Favorite Italian grape makes a comeback

August 25, 2014

Hasn’t this weather been glorious? I hope it is not a harbinger of a cold winter. Anyone else notice the weather bad news mongers have changed the paradigm from global warming and carbon footprints to climate change and polar vortex? Whenever a news hawk reads the stat that 97 percent of the scientific community agrees, a picture of bloodletting, trepanning and the Copernican model flashes through my mind.

Rolf Binder Highness Eden Valley Riesling 2012 is terrific. My notes from a recent tasting read: light green straw-colored, opens to apple blossom, citrus (lime, grapefruit). Very dry and acid crisp, wonderful Riesling expression on the palate with more lime and some tropical fruit nuance. Long, clean finish. Reme Highness should last into 2018-20. Best of all, still $15, 91 points McD. Great article by Dal Piaz in Snooth on Vouvray as explored by Christie Canterbury. Complete with maps and video, and packed with info. A very worthwhile read.

Dana Froome sent a few wines to review. A very nice Stemmari Pinot Grigio 2013 needs to be touted. Made with 100 percent PG from Sicily, it is priced under $20. Pale golden straw-colored with decent legs, it opens to a lovely bouquet of pineapple, vanilla and pie spice. On the palate, medium body, tart mineral frame and clean finish, 88 points McD. Dalila 2012, $13, is another Stemmari product with Grillo, a varietal normally associated with Marsala and indigenous to Sicily, blended with Viognier. The honey, mango, apricot and floral nose is extravagant due to alcohol lift. Oak-driven vanilla supported with bright acidity, 89 points McD.

Maggie Doherty from Colangelo recommended two Italian reds that won’t break the bank. Tenuta Marchesi Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2011 was a silver medal winner at IWC 2014. It could easily be found under $20. Blended of 70 percent Cab and 10 percent each of Merlot, Sangiovese and Cab Franc, there are fragrant aromas of strawberry, pie spice, cocoa, cherry and oak. On the palate very dry, with lots of fruit supported by appropriate acidity. It is still slightly tannic. Drinkable now, will improve through 2020, 90 points McD. Another sample that was a better bargain is Montefalco Rosso 2010 from Arnaldo-Caprai. On release at $14 in 2012, it has run up to $22 and rightfully so. Composed of 70 percent Sangiovese, 15 percent each of Merlot and Sagrantino, aged 12 months in wood, it is a lot of vino for the price. I truly enjoy the Chianti upgrade these blendings impart. You still get the berry (sangiovese) and plum (merlot) notes, but there is far more body and nuance at the price point.

Alluded to in the accompanying press release was a reference to Sagrantino. Marco Caprai, owner and winemaker, made a decision in 1989 to develop the local favorite Sagrantino grape. Working in conjunction with the U. of Milan, this effort resulted in La Strada del Sagrantino Project. I found a $48 bottle of 2007 in Bedford, N.Y. It was rated 94 by Galloni and 93 by Tanzer, so I decided to sample it, in spite of the recommended 2017 window. I sampled it with 2004. The 2007 was very dark purple-ruby. It was slightly closed, but time and swirling released lovely blackberry, plum and earth aromas with vague oak notes. On the palate, as expected from the color, it was tannic, but fruit and acid tell me this will be a beauty in a few years. The 2004 had lightened a bit in color; 22 months in oak were still apparent. The tannins were more incorporated, though. Bouquet of blackberry, dark chocolate, eucalyptus, minerals and vanilla rose from the glass. Dark fruit flavors are enhanced by more vanilla and smoky pepper notes. Still needs time but delicious now.

R.I.P. Nicolas Feuillatte, 88. This famous French Champagne magnate actually made his first money in New York City as a coffee and cocoa trader. He returned to France in 1976, bought Domaine de Bouleuse and began producing Champagne. He grew the 23-hectare domaine to be the largest producer co-op in France. In 2013, it sold 10.4 million bottles. Feuillatte is the largest seller in France with 52 percent of the market. How many reading here have tried the product Palmes D’or? Dom P. at half the price.