A look back at the week that was
We began our week with a look at Italy’s Lombardia, especially its fine sparkling wines, but also its winsome, unusual Reds and mineral-laden, floral Whites. Any land that gives us Lago di Garda can’t be bad.
On Tuesday, Francesco drank Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s 2011 vintage of its delicious, affordable third-tier wine, Le Volte, and pronounced it the “best Le Volte yet.” We also featured the wine in Thursday’s eLetter offer.
Wednesday was devoted to David Bertot’s meditation on choosing a milestone wine, and how Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonello 2000 made his second wedding anniversary special.
Thursday, Camacho told the story of helping a budding wine-lover choose four wines for a horizontal tasting–all 2010 Rosso di Montalcino. Sounds like delicious fun!
Our Experts seemed to like choosing pairs of wines from the same estate this week. On Tuesday, Perry did some spring cleaning with a client to choose two wines from Toscana’s Montevertine, makers of Le Pergole Torte and its fine Rosso. And on Wednesday, Brian Maurice selected a pair of wines from Burgundy’s Domaine Leflaive, including one under $40.
Garrett’s Monday Expert post highlighted two wines that he finds delicious and perfect examples of their types, a Francois Gay Burgundy and a Dal Forno Amarone. And finishing the week, Garrett’s big brother Justin opted for two Burgundies for spring’s warmer weather, one from Domaine Maltroye, the other from Joseph Voillot, and both exceptional values.
A tour through the wines of Lombardia
Lombardia is pretty well off, and it shows in the opulent, highly stylized wineries of its Franciacorta zone, the seat of the region’s sparkling production. These are not merely for the sake of appearance, however, as sparklers—and increasingly still wines— are taken quite seriously in this land where business is pleasure. Situated in the Po Valley’s center, Lombardia is bordered by Trentino–Alto Adige, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piemonte, and Switzerland.
While the majority of Italy’s sparklers are crafted through metodo charmat, a process that expedites production by eliminating secondary fermentation in bottle, Lombardia’s Franciacorta DOCG of the doesn’t. This region is a prolific producer of method champenoise sparkling wines crafted from Chardonnay (the most planted), Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco, all of which were likely introduced following phylloxera’s decimation of original plantings at the close of the nineteenth century. In fact, the traditional French paradigm is the only one permitted, an affiliation that its practitioners extend by employing French terms on the labels (with regard to both sweetness level and wine type). Franciacorta enjoys a distinctive microclimate, courtesy of the cooling breezes issuing from Lake Iseo that reduce the rate at which the grapes ripen, enabling them to maintain desirable acidity while realizing a more intense and complex flavor profile. In addition to its extensive work in the classico genre, Lombardia also produces Satèn (vinified exclusively from white grapes in a crémant style) and Pas Operé (without dosage) bottlings.
Sparklers also constitute a notable presence in Oltrepò Pavese’s diverse varietal community— the DOC, in fact, provides for a metodo classico spumante composed of 70% Pinot Nero. While Trebbiano is a regular, albeit rather unexceptional performer in several of Italy’s zones, it steps notably out of character in Lombardia’s Lugana zone, conveying a rather forward persona. This expression is attributed to the grape strain known as Trebbiano di Soave (referred to as Trebbiano di Lugana here). Other whites include those produced under the Terre di Franciacorta discipline, the majority of which realize a fairly full impression via barrique fermentation and aging; DOC demonstrate a penchant for working with Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. In the Oltrepò Pavese, Riesling—particularly the strain known as Renano—realizes strikingly aromatic versions.
These bottlings, in conjunction with a number of reds, have been emerging in demonstrative fashion, making their way through the sizable bulk production and validating Oltrepò Pavese’s inherent aptitude for quality wine production. Barbera and Bonarda (Croatina) are heading up the zone’s reinvention, realizing a distinct attitude shift in versions that flesh out the austere persona characterizing their early appearances. The two often work together, especially in Oltrepò Pavese’s Buttafuoco and Sangue di Giuda DOCs, where they are joined by Uva Rara, Ughetta, and Pinot Nero. Both may be vinified across wine’s stylistic spectrum (encompassing dry, sweet, still, and sparkling versions). Pinot Nero, however, is turning the most palates at present, finding the necessary support to maintain its delicate balance in Oltrèpo’s continental climate.
Valtellina, Lombardia’s other main DOC for reds, devotes itself to Piemonte’s Nebbiolo, which goes by the somewhat imposing name of Chiavennasca in this isolated area marked by high altitudes. As Valtellina enjoys a unique climatic makeup, Nebbiolo has been able to acclimate well, though most bottlings convey a character that is leaner and more graceful than their Piemonte counterparts. In order to produce a more concentrated offering, producers craft bottlings from partially dried Nebbiolo grapes. This strategy produces a glycerin-rich wine—designated by the term sforzato—that offers intense aromatics and a more savory character than that of an Amarone. Four principal vineyards, each of which operates under the DOCG designation, are regarded as delivering the zone’s premier expressions of Chiavennasca: Sassella, Grumello, Inferno, and Valgella.
Cuisine in Lombardia is quite rich, with lots of butter, cream, and lard. General staples include risotto, polenta, and rîs (rice), and regional salumi are quite numerous, often accompanied by schita, a kind of pancake made with water, flour, suet (fat) and milk. The city of Milano specializes in cotoletta alla Milanese and risotto allo zafferano or milanese, and Valtellina is noted for bresaola (air-dried beef) and sciatt, a savory cheese and grappa fritter. Some characteristic desserts of the region are preferita, a puff pastry layered with jam from the town of Broni (Pavia), and risumata, made by beating egg yolks with sugar and additing aromatic white wine.
Now that we’ve taken a tour of Lombardia, it’s time to enjoy some of the wines. Open a bottle and cheers to business, pleasure and the place where they meet.
Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio
It’s a lot easier to drink wine in the winter; cold weather and heavy food dictate staying in by a fire in the company of a big dinner party. For the warmer months, however, we turn to amazing lighter wines to aid in our quest to defend against the heat…but we also need a sturdy red to stand up to our BBQs and dinners on cool summer nights. So today I wanted to share an easy drinking Italian white from Le Marche and a classic Sangiovese heavy-hitter from Toscana.
The Sartarelli estate is located in the classical area called Castelli di Jesi, the best area for Verdicchio in Le Marche. Ideal for the summer, Sartarelli Verdicchio delivers a clean, crisp, elegant and simple wine for the everyday. The fruit and green grass on the nose marries perfectly with the fresh minerality and bright acidity on the palate, ideal for light lunches and snacks by the pool.
Fontodi Flaccianello 1999 $149.99
An icon in the world of Sangiovese, the Flaccianello 1999 is one of the most impressive vintages on the market right now (after the 2010, of course). Flaccianello is 100% Sangiovese displaying integrated tannins, superb elegance, sweet, supple cherry with a pristine and fresh finish. This is drinking right now and will easily go for another ten years—a real treat!
A look back at the week that was
The week began with a toast to Prince William and Kate Middleton on their second anniversary, a toast to friends and a toast to wine. It’s a meditation on how wine just might be the most human of all comestibles.
And it ended with the announcement of a contest. In partnership with Villij.com, IWM is giving away a bottle of Canalicchio di Sopra 2001 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva to one lucky new member of our Villij community. Just join the IWM Villij community between now and May 16, 2013 for a chance to win!
In between these two posts, Emma enjoyed a delicious, herbaceous, organically grown, under $30 Frappato from Siclia’s COS winery, and we took a quick, educational trip to Campania, home to some serious cult wines.
Our Experts this week were a globe-trotting sort.
On Monday, Brian chose a pair of wines from Argentina’s Bodega Chacra, a biodynamic winery owned and operated by Sassicaia scion Piero Incisa della Rocchetta.
Tuesday, RKO used NYC’s recent Festa del Barolo as an inspiration to select two Langhe wines: Aldo Conterno Dolcetto and Paolo Scavino Barolo.
Chris Deas went for archetypes of classicism in his two Wednesday wines: a Bandol Rosé from Pradeaux and a Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo.
And Justin Kowalsky celebrated his return from France with–what else–a duo of glorious Burgundies with high quality-to-price ratios: Patrick Javillier and Drouhin Laroze.
Movia 2010 Ribolla
Being that Earth Day was yesterday, I decided to drink some natural wine. While “natural wine” might be a contentious term, I use it to mean wine from producers that take earth’s well-being into consideration and by doing so produce magical wines. I think of it as nature’s way of saying, “Thank you for taking care of me, here is some great wine.”
We recently received some Movia Ribolla in the showroom, and when I saw it, I immediately knew that that would be the perfect wine for the night. It fit the occasion and at $29.99 was priced right. For me, the biodynamic Movia Ribolla offers the best of both worlds: I love natural wines and I love indigenous varietals. Movia’s Ales Kristancic is an eccentric producer who uses biodynamic vinification methods such as harvesting his grapes and even bottling his wines in tune with, or as he would say in harmony with, the cycle of the full moon.
Ribolla Gialla is an obscure grape varietal that thrives in Friuli’s cool northern climate, both in Italy and in Slovenia, where it is known as Rebula. Ribolla’s high in acid and very fickle in the vineyard, but it has gained a lot of recognition as Friulian white wines have gained some ground internationally. It has especially gained notes as one of the varietals of choice in the so-called “orange wines” that are white wines with extended maceration on their skins. Some producers like Jasko Gravner and Stanko Radikon have been known to macerate white wines on the skins for as long as nine months to produce delicious, mystical wines that are almost orange in color when you pour them in the glass.
The Movia 2010 Ribolla is not as dark or orange as you would expect; it’s more a rich yellow with a slight bit of cloudiness. On the nose, the wine opens up with hints of ripe pear and honey followed by a slight citric, almost lemony, scent. On the palate, you get lots of minerality, and as the wines come to room temperature, a slight nuttiness emerges that lingers and confuse the senses. The best thing about this wine is that its drinking great now but can keep in my wine fridge for another three years or so and get even better.
In the spirit of Earth Day, this week let’s try to be conscious and recycle, and let’s be kind to Earth so that it can continue to provide us with all these wonderful grapes, great wines, and such pleasure. Bike to the wine shop, say no to global warming, raise a glass and toast to Mother Earth.keep looking »