Monday, March 5, 2018

Doctor Wine's The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2018

To understand Italian wine you must study the regions -- Daniele Cernilli, aka DoctorWine
Daniele Cernilli stressed this point at a luncheon at Maxwell Park in Washington D.C. celebrating the release of The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 - his comprehensive guide book devoted exclusively to Italian wine. That's a huge undertaking as Italy is arguably the most diverse wine country in the world. You could say this quote also explains the rational behind such a comprehensive undertaking as it is delineated by region and also includes descriptions of hundreds of wines, most under $20 in the U.S. market.

But why must you study the regions in order to understand Italian wine? "Because the same grape variety is made in completely different styles depending on those wine regions". This was evident during our lunch as Cernilli poured Sangiovese wines from four wineries representing four different wine regions.

Torre San Martino is located in the Emilia-Romagna DOC, more specifically their 10 hectares vineyard is located in Tosco-Romagnola. The owners restored a Sangiovese vineyard appropriately named Vigna 2 and replanted ungrafted Sangiovese vines and the resulting Romagna Sangiovese Vigna 1922 Reserva DOC 2013 was excellent with multiple spicy sensations and noticeable tannins in it's lengthy finish. However, for our sample they poured the Romagna Sangiovese Superiore Gemme DOC 2013 which possesses dusty soft fruit and abundant acids. According to Cernilli, the acids are much more important to this wine than the tannins.

The second Sangiovese in our sample was from Fattoria Le Pupille, a second generation family winery operating 12 hectares of vineyard in Morellino along the southern Tuscany coast of La Maremma. The family is mostly known for their Super-Tuscan Saffredi wine but don't overlook their Poggio Valente IGT Toscana Rosso 2015. This 100% Sangiovese wine comes from the Poggio Valente vineyard located 900 feet above sea level. Although the region is generally warmer than Chianti, constant breezes help prevent disease pressure. This is an elegant wine, predominately cherry with more tannin structure to augment the balanced acidity.

Moving to Chianti, Querciabella is located in the historical demarcation of that region in Chianti Classico. The winery started farming organically in 1988 and was certified biodynamic in 2000. The estate vineyards are located 1,300 to 1,650 feet above sea level so the vineyards are even cooler than expected. The Querciabella Chianti Classico DOCG 2015 is aged in barrique casks for a year and the result is brighter fruit, slightly more spice, and lingering finesse.

The final Sangiovese was the Le Macioche Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010 from Famiglia Cotarella. The Cotarella is also known for their 100% Merlot Montiano Lazio, other wines from Lazio and Umbria, as well as the recently acquired Azienda Agricola Le Macioche estate in Brunello di Montalcino.  This Sangiovese holds a couple advantages over its companions starting with the obvious difference in age. Then there's the Brunello -- a strain of Sangiovese grown only on the slopes around Montalcino – the classic hilltop village in Tuscany that is located 20 miles south of Siena.  This is a magnificent wine - intense and powerful - spices and juicy tannins.


Besides the above mentioned wines, there are a few others I'd like to highlight. First, my favorite of the afternoon was the Bertani Amrone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2008 a blend of 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella. Once again the wine was blessed by several years aging in barrel. This wine is intense, yet elegant; wild, yet restrained. An instant classic. The Vincho Vaglia Serra I Tre Vescovi Barbera d'Asti Superiore DOCG 2015 was another wine that wanted to be heard with it's zinging acidity, dirty texture, and fresh red fruit. Finally there were two other excellent wines from Querciabella, their feminine Mongrana 2013 ( 50% Sangiovese, 25% Merlot, & 25%  Cabernet Sauvignon) and more powerful yet sophisticated Turpino - an unexpected blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot.

The tasting also including several sparkling and white wines. The former were well represented by Lombardy's Ca'del Bosco Franciacorta cuvées. The Franciacorta Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2007 is named after Annamaria Clementi, who along with her husband Albano founded the winery in 1962. This sparkling wine spent over eight years on its lees resulting in a creamy textured wine - but with surprisingly zest. The Franciacorta Vintage Collection Brut shared a somewhat similar blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero and exhibits considerable finesse.

 Moving to still wines, the Vincho Vaglia Serra Il Griso Roero Arneis DOCG 2016 is an oddity in the since that the grape almost went extinct in the 1960s.  The wine's floral aromas leads to a soft stone fruit center and and slightly acidic tail. Very nice. Finally I was able to revisit the Fattoria Le Pupille Poggio Argentato 2016 ($21), a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Mensang, and Traminer fermented in neutral oak. This is a luscious wine: floral and silky with balanced acids.

Cheers to Italian wine and Doctor Wine's The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine.
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