Twelve Italians wines tasted from twelve different regions. To me, Italy is number 2 when it comes to quality wines. However, when doing these kinds of Italian-theme tastings, it is also rather obvious that the reputation of Italian wine rests almost solely on the regions of Piemonte, Tuscany and – to some extent – Venetia. You can find all kinds of wine full of character and personality all over Italy. But make no mistake: many of them are rustic and if not clumsy, than at least non-elegant. But boy are the good wines good. I have been visiting Vinitaly the last couple of years, which only confirms this. You start out by trying the aglianicos, verdicchios, gaglioppos, montepulcianos, but a couple of hours into the fair, you revert to the Big Two: Piemonte and Tuscany. But you truly must admire the Italians for sticking with native grapes to such a high extent. After all, how boring the world of wine would be if we only had the Cabs, Merlots, Syrahs and Chardonnays.
The first pair out contains some bubblies; one from Trentino and the other from Lombardy, both regions located in the north of Italy. Both are made using the method champenoise. The first one is 250 SEK and the other is 215 SEK. That’s a problem. Call me conservative, but if I am going to pay 250 SEK for a bottle of sparkling, it better be Champagne, dammit! The 2006 Riserva del Fondatore Mach from Istituto Agrario Provinciale San Michele all’Adige is alright. Green apples, citrus and minerals. A bit too frizzy. Nice attack but a tad short. 80p.
The second wine is a blanc de blanc from Castelveder, 2003 Franciacorta Brut Millesimato. Almonds, marzipan, minerals and slightly floral on the nose. Nuts, grape fruit and almond paste on the palate. Not bad at all. Talking about Champagne; this certainly matches the quality of a Champagne in the same price segment. Nice work. 85p.
Unfortunately, Tuscany is represented by a grumpy Sangiovese. This is where you start longing for an Aussie Shiraz chockfull of sugar, fruit and alcohol. 2006 Montevertine from the producer by the same name is highly esteemed. It doesn’t matter. Cherries, tobacco and chocolate. Pleasant smell. I’m not sure what to say about the taste. “Nice acidity”. 395 SEK on magnum. 80p.
Fattoria San Francesco from Calabria produces 2005 Ronco dei Quattroventi Ciró Riserva. Made from Gaglioppo. Now that’s a grape you don’t drink every day! Lots of oak, vanilla, plums and dark fruit. Full bodied, nice attack, noticeable tannins. A trace of bitterness burdens it at the end. Not bad, though. 135 SEK. 82p.
The third pair out contains the real draw-cards of the tasting. At first sight two assumingly disparate wines, the first being from Sicily and the second from Piemonte. The Sicilian wine is from the Etna DOC: 2001 Etna Rosso from Calabretta. Now, this is not your typical warm-grown, jammy Sicilian brew. At an altitude of 750m and volcanic soil, this is obviously a unique micro climate. An extended ripening period lasting until the end of October gives mature and nuanced grapes. The vines are 70-80 years old and the wines are matured in botti for 6-7 years. You would think from these parameters that this is a top-notch Barolo operation. Raspberries, strawberries, tobacco and floral notes. Elegant. Well-integrated tannins, this must have been austere when young…after all, it’s eleven years of age. Nice grip. From 100% Nerello Mascalese. Not your everyday grape. Fantastic. 135 SEK for a ten year old wine of this caliber is just generous. 89p.
The second wine of the third pairing is certainly the best wine altogether: the 2004 Barolo Prapó Riserva from Schiavenza. The Sciavenza property is know for making austere and long-lived wines. Wines that simply need patience to unfold. From the village of Serralunga d’Alba known for making powerful and tannic wines, this has been fostered on large Slavonian bottis for three years, thus giving it a comparatively lesser sensation of oak than would a more “modernly” raised Barolo. A fantastic nose of mineral, roses, tar, leather and pencil shavings. This is a 2004, but still it’s a baby. After seven years! It will certainly develop over the next ten years and probably live well for another twenty years. It is very intense with an amazing attack, great length, nice balance and, as mentioned, a certain austerity. Needless to say, I ordered a case from the Danish distributor for 315 SEK/bottle. Very nice price! 92p.
The fourth batch comprises a Basilicata wine and one from Marche. I’ve tried some Basilicata reds before – they are usual made from Aglianico – and I have a problem with their rustic character. 2004 Vigna Caselle Riserva Aglianico del Vulturefrom d’Angelo is no exception; this is a powerful and harsh mother. Parker gives this 92 points and numerous reviewers in the Cellartracker community rates it 90+. Maybe they are right or drunk and I am just wrong, but I’d give this 82p tops. And then I’m being generous. It is promising on the nose with sensations of licorice, tar dark fruit and salubrin (only in Sweden…). It suggests a big body underneath all that overcoat. Surprisingly, it flashes a bag of bones…and it’s really skinny, short and slightly flat. Not at all as busty as promised.
Marche is mostly known from Verdicchio whites, but the 2008 Barricadiero from Vini Aurora is 95% Montepulciano and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Slightly smoky with cherries and an earthy/molten leaves sensation. Powerful with good acidity and mature tannins. A generous, uncomplicated and nice wine. 84p.
The biggest surprise of the tasting was the Puglian 2007 Morella Old Vines Primitivo. You rarely drink a Primitivo of this caliber. From vines 75 years old, the wine is very elegant and balanced yet powerful. At 15.5% ABV, it shows no signs of the “too-much-of-everything” problems which so often occurs at this ABV. Blackberries, figs, cherries with a slight hint of vanilla. Full-bodied with great depth and roundness. 250 SEK. 90p.
2004 Marta Galli Amarone della Valpolicella from Le Ragose is traditional Amarone. Dried fruit, raisins, figs and chocolate on the nose. Full-bodied with some residual sugar. Chocolate and coffee on the palate with good acidity.86p.
Finally, two sweet wines are tasted. 1987 Vernaccia di Oristano Riserva from Sardegna is the first. Botrytis, apricots, nuts and dried fruit on the nose. This is very sherry-like with hints of mushroom. I have problems with these oxidized wines. 75p.
The last wine is the 2007 Arroco Albana di Romagna Passito from Emilia -Romagna. Not very different from a Sauternes. Botrytis, apricots and honey. Soft, sweet but maybe a little bit too low on acidity. Still, very good. 85p.
All wines can be ordered from carlomerolli.dk, who has very competitive prices. Further, for Swedish customers, he has a promotion where the prices set in DKK can be paid in SEK, 1 DKK = 1 SEK, which effectively gives you a 20% discount. Highly recommended.