This Friday lineup is wholly based on my Wines of Italy tasting from Wednesday night. I’ve kind of been giving Italians the cold shoulder for a while, since I feel like most of the wine is either delicious but too expensive or affordable and total crap.
…Enter the rebirth of a wine that has a terrible reputation from outside of Venice, non-fancy wine from the Piedmont (where Barolo and Barbaresco, the uber famous wine regions reside), and the bounty that is Southern Italy. Long story short — get on these. Italy is a lot more than Chianti and Pinot Grigio (which I did NOT serve at the tasting because they’re a yawn!).
Wine 1: 2008 Inama Soave Classico, Italy
Soave? To answer your first question, although pronounced the same, it has no relation to 90s sensation, Rico (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, click the link). With that summarily dismissed, I can tell you that Soave is a region (in Europe most wines are named for region) that makes white wine from the Garganega [gar-GAHN-ega] grape with a few other grapes blended in sometimes. If it’s grown on hillsides and the vineyard is trimmed back appropriately the stuff is unreal. If it’s grown in valleys and overcropped, it tastes bitter, bland, and acidic. Bad Soave (which has been imported in droves to the US and has ruined this wine’s reputation) is horrid. Good Soave is a rich white wine that is like no other white you’ve had.
Look for “Classico” on the label to ensure it’s been grown in the best region where the quality revolution has taken place and where most of the best producers play.
Color: A golden hay color, and very reflective, this wine looks rich in the glass. It’s not yellow like a Cali Chard, but kind of light gold. It happily looked like it would not be a horrible, wimpy Soave…
Smell: Unlike lots of other European wine, this wine was fruit-first. Pineapple and tropical fruit scents — kind of like a pineapple Lifesaver– dominated, with lemon, some light floral smells and a little almond to boot. Not too mineral-like, but a little touch of chalkiness from the soil. The wine also had a light spiciness — like fresh herbs taken off the plant. Thyme or marjoram come to mind (go to your spice rack if you think I’m nuts, BTW).
Taste: OOOOO-eeee. Delicious. The overwhelming sensation for me was chamomile. I felt like I was drinking alcoholic tea! A squeeze of lemon, a little bit of minerality and almond flavor, high acid, and then a lingering creaminess. Those pineapple/tropical fruit notes went well with the floral flavor and the sensation was flavorful and harmonious.
Drink or Sink? Drink. For $16 this could be your new favorite white. I love finding good, safe Soave producers. This and Roberto Anselmi are my go-tos for Soave now!
Wine 2: 2007 Borgogno Dolcetto, Piedmont
Dolcetto, as in Dolce? Doesn’t that mean sweet? Actually it means “little sweet one” but historians argue that it could be named for the hill it grew on, cause lord knows it’s not for this really tannic, dark colored grape that is full of flavor. Unlike the Soave, this wine is always named for the grape (I don’t know why), but usually has the name of the place it’s from “attached.” The three most common areas :
Dolcetto d’Alba (from Alba, the best town)
Dolcetto d’Asti (from Asti)
Dolcetto Dogliani (you get the drift)
The wine is great but it’s made for economic reasons. It can grow in places that Nebbiolo — the famous grape of the Piedmont region that makes Barolo and Barbaresco — and Barbera (the other big grape of the region) can’t grow. It’s also a wine that can be made and sold quickly. This is key because it’s not cheap to hold and age wine in barrels, which is what you have to do with Barolo and Barbaresco. To finance the better wines, producers make less serious Dolcetto to pay the bills. But remember, these Barolo/Barbaresco guys are total perfectionists when it comes to winemaking. They make some of the most serious, unbelievable wines in the world, so when they turn their attention to Dolcetto, it’s not a slouch wine…as is the case with the Borgogno.
Color: Dolcetto has thick skin with lots of dark pigment and tannins (the stuff that feels astringent and dries out your mouth). The wine was true to form — it was dark ruby, almost purple with a watery edge. Although usually I would expect a giant wine, I know Dolcetto, so I was hoping for more delicacy than brute force.
Smell: The wine smelled like wet leaves and rose petals. It had lots of dark notes — I visualized a forest or a bunch of maroon or purple fruits sitting on a table when I closed my eyes! Black raspberry, black plum, and a kick of alcohol all came through. Interesting and bolder than many softer Dolcettos I’ve known.
Taste: It didn’t taste like what it smelled like but this Dolcetto was great. My first impression was black licorice. Then baked blueberry pie with cinnamon and nutmeg on top. The wine smelled even more like dark flowers as I lifted it to my mouth, and there was a lingering perception of it after I drank it. The Borgogno did have some punchy tannins — I know the winemakers tried to temper them (they did a short fermentation to keep the skins away from the juice!) but they were still powerful.
Drink or Sink? Drink. For this price, it’s a more complex alternative to most Chiantis. I like this producer because this was much fuller than most Dolcettos, but I usually love the wine across the board. It’s affordable, it can be gentle and taste like flowers, and it goes well with mushroom dishes!
Wine 3: 2008 Terredora DiPaolo, Aglianico
Terredora DiPaolo is the producer of this wine made from the Aglianico (ah-LYAN-iko) grape in southern Italy. Aglianico is a dark-skinned grape and it thrives in the hot climates and volcanic soils outside of Pompeii (remember 79 AD, when Mount Etna blew and mummified a civilization?). If Nebbiolo is the monster red of the north of Italy, Aglianico rules the south. It’s a blockbuster of a wine that tastes like plums and dark chocolate, has low acidity, and moderate tannins. One of my favorite reds, Taurasi, is made in this region from the Aglianico grape. It’s pricey, but worth a try!
Color: A nice rich ruby color, but with a little bit of brown, this wine was saturated and not to much different looking from the Dolcetto…except here I expected the color to be indicative of the fullness of the wine.
Smell: Blackberry, tobacco, cedar, and chocolate were prominent with a fabulous backbone of black pepper. It was strong but kind of elegant at the same time.
Taste: Just like it smelled. Blackberry pie, with some smokiness and a definite sensation of black pepper. This was a big wine, but not too jammy or overdone. It felt more creamy than astringent, and had a super-long finish of blackberries and spice.
Drink or Sink? Drink. You know, Trader Joe’s has an Aglianico for $5.99 that I drink on a Wednesday from time to time and this wine put in sharp relief how flabby and overly fruity that wine is! Terredoro DiPaolo makes great wines that are always a good contrast of flavor and texture and this wine is no different. This is a good one to serve at dinner and impress your friends when you tell them it was only $16!
That’s the lineup. Write and let me know what you’re having this weekend!