta y Cinco.” These are serious wines that definitely deserve a bit more attention than they are currently receiving, and once you taste them, you will understand why.
A dense and rich style of Pinot Noir that has an alluring nose of rose petal, spice and red fruit. On the palate, the wine has outstanding depth with impeccable balance and velvety-texture followed by flavors of raspberry and cherry; they are sweet and succulent and leave you with a very long silky finish that is just incredible.
Bodega Chacra Treinta y Dos $130.00
This wine has an incredibly brilliant medium ruby color. The nose is intense and mineral laced with powerful aromas of ripe berry and cherry that are followed by a beautifully concentrated palate of layered strawberry, cherry, red currant and fresh spice. The wine is somewhat weightless and comes across the palate as silky and with a great balance, firm acidity and an incredibly long finish that leaves your palate yearning for more.
This week on Inside IWM began with a look at the how, the why and the what we dislike about wine writing. Interestingly, this article reports that a recent poll finds that most wine drinkers find common wine descriptions to be alienating, pompous and inscrutable. Ouch!
Our Go-to-Wine Tuesday blogger, John Camacho Vidal, described the wine he enjoyed for Earth Day, Movia Ribolla 2010, as having “hints of ripe pear and honey followed by a slight citric, almost lemony, scent.” Pretty descriptive and fairly down to earth, we think.
On Wednesday, David Klay offered an artful recipe in celebration of artichokes and spring foods–his mom’s Shrimp with Artichokes, Cherry Tomatoes and Asparagus. He also chose some delicious pairing wines.
And yesterday, IWM’s resident Bordeaux expert, RKO, reflected on his trip to the Pebble Beach Food and Wine event, where he sat on a panel with Vatalie Taittinger and Antonio Galloni.
Our other experts were pretty busy too. Monday saw Perry return our attention to Italy with a pair of evocative wines from Palari and Sandrone.
Will used Italy’s regional personalities to select a laid-back Super Tuscan from Le Macchiole and a sophisticated Barolo from Scavino.
On Wednesday, Brian went traditional and modern with a pair of Spanish wines that sound very delicious.
And on Thursday, Francesco traveled the paths less taken–as well as walked down Main Street–with a Valle d’Aosta Syrah and Tua Rita.
Enjoy the spring sunshine and rosy rosé wines!
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