Monday, November 22, 2010

Report from ... Annual Italian Tasting – November 1, 2010

The day started with a seminar about Prosecco and ended with more than a few stumbling home on the subway.  Okay, so the stumbling might be an exaggeration, but after some 700+ Italian wines I’m surprised you didn’t find more new rummies on the street in the form of wine-industry types at the corner of King and Simcoe.  One hundred Italian producers pouring approximately 7 wines each is a daunting task to undertake at the best of times, and it all takes place in the circular lobby of Roy Thompson Hall; every square inch covered by winemakers, liqueur producers and/or food stations (provided deliciously by Pusitari’s).

Wines from all of the Italian regions are represented, from Piedmont in the north to Sicily in the south, and everywhere in between: Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania, name a region and it had representation from someone.  Trying everything is impossible, finding great wine is inevitable, because one thing Italy does very well is wine – in fact, it is one of the only countries in the world that has vineyards that run the length of the entire country (north to south).

Today I wondered around the floor of Roy Thompson trying as many that stuck my fancy – and taking recommendations from friends in the room, looking for delicious wines without worrying too much about price, because well over half of these wines will never see our shores anyway.  One that will is the Ascheri 2009 Barbera D’Alba Fontanelle, supposedly scheduled for November 13 release (that’s what I was told – though have not seen the wine on the LCBO website).  This is a single vineyard gem for $16.95 with lovely cherry fruit and a peppered red fruit finish – one of the best (soon to be?) available wines I tasted today. (**** ½)

Another wine, currently available, that is a must purchase is the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi 2008 Tenuta di Castiglioni ($21.95), a four grape blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese –when opened for awhile it’s strikingly smooth with lovely dark frit and plum notes … freshly opened it has a harshness of tannins – so lie it down for a spell. (**** ½)

Finally, Moscato D’Asti fans should search out the Ca’Dei Mandorli 2009 dei Giari Moscato D’asti ($15.95) attractive packaging surrounds this fizzante drink loaded with peach, ginger ale and grapy aromas and flavours … Moscato is Italy’s gift to light desserts. (****)

As for the wines that may or may not be coming to a liquor store near you, here’s a run down:

Badia A Coltibuono 2004 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico - a sherry-like sweetie with apricots dipped in honey coated with spice. (****)

Batasiolo  2005 Barolo Vigneto Boscareto – incredible plum and chocolate notes that meshed together beautifully, not typical although this is one tasty Borolo. (**** ½)

Castorani 2008 Colline Pescaresi Jarno – the white version of Amarone: 70% Trebbiano, 20% Malvasia, 10% Cococciola, dried and incredibly interesting.  A full-bodied white with honeyed-peach notes and a long finish. (****)

Cecchi 2005 Montefalco Sagrantino Tenuta Alzatura – a wine Cecchi has now made eight times … the wine is officially called “One” (Uno) and this vintage is “Uno di Otto”: floral, dark fruit, black licorice, big, spicy and very ageworthy. (**** ½)

Gerardo Cesari 2007 Valpolicella Classico Ripasso Bosan – single vineyard wine double passed using Amarone pumice, this is quite lovely with its dark fruit and damson plum finish. (**** ½)

Gerardo Cesari 2003 Amarone della Valpolicella Bosan – this one can say “who’s your daddy?” to the wine above.  Power and elegance with additions of chocolate on the palate … you can tell where the baby got its good taste from. (**** ½)

Cusumano 2009 Nero d’Avola – lovely red frut nose with a spiced palate. (****)

Susumano 2007 Noa – a blend of Nero d’Avola (40%), Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%).  Dark fruit, spice, licorice and coffee with a nice finish … this is a big wine. (****)

Donnafugata 2009 Sherazade – labels all have a middle-eastern theme, made from 100% Nero d’Avola; this one’s nicely black fruited with minerals and spice and a nice black raspberry finish. (****)

La Gironda di Galandrino 2009 Moscato d’Asti “La Gironda” – pretty floral nose, peachy and with more complexity than the “dei Giari” (above); which begs the question: can a moscato have more complexity?  My theory is that if it has a different flavour than the usual grapy, ginger ale sweetness, than yes. (**** ½)

Marenco 2009 Brachetto D’Acqui Pineto – fresh raspberry and cherry, really delicious … the red version of Moscato d’Asti. (****)

Planeta 2008 Plumbago – another Nero d’Avola makes the list, but this one is from a single vineyard and made from 27-year-old vines: very fruity with lots of raspberry and cherry. (****)

Poderi Colla 2009 Dolcetta D’Alba Pian Balbo
– from 100% Dolcetto, a grape I have never been fond of since my over-exposure to it in Piedmont two years ago, but this single vineyard version is full of delicious fruit forward flavour, best I’ve ever tried. (****)

Poderi Colla 2006 Langhe Bricoo del Drago – another Dolchetto, granted with a bit of Nebbiolo (15%) thrown in for complexity, this one’s mighty tasty: big on fruit yet with really good structure, the Nebbiolo makes a big difference. (****)

PWS 2008 Valpolicella Ripasso Le Arche – lovely red fruit, good spice and nice finish … still available, as my latest trip to the LCBO proved. (****)

Spinelli 2008 Malbec ($7.95) – very smooth with black fruit and chocolate (*** ½)
Spinelli 2009 Mille Lire ($11.95) – a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo that’s cheerful and enjoyable. (*** ½)

Tenuta Luce della Vita 2006 Luce – 45% Sangiovese and 55% Merlot: supple, smooth and clean; great ripe fruit with a little spice and chocolate. (****)

Tenuta S. Antonio 2006 Valpolicella La Bandina – red berries, chocolate with a peppery note on the finish. (****)

Zonin 2008 Sasso Masseria Altemura – a 100% Primitivo (Zinfandel) wine that has the delicious qualities of the Zin-ful grape: very plumy and jammy and if it hits our shores it should be about $13.95; which would be a steal of a deal. (****)

Zonin 2008 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore
– been here before and it’ll be here again.  The LCBO has ordered another thousand cases to replenish stock on the general list: plum, chocolate, black cherry, hints of spice and good length to the finish. (**** ½)

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