The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Tua Rita and…Tua Rita!

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoYou might think that if you taste wine made from French grapes you would encounter pretty much the same taste no matter where the wine comes from—after all, Merlot is Merlot and Cab Franc is Cab Franc. However, that is definitely not the case. Grapes adapt to their various terroir and regions and develop individual personalities that express unique aromas and flavor profiles.

One producer that will make you think differently about French grapes is Italy’s Tua Rita estate. Started in 1984 by husband and wife Rita Tua and Virgilio Bisti, this estate makes big, bold, rich Super Tuscans that have reached cult status. The organically farmed vineyards sit near the medieval town of Suvereto between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the upper Maremma in a region known as the Colline Metallifere, or Metalliferous hills. This location is of special note because, as you might guess from the name, it imparts an iron-like nuance to the aromatics of the wine and lends a delicious hint of salinity and minerality on the palate. Tua Rita makes its wines in small production, so they’re difficult to obtain, but their big personalities let you know that they are from Italy.

Tua Rita 2012 Giusto di Notri $79.99

This classic Bordeaux-style blend speaks Italian, and it has become the estate’s signature wine. The grapes come from the first vineyard that Rita and Virgiolio planted, and is a tribute to Justus, the patron saint of Suvereto. Composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, the wine ages for 18 months in new and once-used French oak barriques before bottling. The elegant nose is full of black fruit and spice, followed by hints of tobacco menthol and minirality. The palate is nice and full with noticeable fruit that gives way to silky tannins and a slight sweet wood on the finish. The 2012 bottle commemorates the wine’s 20th anniversary and bears a specially designed label. Drink 2016-2024.

Tua Rita 2013 Redigaffi $299.99

This is an intense Merlot that shows the full expression of the region with a nose that wants to explode from the glass. Red cherry, plum, black licorice and spice all meld together with slight hints of balsamic and smoky leather traits. The palate is spicy with grippy tannins and bright acidity and a hint of cedar and vanilla on a lingering finish. This single-vineyard Merlot, named after the stream that runs through the vineyard, is aged for 18-20 months in new French oak barriques before being bottled. Drink 2018-2032.

Italian Red Wine Grapes: Lagrein to Moscato Rosa!

The fourth in our series looking at the grapes that comprise Italy’s best loved red wines!

Last summer, we took a look at Italian white grape varietals (here’s the last installment of the white grape series with links to each part), so it feels right to take a wander through red grapes this winter. This winter, we’re detailing the red wine grapes of Italy. From the well-known to the obscure, this alphabetical list offers insight into the grapes that make your favorite Italian red wines. Here is the first installment, Abbuoto to Brachetto, the second, Cabernet Franc to Croatina, and the third, Dolcetto to Grignolino, in case you missed them!

Ripening Lagrein

Ripening Lagrein

Lagrein (lah-GRYNE)

Cultivated in the Trentino-Alto Adige region, Lagrein makes both well-structured reds and delightful rosés. A rare grape that has flourished in relative obscurity, Lagrein has of late begun to come out of the shadows. Although this varietal can make quite astringent wines, when grown carefully, it can be the foundation for a deep ruby wine with a chocolaty palate and notes of dark plums, cherries and hay.

Lambrusco (lam-BREWS-coh)

After enduring a terrible reputation since the 1970’s, Emilia-Romagna’s Lambrusco has recently been undergoing a rediscovery. This grape comes in three related varieties, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Lambrusco Salamino, and Lambrusco Grasparossa. The lightest is di Sorbara, which makes wine of a strawberry and palate; Salamino is darker and violet in nose; Grasparossa sits in the middle with a cherry-like color and a broader, more undefined palate. All three wines make frizzante (or effervescent) wines that pair wonderfully with summer food. The best of Emilia-Romagna’s Lambruscos are hard to come by because so few of them are exported, but they are worth the trouble.

Malvasia Nera (mahl-VAH-zyah NEH-rah) and Malvasia Bianca (mahl-VAH-zyah bee-AHN-kah)

Malvasia Nera flourishes throughout Italy and, indeed, throughout the entire Mediterranean. More than a single varietal, Malvasia is a family of grapes that includes Malvasia Bianca, Malvasia Nero, Malvasia del Chianti, two clones of Malvasia Dianco di Candia B., and four other clones localized to specific regions (Malvasia del Lazio, Malvasia Istriana, Malvasia de Sardegna, and Malvasia di Lipari). A grape with this many identities is open to multiple interpretations. The winemakers of the north and west of Italy predominantly uses the Malvasia Nero clones, while those of south of Italy employ the various Malvasia Bianca version. Malvasia is instrumental in making Chianti in Toscana, Frascati in Emilia-Romagna, and many wines in other regions that range from red to white, dry to sweet, and flat to sparkling. Most oenologists agree that the grape entered Italy from Byzantium, but where it entered is up to dispute; some argue the Veneto, while others make a case for Sardegna. In any case, the grape, red or white, is known for making a deeply aromatic, often highly alcoholic and intensely colored wine.

A bunch of Mammolo grapes

A bunch of Mammolo grapes

Mammolo (MAHM-moh-loh)

The rare Mammolo, or Mammolino, gets its name from mammale, the Italian word for violets. This varietal is grown almost exclusively in Toscana, where it lends its light-bodied violet-scented character to Chianti and, very occasionally, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Although very limited in its viticulture, there are ten clones of Mammolo growing in Toscana.

Marzemino (mahr-tseh-MEE-noh)

The varietal with the reputation of being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s favorite–his opera Don Giovanni provides a reference to the “excellent Marzemino”–grows primarily in the Veneto, though it also is cultivated in Lombardia, Trentino, Friuli and Emilia-Romagna. The fact that this grape grows almost exclusively in northern regions may account for its relative obscurity, for Marzemino needs a long summer to ripen and is vulnerable to mold. These characteristics make the North largely, if ironically, inhospitable. This grape makes a perfumy wine with a soft feel and a tangy palate of blackberries, nuts and vanilla. Used to make dry, sweet, and passito wines, Marzemino is often served at the end of a meal.

Merlot grapes, soon to be wine

Merlot grapes, soon to be wine

Merlot (MAIR-loh)

The fifth most cultivated grape in Italy, Merlot originally comes from France, where it is the grape best known for making Pomerol wines. This thin-skinned, intensely blue-black grape makes a wine with light tannins, low acidity, and dark fruit flavors that are often inflected with hints of mint, vanilla, and other herbs and spices. Although much maligned for vintages that take advantage of this grape’s easy drinkability, serious Merlots are made in Friuli, the Veneto and especially Toscana, where in addition to monovarietal appellations, Merlot also sometimes joins Sangiovese, its soft, round character balancing out Sangiovese’s often rambunctious nature.

Molinara (mo-lee-NAH-rah)

This acidic grape is known for its bright red fruit such as currants and tart cherries, floral perfume and medium body. Molinara is hardly seen outside of the Veneto, where it often joins Corvina and Rondinella to add its acidic sassiness in making Valpolicella and Bardolino.

Monica (MOH-ni-kah)

Grown exclusively in Sardegna, Monica came to the island from Spain in the eleventh century. This grape makes a medium to full-bodied wine of dark ruby color, notes of plums, cherries, and black pepper. Monica is the primary grape in two DOC appellations, Monica di Sardegna and Monica di Cagliari; the former is a round, full, rustic drinking wine, while the latter has a higher alcohol level and, marginally sweeter, is produced as an after-dinner wine.

Montepulciano grapes

Montepulciano grapes

Montepulciano (mon-tai-pull-chee-AH-noh)

Despite the name, this grape has nothing to do with the town of the same name in Toscana, nor does it have any relationship with the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which comes from Toscana. Rather, Montepulciano, the grape, is cultivated throughout Central Italy, from Le Marche to Apulia and most specifically in Abruzzo. Montepulciano is a varietal that makes a tremendously pleasing wine characterized by low acidity, manageable tannins, and a combination of the roundness of Merlot with the pepper and black fruit of Syrah. Known best for its DOC appellation Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, this grape varietal is said to have originated in Abruzzo, but it also appears in several other DOC wines throughout central Italy.

Moscato Rosa (mos-KAH-toh ROH-zha)

One member of the large and ancient family of Moscato grapes, this Moscato clone grows primarily in Trentino-Alto Adige, where it also goes by the name Rosenmuskateller, though it is also cultivated in Friuli and Piemonte. Generally vinified in passito or fortified vintages, Moscato Rosa is customarily used to make desert wines. Bright red with a cherry surface, Moscato Rosa has a nose of roses, a palate of stone fruits like peaches, and often an aftertaste of toasted almonds.

The Heart of Suvereto, Tua Rita

You really can’t go wrong with Tua Rita

IMG_1445 The day I visited Tua Rita, the grass had just been cut, and the air was filled with the green of grass tinged with the pointy scent of wild scallions that grow in and among the grass. It was a day of bright blue skies, wispy white clouds, and the heat of springtime sun warming the earth from its long winter nap. It was an ideal day to visit Suvereto’s Tua Rita, a winery that is pure heart.

There’s a cheery, open disposition to the winery, from the shambling gate of the estate’s old dog to the down-to-earth guide, Francesca, who didn’t proffer a business card. Like Le Macchiole’s Cinzia Campolmi who runs the estate after her husband Eugenio’s death, Tua Rita’s eponymous Rita runs the winery that she started with her late husband, Virgilio. The estate is the epitome of the cliché “labor of love.” Everything about the estate feels like a business run by a family who really enjoys what they do.

IMG_1455The smell of the air seemed to match the relaxed, convivial visit that ended with Francesca’s expansive opening of the estate’s entire line of wines, and her drinking the Syrah. “It’s my favorite,” she said conspiratorially. “Don’t tell anyone.” But, really, how could I not? There’s a wink in her eye, and a wink in all that Tua Rita does. While the surface seems to be all fun and warm love, there’s also a steely resolve and a serious entrepreneurial work ethic at Tua Rita. The wines taste like the salt of the earth, and that only makes them sweeter and more engaging.

IMG_1443Tua Rita’s wines are always favorites of clients, critics, and just about anyone who drinks them. It’s not hard to see why; Tua Rita’s wines throw their arms open and welcome you to their ample bosoms. It’s not that they they lack finesse or complexity. Rather, it’s that pure, unadulterated, even giddy pleasure is at the foundation of these wines. They taste delicious, and they make you smile, even when you remember them years later.

IWM presented the new 2013 release of Redigaffi, Tua Rita’s Merlot in today’s eLetter. It’s going fast.

Inside IWM, June 15-18, 2015: Drink It Up!

A look back at the week that was

The author with Paolo Bea in Umbria

John Camacho Vidal with Paolo Bea in Umbria

IWM has always believed that when it comes to wine, knowledge is more than power: it’s enjoyment. This week our blog was dedicated to deepening your understanding and love of wine. We began with the second part in our Italian white grape discovery series, this one looking at grapes from Drupeggio to Grillo. We ended the week with Julia Punj’s spirited guide to the cocktail known as the “Flip.” (While these adult beverages aren’t wine, we want you to love what you drink, even cocktails!) In between, Michael Adler poured out his love for Frecciarossa’s under $20 Riesling sparkling wine, and John Camacho Vidal gave you a guide to get the most out of your winery visits.

Our Experts were similarly motivated. Looking toward Bolgheri, David Gwo picked two iconic Merlot wines that he loves, one from Le Macchiole and another from Tua Rita. Will Di Nunzio finds that, as much as he gets caught up in the spectacle of new releases, sometimes unusual, obscure wines with great back stories pull him to the glass. And Crystal Edgar let her first love, Bordeaux, be her guide in her selection of a pair of St. Emilion vintages from Château Pavie.

Here’s to knowing–and loving–what’s in your glass, whatever libation it may be!

Expert Picks: Château Pavie and…Château Pavie!

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Bordeaux is where I began my love affair with wine. While in culinary school, I won an award and a trip with the Commanderie de Bordeaux to spend a season traveling and tasting through the different areas of Bordeaux. I found it thrilling to make my way through each appellation, meeting the winemakers, spending time in the cellars and tasting through the wines of the region. I was very much in awe of the Left Bank royalty, or Grand Cru Classé wines, of Pauillac, Margaux and Haut Brion, but I found my sweet spot on the Right Bank, the land of Merlot. If I had to narrow it down, my fondest memories from the trip were in Fronsac, Canon Fronsac, Pomerol and, lastly, St-Emilion. If I should be forced to choose only one of those areas to retire, it would have to be St Emilion.

The charming town of Saint-Emilion holds over 900 individual producers. Growing grapes since Roman times and the source of some of the world’s greatest Merlot and Cabernet Franc based wines, Saint-Emilion makes some of the most magnificent wines I’ve ever tasted—Ausone, Cheval Blanc, Troplong Mondot being a few examples of wines at the top. These are names that carry huge reputations and, as to be expected, large price tags. There are, however, delicious wines available from this region for a fraction of the price of the top names, Château Pavie being one of my top picks.

Château Pavie has become a fabulous first-growth quality estate, offering gorgeous complexity and richness. Located along the hillside cotes of St. Emilion, Château Pavie’s beautifully situated vineyard lies just southeast of the town. It is the largest vineyard among the St. Emilion Premiers Grands Crus Classé properties and also one of the best-known St. Emilions, made in a slightly lighter, more elegant style that some of its neighbors. Today I chose to highlight two fantastic vintages, 2010 and 2011.

Château Pavie 2010 $409

A blend of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this powerhouse Pavie is bold and super concentrated and shows incredible structure and character. Certain critics and writers rated this vintage just behind the incredible 2000 vintage. A tremendous wine for the cellar, the key is patience here. With time to soften, this wine will be an absolute knockout!

Château Pavie 2011 $199

The 2011 Pavie is also composed of 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it possesses surprising approachability in its infancy, which is somewhat disarming because it goes against the big, broad-shouldered style of wine that Pavie is known for. Complexity is the name of the game here, and one of the standouts from the region in my opinion. This awesome vintage shows off gorgeous texture and brilliance while maintaining great balance and harmony.

keep looking »