Tag Archives: Italian wine

Mini-reviews 37: Fourth of July edition

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This edition, in honor of July 4, focuses on wines worth drinking for the holiday:

  ? Pepperwood Grove Groovy Green Pinot Noir NV ($7, sample): As long as you don't mind that it doesn't taste like pinot noir, it's an adequate red table wine with pinot and 25 percent syrah (the maximum amount allowed for it to be called pinot). And the Groovy Green bit? For its environmentally friendly packaging.

Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 2009 ($20, purchased): What's the Fourth of July without a French wine to honor the country that made our independence possible? The Brocard is chardonnay, but is rounder and softer, with more red apple fruit than the usual wines from the Chablis region, which have green apple and bracing acidity. Having said that, it's not worse, just different, and a nice way to end a holiday weekend.

Pio Cesare Langhe Arneis 2011 ($20, purchased): Arneis is a rare Piedmontese white grape usually used for blending in expensive red wine, or to make flabby, simple stuff. This wine, though, has been taken somewhere it has never been before — crisp and fresh, with an almost gewurtzraminer-like spice and subtle pear fruit. Yes, expensive, but highly recommended nonetheless.

Kendall-Jackson Zinfandel Vintner's Reserve 2010 ($17, sample): Nicely done mid-weight zinfandel, with some heft, blackberry brambliness, and black pepper. But it is neither overwhelming, like the 15 1/2 percent alcohol zinfandels, or all fruit, like the poorly made cheap ones.

Fourth of July wine 2012

Some suggestions and a few thoughts about wine with your July 4 celebration next week, whether backyard barbeque or fireworks watching party (the latter with bubbly, of course):

? We ?re in porch wine territory this time of year: lighter wines with lower alcohol, and that includes reds. Drinking a tannic, high alcohol wine when it ?s pushing 100 isn ?t pleasurable (unless you ?re a wine masochist).

? Did someone say bubbly? We ?re celebrating a birthday, aren ?t we? Miquel Pons Cava Brut Nature NV ($15, purchased) is a Spanish sparkler that ?s soft and generous, with sweet lemon fruit and bubbles that won’t quit.

? Fontana Candida Frascati Superiore ($10, sample) is an Italian white that was a big deal a decade or more ago, and then fell on hard times. This vintage is much better made than it was then, with a fresher, more clean approach, very crisp lemon, and an almost orange tea aroma. Just 12 1/2 percent alcohol.

? When in doubt, go Falesco ? the Assisi Rosso 2009 ($16, purchased), in this case. This Italian red blend is a step up from the producer ?s wonderful $10 Vitiano line, with an herbal aroma and soft red fruit. But it ?s sturdy enough for red wine occasions, including Fourth of July burgers, steak and brisket.

? Regional wine is always a July 4 staple, and Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2010 ($15, purchased) is a regional wine with decent national distribution. Look for candied lemon and the fresh, crisp acidity that New York state rieslings are famous for. And, as nice as this wine is, it’s not nearly the best New York riesling available.

More about Fourth of July wine:

? Fourth of July wine 2011
? Fourth of July wine 2010
? Wine of the week: Louis Tete Beaujolais-Villages 2010
? Wine of the week: Luc Pirlet Pinot Noir Barriques Reserve 2010

Expensive wine 40: Pio Cesare Barbaresco 2007

BarbarescoEvery once in a while, the Wine Curmudgeon is lucky enough to meet someone like Pio Boffa, whose family has owned Italy ?s Pio Cesare in the Piedmont for 130 years. The only thing more interesting than the conversation was the wine.

Every wine we had (even the Oltre, which is made for U.S. palates), was worth writing about. And I ?ll probably get to several of them over the next couple of months. My favorite, though, was the Barbaresco ($65, sample). It ?s not enough to say that this is classic Barbaresco that will only get better with age and in 30 years should be a gorgeous wine. That ?s what all great Barbaresco should do.

Rather, what struck me about this wine is that it was greater than the sum of its parts. All of the things a great Barbaresco requires were there ? the cherry fruit (almost sweet, believe it or not); the black pepper spice and Italian acidity; and the mineral finish that you can still taste a couple of swallows later. But they weren ?t what made it what it was. There was something else going on that was difficult to pin down. If that seems too vague to make sense, then accept it as part of the mystery of a great wine.

Frankly, given how much ordinary wine costs $65, this is a bargain. And, as Boffo reminded me several times during lunch, though this wine will improve with age, it’s accessible and ready to drink now. Think rib eye and a Father ?s Day dinner. Highly recommended, and one of the best ones I have ever had.

Winebits 230: Italian wine, wine fraud, screwcaps

? Those were the days: The Italian Wine Guy remembers when no one had heard of Santa Margherita pinot grigio. Hard to believe, no? His point, and he makes it well, is that the Italian wine world (and, by extension, all of the others) has changed significantly in the past four decades ? sometimes, even more than we realize. Or, as he writes: ?Anyone who complains about not being able to get an Italian (or any other) wine of their choice is either lazy, unimaginative or just plain silly. Go down the aisles of a local liquor store, and see the immense selection we have now that we didn ?t have in 1977."

Fooling the wine world: This epic story from New York magazine (more than 4,000 words) is entitled ?Chateau Sucker ? ? which should tell you everything you need to know about the Rudy Kurniawan case. He ?s the fellow who has been selling counterfeit wine to the experts for years, and is currently under federal indictment. Most of the big names in the wine business are in the story, and the question it raises is whether they wanted to be fooled ? a question that speaks volumes about that part of the wine business.

? Yes, screwcaps are here to stay: In which another wine drinker wonders why they have to put up with those silly screwcaps.Though it does offer one of the best explanations of screwcaps, which the Wine Curmudgeon wishes he had thought of (and will now update and steal). Think of corks as music on CDs. Think of screwcaps as digital music. Doesn ?t make the music any worse, does it?

Wine of the week: Villa Farnia di Farnese Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2010


This wine cost nine bucks. How do the Italians do it? Their economy is in shambles and the euro is killing the dollar. If this was French wine, it would cost $15 or $18. The Wine Curmudgeon is not complaining, of course. I'm just continually and pleasantly surprised by the quality and value so many Italian wines offer.

The Farnese (purchased) was exactly what I was hoping for when I bought it. There is soft white fruit in the middle (an English critic described it as "gently fragrant," which is why Engish wine writing is so much fun), low alcohol (12 percent), not a lot of acid, and a kind of stony finish. In this, it's a wonderful antidote to all the mass-produced, turpentine-like pinot grigio that we're told we're supposed to like and that everyone seems to be making these days. Right, Drew B.?

Pair this not only with seafood, but spicy food. That's what I did (chicken tamales with green sauce), and it worked wonderfully. And, for those of you keeping track of grape varieties, there is apparently a difference between the trebbiano grape and the grape that is called trebbiano in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The former is more or less ugni blanc, one of the Wine Curmudgeon's old pals, while the latter is something called bombino bianco. Maybe I can get the Italian Wine Guy to explain the difference.

Mini-reviews 32: Antinori, Marques de Caceres, Souverain, Parlay

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month:

? Antinori P ppoli 2008 ($27, sample): Modern style of Chianti, with more red fruit in the middle. But still a fine wine — balanced and fresh. The price is problematic, though.

? Marqu s de C ceres Rioja Blanco 2009 ($8, purchased): Traditional style, so not much fruit, and a little more rustic than California. Offers more than than $8 worth of wine, and more than suitable for a weeknight dinner.

? Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($22, sample): Grocery store quality — thin, flat and uninteresting, with little terroir. Seem to remember this producer being much better than this.

? Parlay The Bookmaker 2005 ($20, sample): Lots of sweet black fruit in the middle of this red blend, but very well made with a long chalky finish and sturdy tannins. Not my style of wine, but well done nonetheless.

Wine of the week: Coltibuono Chianti Cetamura 2009

image from www.coltibuono.comThe Wine Curmudgeon has always wondered how to approach Chianti, which is not only the one Italian red wine that most Americans know, but the one Italian red wine that wine snobs turn their noses up at. If I review it, I run the risk of alienating both groups — a neat trick, of course, but right up my alley. The former would think the wine was too obvious for them, and the latter would think I was naive.

But that hasn't stopped me before; there are handful of reviews and a variety of references to Chianti on the site (and, quickly, Chianti is the region in Tuscany where the wine is made, using mostly the sangiovese grape). And it won't stop me now, because the Coltibuono ($10, purchased) is well-made wine that offers lots of value.

In this, it's a simple, young, lighter Chianti with big dollop of cherry fruit (which apparently comes from a small percentage of the canaiolo grape, which also softens the wine). But there is still the telltale Italian acid, which means the wine cries out for tomatoes, pork and cheese. Or, in other words, pizza. I drank it with olive and tomato bruschetta, and that was terrific, too.