Tag Archives: sangiovese

Wine of the week: Trambusti Benedetto Chianti 2015

Trambusti BenedettoThe Trambusti Benedetto Chianti is a $5 wine that puts $20 wines to shame

The idea that all wine should taste alike, that the International style is the goal that all wine should aspire to, makes the Wine Curmudgeon crazy. Imagine if we did that for bread – everything would be light, fluffy, and sweet, and the world would be stuck with Wonder Bread.

So why do we do it for wine? Call it misguided if you’re being generous; greed comes to mind if you’re not. In either case, the Trambusti Benedetto ($5, purchased, 12.5%) is a testament to letting wine be wine.

This is cheap Chianti (the red wine from Italy’s Chianti region that is made with sangiovese) the way it should be. It’s not sort of soft, the way some enjoyable cheap Chianti can be, but fresh, sharp, on point, and with lots of tart cherry fruit and that certain Chianti earthy and herbal combination. In this, it’s different from the 2014, which I liked well enough; that there is a welcome vintage difference in a $5 wine speaks to the idea that the producer long ago left Wonder Bread behind.

Compare it to the $18 so-called Sicilian red in this post, and you’ll be stunned at high much more interesting the Benedetto is. Highly recommended, and just the thing to keep on hand for take out pizza. It probably won’t make the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame, but I will think long and hard about it. Also, this is an Aldi wine, and if Aldi and its archrival Lidl focus on quality like this, they’ll change the U.S. grocery store wine world forever.


Wine of the week: Banfi CollePino 2014

Grocery store wine, and especially grocery store wine from the biggest companies, takes a lot of abuse on the blog (and deservedly so). So when Big Wine does grocery store wine right, it’s worth noting, and that’s why you’re reading about the Banfi CollePino.

Banfi is among the top 20 biggest producers in the U.S. which makes the Banfi CollePino ($9, sample, 13%) all that much more interesting. That’s because it shows what Big Wine can do when it aims for more then technical correctness — that is, boring wine made without any flaws.

In this, the CollePino is varietally correct, so that it’s made with sangiovese and tastes like sangiovese, with the telltale tart cherry fruit, a certain freshness, and soft tannins. It’s also worth noting that these wines need some oak to temper then, but the CollePino has almost no oak. What little oak there is has done its job — a testament to Big Wine’s technical ability.

But that may not be the CollePino’s greatest asset. It’s made with a bit of merlot, which softens the sangiovese and produces a wine that’s soft enough so that it won’t scare off the grocery store smooth wine drinkers who are, I assume, its target audience. But those of us who want more than smooth should also be happy, and especially if we drink it with anything with red sauce. Highly recommended, and candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014

Straccali ChiantiThe retail market, despite years of producers wishing otherwise, is still awash in cheap Chianti, the Italian red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany. Most of it, save for a couple of brands like Melini, tastes like you’d expect: harsh and bitter, with little reason to drink even though it costs less than $10.

Add the Straccali Chianti ($8, purchased, 12%) to the first group. It’s not just a better value than the Melini, which I love, but a well-made wine that embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels. One of the great questions in Italian wine: Why, if the country’s winemakers can do something like the Straccali Chianti, do they do so many dull, overpriced, Paso Robles-style wines on the theory Americans prefer them? Trust me — we want quality, not marketing.

Look for more depth than the Melini, so that you have to swallow twice to get a hint of everything that’s going on. It’s also less rustic, with black pepper, red cherry, a little more grip, and the acidity that Chianti is famous for. One key to this wine: a touch of merlot is blended with the traditional sangiovese and canaiolo grapes, which rounds out the flavors and mouth feel. Plus, no oak, which lends more freshness than you expect.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to be added to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this as the weather cools on its own if you want a glass of red, or with pork or beef that will complement the crisp red fruit, as well as red sauce.

Wine of the week: Il Poggio Rubicone 2011

2993_sangiovese_rubicone-it-ITThe official name of this wine is actually a lot longer — Il Poggio dei Vigneti Sangiovese di Romagna Rubicone ? which is one of the contradictions that makes the Rubicone interesting. An old-fashioned name, yes, but a modern and professional wine.

Increasingly, there are two kinds of Italian sangiovese ? the traditional, which I like but which don ?t seem much in favor with the Winestream Media, and what I call the post-modern ? Italian in label only. I did a tasting a couple of years ago where we paired a high-point Tuscan red made with sangiovese and a Texas sangiovese. Not only did the latter taste more like traditional Italian sangiovese, but the people at the tasting preferred the high-point Tuscan, which tasted like it came from Paso Robles. Maybe the Italian Wine Guy can explain this to me.

The Rubicone ($12, purchased, 12%) combines the best of both styles. There is a lot of juicy cherry fruit and top-notch winemaking, but also more traditional Italian sangiovese characteristics like bright acid and earthiness. It will please those of us who don ?t want the traditional styles to go away, but also don ?t want the flaws and off-flavors those wines sometimes had, as well as people who need gobs of fruit in their wine.

Wine of the week: Feudo Arancio Stemmari Sangiovese 2010

Stemmari SangioveseThe display at the wine shop did its job: ?Sangiovese from Sicily! ? How could the Wine Curmudgeon pass that up?

That ?s because Italian sangiovese usually comes from just one place, Tuscany, and it makes some of the most famous wines in the world. It ?s also not cheap. The Stemmari ($8, purchased), on the other hand, was cheap and comes from a part of the world hardly known for sangiovese. But regular visitors here know how much I appreciate the Sicilian wine renaissance, and Feudo Arancia is a top-notch Sicilian producer.

The Stemmari did not disappoint. No one will ever confuse it with a high-end Chianti or Super Tuscan, two of the best-known Tuscan sangioveses, but it tastes exactly like sangiovese. To be honest, I had my doubts whether it would. The wine is a little short, in that its flavors end abruptly, but what is there is varietally correct ? sour cherries, a little earthiness, a little cedar. It ?s just not as well developed as in a better quality wine.

Which does not imply there is anything wrong with the Stemmari, and especially at this price. You get more than $8 worth. Drink this with any red sauce, pizza, and even burgers. Just don ?t tell a wine snob it ?s from Sicily until after they taste it.

Mini-reviews 31: Carmel Road, Campodelsole, Wine Guerrilla, Embotellado

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 (Thursday this month because of the holiday):

Carmel Road Liberated Chardonnay ($16, sample): Unoaked chardonnay that is fresh, clean and crisp. Holds its 14.1 percent alcohol well, and is pretty much a value at this price.

? Campodelsole Sangiovese 2008 ($5, purchased): As The Italian Wine guy put it: "That $5 wine should be $12. But we don ?t know how to sell it to Americans. So we are discounting it while it is still good. Our gift to you." Earthy and old-fashioned; needs food.

? Wine Guerrilla Rebel Cru 2009 ($25, sample): Powerful zinfandel red blend with massive fruit, almost 15 percent alcohol and very little subtlety. If you like that style of wine, you're going to love this. Excellent example of post-modern California winemaking.

? Embotellado Rioja 2010 ($12, sample): Lots of red fruit in the middle. Nothing really wrong with it if you want a fruit forward wine that tastes like Australia but comes from Spain.

Mini-reviews 24: J.J. Vincent, Benessere, Tour Coutelin, Faiveley

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.

? J. J. Vincent Cr mant de Bourgogne Brut NV ($20, sample): Yummy, French-made, Champagne-style sparkling wine with lots of bubbles and sweetish green apple fruit.

? Benessere Sangiovese 2007 ($28, sample): Very nicely made, with proper tannins and acid (though not as much red fruit as I expected), but with the usual sort of quality to price problem that crops up with Napa wines. How many quality Chiantis can one get for less than this?

? Ch teau Tour Coutelin 2007 ($20, purchased): Well-done left-bank Bordeaux with much welcome earthiness, though more red fruit than I expected. Probably 5 or 6 Euros in France, which would make it a fine deal.

? Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc 2008 ($20, sample): Solid, dependable basic chardonnay from Burgundy (green apples and a bit of citrus), but which is clobbered by the weak dollar. Have you noticed a theme in this post?